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Thursday, November 10, 2016

Core Democratic What?

Okay, so this is one of those times when things don’t work out according to plan.  I started the school year with so many dreams and ambitions and then – the school year started.  The first month is always a giant cluster of catching up (even as organized as I am), but then one things started to settle down, I ran into a slight problem.  What I thought was a couple of bug bites from the mid-October visit to the pumpkin patch turned out to be a lot more than I even imagined.  I went to my doctor and talked to her about it, just because what if it was a poisonous spider bite or something crazy?  (Yes, I need to stay off of WebMD)  It wasn’t a bug bite at all – I had shingles.  SHINGLES!  I kind of always thought it only happened to those who were much older, but it was happening to me.  I was immediately taken out of work for a week and a half and told to relax.  It was brought on by stress and I know exactly where that came from.  This year has been incredibly stressful.  Being an inner-city teacher isn’t a walk in the park – I love my job, but it comes with a heavy stress load.  So I relaxed, went back to work and life went on.
Well, then November rolled around and I felt the cold that was going around – it started around Halloween, but it’s just the time of year.  A few days later, a nagging cough came in and it just wouldn’t quit.  By last weekend, I could barely breathe my lungs were so congested.  I went to the doctor this Monday and she was worried I had pneumonia, but at the very best, a very bad case of bronchitis.  (Chest x-rays came in…no pneumonia!)  However, she still had me off work for the week.  So here I am at home, on a Thursday when I would normally be at work, and while I type this it sounds like there is a packet of Pop Rocks in my lungs.  I am crossing all of my fingers that this is gone by Monday so that I can return to work healthy.
While I was off with shingles, I did finally have a chance to work on my first lapbook and I’m pretty excited about it.  At the beginning of the school year I met with the social studies department (as we do every year) and there was a push to make sure each grade was instilling the Core Democratic Values in their classroom.  While I haven’t covered it in depth in 2nd grade, it’s definitely something that we do cover.  I took this time off to do a little work and came up with a Core Democratic Values Lap Book.

I’m actually really happy with the way that it turned out and have had success using lap books in my classroom before.  While I planned to do it before the election, the bronchitis had my out of the room, so it will have to be shifted for after when I return.  This may work out better because I know my kids are going to have a lot of questions and I want them to feel like they can talk about it.  I knew during our class mock election how they felt about their candidates and I want to use this opportunity to stress the importance of education and using their voice within their community – regardless of their age!
One thing I really like about the way this turned out is that it’s not TOO much to handle for younger kids.  I’ve done lap books before that took us an entire day or two to complete.  This is very doable in the classroom!  I always try to create with my class in mind – because my kids are active and can be very challenging, but I also think about ways other teachers can use this to take it one step further.  Included are ways to differentiate with the definition cards, talking points that can be used in class and at home, and items that are quick to fill out and in terms that kids can understand – a big perk in social studies!  Each feature within it includes a picture to provide step-by-step instructions for assembly.  Even if students are absent, this is broken down easy enough that they can complete the assignment at home.  This would also match perfectly with my government units for 2ndgrade, but it can be used in lower or higher grades as well.  It’s definitely not limiting!  This is something I’ll be using in my classroom for years to come and I am extremely excited about that!  Social studies can easily be swept under the rug, but in order to build our students into the informed citizens they need to be, we have to make it a priority and start from the bottom.
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Saturday, September 3, 2016

