Sunday, August 29, 2010

Daily Assignment#3-Plans for the 1st day

Some of you have already started school and some will begin this week or next week.  For those of you who have already started, I apologize for the lateness of this blog.  However, I hope you still find it thought provoking.

In planning the first day there are several things to keep in mind.  First, consider where specialist, lunch and other events, which will impact your schedule, ocurr. Then begin planning around them.   Be prepared.  Have everything xerox, collated, cut-out, stapled, whatever is needed.  You will be much more relaxed with these things done.  You will also be ready to focus on the students and parents as they come in.

Beginning with a community building activity on the first day is essential.
Having a class meeting brings everyone together, and helps to get the parents out of the room.  Have the students sit in a circle, say their name and share something about one special person they had an opportunity to spend time with over the summer.  This stem equalizes the conversation. Make sure you share as well.

Post the schedule for the day, and read it to them, so the students know what will be happening and that there will be an end to the school day. I wouldn't put the times next to the activities because those first few days never play-out the way you want.  Some students will challenge you if you are late/early for the next activity.

After sharing they will need a get up and move activity.  They could do a writing activity at their new seats.  This can take many forms depending on the grade level.  In the lower grades you may need to teach how to write a letter of the alphabet.  Start with a straight line letter, such as l or t.  For older students, have them write a story.  It might be about what they shared about the special person.

They probably need some type of break by now.  You could introduce a routine, at this point.  It might be how to get in a line.  Remember, any routine you introduce needs to be taught.  Don't assume they know how to do it.  Tell them what they will be doing, the purpose, model it, let them practice it, give them feedback, practice again and do it frequently.
Take them for a walk around the building.  Even though they may have been in this building for several years, it is still a new year, with a new teacher.  Never assume!

If you can, now might be a good time to let them go outside to play.  You probably need fresh air also.

You should include silent reading, which would be best after a lot of movement activity, such as recess.
This would also be an opportunity to listen to students' read.  Again. this is a form of assessment.

Also, find a moment for you to read to the students.  it might be a picture book or a short story that relates to the beginning of school or the first unit of study you will be teaching.  Again, match it to the grade level.

As students finish, you could have an art activity setup for them to draw a self-portrait.  You will need to first explain the activity, have a model of how it should look, full page or half page, details, background. If you do this it eliminates the game of "guess what's on the teacher's mind."

Another activity, I swear by this one for lots of reasons, "scrolls" or as some students mistakenly call them "squirrels."  Prepare for each child a cardboard, paper towel roll.  Tape a sheet of 1" graph paper to it.  In each box, on the top row, write the numbers -9 to 0.  On the second row, write the numbers 1-6, the students will complete this row and continue on to the next.  On the inside of the roll, write the student's name.  This is essential.  It will save a lot of aggravation when someone can't find their scroll or mixes it up with someone else's.  As students finish one page you add another page.  They just keep writing numbers at their own pace. I have students do this all year long.  It is a content related filler as well.  The highest number a student got to, within 2 years, was 13.678.   Again, this becomes an assessment tool.  You quickly find  out who can count, write numbers correctly, who does reversals and transposing of numbers.  Also, you will discover who understands place value, can recognize patterns and likes or doesn't like challenges.

Don't try to do all your assessments on the first day.  I found observation was the most informative the first 2 days.  Having the students share in the morning can tell you a lot about their comfort levels and oral communication.  The writing activity informs you as to their handwriting ability or their story writing ability.  The scrolls are full of assessment information.

Are you exhausted yet?  It's probably 1:00.  It shouldn't be 9:00! Or we're in trouble.

Now you need an afternoon activity.  How about letting them experiment with math manipulatives.  They will have fun and you will be observing and noting their behaviors.  I would only pull out 2-3 types.  Remember to explain how to use them and how to clean-up when they are done.

At the end of the day introduce a clean-up routine.  State what the routine is, the purpose, model it, let them practice, give feedback and practice again.

Any routine you teach you need to be tenacious about it, if it is important to you.  More about this later.

Most importantly, over plan!  Better to have extra than not enough.  Trust me on this one.

Make sure you laugh.  This has got to be the funniest job ever.

Now, if you have made it through the day, you are to go home, have a glass of wine, a chocolate dessert and to bed early because it all begins again tomorrow.

I've decided to post my blog on Wednesdays also.  So, now I will have new blogs twice aweek.  Yea!!! I hope.

Please let me know how things are going or if you have questions.
Have a great week.
Best Effort,

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Daily Assignment#2- Creating a classroom environment

As promised, it is Sunday and I am posting the 2nd blog.  At this point, the setup of the classroom needs to be designed.  You need to think about the needs of your incoming students and how you plan to teach.  Do you want a teacher centered environment or a student centered environment?  Should there be learning centers, table groupings, or horseshoe arrangement of desk?  Where should the teacher's desk be placed?  Should there be a place to have community meetings?  How will students move about the room?
There is a lot to think about.  For me, an important piece was to make sure that no matter where I was standing in the room I could see everyone.

In regard to the teacher's desk, I did not have one.  I hooked a shoebag over a closet door for my supplies and used a counter, on something similar to a bookcase, for my desktop.  Not having a large teacher's desk provided more space and flexiblility in my classroom arrangement.  I liked having an arrangement with flexibility.  I could move furniture easily for plays, movies, class breakfasts, presentations, etc...  I also used large tables instead of desks for my students. However, I did have a few desks.  The students had storage bins for their supplies.  They also had these great "seat jackets" with pockets to hold immediate materials/supplies.  They kept pencils, erasers, scissors, folders, etc..., in the pockets.  These seat jackets eliminated the need for the students to get up and find the materials and roam the room, which usually led to some other behaviors such as never coming back.

The design of the classroom is an integral part of classroom management.  Students must be able to see the teacher and any visuals that are being used.  No student should have their back to a teacher.

The design of the classroom also sends a message to the students as to what is important to the teacher.  Does the teacher want students to work independently or collaboratively?  Is community important?  This brings me right back to, do you want a teacher centered or child centered environment?

If you have any questions about your classroom setup please do not hesitate to ask.

Next, plans for the 1st day.

Best Effort,

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Daily Assignment

Well, it's that time of year.  Where to begin?  What do I need to begin?  How do I setup my classroom?  Where should I put the teacher's/students' desk? How do I create a learning environment?  How do I greet the students/parents on the first day?  How should I handle a child crying on the first day?  How do I get the parents out of the classroom on the first day so I can begin?  What do I say at a parent conference?  So many questions.  HELP!!!

I would like to help you.  I would like to share, with you, my 34 years of teaching experience.  I have taught grades 1, 2, 3, 5, and 6.  I have also been an educational consultant for 18 years.  I taught a graduate course on effective teaching to K-12 teachers.  I retired in June 2010 and would now like to share my knowledge and skills with you.

If you have a question or a concern about teaching, I can help.  So, I hope you will take advantage of my knowledge and experience.

On Sundays I will post a new strategy, structure, routine or problem/solution that you can experiment with throughout the week.  
For example: What is the first thing I should do before the first day of school?

Get a class list with the students' addresses, parent contact information and birthdates (to be used later).  Write a welcome letter to your students.  Let the students know how excited you are about the school year and being their teacher.  Include something that they should look for on the first day when they come in, e.g. something special/new in the classroom.  Also, include a letter to the parents describing a typical school day(schedule), supplies their child will need for the first day, your contact info, a routine, e.g. snacks, birthday celebrations, dropoff and pickup procedures and how much you are looking forward to working with them to support their child's learning.

I hope you will let me know how the strategies you experiment with from this blog are going.  I want to help you build your repertoire for teaching.

Best Effort,