Saturday, August 27, 2011

An Impossible Classroom: Constructing for Success

   Girl Reading a Book clip art One of my main concerns in the classroom is the construction of a positive classroom. There is a way to create an atmosphere where students will thrive, and a lot of it is common sense. Here are a few things I do:

1) Allow plenty of time for students to work in pairs or groups. They love to talk, don't you, and when they can learn socially their learning and attention increases. My kids actually sit in groups to make it very easy for them to interact.

2) Stop talking so much! So, your a teacher, but teaching doesn't equate to learning. Know the approximate attention span of your students and keep your mini-lessons to that time. You shouldn't be doing all the work, your students should. I do about 10-minute lessons, then students work. I rotate between mini-lessons and student activities. You won't have to keep asking your kids to listen to you if you keep it brief.

3) Build around the interests of your students. I look at what they want to learn in a lesson (typically when doing a KWL chart, or just through the process of knowing them and their interests) and construct lessons that way.

4) Give choices. My students get a lot of freedom in the classroom, and I can tell by their behavior that they enjoy the freedom.

   I would love to hear how you build your own positive classroom.

Busy, Busy, Busy!

  Stack of Books clip art  I know I am not alone. Alarm goes off at 5:30. After hitting snooze a couple of times I tumble out of bed and get ready for the day (thank goodness for coffee!). Get to school, get morning work ready, pick up copies, and as soon as the kids come in my madness begins! We have been in school for 2 weeks already, and it is really taking my group a long time to get used to morning work, and some other routines. Oh dear, I hope week 3 is more successful.
   Since the beginning of the school year I have had my parent meeting, a school-wide welcome in the evening, and one meeting with a parent, not to mention our regular department meetings on Thursday. Oh, and two days a week of tutoring. I am EXHAUSTED.
   While I do have a very active group this year, they are mostly very, very sweet. I love the life and energy that my kids bring into the room. As always, I still require a 2-hour nap every afternoon when I return home. Is there any other career as exhausting as teaching?

Themes this week:

Here's a bit of what I have been doing with my kiddos:

1)Changes-how our bodies change

2) Neighbors- how to be a good neighbor

3) Grouping numbers in 10

   It is very evident that I have a wide-range of abilities in my class. Many of them are spelling phonetically. One has extremely low English skills (the others speak English very well!), and one (a Korean boy) rarely talks at all (though he knows both English and Spanish, and Korean of course). We are practicing for the daily 3 (I do a modified version of the Daily 5), and will later do math centers. Until then, we are just getting used to the routines, expectations, etc.

Well, I would love to hear how your first weeks have gone. Drop me a note!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Ending Week One

   Elephant clip art Okay, so I was given a very challenging group this year. Their energy is out of this world. It is literally nonstop from the minute they walk in until they leave. I am left passed out on the floor wondering what even happened. There are serious behavior issues in the class, but I am using all my tricks to make this successful. When I was earning my master's in teaching, I researched how to create a positive learning environment so that even the most challenging child can learn. Studying that area was wonderful! It taught me so many things I can do to help my kids feel comfortable and safe, which is my top priority.
    My classroom management system is proving to really help control the behavior. I have a tree painted on my wall, and each student as a monkey that he or she has decorated and written his or her name. The students move their monkeys up for good behavior, and down for misbehavior. Each space they move up allows them a free-choice activity in their free-time. Here are the choices:
      space 1: Sit anywhere (with some rules and regulations)
      Space 2: draw and color
      Space 3: play with play-doh and whiteboard
      Space 4: Use computer
      Space 5: Certificate home; go for water or bathroom 2X without it costing a group point

Let me tell, you, this system has worked wonders. The kiddos want to move their monkeys up. These are also all free things for me. I don't have to shovel out tons of money buying things for them. In addition to helping motivate them to behave well, it also motivates them to get their work done! They can't do any of the free-choice activities unless their work is done, so they want to work.

