Friday, May 31, 2013

Dry Erase Boards and Storage

My students love using their mini white boards.  It allows them to be more active in the lessons, and they get to use MARKERS!  They get to hold them up in the air, wave them around, and they get to use MARKERS!  Not to mention that they can easily erase their mistakes.

Me, not so much.  I have a love-hate relationship with them.  I love that they allow me to SEE what my students are doing DURING the lesson.  I hate the mess they leave behind on our impossibly hard to clean light gray desk tops.  I love that my students are more engaged during the lessons with the mini white boards.  I hate the marker parade - when they march back and forth to the marker box to get a marker that works better.  And I absolutely despise the noise they make (clack, clack, clack) during the passing out and collecting transitions.

Well, I haven't solved the problem of the markers drying up during the lessons, but I think I came up with a better idea for storage that will alleviate the CLACK-CLACK-CLACK of the boards.

Yesterday while I was reorganizing my classroom, I came to the mini-white boards and it hit me!    After reading Alison's series on going paperless @ her Eberopolis blog, I decided to eliminate paper from the morning math warm-up for next year.  I was moving them to another location to try to make them easier to pass out every morning, to a few shelves below the reward tub.  In my reward tub were several of those stretchy book covers, and BAM!  Noise and traffic problem solved! 


They fit over the larger boards!  It is a little snug, but definitely doable.  With the boards covered, they can store them in their desks (which are open wire baskets, and they are not allowed to leave anything in them) and the boards will not get scratched.  And the covers will cut down on the CLACKing!  No more students dropping the boards as they pass out or collect.  No more traffic jam at the shelf. 
We just got these smaller (and more flimsy) boards last year.  The book covers fit over them super easy.  The problem is that I only have a pack of 30.  So, if I can go on a scavenger hunt and track down another pack, I would feel comfortable using these for next year.  

I am going to keep both sets for now, and I will have the students try the smaller ones next year.  Something tells me that they will like the larger ones because they are an actual BOARD, making them more versatile for lap work on the floor.  I think my brilliant idea will work...what do you think?

Well, I am off to another day of organizing.  If you are still in school, have fun with your students over the next few days!  If you are on vacation, relax!





Thursday, May 30, 2013

Construction Paper Organizer

Just a brief little post today.  Going back into the empty classroom is always a challenge to me, so I decided to look at it as jump-start on the next year and attack that room!  At our site, we  have an orientation for 6th graders a few days before our "work day", and I like to have my room ready for it.  For the last  three years, I have arrived at school early  to set up only to find my furniture stacked to the ceiling and my carpets still not cleaned.  That is when I started hyperventilating.  So, time spent now is less time hyperventilating later.  As crazy as it sounds, I am really enjoying my super-duper-no-holds-barred classroom clean out and reorganization!  Just me, some tunes, and plenty of cupboards and closets to clean.  I am a simple girl and these are the things that make me happy.

Yesterday, I showed you my Big Lots loot.  Remember the pots and pan organizer?
Well, they worked beautifully! And yes, I bought three.  And yes, I left that part out yesterday. 
I really liked how they slid right up next to each other.  It was tempting to tape them to the shelf, because they slide just a bit.  However, this way I can stash stuff behind them and being able to slide them gives me easy access.  Sad selection of construction paper, but at this point I consider myself lucky to have something to organize in the paper cupboard at all!

More tomorrow!  I think I figured something out that puts me on the genius level!  Of course I was blessed with the label of  "gifted" as a child, but the older I get the more I question the validity of that assessment.  So excited to show you my solution to a really annoying problem in my classroom, but I did promise that this would short:(  So, you are going to have check back tomorrow!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Math Manipulatives, Crayons, and Big Lots!

Today I was working in my classroom, with Amy's new album playing in the background (that girl is the soundtrack to my life!), cleaning out the Math and Science cupboard. I had no idea what was really in there, because it is a nice deep cupboard. Everything got dragged out, inspected, and reorganized - not to mention the stuff that went in the trash.

Let me back up a little bit...yesterday, I got on my stepladder and pulled out all of my bins, crates, tubs, and baskets. Together with what I had already cleaned out, there was enough to cover six desks, and that was stacked.  I did mention that the OCD thing is really an inside joke with my family and friends, well because it might be a tiny issue.   Finally, I had a rational epiphany and decided that the INSIDE OF MY CUPBOARDS just needed to be functional and organized, and not PERFECTLY MATCHED in the newest graphics.  Self intervention was called for, and despite my overwhelming desire to make my cupboards look Pinterest worthy, and I decided to try to use everything I had before buying anything elseI am obsessed with Pinterest, but it will mess with your mind!  So, the following pictures are not necessarily pretty and all matchy-matchy, but it works!

