Thursday, August 23, 2012

Classroom Workday 2

Since Monday, I haven't been able to get back into my classroom until today. I spent most of the day there, laminating (panic when the school laminator stopped working! thankfully it is just a bit tempermental so I turned it off and let it cool down and it worked again), cutting, bulletin-boarding, and other prep things. As promised, here are some photos of my newly-revamped small group work area:

I am lucky to have two side rooms off of my main room! This is one side room, which will be used for our reading groups. Please excuse the blue mat and beanbag chairs and pillows stacked in the corner...I don't know where else to put our sensory/stretching/down time area, so it's staying here for now. (And yes, that's a small board book under one of the table legs. Both round group tables in my room wobble!)

Bulletin board for my higher reading group's chapter book studies, with my story elements posters above.

Word wall on the white board, with student and staff names already added.

Supplies table, with a bin for reading workbooks, trays which will hold pencils/highlighters, scissors and glue sticks (for working in reading workbooks), table pocket chart with our first five Fry's sight words - they will go on the word wall after the first week and the next five words will go in the pocket chart. And our large US map on the wall behind it, because there's not a better place for it elsewhere, and this room needed something on the wall, anyway.

On the shelves of the supply table, hidden by the awesome skull and crossbones tablecloth from Target: our board and card games storage.

I'm pleased with how it's looking so far. I think it looks a little stark; I might bring in a floor lamp I no longer use at home (the florescent lights are so glaring), and perhaps more decor for the walls, but overall I like it, and it's going to be much better than having both groups (reading and math) working out in the main room at the same time.

And for comparison's sake, here is a "before" picture from over the winter:
We got rid of the toys this winter, since our kids are too old for them and they didn't play with them anymore, anyway. This room was a "dead" room and barely used...I'm excited we will be utilizing our space so much better now!

I'm loving sneaking peeks at all your classrooms, too! So much fun. I think pictures of the rest of my classroom will have to wait until the end of next week, since that's when my classroom staff will be back, and they'll be helping me get things all situated. This room and the library were my big projects I wanted to get done before they arrive back.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Classroom Workday 1

I am D-O-N-E with summer school; hooray! Today began my one-week break before we are back for professional development meetings next week...and I spent six hours in my classroom today cleaning, organizing, putting away the messes from summer school, and beginning to get the room ready for the kids' return in two weeks.

I am most pleased with the overhaul I did of my reading area/classroom library. Here is a "before" picture from this winter:
Barely any of my books were displayed because I didn't have a good system to store/organize. I just kept most of my books in a closet and tried to rotate them out on a periodic basis. Also, the gross, falling apart glider/rocker. Ew.

Here are the "after" pictures!
New book bins! I couldn't believe they fit so perfectly on my shelves! Now most of my books can be out for the kids at all times. Big books and other books that don't fit in the bins are on the large shelf on the table. Also, my new chevron area rug from Big Lots...and the beautiful new rocking chair our social worker found for us for free on Craigslist at the end of the summer!

Closeup of the bins. The books are just waiting for their individual stickers, which my classroom staff will put on next week. I also have Skippyjon, the Cat, and the Caterpillar plushes from Kohl's on top of the bookcase with their books for a bit of decoration.

Another angle. I moved everything to the other wall (all books were under the window in the 'before' picture). I'm thinking of moving one of our beanbag chairs into this area, and maybe put something on the wall, but otherwise I am so pleased with how this turned out! I kept this a secret from my staff, so they are going to be so geeked when they come back from break. ;)

I also got my small group area totally reworked, but no photos yet since I still need to get things laminated and on the walls. I'm hoping to do that tomorrow.

On another note, I have not done very well blogging and reading/commenting on blogs lately and I apologize for that. I am dealing with an ongoing crisis in my extended family which has me traveling to and from my hometown (an hour away) most days, so when I am home I am either beat physically and emotionally, and/or am feverishly trying to prep more for the coming school year. I am trying to do my best with replies and commenting. I'm hoping I will be able to settle into a more predictable schedule once the school year begins.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Teachers Rock!

Flipping through the channels tonight, I stumbled across the Teachers Rock Concert, which is featuring a bunch of big-name artists - and the best part...ticket proceeds from the concert itself raised money for Teach for America, Donors Choose and Feeding America's Backpack Program! They are also honoring and featuring real teachers, which is awesome.

