Thursday, August 20, 2015

New Room! How to Organize??

My New Room
Last year our district switched from two PreK-5 schools to a PreK-2 and a 3-5 school. This was a big switch for everyone. In the process I lost my classroom and had to share with another reading teacher. I've been teaching for over 30 years and I'm always looking for ways to improve my instruction so I'm not a teacher that's stuck in her ways but I will admit the idea of room sharing did not go over well with me.

This summer I read Learn Like a Pirate and I really want to try some of the ideas with my reading students. However, that is going to be very difficult in a shared room because it's going to be noisier than ever at times. I discussed this with my principal and he promised to give the idea of a room change some consideration. Yesterday I got the wonderful news that another teacher was willing to switch places with me! I don't think I stopped smiling all day yesterday. :)

I headed up to school and the custodians had already moved all of our stuff. I just had to pack up my desk and closet stuff. Easy! My first year as a reading teacher I was in a refurbished closet, really! Then I moved to a slightly bigger room. Last year I had half a classroom which was my biggest space so far and now I have a full size classroom! That means all my holiday and extra books I've stored in the computer lab can come back to my room and I'll be able to take other stuff stored in the hall closets and get it back in my room or toss it since I haven't used it in years. It's a great feeling.

So, here is my room:

Lots of bulletin board space!

Yucky white boards and they aren't magnetic, next to the Smartboard.

The one drawback to this room is afternoon sun on the hot days.

The kidney table will be leaving and be replaced with a rectangular one

My only open plug is back by the sink!

My teaching style is a mix of CAFE/Donalyn Miller's Books/Notice and Note/Learn Like a Pirate-I'll try to explain this in an upcoming post.

I have some comfy reading seats

  • rocking chair
  • beanbag
  • wagon with two pillows
  • a crate with a pillow
  • an extra teacher chair

I also have:

  • thousands of books in bins sorted by author/series/topic/genre
  • 3 computers 
  • 7 iPads with headphones
  • a rolling chart stand
  • 2 rectangular tables
  • 12 desks-not sure if I have to keep those or not
  • a teacher desk which holds the 4th computer and document camera hooked to the Smartboard

Things I plan on adding/doing this year:

  • a listening station-another teacher wanted to get rid of books on tape and I found a working tape player in the lockers so I took them. 
  • reader's theatre-
  • partner reading
  • giving students more voice and choice
  • more collaboration

I'll be making a trip to JoAnn's this weekend to buy fabric for all my bulletin boards, I'm definitely out of touch with having to fill in all that space. I think I'm going to do a pirate theme and I'll be using the Notice and Note signposts so I'm thinking about using that as a springboard for the big bulletin board but I'm open to other ideas.

I'll be spending next week getting the room arranged. I'd love to hear some suggestions from you on what to do for bulletin boards and arranging areas for my reading room for 3rd-5th graders before I get up there and begin working!


I enjoy going to conferences. It's great to connect with Facebook and Twitter friends and learn something new or be reminded of something you've forgotten about. In the past I've attended NYSCATE, ISTE and Podstock. I enjoyed them all! But now that I'm not teaching in the classroom or the computer lab I find it harder to justify the expense of attending a conference. Last year I heard about EdcampNEPA but it was the same weekend as The Ride for Missing Children so no conference. This year Edcamp was held a month earlier so I signed up and tried to get a few coworkers to attend with me. None of them were able to go so I went alone. EdcampNEPA was perfect, just a three hour drive from home, it ran from 8:30-1:00, it's free and they even had food for breakfast and lunch. With the help of Hotwire it only cost me gas, dinner, and a cheap hotel rate. I can afford that.

Edcamps are not the typical conference. It's about conversations and taking ownership for your own learning. The day starts with breakfast goodies, reconnecting with old friends and making new friendships while the conference schedule board begins to fill up. We were constantly reminded that there were still openings on the board, you don't have to be an expert, and you need to make sure you get what you came for. I wandered over to see what the sessions were going to be about and totally surprised myself when I went ahead and signed up to lead a discussion on "Using Tech to Support Reading and Writing for 3rd-5th Grades."

Oops, it's four months later and I never finished this post! Sorry...let me just add a few more notes...

