Tuesday, July 29, 2014

DIY Filing Cabinet decoration/ makeover

I could not manage to get the handles off, but I simply took off the little metal label holders and put half a sheet of scrapbook paper on each drawer. Then I replaced the metal holders and used a bright label. I think they look much cuter. You can't see it in this picture but I also put washi tape of the top edge of the drawer to make sure the paper stayed secure. 

Classroom update

I went  back to work in my classroom today and made a lot of progress. 

I found a pack of square cork boards on sale for around 5 dollars at target and decided to cover them with scrapbook paper. The paper fit perfectly so it didn't even require any cutting. I think they look great and really brighten up my desk area. 

I added some pictures and the school calendar. 

I also covered my desk with wallpaper. I used a hot glue gun for that. 

Here is a close up of my office hours sign. These are times when I will be able to meet with parents/students or help them with tutoring. I actually may add another day to it if I feel enough people will use it. I'm also at school early almost every day. 

 There are 8 groups and each desk has a number on it that is one of 4 colors. For example, the desks in group 4 all have a 4 on them but they are different colors. I made it that way for assigning random seats and when I need just one person from a group to do something. I like the desks like this so I can move them apart for tests easily.I also lined up the desks so that a person was seated between two heads, to make sure they could see. 

The view from the front of the room. I hated that big, white wall So I hung up a plastic table cloth and a piece of fabric and put a boarder around them to look like bulletin boards. I ran out of the duct tape boarder so I will have to finish that one later. The one on the right will be a used to display anchor charts or possibly student work. The one on the left will be the classroom word wall.  

I think this is good for a middle school teacher-student conference area. Hopefully while other students are working I can pull a few aside here. I think it could be much less intimidating for them here. Also, I may find a few of those comfortable folding chairs to store behind my desk and kids could work in groups here as well. 

Next to that is the student work area. There is a seat where two students can work. Also, I have my Bazinga bulletin board. Here I can post current events, jokes, quotes, or newspaper clippings about the students. 

This is a view of my student center. The table is for student supplies/information and for turning things in. Next to it is the bookshelf that will hold the classroom sets that we are currently reading. On top is a classroom library checkout binder.( More on that later.) I also have a calendar and an absent crate where students find any work/handouts from when they were absent. Next to that is our measly little library. I hope to have it grow  over the year, but as a first year teacher, I don't really have the funds for that yet. :( 

These are the tubs that hold the classroom supplies for each group. If were are working on something, such as interactive notebooks the kids will grab their group's tub of supplies. I have never had the students sit in groups before, but I feel like it will work for my style of teaching. If it doesn't work I will probably just try to separate the supplies by type instead. 

Here is where students can find any work they missed. I also added a lost and found crate because I know that will be full by the end of the first week. 

 This is the absent binder. I'll file any handouts/assignments by date and then write them on the calendar . At the end of the month I'll file them in a binder for that month so I can reuse them next year and so I can get a copy again if I need to.

I couldn't find the matching contact paper and all of the cute stuff is expensive, so I bought wrapping paper. We will see how it holds up. I think it looks good on the shelves though and I like how it matches my desk. 

It's actually a whiteboard calendar and the small post its fit perfectly. I'll write assignments here then after the month is up the assignments and any handouts from the absent crate will be filed in a binder for that month. I know I can write smaller on paper, so I put post-it notes up. The small ones fit perfectly. Also, I put paper clips in the chart. They hold paper without it having to be sticky, since I doubt post-its will actually last all month. I may also start putting birthdays up and school events. 

Here I can post announcements and write down the homework that is due for each week. It will also be on the calender, but I feel this is a good weekly reminder.

I actually updated the homework board since taking that picture. I just hate my handwriting. I probably will redo these signs too.

I also put the school calendars in the student area.

 Notice how each sign has an abbreviation under it? These will be what I will be labeling the books with eventually. I do wish I had one for autobiography and memoir.

I thought a theme would be too childish for middle school but I love frog stuff so I picked up a few from goodwill for the bookshelf. Hopefully my collection will grow over time.

I've labeled each  book with my name and most of them also have the genre. 

I made this area because when I let kids leave the room I tend to forget where they went.  This way I can glance up and see automatically how many kids are out and where they are at all times, and not have to remember. This way if someone calls for one of the kids who are out or if there is a fire alarm I won't really have to think on the spot about it. This way I can replace the sign out sheet each day and file it. That way I will always have a record of who has been where/when/how often. 

I decorated the clipboard with scrapbook paper and washi tape. :

Each desk has a number that represents what group they are in. They also have a color. There is a method to my madness. -I'll explain soon.

The method to my madness: If I want to assign seats randomly, everyone picks a card. If I want large groups of 4, I group them by colors. If I want smaller groups, like how they are sitting I group them by numbers. If I need a random volunteer I pull a card. Normally I have done it with Popsicle sticks, but with nearly 120 kids that's a lot of work.