Classroom Reveal 2016

After two weeks of moving, cutting, taping, pushing, and sorting - my classroom is finally ready for my kiddos on Tuesday!  Are there a few things left to do?  Yes, and always.  There are some things left to hang (I'm laminating this weekend) and I forgot my zipties to keep cords nice and neat, but it's ready for my students to come in.  This is my fourth year at this school and this is definitely my favorite classroom set up yet.  I have plenty of pictures to share, so sit back and enjoy!
This is what you see when you walk into my room.  I need to cut the strings from the welcome sign and put up some bows, but I ran out of time before leaving yesterday.  It's always nice to get pictures before kids get in there.  By the end of next week, it will be a completely different place.
This is my hallway bulletin board.  I decided to do the Kindness Challenge by Blair Turner.  It's actually perfect because there are 180 cards and we have 180 days of school this year.  I like the idea of doing little kind acts for others and this lets me bring it into the classroom in a really cute way.  Plus, in social studies we talk about being a great citizen in our community, so this really kind of helps to push the idea a little further.
After walking in the door there is my calendar and objectives area.  All of those will be swapped out for the new standards we are covering at the beginning of the school year, but as you can see, I was just starting to work on that.  Also, next to my calendar and hidden by glair, is my classroom schedule.
Right after the cubbies area are my mailboxes.  Anything that goes home, goes into their numbered box.  I have some direction arrows and a a few little decorative things.  I use the question mark when asking "big questions."  As long as the light is on, it's their time to think and share ideas.  Once it goes off, we discuss.  
All I see here are cords that I need to get together.  Organization problems, people.  So we have some number cards, skip counting, my cart that I use to organize different copies/scholastic readers/extras/etc.  Some of the lights around the board are out, but the strand is still working, so I'm going to go with it until Christmas lights are out.  (Now that it's B2S time, they probably already have Christmas stuff out.)
Again, more cords.  Looks like Tuesday morning will be all about cleaning those up.  Anyway, I keep my CUBES poster upfront since it's a math strategy that we use all year.  I have an insanely long power strip under my board, but my kids know they do not go on that side of my desk for any reason, so it's never been an issue.  Above the board are my class rules - something we discuss and review a lot in my room!  The rainbow colored bins are used to keep my copies for the week.  It helps to keep things organized in a neat order.
My classroom is definitely a colorful place.  I think the curtains are adorable, personally.  I wish I could take credit for them, but all I did was buy the fabric and then my grandma transformed them into curtains.  I used tension rods and 3M hooks to hang them from each window.  I have A LOT of windows in my classroom.  The light can be super intense, so having curtains is a lifesaver.  It's funny, I started in a room with no windows and now I have a room that has windows covered half of the room.
A view from the front of the room!  Each group has their own card where things like scissors, glue, crayons, data folders, and interactive notebooks are kept.  In each caddy there are pencils, erasers, a CUBES mini card set on rings, and a math desk topper I used as a card (the long objects sticking out).  I loved these 2nd grade math desk toppers by Amy Lemons, but when I've used them as actual desk toppers, they've been torn up or ruined in a couple of months.  I wanted these to last longer and be usable from year to year, so I printed and laminated them.  There are enough for each student at each table.  I'm actually skipping the name tags and such this year.  It becomes a challenge to clean and ends up torn up too quickly.
Lots of storage and games over here.  I keep my cabinet FILLED with lots of resources, trade books, and supplies.  Zingo is a big hit in my room, so I have all the ones they've offered.  Most of these are math or  STEM related resources, and of course my context clues poster that I absolutely love!
When you're trying to take classroom pictures and your co-workers want in on it.  Honestly, I would be lost without these two.  They are my work family and I couldn't survive a day there without them.
Kids turn in their papers on this table, but I brought home the baskets to label them, so it's a bit bare.  I have a sharp and broken pencil bucket, an area for no name papers, and a cute chalkboard from Hobby Lobby that I have yet to write on - another thing to do Monday morning!  My pipe shelf is all strange and supplies, but I hated that it shows and looks cluttered, so I use a shower curtain from Target to keep it hidden.  I used velcro to keep it up, but the velcro just won't hold (even with super glue!), so for now I'm using clothes pins to keep it up.
I have tons of little math strategy reminder cards that I rotate here throughout the year depending on what we are working on.  This has become an important little area in my classroom!
This year I am using Jessica Tobin's Endless Math Bundle in my classroom.  Having something that is common core aligned is a time saver and life saver.  I have everything printed and organized into bins already, and I'm even going to print some of the 1st grade resources for my kids that need extra support. 
A big goal of mine this year was to get organized.  I have printed out centers in the past and by the time I use them, I forget how to play the game or how they're used and they end up on the shelf.  Not anymore!  I printed out all of Jessica's great center previews and put them in a binder.  Easy way to remind myself as I present them to the kids.
This month I watched a Jessica Tobin webinar on setting up your math block.  She had an amazing idea for math center rotations and I loved it!  My whole team loved the idea so much that we are all using this style for our center rotations.  There are four rotations and students have the chance to work on what we just learned, the beautiful centers I have printed, iPad math time, and small groups with me.  It's wonderful and I can't recommend watching it enough if you have the chance!
Where the magic happens - small groups and team lunches!  This area becomes somewhat cluttered during the year, so I'm hoping I can keep it as tidy!  I have balance ball chairs coming (thanks to a donors choose project) that will go around the table for my kiddos!
I'm really trying to work on flexible seating this year.  I want my kids to move around more and get out of their seats.  I have little reading strategy cards, phonics flags (that I love),  and even a cute little lantern on one of the tables.  Tables and pillows are from Ikea (yay affordable!) and the bean bag chairs are from Wayfair.  (I'm just noticing that pillow is crooked and it's bothering me - teacher problems!)
This is my favorite area - my library!  The rolling carts are so awesome and were a Craigslist find.  The woman gave them to me for free since I was a teacher!
This year I decorated the ends of them to make them a little cuter.  I am a huge Mary Poppins fan, so including her in my classroom in an adorable way finally seemed to fit!
I know I talked about using different book bins this year, but nothing really seemed to fit, so I replaced some of the broken bins with other styles and made what I already had work a little bit better.  Perhaps I will try the book bin thing again another year.  I tend to use lots of personal pictures in my classroom - my kids love seeing my life outside of the classroom and it really helps to build and strengthen my relationship with them.
Another area I have set aside for flexible seating!  The rugs were on sale at Walmart for under $20 each.  While they aren't super colorful, they matched the pillows and worked well enough for me!
Last, but not least, my resource shelf.  I keep binders of resources, versa ties, phonics dominoes, and books in this spot.  On top is my scentsy burner, because we gotta keep the smell positive in here, and my fairy garden that my mom made for me.  

