Sunday, August 24, 2014

Classroom Reveal 2013-2014: My New Digs

Reality has set in. I start school tomorrow. Summer is really over and even though I have technically been back at work, somehow it doesn't feel real until the kids show up. I had so many things I wanted to share with you guys last week, but I was EXHAUSTED! I would come home from school and just collapse on the couch unable to formulate a coherent thought. That being said, look for some good stuff to hit the blog sometime soon.

For now, I wanted to show you my new digs! I love my new classroom and my new school. It's so clean and all the chairs are the same color, and I have 4 walls.  That's right FOUR full functioning walls AND a door! If you don't remember how...let's say "special" my old room was, check out some of my old tours here. 2012-2013 and 2013-2014


See! There's the door. I even have keys for the door. This is a big deal. LOL!


I also have a crazy long bulletin board outside my room. Seriously, it's HUGE!  I had to get creative to fill the space, but I love how it turned out. A big thank you to my new teammate, Jillian, for helping me with the tree. That's basically her tree. I just crumpled the paper. 


I'm still at a Leader In Me school, so I'm excited to keep going with the 7 Habits.


Here is the other side of the door. You can't really see the sink, but it is hiding back there. I'm so excited to have a sink IN my classroom. Woot! Woot!


My leadership roles bulletin board and my classroom bingo board.


My file cabinet has been turned into my no name bulletin board for now. The tags are hard to see in the picture, but they are super cute. I have Tara at Fourth Grade Frolics to thank for those cuties. Love.


This is the cubbie nook in the back of my room. The door to my classroom bathroom is directly across from  the 7 Habits tree. That's right! A bathroom! I have a classroom boys & girls bathroom just off my room that I share with one other classroom. This set up is a teacher's dream!

 This is the data door (aka the teacher's dream bathroom door). 
I'm all set up for our first two classroom goals:
#1) Reading at least 5 Bluebonnet Books 
 #2) Learning those multiplication facts

We will be attending attendance as soon as school starts. And then...who know?!?


The rest of my cubbies line the back wall. I'm not quite sure what those bulletin boards will be yet. I'm thinking of using it to simply display student work and projects. I love my anchor charts, but I love to display student work more. 

The star that appears to be in the middle of the wall, is actually hanging from the ceiling to mark my table groups. I'm still using the Gandhi quote because it's my favorite and I'm sticking with the IKEA book boxes.  However, I ordered them from Amazon this year instead of making the pilgrimage to the store. I may have paid more per box but I most certainly saved on gas and my buddies at Amazon Prime got them to me in 2 days flat. You can't beat that!


This is my back wall and guided reading table. Excuse the mess. Those are leftovers from Meet the Teacher Night. I love my new Writing Process status chart courtesy of Really Good Stuff. I've flipped the inserts around so that I can reveal them as I teach the steps in the writing process.

Also, do you see those windows up top?  I haven't had a window in my classroom in three years! I'm so excited to have natural light. I forgot to take a picture of the full length window that on the other side of my guided reading table. Huge window! Tons of light! I'm in love. 

I mean... just LOOK at this view. 


Beautiful, right?

 My library looks really different this year due to confined spaces. I love my new room but it is substantially smaller than my last room. I pulled books that were old and unread and made sure to stock it up with books I know kids in 2014 want to read. 

I'm also really excited about my TPT tools. Not Teachers Pay Teachers tools, but Total Participation Technique tools. More on all that down the road. :)


I made sure to stock up with magazines this year too. I've got Sports Illustrated for Kids, Zoobooks, and National Geographic for Kids.


This is my book recommendation chart and reading log bulletin board. Kiddos will keep track of all the books they read by writing/drawing the title on half an index card and putting them on their reading ring.  This way kids can keep track of everything the read for the year. I've modified this idea from The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller


I basically have books stashed all over my room. This carousel will be great to highlight a series, an author, or other popular books. 


