Friday, August 24, 2012

Setting Up My Classroom

This is the first year in about 5 years that I've been able to set up my classroom at my leisure.  Previously, I'd be calling at the beginning of July asking if the floors were done and furniture back in so that I could get it all done before my trip to England to spend a few weeks with my fiancĂ©.  But now that he's living here (we got married in February) I've been able to go in as often as I please (he even came in with me to clean all the desks!) 

I've kept my lime green, teal, and white theme since it goes well with the existing colors in the room.  These photos are from 2 years ago but they're mostly the same:


I wish my desk stayed that neat all year!


 If you can't tell, I got the inspiration for my classroom color scheme (and blog theme!) from this tablecloth (a Target special, haha):


I chose this scheme mostly to tone down the pre-existing 70s color scheme of brownish floors, avocado bookshelves, and teal student chairs/desks.  I think the overall look is harmonious and cheerful, so until they switch out the furniture and give me the thumbs up to paint the shelves, the theme stays!

 And I've kept most of the layout the same, though I've added a few upgrades here and there.  One small thing I'm proud of is my hand sanitizer bathroom passes (available for purchase in my TPT store).  I think back to all the times my passes got lost, or worse...WET) and attempting to use unpleasant but memorable passes, like a globe (my principal at the time did not see the humor in that).  Finally a colleague tipped me off:  have them leave the pass on their desk.  No more lost passes!  Well, that worked perfectly well last year; I didn't have to replace those bathroom passes (which you can download free!) once.  But then I found an even better idea: wrap your bathroom pass around a bottle of hand sanitizer!  I'll keep you posted, but I'm excited about this little nugget.  I used to keep a bottle beside the bathroom passes, but I'm hoping that if they actually have to pick them up, they'll be much more likely to use them if they forgot to wash. 

The next thing I always have to rearrange slightly is my classroom library.  Since I always buy new books, I have to alter my book bins and labels.  I've got the baskets in an order that's workable for me, but the labels are in need of a refresh.  I have a few new series in need of pictures, the font is not clear enough far away, some are not even laminated, and the pink and purple have got to go!  I'll keep you posted on these as well.


The next little upgrade was my homework board.  Originally I had manila sentence strips with labels, but this year I used my book shelf label design to upgrade the look.


I wish my white board was magnetized so that I could use these for the schedule as well, but this is a nice start.

Finrally, I upgraded my hallway bulletin board.  The leaves are the same as usual; I made those years ago because there are fewer things that make me as feel happy to be alive as a sunny day of foliage-watching in the fall.  Well, my old yellow fabric was ratty, my border didn't really go, and my store-bought sparkly gold letters looked dated.  So I made leafy letters that coordinated and changed out the rest:

Names blurred to protect student privacy
We (teachers only) start back next week and already I'm just about ready for the students to start back.  I might even have time to do a few more fun Pinterest inspired projects before they arrive.  Anyone else excited about "classroom upgrades" for the new year? Join our Linky Party!

I Teach. What's Your Super Power?


 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Math in Focus Year 2


Last year we adopted the Math in Focus program, which had its ups and downs.  It was a lot of work learning how to bar model, it was hard giving assessments that require students to apply math processes to novel problems, instead of the sort of problems we've practiced in class, and it was hard watching students who used to do well in math suddenly feel stuck and frustrated. 

I'm looking forward to a better year this time around.  The kids will have had the program last year in third grade, which isn't a very long time, but I have faith in those teachers.  I know they went back and filled in the gaps where necessary.  It will probably always be a challenging program, but I'm sure it will get better!

And when I'm having my doubts, and feeling frustrated that we're just asking too much of these kids, way more than we had to learn at their age, when their parents are unable to spend as much time helping due to work or extracurricular overload, I'll remind myself of one of the success stories from last year.  One of my students, "Johnny," was VERY bright.  His vocabulary was extremely high for a fourth grader, he loved to read, and his writing was sophisticated and a pleasure to read.  But he didn't know his math facts, he didn't implement procedures well, and although he was good-natured about it, he would be the first to tell you math was not his subject.  His mom was the second.  She understood well that her son has his strengths and his weaknesses, and she attended the math nights in order to get a better handle of this new math program.

Well, by the third trimester, she was happy with the improvement she was seeing in Johnny's math work.  He was studying and learning his facts, and he was beginning to see the way bar models could be used to get a grip on what a math problem was presenting and asking.  She said that SHE was seeing it much better than she ever had.  This parent was sold.  It was a relief to get some good feedback on a new, scary program like Math in Focus.  I figure if I can get one parent on board the first year, I can at least triple that this year!


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