My family and I spent the weekend out of town, so I have been delayed in completing more of my safari items. I am beginning to feel rushed, however, since this is my last week of summer vacation. I have already started to put together the numbers that will go with the safari calendar, so I will announce to all of you when it is completed and provide a link to it.
     I hope everyone is having a wonderful weekend. Crayon clip art

   Mechanical Pencil clip art  One activity that I love to do at the beginning of the school year is an "All About Me" book. Each student creates his/her own book and, as the title suggests, it's all about them. There are so many different ways to do this, and I think every year I do it a little differently. Sometimes, I will write suggestions of different topics they can write about to discuss themselves (favorite foods, sports they like, games they play, favorite subject, etc.), but I have also dictated what to include in the past. You could do this as an ABC book, which would be fun as well.
     I typically give my students construction paper for the front and back cover of their books. The cover illustrations should be a self-portrait. You can either staple the books together, or punch holes and use string (sometimes I let me students decide how they want to bind their books together). When this project is completed, they each share their books within their groups, and I then include the books in our class library so all the students have access to them.
    Enchanted Learning has an "All About Me" book template that I might use this time around. Click here for the book template. If you end up doing this activity, I would love to hear how it goes!

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    Crayons clip artWow! I cannot believe how much work this has been, but all that work has paid off. I just finished created the names of the month with a safari theme to go with my calendar. I am sharing them with you. Enjoy. As always, please let me know what you think of them.

Aug to Oct  Nov to Jan  Feb to Apr  May to July

Elephant clip art     I have been super busy getting things ready for my safari theme this year. It turns out to be a lot of work, but I am pretty excited about it. I am sharing the desk tags with all of you, so feel free to use them. You may link to this post if you'd like to share it with others. Please don't forget to leave me a post letting me know what you think of them. I really need feedback since I am just beginning to create.

Thanks all!

Click here for my safari desk tags for free

   Pencil Clipart Image: Stubby Pencil That Has Been Used for Lots of Homework and Class Work After our neighbors unit, my class and I work on a unit all about changes. I have a small book for students to work on that goes along with one of the stories in our unit, "An Egg is An Egg". In this story, it talks all about what something is until something happens to change it. Here are a few examples: "An egg is an egg until it hatches. Then it becomes a chick." It might say "Then it is a...." instead of "becomes", but right now I can't be too sure. In any case, as I am working on my units and updating them, I created a small book for students to finish modeled in the same fashion of the story. I am sharing it with anyone in case you would like to use it.   Click here for the small book

1) My biggest pet peeve of all is having to repeat myself. This is why I sit my kids in groups and have the group leader reiterate instructions. In addition, any questions students have must be presented to the group leader first. If he or she cannot answer the question, then someone else in the group might be able to. As a last resort, students come to me with questions.

2) No names

3) Lost work (what d o they DO with it???

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   learn03 The way we seat our students really depends on many different factors. The class, the teacher, the objectives, etc. My students are always in groups of 3-4 (depending on how students I have). Some teachers might be hesitant to keep their kids in groups because of noise, but in my experience if you trust the students to listen when they should be listening, talking generally isn't an issue. In my case, I believe in keeping my lectures very short. My students should be doing the majority of the work, not me. I introduce new concepts and ideas to my students, but I lead them through everything else. If my students actively participate in their own learning, there is greater chance they will develop understanding. I can teach them, but teaching doesn't equate to learning. Therefore, I put the responsibility of learning on them (through strategically planned lessons, of course).
    There are many benefits to sitting in groups. The teacher benefits from this as well, I assure you. Perhaps I should start there. Have you ever experienced this: You give your students clear instructions as to their next activity. You have modeled it, and then you take questions and no one has any questions as they all understand perfectly what to do? Finally, you release them to begin and then you have two or three, "What are we doing?", or "What am I supposed to do now?" This is where my groups come in super handy. Each group has a group leader (this would typically be one of the higher students in the group, and is someone who listens and is responsible), and before taking any questions I have my group leaders reiterate the instructions. In fact, any questions my students have must first be directed at the group leader. If the group leader and nobody else in the group has the answer, then and only then can the student come and ask me. I cannot tell you how much time this saves me, because it means my time repeating myself is decreased. Love it!
    In addition, by sitting in groups, students get extra support that one teacher just cannot give (I do not have any aides, so it's all me). If a student doesn't quite know how to do something, they quickly start getting the idea when they see what the other group members are working on. Now, some teachers might be worried about cheating, but this has never been an issue in my classes. To begin, you know when cheating is going on. For some reason, our kiddos haven't quite figured out how to make their cheating discrete. That works in our favor. Another reason this isn't a problem is because exams and projects has a much heavier weight in their total grade than classwork or homework. In my opinion, classwork and homework is simply extra practice helping them through the learning process. My projects and exams are weighted much more heavily, and if it is an assignment where they are showing me what they know, then I will make them turn their desks out of their groups and face the front of the room. Problem solved.
    Language support is also a great benefit to sitting in groups. This is a way to support any ELL students you have (all of my students speak English as a second language). Since we are a full English immersion school, I do not allow my students to have conversations in Spanish. Translating, however, is a different issue, and I will let them translate to their group members when needed.
    You see, having students sit in groups is beneficial for the teacher, and for the students. It makes for a win-win situation. When they are working, I never demand silence. I really don't mind some talking, as long as they are really working and focusing. As long as my students meet the learning goals, I am a happy teacher.

