Saturday, August 31, 2013


It's the last day of August! And I am so thankful for a three day weekend. The first full week was exhausting for me and the kiddos. Whew! I know we'll soon find a rhythm, but I'm thankful for a little time to recuperate.

I went into school for just a bit today. I didn't use my time effectively yesterday. <cough, cough> Fridays are half days for the kids. My team had a meeting, and then I felt so tired after the long week. I didn't want to do anything. I did talk with the other gal on my team about classroom management stuff, so technically I was still working, but I didn't get anything planned for next week. So I went in today.

I made up a weekly schedule. Now that we know when our specials are and everything, I was able to think about how I wanted our days to look. I also did some year long mapping, did a projection of how I thought September will look, and did a more detailed plan for next week. Let me show you how I did all of this.

I first made up year long maps. These are rough outlines. I didn't think to take a picture. Sorry! Basically I went month by month for each core subject (math, reading, writing, science) and wrote what I wanted to teach on. Next, I mapped out September. This is where I am using my sticky note planner. I love this thing. When I need to change plans around, I can lift the sticky and move it somewhere else! It's generic and gives me a good idea of pacing.

On the computer I made a weekly schedule. I sent a copy to my principal and my coach so they know when they can come in to observe. I print one off each week, write brief notes for the specifics of the week. This may seem a bit excessive, but I like having a quick guide I can glance at. The sticky notes give me big picture ideas, and this gives more clarity.

I stick that schedule into my yellow lesson plan binder.

I keep a class list, seating chart, and a pencil pouch at the front. If I ever have to be absent for an unexpected reason, the sub can look at this and figure something out. I do need to put together my sub folder soon. I'll do a post on that when I get there. :)

Because the first few days are weird and crazy, I didn't do my schedule like the previous schedule. I actually scripted out my first three days. This picture shows day one. Then for last week, I typed up a different schedule for each day. It was very helpful. I also made notes to myself about what went well and what I need to change next time.

My lesson plan binder also has tabs for my core subjects. This is where I keep my lesson plans that I type up. I don't type out everything, but when I do I stick it in it's appropriate place. 

That's it! Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Number of the Day!

I know you've all been holding your breath waiting for this. You can now exhale.

Sorry for not posting sooner, BTW. First week of school exhaustion has kept me away from here. I hope to quickly become acclimated to the new year.

I got this idea when I was teaching in Washington. The gal I team taught with got this idea from someone she used to teach with. So here we go!

Every day, the students walk in and get started on the Number of the Day on their whiteboards. It gets the class working quickly and quietly on a meaningful task while I do attendance, house keeping, etc.

When I taught them how to do NOTD, I wrote each step on a piece of chart paper and explained it as we went through examples. This is how they did NOTD all last year.

This year I have added steps five and six, word and expanded form. (Sorry the pic is so blurry.) I just added this piece today, so I will teach it tomorrow, although we just went through the math lesson yesterday and today. 

All ready for tomorrow!

Thanks for reading. Please ask questions or make comments. How could I improve?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

First Day of School!

I am exhausted, my feet ache, and my voice is sore. I have been keeping my vitamin C intake up because I don't want to get sick!

Today was the first day of school. Hoorah! I am glad it's over. The day just flew by for the kids, but it was sooooooooo long for me. I hate the first few days really. I don't know the kids or the class dynamics, they don't know the routines, and I have to do a lot of practice with the simple procedures. It's just a pain, but we have to put in the effort now so we can fly through the rest of the year.

This is what I had on the board as the students came in. I played soft, gentle music like I always do in the mornings. Most kids didn't read the directions, but I had something to point to when they had a question. "I don't know where to put my back pack." "Let's read what number four says again."

These were on their desks as they came in. The name tags have the students' names on them. I also put a whiteboard marker on there. Whiteboards and math texts went in their desks. They didn't need anything else today. The questionnaire was something simple to do so I can get to know the students.

Alright. This tired teacher is going to bed. I need to wake up early to prep for tomorrow. I couldn't stay after school today, so I get to wake up before the butt crack of dawn. Good night!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Classroom Reveal!!

Okay! It's time. Tomorrow is the first day of school, so this is the best my classroom will look all year. I'm going to start with before photos, and then I will show you pictures from just an hour ago. Enjoy! And please appreciate the hard work it took to pull this thing off. It was so much more difficult cleaning and organizing the room than I ever thought, but well worth it.