What about the rest of you? What interesting classroom management systems do you have set-up that really motivates and encourages positive behavior? I would love to hear.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Parent's Meeting Today

    We had our parent's meeting this afternoon. I don't know why, but I always get so nervous. I think it's partially because I do the whole thing in Spanish, which is not my native language, and when my nerves kick in, I stumble through my words, when typically I wouldn't (or at least, not like I do when I conducting a meeting a Spanish!).
    Over all, it was a good meeting. I do enjoy getting to know the parents and beginning to build that important relationship between themselves and me. I discussed the behavior management in my class, homework, reading logs, and snack time. Those really were my talking points. I only had about 20 minutes to speak since the Spanish teacher also needed time to speak, as did the disciplinarian. Tomorrow we have a school-wide general meeting as well, so this has been thus far a busy, busy, and exhausting week.
   I am just curious, but when do all of you meet your parents (in form of a meeting)?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Back in the Saddle Again

  bus01  It's official. School has started. What an adventure! I was entirely overwhelmed with all the supplies my kids brought in (I always am, as some of them literally come in with trash bags full of supplies). Some how I got everything organize, though. Two students were absent, and I hear I should be expecting another student tomorrow (a girl! Yay! Because I currently have only 3 girls), so there will be more bags of supplies to arrive.
   I am not sure how other teachers organize their things, but I only take a few supplies from my students as communal supplies, and let them keep the rest. I take pencils, some erasers, pencil sharpeners, whiteboard markers, whiteboards, and play-doh. My students simply do not have the space at their desks for all of this stuff.  Since most of my students have their names on their things, I try to give them their actual supplies, but sometimes that can be time consuming.
    What about the rest of you? How do you organize your supplies?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

How to draw/paint cute Figures on Your wall When you are not an Artist

    Giraffe clip art I am not a good artist. I can draw girls half-way decently, but that'sit. Nothing else I have ever drawn or attempted to draw has ever turned out the way I planned. This year I really wanted to do a safari theme in my classroom, but my lack of creative ability was going to be a hindrance, or so I thought. I had another teacher paint a tree on my wall (she was confident she could do it, and I was scared to ruin my walls, so this was good news that she was willing to do it), but the tree alone was not going to make my safari theme.
   What I did was print out some simple safari animal drawings, more cartoonish looking, and drew them with pencil on my wall. The cartoon-looking animals are easier to draw free-hand because the lines and curves are very simple and basic. Actually, I am realizing that if I continued to practice drawing them (um, no time for that though), I could probably get good enough so that I won't have to look at the picture first. After I have my figures penciled in, I use a thin paint brush and whatever color I using for that animal to outline it. Then, depending on the size and shape, I take a larger paint brush and start filling in the rest of my animal. Once it's all painted, it looks rather nice. I have definitely surprised myself. So, if you are not an artsy person like me, this could still be something you do. Others also use the projector trick (we only have one, and we share it, so it is quite a pain for me to mess with), which would probably be even better.
    While I didn't take any more pictures today, I added a lion, and two safari kids to my walls. It's looking really great, and I am so excited about what my kiddos will think about the room. I am sure they are going to love it. If you have any tricks you use to decorate and make your room your own, I would love to hear about it.

Friday, August 12, 2011

New pics of my Safari room



 Yesterday I posted the pictures of my safari room thus far. Well my dears, it has improved. The tree is complete, and I have painted an elephant and a giraffe print where my kids hang their backpacks. I will be working tomorrow and Sunday to continue on this safari theme. Please let me know what you all think.  Our new computers just came in today. Love it! 




 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

My room: Before and After (but not done)




As I post my pictures, please remember I have a tiny, tiny room. My goal has always been to maximize space, and use it effectively. So, I really feel that the way I put my room this year has helped me to accomplish this. Also, I am doing a safari theme, which is coming along slowly, but coming along nevertheless. Here are the pictures: 











the soon-to-be safari tree


my messy desk





see that little guy? Yours truly painted him!

There's my little guy again!


    I am clearly not finished, but I am not stressed to finish everything before Monday. I have adopted the other first grade teacher' motto: "Ni modo", which means something like "Whatever". I still plan to pain an elephant, and a lion, maybe a zebra, but that seems a bit complicated. I was to bring some more safari colors into my room. I'll post more pictures later when the tree is finished.

