July 31, 2011

A peek into my classroom--Part 1

Sorry for the lapse--it's been a rough couple of days! With the twins going through their nine month growth spurts, I've been busy! One is teething (her bottom teeth are slowly coming through) and the other one is trying to master sitting up! Both have forgotten their bed times and stay up very, very late!

Luckily, they're busy playing, so I have a few moments to share this:

it's one of my favorite bulletin boards (I can't remember where I read about this, but I've been using it for years with great success!)

As part of my word study program, I designate a day on the schedule for vocabulary. I find a short text with 8-10 vocab words--I read aloud the text and when I get to one of the words, I stop. With the students, we use the context clues to figure out the meaning and identify synonyms and antonyms. (In the picture, the word is written on the top card, which you lift up to reveal the definition.) For homework, the students write sentences using each of the new words and draw a picture. (The format is an adaptation of the Frayer Model.)

This is the graphic organizer I use: Word-Study Boxes. (This year, I'm going to try something new. I want to add another section to the box--evidence from the text. This is where the students can list the specific context clues they used to figure out the definition.)

For the bulletin board, the word and definition are first. Then there are 3 columns--read, heard, used. If the students read the word in their book, they put a tally next to the word in the first column. (At times, I would have them share the words during share time by having the student read the sentence without the vocab word and the other students would guess the word.) If the students heard someone using the word, then they put a tally in the second column. If the students used the word in their writing, they draw a tally in the third column.

When a word has a lot of tallies (like the word: delete), then that word would be retired. I take the retired words down and keep them in a basket in the word study area for students to use as reference.

The students get so excited to be word detectives! Even the 5th graders :o)

I'd love to hear how others integrate vocabulary instruction into their classrooms!


July 27, 2011

Getting to know parents and students

I know how valuable parent communication is, yet, every year, the first time I meet or speak to some parents or guardians is at parent-teacher conferences. gasp!

I read a post from Caitlin at Learning Ahoy about this very topic!

To try to increase parent communication, I create a binder. I use a 1 1/2 inch, so I can keep the important documents from the school (you know the ones!) and ones that I send home. (I use another binder for my lesson plans, schedules, calendars, curriculum maps, and school memos. I have a parent email list that I keep in my lesson plan binder--that way, I don't have to carry my communication binder home.)

Back to the communication binder--one form I send home is the parent survey (or the 'Let me get to know your child' form). I modeled this one after one I found on Mrs. Walker's site. (She's frog-tastic!)
Let me get to know your child

The next two forms are ones with contact information (a colleague of mine gave me the template and I made it pretty. I'm a bit obsessed with fonts and clip art!)

The dismissal (aka the scariest part of the day) form gives me an idea of where everyone is going and with whom.
 Dismissal Form

 This last form is an Emergency Contact Form, which lets me know of any allergies or health issues, as well as contact information. This form is very helpful when I have to mail letters to parents and guardians, as well as plan for parties. (Peanut allergies are on the rise!)
Emergency Contact Information

I also send home 'The ABC's of 5th Grade' to outline important ideas/beliefs/rules in my classroom. (I found a bunch of examples on Proteacher!) The parents/guardians go over the information (I hope!) with their child and sign and return the tear-off. I staple the tear-off to one of the forms in that child's section. More on the ABC's later!

Time to put the kiddies to bed!


July 25, 2011

Here it goes!

So...I've wanted to start a blog for a long time! I think getting started is the hardest part--it's like the first page of a brand new notebook. You want to make an impression because it's the first page and you don't want to mess up!

Here it goes--a brief intro...

 This is my ninth year teaching in public school. I've taught a variety of grade levels spending the majority of my time in fourth and fifth grade. This year I'm teaching fifth grade from scratch! The other two times were with looped classes (I highly recommend if you have a great class!)

A huge accomplishment last year was achieving National Board Certification in Early/Middle Childhood Literacy. This was a huge undertaking! Why did I choose to do this? Well, the professional development I was receiving didn't meet my needs. I felt like I was hearing the same material over and over again. I felt stagnant--I was able to help others in the field, but not myself! Yes, I read professional lit and I applied new strategies based on my readings, but I wanted to push myself even more. One snippet of what I learned from the whole process is that with whatever you do in the classroom, with parents, or with your colleagues, always ask yourself, "How does this impact student learning?" We all want students to learn, but sometimes we lose focus of the "how" and "why". (I'm guilty myself!)

On a personal note...
I recently bought a new house, which my hubby and I are still unpacking! And I'm the proud mommy of twins--Lucas and Amelia! They entered the world 11 weeks prematurely last October and spent 8 weeks in the NICU. Now, they are happy, healthy, and striving! You'd hardly think they were preemies!