Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Brain overload!!!!

I know, I know....I was supposed to post more on my student binders.....well, I'm saving that for another day because I am EXCITED about what I learned today.

Let me explain:

I get voluntold a lot......you know, "VOLUNTOLD".....as in Boss Lady walks in and says, " I need someone to do this train-the-trainer on technology.....any takers??" and everyone looks at me and she says " Thanks, Kim." even though I never volunteer.....that's voluntold....when you're TOLD you volunteer for something!!!

Anywho, I get voluntold a lot....and I got voluntold to do this summer train-the-trainer class.....for those of you who's district doesn't have that, we are a BIG district, so they get 1 or 2 representatives for each campus, train us on what they want the entire staff trained on....and then we go back and train our campuses. Can't complain....starts me back in school mode AND they pay me for it, so I guess I'm a lucky duck!!!

Okay...now to the excited part.....the training today was on technology ( I know....either you love it or you don't...and I'm a geek, I LOVE it)...but that's not what I'm excited about....that's old hat....been using it for years! There is a website/application/program (whatever you want to call it) called PD 360. I know a lot of schools use it because it talks about common core a lot and Texas doesn't DO common core....well, we do, we just don't call it that!

Gosh at the squirrels......

Anywho....we were on PD360 today and did a PLC (Professional Learning Community) demonstration on how we could use that technology......that part is not important....we got to choose the subject. And I chose (along with about 45% of the group )Brain Research by David Sousa.
If you've never heard of him (okay, his name SOUNDED familiar, but wasn't ringing all the bells)...he's like the brain guru often cited by Marcia Tate and Eric Jensen (SURELY you've heard of them).

Well, THIS is what I learned (or got reminded of the fact that I was supposed to already know this, I mean, I'm a teacher for crying out loud!) :
* Your brain makes melatonin which is the chemical that makes you sleep (or not if you lack it). The ONLY thing that gets rid of melatonin is .........
LIGHT. Yep, light.Not Diet Coke. Not chocolate. (Although that secret is safe with me because I swear the combination of chocolate and Diet Coke are melatonin dissolvers!)

I HATE the flourescent overhead lights of school. Its not appealing. It does something to my body chemistry. It puts me in a foul mood....so often I will open all the shades and turn off the overhead lights. According to this, I'm not a boring teacher putting my kiddos to sleep....its the stinkin' melatonin!!! SO.....I'm gonna have to go lamp shopping....because I still can't deal with overhead lights!!!

*You should never teach two simliar concepts the same day (or sometimes even the same week depending on how complex it is). The example he used was .....latitude and longitude. Yeppers.
Tons of generations damaged by yours truly. They will now grow up with their little dendrites not having solidified the mastery of latitude and longitude...thanks to me! Who knew!?!
According to Sousa, you should wait until you feel that they have mastery (or at least a true understanding) of the first concept before you introduce a similiar concept and you should NOT draw on their knowledge of the first concept to teach the 2nd one.....save that for the culminating activity because.....

*Your brain saves things based on their similiarities....and retrieves it by differences. Yep. That's why great culminating activities are Venn Diagrams.....to show both similiarities and differences!!!

* Your brain can only hold so much info at once.....and according to the theory of Primacy-Recency, you will remember the first and the last thing (or your kiddos will) of the thing being taught.
The longer the lesson length, the greater the downtime (where your brain goes all fuzzy and you start thinking of what you're going to do this weekend, and what you need to pick up from Wal Mart, and what color you should pick the next time you go for a mani-pedi) Kids ( and probably adults too) learn best (and most) when lessons are kept to 20 minutes.
During a 20 minute lesson, there is only about 2-3 minutes of downtime.
During a 80 minute lesson, there is 30 minutes of downtime. That's a lot of color picking and Wal Mart list making!!!
So, in short, you get more bang for your buck by chunking your lessons into mini-lessons. Keeping them short...and making them ACTIVE.
Also, you get more bang for your buck when you incorporate music and art.

