Friday, July 31, 2015

Getting ready to go back...

I find that I am not a very organized person, and as a teacher, this really sucks! I have to work really hard to be organized. Here are the 5 easy tips for I use for keeping myself sane and both my kids and myself organized (if you want copies of anything below let me know)!

#1: Paper Saver
Two years ago, after hearing for the millionth time, "My mom took it out of my folder and threw it away," or something to that extent, I moved to the highly effective, clear paper saver method. I went to Sam's Club and bought 200 paper sleeves for $10.00. We did away with any and all folders (I ask on the summer school shopping list that parents not buy them, but someone always neglects reading; SHOCKING!) and I gave the kids two paper savers, one for Daily 5 work, and one for homework. Math and Science are both done in interactive notebooks. We write which is which directly on the folder in the upper right hand corner and put them behind the agenda the school supplies. All they have in the binders then are an agenda, and 2 clear paper sleeves. For students who do the ole shove in the pockets nonsense, I cut out the pockets. Harsh sounding I know, but last year, I only had two students lose a paper, and only once each! AMAZING, I KNOW!!

#2 Completion Report:
Another saver for me and the kids was using the mailbox system for grading folders. We use standards based grading (1 no mastery, 2 partial mastery, 3 mastery, 4 exceeds mastery) and I had a hard time collecting enough meaningful data for some of my students. I used a menu for Daily 5 that included various activities that either link to the standard are build reading skills using the basic principles of Daily 5. It was more of a Weekly 5 if we are being exact. My teammate and I would switch off changing the items that needed changing and updating the standard.
We then started using the grading folders in the kids mailbox to help keep the students accountable for what was being turned in. It was SO MUCH BETTER than having them all turn it in to a basket and leave me to sort through the people who forget a name or to staple. I made a simple sheet with all the weeks of the quarter and each Daily 5 menu activity. The students would have to have everything turned in by the "Due Date" on their menu. While they were reading to self, I pulled their folders out of their box, checked off what they had a didn't have, and would quickly add the standards based grade from teacher time to their folder. Whatever they didn't have, would be left blank and I would then give them a percent and a letter grade for the whole thing (for higher level ed grading exposure). It worked so well and it was SO HELPFUL for parents. I use Remind and ClassDojo to communicate with my parents, so I would take a quick picture of the form and text or message it to my parents. 
Simple and easy to keep up with! It would take me maybe 15 minutes to grade it all. 15 MINUTES!!!

#3 Teacher Binder:
Because I am unorganized, I lose EVERYTHING! I have a binder to keep the important things in. I have a calendar section, one page for each month, in paper savers. When one month passes, I simply move the page to the back of the section. This helps me know what I did (meeting wise, conference wise, PD wise, etc.) and when and not have to keep track of an actual loose calendar. I have a section for volunteer information (which in my school doesn't fill up at all). I have a section for parent contact information, communication logs, and beginning of the year inventories. I tried the file cabinet system and was just terrible at it. This is more helpful in my opinion! I have a section for my lesson plans, followed by a section for my grade book and PBIS tracking. I have my IEP at a glance forms in here too! Finally I have a section for my to do list for the week, followed by the things that need to be done (papers to be copied, paperwork to do, reminders, etc.). I found most of this stuff for free on TPT. The links are attached to each section!

#4 Table Drawers:
The Teacher Lady changed my life! I am the BIGGEST advocate for children and responsibility. I think sometimes we underestimate how much they are able to do. My classroom is all about making choices and taking responsibility for the consequences, whether are positive or negative. It creates a really cool environment come November. Autumn Zaminski, the author of, The Teacher Lady blog helped me to create an even more autonomous student! 
While is was a little pricey to buy 6 of these bad boys, it was sooooo worth it! I use the top drawer for lined paper, graph paper, and blank paper. The second drawer is for materials such as markers, crayons, colored pencils, erasers, scissors, etc. The bottom drawer is for their interactive notebooks. There is a random drawer check to make sure they are staying organized and the job of Table Captain (aka station maid) rotates weekly. There is a reward system in place for groups that have it organized. There are no negative consequences put in place, they merely have to clean it at that moment if they do not meet inspection. They honestly do a remarkable job. When the expectations are set high, they rise up to them with grace! Also, they really like tickets. At the end of the week, I draw and they get things like no shoes, swivel chair, teacher desk, drawing pass, and job of choice. 