First, a few of my favorite and most used manipulatives, and one that I had totally forgotten about.
 These are my number lines that I made around 12 years ago.  They were a little labor intensive, but well worth it!  I used the number line tape that comes in rolls.  You are supposed to tape to their desks, but I knew that it would not last that way.  I put the tape on to cut strips of tag board, then laminated them, and re-cut them.  We use them most of the year, and is a go-to for many students even when we don't use them in a "lesson."
 These are my number tiles.  I am a huge Marcy Cook fan, to the point that I was giddy when she asked me to help her pass out gummi bears at a workshop:)  My best friend's mom let me use her tiles when I was still student teaching.  My first year teaching (that would be 25 years ago, eek!), I went to a tile store to buy my own tiles.  The manager found me near tears standing next to the boxes because I realized that no way could I afford to buy enough for a class-set.  After explaining why I needed them, he told me to pull my truck around back.  He loaded several boxes of tiles into the back and said that they were remnants from a big job.  He wouldn't take any payment, he just told me to be a good teacher and to share them with other teachers.  These are the same tiles:)  Some have never been used, some sets have been given away and lent out, and every time I use my set I think of that incredibly nice man:)
These digits and place value cards I had totally forgotten about!  They make a great interactive way to review place value.  One team of students get the place value cards and they have to line up in the right order without talking.  After reading a number aloud, several times, a second team takes the numbers and stands at the right "place value" in line.    
I literally inherited these cool space containers from one of my longtime colleagues who passed away last summer.  I chose to use them for all of my smaller items - like die, play money, and spinners.  The crates give me the ability to pull them out or slide them without moving a stack of small boxes.
This is what the final product looks like.  The big blue tub slides out like a drawer, and other frequently used items are in the front of the cupboard.  Like I said, not pretty, but functional.
A list of what is in each tub or crate is broken down by shelf and taped to the inside of the cupboard door.  Hopefully, that way I won't forget what is in the depths of my cupboard and it should make easier for students to access items.
 
Next were the crayons.  I had seen this pin on Pinterest from Going Nutty In Ms. Squirrel's Class.


And the dang thing will not center!  I knew that the drawers would not fit in my cupboard, and that they would not alleviate the traffic jam at the crayons.  So, I sorted them into more Space Savers.
It works:)

And now onto BIG LOTS!  After surveying all of my remaining containers, I realized that I did not have any that would hold the Read 180 audio books and look nice on the bookcase.  So, I went to the Mother Store (it is right next to the distribution center), to look specifically for the right containers.  Big mistake!  I had not had the luxury of meandering through Big Lots in years.  But look at what I found!  I wanted to get it out there because things don't last very long at Big Lots.
Contact paper for $2 a roll!  Again, I blame this purchase on Pinterest.
Pots and Pans Vertical Organizer - $3.50!  It can be used for files, or to organize construction paper (which is what I plan on using it for).  So much cheaper than desktop vertical organizer.
Two big plastic tablecloths for $2.  I have a bright pink one on one of the walls in my classroom framed out with border like a bulletin board.  Tablecloths are so easy to put up on the wall and last forever!  Or they can be used as a cheap drop-cloth for when the kids are painting.
 They had thicker tablecloths in a variety of patterns and colors for $4.25.  And if you teach 5th grade and do Colonial America, they had cool flag themed ones with the 4th of July stuff.
They had the cutest plates!  I use them for border accents and to frame letters for bulletin boards.  Cute colors, shapes, and patterns for $1-$2!
In the school supply section they had these beautiful file folders, 12 for $2 and 8 for $3!
Not to mention Post-it notes for $1.50 and huge bottles of hand sanitizer for $2.

And I didn't find the right organizers for my Read180 audio books.  Please don't judge me....Now I have to figure out how to smuggle my deals past the secretaries tomorrow...













Monday, May 27, 2013

What Will I Do Differently?

Well, this is the 4th post of the week, and the 2nd of the day.  And I blame it all on Kim @ Finding JOY in 6th Grade.
 
