Monday, August 10, 2015

Spaces & Places - Planning Your Space

I think I mentioned before that I'm a member of this online community of First Grade teachers... Well, they've all been busy working in the classrooms and posting pictures of their progress.  Maybe they start school sooner than I do?  Or maybe I'm just a slacker.  Who can really be sure? ;)

Anyway.  Some of their classrooms are amazing!  Some of their rooms have so much stuff in them!  Some of their rooms are huge!  Some of their rooms... well, I'll be honest.  I'm jealous that I've got virtually no creative bone in my body.  There.  I said it.

So I decided to get up off my lazy butt at about 2:00 today and go to the bank then to my classroom.  (I hate going to the bank!  Huge waste of my time.)  I picked up my school keys, had a meeting with my principal about class size confidential stuff, then went out for food and drinks with a few friends from work.  Super productive, right? Ha!

Well, I did go back after dinner.  This is what my room looked like upon walking in:

(It's a panoramic picture.  My room isn't really that big.  Honest.)

The custodians were in there cleaning all of my furniture.  That's a first!  I don't think my building's custodians (in any building I've ever taught in) have ever cleaned my furniture!  I have always had to do it myself!  But there it is.  All of my furniture in a giant mess in the center of my carpet.  I had no clue what I was going to do with it.  And then I remembered..

Ta da!!! I own this book!

This is another one that I've had for a few years now.  I have read the introduction several times.  Each time I read it, it's the beginning of the summer (yes, I did it this summer, too) then I put it down because I know I will forget everything when it comes time to set up my classroom.  Well, I remembered to pull it back out this year.  Check me out!  Making progress!

So I got started with planning my classroom, which was the focus of the first chapter.  Let me say first that I love books with lots of pretty color photos as examples.  I especially love that this book includes all of the "before" photos.  It makes me not feel so bad because someone's room was once worse off than mine!

I think the biggest Ah-ha! moment that I had today was written on the second page of Chapter 1.  "Begin with the end in mind."  Is that not what we do when planning instruction?  We begin with what we want the children to know, then we plan backwards.  Why didn't I ever think to do this with room arrangement???  (And that would be why Debbie Diller is making the big bucks on this topic.)

So I began by thinking about the spaces that I know I need in my classroom.  A whole-group teaching area, a small-group teaching space, a classroom library, a word wall, computers, the math area, a safe place, a place for book boxes, a place for students' supplies and materials, and space for the students to complete their work independently.  As I was working through this list, other ideas popped into my head.  Things like a writing station... and where on Earth am I going to put my chart stand?  And what about student materials?  Where will those go?  As something came to mind, I wrote it on a Post-It note.  I also wrote all of the pieces of furniture that I have on separate Post-It notes.

Finally, I went and got a giant piece of construction paper and drew my classroom.  Everything that was permanently attached to the room got written on the construction paper in marker.  Everything else was on the Post-Its.  Before moving any furniture, I spent about 30 minutes rearranging my "furniture" on sticky notes.  Huge time saver!! And definitely easier on my sore muscles.  Leg day is no joke!

Some of my Post-Its made it off the page outside the door... That's the furniture that I want to find a new home for.  Perhaps there is another teacher that doesn't have a kidney table... Or maybe some desks.  We'll see.  We aren't allowed to yard sale our furniture until next week, though.  Over the last few years, I've gotten rid of several pieces of furniture.  I no longer have a teacher's desk.  I only have enough student desks for 22 students.  (That means I can't have more than 22 this year, right?  Ha!  Wishful thinking.)  I have two kidney tables, but that's because I had like five adults in my room at any given time last year with the TAs, tutors, interventionists, and whoever else.  I plan to get rid of one of them because I won't have that this year - I hope.  I also plan to get rid of maybe five or six more student desks.

So, I'm only sort of sorry for this poor-quality photo.  I did want to show you, though, that this book provides some great ideas!  Debbie Diller has gone beyond simply narrating how to organize your space... She has taken it a step farther by giving you suggestions for what to organize in each of your spaces!  Give her a gold star!  

I'm not to this point in my own classroom yet because all of my stuff is still in the cabinets.  I have only addressed the issue of the furniture so far because that was all out and in my way.  (The fabric and borders on the bulletin boards have been up for the last two years.)  

By the time I started just walking around aimlessly in my classroom (meaning it's time to go home), I only finished putting the furniture where I needed it to be according to my Post-It map.  I have to admit, I'm not hating it.  Of course, I probably will hate it once I realize that I still need to figure out what to do with those student desks... and I'm crossing my fingers that someone needs a kidney table. Otherwise, I'm stuck with it again this year!

One more thing that I love about this book:

Just about all situations were considered!  In Chapter 1, Debbie has suggestions for the special items you'd find in a pre-K or Kindergarten classroom.  She includes what to do with a dual-language classroom and planning for students with special needs (wheelchairs, etc.).  She makes suggestions for open classrooms with no walls (I used to have one of those - it was hard!) and portable buildings. She also discusses technology, teacher's desks, and using color in your classroom.  (Did you know that red and orange evoke excitement and stimulate hunger?)

The next chapter in the book is "Arranging Your Room."  I may have inadvertently jumped ahead.  I may try to read that chapter tonight to see if I'm finished with it.  I'm sure I still need to pull all of my crap teaching materials out of the cabinets and put things where they go for my room to be considered "arranged." We'll see.

