Sunday, September 13, 2015

Tynkering in 3rd

My new adventure this year is venturing across the building to the secondary side of school. I'm teaching THIRD graders!! I'm so fortunate to loop with my students (I have the same class, just minus a few that moved away and gained a few to fill those spots) but it is raising the bar for me to find new ideas and activities to keep them engaged. As I reflect over the first week, I want to share a few things we have enjoyed in 3rd already this year.

Before I begin, I cannot do what I do each and every day without my amazing team! There are 7 of us, 2 of whom I have worked with before. We are an eclectic group, with only 2 returning team members. We are a new mixture and I do believe we are pretty incredible!
For fun, one of my team members thought we should reenact that funny cartoon 'Why Science Teachers Should Not Have Recess Duty' We have fun, laugh, work and celebrate together!

For the first time in 17 years, I did not have crazy nerves on Meet the Teacher/Unpack Your Backpack night. Most of my students I had last year, a few I knew from other classes, only one was brand-new to our school. They walked in, gave me a hug or said hi and settled right in. They know how our classroom works, what I expect, what to look for. It was awesome and so much fun to see the children and families I'd grown to know and love last year return again for another year of learning together. Then the pressure began to rise. How do I make this year a different year? Yes, I know the curriculum will be different... but how do I make it new and engaging every day... again this year? I felt lots of anxiety. I want to be certain I'm not just teaching extended 2nd grade. This is my fear. What will I do to ensure a new learning experience THIS year?? I went for a walk at the REC to clear my mind and read this on the wall at the track:
Right then and there... I knew. This year will be GREAT!!

The first week was filled with reviewing procedures and expectations: 

*I read Dave Burgess's Teach Like A Pirate. I HIGHLY recommend this book. One of the suggestions is to begin the year with Play Dough on their tables but with a big note that says DO NOT TOUCH THE PLAY DOUGH - to catch their curiosity. Later, after welcoming the students, you explain the directions and turn them lose. Students should create something to represent themselves. (details are in Dave's book) After that, they share with others at their tables (not with the class, that can be overwhelming for some) then some can volunteer to share their own creation with the class. It is a fun, relaxing way to get to know everyone. I just walked the room and asked each student what they made and why.

*In order to get to know my students, I wrote some questions on chart paper and we did a SCOOT to allow students to answer. I have students who struggle with communicating their thoughts into written words, so some have drawn pictures. A few questions were procedural, like how they get home. The others were getting to know them and their goals for the year, like what do I (Mrs. G) need to do to support your learning this year. Getting to know each of my students is absolutely necessary. Without knowing who they are, both at school and outside of school, I cannot plan lessons or activities that are interesting to them. Knowing my students and earning their respect and trust is a Must Do so we can have a successful year of learning together.

*We are a 1:1 school and are fortunate with each student having an iPad at school as a learning tool. Part of getting started at school is reviewing how to use our learning tool properly, with good digital citizenship. We spent a lot of time discussing the right way and the wrong way to use our iPads at school. Once we had the expectations clear, we got started creating right away! We use our iPads in class as seamlessly as pencils or crayons.

*Upon returning to class from Specials one day, students found rolls of toilet paper on their tables. My directions were 'Take as many sheets as you think you will need.' and they were SO confused. 'Need for WHAT?!' they asked and I just repeated 'Take as many sheets as you think you will need.' Giggles and more giggles. It was SO silly. So they started making enormous stacks of toilet paper squares. Next time, I will give them a time frame so it doesn't go on and on. Once they started counting into the 100s I knew it was time to stop the activity. They were supposed to tell a fact about themselves for each square they pulled. We laughed and laughed. By this time, after the giggles and silliness, it was time to move on to the next thing so we just shared a few facts about ourselves and that was a wrap.  : )

*While reviewing Science Lab Safety, we used several methods of information delivery (video, songs, stories, discussion, anchor chart, etc) then tested what we knew using Kahoot! Kahoot! is a fun, interactive game to assess students. We had a good time checking our knowledge and discussing answers.

*Our superintendent Dr. Ryan challenged us all to spend a moment each Thursday to give thanks to someone for what they do. We celebrate Thank You Thursdays by using this topic at Circle Up and we write a note and/or tweet to someone thanking them. I think it is important to model this for my students, so they know who I am thankful for and why. They have the opportunity to do the same.

*One of my goals this year is to give each child a voice in our classroom. We do this each day by starting with a Circle Up. I read something this summer about having each child put their voice 'out there' each morning which allows easier communication throughout the day. Our Circle Ups have progressed so much! Last year I had a few that would pass almost every single time because they are shy or are learning to speak in English (I provide a sentence stem and they 'turn and talk' to practice with a buddy before speaking to the class). This year, they are ALL participating (another benefit of looping - they trust each other) Another outlet is our 3rd Grade Thoughts board. By the end of the week, I had students post what they thought about 3rd grade. It was insightful - some fears but mostly celebrations. As we continue on, I plan to make it more about the content but sometimes about their thoughts in general.

*Movement is important to me. My own personal children need to move, goodness... I need to move! I think it is always important but especially these first few weeks, after hanging out all summer it is hard to sit and work for a few weeks. So, we often use several types of Brain Breaks. Some are to practice our spelling words, sometimes we play Silent Speed Ball (we learned from our Principal, Dr. Cole), sometimes we walk around the building, and sometimes we DANCE! We love GoNoodle for Brain Breaks!

*We practiced all procedures often. One in particular is Read to Self. We made an Anchor Chart: find a smart spot to sit, have all your books ready, keep your eyes on your book, read the entire time and practiced... but it is REALLY fun to practice what it is NOT:
We had some good laughs with How NOT to Read to Self! Then it was time to Read to Self:

We practice this every day to build our stamina. Great readers!

*We are thrilled to have a buddy class to read to. I was so impressed that the first week of school, I had students searching for the perfect book - then practicing it - to read to their buddies. They had the oportunity to share their products (song, play, poster, game) with out buddy class about Lab Safety, since they are learning about it as well. So wonderful!

The first week is so exciting and I always enjoy getting to know my new students. This year it is absolutely fantastic just picking up where we left off. All these assessments are helpful but I know my students and I feel I have a better idea of who they are as learners already - however, I continue to ask for their input since I know very well how we change as learners constantly.

I'm excited for this new year! Each school year brings it's own challenges and celebrations. Throughout the year, follow our classroom adventures on Twitter @TynkeringIn3rd

How is YOUR year starting? Best wishes on an amazing year!

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