Please let me know what you think of my room. I would love to hear suggestions as well. Thanks!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

My, My, It's all Coming Together

     Okay, so I have been keeping all of you updated on what's been going on in my room lately (since that's all I am really doing). Today, thank goodness, the computers in the teacher's lounge were finally connected to the printer, so I printed out a ton of things I needed for my room. I now have passes (we don't have a color printer, so I am coloring everything by hand), bulletin board border, safari animals to color and put somewhere in the room. The best news of all, however, is I am getting a safari tree painted on my wall tomorrow! Yay! My dear teacher friend (who is pregnant and not teaching this year, but is helping everyone else) agreed to do it. I am so excited, because I am actually a bit scared to paint the tree (I am not very artistic). So, I hope to have some pictures for you all soon. Oh this is exciting.
    How far is everyone else in their room?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Weekly Menu Series Week Three

                                                  

I am so sorry, but my husband had to work late last night, so I didn't bother with my menu until now. Here's what I am making this week. Feel free to use the menu.

Tuesday: Chicken Pipian

Chicken drumsticks (2 for each person)
Pipian sauce (check in the Mexican aisle for pre-made sauce)
Rice or fideo
Veggies or salad

Boil the chicken until it's cooked. Then, move the drumsticks to the stove in a pan, and add the pipian sauce (you'll want to use a lot). Since the chicken is cooked, you are essentially warming the sauce and getting the chicken nicely coated. During this process, get your rice going, and warm your vegetables. Serve.

Wednesday: Lasagna

Lasagna noodles (get the ones that don't have to be pre-cooked)
Cheese
Ground beef
Vegetables (carrots, mushrooms, corn and bell peppers are good ones to use)
Sauce (I just use hunts)

Brown your beef using whatever seasonings you like. I love to put garlic in mine. Oil your baking pan, and add a layer of noodles, sauce, beef, veggies, and then cheese. Repeat layers until you've used all ingredients, and tops with sauce and cheese. It takes me about 30 minutes for my oven to warm it all up, but I am using a weird oven that doesn't quite like me.

Thursday: Left over lasagna

We have enough to last us two days.


Friday: Sloppy Joes

Ground Beef
Tomato sauce and/or paste
Ketchup
Sugar
Hamburger buns

Brown the beef, using onion, salt and pepper. Add the tomato sauce, mixing it in well with the beef. Add a few pinches of sugar, and ketchup. Stir well, and add to your hamburger buns.


Monday, August 8, 2011

First Grade bloggers needed

Sunflowers clip art     Hello all! Primary Connections has created a brand new blog for first graders, where first-grade teachers can blog together. I think she is accepting the first 5 who respond, and then will see how to add more authors, if possible. The great news is that I was accepted to participate, so I will be a co-author on this new fabulous blog.  I am so excited. So, I encourage all of you to check out the new blog, which you can find here, and follow, and, if you'd like, even request to be a co-author! The new site is First Grade Connections.

Back from a Busy Day

     


     Well, I did it. I managed my first 5:30 am wake up call today. It felt so good to get up and get ready for work that I didn't even press snooze on my alarm! Of course, I couldn't have done so well if it hadn't have been for my wonderful cup of coffee to help me start the day in style (thank you my coffee- how I love you).
    I had about an hour to work in my room before our meeting started. Then, the meeting ended at about 9-ish, so I had the rest of the time to work in my room. I can't believe it, but I got absolutely everything out of boxes and put away. I just have a few things straggling around the room, but those are mainly decorations, which I get to start on tomorrow! Gosh. I really can't believe how quickly I got that done. I was a little bummed, however, that I decided to wear my new shirt (I bought two new shirts last night from Walmart), since I was mostly handling dusty, grimy boxes, and so not needing to look cute for that (at least I felt pretty in pink though!).
     Tomorrow's attack of plan is: DECORATE! Woohoo! Remember now, I am going safari theme, so I will finally get to work on that. Hopefully the computers in the teacher's lounge are set up, because until I can print things out, I can't technically do much with that there theme of mine (improper English used intentionally).
     Now, the best part of today was returning home for my beloved 2-hour nap. That's right, for those of you who don't know I take a 2-hour nap daily. It's the only way I can refuel and have energy to do anything else, like cook (speaking of, I need to get my menu together! No time to go to the store today though).
    Alright all my blogging friends, I am wishing you a wonderful Monday (which is almost over, by the way), and a superb week. If you are still on break, enjoy the rest! A new, hectic year is in the horizon. :)
                                                            