We all love freebies, right? I just ran into this link of freebies as I was cruising the internet. Check it out to see if there's something you can use. They have desk tags, name tags, bookmarks and more!


Click here for freebies from ABCTeach

     I am not alone in the battle of unfinished work. As teachers, this is a daily issue we face. Students don't work at the same pace, and some of them quite slower than others. Then there are always the ones who are the first ones finished, wanting to know what they can do next.
     What I do to solve this issue is each group has a cubby where their unfinished work goes. This is great for on-going assignments as well as unfinished work. At the end of the day, whatever work is not completed (and is not an on-going assignment), I pull out of their cubby and put with the outgoing homework. Essentially, any work unfinished goes home as homework and must be returned the next day. This is also a way of differentiating for the students who work more slowly, as they are given additional time without penalty.
    What about the rest of you? How do you manage unfinished work?

    02ricky I have been working on a word work packet that I will be using during, well, word work for our Daily 3 time. The plan is to begin the year doing each activity with the students so they know how to do it, and then when we are in a routine, they can choose each activity as they want (they'll already know how to do it at that time). You are welcome to use the document if you like. The initial list is empty and meant to be modified each week, or each time students are given new words. There is space for a total of 30 words, as I am including spelling and high-frequency words. At the bottom is an area to put word families, if you so wish (I might take that part off). Let me know what you think!

By the way, does anyone know how to put a page border on Google docs? I would love a border, but can't quite figure out how to create one.

Get a copy of my word work packet here

     Being that I was credentialed in California, I am CLAD certified, which certifies me to teach ESL students. Well, I find myself teaching academic content in English to native Spanish speakers in Mexico, so I have now had quite a bit experience teaching second-language learners. I would like to begin sharing some of my tips with all of you.
     To begin, if you have never heard of SDAIE, I suggest you check it out. It stands for Specially Designed Academic Instruction in English. It targets the EL student by making the content more accessible, but keeping it in English. It includes a lot of ideas that are really basic and common sense (like using visuals, partners, etc.), so it's very doable in any classroom. In fact, I have said for many years that we should be teaching all of our students this way, not just our EL students.
    Today I am going to share how I teach writing to my students. Like all of you, I would do a mini-lesson first where the class and I write something together. I will take poster paper and use sticky tack to keep it on the board throughout this process.  Once completed, we read the writing together. Then, the students are ready to do their own writing. Our class-created writing remains on the whiteboard for them to refer to. Later it will go onto our language-arts wall until the next whole-class writing project.
    I do process writing with my students, so they typically begin with an illustration (this is specifically because they are EL) as their thinking map. This illustration (which we might otherwise have our students create as a last step) helps them to gather their ideas. From here they can begin to write sentences about what's happening in the illustration. Now that they can see something, the sentences come more quickly than if they were trying to just pull something out of nowhere.
     Since I do a modified version of the Daily 5, I will pull a group to assist those who struggle with their writing. I allow them to dictate sentences to me so I can write them on the board and they copy them down on their papers. If I didn't do this, they would likely sit and stare at their seats. This really helps them to become successful writers.

