Thursday, February 27, 2014

What can we learn from the Wizard of Oz?!

This is the hallway outside of my classroom :) It makes my heart happy.
These fabulous [life size] characters were drawn and painted by my wonderfully talented friend Heather Hollomon and some of my fellow 4th grade teachers. (But mostly Heather!)
"Why the Wizard of Oz?" you ask...Well, when I was in college student teaching in Keller ISD, I had this amazing, wonderful, born-to-be-a-teacher mentor. Mary Frances Frawley. I want to be her when I grow up (maybe minus the super tall shoes and spiky hair, but I digress...) Anyway, she is seriously amazing. I feel like everything I do in my room stems from what I learned by watching her...I mean, my classroom jobs, routines and procedures, and most importantly: the way I teach elements of fiction. Mary Fran is obsessed with the Wizard of Oz and therefore, she teaches about character traits, changes, relationships, plot, conflict and theme using this book (and of course, as an extra special treat, introduces kids to the movie!). 

Please excuse my stick-figure drawings but it gets the job done. 

My kids asked the other day why I put this out in the hallway instead of in our room. I [honestly] told them that it was because I knew they walked super slow when they went to the restroom or to get a drink and if they were going to shuffle their feet in the hallway, at least they could be learning while doing so. One of my boys said, "Man, you ARE a smart teacher!" [Was there any doubt in his mind?! I better figure out some new ways to amaze him!:)]

It's almost Friday (praise the Lord). This week has been a beating. Between TELPAS training, PDAS self report, grades, common assessments, lesson plans, sub plans (written and not used), Destination Imagination AND having a 5 1/2 month old...I am READY for the weekend. :)
Talk to you soon! -C

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Countdown is On

So I'm not one who usually does countdowns. I mean, maybe sometimes but I don't live my school days from holiday to holiday or anything like that. But yesterday, when talking with one of my teammates about my plan in Reading for "the two weeks before Spring Break" and the "two weeks after Spring Break" I realized that..uh, I only have one more week of instruction before Spring Break and only 2 after until the dreaded and highly anticipated STAAR test. (WHAT?!?!) 

I think I dread the STAAR test because it seems like so much rides on the students' scores. I totally understand the need for some sort of assessment to make sure that students are on grade level and that they are ready for the next grade level, but I feel like the people who write the tests in Texas are paid extra to make them super confusing for kids. Anyway, that being's 17 instructional days until my kids have to show what they know. Pray for them. Pray for me. Pray that these next few days are purposeful and as stress-less as possible! 

My goal is to try and blog more frequently but with the chaos of testing season, it is what it is! :) 

Friday, February 14, 2014

First Linky Party! Five for Friday

Yay! My first linky party :) 
So this was my PDAS Observation window (oh goody!) and for the most part, we didn't have any major disruptions to our schedule this week (with the exception of "Kindness" parties today...) Here it goes: 

On Monday, my baby niece Lydia was born!! She is the very first girl grandbaby on my hubby's side of the fam. So now we have 4 babies under 2 1/2 years. We LOVE that Jackson has so many cousins to play with! 
I got observed on Wednesday, so now I don't have to have a minor panic attack every time someone opens my classroom door. (Ok, that's totally an exaggeration because it doesn't stress me out THAT much but it is nice to have it "done" with.) Since I teach 2 sets of reading, the afternoon group gets the "better" lesson because I have time to quickly re-evaluate what needed to be changed, worded differently, etc. Of course I got observed RIGHT at 8am...with my first class. Oh well. 

My baby is 5 months old now! I seriously can't get enough of him. He has starting laughing and its the cutest sound ever.

It seems like my kids really struggle with analyzing, drawing conclusions and evaluating nonfiction text. They love to read it but they don't necessarily read to learn...does that make sense? Well this week we were reading articles and editorials and they determined the author's opinion and the facts he/she used to support their opinion. My little darlings seemed to "get it" finally. We shall see if it transfers into the dreaded STAAR test. 
I used articles from and adapted them to what I needed in my own classroom :) 

Today is Valentine's Day AND we had our "Transition to 6th Grade" meeting with our kids. I can't believe how fast this school year is flying by. This group of kids is so special since they are the first group I've ever looped with (plus they are some of the BEST 5th graders we've had in a while). Once STAAR season has made its way through like the tornado it is, the rest of the year is going to FLY. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Welcome to Room 410

The random, out of order posts continue! 

