Wednesday, March 5, 2014

I Cans - Motivational Messages

I Cans

      Spring brings all kinds of things. Rain showers, the first glimpses of sunshine after a cold dark winter, and things start to bloom. It also means that high stakes testing season has begun! At schools all over the country students are diligently darkening bubbles with number 2 pencils and pounding away at computer keyboards as they practice for “the big test”.
       We practice, give pep talks, tell the kids that testing is their day to shine, and review then review more. As teachers we tell our students not to stress, then we lay awake wondering if we really covered angle types sufficiently or if the students really got the author’s purpose lesson we so carefully crafted.
       One of my favorite things to do with my students to help alleviate stress before the test is to make “I Can”. These are “can shaped” mailboxes covered with either the letter “I” or pictures of eyes glued all over them. Get it? It is an "I Can”. (See the examples below.) 

     Each morning before testing the students place the “I Cans” on their desk. It is then filled with encouraging messages. The students LOVE getting messages and it really helps take the pressure of the test off!
       I send a template home for parents to fill out a few weeks before the test. I also write an “I Can” message each day, I have the principal write a daily message, and I recruit other staff members to write messages (I have each person write 1 message that I copy it for the class.) If time permits I even allow kids to write message to one another (I check all messages and usually assign a few classmates to each child so no one is left out.) An example of the template is below.

       The “I Can” messages really lighten the mood. After students have finished reading the messages I take up the “I Cans” because (GULP) nothing but the test book and a #2 pencil can be on their desk. 
       A parent recently told me her child saved all his “I Can” messages from 4th grade. She said that she found them for years after in his room and that every time he read one he smiled. After hearing that I created a template for making “I Cans” and “I Can” messages. It is free (and will always be) free in my Teachers Pay Teachers. If you have a few minutes and some card stock paper this is a “craftivity” you students will never forget! The link to the template is below!

I Can Template FREEBIE

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Something Exciting!

Check out kindergartenboomboom's Blog! There is something exciting going on! Good luck! I'll be back to share the final transformation soon!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Transformation Continues...

So next up was to have a space for my computers and all things techie! So I created a spider man wall.
 I think I will add directions on how to get to specific websites and computer tips to this wall.

Next, up is my science wall. I really wanted a place that reflects inquiry and engineering. So I have a wall where I will post essential questions, observations, scientific arguments, and so on to the wall. I also wanted a space for the kids to get their hands on things and really dig in and learn and build. So I put an inquiry table right in front of the wall. 
 I love the Dark Knight movies! So this wall was super fun to create! See Batman on the left? :)
Next up, my job wall! Love this. Again my creative friend Andrea Knight created these job cards. They are awesome. You can find them at Andrea's Job Cards.
Next up is my new super hero word wall, motivational decoration area, and more! Stay tuned...

Monday, July 22, 2013

Transformation Begins

So the last place we left off was with me trying to create a magical place for my students and for myself. I am already beginning to feel the power of my classroom. It feels like a safe place for me. I really hope the kids feel that way as well.

My books are all organized and almost all labeled. I got these really cute book labels from Andrea Knight's store on TpT at Andrea's Book Labels

She is one of my dearest and best friends so she let me modify to make sense for me. So I decided to add numbers to my labels this year. Now each basket has a number. The baskets are filled exactly like I want them with no overcrowding. I think the numbers will help the kids know exactly where to put them back. 90% of my books were labeled by level or genre already. So I am just adding the numbers to the back with the already there labels. I can't wait to see if this organizational idea helps.

Even the ugly book case looks better! I covered it with paper and did the scrunchy boarder around it. I also put it on its side so that I can put things on the top, and so I can reach all the shelves! It was soooo tall, and I am 5'10!
Next, I began decorating the tops of the book case. Some book cases needed to contain more books, because I have so many. Although, I did weed out some really old ones. I was pretty desperate for books way back in the beginning (1997!). I would take just about anything. Now after years of collecting (which means I will probably never get to retire!) I can be a little more picky. I took baskets of old books and created a take home library in one of my closets in the room. It is leveled and ready for the the kids to choose books to take home. I'll still let them take pretty much anything home, but at least they can now pick a bunch to take home for the week.

Here are a few after shots of my new library!

 So my next step... a science wall, technology area,
word wall, job wall, and super hero teams! Stay tuned!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Change of Heart

                                        A Change of Heart

I can hardly believe that the summer is more than half-way over. I have spent entirely too much time in my classroom already. But this year I need a refresher. With all of the craziness going on in education, I need to make my room a safe place for me and for my kids. My classroom has been my refuge for many years up until about 4 years ago, and then something changed. So after a long look at myself, I have come to the conclusion that I need to remember all the things I love about teaching. I need to make my room the place of comfort it once was. I need to live with a more grateful heart. Teaching is what I am meant to do. So now I need to just do it and let the other politics and mess around me roll off my shoulders and just keep moving.

