August 15, 2014

Week One = Done!

You guys, I'm about 1,000% positive I have never been this exhausted in my whole life. They say that there's no tired like "first week of school as a teacher" tired. And, I don't know who they are but they are not kidding. I know that! Take a quick peek at what accidentally fell into my buggy at the Dollar General this afternoon...

So, all in all, I'd say it was a good week. If I had to label my class this year in one word, it would be...
They are colorful. They are delightful and adorable and happy and smiley and energetic and eager and they have personalities that are thisssssssssssss big! We had some excellent moments this week where I thought they were the best class I've ever seen. And, well, in the interest of full disclosure, we had some other moments, too. You know, those moments where you just grit your teeth and think happy thoughts and try to ignore the desire to run from the room screaming. Just me? Ha.
But, really. They're dolls and I think I'll keep them.
We've done a LOT this week.
So, here's a list of things we've been working on...
1. Shout Outs
This year, I wanted to give my kiddos a chance to write down their Shout Outs. We just said them at Morning Meeting last year and while that worked okay, sometimes we had a tooooon and sometimes we had none and it was all very random. So, I got this cute little mailbox at JoAnn's and placed some index cards where the kids can get to them and have been encouraging them to encourage their friends. This has caught on like wildfire, ya'll! I'm sure it will taper off, but right now they're doing about 6 or 7 a day! And, I read every one of them out loud every afternoon because I love to see them complimenting each other. It warms my teacher heart, for reals.

Not like Zone 2, y'all. Zone 0. That's really quiet.
2. Writer's Workshop
I think I've mentioned this before, but one of my favorite things to teach is Writing. I used to HATE it because I just didn't even know where to start. But, I think my first grade days have really come in handy because, in a lot of ways, third graders are still working on many of the same things. And, I know how to break it down for them because I HAD to in first grade. Does that makes sense?
So, all that to say, I need to make a confession.
This year, we just jumped right in. We had those kids writing complete paragraphs with topic sentences and all that jazz the first day of school and guess what? I can't do it. I can't just jump right in. I can't have them writing incorrectly all year with no punctuation and incomplete sentences and all that jazz.
I just can't.
I'm going to start with basics. I always do and I don't care what the pacing guide says. I know what my kids need.
Once I changed up the plan a little, the kids have LOVED writing! We started with Quick Writes. We do this every year and it just helps them to build stamina with writing. We teach them to brainstorm a topic (using a thinking map, woot woot!) and then to choose one of those topics and write about it. I model it for them each day and then give them the opportunity to practice. We all sit together on the carpet during this time and I play music from our Writing Playlist (Jack Johnson, Norah Jones, music like that). It's just delightful, y'all.

It blew their minds to make heart-shaped brainstorming maps!

Today we brainstormed places they've been and places they want to go.

After they brainstorm, they circle one of their ideas and then they just write about it. I don't check it or make them correct it. It's just all about developing stamina and a joy of writing. After a week of this, then I start doing mini-lessons and encouraging them to incorporate our new skills into their writing.

I realize that the writing above contains literally no periods. Believe me, we'll work on it. Right now, I'm just pleased as punch that they're learning how to keep writing and not give up.
I have to say, they've written a ton! We've only done this two days, so hopefully taking the time up front to get them excited about writing and teaching the basics will pay off. And, the plan is to use flow maps (another thinking map!) to write well-developed paragraphs.
3. Problem Solving
Today, after our first math test (which they ROCKED! HALLELUJAH.) I showed my kids the strategy we're going to use this year to solve word problems. Ive seen variations of this all over Pinterest, so I take no credit. I think the idea came from I just wanted a step-by-step process for them to follow so they know exactly what to do.

The things I liked most about this strategy were that they have to name the operation they used to solve and that they have to use the inverse operation to check. And, ya'll, I had no intention to talk about any inverse operations except for addition. But, my kiddos started naming them all and I decided to take advantage of it! Ha. So, I made a little mini-anchor chart to hang up that they can use to remind themselves what operation they need to use to check their answers.
(Also, the blank white sheets are for us to list key words for each operation.)