The learning gods have smiled on me and blessed my idea of incorporating the Daily 5, brain breaks, mini-lessons, math workshops AND my craftivity!!!! OH happy day!

okay.....I know......these people (Jensen, Tate, Sousa, the Two Sisters) had this stuff figured out way before me.....but I'm excited in implementing it and seeing things click with my kids faster..even though I may slow down the pace a bit because I'm going for quality of things I get to stick rather than quantity of things I throw at them and half of them are lost!!!

Off to eat my fruit, drink my water, and have a brain break myself!!

Student Binders- Intro and Home/School connection section

It's the one thing I have to RETHINK every year.
If it's not done right, it drives me BONKERS!!!
And I've YET to find a perfect system......
I'm talking about ways to help students organize their work.

I've tried different things.
I've tried hanging files...and letting the kids file their own work.....NOT a great idea.There are not a lot of 2nd graders that have promising secretarial skills....I know..I've tried to use them!
I've tried regular folders with brads....2nd graders aren't the best at working the brads...plus they tend to break after a while and upside down/backwards paper drives me INSANE!
I've tried pocketed folders.....turns into a hot mess with my little messy marvins.

This year, I elected to put poly binders (the floppy kind) on the supply list instead of the traditional braded folders.

3rd grade used them last year and LOVED them.
I'm hoping to have the same result.
This is going to be their ONE and only folder...( I hope)!!!

I've been reading about different 'binders' teachers use for their students......and settled on this--my version of the STAR binder. (Students Taking Academic Responsibility). I've seen several people use this (or some form of this but maybe a different acronym)

I'm having different sections in their binders to take the place of different folders:
*Home/School Connection
*Language Arts

Each section is separated by a different colored cover page (for lack of a better word) that is tabbed so they can find it easily.
The first section, Home/School connection is going to contain the STAR binder contract:

This serves two purposes: first, it holds the kids accountable for their binder and puts some 'ownership' of it by having them sign a contract AND
second, it lets the parents know my expectation so when they email or call me with an excuse of how little Phillip Johnny Bob forgot his STAR binder today, but it wasn't really his fault because mom forgot to put it in his backpack for him, I can refer to this little gem and tell them how it is so sad that little PJB isn't living up to his end of the agreement of responsibility for his STAR binder......maybe in subtler terms...but you get the gist!!!

The next thing in the STAR binder will be the divider page for the Home/School Connection, which looks like this:
I ran these on bright colored cardstock (this one is bright yellow) so we could distinguish them easily. We bought tabs to put on them and will label the tabs with printable labels.

Next, we put in the Communication log. This has two parts. Let me explain: Last year we had ready made (bought) planners with a section for the students to write in daily, and (if need be) for the teacher to write, the parent to inital and even a spot for the students to write their spelling words in.
This year, out of responsibility to spending our budgets wisely, we elected in K-2 to NOT purchase the planners (they were quite costly) and find other means to communicate. (Kinder never used them, some firsties did, and second was using them but I had this in mind!)
I still want a way to communicate with parents if I need to AND do want the parents to check their binder daily....so my dilemma was do I make something like the planner...and expect the kids to write every day, or not?
THEN , my bff (who is also 1st grade team leader at my school.....SHOUT OUT JJ!!!) told me that the PTA committee had talked of finding some way to inform the parents frequently (weekly, bi-weekly or every six weeks....its still in the works) what the kids were studying so when asked the age-old question "What did you do at school today?" the response won't be " NOTHING".
THAT got me to thinking....what if we had the kids write in the communication piece a little objective or area of study we are doing....then we would have " TABLE TALK" subjects the parents can bring up with the kiddos (i.e " So, I saw in your STAR binder this week you were learning about freshwater and saltwater fish.....what did you learn about them?") For those involved parents it gives them specifics to ask about and feel like they are connected with their school life!
SO, this communication log has a double sided page per week. One side for the students to write on (their learning goals/areas of focus/ what we're doing that interests them) and the other side for the parents and/or teachers to write.