So I have begun to make sense of the mess around me by first organizing my entire classroom library, which quite frankly is A LOT of books. Something about organizing books is calming and therapeutic. Even though this took days and days. I also covered my walls behind my reading area with a very bright red and a puffy boarder that I found directions for on Pinterest. I am very happy with the end result. I know this is my first step into transforming my room into a place of learning and love. I can't wait to see what happens next...

I love the red wall!

This is just the beginning. Stay tuned to see how it all comes out.

This is only half of my books!
Trying to make the ugly bookcase look better.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Full Moon

Do you ever wonder if there is a bit of truth in the theory that children and people react to a full moon? Well, I am sure you don't if you are a teacher! Because if you teach children you know that the only thing that makes sense sometimes when a perfectly wonderful class can turn into an outrageous cry for mental health intervention is a full moon which in turn can cause the scariest effect known to man (or teacher)...

I like to think of it as the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde effect...

Here is an example that I am sure I am not the only one to witness:

A once calm and well behaved group of children slowly begin to show signs of the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde effect. Tattling is at an all time high. Small things such as "He stole my pencil" or "Her paper is touching my desk" or "She said my shoe is untied".

These first signs don't seem so serious, but that is how it begins... You know it feels off. You know that you have systems in place for tattling. Maybe you have a tattle mailbox  or a three before me policy. Or maybe you even have a No Tattletale Zone.
Either way the changes have started...

Next thing you know you have moved on from tattling to actual physical issues. Students claim that they have had an involuntary arm movement into another student's stomach. Or that the twitch in their leg resulted in an unintentional kick to the shin of another. Or arms, hands, and fingers are unable to work at all, and have formed a type of atrophy to using a pencil; however they appear to be in good working condition on the iPad.

It may be time for a 911 medical intervention. Because can we really continue to work under these types of serious health conditions?

Once the threat of shots and full body exams are presented, most students miraculously recover. It is quite the miracle.

But much like Mr. Hyde, the process continues on. Now the explanations for these once believed medical conditions are more creative. Such as I may have punched because I was excited. I might have let my foot slip onto his shin. I maybe forgot to put my pencil to the paper.

I had no idea that people can punch out of excitement, or that kicking can be accidental, or worse that memory loss can cause apathy. I am amazed by these creative excuses.

So as I look around my once calm, well behaved group of children I begin to wonder if the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde effect has taken over and if in deed the full moon is the reason for the split in personalities.

Has this ever happened to you? One can only wonder...

Thankfully the full moon doesn't last that long. Thankfully the moon will change. Thankfully, harmony will prevail.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Masters, Smasters - Homework With My Kids

Masters, Smasters - Homework With My Kids

I used to hate it when I was a newbie teacher and seasoned veterans would say to me, “You will see this differently when you have children of your own.” I felt like I was understanding, empathetic, and reasonable, what were these seasoned veterans talking about? Then I had children of my own and boy oh boy did I realize that I how much it has changed my point of view on so many things about teaching!
I was helping my daughter with her homework and she whined, “But that is noooot how my teacher taught me to do it. You are going to make me fail the second grade!” I calmly explained to her that I have a M.Ed. degree in elementary education and that I am a National Board Certified teacher both of which require high levels of skill and expertise in the field of teaching elementary school children. I am highly qualified to assist with second grade math. She was not impressed and she exclaimed, “Masters, smashters! That is noooot the way my teacher does it.” 
My daughter generally takes good behavior very seriously, so this was a little out of character. So... I got a little desperate and switched tactics by saying, “You know, you better be nice to me because I gave birth to you and it hurt!”
Again she was not impressed, “Oh yeah! Well I had to live in your belly and it was dark and boring!” She screeched.
So I was humbled by a seven year old. We ended up taking a little mental health break (mommy’s mental health) and figuring it out together when calm and good sense prevailed.
This little episode (and many similar episodes) taught me that I need to make sure everything I send home is as user friendly as possible and that I give parents as many tools as I can to help with homework. (The homework my daughter was doing WAS clear and user friendly, it just took us a few minutes to realize that we were both talking about the same thing.) 

P.S. The art work at the top was done by my daughter who is in PreK. PreK homework has gone pretty smoothly so far except for the great letter debate. She swore that there was a letter called "elemento" because it was in "the ABC song". I promised  her that it was really the letters l, m, n, and o. (Clearly she is not impressed by a masters or National Board Certification.) Instead of arguing with a 4 year old that feels that sticking her fingers in her ears is a valid debating skill, I just told her to discuss it with her teacher (who explained...l, m, n, and o are seperate letters).