#5 Interactive Notebooks:
Why? Because everything is glued, taped, or written into the notebook and nothing gets lost. Trust me, you will be a happier person! The Notebooks stay at school in the drawers! If they need something from it to study, I take a picture with my phone and print it off for the student, but this does not happen frequently. They pre-cut the materials at home, or they come in a little early and cut before school starts. It is the easiest homework they will ever have and you will find that they actually do it but it takes no time at all. Then all you have to do is project your pre-made pages in your notebook and they glue it all in the first 5 minutes of class. For those challenged with the concept of using minimal amount of glue, have them tape! Mrs. Ramms has some really helpful ideas for getting started if you have never done notebooking!

Here's to starting a new year!

Work smarter not harder friends,
Mrs. Powell

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

And the award goes to...


I told my kids the other day that teachers love summer more than they do. They do not believe me, but we all know it to be true.

One end of the year activity I love to do with my kids is the "Paper Plate Awards". I am a poor teacher! I am not going to spend money on award paper they are going to toss anyway. These they end up keeping! I give each student a paper plate and a picture of another student in the class. They paste the picture on the plate and think of a class-wide inside joke to put as the award title on one side, and then a kind, endearing award title on the other side. Now I know it is not mind blowing, but it is fun!

For example, last year I had a boy who always fell asleep during read to sleep. His partner drew a picture of Sleepy, the dwarf from Snow White, and put "Tony a.k.a. Sleepy (Read to Self for days)." When this was presented, the whole class shared chuckles! Another funny one was for a student who got nervous around tests and would always let out the loudest farts ever. He would genuinely crack up at himself, relax, and then ace the test. His award read, "Gasman Therapy: A place where you can let it all out!" We were all laughing so hard we cried.

It is a fun activity to show the kids how close our community has been over the year and how we share inside jokes together the way a family would. I have been doing these now for four years in both inner city and rural schools alike and have never had anyone insult someone  or hurt someone.

How to do this: 
1. Pass out plates. 
2. Have students draw a picture out of a "hat" and keep it secret. 
3. Give them 10 minutes to come up with their inside joke and their compliment, decorate both side, and get your stamp of approval. 
4. Have students sit in a circle and present to each other (It is fun to have them try to guess who is being described). 

It is cheap, it is easy, and it is hilarious. Not everything you do has to be a World Series home run for it to be meaningful and enjoyable!

Mrs. Powell

Friday, June 5, 2015

Chicken Soup for the Teacher's Soul

My kids just finished their 3 intensive days of EOG testing and the poor things are wiped. They are also driving me insane! I love my kids and all but we are at the point in our year where we just would like to be done. I am sure you are there too!

Earlier this year, a teacher posted a neat activity that had it's fifteen minutes of fame on Facebook called, "I wish my teacher knew". If you haven't done this with your kids, please do. I did it yesterday and as a result, I was in tears all morning. Recognizing, at the end of the year, the impact you have had during the year is such a needed affirmation because there are days when you wonder. For me this came not through compliments about my teaching, but through the information divulged.

" I wish my teacher knew that when she tells me, "I love you" and I don't say anything back, in my head I am saying, "I love you more."
" I wish my teacher knew that my brother won't talk to me and I don't know why. I miss how we used to play and talk together."
" I wish my teacher knew that I am bi and I trust her enough to tell her."
" I wish my teacher knew that I am tired of my parents fighting over me."
" I wish my teacher knew that I am nervous to go to middle school."
" I wish my teacher knew that my parents don't love each other."
" I wish my teacher knew that the only place I can be myself is in her classroom."
" I wish my teacher knew that I cherish when she tells me she loves me."
" I wish my teacher knew that I will never forget her."

Now I am not an overly emotional person, but I was a hot mess. Never in my wildest dreams could I have expected what I got from my sweet kids (and even my not so sweet ones). After a year of working hard together, laughing together, learning hard lessons together, learning to listen together and struggling together, my kids reminded me that the content they learned this year means little to them compared to the community that we created together. This activity, that took 10 minutes from start to finish, unveiled the meaning of teaching, which in my opinion, needs to be done for teachers every year. You need to know how much you mean to the people you pour so much into; the children you can't stop thinking about, planning for, making sacrifices for.

How to do this activity:
-Give each child a lined piece of paper
-Write " I wish my teacher knew" on the board
-Explain to them that you want them to share something personal with you. Not something like, " I wish my teacher knew I like pizza" but something that holds meaning. Something that is hard for them to say. 
-Let them go to a place in the room where they feel comfortable and they will just go. (Two teachers walked into my room and asked what they were working on to keep them so focused). 
-Read them and be affirmed. 

--- A little extra: Write letters back to the kids to thank them for sharing and affirm them for their courage and for the blessing they are to you. 

I encourage you to end your year positively and enjoy your well deserved summer. I will be blogging like a fiend during the summer because I cannot manage to find the time during the year! Stay tuned.

Mrs. Powell