Wednesday, August 31, 2011

My First Open House

Last night was the Open House for my school! I was super nervous although I had met a few families previously, but everything went very well!
Out of my 12 kiddos, 8 families came! They were all very positive and excited about the room, and I got a lot of compliments on my BEE binders. I first heard about using them when I volunteered in a classroom in my old elementary school, and I loved how consolidated everything was. I took a copy of the BEE Binder explanation page to every interview I went on because I was so into it! So I was happy to know that the parents loved it too. :)
The morning of Open House I kind of panicked because I realized that I didn't have a whole lot of student work up... I mean, I have my Bravo board (thanks, The First Grade Parade!) and my little name mosaics outside, but I felt that it was a little devoid of other stuff. So in an attempt to clean out that black file cabinet you see in the corner, I found this OLD book about making cards with kids. The card designs were incredibly complicated and ridiculous, but I did find this pattern for a spiral card for Mother's Day, which I adapted to our mini science unit on hurricanes. After we studied hurricanes, talked about Hurricane Irene, watched a few hurricane informational and footage videos, and I ensured the kids a hundred times that we definitely will not have a hurricane, even though there are lakes nearby, the kids wrote facts about hurricanes on their spiral cards, backed them with construction paper, and cut them out. The kids loved them and they were SUPER excited to show their parents! Since they did it earlier in the day, they still remembered what they wrote... so I guess my procrastination paid off. ;) Here's a close-up. They turned out well!
As part of our mini hurricane unit, we also acted out a hurricane.... because I don't know about other first grade classes, but my students NEED brain breaks like every 5 minutes! This was a good way to get them up and moving. And it reinforced the idea of the eye of the hurricane!
And then here's just some other stuff that I wanted to show! First, my "about me" board featuring my new sign from Miss Kindergarten's Etsy shop!! My girls just LOVE it and they keep drawing peace signs on everything. I'll add some more stuff as the year goes on but I think this is pretty good to start.
I don't think that I posted my jobs board yet. I got the sign from One Extra Degree and just printed it on bright paper. Then, I borrowed Mrs. Lemons's idea of using library pockets for my jobs and I just cut up cardstock and wrote their names. I haven't switched jobs yet, but I think I will on Monday. Some of the kids' jobs are kind of lame... I didn't realize that until after we started school. This is featured on the lovely side of my huge desk!
And, lastly, I dipped my little toe into the Reader's Workshop idea today inspired by the awesome Debbie Miller. Have you read City Dog, Country Frog yet? It's by my bff (in my dreams), Mo Willems.
If you haven't read it, let me summarize - a dog and a frog meet up once a season and they just do their thing, playing around outside. When winter comes, the dog can't find the frog, and when spring comes around, the frog is still "missing" ... but the dog finds a new friend. It's a pretty heavy book, and I wasn't sure if my students would understand, but I had one friend who called out, "The frog's dead, you guys" when we were towards the end.

So, since we technically don't know what happened to the frog, we inferred together about what could have happened and why we think that - what evidence from the book or schema from our brains did we use to make those inferences? I was SUPER SUPER proud of my students for being so thoughtful! They came up with some really great ideas and some interesting ones, but they definitely were all thinking hard, so I had them kiss their brains. They just looooove that! :)
So that wraps it up! Thanks for sticking around until the end. :)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Three For Thursday

Here are my three favorites - font, blog, and online resource!

My Favorite Font
I'm not really big into spending money on fonts or clip art, so before I found CK Handprint I was just using the regular fonts on the computer. I do have the Fonts 4 Teachers pack too that my sister got for me. But CK Handprint is my new obsession. I use it on all of the students' work and parent notes home! It is just too cute and easy to read! Writing this reminds me that I need to type up my newsletter to send home tomorrow!
My Favorite Blog
Like everyone else, it is VERRRRRY hard to choose a favorite because I can think of so many! However, today I will give a shoutout to Hadar at Miss Kindergarten!

Ever since I saw her Etsy shop with her super cute signs, I wanted one so badly! I was going to wait until I got my first paycheck to buy one........ but I couldn't. So I ordered it last week and it came today! I love it so much. You should get one too! :) I'll update soon with a picture showing it in my classroom!!

My Favorite Online Resource
I, too, love Pinterest. I was happy when Google started the +1 thing, but I would never go look at the pages I "plus-oned." Pinterest is like a visual favorites bar! I also like it because it gives me an example when other people come to help me in my classroom or help me with a project. I haven't pinned anything in a while because school is consuming my life... but I do love it. :)

Follow Me on Pinterest

What are your three favorites? Link up!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Where It All Goes Down Wednesday

I skipped day 2 of Teacher Week because I don't think I have much advice to give new teachers, as I am a new teacher!

