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.


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