Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Cast List Under Construction

One student suggested to me that the cast list should be announced through messages in bottles with rolled-up messages that must be decoded. Clever, huh? It's tempting. If drama was my only responsibility at school, I would definitely follow through with this idea. If my TI was here this week, I would probably have her do it for me. Maybe I will get a chance...

Still making final decisions. It's taking a little longer than I expected to assign all the characters. With such a great turn-out at auditions its hard to make decisions. I hope that we will have something final ready by tomorrow.

Getting ready for a play also means getting ready for criticism. You have to remember that you can't please everyone. Whether it's the students, the teachers, the administration, the parents, your husband, or yourself...you're are going to lose somewhere. At the risk of sounding fatalistic, I would like to point out that it's good to prepare yourself for hitches, errors, frustrations, and confrontations. It's practical, reasonable, and necessary if you have any hope of clinging to a shred of sanity.

What am I preparing for?

historical inaccuracies
script inadequacies
set issues
costume challenges
schedule conflicts
huge/long school holidays
students dropping out
parents upset about the plot
and all manner of bus problems
teaching someone to walk on one leg

This is NOT pessimism. This is realism at work. These things happen, and when they do it can be discouraging. I have to remember that these problems are not attacking me or my baby--my baby is the play--they are just there because that's life.

It's also hitting me that we will have to choreograph fight scenes. Whoa. Not my forte at all.

This year, so far, there are lots of people helping. We already have a backstage crew. We have a tech/lights committee, we have a props/program committee, there are now three directors on the team altogether. Life is good.

Like anything else in life, when a program doubles in size, the organization should match the growth. With more people helping, there is a need for more communication, more production meetings, more procedures. This will probably be the biggest change compared to last year's play, from my perspective. Not having to do as much is definitely a good thing--but communicating what needs to be bought/made/constructed/designed/arranged will be a new step. It's a bonus to have help! It's a positive, upward, progressive step. Yay drama!

Maybe, this year, we will actually have "Treasure Island" t-shirts made. That would be awesome! How can you have a play without a t-shirt, anyway?

School was crazy today. I appreciate my TI so much. She keeps our classroom running smoothly in every area. Without her, my brain is a discombobulated mess. I can't think straight when there are a hundred details in my short-term memory at once. I am so ready for her to come back! :)


Monday, September 27, 2010


A quick update before bed. "Treasure Island" auditions went swimmingly well. I am very happy with how many students showed up and the talent base that we are privileged to start with this year.
I had been praying that at least 25 kids would show up for auditions, which was a pretty steep number since only 11 kids showed up last year....at least 25 showed up tonight! Granted, some of the kids only wanted to audition for experience so that they could help with the production team. However, it was really encouraging to see so many faces in the auditorium. It was also great to see so many boys show up for auditions. They took a break from chess club and volleyball practice to try out--it was mostly boys in there. How awesome!

Cast list will be up soon. Maybe even by tomorrow!

In other news. It's a little before 9pm and Adam is already sleeping. :)


Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Color Purple

Beware. This is a girly-post.
Remember that weakness I mentioned last weekend? Apparently, it's getting worse.
Manicures are my new addiction. I love them! This particular manicure was less than the equivalent to $3.00.

Just take a moment to ooh and aww and the perfection. The lady painted each petal very carefully. It looks much better in person; the pictures do not do justice to this nail art.

In other news, I'm in the process of trying to get Adam to go to sleep. We have to wake up before 5 am tomorrow morning and he is still playing his computer games.
I am wearing my fleece SYIS sweater right now. It feels warm and comfy. I have thick socks on my feet. It was a very warm day, but cooled down significantly once the sun went down. I love fall, but I'm not entirely sure that I am ready for the cold of winter!

This week is going to be busy. My TI is taking the week off to help rest her ankle. Auditions for "Treasure Island" are tomorrow as well. I am so excited--yet nervous--every time I think about it! This week is only a four-day week because of October Holiday. We will be spending five of our vacation days in Beijing for a teaching conference. I am looking forward to the conference...just wish that our break was a little bit longer so we could enjoy some more rest time. After all, I love to be lazy.



