Thursday, July 27, 2017

Ready to Go Back???

Here it is, just days before returning teachers has to report back to school and I feel like I have little to nothing completed.  I haven't even touched my classroom yet.  The items I have purchased for the upcoming school year are still piled on my horseshoe table waiting to be put in their place.  My desk and shelves, refrigerator, and other furniture (i.e. student desks & chairs) are just piled together on one side of the room.  Oh, how am I going to get this daunting task of having my classroom ready for school, let alone meet the teacher night ... next Thursday!  There is a good reason I am not as prepared as I have been these past 4 years ... see my mom had a procedure earlier in July and I have been temping for her job until she gets to return, which will be July 31st.  Don't get me wrong, making some additional money until I get my first check of the school year is welcoming but, yikes I am going to be rushing to get everything done.  I could be managed if I was allowed to only work in my classroom until then but, of course, there are the back to school staff meetings which take place on Monday & Tuesday.  So, that leaves Wednesday & all of Thursday to get my classroom into some assimilation that I am prepped and ready for the impending school year.

While I have been working I did manage to get two big things checked off my To-Do list.  I was able to get my classroom information packet done as well as my syllabus for the 1st Trimester.  I used a program I learned about from Pinterest called Piktochart to create the information packet.  I turned out really nice and quick to learn and maneuver around.  As you can see by my finished product ... it's eye-catching.
To get it to print in PDF format you have to pay $40/year.  But, with a little ingenuity and knowledge of Microsoft programs I was able to get it to go on 3 sheets of paper, quite nicely.  I just wanted to give students and parents an idea what will be introduced this coming year and what content they will be expected to learn.

I also informed students and parents to the new formats which will be introduced in the curriculum like Google Classroom, Genius Hour, and Hour of Code.  I wanted the parents to know their student will be entering into a content rich school year and how all this information will be learned.

Alongside the creative information packet for the students and parents, I also finished my syllabus for the 1st trimester.  My administrator doesn't require one, or they have yet to mention we need to have one, but what I have learned from my previous school it is a valuable tool to help keep parents and students apprised on what they will be learning and expected to know by the end of the grading period.  Just like posting the schedule is beneficial to the students and to avoid the never ending questions of "What are we doing now?" or "When is this subject over?" or my favorite ones "When is lunch?", "When is school over?".  Having a syllabus for the students allows them to track what they are learning and what they will be learning next, and what will be covered the 1st grading period.  Below is what my syllabus look like which I will have available on Meet the Teacher night as well.

Hopefully, these will help avoid some of the questions and allow me to focus on the curriculum and create a more open line of communication between student & parent, as well as parent & myself.

Here's to the new school year !!!  Good luck to us all!!!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Genius Hour???

As my planning for the upcoming school year continues I have taken inventory on what I would like to implement in my classroom.  Since I get the privilege of having Chromebooks in my classroom, the world is my oyster.  I love doing Project Based Learning but that is usually what I believe the students should be learning about, then the idea of Genius Hour was introduced to me by a colleague at the end of the last school year and I was intrigued.  So, I decided to do a little research on the topic and educate myself before resolved to implement it as part of my curriculum.  Needless to say, I am hooked!!

Genius Hour is a product of Google who allows their employees to use 20% of their workweek to research and learn about something they are passionate about as long as the result benefits the company.  This thinking has found its way into the classroom and is igniting an excitement for learning in many students around the nation and the world.  Why wouldn't I want to implement this in my classroom?  One of my goals every year is to have my students promote to their next grade feeling they learned what they needed to be successful in my class and had fun at the same time.  I want to make our school year together one of their most memorable educational experiences.

There are 3 key instructions that need to be followed during Genius Hour, or as many others have coined it Passion Projects.

1.     It must use a driving question.  
·        It cannot be what are Giant Pandas?  But, instead, why are Giant Pandas endangered and what are we as people doing to help them out?
2.     It must involve research.
·        This can be either with technology, books, resources, video, or any other reliable source for which information can be obtained to learn about the topic in question.
3.     The product/end result or other compelling artifact from the project must be shared/published.
·        This will usually be shared with classmates but, maybe use one project and host a Gallery Walk and share the students' work with the school, parents, and community.

Throughout learning about Genius Hour I came across a few YouTube videos which helped sway me to wanting to have this as part of my learning community.  Take a moment to watch each of them and you will be persuaded as well to find a way to allow this great opportunity to find its way into your planning as well.  Again, it is only 1 hour per week is all you have to allow for a more learning and engaging classroom rich with inquiry and student ownership.

With all this creativity, inquiry and learning demonstrated how could you not be motivated to change the learning for your students if the resources and curriculum planning is available.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Let the planning begin...

Summer school came to a close last Thursday, and the 4th of July holiday has passed... so all you teachers know what that means - Back to School planning!  That is where I find myself these days.  Looking at blogs and getting ideas how to set up my classroom, activities for the first few days, processes and procedures I want to integrate or tweak, and making sure my classroom wall embellishments are completed.

I don't know about you but there is always that anxiety ... what am I going to do with my students that first day of school?  My administrators want us to go over processes and procedures for the first 2 weeks of school but, seriously??  I could understand doing that with the younger kiddos but 6th graders, I believe they can learn as they go.  Yes. it is very important to set straight the expectations with your students what they are going to experience as a new 6th grader in your classroom but for 2 weeks ... especially when my district sets out doing baseline/benchmark testing the 2nd week of school.  We got some learning to begin.

So, as I was perusing the pages of Pinterest (my secret obsession ... got a few minutes to kill ... troll Pinterest and file away the ideas) I came across a blog from The Thinker Builder on Setting the Tone of the classroom within the first 10 minutes of the first day ... and there was a really good idea/activity to use while the students are getting settled in on that fated first day.  To read all about this interesting way to start the year click on the image to your left and you will be linked right to this interesting way to plan the first few minutes of the new school year,

I don't know about you but I absolutely fell in love with the book Wonder by R. J. Palacio.  My 4th graders liked it but I don't think they understood the real meaning behind the story.  So. next year with my 6th graders I am going to read the book with them as a book study ... hopefully starting the first week of school so on that note Pinterest showed me this delightful treat which I want to incorporate in my classroom with my students.  Click on the lower right image to get the free download for these "kindness cards" which you can print and use.  I want to initiate their use first with my students then encourage them to distribute them among their classmates and staff throughout the school.  Sometimes making someone else's day a little brighter will bring wonderful joy to your own.  I really want to help guide the students to think about the well-being of other people they interact with on a daily basis and not just themselves.  I believe in turn they will find they help themselves more than they would ever know.

These are just a few things which are going through my mind or I am jotting down in my notebook to remind myself of what I could potentially utilize those first important minutes, hours, and days of the 2017-2018 school year.  What ideas have you come across?  I would really like to get some collective ideas which we could potentially use to make the school year start off smoothly and enjoyably.

I really hope to hear from some of you ... any of you...