Sunday, August 26, 2012

Getting My Act Together, Part Deux

And I think I should add, that making a plan based upon a goal without educating yourself on the parameters of the situation FIRST is also just as foolish.  At least I know what is going on this week though with the job I need to accomplish, however.

So, in the attempt to educate myself on my situation, I've looked up this week's agenda at school.
There are only two one-hour blocks available on Monday to work in my room.
There are four one-hour blocks available on Tuesday morning.
All day Wednesday should be available.
There are five one-hour blocks available on Thursday BEFORE open house at 2pm.
All day Friday should be available.

1) I know that I have my student desk groups full of stuff I'm trying to give away.  Looking at it sitting there brings me down, and prevents me from moving about the room freely, and draws people in to my room to either ogle or shop.  It's gotta go.  Monday at 3:30, I'm tossing what's left of it into bags and taking it down the street to Goodwill.
2) I know that the largest job left undone in the room is sorting the library books.  I also know that this takes HOURS.  I also know that I don't have hours to do this at school.  Soooo, it's got to come home with me.  Since most of it is still in boxes, I've got to load the car with the boxes  on Monday after I've taken the load to Goodwill and bring it home to sort Monday and Tuesday night.
3) I know that out of those library books, I have too many to fit in my library.  So the purpose of sorting is to reduce my inventory.  Pull out books that go with my PYP units and set aside to put in the bins so all of my unit stuff is kept together. I know I have repeats of some titles, so that will be easy to take care of. Repeats that I bought with my own money keep here at home for my kids to use. With the rest, I'm going to have to be really picky and only keep the good quality books.  Good quality being defined by not only condition of binding, but also quality of story.  Some books are stinkers, and you know it!
4) Place books that I am not keeping in boxes in hallway outside of room until Thursday afternoon.  Allow teachers and visiting parents to select at will.  Keep it out of the room so they aren't coming IN to bug me.  Anything left on Thursday afternoon take down to McKay's used books and get a credit.
5) The only places left to store my items are the built-ins on the far wall, and five plastic bins under the student computers.  Oh, and I have a filing cabinet that I have to fit in that room somewhere...  Use my super supply of clear plastic shoe boxes to pack my keepers in and fill the built-ins, use the plastic bins under the computers to put away Fairy Tale Unit supplies, Measuring math manipulatives, and the excess folders/mailing labels/divider sort of office supplies.  This should leave two bins empty for any future need. Put my reading A-Z stuff and extra hanging file folders, and other office supply sort of paper stuff in the filing cabinet. I also still have half of my pull-out drawers left free so I can finish putting away my paper clip type stuff.
6) Label all of the bins and drawers with the fancy Dymo machine my Dad got me. Loooove it.
7) And Hey! I totally forgot about my teacher desk!  I really don't use it ever, as I sit at the small group table to teach or I'm on the carpet with whole group meetings.  But it does have three drawers.  I will need to be selective about this area.  I suppose this is the best place to store my lesson planning tools and student data.  And THAT'S IT.  Nothing else is getting jammed in there.  That way, any time I have a sub or an administrator needs to come in and look at my things, all they need to do is search the desk. Excellent. I feel good about that plan.
8) Gah, I almost forgot about the ribbon I was going to put on the library book baskets.  Ok.  Here's an idea:  take the ribbon in a bag with me to the all day staff development meeting and cut it into sections while I'm "listening".  That's terrible isn't it?  Especially after I posted about acting like children during these things.  Arg!  Why did I have to develop a conscience about this?  I guess add that to the list of things to bring home Monday. Sheesh.

Having the room organized and decorated by Thursday at 2pm is my goal.
I have to concentrate on the organized portion first.  If the kids come to visit on Thursday and the colored paper isn't on the bulletin board yet, no big deal.  It's more important that things are clean and orderly first.

So my steps are:
1) Spend the two available hours on Monday putting away the remaining office supplies, and organizing the math and language arts materials in the plastic shoe boxes.
2) Take the left over freebies to Goodwill, and bring my library boxes  and ribbon to cut home.
3) Bring back the library books I did manage to get sorted on Monday night and place in baskets Tuesday morning to keep it tidy.
4) Spend the four hours available on Tuesday finishing up putting things away and labeling with the Dymo machine.
5) Make sure that I've dusted, wiped off surfaces, cleaned my windows, and vacuumed the blue carpet.
6) Get a plug-in air freshener.
7) Wednesday morning, bring in remaining sorted library books, attach ribbons to baskets, add hanging tags, and arrange books by 11am.
8) Use the rest of Wednesday and Thursday morning to decorate.