She is hosting her FIRST LINKY PARTY, and because she has been so encouraging to me, I am going to try to make it my first LINKY party.   Oy, I hope this works:)

1.  For some insane reason, for the last two years, I have had to go to week-long trainings the week of BACK-TO-SCHOOL NIGHT!  This next school year, they have promised me that it will not happen again.  It seems like ages since I was able to WOW the parents at the start of the year.  It sets the tone for the year, and I wasn't even there for the last one.  Instead of being that fantastically organized teacher who knows her stuff, I was the chick that wasn't even there for it.  Not a great first impression:(  I have some tricks and ideas up my sleeve that I will share when we get closer to it!
2.  This one goes with the first, but beyond Back-To-School Night. 
    • Goal-setting conferences with parents and students in the first month.
    • One late afternoon every 2 weeks will be designated as "office hours" for drop in chats.
    • Use Edmodo or a blog to communicate with parents regarding lessons/units and classroom management on a regular basis.
    • At least 3 positive notes and phone calls a week - sometimes, I get tunnel vision about the ones that misbehave.
    • Call parents about behavior BEFORE it becomes a real problem.
 Some of these seem like no-brainers, but the majority of our parents are Spanish speakers and our translators are scarce.  I have to make more of an effort this year...
3.  One of the problems with Read 180 is that it is not big on writing anything beyond paragraphs.  Not to mention that writing with my kids is painful and slow.  I have some great frames for Perfect Paragraphs (which I will share in a later post:), but we seldom get to a multi-paragraph essay.  I want them to write daily in a journal, and do WEEKLY WRITING ASSIGNMENTS, even if it means deviating from "the program."  Hopefully, there aren't any Read 180 spies out there....shhhhhh!

And my last one seems more like a personal goal...
4.  This last year was tough, and I baked more than I worked out.  Consequently, I didn't feel strong and fit.  When I work out in the morning before work, the morning goes so much better.  The normal stresses of the day roll right off me after a morning workout, and that means that I am a better balanced teacher.  It is a win-win situation if teacher takes care of herself!

Okay blogland peoples, you need to help me stay focused on my goals!  And remind me of them if I post anymore pictures of baked goodies (not that I might go underground with my baking:)!  What are your goals?  Go on over to Kim's blog and link up to share your goals!

joyin6th Homepage
Oh my gosh!  I think I did it!


Quick Lesson for Memorial Day


This post would have been more timely last week,  but since we are out so early this year, I didn't get a chance to do this with my students.  They were in too much of a party mood on Friday, and rightfully so with it being our last day:). 

Unfortunately, unless they have a real connection to the military, too many of our students think of "war" in the terms of a first-person shooter game and Memorial Day as a day off school.  I came across these video clips a few years ago, and wanted to share them just in case anyone was looking for a quick simple, but effective lesson for Memorial Day.  

History Channel Memorial Day Photos
1.  Usually, I will ask them to do a Think-Write-Pair-Share about what they think Memorial Day is about. Depending on their background, they usually do not have much of an idea past the fact that they get to sleep in.  
2.  Then we watch some great short videos from the History Channel that not only explain the history of Memorial Day, but demonstrate the reality of it with montage of footage from memorial services in the field, and formal military funerals at home. There are several to choose from at the link above.  Which ones I show depends on the maturity of the group, and if they have any family members currently in the military (not too many bases in our area anymore).  At the middle school level, these videos almost always get a quiet and somber response.
3.  Then we revisit and revise their Think-Write-Pair-Share. 
4.  To close, we brainstorm ways we can honor the men and women who lost their lives while serving in our military.

My brother just retired from the Air Force, and I am so thankful that survived his multiple deployments relatively intact.  Some people hear Air Force, and automatically assume he spent all of time at a "safe airfield."   He was in the Security Forces and actually spent most of his deployments on convoy protection, recruiting and training local police, providing cover for forward bases, and knocking down doors.  So today, I am so very thankful that he is home with his family, but very aware that too many of his friends are not.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Last Day Blues

Today was our last day with the kids.  Part of me is so happy and relieved, and the other part is sad with a little dash of anxious.  I left after our Staff Luncheon - well, I left after I put away all the leftovers, including all of the other brownies, and made sure all the office staff and admin had gotten something to eat (they were a little busy today...eek!).  
These were my brownies...and they were all gone:)
One of my best friends and colleagues told me that for the sake of the staff and her wardrobe, I had to either stop baking or start baking non-fat yummies .  She might have a point.  This has been a stressful year, so the staff has had coffee cake, blueberry buttermilk cake, cream cheese praline pastries, blueberry muffins, chocolate...did you think that the OCD part of this blog was just limited to the classroom?

