Tuesday, August 27, 2013

First Day of School and My Classroom Reveal!

So, today I'm linking up with Fourth Grade Flipper for Tried it Tuesday! This is a pretty serious personal tried it! For the very first time I tried teaching a 3rd & 4th grade multi-age time. This is my first time teaching either grade too! Well...

Today was our first day of school, and let me just tell you...I LOVE 3rd and 4th grade! When I taught Kindergarten, I loved it. When I taught First and Second Grade, I loved them even more for 10 years. When I taught 5th grade...I liked it. But to me I think I've really found my home with 3rd and 4th. I can already feel that higher level of passion and drive that comes with teaching where your heart is. The reality is that I was a good 5th grade teacher, but I had to work to find that passion. So today really felt great because it just came naturally.

I already love all of my kids, and I can tell we're going to have a wonderful (and interesting :P) year!

I'll chime in more later with some of the activities we did, but for today I thought I'd finally reveal my classroom!

This is a panorama of my room. As you can see, I'm not blessed with one of those huge rooms that I'm so jealous of that I see a lot of you out there have. By the time you squeeze in 24 desks, a reading table, a carpet area, and a library it's pretty tight.

This is the view from my classroom doorway. Is it just me or does my room seem very...yellow? Bah. I wish we were allowed to paint the walls. That yellow would get washed over with a green or a nice deep red or blue. Sigh.
This monstrosity is part of the reason my room feels small to me. It's my teacher desk. The rooms in my building are all identical (except some are mirror images), and they all have these giant built in teacher desks. At my old school I used to push my desk into a corner. As you can see, I do end up making use of the space though!
These are some of the things on my desk. My pencil dispenser, and the "pencil hospital." In my room kids don't sharpen pencils during the day. I think it's a waste of time. So they just drop broken or dull pencils in the box and then dispense themselves a new one. Then I (or a fast finisher, or my intern) will sharpen pencils occasionally to refill the dispenser. 

This is my main bulletin board above my whiteboard, and my CAFE board. (No strategies taught yet!) If you like the CAFE signs they're in my TpT store as a freebie, and so is that Punctuation Conversation on the left!

Here's more of a close up of the board. Note how all of my posters and decor are matchy-matchy. I did that! :) The dual alphabet is in my store, and that MINTS poster is an upcoming freebie right here in a future post!

This is my VOICES board and Writing Process Chart(both also in my TpT store, and matchy-matchy!). I'll add the strategies (on magnetized cardstock) to this board just like with the CAFE board as the year goes on. 

This is my daily schedule, which is on magnets, (in the store, btw!) and my NOISE sign. You can see my stamina chart (a freebie here on my blog!) and that poster on a magnetic clip which I change every two days with a different one with a new, fun, thought provoking saying.

I label the corners of my classroom A-D, because sometimes I give the kids a "test" where they have to run to the corner of the room that matches their answer. We do this the first day, when we take a "test about the teacher" (powerpoint in the store peeps!) I just die cut the letters out of some old maps and mounted them on some matching scrapbook paper to keep with my travel around the world theme!

Probably one of my favorite spots in the room, this is my main classroom library area. It's also where I keep the kids' mailboxes and some of their book bins. (I spread those throughout the room so they don't all have to go to the same spot and cause a traffic jam.)

And here is the library looking from the carpet. I finally broke down and bought a bazillion matching bins to replace the junkyard collection of bins I've been using for the last 10 years. I still have to label them though!

And finally, inside the library looking out to the carpet!

So, as you exit my clasroom...you're still learning something! I made this set of horizontal and vertical words to match all of my other posters and stuff. I figure seeing it 360 times (I loop with my kids) might make them remember which is which! 

So that's the room as it stands! I actually have a couple more pictures to take, but I didn't want to until I actually finished decorating. I still have a totally blank Math board, and my Writing board is missing all of its posters :(  I just finished setting up all my class pets this morning too. At some point I had to prioritize my to do list! 

