Saturday, June 6, 2015

End of the Year...No Thank You

I kind of detest breaking down my classroom at the end of the year.  It's so anti-climatic. All that hard work by the students is taken down.  And all of the classroom decor that I painstakingly cut, laminate and hung with velcro/sticky tack/command strips just gets tossed or shoved into a box.  I usually retrain my focus on what I love and that is decorating all over again in a couple months time!

As I watched my news feed fill with teachers end of the year gifts, I was planning what I wanted to tweak this year.  I had these word wall headers I made a couple years ago when we first started the common core standards and there was more of a push on informational texts and topics.  I love these headers and their bright colors so I decided I wanted more of that.  I spend 7.5+ hours a day for 180+ days in the classroom so I just want to look around and feel happy.

My inspiration:  nonfiction alphabet headers

As I started making new things for the classroom I kept having more and more ideas.  So my tweaks turned into a 100+ page colorful classroom decor set!  This set is full of things that your students will use on a daily basis, such as, jobs, table numbers, number posters, ABC posters, word wall headers, word wall words, birthdays, schedule, hand signals, nameplates and more.  You can pick it up here: Colorful Classroom Decor 

I also made the ABC posters as a stand alone: Colorful Alphabet Posters

I also made Bohemian Classroom Decor based off this digital paper that has feathers on it which I L.O.V.E!  
Aren't the feathers lovely?

Now what would a post be without a freebie?!  Today I have essential items for your classroom door!  These are my must haves and I hope you enjoy them.  Pick it up here:  Door Decor

Sight word slap is a great way for students to learn sight words in a fun way.  Just print, laminate and write a new word with dry erase marker daily.  Students will high five the word and say it aloud.

Math Password is a fantastic way to give your students more practice. Again print, laminate and write a new math problem every day.  As the students pass, they will whisper the answer.  This is a great way to spiral or practice the tricky bits.  *Tip: Any child that answers incorrectly I send to the back of the line to think.  If they still don't get it right on the second try, I quietly reteach several students, model the problem, or give them a strategy.

Welcome to pennant is just a bright, colorful, space saving way to add a little cheer to your door.  I made it and intend to punch holes on the sides and thread through ribbon.

So are you planning for the new school year or actually taking time to enjoy summer?


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

All I can manage is PICTURES

My desk (no matter how much I organize, clear and clean) is piled with papers.  You know the end of the year stacks, right?  SO all I can manage is to show you what our classroom life is like through pictures.  

I also have a confessions.  I'm MUCH better at updating my Facebook page!  You can follow me here: The Go To Teacher on Facebook 

My students FAVORITE math activity is hands down Scavenger Hunts.  I can never trip them up...they always find them! is a blessing!  We watched all about bones and then used their skeleton to label bones.

My students were SO engaged by just using these spinners.  Of course they each got a chance to go up and spin them! These spinners are free at this site:

This is totally a school post!  Both are needed to keep me going.

I introduced my niece and nephew to Elephant and Piggie.  They loved them just as much as me.  My nephew who is 11 months old kept pointing to the characters and saying, "OOoooooo!"

My goal has been to organize my cabinets, drawers and basically the classroom.  Here you can see my supplies (top), math centers (lower left) and my teacher/student textbooks (lower right).

We started learning about plants by writing our schema and wonderings.

We also dissected these amazing lilies that grow in my yard.  The questions the students asked were beyond my wildest dreams!

This was the mother's day gift my niece made at her school.  It was the most precious gift I've ever seen. 

My class made these adorable door hangers.

Every morning, I give the students "free read" time.  I love when I see kids taking lead by helping their peers.

Again this is definitely tied to teaching.  Lord knows I need to decompress when I get home and I love to hang on the porch!

I love using student work to motivate students and help them goal set.

Another "free read" moment.  They are playing teacher...but I don't even think I could call it playing because they are truly teachers in their own right.

Here is a math anchor chart that reviews partitioning.

Maybe tomorrow I'll take a picture of my I won't.  I can't let others see my piles.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Shaping Up

Are you lax at this time of the year?  I find that with all the teaching demands I don't always do what I need to for my physical and emotional health.  It also takes me some time to admit these things.  So this weekend I was sure to take care of myself so I can go be joy and sunshine in the morning to all those bright little faces!  What do you do to take care of the teacher?  I like walks, healthy eating and a good book. 

I've also been shaping up at work.  I'm starting that wonderful (dreaded) spring cleaning.  My drawers are looking tidy and that is good for the soul!  We are also working on Shapes/Geometry and having a blast!  I can't even believe it is our LAST UNIT in math. Where has the time gone?!

I decided to try something different this unit.  I asked two students to make the anchor chart.  It was so successful that I let them teach the lesson!  The students were enthralled!!

click on the picture to watch the video on Instagram

We've also been doing a lot of fun activities!

 This student ran up to me and was SO EXCITED that she had grown from a 2 (developing) to a 4 (exceeding).  These sheets are great because 1. it tells the student what is needed at each level  2. It has the students goal set and share how they are going to meet their goal  3. It makes the student responsible and shows them whether or not they are growing as a mathematician  4. At the end of the unit, it focuses on what they are PROUD of.

I've shared some of my ideas about teaching, learning and assessing during a shape unit.  You will find 21 student activities, 3 PowerPoints, student goal/reflection sheets, assessments and more!  Check it out here!

Here are some examples of what is included on TPT.