Saturday, September 25, 2010

Picture, Picture

Do you remember "Picture, Picture" from Mr. Rogers? That's what I'm thinking about right now. Think about all the learning that Picture, Picture shared with us! All about processes and production. Very insightful, Picture, Picture. There are factories surrounding our school building, and I think that it would be really neat to take my students on some field trips to see how things are made--especially once we start our unit about processes and resources. But....then again....maybe it would be MUCH better, if we just watched youtube videos about it instead.

Here are some more pictures for you!

Riding ourbikes to dinner with friends, I have blueberry cake in my bicycle basket, and brownies on my back seat-thingy. Wow--I felt muy accomplished--no mishaps on the ride over to our friends' apartment block.

The Cafe Menu...well-underway. Taking a break from reading workshops for a few months while we read "The Courage of Sarah Noble", "Little House on the Prairie", and work on some poetry/writing workshops. In the meantime, our strategy menu with continue to guide us through 3rd grade as the students improve their reading skills.

"Story Building" is our reading competition that is going on right now. It is a large apartment building. Each student has a door with their name on it at the bottom. Each blue square has a title of a book written on it and represents a book that was read and written about in a book report. It's rather clever. As the students build the number of stories they read, they are also adding floors--or "stories"--to their building! When all the students reach the top, we will have a party. This is after one week of book reports being turned in! They read so much! All the windows represent a chapter book!

Closer look at the windows that represent a story book--as well as a building story.
I wish that I could take credit for this idea, but one of my former students was the person who thought of it. I've been waiting many months to use his idea! It's great to see his idea being used to effectively--the current third graders are insanely motivated by this giant poster.

You can buy watermelon for very cheap prices this time of year.

Adam, after he got a hair cut at a local barber shop. It looks a little militaristic to me.

At a restaurant on the main road near our apartment complex--if the place is busy, you are asked to eat upstairs. If you are asked to eat upstairs, you have to use the "shady" stair-case to get there. It's a little shocking, but I love it at the same time. Not exactly "building code" material.

I wonder when this building was built? How long ago? The answer might shock us all. Either very old, or very new....

Adam, leaving the upstairs eating area (beyond the plastic-fringe stuff) to go down the sketchy passage way.

One day, this past week, my TI came in late because she had had a doctors appointment in the morning. To soften the blow of her news, she brought two donuts for me. My TI is currently on a short hiatus to rest her injured ankle which she twisted several months ago. I hope that she feels better soon! In the meantime, her donuts were a very tasty and unexpected treat!

Who is that at the door? Why, it's the McDonalds delivery-man! Yes, that's right. McDonalds delivers in China.

This is a rather dangerous skill that we have just started using. Ordering take-out from McDonalds should not be done very often. Have you ever seen "Super Size Me"? It's a good thing there is no such thing as Super Size here.

The delivery man has this nifty container where he stows all of our food. It has several compartments which keep the food either hot/cold.

I know what you may be thinking....but that's actually our assistant principle with a towel on his head. He is not a fictional character from a certain sci-fi series.

This picture was taken at the Back to School Bash that Adam's student council students planned. It was a fun time for middle-school and high-school students to bond over activities outside of school hours.

The students played a few games using water balloons. There were also opportunities to paint the assistant principal's head, shave their "book" teacher's legs, or pie their StuCo representatives or teachers with whipped cream. These activities were to raise money--they seemed to be very successful.

Unfortunately, I was pied three times, and Adam probably even more times.

One of the high-school teachers, shaving his legs to raise 200 kuai. It took him a while to achieve the finished result.

Somehow, Liz (center), managed to not get pied. Her hair isn't chunky with sugar and milk from the whipped cream. :)

Oh yes. It's Hyphen-Hero. Saving one compound word at a time. It's tricky business in the land of communication, and if it weren't for her bionic eye--which is half dictionary--all would be lost!

Some of the gifts that my students gave me for my birthday. Coconut cookies, pink roses, and a pencil case. Also--a few handwritten cards to brighten my morning! :)


More from today...

Not extremely interesting, but another glimpse for my curious family and friends!

