Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Math Enrichment — Centers


I've never done real centers before. In my first two schools, such things were forbidden. In my last school, what I called centers was a time when students could choose from a vast array of educational things (including games, a microscope, etc.). But I never did actual centers of any kind. At the end of last year, it was decided that we would have a math enrichment day weekly, or at least within each math unit. One of the reasons was that it wasn't long before we stopped using manipulatives. The program seemed to require the manipulatives for one introductory problem, or two on a good day, and that was it. However, there was also the time spent getting them out, passing them out, getting the students to return to being on-task, collecting them, etc. The time spent on the busy-ness was double the time spent on using the learning tools, and a huge segment of our math period had been sucked away. Since tomorrow is our first math test (Topic One), I had to come up with a reasonable enrichment thing to do. Last Friday the students became adept at counting the play money and making the amount shown on the card, so that wasn't a need. What I came up with for today was five centers. The centers did not take the same amount of time, and students might not be finished with one before they were moved to another, but they could return to the unfinished one when they had the time. One was 2-minute addition flash cards. Yes, we're fourth grade. Trust me on this, though. The timer was set for two minutes, and one student showed the other the flash cards. That second student collected every correctly answered card. At the end of the two minutes, they wrote down (on the back of their answer sheet) how many they got right. Then they switched jobs. Photobucket The "equality" center used the timer for six minutes. One student could place no more than five of the number blocks in the left side of the math program's e-tools component. The partner had to use at least one different block, and add blocks until the equal sign in the middle showed that the two sides matched. Then they switched roles. Photobucket In the making change center, students had problems on the front of their answer sheet such as "change for $3.25 from $10.00." The skill in our text is counting up to make change, and we had already done that lesson. However, it was better to show them with play money that they could touch and move around. After they made the change and wrote it down, their partner had to prove the answer was right by adding the original amount of money ($3.25) and coming up with the correct total ($10.00). This was one of the two centers that had room for many people to work at the same time. Students might be pulled from here to work on a quicker center and then returned. (Otherwise, no one would ever get to the quick ones until suddenly half the class was ready for them!) Photobucket In the expanded notation center, students used the number blocks (like the virtual ones in the equality center) to create the numbers on the answer sheet. Then they simply spread them out by category and wrote the number in expanded notation. This made expanded notation so much easier for them to understand, especially with the issues of zeroes within numbers. Photobucket Finally, there was the flip-chart center. Students dragged numbers into various place value columns to create 4-digit numbers. They did this on my laptop. Then they sat where they could see the Promethean Board, and wrote out three of their numbers (most made 5) in written form on the back of their answer sheets. Photobucket All of these were skills that the students needed to review for tomorrow's Topic One test. At the end, I had the students do a quick write on sticky notes about how it went for them. More than a few thought making change was hard. Some thought most of it was easy. They all enjoyed being able to go from center to center, though, and the hands-on activities. I'm not sure how well Topic Two will lend itself to this, though. It's adding and subtracting whole numbers, including mental math and estimating sums and differences. Have you done centers? Any words of advice? Ideas for Topic Two?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Monday Resource: It's not just the classroom


If you are reading elsewhere, you'll note that I've just finished the first week of the new school year. Today's resource is about getting ready for the new year, but it's not just the classroom. It's us. You have varying degrees of teaching experience as well as varying locations. You may be in a standard classroom, a portable, teaching on-line, or in your kitchen. If you've done this before, the amount of help you need in this area may be limited to none. For my first part, though, I want to talk about a different sort of getting ready. One of my more recent bookmarks is A New Mantra for a New School Year. I love reading this article, and am working on my own mantra for this year. I like the author's past and present mantras: Be Present and Be Professional. I think mine for this year should be Be Organized. I start off mostly organized as I unpack in a new room (second year in a row), but I hit a wall. At that point, whatever's left gets shoved into any nook or cranny. I'm also very much trying to Be Neat (which, um, leaves me grateful for the nooks and crannies). One way I'm being organized is my notebook. It is a composition notebook with colorful peace signs on it. I originally got it for meeting notes, but it has already turned into much more than that in a short time. For example, we did a quick write last week. Students wrote on sticky notes how they were doing, what they were having trouble with, etc. I taped those straight into the notebook for easy reference. I have notes on everything in there: a conversation with the nurse about a student with seizures, finding out a new student has an IEP and needs to go to resource, etc. A mother came to my room this morning with a concern; it went straight into the notebook. A parent wrote a note last week, that's now taped into the notebook. I won't have to hunt for information or this little bits that tend to get lost in the shuffle. Another resource I must mention is Christine Kane and her Word of the Year. While Russ Goerend tells you about his journey and his mantra, Christine Kane helps you take the next step by finding or creating your own word of the year. Actually, her web site does much more than that, and I strongly recommend you find the time to read at least some of it. (I found her in my quest for information on Vision Boards.) These two resources will help you get your mind or spirit ready for a new year of growth and success. I am also a very practical person, though. Although I'm beginning my 13th year of teaching, I am always looking for helpful ideas and practices. I adore FlyLady, and she has a Teacher Control Journal that she explains a bit about here and can be printed off here. (Her web site is here if you're interested in non-teacher aspects of what she does.) I especially like that it's meant to be modified to meet one's own needs. To honor the newest among our ranks, here is also a link for getting ready for back to school. There are many helpful sites, but that one has other useful information as well. I wish you all a great school year!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Additional Pictures Now That School Has Started

You'll note that in an earlier Monday Resources post about blogs, I referred to a web site that walks you through blogging with students. This week we went over blogs and internet safety (see "posters"), and today we began making paper blogs as indicated at that web site. It was really an interesting experience.

Today the Exceptional Ed students (4) joined us for Science and the PE that's called Extended Recess.

I have not yet had everyone show up to school on the same day. A friend has a ton of absences due to illness already!

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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Day 2 -- 8/16/11

One student went home sick without ever making it into the classroom, and two more joined our class. One was absent yesterday because of seizures. He's one of the kids I had in SFA last year. As soon as he was settled, I called the nurse (who is new to our school) and asked for an information sheet. She asked his name, and I told her. I expected to eventually get some ancient typed sheet on seizures, which is what nurses at previous schools would have done. Nope. She came to my room with something she typed after she obviously spoke to the lad's mother first. Three long paragraphs. She didn't even just hand it to me; she stood there and went over it with me. Nice!! The seizures are a recent thing of unknown origin. My first thought was Connor Bourke, who just died this summer after a long battle with a brain tumor. My brain always jumps to the worst thing first. But he has more testing today, and then we'll know more. In the mean time, his name tags on the top and front of his desk have a red circle dot with an S in them, in case there's ever a sub.

In writing, we are talking about blogs. Next week, I hope, they will start their own blogs. They've done a paragraph for a first entry, and we've managed to do a lot about blogs and internet safety in two days. The principal came in yesterday while we they were doing the writing part, and she was pretty impressed.

In reading we're doing the "AIMS Reading Process" (that I was taught at this school) with nonfiction passages, and reading James and the Giant Peach. We're doing science and PE on Thursday and Friday. Oh, excuse me, "extended recess." They have to call it that because we're not PE teachers -- but we're teaching PE. Next week we start OMA and library.

I'll write about math later.

First Day of School: August 15, 2011

Yes, we all survived the first day of school! Five or six of my students were no-shows, but two were added. I'd forgotten just how much you can learn about children on the first day of school. One girl's mother said she was nervous, and she was all shy for maybe ten minutes -- after which she never stopped talking. She does like to help her classmates, though. There were a couple of students who didn't seem to understand much of what I was saying, but then there were times that no one did (such as "Pass the papers forward"). We shall see!

Moving "Inside"

(Written a couple of weeks ago but not posted)

If you followed the Desert Duck, you know that I have spent the past four years "in the portables," also known (by some of us, at least) as Snarkyville. Although these trailers were decrepit fire hazards, I had no fears of burning down because in case of emergency, I'm fairly sure that any fourth grader could kick out a wall with one kick.