The next thing I include in this section will be some ready-made excuses for :
*PE/Recess - if they miss one, they WILL miss the other..and more than 3 days requires a doctor's note.
*Change in Transportation- we go through this EVERY year...if they change the way they go home, it is school policy they MUST let us know....and EVERY year I have parents "just tell the kid" to change the way they go home, then we have the " Oh, you WILL get on the bus" conversation because your mom didn't tell me you were going home with so-and-so.....
*Absence excuses- these are for the 'missed a day' absences, not " went to the doctor/dentist" occasions.
I will include several of these in their STAR binder so they only need to fill it out and send it in....and there is my documentation for any of those occasions!!

This is the Home/School connection part of our student binders. Tomorrow we'll talk about the other sections in our STAR binders

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Student Recognition

2nd graders LOVE attention! Most of them, anyway!
I've found over the years that if I can give them recognition on a routine basis, the better they respond!
A couple of years ago, I started recognizing a student a week as our " Star Student".
The kids ate it up!
Last year I read what several teachers did with their "Star Students" and I went a little on the overboard side. The kids loved it...the parents loved it....it got a little wearing on me!
SO, this year I am trying to find a happy medium.
I've already told you about these cutesy little Stars I'm going to use instead of the good ol' standby
Student of the Week poster I used last year.
We like to have a grade level ceremony every Friday afternoon where each teacher "Recognizes" a "Star of the week".
There is clapping.
There is fanfare.
There is cheering!
It's a lot of fun!
They will be given one of those stars and this paper which will explain to the parents what fanfare will take place during the week. (I've adjusted it a bit to 'tone it down' from last year and hopefully take some of it off of me!)
There are also other student recognitions I am doing:

*Knocked my socks off- I mentioned before I got this idea from Denise at Sunny Days in Second Grade- she has cutesy little tags to attach to dollar store socks...I made my own. I'm going to give one a week to a student (Who is NOT my star that week) that has done a really good job of improving or just did something fantastic.

*Desk Fairy- I'm a neat fanatic....well, okay, don't look at my teacher desk and think that, but the kids desks being a hot mess just drives me UP the wall!! So, I tip over their desks when they're messy so they have to clean them up   encourage them at every opportunity to keep their desk clean and organized. The Desk Fairy is a trick a LOT of teachers use to do this....and I love it! I found this little poem at Mrs McCumbee's blog ....and although she calls hers "The Queen of Clean" , I'm sticking with the Desk Fairy.

I'm not yet sure what 'treat' I am going to attach to it...I have several students with SEVERE food allergies, so I am hesitant to do something food-related. It may end up being a "Pick a piece of Recess Equipment" tag or "Free Computer Time" tag....will figure that out in the next few weeks.

At the end of the year last year, I bought some cute  awards from Erin Stephan on TPT. I ran each one off on different colored cardstock and we had a little 'ceremony' to give them out. My students absolutely LOVED it. They would try to guess WHO got each award before I called out the name....and it was funny to me how they categorized each other ("He's a great artist", "She is always smiling", etc). So, this year, I think I am going to do this every 6 weeks. Here is the link if you are interested in the awards.

I think this is plenty for me as far as student recognition goes, but I am always opened to new ideas. So, how do YOU recognize your students?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Dead Air

We've all had it happen.
The lesson that SHOULD have taken you 30 minutes to teach only took 20. You have 10 minutes to kill before you line your little darlings up to march them to specials (and then there is a Diet Coke calling your name from the teachers lounge!)
But you can't let them sit there and twiddle their thumbs for 10 minutes....you can't let them ' talk amongst themselves' because then in 3 seconds it will sound like a riot is being held in your room.
SO, what do you do?? You have to fill, what is known in the radio world as "Dead Air", and although we as teachers don't get fined for it like radio stations do, the consequences can be just as painful if we don't come up with something creative to fill it.

I don't know about you, but when I was in school "Dead Air" was filled with impromptu games of " 7 Up" and "Hangman". While these were 'fun' they were not necessarily educational, and with the pressures to cram every bit of information possible into their brains, help students succeed, I like to fill every minute with something USEFUL.

I found these VERY useful! They are from Jodi at Fun in First. (A freebie from her!!) and my class LOVED them last year!