This is the easiest decoration to put together, but it always turns out so nice. I've used it every year since my student teaching. The palette says "A Colorful Class" and the jars say "Of 5th Graders." The paint blobs have each students' name on it.

Thanks for looking! Going to do a few more things before I rest up. I'm going to write out name tags and labels for student whiteboard markers. I don't know if I'll be able to sleep tonight. So excited!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Table Group Leaders

Alright, ya'll. (I was born in Mississippi, so it's okay for me to say that.) I'm trying out something new this year. In a previous post, I mentioned Little Lovely Leaders' idea for handling paper distribution. She has baskets on each groups' bookshelf. She puts the paper that the students need for the day in the baskets, and then the table leaders hand them out when the teacher directs them to. I'm so excited to try this out! Here's what my group shelves look like after today:

There were so many textbooks left in my room. Most of them we use, but not every day. So I put the books on the shelves. I didn't want a bunch of stuff cluttering up their desks. (They have enough junk as it is.) There is a plastic shoebox container on the middle shelf with glue, scissors, coloring implements, etc. The caddy has tissues, Germ-X, and the table leader's badge.

This is my unintentionally crappy shot of the Purell dispenser. I was tired and in a rush. Don't judge. I put a rubber band that matches the group color around the pump to limit the distribution. I also put a group color label on there.

I found a whole bunch of Smokey the Bear lanyards. So, with a paint chip, a laminator, and a hole punch, I made group leader badges. I will look out for the leaders to handle this prestigious responsibility. They pass out the papers, get supplies, and clean the bookshelves: a very high honor indeed.

The baskets have my beginning of the year letters already. I still need to fill them with first day activities, but I thought I'd go ahead and put what they'll need at the end of the day on the bottom. Smart, right?

I have scripted out my first three days. Here's how I plan on teaching the papers procedure: (It follows WBT's three-peat idea.)

As you may have noticed, each table group has a color. Tell you neighbor what color your group is. Teach!
Class, class!
Explain to your neighbor how you knew what color group you were at. Teachity-teach!
Oh, class!
Ask your neighbor, “Do you see this basket full of stuff?”
Hands and eyes!
(Speak softly.) This basket will be full of materials you need for the day. I will be looking for great student leaders to be group table leaders. They will be in charge of handing out materials when I ask them. Teach your neighbor what I just taught you. Teeeaaach!
For the next couple of days, I will let various people be table leaders until I find the ones who will get that honor. For now, I will assign one for today. That person will be the table leader just for today. Teach your neighbor about table leaders. Teach, teach, teach!
Oh, my class!
(Assign table leaders.)
Table leaders, when I say papers, please hand out to everyone at your table the big, white pieces of construction paper. When I say papers, everyone says, “Papers, papers, papers!” Students, when you get the paper, place it at the top right hand corner of your desk with your questionnaire. Teach your neighbor what I just said. Teach!
So, class!
When I say, “Papers!” you say, “Papers, papers, papers!” The table leaders will hand out to everyone at your table the big, white pieces of construction paper. Students, when you get the paper, place it at the top right hand corner of your desk with your questionnaire. If everyone can do this by the time I count down to zero, the class will get a point. Papers! (Practice and re-teach as necessary.)”

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Standard Form FIve Step Lesson Plan

Yesterday I explained the steps of the WBT Five Step Lesson Plan. Today I will post a sample lesson I plan on using in my class. These can be adapted for anything. I've come up with five step lessons for classroom procedures on the first days of school. If you'd like to see those, let me know.

Standard Form

Step 1 Question: What is standard form?

Step 2 Answer: Standard form is a way to write numbers using digits. (Gesture: write in the air, then count on fingers to show digits are symbols ranging from 0-9.)

Step 3 Explain: Show examples of numbers written in standard form. Show non-examples of numbers written in standard form. Ask students to point to examples of numbers written in standard form around the room. Ask students to write their personal student number in the air and then on their whiteboards in standard form. Ask students to write their partner’s student number in the air and then on their whiteboards in standard form. Ask the students to write our room number, their age, the number of students in the school, etc. in standard form in the air and on their whiteboards. Repeat with non-examples as necessary.