    I used to use the card system. You know, "Go flip your card". Then one day I walked into my classroom and noticed my behavior chart with the cards was missing. I knew it was less likely to be a Heavenly sign that it was time to change what I was doing, and more likely to be yet another missing item in my classroom (I suspect the janitor had been throwing things away that fell off my wall, which happened frequently since almost everything was put up with sticky tack). So, I was determined to change my system right then and there.
     What I then created was much like a variation of the clip system. I made a wave out of blue poster paper and stapled it to my wall. Then I divided the wave into sections. Students were given paper fish to color and decorate, and I attached velcro to the back of the fish. The middle section was neutral water where every student started. To the right of the neutral water was the safe water, where students can move for being good neighbors, and demonstrating good behavior. Each section was referred to as free choice 1, free choice 2, etc, with 4 free-choice rewards. The further into the safe water, the more free-choice water a student earned. My free-rewards are as such: 1) color or draw 2) sit anywhere 3) play with play-doh 4) certificate home. This next year I think I will add more reward options (I might have had another one that I am forgetting!).
    Just as students get to move forward for good behavior, they also get to move backward. Once they are past the neutral water, they begin to go into the deep water, which is divided into 3 sections. Once in the middle of the deep water, students lose 5 minutes of recess. Once in the deepest section, they lose all of recess and get a discipline form sent home (which means they lose conduct points).
     I found this to work wonderfully well with my students. I only had one student who was challenging in terms of behavior, but this really helped to tame him. He would ask me to be able to move his fish into the safe water. He wanted the rewards like the other students. This system truly was a blessing for me.
    Now, for this coming year, I am really toying with a couple of ideas. I might paint a tree on my wall and give the students monkeys that will climb up or down on the tree, depending on their behavior, or I might do a space theme and have the students be rockets. As soon as I figure it out, I will let you know. What do you think? Monkey theme or space?

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    A couple of weeks ago I went to Waldo's (the equivalent to a dollar store in the states) and found some really cute things. I wasn't exactly ready to splurge on school items (especially since our summer vacation had just started), but I did grab a couple of really cute things.  The above picture is a whiteboard, shaped like a car. How cute is that? I will have a lot of boys next year, so I really think they will love this. This next picture is  2 packets of foam fish. When I saw them, I knew I had to get them! Even though I won't be teaching science this year (my team teacher and I will be switching), this might be fun to use in the room anyway. What fun things do you have for your class?

     This recipe is actually included on my weekly menu week one, that's how often I make it. It's fast and easy, and you can vary it. Here's what you need:
*Drumsticks (I cook 2 per person)
*Mole sauce (look for pre-made in the Mexican aisle)
*Rice (I use dry fideo noodles, which again you might want to look in the Mexican aisle)
*Salad or veggies

What I do is boil my chicken because it's healthier that way. Once cooked, I remove the chicken and put it in a pan, and pour the mole sauce over it. Since the chicken is already cooked, I am essentially just warming up my sauce. While I am doing this, I get my rice and veggies ready (unless you are making salad). You can also make a side of beans if you wish. Then, once ready to serve, you serve the chicken, and pour a little of the mole sauce over it. I love to also add the mole sauce over my rice. Yummy! This recipe is super easy and super fast. You can have yourself an authentic Mexican dinner any night of the week!

Variations: Instead of mole sauce, try pipian sauce or red sauce (there are different red sauces, like Adobo). If you feel like having chicken mole and tostadas, no fear! Instead of using drumsticks, use chicken breast. Once cooked, shred the chicken breast with two forks. Then move the chicken to the pan and add the sauce. Serve this over a tostada for a delicious tostada with chicken mole.

Let me know if you end up trying this dish and how you like it. It's one of my favorites, and I hope you all will enjoy it as well.

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    While almost all the other international teachers are back in their native countries, I am not. I stayed here in Mexico, deciding it would be much cheaper (and since I am paying back student loans, I always look to the cheaper alternative to anything). Thinking back on my summer, I really haven't done too much. In fact, it's al been mostly work related. I have been revamping my units, looking for additional resources, and now blogging. Yes, sad as it is, that's what I've been this summer. We have gone to visit my husband's family (they only live about an hour away, so really, this is nothing different than what we do during the school year), but that doesn't count as doing anything truly spectacular during the summer (sorry honey!). Last week we did take a family trip to the zoo, which is an amazing zoo. We literally spent about 7 hours at the zoo.  I don't think I have ever done that before.
    Lastly, I have been tutoring. That's right, I have been working during my summer vacation. It's actually been nice as I get to keep my creative juices flowing, as well as get to know one of my future students (he'll be in my class this coming year).
     I actually like a slow summer, otherwise you end it exhausted and needing a vacation from your vacation. Sleep is something I always need during the school year (who doesn't, right?), so the extra dosage of it this summer has been great. I am including pictures from our zoo trip. I hope you enjoy!