So after I compulsively cleaned up and fed everyone, I ran back in to my classroom, grabbed my purse, and hurriedly left.  Going back into the empty room always makes me sad.  I just can't face it right after the kids leave. Before school starts I can spend days happily puttering around in my room.  Before school starts I am hopeful and excited about what the year may bring.  The last day makes me sad.  Sad about the moments that I can never recapture, sad about the projects we never got to, and sad that they grew up and left AGAIN:)  You would think that I would be used to that part after 25 years.

It usually takes a restless weekend before I can go back and face the classroom.  I will wander around the house, starting little projects and leaving them to take a little nap.  Lauren (Life in Middle School) and I have already been texting about what days we are going in next week, what notebooks we are going to work on, and making me a blog button for you all to grab.  My mind keeps jumping from one thing to another and will not turn off.

So tomorrow, I will work in the yard, clean the house, and make time for a nap.  Maybe by Sunday I can focus enough to make a list of what I need to accomplish over the summer break.  And on Tuesday, I will have to go back to my sad empty classroom, but I will open the windows, and play my new Amy Grant CD as I tear down.  Tuesday will be soon enough to clean out and reorganize for a good jump start on a new year.

If you have not finished your year, enjoy your last days with this year's crop!  Try to throw in one more activity or project before they go.  And then enjoy your summer break!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

End of the Year Meetings

We are winding down our year, with only a day and half left, and running out of energy and time.  Our 6th grade Field Day was today (not to mention the whirlwind of activities for the upper grades).  The kids had a great time - snow cones, popcorn, crafts, archery, mini putt-putt golf, and too many other things to remember.  The teachers are exhausted.  Grades are due, the kids are done, and we still need to meet one more time as a grade level for civilized conversation regarding Field Day.   No drama, but instead of sitting in a meeting 10 months from now trying to remember that "great idea" we had last spring...we decided to simply have lunch together.

End of the year meetings are hard.  Everyone is tired and cranky, a little sweetness goes a long way to encourage the positive:)  To encourage ("bribe" is so harsh) people to come and meet, I promised cookies.  So, while working on grades tonight, I baked up a little "positive atmosphere."  When I was little, I remember asking my grandmother why we had to get out the good china, and make cookies for her Bridge Club and DAR meetings (yep, I had that grandma:).  She told me that good china and cookies reminded everyone to use their manners.  I don't bring out Grandma's china for 6th grade meetings, but her cookies can sure put a smile on a few tired teachers faces. 
It has been a long year, so I made chocolate chip cookies with her wooden spoon and tried a recipe that I have never before.  The recipe card said, "Chewy Chocolate Cookies," and from the way it was written I have a feeling that it might have been my great grandmothers.  This is a recipe that was used when sweet butter was its own food group.  They are delicious, and sooooo bad for you!  But if I hadn't already sent out that email promising cookies at the meeting, I would be tempted to keep them myself.  If you want the recipe, I will be happy to share it.

Last week, for one of our quickly scheduled pre-Field Day morning planning meetings, I made muffins.
These are not Grandma's recipe, but a Pinterest find.  I had never made muffins before I found this recipe.  Sally at {sally's baking addiction} is amazing!  She explains how to make the muffins pop like the bakery ones.  The blueberry muffins and the chocolate chip muffins have been big hits with my colleagues (and contractors) this year:)

Home-baked goodies really do bring people together and make the meetings go a little faster.  Not only will my colleagues be happy tomorrow, but I feel better - baking soothes my soul, and this has been a rough year.  I am off to bed!  Please accept my apologies if you checked in on my modest blog and are now doing some OCD baking:)

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Organizational Progress

Well, for some strange reason there were not a lot of students at Saturday School today:)  With only 4 and 1/2 days to go (not that I am counting:), my guess is that most of them slept in and got a head start on summer.  