The picture-menu at KFC. Very helpful when you are not exactly sure how to say all the different items on the menu in a way that can be understood in loud and crowded surroundings. It's nice to be able to point at a picture and be understood immediately.

Behind the counter at KFC.

A man, doling out the cash for his chicken.

The donuts, taking a ride in a Shenyang taxi. They are pretty patient travelers. Especially when the driver slams on the breaks and high-tales it down a side street to avoid the police. What?!! That's never happened before. We were playing cat and mouse with somebody and it was a little freaky.

Some construction (or maybe....demolition....?) workers taking a lunch break, eating their take-out with chop-sticks.

What the workers were taking a break from working on....


364 More Days Until My Golden Birthday!

Ever since I learned about what a Golden Birthday was, I have been looking forward to September 24, 2011. Time is pushing me closer and closer to that date! I feel much older today, compared to how I felt yesterday. Maybe a little wiser, definitely a little grayer; twenty-three is so much older than twenty-two. It sounds older. It looks older. Twenty-two is when people are graduating from college and starting their adult lives. It's when adolescence is officially over, in my mind.

What did I do on my birthday? I woke up at 4:50 am, and got ready to go into school early. I crammed in as many lessons as I could before 11:55, finished a few units with my students, and went upstairs for an impromptu library time--totally forgot to reschedule it on Thursday. Why did library need to be rescheduled? Because of Field Day! For whatever reason, Field Day is idolized by elementary students across the board. They are devoted to it whole-heartedly and look forward to each Field Day with great anticipation. My students thought that it was pretty amazing my birthday was on Field Day this year.

What else happened on my birthday? Well....my team didn't win the Field Day games.

But, I got to dress up like Hyphen-Hero!

Looking at rubrics for the 6-Traits of writing, I stumbled upon information about National Punctuation Day in the US. Granted, there is a national day for almost everything--even Teddy Bears--in the US, but who can pass up Punctuation Day? My Lead Teacher was equally interested by it, and it was decided at last week's elementary dept. meeting, that we would dress up like Punctuation super-heroes. Each teacher was assigned a different punctuation mark and the 5th grade teacher even planned his chapel presentation around proper punctuation usage. Our classes learned about our assigned punctuation marks and walked around dressed up with period necklaces, apostrophe headbands, or exclamation mark bandannas. It was very cute.

These two pictures show some of us elementary teachers, ready for National Punctuation Day before the students arrived.

Captain Apostrophe, Madam Coma, Exclamation!, Hyphen-Hero, Question Mark, and Captain Quotation. :)

My costume was not very awesome, but I would like to point out that as the Hyphen-Hero, I had an eye-patch that allowed me to look up any word in the dictionary. You see, I was half Dictionary, half Hero! Ok...I was also wearing the eye-patch to get excited for "Treasure Island" auditions. You would think that I was auditioning for the play as well; I am so nervous!

Apparently, when looking up rules for hyphens, there are literally hundreds of rules to follow when using hyphens correctly. We talked about five of those rules in 3rd grade; the most important rule was that you should double check whether a word is a compound word using the dictionary before hyphenating it.

Also--we talked about the difference between dashes and hyphens. My girls were the darling-dashes, and my boys decided they wanted to be the dare-devil-dashes. We were saving communication, one compound word at a time. Which ended up being rather convenient since all of our spelling words for the last two weeks have been compound words.

The staff at SYIS sang "Happy Birthday" to me in three different languages, followed by three cheers (an Australian tradition) at our morning meeting. The elementary students also sang to me in three languages at our elementary assembly. At the end of the day, Adam and I went home on the student bus, where the students sang "Happy Birthday" to me again. It is almost unbearable to have "Happy Birthday" belted out to you in three languages--all attention is on you--but I felt the love and appreciated the people singing to me!

After school, Adam took me out to dinner and we stayed at a fancy hotel in our city. It was nice to have a nice night out together, without any traveling. A short vacation where we could eat Western food and watch English television. Adam also watched, "Much Ado About Nothing" and "Sense and Sensibility" with me. I fell asleep half way through "Sense and Sensibility", but Adam swears that he finished the movie without me. Maybe he actually liked it.

