Saturday, September 22, 2012

Math Manipulatives Question and Quick Update

Wow! It has already been four weeks since our first day of school. The time has flown by so incredibly fast. My 17 kindergartners have adjusted fairly well. When we transition from one place to another and I say: "Sit down on the carpet in rows," or "Sit down on a face," or "Sit down with your heads down at your desk," I'll have many students day: "I already know!" How glorious is it to get into a routine! Things in a school, of course, will change around, but we're off to a great start! Below is our coconut tree, styled (of course) from 'Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.'

On the math subject, I have been taking a graduate class about mathematical understanding. It has been absolutely fantastic! I am so happy to be able to take this workshop for free. The stipend and $600 worth of math materials or resources is a phenomenal bonus too! Last year, I lacked a lot of math resources for my students. I made up for it with using the Smartboard with all materials you could find in a class being displayed on the screen. I still faithfully use the Smartboard in my Kindergarten class, but manipulatives have been great to have.

I have ordered about half of what I can, but also am unsure what else to get. So far, I have ordered from Nasco, it is much cheaper than many other teacher supplies sights. I have ordered pocket charts (calendar, hundreds chart, and two double-sided graphing charts), a graphing floor mat, a walk-on number line, linking cubes, tangrams, pattern blocks, transparent counters, red-yellow counters, links, 10-frame trains, color dominos, and foam solid-figures. My classroom already had wiggly worms for counters and plastic coins. I already made a bunch of foam dice from the dollar store's inch-cubes and lucked out on getting 600+ unifex cubes for $15 on Craigslist.

So, my question is, what other math manipulatives or materials would you recommend for Kindergarten or other early elementary grades?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

A Look At My Classroom and Easy Decorations

Last year, I had a very rectangle room with no windows to outsides. I only had windows way high that lead into the gym where my students (especially at the beginning of the year) would oooh and awe at the high balls. Despite that, I loved my room! I loved the light blue color, I loved the options for a dark, dim, bright, or very bright room. I loved having computers and printers. I loved the right place bulletin board, white board, and Smartboard. I even loved the skinny, yet simple hallway! You can see some of the pictures of my classroom last year right here.

Welcome Door

 Side wall with Focus Wall, Computers in Back

Side Wall at another arrangement with White Board

Lockers in Hallway

The door decorations were simple. I can't remember where the clipart came from (I am sure a simple google search), but you can use print sets of the crayons in different colors from google docs here: Big Crayons Decorations. I'll use those crayons and the locker decorations again. I did a similar google for crayons to find the small crayons and printed them out on different colored paper, cut some yellow rectangles and green triangles. The link to the crayons for the locker decorations are here: Small Crayon Decorations. It was simple. A few of mine went missing (the fault of a few students playing around) and some of my second graders volunteered to make new ones. So- both the door and locker tags were easy and turned out cute! 


I am sure a lot of you have moved classrooms. Sometimes for the better, sometimes not. Mine? I think for most, it's about the best classroom in the school. I think I just get attached! Now, I have a bigger room, I have windows, a door to outside, a bathroom, sink, carpet on one side and tile on the other. A Right now, the room needs to be painted (the paper was peeled in some places) and I need to figure out decorations. I lack quit a bit! There is a lot to do that I can't do until the room has been painted, but here it is:

I wanted a library and I made one! 
The door to the right leads to OT/SPED, I do get to use the computers in there if the room isn't in use.

Cabinets, a lot had things in it already, but I organized them the best I can now.
The storage on top looks messy, but sometimes just need to out of the way!
This door leads to the first grade room.

From the front. I'm standing right in front of the smartboard. 

My back alley way, door to the bathroom.

Anyway! It's pretty decent. I think its just hard not knowing what it will look like until after they have painted. They're only doing the front bit, not the sinks and back, so hopefully it will all look okay together!

On a separate note: there's a cool clipart giveway at Learning in Spain. Check it out, cause we all love clipart!


Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Resolutions For and Jitters About the New (School) Year

Since there are currently two Blog Hops going on right now about the new school year, I figured I'd participate in both. Really, they go pretty hand in hand.

The first blog hop is about resolutions by Teaching Maddeness. Now, I've only ever stuck to a few resolutions. One was my freshman year of college and I resolved to taking ONLY one tray of food at each meal and not getting ice cream every day. The other resolution was an idea stole from someone else: brush my teeth with my left hand once a day and my right hand the other time. I'm hoping I'll be able to stick to these resolutions like the ones above.