Step 4 Test: Students respond “Yes” or “No Way” with gestures to the following questions:
(Point to or write out examples.)
Is the daily decimal written in standard form?
Is the number of the day written in standard form?
Are the dates on the American History Timeline written in standard form?
(Write a number in word form on the board.) Is this number written in standard form?
(Write a number in expanded form on the board.) Is this number written in standard form?
Are the numbers on the calendar written in standard form?

If 90% of the class answers correctly, use the QT test with the following True/False statements:
Numbers written in standard form always include spelled out words.
Numbers in standard form only use numerical digits.
Numbers written in standard form include addition signs.
Numbers written in standard form have no spelled out words.
Numbers written in standard form have no addition signs.
The student numbers on your nameplates are written in standard form.

Step 5 Critical Thinking: Students complete one or more of the following exercises:
1. Write a paragraph to your first grade reading buddy to help them understand what a number written in standard form is and what it is not.
2. Create a scavenger hunt for at least five examples of numbers written in standard form around the classroom. Have your partner complete it.

After the lesson, the teacher posts a Power Pix of the lesson. The Power Pix stays up for constant review. You can have the students review all the Power Pix before a lesson, compare and contrast some of them, whatever you want! They have learned the definition and gesture that goes with each of them, so the more they review, the more likely it is for the concepts to become cemented in long term memory. 

This is a screen shot of the Power Pix I created for this lesson. I've made all of the Power Pix for our first unit in math. I laminated them and stuck magnetic tape on the back. The Power Pix will be displayed on the whiteboards in my room.

Questions? Let me know!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Micro Lecturing and the WBT Five Step Lesson Plan

It's the last Friday of summer for me. I don't quite know how to feel about it. I am nervous, and sad, and excited, and scared, and overwhelmed all at once. There is still so much to do, but there is always so much to do. Even though I have been intentionally staying away from school these last two weeks as much as possible, I have still been doing work at home.

The work I have been doing is mainly reading various educational books. If you've been reading my blog, you know I have been doing the Whole Brain Teaching Book Club this summer. It has been extremely beneficial, and I highly recommend it. One of the key points I pulled away from this book is that students learn more when we talk less, not the other way around!

At my school, we have to do Professional Growth Plans every year, so this year mine will be micro lecturing. Micro lecturing is the instructor teaching in short 30-60 second bursts, and then allowing the children to teach what they just heard the instructor say to their partner(s). All the while, the teacher and the students use gestures. Gestures, micro lectures, and teaching opportunities for the students activate several parts of the brain, which gives the concepts a better chance of being stored in long term memory.

I tell you, this is going to be a challenge for me. I love to talk. However, I have personally witnessed the validity of teaching in short bursts. Here is a great example of micro lecturing.

These next few days I also want to write out and script my first few days of lessons using the WBT Five Step Lesson Plan. The steps break down a lesson by starting with a question. You ask the class a key, core concept question like, "What is a chemical change?" The students would then turn to their partners and ask the question of their partners. Already they have retaught the question and objective of the lesson. They know that today they will be focusing on answering the question.

The next step is to answer the question. The teacher gives a definition of chemical change. She also uses gestures to involve the motor cortex of the students' brains. Involving that part of the brain helps to transfer knowledge to long term memory. "A chemical change is an unexpected (use a gesture for unexpected, like a look of shock with hands on your cheeks) change in color (grab one finger to show the first type of change), temperature (grab two fingers to show the second type of change), or state (grab three fingers to show the third type of change.)" The teacher repeats the definition with gestures. The teacher has the students mirror her gestures and/or her words and gestures. The students then teach each other the definition with gestures.

The third step is to give lots of examples of chemical change for students. When I do this, we will probably do several experiments to show chemical change. I would talk about each reaction, explain how I knew it was a chemical change by referring back to our definition, and then have the students teach each other.

The fourth step is assessment. First the teacher does the "Yes, No way!" She asks the students a series of yes/no questions about chemical change. If the answer is yes, the students shout, "Yes!" while pumping there arm in the air. If the answer is no, the students shout, "No way!" while putting there fingers to their foreheads and pushing them out. When 90% of the class answers these yes/no questions correctly, the teacher moves onto the Quick Test. If less than 90% of the class answered the questions correctly, the teacher goes back to step three and reteaches with more examples.

