Sunday, September 30, 2012

Math in My Room

Each day, except Friday, in my classroom, we spent two hours of our morning on mathematics. Most of my colleagues are astounded that I put this much time toward math every day. I will admit I'm astounded that they are astounded by this. Our reading scores have consistently risen over the years with the implementation of RtI and the interventions we have in place in our school. My current school has a LOT more support than other schools I have taught at in terms of reading.

This is great. However, when I look at my data, and the school's data collectively, I wonder why we don't have more emphasis on math. Last year for awhile, we did have a math intervention teacher (who is now my 4th grade colleague!) but the position didn't last very long so being able to see growth was not as easy as it may have been if the position had been a full year.

As such, when I volunteered to take the split classroom (because no one in my district wants them since they can be a pain), I knew I had to do something about MATH. I am a language arts nerd. I live it, breathe it and love it. I'm a reader and a writer. It's what I do. I can excite a classroom of children about those things just by showing my own excitement. That's cake for me.

Math, on the other hand, was the subject I abhorred in school. It made no sense to me. I just didn't "get it". Once I became a teacher and had to "get it" so I could, in turn, help my students, a light bulb went on for me. Suddenly, all of these years later, I GOT IT. I understood. I vowed to ensure that my students would understand too. Thus four days per week we spend at least 90 minutes but usually 2 hours on math in my room (the exception is Tuesday because we have a special first thing in the morning). 

We start with Calendar Board. I got this idea from Stephanie at Teaching in Room 6 and I LOVE it. Most people think of calendar as something that you do with little kiddos to graph weather, talk about what day it is, etc. Not so with this calendar. I purchased her bundle pack so I have the set for grades 3, 4 and 5. I am teaching the 5th grade version with my class even though most of them are 4th graders. I find this to be acceptable because it is pushing their number sense--it REALLY forces them all to work, manipulate numbers and make sense of what they are doing. A few are still struggling with parts of it but I know that is totally normal! As the first weeks of school have passed, I have given control of calendar to my students. We "pass the marker" so they can have a turn to write on the boards too. They love this and it keeps them engaged (because I ask them to pick the next student by choosing someone who ISN'T paying attention before they pick anyone else--boy does that work!). 

My calendar board sits right on the white board. It takes up a TON of space but I don't use my whiteboard much so it's worth giving up this space for something that is so important.

Next we go over their homework. I also purchased the Spiral Homework pack from Stephanie. I purchased the 4th grade version for this for two reasons. 1) They are already being pushed with their number sense with the 5th grade Calendar Board and 2) most of my students show Number Sense to be their weakest area on the MAP test. By balancing my instruction across the two grades like this, I am making sure my kids are being challenged when I am there to help them with Calendar and reviewing concepts they should already know how to do with their homework. It is brilliant and they are starting to really get it.

It only takes us about 10 minutes or so to go over their homework each morning and they really like that I just check that it is done and then they correct it themselves. This provides instant feedback for them and if they are struggling on any of the problems, they can see me go through it again on the board. I have had parents praise this homework policy so far this year because it's the same sort of thing every day and it is very much a review of BASIC math that they need to know. (And it's CCSS aligned so it's awesome.)

Finally, in the last 45 minutes or so of our math time, I teach my groups. Originally, with our numbers from last spring, I would have been split right down the middle with 14 4th graders and 14 5th graders. Due to students moving and other shifting around, however, I have 17 4th grades and 11 5th graders. It isn't a horrible split but it can be a bit challenging for grouping sometimes. What I have done, and has worked so far, is to have one grade do their math boxes and/or games and technology while I work with the other grade and then switch. Often what happens is it takes me about 15 minutes to actually go through the lesson with the group and then send them off for independent practice. This provides me with anywhere from 15-25 minutes, depending upon how long calendar and homework review took that day, to roam between kids and offer help and support. Additionally once those children finish their independent math practice, they are able to use the technology in our room for math games or play traditional paper-pencil games for extra practice.

I got Math It Up! on TpT earlier this month and that is something we'll be introducing this week. Everyday Math has a lot of games that go with the program as well (and I have all of the apps on my iPods for the class to use also) which provide hands-on learning opportunities but are fun too.

