Sunday, August 21, 2016

10 Things To Do Before Back to School: #9


As you get closer to your school year starting, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed and maybe even negative about the beginning of school.  The first day/week/month of school can be STRESSFUL for everyone involved and it's hard not to get caught up in our own little overworked bubble.   

I am fortunate to work in a building and district where everyone truly supports their teachers and comes together for the greater good.  Before school even begins, we come together to discuss the upcoming school year and get pumped for job ahead of us.  My district has a "Welcome Back" breakfast the day before school starts every year.  Teachers from all over our district come together and eat breakfast, catch up, and get excited.  This year was no exception.  We celebrated together a teacher who fought and survived brain cancer over the past two years and is now back in the classroom.  We celebrated a high school student who has won national honors with a speech he wrote.  We celebrated and welcomed new staff to our district and we look at our district's strategic plan so we know exactly where we are headed.  

I look forward to this breakfast every year.  Some view it as something else staff have to sit through before school starts, but I view it as an opportunity to celebrate a fresh start, another year, another chance to make a difference.  This year, my favorite part was when we were asked to write down why we were proud to work in the district we do.  For me, there are so many reasons.  Both as a teacher and parent, I am proud of the teachers our district has and the work that is done to take care of the whole child.  It's truly awe inspiring.  After writing down our thoughts, we took pictures and put them on social media with the hashtag #jr2proud.  It's so fun to look and see all of the reasons on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter why we are proud to work for our district.  

♥ My Kindergarten team is the bomb!!! ♥

No matter what you do or your district does to get pumped or excited, jump in head first.  Have a positive attitude.  Let go of what happened last year.  Look forward to the year ahead.  Maybe this will be the year you start feeling really good about teaching that concept that used to scare you.  Or maybe you join a new committee and you really start feeling like you are making a difference.  Not only do you NEED and DESERVE a fresh start, students and families do too.  Maybe this year, you'll be the teacher that child finally connects with, or that teacher a mom feels she can really express her concerns to.  What ever good is going to happen, is needs to start with a positive attitude.  So start your year ready to rock and roll rock star.  You got this!  

Friday, August 12, 2016

10 Things To Do Before Back to School: #8

The next tip I have for getting ready for back to school involves setting goals with students.  While students may not be in your classroom yet, you can begin to think about what you want your students' goals to look like, how you will track them, and how you will celebrate successes.  

Goal setting is the process of establishing an outcome (a goal) to serve as the aim of one's actions. 

It also gives students a clear explanation of where they are going and why you are doing what you’re doing in your classroom – a purpose for their learning.

Goals may be relatively close at hand (proximal) such as reading one chapter tonight, or more long term (distant) such as reading one chapter by the end of the current week. Proximal goals lead to higher motivation directed toward goal attainment than do long-term goals (Bandura, 1986). 

I have found that implementing student goals in my classroom dramatically changes student learning.   When students are a part of the decision making process regarding what they would like to work on, what the goal should be and what happens when they reach that goal, they are more motivated to work toward it.  

Here are some steps to help you get started:

1.Decide if you are going to have one similar long term goal for all students or individual long term goals.
2.Choose 1 – 2 goals that are TOP PRIORITY.
3.Decide how you are going to measure/track those goals.
4.Decide how often you are going to check on progress
5.Celebrate successes.

Choosing a long term goal with a student or class is important, but you should be able to break down that goal into smaller, short term goals.  

Long Term Goal: Every student will increase the number of sight words read by the end of the school year.
Short Term Goal: Max will increase the number of sight words read by ten by the end of the first quarter.

Deciding how and how often you will track student goals really depends on you and your students.  Typically I check student goals every other week.  Higher risk students are checked more frequently - maybe even once or twice a week - to be sure they are progressing toward their goal. 