If this works, my evidence that I met my goal will be that I will have the room completely organized and clean by mid-morning Wednesday and decorated by Thursday at noon. Re-assess Tuesday evening to create decorating action plan. I'll be sure to take pictures, so I can do a before and after decorating post.

Here we go, folks!  Let's try to knock this out of the park.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

I hurt all the way down to my pancreas.

At the beginning of this week I had big plans.  Lots of posts, lots of pictures, lots to celebrate.  But kittens, that room swallowed me whole. This is the only picture I'm sharing of the room today.  I just want you to understand that EVERY. SINGLE. TABLE. in the room looked like this one.

So what the eff happened, eh?  I had a goal chart, darn it!  That should have been enough! And do not doubt that I have not over-analyzed this week's failures and successes to figure out just what the hey is my problem. Let's go back to the tape, Steve, and see why this chick is such a loser...

See how I have number 3 and 4 in the steps section?  I found it impossible to sort without having anything to sort on.  So I arranged all of my furniture first.  And then I stacked all of the things I brought from my old room on the carpet- and when I looked a that the previous teacher had left me, I discovered this: Every shelf, drawer, cabinet, surface was filled.  You can't put your own things away without anywhere to put it.  So I had to do number 4 on the list first.  I took EVERY. SINGLE. THING. off of the shelves, and out of cabinets and drawers and sorted them into said piles.  This is the point where people started feeling the need to drop in and talk about how much stuff "I" had. And I've got plenty to say about that, but I will wait to rant.  Then I decided that I couldn't possibly make a decision about what to keep or what to get rid of unless I also knew what I had.  So I unpacked all of my boxes and sorted them by subject area right on top of the stuff I was left.  This made for extremely high piles. I understand that this is the twelve-year old method of cleaning, and horribly inefficient.  But I have ZERO SKILLS here.  So I'm doing the best I can!  And then of course the earlier folks went and told other folks and then THEY had to come in and talk about how much stuff I had.

I thought it would only take me two days to do this sorting and putting away. Barf.  I took the whole week and I'm still not done.  The first day I wasn't able to get into my room until one o'clock, and I had to leave at three-thirty. This was mostly spent furniture arranging.  I got the closet and first shelf of built-ins emptied and sorted. The second day, I had to take Sweetie J to the doctor so I only worked from nine until one. I finished emptying all of the shelves, drawers and cabinets by the time I had to leave. Then I had three full days of nine to three-forty.  And as of yesterday, I had managed to sort through everything but my library, pile five student desk grouping high with things to give away, organize my storage closet, put away all of my craft, science, and social studies supplies, and get a third of my office supplies put away.  Things left sorted, yet untouched: language, math, 2/3 of office supplies.

I did invite the teachers in to take my stuff on Friday.  I sent an e-mail out announcing the frenzy Thursday evening, and even had some late night early-bird shoppers.  More shoppers on Friday,  and I did get rid of a chunk of it.  I am running the freebie frenzy one more day on Monday, as the entire staff will be in the building that day.  But as of Monday at three o'clock- what's left is going to Goodwill.  I need to get my stuff put away, and I've got to decorate the room, and I can't do it with that stuff staring at me, and people coming into the room to make comments about it.

Ok- I'm going to rant for a moment. It will not be pretty.  Skip to the next paragraph if you want the world to remain all lollipops and rainbows, or continue believing that I'm an overly pleasant person.  GIVE ME A FREAKING BREAK!  I did not move into an empty room.  It was FILLED.  And I bet if they went into their rooms and emptied their drawers and shelves and cabinets that they didn't have to pack up back in June they would have STUFF too. Thanks for the encouragement people.  I'm so happy to know that you are responsible for building up and encouraging the youth of today when you cannot spare a supporting word for someone you work with or at the very least hold your M-F tounge. Freaking hypocrites telling kids "I believe in you!" when they can't have a second's pause for the attempts of a grown adult woman trying to become a less cluttered and organized person. And if you are not in here to take some of this stuff out of my room, then get the eff out! Slam door and lock it.  But then open it again because I need the darn people to come in and take this stuff out of the way. Gaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr! Annnnnnndddddd END SCENE.