Friday, July 25, 2014

10 Goals for my first year teaching

Last year I was fortunate enough to not only complete my student teaching in a 6th grade classroom in Michigan, but I also completed a 7th grade long-term-sub position in a South Carolina classroom. The differences between the communities and schools was a culture shock for me in many ways, and the group of 7th grade students I had were a more challenging group than our team usually saw. I learned so much from both experiences and now I am so happy to be starting my full-time teaching job in an 8th grade ELA classroom. As I start my first year teaching, I want to reflect on the experiences I have had so far and to give myself a few goals for the new year. Here is what I have come up with:

1. Be Present, Be involved, Stay positive 

It seems too easy to slip into auto-pilot at times, and this year I want to make sure that I keep my energy and enthusiasm up at all times. Last year if I was having a bad day I always found it so much better to have fun and really get involved with the kids, rather than to just watch the clock during that tough class.

Middle school is full of drama, attitudes, and energy and this year I want to really make sure I'm embracing it at all times.  Also, this year I'll be attending more concerts and sporting events for the kids. I think it's important that they see me there supporting them.

Happiness Binder- This is a great idea I found. My plan is to put together one of these before school starts that includes notes from past students, letters and cards from friends, inspiring quotes, pictures, and anything else to cheer me up. I think this would be great to keep at work and I really need a good place to store all of those drawings, cards, poems, and letters I've collected.

2.  Try Something New 

Again, this really comes down to making sure I'm finding ways to keep the kids engaged and interested in what they're doing. Also, as a first year teacher I feel like there is a ton of room for improvement and I really need to experiment with what is going to work for me. I'm nervous about trying new things because there is really no telling how it will go, but I feel like sometimes trial and error is really the only way of knowing what will work and what won't. I have come across so many great new ideas that I would love to try this year, but I think I need to make sure that I am not trying too many at once. Maybe I will stick to trying one new thing every few weeks to see how it goes.

  • Interactive student notebooks. These have really been blowing up all over Pinterest and I think they are a great idea. (More on that in another post) 

  • Absent work system -I'm also going to start an absent work filing system this year  as opposed to last year's pocket chart. (more on this later once I set it up. 

  • Boggle board - This is also new this year, although I am probably going to wait a while to implement that one as well. 

  • Monthy Journaling -The students receive a page of prompts to finish by the end of each month. This would be great for them to work on when they finish early. 

  • New seating arrangements 
  • Weekly Socratic seminars/circles (possibly on socrative) -Imagine a silent discussion, completely online. 
  • Daily Oral Language for warm-ups at times. I may use this book for warm-ups also: 
  • Weekly Assignments - I like the idea of giving the students a list of 5 tasks that need to be completed by the end of the week. (Sort of like centers with groups) They must do one a day and complete all of them by the end of the week, but they can do them in whichever order they choose. 
  • Technology - I have so many ideas for incorporating new technology, so this brings us to my next goal. 
  • Swear Jar (or something like it) It's used to break habits such as swearing in class, having their phones out, talking, being disrespectful... 
3. Integrate technology into the classroom (OFTEN)  
  • Student blogs 
  • Class website 
  • Remind (previously Remind101) - text your kids or parents reminders if they subscribe, and they never know your phone number. 
  • Class Dojo - an awesome class management tool 
  • Edmodo -A facebook like website for students/teachers 
  • Socrative - a website for in-class discussions, polls, quizzes, and games. (Student response system) 

4. Motivate 

This is easy to say, but hard to do. 

There is a great video that I think every person on earth needs to see, but especially middle school students. I will be showing it to my kids the first week of school this year, to set the tone for how I expect our classroom community to be. (encouraging) 

We will also work on: 
  • Becoming good readers and writers 
  • Having good attitudes 
  • Eliminating drama and bullying 
  • Improving study skills 
  • Having empathy and compassion for others 
  • Setting goals for ourselves 
  • Becoming involved in the community 
5. Make Connections 

I will strive to make connections with my students, colleagues, and parents by: 
  • Relating to students. (I still like the same movies, books, music, stores, video games etc. as them.) 
  • Connecting with colleagues by reaching out. (This one is always tough since I'm more of an introvert.) 
  • Writing personal letters to a few students each week (something I did last year) 
  • Post-it notes each day 
  • Frequent contact with parents -"good" and "bad" 
  • Student-teacher conferences 
  • Parent-teacher conferences 
6.  Balance & Boundaries 

When I say this I mean both boundaries and balance between my work and life outside the classroom and also my student-teacher relationships. Here are few of my goals for accomplishing this: 
  • Don't spend all night of every night of the week working until I go to bed (take an evening off!)  
  • Don't spend all weekend working 
  • Remember, although they are "young adults", they're still "kids" too. 
  • Be their teacher/not their friend. (They have enough of those) 
  • Everything needs to have a consequence that is set and stuck to throughout the year. 
  • Get enough sleep 
  • Set good boundaries and expectations from the beginning
7. Stay Organized 
  • Stay ahead when planning and grading whenever possible 
  • Establish good routines and traditions 
  • File things! (parent contact, student work, student behavior, handouts...) 
  • Give students jobs 
  • Use technology to stay in touch 
8. High Expectations 

I completely believe that high expectations lead to improvement, where low expectations do not. I will make sure to set my expectations high from the beginning to make sure that students know what to expect. Then, gradually I can begin to raise the bar for each student. They are different-remember this! 