Probably the most surprising discovery so far is when my 4th graders had a lesson that asked them to make constructions with compasses and the math templates (which include pattern block shapes). They begged me to make that activity a Fun Friday activity and teach the 5th graders how we turned the hexagons into cubes. So we did this and now, I am amazed when I see children choosing to use the templates and compasses to create geometric pictures during their independent math time. 

I have inadvertently turned them on to that sort of math curiosity and it is brilliant! 


Saturday, September 29, 2012

Display Wall

Happy Saturday! I finally remembered to take a picture of my wall display outside my room.

I love this wall. Each child has their name card we made early in the year and their picture above two sheet protectors. I actually just updated the work inside with a math calendar sample from Friday and the compare/contrast papers we wrote this week (as MEAP review since we start testing October 9). I'm pretty proud of my 4th graders. They really kicked it up a notch with their writing this week. I'm so excited for things I have up my sleeve for these kiddos!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Make it do what it do!

That is a phrase coined by a former colleague of mine from Former School. She would always say that in an attempt to remind us that often we can't control our circumstances but we can, in fact, control how we react to them. I wholeheartedly agree. Never moreso than these past few weeks. I am busier than I have been in quite awhile and it would be so easy to be a Negative Nelly but I'm not.

Do I ever get negative? Sure. Do I ever get a bit whiny and wish things were different? You bet. BUT day in and day out, I walk into my overcrowded classroom with a smile on my face and give my all to 17 4th graders and 11 5th graders. I call home to praise children, put out fires regarding playground issues, thank parents for sending me a note about (issue), follow up on a missing homework problem or a clothing concern. I drown in paperwork every day. I don't sleep as much as I probably should (and need).

But I smile Every.Single.Day. I give 110% to my class because it isn't their fault. It's just the way it is. The paperwork is ungodly because of what we are trying to accomplish. Once you get behind, that's it. You're doomed. 
My Work Pile from this week...Eeek!

Probably the thing that makes me the most negative are all of the comments along the lines of "You look SO tired" or "Gosh I don't know how you do it". It isn't the teaching people! I taught a split grade when I was young and dumb and a first year teacher. This go round, I am SO much more prepared. It's that darn paperwork that is the issue. Teaching the two grades isn't that bad--you teach the kids to be independent, you establish your routines and you model, reteach and model some more. It's not that bad.

The paperwork is. Really it only is because of the new things we're trying in our district and the new grading platform which requires a lot of double entry based upon my two grades. I laugh because one of my colleagues said that in the school improvement meeting last Friday our principal said, "Well eventually Raye will just pick one grade and teach only that"....nope. I won't. Because that isn't fair to the kids. The standards aren't the same and the kids deserve to be taught their grade level content, at least for math and reading. Thus I will put in the long hours, deal with the never ending paperwork and keep smiling and enjoying my class every day.

In short, I will make it do what it do! 


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

My Week in Pictures

It's been an up-and-down kind of week so far.

Here's yesterday:

Here's today: 

Two hours waiting for a tow truck and not getting through my piles and piles of stuff made for a very NOT happy night last night. So when I collected behavior sheets this week and saw this note, it really made everything a million times better. To know someone appreciates the effort and work I am putting in just made my day!


Friday, September 21, 2012

Happy Friday!!

Whew! What a crazy busy week! We have some new things our district is trying out to help our kiddos really dig into the CCSS and while it is makes for lots of paperwork and grading. Not so bad except that I have to separate by grades and input things twice (once for 4th, once for 5th). It isn't hard but it is time consuming. I still feel like I am barely keeping afloat which I do not like at all. I have also been sick all week which does not help at all! Hopefully I can get caught up this weekend and be raring to go :)

We had Open House this week and I have been so buried in papers, I was afraid I wouldn't get everything ready for it but it was fine. I did not take a picture of my display wall in the hallway but I will. I love how it turned out! The kiddos decorated their name art and I put their picture in the hallway with the name and each kiddo has two sheet protector spots so we can always display two items for every kid. My goal is to have one up "for fun" and one to show what we are learning.

