Saturday, January 24, 2015

Tricks of the Trade

Originally I really wanted to make fun videos for my students but I have found it to be extremely time consuming and with a 2 year old at home, I honestly don't have the time right now to make them. Instead, I've decided to make some videos called Tricks of the Trade. These are just going to be random ideas, tips, tricks, and chants that I have either learned or created over my 8 years of teaching. I have also learned a lot from my mother who taught for over 30 years. I am a teaching scavenger and I am always on the hunt for something new, creative, and engaging. This series will hopefully be a fun way for other teachers to see some new "tricks" for their classroom.

Check out my Trick of the Trade #1 - Reading Pointers:

Cheap, easy, and tons of fun. Let me know what you think!


Sunday, January 18, 2015

Early Finisher Bins

Last time I talked about one of my new favorite early finishers - student authors. This week it's all about my newest early finisher idea: Early Finisher Bins. I spend most of my summer working on things for the new year. Yeah, I know what you're thinking, "Don't teachers lay on the beach all summer?" Not this freckled one. My summer normally consists of organizing files, finally checking out all of the things I have pinned over the year, and then turning them into tangible items for my classroom. A young intern for the ELL teacher walked into my room and told me that it looked like Pinterest exploded. Frankly, she was right. I try several new things each year. Some succeed, some fail but either way the outcome is always surprising. One of my newest additions this year was the early finisher bin. I have never been the best teacher ever when it came to students who finished early. So this was definitely something I wanted to work on this year. I found a bunch of early finisher ideas on Pinterest and then I made cards, envelopes, and bins for each table in my classroom. I gave each student a zip lock bag of early finisher cards. Then I made bags and envelopes with the early finisher cards taped to them so they knew which cards went with which materials in the bins.

I got these bins at Michaels years ago and frankly they've been sitting in my room longing for a home. I thought this was the perfect use for them. Each table gets a bin with a bunch of materials. There are different types of papers (white, dotted lined, lined with blank space), notepads, envelopes and other things inside.

I have to say that these:

Were by far the most popular thing everyone wanted to do. They LOVED writing letters. We ran out of envelopes in a week! Good thing the dollar tree has more (: I've found this bin to be a great creative outlet for those students who finish their work early. There are a lot of different things inside for them to do so they don't get bored with it. It is also a great and fun way to practice the writing process (which we all know we never have enough time for). Either way, these bins are definitely a keeper for next year!


Sunday, January 4, 2015

Awesome Authors

        Every year I try a plethora of ideas with my new batch of students. Some of the ideas are wonderful (like the lost and found box), while some of them are a bust (hot gluing fire pens). When I first started teaching, many moons ago, I used to struggle with the higher level students. What on earth should they do when they finish their work early? After years of trial and error my students are now challenged and engaged even if they finish early. How? You might ask. Two simple things have made my students independent and driven young children. 

        The first thing I tried, I learned in an early childhood writing class a few years ago. This class promoted students as authors. My professor encouraged us to move away from the conventional book paper which had a box for a picture and lines for their writing. We were told to give them blank paper and ask them to write a book. While I was skeptical at first, I was astonished at what my students were capable of. Sure some of them produced books that were repetitive or not exactly a story but some were absolutely amazing. Many were more than I could have ever imagined a first grader to create. Some students created their own versions of stories we had read in the past while others created a whole new story of their own. What I learned was that this activity was something that automatically tailored itself to each student's personal level. This is an ongoing activity that I give time for every day. When my students have finished their book, I always make sure that I give them time to share. This part of the writing process is extremely important and sadly overlooked by many. This is the time for the author to feel pride in their work and for the audience to see what they like and don't like about someone else's work. It allows students with lower ability to strive to have books like those who take their time and have full story books. It allows higher students to become true authors and illustrators. I have even had students team up where one is the author and the other is the illustrator. Here is a book that one of my students wrote. They created their own version of the Don't let the Pigeon ___ (these pigeon stories are written by Mo Willems). This one is called Don't Let the Pigeon Eat too Much.

I thought this was great! Not only did it have an actual story with a beginning, middle, and end but it had wonderful illustrations that matched their story. After they are done writing, I let them share. They others give them glows and grows. Things that they like about the book as well as ways that they can grow in their writing. The one thing that stood out to me with this book was the tendency to write words at the bottom of the page and then at the top of the page which was somewhat confusing to the reader. This student saw this and was able to fix this in future books. My students love this activity so much that they even ask to write their books during recess. This is my absolute favorite activity to do with my students! It turns them into young children who absolutely love to write. 

Stay tuned next week for my newest early finisher idea. A must have in every classroom!
I hope everyone had a wonderful winter break and starts the new year bright-eyed and bushy-tailed (: