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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Clutter Free Classroom Linky!

Clutter-Free Classroom
So I love the blog Clutter Free Classroom- seriously, I LOVE it!  I am a huge fan of organizing.  Wow, when I read that last sentence back- it sounded so trite- but REALLY.  I like putting things in order, I like looking at containers and dreaming about how I can improve my organization at home and at school.  Anywhoo, I have been following the steps to a clutter free classroom on there and I am proud that I have some areas already under control and other areas that I could use more help.  The site is hosting a linky party to show your teacher desk/ table and I thought I would join up!

I don't have a teacher desk- I have a a table where I work with small groups, I have a cart (for lack of a better term) where my ELMO and projector are and where I keep my teacher manuals etc. and then I have an area where I keep my computer.  It sounds like a lot- but it works for me.  Here are the pics!

Okay so:

What I like about it:

I like that I have all of my materials in the cart.  I have easy access to anything that I might need. I also like that I have a station in the front and the back of the room. No matter where I am what I need is at my fingertips.  I like the size of my small group table.  It has our class fish bowl on it, which can be a distraction at times, but it looks cute and when I am not meeting with groups kids like to sit there and watch the fish swim.  I also like that it is in the back of the room, out of the way so that it is in a quiet area of the room and the cupboards behind it can hold any reading or math group materials that I might need for the day.

How would you like to change it:

The cart- UGH.  It is big and boxy and sticks out like a sore thumb.  I can't do anything permanent to it, like paint, but I would love to find some way to make it cuter!  The shelves aren't great either- they are very short and it's difficult to put anything on them/ take anything off.  I put the projector on a shelf because I thought it was too cluttered on top to have the ELMO, projector and occasionally my laptop on there at one time.  If I lived in a perfect world, I would exchange for a smaller table/cart, mount the projector to the ceiling, and have taller shelves so I could use containers (my favorite).

What changes did you make to it as part of the Clutter- Free Project Challenge:

I cleaned out the area under the cart.  Since I don't like the cart that much it had become a bit of a dumping ground.  I purged and gave away/ threw away the things that I didn't need, use or want.  That cleared out a lot of space.  I used a book end to keep my manuals tidy and put some extra tape rolls, teacher scissors in a green container.  It's much easier to get at the things I need now.

What tips can you share to help others have a clutter free classroom:

First, I would say- don't let things pile up.  When you get papers- file them away or recycle them.  Next I would say- find a time once a week/month to go through a certain area and clean, tidy, declutter.  It helps it to not be overwhelming later.

Well, hope that helps! If you haven't done it yet, don't forget to stop over at Clutter Free Classroom and join up in the party!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Math Games

Math is such a great opportunity to get up, get moving, and have fun!  I always enjoy teaching math and watching as the kiddos get really into their learning.  Today, I thought I would share with you two math games that we played this week that are packed full of excitement and quality content.  I am not sure how your math block is laid out, but- for reference- here is how I schedule my math time:  my math block is an hour and 15 minutes long so I have a good chunk of time to work.  We start with a 15 minute whole group direct lesson.  This is the time where we talk about the learning target and I explicitly model the skill that we are working on.   The students then move to different workstations with their group.  They are in an ability group right now so that the skills can easily be modified or adapted to their skill level/their area of need.  They spend 15 minutes at each of the 4 stations every day.  The last 15 minutes are for an exit slip/re-group where we reinforce our learning for the day. PHEW! Now that I got that out of the way, here are the math games I wanted to tell you about!

Place Value Toss
This game is so easy and such a blast!  It all came to me when I was thinking about Bozo the Clown.  Do you remember that show?  Well, I used to watch it on Saturday mornings- and the kids on the show played a game with buckets laid out in a vertical row.  The kids tried to toss a ball into each consecutive bucket.  For the math version of this game- the buckets are labeled ones, tens, hundreds, etc. and the students stand at the marked spot and toss their bags into the buckets.
  I gave the students 10 bean bags to toss.  The students who were in the "peanut gallery" sat with white boards so that we could record each students score-first in expanded notation and then in standard form. 

Once everyone had a turn, the students wrote their score on their whiteboard and then- without talking- put themselves into numerical order.