And that's it!  That's everything!  Later this week I will have a sneak peak at how I'm using items that I've received from my Donors Choose project and how I survived the first week back to school.  Enjoy your weekend everyone and good luck getting back in the classroom!

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Operation Makeover: Classroom Library (Part 1)

Here we are, two weeks away from going back to work, and I still have no idea what I am planning to do with my classroom library.  How did this happen?  How did the summer just leap away from me like that?  This always happens! We jump into summer like an Olympian going for gold on the diving board and once we are in that water, we don’t come back up until it’s time to go back to school.  That is nothing to be stressed about, right?  We earned it after being in school 175+ days last year!  If this library disorganization has happened to you too, then breathe a little easier because I am going to shed a little bit of light on your library troubles. 

When I was a first year teacher, I didn’t have a lot of books.  The books I had were books I found at garage sales, my personal childhood collection, or were donated from friends and family.  However, as any teacher knows, anything we collect grows in mass proportions in no time.  That first year, I could barely fill a book shelf and now I am purchasing more shelves to give me a total of five bookshelves and two rolling carts (donated last year from a former librarian).  When I had so few books, everything was organized in a nice little bin.  It was easy!  As the collection grew, it became a lot harder to keep track of.  Last year I found myself in the library hunting for books without any luck.  I don’t want to deal with that kind of headache this year.  It’s time to get organized!
In my first year, I used SAMLA bins that my mom had bought me from Ikea.  They weren’t that great, but they did the job for my first year.  After that, I changed out tubs that I had purchased at the dollar store, but they took a beating and many of them ended up breaking very quickly.  I love using bright colors for my book bins because my bookshelves are so dark.  It just stands out and looks kind of nice (I think).  This year, I’m on the hunt for book bins that are (a) affordable and (b) going to last longer than a year with my kids.  I have 7 and 8 year olds in my room and sometimes things break.  They are more shocked than I am when that dollar store tub breaks apart or cracks. 

