Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2011-12 Classroom

Here are some photos of my classroom at the beginning of the school year.  Many things have changed in the last semester, but here's a glimpse!

 A few of the front door and our community supply center.  I've struggled this year with supplies disappearing though, so there are not so many supplies out now.

 Classroom jobs chart, paper, and portfolios are stored here.  This has been shifted because an outside tutoring group uses my classroom after school and needed a filing cabinet for storage.
 Our whole group and classroom library area.  My dad built that easel for me this summer and the black cubes are storage ottomans.  They made a perfect bench for me to sit on.  The library is covered because of the dust and leaves from the tree right outside.  The carpet was a Donors Choose project last year when I taught kindergarten.

We have these behavior posters posted around the school.   The green and yellow board is my word wall.

My behavior ladder.  I use wood cutouts/popsicle sticks with the bottoms cut off on magnets.

I love the double whiteboard at the front of the room!  It provides enough space to keep things up throughout the day and I use the left side as a projection screen as well.  I recently got an interactive whiteboard that is installed with magnetic strips, so although that takes up the left side, I can still write on it as well.

My "office" area is also where I do my small group instruction.  I bought a stability ball on a wheeled base to be my desk chair (the gray one is now at my bean table for the part-time teacher's group).

Our calendar and schedule area.  That big blank space on my board has filled up with random things I need.

Our class pets, a fish tank with some water plants in a separate vase in the tank.  Over the Thanksgiving weekend, I revamped the aquarium so that it is now more of an aquaponics setup where the water circulates through the vase and the tank.

I have group cubbies this year instead of for individual students.  The groups have 2 cubbies each to store textbooks and workbooks.  It's made their desks neater.

 A view of the room from the back door.

 A view of the room from the door that connects our room to another second grade class.  This door has come in handy for teacher bathroom breaks midday and for team teaching 40-45 students for special activities.

My part-time teacher's small group area.  He's only with me for reading block, so I also use this for math stations.

Our required posted work wall.  A school requirement is that every classroom displays weekly prompts.  I have a rope that goes across the room above this wall below a row of windows to display art work.

I hope you enjoyed a glimpse at my room from back in August.  I'll try to get an updated look soon!

Where did the semester go?

Wow!  My last blog post was in JULY!  Sorry to my few followers!  I started this blog with the intent of posting new things I developed as I started a new position, but my new position has taken a lot out of me.  I feel more drained than I thought I would feel this school year.  One of my personal and professional goals in 2012 is to maintain this blog and a personal posterous blog that I started in 2011 with more regularity.  There have been so many things that I wanted to blog about, from starting up my classroom in an amazing space (except for the dust and pollen, lack of natural light, and pest problem), working with a very eclectic new team, and the creative things I have had to come up with to make second grade work for me.

So where have I been this semester?  I've been learning a new set of standards, new curriculum, training for the 2011 Honolulu Marathon, nursing tendinitis, helping to plan/organize/execute a good friend's wedding, and stomaching the results of last year's National Board Certification re-try entries.  I've gotten a hold on the standards and curriculum, I finished the marathon despite the tendinitis (shaved 40 minutes off my 2006 time), the wedding was amazing, and I've accepted the fact that I will have to try again to prove that I should be a board certified teacher.  I'm trying for the Early Childhood Generalist certification and am on my last chance for retakes, so I'll be doing the portfolio entries on Building a Classroom Community, Integrating Mathematics and Science, and Documented Accomplishments again as well as taking the Assessment Center tests for Science and Social Studies.  I haven't started any of it yet and the support group I worked with in the past is not being hosted this year, so I'll be having at it on my own.  I'll probably being using this blog to vent about the process and mark milestones.

Okay, enough with the words!  I've got a bunch of errands that need to be done and meeting up with a friend for lunch.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Math Work Stations - Chapter 6

What a summer it's been!  I can't believe I'm so far behind on my Math Work Station posts!  Or my curriculum things that I need and want to do before we officially report back.  I officially report back on July 26th and the students start on August 1st.  I started going in a couple hours at a time on Friday, then Monday and Thursday.   I've made significant progress in setting up furniture and unpacking boxes, but that's for another post!