I can not say enough how lucky I am to have this class this year. They are amazing and creative and fun! We won the grade level lunch award this week and I was so mad because there were only 24 seats at the special lunch table. I have 28 kids! Plus I wanted to sit with them since it was their first one. Oh I was not happy! Thankfully we worked it out. After lunch one of the kiddos said "well, we know if something like that happens again to just tell you and you'll fix it for us!" Yes my darling, I will :)

More news and info about we've been up to coming soon!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, September 17, 2012

Keeping Track of My Teaching

A few years ago I read a teacher resource book that was about organizing for and having the best year you've ever had. I loved a lot of the concepts in that book but I never really implemented any in full force. One of her big suggestions was to keep an extra copy of EVERYTHING that is done in class and keep those copies in a big binder (or several small ones). I know many people already do something like this with master copies of materials they know they use from year to year.

For me this year, with wanting to ensure I have documentation of all of my instructional work and strategies for both grades, I decided I needed to jump into this idea. I simply took a big white 3-ring binder that was in the cabinet of my classroom (honestly these binders were there two years ago when I had this room also). They are huge so not really good for student use because they wouldn't fit well in the desks. I figured I could spare one for myself to use to keep track of what my students are doing daily.

It's very simple. I just keep an extra copy of everything that we do (usually I use the sheet that I made the copies from if it is something I printed or something I had to run one copy of each page so I could put them back-to-back instead of simply recycling those loose papers) and put it together at the end of the day and stick it in the binder. Instead of going crazy and buying a bunch of tabs or dividers, I simply use a marker and a lined sticky note on the first page for each day (which is the Calendar Board sheet since that's what my students start their day with). I write the date and what school day it is and fasten the sticky note onto that page so a bit hangs off the top and I can flip through the daily pages quickly.

Here's a picture of my desk with the binders--one for my math and reading masters, one for lesson plans/info and the other for the Lesson Documents. (You do realize my desk is SO not that clean, ever, right?? *wink*)

Day 1--You can see how I simply add the sticky note to the first page

Here is later in the week of the first week of school. Calendar Board is ALWAYS the first thing we do so it is always the first sheet.

This is a math page (we hadn't received our journals yet because no one ordered them!) so I wrote "4th" up on top so that I would know this was from my 4th grade lesson if anyone ever asked. 

Yet another page that we used during the first week of school. 

It's so simple that it's genius. Now if a child is ever absent for a long-time for any reason, I already know where I can find the paper to make them copies and/or if a parent requests extra work, I can simply provide extra copies of work we have already completed because it's all right there in the binder. Since I keep the binder on my desk at school next to my lesson plans binder, it takes me less than 5 minutes at the end of the day to add that day's papers to the binder. I usually don't add them to the binder after I run my copies just in case I end up needing a spare later (for a colleague or whatever).

I love that this provides instant documentation of what I'm teaching in my classroom as well as a resource for me to look back upon in future years if there is something I want to use again or tweak (like the first day of school activities we did). 


Sunday, September 16, 2012

Rest, Relaxation and....Cooties?

Oh this weekend was definitely one where I need to rest and relax. I have been running on all cylinders pretty much since school started, including working all of last weekend to try to catch up. Friday afternoon, I called it a day and put in a video for my kiddos. Horrible, right? I kind of figured they deserved it after MAP testing all week and having to deal with a math quiz, spelling test AND reading test Friday morning!

They watched the movie (in near silence which is something that never happened in 2nd grade) and I graded papers. This isn't something I do often but I'm so glad I did because otherwise I would have faced another long weekend of working and I knew I needed to take care of myself.

As it is, my little girls and I went to our cabin for the first time since Labor Day weekend. I slept about 30 hours while we were there. I think I was awake a total of maybe 6-7 hours on Saturday. I was SO sick. I can't wait to tell my students that I really did have cooties this weekend. They will laugh and think I am just a little crazy (which I am). It's what makes teaching fun.

