Friday, August 31, 2012

First Twelve Days of 5th Grade Fun

I've been so swamped with all things school related that I was too exhausted to even think about posting about what's going on. Time to play catch up!

Time flew the first full week with our Fifth Grade Parent Meeting that Tuesday. We didn't have as many parents as we have some years, but the parents who came seemed great. This was our chance to go over our expectations for each of our subject areas. We all prepare handouts about our classes for the parents to take. I then sent home a copy of the handouts with the parents who couldn't make it.

The other thing I do to help with parent communication is my Fifth Grade email blasts. The parents sign up and I add their email to a group in outlook so I can quickly let them know what's going on. Tip: Be sure to send the emails to the parents as BCC so the parents don't see everyone's email. I did see an awesome idea the other day to have parents email me instead if they want to be added. That would keep me from typing in all the emails. I'm so doing that next year!

When it comes to reading we started with some basic nonfiction text skills. The first week I did a great activity called Text Mapping that I saw on Pinterest. I did it using my Social Studies text so it was able to teach an important skill and help them get used to their book. I also did a glossary versus dictionary lesson using their math and science book. The students had to pick a word from each and look it up in the dictionary and glossary. We then compared each glossary to the dictionary, and the students voted which they felt was most useful.

We also started our "Novel" spiral. This year I decided to have the students make a Table of Contents in the front of their spiral. I can already tell they have a much deeper understanding of a Table of Contents. On Monday, we started our first novel of the year.

We are reading "Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key." I love starting the year off with this novel. It helps kids see that even though kids are different, we are all fabulous in our own way! As part of our Reading Rotations we started this week, I got to sit down with each small group and work on journaling. Journaling with the groups about Joey Pigza was my favorite part of the week!

In Social Studies we began the year with the American Colonies. This is a first as our standards just changed this year. In the past we started with the exploration of North America and then moved to the colonies. While I was excited to have more time to go more in depth for each topic, I now realize that I have to build a lot of background knowledge I didn't have to in previous years. 

This is my sixth year teaching 5th grade social studies, yet I still find that every year I make huge changes to how I teach. My state requires that students have certain facts memorized for their OCCT test. While I don't agree with the memorization, I would be negligent to not help my students learn them.

 To help my students learn these facts I have developed a three prong approach to the rote. To learn the basic facts for each colony we start by reading about it using several sources. I then use a fill in the blanks notes sheet to assess how much they remembered from the reading. We then cover the notes with a sheet of paper to make a flip book. On the outside is the name of the colony. On the inside cover we create a mind map of the important things they need to remember. In an effort to try to grab one more type of learner, I teach the students a song or poem about the colony. All three are aimed at helping them learn what the state wants them to know. Then we get to have fun mapping, doing reader's theatres, seeing pictures from the colonies, playing games, and experiencing the colonies.

It has been a super busy first few weeks! I am looking forward to the long weekend and a chance to recharge so I can hit the ground running next week!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

First Day, Horray!

All the preparation of the last few weeks was so worth it when I started class today. It was nice to have my desk so organized. Now I just have to keep making myself use my new organization tools so I stay that way.

The first day can be a long day of rules and procedures, but I know how important it is to practice those things these first few days. I read an article by Harry Wong last night. I got so reenergized by it that I pulled out my old copy of First Days of School. After flipping through it I realized how many of the ideas in there I use in my classroom. It also reminded me of a few things I had forgotten which could really make my life easier. If you are a new teacher, it is a must read!

My kids seem like a great group of kids. For the most part, they were happy to be there and attentive. I was surprised when I got home tonight and started looking through their Handle with Care survey, that I already know most of the names of my homeroom students. This is amazing to me because I am HORRIBLE with names. One of the smartest things I started a few years ago is to make my seating charts using their pictures. I got a copy of these from the students' records and last year's yearbook. This helps me learn the names faster of my three classes and is a great trick to help my substitutes.

Last year I was very exhausted by the end of the year from dealing with bullying issues. This year I am going to work really hard on developing the feeling of community and mutual trust early. I started this today with my "Brownie Points" system inspired by Pinterest. While I don't like the idea of focusing on external rewards, I want my students to learn to work as a team toward team goals. Tomorrow I'm going to have my students do a "Peacemakers vs Peacebreakers" activity to help my students set their own expectations for each other.

This week has seemed like a whirlwind, but I think it's a great start to what will hopefully be a fabulous school year!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Back to School Crafting

With school starting in a few days, I wanted to take a few moments to post some of the projects I have been working on. I haven't finished all I wanted to, but here are the ones that are ready.


No Name Board

I was super inspired by the No Name boards I saw on Pinterest and decided to make one of my own. It turned out really cute. I did learn that I need to try not to be such a perfectionist.  I used a cardboard header board from a craft store and cut the board to a size that would fit in the correct spot in my classroom. I covered the edges in cute ribbon. I painted the letters, clothespins, and decorative stars. Then all I had to do was hot glue everything on. Overall it was super easy with the painting taking the most amount of time.




Weekly Organizer

I loved the idea to have an organizer for each day that I could put my copies in as well as any supplies I would need to teach the lesson. However, after looking at the prices I decided I could make my own. I looked everywhere for cute baskets that would be the right size. Of course they had to be in my classroom colors. After searching and not finding what I wanted, I decided to buy boxes instead. The boxes I used were 12x4x4. I painted and decorated them with cute paper to match my classroom. Then I added tags for each day of the week.


Who's Out Boards

I made these using picture frames, cute paper, and stickers. The students will sign out using a dry erase marker when they leave helping me better keep track of everyone.  I will hang the hall passes below the frames.


Desk Organizer 

 One of my major goals this year is to get more organized. I bought a simple desk organizer, added ribbon, and labeled the files with the items that land on my desk everyday. There is plenty of space left for me to put my lesson plan book and grade book.