Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas Party & Field Trip

   The much needed Christmas break has finally arrived. The past couple weeks of school were very busy but not as crazy as I had expected them to be.  Realizing that my students were going to be more hyper than normal saved me the stress of constantly calling them down.  My students seemed to respect me more the past couple of weeks and I feel that our team became much closer. Sometimes you just have to have fun with them and realize that they are kids.
   We had a Christmas party on Wednesday where we allowed the kids to bring in store bought snacks to share  with everyone.  We had so much food it was a little ridiculous.  Next time, there will be a sign up sheet or we will just provide popcorn and drinks.  We watched the Disney version of "A Christmas Carol" which went along with the book we are reading.  The kids loved the party, however with 55 kids in one room it was often a bit too loud for them to hear the movie.  I'm sure next year we will do something different and hopefully a little more healthy!
   On the last day of school we went on a field trip to the Natural Science Center in Greensboro.  I couldn't have asked for a better trip.   The kids were well behaved and very excited to be there.  The exhibit we were most excited to see were the Accidental Mummies.  We studied mummies in Egypt so it was great for them to see real mummies and learn their stories.  They also enjoyed playing in the HealthQuest exhibit where they got to learn all about the human body.  They will be studying this later in Science so hopefully the exhibit sparked their interest. Their favorite exhibit by far (and mine too) was the Discovery Zoo.  We were able to see monkeys, birds, wallabies, and pet farm animals.   For anyone living in NC, I definitely recommend this place for a field trip.  They have a little bit of everything!
  We arrived back at school right on time for them to leave, which was a super nice way to end the last day.  Even better than that was what I had waiting for me in my school mailbox.  All the Language Arts teachers were given Common Core books called Ready North Carolina that align with the EOG. I was given student workbooks and teacher guides with daily lesson plans inside!  I absolutely can't wait to start using them.  It really helps knowing what kinds of questions will be on the EOG.  Does anyone else have these books and if so how are they working for you?

Sunday, December 2, 2012

So Little Time

    Basketball season has started at my school which means I am coaching cheerleading.  For the next two months I will be attending 2 games every week, not getting home till 8 or 9 those days.  Other days I will be doing practices and reading tutoring.  It is sad that I haven't really had a chance to even get in the Christmas spirit yet.  Normally, the day after Thanksgiving I am ready for Christmas music, decorations and movies.  December has snuck up so quickly that I can hardly believe Christmas is just a few weeks away.  I will definitely be ready for that short break though.  I really question how teachers that coach and have families have any time at all.  I've only be a coach for a week now and feel overwhelmed.  I am hoping next year will be a lot easier once I have units already made up.

Since it is December I did want to take the time to participate in Farley's Currently.

For those, who like me, need to get a little more in the Christmas spirit, I'll leave you with the song I'm currently listening to.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Introducing Non-Fiction

I recently started my non-fiction unit with my sixth graders.  To begin, I had them complete a Venn Diagram where they compared and contrasted fiction vs non-fiction. Everyone knew that non-fiction meant stories that were factual and fiction were stories that are usually made up. However, it did surprise me that they did not know the name of many non-fiction text features. Most students had even forgotten what a caption was.   After working on the Venn Diagram, I had them look through various non-fiction books and magazines to try to list the features they could find.  Afterwards, we created an anchor chart on the elements of non-fiction.

To end day one, my students were all given a Time magazine and asked to locate the featured article and then write down what text features were within the article.  They enjoyed this and it was a quick assessment to see that they were able to identify the features they just learned.    

On day two I introduced Text Mapping.  I found this idea through Pinterest and the Text Mapping Project.  A summary of text mapping from their website states that:

 Textmapping is a graphic organizer technique that can be used to teach reading comprehension and writing skills, study skills, and course content. It is practiced on scrolls, which are an alternative environment to books. Textmapping and scrolls can be used strategically, but they are not strategies. They are enabling technologies - simple, basic tools which can be used for reading and classroom instruction. The same strategies that can be taught in books can be taught more clearly and explicitly by using scrolls and mapping.

    I had been searching for a way to teach non-fiction that would really engage my students.  Watching my students work together to complete one of these was really neat. I introduced how to text map in small groups while the rest of the class was working on a writing assignment. After they learned how to make a key and code they went on their own and made their scrolls. I heard some great discussion while they were asking each other clarifying questions about coding their scroll. After everyone had coded their maps I modeled thinking aloud to highlight important and unknown words.  I can never stress enough to my students that the whole text isn't important.  So many times I find them underlining every sentence! I believe the visual helped them realize that only a few things needed to be underlined in each section. 
     This was a great way to start nonfiction as my students used a hands-on method to find multiple text features.  My standard students especially get very bored when they see they are going to have a read a long article.  By adding colors and working in groups they were actually excited about learning.