In my area, it's airing right now (8-9 eastern) on CBS. Just thought I'd put it out there if you (like me) didn't know about it already!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Teacher Clothes!

...and no, I'm NOT talking about this!

I'm taking a break from shopping on TPT (everyone having fun with the sale?) to link up with From Blood To Books' linky about teacher fashion.

I've never considered myself all that fashionable, and my school allows us to dress very casually - we can wear jeans everyday if we want to - but in the past couple years I have tried to dress a bit more "teachery" and I've found it does help my mental outlook when I'm dressing for school and I feel good about what I'm wearing! I usually wear dress pants (never a skirt - I'm on the floor and lifting kids too often for that) and a nice blouse or sweater Monday through Thursday. Fridays I wear jeans and one of our school logo shirts.

Here are the questions from the linky:

1. Tell me your favorite store(s) that you like to get your "teacher's fashion".


Maurices, Old Navy and New York & Company are my three favorite stores. I get my dress pants from NY&Co with my teacher discount and get other staples at Maurice's (they have great sales!) and ON. I never buy anything full price...My work clothes are too easy to snag on wheelchairs or other equipment, or too easily get drool or other *ahem* bodily fluids on them, that I can't justify spending too much money, even though I do try to look nice. I also find things at Kohl's and JC Penney.

2. What are some of your favorite accessories?
I don't really accessorize much at all! Maybe it comes from not being a morning person...adding that "something extra" to the outfit just takes too much thought in the morning, haha. I feel good if I manage to change my earrings or add a necklace before I'm out the door!

3. What type of shoes do you teach in? (i.e. heels, flats, wedges, etc.)
I don't understand how anyone can teach in heels, though more power to you if you can! I go for comfort above all else in my shoes. I have a black and a brown pair of flats, a black and a brown pair of sandals (we cannot wear flip flops - defined as shoes that have the strap that goes between the toes - but other sandals are okay), and a black and a brown pair of boots for winter. (Do we sense a color theme? It's just easier that way!) My boots do have (thick) heels but otherwise it's all about the flats. On my self-prescribed casual Fridays, I usually wear my cute green Merrell sneakers.

My secret super-great place to get shoes is...
That's right! If you have never looked at the shoe section at TJ Maxx, I'd encourage you to do so! They have good quality, name-brand shoes for awesome prices! I have a few pairs of Naturalizers (soooo comfy and cute - and expensive if you buy them at department stores!) and even the pair of Merrell's are from there, and I don't pay over $30 for a pair.

4. Do you have a "go-to" item in your closet? (i.e. sweater you wear weekly, shoes you wear daily, etc.)
Not a specific item, but I do wear a Scoop Neck Tank from Maurice's under almost everything. I have them in many colors! Love those tanks. And the 7th Avenue Pant from New York & Co is my go-to dress pant.

5. Have you ever had a fashion "uh-oh" at school? (i.e. heel broke, button popped off of blouse)
Once, a student projectile vomited on me, first thing in the morning. I didn't have a change of clothes at school, and I live 30 minutes from school so couldn't go home to change, so I taught the rest of the day in a pair of scrub pants from the nursing office and the old college t-shirt I use as a coverup when it's swimming day at school. Needless to say, I now keep a change of "real" clothes at school!

Friday, August 10, 2012

TPT sale and a freebie!

I'm sure everyone knows by now that TPT is having its huge Back To School sale in the next few days! And I'm putting my store on sale, as well, so you can get 28% off at my store on the 12th and 13th. Happy back to school shopping! My own wish list is 24 items long at this point...I know I'll be plowing through it like mad! Click the image to go to my store...

And I've got a new freebie, too - word wall letters with an American Sign Language theme. Each letter has the ASL symbol to go with it, and the set includes numerals 0-9 as well as the letters. I'm going to put these up in my circle time area. Since we had a student in our class with a profound hearing loss, my kids know the letters in sign before they know them in print, so I'm hoping the sign symbols assist them in better recognizing the print letters, too! Click the image to grab it for free:

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Different Shoes


I'm sure those of you who have been following the Olympics have seen or heard some of Oscar Pistorious, the South African double amputee 400 meter runner. I don't care much at all about the controversy surrounding whether or not his prosthetic legs give him an unfair advantage over other runners - I just love his story and love watching him run!