I gave the kids a copy of this to fill out while I made oour big one and I wanted them to have a copy to keep in their Math Notebooks to refer to.
Fingers crossed this will help my kids become expert problem solvers!
4. Reader's Toolbox
Have you ever had a brilliant idea that you're totally convinced will save the world and then you realize that someone thought of it long ago? Well, that's the case here. Ha. My friend Claire and I were talking on the way home from PD one day this summer about comprehension. She made the comment that the skills they learn are tools to help them read and we should just call them that. We both kind of looked at each other and started talking at the same time. "Oh my gosh, let's make a toolbox! And then we can give each skill a tool and then the kids can put them in the notebooks and use them!" We were pretty darn proud of ourselves, I have to say.
Then, we searched it on Pinterest and realized that, um, we're dorks. Ha. There are many, many, many variations of this all over blog-land. But, we still just kind of made our own variation and I'm loving it so far!

So, in their toolboxes, they have an envelope glued to the front. This is where they put the cut-outs (tools).

Then, for each skill, we have a page with a picture of the tool, a place where they write what it means and why good reader's do this skill and then a list of sentence starters. Then, throughout the week, we encouraged them to write about their visualizing using the starters.

I'm making a big anchor chart that I can add each skill/tool to. Then, when we have them all, I'll add this chart over at our Guided Reading area for us to refer to.
I'll be sure to share some more of this once we do a little more. A special shout out to Claire for making all this cute stuff, though! She's a computer whiz and whips this stuff up in no time! Thanks, Claire Bear :)
5. Filling Up the Classroom
The classroom is junking up right nicely :) Bulletin boards are a lot more fun when there's actually stuff on them. Here's what has changed around the room already...

Building stamina for daily five...

Love this newe space where I can hang their cute, cute work...

If one more kid asked me for water this week, I maybe would have cried. So, we had to use our Morning Meeting yesterday to make a list of times when water is allowed and when it's not. Hint: mostly it's not allowed ever...

Adding some names to our Super Improvers poster already...

We started our Exit Tickets, too...
6. Don't Judge...
If there's one thing that I just LOATHE as a teacher, it's tissues to clean dry-erase marker boards. Mostly, because I'm an OCD neat-freak and I hate having nasty, black tissues that break apart and leave trails all around my classroom. So, every year, I go to Dollar General and buy sponges for the kids to use to erase their marker boards.
Well, I went today and I couldn't find them. And, I reallyreallyreally didn't want to go anywhere else.
So, I bought shower gel sponges. Yes, yes I did.

They were 5 for a dollar and you can't beat that! They're colorful and smallish and they even have a string! Ha! I couldn't stop laughing. So random, but I don't see any reason why they shouldn't work. I'll keep you posted.
7. Ryan Grace
And, this has nothing to do with school, but look at my little niece, ya'll.
She's four months old today and I love her to pieces, for real.

I could eat her alive.
So, that's my week. I am now going to lay in my bed, eat some candy and mindlessly surf the internet until I fall asleep. And, in case you're wondering, I couldn't be happier about it.
Thanks for reading!


Miss Dermont said...

Hi Lindsay!
I'm a teacher from NZ and love following your blog. Love the readers toolbox... what a great idea to put all the tools and examples into one book! Just wondering if you could tell me a bit more about how your exit passes work? Looks like a great way to get feedback from the kids at the end of each day.

Lindsay said...


Basically I just give them a problem to work at the end of the class to help me see if they are understanding what we're doing. I have them make a green dot if they understand, a yellow dot if they kind of understand but need more practice and a red dot if they do not understand at all. I want them to start taking notice of whether or not they are getting what I'm teaching. In all honesty, this is the first year I've done this and I only did it once last week. It's something I need to get in the habit of doing!!