Aug 28, 2011

Favourite Day of The Year

Just as everyone else has written about the end of summer holidays, I'm doing the same thing. Tomorrow is my official day back to work. Unofficially, myself and several other colleagues (keeners) have been working on and off all summer long preparing for the year. 
I know I like to be as prepped as I can be. It sure makes life a lot easier. I've worked all week inside and decided to take today off. It's been hard to not go in. Well, I'm not really taking the day off just not in the classroom. I'm sitting on my deck and enjoying the nice day.
Tomorrow is our PD day, Tuesday is Staff Meeting in morning then the afternoon to prep. Wednesday is the official first day for the students.
I don't know about you, but the first day of school has always been my FAVOURITE even when I was a little kid. You'd go to school in new clothes with new supplies to meet new friends and of course your new teacher. What would they be like? Would they be nice or mean? Would homework be assigned the first day? Would they let me go to the bathroom if I asked? These are just a few of the questions I'd have in my head. 
I like the first day as a teacher because it's a fresh start. Sometimes after a difficult year it's nice to start with a clean slate. Both for the students and yourself. The kids are new and eager to want to be at school in anticipation of having their curious questions being answered. I'm eager to start in on routines and see all the new little faces that will become like family to me. I get to help make a difference in their little lives which is one of the many reasons I went into teaching. That and all the children's literature I get to buy. If you think I'm kidding then you don't know me very well. 
For anyone starting school this week I wish you a fantastic first day and let me know what your favourite day of the year is and why.
Happy First Day!!!

Aug 21, 2011


  "make preparations for an anticipated event or time."

I know how important it is to be planned and to be honest it hasn't been my strongest skill in teaching. Don't get me wrong, I've always been planned for a day and a week and most of time for the year but never the way I've wanted to. With my masters starting in the fall, I wanted to get a jump on this and have it complete. It always weighs on my shoulders in September & October, to then get done in less than a stellar way. Professionally, I feel like I've fallen short on the year planning. Well, this summer has been different! I'm taking the time, boy has it been a long time, and really focused on working through my year plan. Obviously I know this is a plan and it can be changed but it's always good to know where you've got to go.
In the past, I've spent a lot of time on my room, reorganizing, making it look inviting, etc, etc. I think it's so important to have an organized space, my new mantra - if you take it out, put it away and everything has a home. I'm working hard at trying to live by these mantras. Wish me luck!
As important as organizing and comfy spaces are, I think planning is just as important. As the definition above states, you plan for anticipation of an event or a time. School is definitely an event and a period of time in my life and the little ones I teach. This plan can change in a heartbeat but it's still important to have one.

I truly believe that your instruction needs to come from where your students' learning is but after saying this, there is something called the Alberta Curriculum that I am also mandated to teach. It's a HUGE document and it can be very daunting for anyone to try and figure out. I also don't believe in following a teaching resource from page one to page whatever, instead I think you need to have a variety of resources and ideas and combine them to create a great learning experience for students. You need to know what road you are on in order to be able to get off at anytime to do some exploration. A year plan is that road map.
Here's how I decided to tackle the daunting task. Did I forget to say that my plan is to have them handed in the first day of school (Aug 29th to be exact)? I'm so close but yet so far away. 
 Start with all the supplies you need, Post-It Notes, markers, planning binder, curriculum document, 2 calendars, and what you don't see are the resources used, but there are far too many to photograph (more will be shown when I show you my Writers Workshop plan).
I cut the first calendar but found a better way of taking off the coil. Cut the first and last coil then slowly unwind it. Poof! Easy!
 I then glued two sheets together to create a larger calendar. I need to be able to see the whole year and not just a month at a time, this is why you need to buy two calendars. They come from Costco.
 Here is the view on my table. I really like seeing the complete year.
I then highlighted the weekends and days away from school. I need to know which are full weeks and which are not to better plan. Next come the Post-It Notes. I assigned each subject area a different color. 
As you can see I start sticking away. A note is placed in an area on the calendar, it doesn't always mean it's going to stay there in the final version. The notes have very brief information on them. More will be written in my final draft. For my final draft, I will write in the exact assignment or topic on the lines and date. 
Here's what has been planned so far so you have a visual of what I am talking about. 
The next step was to go to school and look at all of the pieces of literature I have for Writers Workshop. I'm using Jennifer Jacobson's No More, I'm Done book as a basis for my writers workshop. I LOVED this book. You can see some more of my comments in an earlier post I did.
Books for Organization
Books for Ideas
Books for Word Choice
I've wanted to organize all the books I have by Trait for quite awhile but I'd never gotten down to doing it but this was the summer. I took my calendars laid them out in my room and started sorting away. I cross referenced with other 6 + 1 Trait books I already had and sorted the books onto each month or idea. This is what I came up with.
 I've added the Post-It Notes on the covers so that I can remember what my thinking was at the time and what the main idea of the book is. 
From here, these books will get organized into drawers labeled with the trait on them. I know this is a bit of a side note from planning for instruction but it was something I needed to do so that I could use the literature and match it up with the lesson I wanted to teach. I'm planning on using more literature than I did last year. 
This is where I've ended off. I've just about completed my Writing Workshop year plan. It's taken a couple of days but I know in the long run it will be worth the time I spent planning for it, even if I do go off course. 
I would love to know how you plan for your year. Please leave a comment so others can get some ideas. Sorry for the long post but I had a lot to share.