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I think I would like to share some of the funny things my students say. Since this year is over (well, a new one is about to begin), I am going to share what one of my students told me near the end of the school year. We were going to be going on a field trip to a chocolate factory, so I was explaining to the students how they should dress.  There was to be no makeup (not a problem in first grade), sandals, lotion, perfume, or jewelry. I told the kids that I would be coming in without my jewelry. One of my students, we'll call him Anthony, raised his hand as said, "But what if some senor asks you to marry him?" How funny that my students thought that without my ring some guy would instantly want to marry me. I laughed and assured them not to worry. I was going to the chocolate factory for, well, chocolate, not for a husband (I have one of those).

    My favorite book to share at the beginning of the school year is Chrysanthemum. It's great to use because in the book, Chrysanthemum is teased for her incredibly long name. Later, the students find out that the teacher's name is long as well, and then the kids all admire Chrysanthemum. I use the book to begin talking about neighborly behavior, teasing, and respect for others. Another thing I love about Chrysanthemum is I get to integrate math as well. At the finish of the story, we chart how many letters are in everyone's names. Then, for homework, my students go home and chart all the names in their family.
     Students can begin to think about their own uniqueness and how special they are by creating a thinking map using their name in the center. This is where I got the idea for thinking map.

More resources for Chrysanthemum: Story map , Chrysanthemum unit

    Since I keep finding wonderful, free resources, I thought I would share it with you all. I will compile any that I run into into this posting today. This blog's creator is celebrating that she just hit 1001 members, in which she will be offering all her items in her Teachers Pay Teachers store for free until later this evening. I have already checked it out, and she has lots of cute things. Happy shopping (for free).


     I have briefly discussed a few of the things I'll be doing with my class during our first week. With anxiety of wanting to get some of my plans on paper and better thought-out, I came up with a much more solid plan that I am very excited about. Now, some schools demand that teachers jump right in to the curriculum, but at my school that is not the case. I plan on taking the first week extremely slow, and beginning primarily in Bible. The rest of the time will be spent on practicing procedures and such. Here is my list of plans for my first week:

*Go over rules (create a class poster where we brainstorm behavior for each rule)
* Students create their own posters showing them doing things that follow the rules
* ABC book about me (for the students): This will also allow me to assess some of their writing skills
* Language arts assessments/math assessments
* Work on bulletin board (students decorate their paper dolls)
* Begin neighbor unit
* Begin Bible (Creation)
* Read Chrysanthemum-chart letters in our names
* Begin practicing for the Daily 3
* Create a bear family (every student given a paper bear head)-this will go on my wall next to my desk

    I am very excited about the first week of school. I think the students will love these activities. For those of you who are interested in the neighbor unit, it is from a Bible curriculum I found online. I love using it because it emphasizes good, neighborly behavior. We begin the year with that unit, then we work on being good neighbors for the entire year. Click here to see the neighbor unit   I have also created an entire live binder full of resources to go along with the neighbor unit and if anyone is interested in getting access to that binder, just email me.

 Assessing is not just something one does at the end of a unit to determine whether or not learning goals were met. Instead, assessment is something that should be done throughout a unit, and even on a daily basis. It should include not only traditional quizzes and exams, but projects and performance tasks as well. In this way, it is easier to determine if the student met the learning goals.
     What I do to help me assess student learning is to keep a clipboard close by at all times. This way I can take notes on my students during certain activities. This sort of data collecting is helpful in that it allows me to determine on a daily basis where my students are and where they need to go. It also allows me to group students based on their shared needs. Documenting their answers and my analysis of their work allows me to go back and group my students to work on target goals.
     Based on my data collection, I break up my students based on shared difficulties and learning goals. I work with those groups of students during my Daily 3 time, as well as during math centers. This has been very helpful in my really understanding the needs of my students, and meeting those needs as well. 

    I have never kept up with my bulletin boards, but I really want to change that this year (okay, so I should toss that into my list of resolutions for the new school year). As I was thinking about what I can do to make a meaningful and fun bulletin board, I ran into a great idea in a book. I took from that idea and started expanding it to make it work, but here's what I am thinking so far:

     I will create a friendship border which will go along with the neighbor unit I do at the beginning of the school year. For the boarder, I will use paper dolls (or something similar to that). Then, each student will be given a paper-person cut-out to decorate to look like him or herself. Once finished, the paper students will go on the bulletin board as though they are holding hands.  The backdrop will likely be a park, or school, but I will ask my students what they want it to be, so until then I am unsure.

     When the students go to personalize their paper dolls, I will give them yarn to create hair, and other fun things to decorate their dolls (googly eyes, cotton balls, glitter, etc.). They will be given different outfits to choose for their dolls as well. I plan to laminate their dolls so they hold up well.