Today the above photo, with the quote, came across my Facebook news feed, and it immediately resonated with me.

This morning I went to visit my upcoming new student who has a total vision impairment in his current school. After I got back to my classroom, my current students and I had a discussion about things we needed to know about our new friend, including things we are going to have to do a little differently to make sure he is safe and feels comfortable in our class.

A discussion, paraphrased (all student comments) - and no, my students are not all this articulate - hence the paraphrasing, since I could never duplicate the always strange, sometimes poetic, mostly uneven syntax and language my students use! I wish I had a video camera All. The. Time. The meaning is the same, here:

"Why can't he see?"
"It's like C---- [former classmate] who can't hear. So he had to use sign language."
"But K---- [new student] won't have to sign! He can hear us."
"Remember C---- didn't like to fingerspell? How he would yell if you made him spell his name?" [yes, we tangent a lot in our room]
"It's like me, I can't walk so I have my chair." [we tangented for about 5 whole minutes here about how this particular student is SO EXCITED he got measured last week for a new wheelchair...which will come to him in like six months...but he is already SO EXCITED]
"So it's [blindness - back on conversational track] not a big deal."
"Does he like Iron Man?" [tangent again - and shame on me, I did not think to find out the answer to this question in my visit today!]
"Maybe K---- can push my chair - as long as I tell him where to go!" [much laughter ensues as we think about a blind student pushing wheelchairs with no direction or orientation!]

(Of course, later in the day I found out he may not be coming into my classroom after all, but it was still a valuable discussion to have.)

As I've said before, we own disability in our room. It's "not a big deal," to quote my student today. We all have things we can't do the same, so it's no surprise to us when we meet someone new who can't do something else, or has to do things differently.

Back to Oscar Pistorious:

Wearing different shoes - what a wonderful way to think about disability! My students would approve.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Monday Made It, classroom library edition

There was a lot of interest in the Color Run on my last post! Unfortunately, it didn't happen for me yesterday after all. I woke up feeling like you-know-what, with a fever and everything, so running a 5k didn't seem like the best of ideas. Bummer...next year I'll be sure to try again! I'm feeling marginally better today, but decided not to go work in my classroom like I'd intended. Very thankful I still have some time!

This week, I've been tackling the mess that is my classroom library. Got the database all typed up, the books categorized (goodness, that's a job of work! how do you all decide which categories your books go into?), created labels for my books and for my brand-new book bins. Here are just three of the bins (labels are laminated and velcroed on so I can change them out if need be) - since I'm not going into my classroom today most of my books are at school and I didn't get to stage the bins on our bookshelf...so you and I just have to imagine it all set up for real:
My book bins are the Plastic Book Boxes from Steps to Literacy. They are much cheaper here than from Really Good Stuff! Also, right now if you use the code BTSFB at checkout at Steps to Literacy, you get free shipping!

I used Avery address labels (#5195) for the labels for the individual books. And I discovered Avery's Design and Print Online, which is SO much easier than messing with downloading a template, resizing images, etc. It was so quick and easy! Check it out if you're doing anything with Avery labels. It's free, does not require a download and is so easy (do I keep saying that?). I was amazed.
I am going to save putting the labels on books for my classroom staff when they come back to school during our PD days at the end of August. (We always have a day that teachers are in meetings and we have to prepare set-up work for our classroom staff to do in rooms.)

I also put together this little fine motor + counting work task this morning, using pieces of a border from the Dollar Tree, chenille sticks and pony beads:
(Can't get it to rotate, ugh.) And yes, I have only the colors of pony beads that correspond to the numbers and chenille sticks, because I've got some kids who will insist on matching the colors as well as counting the correct number of beads!

For my home Made It, I put together a new wall hanging for my bedroom:
I got this fabulous fabric when I visited my brother in the Peace Corps in Tanzania, Africa last summer. I already had a comforter for my bed in similar colors, and this fabric was definitely the inspiration for the bedroom redo (paint and furniture) I did over the winter.

