Sunday, September 1, 2013

My classroom is ready for action!

So, it may kind of feel like I've fallen off the face of the earth. And that is largely true, except where my classroom and school-related work on my computer at home is concerned. I have never been this busy in my life. Not even during finals week of college. College feels like a walk in the park in comparison to getting ready to teach first graders. And I haven't even started the graduate classes I'll be taking this semester. But I'm not really complaining because, when I can muster up the confidence to imagine that I will be able to manage my first grade classroom, I am actually having a lot of fun. (If I'm having a less confident moment and imagining my students running around the room screaming while I watch powerlessly... then not so much fun.) 

I've spent the last week setting up my classroom and preparing lessons for my first week of school (gasp). School starts on Tuesday. I still can't say that without a few heart palpitations. But I am pretty excited about my classroom. It's nothing spectacular compared to some of the classrooms I've been ogling on other first grade teacher blogs, but for my first year of teaching with virtually no resources provided by the school, I'm pretty proud of it. Let me take you on a tour! 

This is the door to my classroom. I'm sorry the picture's blurry. This is on the inside of the door so kids outside can't pick at it. Other teachers recommended that I cover over at least the bottom half of the window on my door so that when other kids are in the halls they aren't distracting my little ones from learning.

This is the big whiteboard inside my classroom. (The door you just saw is to the right, just outside of this picture.) I'm planning on not using the whiteboard for teaching, as you may guess. I just didn't find this summer that when I was up at the whiteboard my students could pay attention as well. There's a lot here. So on the whiteboard I have a spot for Team Points. Students will be divided into teams (their table) and they will earn points for good choices and lose points for poor choices. Underneath is a schedule. Moving counterclockwise, next is the job charts. Students will have jobs and earn 'money' for their jobs. The money they earn is tied to their behavior management system and they will have to pay money for poor choices they make individually. They will get to spend money they make at a class store on Fridays. Above the job chart is the Friday Celebration box. Students will have 15 minutes set aside for a Friday Celebration activity of their choice at the beginning of the week. (Friday Celebrations could be things like more reading time, games, an educational video, a dance party, etc.) If they work efficiently, they will be able to earn more minutes for the Friday Celebration. If they waste time as a class, they will lose minutes. And finally, in the center top of the whiteboard is our Voice-o-Meter. I'm hoping to use this to help the kids know how loud their voices can be when working on a given activity.

To the right of the board is our Behavior Ladder. Students will have clothespins with their names on them that will start at the top of the ladder at the beginning of the day. For each poor choice they make, they will be asked to move their clip down. Each move down has other consequences, such as paying me one Scholar Dollar, spending a few minutes in the Spot for Thought, taking Thinking Laps during recess, and so forth.

Below the board are two posters: "Growing in math together" is where we will track our achievement in math as a class. For each objective we get 80% on (as a class) we will get to put one green leaf on the tree. "We show character" is where we will record the character traits we learn about and that we are trying to show as a class. Pretty much all of my students are Muslim, which is why the little girl is wearing hijab. It may look like the little boy is elbowing the little girl out of the way, but he's not. I drew the little boy first, intending to just have one child on the poster but then I decided I needed a boy and a girl and I didn't want to start over. So my new plan is that the words for the character traits that we learn will go to the left of the little boy on the poster. Students who show those character traits and get nominated by a classmate (or me) will get their name put next to the little girl under the "Look Who" sign. I might take pictures, instead of having their name go up. I'm not sure yet.

Over here is our Class Rules poster. On the first day of school we will brainstorm together as a class what each of these rules looks and sounds like and put those descriptors under the rule. The floating head is the beginning of our tracker for minutes read. For every 200 minutes read as a class we will get to add one length to the caterpillar. Since the students will be required to read at least 20 minutes a night and since I have 28 students, hopefully by the end of the year he will be one loooooong caterpillar winding his way all around the classroom.

This part of the room is also our 'organizational' corner. Students deposit their homework and Home-School folders here when they come in in the morning. The cardboard tray thing is for any mail that needs to go in the student mailboxes. Once the job system is up and running one student will have the job of checking that mailbox at the end of the day and putting mail in student mailboxes before we pack up our backpacks. I'm pretty excited about my student mailboxes too. They're made out of pizza boxes which I purchased from a Papa John's near my parents' house. (I say 'purchased,' but they were really cheap and the Papa John's manager who helped me was so friendly! I honestly left with a smile on my face.)

 Here's a closer look at the mailboxes. Students will each have a number. They will put that number on every worksheet they do. Their cubbies outside the classroom also have those numbers.

 This is our Calendar Time and Morning Meeting corner. I'll also be doing most of my large-group teaching in this area. Up in the left corner is a "Path to College" poster my sister helped me make. We'll talk during the first couple of weeks about how first grade is only the beginning and each grade they go through is a step toward college and what happens after college. I want to really stress the importance of doing your best in every grade so that you're prepared to move on to the next grade. Anyway, there's a lot going on by the Calendar Math Time bulletin board. There's the calendar (which I know is showing July in this picture), a weather graph, a pocket chart for yesterday, today, tomorrow, last month, this month, and next month, a hundred chart, a tooth-lost tally chart, a birthday graph, and a days-of-the-month tally chart. Oh, and the calendar itself and a clock. I'm still working through how I'm going to use each of these things and in what order. I won't start calendar time until the second week of school.

The rolling whiteboard cart is where I'll do most of my teaching. The students will be sitting on the carpet (which I know is a boring brown, but since I didn't have much to spend on carpets, I had to take what I could get). I'm not sure if I'll sit in the rocking chair all the time or reserve that for the read-aloud at the end of the day.

Oh, and the 80% Club is peeking through under the cart. Every time we have a test as a class, students who get 80% or more will get to put their names up on the chart. We'll see how this goes. I want this to be a motivational tool and not a source of discouragement. If I'm not a good teacher and am not giving my students what they need to succeed, then it probably won't be helping and will probably disappear.

This is in the back of our classroom and is our science tracker. Every time we master a science objective as a class at 80% we will add an animal or plant to this picture, so hopefully by the end of the year it will be a vibrant ecosystem.

Over here is my small group table and where students will pick up their pencils at the beginning of the day and deposit them at the end of the day. My teacher desk, file cabinet, and other organizational tools are back here. I love that open file box on the counter that I found at Goodwill. I'm using five of the spaces for each day of the week. So I can make my copies for the next week at the end of  the week and put them in the slot for what day we're going to use them. That's all assuming I can stay one week ahead. Ha.

 And over here is our classroom library. I've leveled the books according to DRA levels because that's what I'll be using to measure student progress throughout the year. A dear friend of mine got my church back in Iowa to put on a book drive for me, so I have more books coming today! I'm sooooo excited about that, as I really don't have enough books for 28 kids right now and our school has no library.

I realized now I didn't take pictures of my student tables and their chair pockets or my word wall. Oh well! I'll have to add those pictures later. In any case, despite being frightfully nervous, I'm terribly excited to start teaching on Tuesday!

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