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Top 3 Things-Linky Party

  draw There's actually quite a bit I want to focus on. But, these are my first 3:

    1) Improve on the Daily 5: I do this every year, but I have never read the book. I can't even be sure I am doing it correctly. Fortunately for me, there's enough talk on it and videos on youtube that I have been given some direction. The last couple of year, I just felt that everything was rushed (and I must admit, I am not sure how to get away from that with lessons from 10-15 minutes), and I just really want things to go more smoothly this next year.

  2) Effectively switch classes for one subject: This will actually be the first year that the other first grade teacher and I will switch classes for one subject (I will be teaching math), and I would be lying if I said I wasn't nervous about this. I hope I can manage this, and still have enough time to teach all my subjects to my regular class.
 writingPaper

3) Be more creative in the classroom: I am not exactly creative, but I want that to change, beginning inside my classroom. This will be the first year I actually use a class theme (safari), and I hope I get enough time to make my room safari-ish before the students start school (they start on the 15th).

What about the rest of you? Click here to join this linky party.

Back to School Tomorrow

  07rickyLetters  I can't believe my summer break is now over, but it is. Gone are the days of sleeping in until my eyes naturally opened. Oh sweet sleep, how I will miss thee. As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. Actually, I am quite happy to get back into the routine, even though it gets a bit hectic. My summer days have been spent on this computer, and while I enjoy my internet immensely, man cannot live on internet alone. Yes, my friends, I am ready for the chaos of the school year because among the chaos are enjoyable days with wonderful kiddos.
    To really help myself prepare for my first day back tomorrow, I just bought two shirts from Walmart. Okay, obviously I don't buy high-end, but I am very practical (not to mention broke), and Walmart works fine for me. Speaking of Walmart, what has happened to the George brand? Now it's Cosmo and Co. Is that true for your local Walmart? I found one rack of George, and that's it. I'm not really complaining, because I like Cosmo and Co. just fine, but I am a but curious about what has happened with the George brand.
    What about the rest of you? When are you returning? I would love to hear from you all!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Understanding Understanding: Understanding by Design Series # 2

    Today's UbD series will focus on how to ensure understanding occurs through UbD. This is based on chapter 4 of the UbD book.

  feet   The book defines understanding this way: "Understanding is thus not more than mere knowledge of facts but inference about why and how, with specific evidence and logic-insightful connections and illustrations." Certainly, what we want our students to obtain throughout a unit is a deep understanding is the big idea. If we can agree that there are different depths of understanding (and certainly there are. Student A might be able to list facts about subject X, while Student B can give us insight about why or how these facts are useful, or not, a clear example of two different levels of understanding) , then the argument becomes clearer for why we must ensure that students reach the deepest levels of understanding to fully "understand" the big idea. This is where the six facets of understanding come in. Each facet brings us one level deeper into understanding that big idea. Assessment and lessons are shaped by the six-facets of understanding.

Facet 1: Explanation: "Sophisticated and apt theories and illustrations, which provide knowledgeable and justified accounts of events, actions, and ideas".  This facet calls for us to design units around "questions, issues, and problems that demand student theories and explanations". Assessment in this area should require that students provide their own explanation (assessments such as performance tasks, projects, prompts, and traditional tests).

Facet 2: Interpretation: "interpretations, narratives, and translations that provide meaning". Questions in your unit in facet two should be prompted so students explore "why does it matter? What does it mean? What of it? What does it illustrate or illuminate in human experience? How does it relate to me? What makes sense?" As you can see, each facet propels students into a deeper understanding of the big idea.