I did have a few gems show up to try and bring up their grades.  One in particular has made my year with his change in attitude and turn around.  He has been coming to every HW Club and Saturday School for the last 2 months in an effort to bring his grades up.  Last week he was doing some proportions - something that he refused to even try 3 months ago - and as I was watching him work, he looked up at me, grinned and said, "I'm really doing this!" It made my teacher heart swell with pride and I had to wipe away a few tears.  Yep, I am a teacher:)

With so few students, I was able to do some more organizing.  One of my colleagues was good enough to come by this morning and loaded my bookcases in his van, so I made real progress on the closet.  Remember what it looked like?
Now it looks a little bit better:)

There was a metal shop style bookcase in the closet to start with, but I added the two wooden-like-substance bookcases (the other one is to the right) from home.  This one is holding my Social Studies resources on five of the shelves, with one shelf for my Language Arts reference books.  The gray binders are my Interact units (they are so old that the pretty stickers would not stick to them, so I will need to find newer binders).  Some of you might be worried about my Vin poster...not to worry, he will be coming home to inspire me in my yet to be finished home gym:)
The magazine holders for Ikea worked perfectly.  They are divided by civilization with my reference books for each in between.  I have quite a few nice coffee table type books because I worked at a used bookstore while I was doing my student teaching, and I got first pick of the books as they came in to the store.  There was plenty of room for my "teacher materials" for all subjects.
These are the Math shelves.  Our textbook series comes with a ton of books.  All of it has been in two different places, divided up between what I use on a regular basis and what I have to keep track of to return to the librarian.  It makes me feel better to have them in one place.
My regular Language Arts textbooks are numerous and took up almost an entire shelf.  The Read 180 teacher materials took up most of another one.  The blue basket is holding Read 180 worksheets/graphic organizers that we use on a regular basis.  On the bottom shelf (not in picture) are the Bridges literature (leveled) books that I use for reading HW with my kids.  Love those books!  Short stories with coaching tips throughout and perfect for responding to in their Reading Logs. 
This was the middle cupboard behind the white board before...

And this is after...
Now instead of housing all of my teacher workbooks, the space behind the board holds all of my class and lit circle sets of non-fiction and fiction books.  The books are all stacked so I can see what is in the back row.  I had (too) many baskets and tubs to choose from, but I decided that I liked them stacked - easier access.  The smaller (and lower reading level) sets fit into little tubs that I turned onto their sides.  Any novel that I am fortunate enough to have the audio-book for has the audio with it.  The singles (new Harry Potter and Rick Riordan novels) are on the bottom right.  The little baskets hold the tape cassette players and CD players for checkout.  The sliding door on this cupboard is a little difficult to get a grasp on, so it will provide all the security that I need for the audio equipment.

There are two more cupboards behind the boards, one holds all of my class sets of student textbooks and the other is a work in progress.  Most of the rest will have to wait until this week is over.  As much as I would love to turn my back and organize away, that would just be inviting murder and mayhem:)  Did I mention that we just have 4 and 1/2 days to go?

Monday, May 13, 2013

OMG! I did have a DITTO book!

It is true!  I found a ditto book in my cupboard today.  Please accept my apology for the statement in my previous post regarding dittos.

Not only that, but I found several file folders full of transparencies.  This is what we had to use in the ancient times if we wanted our students to SEE a map or a picture of something (oh, I miss the smell of burning plastic in the morning).  The color ones were expensive and passed around like sacred tools of learning.  You can laugh, but it is true!  I cannot believe that I taught without Google Images:)


I have to admit that I have not had an overhead projector in my room for at least 5 years, and for at least 2 years before that it was in my closet just in case that newfangled camera and projector broke.  Needless to say, these items went in to the "give away" or "sell" bin.  Maybe some educational museum will be interested.

Also, lurking in my cupboard was this beauty.


This one I am keeping.  I cannot bring myself to put it in the bin.  It hasn't been used in years, but it seems wrong to give up.  It was so much a part of the classroom routine in the olden days.  Is there a DOL support group out there?

Today it was over 100 degrees at my lovely school site, and my fickle air conditioner was ineffectively working as hard as it could, so I only stayed after for a little bit.  However, I did get the Social Studies workbook/resources sorted and in their new containers.  Although I might have to redo them because now that I look at them I can see that the labels do not line up - over time, that sort of thing will make me crazy.

And then I did the Science...

Apparently, I have a few more things for Social Studies.  There is something not right about this picture.  To be fair, I put about 10 things in the give-away bin.  So there would have been three magazine holders, and not just two.  However, I do have one of the best science resource books ever printed.  And it makes up for a lot.