Things I am proud of myself for:
1) I did not leave the room to go socialize.
2) I did not leave work to go eat/shop
3) From the moment I got there to the moment I left, I set the timer for thirty minute chunks.  When the timer went off, I said to myself OUT LOUD "Great Job! You did a lot!" and then I sat down and ate a piece of fruit.  Put timer back on, and went back to work.
4) Every time I emptied a box I celebrated it.  Because it was an accomplishment to my progress. It was fantastically relieving to shout out "An Empty Box!" and throw it onto a pile.
5) Even thought there was some really super cool stuff left in my room- I looked at it and decided if I knew how to use it.  If I didn't, I put it on the give-away table.  I have too many goals this year in teaching to add one more on top of it.  Give it to someone who knows how to use it and will.
6) Every item that I recognized that I hadn't used an item the last year of teaching, I put on the give-away table.  I've been teaching ten years already, if I hadn't used it, I'm most likely not going to.  Plus I can always go borrow it later if I really need to.
7) If it was broken, I threw it away.
8) I cleared out the indoor recess box.  It was hard to do.  I am a nut for games. But our recess is only 15 minutes.  Seriously.  No longer.  If they can't take it out and get a game finished in fifteen minutes, it's not worth it.  Put it on the give-away.  Except for some super cool games that I had bought with my own money.  I confess to packing those up to be brought home.
9) Every time I did put something on the give away table I did say very loudly to myself "You do not need that!" If I threw it away I said " It's broken! Stop being ridiculous!"
10) I got all of my teacher stuff out of my house.  Except for those games I brought back.  But oh well.
11) I didn't curse out the people that came in to ogle.  I saved that for private when they couldn't hear me.  But by Thursday afternoon, when most of the piles were give away piles, and you could see my carpet, and I was clearly working on putting things away- I did make sure I said to them "I've made a lot of progress this week, and all of these five tables are give aways, thank you." This actually had no effect on them though.  So if they kept going, I just stopped even looking at them or answering and went back to work.
12) I used cereal boxes my friends had collected for me over the summer to create sections in my drawers to help me put away my office supplies.  They are super organized and I'm getting everything put away wonderfully.  I just have a box of paperclips to attack on Monday.

I would like to point out that my team was great.  They were encouraging as I sorted through my things and made me feel like I was accomplishing something.  If I've learned something this past week in regards to my teaching, it's definitely about the power of words.  If we're willing to say something negative to ANYBODY about ANY PROCESS, it's most likely trickling into our classroom dialogue with the children.  I've really got to watch for this during this upcoming year.  And not to say that at times someone will need to be corrected- but how am I going to go about telling them? Yes, I like sarcasm.  But it's really only something that should be used with close friends that really get you and understand where you're coming from in that moment.  I don't think any of the teachers in my building meant to be rude.  I don't think they meant to upset me.  I'm left wondering though how often I've said something that has hurt someone though and I never meant it?

Tomorrow I'll develop my goals for this next week.  Going to be tricky though- balancing the clean-up, decoration and all the meetings....

Sunday, August 19, 2012

And so it begins, again...

Tomorrow will be my first day back at work.  The idea is to use this week to get all of my belongings organized and the room put together.  And I absolutely must get it accomplished in these five days because next week I'll be in meetings and planning for the entire week.  And then Tuesday the 4th it all starts with the kids.  Looking back over the summer, I don't know that I accomplished what I thought I would.  That's my standard routine, of course. But, I did enjoy the time off, and what I did manage to do I am happy with- so it can't be all bad. 

I am moving rooms and I am not relishing the idea of all the sorting I have to do this week.  Even though I am sooooo happy to be going downstairs to be with my team, I know I have to throw out half of my old things and sort through what was left for me before I worry about my NEW things that are clogging up my house at the moment. Or decorate.  Which is what I'm more interested in doing.  And I'm very easily distracted when I'm doing a chore I'm not in to.  So I'm making myself a powerpoint to flash up on my promethean board while I work:

Snarf.  They sort of make me happy.

