There are just 28 1/2 instructional days left before I bid adieu to my students this year. Seems unbelievable that time has gone so quickly, yet it feels like the end will never come. Don't get me wrong, I really ♥ my students this year but the uber lazy ones are just on my ever-last nerve at this point. It boggles me how you can get to the end of April of 5th grade and just not care. I don't get it.
At any rate, with as much as we have going on in these last weeks of school, I keep coming up with things I want to do differently, try or modify for next school year. I have not heard one way or the other about my position and as I have said many times, I am going to assume that I am staying put unless I hear otherwise. That said, I am really thinking about how I can really maximize the instructional time that we have each day. I obviously won't know anything about specials schedules or whatnot until the next school year begins but I am really trying to think about how to best utilize the hours I do have, in order to really help my students to make the most progress and gains.
Here are a few things I am definitely thinking about implementing:
a) Engrade -- I already use Engrade as a grading tool for myself since it's so much easier than keeping a paper gradebook (and it's backed up online and thus I never have to worry about losing my data). But as time goes on, Engrade keeps adding more and more cool features.
For example, now you can have a wiki associated with your Engrade account, you can create flashcards, quizzes and even attach files that students can access. They've also just added a feature that allows students to turn in assignments to Engrade making grading easier for the teacher. I am going to try this feature with my class this year as they work on their Solar System Reports. If they turn them in through Engrade, I can type in suggestions and corrections, print and return them to the kiddos so they can edit and revise. I'm really excited to try that! Best of all, Engrade is 100% free!!
b) Mini-Economy -- there are a lot of really awesome resources online to help teachers to create mini-economies in their classrooms. I really think that my students would benefit so much more from using something like this all year long. Earning a salary for behavior and being neat and organized, paying to rent their lockers, desks and chairs, incurring fines if they don't complete homework and earning bonuses when they do a great job. I'm REALLY thinking of implementing this next year along with our PBiS behavior system since the current 4th graders are a disorganized and rambunctious bunch.
c) Eetchy Speechy -- at the start of the school year, one of the 2nd grade teachers announced to us that she had written a grant to get every teacher an Expanding Expression toolkit (this teacher is the QUEEN of grant writing!). We call it Eetchy Speechy because they use it a lot with the younger elementary kiddos who have speech concerns. It is a really cool kit but I haven't really found a good way to utilize it and that makes me sad. So I am thinking that for next year, I will make Eetchy Speechy our Morning Work assignment. You basically just list an object and they go through the steps to describe it and write about it. I would imagine if they have practice doing this daily, they will be much more descriptive in the writing that they do throughout the year.
d) Daily 5 (or 3 or whatever!) -- I have been a huge fan of the Daily 5 notion since I first heard of the book. I have never really found a good way to implement it into my classroom...and honestly, with master's classes, stress and changing schools, I haven't really pushed myself to implement it. But my gal over at Juice Boxes & Crayolas wrote an awesome post about how she uses a modified Daily 5, called Daily 3, into her literacy block that includes the use of a basal reader. I am not a fan of basal readers, especially for ELL students, but I don't have much choice but to use it. Amy was kind enough to email me a copy of a weekly sample of her Daily 3 packet and I am in LOVE! I don't know how soon I will get access to my new reading series that we're implementing for fall 2011, but I am definitely going to work hard to ensure that I can use the Daily 5 concept with it because it makes SO much sense and will really give my kiddos the opportunity to dig into literacy, and hopefully enjoy it along the way!
e) Personal Training/Data Binders -- this year, since we've really pushed forward with the MAP tests, we implemented a Personal Training folder system. The students keep their reading goal sheets, their quick shots and their completed reading logs in these folders. This year we just used a manila folder. I have found, however, that it isn't very user friendly because we have to keep them in a crate and it makes it cumbersome sometimes to get things from the crate when we need to use them (and filing all of the stuff is a huge pain!). So I am thinking of combining the information we keep in the Personal Training folders with a Data binder concept. I ♥ the idea of really pushing the kiddos to be accountable. This teacher has a great set of forms for her students' data binders. When I went to my lexile training a couple of weeks ago, the presenter gave us a great set of forms to use for data binders also. I am really putting my brain in gear on this one...because these could very easily be used for student-led conferences so that the students have to show their parents what they have and have not done.
So many good things that I can change up to really, REALLY maximize the learning time in my classroom. But I promise that I am not going to spend my entire summer planning for next year. Ick!