This is a crazy good book for teaching Earth Science, especially if you do not have access to a lab or running water in your room.  It has incredible paper models of just about everything.  The sea-floor spreading one is possibly my favorite, but there is one for rivers, glaciers, faults, erosion, and just about whatever you need.  It is OUT of PRINT!  So if you are lucky enough to have one, hold on to it.  If you are not lucky enough to have it, keep an eye out for it on eBay and other second-hand sites.  We tried to buy it for the whole 6th grade and the only ones we could find were outrageously expensive (Amazon).  Maybe Scholastic will get the hint and reprint or publish a new edition.

Still waiting for confirmation on my schedule for next year, so I have decided to assume the best and organize as planned.  Check back later in the week!  I might find another ditto book or clay tablet with stylus.  Wait, I think we made those one year...

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Saturday School

Way back in August of last year, I vaguely remember saying something crazy like, "I want to teach Saturday School so I can have extra time to help those struggling students."  But what I think that what  I was really saying was really something like, "If I come in to do Saturday School, then I can clean and organize while those kids work on missing assignments and leave me alone."

You can imagine what has really happened during Saturday School this year in my classroom.  The only cleaning happened after I let them do cave paintings.  And the only organizing that I have done has been done for 6th grade notebooks and backpacks - which secretly amuses me... the things they keep in those cavernous black holes make me laugh almost as much as the panicked look on their face when I tell them to dump everything out on the floor:)

As this year winds down, and we only have one more Saturday School to go, I have to admit that for the most part I have enjoyed Saturday School.  I always dread getting up and going, but once I am there it really isn't so bad.  We have one to two a month, depending on the holidays, and I have missed one because I was at a training and another because it the same weekend as the Road to California quilt show.  There was really only one Saturday morning that I felt was more policing than teaching - there were two very unhappy 8th graders determined to make everyone else unhappy too (and I was abandoned by Lauren from Life in Middle School :).

Usually, I have the 6th graders and the occasional 7th grader.  The rules are simple on Saturday mornings in my class; be respectful and do school work.  Having a basically self-contained class on a huge campus, it has been nice to get to know other kids.  Along with several of my own class, there are other regular attendees and I have begun to think of them as my "other class."  They swing by and ask during the week to make sure I will be there on Saturday.  It has been more like RTI than the Breakfast Club for most students.  We have made foldables for study guides, reviewed math concepts, done extra time on Read 180 and System 44, and have done the occasional art project.

This morning was especially sweet because several of my own kiddos with missing work really made an effort and made progress.  One has been especially tough to connect with, and it felt as if we actually made progress in that area too:)

So instead of cleaning and organizing my cupboard today, I multi-tasked as only teachers can do.  I spent the morning explaining how to use a hundreds chart to add and subtract, doing proportions, variable equations, and deciphered vocabulary for Egypt and Kush.  Darn those kids for keeping me from organizing! :) Oh well, the cleaning and organizing can wait because in another ten days, they will be onto 7th grade.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Closet vs. Ikea

Just a quick post today!  Got some news today about what I might or might not be teaching next year, and I am still sorting through the emotions.  I hate this time of year when the master schedule is still in rough draft.  I like to know exactly what I am doing for the next school year, oh around...Christmas.  And in the reality of middle school master scheduling, that just does not happen:)  So, I will fret and clean until I find out what I am teaching.  

Before you look at this next picture, you need to remember that I have had very little time to indulge in my OCD tendencies at  school over the last few years - I had to fly out the door to get home before my father's caregiver left.  And that this cupboard contains what is left of four big boxes of workbooks and resources from the room of one of my colleagues who passed away last summer.  No one had had the heart to sort through her stuff, and the poor teacher who had her room now was not sure what to do with it all.  So over the last week I sorted through the shelves and boxes, deciding what to throw away, give away, or keep.  It was a little bit like an educational archaeological dig through thirty-five years of teaching, mixed with bittersweet memories and amazement at the items that I discovered or rediscovered. 


As you can see, I have a little bit of stuff to still sort through and clean out.  However, there are NO ditto books (look it up if you are too young to get it:).  I am seriously thinking about selling some of it on eBay.  And, I wonder if I am on the only one still on a quest to find the perfect workbook for each subject and strand?