  1. GO HOME! My first resolution is to go home after school and not arrive ungodly early. I left my home at 6 am to get in by 7 (gotta love traffic); kids arrived at 7:30. My kids would leave between 3-3:30 pm. I left before 4 about five times. Typically, I was there till about 5:30. Add about a 45 minute commute and my day lasted over twelve hours with commute. I then quickly grab the dog to go to the dog park for an hour in apology to him. So, my first resolution is to get out at 4:30 every day, except on very special occasions.
  2.  STAY POSITIVE! Now, I am a pretty calm person and can tolerate a lot of things. I grew up with a brother with Autism; I had to learn patience early on. But, things got to me this year and I didn't always stay positive. I hope teaching Kindergarten I will be able to remind myself that they can't know everything and will need plenty of reminders- all while staying cheery enough.
  3. SING and DANCE! I worked four years at a Girl Scout camp and taught Sunday school for eight years; I was used to singing and dancing with kids. I did very little of singing and dancing this last year. Yet, I believe it is a great way to learn vocabulary, learn conceptsA HUGE part of that was my students beliefs. To some (mostly my third grade boys) music and dancing were against Islam. So, I didn't fight them. I did use the Reading Street Amazing Words songs with my Seconds and sang Reading Street songs with them. I did very few songs with the combination and none with just the Thirds.
  4. LAUGH! Laughing, we did that, but not enough. I think they need a good laugh in at least a few times a day. When student teaching, I had kids read Shel Silverstein after specials and tell jokes at the end of the day. I definitely want to hear laugher and see smiles on my kids' faces every day.

The other linky party is by Fierce in Forth and is about first day jitters. Teaching a new grade in the fall and I am full of jitters! Of course, accepting the Kindergarten job, I knew I'd have two months to prepare myself. A month into the assignment, I'm still nervous- but I do have some great ideas swirling through my head!

  1. TEACHING KINDERGARTEN! Okay, that is very broad, but it's also very true. I am very nervous about teaching Kindergarten. Teaching them to recognize letters, numbers, to read, to write, how to go to lunch, etc. - I admit, I took advantage of my previous kids knowing how to do this. I've spent every day doing something for Kindergarten and a lot of my time is going into prepping myself. I think it will slide into place, but I just need to feel that I know what I'm doing and have the materials and ideas to do it. 
  2. CRIERS, RUNNERS, AND SCREAMERS! Well, I did have a few criers and screamers last year, but those were angry cries and screams, not scared and sad ones! I know at the camp I had some of these, but by no means is it the same as in school. With some twenty other students, I have no idea how I will be able to handle all of these problems. And, how will I able to handle it without other students catching onto the sobs? Any ideas you want to share are good ideas!
  3. BACK TO SCHOOL NIGHT and PARENTS: Last year, I was hired so quickly before the start of the school year and a program was put together then too, there was no back to school night for us. I don't exactly know what to include, how it will go, etc. I want to make a good impression and I want them to feel confident in me teaching their child. I want to get information out of them and I want to give information to them. I worried about being able to communicate with all of the parents and have things to do for the ones that only have a Kindergarten, yet catching all of the parents that have two, three, six kids at the school.
Sigh! So many more, but these are some of my current jitters! Alright, off to try to relax and play some frisbee with the dog. 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Crafting and Researching for Kindergarten

As I will be teaching Kindergarten this next year, I have been aggressively making myself ready: mentally and physically. I am fortunate that the classroom that I am taking over is quite large and has plenty of resources already in it. The school or a previous teacher loaded up with puzzles, games, whiteboards, and flash cards. This is a complete switch for me from last year where I had virtually no materials (from the school) for half-a-year for my third graders in Language Arts. I very much utilized literature circles, reading a-z, library books, and online resources.

Anyway, I'll be using a mixture of curriculum and teacher-developed (and found) resources. I have Reading Street, Saxon Math, Math Expressions, Scott Foresman Science and Social Studies, a phonics program, and a writing program. In comparison to last year, this is quite overwhelming. On the bright side, I have my tentative year plan already made and won't stick to the curriculum religiously. I go by what way I best can connect topics, seasonal opportunities, integrating units, and, of course, state and common core standards. 

