Sunday, August 24, 2014

Back To School and a Freebie!

The time has come.  Tomorrow morning, into my carefully prepared and clean classroom will come 23 smiling, excited faces.  Every year is different and with new kids and new combinations of kids, it's a little like a bubble gum don't know what you will get....but if you love bubble gum, it won't really matter....whatever you get will be wonderful.  So tomorrow comes and I'm mentally going through the day in my mind to be sure I didn't forget anything.  And if tomorrow is like every other "first day of school" I've experienced in my 22 years, it will take on a mind of it's own after about 15 minutes or so.  And I'll rethink, change, add to and take away from those perfectly prepared plans. 
So, this year, I want to make sure that I make my expectations clear to students.  We recently had a refresher meeting on behavior.  We are a PBIS school so we have a great plan in place that clearly states expectations to students.  What I took away from this meeting was that I need to continue to teach, teach again, reteach for the umpteenth time...the rules and expectations.  I don't like spending a lot of time talking about why we shouldn't talk in the hallway. I just tell them and expect them to remember .  Not the case!  I was reminded that we have to constantly reteach....reteach...reteach.  So I'm going to remind myself daily to find that positive talk and reteach as often as necessary.  After all, they are 7 years old.  And so, being the teacher that I am and probably you are too, I created a thing to help remind ME as well as students of expectations in our classroom and school.  I wrote it so that you can use the pages where students are writing quick response answers to questions about rules and procedures, or there is another version that asks students to draw a picture of what it looks like in the hallway, cafeteria, school bus, etc.  You can see it HERE.  I've included a free page of the book here for you for free!  Click here for the freebie!

I would love to hear your thoughts about the first day of school and about how you handle rules and behavior!  Please leave me some feedback.  And one more thing....tomorrow is coming! Let's make it the best year ever!

"Every child should have a caring adult in their lives. And that's not always a biological parent or family member. It may be a friend or neighbor. Often times it is a teacher." Joe Manchin

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Cooperative Learning/ Classroom Seating Arrangements and a First Day of School Freebie!

I don't know about you but I like to change things up a bit in my classroom every year.  I think that the newness of it all kind of energizes me and helps motivate me.  I've moved bookshelves and my teaching table around.  I've reorganized my shelves and cabinets.  But, one thing that I usually do the same every year is the way I arrange my desks.  We had a presenter come to our school several years ago whose focus was cooperative learning.  After the workshop, I immediately ordered a book from Kagan Publishing.  You can visit their site by clicking HERE!  They have tons of resources and they are all wonderful.  I ordered the book Kagan Cooperative Learning.  You can see the book here.  This book is packed with ideas on how to build an environment in your classroom that encourages and supports cooperative learning.  There are many different kinds of learning experiences in this book.  It is a great investment if you want to use cooperative learning in your classroom.