     Last (and perhaps the best part), I will put up a little cardboard box for friendship messages. Here, students can send classmates friendly messages (approved by me first), which will also be a great way to practice their writing.

     I plan to work on this during the first week of school. It's a great way to get the classroom prepared together, as well as get the kids started on something fun. I will post pictures when the project is complete.

 Here is the paper-doll pattern I think I will use. If you decide to do the same bulletin board activity, please share your ideas and link your url so I can see the pictures.

What do you all think of this bulletin board idea? Or, do you have any suggestions for it? Thanks!

So, here it goes, my first posting of my weekly menus. This is the exact menu I will be using this week.

Monday: Chicken with mole sauce 

* Chicken drumsticks (boil until cooked, then put in a pan, add mole sauce and warm up...easy!)
* pre-packaged mole sauce (Mexican aisle)
* Fideo (check your Mexican aisle, or use any type of Mexican rice)
* Veggies (or salad)

Tuesday: Chile Rellenos

*Poblano peppers
*beans (refried or whole beans)
*enchilada sauce
*note (I don't coat my chile rellenos in batter)

Peel the skins from the poblanos (you can broil until the skins blister), cut the tops off and removes seeds. Slit the peppers and stuff with cheese, mushrooms, rices, and the beans. I usually stuff them in the baking dish. Pour enchilada sauce liberally over them. You can sprinkle cheese on top if you wish. Bake to warm (probably about 350 degrees (my stove is different) and warm).

Wednesday: Tuna Casserole

*canned tuna
*Fettuccine noodles
*Low-fat sour cream (light, to make the sauce)
*cheese (if desired)
*Onion, mushroom, celery (diced), broccoli, peas
*chicken broth
*bread crumbs (for topping)

see link for cooking instructions: click here to get the recipe

Thursday :Taco Salad

*sour cream
*beans (lowfat refried beans, these go on the tostada first)

Layer each tostada with beans (a light layer). Then, top with the salad, avocados, and sour cream. You can even add tomatoes. This is yummy and healthy.

Friday: Chicken Tacos

*Chicken breast (boil, then shred...cook shredded chicken in chicken broth for extra flavor)
*Corn tortillas
*salsa & sour cream (to top)
*rice or dry fideo
*veggies or salad

* I think you all know how to make tacos...

     As mentioned in another post of mine, I create weekly menus to simplify my life. It makes grocery shopping faster, more effective, and less expensive. It also decreases the time spent in planning what to make, since I pre-plan at the beginning of the week. I have decided that I will post these weekly menus on my blog in case others would like to use them. You can expect to find this week's menu posted soon (since my daughter is with her grandparents, I have not been in a rush to plan this week, but will do so today). Please know that I will list what I am making, and the ingredients, but will not give cooking instructions as that is beyond the purpose of posting my weekly menus.  You will be able to search for my weekly menus by searching the term "weekly menus". Happy cooking!

    Every year I typically have a few goals to work on in the classroom. Last year my goals were to improve on my modified version of the Daily 5, as well as become more organized. I feel I accomplished both. With a brand-new school year just weeks around the corner, I have several other goals that I am excited to be working on.

1) Create a more inviting classroom: While I have always liked my room and the way I have been able to put it together, I feel there is so much more I can do with it. With limited space, however, it is going to be somewhat challenging, but not hopeless. Currently, I use every wall interactively for the different subjects I teach. The things posted on my wall changes with our units, but they all add a great tough to the classroom. I would like to incorporate some more personal touches, though, like plants, a lamp on my desk, and anything else that might make it a little more homey and inviting.

2) Incorporate more technology: This will be an easy goal to accomplish since we will finally have computers in our rooms this coming year. In the past, I have had my students work collaboratively on wikis, as well as use programs on the computer, but I really want to utilize these things more in my teaching. I have already decided that the computer (since there will be only one) will be available for students to use as a free-choice activity when all work is completed, and will be used for sites such as, starfall, and other such things.

3) Effectively switch classes for one subject: This next year will be the first time the other teach and I will be switching our classes for one subject. Since I have never done this, I hope she and I can figure out the best way to do this so that it runs smoothly. I am excited about this as it is a new challenge, but am nervous as well.

4) Lastly, I look forward to growing in my ability to effectively teach challenging students. I will have a very challenging class next year (many behavior issues), and this will afford me the chance to continue working on strategies that effectively help my challenging students. Since my last class was very high academically and behaviorally, I had little challenge (but loved them dearly!). So, I am looking forward to a chance to grow professionally.

At present, these are my biggest goals/resolutions for the next school year. I wish everyone a happy and blissful school year.