Here are some other suggestions I've tried:

* A spelling game on the whiteboard (not as smart as your board) from Spelling City.com

* Read an interactive book from Tumblebooks-

*Try a riddle from this website (time fillers for subs)-

  *Online Mad Libs from Wacky Web Tales- this was a FAVORITE of my class last year and a wonderful parts of speech review!!! 

* An activity from BrainPop Jr. - another big favorite of my class last year!

I'm sure I'll put all of these to good use this year as well! (And probably add to them!) So, what kinds of things do YOU do to fill in dead air time???

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Word Work

Sorry I've been out of the picture for a while! Things have been CUH-RAY-ZEE lately! My son is getting ready to ship out to Camp Pendleton, California in 3 weeks (sniff, sniff).SO, mom is making sure she gets all the time she can with her future jarhead before he leaves! PLUS he is turning 18 this week! (WHERE did the time go?)
On top of that a NASTY stomach bug has been going around the house lately. I haven't gotten it full-blown, but I had enough of it to appreciate NOT getting it!

In the meantime, I made 'cards' for my first Unit's spelling words for the Word Work center of my Daily 5. Feel free to grab them up if you are doing McGraw Hill Texas Treasures.

I think the one thing I am going to do differently is this year, I am going to make the words cumulative each week. Meaning, I am not going to take last week's spelling pattern out of that center when new words are introduced because I want them to continue to work with them and KNOW them rather than just memorize them for a weekly spelling test.

I will use a variety of materials in my Word Work center:

Including....using letter tiles

 marbles, rocks, and beans.....

Rainbow spelling with markers (including SMELLY markers)

Using craft sticks, pipe cleaners and any other materials I can get my hands on for word work manipulatives!
I'm also hoarding gathering up more materials to stick in my Word Work center.
What kinds of things do you use for Word Work??

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Word Walls

This is a subject that I have spent WAAAAAY too much time thinking about. I've tried different things. I've tried different locations......I have even tried NOT having one (that lasted a week).
It has uses (if you SHOW the kids how to use it.....and hold them to it!)
I'm talking about word walls.
I have a bulletin board I COULD use for it.
That is, if I didn't mind climbing over 7 computers to post words on it.
( I do, by the way, mind that!)
My acrobatic skills are not what they used to be.....and principals tend to go into spasms when they walk in my room and I am perched and climbing like a howler monkey!

I saw THIS.....

On pinterest, which took me to a blog called Kindergarten Smiles.

I liked the way she categorized the words. I could do that! I liked the way the folders were accessible to students when they needed them, but not taking up precious wall space. I could do that too!

I am considering making a 2nd grade version of this. I am also debating making a word wall to use with my interactive "not as smart as yours" board.
I told you I was spending WAY too much time on this!
So, how do you use word walls in your classroom??? How often do you change them? Add to them?
How do you categorize them?!?

This thinking is giving me a headache. I think I am gonna go grab a Diet Coke and a few Oreos (the diet coke will cancel out the oreo calories, right!?!) and take a brain break!!!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

If I Get Hit By A Bus....

One of my former principals used to love to say, " If I get hit by a bus, the person replacing me should be able to come in and pick up where I left off." One of THE hardest jobs on the planet is a substitute teacher. I know. I've done it.
You come in to someone else's routines and rules.
You come in to a sometimes not-so-willing audience.
You are often time given busy work to dole out and its not the most engaging work in the world!
This is the time everything will go wrong.....fire drill, kid throwing up, quiet kid turns into class clown, new student enrolls....you name it...Murphy's law is in full effect when you are the sub!

My hat goes off to them! I have been BLESSED with some REALLY good subs! I've also had a few who left me scratching my head wondering why they bothered to show up!!!
I TRY not to be absent...but, hey, life happens!
And when it does, I want to be prepared.....and make it as easy for the person filling my shoes as I can!
So, I have a sub binder. It is the go-to resource for any sub I have. Now, I will say that my sub plans are usually VERY detailed...but the more information you can leave them on your students and routines, the easier it will be. This is the sub binder from last year....there will naturally be some changes, but this will give you an idea of what I put in it!