When we work on Place Value, I encourage the students to talk about how many groups of tens and ones are in a number, how they can be grouped, or how to break it down to make it easier to count large numbers.  In kindergarten, I added a straw for each day of school and we would count it by ones and then count it by groups of tens and count on.  After the 100th day, we started from 100 and counted on.  The kids loved the routine and it really helped to get them to understand larger numbers and decomposing numbers.  They were often the ones who reminded myself of the student teacher that we needed to do the routine on days that were rushed.  I am going to continue to use this routine when I teach second grade this year, but also include coins, tally marks, and expanded notation so that the students show their understanding of place value in multiple ways.  I am thinking that my daily calendar routine will include something like this chart.  This seems to be a major part of the Common Core State Standards that we are transitioning to this year.  It was the major focus at the workshop I attended on Wednesday.

One of the games that my students LOVED last year during Math Workshop was an activity where they pulled a number card and represented the number with base ten blocks or connecting cubes.  Once they had "built" the number, they told their partner what number they had, how many tens and ones were in the number, and counted out what they had.  I typed out the numbers and printed them multiple pages to a page and cut them, but it was also really easy to write them on index cards as we went to add more to the set.  I had a few cards that were self-correcting and I drew the base ten blocks on the back.  Here's an example of the cards that I am making for the second grade version.  For kindergarten, I had 0-30 and duplicates of the teen numbers.

I wish I had more pictures of my students doing the activities.  When I was told that I'd be moving to second grade, I was so sad that I didn't even think about how I could document everything I was doing.  I am going to be better at doing that for my professional development and teaching portfolio than I have been in the past.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Finally Ready!

After waiting for what felt like forever, I got an email from our ELL teacher saying she'd finished moving almost all of her things out of the classroom that will be mine this school year into her office/teaching space that is less than half the size. I felt really bad and was really appreciative that she cleared a corner for me to stack my boxes from early May, so I told her to take her time. But en I got antsy. :) Now I've got a clean carpet and a new HUGE space that is all mine! Although I still wish I was assigned to teach kindergarten again next year, this space is every teacher's dream! (if only it had more windows...)

From the back corner where I'll share a door with the neighboring class.

My neatly stacked boxes are now spread out and I have to sort through them before unpacking. Thankfully I numbered almost all of them and kept an inventory of what is in each box!

My awesome sink and counter! Nothing there right now is mine, but there's space for my Keurig if I decide I need it in my classroom!

These are the desks I have for now, which aren't enough for my class, but more will be coming in from a neighboring school today. I'm hoping I can manage to get a matching set!

I'll be heading over there today after summer school so that I can move my furniture and organize the boxes. After that, it should be a piece of cake! I've been spoiled being in the same room for most of my teaching career and it's been so easy every year to put the room back together exactly how I like it with only a few changes.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Great Shopping Finds

So I'm loving linky parties these days! I stumbled upon Lady Bug Teacher File's teacher shopping finds linky party and was instantly jealous of the things teachers on the mainland are finding at Target's Dollar Spot and Dollar Tree. They make me miss my days of living in Oregon! We finally have Target here in Hawaii, but no Dollar Spot section here! A friend of mine who is also a teacher recently returned from a trip to the east coast and brought back a suitcase filled with Dollar Spot finds! Oh I wish! But I found some awesome deals in the last week, despite the announcement that we'll be taking a 5% pay cut.

In addition to my great classroom finds, I found some also deals on clothes at the Banana Republic outlet, Ann Taylor store, and a local boutique. Trouser jeans for $20! I also found that if I go up a waist size, petite jeans fit perfectly. I'm "tall" for being part Japanese, but my legs are short and regular length are too long, even with heels! I got some cute bermuda shorts at Ann Taylor for 40% off. They're a must since we start school on Aug 1 and it will still be HOT until October. I rarely wore dresses in kindergarten, but I got 2 cute ones at the boutique that I can wear comfortably in 2nd grade. No pictures of the clothes! :)

Happy Shopping and Bargain Hunting!

It's Here!

Wool hoo! The electronic math flash card that I won from PrimaryGraffiti came today via UPS. I'm so excited about it that I'll probably open it up and use it tomorrow with my summer school group to see how it works.

Also, I just downloaded Blogger+ on my iPad, so I'm trying out blogging on it. I'm writing this draft at the gym while I wait for my TurboKick class to start. I've figured out how to do the links, but not sure about the photo part. I might need to post this blog and edit it so that I can put in a picture of the product... Oooh! Or not! I've found all kinds of features for this app, but that's for another post!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

My First Win!

