Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Quick Fix for Lunch Count

I'm always trying to be tech savvy. The kids love using technology and it is supposed to make our lives easier. Right?

Well, I started the year doing lunch count on the Smartboard. And the kids did love it, but lunch count was taking F-O-R-E-V-E-R!

Kids were bouncing the icons all over the board, moving others icons and resizing things like crazy. It was a mess. Not to mention it took up the only screen/board I had for a morning message to my kiddos. I finally decided to pull the plug and just go to something quick and easy.  Sometimes old school is the best school. LOL.

I marched myself down to Hobby Lobby and picked up four small colored buckets from their party section.

Then while browsing Michael's I found the most adorable felt owl stickies. The answer was obvious.

Lunch Popsicle Sticks. Aren't they cute?

I was so pleased with how they turned out.  It cost me less than $10 to fix my problem and lunch count is back to being quick and easy. Most importantly, I get my screen back!! Whoo hoo!

How do you do lunch count?  Do you go old school or new?  

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Morning Meetings in 10 Minutes? Oh My!

Hey ya'll! The first two weeks my 2014-2015 school year are officially in the books. 

I spent my first week learning my new school through good ol' trial and error. Isn't it amazing how many things can be different at a new school?  Nobody can prepare you. You just have to hang on tight and learn the ropes.

Well, I'm living and learning that's for sure! After two weeks, I can now say I finally feel like I've gotten the hang of dismissal, recess, hallway expectations, and the cafeteria. There's been a bit of a learning curve, but I'm on my way to figuring everything out and learning new school traditions to blend them with some of my own favorite classroom traditions.

One of my favorite classroom traditions is morning meeting.  I've always had class meetings, but last year I committed to starting every day with a morning meeting without fail. And...I L-O-V-E it!

I like the tone it sets for the day. We start out each day happy, positive, and energetic. I enjoy learning more about my students.  I hear about their triumphant moments, their disappointed moments, and the funny moments. Morning meeting has been an important addition to my classroom routine and now I don't think I could ever live without it.

Over the years, I have talked with many upper elementary teachers that say they would love to start each day with a morning meeting, but they simply don't have the time. I totally understand.

Time is precious in the classroom. We have so much to teach and so little time. And now with more rigorous standards, well... you know. We just don't have a moment to spare.

So, I had to find a way to hold on to my morning meeting, keep it fun, and keep it under 10 minutes.

My Morning Meetings has a simple 3 part structure:

  1. Greeting
  2. Announcements/Goal Tracking
  3. Activity
GREETING: Students say hello to each other in various ways.

Greetings can take as much or as little time as you want. It all depends on which greeting you decide to do. I start the year with a standard handshake and formal greeting. My class of 22 students can greet each other with a formal greeting and handshake in about 2 minutes. I stick to this greeting for the first two weeks of school to help students learn each other's names.

Another favorite greeting is “What’s the news?” I like to use this one on Mondays especially.  Student one says, “Good morning ______. What’s the news?” Student two responds with “Good morning ______” and then continues with news or says “No news today.”

A speed greeting works great if you are especially short on time. I have students walk around and greet as many people as possible in 30 seconds or I tell them to greet 5 different people on their way down to morning meeting. 

You can also greet each other in different languages or incorporate a class handshake.

ANNOUNCEMENTS: Briefly discuss any and all housekeeping issues/reminders for the class.

I start the announcements (i.e Today we have PE, field trip Friday, robotics applications due Wednesday, etc.) and then open the floor for students to add their own SCHOOL announcements. 

I also use this time set and track our class goals (attendance, homework return rate, etc.).

ACTIVITY: A quick and fun activity that gets the class working together.

The purpose of the activity is to work as a team, review academic concepts, and have fun together. There are tons of different ways to use this time. Read a short book. Play a quick game like categories or electricity. Do a round of I Have, Who Has cards. Review spelling words. Share writing. There is really no limit to what you can do. 

Some teachers on my team have found it helpful to have preset activities for each day. This helps them stick to a 10 minute meeting but keeps the meetings meaningful and fun. 

Here is a quick sample of a weekly activity plan:
  • Monday - Plus/Delta Chart & Weekly Goal Setting
  • Tuesday - Would You Rather? (ex. Would you rather go to Africa or Space?  Why?)
  • Wednesday - Celebrations (Students share any celebrations they had in the past week.)
  • Thursday - Well Wishes (Students share a good wish they have for someone in or outside of school)
  • Friday - Game 

Of course the really cool thing about a morning meeting is that there is no wrong way to do it. Make it your own and make it work for you and your classroom. It's all about building community!! I needed a clear structure to help me wrap my brain around things when I first started and then I liked the structure because it kept me focused, on point, and on time.

There are tons of great resources out there for Morning Meeting including book and activity cards.  A simple google or TPT search can lead to feeling very overwhelmed. My very favorite greeting cards and activity cards were  compiled by the AMAZING Christina Bainbridge from Bunting, Books, and Bright Idea. I'm sure you already follow her, but if not please go check out her blog immediately. She's an incredible teacher and very generous with her ideas. You can access her Greeting Cards and Activity Cards through Google Docs.

What resources do you use for Morning Meeting?  Do you have a favorite greeting and/or activity? I'd love to hear what great things you do in your classroom with morning or class meetings.

Until next time, happy teaching and happy learning!


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!