Saturday, August 30, 2014

Spotted in 2nd

What a wonderful week one in second grade! Feels good to be back in second, after a decade in first. There is so much I love about teaching first graders but second graders ROCK! 
Our theme at school this year is 'Our Passion is Learning'. Here is my new team with our new shirts:
We decided to make our 2nd grade theme 'Our Passion is Making Connections' and used Scrabble letters to decorate:
After a successful Meet the Teacher night (I made a cute tag with a recorded message and a glow bracelet attached - and found out later one of my students slept with it, he liked it so much) 
it was time for the FIRST DAY OF SECOND GRADE!
On the first day, we watched a Kid President speech about the first day of school. 
My students LOVE listening to the wise words of Kid President! Later we watched a youtube video describing the game Scrabble. Students used paper Scrabble letters to make their name and add up their score. Next, we took our names and connected them to make our classroom Scrabble puzzle! I was pleased that a student declared he earned 50 extra points for using all his letters. It was a fun, engaging activity for our first day.

I am thankful we are encouraged to spend most of week one establishing community in our classroom. I completely agree that the better the foundation is built in the classroom, the more likely we will have a balanced year together. I found this amazing pin on Pinterest with the BEST book! I literally rushed to the Grapevine Library to snag it! It sums up exactly how I've felt all summer: You're Finally Here! and keeps asking Where have you been? It was a fun read and students wrote telling me where they have been this summer. Next year I hope to use a few more parts of the plan. 

We spent time playing 'getting-to-know-you' games,
sharing about ourselves in Circle Up, listening to each other while speaking from the Share Chair... plus we reviewed Daily 5, the basics of Writer's Workshop, reviewed making 10 in Math and blogged our Popplet in Kidblog showing what we know, safety in Science and communities in Social Studies. 
I am enjoying getting to know a new group of children, although I am familiar with most of them from last year. One of my favorite activities we did was they made 'Second Grade Selfies' to tell me about themselves. CUTE!

After they created their selfies, I passed out their iPads (we are a digital classroom and have 1:1 iPads - it's AWESOME). We discussed digital expectations and how to use a few of the basics, including the camera and how to use photos appropriately in class. Students took their own selfie and made it the background for their own iPad.
WHEW!! What a busy first week in second grade...and those were just a few of the highlights! I'm excited for the rest of the year!! Next week I expect to get my Donor's Choose order and I'm working to prepare my Maker's Space for PLT time. More to come on that and how I'm designing our PLT (Personalized Learning Time). So, tell was YOUR first week back?

Monday, August 18, 2014

A Work in Progress

Every school year is a fresh start with new children and we wipe the slate clean for a new adventure. We work super hard to prepare our rooms knowing how important an inviting learning environment impacts our students, and ourselves! My room may look clean, but only I know what is shoved in those closed cabinet doors, about to tumble out should anyone open them. (hehe) I love this ecard:
I know it is a joke, but it is SO true. ; ) So, I spent a few days in my room cleaning cabinets out. And I mean, CLEANING! I was in a mood to just lose the extra items that are just taking up space. It's very much like my clothes closet ("I'll wear this shirt with the right skirt, whenever I find the right skirt to wear..." and NEVER wear the shirt) So I just got rid of it all. My room is neater, not cluttered and what is left has a purpose. I'm thankful I had tons of trash bags in my trash can. Eight bags and several old, dusty crates later:
Before I show you the progress on my room, I want to share a few projects I completed, thanks to ideas borrowed from creative people on Pinterest. : ) One project is my 'Share Chair' - I thought this was a great way to clean up an old stool in my classroom. I hardly ever sit on it but my students love to. I followed most of the directions, but I did not sand it (see link above for complete directions). I figure if it chips, I will just touch up the paint. Here is my result:
Another project I have been wanting to complete are crate chairs. There are many ways to make this project and I completely intended to go to Lowe's and get the plywood cut, cover the wood with cute, durable fabric and batting, all to provide extra storage and flexible seating for my students. However... I spent some of my summer relaxing and now it's time to get ready for school - so I just flipped the crates over, laced some ribbon through the holes for decoration and tied a chair pad from WalMart on the top and it's all set!! Here is my final product:
I figure if my students really love these chairs, I can add the plywood later if I need storage but after my big clean up, I don't need the space anyway. : ) *The blue splash mat hanging on the wall is a bath mat from Ikea. I'm planning to have students use it by placing it on the floor and having a space to sit and work/read independently. I also have an alligator for buddy reading.