(This post was written in response to the linky party writing prompt. Click here to see the linky party invitation )

     Those of us who are teaching have found that balancing our lives is not an easy task. Especially when we have a spouse and children. I literally pour my whole being into my career and it's hard to squeeze anything else out at the end of the day, but I have to. Here are a few tips I have found to help me balance my work and my house.

Household Chores: Do these daily, but keep it light. Get beds made, pick up anything that's out of order, and put things back immediately. Otherwise, your house will turn into a disaster before you have time to ask yourself what happened. Break big jobs into smaller ones. For example, instead doing everything at once, break it down into daily chores. Pick up the small things everyday, and do one heavy-cleaning item a day. Mondays are for the bathroom (toilet and floor), Tuesdays for the kitchen (floor, counters, drawers, etc.) and so on. If you have help at home (which you should if you have a spouse and children), then divide the tasks up between everyone. Make a schedule, keep it posted on the refrigerator or somewhere visible, and stick to it. This will make your life easier, as well as keep everyone in the house accountable.

Cooking: This seems like a daunting task after a long day of teaching. It doesn't have to be, though. Here's what I do to make cooking easy and simple. First, make yourself a menu every week. This way, you know what you are making and on what day (my daughter loves looking at the menu to see what we're having, especially when there's a dish on there that she's excited about). It also makes grocery shopping not so un-enjoyable as you know exactly what you need, so all you have to do is go in, get all your ingredients, and get out. Don't feel like you have to be super mom and cook everything from scratch. You don't. Take short cuts when you can. I like to include veggies in my dinner every night, but chopping and cutting can get tiring, as well as add to your preparation time. So, I buy frozen vegetables, and then to mix up the variety, I get a few other vegetables to add to it. These extra vegetables will have to be prepared by hand, but since the bulk of my vegetables come from the frozen bag, I have less work. You can also just buy varied bags of frozen vegetables. If you are having to chop, however, you can do it in advance (say on a Sunday) so that it will be ready to cook the night you are making dinner.
     Another thing that helps me is to use a rotating menu. What I mean by rotating menu is I typically make the same sort of foods on certain nights. Mondays I do chicken, Wednesdays is pasta, and Friday is a casserole or baked dish. Now, sometimes I get away from these, but typically I follow this plan. This makes it easier when creating my menu. Tuesdays and Thursdays I don't follow any particular plan, but what I typically make those nights are sopes, burritos, tacos, etc. I also only plan for 5 nights, and we go with the flow on the weekends (since we are often running around the city on the weekend, or out of town altogether).
    One last tip is to purchase a crock pot if you don't already have one. I have had one for more than a year but have used mine only twice. However, I plan on using it more (now that I have played around with it and feel more comfortable with it) during this next school year because all you have to do is toss in all the ingredients in the morning, and then when you return in the afternoon everything is cooked.
    I also suggest getting lots of rest. I nap every afternoon, which, in return, gives me the energy to then get up and make a meal for the family to enjoy. Without good rest, you will find yourself very grouchy, and this will reflect in the classroom and at home. So sleep, sleep, sleep!

     It was last summer, as I was finishing my Master's in Teaching, when I discovered UbD (Understanding by Design). Admittedly, it is a lot of work. The basic approach, though, is quite do-able.  I have now been creating all my curriculum based on UbD. This approach was created by Wiggins and McTighe, and it is essentially a backwards approach to lesson planning. In fact, it really emphasizes that it should begin as whole unit plans, such like a curriculum map or pacing guide but a bit more intense.
    There are three phases of UbD: 1) Determine goals and objectives, 2) Establish what should be evidence of learning goals met (essentially the assessments, exams, and projects), 3) Lesson planning. The main difference with this design plan is that it ends with lesson planning when most teachers are likely to either begin with planning immediately, or shortly after determining standards and objectives. Most teachers would not think of planning exams, projects, quizzes, etc., before planning lessons.
     The purpose of starting at the end is rather logical. Think about a trip you either have gone on, or would like to go to. Where do you start? Typically, you would start with your destination and then plan the trip. This is true with our teaching. If we determine from the beginning where our students are going, then we can better plan the journey to ensure they are prepared. Our initial planning of the goals, standards, and objectives allow us to determine what our students should be able to do. The evidence shows students have met the learning goals, so this needs to be well thought out (there is a book on UbD and they suggest ways to determine whether or not the evidence is strong enough).
     Another important aspect of UbD is that units are based on big ideas. These are ideas that our students wouldn't automatically know. The big idea is not obvious and needs to be uncovered if the students will come to understand those big ideas.
    UbD also emphasizes that we the teachers are the designers of our curriculum, not textbooks. In other words, textbooks should be used as a source, but they are simply a means to an end, not the end itself. Now, not every school is flexible, and some schools restrict teachers to specified curriculum. In that case, the teacher is very much limited.
     UbD is easier when it is done as a team, preferably on a curriculum team. I, unfortunately, have been designing my curriculum alone. It began as a daunting task, but primarily because I was inexperienced in the beginning. After a year of using UbD in my own planning, I can't claim to be an expert, but I do claim to love it and agree with the ideas of needing to start from the end first. This ensures a journey that will lead your students to the desired destination.