One thing that I like from this book is the kind of seating arrangements that they use to encourage cooperative learning.  Today I am going to focus on seating arrangements.  I have tried  a lot of other ways but I always go back to this one.  First you need to level your kids from highest to lowest.  My school is a DIBELS school so I use their reading fluency scores.  You list the kids from highest score to lowest score.  Now, go down the list and count the first five names.  These are probably the top five kids in your room academically.  Now, count UP from the bottom and get the next five names.  These are the students that may need the most support.  Now, back to the top, go under the first five names you marked and count 5 more.  These are probably the "medium " high kids, and again, go to the bottom, start after the first five and mark the next five.  These are probably your middle/medium low kids.  The kids left in the middle are probably middle kids.  Now you are ready to assign seating. 
I've attached a drawing of how this all works.  The main idea is that a high kid sits beside a medium low kid.  High kids might not have the patience to work with a low kid.  Across the table, we have a medium high or middle beside a low kid.  The medium kids seem to be more patient with low kids.  The kid beside you is called your shoulder buddy.  So, when I assign kids to work on something with a partner I might tell them to work with their shoulder buddy.  **I have to say here that the kids don't know that this arrangement is about ability levels at all.  I think that this would not be good.  So next, we have face buddies.  Middle sits across from high.  Low sits across from medium low, so they are alike academically.  If something that we are doing is differentiated, face buddies would work well together.  So, I write numbers on their name tags (1,2,3 or 4) . If I want to group LIKE abilities, I call, for example.... all 1's meet at the back table, etc.   Sometimes after a lesson, I'll tell all 2's to go to one corner of the room, etc. and tell the kids to share something in their group of 2's that they learned.  The good thing about this system is that you won't have to worry about making groups of kids to do things.  They are already grouped into ability groups by number. You can make mixed groups by calling 1's and 2's meet, 3's and 4's meet, or 1's and 3's meet, etc.  I write the number onto their desk tag with a sharpie and we are ready to go.  If you try this, you will love it and will wonder why you haven't been doing this all along.  I have attached an example list of kids and abilities to show you how to group your class and I have also attached a drawing of the desks and their arrangements.  If you do this, please let me know how you like it!  I would love to hear your thoughts.  Now, we all know that sometimes certain kids CANNOT sit together and changes have to be made, but for the most part, this works beautifully and you can get down to teaching!    Click here to get the directions.

Now, the first day for me is quickly approaching.  You might already be back at school.  I made a first day of school "get to know me" kind of game that I'm putting on here for free!  Click here to get the free game.  Let me know what you think!

Ok, let's get ready! Time to go!
Monday, August 4, 2014

Back To School Sale, An Interactive Math Journal Freebie and Some Inspirational Reading!

It is finished!!!!!  I have been wanting to write an interactive math journal for awhile.  I started back in the spring and as of 10 minutes ago, IT IS FINALLY FINISHED!!!!!  It covers every standard in second grade Common Core Math.  I think the kids will love these activities.  They will be cutting, coloring and gluing WHILE they are doing math.  There are games, flashcards and flip books.  This journal is 252 pages and will last you all school year.  I have listed a freebie below for you.  It is a Race to $1.00 game.  Click HERE to get the freebie!  I hope your kids enjoy the game.  If you want to see the entire journal, click HERE to go to my Teachers Pay Teachers Store.

Now, you may know that for today and tomorrow, Teachers Pay Teachers is having their Back To School Sale.  You can save as much as 28 % off of those products that you really need to start school. 
Now is the time to get Back To School Reading and Math Centers, click here, !0 Days of Back To School Math- this reviews all of First Grade Math, click here, Morning Work For August click here or for my Back To School Memory Book click here.  The great thing is that these items are on sale today and tomorrow!  Happy Shopping!
I'm excited about getting back into my room and getting things ready for the kids to return on August 25. It seems like summer only just started but before we know it, excited, happy kids will be coming in the classroom door.  I know that it is easy to become overwhelmed with everything that needs to be done.  This summer, I have been reading Awakened; Change Your Mindset to Transform Your Teaching by Angela Watson.  This book is very inspiring and I have highlighted a few quotes that I plan to keep near this year to encourage myself! 
"Your mindset is ultimately the reason why you love teaching or despise it."
This is so true and Angela does a great job in this book of helping us see what are healthy thoughts and what kinds of thoughts will just bring us down.  We have a very important, valuable job but we have to admit, it is a very difficult job and the burnout rate is very high.  Angela reminds us to "reframe" negative thoughts, sort out what you know is true and replace negative thoughts with positive ones.  Gosh, I wish she would just come co teach with me!   Let me end with this quote from the book:
"How do some teachers cheerfully give their all day after day in the most troubled and challenging schools? They have optimistic explanatory styles.  They believe that good things are happening and worth focusing on, that problems will not last forever, and that their own efforts are making a positive difference.  The optimist sees setbacks as situation-specific, temporary and changeable."
Ok, so that is a challenge to us all as we approach the new school year.  Buckle up!  Here we go!