Adam was very sweet for planning some time for us to spend together. We are not always the best about making intentional plans like this, so it felt like a miracle to have a short vacation on my birthday! This year was great compared to the last three birthdays I have had! [I do not do well with surprises--it took Adam two tries to figure that out]

There is a Dunkin' Donuts in Shenyang now. It opened while we were in America, which is rather ironic since it is something that Adam missed a lot during our first year in China. For some reason, Adam craved Dunkin' Donuts almost daily--even though he was not a frequent customer of the place (he says). Today, we picked up some donuts for the first time, and I think Adam was very happy.

This past week was a little difficult for me. It seems as though I am a curse of sorts to my TI's. Last year, my TI ended up getting brain cancer. This year, my TI lasted a few weeks before she had to take a 2-3 week hiatus in order to rest an injured ankle. I am without a TI--however, the other elementary teachers have been very generous about sharing their TI's and help with me. Thursday and Friday, and graduate student who works at school 2-3 days a week came to help me. This was great, because then I had constant help throughout the day. Yet, it was challenging on a different note since she is still learning how to speak English. I have to explain things several times, as slowly as I can, and usually have to find someone to translate my sentences for her anyway. I haven't gone to my Chinese lessons in two weeks (which is really, really bad) because my real TI was absent on lesson days, and my stand-in TI needs a lot of attention.

Monday (two days), marks the day for our Spring Play auditions! I can hardly believe that it is already time to start working on another production. I'm not sure if I am ready to take the plunge yet. We will have as many auditions as possible on Monday, and perhaps hold a second round, or call backs, on Thursday. Hopefully we will have our cast list for "Treasure Island" finalized by Friday at the latest. We will begin rehearsing as soon as our October Holiday is over (the second week of October). Wow.

We need at least 17 students for the play to work. At least 12 of these students MUST be boys. If you feel lead, please direct some "thoughts" in this direction. I sincerely hope that enough students will come out to audition on Monday/Thursday. It would be ideal if 25-30 students auditioned.
Here is a picture of me finally getting all the audition information together for students who are interested in "Treasure Island"

This afternoon, I spent time reading about the Golden Era of Piracy on wikipedia...

Trying to beef up my historical background on piracy, and steer away from the romanticism that authors, poets, and Hollywood have associated with that period in history.

Reading about the escapades of men and women who were real pirates is interesting. Lots of intrigue and missing details--it's not like pirates recorded their lives for posterity.

I learned that 1-1.25 million Europeans were captured and sold as slaves to middle-eastern countries during the height of piracy.

Tortuga and Port Royal were actual havens for pirates.

Original pirate flags were red.

Anne Bonny and Mary Reed are interesting pirates to read about.

The height in piracy was often due to lack of occupation for sailors after different wars ended.

* * * * * * *

I was very happy to get to talk to my Mom and Dad, Tommy and Emma on skype today! I can't wait for Day Light Savings Time--I feel like it is easier to find to talk during the Fall and Winter.
Tonight, a friend of ours is coming over to watch Chuck with us. We introduced the show to her a few weeks ago and she has been devouring the episodes. Which is good because tonight, she is bringing chili over for us to devour together! I can't wait!


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Near our home....

Some of the sights that you will see as you leave our apartment complex and on the main road that we live off of.

Notice, three people on a scooter! A common way for families to travel.

The end of the bus route, for this particular line, hence the little house for drivers to take a short break.

Our apartment complex is expanding across the street. I think that there are around 20 or 24 buildings being built at the same time. When we arrived here last August, these buildings were mostly cement pillars--they are looking more and more finished with each passing day. Chinese construction workers are so fast!

More pictures later. Bed time now!


Sunday, September 12, 2010


My little nail ladies. Aren't they cute?

