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.