I guess I going to go get myself mentally in shape for returning for another week!  Have a great evening.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The way INQUIRY has changed my teaching

When I started using Inquiry Circles in the classroom 4 years ago I had no idea what was in store for the students in my classroom or for the growth and change of philosophy that I would experience.

I started by pouring over the book Comprehension & Collaboration: Inquiry Circles Illuminated by Stephanie Harvey and Harvey Daniels.  (Click on picture for link to purchase this book.)
The book excited me and made me feel scared.  I was scared that I was going to lose control.  Control over learning, grades, motivation, organization, and the list goes on.  My desire to see inquiry circles in the classroom outweighed my fear of losing I finally hit the go button! Sitting here now knowing what I know now I'm so thankful that I decided to leap into the unknowns.

The start of my journey:
Confession:  I used to be a control freak.  Some may say I still am but trust me I've mellowed out A LOT!  So back when I was a control freak I had to have a very decisive plan and inquiry felt a bit unstructured to me having taught more traditionally (I do, We do, You do).  I created documents to help guide my teaching and here is the first set,

From the get go I started to see a transition in my class and within myself. Below is part of a blog post from 4 years ago,

 Here's a little inspirational note about Inquiry Circles.  A child in my class has been very dejected.  Life at home isn't great....his parents are fighting :(  It has really shown itself at school.  He is a high level kid that has just been making it through the day...not learning fervently.  This child is in the group researching turtles.  He knows the inside and outside of every turtle book stored in the group's basket.  I sit down to do a mini-lesson with the group (the difference between reading with a question in mind vs. tracking your thinking while reading a book) and this kid just blows me away.  I decided to show the group what I mean and start with a question, How do turtles have their young?  He rips out four books flips to the pages and starts telling me all about it.  The other two students didn't stand a chance for keeping up.  So the two of us, him and I, laid it out for them successfully. He is smiling more often and told me after school that he loves to learn {be still my heart}!

Back then I was still holding tight to structure.  I used a specific conferring form, created a pack of inquiry circle student sheets, used a rubric and made detailed lessons that focused on organization.

And here are my lesson plans for the reptile inquiry circle.  You will noticed that I tried to hit important organizational lessons and some from our county roadmap.  **Note that we found that although we planned lessons most of the time our teaching came out of authenticity. The kids needed different material than we had anticipated.**


By the end of the first inquiry I was sold.  I knew this component would be in my classroom for awhile. 

Changes I've made along the way: 
Along the way I have posted about inquiry circles and how they are working in my classroom.   There has been some major changes along the way.  Now, I embrace the unknown while knowing that whatever we discover will be amazing.
1. My ideas about structure started to change.  I let the students have more say in what they wanted to work on.  I became more flexible with groupings.  At the beginning of the year I would tend more towards groups and by the end of the year they could work alone, in pairs, triads or whatever they wanted.  Groupings started becoming more about interest and less about my desire to control.  I do have to say that at first I suggest working in groups of 4 or 5 because when it is new it is easier to support 4 or 5 groups rather than 12 groups.
2. My reading block makes way for inquiry first.  I start with a mini-lesson which is usually standard-based, then the students break off into their groupings to research while I support with conferring, and finally we meet back to share our new learning and thoughts.  At the beginning of an inquiry the lessons are about asking and answer questions, then I start honing in on other standards like text features.  I am able to teach to the standards while the students are choosing their interest, which is a win-win.
3.I let students lead.  I used to think the teacher led the class, boy was I wrong!  Now my students lead the class meaning that their thinking and interest push us forward.  At times I give them specifics on what I would like them to research and I usually tell them why. I'll say,  "In science we will be learning about extreme weather so for our next inquiry I would like you to think about weather that makes you wonder."  For the inquiry we just started I told the students that they needed to pick a living thing with a habitat and life cycle (which directly ties to our science for the next month).  
4. Because student motivation is so high, I quickly get to conferring with the students and understanding their thought process. I don't spend time trying to find just right books because the students are finding books of interest.  I just spend time listening to their thinking.  When you listen you discover.  Motivation also pushes the students to go out of their comfort zone when it come to reading.  Many times I have thought, "That book will be way too hard. That student won't get anything from it," and every time I've been wrong.
5. I am a facilitator.  I set the scene for success...that's my job now (and I love it).  I make sure students have the resources that they need.  The school library and county library get frequent visits from me (along with Goodwill).  I teach short mini-lessons that will lead to success.  I make rubrics and post language stems.  I tell the students why they are doing what they're doing.  I outline why it is purposeful and tell them how it has helped me in my own life.  
6. My learning is on display.  I'm gobsmacked daily by all the students teach me.  I show them how human I am daily.  I've caught myself saying, "That's not right.  Where did you find that?" with an accusatory tone and they always prove me wrong.  I show my imperfections all the time and I realize that I have so much to learn from these 7 year olds.  I feel so lucky that I get to use my brain daily and not do some boring, menial task.  I'm constantly stimulated and humbled by how much more I have to learn.
7.  Inquiry has taken over because it is contagious.  In every subject I find the students learn best when they are in control.  When we want to know why an author is good at writing, we inquire about it, research it and answer it for ourselves.  It's another instance of letting go and becoming a facilitator.  Kids are smart and they can figure out most things with the right resources.

Here are some inquiry pictures from over the past 4 years:

If you have a change to read the book listed above then I would say do it!  If you want to leap into inquiry I would say you'll never look back!!