Something I would never do in America, but am starting to do more and more frequently in China, is getting a manicure. It's becoming a weakness. I love the whole process. Saying hello to the ladies who paint my nails (they always remember me and laugh gleefully whenever I show up. I don't know why they laugh at me, but I have theories), choosing a new design and the colors that I want. Sitting and waiting for my nails to look beautiful--these ladies are extremely talented! I like to think that the manicures help me to stop biting my nails. Who would want to bite their nails after getting a manicure? Your nails look cute, and you had to pay money for them to get that way--so it's a few notches up from painting your nails yourself. I've been biting my nails for basically my whole life. It's probably a sign of some deep rooted psychosis, since I can't stop.

I'm guessing that from years of playing piano, my nail biting was fueled---short nails are better to have when playing the piano. Still to this day, I prefer having short nails, even though I do not get the opportunity to play piano very often. With manicured nails, I tend not to bite them, but I still clip them short.

Long nails are bothersome to me--so I don't know why I ever got acrylic nails...EVER! Some manicurist ladies talked me into it...the next day I had them ripped off at another place. The place that I am sitting at in the pictures above. They are now my favorite ladies since they helped me in my time of great need. They spent two hours ripping off my impulsive fake nails...a very painful process for me. It taught me a valuable lesson: never get talked into acrylic nails again...NEVER!!!

I think that is the main reason why the little ladies laugh at me whenever I come back. My nails are too short and I refuse to get acrylic nails.


Saturday, September 11, 2010

Name Poem

The first few days of school, third graders wrote (or at least, tried to write) name poems. They made a sloppy copy of the poem, the water-colored paper, the cut out the letters to their names from their water-colored paper, glued the letters onto paper, and copied their poems under the cut-out-water-colored-names.

They turned out cute, and they are funny to read. They are currently hanging on our window-line.

That's my story! More later...


Sunday, September 5, 2010

Dear Family, Friends, and anyone else who cares to read this,

I just washed a huge load of dishes.

Yesterday, I baked two recipes that were new to me and shared them with others at our fellowship. I made a blueberry cake and strawberry oatmeal squares. They were yummy--thus there are none left to snack on right now. I think that I will make the strawberry oatmeal squares much more often--they were so simple, few ingredients, and short bake time. These are important factors when trying to work up the motivation to bake in my easy-bake sized oven.

Trying to plan for this week. It's taking longer than usual because my motivation is very low right now. I'm starting to teach grammar (adding it to our schedule) this week, and since this is a brand new curriculum for me, it means a little extra work than usual in preparing for the lessons. It will be all right...once I get started. I also need to go through all my reading assessments that I finally finished and put together the kids' results. It will be good to have a concise report about who I am teaching. I already have a good idea about their reading levels, but this will be another way to think about their levels and something to track their progress by throughout the year.

The gradebook that we use is finally up and running--which means that I should finish my grading and actually put it into the system. I'm the worst about keeping up with grading. It's my bane. I wish that there was a magical fairy who graded while I slept, or that there was a robot version of me that could calculate all of my students' work, factoring in English levels, effort put forward, and such while I watch a movie.

A few words about how Adam is doing (from my perspective) as a second year teacher. He seems to always have time---even though he only has 1 planning period now. We've been waking up before 5am so that we can go to school on the earliest staff bus. This helps Adam to get more done before the students start to arrive. His 8th graders are painting a mural on one of his classroom walls. It's of the periodic table. Some of his other students made some cool models of the earth's layers--made out of all sorts of materials. He needs to take pictures of these things so that we can post them on here.

Today has been a good Sunday. I even got an unexpected afternoon nap! The air is starting to feel a little cooler outside, it's less humid too. I wonder how much longer we will be able to ride our bikes before it becomes miserably cold?

All right. Off to make a treat for my drama elective kids, finish planning, finish grading, and then it's bed time.


Saturday, September 4, 2010

First Day of School

What 3rd grade's classroom looked like on the first day of school before students arrived.....

This post is mostly for my mom, so I might get into some specific details that nobody else cares for. If that's the case, feel free to just look at the pictures and ignore my ramblings about schoolish objects in a room with tile floors and concrete walls.