Last year I began exploring flexible seating in my classroom. Honestly, I was surprised. I had always thought that if my students didn't have a clear boundary to work in, they would be off task. Actually, it seems opposite of that. What instead they need are clear expectations of how to behave where ever they work. Whether that is in a chair, on the floor, outside at a picnic table, walking the halls, in the cafeteria, etc. They need expectations in place, then let them work! I brought some laundry baskets from home last year and my first graders LOVED sitting inside while they worked. 
Some students preferred to lounge on a beanbag or on pillows, while some students preferred to sit in a chair at a table. 
This year I wanted to add more options. I bought 5 stools at Ikea for my teacher table, I have 8 crate chairs, 2 beanbags, 2 baskets, and several pillows I plan to place around a low table. I am excited to see if my students enjoy it this year! I submitted a request on DonorsChoose to add more options to my classroom. I especially excited about the movement disks - perfect for my students who need to move while they work and listen! So, hopefully more to come on that later this year.

In my classroom this year, I want to continue to move away from a 'front' of the room but instead have learning spots or zones. I have a spot for small groups/1:1 instruction, a spot for our entire group to meet, a spot for our supplies, a spot for our books, a spot for our iPads, a spot for our projector to show us information. I tried to set up the room to encourage movement and collaboration, no limited work spaces. As I mentioned before, I will work with my students to define expectations for what engaged learning looks and sounds like (and we will be silly and show what it does NOT look and sound like - they LOVE that one!) I was not able to narrow the colors down to only 2-3 but I tried to decorate the room with a clean, inviting look. Most walls have black spaces for future anchor charts and student work. One wall has blue paper, since we do not have a window - it sometimes tricks me into thinking it's the big, blue sky. ; ) Here are a few glances at my (always!) work in progress. 
From the door:
Next corner:

Across from the door:
Teacher Space for small groups or 1:1 teaching: **with my new Ikea stools**
Next corner:
I have a few things to add before I meet my new friends Thursday. Knowing me, I will change something a few times before Meet the Teacher, and even after that... and possibly after the first day of school. New students bring new needs and some of this may not work... but I sure hope it does! : )

Monday, August 11, 2014

QR Code Crazy

QR Codes are one of my favorite tools. They are just so handy when working with primary students! There are several QR Code generators, web based and apps. My favorite is QR Stuff. You just copy and paste the web address and it is created for you. You can print it right away or download the QR Code to insert into a document. I can post the QR Codes on our class Facebook page or include them in an email so parents can access them easily.

I use QR Codes in a variety of ways:

*Record a message on Vocaroo and share using a QR Code (you can also use the app to record). Students or parents can listen to directions or a message. This is a fun way to give a Morning Message, especially when you have a substitute teacher. There are multiple ways to use a voice recorder and QR Codes: students can create a QR Code to share their products; students can write a story problem and solve it; students can read a story and their peers can listen as they read along. We found this especially beneficial in our Dual Language classrooms - students wrote in their first language and spoke in their second language. 
I've created a 'Welcome to Second Grade' message for my students to take home on Meet the Teacher night.  I plan to attach it to a glow stick as a treat for celebrating the end of summer and the beginning of a new year.
*Create a Student Information Google Form for parents to complete. Parents access the form by using a QR Code. This is a wonderful way to collect information straight from parents and save in your Google Drive, since Google creates a spreadsheet to collect the information. My son's previous teacher did this and it was so convenient. Plus, several parents have more than one child to take around the school in a short amount of time. This frees up parents allowing time to visit and look around. Parents can take the QR Code and complete the Student Information Form from home.