I love my classroom. It is definitely my home away from home and probably the most organized part of my life (my poor house always suffers during the school year). I thought I'd share a few pictures of room 410, home to some of the best students in our school and without a doubt, one of my favorite places to spend my days. 

So, Welcome to 410! My room is ridiculously of my teammates says it looks like a bag of Skittles threw up. Whatevs, I love it. I don't have a specific "theme" because I just want bright colors. 
This bulletin board is one of my kids' favorites. They all talk about how they remember coming in the first day and seeing the words "Reading" and "Boring" before realizing what it says. ("If you think Reading is Boring, you're doing it wrong" (I found the saying somewhere on Pinterest but I can't remember where...)

Our school is part of the No Excuses University network. The main goal is that we teach students that they CAN and WILL go to college, no excuses. Each classroom adopts a different university. Since my own alma mater was already taken (UNT), I decided to adopt Wheaton College, the university my hubby played football for during the first 2 years of college. They have totally spoiled me. They send stuff for my kids and room each year and my kids usually get t-shirts to wear to rep our college. 

the back wall
This is the view from my desk/guided reading table. It's much more enjoyable to look out and see kids sprawled out across the floor reading! 

Our school is really focusing on Academic Conversations this year. It has been amazing to see the improvement in my students' everyday speaking and conversational skills. This bulletin board serves as a reminder of things we do to have a meaningful conversation. 
  So there you have it, a little peek at some of my classroom. :) 
On a totally unrelated note, the weather people say it's supposed to be in the 70s the rest of this week. It only got up to 32 we shall see. Have a great week! 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

A Clean Classroom is a Happy Classroom

So until I can get all my random first-time-blogger thoughts out, my posts are going to seem sporadic and unorganized...and I feel like that's okay. Today I wanted to share some pictures and suggestions for how I organize my classroom. :) 

First off, let me say, my classroom is not always neat and clean, certainly not when all my 5th graders are in there; BUT, I can [almost] always find whatever I need (or a colleague needs...) in less than 2 minutes. My classroom is a thousand times more organized than my house...but I have a 5 month old, so can you blame me? Ok, so here are a few practical tips I use to keep my classroom and school life organized:

1. Assign classroom jobs the first week of school and STICK WITH THEM. I get the whole "everyone needs a chance to do [a certain job]. But think about the real world, we wouldn't encourage our students to change their job every week. My partner teachers and I have always agreed that allowing a change at the semester mark is probably acceptable, but otherwise, our kids keep their same job for most of the year. If they struggle at it, we give lots of time to "teach" them the skills required to be successful and if they really don't care, they are "fired" and we "hire" another student interested in picking up the slack. (I usually "pay" in tickets and kids can use those for rewards, pencils and such....more on that in another post.) Anyway, my kids LOVE having a consistent job and it makes my life simple. A few jobs I find as "essential":
-Breakfast Administrators (My school is Title 1 due to federal funds, we provide breakfast for every student on campus.) These students are responsible for collecting uneaten food, collecting trash, checking off the breakfast list, etc. I never have to mess with breakfast in the classroom.
-The "Commander": I got this job title from my mentor teacher while student teaching and it has stuck. This student is responsible for passing out anything I need. They need to be fast, and not someone who is easily distracted. 
-The Picker Upper, Door Holder & Lighting Technician: pretty sure these are self explanatory but totally necessary
-The HW Checker: All this student does is check to see who turned in complete homework (not whether it's "right" or not)
-The Collator: puts the papers in alphabetical order...a total time saver when you go to enter grades
-The Human Resources: 2 students who are rarely absent that are responsible for collecting work for students who ARE absent. They put the work in a folder and make sure to explain it to students when they return. These kids are AWESOME. 
-The "Go 2 Guy": This kid picks up the slack whenever anyone is absent by doing their job
-The Angel: When there is a fire drill, this kid is the first out the door. They grab the sign with my name on it (which are mandatory at our school) and lead the class outside to our designated spot. They hold the sign high and I don't have to worry about corralling 5th graders, because they line up behind the sign. 
-The Clean Up Crew: They make sure my room is generally clean in the afternoon. 
Moral of the story...Give your kids a job and relieve some of the stress! 