What I have been doing a lot recently is researching teaching techniques and classroom management ideas, making center and whole group activities, and crafting things for the classroom. I love the idea of whole brain teaching! I'm also planning on implementing the Daily Five and Writing Workshop.

Does anyone use whole brain teaching? How do you teach the rules? Do you use all of it or bits and pieces?

I had seen a number of cute chairs around pinterest and blogs and opted to create my own. I had an old chair that was worse for wear. I decided that it would be my project. 

I searched for paint tucked away in the basement and managed to find this teal and pink. I mixed the two to create the purple. 

My only task now is to find the fabric to go with it. I have a "The Frog and the Princess" fleece fabric that matches the color perfectly, but wouldn't be large enough to not show the faces. I also have a simple teal fabric and bought a green with teal spot fabric. Still, I am conflicted. Any ideas?

Freebie Fridays

Another activity I got done was this number puzzle. You can choose whether or not to have the addition as part of the puzzle. It's not self correcting (maybe I'll do another that way), but allows students to match different representations of numbers 1-10. You can download it at teacherspayteachers for free if you click the picture below.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Must Have Picture Books

I stumbled on a linky party about books at The Teacher Wife. I love to talk about books, so here I'll add a few that I haven't seen listed on some other lists! It's terribly hard to think of absolute favorites, but I'll just stick with a few that I love or my kids loved or both! My guilty pleasure, especially during garage sale season is buying books, so I love getting ideas, link up and share yours for others to read about!
- . - . - . - . - . - . - . - . -

1. The Crayon Box that Talked by Shane DeRolf

This book tells a story about a bunch of crayons that doesn't get along. They each believe they are the best color and will argue about the others. When bought and taken home, they learn they can make a beautiful picture by using all of the colors. 

I read this around Martin Luther King Jr. Day to help teach acceptance and diversity. It could be read anytime and this next school year, I'll read it much sooner. 

2. Pinduli by Janell Cannon 

The author of Stellaluna, also deserving top mentions, also wrote this book. Opposite of The Crayon Box that Talked, Pinduli is a young hyena that doesn't like being different. She's picked on one day and ends up running into a number of other animals that weren't having a good day either. It teaches about how words can travel and hurt those you say things to. In the end, Pinduli learns to accept herself and helps other accept each other too. 

I read this last year in the beginning of the year to help teach about how to discover what words mean. The book is filled with great vocabulary. We used context clues, picture clues, and the dictionary to help us out. The kids loved the imagery and enjoyed all the animals in it. 

3. Zink the Zebra by Kelly Weil

Now, I'm on a roll with books that teach about appreciating differences. Zink the Zebra is another book about how people can be different. This story follows two zebra siblings: Zink and Fink. Zink was born with spots, Fink, with stripes. They go around the jungle asking which one was "weird." Their parents tell them they are special the way they are. 

I've been reading this one to kids for a long time now. Having worked with Girl Scouts, this program was a big part of our camp. This very short story was written by a young girl, Kelly, who had cancer. She felt alone and different. She did lose her battle, but her memory stays with this book and program. You can watch a video online for free with your class:

4. Black? White! Day? Night! by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

Less of a picture book and more of a flip book, this book still deserves a mention. The book is a great book of opposite with excellent pictures to illustrate opposites. One part of the page will have a picture with one idea and you open it and see the opposite. The pictures here are tiny and huge.

When I started to read the book with my second and third graders when teaching antonyms, they said: "This is for Kindergartners!" By the end, they were saying their predictions and how cool the book was!

5. Bad Kitty by Nick Bruel

By no means is this a masterpiece, but it is terribly funny. Kitty used to be a very good kitty but then became a very bad kitty when her owner had only healthy food for her. She goes through a terrible fit and does some terrible things until her owner buys her "tasty" food. Then, she must apologize and fits all the wrong things she did. 

My students loved this book, the illustrations, and the chaos! It is easy to read with an ABC format and has some great vocabulary as well. My kids wanted to read it again and again, along with any other book that was in the series! The Poor Puppy book has good geographic locations, which is another fun aspect to talk with kids about. 

Extra: Oh, How I Wished I Could Read! by John Gile
I almost forgot about this one. I got this when I was in school and absolutely loved it! I read it so often! So, I figured, I may as well add it as an extra. It's about a little boy who dreams he can't read. He has a terrible experience without knowing what the letters meant! It helps to show kids the importance of reading and how words surround them. I did read it to my class, but it was so early in the year I forgot it originally on the list!