My picture books and non-fiction books are stashed in here. I'm rotating books in and out this year to accommodate the small space. For example, all my books on the Titanic and Mummies are at home for now.  There will be a great reveal later this year, where I will bring in my other books and take these books back out. My hope is that by changing out the books, the library will stay fresh and exciting. Kids will keep going back and keep looking for something to read. Fingers crossed.




I just had to take a picture of my phone because I actually have a phone in my classroom this year! No more walking to the office every time I need to call parent. Woot! Woot!

And finally, here's my birthday board...



Aren't these birthday balloons the cutest?  
You can download them for free from Where the Wild Things Learn on TPT.


After flipping through ALL the pictures I took of my classroom, I realized that I did not take any where you can actually see the whole room.  Not one desk has been pictured, except mine. Apparently, I was only focused on the perimeter when I took these pics, lol. Oops. I will snap a few more shots tomorrow and update the post. My walls are also looking very bare because I haven't put up any posters.

It's actually amazing how much different this room will look in a week.

So, until then...

Happy back to school! Happy teaching!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Am I A Blogging Dinosaur?

Well folks, I officially head back to work tomorrow. Goodbye dear summer. Goodbye sleeping in. Goodbye waking up slowly while sipping a fresh cup of coffee. Goodbye midday gym classes. Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye. It's been grand, but it's time to join the land of working adults again.

I have enjoyed my summer SO much this year. I completely took a break from school. I read some books sure, but ultimately I did...basically...nothing. And it was fabulous! Sometimes, you just need a break, ya know? I even had all these big plans to blog and you know what?!?  I didn't really do it.

**Sighs**

But, you know what I've noticed? Blogging has really changed over the past three years. I don't know if I'm the only one who sees it this way but... When I first started blogging it was a true community of educators.  It seemed like people really connected with other teachers around the nation to share ideas, experiences, and inspiration. I would leave comments on blogs and those teachers would email me back often extending the conversation and generating full on email correspondence. I learned so much from so many people!

Now, it seems comments are few and far between. It makes you wonder...is anyone reading the post or just stopping by through pinterest to grab a freebie?  And if I don't have a freebie, is it worth reading to others?  Do people just skim?  Hmmm.... I don't know.

I know I read blog posts. I enjoy hearing about how things are used in the classroom and if I read your post, I almost always make it point to comment because I think comments are important. It's feedback. Just like with our students, we all need feedback and responses to know our work is being heard and valued. So, right here, right now... I would like to thank all those conscientious readers out there who read, respond, open a dialogue, and are part of the blogging community. I truly appreciate you!

Just a thought, but ...maybe blogging is slowly dying out?? Just like ICQ or Napster, it had it's 15 minutes of techy fame and now the world has transitioned to pinterest, instagram, twitter, and a more snapshot style of getting information.  And I don't even have a Facebook page for my blog. LOL! You legitimately have to come to my blog and read it or at least follow through some sort of online reader. Ha! I'm SO old school! I'm like a blogging dinosaur.

We live in a fast paced world where reading long posts and frankly writing long posts is time consuming and who's got the time?? I get it, but it makes me sad. I miss the days where blogging wasn't about advertising your newest bundle on TPT (although, seriously congrats to all those teachers making BANK! out there) or promoting a product, or running a giveaway. I miss the days of conversation and connecting with other amazing educators around the country and the world. 

I've even started cleaning out my blog reader and deleting blogs that only post about products. I know that's terrible, because those products are probably great and those bloggers are great, but when I sit down to read blogs I'm looking for content, substance, and community...not more advertising. I feel inundated with special offers, sale signs, and buy me, buy me, buy me. So, I am sadly unfollowing people and cleaning out my blog feed because I also can NOT legitimately read 499+ blog posts every time I log in. Ha, it's just not possible. With our busy lives in this busy world, I suppose it's time to pick and choose.

With that being said, if you read my blog, THANK YOU! I hope you have gotten some ideas you can use, tweak, or develop upon and use in your classroom. I'll continue to post what I can, when I can, and share my journey along the way.

Happy teaching!!