Walmart - Set of 2 for $38

So here is the deal, my shelves are from Walmart and are only 9” deep.  A lot of the book bins that I’ve found have been around 10” deep.  A little over hang should be fine and I’m not that worried about it.  My shelves are also about 23” wide.  Whenever you’re looking for bins, it’s extremely important to figure out what sizes are going to work for your classroom.  Also, set a budget for yourself and decide that you’re not going to go over that budget.  This year, since I am trying to upgrade to some bins that I can use more long term; I am trying to keep my budget around $100.  Yeah, that’s a lot of money, but I’m not making a lot of other purchases for my room this year and I don’t want to keep replacing them.  Lastly, think about if you want your covers showing or not.  In my room, it doesn’t exactly matter because my kids pull the bins out to find a book anyway.  Here is what I've narrowed my options down to...
Really Good Stuff: Classroom Stacking Bins $14.99/set when buying 3+
So lets get down to business and talk specs.  This set of four is from Really Good Stuff (LOVE) and comes in colors that coordinate with what I've got going on in my classroom.  I would definitely have to buy about 6 sets of these (approx. $90) and the size dimensions should fit my shelves.  I could turn them in different ways based on how I'm using them.  The cost is nice and breaks down to about $3.75/bin.  Plus, I'm pretty sure a coworker has some of these and I could try them out on my shelves before I buy them.  Trying before I buy is a huge bonus!
Steps to Literacy: Plastic Book Bins $14.21/set
These are kind of cute and the shape seems pretty nice.  I like that these are a little big cheaper than bins found on Really Good Stuff, but I'm not sure of the quality since I've never seen them in person.  I know RGS items to be pretty sturdy and I don't have to worry about them falling apart quickly.  This is where I'm going to get nit picky (because it's my classroom and I can).  I'm not in love with the colors.  My curtains are pink, green, and blue.  I LOVE having bright colors in my room and for some reason...these just don't do that for me.  Yes, I love the color pink and I'm not big on orange.  That's all it is.  Guilty.  Moving on, judging by size (about 4" wide), I'd need a ton of these.  At least one set per shelf, so that's a minimum of 16 sets of these.  A set of 40 is $119, but I'd still need 6 more sets, leaving me with a grand total of about $205.  That's way over my budget!

Oriental Trading: Neon Classroom Storage Tubs $28.50
These are cute and colorful and dare I say....affordable?   The sizes on these are very similar to those on RGS and have a bigger color variety.  Plus, you get six bins for the price, which comes out to about $4.75/bin.  That is an entire dollar more/bin than the RGS bins previously mentioned.  I guess it comes down to if the added colors will make a different for you - for me it won't!  
Ikea: GLES $1.49
This little guy is a just about the right size, a little bigger than I'd prefer, but I could live with that.  At $1.49 it's super affordable and gives me an excuse to make another trip to Ikea (because we all need just one more excuse, right?).  Here is the big issue...it only comes in green.  Don't get me wrong, green is my favorite color, but I don't want my library totally greened out.  Sadly, these bins are not for me.

At first glance, I want to love these because they are almost everything I want my book bins to be.  Here is my first concern, where am I going to put all of my labels?  My second concern, after looking at customer feedback, most said they are flimsy and don't expect them to last.  That is what I am running away from!  Third, a set of 12 is in ONE COLOR of your choice.  I love color variety to limit myself to one or two colors.  Size wise, they're perfect though.  I haven't seen these in person, so I can't really say, but if anyone has used them, I'd love the feedback!

After all of these choices, you'd think that I would have made a decision, right?  I'm not exactly sure yet.  I think that I might do a combination of bins because some of the ones I have (for my chapter books) work great and the others are the ones needing the makeover.  Because I want to be able to label my bins, the narrower bins would be very ideal, but also very costly.  It would put me over my budget, but make my library more organized in the long run.