*QR Codes allow for a direct path to sites I need my students to use. We often use TodaysMeet and Infuse Learning in class. Students can scan the QR Code that I tape to their table caddies and use TodaysMeet in seconds. It also works to have students find a site quickly that we can then add it to their home screen easily.
*We often use QR Codes in the classroom for students to self-check. For example, students complete a 'Scoot' with partners, then scan the QR Codes for the answers. 

*My students LOVE to sing along to songs that support the topics we learn about. I search for songs on youtube and create QR Codes for my students. There are tons of songs practicing skip counting, counting coins, identifying shapes, etc. My students scan and sing along (and boogie) while learning!

*A QR Code can be used to share products students create. We often use Educreations and 30Hands for our students to show their learning by writing and verbalizing their thinking. QR Codes easily allow us to share those products with their parents and others.
*Last year my partner teacher created a slide show documenting our amazing year. We shared the video via QR Code with our students and their families. Now they have something to keep and remember all the fun we had together.

*I have QR Codes for our classroom Facebook page and Kidblog posted outside my classroom door. This allows others to connect with us easily.

This year I'm planning to teach my students how to make their own QR Codes. Last year, I created them for my first graders. This year I will have my second graders create their own. This is mostly because it took me a while to get the hang of how to use them. ; ) What a powerful way to communicate with others! How do you use QR Codes?

Monday, August 4, 2014

A Fresh Canvas

Walking back into my classroom after a few weeks away is one of my favorite things. Taking down the papers that cover my bookshelves is almost like going through my closet, nearly like Christmas: "I forgot all about (item that I use every year)!" My room is clean, a fresh canvas, and it is a time to make changes, to try new things. This year I am in a different room than last year (my 7th move in 15 years, if I remember correctly) and it provides opportunities for a new set up. Here is one of my BEFORE photos:

This summer I have read a few articles about consolidating colors, to prevent over stimulation and busy walls which may distract students. I really want to start working towards using only a few colors, but it costs money to replace all those things I have been adding to my classroom over the past 15 years. So, my goal is to transition a little at a time. The perfectionist in me has a hard time not using blues and greens, since we have blue cabinets and a green wall. We will see where it takes me. 

I'm excited to continue to have tables in my classroom, instead of desks. Last year I asked for tables to promote collaboration with my students. Desks are functional but in my opinion, they just hold lots of stuff and keep students confined to a location. With tables, I have observed my students scoot near those they are working with. If they need independent work time, they scoot away. I like to change the layout of my classroom often and it is easier to move a few tables vs. 20 desks. I did not miss desks one single bit last year. 

Last year I started experimenting with flexible seating, as well. This summer I was able to check out a few classrooms that provide a variety of flexible seating. I'm a huge fan! I would rather sit here on my couch and work, than in a stiff, uncomfortable chair. However, some people like a chair. So, I plan to offer a few options. I just found an amazing blog that has several ideas that I like. I'm eagerly awaiting my order from IKEA - a few stools to place around the classroom. Depending on my students, I will order more as needed. I'd love to have some Hokki stools for my movers. I am planning to set up a request on Donor's Choose to add Hokki stools to my classroom.

My 'nest' (as I refer to it with my students):
Years ago I got rid of my desk. BEST. DECISION. EVER. I do not miss it one bit. All it really did was hold stacks of stuff, which stressed me out; plus, I never sat at it (ok, except when I was 8+ months pregnant) Now I use my horseshoe table to meet with students 1:1 or in small groups. It serves as my 'desk' but I try to keep it clean. My 'nest' is my space that I keep supplies and such that I need on a daily basis. I'm excited to have a small white board behind my table for lessons. This summer I plan to make crate chairs but I have yet to complete this project. I need to get busy!

I made a nice little 'To Do List' and 'Things to Buy' list while I was sitting in my quiet room, thinking about what I want to do. I have tons of ideas - from visiting other classrooms and from Pinterest. I know I don't have room, time or money for ALL of the ideas... but I'm excited to get started!