Those are just a few, there are so many other books I could rave on and on about! Check out the linky party to add your own! 
- . - . - . - . - . - . - . - . -

Like I wrote before, I am trying to do something a day for Kindergarten. Some things are more general, like the pocket chart and now these. I searched many places around me to get library pockets to no avail. So, I decied to make my own. I cut 12 x 18 pieces of construction paper into four parts: 4.5 inches by 12 inches. I then cut them all to be 9 inches long, saving the other 3 inches. These can fit into the pockets later on.

I scored them with my scissors four inches up so I could later fold them. Before I did that though, I cut .5 inches off of each side of the longer chunk.

I folded them up next. Then, I glued the excess tabs and folded them over to create pockets. I rounded the top corners to make it look more professional. It took about 3 episodes of The Vampire Diaries (my latest Netflix TV show) to make 25. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

Home-Make Pocket Chart

I'm about as frugal as them come. From home-made materials to dollar spot purchases, I'd like to believe that I won't spend all my money of my classroom. Mind you, I am just beginning out and sometime I'll likely just give in. Right now, I have the time to try to wind crafts out.

My lastest desire was to make my own pocket chart. While laminating the number cards from the last post and a few other things, I threw in another sheet of 24x12 construction paper in to try it out. With some extra laminating scraps, thread laying around, and a needle, I  figured my course of action. I laid out my paper and taped the strips onto it as straight as possible. Since I lack a sewing machine, I just used a needle and thread and sewed it on.

I could have made the strips smaller, but this was a trial attempt. Plus, it ended up fitting well with my cricut apples! Here it is next to the $1 pocket chart at Target. Is it worth it with the time? Maybe not, but maybe the next one will be larger and then it will definitely be worth it over a $10 or $20 versus just my time.

I'm thinking of relaminating to make it stronger. Though it's strong enough to hold paper, maybe not having little hands playing with it.  I'll share if I do!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Kindergarten, Oh My!

I have recently been assigned to teach Kindergarten next year. I'm a big mix of nervous and excited. I'm hoping this will encourage me to create even more engaging activities and remain positive. I'm excited to bring music into the classroom and center activities. Both of these things were lacking dramatically in my class last year.

Since the assignment, I have been searching relentlessly through other Kindergarten, early childhood, and homeschool blogs, pinterests, tpt, etc. It's amazing how many resources are out there for these young learners. I'd say there are much more for younger students than for older students. How neat!

I've created a few things DYI and with my Cricut. I plan to make a "Rotten Apple" game for sight words with my circut and then laminate. I've gotten other sight word ideas from around the web and made these paint chip sight word cards based on one that I loved!

If you want the list of Reading Street vocabulary words that I used you can get it here on googledocs.

My intention is to make one thing a day for Kindergarten until the first day of school. With that in mind, hopefully I won't be nearly as stressed when I get the kiddos the first day. If they're digital (and worth it) I'll post them on here to share!

For today, I made some number cards through 30. I'm familiarizing myself with these new standards to ensure my students know what the need to know and more by the end of the year. At this point, here is just till 30. I hope my students can locate, name, and represent up to 100. But, this could be a stretch. We'll see when I get them!

You can click this to bring you to teacherspayteachers and download for free!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Lovely World of Seuss

Hands down, Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein show up more in my classroom than any other authors. They are creative, funny, filled with good language, and simply enjoyable for all people of all ages. Not to forgot that I also absolutely adore poetry! We spent a good two months on rhyme, similes and metaphors, types of poetry, and writing poetry.

This last year, we did a few activities to go along with Dr. Seuss and his wonderful books.We also did a lot of comparing of his style as well (going along right into our author study standard).

Yertle the Turtle
I had a lot of bullying in my classroom this year. With Yertle the Turtle, my students instantly connected his behavior with some of the behavior they had seen. We all agreed that Yertle wasn't a good king at all. Since we were working on quotes and vocal expression, each student figured out what he or she would say to Yertle if they were under him.

We put this together into a craft using paper plates, green construction paper, and the quote shape design on Word. Ie: Right here! Since we were also studying geometry, shapes, and symmetry, students needed to create a pattern. It was an early introduction to rotational symmetry for them!