This was the first time we played this game and it was a blast.  The kids got very excited and very loud!  Our top score was 50,000.  It was  a great way for me to check the students understanding of a couple different things- their ability to move from expanded notation to standard form, their ability to read a number, if they placed the comma in the correct spot and then if they understood the value of their number.  I will play this game again but I would first get special- sturdier buckets and might use paint to label the buckets.  I just used these buckets I had on hand to test out the game and they easily tipped over and slid around on the carpet.  Hope you enjoy this game as much as my kiddos did!

 This is a game that I learned from one of my former teammates.  She is a fantastic teacher and I learned many things from my time working with her.  This is a card game that the students ask and ask and ask again to play!  Are you familiar with the game spoons? This is a spin on that game- so be prepared for the room to get loud!  Students are dealt 5 cards each, the object of the game is to use only 2 of the cards to make 10.  
You can start out with addition and them move on if you want to make it more difficult. If they don't have anything to make 10- they discard one card and take a new card.  If they do have 2 cards to make 10, things get interesting!  In the center of the table is a group of cubes- one less than the number of students in the group.  The person who has 10 lays their 10 face up on the table and quickly grabs the cube.  The rest of the students have to be quick and pay attention so that they can also grab a cube.  The person left without one gets a "T" and when they spell "TEN" they are out.  If a student calls 10 and grabs a cube without actually having a 10, putting 7 + 4 for example, then they are the one who has the "T" and the student without the cube is safe for that round.  It is a fun game and the kids get very into it.

I hope you enjoy math games as much as I do!  I know that it can be hard to find time in the day to play games but I try to make it a workstation and a whole group "fun Friday" activity.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

New Year Pinterest Ideas!

I know, I know, it seems like New Year's was SOOOOOO long ago--but, I wanted to post and share some of the cute projects I found on Pinterest!
First, there was this adorable New Year resolution project: The First Grade Parade

Since I work with third graders- I thought that they would be capable of cutting out a circle for their head and a triangle for their party hat without much assistance.  I was wrong on both parts- BUT after a couple of trips to the scrap bin- they all had a circle and triangle!  I knew that my next step was going to be very tricky for them but we learned from our mistakes and they cut out another triangle shape from lined paper to write their resolutions.  Then, they drew on their face using crayons or markers and used tissue paper to decorate their hats!  It all took about a half-hour/ 45 minutes and was a fun getting to know you *again* activity!

I loved their resolutions! "Do something without being told"...hmm, I wonder if she means chores, this kiddo probably does a lot without being told!  "Be nice to Ellie and Jack Jack" her  niece/nephew that she lives with - I think that might be a tough one!

The next project received SO many compliments and it has been hanging in the hallway for a lot longer than I normally keep things up because it makes me happy just to look at it!  My original Pinterest inspiration came from this Flickr photo

Here is how mine turned out:

For this project, the students were given a construction paper copy of the hat and mittens.  They used oil pastels to decorate their hat and mittens in a coordinating pattern.  We then glued the hat and mittens in to place and used an oil pastel to outline our face, arms and jacket.  The students continued their pattern on their sweater/scarf, added the adorable face (I love the rosy cheeks) and snow.  They turned out so cute!  I added a winter poem to the poster sized paper that students wrote and typed.  The idea for the poems came from a scholastic poetry book I bought a couple of years ago.  I searched the site but can't find it- and of course- I can't remember the title! ANYWAY! The form of the poem is basic: Winter (verb) in with (blank) and (blank)...it is fun reading what the kids came up with!

Needless to say this is a Pinterest idea that I will be continuing with year after year.  It was so cute that my other third grade teammates did it with their class!

**And one more picture because they are so cute!**

Monday, January 23, 2012

Check it out!

DillyDabbles posted a contest to win an amazing common core standards pack.  174 pages for your grade level!  Just head on over to her site: DillyDabbles- post a comment and link back up to her and you are in the running!  Good luck (but I hope I win :)!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Classroom Tour!

My favorite part of blog stalking teachers is looking at all of their wonderful classrooms!  I capital L- LOVE- decorating my classroom and I can never seem to quit.  To be sure, it takes a lot of extra work and *cough* cash *cough* but for me- it's about loving the space.  I spend so much time in the room that I need to like the way it looks and most importantly- a well organized classroom limits behavior problems and cuts down on transition times.  So without further ado...here is my classroom (so far, this year)

 This is the view from the hallway leading up to my room- you can see our class lockers, art work and New Year door.