Aug 14, 2011

Great Idea!

I know this has nothing to do with teaching but it will help any mom/daughter to stay organized. My friend Jennifer Bridle came up with this fantastic idea for your daughters barrettes. She used a craft box and sorted the paired barrettes according to color and type into each compartment. So creative!!!
Idea by Jennifer Bridle

Aug 13, 2011

Book Leveling Sites

Was I ever thankful for these sites and conversion charts on Thursday and Friday when I decided to level some books in my library and new Usborne books I'd purchased over the year. 
I used the Scholastic Leveling Wizard site and the Lexile site to do this big job. When I searched to see how I could level the Usborne books there was not a lot of information. So I did some research and found out that Usborne uses the Lexile system more than the F & P Guided Reading system. I found these conversion charts. I typed in the name of the Usborne book and then used the Lexile number to cross reference it with the Guided Reading level. It was a very fast and helpful process.
I also had Rigby Readers and some Pair-It Books from Steck Vaughn. The Pair-It Books really required me to use my detective skills but I found a document that converts them. I've embedded the document for you.
Here are some great conversion charts I found that might be helpful. I wish you luck if you have to do some leveling of books.

Reading Level Correlation Chart Grade Level Reading Recovery ...

Older Rigby Titles in Leveling Guide pdf
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Aug 12, 2011

Classroom Update #2

When you walk into the classroom, this is your first view. 
I've been a busy little worker the last couple of days. It's been so nice to work when it's quiet. Nobody is in the school except my peeps, way on the other side of the school (our school is famous for being a whole city block long). I think this is good because I get lots done being the only one in my end of the school.
I'm sitting here enjoying a glass or two of my margarita and thinking I should update my followers on what's been happening with the mess I'd created in my classroom. That's if you are interested. Thank you to everyone who commented about my massively bright yellow shelves. I knew they needed to be painted white as soon as I'd taken pictures and posted them. The bright color, as cheerful as it was, was WAY TOO MUCH!!! It took awhile but I finished painting them on Tuesday. Assembled them and proceeded to place them around my room in many different configurations. Finally deciding on the one I'm going to show you. 
I don't have a theme in my room as many of you do. I just don't have the time and energy plus I like things low key with splashes of color here and there. I decorate this way at home as well. I love white and I've noticed it appearing over and over again as my base color with other items adding the "splashes."

My desk area and the one window in the room.
This is an odd shaped area. 
Looking into the reading area.

Looking towards the left from the front door.
 I'm trying my hardest to not take a picture of the left over paint cans, paper that needs to be shredded and empty baskets that need a home but still get a good shot. As you can see I've got several shelves in my room. Just in the middle of the picture are the white shelves that were painted.
This is the best view of most of the room. It's not a very large space but I think I've made the best use of the space. I love how nice and bright it is. 
Most proud of this unit. It's up at the front. We built it to fit perfectly. I love IKEA Gorm shelves for just that reason. It is home to my new Math Stations, Word Study games, white boards and Word Hunt materials. It looks SO much better white and not bright yellow. I think it was going to be called Big Bird if it would have stayed yellow. A piece of carpet from our house will be going in the big area for us to all meet at.
LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the computer area. I'm so creative. It's 4 stools the kids never used underneath an old table top. Computers need to be hooked up and head phones (laying on floor need to be attached). Still lots to do. 
 Looking into the room from the computer area.

More working space and shelves. I told you I had a lot.
I added new labels today. Attached them with hot glue, I hope I haven't created hours of work for myself in a year or two when I change them. Again, the white background.

I love how the color pops on the white shelves.

New section to my library. I decided to add some leveled books for those who need structure. I've been wanting to do this for 2 years now. Yahoo!! It's done.

My Math Stations.

All of my Word Study games are stored in these boxes.

Word Hunt cards and books that kids will use to hunt for words. I love these hanging baskets for markers and such.

I think these drawers will be used for each group to select their games during Word Study Game time.
I've still got a lot to do but it's coming along nicely. After looking through the photo's I can see that I've got some labeling of drawers, baskets and such to do. I will be adding photo's around of the room of what the book tubs should look like. I will be assigning students tubs to take care of throughout the year. 
I've still got my word wall and Daily 5/CAFE bulletin board to do as well as my writing station and Writing Bulletin board to move. It seems like it's never ending. I'm going to take break since I don't officially start work until Aug 29th. I thought it was the 24th but I was thinking of the old calendar. I'll be working on planning next week which will help to solidify some of my other ideas. Hope you've enjoyed to update. I've loved seeing all of your rooms for the last week.