My session was during the first of three time slots. There were just a handful of participants and that made for a good easy going group discussion. In the end I was glad that I stepped out of my comfort zone.

The next session was on Making writing authentic we waited a bit for the person that signed up for the topic but s/he never showed so participants just began sharing.
A few notes from that discussion:

  • Use Kidblog-everything is approved by the teacher first
  • The Book Writing in Science was mentioned as a good read
  • Voki and Blabberize were mentioned as online tools for writing
  • Powerwriting: Give a word-students write for 1 minute. Repeat 2 more times. Each time count and circle number of words. As the year progress they see the growth. No punctuation, spelling etc. just get ideas down. Good for any area.
  • After watching a video write one word for each: adjective, emotion, interesting, oh?, Um
The third session was on global learning and led by Lisa Parisi and Michael Soskil, both experts on the subject.
  • A few notes from this presentation:
  • Use Twitter and Skype in the Classroom
  • Mystery Skype is the gateway drug to Skype
    • Need a map
    • Post questions and kids jot answers, have maps and computers available
    • Someone takes pictures, videos, researches, crosses impossibles off the map
    • Once finished have a Q&A session
    • Takes 20-25 minutes
    • Look up location on Google Earth when it's finished
    • It helps dispel stereotypes
  • Need to think about why you want to connect, what are you doing, how can you connect
  • Share the good stories
The day ended with a Smackdown, I'll share what I wrote down but not much detail:

Remind-communicate without giving out personal info can have office hours so parents can respond
YouTube Aurasma-demo people make book trailers with it
Edpuzzle-take YouTUbe video, you can shorten it, and add questions. Students can rewind and relisten to parts. formative assessment with one device

It was a great day and I was very glad that I made the trip. I hope to return next year with some teacher friends. 

Monday, August 10, 2015

Picture Book 10 for 10

This is my first year doing the Picture Book 10 for 10. I really wish I could have gotten into my classroom before doing this post. I feel like I really needed to browse through my baskets of books in my classroom and the shelves of books I don't have room for, so I keep them in my old room, the computer lab. But since we're getting a new roof we're not allowed in the school so I'll do my best...

Hmmm, what 10 picture books couldn't I live without???

1. Brown Bear Brown Bear-I taught kindergarten and first grade for many many years. This book helped many students become "readers" over the years. Someday when I have grandchildren it will be a book I'll share with them.

2. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom-another fun book for the young readers. Eric Carle is one of my very favorite authors too.

3. Quiltmaker's Gift/Journey-I fell in love with these two books last year although I've always enjoyed the gift. Our 4th graders read the journey in class and then I had my students read the gift with me. It was one of the few books that I had my class read together. They loved the story, the illustrations, making predictions, the language, everything. This year I will be introducing the Notice and Note signposts to my 4th graders early in the year. I'm looking forward to seeing how that changes their interactions with the story.

4. What Do You Do With an Idea? This was a new book for me last year. My 5th graders did not seem to enjoy it. I'm thinking it had to be my presentation. I'll do better this year.

5. Hmmmm, which Patricia Polacco book to pick? Thunder Cake, Thank You Mr. Falker, Aunt Chip and the Great Triple Creek Dam Affair..... it's too hard to choose, she has so many great ones! Our third grades do Mr. Falker in class and I follow up with the Triple Creek book, it's perfect for a reading teacher!

6. Janell Cannon is another favorite author. I used her books to introduce the Notice and Note sign posts to my third graders at the end of the year-Pinduli, Crickwing, Verdi but I've always loved Stellaluna and it still holds my top stop.

7. The Gardener by Sarah Stewart-I love how this book is told through letters and how the little girl makes the best of a difficult situation. I also happen to love gardening.

8. The Raft. I just realized I didn't use this with any of my classes last year! I will have to remedy that this year. It's such a great book about change with beautiful illustrations.

9. The Best Part of Me. Being a photographer and a teacher this book really speaks to me. My fourth graders loved making their own version last year.

10. If You Plant a Seed-I just read this book this month and immediately ordered a copy. I'm thinking about using it as my first day of class book to help set the tone for the year.

Well, there's today's top 10. Who knows, a week from now I might pick 10 different titles!