2. Do not make piles. I seriously can't handle piles of papers. Stuff gets lost, it doesn't get sent home, I never grade it, etc. I have a place where I put all the copies I make and organize them by the day I plan to use them. I have a place where I put papers to go home. (see below) I have a place where I put papers to be passed back, a folder for papers to file, and a place for all the other "stuff". Buy a pack of file folders and USE THEM. They are your friend. 

3. Keep your supplies organized. Your kids will thank you, and you will be able to find stuff so much faster. Do it now, do it at the beginning of next year. But please, just do it. 
*Tip: At the beginning of the year, I put the containers of supplies out and let students separate their own stuff out. The beauty of teaching older kids. 

My "5th grade supplies" cabinet

4. Don't let your classroom library get out of control. (That's another classroom job- Librarian!). The books should be organized genre, by author, by topic, etc. 

5. Keep your personal space clutter free. It's totally acceptable to throw things away. If you have an electronic copy, you don't need 6 "just in case" copies of something. Keep one if you must. Most teachers at my school ditched the whole "teacher desk" and opted for a small group table instead. There aren't as many drawers to stuff things and you have to keep it clutter free so that students can actually come over for small groups. (see my picture below). I still have my personal supplies and stuff but I keep them on a bookshelf or in a small 3-drawer container behind my desk. 

So there you have 5 most important tips for keeping your room organized and able to function as a well-oiled machine. I love helping my friends get their rooms organized. Just implementing a few things can change your whole day! 

On a totally unrelated note. It is 18 degrees and snowing here today. (It was 70 degrees 4 days ago...and that's why I LOVE Texas.) Anyway, it's almost impossible to teach my little darlings when right outside our window is the closest thing to a winter wonderland most of my kids have ever seen-in fact, they reminded me that it hasn't really SNOWED (not just ice) since they were in 2nd grade. I love how excited they are!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Reading Review Folders--best thing EVER

So last year, our Academic Specialist showed me a folder that was used in a college course over curriculum. The moment I saw it, I had visions of colorful paper, fonts, graphics and (oh, yea) reading content coming together in one beautiful reading review folder. The only sad thing, I made the folder at the beginning of April and in 4th grade, we take our state assessments at the end of the folder didn't really have time to serve it's full purpose. Lesson learned. This year, after we finished teaching all of our TEKS (the standards in TX), I pulled out the ole Reading Review folder, revamped it for 5th grade and we were ready to go! The folder has sections that cover (almost) everything our students need to know for poetry and fiction and (most) of our nonfiction TEKS. During any kind of independent practice, I let my kids use their folders as a reference tool. My hope is that some of these little things will stick with them for good. 

This is the front of the folder. (I just used a file folder and folded it so that both sides opened. The front focuses on poetry, sensory details and figurative language. The simile/metaphor and analyzing poetry portion were on my kids' folders when I taught 4th grade but I added the other stuff for my 5th grade darlings. 

The Back

The back of the folder is kind of "unorganized" in that it has random topics (Context Clues, Analogies and Types of Conflict) but these things needed a home and this was the best fit. The types of conflict opens to explain the 4 types (character v. character, character v. nature, character v. society, character v. self)

Inside the folder is mostly information for fiction texts but I also included a little booklet I got off of TpT about text structures. You can find it here if you want to purchase it yourself :)

More of the inside :) 
 So I hope to get all of this stuff up on my TpT account (when I actually set that up...). It's totally useful and my kids use their folders all the time to refresh their memories about elements of fiction we've already studied. Tell me what you think! 

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Teaching with Technology

Teaching with technology is so NOT my thing. It doesn't come naturally to me, I feel like it takes my kids weeks to complete simple projects, and I generally can't find a way to easily teach it. BUT, luckily, it IS my fabulous friend Andrea Keller's thing. That woman lives and breathes technology--even before she was our technology specialist. After creating parade floats for each of the 50 states, Andrea taught my kids to create podcasts describing the physical appearance of their float and now they are making "commercials" using a variety of apps to showcase the state they studied. (Have I told you how awesome my friend Andrea is?!) The best part is that I get to still pull small groups for reading intervention and she pulls another small group to work with technology. Win, Win! I can't wait to add links to some of their projects and podcasts AND to show you their parade floats...stay tuned!