I got a bunch of little love notes from my kiddos this week. So cute, even when they are big 4th and 5th graders. I have a 5th grader who came from another school and she told me that I am the only nice teacher she's ever had. I felt kind of sad when she said that because it shouldn't take you to 5th grade to have a nice teacher! I guess I just feel like life is too short to be stoic and serious all of the time in the classroom. My students do better for me because I know when to be silly and when we need to be serious and they catch on VERY quickly to that and do relatively well.

I LOVE my group this year. They are so fun and sweet. I have two boys that don't like to do any work which is a bummer. I know a lot of it is because of the classroom they were in last year--it was like a war zone in there. It won't take me long to break them and get them to fall in line, especially once they lose out on privileges for not following procedures. It usually only takes one time of being left out of something fun for them to figure it out and fall into line. For the most part, I feel genuinely lucky that I have such an awesome class to spend my days with. It also helps that I had two moms tell me I must be really smart to be able to teach two grades at once. I kind of laughed and said, "either really smart or really crazy!" 

Here are a few pictures from the first couple of weeks:

Our Summer to Tweet About Activity. It's hard to see but the very bottom one on the right has red "veins" in its eyes. 

I always tell my kiddos that if they don't understand something, they have to tell me...and here is proof that a child actually listened haha!

We did our All "app"out Me pictures during our Fab Fridays. I love how cute they are. We are going to put them up in the hallway for Open House this week. I'm famous because I was featured on TWO of them. (In this one I'm on the bottom, second from the right--with blue hair haha!)

A love note from a kiddo on the back of her homework :) You can't see it but on the other area, she wrote "I will bring you diet coke" -- it only took them a week to figure out I am never, ever without a D.C. at my side! 


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Hanging on....

I have had a crazy and busy couple of weeks. I work more than I do anything else and I am not digging it. I can't remember the last time I spent more than 10 minutes with my husband. I've seen my girls all of maybe 8 hours combined all week. I'm not okay with this.

I know it will get easier soon. Last week was crazy because I was planning day-to-day since I had no idea if I would stay a split or not. This week has been better planning-wise but things aren't 100% set yet with some things at school so I'm still feeling behind a lot and trying to get caught up. The first couple of weeks are always the worst. 

No matter what, I am leaving school tomorrow at 3:30 p.m. with nothing but my purse. I am taking the weekend OFF. No school work whatsoever. I am going up north and enjoying a weekend with my girls (sadly my hubby won't make it because of class stuff for himself). Hopefully I can refrain from sleeping the entire weekend :)

I have lots of stuff I want to write about for the blog but haven't had the time. Hopefully I can be caught up and back on top of things by the middle of next week so I can get back to "normal"!


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Navigating Reading Street

I received a super sweet email from a reader asking me to provide some help and advice about implementing Reading Street as a reading curriculum. Firstly, I was super flattered that this sweet reader would ask lil ole me, but secondly, I was transported back to when I was in the same pair of shoes this reader is currently wearing.

See, she just got hired and her first day will be Monday. She hasn't even met her team yet. She is getting students from 3 other classes. This will be their third week of school and she is working with 1st graders. I shared with her that during my 2nd year of teaching--the very first time that I taught 2nd grade--I was in a similar situation except that they waited until after the first marking period was over to add another teacher, namely me.

Regardless of when the transition happens--sooner or later--the first thing that I think needs to happen in that situation is community building. These children have spent two weeks in their other classes together and have likely already learned and, in some cases, internalized, the routines, procedures and expectations of their previous teacher. This is both good and bad: it's good because it means that they are quick to learn those routines and procedures but it is also bad because invariably if you are in this situation, you will hear "That isn't how we did it in my OTHER class". It can be disheartening at times.

Personally when I begin a new year (or mid-year as was the case in both my first and second year of teaching), I get going with routines and procedures but also begin some academics that are easier for me to manage. For me that is math. I'm not sure why that is except that often I have less things to deal with for my math instruction than with anything else. Balancing academic content and procedures is important, however. I teach most of my procedures within the context of the academic area(s) they apply to. For example, I'm not going to talk about using the calculators and manipulatives on the first day of school if we aren't actually going to use them. 

