Thursday, August 30, 2012

Where is Everyone?

Last night was our "meet-the-teacher family orientation."  After having the same class for two years, it was great to see many of my students at their second grade tables.  I'm going to miss that group!

I had spent the last few days adding some finishing touches to my classroom and preparing a PowerPoint presentation for my new class.  I was so excited to meet them!  We started off greeting all of the families in the cafeteria and then bringing up our individual classes for a tour of the room and introduction to the grade.  I don't know if the turn out was more shocking or disappointing.  I have 24 students on my roster... only ONE parent showed up, and he didn't bring his child.  My last class had great parent participation, which is rare in the city.  Fortunately, the one parent I met last night is an active member of the PTA executive board, and as president of the School Leadership Team I know him well.  It will be great having his child in my class.

Below is a picture of one of the favors I prepared for the parents.  I also had lollipops for the students (none of which were given out).

A favor for parents who attended my Meet-the-Teacher event

As promised, here are some photos of my 2012-2013 classroom.  I had a vision of blue and green with pink accents.  It turned out to look like a lot of pink!  It's hard to believe I used the least of that roll of paper.

Note:  Our first two days after Labor Day are teacher planning days, and we will have from 12pm until the end of the day to finish setting up our rooms.  I will be using that time to put away the extra clutter that hasn't found a space yet.  You'll see some of that in these photos.

My classroom library, meeting area, and Smartboard.
The calendar wall will also have a birthday board and class jobs.  The class job chart is being laminated and the birthday board can't go up until I have student photos.

Close up view of my renovated cabinets.
Remember these ugly chunks of metal from yesterday's post?  You wouldn't believe how hard it is to find contact paper in this area.  After looking through several stores, we finally found some at Staples.  It only came in three primary colors, none of which matched the colors of my room.  After my dad and godmother completed the task with this shade of green, we took a trip to Ikea.  What do you think I found there?  The small filing cabinet isn't done, but already it's a huge improvement!

Literacy Wall
This side of the room includes my leveled library.  We use Fountas and Pinnell reading levels.  Every book in my library has a small label on the top left hand corner of the cover that matches the label on the bin it belongs in.  This helps keep my library organized all year.  Above the leveled library is my word wall, and to the far right is my writing center.  The extra bins you see in the middle hold student lunches, my listening center, and my printer.

Close up of the word wall
I found these word wall letters on another blog, and I LOVE them.  They look like they were made to go with my polka-dot border.  I do wish, however, that I would have enlarged them slightly before cutting out all of those circles.  I was so jealous of all of you Cricut and Cameo owners as I sat there cutting!   Unfortunately, the blogger who provided this freebie did not include a credits page in the PDF file, so I can't remember where it came from.  Please comment if you would like me to add a link to your blog here!

We're Mooo-ving Up Reading Levels!
Click, Clack, MOO!  When I finish my running records, I will post student names or photos here.  As students grow as readers, I will need to remove levels A and B to make room for levels M and N.  Last year one of my students was reading above a level N!  It's still crazy to me how many reading levels students jump in first grade.  Posting reading levels is a tricky thing.  I know at this age students need a visual reminder of their current reading level when changing their books, but it can also be embarrassing for students who get stuck at a low reading level.  What are your thoughts on this?

Lockers and Guided Reading Table
If I could change one thing about my room, it would be these salmon-colored lockers.  They're loud, they compartments are too small for backpacks, and they're ugly!  In the back corner I have my teacher area and guided reading table.  I decided a year ago to get rid of my teacher desk, as it was a trap for junk and took up too much room.  Behind my guided reading table you will find a small student desk with items such as my pens, stapler, and tape.  The wall above that has the class schedule and a very small bulletin board for some personal photos and pictures my students draw me.

You are the reason I am here
I had to do a little photo-shopping to fit this long board into one shot.  This narrow bulletin board is what you see above the lockers.  The message was inspired by

Math Center and back wall

These banners hang throughout my room.

Writing Log
 My dad had this miniature log from some yard work he was doing and put it to great use!  Not only is this an adorable display for writing tools, it will be a great visual when I teach the -og family- my students never know what a log is!

To conclude my "after" shots of the classroom, I have to share an "after" shot of my helpers.
All worn out from the classroom setup
The poor things were only in town for two days, and I had them hard at work the entire time!

I hope you enjoyed a tour of my room!  I will update the photos as the week progresses.  I welcome any feedback to make the room more effective.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Good Bye

My summer vacation is officially over, which means I had to say good bye to this...
Babysitting my beautiful nephews

Photos taken by KitKat Photography

and this...
Weekly beach trips with my dear boyfriend

and hello to this:
My bright, stifling classroom with no AC.

