Monday, January 9, 2012

Getting the Hang of This...I think

So, I want to thank all of you expert bloggers for having all of these linky parties. It's seriously helping me get my feet wet as I figure out what this blogging stuff is all about!

I'm trying my hand at this one from Oh' Boy 4th Grade ... have you heard? She's giving away two of these super awesome pencil sharpeners. Seeing as how mine has been broken since, oh, about the third day of school, I'm sure crossing my fingers AND toes on this one.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Showing My Clutter

So embarassing.

One of my greatest challenges in life is weeding through clutter. It is the strangest thing: I can organize the heck out of small details, but when things get too large or out of control, I freeze.

Lucky for me, I've been following the Clutter-Free Classroom blog and decided to join in on the Clutter-Free Classroom Project. First up, my entry for the Show Your Clutter Linky Party.

So, here's a shameful look at a few pictures of the current state of my classroom. I'll update with more after I get back in there today.

This is my "I don't know what to do with this" pile. So, it sits behind my guided reading table.

My desk...always a breeding ground for disorganization!
More desk...sigh.

Bookshelf #1 definitely did not look like this in the beginning of the year...but at least I have a plan for this!

My First Share

In the hopes that you'll like me (love me?) and follow me, here's my first attempt at sharing a freebie. Simple. Understated. Something you probably already have. Nonetheless, I shall share anyways. :)

In the name of differentiation, offering an Enrichment Spelling list for students who can already spell the week's given words is an easy addition to any Spelling program. However, as soon as the words "enrichment" come out of your mouth, every parent begins to think that their kid needs the hard words.

One of my big goals is to keep things fair (and to have documentation to back me up), so I began giving a Spelling pre-test on Mondays. The little darlings write their attempt at spelling the words under "First Try" (see doc below). After the pre-test, we self-grade using a crayon. If they miss a word, they write it correctly in the second column.

If students miss 3 or less words from the list, they qualify for the week's enrichment words. This means that there is no set "smart" group; different students qualify each week, depending on how well they already know the words from the list. It takes the pressure off of me and puts the focus on the more important question: "What do the students know?"

An added bonus of giving a pre-test? Measuring student growth. Right now, I don't have a formal way to document their growth from Monday to Friday, but it is definitely in the plans. But that's for another day.

So, like I said at the beginning of the post - there is nothing earth-shattering here. In fact, I am willing to bet most (many? all?) of you do this in your classrooms already. I'm interested to hear how you make this work with your kiddos! Be sure to share your ideas below. :)

Here's a free copy of my Spelling pre-test paper in case you're like me and enjoy changing it up every now and again. Just click below and it will open in Google Docs.

My First pressure!

Beg, borrow, steal. 

That's the Golden Rule of education, at least as it was taught to me by every professor I encountered in college. Thanks to technology, blogging allows us to beg and borrow (and hopefully not steal) from some of the best and brightest teachers out there. I know it has changed my teaching practices for the better, and I'm hoping to join in on the fun, instead of just being an observer.

I asked myself, "What could I possibly have to offer that hasn't been covered already by these amazing and inspiring teacher-bloggers?"

My first thought? Not much, really. You guys have got it goin' on! 

But here I am anyways, ready to jump in and chronicle my own life in 2nd grade. What's my main focus right now? Trying to wrestle with a reading series that relies heavily on workbooks and worksheets when I'm a teacher who believes in inquiry, investigation, and hands-on student involvement. I'm not one to be a downer, so I will say there are many things I love about the series - it's structure, the content, the fact that there is a uniformity about what our students are being taught, etc. But I get that "pit in the stomach" feeling when all I see my students doing is working on worksheets, day in and day out. Not to mention the dread I feel when I collect all that paper back to review. Sigh.

So, after spending the first two quarters getting my feet wet in my new school and wrapping my head around this new reading series, I'm ready to start tackling the project of making it more user-friendly for teachers like me. My challenge is this: keep the content, but change the delivery. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. 

I'm SO looking forward to having so many expert blogger friends to collaborate with. Hopefully you'll find something useful along the way, too!