I hope to be back again later this week to share some of the stuff we've done! 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Must Haves, and a Peek at my First Week Back!

It feels so good to finally sit down and start writing a post! I've been wanting to write all week long and just could not find the time. I'm sure every teacher out there knows how busy that week before school starts can be. Well, for me this year has been one of the busiest ever! I've very happily moved to a 3rd/4th multi-age class this year, so the change in classroom, change in theme, change in classroom library, and just preparing for teaching two grade levels at once (and implementing common core in all subjects) have been a bit overwhelming.

I STILL don't have pictures of my classroom to reveal. The kids come back TOMORROW! I'm heading up to the school for one last time today to put some finishing touches on a few things, but even then I think there will be some things to finish up. I finally broke my to do list into categories, one of which was "Optional." It hurt to put things in that category...but I'll get to them eventually!

To get back into the groove of things I'm double linking up today! If my calculations are correct then it's time to link up with Sabra's Must have Monday linky over at Teaching with a Touch of Twang! My first must have today is pretty simple. I MUST HAVE a good plan. I plan out pretty much every plan-able aspect of my classroom. Changing to 2 new grade levels this year has definitely impacted me for this reason. I want to have a basic plan for the year laid out, but I just don't have the experience in 3rd/4th to do that, and it's stressing me out! Still, I have planned out my whole first week of school, most of my second, and started making plans for several of my upcoming units, read-alouds, etc. What are your favorite tried and true 3rd/4th chapter book read-alouds? 

My other must have is not education related, but still helps me make it through a lot of long nights of prepping materials, grading reading response journals, etc. It's Netflix Digital Streaming! I usually like to play a TV series in the background while I'm working on stuff. I've made it through most of the popular shows that I never saw on TV, and quite a few obscure shows too. I love the ability to marathon watch shows and not have to wait a week to see what happens. That being said, I'm looking forward to me and Killer B's decision to have "No TV Tuesdays!" 

So, like I said, kids come back tomorrow, and I'm super excited! I've been working hard to prep everything for my first week back. So I'm linking up with this fun new linky

Luckily I had my tried and true Beginning of Year Activities and Forms to help me with some of the basics!

So, to share some of the highlights of my days this week:

Tuesday - 
We'll be reading First Day Jitters, starting our Mentor Sentences notebook, taking a Test about the Teachers,($1) setting up some basic classroom procedures, playing 2 truths and a lie, going on a classroom scavenger hunt, introducing Daily 5 and CAFE, and making some anchor charts!

Wednesday - 
I'll be introducing our VOICES board ($3) and Writing Workshop, using our 50 Things I Love graphic organizer (freebie!), discussing good fit books, more anchor charts, and introducing our Africa unit.

Thursday - 
We'll be reading Cloudette and Do Unto Otters, making a hot air balloon glyph, discussing genre, and doing more community building! (Anchor charts too of course!)

Friday -
We'll be using Kidblog for the first time to write our family message journals, I'll be introducing terracycling, kids will apply for a class job, we'll learn about read beads and book reviews, do a little more community building, and of course we'll make more progress on getting those ever important class procedures down pat!  

Of course I'm leaving out a ton of stuff, but those are some of the things I'm really looking forward to.

This'll be my first time teaching a social studies unit on Africa. The materials provided by my district are a bit...um...outdated, and frankly I'm overwhelmed with the thought of teaching an entire continent that is as diverse as Africa. Anyone have any tried and true lessons? I'm planning to focus mostly on the overall size, extreme diversity of cultures, and diversity of ecosystems present in Africa.

I'll be back later this week to report in on the week and reveal my classroom finally!

Monday, August 19, 2013

A Few Made Its! One of which is a Freebie!

So, I'm linking up with 4th Grade Frolics for another Monday Made It! I forgot that the summer weekly link ups are over! Boohoo! Oh well!

I've been crazy working on things for my own classroom, and one of them has turned into a freebie for those of you who stick around to the end! No skipping ahead! 