And I put the goal setting method I learned to use, and made myself a page for my first two days this week:

Overall, my plan is to spend two days cleaning, sorting, and tossing.  Wednesday I'll work on furniture arrangement and wall coverings.  Thursday my Dad is bringing my hoard from home, so I'll be putting that away.  And Friday for finishing touches.  I'll make another goal sheet for my decorating days to keep me on track.  I'm hoping for a look that is tasteful and not busy looking.  We'll see though, I have never pulled off that style before.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Goal Setting

Well, training is over.  And although it was pretty intense, I actually feel like I came out of there the better for it.  I definitely have a firmer grasp of the PYP program, so it's not a complete mystery to me any more.  Tons more to learn of course, but at least I'm not in a fog.  In reflection on that process of training though, the only reason why I'm not in a fog is because I really made the effort to pay attention. 

Which has led me to meditating on the post I wrote the other day about how I don't like get to know you games and having my attention called for in a way like I do to my students. If I'm uncomfortable with those things as an adult, isn't it possible that my kids are too?  On the last day of training I really tried to make a mental effort to let go of feeling annoyed at the method.  Because I had to admit that I couldn't think of a better way to get our attention.  And, shouldn't we experience what it might feel like to be one of our students? It was an opportunity to gain perspective.

I'm wondering how much I've missed out on in the last ten years of my teaching career because of a ridiculous feeling of self-entitlement that I was above having to pay attention? Hermmmm....I still have a lot of work to do on myself as a person.

There was a lot of great little tid bits that came out of the training aside from the real meat of the concepts- one of them being a goal setting activity.

At the beginning of every year, my school has the kids set a goal, and they write it up in some sort of thematically cute way and post it outside of the rooms.  In second grade, they are as simple as "I want to be a better reader".  In training though, we did this tri-fold activity with our goal setting.

So yes, the first part is to set a goal.  So a student could, of course, still write something as simple as "I want to be a better reader". But the deeper meaning and ownership comes in when the student reflects on how they will know they've met their goal- the evidence of achieving it, and then analyzing how to get to that point.

Simply fold a piece of paper in thirds, and label the sections across the top from left to right, Goal, Steps, and Evidence

Setting the goal is the first step of course:

 But then skip over to the right hand side and write down how you'll know you've met your goal.  I used this one about Junie B. Jones because I had a low reader this last year who loved Junie B. When we talked about good fit books, she was very disappointed that she couldn't put Junie B. in her book basket.  So then I showed her the reading levels, where she was and where Junie B. was on the scale.  She made a decision to get there, even though it was two years worth of growth for her. Showing kids exactly how much work they have to do to get where they really want to go can never be a bad thing. You can also write more than one way you'll know you met your goal.  Maybe you've met this goal also by UNDERSTANDING the story, or being able to write a book report, or performing a skit.
 So now it's time to go back to the middle, and think of AT LEAST three things that you could do to help you get to your goal.  Why not one or two?  Goals are something you really have to work for, aren't they?  If you only have to do one or two things, then isn't that just something to put on a to-do list?  Anyway- so here are three things I thought of that might work.  I suppose I could even add a fourth one and say practice reading with my parents. Or older brother/sister and whatnot.
And there you have it- a road map to success.  I definitely want to pump up my goal setting with this method this year. And I also think it would be great for keeping myself and my lesson planning on track as well.  And how easy is it to just fold a piece of paper?  I always have one lying about....

I also loved this pin I ran across:
Art Projects for Kids: Me & My Goals Self Portrait

click the picture to go to Kathy Barbro's site  Art Projects For Kids with the directions and printable. And then join her blog!  She has AWESOME art projects and does an excellent job of making them seem doable by even someone with very little art skills.

I'd really like to do this incorporating the trifold method- just separate the notebook paper horizontally.  Or actually, I wouldn't even have to.  We could make it a little 3-D by pasting our trifold over the self portrait part and then have the hands come out and wrap around....oooo, feeling excited!  I think it would be a great first week project.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Always in Training

Confession: Every time I see a post about "editable" documents, I immediately think it says "edible".  And I'm all "Why on earth are we eating documents?" for a ridiculous amount of unnecessary seconds.  Clearly, dieting is affecting my brain in disturbing ways.

Yes.  Diet.  I suppose I could file this under a Monday Made It- although, truth be told, it looks like I used ALL of this summer's Mondays to make the twenty extra pounds I seem to have put on.  I did make myself one of those jars with pebbles deals on Pinterest where you have a pebble for each pound you want to lose in one jar, and then you plink them over to the other jar as you lose them.  I made mine in very teeny soda bottle bottoms though, so I'd feel like I did something.  Which, I have to say, I did manage to lose five pounds my first week doing the weight watchers thing.  I will be lucky to lose one pound this week though, as I've been sitting on my butt in training, and falling off the wagon to a bag of Hershey's Treasures, and, um, I sort of also made those nutella frosted crescent rolls I saw on Pinterest.  The saving grace is that Pillsbury only puts eight crescent rolls in a tube.