This fabulous reader's big concern, aside the obvious of starting after the fact, was how in the world to navigate Reading Street. I had to be honest--RS is awesome and I love it BUT it can be extremely overwhelming because there's just so much STUFF. Leveled readers, worksheets upon worksheets, stations, blah blah blah. Whew! It's enough to make you head for the hills before you start!

Last year was our first year using Reading Street in my district. We had used Houghton Mifflin before that. However, the stories were sort of outdated and much of the information within the resources were not Common Core aligned. When the district purchased Reading Street, they bought the newest version: the 2011 Common Core aligned set. When the boxes of stuff arrived, I think every teacher in my school just sat there with their mouths hanging open and wondering what we were going to do with all of those things! (Not to mention that during the first inservice we had for RS, I'm amazed that no one head exploded from all of the information they packed into those three hours. I get a headache thinking about it!)

As a new teacher, it's important to know first and foremost what your district's expectations and requirements are. Do they want you to use all of the components of Reading Street or only specific parts? For example, we are not currently using the writing workshop portion of Reading Street. We have had a different writing program in place for the last few years and the district gurus are in the process of deciding if we should scrap that old program and use the writing portion of RS because it is all aligned with the CCSS and our current program isn't. We also don't use part of the "Get Ready to Read" sections because teachers found they weren't quite as meaningful as we would have liked. Lastly, I don't know anyone (at least not in K-2 at my school) who actually used the stations that came with Reading Street because they weren't rigorous enough, not to mention we knew half of our kiddos wouldn't be able to read the directions without help and therefore everyone still used stations but supplemented with our own materials that we wanted students to work on and review.

This year, after using Reading Street for one year, they've tweaked their expectations again. We are focusing upon the Fresh Reads, which I personally love, because they provide a short text with multiple choice and constructed response answers that students need to go back into the text to be able to answer. This is a huge part of the CCSS and why our district decided we needed to really focus upon that area. 

We are also focusing upon the weekly tests but not using the unit tests. This is because the weekly tests provide immediate, week-by-week feedback on whether or not students are beginning to master the skills taught. We also have the children take the tests on the computer (either in our own classroom, the computer lab or our laptop carts on wheels) so we can easily track which skills the children are mastering and where they are struggling. (I could go on and on about how awesome some of the data reports are!)

Since I am teaching a dual grade, I have to teach both 4th and 5th grade Reading Street content. Everyone thinks this is impossible or hard. It isn't if you use the stations format. On Mondays while I am working with my 4th graders on their Fresh Read, the 5th graders will be listening to their weekly story on the CD. We have music right in the middle of that block on Monday which actually worked out great because when we return to our classroom, I can work on the Fresh Read with my 5th graders and my 4th graders can listen to the weekly story on CD. I love using small groups anyway because it is just easier and while this won't be "small group" (I have 17 fourth graders which is not small!), it will still provide something meaningful for my 5th grade students to do while I am working with my other group and vice versa. This would also work with one grade level if you have children that you know need more support and would benefit from a small group environment to navigate the text and the strategy.

This also serves a dual purpose--not only do I need my other grade to have something meaningful to do while I am working with the other grade, but this allows the children to hear the story for the week before they ever meet with me in a group. The second day they will be reading the story with a partner unless they are the first group I work with so most of my students will have heard/read the story twice before they ever come to group. This means I won't have to spend time reading all of the story with them but can focus upon strategy work and digging back into the text. Bang for your Buck sort of thinking.

On Tuesdays-Fridays, I will have 3 rotations with my students (our Daily 3). The first rotation always has to be Read to Self because we're required to have 5 days of SSR or it's equivalent. That's fine with me as I love that time. We do it right after morning recess. Since I have a ton of 4th graders, I will split them into 2 or maybe even 3 groups and then just keep my 10 5th graders together in one group. I'm not quite sure on that one yet. Many of my 5th graders are very low readers so I might do two groups of 5 for them to really help give them the boost they need. While I am working with my small group, the other children will be rotating through the Daily 5 stations. Sometimes they will have a "must do" sheet from the Reading Street series if I feel like it is something really worthwhile for them to work on (usually a grammar sheet) but mostly they will have a choice of working on writing, working with words or partner reading. Once the year really kicks off, we will also integrate technology into this time by using the computers, iPods and other technology that we can get our hands on (books on CD, etc).