     I recently discovered this site from another blog. There's a ton of free things, like clipart, calendars, awards, etc. I love finding new resources on the web, especially when they are free. I am already thinking about incorporating the calendars into my math centers as a center activity. Students love designing and creating, especially when it comes to practical things they can use. Click here for free goodies from Lakeshare Learning

     I found out about the Daily 5 about a year and a half ago (perhaps a little longer) and started using it in my class. I absolutely love it. It's a way of designing your language arts time so that it includes all the aspects of literacy. Now, many teachers who use it also modify it to fit their needs. I do the same. I actually refer to it as the Daily 3.  To begin, however, I will discuss what the Daily 5 entails. The Daily 5 consists of 5 components: read to self, partner read, wordwork, listen to reading, writing. The idea of the Daily 5 is to do mini-lessons, followed by small group work. When students work on a Daily 5 activity, that's when you pull students to do small group work.
     Having never actually read the book, I cannot claim to be an expert on the Daily 5, nor do I claim to understand the program fully. I have, however, used the basic ideas of Daily 5 and have tweaked them to work for my own class. I have modified the Daily 5 to consist of only 3 rotations, hence my calling it the Daily 3. I use read to self, read to partner, and writing. Of course, my kids still do the other two aspects of literacy since we have oral language (which consists partly of a read-aloud), and our wordwork time. The only difference is that I  work with small groups 3 times a day for language arts, instead of 5. I think the teachers who are able to do 5 rotations must have a much bigger block for language arts. With 2-3 specials everyday, and with Bible, science, and math to teach as well, there is only so much I can fit in.
     The great thing with the Daily 5 is that it teaches students to work independently, gives them choices, and allows for me to differentiate my instruction. What I will do is work with groups based on levels or target goals. They get more of my attention, and don't have to worry about getting loss in whole-group instruction. By the end of last school year, all of my students were above grade level, with the exception of one who was right at grade level, and a new student who was below level (he had joined our class in April, which was not enough time to bring him up to where he should be).
   The Daily 5 has been amazing for some other reasons as well. To begin, it means we are constantly on the move. We do a mini-lesson, then a daily 3 rotation, another mini-lesson, and so on and so forth until we have completed the 3 rotations. What a blessing this has been. Students are never doing one thing long enough to get bored. Mini-lessons are truly only 5-15 minutes long (most of them averaging only 10 minutes), and that's where you quickly hit whatever it is everyone needs to know. This is the basic information, essentially new information. Then, once in small groups, you can work at each student's level. Some of the kids will already have a grasp on the taught concept, so you can expand and enrich with those kids. The ones who find the concepts difficult, or who simply haven't yet mastered it, you can continue to work with them, at their level. It's differentiation at its best. Additionally, you do not have to worry about continuously setting up centers, as they are always consistent and the kids know what to do. After doing a modified version of the Daily 5 for the last year and a half, I don't think I will ever go back.

           Now the summer is coming to an end, this question is on the mind of many teachers, especially new teachers. The answer will greatly depend on the demands of your school and district. Some schools require diving into the curriculum on day one. Thankfully, this is not a requirement at my school. Whether or not you are to "hit the books" immediately or not, you must take sufficient time to go over expectations and procedures. Then, practice, practice, practice. "But, how much practicing can we do?" More than you think. This is where you can be really creative and begin to bring in activities that will allow students to think about expectations, and practice procedures, while even assessing their abilities. Here are a few things I will be doing to ensure my students thoroughly understand what I expect of them: Start with a discussion of expectations and procedures * Show your students any charts you have (and you better have some for them to later refer to) on your expectations and procedures and discuss each point completely. Ask for examples, and clarify and expand where needed * On poster paper, document your student's responses Enrich, expand, and assess Have students * act-out situations in which they demonstrate appropriate behavior * Create posters and drawings of them behaving correctly and following the expectations * Create mini-books that explain each expectation * Design a diorama depicting appropriate behavior Practice Procedures Depending on your different procedures, practice how you expect students to do things. This might include: * Where/how to turn in homework * How to line up and walk in line * Where to place un-finished work      If you teach character traits, I would also begin on this immediately. Look for any literature you can use to show acceptable (or unacceptable) behavior so you can have deep conversations of the behavior. I like to use Chrysanthemum because not only can we discuss teasing, uniqueness, and neighborly behavior, but I like throw in a little math with this as well. I have my students count the number of letters in their name and we chart it. For homework, they chart the number of letters in the name of their family members. It's a great way to start the year, and you can easily integrate a few subjects with it.     The important thing to remember is that the first weeks of school will set the tone for the rest of the school year. If you want it to be the best, you have to make it the best.


