Sunday, August 21, 2016

Celebrate the Best Year Ever (and win a TpT Gift Card)!!'d it go?  Back to School, I mean...

Mine had its highs and lows. Of course, I'm still exhausted, but I am bursting with ideas for the year!

I'll start with the lowest low. My school laptop died. Yup, the day before school started. Fortunately, our awesome school Tech Master (Marcia) gave me a student laptop loaner until she can get her hands on a replacement for me. Unfortunately, that laptop decided it doesn't like me and logged out every chance it got, particularly during my orientations.  At one point, I had all the fifth graders (about 100 kids) and their five teachers staring at me, waiting patiently, while I tried to log back on. When that didn't happen, I went on without my slide show. But, (and here's what I LOVE about kids), one of the 5th grade girls prompted me through it, predicting what I might say. (Way to go!)

Now for the high...I got a library mouse. (No picture yet; I'll post one as soon as I can get a good one of him--or her.)

Here's how it happened (and no, I didn't catch him running around the library.) I was shelving books in the 800s (literature, of course) and I had a huge brainstorm!  What if we made our theme this year "What Writers Do?" That led me to thinking about the book Library Mouse by Daniel Kirk (if you haven't read it, you need to), which led to me driving to the pet store to get our own library mouse.

More on this topic later, but here's the point of my little story. This mouse is ADORABLE! And so smart!  And the kids are SO EXCITED. As I introduced our little friend to each class this week, there were quiet squeals of excitement (I had warned them to keep it quiet so our mouse wouldn't be scared). Oh My. The joy of children is just about the best thing ever.

I want to hear your stories of your back to school week. How'd it go? Share your most memorable experiences.

Now here's for the really exciting news!  Teachers Pay Teachers is having a One Day Bonus Sale!!!  

And...they gave me a $10 gift card to give to one of you!!

Here's how you can win it. Tell us about your most memorable back to school events. If you haven't started yet, it can be from another year. Share by commenting here or on my Facebook page.

I'll pick a random winner the night of Monday, August 22 by 5 p.m. (mountain standard time). Given my battles with technology this week, I'm going to picking the winner the old-fashioned way -- yup, by drawing an entry out of hat. Nice and easy!

I'll announce the winner by commenting on the winning entry here or on the Facebook page, so be sure to check back that evening!

Start commenting! And good luck!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Priority #1 for Back to School -- Establish Classroom Routines

It's that time of year. The planning. The cutting. The laminating. The stacks of copied printables (worksheets) waiting to be sorted. The joys of Back to School!

For me, part of the fun of teaching is getting to recreate my classroom every year. What theme shall it be? Ocean, rainforest, The Wild West? The options are limitless. I get all caught up in the anticipation!

And then, I remember... I've told this story before, but I'll tell it again. It's just so stinkin' awful, it STILL makes me sick to my stomach, some twenty-odd years later.

My very first day of school as a brand-new teacher was a disaster. (O.K., so the whole experience was a disaster, but that's another story). I was incredibly anxious about setting up a thematic classroom. I was surrounded by amazing classrooms that had decor based on themes. (This was well before the days of Pinterest -- imagine how I would have done with that!)

One teacher had this elaborate teamwork theme based on how birds work together to fly in a V pattern, each taking a turn in the front. Wow. Seriously impressive.

I had no elaborate theme in mind, but a friend suggested I think about trees. They develop a network of support under the soil with their root systems. Perfect, especially since we were in Washington state. I constructed this amazing tree in the middle of my room. It was going to be a part of my discipline plan. (I think the idea was that the kids would each get a leaf to add to the tree when they had done something good -- man, what a lot of WORK!)

I spent weeks cutting out leaves, and thinking about the community I would build. I planned the first day to the minute, and designed amazing, engaging "get to know" activities.

Here's what I didn't do -- I didn't think about the logistics of the first day. I didn't know about the importance of establishing routines.  Lunch and recess were a disaster. (Duty? What's that?) Bathrooms? (Again?!?!)

The time came for the kids to leave. The bell rang. I opened the door. They left. End of a very long day. I went home and collapsed.  That night, the principal called me. He wanted to know how "William" had gotten home. I had no idea. I had opened the door -- he left. Well, it turned out that William was new to the area, and didn't know what bus to take. He hadn't made it home.

You can imagine how frantic I was. I had lost a child. On my very first day.

Fortunately, William showed up at home. The poor kid had walked.

I learned an incredibly important lesson that day. It's not about who has the cutest classroom. It's not about developing engaging lessons that will inspire the kids. It's not even about getting all the mandated assessments done.

The most important thing in the first weeks of school is about establishing routines. It's about what the kids will do when they walk through the door. It's about teaching them what your expectations are and giving them the tools to manage themselves.  It's about knowing how each child will get home.

Over the years, I've developed classroom resources that helped me to help the students manage the classroom. It got to the point, even in first grade, that I didn't have to do a whole lot of classroom management, because the kids handled it.  From taking attendance (clip charts) to assigning classroom jobs (job charts), the kids knew exactly what they need to do. And they did it.

I still love themes, and over the years, I've developed classroom management tools in lots of different themes. Here are a few examples.  Be patient with me...I'm working on making more editable, so you can customize them for your own classroom. In the meantime, you can find the entire at Tools for Classroom Management (Decor with a Purpose). If you see something you can use, but would like it in a different them, let me know!

 Attendance and Lunch Clip Chart

 Where Are We? Class Location Cards


Happy Back to School, 2016!