Bartholomew and the Oobleck 
 What a better way to study Solids, Liquids, and Gases by reading Dr. Seuss and making the devastating Oobleck. Note: this is a dirty project but very enjoyable with the kids. You can usually clean up with just water and a paper towel, though the food coloring has been known to stain!

I've done it with corn starch and water and borax, glue, and water. Either will work. Just add some color and let kids enjoy!

The last time I did this:
- Quart sized plastic baggy per student
- Add about 1 part corn starch for 1 part water and mix slowly in the bag (I did about half a cup of each this last year, it spreads out or sinks and I didn't want too big of a mess if someone popped theirs open (which happened later in the day!))
- Add some food coloring and mix through it (I had neon colors and let the kids pick which, adding two or three drops and letting them mix and explore)

We also did some comparing between Bartholomew and Yertle. We thought both were bad kinds and Dr. Seuss likes to have "normal" people be good and help save the day.

The Lorax
Who doesn't read The Lorax for Earth Day or when studying natural resources? Well, I love it and students were really excited to read it this year due to the movie coming out. This made for some interesting discussions with my kids. "The book is based on the movie!" and "He did plant the trees, it was in the movie!" Since we were studying both of the above at the time, we used the lovely Mel D's Seusstastic Activities to write about how we will protect the earth.

To display these (right in time for conferences), I made the Lorax and some Truffala Trees to place around it in the back of my class. I projected some images onto the SMARTBoard, got out some construction paper, and traced the edges. It took a little while, but I couldn't draw that well without this great technology. I know other teachers that use their overhead projector for doing similar! 

Anyway, we read a few more, but here are a few activities we did. I just felt like posting some activities we did that connected literature and standards!

On a different note, it is most likely that I will teach Kindergarten next year. Boy, I'm both terrified and psyched for this experience! I will be spending a lot of my summer trying to collect resources, make activities, and learn as much as I can about effectively teaching Kindergarteners. If you have some clever Kindergarten ideas, management ideas, etc., let me know!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Summer School and the Olympics

School has been out for almost two weeks now. It is a bitter sweet feeling at the end of the year. I am in much need of a long break, but I really will miss many of my kids. Boy, I already don't know what I will fill my time with this summer! 

Hopefully my former students will be having a busy summer. I gave them a big summer homework packet and a book to read. It wasn't necessarily required, but they were very much encouraged to complete it. I talked with almost all parents about it and I am sure they will encourage their children to finish it too. 

Each student got the packet. They were catered by math levels: second grade, third grade, and forth grade leveled. The first grader who comes up for my math class also got one! Second grade girls got Junie B. books; boys got Captain Underpants. Third grade girls got Katie Kazoo or Amber Brown; boys got Goosebumps. I got all twenty-two books at the Half-Price Bookstore for 45 cents each! All were nice quality and hadn't felt like they had even been opened!

I will be teaching two-weeks of summer school. Its a short bit, but they are full days. Conveniently (or unfortunately), this will be during part of the Summer Olympics. I had every hope and intention to go over to London for the games. I spent summer of 2010 in a Catholic junior school in Southwark, London. It was fantastic and could have stayed with the woman I stayed with when I was there before. But alas, second best thing: I get to theme my summer school session around it!

We are an AP school. That's Accelerated Pathways. It adds about 300 hours of school a year for the kids who opt to do it. Two or three days a month are reserved for it and two weeks in the summer. During that time, AP days are guided by a focus. Mine will be the Olympics. So, almost all activities will relate in some aspect to the Olympics. Right now, I am creating and finding activities to use. We'll probably be doing one or two field trips as well. I haven't decided where to go that would best connect yet. One maybe to the YMCA or Lifetime, a state park, or a large, free playground for the day that would be great fun for the kids.

For writing, I will be going through Writing Process with them. We will be working on a "Gold Medal Story." They will get to write about how they would win a gold medal in the Summer Olympics. I am sure that at least a quarter of the class (if not more) will write about soccer (football). If you want a copy of what I am planning to use, you can get a copy for free here:

I'll post some other activities I have planned later on. I have a craft that we will do when displaying our final drafts too.

Hope you're having a great summer!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

If my classroom was a deserted island, I would want...