So I changed my classroom theme and color scheme in a big way this year. I've been working on a lot of things to make them matchy-matchy in my room. One of things I made I thought other teachers might be able to use. It's these popular clock minute numbers to help kids tell time. I think telling time is just one of those skills you have to practice and see over and over again. This is a great visual to help kids associate the minute values with the numbers on the clock. You can grab the file from my store for a mere DOLLAR.

My next Made It is kind of embarrassing. Mainly because I've been seeing and coveting other people's Teacher ToolBoxes for literally years and have just been too darn lazy to make my own. I even made labels once, then decided I didn't like them. Then made different labels, and still didn't make it.

Finally, I made some labels that I LOVE, and put together the little toolbox on the right. Pretty much as soon as I finished the first one I realized that I still had lots and lots of little things that needed homes. So I went to the store and bought a bigger one with just big drawers. Before you knew it, my desk was super organized and I now have the power of a multitude of office supplies at my fingertips in a moment's notice!

So, this is a scheduled post because today I am attending the opening ceremony where the mentors in my district welcome our year-long PDS interns and do some icebreakers and professional development together. Then my actual in-service preplanning days begin on Tuesday, and school with kids starts the following Tuesday! 

In preparation for all the planning that this new year will entail I made myself a handy little lesson planning bookmark. Click here to get your own copy! It has a nice list of things to keep in mind while planning to help make sure that your lessons are as engaging as possible! I try to do these things as much as possible already, but reading Teach Like A Pirate made me want to make something to keep in my plan book to look at while planning as a reminder.

Check out all of the other cool Monday Made Its! Every week I see something new to put on my to do list!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Well, it WAS Friday when I started this post!

I'm linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for Five for Friday! (Well, at least I STARTED this post on Friday!)

I'm sad to say that this picture was taken on Wednesday.
After 2 full days of work! PS - I HATE my yellow wall.
First and foremost is the thing that has been consuming my life this week...you guessed it! Prepping my classroom! As I've mentioned a hundred times, I'm moving to a 3rd/4th grade multi-age classroom this year (and hopefully for the next decade or two!) and that means changing classrooms. Even though I just had to move down the hall, I'm still starting from scratch as far as materials, classroom library, bulletin boards, etc. 

Also, I discovered that I have accumulated a lot of stuff in my 12 years. I'm a teacher-stuff hoarder. I admit it. But this week I was looking at my mess and I noticed this jack o'lantern bucket amongst the piles. I realized I've carried that bucket across four different schools in two different states and I have NEVER USED IT for anything. It went to the teacher freebie table in the lounge along with a ton of other stuff!

So the next thing is something that makes me happy. When I inherited my new room it came with a classroom rug that had been stained and cut, and stained and cut some more. So much in fact that it is now basically about 4x5 feet in area. I call kids to the carpet a bajillion times a day it seems, so I need a good rug. I shelled out the big bucks myself and got this one for my classroom. I had a similar one way back when I taught Kindergarten and I loved it because each kiddo had their own little box to sit in! I like this one even more because it is six across and four deep, AND the colors are more muted and not primary. Fingers crossed that I don't have more than 24 students in my class this year...

Just thought I'd share Killer B's idea of "helping" when we took a load of boxes up to my classroom the other night. She's checking out the first batch of books to make it into the classroom library while I set up my desks!

So of course I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the big Back to School sale over at TpT on Sunday and Monday! I've got a few things on my wishlist that I'm excited to finally buy! Here's a handy trick...buy 3/4 of your list on Sunday, leave some positive feedback to get those TpT credits and then use those credits to help pay for the rest of your list on Monday! If you haven't wishlisted half of my store yet...what are you waiting for?! Sheesh!  ;)

So, longtime readers of my blog will remember that I've been trying to get back into shape this summer and have been pretty successful. I officially hit 30 pounds lost two days ago! This mission began when I took my 5th grade class on a field trip to Philly at the end of last school year. I wore my bright red Spider-Man hoodie so that kids could see me when crossing streets. Well, at one point a middle schooler from another school points at me and says, "Hey look it's Spider-Man!...the FAT ONE!" Hahaha. I'm not going to lie, it was funny to me when he said it. Then the next day at school some kids brought me pictures they had taken of me on the trip and it hit me...I was Fat Spider-Man. That had to change.