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Anchor Charts: Math Samples and Tips

Earlier this month, I posted samples of some of my multiplication & division anchor charts from last year. (Click here to read that post if you missed it.) I consider myself somewhat of an anchor chart aficionado, not because my charts are the most beautiful, but because I create them with the kids, refer back to them constantly, and train my kids to really use them.

With the explosion of Pinterest I think our anchor chart expectations have morphed from simple (think back to your sample charts in Guiding Readers and Writers by Fountas and Pinnell) to creating great works of art with the students and I don't think you need to do that to be effective, which is good news for me because I am not what one would call a creative genius, lol.  I appreciate all those glorious charts on Pinterest, I really do. They clearly took time and artistic talent to create and color, but in the classroom...in the moment... I just go with it and get it done. 

Here are a few samples of other math charts I created last year:
 I created this with my students after we discovered all the ways to make a dollar using like coins. This was  the product of our discussion and findings. I used the giant money die cuts to save myself some time (and make it look cool).

TIP: Use die cuts to add color and dimension to your chart. They tape right on and peel right off.

 This is a good example of a poster I made AFTER a class discussion. The kids had so many good ideas I wanted to get it ALL on the poster. It was very busy with too many colors and too much info. My kids didn't use it. It was like information overload. So then, I simplified...

Guess which one my students preferred?  :)

TIP: Keep your colors easy to read and your information direct and kid friendly.

 Excuse the crinkles in this one. It got a little beat up during the classroom clean out. I often have students draw this same chart in their math journals while I am working on the poster.  We come back and add vocabulary and models throughout the unit as needed. 

TIP: If created with the students, you can even get "permission" to use short-cuts like just saying dimes and pennies. They know. You know. It's like secret code. That obviously makes it cooler.

 This was actually a 3rd grade poster I saved.  I did have the "brownies" pre-cut and ready to glue on the top during the lesson. I also had the table already created and we just filled it in during the lesson/discussion.

TIP: Set up titles and any organization for the chart ahead of time. Then you can just fill it in.

 Eek! This one will change next year, because I just attended a whole day of professional development on fractions and the presenter suggested defining fractions as numbers between whole numbers, not simply saying they are part of a whole. Oops! So... go with this for an example of a math unit poster. Basically, it starts with defining the operation/math skill in the most simple terms, then identifying key vocabulary and models for the unit. 

TIP: Using a similar set up for anchors helps students know how to read them and how to use them. They know where to look for the information they need.

Truly there is NOTHING special about this poster. It is simply vocabulary, but I wanted to explain why I only use 2 colors. I use two colors to make it easier to review and learn the vocabulary. It helps kids narrow down the choices while they are still learning and practicing these unknown words.  For example I might say, "I'm thinking of a purple word that means two lines crossing." Students would be able to eliminated the red words immediately and look for the correct word to match my definition. More colors would narrow the choices too much.  It's like the Goldilocks of color choices...two is just right.  

TIP: Use 2 colors when listing vocabulary words.

So... those are my charts. They are not beautiful. They are not great works of art. They are definitely real and created in the moment. They are student friendly and easy to use which is my ultimate goal. 

Several readers on my last post gave some great tips for anchor charts too. 

Kaitlyn from Smiles and Sunshine says:
  • I also try to block out sections that I know I will draw or do something special-and then work around it! When making a list, I try to do the bullet points a quick little picture-like a heart or star, so it looks interesting but doesn't take up a lot of time to do. 
  • A fun font always works for the title-the kids love it when I do titles, because they like it when I hand draw the letters wonky! 
  • I also post new charts directly above old ones-so by the end of the year, we have a nice stack! This way, my kids can look back at previous charts if they need help remembering something.

  • I've taken photos for students to add to their reflection journals.

Brilliant, right?! I think adding pictures of your anchors to journals would be very beneficial! Plus, once you take the pictures you could post to your classroom blog or email the pictures to parents to keep them in the loop. Wonky titles are also a fun way to add pizzazz to the chart while keeping the information clear and easy to read. Thank ladies for sharing your great ideas. Make sure to click the above links to go check out their awesome blogs.

I'd love to hear more. How do you keep your charts pretty and student friendly? Any tips for creating the "perfect" chart?