I have only four days left of school; I can't figure out where the rest of this school year went! It must have been between staying late nights at school, pulling out my hair, and collecting items on teacherspayteachers without my notice. I haven't spend much time on the blog, but it was something to start for the future.

My tests all went pretty well. I have students that struggle; that's all classrooms for you! But, the growth of my students is undoubtable. All the same, I hope they continue to grow over the summer. They can use and over the summer through our school and I hope that they do. I considered sending homework, but I didn't have enough time to finally pull together a packet. I'm sure they'll be happy for the time off.

While stubbling through other blogs, I discovered a linky party. New to the blog sphere, I wanted to participate.

1. Smartboard (And thus my Laptop)

I  have no desire to ever go backward into a classroom with no SmartBoard. I have used this religiously over the school year. I have put together pages and pages of daily problems, themed units, and simple games. The interactive features keep my kids better focused and willing to participate. With the MCAs (our state testing) being online and interactive, it also allows good practice for moving things, putting them in order, and clicking on something instead of putting A,B,C,D. Plus, it adds color and ditches clapping erasers together outside on Friday.

We watch videos for science, do our Daily Word Problem for math and Daily Comprehension for LA, work out story maps, and use graphic organizers on a pretty regular schedule. When math starts or when Arabic ends, they know right away to head to the front and sit down. This sitting and staying in the same spot is something I need to reorganize for next year, but at least they got the schedule down!

2. The Organization System: Bins, Files, and Table

I have my week materials inside these bins with all my copies of sheets, homework, and take-home words. I also include books I'll read, supplies for activities (if they're too big, they get sent to the very bottom drawers that are not shown), and other daily materials. 

Inside each is a five-section binder, these hold my Saxon math sheets: facts for seconds, saxon practice for seconds, facts for thirds, saxon for thirds, and extra sheets for both or either. The binders were bought from Target this year in the $1 section. They came in pink, green, blue, and black and I bought a number of them. Despite having extra, they haven't come undone at all yet. I think some Targets have them in still, if so, I totally support using them!

The night before, I reposition all of the days work on the front trapezoid table in piles from homework, science, LA, to math. I clear the contents over the next school day. This way has made it easiest to grab what I need at what time. It also helps my students see where the work is and help if a sub is needed. 

3. My Scout Bag

I would have been lost without this bag (well, I have pink, green, blue, and black stripes). It is large enough to fit my laptop, a few days of grading, my gradebook binder, my purse, and more on the inside. The six pockets on the outside can hold my camelback waterbottle, coffee thermos, keys, cords, a snack, make-up, and other nick-nacks. Plus, it has water-resistant sides, a zipper on top, and it has remained sturdy!

4. MAP Reading Practice (And other free teacher-created resources)

Since we use the NWEA testing system, this has been a fantastic resource. We do Daily Comprehension from this website. It is divided based my RIT scores and by topic. I switch it up between practiced skills and try to spiral teaching to keep materials fresh. My average scores in reading (with second and third graders) is 197, but I teach up to the thirds with this and usually do activities from 201-210. 

You can click on the picture to take you to the site. It is a really complete and organized compilation of other websites and their games that relate to certain topics. Even if you don't use the NWEA, its a good practice sight and allows students to click things on the SmartBoard. Some are more work than play, but others have the kids very interested. 

Other free-resources are definitely a win. I love teachers-pay-teachers,, dafont, and, of course, personal blogs. If anything else, they've inspired me to create new resources too!

5. Library and Book Shelves 

Five things is difficult with how much I use on a daily basis. Books though are obviously important. Unfortunately, this is not something that I have managed to get into a system. A number of my kids have no control to sit and read. Even with a number of reading chairs, blankets, pillows, and stuffed animals, it was not enough incentive to find a spot and just read. It ended up taking more out of me to stop fights, arguments, and unruly behavior during this time and I stopped "Quiet Time." Now, they only read if they finish early. Next year, I would love to implement the Daily Five or CAFE. I will need to learn more about them,  but it could easily help. Since I work with such a large ELL population, it seems like this would be the most important thing. 

I will need more and more bins and crates for next year though. I have too many boxes of books that haven't been unloaded. I am also a Half Price Books junkie and end up in the clerance rack at least bimonthly. For 50 cents a book and 45 when the 10% teacher discount kicks in, there is no turning back. Plus, they have great teacher resources too. I never (or very rarely) by any book for full price- last being The Hunger Games for myself. It kicked me up to the $100 mark for my scholastic book order too, so it wasn't for nothing!