     I am a firm believer in balance. When it comes to behavior management, I also want balance. This means that there are not just negative consequences to behavior, but good consequences that reflect good behavior as well. There are teachers who strongly feel that rewards should not be used, and that students should just behave and do the correct thing because it is the right thing, but I don't agree with this. How many of us work for a paycheck? As much as I love teaching, I would be doing something else if a paycheck were not coming in. That's like a reward. Fortunately, I do get to do what I love, and get paid for it. Similarly, if I speed down the highway, I am likely going to get a speeding ticket. In life (and I believe our classrooms should really simulate "the real world"), we have negative and positive consequences, depending on the nature of our actions. This too is true in my classroom.

     Last year (closer to the end of the year) I tried a new behavior management system that I felt better reflected my philosophy. I truly wish I had been using that method all year long. What I did was create a wave from blue poster paper. I stapled it to my wall, and then created a fish for each student in which they decorated and personalize their fish. Each day students would start in the neutral water. They are neither warm, no cold, and their behavior throughout the day determines which direction they swim. Good behavior allows them to swim to the right in the safe water. The safe water was divided into 5 sections. Each section earned students a reward. Here are the rewards, listen by the safe-water section. Rewards accumulate, so the further into the safe water they swim, the more rewards they have. 1) color and draw (only when all work is done) 2) Sit anywhere 3) play with play-doh (when all work is done) 4) Certificate home. The students loved the privileges their good-behavior afforded them. My class was a really good class (extraordinarily good), but in April we got a new student who was a bit challenging. This behavior system saved my life! He responded so well to it, and always wanted to know what he could do to have his fish swim towards the safe water.

     Like I stated, I believe in a balance, so misbehavior has negative consequences as well. Just because a student might be in a free-choice activity (or the sectional rewards) for good behavior, does not mean he or she cannot move back, closer to the deep water, and lose those rewards. Each time a student's fish must swim a section closer to the deep water, he or she loses whatever rewards are indicated in that section, until slowly, if in neutral water once again, he or she has no privileges. Now, the deep water is only divided into 3 sections, because the idea is that students move toward the safe water, not the deep water. Ideally, a student would have already swam into the safe water before having moved into the deep water. This doesn't always happen, of course. A student might start the day out badly and go straight into the deep water from neutral water. If a student hits the middle of the deep water, he or she loses 5 minutes of recess. The bottom of the deep water (section three) requires a discipline form, and loses the entirety of his or her recess. This is typically where tears come into the equation, but it is of course what we want to avoid.

     It is important for students to realize that their behavior and actions effect the consequences. When my students thank me for allowing them to do the free-choice activity, I remind them they only have themselves to thank. They made good choices and therefore there are good consequences for those choices. The same is true for negative choices and the negative consequences that follow.

    Of course, as every teacher knows, it is so important to define the expected behavior from your students beginning on day one. I only have three rules: Be responsible, Be respectful, and Be safe. I like to keep it simple, but we have to discuss what each of these things mean. This is what the first week of school is great for, because once your class knows the expectations and procedures, you can begin practicing those things while building a positive classroom climate.

   Hello! My name is Tami, but my students know me as Mrs. Jimenez, although they typically call me
 "Mrs. J". I am a first-grade teacher at an international school in Mexico and am originally from the United States.
      I have a BA in English (you can always find me reading a book), a single-subject teaching credential in English, and a Multiple-Subject teaching credential. In addition, I also have a Master's degree in teaching. Teaching has always been my passion, and even as a little girl I could have told you what I would be doing in the future: teaching!
     Please feel free to join my blog and "follow" me throughout my teaching career.

What I Eat To Feel Great Part 1: The Genesis of My New Diet

         This started as a podcast episode, but I just had to turn it into a blog post as well. To preface, I am not qualified to give a...