This is what you see when you walk in the door.  The rug on the floor is one that I purchased for my apartment from TJ Maxx--but the Mister thought it a bit too girly for his taste.  Most things that I purchase end up in this room one way or another!

From the doorway, if you look right- this is what you see! I have some built in shelves and that small wall space where I keep my birthday board and classroom jobs.  I have a bit of a star theme this year!

We keep our extra supplies on these shelves.  The student who has the pencil sharpener job sharpens pencils twice a day and that's it!  The noise drives me crazy!  Then, the slanted file holder is where students turn in their work- I have a separate one for each subject!

This is my math board.  We use this area for our daily calendar math.  The calendar pocket chart is held up by a PVC pocket chart holder I made and my husband spray painted purple!

This is the front board- I keep our daily learning targets, copies that I need for the day, as well as a class reward system on this board.  One of my favorite quotes is displayed above. "Every great dream begins with a dreamer.  Always remember you have within you the strength, the patience and the passion to reach for the stars and change the world" - Harriet Tubman
On the left side of the front wall is this writing board.  I have writing supplies on shelves below the board and anchor charts/posters are pinned up here for reference.

Then I have another board here- I love the amount of wall space available in this room!  Currently we have some social studies fish bone diagrams we created hanging up.  The open shelving below this area is covered by curtains sewed by my lovely teammate Erica!

My row of windows and computers.  These windows look out into a courtyard that if I had anything resembling a green thumb- I would get out there and plant something- but alas, I have no idea where to start!

My science board- a work in progress- we seem to run out of time for science...how does everyone else fit everything in the day!

My back wall.  The students don't keep much inside their desks so this counter houses all of their text-books, journals, and book bags.  The pennant hanging near the ceiling was made by my first year class for my wedding!

The other half of my back wall.  I teach reading from the second board- with my reading board and chart paper.  My small group table is in the back center of the room.

My small group table- room for 6 kiddos and our class fish!

My reading group area.  I enjoy having two separate teaching areas- and this cozy nook is perfect for reading!

My reading board- these charts are changed/ rotated often!

My last wall!  Reading nook on the right- board in the center- and word wall on the left.  I keep my individual behavior system on this board.

This is my chart- their names are on the magnetic stars and then it's a simple green, yellow, red system.  Our rules are posted on there too!

The last view of the room, circling back to the door.

Some pictures from my library.  I made the rain gutter shelves and they are fantastic!  It is my fourth year of teaching third grade, in the same building, in the same room and I still have yet to find an organizational system that works for me and my teaching style but, that discussion is for another post!

This is what I see as I leave the room each day.  The students sit in groups of 4 or 5- each table group is named Monday- Friday and then that group is in charge of calendar, is first to line up and other classroom activities for their day.

Thank you for taking a look at my classroom.  If you have a question or suggestion for me, please leave me a comment!

* Sorry for the quality of the pictures- I forgot my camera- used my phone- and couldn't wait until tomorrow! *

Saturday, January 21, 2012

My first post!

I can't believe that I am starting a blog.  I am very excited about it and have so many ideas running through my head.  I am inspired by all the wonderful teacher bloggers out there that I have stalked for the last 4 years without ever even leaving a comment! I guess I was shy...

I plan on chronicling and reflecting on the many ideas I get from pintrest, fellow bloggers, and my co-workers. I will link to the original inspiration and then show how I have either put my own spin on it, adapted it for my class of kiddos, or possibly failed miserably in my attempt! Thanks for reading!

I have been on a snowy "vacation" for the last week with 4 whole snow days in a row! So I don't have any of the pictures that  I planned on posting and explaining.  Instead, I thought I would start my first post by sharing one of the most exciting things that has ever happened to me.  My school was the second school to win the $100,000 grant from Target and the Ellen Degeneres show.  It has been a fantastic 2 weeks back to school after break filled with tears (of joy and sadness) and exhaustion!  The grant is wonderful and I am excited to see what my principal decides to do with the extra cash.  However, the greatest thing that has come out of this whole experience is the positive dialogue about teachers and low-income schools.  Sure, there have been some "haters" (as my students say) that have tried to bring us down but to see my fellow teacher friends on TV as professionals who love and care about their students still brings tears to my eyes.  Teachers work so hard and get so little positive recognition that when we actually do- it is something to remember.

You can watch the video clip from the Ellen Show here

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