     Here is an example of interpretation: "A college freshman shows how Gulliver's Travels can be read as a satire on British intellectual life; it's not just a fairy tale."

     As the book explains, the understanding at this level is demonstrated when students "shed interesting and significant light on current or past experiences." Students in this facet should be interpreting ambiguous texts, not just giving right or wrong answers (in this facet, right or wrong is much more difficult to determine, but assessment and feedback is just as important, especially because students will not necessarily have an extensive amount of prior experience in interpretation, and bringing in their own perspectives).
    Some examples of assignments that will help students begin to build interpretations are: "fashion an oral history out of disparate interviews, to develop a mathematical conclusion out of sloppy data, or to create an artistic interpretation subject to peer review, based on careful reading."

Facet 3: Application: "ability to use knowledge effectively in new situations and diverse, realistic contexts." This is what the student might contemplate at this facet: "How and where can we use this knowledge, skill, or process? How should my thinking and action be modified to meet the demands of the particular situation?"

     Here is an example of a project in this facet: "Seventh grade students use their knowledge of statistics to accurately project next year's costs and needs for the student-run candy and supply store."

     The application facet requires that students apply knowledge and understanding in a different context than where they initially developed that knowledge and understanding. If that sounds confusing, allow me to explain. We are not teaching are students so they can merely regurgitate facts to us and do well on exams. Remember, our assessments exist so we can measure their depth of understanding, but those assessments are not our end goal. Our goal is to create such a level of understanding that they can apply and transfer that learning into other areas of their life. What good does it do to learn to analyze texts in English class if I can't later use that analytical skill with other texts, outside of English class and outside of school? The whole point of developing understanding is to be able to transfer it over into other areas. Even Bloom could have told you that, and actually he does, in form of a quote, on pg. 93 of the UbD book.

   The assessments in this facet should be based on real-world problems, with an "emphasis on performance-based learning".

Facet 4: Perspective: "critical and insightful view points."  Here are the questions that are pondered in this facet: "From whose point of view? From which vantage point? What is assumed or tacit that needs to be made explicit and considered? What is justified or warranted? Is there adequate evidence? Is it reasonable? What are the strengths and weaknesses of an idea? Is it plausible? What are its limits? So what?"

    Here is an example of perspective: "A 10-year-old girl recognizes in TV advertising the fallacy of using popular figures to promote products."

    In this facet, students can see from different perspectives and views. The point of view is not the students point of view, necessarily, but the student can see through the lens of another, or in a different way. In other words, through opposing theories, ideas, and view points. This broadens the student's own depth of understanding of that particular big idea, which isn't black and white.

Facet 5: Empathy: "the ability to get inside another person's feelings and worldview."  Here is what students will ponder in this facet: "How does it seem to you?What do they see that I don't? What do I need to experience if I am to understand? What was the writer, artist, or performer feeling, thinking, seeing, and trying to make me feel and see?"

    Now, empathy and perspective might seem similar, but they are actually different. Perspective gets the students to see from a "critical distance", where emotion is not part of their view. Empathy, however, asks students to really put themselves in another's shoes, so emotion is very much part of the experience. Sometimes, when we look at things by putting ourselves in another's shoes, we begin to see and understand it differently. A student's own understanding can grow and change by looking at things empathetically.

Facet 6: Self-Knowledge: "the wisdom to know one's ignorance and how one's patterns of thought and action inform as well as prejudice understanding". Metacognition isa big part of this facet, and requires a lot of reflecting from the student. In this facet, students question, "How does who I am shape my views? What are the limits of my understanding? What are my blind spots? What am I prone to misunderstand because of prejudice, habit or style?" This facet requires that we give students ample time throughout the unit to self-reflect and self-assess. Why is that important? Through self-reflection, students are given time to adjust their own thinking and ideas, just like what we do as teachers. My own self-reflection time is when I come up with my greatest ideas, and when I realize and recognize that certain things are not working and need to be changed. The same is true for our students and their own learning.

