Thursday, August 29, 2013

Classroom Pictures (finally!)

I had my classroom set up pretty much the way that I wanted it to be, until the students arrived.  At that point, I realized that I really hated the desks that were in my classroom.  I had tables and individual desks in a closet of classroom last year.  No seriously, it used to be a closet.

It was definitely nice and cozy in that room, and stopped a bunch of bad behaviors from happening.  However, there wasn't a whole lot that I could do in there in the way of experiments.  Not only was it small, but it also had carpet.  Carpet is not the best choice for a science classroom, but apparently they didn't expect me to do much beyond give them a worksheet every single day.

Science class is supposed to fun!  It's supposed to engage your mind and make you look at things in a different way.  I guess that I proved myself last year (might have been the experiments in the hallway that I did a couple of times).  I got a classroom that is AT LEAST 4 times the size of my old classroom. Before the kids got here, this is how my classroom looked:

Not only had I not hung anything on my walls yet, but I also just had desks in groups of 3.  We were told at the beginning of the year that our legal number of students had gone up from 10 to 15.  So I had to make sure to have enough seating for 15 kids.  Well, after the first day of school, I didn't like the desks, but I was trying to work with them.  After trying to do my first lab in the classroom, I HATED the desks!  Plus, non of my students wanted to sit in the desks.  They all wanted to sit at my "lab" tables in the back of the room.  

I talked to my principle to see if there were any other options.  I really wanted circle tables for better group collaboration, but I didn't think that would happen.  Four days later, I get a call asking if now is a good time to have my tables moved into my classroom.  Of course it's a good time!  So after moving the tables in, having my students clean them, and rearranging my various tables and chairs this is what my classroom looks like.
 The view from my door as you walk in.

 The area where each student keeps their work and interactive notebooks for my class.  There's a different hanging file folder organizer for each period.

The view from the back of my classroom.  One of my students got my TV to work, and figured out which channel was discovery, so we can watch science, if we want to.

My nonfiction corner/research station.  The computer is a very rare student computer.  I didn't even know they existed outside of computer labs.

My storage closet, which I need to get a padlock for.  That's all of my science equipment (not much), math textbooks, english textbooks, and class sets of books.

Another view from the back of my classroom.  I love the podium that another teacher gifted to me since she's not teaching in the classroom anymore.

That's my VERY messy area.  I opened it up so I don't feel claustrophobic, and students still pretty much stay out of my area.  It's amazing!

I took Science Stuff's advice this week, and have started my students on their way to creating their own experiments.  I had each of my science classes design a structure using molecular molecule kits.  They then had to write directions on how to create it so that somebody else could recreate it.  I'm going to take the directions they wrote, type them up, and give them to different classes to build next week.  Some of the directions were completely awful!  I'm hoping that they'll read them and realize that they need to be more specific in their directions.  If not, I have another experiment day planned for them that will be quite interesting!

I'm really excited to hopefully have my students planning their own experiments eventually.  Luckily, I have 3 years to work on some of my students, so they'll hopefully be good at it by the time they're seniors.

Here are some pictures of the structures my junior class created:

They had a really good time building them, but not such a good time writing the instructions.  Some of those structures are big and complex.  One group even used almost all of the pieces in their kit!  Maybe part of their quiz tomorrow should be to follow directions I write down for them to build an object……hmmmmm….not a bad idea…….

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

First Foldables and Interactive Notebooks

After much research this summer, I decided to try out interactive notebooks in my classroom.  I took some hints from here and there, and now I have a table of contents based on the unit instead of the individual page and an awesome grading rubric that's glued into the front cover of all of my student's notebooks.  Grading them was time consuming last week, but I'm hoping that they'll get the hang of it soon so that I'll be able to fly through them on Fridays.

One thing that I really like about the rubrics, is that under the rubric is a table where we record their grade every week.  That way they can look back at their grades and work towards always getting a good grade.

Another thing that I've implemented in my classroom is using task cards as bell work.  Every Monday, each student will get a numbered sheet of paper where they will do their weekly bell work.  At the end of the week, it's very easy for me to grade their bell work, notebook, and quiz at the same time since they are all together.  It's also really nice to see my students take pride in keeping all of the task cards together and making sure that they make it back to the correct spot in the classroom before the next class starts.  Hopefully, they will keep this up.

I feel bad, because I've been slacking off on taking pictures of my classroom.  HOWEVER, I now have a legitimate excuse.  I asked my principle if we had any circle tables anywhere in the building that I could possibly have, and he thinks that there might be some.  This way, I can get rid of my desks and just have tables for my students to work at.  I can also have them do their lab experiments at their tables instead of trying to set up a specific spot as a lab station, since they seem to like to sit at my "lab tables" constantly anyways.  This will also allow them to be able to work together better, I'm hoping.  I'm really excited about this, in addition to my hugely gigantic classroom that they gave me this year.

Off to plan my labs for Thursday now!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

August SLANT Box!

I got my August SLANT box right at the end of the first week of school.  It was perfect timing.  This first week was definitely very stressful and crazy.  I don't quite remember the first week being this crazy last year.  Maybe I blocked it out since it was my first year and I was too overwhelmed.  Who knows.  But I did get the BEST SLANT box ever!

Included in my box was an awesome banner for my classroom, a shark book, 2 different types of blue pens, sticky notes, dog treats, reese's pieces, and a card.  My puppies are already loving the new treats.

In other news, I had my students play the get to know you Jenga game.  They had a good time.  In fact, they had so much fun, that they've been grabbing it to play when we have extra time in my smaller classes.  It was such a great idea!

