Friday, June 22, 2012

My New Summer Digs!

Summer school starts Monday!  For various reasons, I wasn't able to go in and set-up my room until today.  I will be teaching in one of the other elementary schools in my district.  One that has AIR CONDITIONING!!!  I'm a bit happy about that!

The room I am in is a third grade classroom, but everything in it has been packed up by the teacher.  That means I had to box up supplies from my classroom to bring over.  It's a good thing I threw everything and then some in my boxes because I found out the summer school supplies they ordered were not going to be delivered in time.  So, here's a look at my temporary digs:

It is so strange to be in a classroom that isn't yours.  When I came in the desks were all in the middle of the room with chairs scattered.  I had to rearrange.  I also had to do some decorating to make the room somewhat inviting.  I had some leftover circles from my classroom, so I put each friend's name in one with some encouraging words on the white circles.  I can't put up too much, but as the weeks go on I know there will be anchor charts and student work up.
I set up two tables of four and off to the side of the room, you can see the meeting table.  I have eight friends who are at three different reading levels.  It makes for three tiny groups!
This is the supply table I set up.  I had to find something to do with all those extra desks!  On my way in, I stopped at the dollar store to grab a couple of plastic tablecloths.  The yellow isn't very bright in these pictures, but in person it's much brighter and perks up the room nicely.
On the other side of the room, I hid some more desks and spread out some center activities.
In the front of the room, the teacher has this nice carpet for shared reading.  I notice that my 5th graders do not really like coming to the carpet.  They would often much rather stay at their seats.  Does anyone else notice this with their older friends?
Finally, in the back of the room, I set up a couple of table/desk meeting areas.  Sometimes you just need to spread out a bit.  Also, some friends tend to work better when they can sit away from others!  I wanted to have options for them and me. ;-   In the left corner, you can see that there is another carpeted area.  I think that will be used in independent reading more than anything else.

So, that's where I will be spending the next five weeks.  Tomorrow, I need to work on some lesson plans.  The work never ends!!!!!!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Stocking Your Classroom Library

Summertime means time to read!  As an avid reader, I love that in the summer I have the time to really indulge with some good books.  However, this is a habit that can quickly get expensive if you read as much as I do.  This is where the public library comes in.  I am lucky enough to have a great one near me.  One of the things I like best about it is the Friends of the Library Book Room.  This is a small room in the library where they sell donated and discarded books.  It is one of the ways I have been able to stock my class library on the cheap.  Here's a peak at the children's section of the book room along with the prices  my library charges.
Yup, those are all children's books for sale! 
And, yes, they did look at me oddly as I was taking these pictures.
You can't beat those prices!

Here's a sneak peak at some of the shelves.

 These are from the shelves for older friends. If you click on the picture, you will be able to read the titles.   The smaller shelves to the right in the top picture are full of books for the younger set.  Luckily, they always tend to have good books for sale, books that are current and in great shape. 

The book sale room is one of my first stops whenever I visit the library. Today was no different. Even thought I won't have a class next year, I couldn't stop myself from buying a little today.
  Here's my haul!

  • Oscar, Cat About Town and Smudge, the Lost Little Lamb both by James Herriot.  I am not a fan of James Herriot's adult books, but I love his picture books.  They have a rich text which is great for teaching word choice, complex sentences, and mood.  The illustrations by Ruth Brown are amazingly beautiful.
  • Another copy of My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss  One of my favorite Seuss books.  I used it to do a fun poem activity with my friends this year.  One of the great things about the library book sale is that when I see a book I love and already own, the cheap prices lets me buy it anyway and pass it on to another teacher.
I couldn't pass up a couple of good non-fiction books.  I know eventually I will have friends to read them!
  • The White House by Hal Marcovitz    I think I might donate this one to our school library.  With the upcoming presidential election, all things presidential tend to become book reports or classroom projects.  I'm sure this book will be used well.

All told, these six books cost me $5.50 at the library sale.  If I had purchased them new, in the formats I did, it would have cost me $50.79 based on the Amazon links.  That is a huge savings, and the books are all in great condition.

If your library has a book sale room or section, I really suggest visiting it throughout the summer.  You will find great deals.   I will say that one con to this is that different volunteers price the books.  This means that sometimes I will find multiple copies of the same book with different prices.  But, all prices are still cheap!  Also, about twice a year, my library holds a huge book sale where prices are even cheaper.  Often, they will do a bag of books for $5.  If you can, the summer is a great time to stock up on books.

I should mention that my libary also has a big section of books for adults for sale too.  It lets me buy good paperback books cheaply that I can take to the beach and not worry when they get full of sand and sunblock!