So now that I've officially started blogging, I've also been entering contests on other blogs.  I usually just do the entry where I follow the blogs that they recommend and leave my comment saying that's what I did, but I REALLY wanted to win the prize in Primary Graffiti's MWS Chapter 5 giveaway.  I even linked my blog to hers so that I could get a second entry!  When she posted about her winner, I put a stop at the local teacher supply store on my agenda for the week so I could see if they had it in their stock.  I subscribed to the Learning Resources email updates as a part of the contest and placed a BIG order earlier in the week for new pocket charts, so I didn't want to place another order with their high shipping cost to Hawaii.  When I sat down to read my blog feed yesterday, I was excited because my comment was the preview picture!  Know what that means?  I won!!!

I was so excited that only 30 minutes after it had been posted, I had commented and emailed to claim my prize!  I have already started to plan how I'll use my Minute Math Electronic Flash Card in my classroom.  It'll most likely be one of the activities at a Math Work Station and something the students can choose to do in the afternoon during our short free choice, reflection journal, catch up time that I have planned.  Thank you!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Math Work Stations - Chapter 5

 How do you support math vocabulary (math talk) at Addition and Subtraction Work stations?
I think that my support for math vocabulary for addition and subtraction is better than in other areas.  Since I've been teaching kindergarten, these stations required a lot more modeling for discussions.  We made lists of different ways to say add and subtract.  Again it is definitely where I am going to focus this school year.  I've been trying out sentence frames and math talk cards with my summer school group.  It has really helped them in just a few days to explain what they are doing.  They were able to do the computations and give the answers, but they could not explain what they were doing or why.  With just a few opportunities to practice, I was sold!  I use sentence frames for other settings because of the ELL students I work with at my regular school, so why not use them in all areas?  I've been saving math talk cards that other teachers are posting on their blogs and will definitely be using those or making my own before this all gets put into place.

How do you build addition and subtraction fluency?
I'm a firm believer that fluency comes with practice, so that's just what I do, give the students lots of opportunities to practice.  I also give them many different manipulatives to help them.  Some students work best with connecting cubes, others with chips, and others by looking at pictures.  I made these Ten Frame Cards *NEW LINK* for the visual students.  We have a set of 0-10 number cards that we make from our math program, but I like the way the book suggested using ten frames.  It is a faster way to visualize the amount.  I quickly put these cards together with word so that I can print them and put them onto card stock.

What type of story problems have you been working on?
I tried to incorporate at least one addition or subtraction story problem into our closing time at the end of math block as the students got ready for lunch.  With this past class it often got left out though because of having to deal with other issues.  I am definitely going to make it a part of our daily routine in second grade and will probably have a math work station just for story problems.  I am going to have the students solve story problems and write their own for other students to solve.  I think that writing their own will be the most meaningful learning experience for them.

What is your student's favorite addition and subtraction work station/activity?
My students have loved the domino addition and subtraction activity and rolling the dice to make number sentences.  They like being able to instantly recognize the pips on the domino (and I try to get them to learn that vocabulary word) and having control of what numbers they are computing.  A station that I just introduced to my summer school class is using lacing numbers to create addition and subtraction problems.  They pull two lacing numbers and lay them on a number sentence frame.  After they've completed the computation, they search for the bead to represent the answer.  I was wondering how I could use my letter and number lacing beads in a second grade classroom, but I think this will be a great station for addition and subtraction or I can use them for a place value game.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Great Product!

I just ordered two of these Class Tracker Pocket Charts from Learning Resources.

I'm going to use them for my Math Work Stations management board and replace the lunch and milk cards with station numbers for the day! I bought two because they were so cheap! I bought a bunch of other pocket charts too.

Sent from my iPad

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Math Work Stations - Chapter 4

Now it all makes sense!  :)  Okay, maybe not everything, but this chapter was amazingly helpful for helping me to understand the WHY behind the number sense activities that are built into many programs.  It also helped me to see how I can extend what I already do as a kindergarten teacher to help my second grade students become stronger mathematicians.  I've already started using some of these activities with my summer school group, but alas, that's for another blog.

The host for the blog party for this chapter, Fran at Kindergarten Crayons, has posted amazing resources that you can download.  The first thing I did when I finished unpacking and cleaning up from camp was to download EVERYTHING she offered.  It also gave me some great ideas for summer school projects.

1.  How do you support math vocabulary (math talk) at Beginning Number Concepts stations?
When I read this chapter, I couldn't help but wonder if I've failed my students in the past by not supporting math vocabulary enough.  I've always introduced, explained, modeled, revisited, and encouraged the use of math vocabulary, but since so many of my students are ELL, I wonder if I did enough.  I will definitely be using sentence frames and math talk cards at the stations, even now that I am teaching second grade.  It's never too late to introduce the vocabulary and encourage its use.  I'm also going to make sure that math vocabulary words go up on our word wall as well as being displayed on a special math wall in the classroom.