   Thanksgiving break is here and I am so thankful for some time to relax and time to (hopefully) get ahead.   What are youe Thanksgiving plans?  Have a blessed holiday! 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

November Currently

This week has been quite busy for me so I haven't posted much but I do want to join Farley's currently!

I need to finish planning my lessons for tomorrow but I'll leave with this song by Ben Howard called Keep Your Head Up.  By the end of the week, I think we all could benefit from hearing these lyrics.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Student Centered Learning

   This week I started teaching Ancient India.  So far this has been my favorite unit in Social Studies to teach, probably because of how I decided to teach it.  With the common core being implemented we are really pushed to use student centered learning instead of teacher centered.  For my Ancient India unit I put together a book project for my students to do in groups.  Each day the groups had tasks to learn by and then products to make for their books.  For example, for the day they were learning about religion they had to read a magazine I had with an article about Hinduism and then also an article about Buddhism.  They then made a Venn Diagram comparing the two religions in Ancient India.  While they are reading the articles each group member is also taking their own notes for their notebooks and then discussing what they are reading.  This really benefits me as I get to spend more time working one on one with students by pulling each group and discussing what they are learning.  I schedule 10 minute conferences for each group every day and write down informal observations on what they are learning and what I may need to teach to the class for better understanding.  My students are loving being able to work in groups and hearing their discussions really has shown me that they are capable of learning without me being in the front of the room.

What I have learned about student centered learning

1)  It has to be organized. Students have to know exactly what you expect them to learn. Just giving them an article and saying read this and takes notes isn't enough. They have to be guided with discussion questions and have already learned good note taking skills.  Each person also has to have a role within the group so that every person is involved and not just left copying notes from another group member.

2) It has to be modeled first.  Before I started this unit, I had already taught students how to work in literature circles, how to do group readings and how to take good notes.  Without these things I'm sure my students would have been off task and not learning what I wanted them to.

3)  Conferences are essential.  If I'm not teaching then I still have to be helping my students in some way.  It is nice not to be at the front of the room but that doesn't mean that I'm just kicking back grading papers. When I pull groups for a conference I ask each member to tell me something they have learned.  If they can't tell me anything then they probably are not participating and I then give them a new role in the group.  If they are lost then it is time for me to teach the group the topic they are confused with.  If they aren't taking good notes, then conferencing is the time when I model to them how find main ideas within a passage.  After each group I conference with, I walk around and make sure every group is on task before pulling the next group.

4)  It works different for every group of students.  I am only doing the book project with my advanced students.  My standard students are being taught the same information but as a whole class and then making their own products instead of as a group.  During this unit I am modeling how they would work with a group.  I'm thinking aloud and letting them hear me form discussion questions.  It may take me modeling how to work in groups another month before I turn the reins completely over to them.

How do you implement student center learning in your classroom? How do you differentiate instruction within student groups?

Sunday, November 4, 2012

A management system that works!

     Last week I found a new classroom management system that I decided to give a try.  The main issues in my classroom were talking and off-task behavior. In order for one of my classes to really listen I had to have my eyes on all of them all the time.  It's really hard to conference with students when you have to be at the front of the room.  This is where Class Dojo helped me tremendously.
     Class Dojo is an online management system that can be connected to your smart phone. I added all of my students into the system and gave them all the same avatar.  Whenever students do something great I can go up to the board click on their avatar and give them a positive point for whatever behavior I would like to reward.  If they are off task they can also lose a point.  The system makes a sound for both behaviors that gives the students automatic feedback.  What I really like is how I can walk around with my smartphone and not have to be in the front of the room.  Students still hear the sound from the smartphone and everyone changes their behavior immediately.  
     I told my students that in order to get to change their avatar they had to have 25 points.  In order to get their student account where they can change it anytime they want, they have to have 50 points.  They also know that if they fall below 70% positive then I will send the report to their parents.  I also do the same if they are 95% positive or higher at the end of the week.  The reports tell what the students gained or lost a point for and puts it in an easy to understand pie chart.  My plan is after most of my students have earned at least 50 points to then start using points for an economy system where they can earn other prizes. 
    It has really amazed me how into this system my students are.  They have even changed their hallway behavior so that they would get a whole class point in the hallway.  It is also very effective to have them go up to the board to give themselves a point.  You would think they just earned a gold medal.  So far this has been the best management system I have found.  I really feel like my students are learning now because I'm spending less time dealing with behavior issues.  Have you used Class Dojo yet?  How do you implement it in your classroom?

Monday, October 29, 2012

Anchor's Away!

Today was a required teacher workday in which we spent most of the day in meetings. However, one workshop including a chance for us to make anchor charts for our classroom. Here are a couple that I made and have already put up in my room.

I try to teach my students to summarize in 10 words or less, as normally that is the type of summaries seen on the EOG.  It also helps for them to really find the main idea of the story.