If your library doesn't do book sales, there are other options for stocking your classroom library inexpensively.
  • Yard Sales:  I've gotten good books this way, but I do find that these books are usually a little more worn than the ones I find in the library.
  • Thrift Shops:  My local Goodwill has a great book section.  Their prices are even cheaper than the library sale prices.
  • Your Students:  At the end of the year, send a note home to parents asking them if they would like to donate any books from home to the class library. I find that parents are happy to make some room on their bookshelves and donate.  I know, a little late for this tip.  Sorry!
  • Your Neighbors: If you have neighbors with kids, most likely they will have books they are ready to donate.  Don't forget, these are the same people who have those yard sales!  Get a jump on it and just ask if they have any children books they would like to donate to your classroom.
  • Scholastic Points:  Every month that I did a Scholastic book order, I used some points to get two or three new books for our classroom library.  This keeps a constant flow of books coming into your room, but it if you do it right, you will do something even nicer.  I was one of those kids when I was little.  I loved books, but my family couldn't afford to buy them.  Every month, I would bring the form home, but knew my parents really couldn't afford the extra money to buy books.  It was always a little sad to see the other kids getting books when the delivery came.  I know that I have friends in my class in the same situation.  What I always try to do is make those two or three books I order every month a book I know those particular friends would enjoy.  This way, they can borrow them from the class library right away.  It's like getting a new book, and it always puts a smile on their face.
  • Other Teachers:  Do a book swap!  It's great to do if you have teachers who are transferring grade levels or have multiple copies of books.  Just swap out with other teachers.

How do you stock your classroom library without breaking the bank?
If you have any other ideas, please share in the comments.  

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Death of a Classroom

Okay, I will admit my post title is overly dramatic, but it fits my mood these days.  As you might now, I posted about being moved from my classroom into a basic skills position.  This move means I will be pushing into several other teachers' classrooms to work with specific children during their literacy period.  It means no homeroom for me. There's no classroom to set up, a wonky schedule, and much more.  I really, really tried to see the positive in this move.  And, there are positives to it.

However, this week I had to pack up my classroom.  I was told to pack it up as if I were moving.  That means everything gets packed up, and that is how it shall stay. And, that is when it really hit me.  As I packed my room into box after box, I was surprised at how sad I became.  What was once a thriving classroom, a place I worked hard to make welcoming to my friends, a place where learning happened, where silly moments were enjoyed. . . well, it became this.

Books on shelves that will not be dusted off and passed out in September.

An amazing class library that is now in boxes where it will stay next year.

Empty desks that won't be used by new friends, filled with books, or need name tags.

Book crates that held the books my friends chose to read all year, now disassembled and boxed.

An empty meeting table that will not hold any meetings next year.

I think really hit me as I was packing up because every time I would pack something away, I would think about what project I would do with it or how it was used in my classroom.  Then, I started to realize that wouldn't be happening next year.  Also, there were moments where I suddenly realized things like I wouldn't be placing any Scholastic book orders anymore.  No more points to buy books.  :-(

So, if there hasn't been a lot of posting these past couple of weeks, it's because I just couldn't find much to say.  I've been in a funk. I've allowed myself to wallow in my sadness.   However, I am not a "live in the funk" kind of person.  I do know there will be positives in this move.  So, now that the room is packed up and summer has officially started (Friday was my last day!)  it is time to move on. 

I start summer school in a week.  It's only four days a week, three hours a day, for five weeks.  I will be working with some challenging kids who don't want to be there.  So, I have challenged myself to make this a FUN learning experience for them.  I have a lot of freedom within the curriculum, so it will give me lots of opportunity to be creative.  I will be sure to post about what we are up to this summer.

After summer school, I've decided to take a fun vacation at the end of August. I've never been able to take a vacation at the end of August since I've always gone in to school that last week or so to set up my room.  Since I don't have to do that this year, I am going to take advantage of the time.   I'm not sure where I want to go yet, but I want it to be FUN!!  Living by the Jersey shore, I'm at the beach all the time so I'm not looking for an island-beachy vacation.  I want to do something different, but still stay within the US. 
Any suggestions? 

I'm not exactly sure what the next school year will bring, but for now. . .

Saturday, June 9, 2012


A couple of weeks ago I posted that there were rumors that there was going to be a lot of movement of teachers in my district.  Well, there was!  I found out this week that I am going to be a basic skills teacher next year.  It is a HUGE change for me!  I will no longer have my own homeroom or my own class.  Instead, I will be going into other teachers' classrooms to co-teach with them during their literacy period.  In my district, they call it a push-in model of instruction.  Rather than pull the children in need from the classroom, the basic skills teacher "pushes in" and works with the classroom teacher to help those particular students.

I am being moved because I have a specialty in reading and the district wants to put people with strong, certified backgrounds in literacy and math in those basic skills positions in an effort to bump up the test scores of those friends. 

I'm not happy, but I'm not devastated. Feeling sort of melancholy about the whole thing.

Sad about the move because:
-I didn't ask for it.  I am very happy in my current position.
-I will really miss having my own class.  I love everything about it, setting up my classroom, having the same group of friends all year long, etc.
-Despite it being a co-teaching model, I will really have to plan and teach according to what the classroom teacher is doing.  There is a definite loss of control in this position.
-Often, basic skills teacher are in the room for only part of the period.  It makes it difficult to really do the job well when you can't be in the room for the full literacy period.  I am hopeful that they will change the scheduling this year, but we will see.
-Since I will be pushing into other classrooms, I will need to pack up my classroom.  It means all the great resources, books, games, etc. I have will be boxed and not really used.  I know some of it I certainly will use, but most of it will just be stored now.  That makes me kind of sad.
-No room to decorate!  I always like decorating my classroom with a new theme each year.  Very sad to not have a room to decorate. 
-In my district, non-homeroom teachers follow a different schedule with different duty assignments.  Let's just say I'm not thrilled with the duty assignments I'll have now!