2.  How do your students read, write, order, represent, or compare numbers?  What activities support that?
This is where I think our adopted math program, Investigations, is great.  Most of the kindergarten program is spent developing number sense and working with numbers.  They love games that let them compare and order numbers.  I have them represent numbers with tally marks, shapes, objects, and words.  Part of our daily calendar routine was to make groups of 10s and 1s with straws to represent the number of days we'd been in school.  Our bell work when they came in from recess before math instruction was to represent a number in their Counting Jar folder (4 clip art jars from DJ Inkers per page with a line for the date) in different ways.  At first they simply wrote the number.  Then they wrote the number and drew shapes.  Then they added writing in the number word.  Finally we worked on circling groups of 10 within the shapes.  I am definitely going to continue similar activities in second grade.

3.  What is your student's favorite number concepts work station/activity?
My students love "Racing Bears."  In this game the students have 4 bears on a game board.  Each is on a race track to get to chips at the ten.  They roll the dice and have to decide which bear to move to get to 10 the fastest.  After the students have collected all of the chips, they compare to see who has the most.  It's from the Investigations program and once they learn how to play it with a 1-3 dot cube, they love to keep playing it and we add more dots to the cube as they develop.  I'm excited to see what activities my students enjoy next year!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Math Work Stations - Chapter 3

I finally got my book in the mail!  Then I took it with me to a family camping trip at the beach this weekend (BEAUTIFUL!), but got sick earlier in the week and didn't have the energy to blog about it.  I'm so excited!  I was very upset earlier in the school year when I was told that I'd be moved from kindergarten to second grade, but researching new things like Math Work Stations, Daily 5, and technology in the hands of students are helping me to embrace the transition.

So, on to Chapter 3...  I'm going to break my post into sections similar to Mrs. Parker's.
Learning with Mrs. Parker

1. Model! Model! Model!
I love to model examples and non-examples in my kindergarten class, so I think that it will be one of the strengths that I take with me to second grade.  Modeling shows the students exactly what to do and keeps misbehavior and off task behaviors to a minimum.  I also think of modeling in terms of modeling my thinking.  When I model how to do an activity, I think aloud so that the students are able to hear how to use the vocabulary.  This coming school year, I will be more consistent with using my timer and having the students clean up the station before switching.  In my kindergarten classroom, once it was tidy, the groups lined up on a school bus taped to the floor (the custodian shook her head) and waited for the signal to move to the next station.  This helped as 4 groups of 5-6 students were moving to 4 stations in 1 math block.  It also was helpful when I handed my classroom over to student teachers because this management strategy was easy for all of us to use.

2.  Go Slow...
This was a great reminder that even though I'm used to spending a lot of time in kindergarten teaching the routines, I'll still need to do it in second grade.  I teach at a Title I school that is in restructuring, so we're under a lot of pressure to start working on the content right away, but I know that getting the routines in place is best.  I'm planning on using the time we've scheduled to teach routines to expose the students to the math manipulatives and teach them how to participate in work stations and introduce some of the activities.  Spending time in the beginning of the year teaching the routines and expectations will help the students to focus on learning later on.  Our school is also big on small groups and RTI, although we haven't had much training on it, so establishing these routines will allow me to have more time to do small groups and RTI.

3.  Make Time
I am used to having "Math Workshop" time built into my math block almost daily with the kindergarten version of Investigations.  From what I have seen from glancing through the grade 2 manual, it is not a daily routine.  I have 70-80 minutes for math instruction each day.  I plan on setting aside at least 30 minutes for stations and 5 minutes for sharing time each day after whole group instruction and time for the day's activity.  This will only allow for 2 stations per day, but I think this will work better since I plan on using set stations that are differentiated for abilities rather than rotating the thematic stations for that "Investigation."  My daily math block would look like this:
5 minutes:  Bell Work and Calendar
20 minutes:  Whole Group Lesson
10 minutes:  Activity
5 minutes:  Work Stations Mini Lesson
30 minutes:  Math Work Stations
5 minutes:  Sharing

4.  Management Boards
Most of my teaching things (especially pocket charts) are packed in my new classroom right now waiting for the current teacher to finishing moving to her new room, so I am trying to remember what types of pocket charts I have.  In the past I simply had the students stay in their heterogeneous table groups for math and rotate through the activities that way, but I would like to put them in groups of 2 or 3 based on abilities/needs so that I can pull a couple groups/pairs for small group instruction and cater the small group lessons to their needs.  I am going to differentiate the activities in the stations to meet the needs of the different groups of learners in my classroom and prevent the students who give up from being frustrated or play because they are bored.  A pocket chart for MWS will definitely be necessary because students will be grouped differently for desk work, reading small groups, and math small groups.  I've downloaded resources from other bloggers and am thinking about how I can personalize them to go with my woodsie theme in the classroom for next year.