Confession Number 2: Not too long ago in my life I was sporting a good 220.  And then I went on this no gluten, no dairy, no anything except cardboard diet for my son with Autism.  The thought was, if nothing he couldn't eat was in the house, he'd deal with the diet better. Rubbish.  He pitched a major fit anyway.  But, happy accident, it did drop me down to a generally stable 160.  But I weighed myself a week ago, and gahhhhhhhh, I went crazy with the baking this summer.  And the raw frosting eating.  And the cheesecake, and whatnot.  When I realized the pants I was wearing were my maternity pants- I decided something had to be done.  So hey- if I can drop two pounds a week, I'll be 140 by Christmas.  So we'll see.

Training though.  This is where my mind actually is today.  It's one thing when you go to a workshop and you learn how to divide your kids into workable groups, or how to incorporate the pan flute into your math lessons, or how your kids will become better thinkers if you take time to massage each other's soles three times a day- but the intensive training where you're being downloaded with a 1000 page program in two and a half sessions pretty much leaves my brain zapped.

Admittedly, I am trying very hard to be a bit of an over-achiever at this training because I took on this PYP program as being my grade level duty for the next year.  And I want to make sure I am doing it right, and a bang-up smash of a job of it, and make everyone happy.  You know that annoying teacher who keeps asking questions during training?  That one who is clearly waaaaay too into it?  The one who volunteers to share first right away every time? Yeah, that would be me these past two days.  Dudes, I even ate lunch with the trainer today to get extra help.  And it has not been the least bit subtle.  I have already noticed that both the trainers make a point of coming near whatever group I'm with for every task, and I know it's because I'm doing the whole super participation thing.  If I wasn't me right now, sitting in that training, I would totally loathe me.  I would have made up a nasty nickname for me and been drawing horrible cartoons about me to giggle over with my friends. If I had ended up in a group with me, I would be cursing my rotten luck. Ah, well, just another thing to add to the list to discuss in therapy...

One thing I have not preferred about this training, and any training for that matter, is the need of the trainers to treat us as children.  Clap once if you can hear me.  Clap twice if you can hear me.  Let's go around the circle and introduce ourselves by using a food that the first letter of our first name begins with.  Hello, I'm Heather Horseradish.  Okay, we didn't do the horseradish thing- this time- but I have had to do that as an adult.  And I can still remember being partnered with Tammy Taco.  But in my horrific role as the over-achiever this training, I guess I kinda can see WHY the trainers are doing that.  Because, ahem, we are ACTING like children.  Seriously, there was a constant low hum of adults talking to each other OFF TOPIC I might add, and clicking of cell phones being texted upon, and a good half of the folks not even bothering to turn and face the presenters.  For my over-achieving self, it was down right distracting.  I'm smirking though, because I am usually NOT the overachiever in these settings.  I'm the one drawing cartoons, remember?

And this leads me to this thought that I'm going to leave off with- if we get so mad when students do this to us, why do we do it to other adults?
*Is it because we are being forced to go to this training?
Wellllllll, aren't the kids being forced to come to class?
*Is it because the topic does not interest us?
Um, yeah, and I expect every second grader to be interested in erosion.
*Is it because the presenters are not conveying the information in a way that is engaging or valuable to me?  Ok, peeps, seriously- do you think you're on fire every day up there in the classroom?  Surely you must stink once in a while with the delivery?

So what should I take away from this ah-ha moment?  I am being an over-achiever in this particular setting because I have a vested interest in doing a task related to this information to the best of my ability. Without this information, I cannot do that task.  So maybe, the thing that's missing from my lessons when I'm getting ignored by the kids, is that they don't have a task - that they think is important- that cannot be accomplished successfully without the information I have to offer. Now, how do I go about making that happen?

Thoughts anyone?

