Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Prepping for Open House

This year I am trying stations for the first time at Open House! I am very nervous about it, since I've seen it done with elementary schools, but not a lot at middle school. I'm also not sure how many minutes we have with each class, so I don't know if people will get through them all in time!

First they will sign-in (I have the sign in sheet and the "Involve-Mint" sign in a package with my parent questionnaire on TpT for free- grab it here)

This is from last year

Today I had students label a manila folder with their first and last name, and pick up the following handouts:

Scholastic Book Order Information
Interactive Student Notebook Information
Grading Information
Parent Questionnaire
Student Technology Sheet

I will have this by their "cubbies" where parents can take a look at the ISN's, and I'm going to place some projects and activities that we have done in the past on the table nearby.

This is where they have to go to various parts of the room to find their child's Six-Word Memoir, hopefully we will have enough time at this point!

 I purchased the Giving Tree handouts from Ms. W at Tales of Teaching in Heels, and loved them, but decided to put a little twist on it. I drew the giving tree and little boy on my whiteboard, and then found some apple post-its I had hiding in a drawer. I put things like glue, index cards, post-it notes, markers, etc.. on them. I hope it doesn't come off as tacky, (does it?) but most things are fairly cheap on there, and I don't want anyone to feel obligated to take it! I am definitely using the adorable thank you notes that came in the download, I love them!

Ok- I'm sneaking in a little close reading to this post (just a little)...

Today we made our keys that we will use all year for close reading. This was a fun process with one small hiccup. My 2nd period class made the key, but I have two 8th grade classes and only one ISN. So my fifth period class didn't get to create the key as much as review it, which didn't give them as much ownership. I think it still went ok, but I wanted both classes to be consistent.

I will be making these into .pdf posters tonight and will get them uploaded soon to TpT!
**I'm putting them in below!

Close Reading Non-Fiction Key

Close Reading Fiction Key

We didn't get as far as I wanted with the close reading because we were also doing the open house, but we'll catch up tomorrow! The top is 2nd period, and the bottom is 5th period.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Genius Hour Kick-Off

So last week, my students played around with their Weebly pages, and had to create a header, a new blog page, and their first blog post. Their prompt for their first post was "I chose to take Genius Hour because..." Their responses were amazing! Many of them talked about "filling the gaps" for high school in terms of learning research skills, and many expressed their desire to work independently about what they were interested in, rather than a set curriculum. I am so looking forward to this class, and they seem to be as well!

We only have 38 minutes on Mondays, so I decided that I will use this day to teach technology tools, research mini-lessons, or activities like what we did today.

Today, I started class with this video:
This was great to introduce them to the idea of Genius Hour. They also loved how someone was drawing as it went along (those are my favorite videos, too!) When I asked them how many of them wanted to work at Google now, almost every hand went up in the air!

Then I shared this video, which was done by a student who was presenting his findings from his Genius Hour experience:

This video was awesome, because it led to a discussion about what failure is. Then, before we did our activity, we watched this video:

Needless to say, they were pretty amazed by this kid. I started off by saying, "We just talked about failures and how they are ok. Let's look at an example of a great success."

Next, I had students get out a piece of paper and write Failure and Genius. They had to define both of these by writing down as many things as they could for each. Many students had gotten the idea that failure is an opportunity to succeed again. I used an analogy of playing games on the computer or any console. I told them how I'm addicted to Candy Crush, and when I lose I don't just give up, but I go back with zeal, and I believe that I will CRUSH that candy this time and win. And sometimes, when I do win and I celebrate, Bella is the only one around. I don't need to have anyone else pat me on the back though because I know I accomplished something great. *The addiction is real, people. Bella has an account so she can give me lives when I run out. I need an intervention.

All in all, I'm really looking forward to brainstorming with them this week about their projects. We will hopefully get to the point where they are filling out a project proposal by the end of the week, and then it's off to the races!

I'm also toying with the idea of putting the project proposal in a Google form, that way it's all in one place, but I'm not sure yet. Thoughts?

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Classroom Through the Years...and the Ice Bucket Challenge.

Today's post will be a photo tour of my classrooms through the years!


My first two years at my school, I taught Drama as an exploratory class to grades 6-8. My classroom was the actual stage, which you can imagine was terrible in terms of sound. I was always having to shout to be heard because the school was fairly new and the ceiling wasn't insulated yet. If it rained, the roof was metal, so you could hear absolutely NOTHING! It was a difficult room to decorate, and there were no bulletin boards. It was hard to find pictures from this time, and it definitely speaks to how young I was! Also- there are no windows in this room, so the color is very muted and dim. This wasn't my camera, it was like this all the time!