I've already posted lots of pictures of my room in progress, which you can see here. So I will share a few I've taken recently (since school started).
My whole back wall is just windows and radiators, but I was able to use part of the space as display! And none of the backpack glyphs have fallen out the window yet, haha.
We really are bucket fillers! If you were to look at the notes, you'd see that I have a heartthrob who gets notes from all the girls that say, "I love you" or are covered with hearts. I definitely need to implement the class checklist to make sure everyone's buckets are being filled...

This was yesterday - and it was a great day! No one ended up under Ready to Learn, and we had our first Super Student! Now he is obsessed with being Super Student every day, ay caramba. But if it makes my day easier, then he can go ahead and do that.
I finally printed off the Word Wall letters and book basket labels I got from Christie at Teaching in Flip Flops. It only took me 7 days of school! We have two open houses in the next week, so these little things that I was putting off needed to get done!
Here's a closeup of the word wall letters. I LOVE THEM! I want to change my classroom theme to zebras next year because I love her stuff so much.
Here are some of our personal goals for this year. The second graders wrote things like "get to Super Student" or "learn cursive" and the first graders wrote things like "eat lots of food" and "soccer ball" ... who am I to crush their dreams?
And here are our prayer requests. I saw this idea in our diocese's newspaper, and I will share it with you (in case you teach in a religious school and could use this idea)! The students traced their tiny hand onto a piece of construction paper and then wrote one prayer request on each of their fingers. We brainstormed ideas first, like praying for poor people, sick people, earthquake victims, our families, and so on. Although most of them traced their fingers into tips (which looks a little weird), they look pretty good and we can refer back to them throughout the year if we need to.
And here is the whole view of the front board. We have these strangely shaped cork board sections above our whiteboards because the whiteboards were just attached onto the old chalkboards, and the whiteboards aren't the same size. So, to the left and right of this picture are bigger sections of cork board, and that's where I'll put the titles of each section (our goals and prayer requests). Also in this picture, you can see the tissue paper flower that I made thanks to Meredith at Keen on Kindergarten. I have four in my room but they are spread out and it's hard to see them all in a picture! The kids love them. Oh, in this picture you can also see our first Daily Five anchor charts near the floor on the left side!

That's enough for now. Remember to check here for more pictures. :) And link up with Blog Hoppin' to see much more beautiful rooms than mine, haha!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Meet the Teacher Monday!

Can I just say how very exciting it is to refer to myself as "the teacher"??? It fills my heart with joy.

Moving on, this week is Teacher Week hosted by the teachers at Blog Hoppin' and I am very excited to join in! So here is some info all about me. :)

[Here's me and my brother earlier today! We dropped him off at Purdue so he can start his last semester of classes tomorrow morning. I will miss him because we had a nice summer living at home.]

Tell us a little something about you...
My name is Jill and I have been waiting my whole life (at least since first grade) to be a teacher! Besides teaching though, I really love to read (A LOT) and spend time with my boyyyyfriend. We like to eat a lot and go on walks! I also like beginning crafts, not necessarily finishing them. I am very easygoing and positive and nothing ever gets me down! It's awesome.

How long have you been teaching?
I have been teaching for exactly 4 days - well, actually, 3 and a half! This is my first year with my own classroom but of course it's not the first classroom I've been in since graduation. A few weeks after I graduated, I started my job as an instructional assistant/one-on-one paraprofessional in a first grade classroom in the suburbs of Chicago. I learned a lot because the teacher I worked with was really good! She had a tough class but she made it work. After that, I subbed on a day-to-day basis for a few months and then I landed a 7th/8th grade maternity leave position, which led to my job now - 1st/2nd grade combination class! My school is small and I only have 12 students, which really is perfect for my first year. I know that someday when I have 35 or something, I'll look back on this time in my life and cry. Haha!

You might not know...
One of my dreams is to teach in the inner city. Right now, I teach in a private school in a low-income community, so although my students aren't wealthy by any means, they can afford to go to my school so they're not as low-income as most of the town. However, I want to teach in a school where I can really feel like I'm affecting my students' lives and helping them to create a better future for themselves. I know the challenges are HUGE so I hope after some years of teaching, I will be up for it.

What are you looking forward to most this school year?
I just asked this question to my students for their first dialogue journal entry! One boy said "a puppy"........ whatevs. I obviously am very excited about having my own classroom. But I am also really excited about the Daily Five! I started it on Thursday with Read to Self and we are up to 2 minutes and 37 seconds. They are really motivated to beat their old time, which is good, because I had to stop them a few times at 17 seconds... ay caramba. I can't wait to see it all come together!!!!!

