Sunday, October 31, 2010

Parent's Signature Required!

What papers do you have signed in your class?  In mine, all test papers are signed by the entire class.  I will usually check for signatures at the beginning of that subject's period.  But every once in a while, for whatever reason, I need to have an individual student have a paper signed by a parent.  I usually just write "Parent's Signature" with an X and a signature line above it. When I started teaching, I had to think of a way to see those signed papers without drawing attention to the one or two kids that needed to have a paper signed.  Let's face it, the other kids know it usually means that kid didn't do too well on that assignment.  So, how to go about it?  A Signed Paper Basket!

Here's how it works.  This basket sits on a shelf near my desk.  The sign on front reads "Signed Work  -  Place your signed work in the basket face down."  In the basket is a big paper weight that sits on top of the work.  If a student needs to have a paper signed, they know that within the next two days the signed paper must make it into that basket, face down.  Face down so that other students can't see whose paper it is.  After school, I will take a look at the papers in the basket to see what was signed.  I note it by putting a line through the grade in my grade book. This is my way of documenting that I know the parent has seen that particular grade. I then place the paper back in the student's desk.  No muss, no fuss!

The purpose of this is simple. It's a trust issue between student and teacher. We all have had days where our work is not up to par.  I wanted my students to know that if they have a paper that doesn't go so well, I'm not calling them out on it.  It's not True Confessions time.  I'm not going to ask for the signed paper in front of the whole class, I'm not going to single them out, I'm not going to draw attention to it.  If I need to talk about the work with the child, I do so in private.  When it's time to turn in the signed work, they simply find a time at some point in the day to slip their paper in the basket.  I tend to get 90% of papers back in a day with no problems.  For those that don't get the work in the basket, well, we have a little private conversation about that!  Overall, this works for us!

Coming soon!  I am planning a week of posts called "Binder Love!"  I am hooked on binders and use them for several different purposes in my class.  I plan to share 5 different ways I use binders in my room to assist with organization, student work, teaching, etc.  I use binders for a ton of things, so it's possible you may see me revisit this topic again later.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Teaching it "Old School"

The power went out in my building today.  
It was a dark day. 
And, it totally didn't help that it was raining all day. 
The skies were gray, and little sunlight was filtering in.
The kids had lunch in the darkened cafeteria. 
Then, it was time for math class.

Let's just say no power = no technology.

I hadn't realized just how much I have come to depend on my Promethean board. So, in the "old school" spirit, I dragged the chart stand from the back of the room, grabbed my scented Mr. Sketch markers*, and rolled with it.

Turns out I can still kick it "old school!"  The lesson went on, the kids participated (probably more from the novelty of how we were using and then flipping through reams of chart paper like crazy) and they learned.  Even though they are up at the Promethean board all the time, they were loving coming up to the chart stand and using a good, old Mr. Sketch.  It was a good, dark day!

That is if you don't count my now magic marker multi-colored hands.  It must be one of those "you know you're a teacher when" things.
Q:  Are you a teacher?
A:  Yup!  And, I have the multi-colored hands to prove it!

*By the way, how much do you love Mr. Sketch scented markers?  They are my favorite!  The color is true, they last a long time, and they smell good.  Seriously, forget the kids, I have to stop myself from sniffing them in class!  If you don't have them, go get some!  And, as for the multi-colored hands?  Mr. Sketch washes right off.
(Just my personal opinion.  The Mr. Sketch people don't even know I exist!)

Saturday, September 25, 2010

We're Going on an Array Hunt!

Unit 1 in our math series does a lot of work with arrays.  You know, "number of rows times the number of columns."  I think we've said that about a million times the past couple of weeks.  Another thing we worked on were prime and composite numbers.  They have the toughest time remembering that 1 is neither prime nor composite.  That is until we said, "THAT'S the price you pay for being #1."  For some reason, that sort of stuck.  They found it very funny.  Hey, whatever works, right?!

Back to arrays. . .
This year, in anticipation of blogging, I invested in a new digital camera.  All the pics you see here are taken with my Cannon Powershot 1400.  It's a simple point and shoot, but the pics seem to be pretty nice.

Again, back to arrays. . .
With Back to School Night quickly approaching, I realized I didn't have much student work on the walls.  Maybe because it was only days after school started?  Gotta love an email from admin telling you to be sure you put up student work for back to school night when you haven't had a chance to do much besides get to know your students and work on routines.

So, on with arrays. . .  REALLY. . .
I decided to send my kids on an array hunt in our building.  I sent the hooligans in groups of three to a specific room in our building.  Their task was for each student to find an array and take a picture of it.  Yes, I trusted them with my new camera!   THEY DID A GREAT JOB!!!  I was so happy with them, and they were so happy with themselves.  Here are some of the pictures they took:

The Chorus Folder Stand
The Seats in our Auditorium
 Stage Lights
 Vents in the Door to the Staff Lounge
 The Heating Unit in the Main Hallway

They also took pictures of the tiled floor, the tables in the cafeteria, a group of mats in the gym, and many others.  I printed all the pictures and each child had to take a black Sharpie and draw a rectangle/square around their array and write the number model it showed.