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Inquiry-Based Classrooms - Book Review

Why Are School Buses Always Yellow?: Teaching for Inquiry, PreK-5

Mandatory Summer Reading.  Another thing my new district does that I had never experienced before.  I have mixed feelings about this. For one, I really love professional books, and learning new things, so it's a plus. Also, my building is involved in an inquiry-based PYP program, so this is a great resource to help me know what the heck I'm supposed to be doing- since I've got no clue.  Countdown to training session on the 13th is a GO!  But, as a hold-over from my own school days- I hate required reading. Ironic, isn't it? As teachers we assign required reading how often?  And we get upset when they hate it? Life lesson right there.  I cracked this baby open two days ago and decided to give it a whirl before my training.  Turns out, a pretty decent read.

I attached a link to the picture above to the author's site.  You can read his blog, check out some other inquiry info, and of course, link up to a book seller to buy it.  

The 11 chapter book was a pretty simple read.  I got it done in just a few hours broken up over a couple of days.  The only chapter I didn't find particularly engaging was the chapter on parent involvement, I didn't feel like I really got any advice on how to include parents in the process, as the bulk of the chapter was examples of how different members of his family has instilled the idea of curiosity and wonderment into his own life.  I suppose it sort of gave me an idea as how I should do that for my own kids- but it didn't help me out with the idea of getting other parents involved in my classroom. But someone else might have a completely different experience with that chapter.  The rest of the book, super helpful.

He broke down questioning into three levels - gathering, processing, and applying information.  This is going to be really good for me to analyze the sort of questions my students and I are generating in class during inquiry.  Many parts of the book reminded me of Bloom's Taxonomy, and I was wanting to use that more effectively this year.  There was a great section on breaking down the process of planning for a unit in order make sure you're meeting your curriculum objectives while still using children generated questions.  I also enjoyed the section on authentic assessment, as it gave me a focus on how to plan for a more engaging way to measure student understanding rather than a traditional test.

I liked the section on starting the inquiry process the most, as it got my mind swirling over ways to create curiosity and wonder in the classroom.  His ideas were simple enough, but I hadn't really considered them before: training myself to use "wonder talk", teaching the students through modeling how to wonder about things, keeping a wonder journal, bringing in an object a week to wonder about as a souped up version of the by-gone days of show-and-tell, mystery bags, wondering more during read-alouds. 

Reading the book made me realize how often I had a tendency to cut-off curiosity and wonderment because I had this feeling of having to keep up with the curriculum pacing.  And I know I'm not the only one.  We cut off tangents because we've got to go go go!  It just makes me wonder what we are doing long-term to these kids?  It's nice to know that my new school is fostering this environment, but it is daunting as well.  It will certainly be a journey.


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Resolutions and Back to School Books


Amanda at Teaching Maddeness is hosting this linky party on back to school resolutions.  I've always kept my back to school promises in a notebook.  All year long I write about what failed and how to fix it or what I should try- and always under the frame of "NEXT YEAR".  Yep, yep, I've got that procrastination bug, indeedy!  But when I started this blog in May, I was turning over a new leaf, and reinventing myself a bit.  Super is NOW! Or at least, I'm reaching for it instead of putting it off.  So this linky party is right up my alley. Maybe sharing them out there will make me more likely to stick to it.

1) I resolve to create a classroom environment that is comfortable, organized, and positive.  Which means, I will do a theme, throw out half of the clutter, and make a concerted effort to minimize the use of negative statements.

2) I resolve to keep consistent lesson plans. I have a real tendency to go gang busters, and then slack, and then observation time rolls around and I go gang busters again, and then slack.  I am a roller coaster of efficiency.  This has never really been an issue before, since at my old job they never ever ever EVER looked at our lesson plans.  My new place though, we actually turn them in at the end of the year to be archived.  So I've got to step up my game and do what's expected.

3) I resolve to keep a consistent grade book.  Yeah, welcome to Slackerville!  I totally put it off until report card time and then stay up for hours crunching them in.  It's a ridiculously foolish thing to do on my part, because I always end up doing it at home and I need to keep that time free for my family- not a laptop.

*The great thing about Numbers Two and Three, is that the Fabulous Karen at Flamingo Fabulous totally wrote up our entire year long range plans that are so specific my lesson plans are already half written for me, and therefore I can easily PRE-input what I'll be grading in any given quarter before school even starts.  Yes, she is the bombdiddily!  Go visit her blog for her fantastic shoe giveaway and grab yourself a pair of these babies:

4) I resolve to keep a better data wall- establishing that the word "better" means I'll actually keep one.  Luckily, Karen did make a note of each type of assessment and date due on the long-range plans, so I just need to keep up with them.