This is the walk-in-closet.  And yes, that is a poster of Vin Diesel.  One of my students gave it to me, and since I love the Diesel, I didn't mind:)  The blue tubs are empty now - they did hold the extra R-Books and Decodables for Read 180.  (For those of you who don't know, Read 180 paraphernalia takes up a mind-boggling amount of space and I teach three other subjects.) Those have been moved into an empty upper cupboard.  The Alpha Smarts are one of those things that another teacher was giving away, and I snatched from the heap.  Really not sure if I am going to keep them or pass them on - maybe Special Ed can use them.  The shelves are full of class/lit circle sets of novels.  The cardboard box holds my new audio books for the Rick Riordan series and Harry Potter books - it pays to be talking to the categorical clerk at the right moment:)  And I am obligated to tell you that there were two boxes of standard filled notebooks that were being broken down that were removed for the picture.  I had been working my way through them in spare moments and I shoved them in the closet to make the room look nicer for a distinguished visitor's walk through.

Cupboard and closet...meet my friend Ikea.

And I made a little run to Ikea this weekend.  5 packs of magazine holders for $1.99!  Twenty packs of them - I didn't want an excuse to go back there too soon, their chocolate is delicious!  

Since some of my next year's assignment is still up in the air, I will start on organizing my teacher resources.  Hopefully, there will be a prettier and slightly more obsessive picture to show you this weekend!

Happy Teacher Appreciation Day!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Reverse the Countdown

So this has been a long week.  Who am I kidding?  It has been a long year with this group, but the last month has actually hurt.

I had high expectations for this year.  The last ten years have been spent caring for my elderly parents.  Many of us have done it; juggling work, late nights, ever increasing hospital stays, and desperately trying to take care of everyone but ourselves.  With my mother already gone, and my father passing away last summer,  I was heartbroken and a little lost.  I thought that going back to work would be great, and that having all that extra time for school again could really be a good thing.  Not necessarily what really happened.

I worked hard, but not as smart as I have in the past.  My kids showed tremendous growth, but every Lexile was battle.  My mojo was off, my Zen didn't have its zing, and I was desperately looking towards vacations as I had never done before.

Worst of all, I had started to daydream about the fantasy class of yesteryear.  You know,  the class from last year that did transitions without having to practice them forty billion times? The group that cheered when it was time to start math, who begged for more time to read, and who loved me?  Oh, last year's group always looks better with a little time and distance.

With testing over, I had fallen into that countdown mode.  I was determined to not redecorate the classroom.  Why bother when it just all has to come down in 20 days, right?   I was so tired.  Other teachers do it every year, why can't I?  That lasted about two days.  I couldn't do it.

Earlier this week, I was digging through my bulletin board cupboard looking for the next workshop's vocabulary word strips when one of my little darlings for HW Club came in and said, "Finally!"

"Finally what?" I asked.

"We're putting stuff up again.  It is boring in here," she replied with all the tact of a sixth grader in spring.

After sighing, and thinking that to myself that I was really only going to put up the vocabulary words, I looked around the room and agreed with her.  So instead of leaving after the kids did and going by Brighton on the way home (shiny things make a girl feel good), I put the room back together and tried a few new things too.

"Trial" Math Warm Up and Quotation Board








This is just a trial board, to work out the kinks for next year.  I think I am going to invest in a few clipboards to hang to hold the daily problems.  I could get all crafty and paint them or use contact paper to make them pretty.  Right now I have binder clips on construction paper.  The quotes will have to go on tag board with clips.  The warm up has been on the chalkboard, but this really sets a tone as an established routine and expectation.

A new word count board went up with their Reading Counts stats, and their vocabulary words.  And since it was pointed out to me by several of my little darlings that we had "needed the maps" and they weren't on the wall, they went back up in the corner above the printer.  The cupboard doors all got new brightly colored labels, and for the white board labels with our Agenda and other daily business, I used the "fancy scissors" (I was pleased to remember that they make a girl feel good too).

So, this has been a long week, but it was all worth it.  The last few days have been better.  The kids were excited and thrilled to see the new stuff up.  They have magically started to remember how to get through their rotations without having traffic jams.  I have been reminded that good things are happening in my classroom, and that it isn't over yet.  My favorite moment was when one of my tough jaded seventh graders came in the first day the room was back up and smiled, "Hey, its a happy room again."  He was right:)  It looks like the first week of school and it feels like the countdown clock has been reset.