  • Frequent reading and writing 
  • Effort 
  • No sloppy work 
  • No incomplete work 
  • Strive for improvements 
  • No excuses 
  • Consequences 
  • Prepare for high school - prepare for the "real world" 
  • Setting goals and working to achieve them. 
9. "So What?" -Relating lessons to the "real world." 

I had a professor in college that forced us to consider a "so what" question while planning lessons. He said to expect the student to ask, "so what?" or "why do I need to know this?" I know that isn't always an easy question to answer, but it really is important to relate the lessons to what is relevant to them. 
  • Current events 
  • Publishing work 
  • Book talks 
  • Real-world skills 
  • 21st century learners 
  • Social media 
10. Quality not Quantity for Assessments 

I do believe there is a place for both summative and formative assessments and that both are very important. However, when planning for both of these I need to remember to keep in mind that the quality of an assessment is more important the the quantity of assessments I give. Last year I feel like the kids and I were really flying through things, trying to catch up because they had fallen behind with their teaching being out a lot. Sadly, I hink a lot of assessments were rushed through and not really considered thoroughly on my part. This year, I need to insure that the assessments I do give will be differentiated as best as possible, will require students to really think at a higher level, and will be meaningful for both me and the students. Sometimes less is more and I need to keep that in mind for BOTH of us.  

Go Slow to Go fast!  

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

I've been working on my classroom all the live long day

I finally went into my classroom yesterday to get a good look at it, and spent today putting it together. I still have a lot to do, but here is what I've got so far.

 My desk...it really needs some work. I'm considering getting some fabric or contact paper to cover it.

I originally wanted to say, "To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to change you is the greatest accomplishment." I didn't have enough letters though, so I found this one. I was going to place the little monsters all around the room randomly, but the board was looking a little bland and I think they look cute here. The boarder is "oh the places you'll go" by Dr. Seuss.

I did put little green labels in my filing cabinet though! I've been looking up some ideas on how to improve it. 

The place where I will write the agenda for the day.

This will be where we keep the class sets we are using during each unit. I also have my 8th grade year book, because of course they will be curious about that and a class book I made during student teaching. I got pretty contact paper from the dollar tree, but they only had enough for about two shelves. The paint on this bookshelf is peeling so I plan on covering all the shelves later.

My Boggle board. An idea I just found today. I really like how much of the blank, white wall it covers. I just threw up some random letters for the picture, but my plan is to have a new board up each week and the students will compete. Each Friday I will collect their lists of words and each Monday the winners will be rewarded. It'll give them something to do if they finish early.

I got these stickers at the dollar tree and placed them up by the clock. I think it looks pretty nice  I was going to replace the clock but I realized that I think it is the school mascot, a squire.

I found this flower boarder in the room and decided to try to spruce up this old bookshelf a little and add some color to the room.

The homework board so they can see what is due and when, and also check to see what they missed when they were gone. Also an announcements board.

Student supplies. I'm not sure if I'm going to have each container be a different type (glue, scissors, markers, colored pencils, crayons, pens/pencils) or if I'm going to have a little of everything in each container so they can take them in their groups and have all they need in one spot.

The student center. Here is where the kids can get their supplies when they come into class, see what the homework will be and any announcements, and turn in work. I have a basket for each class, I just haven't labeled them because I'm not sure which periods they will be yet. I'm also going to keep the garbage and the recycling bin under the table to prevent people from shooting baskets all class. (Something I learned from last year lol)

My name plate! I hope to have a bigger fancier one outside my door eventually.


Cute little dry-erase stickers I found at the dollar tree. I figured they would be nice for little reminds on the way out the door. I put two on each door. 

A little reading/writing/conference center. I plan on replacing both chairs with comfier ones or a little love seat. I also want a nice little lamp. I think it would be a nice place to hold conferences with students or talk to parents without it seeming to formal and intimidating for anyone. I also may have the kids earn sitting there or just pick two people each class.

My Bazinga board! It's really just going to be a catch-all for things I want to post. It may have really awesome student work, newspaper clipping from when kids are in the news, jokes, or inspirational things. I covered the table with orange and white chevron fabric I found at a thrift store. I think it helps brighten the room a little. This is a student work station, so I may add a little lamp and a few supplies. I need to find a Sheldon poster or a picture of his face to put here!

This filing cabinet will have the student files. I plan on making a file for each student. (One large drawer per class period) They will hold the writer's notebooks for each kid so they aren't lost and will also serve as a place for them to store unfinished work or projects, as well as being a place I can pass back papers so it doesn't take up class time.

This is my project wall. I just hate how huge and blank it is. I'm considering just covering it with anchor charts or a big word wall. I'm open to suggestions!

The one thing I have placed on my desk so far.

I love my big cabinet :)