I haven't done all of this yet but it's my plan starting on Monday. I have to be very careful that I keep going from one thing to the next in order to do justice for my dual grade. I know many colleagues who would simply teach one grade's curriculum--I don't think that is fair, especially with reading and math because the standards can vary so drastically. I have 90 minutes for my Daily 3 block and 30 minutes of that is for RTS/Conferencing. So I have two 30 minute blocks of time each day in which to meet with small groups. I will be able to meet with my groups at least twice if I have 4 groups and 3 times if I only have 3. (Waiting a bit on some testing we're doing for final determinations on that.)

My overall point is, no matter what your curriculum is, plan to be overwhelmed if you don't have the benefit of starting on the first day with the children. It's normal and it happens even to veteran teachers (if you saw the pile of "catch up" work I brought home for the weekend you'd see what I mean). Take it a day at a time and determine what the most important components of the program are for you to be teaching. No one can do everything that Reading Street has to offer unless they teach reading all day every day. If you don't get into Reading Street that first week when you start with a class after the first day...your administrator(s) should understand! Take the manuals home and take the time to learn them and determine what you absolutely KNOW your students need exposure to. Then go from there. Ask colleagues to sit with you at lunch or for a quick meeting after school just to get the rundown of the components THEY use. Find out if they do any weekly team-planning or if you are on your own (and if you are, shame on them but then you can really do what you see as the most important).

I know when we first really looked at Reading Street we all wondered how we could possibly do it all and you can't. It's why after a year, we had a team of teachers and administrators get together and determine what best suited our needs as a district and those are the areas we are focusing upon. Instead of drowning in an overload of resources, we are focusing on the areas that we know will provide us with data to help us to better serve our students.


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Week 1 Done!

I can't believe the first week of school has come and gone! How did that happen?? It was an amazing yet weird start of the year. I got the new friends from the overcrowded 4th grade class yesterday, plus a student who was at our school last year but was out from February-the end of the year for various reasons. I had his little brother last year so I know them well. I went from 20 kiddos on Tuesday to 27 yesterday! I can honestly say that has never happened like that before!

Friday felt a little bit "off" compared to the rest of the week. A few of my colleagues hypothesized that it was because I gained all of those new friends in one day but I don't think that was it. My math time is cut pretty short on Friday because we have P.E. and I think that may have been part of it. I didn't feel like my day flowed as well as I would have liked it to. Oh well, it's only the first week and I can make changes as I need to over the next week or so.

I am totally in love with my class. I really am. Yesterday after PE, our gym teacher, who I am convinced is a God, that man is amazing said to me "It's so great to see you back where you belong with an awesome class". Melted my heart a little. My 2nd graders weren't horrible last year, but I had several who just make PE class miserable for the other kids. I definitely feel like "big kids" is where I belong.

We had a lot of fun this week too. I'm a firm believer that you can make most anything academic. For example, we did Amy Lemons' "A Summer to Tweet About" activity and I made it into a writing mini-lesson about when it is appropriate to be concise with our words and when we should use a lot of details. They hardly knew they were actually learning something. We also did  a writing goals paper and the kiddos drew their own faces on the pages; we made "Check for Understanding" bookmarks in the shape of check-marks to help the students remember to stop and think as they read (that was a bigger hit than I thought it would be); and yesterday we started the "All APPout Me"  activity from LadyBug's Teacher Files. Those aren't finished but I was so interested to see what the students put in their squares. I definitely have some little artists.

We've been working on our Calendar Math and I am loving it so far. My kiddos are all VERY low in Number Sense so I'm super glad I went ahead and tried this because this is stuff they are definitely going to need to know on the MAP/MEAP and in middle school. We have started some rotations for math and will be jumping head-long into Reading Street on Monday! 4th graders take a writing test on our MEAP (in October) so we're doing a unit from the Art Museum that uses art to help the children practice writing descriptions and using details. So far it has been super fun and the kids like it. (It's WAY better than the former prep materials we had for that writing test!)