To do the Quick Test, the teacher has the students put their heads down with their eyes closed. She then poses true/false statements about chemical change. If the statement is true, the students put a thumbs up. If the statement is false, the students put thumbs down. The teacher monitors the student answers.

The final step is critical thinking. This step usually involves writing. While the students who answered the Quick Test questions correctly write about chemical change, the teacher can pull aside the small group who is still struggling, and she helps them through sentence frames and thought processes about chemical change.

The teacher also posts a Power Pix of the lesson onto the wall. I'll talk about Power Pix later.

Here is a fabulous demonstration of the Five Step Lesson Plan.

I have already created one for one of our first math lessons. I will post it for you tomorrow. Any questions?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Morning Routine, Birthday Poster, and Cute Lamps!

Yes, folks, this post has it all! Routines, posters, and lamps. Woo!

Every year before the start of school I read Harry Wong's The First Days of School. Those first days are crucial in setting the tone for the year. They really are. I enjoy reading his book because it sets my mind on track for those first crazy days. He reminds me how to be a professional, and I love it. 

In his book he says, "An effective teacher always has the procedure or schedule posted or ready for distribution when the students arrive. " He also says, "Your first priority is not to take roll; it is to get the students to work immediately." 

On the first day, I will have a different morning procedure posted on the board. With all the supplies and hullaballoo of the first day, plus the fact that I have not taught them their morning work yet, I have different things planned for that first day. I will, however, train them in our morning procedure, we will practice it both the right and wrong way, and the second day they will be able to complete all the components (except for the homework folders because I am not introducing those until the third or so week.) I will explain the Number of the Day in a later post. Also, I hate pencil sharpeners with a passion. After the first day, they are only allowed to use the pencil sharpener during the first ten minutes of the day. They have to have three pencils inside their desks. If they lose or break them, they can borrow from a neighbor because they have three. I have used this system for two years now, AND I LOVE IT. (I'm not a pencil sharpener nazi, there are always exceptions, but I don't tell the kids that.)

When I moved classrooms my birthday poster mysteriously disappeared....So I had to make a new one. This was easy and FREE!! I got the months from That's So Second Grade on Teachers Pay Teachers. I love that site. I wish I was creative enough to come up with ideas to sell there. Maybe one day, but until then I will reap the benefits and ideas of other great teachers.

I will play the Birthday Line Up game on the first day. (The students have to line up according to birth date without talking.) I will write their names and the date on the corresponding month, and then the poster will just hang on our closet door. It's so cute! Love it!!

And finally, I saw these lamps at a home decorating store called Real Deals. I don't particularly like cowboys and bison, but these were so great, and so cheap. I just had to have them. I paid $10 a piece for them. They go well with our westward expansion unit. Adorbs!

There you have it, folks. I had to go to school today for a literacy meeting, and I am wiped out! I do not have the stamina for the first week yet, but ready or not here they come!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Labels, Labels Everywhere

After I created all of the labels for my classroom, I had dreams about labels. It was a consuming task, but one I am grateful is completed. I'll show you how I added my own flavor to it. :)

I first started by making a list of everything that I wanted to be labeled. I went around the room with a notepad and made a list for big labels and small labels. Then I went home, typed them up, and printed them out. The big labels are name tags, and the little labels are file folder stickers. I found these goodies in a $2 clearance cart at Office Depot. Score!

For some of the big labels, I wanted to jazz them up for my rainbow theme.

So I stuck them to paint chips.

And then I used packaging tape to secure them to various surfaces.

That counter won't always be so cluttered. Right now it is holding supplies for the first couple of days of school.

Sometimes the paint chips were too big, so I just peeled the name tag off and stuck it directly to the surface.

Also, I didn't use paint chips for things that will be behind closed doors.

This is a combo of paint chip tags and just peeling directly onto the surface.

There are name tags for the math manipulatives on the right. I used three for each of those plastic shoe box containers. One label went on the lid, one on the outside, and one on the actual space it needs to return to.

Supplies for my teacher area.

I used file folder labels for the edges of the bookshelves. My books are sorted by subject.

extra supplies for students

My arts and crafts cabinet that I am so proud of!

science/cooking cabinet

This cabinet has games for inside recess, supplies for myself to make tea in the mornings, and the top shelf has mason jars for our borax experiments, bandaids, and empty containers that will probably find a use someday.

That's it. It was a lot of work, but I am glad I took the time to do it. Thanks for reading!