How do you prepare for subs?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Teacher Binder- Part 2

This is part 2 of what's in my Teacher Binder.
I put more thought into this tool than anything else (besides lesson plans) I use because it is SO important. One of the main things I try to teach ALL my kiddos is the importance (and effectiveness) of being organized. Of course, it's not a "Do as I say, not as I do" thing....I try to show them also and this binder is my main source of organization!!

So, let's pick up where we left off:
4. Lesson Plans- Our district has a curriculum department that has planned each aspect of our curriculum to make sure:
* Everyone is on the same page
* All the TEKS are met

Their planner is a 'guideline' and we are free to supplement with anything that meets our kids needs AND is curriculum appropriate.
SO, I DO supplement....big time!
But, our team meets once (sometimes more than once) a week to go over the lesson plans, and throw out ideas of what we are going to do. I LOVE LOVE LOVE my team! These ladies are opened to trying to new things and have some of the BEST ideas!!
Anyway, our lesson plans are kept online (for the boss lady to look at when she needs/ wants to/ needs some reading material for her spare time) but I always print a copy off and keep in my teacher binder incase of memory loss, computer crash, substitute or whathave you!
Here is a sample of our template this year (going with our grade level theme)

5. IEP goals and Accommodations- Each year, I have more and more students that are classified as SpEd. My oldest son has Down Syndrome and graduated High School in June along with my youngest son.

 The one thing that lead to him being successful in school, the one thing that made a HUGE difference in how he felt about school and him feeling accepted is all the WONDERFUL teachers he had that, when mainstreamed, made him feel like "just one of the other kiddos". They followed all of his accomodations, but did so without any big deal!! Cody loved school and I am SO grateful to all of the teachers he had!! I want to make sure that I give my best to all my students, but also that if I have a student with accomodations that I follow them to the letter to give them the absolute BEST opportunity to succeed. But if you are like me, it is sometimes a juggling act to figure out who gets what and am I following ALL of them???
By law, we are given a full copy of each SpEd students' IEP. I three hole punch them and keep them in a section of this binder for quick reference. But I needed something to tell me WHAT I am supposed to be doing for my kiddos at a glance without me having to shuffle through a gazillion pages of each IEP.
So I use a seating chart that I color code with the most common accomodations...and a small writing space for anything 'special'. (I make sure a copy of this is in the sub binder because of a fiasco I had with a SpEd student and a sub years ago---I'll save that for another post). Here is an example of my seating chart and what it looks like:

 6. Daily 5 Section- This is the section I keep all my 'stuff' for the daily 5. The first thing I keep in this section is my Check-in Calendar. This way I know who I need to conference with and when! This is my September calendar:

The next subsection of this is the Conference sheets-
And then the Strategy Group Sheets-

Anything else Daily 5 related will also go in this part of my binder.

7. Calendar- Our office manager puts out a monthly calendar wth all important school related functions filled in (field trips, assemblies, etc). I keep a copy of it in my teacher binder so if I have a meeting/conference with a parent, I can schedule around all the other 'stuff' I sometimes forget about until I look at my calendar!!

8. Committee/ Team notes-  This last section is reserved for any team planning notes I have or notes from our Leadership Team meetings. We have several committes and 'teams' we are on and I find it more convenient to keep everything in one place!

Well, that is a look at my binder! How do you keep your things organized??

Saturday, July 7, 2012

New Blog Design and Teacher Binder- Part 1

Did you notice?
I decided to change up my blog template AND I created a blog button! Yay me! We won't talk about how long it took me....but it's a fresh change and I am LOVING it! Thanks to the FREE, (my favorite price) templates at  The Cutest Blog on the Block, I customized it my little ol' self!

Okay...enough about that....here's my original post:

It's my right hand man.
It's my go-to-guy.
It's my brain most of the time!!!
I'm talking about my Teacher Binder.

I am a binder person.
I know....some of you prefer files or something else....I've tried other methods, and ALWAYS ,,ALWAYS, ALWAYS go back to my binder system!!!

