Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Tic Tac Toe

All my efforts to keep instruction rolling have been noble...but with the choas that ensues in the last few days of school, meeting that I have to attend, and upheaval that has been occuring with placements within our building, I am officially heading towards burnt out.  I have created some tic tac toe sets with different characters (some for girls, some for boys, some for both) that I have been using for kids who finish early, or when I just need to fill a few minutes.  The kids love them.  A freebie game is below the pictures.  You can find the sets at my TPT store.  Good luck, and may the force be with you!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Insect Fun!

This week I began my attempt at curbing end of year chaos through giving the kids more freedom and choice in the classroom.  Remarkably there were periods of absolute silence at times.  Granted they lasted about 3 minutes a stretch, but still an accomplishment.

We began learning about Insects this week.  I introduced the unit by reading a book on insects and creating a can, have, are chart for a caterpillar as an example.  We then used the smart board to model how the kids could use the computer to look for information about their insects.  I bookmarked a couple of cute webquests that focused on the group of insects that I had chosen, and we practiced how they could choose what they needed to look for.  We also modeled how to use non-fiction books to gather information.  Much of this was review, but it was the first time I was asking them to be accountable for finding and recording the information on their own.  Next, we decided as a class on three objectives.  1). We wanted to find out where the insect lived.  2). We wanted to learn what the insect ate, and 3) we chose to research habits of the insect.  Once this was done, I let the students sign up on chart paper for the insect that they wanted.  Each group had about 4 people in it.

We are on day three of our projects and each group has done much of their research and are now choosing how they are going to present that information to the class.  Some are creating a video, one is writing a song, and another is writing their own non-fiction story.  It has been lots of fun and the kids really seem to be enjoying the group work.  Here are some photos of the research part of the activity (I laid out butcher paper on the tables, gave them markers, and let them go to town!)

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Ideas for surviving the last few weeks of school ...and a freebie

I don't know about many of you, but this time of year seems to creep by in a slow drag of tattling, talking, and overall disregard for the classroom rules and expectations that I have set up from the beginning of the year.  I have asked around school and it appears to be the case in the school as a whole, not just in my classroom.  It still confuses me though, because one thing that I would call myself very strong with is management.  I attribute most of this to being a certified Responsive Classroom coach, and all of the amazing training that I have benefited from along the way.  However, something is just not working and I have spent the weekend thinking about how I can make the end of the year as smooth and enjoyable as possible for both my students and myself (so I don't go running for the hills!)  Some of the realizations and ideas that I have come up with are the following:

1.  We are all sick of each other.
Now I love my kids, I truly do.  Most of the time they love each other too.  However, in the past week the tattling that has never really been a problem has really picked up.  I am convinced that they are just too familiar with each other at this point, and are nitpicking and bickering because of it.  I have moved seats at tables and on the carpet but there are only so many places that they can go.  For this reason I am turning to the adage of Academic Choice, one of the 10 RC ideals.  Academic Choice can be given in a variety of different ways.  I will use it in this case to allow the students to work in various areas of the classroom.  On the floor, in the reading chairs, at my table, as long as they are following the classroom rules while doing it.  This will allow them a break from their table mates and the ability to sit, stand, or lie down as they feel the need.  It kills two birds with one stone - they get some quiet and privacy, and they can move as they need to as long as they are safe about it.  If they do not follow the classroom rules while doing this, they lose the privilege and must return to their seats.

2.  They are done with math tubs, stations, and the same old same old.
I rotate my stations and activities often.  I make new games, and find cool things on pinterest and TPT.  Ultimately, at this point in the year they feel like they have "been there, done that" and I cannot hold their interest, nor their mouths closed, while they are at these areas.  Therefore, I am going to ix nay stations and incorporate more of the act of the kids designing them.  Instead of having them play a phonics game, I am going to challenge them to create a new phonics game to add to my stations next year.  Instead of using a math tub for their magic number, they are going to have to write some story problems that I will then type up and give out for morning work.  I am going to give them more freedom in using their creativity that will in turn serve as an informal assessment for me to see what they have mastered, and what knowledge they are able to transfer.

3.  They don't want to sit and listen to me talk.
Even though I use a variety of resources when introducing new materials (smart board, story books, games, manipulatives) they are just over hearing my voice for longer than a few minutes.  For this reason I am challenging them to learn the material in their own way.  I am planning a unit on insects where instead of me introducing the material, I will divide the class into groups and have a variety of resources on hand for them to use (library books, encyclopedias, computers, an ipad).  Groups will be assigned an insect (preying mantis, ladybug, dragonfly, butterfly, grasshopper and centipede) and will have to learn as much as they can about the insects in their own way.  Before beginning, I will share with the class a rubric of what I will be looking for so that they know what they will be responsible for learning and what they will be assessed on.   I will be there to assist, but the majority of the responsibility for this activity will be on them.  At the end of the week they will have to choose a medium to teach the class what they learned - making a poster, writing and performing a play, making a video, writing a song, etc.  I will videotape each presentation and they will be able to watch it back and help me design their grade based on the rubric.