What do you need to improve?
Just from my first week, I know that I need to improve my consistency in classroom management. It is hard to stay on top of the students (even when you have 12!), but it is really important to me that they listen when I'm talking and respect their classmates when they are talking, so one of my goals this week is to really crack down on the extraneous commenting and chit-chatting that goes on while I'm teaching in the whole group setting.

What teaching supplies can you *not* live without?
First and foremost, books! Chapter books, picture books... nonfiction books, fiction books... I love them all! I had to box up a ton because my shelves didn't hold them all! And of course the students are going through the two boxes that I didn't hide in the coatroom, haha! Besides books, though, I do love Sharpies and post-its! And white-out tape! And cardstock, because god knows you need to keep your printables sturdy!! I am also really into bullet tip dry-erase markers, which apparently no one makes.

So that's me! I am super excited for the rest of this week! Go link up!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

First Day: Done!

Today was the first day of my first year of teaching!!!

Overall, I'd say it went well. Not perfect, but good enough considering that it is only my first year!

We started the day off with magic playdough, courtesy of Jodi at The Clutter-Free Classroom. I was sure that my second-graders would see through the "magic" part, but they were convinced it was legit. My favorite quote of the day: "Will the magic ever die??" Haha! The playdough really came in handy for early finishers. I think they probably would have played quietly with it for the entire 3 hours that we were there today! Here it is, pre-magic.
We also made name mosaics (thanks, Fabulous Firsties, for the idea!). I combined this with a different name graphing idea I saw somewhere else. We read Chrysanthemum and talked about our different names and then did the activity. I'm not done with the display yet, so I will just show you my sample! If you choose to do this, and it was actually pretty easy to manage (so I'd recommend it), I suggest tearing paper into pieces instead of cutting it. Cutting tiny squares was taking me FOREVER, so I tore instead and I think they looked nice!
Then I took some more random pictures of my room. Here is my desk!
And here's a closeup of our class pets - African dwarf frogs! The kids are obsessed. One of these days we'll have to name them... no one asked today was their names were so I'm in the clear for a bit, haha.
These are our rules. I copied them straight from First Grader ... At Last, which was one of the first blogs I ever read! The kids really liked them although I think they might be too abstract for my students. We'll see how it goes.

 So overall, pretty good day. I need to work on a couple things with the kids, like not talking when I'm talking and staying in their spots while I'm teaching. But I have a good feeling. :) Thanks, blog-world, for all of your ideas and inspirations!! More pictures maybe tomorrow!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Math Manipulatives and Reading Program Frustrations

It's been a LONG week of orientations, trainings, and institutes!

First, for the good news! I follow ETA/Cuisenaire on facebook, and a while back, they offered a giveaway of a set of their new mini VersaTiles cases. I entered it, and then they ended up giving it away to everyone who entered! I got my set of 10 in the mail today.
I'm so excited about this! As you may remember, my math manipulative situation is pretty desperate. Although these aren't really manipulatives, they're more like a review tool, I still think they will complement our math program well! Also I can use them for other subjects! And I found out that I can create my own VersaTiles activities using the template on their website!

And now for the semi-bad news. Yesterday, I went to two trainings so I can learn how to use my new reading program, Superkids.
I'm pretty sure no one uses this besides the Archdiocese of Chicago. This program was created by the woman who made American Girls. It is extremely phonics heavy, as in, they don't want you to teach any other word-attack strategies. Their idea of differentiation is using the same decodable reader for all of the students, but just "teaching it in different ways." If you have a high reader, you aren't supposed to give the kid a chapter book - you're just supposed to force the kid to read the -sh digraph story regardless.

I read a LOT this summer, including the Daily Five, Reading With Meaning, and Growing Readers books. Everything these books told me to do is opposite of this program. In the first grade program, they even literally said in the training manual that students should only be reading SuperKids materials - no authentic text.

I am just beside myself. Luckily, having read all of these books, I had enough backup to convince my principal that I can't teach SuperKids the way they intend and that I need to supplement it highly. Luckily, he said that was fine and he is supporting my choice! If I did everything according to their crazy plan, I would spend 90 minutes on first grade and 120 minutes on second grade. Ummm...???

So that's the scoop! We start school, I'm pretty happy with how my room looks, and I'm going in tomorrow with my next-door buddy to continue getting things ready!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Bulletin Boards!!

Today I brought my amazing cousins to school with me to help me decorate my room a little! It's crazy how much better my room looks with my bulletin boards covered and bright!

Here is my student work board! I got the Bravo idea from Pinterest, but I repinned it from someone and it's not linked to anyone specifically.... so if you made the Bravo board with the zebra print - you are amazing and I will be MORE than happy to give you credit! I found this shiny paper in a secret storage room downstairs. The black papers will be covered with student work soon. I think I will make some glittery clothespins to make them more exciting!! Also in this picture you can see my SUPER awesome ASL alphabet. It just warms my heart.
Here is my calendar board. I don't love it because it is so squeezed!! Also I think I need more things, like how many days we've been in school, however, I bought Cara Carroll's Calendar Companion, and it includes everything I want to do during calendar time. So maybe it doesn't necessarily need to be displayed? Thoughts?
This is my lunch board! The bottom three pockets say Cold Lunch, Milk, and Hot Lunch on them. Every morning, the students will come in and put the appropriate color slip in their pocket to tell me what they are ordering!
This is the tiny bulletin board right next to my desk. I'm going to use it as my space to put my diploma and other me-things. I also love this border because of the different languages!
Here is my clip chart which I got from the lovely Denise of Sunny Days in Second Grade! I love it because it is so colorful. I just jammed it into the top of my NON-magnetic whiteboard for now but I think I will hot glue it on before school starts so it's centered vertically.
I still have a couple more things to do but I am so happy with how everything turned out!!! My cousins are the bomb dot com! I realized that I have a lot of ideas in my brain, but carrying them out is not my strong suit. Kelley and Lisa are great at flattening out bulletin board paper and fabric and picking out good borders for the boards! This is us at Easter. :)
Tomorrow I have a training for my reading program, but I hope I get back early enough to bring these two lovely ladies back to school because we got so much done today!!!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Classroom Setup: Complete!

With a week left until opening day, I went in today to finish up the nuts and bolts of my classroom.

Over the weekend, I visited my local Super Target (thanks for the tip, Sydney!), and I bought baskets for my classroom library. They were only $2.99 and came in an assortment of colors! I bought the medium size and they fit a ton of books inside AND fit perfectly on my little shelves.
I set out everybody's BEE binders and Religion books on their desks along with their nametags so I could get a sense of where I wanted everyone to go. I think my groups will be good for now based on what I know about my incoming students!
And here is the view from the back corner! You can see all three of my tables and my desk! Also you can see where my library is relative to the rest of my room.
So, if the students were to come in tomorrow, I would be ready enough! All I have left to do is decorate bulletin boards, hang up my alphabet line, get my word wall ready, and label my library baskets. Well, I have lot more to do, but those are the BIG things I definitely want to have done by the 16th!

If you'd like to see more pictures of my developing classroom, you can look here! For pictures of other teachers' amazing rooms, check out the classroom pictures linky party hosted by Teaching Blog Addict!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

More (Unfinished) Classroom Pictures

This week, I was able to go in on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday to start working on my room. On Thursday and Friday, I made a list of everything I had to do..... and I was super stressed. So I went in today with my brother (and my parents joined us later) to get a lot done. And I think we got a LOT done!

My brother finished up my crate seats! And you can see my stacks of books in the background...
And here they are, finished around my circle table! I ended up using three different fabrics for my six seats. The first one was from a skirt I started making in high school, the second fabric is a Go Green print (yeah!), and the third is a school one!
Here is a a close-up of the bookshelf behind the circle table. It is still pretty empty, but I'll keep my students' hardcover reading books in here once they come in. I'm keeping my caddies on top. I bought four but I only have three tables.... oh well.
I moved my computers so that they weren't blocking the bulletin board anymore. And, dedicated readers will be pleased to know that the computer table covers up my creepy green people!!!
Here is my little rocking chair and easel. My bulletin boards clearly are not done yet. Also I need to replace the cushion on the rocking chair, as I think it was made for a lawn chair.
My mom figured out a great way to hold my tiny chalkboards so the students can get to them fast! This black cabinet is where I found the huge stack of records the other day.
And lastly, here is my desk! Do you love my gigantic monitor? Yeah, me too...
And now, a question for you: what can I use this pocket chart for? I've never seen one without clear pockets! We put books in the pockets so you can see how deep the pockets are. Please help me!!
And..... a final treat! My mom and I went to the county fair yesterday and I found this cow who was clearly named after me. She is a big mama at the tender age of 2.
More pictures to come next week, between institutes and trainings and all that jazz. Next Wednesday is classroom decorating day with my cousins!!
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