I love the Frayer Model for understanding vocabulary words.  This strategy works particularly well with content areas.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

One Quarter Down, Three to go

It is hard to believe that I have already finished the first quarter of the school year.  I have learned so much already that I could never have been taught in college.  I'm looking forward to the start of a new quarter by changing a few of my management strategies.  One thing I started doing at the end of the last quarter was having a fun activity on Friday's that only the students who did their homework all week were allowed to participate in.  It was amazing how fast students would start turning in work when they knew they wouldn't be able to participate.  After studying writing in Mesopotamia I had students make clay tablets using the cuneiform alphabet.  They really enjoyed making these and the students who didn't get to participate magically found the motivation to turn in their homework the next week.

These clay tablets are super easy to make.  All you need is 4 cups of flour, 1 cup of salt and 1 cup of water.  Mix it all together and mold it into dough form.

I had my students use toothpicks to write on the clay with.  We then let them dry on my back table for the weekend.

Another thing I'm looking forward to trying is Class Dojo. It's an online behavior management system. I will post more about it once I have tried it with my students.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Venting Tuesday

I have been so overwhelmed lately that I haven't had a chance to post anything. I'm going to try to get better though because I was told that these posts would be great to print for my Professional Development Plan.  I will, however, be selective in which ones I choose to put in my portfolio.  This post will not be one of those posts, as I'm calling today Venting Tuesday.  Here are some cute cartoons I found that show my frustrations of the week so far.

I haven't seen a day without a paper jam.

Catching my sixth graders text in class is becoming a little ridiculous.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The View from Saturday & Geography

I am super excited about starting a novel with my class.  Before we get into Reader's Workshop with self-selected books I am modeling how Reader's workshop will work. I'm using this whole class novel and modeling using sticky notes and responding to what we read each day.    Each day we have a mini-lesson on the elements of fiction.  So far it is going great and I am glad I started Reader's Workshop this way.

In social studies I just finished teaching The Five Themes of Geography. I made a great review game on the smart board that seemed to work well.  I will try to post it on here for anyone who wants to use it.  Everyone did great on the quiz today so I am very excited about how things are going so far.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Lessons from the first week

My first week of teaching flew by.   It was nothing like I expected it to be but awesome nonetheless.  What I once thought about teaching sixth graders was completely wrong.  I had this idea that because I know all kinds of behavior management strategies and am organized myself that my kids will be able to follow along with me.  The failure to even understand organization was my biggest surprise.  I required my students to have a 3 subject notebook for language arts in which they will keep daily grammar, reading and writing mini-lessons.  For social studies I required them to have 3 divider tabs for their binder so that they could put their bellringers, notes and assignments in their own place.  The other two tabs that they get in a pack were to be used for science and math.  Next year I think I will just require a binder for my own classes and have students keep everything for me in one binder.  I couldn't believe how hard it was for students to grasp that language arts grammar bellringers go in the language arts notebook, not the binder.  I am hoping that over time they will start to put things in the right place.

Another big surprise to me was how long it takes students to copy notes.  It seems like it takes them 5 minutes to copy one sentence.  I never have students take more notes than what would go on a simple anchor chart so it really shocked me at how much time we wasted while waiting on everyone to finish copying.  I think I will be providing guided notes for my students to glue into their language arts notebook and then fill in while we are going over it.

Overall, I had a great first week getting to know my students.  I think that they will be a great bunch and I am hoping that they learn as much as I have already learned from them!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Classroom Tour

My room is finally finished and I'm so glad because I have yet to write out my lesson plans for next week.   Here are just a few pictures of my favorite parts of the room.   

My reading area before I changed the bulletin board.
Reading area bulletin board.  It will be an interactive board where students can write
book recommendations on the fish for other students to look at.
This is the back of the room.  I have a small round table for conferencing with students.

I love the giraffe print border I found at All About Education.  One
side of the agenda will be for writing the daily objectives and the
other side will be for their homework.
The front of my desk

Next on my list of things to do is write out name tags for students to find where they are to seat, figure out a way to organize make up work and then start writing my lesson plans!  I'm so excited that the first day is right around the corner.  I will feel even better about it once everything is ready tomorrow afternoon.  I'm very thankful though that everyone at my school has been super helpful.  I really believe I chose the right school to teach at and can't wait to see what this school year will bring!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

In The Middle

During my undergraduate reading course I was required to read a few chapters from the book "In the Middle" by Nancy Atwell.  I'm now reading the textbook over again to see what I can learn about teaching middle school language arts.  What I've taken from the book so far:

1) An idea to introduce students to the classroom is to provide a scavenger hunt of classroom supplies instead of just pointing them all out to them.

2) Require students to write a letter to me at least once a week about what they are reading and then reply back to them.  I will be making sure that each student has a one subject notebook for this purpose.

