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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Teaching Fellow Institute of Charlotte

This year I was selected to attend a symposium with the Teaching Fellow Institute. This was an amazing experience that I can't wait to share with the staff at my school. It was a 4 day event at the beautiful VanLandingham Estate in Charlotte, NC. It included not only CMS teachers but also teachers from several private schools in the area. What an amazing way to network! Every day I tried to take away at least 3 things so I would like to share these with you guys. Day 1 The focus of this week was mindfulness. On day 1 we had a wonderful speaker John Davis who spoke on intentional leadership. One powerful statement he said at the beginning was are you here or there. Here being present, aware, focused...there being thinking about things to do, worrying, etc. This one statement really made me wonder how many times to I go to meetings and I'm there. How many times do I speak to children at school and I'm thinking about the agenda for today or what I need to teach next. How many times am I there and not here with my own children and family. Just that one sentence was so powerful. Another major take away is making sure you set priorities thinking of your impact as a house. You have to have a solid foundation in order to add layers above, and taking care of your self is the foundation. I've always been told this by friends, coworkers, and family members but I am the worst about putting everyone family and work before I do anything for myself. So I had to set goals to make this happen. My goal this year is to go to the gym 3 days a week after school. I will keep you updated how that goal progresses.
So in thinking about putting yourself first, in order to make the biggest impact you need to know what renews you. So I began thinking about when I get in spring break fever what will get me back to where I am at the beginning of the school year. For me those include time with family, making sure I get enough rest, and making sure that I have time to just have fun and play. So as the school year gets started and we reach that time of year when we just need a break, it is important to know what we need to rejuvenate. Day 2 & 3 Dr. Amy Saltzman led the next 2 days of our institute. To be completely honest with you these were very hard days for me because I really had to slow down. Day 2 she led us through several meditative exercises being mindful of how we breath, how we feel, and where those feelings reside in ourselves. I am a person who enjoys interaction with people and I like to be going and doing things. I had a true hard time sitting in silence and meditating without the social interaction piece. However, in the true spirit of things as I said before I found 3 take aways to try to apply this year. First the exercise help me be aware when my feelings start. So I learned that your feelings work on a curve and when you reach the top of that emotion you are not able to be creative, think rationally, and this is where we tend to react. The goal however is to respond. So when you start feeling that anxiety, frustration, anger, or whatever the feeling is being aware and recognizing I am getting angry. Then making a decision what am I going to do with this feeling. Just the act of saying I am angry or frustrating and recognizing that feeling is very powerful. Second creating an environment in the classroom where all feelings are acknowledge will be such a powerful tool. When the students come in every morning, giving them a chance to say how they feel at the door is one way to give them a chance to acknowledge their feelings. Teaching them how to know when those feelings arise as they are getting upset, angry or frustrated will be a powerful tool. Imagine if you children could be able to say to you I am getting very frustrated because this doesn't make sense and letting them know it's ok to feel that way, how powerful would that be in creating a classroom environment! Not only that but as a teacher how would that impact your teaching for that student. Sometimes our students get to the top of their feelings curve this is where they shut down, react, and cause classroom disruptions. Trying to head off their feeling before they can't control them can really change a classroom environment. The last thing I took away from these days were just to be mindful of what is going on around me. Taking that time to slow down and not always feel like I need to do 10 things. As I do a task, I'm going to try to be mindful of what I'm doing giving that task my full focus before I move onto the next. Day 4: Collaboration This was a day where we were able to collaborate with our colleagues. We shared what worked in our classroom and created an amazing list of resources and tips to take away from this day. I will share with you the notes from the k-2 group. Creating and Maintaining the Classroom Community How to have a successful beginning of the year? A common theme for all of our ideas was developing relationships with students and procedures that allow teacher and students to work together to create a community that empowers the students to be active learners. Here are ideas for set up this type of community: Kagan- Cooperative Learning Structures-including social skills and student talk Responsive Classroom Creating relationships through Direct Modeling and being deliberate in modeling procedures for your classroom. Whole Brain Teaching Multisensory approach to teaching meeting every kids needs that is not a program based program. Every student is engaged in their learning through gestures, collaborating, and critical thinking. There are free resources and videos online. Quick Ideas Family Board- Bring in pictures of their family and then during the year take pictures of the students and add them to the board. • Create a timeline of things that have happened during the year. Students bring in pictures and then add them to the timeline that is pre-hung in the classroom. • Classroom Currency combing with a partner to earn something for the class • Compliment chainHave you Fill a Bucket Today? (book to read to class in the beginning of the year) • Give me an H- handshake, high five, or a hug As you can see this was an amazing symposium and professional development opportunity. I hope you were able to take a few things away from what I shared.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Setting up Whole Brain Teaching Cottage Day 3 & 4

Well it has been a crazy week as we continue on our adventure of setting up a Whole Brain Teaching First Grade Cottage!  So here is an update with pictures.


So I decided to cover most of my books this year with curtains.  Why...well I'm glad you asked ;)  Last year I really had a hard time with kids leaving books alone while I am teaching.  I know that Whole Brain Teaching will help but I'm thinking out of sight out of mind.  So, when they are allowed to change books I'll have it open.  When the curtain is closed the library is closed.  Plus I like how it looks.

Here is the front of my room. I moved the computers and the guided reading table again.  But I think I'll keep it this way...for now.

As you can see, tennis balls are in session.  I also covered the shelf with math manipulatives.  This way they don't play with things I don't want them to.

Here is my pinterest find.  Dry erase dots!  I'm SUPER excited about this!  I found them on Amazon.  I can't wait to use them with my math and reading groups.

And here is the mess that is left after Day # 3.


Well I needed a break before school starts so I went to Carowinds with my girls and my best friend.  Love spending time with my girls!


DAY 4 I'm not going back until Monday!!!!!

So after day 3 I went back today to finish up or at least get to a point where I feel like I can handle it next week.  I have my list of things to make this weekend and things I need to print off.   So here are the pictures from the end of today.

Here are the numbers with words I made last year.  My wonderful assistant who now has a classroom of her own this year helped me by putting the tens and ones cubes for point of reference. 
I really went back and forth with whether to put the shapes up or not since they will be on their name tags and space is an issue but I decided it was important to have for reference.  I thought it fit nicely above the door.

Here is one of my curtains my Mom made me and I put my owl colors above it. 

I needed a place to put student work so I used the doors of my storage cabinets for their OWL-STANDING work!

Here is an update of my reading area.  I am starting CAFE this year so I have my CAFE board ready to go.  On the other half I plan to either put Writing Goals OR Anchor Charts.

I have my Power Pix wall up and ready to go!   This will be my first year using power pix very excited about it!

This is a picture standing from the back of the room looking to the front.   It is really impossible to see but I have my WBT scoreboard on the whiteboard next to the number words.  I think I will be making it a little bigger.  I added a curtain for the table in the front to hide things I have under the table.  I am thinking of putting the overhead projector under the table until I need it.  I'm not used to using an over head projector since I've been spoiled with a Smartboard but I am hoping to get an LCD projector that I will be using mostly HOPEFULLY!!


And here is a closer picture of my board.  I have my calendar and my Genius Ladder I made.  I also have my rules above the board.  The calendar area is one I am working on.  This weekend I'm making new signs for Calendar and Number of the Day.  I am also making signs to post my objectives that I am teaching.  I have cool frames from Michaels that are magnetic that hold my papers for genius ladder and will hold my calendar papers.  It is hard to see but I will make better pictures next week. 
Well that's where I am in my room.  I still do not have my word wall or super improver wall up.  I will be working on this next week.  HOPEFULLY I have room for everything!  I am taking tomorrow off to spend the last Friday before our official first day.   Thanks for taking this adventure with me.  More to come...

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Setting up the Cottage

Last week I got into my cottage, saw the space, and started arranging.  As I was arranging my room I couldn't help but think where everything would go.  I found  where my Power Pix wall and word wall will be going.  I think that I have a place to put my CAFE board.  My Super Improver Wall will be on my storage doors and my Practice Cards will be in the front of the room on the board I am going to do our Morning Meeting.   I went in the first day and with help moved the furniture around to examine space.   Last year my father in law made me the best tables to put between desk.  They take up a lot of room, especially in a cottage, however, it was so nice to have just an extra place for pencils, crayons, etc.  So they have to stay.  I'll show you my progress.

Here is Day 1...Getting to know the space.  

First we started with the big furniture finding it's home.


We had to figure out my space.  I considered getting rid of my teachers desk this year but decided I would need it for space.

I then found a meeting space and started placing a few baskets on the shelves just to get a feel

As you see I have 2 nice size bulletin boards! 

Day 2 setting the stage

 So after I went home and thought about the room a little more I decided I needed to change a few things.  I needed to move my meeting area because it really limits the space and I felt it was to close to the desks.   In moving the meeting area I had to move my small group area.  On Day 2 I took my books from home and started setting up my library.  I placed the books on shelves to just see how many books had a home. 

SO I moved my meeting space to the back of the room next to where my word wall and CAFE board will be.  This will work well when doing my mini lessons.  I haven't decided 100% whether to put my word wall on this board or my Power Pix.  I  am open to suggestions :) 

So in moving my meeting area my small group table is now in the front of the room next to the computers.  I like this set up though it is tight with 24 desk.  I am hoping not to have 24 students this year but I am prepared just in case.  The board you see in this picture will probably be my power pix wall.  The reason for this is because I will be meeting with Math and Reading group and I thought this would be a good reference.

 As you can see I still have a lot of work to do, and you wouldn't believe how much I still have to bring from home.  It really amazes me what you collect after 7 years of teaching.   I'll have more classroom pictures next week hopefully I will show you my boards and things set up.

Home Project:

So after I basically set up my classroom space, I had to go home and organize my files, stations, etc.  My garage was 1/2 full of things from my classroom so needless to say there was an abundant amount of organizing needed.  So I first took and separated Math and Reading into piles so that I could see what I had.  Here is where we started...
A mess right?   So after separating into math/reading piles I then started with math.  I had to think about how I would find things.  I thought about Common CORE Standards but let's be honest if I put 1.0A on a box I'm not 100% sure if I would know what was in there.  SO I went with Addition/Subtraction, Number Sense, Geometry and Measurement, and Holidays.  That seemed to work.    Here is where we stand right now with math...
I labeled each Crate so I would know what was inside when I am planning stations this year.
Now onto reading.  I have a lot more Math stations that reading I find, so I separated into word study, fluency, writing, and comprehension.  It's still a work in progress, but here is where I am right now.  I plan on moving items from my mailbox bin to crates, but I just ran out of crates.   This is my Saturday project :)
Oh and one last thing.   I have tile floor in my cottage and I know the movement of the chairs will bother me.  So I called a local tennis coach and he hooked me up with 2 bags off tennis balls.  I may not have 100% but it is a really good start.  SO here is a tip.  If you need tennis balls for your chairs, call coaches, teams, or tennis clubs.  They have old balls and will be happy to donate them.

So here is the start of my room adventure.  More to come next week.  Let me know what you think.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

It has been a very busy summer.   I have decided to blog getting ready for the school year.  This year I will be at a new school, in a trailer, and doing Whole Brain teaching in everything I do.  I have not moved into my classroom yet, everything is still in my garage.  However, I have started getting my whole brain teaching signs ready.   The great Farrah Shipley started blogging how to get your classroom ready for Whole Brain Teaching.  I'm going to piggy back off of her blogs and tell you how I am applying them.

Since I can't get in my classroom yet I have started making things. She suggested start by downloading power pics and picture cards.  Last night I started making my practice cards.  I took my rules and reduced them in size to fit on a 3X5 Index Card.   I needed White, Purple and Green practice cards.  The white cards were very easy.  I got creative with my purple and green cards.  I took a white index card and purple and green marker and went around the cards.  I have Purple 3x5 cards and Green 5X8 cards.   I was thinking I would make the green cards a little bigger to make room for tally marks. 

I got my signs off of teachers pay teachers from First Grade Fever by Christie.  I used her rules and her call back poster because they go with the colors I use in my classroom.  My colors will be turquoise, brown, and lime with pink and blue mixed in.  I have an owl theme but  I went with the polka dot signs because I loved her pictures that went along with rules.   I have printed the rules and I'm hoping to find my construction paper to glue them on.  I have several things that will need laminating, so pictures of our laminating party may be coming!

I have started looking at my reading and writing workshop calendars to match what power pics to match my power pics with the topics I will be covering.  I will also be making my signs for my Power Pics Wall.  As soon as I get them finished I will post them. 