Okay with the move because:
-I do know that I will be helping students in real need.  Having a masters in reading and being a licensed reading specialist, my background in literacy will be most helpful to those students.
-I'm only teaching literacy next year.  As a classroom/homeroom elementary teacher, you know we teach math, science, social studies, health, etc.  It will be nice to have just my favorite subject to focus on.
-It will mean less work to bring home at night.  I simply won't have the demands that the classroom teacher has.  This will be a nice change.  I have been teaching "gifted" students for the past several years.  When it comes to a writing assignment, those kids can write!  It usually takes forever to grade their work.  Even their assessments were more involved than the regular ed classes.  So, I can expect a little bit of a lighter load in that area.  However, I suspect that time will be taken up with more planning for my new at-risk friends.
-Speaking of less work, I don't have to set up a classroom!  I know I cited this as a sad reason earlier.  However, I have to admit it will be nice to not have to go in to school that last week of August to set up a classroom.  I can basically just walk in on our in-service days before school starts.  In the past, I would easily spend a week or sometimes even two of my summer vacation setting up my room for the year.
-As for planning, I am looking forward to creating activities and projects that will engage these children.  Unlike my gifted students who were one or two years above grade level, my new friends next year are testing one to two levels below grade level.  I really think it is key to plan a lot of high interest lessons and activities for these kids.  They need to be hooked into learning, and I'm planning to get them hooked!  :-)

So, we will have to see what next year brings.  I am just going to embrace the change and roll with it.

In the meantime, I could really use your help.  With my new position, I am interested in finding some blogs written by "push-in" teachers; anyone that works with lower ability children, teachers that go in to other teacher's classrooms to teach, anything that is sort of similar to the situation I will be in next year.  If you know of any blogs like this, would you mind letting me know about them in the comments?  I've got a whole summer to catch-up on how they do it and be inspired!

Monday, June 4, 2012

No Time to Take Time!

Hi!  Sorry posting has been a bit light lately, but it's the end of the year!  Similar to the end of the world, but I might manage to survive this one!  :-)  Maybe!

I know I am preaching to the choir for the most part, but CHEESY COW!!! I am swamped with work!  As are my little friends.  Take a look at this calendar.

Every year I put up a countdown calendar on our whiteboard.  This year it came out a bit crooked, so I drew the skinny guy holding up one end.  As you can see, we have been very busy with all things 5th grade.  I really put this calendar up, not so much as a countdown, but because I needed to see at a glance what was happening when.  I kid you not when I say this calendar is not even complete.  These are just the "extra" events we have going on.  What it doesn't show are all the end-of-year assessments my friends are being overwhelmed with, all the final writing unit projects we are scrambling to get done, and the other crazy things like promotion practices, chorus/band practices, and middle school orientation. 

On the teacher end, I am giving up a life this week to get all those things graded.  Plus, my  marking period grades (which aren't averaged because I STILL HAVE SO MUCH TO GRADE!) have to be in by the 13th, my placement forms for the middle school also still need to be done among many other things.  While I am willing to give up my evenings for the next two weeks to get all this done, there are those pesky things that won't let me like an evening music concert my friends are all singing in, a couple of retirement parties for much loved colleagues, an author's celebration at a local bookstore that my friends will be reading at, and all the before and after school meetings, meetings, and more meetings that are cropping up almost every day!  It's just a crazy time of year!!  The only saving grace is that the weather has been cool, so my room is not 900 degrees this week!

I haven't even really begun to pack up my room yet, either.  It is a hot mess in there!  I'm hesitant to even pack yet because we keep hearing there is going to be a lot of movement in our building.  I don't think most people realize that we don't work for a school, but for a district and can be moved anywhere.  In my district, there are four elementary schools.  If the rumors of lots of movement this year are true, I don't feel too bad about not packing up anything in my room yet.  Packing to stay in your room is very different from packing to leave for another building! 

On a totally different note, I saw this on Pinterest and thought it was a fantastic idea.
It's from the blog MargeD Teaching Posters.  It is a great blog with lots of pictures and fantastic ideas like this one.  THIS LINK will take you to the page where she explains how to use an old CD binder to hold your die-cut letters.  I happen to have on lying around, so I might just try this.  However, I was also thinking that my MacGyver like storage solution might work just as well.  You could make a binder full of baggies with your letters in each bag.  I do think the CD binder would be better if you really wanted to sort your letters more, such as by upper and lower case or actual words/sayings that you use on certain bulletin boards.  Go visit Marge D's blog.  It has a bunch of great ideas!  I know I really liked this one!  And, on that note. . .

Who am I kidding? 
I'm teaching summer school  for five weeks this summer. 
Really just trading an old group of friends for a new group of friends for a few weeks! 
But, it's still fun to think. . .