The important thing to remember is that, although each student may be working toward the same goal (increasing number of sight words read) that can (AND SHOULD!) look different for each kiddo.  A struggling reader may focus on having the goal of increasing only two or three words over the quarter, while another may increase by 12.  It's important to make the goals challenging - yet attainable - for each student in your class.  Otherwise, students will not reach goals and their motivation to learn will suffer. 

I use my student goal tracking forms to set goals with my students.  They are very teacher and kid friendly!

To look at these forms just click on the picture below!

If you want to have a place in your classroom to track student goals and celebrate as a whole class, here are some things to consider.  Do you want student data and information to be displayed?  Do you want each student's goal to be displayed?  I personally don't like having individual student goals available for everyone.  That should be kept private and be a conversation between teacher, student and family.  I do, however, like to give students a way to see how their friends are progressing on their goals.  Students are great motivators for each other and it's an opportunity to teach children about supporting one another.  

In our early childhood classrooms, our teachers have done a FABULOUS job of making student goals exciting for their young students.  

This teacher has a space theme.  When students make their goal their picture is placed on Earth.  When they are halfway to their goal, they are in a rocket.  And when they meet their goal they land on the moon!  All students are working on the same standard (i.e. counting) but each student has an individualized goal to work toward so they can be successful. 

This teacher did the same concept with superheroes.  When a student sets their goal their picture is place on the board.  When they are halfway to their goal, they earn a superhero mask.  When they meet their goal, they earn a cape!  She even lets students wear a special cape in the classroom when their goal is met.  How fun?!

Breaking down larger goals in smaller tangible goals for students can prevent them from feeling overwhelmed and like they may never get there.  This teacher took the long term objective 'counts' and broke it down into it's precursors.  There are descriptions under each section that explain what a student must demonstrate to be considered meeting and a student places their marker or symbol underneath.  The goal is for students to visually see themselves progress across the standard toward the big goal.  

When students or your class reach a goal - CELEBRATE!!!  Have a class party!  Brag on your students!

I love bragging on exactly what students worked hard to learn.  Crowns or stamps that state "I know my letters!" are great ways to celebrate successes while communicating it with parents!

Whatever you do to celebrate, get your kiddos involved!   They worked hard!  :)

Saturday, August 6, 2016

10 Things To Do Before Back to School: #7

Happy Saturday morning friends!  I am a little behind on my 10 Things To Do Before Back to School posts so today I'm playing catch up.  Next up - creating a daily schedule and beginning your lesson plans for the school year.  

While for most of us, our daily schedule is at the mercy of our administration, we do have some control over when we teach certain subjects.  Our biggest chunks of time should be directed to reading and math instruction.  I personally like teaching reading in the morning while my students are still fresh for the day.  I save math and science - typically more hands on subjects - for after lunch.  It's also important to consider the flow of your day.  As I began working on my schedule for this year, I knew I wanted to put my read aloud right before my writing block.  Often we take what we've discussed in our read aloud and incorporate it into our writing so to pair them together made sense. 

Once you have a daily schedule in place, you can create or set your lesson plan template.  Mine might not be fancy, but it works for me!  I like viewing my day vertically.  It allows me to go down the activities through the day and check them off. 

I type in my lesson plans each week then print them off and stick them in my planning binder.  This binder holds my lesson plans, student information sheets, pacing chart from our district and our pacing calendar created by our kindergarten team.  

The pacing chart is created each year by our instructional facilitator team.  It lays out what we should be teaching each quarter for the year.  It also lays our what standards are report card items.  

While the district tells us what to teach each quarter, it is our discretion to decide what to teach when during that quarter.  Our district has 16 different kindergarten classrooms and, as a kindergarten team, we decided it would be helpful for all of us to be on the same page as far as what we were teaching each week.  This would help with students transferring to other buildings and would help teacher share ideas and resources.  We typically choose a day each summer and get together to decide the kindergarten pacing calendar.  We decide what we are teaching each week, the focus sight words each week and when we are assessing report cards items.  This has been TREMENDOUSLY helpful for consistency within our team!  This year, I used Google Sheets to create the calendar.  It took a little while at first, but I figured it out!  Each subject is color coded so teachers can easily read what we are teaching in ELA, Math, Science, Social Studies, and Writing.  

