Friday, August 29, 2014

Day Two: Settling In

We had a stellar day one, and our day two was fun as well. This year, I am incorporating graphica into my curriculum. Inspired by Adventures in Graphica by Terry Thompson, I plan to use graphica in my reading, writing and math instruction (these are the only subjects I teach).

The kids were partnered up and given a humorous comic strip. I printed all the comic strips from for free and laminated them. I am creating an ongoing comics accordion file for kids to enjoy. 

Back to the activity. The assignment was to read their comic strip, then create their own version. Some of the students created the story that came right before their strip and some wrote what happened right after their strip. Some mimicked the story and some were inspired by the joke in their strip and thought of a joke they wanted to portray. Lots of creativity, and I learned who perseveres and who gets flustered with a little challenge. 

Some students had been concerned that they couldn't draw. As a debrief activity, before students shared their work, I read Ish by Peter Reynolds. I won't summarize the book here, but it is easily the most important book I have found for read aloud. This led to our first mindset discussion of the year. I will send the message constantly that hard work and practice will make their work better. No one is born able to do everything perfectly. Room to grow is a good thing! We will refer back to Ish all year long! 

I was amazed by the teamwork and creativity here!!

Below are the templates they could choose from after planning was done. Eventually, they will create their own. Found these on Pinterest after searching "comic strip templates."

Later in the day, we had our investigate the room/materials time. They were able to try out the board games, word games, math manipulatives, craft materials and classroom library. It was the last hour of the day and a getting to know each other, free time extravaganza. Kids worked well together and had realizations about the materials in the room. For instance, many asked if they could take some of the learning games to lunch with them in the future. Others asked if these materials would be available for the many indoor recess times that we have in our New England climate. Of course, the answer was, "Yes!"

Students chose where to go the entire time and learned who in the room had similar interests. I saw students appreciating each other's sense of humor and abilities.

This picture of two of my students hovering over a comic book just makes me smile.

Investigating the games and other materials:

Many were drawn to the tangrams. One student traced them to create a beautiful abstract geometric design.

I wish I has taken more pictures, but I felt that I was not being 100% present with my kids if I was taking pics the entire time! I had some great one on one time with students, as well as time with groups of them. Very valuable investment of classroom time!

In this post, I only highlighted two activities. The entire day was active and collaborative, and we are ready for a productive school year!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Oops! Addition to Day One BlogPost

I forgot the activity we did during snack. Straight from Responsive Classroom, the kids sit in groups and come up with at least five things that they all have in common. I challenge them to be creative with the categories. Then groups share out. Very valuable when students realize, despite their differences, there are connections and things they have in common.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The First Day of School 2014-2015

After greeting the students outside the classroom door and working to memorize their names, we went inside to start the day. I told the students to find their name on the tables/desks and put their materials there. They have no idea yet that these will not be their spots for long! Their next direction was to silently line up in order by their birthdays (Responsive Classroom). This is a great time to observe the students. Which students take the lead and which are willing to follow. Who creates a new, innovative way to silently communicate their birth date? Do they help each other, support each other, etc. 

Playing throughout this activity was Safe and Sound by Capital Cities and Pompeii by Bastille. The music helped the students to have fun and loosen up while doing the challenging, silent activity.  Dave Burgess, Teach Like a Pirate author, stresses music as a powerful hook. It worked perfectly for this activity. On my IPhone, I have a playlist for quiet work times and a playlist for dance breaks and transitions. I bought a small, but powerful Bluetooth speaker for under $30 at Best Buy, so that I can control the music from my IPhone no matter where I am in the room.

The other purpose for this lineup is to form groups for cubbies. There are four sections of cubbies in the hallway and each group had to come up with a name for their group and design a poster to be put up in their cubby area. They had a lot of unique ideas and worked well together. Their posters are getting laminated and will be up on Tuesday.

Before we started the cubby poster work, we had a ceremony of sorts. They sat at the spot where their desk tag was and I had them pull off the tag and rip it up while playing a heavy metal version of Over the Rainbow by Me First and the Gimme Gimmes. Later, a parent shared that tearing up the name tag was the first thing their child talked about when they walked out of the classroom at the end of the day. Funny! It was a symbol of no assigned seats.

The next activity, after making the cubby posters, was making play doh creations that reflect an interest or show something about them. We then circled up and shared. 

FYI: comedy/tragedy symbol :-)

After sharing their creations in a circle, we put the room back together and started the process of getting materials and supplies organized. This year, the goal is a place for everything and everything in its place. Students do not have their own desks, so I bought some bins and cleared some shelves!

Social Studies binders

Writing Binders and pencil pouches underneath. Only need pouches when traveling to Science and Social Studies. When in homeroom, there are caddies at each table/group of desks with communal supplies in them.

A bin for each student. These hold folders, spirals, math workbook, mini composition book (gratitude journal) and still room for a book to read!