It's my quick reference for....
*Emergency Numbers
*Parent Contact
*Testing data
*IEP goals
*Lesson plans
*Anything else I can think of!!!

This is such an important tool, I am going to be posting info on this in several parts! TODAY is the first part.

I purchase a BIG binder (I bought purple  eggplant for my whole team),
(Love these because you can write on them with sharpie!)
 and sheet protectors and pockets.

 I start out by deciding what sections I want. Here is what I am doing this year:
1. Emergency contacts- this is where I keep the sheet I have the parents fill out on Parent Orientation Night. It tells me everything I need to know in a pinch. Here is the paper:
I got the idea for this last year, when I was blog stalking happened upon Mrs. Carroll at The First Grade Parade...and she had her info sheet listed as a freebie!! I took some of the questions from hers and tweaked them to fit my needs, added my own fonts and clipart...and this is what I came up with!
I run these front/back on two different colors (one for boys, one for girls, just because I LOVE color coding) and I print a label with the student's names AND STUDENT NUMBER  for the first blank at the top of the paper.This way, once the parents fill them out for me (legibly, I hope!) I can take them up, put them in number order and that section is alphabetized and color coded by boy/girl so I can quickly find what I need on each child!!!

2.Parent Communication- This is where I am keeping my Parent Communication Log. (My principal stated when she walks in our classroom this is the ONE thing she wants to be able to access rather than lesson plans...because of COURSE we are teaching our district curriculum!) I also bought one of those dividers that serve as a pocket (See above). This is where I will keep all the notes from home!
(Incase you missed it, my Parent Communication Log is two posts ago!)

3. Awards and Checklists- We give several awards in our school, grade level and in my classroom.I've already talked about the Postive Referrals. (I keep a sheet protector in this section with extra postive referral forms) In our grade level, each week, teachers choose a "Star of the Week". (I'll post more on this in the future)We have a grade level meeting and make a big deal about it.....they get  got a poster(that is SOOOO last year) to take home on Friday and bring back Monday.THIS year....they will get these little gems to take home...
CUTE!!! I found them at Really Good Stuff.
They are about 8 bucks for 24....and SO worth it because if I DO go with my Red White and Blue theme, they will fit in perfectly!! CLick HERE for the link to the product page.
We post them in the hall and they have special 'events' they get to have each day that week. This year, I am contemplating going with a Red, White and Blue theme in our hallway..(THIS is the picture from Clutter Free Classroom that inspired me)

..making our bulletin board a GIANT American flag (like the picture only making the stripes run horizontal rather than vertical) and putting stars all over our walls down the hallway. I've been so consumed with my classroom theme,I haven't given much thought to our hallway/grade level theme (and no, I don't like them to be the same because I would get sick of them very QUICKLY!) and with this year being an election year, Olympics and all, I am thinking the American theme will be cute..but that will all be worked out on another post..after July 23rd when I can get into my building.

ANYWHO, In my classroom, I also give a clean desk award (weekly) which consists of a certificate and usually a pencil or something.... and a CUTE idea I got  from Denise at Sunny Days in Second Grade but, basically you go to the dollar store (love me some dollar store!) and buy cheap kid socks (designed are the preference)....but any will do! Then you print these cutesy little tags (she has some but I made my own to fit my theme) and attach them to the socks and give it out as an award weekly to a student who has done something outstanding! THANK YOU DENISE!!! I love this idea and am SO excited about using it!
Here are my tags: ( I plan to keep them in a cute boot planter I found at some dollar store--picture to come later)In my class, the day they wear their 'special socks' they can take their shoes off in class...which is a BIG deal in my classroom!!!

Now, to keep up with who has had what award, in my teacher binder, I keep a checklist. Here is my template. Feel free to grab up!

I will date when each child has won an award so I don't get into that all-too-easy habit of picking the same ones over and over and forgetting someone!!!
Well, this post is long enough for now...and I may have overwhelmed everyone...so I will post more of what is in my teacher binder later...because there is a LOT more!
(If you need pdf or powerpoint form of any of my documents, email me and I will send it to you!)
 Time to go grab some food!