Be sure to consider any and all curriculum calendars into your pacing calendar.  We specially follow our Handwriting Tears Guidelines when deciding what letters to teach in handwriting and we use the guide in our Go Math curriculum to determine how long teaching a chapter should roughly take (note: all classes are different and we allow teachers/classes to move a little faster or slower through the calendar).  Our Social Studies curriculum is new this year and I am excited to check it out!

Beginning next weekend, I will be sharing my weekly plans with you each Sunday - that's my goal anyway.... ;)  Be sure to come back and check out the resources I'm using!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

10 Things To Do Before Back to School: #6

O.K.  Your classroom is clean, organized and set up.  You've figured out flexible seating, behavior management, what procedures you need to teach and how you are going to communicate important information throughout the school year.  

You're probably getting close to the beginning of the school year which means your back to school/meet the teacher/open house night is coming up!

This is your opportunity to make a great first impression.  Parents get to see who their child will be spending the vast majority of their week with and students get to see where they will be spending the vast majority of their time.  It's an opportunity to get your families pumped and excited about the school year, or, to make them worried about the year ahead.  

Open House night is when you give parents an idea of what happens in your classroom.  Providing them with classroom specific information is important.  Your daily schedule, how you handle behavior, what homework looks like and what students will be learning are all items parents will want to know.  Instead of overwhelming parents will a presentation at Open House night, I provide parents with classroom handbook that highlights important things to know about my classroom. 

Parents take their copy home and are able to read and reference it on their own time.  While it doesn't cover EVERYTHING about my classroom, it covers the highlights and the most common questions parents have at the beginning of the year in kindergarten.  

I also provide a magnet with my contact information.  You can find this in my editable magnets and postcards product - just click on the picture below!

In addition to paperwork passed out by the school office, I pass out a few papers of my own.  The first is two double sided information sheets.  The first is one for the student to complete with parent help.  It gives me a quick snapshot of the child and helps me get to know them a little better!

The second is an information sheet for parents to complete.  It allows parents an opportunity to express any worries or concerns about their child starting school.  I keep these forms in my planning binder so I can easily reference them throughout the year. 

Grab these forms as a FREEBIE in my TPT store.  Click here!

To make sure my parents hit every station in my classroom and have a chance to see everything in my classroom, I created an open house scavenger hunt form!  Students and families members work through the form, turn it in when finished and receive their welcome to open house treat!

Also, the night of open house my students receive their communication binder.  This binder will travel back and forth between school and home each day for easy communication with parents.  

Inside the binder I have included a zipper supply pouch for parents to easily send in lunch money, permission forms, etc., a notebook where I can write notes to family members and they can respond (or vice versa!) and a folder to holder papers going home.  I used this system last year and LOVED the communication and convenience!

I also have a place where parents can choose items to donate to our classroom. This year I used some speech bubble cutouts I found at the Target spot last summer and made this sweet little display!  My Madi was the model for the shouting child - she felt so special.  ;)

I always request a variety of items, including recess toys.  I don't ever feel shy about asking for things - this is completely optional and parents won't grab a bubble if they don't want to donate!  I do include items with a variety of costs for parents who would like to donate but are unable to do larger items.  

Lastly, when my students complete their scavenger hunt, they are able to receive their Open House treat!  This year, the last task on the hunt will be to locate their cubby.  There is where they will find their new pen!  I found these Scentos pens in the party section at Wal-Mart for $2-$3 for a pack of 12!  My kiddos are going to love them!  To grab a copy of the card just click the picture below!  It's editable so you can enter your own grab and name!

While I'm still in the process of getting the rest of my things ready, you can check out this previous post for information regarding an open house PowerPoint I do and how I organize all of the forms that go home to parents.

Good luck with your Open House Nights!