This cloth is called kitenge, and it's used for all sorts of purposes in Tanzania, from clothing to decoration to baby carrying and more. I bought it at a seamstress' shop in my brother's village. While I finished the redo of my bedroom back in February, I hadn't yet used the cloth, and I finally did so this week. My dad helped me cover a canvas with it for my wall (stretching and stapling fabric is definitely a two-person job!). And I have lots of the fabric left in case I want to do something more with it.
I love it!

Go link up with the 10th Monday Made It!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

August Currently...already?!

So hard to believe it's already August! A moment of silence for those of you who are already in school, or who start next week...Yikes! I am glad that in Michigan, we are not allowed to start until after Labor Day (for the tourist industry to have one last summer holiday weekend!).

I am linking up with Farley for this month's Currently:
Listening & needing: Yes...my television service is out. I haven't been able to watch much of the Olympics at all. I was spoiled by Facebook for who won gold in women's gymnastics...I wanted to be surprised! Thankfully, my best friend is DVRing gymnastics (my fave!) for me.

Thinking: Have you heard of the Color Run? I'm doing this tomorrow:
Doesn't that look like some crazy fun?! I watched a friend in a Color Run in Denver earlier this year, but have never run one myself. I'm excited! They call it the Happiest 5k on the Planet!

And my B2S:
1. Velcro...I use Velcro like it's going out of style. Communication boards, schedules, games, labels, everything is Velcroed (yes, I've made it into a verb). My favorite kind is the sticky back, preferably in pre-cut dots, even though that's more expensive. I hate, hate, hate cutting Velcro!
2. My laminator...pretty self-explanatory!
3. A new lunch bag...This coming school year my class will be eating lunch in the cafeteria for the first time (we have always eaten in our room). Since I eat with my kids, eating in "public" means I need a cute lunch bag. Of course. Since until now I have just used plastic grocery bags, and that just won't do.

Go link up here...and remember Farley's rule of three!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

encouragement, Olympics, and awards

I finally have just 6 more school days left to my school year/summer school! I admit (though I'm not proud of it) I am running mostly on "survival mode" at this point - between dealing with some severe behavior issues @ school, attempting to prepare as much as possible for next year while still teaching this one, and then a worrisome/sad ongoing/impending crisis in my family...I am exhausted, stressed, and ready to be done! I have not felt like a very good teacher recently.

...But isn't it wonderful when encouragement comes just when you need it the most? This week, a sweet parent of one of my students put her usual note in her son's backpack, detailing how his night had been, seizures he'd had, and the medication he'd gotten (so helpful to know!!). And at the end of the note she added:
"J---- is always so excited to go to school. He can't wait for the bus to get here in the morning!"

It was something so simple, but unexpected, and certainly not necessary...but it made all the difference in my day! Such an encouragement!

At school, we are trucking along in our Olympics unit. I think I mentioned before my class has been put in charge of planning our whole-school mock Olympic Games, slated for the last day of summer school. We have had the kids vote on which activities they want to plan for the rest of the school (an obstacle course aka "steeplechase," a softball throw aka "shot put," a bowling tournament, and more). We have planned an Opening Ceremonies parade and a Closing Ceremonies award ceremony complete with a dance, with our principal MCing. We had each classroom draw out of a hat which Olympic country they will represent and are encouraging classrooms to create flags and other fun things to represent "their" country.

Since we are planning and organizing everything, we decided our classroom could skip drawing a name out of a hat, and felt we could take the liberty of assigning ourselves Team USA! We have had fun keeping track of how many medals our team has earned (in the actual Olympics) so far!
(Please excuse the blurry/yellowed cell phone picture, the torn butcher paper - I didn't realize the blue paper was at the end of its roll!, and the fact that our color printer was out of ink so I had to print today's medals on the black and white printer - I will fix them next week.) These are the medals of Team USA as of about noon today. Each day we count the number of gold, silver and bronze medals, add the total, and talk about more, less, and same. I think we're going to run out of room in the "gold" column!

Also, thank you to those of you who have given me blogging awards - most recently, Alicia @ Chalk Talk Speech Therapy and Christy @ Mrs. Christy's Leaping Loopers. You are encouraging, as well! I feel bad that I have not reciprocated by passing awards along - see the "survival mode" thing as to why - I'm feeling pretty good if I can manage to read all the blogs I follow and even comment on a couple lately - but know that you are appreciated quite a lot!!
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