I framed this as our classroom, and they need to contribute ideas of how to make the organization piece work for them. They came up with putting the board games elsewhere so that the pouches could be near the binders. Smart!!

We did grab some carpet time to read You're Finally Here. Tomorrow we will read Ish. Ish is probably the most important read aloud all year!

Dismissal was at 12:45, so with lunch in the schedule, that was pretty much all we fit in. Had to pass out a ridiculous amount of notices as well. :-) 

Going to be a great year and working hard to keep my commitment to at least one post a week! 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Teach Like a Pirate Part Two

So my first post about Dave Burgess' book, Teach Like a Pirate, was a reflection on the first part of the book only. Now that I have finished reading it, once again, I am inspired to share about how it is going to improve my teaching! 

In order to start incorporating the hook questions into my lesson planning, I took notes while I read all the great ideas. I will refer to them consistently while planning. There are some that I already do naturally, but plenty that I had never even thought of doing. So invigorating to my teaching!

So these notes are in a small spiral with my other notes and to do lists. In addition, I bought three spirals, one for each subject I teach: Reading Workshop, Math Workshop and Writing Workshop. Found cute ones at Ocean State Job Lot! I will brainstorm in these notebooks for each lesson I do. 

Part Three of the book was very motivational and it is so true that you can get started right away. All your ducks do not have to be in a row to try some of these ideas! It is also helpful to read the section on criticism. 

As the school year goes on, I will share my successes and failures here and on Twitter. Best PD ever!!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Teach Like a Pirate

Dave Burgess' book Teach Like a Pirate, is a game changer for sure. Confession, I am reading another book at the same time, so I am only halfway through Pirate, but I couldn't wait to reflect about it. 

One of the powerful messages in this book is that anyone can be creative with some hard work. I have always been a very creative teacher, but I definitely have to ask the right questions about my objectives for lessons in order to start the creativity process. Zooming in on real life connections to your lessons is really addicting! 

My theatre background means I am able to entertain, but I don't think that is the most important part of being creative. Even the most reserved teacher can plan engaging lessons that get students jazzed about learning. Burgess explains in detail how to ask questions that lead to  dynamic ideas. 

I read this Marlon Brando quote on Facebook last night and I felt it was very fitting to what Burgess believes:

Your figurative language unit has begun. You are driving in the car and you hear a new, popular Katy Perry song filled with metaphors. Pull over and write it down or tell it to Siri! Burgess emphasizes the importance of having a simple way of capturing ideas when they come to you. He uses a Mac Air. I use my IPhone and small spirals. The small spirals are my old way of capturing my ideas for writing and teaching, and old habits die hard. I have one on the coffee table in the living room, one on my desk at home, one in my car and one in my purse. Now, I also use the notes app on my IPhone. I have the other apps that are out there, Evernote, Everythink, etc. However, for me, this process is a stream of consciousness and simply starting a new note within my notes app works best for me. I do use My Writing Spot for my screenplay/story ideas. Great app!

I also loved the metaphor that Burgess used about not being a lifeguard, be a swimmer. I will admit that when it is a busy time of year, I sometimes sit at my desk and correct an essay or two while kids are working on their writing, for example. I always felt guilty doing it too. Kids knew they could come to me at any time to ask questions, etc., but I was not fully engaged. My pledge from now on is to always be a swimmer, in the pool with my students, not a lifeguard watching from a far. Getting rid of my desk is a great start!

Thanks Dave Burgess for your book. I can't wait to read the rest of it. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

My First EdCamp Experience

I went to my first Edcamp yesterday at Marshall Simonds Middle School in Burlington, MA.  It was a small group, so probably not a true representation of what an EdCamp is like, but I loved it. We all stayed together instead of going out to different sessions due to the number of participants. 

Burlington is a Google Apps for Education district and is one to one with Ipads grades 1-12!  It was inspiring to hear how they put aside 25% of their technology budget for PD .  They have a full time technology educator at every school and a Director of Educational Technology for the district who is not IT. He focuses on helping the teachers implement all this new technology.  An amazing, long term endeavor that is paying off for Burlington, for sure!

At the EDcamp yesterday, which is another way BPS supports their teachers,  educators from all around the MA area benefited from this district’s lead.  I learned how to manage my twitter activity with Tweet Deck, Diigo, Feedly, and Storify. Tweet deck makes it easier to see multiple columns at once and will help, especially during chats. Diigo is a great way to archive links that you want to revisit. Feedly helps you keep track of your favorite blogs. I became familiar with Storify when I saw chats on Twitter being archived using Storify. Very cool tool!

Canva was probably my favorite new online tool that I was introduced to yesterday. I pray that it continues to be free. I plan to use this site to create beautifully designed posters for my classroom, and I may use it for my blog as well.

It was motivating to talk to other like minded teachers, librarians and tech specialists. Sometimes it feels overwhelming because there are so many great tools out there. I know to start with my learning objectives for students and then match that with tools that will enhance learning and sharing of that learning. Can't wait to go to another EdCamp!