Those are my top five; link up and post your own!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Standards and Curriculum Maps

I am a new teacher who went to school with teacher accountability and No Child Left Behind at the forefront of lessons. I had to write every lesson plan to target a state standard. My cooperating teacher when student teaching was a veteran teacher and didn't glimpse at them at all. Does my school force? No. We did do some training at the beginning of the year to help align teaching, but my school doesn't slap writs for straying.

The other day, I was chatting with another (more experienced) teacher and she asked, "Did you teach about rocks and minerals, yet?" Without any thought, I immediately, in an appalled way, replied, "No, it's not in the state standards, why would I teach it?" I think there was a moment of silence before she burst out laughing. I quickly tried to backtrack my words, making them sound less snappish. But, besides teaching the Solar System much longer than I needed, I haven't straying from this belief all year.

I set up curriculum maps in September to guide me through the year. I carefully plotted out Language Arts, Math, and Science/Social Studies to best fit my own teaching style. Besides using the Reading Street curriculum for reading books and Saxon worksheets for math work, I was free to do as I pleased. I am most thankful for this. In Science and Social Studies, we have been jumping around the textbooks and are FINALLY starting the textbook from page one with our last unit on plants and animals. 

My year, in essence, with Science and Social Studies looked like this:

September: Space and Solar System in Science and Communities in Social Studies
October: Inventions and Change Over Time to cover standards in both
November: Native Americans, Pilgrims, and Comparing Civilizations 
December: Force and Motion, Sound and Light
January: America- Maps, Customs, Important People, Symbols, Changes Over Time, Revolutionary War, Independence, Branches of Government, and Responsibilities of Citizens 
March: Matter, Weather, Temperature, and Seasons
April: Economics- Goods and Services, Resources, Currency, and Opportunity Cost
May: Plants and Animals

And then viola, all second and third grade standards were covered (or are being covered now). How could I have time to add rocks and minerals when I want to teach in depth lessons. I want my students to still be able to tell me what the main groups of Native Americans were in Minnesota. I want them to be able to burst into a rap about the Solar System and tell me what type of simple machine is leading up to a doorway. Even dates have stuck in their minds and they told the Arabic teaching that the Declaration of Independence was signed on what date (month and day given by a second grader and the year given by a third grader). 

Are they tested on this information? No. But whether or not I support strictly adhering to state standards or not, I understand it and do follow this. I am also happy that my students have developed a deeper understanding, rather than jumping around to one topic after the next to read the entire Science and Social Studies textbooks. 

Freebie for Science and Social Studies
We create a World Habitat Mobile when studying the Desert, Rain Forest, Tundra, Grassland, and Ocean Habitats. They turned out to be adorable and a good cumulating activity.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Islam and the Classroom

Outside of all that I am learning about teaching this year, I am learning more and more about the Islamic culture. All of my students are Islamic.

What I found hardest to do this year was find characters that my students could relate to in literature and lessons. So rarely are their Muslim characters in children's literature. Rarer still is to find a book with Muslim characters that is secular. I researched a lot at my local libraries and online. Yet I have wound up with only a few.

I am incredibly happy with two books I got through Scholastic this year: Big Red Lollipop by Rukhsana Khan and The Sandwich Swap by Queen Rania Jordan Abdullah. The only other age appropriate book I found and read is One Green Apple by Eve Bunting.

Clip art images are just as tricky when putting together projects and packets. No, it isn't imperative that I have to use Muslim characters- but I have so many girls that do wear the hijab that it would be nice to show kids like them. So, to add decoration in my room, I look out my Everyday Paper Dolls Cricut Cartridge and created these:

I am happy with them. Each is based on a student in my class. If interested, let me know and I can help you to figure out how to create the look. It took a bit of trial and error to figure out how to make the hijabs!

One of the neatest things about working with students from a diverse background is the culture days we have had. I had a student bring in sambusa and dished me out some. I absolutely loved it! I tried to recreate it and ended up with these ones below. Although they looked far from the Somali dish, they tasted just great. I accompanied them with the Somali rice. Lovely dish!

It has been an adventure with these students. I am still struggling with finding more literature though, let me know if you have crossed books with Muslim characters with little stress on religion!