So after a radical change in diet (I went from a SeeFood diet to controlling my portions, basically) and some walking, I finally weigh what I did when I started teaching 12 years ago! (My wife has never known me when I was this in shape! What-what?!) I'm 6'1" and somewhat muscular, so having 30 lbs on top of that was making me look like a giant. 10 more lbs to lose and then I'll be at what I would consider my ideal weight! 

To celebrate my loss, Killer B and I have signed up to run in our very first 5k ever, and it's a Color Run! I can't wait! It's not until the end of September though.

Well, it's officially my LAST weekend of Summer! I'm going to try and enjoy it! 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

What's on your TpT Wishlist?

It's here, it's here! Well, it will be here this Sunday and Monday! (August 18th-19th)

As we are all prepping our classrooms, going through professional development, or in survival beginning of the school year mode we have been anxiously waiting to hear when our favorite and most wish-listed products will go on sale at TpT.

Well friends, I am happy to announce it is finally time!

In celebration of this momentous event, myself and a group of wonderful bloggers came together to create a fun linky to showcase our shopping carts and our favorite products.

If there's one thing we teachers love to do, it's shop for our classrooms, right?

Join us by linking up with 2 of the top wish-listed products in your store and 1 product on your wish-list you just have to purchase! *If you're not a blogger or TPTer, still feel free to comment with your most wish-listed item! Use the graphics below if you'd like!

My MOST wishlisted item is also one of my favorite and most dear to my heart. It's my Novel Study Unit for Wonder by RJ Palacio! I put a lot of work into this product, and it was worth it. Now would be a great time to snap it up if you haven't already!
This unit is 170 pages long and includes vocabulary, comprehension and inferring questions for every chapter, as well as a big packet of activities for the kids to do with the book. If you haven't read Wonder yet, please do. In my opinion it's one of the best books published in the last several years. The thing I have to tell everyone I meet about this book is that it had my kids alternating between crying openly and cheering loudly. 

My second most wishlisted item is tricky because I had a tie! So I'm kind of cheating, but I couldn't pick just one when they both had the same number of wishlisters!

The first of the two is my packet of helpful materials for Reading Response Journals! I use these with my kids as part of my Daily 5 system. It counts as their "Write about Reading" or "Response to Literature." I like it because it has a lot of variety for them to choose from, but keeps their responses in a similar format week to week which makes it easy to grade using the included rubric. 

The second item is another one that I'm really proud of. I wish I rubbed elbows with book publishers, because if I did I'd try to get this one in Barnes & Noble. It's my Book of Awesome Tasks! This is a printable book that has a bunch of activities for fast finishers, indoor recess, etc. It has kids thinking critically and writing, all while flexing their creative muscles! I've actually had kids beg me to stay indoor for recess because of these activities!
I'm looking forward to buying a few things during the sale, but one thing that I'll be buying and putting to use right away is Jivey's Numbers and Operations Bundle. Not JUST because she's one of BBB's either! I've bought her Mentor Sentences and love them, so I know she makes quality products. And I was using her Lucky Leftovers division game in my classroom before I even knew about her blog! 

I hope I was able to beef up your wishlist before the big sale! Take a gander through the rest of my store if you get a chance! This is a great opportunity to get a bunch of great stuff for some ridiculously good prices!

Everything over $2 in my store will be on sale for 20% off! PLUS, don't forget to enter the promo code BTS13 to get another 10% off after my 20%. Weird math, but that adds up to 28% off the normal price! 

Now, join us with a post about your items!

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