Almost everything in this picture I bought at The Chalkboard

Very exciting wall (sarcasm)

 I had the cubbies, and tried to decorate as best I could at the time
 The good old futon (that is my best set piece I've ever had for drama. It has been a bed or a couch in almost every year in a show). You can also see my blue chair back in it's better days. It was unfortunately put out to pasture this year.
There was a hallway and stairs that students had to come in from the door. This was a nightmare if students were late, because it was locked, and I couldn't hear them.


I can't find a single picture from my first year in my classroom, which is surprising (since I apparently like to photograph everything).


Aww...my baby classroom library :)

This is back when I was hypersensitive about checklists! Students had to check in on a clipboard when they were late, check out on another clipboard when they went out of the room. Wow. I'm exhausted just thinking about it!

I remember feeling guilty that I bought these posters and didn't use them!

The beginnings of my "comfy" classroom vibe. That Marilyn poster will be with me forever!

Another view of the classroom library


 I notice a few things about myself from these photos: I wanted it to look great, but I didn't have a clear vision. I also wasn't seeing past the typical or looking outside the box. It was more like, put classroom rules here, hang obligatory poster there, etc...

 This is the year I went crazy at our local libraries used book sale and bought pretty much everything!
I believe this was the last year for that table. The legs had pretty much collapsed in on themselves by the end of the year.
My inner control freak calmed down to let my students make a classroom library rules sign. :)

 The beginning of personalized labels and bins! :)

 Sometimes things just work. That painting, done by a student in 2010, will never not be in my room. I love it!
 Mega Desk (have you seen The Office?)

Yeah, those bins didn't work out. Good effort, though, haha :)

This was my third year in the room, and I was starting to "pack" it in more and more each year. Student projects were overflowing from the top of the shelves, and behind the boards they were packed full!


Ahh, yes...2012-2013, the year of the Owls...

Running Owl Count: 1 (that's not so bad)

 Running Owl Count: 64 (just kidding, and yes, I counted all the ones on the border)
 Running Owl Count: 65

 I still love how clean and neat the front of this room looks!

Running Owl Count: 66

Running Owl Count: 68 + 20 for the rest of the groups

Running Owl Count: 90 + all the ones hanging from the ceiling and peeking out around corners?? 

Classroom reading area

I'm tired of counting owls, lol. And who could forget these??
which now totally remind me of:
from one of my fave movies, Labyrinth!


I'm sharing a link to last year's classroom tour for this one, as there were a lot of pictures, and I already had it organized. Also, if you already follow this blog, you've probably seen them all already!


And this year. I've already shown you lots of pictures, but I'll go in order and try to give some details for everyone. 

Classroom library and reading area. Pillows made with fabric from Hobby Lobby. Hanging lights from Target (Room Essentials) Throw, green lamp, and carpet from IKEA. Other lamp from Target.

Agenda boards and Jeff Anderson "Invitation" board. Made with wrapping paper from Target. The right board at the bottom will have a running list of what we have learned during the year.

Bins, tablecloth, and file folders on wall from target. Organizer on bottom from IKEA. Classroom rules sign stenciled by me.

Desk, chair, and stools in corner from IKEA. Clipboard, tray, acrylic box, and calendar from Erin Condren. Supply box from Home Depot, mod podged. Large clothespins from Michaels.

Chair covered with fabric from Hobby Lobby. Easel from IKEA. Tables were props from High School Musical, painted blue. 

Signs made on computer and glued on to cardstock from Michaels.

Large post-its from Target and Office Depot.

My classroom has changed into one that is more student-centered throughout the years. I carved out space specifically for student learning and enjoyment. They have a dedicated space to find materials, store their own materials, browse and read books, and a clutter free space for learning and working collaboratively. I have slowly made my teacher area smaller, and more functional so that it is primarily for working when students are not in the classroom. This takes the focus off of me as the teacher, and gives it to the students. My overall goal is to make my our classroom inviting, warm, and functional.

The bulletin boards are also student centered, and require input from them in order to be complete. They are also works in progress. The students will change and add to them as the year goes on so that it reflects what they are currently learning. While I love decorating, I wanted it to be functional rather than strictly decorative. This has definitely been a learning experience over the past eight years, and I feel confident about where it is at now, but I'm sure it will evolve and change in the future as well. 

I hope you enjoyed this classroom through the years tour! 

Also- I took the Ice Bucket challenge. Head on over to my Facebook page to check it out and see who I nominated! I donated to Team McLaren for the 2014 TCS New York City Marathon benefiting Project ALS.