 
I hope you enjoyed the second part of the UbD series. Part 3 will soon follow. KeishaScooterBike

Friday, August 5, 2011

Boy, Did I forget how Tiring Work can be

   flowers01 But, summer vacation has a way of doing that to a person. Energy? I've got tons of it. Time to work out? No problem. Oooops! Play time is over, and it is back to the books. Now I don't have time for anything! I ended up going in today to get a head start on my room. It probably looks like I have done nothing, but I was actually pretty productive. I only spent about 3 hours in there because I went to the airport to pickup 3 new teachers who are joining our school this year. It was a great time to sit and chat and get to know them (and have a Starbucks coffee...you can't beat that).
     I am too tired to post pictures now, but I will be posting pictures of my room before and after. I still have a lot of things in boxes, and what I was able to pull out I had to go through and organize. I might go in tomorrow as well. Oh well. We'll see.
   How about the rest of you? Have you started in your room?
                                                              frog

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Want to Collaborate on a First Grade Blog?

Click to viewIf you are a first grade teacher and want to participate as a co-author on a blog for first-grade teachers, the author of Primary Connections is proposing such an idea. If you are indeed interested, please head on over there and let her know.

Click here to participate in the First Grade Blog

Example of a week unit based on Understanding by Design

    Here is one of my weekly units that I designed based on UbD. I  thought this might help to see how a unit is actually put together. Again, I am not an expert on UbD, but I do love the idea behind it and do my best to design in its intended format. You'll see that I have all my subjects here. One of my goals for this following year is to do a better job at integrating subjects.

Click here to see one of my units

Should Teachers and Students be banned from Having Digital Relationships?

   Color Crayons This is a poll currently taking place at Fox News Live right now. When I voted, 65% of voters had said yes. Now, I am not sure what prompted this poll,but when I think of digital relationships, I think of blackboard, emails, moodle, class websites, etc. So, we should be banned from this? But, we live in a digital age so why should education be any different? Or, are they referring to things such as having students as friends on Facebook (which I do oppose)? I'm not entirely sure what they are referring too, but I definitely see dangers in banning digital relationships. What say you?

View the poll here

What's the Big Idea? Understanding by Design Series #1 Ch. 3

   new school clipart image: letter b in a green apple  I have already discussed the fundamentals of Understanding by Design (UbD) in another post, but I love it so much that I decided to do a series on it. I will do sections of a chapter at a time (I have the book and used it in my master's program) so all of you can become acquainted with it as well.
    I am not necessarily advocating that everyone use UbD, but I am suggesting that we think of our units from a backwards perspective, which is what UbD is based on. UbD says it's best to start at the end and work from there. It makes sense. If I know where my students need to go, then I can create a careful plan that gets them to that destination.
     Today I want to share the idea of "big ideas" as discussed in UbD. The big ideas are essentially what units are planned around. Ideally, one would begin with the goals and objectives of the unit first. From there, look at what big ideas should be brought to light from this unit. Sometimes these big ideas are even hidden within the standards.
     But what is a big idea, and what makes it so big you ask? Big ideas don't have to  necessarily be so grand in size, as it turns out. There are a couple of factors, however, that determine if the idea is really big or not. These ideas are not obvious, and they have to be "uncovered". Here's a list, from the UbD book, that explains what big ideas are:

  1. Broad and abstract
  2. Represented by one or two words
  3. Universal in application
  4. Timeless
  5. Represented by different examples that share common attributes
     Big ideas can be thought of as:
  1. Providing a lens for a study 
  2. Providing breadth and meaning
  3. Pointing to ideas at the heart of the subject
  4. Requiring "uncoverage" because its meaning is rarely obvious to the learner
  5. Having great transfer power
     Are you still feeling confused? Don't worry. I refer back to my UbD book all the time. I don't claim to be an expert on UbD, but I do design my units around it. Here's some more of what a big idea might "manifest" itself to be:
  1. Theme 
  2. Concept
  3. Ongoing debate
  4. Paradox
  5. Theory
  6. Underlying assumption (example: texts have meaning, markets are rational)
  7. Recurring question
  8. Understanding or principle
     As you can see, big ideas are not black and white, and they can be looked at differently. A big idea is what anchors your unit. Every lesson is helping to get to the heart of the study. Designing units this way means that you do not just examine content for the sake of examining content, but the content is a means to get to the big idea. For example, we use Scott Foresman (which I dearly loved, and after loving it so much later found out that it was designed after UbD), and every unit is based on a theme. We begin with "Change". Our first story is "An Egg is an Egg". The purpose of this story is not just to love the story itself, or even to show all the things that change (an egg becomes a chick, a branch becomes a stick, summer becomes fall, etc.), but it helps to begin the examination of change. Having transfer ability (as mentioned above), is hugely important because our goal should always be that students can take their learning and apply it in their lives. 
    Wiggins and McTighe suggest that students should be able to apply their learning in unrelated areas, or transfer the learning. I agree. Isn't what we teach students things we want them to be able to use and transfer in other areas? Going back to "Ann Egg is an Egg", my class and I examine the story, but that becomes a tool to then examine our own lives. It always needs to go back to the students. Lessons designed around UbD require that students always go back and examine these big ideas in terms bigger than the text. In our case, my students and I determine what things in our own lives change, and what things might change yet. Is change okay, is it normal? I make sure that everything we learn can then be applied to my students by asking, "What does this mean in my own life? Or my own world?" If lessons do not have a greater meaning and cannot be applied in the sense that it pertains to the lives and world of your students, then is it really important enough to be doing? This is how I determine the smaller lessons that make up my units. If the lesson is not one step closer to reaching our end destination, then it is a lesson that needs modification, or is simply not needed. 
    As I have already said, I use UbD for my own units and dearly love it. Designing around big ideas make learning so much more meaningful and relevant to our students. I fell in love with UbD when I did my master's, and there is no way I can ever go back to designing units the way I did before (I'm not sure I had an exact way of doing it before, I just did it). Learning is much more meaningful in my class now, and I hope that any of you who decide to start using UbD, or design around big ideas, will have as much success with it as I have. 
   Series two coming soon...

Right Around the Corner

  new school clipart image: little red old fashioned schoolhouse with bellfry   Well, here it is, the end of summer vacation as I know it. I return to school on Monday, and then a week later all the kids return as well. While I am ready to go back, I can't say I won't miss sleeping in, lounging around in my pj's, or staying up late to watch movies. Those days are soon to be long gone, and become nothing more than a memory. Soon to come are the days of rushing in the mornings, staying on my feet all day, trying to get everything done, and napping in the afternoons (oh my long afternoon naps that I dearly love). Yes, my friends, summer is over.
    I am, however, happy to go back and see familiar faces, share new ideas, and just continue in the craft of teaching that I dearly love. It's a great feeling to be able to contribute to society by being part of the work force (especially in a time when so many are out looking for jobs), and really giving back in an occupation that's so meaningful and necessary to the health of our society. Being a teacher is a privilege, and being able to spend my days with precious children is a gift that I would not trade for anything else.
     What about the rest of you? When do all of you return? What are you looking forward to? I hope to hear from you. Happy teaching, my friends!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Currently I am...Linky party

crayons


Listening to the Disney channel as my daughter watches it in the living room.

Loving that I have a few days of vacation left.

Thinking that I really should have gone to school today and started unpacking things in my classroom.

Needing another cup of coffee...but will I still be able to sleep tonight?

Stalking Quench Your First (teacher blog)
             The Adventures of 7th Grade...as a Teacher
            Writing through the Wait (non-teacher blog)
         

Want to join this linky party?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Blank ABC Book template

Schoolgirl clip art     I just finished creating a template for an ABC book, which I do a lot during the school. You can do ABC books for almost anything (I also do one during Christmas time...So much fun!). So, here is my blank template if you would like to use it as well. There's not too much to it, but it's yours if you'd like. Feel free to share the link, but please link back to my blog. Click here for my ABC book template

Starting Strong: 6 Things to Keep in Mind as You Begin the New School Year

         The beginning of the school year is such a special time of year. Teachers excitedly get their classrooms set up, organized and d...