Anyway, this is what my classroom looked like a little before my students arrived for the first time. I was a bit nervous to meet them, but I felt more prepared--literally about 100 time more prepared--than last year. I knew how I wanted things to done this year and I was more confident about being able to make it work. There were a few new things that I was throwing into the mix of things, but other than those new ideas/methods, I felt all right about my second year of teaching 3rd grade. I also knew who most of my students were (had met them the previous school year), so that was yet another form of assurance. My room was set up how I wanted it, and although some thins were not yet fully realized or organized in a way that I would have liked, I had already put 2 weeks of work into my room--which was amazing compared to the zero days I had last year.

What I like about this year's set up is how everything is segmented. One way to make a room look smaller than it actually is, is to cut it off with pieces of furniture and crowd the place with furniture. However, for some strange reason, cutting my room off actually makes it feel larger to me. I think the floor space might be more limited, as well as how much a person can see (depending where they are sitting), but so much more can be DONE now in this room. It's tight, but it's functional, and literally every space is used for instruction. That's what I like about it. It's tight, but there's not an inch of wasted space. Teaching has taught me that I don't like it when time is wasted, and I'm not fond of wasted space either; but when both are done at the same time, it's very difficult for me to be ok with the situation.

Another thing that I like about this classroom set up is how much more comfortable it feels. I really feel comfy in this room; there's an "ambiance". I believe that my students feel at ease here too. There's nothing better than seeing students finish their work early, and then feel totally comfortable to just walk over to a reading rug, grab a book, and take a few minutes to read at their leisure. It's more like a home and less like an institution. I've even noticed my students taking their shoes off when they read--which totally reminds me of my siblings and I during road trips. It's just more comfortable to be shoeless. It also reminds me of homeschooling. I have short, little tables that they can set up and write in when they are working on their reading response journals---I even will let them write stretched out on the floor, flopped across a bunch of pillows. As long as I can understand it and they are on task--it's ok. I think this is definitely the influence of homeschooling seen in my classroom. Besides--why have reading rugs and little nooks and crannies to work if no one is going to use them?

There are, of course several things that are not ideal about how my classroom is set up. One thing that bothers me a little is how it's a little difficult to walk between the desks when the students are sitting at them. It's also hard to see the whiteboard when the sunlight reflects off of it--I often wonder if the kids that sit on the outskirts can really see what's written on the whiteboard or if they are just staring at the glare of light from outside. Sometimes, I close the blinds to see if it makes it a difference.

The art caddies for shared school supplies seem to be working very well. Since this is something new for me this year, it took longer for me to get used to them than the it did for the students, I think. But--they seem to have accepted the lot fairly quickly and I haven't caught any resentment or lack of sharing yet.

Having pencil hospitals is a beautiful thing. I have four pencil hospitals. If a pencil ever breaks or gets dull, it is placed in the pencil hospital--the pencil doctor comes around once every few days to care for his/her patients and put them back in their respective art caddies. Now, I almost never hear the sound of pencils being sharpened. Last year, it was like an epidemic. If someone started to sharpen a pencil, everyone else suddenly remembered that they also needed to sharpen their pencils. Did I mention how loud and annoying pencil sharpeners are? Especially when in heard in mass? I strongly dislike the sound--so this year is much better. Thank you pencil hospitals! You're a life saver!

My magnetic word wall is awesome. It took forever to assemble, for some bizarre reason--but since I never will have to move it, it was worth the time. Already we have about 30 words on our word wall. My TI cuts each word out, laminates it, and hot glues a paper clip to the back of each word. The paper clips stick very nicely to the magnetic tape strips under each letter.

The shared art supplies are now much neater and organized. The bajillion of glue bottles have been consolidated, which makes me happy. New crayola products from the States also make me happy! The paper organizer is a little more organized now, even compared to this picture. It's fully stocked and ready to go. If my kids were younger, I would use this filing cabinet as another making words station. But maybe I will turn it into a a poetry station when we start our poetry unit. I can make a bunch of words magnetic so that the kids can assemble poems in a different way.

"Secret Garden" props still hanging around 3rd grade. The top of the white shelf is decorated with flowers, Robin, and a gardening sack. I have DVD's hiding in the gardening sack for when we have class parties. Some really fun kids' movies that we'll get to watch together.