As you can imagine, this is how I felt:
(I had to include a sad pug on my blog in honor of my beloved first co-teacher)

Fortunately, I had some wonderful helpers to make the work easier, faster, and more fun!
My AMAZING godmother and father drove all the way from Buffalo to help!

Check out my next post to see the results of all of our hard work!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Importance of CHARTS

My 2011-2012 Writing Center.  The shelves below housed a variety of paper choices.  The green folders you see are the students' writing folders, organized by writing groups. 

Reading groups- I have greater things in mind for this display next year!  My classroom doesn't have any bulletin boards.  Instead, I have wall to wall chalkboards, and they're not even magnetic!  The first, most time consuming, part of my classroom set up is taping bulletin board paper over every board.  My reading groups change quite often, so I use velcro over laminated sheets of paper.  My group names for that year were animals.  As you can see, the first letter of each animal group correlates with the F&P reading level of each student.  Students on the left side of the picture have just begun reading at this level.  Students on the left are close to reaching the next level up.

Since all of my students speak Spanish at home, they can never have too many models of proper English sentences.  An ESL support teacher suggested I add examples of sentence structure that the students could relate to by putting pictures of the class in action with sentences describing the picture.  My kids loved seeing themselves all over the windows!  This year I will use the same idea but in a time-line so it looks more organized. 

This chart was a great visual for my students to refer to when comparing numbers.  I used it with the song "Number Eating Alligator," found on youtube. 

There's nothing too exciting about this chart, but it serves a purpose.  It helps students become fluent in recognizing numbers in other forms.  When playing math games, I expected my students to know the numbers on a die without counting the dots.

I copied the idea from this chart from my colleague, Alison.

This chart comes from Pinterest!

I had several blend and digraph charts that rotated throughout the year.  The charts my students referred to the most were sh, th, wh, and ch.

I LOVE this chart, which helped me decide where to start during writing conferences.  I've seen many versions of this chart on Pinterest.  Following a writing conference, students would put their name next to the goal they were supposed to focus on until our next conference.

I believe the idea for this chart came from Cara Carroll!

Another chart idea from Cara Carroll.

An example of how I display my charts on a clothesline. 
I made this poster on snapfish, featuring a photo of each student in my fourth grade class.  Although it was not educational, I loved how it looked on my classroom door!

This quote, above my fifth grade chalkboard, comes from a speech to students that Obama gave on the first day of school. 


With so many beautiful charts circulating the Internet, it’s easy to get carried away!  It is important, however, to keep in mind WHY we post charts in our classrooms.  Our charts should serve as teaching partners.  They should guide, inform, and inspire our students.  If they are not used in our instruction and referred to when reviewing key ideas, they will not serve this purpose, and instead become a distraction to our students.  I have found that the most child-friendly charts are teacher made.  When children contribute to the charts, they are even more effective.  Sometimes I will spend hours on a chart, and students will never refer to it!  As hard as it can be, I try to take a classroom environment walk each month and pull down any charts I have not seen my students actively using.  Although they are not the most visually appealing charts I have created, this post includes some of the charts that ended up being used most often in my classroom.  My word wall, however, was referred to more than any chart in the room.  Unfortunately I didn’t take a picture of this before tearing down my room!  Other charts they referenced quite often listed transitional words, color words, and holidays. 

The Final Two Weeks of Vacation?

As an avid blog-reader, my mind has been in back-to-school mode for weeks.  Most of the bloggers from whom I get my inspiration start school in August.  Lucky for me, I still have exactly two weeks before I return to work- the day after Labor Day.  Before you get too jealous, keep in mind that in New York our summer vacation doesn't BEGIN until June 26th...  Yes, we teach until the very end of June in a building with no air-conditioning.  No need to go into detail with that! 

The resources for teachers that have begun to surface on the Internet are invaluable.  I have spent so much time putting my own spin on the amazing ideas of my fellow teachers that I decided it's time I add to the blogosphere.  I hope my photos, blurbs, and adventures can give-back to the teachers who have helped me.   

After teaching in the upper grades (4th & 5th) for four years, I have descended into the grade where my heart really lies- first grade!  Last year I had the amazing experience of looping with my kindergarteners to first grade.  Our school had eight first grade classes and will only have two this year.  I spent the latter half of the year worried that there wouldn't be room for me in the first grade for the upcoming school year, but God was smiling down on me, and here I am, back in first grade!  I am anxious to meet my new class, but will definitely miss the group I spent the last two years with.