5.  Labels
I LOVE labels!  I label everything!  I've bought a variety of sizes from Office Max so that I can reorganize my classroom library and all of the "new" things that I'll have in this new classroom.  I think that no matter what age you're working with, having a graphic and words is an efficient way to label.  Plus having matching labels for the bags, bins, pocket chart, and place on the shelf will make cleaning up effortless!

Now to work on my Chapter 4 post!


I didn't look closely at the Math Work Stations schedule bookmark to see the questions, so I'll add to my post!

What should your math work stations look like, sound like, and feel like?
It looks like organized chaos.  Students are working on different activities in different areas of the room, but everyone is working.  All of the students are actively engaged in their activity and are talking to their partner about the activity.  There is a low hum of meaningful discussion, but it is quiet enough that students can hear my signals for attention and the small group students can hear my instruction.  It feels meaningful to the students and empowers them to take what they know further.

What does your management board look like?
*I discuss this one above.

How do you support math vocabulary (math talk cards) in your stations?
As I read Chapter 4, I realized that I do not do this enough.  In the past I have made mini posters for the unit's vocabulary and taken it down when the unit is done.  I have also posted the vocabulary words on cards on a bulletin board.  In the future, I am going to include math words on our word wall and have a specific math focus wall where I can display words, definitions, and examples.  I am also going to create math talk cards with the students for each of the activities so that their discussions are meaningful.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Current Reads

Here's what I'm reading while I wait for my copy of Math Work Stations to arrive. Really focusing in Spaces and Places for now and using the Harcourt Trophies manual to update the grade level curriculum map to incorporate all of the Common Core State Standards that we're adopting in the fall. I'm reading up on the 2nd grade version of Investigations so I can relate it to what I read in Math Work Stations. So many great ideas are flowing through my head!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Math Work Stations Blog Party Chapter 1 and 2

I don't have my copy of Debbie Diller's Math Work Stations yet, but I figured that these five questions would be an easy way to start.  I cannot start working in my classroom until July because the previous occupant still needs to get her things packed and moved upstairs.  I'm in no rush to get in though, between working on curriculum maps, organizing teaching things I brought home, and teaching summer school, I'll be plenty busy!  This online reading group will help me gather my thoughts and have a good game plan before I go into the classroom to start setting up.

I'm answering these questions based on what I did in kindergarten and what I plan on doing in second grade...

1.  Materials used by the teacher first, then placed in the station:  Yes!  When I've used Investigations in the past, I've done a 15 minute whole group lesson and it is usually to introduce a new activity or explain how we are changing it.
2.  Materials do not change weekly, but rather changed to reflect the students learning objectives:  I usually change the materials based on when the program suggests, but will change it early if the students master the objective or revisit an activity if they did not get it in the first round.
3.  All students go to stations daily:  Yes!  A few students would miss a station or two twice a week because they met with the ELL teacher at that time and occasionally students would miss a station for tutoring with the part-time teacher.  We always did 4 stations per day and I changed the order so that they did not miss the same station every time.
4.  Materials are differentiated:  Not always...  I often differentiated the instructions with this last group of students, but I will be more conscious about differentiating the materials when I plan for next year.
5.  The teacher observes or meets with differentiated math groups:  One of the stations in my daily rotation is usually to work with the teacher.  If I am not meeting with a group that day, then I am observing the stations.

So many things to think about!  I'm excited to get my book in the mail, but in the mean time I'll keep reading the blogs and start looking at the Investigations program for second grade to see how I need to organize my math stations.

A New Project!

My blog title explains it all, I am The Very Busy Teacher!  I don't feel satisfied unless I am doing too many things at once.  My goal for the upcoming school year, as I change positions, is to take things off of my proverbial plate at work, but how will I fill the void?  This blog!  I'll share teaching ideas, professional development resources, and my random thoughts here.  I've been inspired by all of the blogs I am now following on my iPad's Flipboard.  In fact, the reason I started this blog was to participate in a book study this summer.  Enjoy!