3) Nancy Atwell structure her daily schedule to include a writing workshop and a reading workshop everyday. I most likely won't have the time for both but I do like the idea of having word work as a bellringer, followed by a mini-lesson and then either a reading or writing workshop which I can alternate each day.   I also like how she emphasizes the importance of read alouds which I think I will end each day with.

4)  "In the Middle" offers many ideas for topics for mini-lessons.  Some suggestions for the beginning of year include:
 -Expectations for writing or reading
 -Conferring with peers: where, when, how
 -How to use an editing checklist for writing
 -Classroom literary resources
 -Procedures for booktalks
 -Setting goals for reading and writing

If anyone else has read "In the Middle" and used Atwell's approach I'd love to know how it has worked for you.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Read Alouds

I absolutely can not wait to read aloud to my students.  I think it is so important for students to hear how good readers sound.  It also is fun to hear a voice with a story no matter how old or good of a reader you already are. I plan on reading aloud to my students for at least 5 or 10 minutes each day.   The pictures below are of books I'm considering using.  What books do you enjoy reading aloud to your students?

Monday, August 6, 2012

Reading Area

My reading area is starting to come along in my classroom.  I now have two seat crates and a small rug to match.  I found the rug at T.J. Maxx on clearance for $5.00 and I bought the fabric for the crates for $4 at Walmart.    I would love to get a really big rug for the reading area but the large rugs are well over $100 dollars even at places like Ikea.  Here is a picture of the crates (thanks to Pinterest for the idea) and the rug I bought.

I still need to carry in the other crate and a bean bag chair I have.   After that I'm pretty that the reading area will be complete.  I would like to have more fun seating spots but my room just isn't big enough to have too many more chairs.  If I see any beach mats on sale I may try purchasing a couple of them.  

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Pinterest Crafts

After having searched Pinterest for months I can now finally pick out the things I want to make for my own classroom.  Here are a few things that I saw that I really want to make before school starts.

1)  Crate Seating:  I already have the memory foam topper and the crates.  All  I need is to get some fabric and make them.   I have a very small reading area in my room that these would be the perfect size for.

2) Teacher Binder: I've seen so many ideas on Pinterest for keeping a teacher binder organized. Teacherspayteachers have several free already made labels to organize your binder.

3) Hanging File:  This idea is really pretty and cheaper than buying a hanging file organizer which I wanted for  keeping work to return to each period in.   It also will give me a cute way to use the duck tape I bought.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

My classroom

Today I went to the school I will be teaching at and saw my classroom for the first time.  Luckily there is a lot of furniture in it and books from the teacher in the room before that I will be able to use.  However, there is still so much work to be done.  I took a few pictures of the before to help me figure out how I want to arrange the furniture.  I'm excited to see how it will look when it's completely ready!

 View from the front, facing the smartboard.
 Back of the room, whiteboard & bulletin boards.
Back corner, filing cabinets, supply closet, tv, teachers desk

Friday, July 27, 2012

My first shopping trip

Yesterday I went on my first shopping trip for my classroom.  I went to Stone's Education in Cary which was so big that I had no idea where to begin.  I had a $30 gift card to spend and a $5 off coupon so I was ready to spend a lot of time searching for things to decorate with.  I'm wanting to spilt my room in half and decorate one side with language arts content and the other with the country in social studies we are covering.    Since I will first be talking about geography I went ahead and bought a large world map to go on the wall.  This one also came with posters of the flags of countries in every continent.    I also bought a poster for descriptive words in language arts since I know how often students use the same adjectives over and over again.  Our team is the sea turtles so I went ahead and bought a couple sea turtle items.  I also bought a paisley border just because I love paisley and thought it would be good to use for a bulletin board displaying student work.  My ending total was $4.38 after my gift card and coupons.  I'm sure the next education store I venture into will leave my pocket with a lot lighter. 

After visiting Stones I went to Five Below and got these items for $14.02 total.   The duct tape was my favorite purchase.  I will have to start searching Pinterest for classroom decorating ideas.

Welcome to my new blog!

Hello to everyone who used to follow my blog, The Future Special Educator!  Now that I'm done with my Master's degree I decided it was appropriate to change the name of blog to reflect my new teaching role.  I will be teaching 6th Grade Language Arts and Social Studies. I will have an advanced group of students and an inclusion class.  This will be my first full year of teaching sixth grade, although I took over a maternity leave for 6th grade last year.

For anyone who is following me that doesn't know me from my old blog, welcome and please feel free to comment on any posts.  My purpose of blogging is to share ideas with other teachers and to reflect on my teaching practices.  I love to hear feedback from other teachers!  Usually my posts are short and to the point. Especially as a new teacher who doesn't have a ton of time to write detailed blog posts.  

Again, thank you all for checking out my blog and I look forward to hearing from some of you!   To find my old posts visit, The Future Special Educator.
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