Friday, August 02, 2013

School Week Linky: Teacher's Choice!

Today is the last day of the School Week Linky. A *huge* thanks to Tracey over at The Teacher's Chair for hosting such a great blog linky...I had tons of fun and loved linking up with other creative and inspiring teacher bloggers.

Today on the linky menu is:

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue

It took me forever to decide what in the world to blog about for Teacher's Choice, and inspiration struck at 1am last night (typical teacher brain...always in overdrive!). I was thinking about how I still need to find the traditional "something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue" for my upcoming February wedding in Jamaica, and decided to use those four topics in my last linky post. 
So here it goes...brace yourself for a mammoth-sized post!!!

Something Old

My classroom!!! These were the very first pictures taken of my very first classroom...WAY back when I was convinced this was true:
A LOT about my classroom changed shortly after these photos were taken and the school year began:
I quickly learned that, although it's okay to be obsessive compulsive organized and it's great to have a fabulously-decorated classroom, it's the kiddies that ultimately shape the look and setup of the classroom. 
Every class will not be the same and what works for one group won't work for another. Even what works for one group one week might not work for the same group another week. I ended up covering my walls with meaningful resources that my firsties helped me to create, and tables (seat work and centre tables) were moved to support the success of the learners.
(there's excitement, exhaustion, and absolute terror in my eyes...haha)

Something New

Out with the old and in with the new! Not too long ago I created this math resources to help me start off the school year:
I cannot wait to use it in my classroom in the fall...I think my kiddies will really enjoy the bright and colourful graphics, and be engaged in the hands-on activities.
Click HERE if you are interested in learning more about what is included in this pack.

Something Borrowed

Even before I got my first teaching position, I started making a communication binder for each of my kiddies. I have heard of and seen *hundreds* of versions of communication binders so I borrowed bits and pieces from various styles I had seen, added a few elements of my own, and ultimately created my own customized communication binder: 
I chose to work with the word "camp" since my classroom theme last year was camping.
I just used a small, white, 1" binder for each student, and handed them out right at the beginning of the school year.
The first page in the binder is a welcome letter from myself:
I added a short "About Me" page so both my students and their parents could get to know me a little bit before open house night:
When the binder goes home on the first day of school, I also give parents a bit of "homework" to help me get to know their child:
I place the above sheets in the "Complete & Return" pocket...read on for more details.
Click HERE to head over to The First Grade Parade and download Cara's great resource!
Next is an explanation of how the binder works for parents:
So far, all of the above pages would be taken out after the first week of school (after parents had read over the binder) and moved to the "Leave at Home" pocket (see below) for parents to retain at home for their reference. 
Later, the first page in the C.A.M.P. binder becomes a student reference guide:
After that, there are calendar pages just like this one:
There is one calendar for each month of the school year and they each include important dates, holidays, etc. I had originally asked parents to sign the appropriate date each night as an indication that they have looked through the binder and removed any worksheets, artwork, school newsletters, or anything else being sent home, from the back pockets. If a parent signed/initialed, the student would get a sticker on their communication notebook the next day.
NOTE: I used to check over the binder and give out stickers *every day* ...As you can imagine, that became incredibly time consuming and tedious. So this year, I plan on only giving out a sticker once at the end of each week (on Friday) if the binder has been signed on Thursday night...or something like that}.
Next is the communication notebook:
I make it clear that this notebook is not for students to write or draw in. It is for parents and teachers to write notes to one another and increase communication between home and school. No more lost doctors appointment notes, or confusion about who is going on the bus and who is being picked up. Everything can be written in one convenient spot! I also use this notebook as a way to leave a friendly note every once in a while if a student is doing well or has an extra good day. 
The most-used part of the C.A.M.P. binder are the pocket tabs at the back:
There are 3 pocket tabs: 
Important Papers (for school notes, newsletters, etc.)
Complete & Return (for field trip forms, and other paperwork that needs to be returned to school)
Leave at Home (for any student work, etc., that can stay at home)
The last zipper pocket is for any loose change and money for book orders, field trips, lunch, etc.:
And that's it! GOODBYE lost notes and backpacks stuffed with crinkled papers, HELLO organization, Communication, student Accountability, and the Management of Papers!!!

Something  Blue  Orange

In the spirit of looking back at what worked last year and what did not, it's time to introduce you to my WASHROOM CONES! Oh boy, do I *love* these things! When I first introduced my kiddies to these cones in my first year, I did not realize HOW valuable they would become: 

Let's start out with how they're made. 
All I did was buy two small pylons from Walmart (I found them in the sports section around soccer equipment). Then, I just printed a male and female washroom symbol off the computer and mod-podged the images to the cones. That's it!

Now for how they work.
First of all, yes, there are only two cones. One boy cone and one girl cone (this worked best for my classroom as, otherwise, there would have been monkey business in the bathrooms).
If a student has to use the washroom at any point during the school day (aside from snack, lunch, and recesses), they take the appropriate cone--i.e. male if the student is a boy, and female if the student is a girl--and place it at their spot on their table. This way, whether I am teaching a lesson, working with a small group, etc., I and the other students are never interrupted. Using the bright orange cone helps me to see who is in the room and who is out in a single glance. 

WELL! That about wraps up this super fun School Week Linky!!! 
I hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did. Remember, it's still not too late to link up; head over to The Teacher's Chair to link your post (I left early for camping before anyone had begun linking so I will have to link when I return!), or simply visit all the amazing bloggers who have contributed their inspiration and creativity.

For now, I'm headed off-the-radar for a weekend full of camping adventures! 
Have a great weekend, everyone :)

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