Saturday, September 27, 2014

Finally, some pictures!

Hello, there! Mollie, here :)

Now that September is coming to a close, I've finally had a few seconds to upload some pictures. Below you will see a glimpse of what my classroom looked like a few minutes before Open House started. It was not complete, but I hope you can kind of get the picture of what our new learning environment looks like this year!

This picture was taken from my door, looking toward the back of my room. As you can see, we don't have the traditionally classroom desk design! We wanted to provide our students with options for how they learn best so we collected some different groups tables, partner tables, individual desks, etc.
 In our rooms we educate our students on what Common Core anchors are. We have them on our back walls year-round for reading and writing so that we can constantly refer back to them.
 Since we don't have desks for storage, we are using these bins from IKEA. Our students enjoy having their personal space for special pencils, notebooks, etc. :)
 One of the best decor tips that I have is to use fabric, instead of paper, for bulletin boards! They last so much longer and you can find such cute fabrics at craft stores.
 Here we have a little space for our learners who enjoy sitting on the ground when they work.
 I chose to go without curtains this year because my AWESOME teaching partner had these cute paper rosette flowers left over from a shower she threw. Amy rocks!
This is the central station that all my students enjoy working at during our independent work time. The stools are from IKEA and they are actually pretty comfortable.
And here's the last thing for tonight. We like to do a little photo booth at Open House to have a picture of our students at the beginning of the year. We hope to do the same thing at the end of year to see how much how little kiddos have grown!

If you have any questions, feel free to comment and ask! Thanks!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Meaningful Homework

Amy here! As I sit here finishing up my "homework" to prepare for the week (lesson plans, prepping for Parent Night, etc.) while watching Bill Maher and enjoying my favorite treat in the world, Diet Coke, I realize that there are several reasons I assign homework to my students. It teaches time management and responsibility, as well as providing important practice and it keeps parents informed of what their child is working on and the progress they are making on those skills.

Unfortunately, those important purposes for assigning homework often get lost and forgotten when gathering homework materials. All too often, homework is sent home and parents and students sit at the kitchen table (for way too long) struggling over completing work that the student is not ready to practice and therefore, parents are forced to reteach skills and battle their child to complete their work.

This is a vision Mollie and I try to keep in mind when we assign homework. We do not want our kiddos or our parents spending the better part of their night battling over homework, and we certainly do not want parents to be forced to reteach material in order to complete the homework. We feel good about what we are currently assigning and we work hard to constantly reevaluate what we are sending home and why we are sending it.

We ask that our students read every night and we encourage them to talk or write about what they read. Providing parents with some prompts or questions that can help get the conversation started is a great way to encourage talking about books.

We are currently using this WONDERFUL resource from Forkin4th:

It gives students a week worth of activities surrounding a provided text. The activities are relevant and interesting and it includes a piece to get parents involved by asking them to listen to their child read.

Our math homework asks students to complete a limited number of problems surrounding one skill, as well as to reflect on how they are understanding the concept using a rubric. Here is an example of what we send home:
This allows us to share with parents what we are learning, give students some practice, gather feedback from students on how they feel they are progressing in learning a certain skill, and all of this can be done without frustrating or overwhelming our kiddos or their parents!

We would love to hear about what meaningful homework you are sending home with your students! Leave comments and links below!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Whew... Made It!!!

Amy here! We made it through our first week back to school. We introduced our students to our new classroom set-up (we PROMISE pics are coming!!!), talked about what "smart" REALLY is, organized supplies, introduced our students to their Word Study Notebooks, started our first science unit, took our first Math in Focus pretest, and had our first Publishing Party! Just typing all that makes me tired. I imagine our kiddos slept well last night!

Here are some links and details to learn more information about our New Year Kick-Off activities in case you are looking for some activities for your own kiddos!

We always begin our year by sharing with kids that being "smart" is all about growth. It's not about the things we can do well the first time, it is about the things we have to work at and areas we can grow in. I love the look on their faces as they start to hear what I am saying: "We should all care more about how far we have come rather than the final outcome!!" We used our "8 Kinds of Smart" posters as a PowerPoint to share with kids the idea that we all possess different strengths that we can use to our advantage when learning new information. If you would like to share this information with your kiddos, check out the our Multiple Intelligences freebie!!

We kicked off our Word Study Notebooks right away this year. Our kids enjoyed them so much last year that we wanted to be sure to start them as soon as possible. These notebooks help students to study prefixes, suffixes and root words in order to spell and read unknown words. We are so excited that we had all of our Word Study lessons/materials planned out for the year. We even sacrificed a summer day (okay, it was a horribly stormy, rainy day) to copy everything we would need for the year!! Now our Word Study block includes stress free, prepared teachers and engaged, motivated students. Check out the year long plan at our TPT store! You can buy the year long bundle, or try out an individual month!

Our pacing guide for Math has us going 100 miles per hour from now til the end of the year. This means we needed to start ASAP! We gave our kiddos their first pretest this week and learned a lot about their test taking habits and behaviors as well as each student's place value understanding. We will begin sending homework home next week. We are so glad we have worthwhile (and not overwhelming) homework that is standard specific and allows our kiddos to think about where their understanding level is so they are aware of the growth they make over the course of the unit. If you are looking for some relevant and useful homework for your students, check this out:

We always start our writing off with a fun activity. We ask students to bring in an artifact that represents their summer. They then use their artifact to write a piece that shares a story from their summer vacation. After giving students two days to prepare their piece, we introduce them to a Publishing Party. This is a celebration of the work students have put into a writing piece. We hold Publishing Parties when we are concluding a unit and students have a finished piece. We place students in groups of four and they take turns reading their pieces. This week they shared their artifact and their story. All of this while enjoying cookies and juice. Our hope is that each Publishing Party helps to give students a purpose in their writing with a specific audience in mind. It also shows students how much we value the time and effort they put into writing each piece. Finally, it gives students an opportunity to hear the author's craft elements that their peers are putting in their writing. Our kids love Publishing Parties and we LOVE watching them take pride in the work they do!

Whew, long post but so much fun stuff to share. We are so grateful to be in the classroom again this year with a new group of kids that are ready and eager to learn. It is going to be an awesome year! We hope your year is off to a great start too!