5) I resolve to actually complete all of the necessary reflections in the PYP Binders including student sample work AS each planner is completed, rather than doing a half-assed epic fail of it at the end of the year. And again, thanks to Karen, each week that this should be done is noted on the long-range plans.  Ah me, that girl will have saved my life this year.

And Chrissy at First Grade Found Me is starting a recurring linky for sharing holiday picture books.  We're starting with great Back To School reads.

A lot of my favorite first read-alouds I shared on my Must Have Picture Books post, so you'll want to check that out too, if you haven't already, for some suggestions.  But Since I loooooove books, I have others I can mention:

Shredderman: Secret IdentityShredderman by Wendelin Van Draanen is a chapter book- but a great read-aloud that also offers some awesome cartoony pictures that my second graders have always loved - This is the story of a fifth grader, Nolan, and his fight for justice against a bully Bubba Bixby.  There is a lot of humor, you get to say the word "butt" and make the kids think you're ultra cool, but also provide them with a solid story you can refer to all year about making good choices and preventing bullying behaviors.  There are four books in the series if it becomes a favorite, and if you do end up reading the whole series to your class, you get to see the eventual character transformations of both Nolan AND Bubba.  And I have always liked that about the series, that you can see how Nolan was able to change Bubba.  Kids need to know that it is possible for people to change and be forgiven.

Chrysanthemum Big BookI know everyone has mentioned Chysanthemum by Kevin Henkes- but I have to make mention of it too, since it is indeed perfect for the beginning of the year and there are so many millions upon BILLIONS of activities that you can do with this book at any grade level.  I found this website Teaching Heart that takes a stab at sharing a good many of these ideas.  I plan to use it mostly with starting off my word wall with the student names, so we can do lots of related art and math activities and get-to-know you games all with our names, put them on the word wall, and then use them all year long to point out phonics and syllables and everything else.  And it also does double duty as a morning meeting sort of read-aloud to talk about hurtful words.  There is a very sweet wrinkled heart activity that goes with this book that I found at First Grade Wow.  Plus, Kevin Henkes makes for a great author study, so this is a perfect start to sharing his wonderful books.
If You Take a Mouse to School

An excellent first month of school book, since it sets up for using the whole series through out the year for teaching cause and effect as well as compare/contrast, and authors as mentors where kids can write their own cause and effect book in the style of Laura Numeroff. Here at Teach With Me, they have a free 16 page .pdf download of mice activities to go with this book. And here at Teacher Vision they have a printable of tons of cross curricular extension activities. If you've never used Teacher Vision before, you can have 5 free items, and then you have to subscribe.  But you can also just view the page for free and get ideas if you don't want to print it.  This is a great book for making text-to-self connections as well, since this can open up for a discussion about what the students expect to do at school.

Miss Nelson Is Missing!
  Seriously, this is CLASSIC.  It must be read!  Although, I do shy away from it a bit because I always expect the kids to have heard it a million times already.  But the thing is- I'm not the only one thinking that, so I'm starting to come across kids who have never heard of it before.  And is it not perfect for morning meetings to generate ideas on how behavior choices affect the classroom environment?  A wonderful opportunity to look into Miss Nelson's perspective and think about how the children's choices affected her emotionally.  And then how her deciding to be negative Viola Swamp affected the children emotionally.  The consequences of our behaviors on the heart.  A good good read. You can also check out The Busy Teachers Cafe for lots of activities to go along with this book.

Follow the Line to School (Viking Press USA)
And lastly, Follow the Line to School by Laura Ljungkvist.  It's sort of meant for Pre-K, but there is a lot in here that can be used for anybody in primary.  It plays out a bit like an I Spy book (which come on, you know even fifth graders eat those books up!)- but it has such great illustration techniques that it's perfect for the Illustration Unit that we use in Writer's Workshop at the beginning of the year.  Kids can really see the diversity that is possible with simple line illustration and also embellishment.  I haven't seen any posts for extensions on this book, but I think it fits well with the idea of mapping as a social studies extension.  Kids can create "follow that line" maps of their homes or neighborhoods, or even their own school.    Anybody have any other ideas for this cute book?

Okay, writing about all this back to school stuff has left me with an intense desire to write some lesson plans. Look at that! Already working on one of my resolutions.  Crazy.