How is your room coming along?  Or have you already begun school and are therefore finished?  I'd love to see some of your pictures and hear about your progress!  Leave me a link to your blog!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Foundation Lessons - A Daily 5 Book Study

Guys.  I am so far behind with everything I'm doing lately!  I have been home from the Katmai for a week now.  The first day out was spent in Seward.  It's a cute little town worthy of a visit if you're ever up this way.  Mile 0 of the Iditarod race.  The next two days were spent cleaning up and drying out all of our camping supplies.  Then two days were spent getting the boyfriend ready to go to sheep camp.  He left yesterday morning, and I just slept.  All day.  It was nice.  Haha!

Then there's today.  I've got to get into my classroom before Thursday.  I can go pick up my keys tomorrow afternoon, so I decided to take care of all of my last-day-of-summer plans (i.e., cleaning my apartment for the last time until winter break) today.

Also on today's to do list...
Catching up on this blog!

I told myself when I started it again this summer that I was going to be better.  I was doing so well there for a while, then July happened!  Hopefully I do actually keep it up throughout the year.

I want to talk to you today about the foundation lessons that The Sisters mention.  I've said it before, and I'll say it again - I love the updates to this edition of the book!  The critical foundation lessons are outlined for your in this chapter.  Brilliant!  For those questioning which lessons you should start with, The Sisters have already laid it out.  In my classroom, I have found that I need more to implement a successful workshop, so I have about three full weeks' worth of "foundation" lessons. (You can see what I mean [here].)  I will share those lessons once I finish writing the plans.  However, The Sisters have provided a great place to start!

Read to Self

By this time, you've already taught Three Ways to Read a Book and I PICK Good-Fit Books.  The last foundation lesson for Read to Self is Choose a Successful Spot.

Some teachers spend the first few days placing students around the room (like The Sisters), while others allow students to choose their own spots right away.  Personally, I prefer placing the students around the room first.  Rather than placing them one-at-a-time, I call groups of four or five students to sit in an area.  This way, I can show them rather than tell them where the appropriate places to sit might be.  After a few rounds of this (sometimes after two or three days), we are ready to talk about how they can choose their own successful working areas.

Work on Writing

You have already taught what to do when we don't know how to spell a word.  From there, the foundation lessons include setting up the notebook and choosing what to write about.

This is where I often find myself digressing from The Sisters' book.  I use a writer's workshop model in my classroom so, where I do allow my students to choose Work on Writing during our D5 rotations, I have a separate series of lessons for writing instruction that I do at a different time during the day.  I'll have to write about that one of these days.  There are TONS of resources out there for how to begin a writer's workshop and how to teach writing.  As much as I do appreciate the work The Sisters put into describing their adapted workshop model, I personally prefer some of those other professionals' opinions on writing instruction and how to get started.  Do your own reading and form your own opinions, though.  The Daily 5 book is a good starting place if you haven't ironed out your own research and plans yet.

Read to Someone

This is where I sometimes get a little overwhelmed.  There is a lot to address here for Read to Someone to run successfully.  So far, you've taught none of these things, and it's a lengthy list.  EEKK is quite possibly my second favorite lesson to teach (the I PICK lesson being my favorite).  Then you'll address voice levels (which I've already done in my classroom because it's a school expectation to do that on the first day of school), check for understanding (a CAFE lesson), how partners read (and I have a book for that.. I'll have to dig it out), how to get started, coaching or time, and how to choose a partner.  See?  A long list!  It's overwhelming just thinking about it!  However, it'll be fine once you get started.

Listening to Reading

Your lessons here will depend greatly on your available resources for this choice.  I have two CD players, three computers, and four iPads in my classroom.  You may have more, fewer, or different resources.  You will need to teach the expectations for using those resources.  Foundation lessons include setting up and cleaning up the technology, listening and following along, and managing fairness and equitable use given the limited number of devices.

That last one isn't usually a problem for my students since they are obligated to make each choice twice during the week.  If they have already chosen Listening to Reading on Monday and Tuesday, they must give other students a chance to have a turn.  Again, your procedures and expectations will greatly depend on your resources.

Word Work

Foundation lessons for Word Work include setting up and cleaning up materials, choosing materials and words to use, and choosing a successful spot.  I am still working on this area of D5 myself.  I made lots of notes while reading, and I have lots of ideas.  I just need to get into my classroom to see about making it happen.

After reading this chapter, I did find myself wondering about The Sisters' viewpoints on using reader's notebooks.  They cite Aimee Buckner in the use of writer's notebooks (you can read my blog about that [here]).  Aimee Buckner also wrote a book that I haven't read about reader's notebooks.  I'll get around to reading it soon.  Keeping a notebook is a little more challenging in First Grade, but I think they can do it!  I'll have to think a little harder about it and see how I can make it work.  I'm hesitant about merging the two, but perhaps they could write about their reading in their writer's notebooks too?  I don't know.  We'll see.

The school year is starting for me soon.  If you've already begun, I hope you had a great first day/week!  If you're starting soon, I wish you well on your first day!  Let me know how it goes!

A few photos from our camping trip:

my boyfriend and me in the plane flying over the Inlet on our way to the Katmai Preserve
He takes me to the best places!

the crew and our ride

Upon returning from the Katmai, I had a photo book made with Shutterfly.  I'm sort of excited about it, but it's not scheduled to arrive until next week!