The library. I would like the point out that we now have three shelves of chapter books (top row)--so if you walked in my classroom today, there would be three signs that said "chapter books" instead of two. This picture kind of bothers me because of the missing sign. I can barely stand to look at it.

One of Mary's suitcases turned into our treasure box! This gray bookshelf houses some of our games, toys, supplies, manipulatives, and textbooks. It's basically the closest thing I have to a closet. Not having a closet is sometimes inconvenient--but it forces me to stay organized and to keep prioritized with which clutter I want to save.

I have my brown table back! This is our writing center--we haven't had a chance to start using it yet, but it's where I'll have conferences with students, and where our newspaper will be written, or where students who are in the poetry literacy station will work. It's nice to have another space to work other than a standard desk. That wicker chair used to be the wheel chair that was rigged for "The Secret Garden". It's a much loved addition to the classroom. Last year's students loved to sit in it, and now this year's students are continuing that tradition. For some reason they just love it! It was about 12 dollars at a furniture market. Maybe I'll be another one.

Another perspective of "other" reading rug. Last year's students were gaga over that rug. Maybe because it was new and "fancy". They named it the "fancy reading rug" on their own/impromptu style, and the name has stuck around. This year's students aren't so impressed by the fancy reading rug, but it is still used often by kids who are reading or writing. The screen in the background is now covered with social studies and "book" crafts that the kids have made. The screen was also from "The Secret Garden". It was Mary's wardrobe of sorts--since she had to do so much changing on stage.

The windows are also decorated with name poems that the students wrote the first few days of school. They are really beautiful--I'll have to take a picture of them on Monday to post here.

Some of the books that we read together on the first day of school. So far, I've been able to read a lot of picture books out loud to my students. I love reading workshops! We'll be doing one more week of reading workshops and then moving on to a novel study for a while. We'll revisit reading and writing workshops throughout the school year, but we have other things we need to accomplish, so I'm enjoying our workshops while they last.

6 coats of magnetic paint and my alphabet letters STILL don't want to stick! They have lousy magnets and some of them do not stick at all because the magnets are set to far back in the letters. This will be a making words center. The little table on the right is where one of my students works on her math distraction-free. It's been pretty effective thus far.

The cubbies where students put their backpacks in the morning.

Where I keep a few of my literacy work station materials. I'm still working on a few of the stations, so they are not out for students to use yet. This is something new that I am trying out this year. Literacy work stations are like centers, but a little more difficult in content area. Whether is math, social studies, writing, reading, or listening--the centers have something to do with what we are learning in our subject areas. There are task cards that go along with each station.

Right now, I'm training the students on how to work in each station in an appropriate way. The training is taking forever--but we're almost at a point where we know enough stations where all the kids could be working by themselves or in pairs at the same time. We will do this about 2-3 times a week for about 30-40 minutes. It's an independent practice time and gives me a little breather from instruction. These are the stations that they know how to do so far: listening (books on CD); reading buddies; library; cursive (using little whiteboards). These are what they still need to learn: computer; poetry; class newspaper; homonym detectives; making words; culture center; science; math games; and word wall.

Another book nook for students to read in. The boxes between the trash can and the desk in the corner is not usually there. It's my TI's stuff.

Here is another view of the teacher area. My desk is the smaller one with the computer on it. Seriously, I try to be an example to the kids by keeping it very clean throughout the day. If it is messy, I try to clean it up as soon as possible. My TI's desk is much bigger than mine. There was a smaller one there originally that was similar in size to my own desk--but she complained that it was too small and traded it with this one. She has a lot of stuff too. This a picture of her desk before she unpacked three boxes of stuff. I'm a little perturbed by all the stuff, but she needs it, I guess.

It was hard to feel nervous on the first day of school, because about 20 minutes before students arrived, our principal made an announcement on the speaker system that he had bought enough donuts from the newly opened Dunkin Donuts for every staff member to have 2! Wow! That was a lot of donuts--since EVERYONE could have 2 (cleaning, maintenance, teachers, administration, finance, etc.). Adam, of course, was extremely please about this.

My donuts. They were heavenly.