I have a ton of work to do today because I planned day-by-day this week since I had no idea if I was really going to stay a split or not. Today is my catch up day. Planning, grading and preparing everything to be copied for Monday morning. It is going to be the best year yet, I am sure of it!


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Deja Vu

I'm feeling a slight case of deja vu....exactly one year ago I gained 4 new 2nd graders from the 2/3 split that didn't last (that we all knew wouldn't). Tomorrow I will gain 4 new 4th graders from the overcrowded fourth grade class PLUS a returning student who was out on a long-term suspension last year.

Five new kids in one day? Gross.

It will be fine and we'll pick up and move on but what a mess. I wish that they had just listened to me last week and moved extra kids into my room then. I will have gone from 20 to 27 students in a matter of 4 days. Crazy! 7 extra bodies is a lot! I couldn't stay after and prepare for those kiddos because I had a team planning meeting and still had to leave that early so I could go to the doctor.

I have an 8 a.m. meeting tomorrow and I fear I may fall asleep in my classroom during my lunch break. Whew! I am BEAT. I have so much to do tonight and tomorrow afternoon so that I can go home without any work for the weekend. Lord knows I need to be able to rest. 


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Uh, where did my day go?!

How is it possible that we've already seen TWO school days go by?! Holy smokes. At this rate, I am going to blink and it will be June. Sheesh.

What an amazingly awesome start to the school year. I LOVE my class. L-O-V-E them. Again, a couple of 5th graders are going to need a bit of a "Come to Jesus" moment very quickly but overall my class follows procedures, remembered ALL of the routines I taught them  yesterday (and could demonstrate them today!) and are just generally fabulous. I really don't have any behavior issues in my class either, which is amazing. I know part of that is because with a split grade, it's WRONG to stick kiddos that you know have a super hard time keeping themselves together into that sort of situation. It's like setting them up to fail and I don't agree with that at all.

My two boys who need that little extra time with me aren't naughty--they are misguided. They were allowed to run rampant last year and sadly for them, it WON'T happen in my room. I don't have time for that. I have no problem calling parents and getting things in line immediately. I tell my kiddos that I would much rather call their parents and say how FABULOUS the kiddo is but I WILL call and say they aren't following rules as well.

Calendar Board Math is going really awesome! I'm having to use the calendar board itself because my ELMO decided it didn't want to work :/ Just in time to start the new year! It's always something, right? *wink* But if that's all that is wrong, I'll take it! The kids are still trying to get into the swing of it but it has already taught me SO MUCH about them as learners in math. Let's just say we have our work cut out for us!!

Today I really started to try some routines for our rotations. With my split we will rotate for math and for reading (in a Daily 3-ish format for both) so I want to get things in place for those as fast as possible. The students were really excited when I pointed out that during part of the math rotations they will be allowed to use the classroom computers, iPods and the games for Everyday Math. I'm glad they are excited about learning with the technology part. It's my favorite way to do math also.

We practiced a shared reading today since that is how we will be running a lot of our "Guided Reading" time this year. It went really well and many of my students remembered doing something like this last year, which is great! I'm glad their brains didn't totally melt over the summer! *wink*

We've been doing some writing to prepare for the state writing test in October and even fit in a bit of science and social studies already. I'm hopeful that by the middle of next week our routines will run a tad bit smoother and we'll be ready to really rock-n-roll. My schedule is pretty perfect: 2 hours of class, then recess, 90 minutes of class, then lunch, 2 hours of class then dismissal! Of course specials and whatnot are in there but it's a great schedule. I do a lot of 30 minute blocks of stuff so the days have been FLYING by. The kids even said to me today as we were getting cleaned up "What? It's time to go home??" 

You can't beat that kind of attitude!


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

My First Day

Well, I survived (at least long enough to post this haha!). Note to self: never, ever wear heels on the first day of school again. You haven't stood up all day long for 3 months. You.Will.Regret.It!