I hung these up on back to school night, and they were a big hit.  Next year, I plan to do this again.  The kids loved it.  It was also great because as they came back I looked at the pictures before I sent out the next group.  I was easily able to see who really understood the concept and who didn't.  The best part?  The next few mornings when I picked up my class, they couldn't wait to tell me all the arrays they noticed at home and in their neighborhoods.  Applying math lessons at home?  On their own time?  Be still my heart!

By the way, still working on the blog name.  If you have a suggestion, I'm all ears!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Setting Up My Classroom

A view of the right side of my room if you are standing in front.
A view of the left side of my room if you are standing in front.
Setting up my classroom usually takes me FOREVER! 
I really take the time to make sure everything is in a place that will work for the rest of the year. This year I had to do it all in two days!  I don't know about you, but in my district we have to completely clear our rooms at the end of the year.  Everything gets boxed, nothing on the walls, nothing on the bulletin boards.  It's a complete clean out.  That means at the beginning of the next school year, you are starting from scratch. 

Having been in this room for a few years, I have a pretty good idea of where I want everything, but it still takes time.  To be honest, I love setting up my classroom.  I think it's the organization nut in me coming out full force!  So, I thought I would take you on a little tour of my room.  The pictures above are some overall room pictures.

What I love about my room:
1.  It's pretty big!
2.  It has huge windows and is very bright.
3.  My room overlooks the courtyard in our school and looks out to a grove of trees next to the school.  It's really pretty in the fall when the leaves change colors.
4.  I have fairly new desks and chairs.  My chairs have great book baskets underneath them which is a great space saver.
5.  All my desks and chairs match!  Again, the organizing nut in me loves matchy matchy!
6.  I have one wall that is all bulletin board. 
7.  I have a wall that has a long white board on it.
8.  I have a Promethean board.
9.  I have all the tables and extra chairs to go with them that I want.  In our building, people are always on the search for extra tables and chairs.

What I don't love about my room:
1.  Storage is at a minimum.  I have three large portable closests and that's it.  I started with one closet and over the years as teachers have moved around managed to get two more.
2.  I have no sink in the room.  Our classrooms on the first floor all have sinks, but not if you are on the second floor.  It would be nice to have one.
3.  The location of my Promethean board isn't ideal.  It was installed by our tech department over the summer a few years ago without any teacher input.  But, we make it work!
4.  No refrigerator or lamps.  A couple of years ago our town got a new fire chief who decided we couldn't have these things in our classroom anymore.  I do miss my tiny fridge!
5.  Not much else.  I actually really like my classroom. :-)

So, let me show you some specific areas of the room.

My Class Library Areas
This is the fiction section of the library.  I took the time to reorganize this year.  The baskets are all from the dollar store.  They're actually pretty big and hold a lot of books.  I made genre title cards for the baskets, but a bunch of them still have cards that say "Assorted Fiction."  As the year goes on, I hope to categorize the books even more.  I still have lots to think about when it come to the library.  Should I level the books or keep them organized by genre?  I'm in the process of revamping my reading instruction this year, so I think my libary will evolve as that I work on that.

This is the non-fiction section.  It's just to the left of the fiction area above.  This was sooooo much easier to set up.  I was really surprised at how many more non-fiction books I have than fiction.  I know where I will be spending my Scholastic bonus points this year!  Again, more labled baskets for the various types of non-fiction.

I will do another post soon about my class library and how I work it

Our Meeting Areas

This is the front of the room.  We have a small carpet in front where the kids meet for Writing Workshop and other subjects.  We spend a lot of time on the carpet.  It's in front of the Promethean board so I can work between the board and the chart stand and everyone can see.  You can't really see the whole carpet here, but the kids love it.  I allow the kids to work on independent work where they like, so you will often see kids sprawled on the carpet working quietly.

This is a table in the back of our room that I use all the time.  During workshops, I will often pull kids to this table for conferencing. 
-Behind it you can see the reference shelf which holds our encyclopedias, dictionaries, etc.  To the right of that shelf is the shelf that hold our math tubs.  In the tubs are enough math materials for each table.  The Math Captain of each table grabs the tub and dry erase boards under them at the start of each math lesson.

Other Assorted Areas
This is a closer look at the reference shelf I wrote about earlier. Last year I found this enormous unabridged dictionary in our copy room.  I snagged it for our classroom, the kids love it!  The call it the "Mrs. Granger Dictionary."  Name that book!

This is the math shelf next to our door.  Its tubs hold the different manipulatives we use.  On the shelf is the bathroom sign-out sheet, passes for the nurse, and the all important Purell!  Above it is our class calendar.  This is also where we post any notices and things like the lunch menu.

This table is the "supply table."  On this table we have all our writer's workshop materials and any paper the kids may need.  It holds rulers, scissors, tape, 3 hole punchers, pencils, etc.  See how we got the name supply table? ;-)
Under the table is our big tub of clip boards.  These are a true staple in my classroom as I often allow the kids to work where they like around the room.  They can sit or lay on the floor, sit against a shelf.  The only rule is they have to be working.

So, that's my room.  There are other areas I will tell you about in later posts.  My desk areas is one of them.  I had to change it around a little, and I think it's going to work out.  If there's anything specific you would like to know about, just leave a comment.  I'm probably a little late with this post for most of you.  My district started school on September 2nd.  I now many of you start in August. 
I hope you all have or had a great Back to School!