Well that is a recap of my latest projects, more to come!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Whole Brain Teaching Conference and Book

I have had an amazing summer so far!  After school I was able to attend the national conference in Louisiana for Whole Brain Teaching.  I must tell you, if you ever get the chance to attend you should go!  It connected all the dots for me and showed me how to implement Whole Brain Teaching in my class all day every day.  We started Day 1 learning about Classroom Management. We reviewed the Big 7 (Class-Yes, 5 Rules,  Scoreboard, Teach/Okay, Hands & Eyes, Mirror, & Switch.  We learned the correct way to implement and introduce these.  One thing that I will be using more effectively this year is the Scoreboard.  I did not realize that there were so many levels for the scoreboard.  Last year I was very basic with whole brain teaching.  I used the Big 7 but it was not in depth and I was shown more effective ways to implement them in my classroom.  If you do not know anything about these I recommend going to and start downloading ebooks and watching webinars.  Chris Biffle lays out all aspects of the classroom management and IT'S FREE!  The second day we focused on the lay out of the 5 step lesson plan.  I really tried to implement this last year but I did not fully understand the lay out.  I learned the more you speak the less your children learn.  You lose them because after a while all they hear is blah blah blah so here comes the frustration with reteaching and repeating.  Seems like such a waste of time but is this not what we do in the classroom.  We teach, we repeat, we test, we reteach, we retest.  How awesome would it be to teach and move on because your students are really comprehending what you say?  Thus the 5 step lesson plan, you get their attention, you teach (briefly), they teach with gestures...this repeats until your lesson is finished.  After the first 3 steps what do you do?  You test and then give a critical thinking response.  The last day we saw a video of a Kindergarten class who wrote...are you ready? A 5 PARAGRAPH ESSAY!!  That's right friends!  KINDERGARTEN!  AMAZING does not even begin to describe it.  How did they do this you may ask..oral writing!  Speed Grammar!  Oh let me just say what an exciting day this was.  I plan on going more into this in a later post.  I just wanted to update you on my summer so far!  I am also reading Whole Brain Teaching for Challenging Kids by Chris Biffle.  If you don't have this, it's an easy read and really lays out everything for you.  You even get scripts to use when you are implementing the different components in your classroom.  I'll go more into this book later as well.  Who wants to go on this journey with me this year?  I have started getting certified in Whole Brain Teaching.  I know this year will be AWESOME!  I should have several updates for you!  My 6 year old is planning out my backyard after watching yard crashers to make our lay out more effective.  I am working on making my classroom more effective and getting my kids EXCITED about learning EVERY DAY!  HOW?  WHOLE BRAIN TEACHING!  Let's get this party started!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Wow what a year!

Boy this year has taken off.  We have several new programs going on this year at our school and in our class.  We are doing Lucy Calkins in reading & writing.  I have used Lucy Calkins in writing workshop and am loving her updated writing workshop model and how it really interweaves with shared reading, and readers workshop. 

 I just watched a webinar on The Crazy Professor with Whole Brain Teaching.  I plan on trying to start this tomorrow.  I am going to take it slow and start just getting them used to using gestures while they are reading and silently acting out their book at their spots.  Then proceed from there.  If you are interested in getting your students engaged I highly recommend Whole Brain Teaching techniques.  It has truly reformed my classroom and how I teach.  The key that I am struggling with is being consistent with the new procedures and not falling into old habits. 

In math I have started using a detective theme in teaching math workshop.  We start getting our detective journals out, have a mystery question of the day, and we go from there.  My kids are LOVING math this year.  They are so excited to see what we are doing in math daily.  Because of this excitement in math my challenge to myself has been how can I bring this excitement into reading workshop.  How you may ask???? SUPERHEROES!!   Even my girls are into being superheroes in reading and our "weapons" are our books.  I will post examples of my Smart board lessons online soon.

I am working on math stations for 1.OA.1, 1.OA.2, 1.OA.3, 1.OA.4, 1.OA .5, and 1.OA 6.  I will let you know when these are finished. 

This first nine weeks have really taken off.  My kids are active and learning.  I am really enjoying using my new techniques I am learning in Whole brain teaching with my class.  Hope you had a great election day!