Ahem. (Yes I really did wear heels and got two big ole pinkie toe blisters for my troubles!)

What a great first day! It was raining this morning and I was worried that we would end up with indoor recess. My ELMO is being wacky and keeps shutting off by itself so we wouldn't be able to watch a movie and I gave all of my recess games to my 2nd graders at the end of last year because we rarely used them anyway.  Thankfully we were only indoors before school and it cleared up enough to be outdoors for recess and lunch. Whew! (There is nothing worse than indoor recess on the first day of school!)

I ended up with 20 hot bodies in my room. (Originally I had 28 on my roster.) We have a fairly transient population so this isn't that surprising--families move late and don't notify the schools until they enroll in the new one and that sort of thing. Oddly enough I ended up with 10 4th graders and 10 5th graders. Split right down the middle.  My 5th grade colleagues had 30 on their rosters but ended up at 27 each I believe. 4th grade, however, is fairly busting at the seams with 32 and 31 hot bodies in their rooms today. Crazy. (Not as crazy as the 39 and 40 kids in the 5th grades last year!)

Unless all of the "missing" kids show up tomorrow, what will likely happen is they will steal a few 4th graders from the other two classes and add them to my room. So I'll still be a split but I'll be high on 4th graders. I realized when I had my 4/5 split my first year of teaching, I was high on 4th graders then too! Funny how that works out.

We had a super hard start to the day by going to Art! We of course went through rules, routines and procedures throughout the day. We did the "A Summer to Tweet About" activity and our Writing Goals activity which was super fun and so cute! Some of their little birds are hilarious. One of the boys put red "veins" in the eyes of his bird. I said "oh that's what I look like when I wake up!" and the students all laughed. So fun.

Sadly my ELMO was being a pain so we didn't get to do some of the stuff I would have liked to do but we started our Calendar board routine and I'm really excited about implementing it in my class this year. It's amazing how SHY the students were today in terms of volunteering answers. I understand because it's only the first day of school and they are trying to "feel me out" as it were, but I am excited about this year. I have no idea how many students I will gain from the other classes but I am thanking my stars that I don't have to lose any of my babies that I already have.


Monday, September 3, 2012

Oh those butterflies....

T'was the night before the First Day of School...

and my butterflies are in full force. As a new teacher I had a colleague tell me that every good teacher gets nervous before the first day. Even when they think everything is as prepared as possible, they get nervous. I vowed then that the day I don't feel nervous before the first day is probably when I am no longer good enough to be in a classroom.

I took the weekend off. It isn't hard to do when you go out of town with very little access to the internet. We went shopping for clothes for our girls for Back-to-School and just enjoyed not working. It was wonderful. I go up there (about 2 hours from home) and feel so peaceful that usually I don't want to come home. I always do, of course, but I will admit that this morning as we were packing up to head home, I really didn't want to leave.

As the afternoon slid into the evening, my butterflies announced themselves. I did some work today to prepare for tomorrow and the week...but I know I will never be 100% ready. There is always more to do, more to copy, more to.....

So I put my girls to bed, cleaned up the work I did complete today and prepare to tuck myself into bed for the ungodly 5:30 a.m. wake up call. I'm not ready. Where did summer go?!

I know once I see my students and am in the thick of it, everything will be just fine. I will have fun and so will my students. But tonight? Tonight I can wish for just one more day...another few hours of time for myself without a huge schedule and a massive to do list. Tonight I can relish in anticipation for the feeling of satisfaction when the year ends and we're all ready for a break with our full brains and happy hearts. Tonight, I can see the finish line. I can see the goals I want to accomplish with my students. 

Tonight I can envision a perfect classroom, with perfectly sharpened pencils, notebooks ready to be used and children eager and happy to come to school and learn. I want nothing to disturb this perfect classroom. And for that, I sort of dread, yet highly anticipate, that first day of school. The curtain comes up and it's show time. There is no turning back. The magic has to happen...and I'm the magician. 

It's a little scary to realize all of that magic lies in your fingertips.