I am hoping that implementing some of these ideas will make the last few weeks of school fun, and we all know that when students are engaged with and enjoying what they are doing, behavior issues decrease.  I will share how things go as I begin these activities so look out for my updates!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Goldilocks and a freebie!

In the past week, we have once again begun my favorite time of year...Fairy Tales!  I think I enjoy it more than the kids do.  This week we are reading Goldilocks and the Three Bears.  We always use the elements of a Fairy Tale to compare and contrast  the different versions that we read.  I created a pocket chart station retelling activity to help my kids practice the order of events.  It is based on the original version of the story.  Below are some pictures of how my kids did with it.  Click the link below the photo to  get your own copy of the activity...free!  Enjoy, and hope your day ends with a "happily ever after".

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Bidding Farewell to an Amazing Experience

I am entering my last week with my amazing student teacher, and I feel like I am going to be absolutely lost without her.  We have had such an incredible dynamic that it felt like a true co-teaching experience.  I was so fortunate to get paired with someone so like me in both personality, lifestyle, and philosophy.  I expect we'll be friends for long to come.  Today was her final evaluation with her faculty supervisor.  When she conferenced with us after the lesson she told us how obvious it was that we enjoyed working together and what a great experience it had been for both of us.  She then proceeded to tell us about the other student she is supervising who is having a terrible experience - the teacher has no passion for the profession, has little to offer her in terms of philosophies or advice, and essentially has the students doing worksheets all day.  This leaves the student teacher with little time or ability to interact or to form relationships with the students.  It angers and disappoints me on behalf of all teachers who get a bad rap because of the ones like this.  This person is "mentoring" a future educator?  The profession will be lucky if this girl doesn't run the other way after her experience.  Luckily, it sounds as if she is taking it as a learning experience and is looking at this situation as a way she does not want her classroom to be run.  Learning comes in all forms I guess, and she is taking what she can from the experience.  What a responsibility it it to introduce someone brand new to the classroom to this incredible world that we all get to live in every day.  It is so important that we instill in new teachers the survival skills that they will need in the classroom, and the very basic principal that is not taught enough in their own colleges - learning cannot occur without a safe, supportive and relationship driven classroom.  You can read every textbook there is, but if you cannot build meaningful relationships with your students which then gain trust and earn motivation, then no true learning is going to occur inside your classroom walls.  I hope if nothing else, that I have been a living example of that to my incredible student teacher so that I am setting her up with all the tools she will need to be successful as she begins her own amazing journey into the magical world of education.  :)

Saturday, March 9, 2013

New Items at TPT - Dragons!

After spending the last week with more free time and quiet than usual (My husband was able to pick the boys up almost every day) I found myself with some very rare free and quiet time.  I used it to get caught up on some planning, to organize things that I needed for my student teacher, and to complete my latest TPT unit.  This one is a dragon theme using math, literacy and writing to emphasize adding descriptive words to stories, bridging to 10 and number facts, true and false fact checking about Dragons, ABC order using words that describe dragons, and lots and lots of writing activities, along with a premade book activity for students to complete using their own imaginations and descriptions of their dragons (flashbacks to the amount of times I watched Pete's Dragon as a child).  I also included an extensive list of books that can be used with the unit, and a self written story that introduces the idea of what dragons are and what words describe them in a cute fictional way.  It sells for $5.00 for 65 pages of pure dragon-rificness.  I would love any feedback that you have for me!  Hope everyone had a great weekend.  We are gearing up for the 60's and 70's over here on the east side.  And an outdoor field trip Monday with warm temps.  That is unheard of!

Check it out here at my TPT Store:

Dragon Theme Literacy, Math, and Writing Unit

Friday, February 15, 2013

Out of the mouths of first graders...

Walking through the lunch line one of my little girls paused at the hanging rack of lunch cards with student's names written on them.  She turned to me and said -"Mrs. Norton - at first I thought that name was is.is.  Then I realized it was Isis!". Check that word wall word off the list!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

It's been a long time...

I started this blog with the full intention of updating it weekly.  Unfortunately, that has not occurred with my chaotic life.  I have been held hostage by Crohn's Disease for most of this year and m just returning to school after a two month surgical absence.  I am feeling much better now and am hoping to get back into the swing of things quickly.  One added incentive to getting myself organized is that I have a student teacher starting on Monday!

Before I got too sick, I was surprised in my classroom one morning in the midst of teaching by my two little boys carrying in bouquets of balloons, and several other people, many unknown to me, entering my classroom. My principal thn informed both me and my class that I had been selected by Office Max as a winner of A Day Made Better campaign that recognized outstanding teachers.  I was awarded boxes full of school and office supplies, a brand new leather desk chair, and best of all, all of my kids got supply boxes to take home.  So desperately needed in our community.  It was an amazing and overwhelming experience, and I am so grateful to be recognized for doing something that I love so much.

Thank you again to Office Max, and to my co-workers and administrators who nominated me for this incredible event!