This year, I'm trying out having a set weekly schedule for my classes so that they know what to expect and to make things easier for me when I have meetings during class times on set days.  For my science classes I'm planning on using this schedule:

     * Monday - lecture/power point/ introduce new material
     * Tuesday - review new material, do an activity (hopefully flippables!)
     * Wednesday - work with nonfiction texts
     * Thursday - lab day!
     * Friday - quiz, notebook grading, science in the news

Tuesdays are my day when I typically have meetings, so I'm hoping that they'll be able to do the activity on their own or as a class without me having to be there every single time.  This week will be a good trial week since I already have 2 meetings scheduled for this Tuesday so I'll definitely miss at least one class.

In my environmental science class, I want to have them read Hoot,but I'm not quite sure how to include it into my class time.  I'm thinking of maybe having a set 5-10 minutes at the end of class everyday where we read the book together.  I think it'll work out well with them.  Thankfully, this class is my juniors who I had last year and they are much better at listening to me and behaving than my sophomores are.  They definitely have a lot of growing up to do.

Off to more lesson planning for my 6 different preps!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Get to know you Game

I've finally finished making my get to know you game for the first day of school Friday!  On the first day of school, we always have to go over the student handbook.  We separate out the handbook into 7 sections, and then go over a different section every class period.  I always have extra time after going over the handbook, so decided to make a game that we can play and get to know each other at the same time.  I bought a Jenga tower and wrote get to know you questions on each block.  After talking to other people AFTER I'd already finished this, I've decided that I might buy a couple more towers and write numbers on each block.  Then I would have different lists of questions or vocabulary that they'd play with.  For now, I'm really excited for this game!  I really hope that my kiddos like it as much as I will.  I mean, they do get to play Jenga, and who doesn't like Jenga, or getting to play a game on the first day of school!  Here's a picture of all the blocks that I labeled.

I'll definitely let everyone know about how this game went over with my kids after Friday!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

iPads in the classroom

After having to sit through 2 full days of professional development back to back, I've come to the conclusion, that maybe not ALL professional development and meetings are bad.  For once, our administrators actually listened to us!  Instead of having district-wide PD, all of our PD was on site and just with our school, for one day.  The information was definitely more relevant to us than it normally is.  Today, we got to listen to a very animated speaker about how to keep us out of the court room or due process.  He was really good and it was oh so very relevant.  Much better than spending 4 hours straight of going over the TLE evaluation stuff, like we did last year.

In one of our meetings, we found out that ALL of our kids would be receiving iPads sometime between September and Christmas.  I certainly hope that this will be awesome.  HOWEVER, they don't even have the wireless figured out at our school yet, so I don't know how we're going to be able to get a whole lot done with iPads without an internet connection.  Granted, I'm not even sure how I'm going to use the iPads in the classroom at this point.  I'd like to try switching my interactive notebooks over to online portfolios, but that's definitely not happening this year.  I'm thinking of having them do research over different topics on their iPads.  This will definitely be an interesting year to say the least.

Here in OKC, we have this awesome teacher store that is run by Feed the Children.  We get to go once a month and fill two bags with different supplies.  The best part is that it's all free!  We get two bags, a red one for supplies and a blue bag for books.  Today, I learned that you can get a box and fill it with class sets of books.  After all the shopping that my neighbor and I did, this is what we walked out with:

That is 3 boxes of books, 2 bags of books, and 2 bags of supplies!  I know have 3 more class sets of book, including the Wizard of Oz!  I can't wait until I can start reading these books with my kiddos.  This is looking like it's going to be a great year.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Check out This Blog Giveaway!

Some of the blogs that I've been following for awhile are having an awesome give away!  Swing on over to Teaching is Gift and 4mulaFun to check it out!  Some of the cool items included are:

     *Multiple TPT shopping sprees to help you get all stocked up for a new year.
     *$10 Starbucks gift certificate
     *$75 gift certificate at WiseDecor
     *$25 gift certificate at Black Rafter Soap Works
     *Cool Duo Binders
     *An awesome tote from Thirty-One

So head on over and check it out!

Professional Development and Prom!

The first day back to school has come and gone, for the teachers.  As usual it was full of excitement and meetings.  I was really excited to get to see everybody again after the summer, though there were some faces that were missing due to retirements.  There were also a lot of new faces this year.  In my small department of 8 people, we have 3 new teachers and 1 opening still.  It was so great to be able to talk to all of the new teachers and be able to show them the ropes.  It was so amazing to be able to tell someone else what to expect and to know for myself what I would be doing.

There was one big surprise for me this year though.  During our building meeting, our principle was asking who wanted to sponsor the various clubs and activities in the building.  A coworker and I had been talking about asking to be junior class sponsors this year, so we volunteered for that spot.  We didn't quite realize, until afterwards, that we would now be planning prom.  It's going to be lots of fun, lots of work, and a new experience for both of us.  The reactions from different teachers was either, 'you're gonna regret this' or 'I had so much fun planning prom!  What questions do you have?'  I definitely spent a fair amount of time picking people's brains about prom ideas and what we needed to do.  We still don't know if we have any money to get ourselves started, but we're going to start doing fundraisers so that we can have the money that we need as the time gets closer.  If anybody has any ideas on prom themes that they would like to share, I would love it!  Someone suggested a glow in the dark theme, which sounds pretty cool to me, but might be lame.  I know that people thought the prom last year was lame, so we have a lot of make up for from last year, apparently.  One way that we are going to raise money is through a halloween carnival for all the little kids in our district.  We have to come up with a booth idea for that that will make money as well.  In general, I think this is going to be a great year, but now this is seeming slightly stressful, jumping into the unknown.