BUT -- I'm moving into The Building! Yes, my classroom will be an actual classroom -- AND I'll have a Promethean Board! I am truly excited! So this week (yes, still on summer vacation), I'm moving. I had to unpack all my closets and cupboards, and will post those photos as soon as I get them off my camera (probably this afternoon). On Monday I unpacked the two closets, and yesterday the cupboards. I moved two things over to the new room, but the maintenance man was moving the furniture from that room to Ms. R's new room, and it was hot and a long trip to be moving stuff, so I decided to go back this morning to get my stuff moved. (I have to move my stuff, and maintenance will move the furniture.)

One reason the furniture has to be moved is that I have "taller" 4th grade furniture; the stuff in that room is for first graders. Little guys. Another reason is that we need to empty out the portables in case the new school isn't open yet. They may have to start the year out using our portables.

Life in the portables meant that, while I had the illusion of controlling my own heat and cooling, there were ... issues. For example, on more than one occasion, turning on the heat in the morning meant setting off the fire alarm.

There are lots of "strangers" wandering around campus and walking through the portable area. However, if you're in the building, that usually means that you went through the office first, and someone knows you're there. This means that now, my students will be a whole lot safer going to the restroom. In the portables, the restroom is a trailer with 3 doors that open to the outside. Any one of the people wandering through could be hanging out in either of the kid restrooms at any time.

School Blog Time!


From the edublog (I'm migrating those here, so I can have just one teaching blog): Last year, I had one WordPress account and had all my students post on that one. It really wasn’t all that great, in the long run. This year, I want them each to have their own account. I want them to experience the fun of “prettying it up” as well as seeing their words in print. This year, I also want them to comment on other people’s blogs, both inside and outside of our classroom. Wish me luck! UPDATE on 7/18/2012: Some of the students got their blog "prettied up" and a couple even got something posted. The problem was primarily that we had planned, with the principal's permission, to actually get to use the computer lab. Then she decided that only RTI could use it, and our techy said that the students weren't allowed to use the classroom computer; it was for teacher use only. That pretty much ended the whole blog thing.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

School Eve

What do teachers think about the night before school starts? I don't know about everyone else, but I can tell you what I think about every year.

I worry that I won't get to sleep. I fervently hope that no one will throw up or wet themselves because they were too shy to say something. Yes, I teach fourth grade, and yes, it's happened (the latter). Just as kids worry if their teacher is nice or will like them, I worry about the same thing.

Am I ready? Will I have everything I need? Will everything go smoothly? Will I remember to not talk too fast? Will I adjust to being "inside" finally, after all those years in trailers? (Well, only four years, but it seems like a long time.)

Will I remember my lunch? Will the Promethean Board work without a hitch? Will I get everything done? Will I end up having not enough to do? (I seriously doubt that one!) Will there be anyone who's new to the school? Will my class be nice to the Exceptional Ed students on Thursday and Friday? Who has what special needs? Who will show up without having had breakfast? Who is afraid? What if I forget to bring or do something?

I have to remember that incoming fourth graders are pretty much third graders, not children who are in the same spot as my last class was on the last day of school!

I hope it's a good year! Keep us in your thoughts!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Ready for Monday!

School starts on Monday, August 15th for us. I couldn't put much on the actual walls, because they're going to be painted still. The two red places next to the Promethean Board are just paper taped up to cover up the ghastly spot where the bulletin board or chalkboard used to be.

Our school is in a very transitional neighborhood. Every year I make stuff with names on it, and 7-8 students don't show up, but a bunch of different ones do, and I quickly run out. This year, the desks just say boy or girl. When students arrive, they can choose (visitors today have their spots picked out). Between the students and I, we'll put their names on their desks, mailboxes, cards, folders, notebooks, etc.

The two green bins have recess balls and jump ropes. The circular things are hula hoops. The last week of school last year, I had my class make "Welcome to Fourth Grade" signs for the incoming class. The blue baskets with the empty bottom shelf are for SFA (reading). We don't start that for two weeks. Each basket is for one group, and the bottom shelf will be for the SFA book bucket.

A friend of mine gave me the teapot, which has cats on it. It combines two things I love! I do still have to get a couple of lesson plans done, and I have to post the language objectives. Otherwise, I'm good to go!

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