Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Still transferring ...behavior plan

Where to begin, where to begin? 

I am still working hard at transferring all the data from our class website at TeacherWeb, Mrs. Dunn's Class, to our new blog. Looking at some of the content on my old site really makes me realize how much I have grown as a teacher in the last few years. Sometimes I wish I could go back and reteach some of my sweet kiddos with all that I know now. My first sweet class (or two) more than likely learned despite my best efforts...poor babies. 

Well, here I am ready to bring over my classroom "behavior plan," and honestly after Responsive Classroom, WinWin Discipline, and  Kagan Cooperative Learning training this summer my head is spinning as to where to begin.  

I guess I will start with something that has always been at the core of my beliefs in classroom management: It is my goal to promote appropriate behaviors from all students to create an inviting, warm, and safe atmosphere from the very first day of school to the very last day. Because each member of the classroom is an individual with his or her own backgrounds and expectations, I will use various and individual methods of managing student behavior. What I do for one student may very well not be what I do for another, but I can promise you that I will be as consistent and fair as possible! 

All class expectations will be established at the beginning of the school year with the children after we discuss our "hopes and dreams" for the year. Our expectations should grow from the discussions regarding what it will take to reach our hopes and dreams. This process gives all students a voice in establishing classroom expectations and creates an understanding that we are working together to meet a goal. Each new year produces a new set of expectations for my classroom, but I will be sure to post this year's expectations as soon as my new kiddos and I finish creating them :)

I am so excited to have had the opportunity to have a full week of Responsive Classroom training this summer, and I can honestly say that I am truly looking forward to a wonderful year! Coming back to school for our retreat, teachers shared a lot of discussion regarding what it meant to have a responsive classroom and how we all work so hard to reach our students.  We decided, "If you love them, they will learn!" With all the talk of hopes and dreams we found the perfect "theme song" for the year!

I love Lady Antebellum, but I had not heard this particular song until I stumbled upon Mrs. Jasztal's amazing blog, Jaszatville. After reading through just a small fraction of all that she has shared, I took some time to really stop and listen to the words of this song. Having just finished Responsive Classroom, it all seemed to fall right into place at just the right moment, and our principal loved it! It truly validates how our kiddos have so many choices before them, and more than anything they each want us to know, "I Was Here."  

Monday, July 23, 2012

So many books, so little time...

So, like most of you, I have spent many of my days this summer in and out of professional development. I have been lucky this summer in that most of them have been wonderful. Two, in particular, I have thoroughly enjoyed: So Many Picture Books, So Little Time and So Many Books, So Little Time. Both of these workshops were right up my alley! I mean six hours of book talks...can't get much better. I probably shouldn't share how much I enjoyed sitting in a room learning so many wonderful ideas about new texts when just one post ago I was confessing how I had no room for even a single new book basket. But I just can't help myself; I do love it!

Sitting through both of these workshops, both presenters shared such a love of reading and books that it was  contagious. That is exactly what I strive to share with the kiddos in my room each year! As we move through the school year, I will share the picture books with you as I share them with my students. Picture books as mentor texts are my favorite! 

Mentor text picture books :)

Today's workshop, So Many Books So Little Time, had me itching to get home and read a new chapter book! Luckily I have four or five of the selected titles at home just waiting to be read - imagine that! One in particular caught my attention, and I cannot wait to read it. The presenter said it would be appropriate for grades 5-8, but I am hoping I can push it down to fourth as a read aloud. This book stood out for me because I love the author. 

I had the privilege of watching Mr. Gantos speak and later meeting him. He is wonderful in sharing what drives and moves him as a writer. I have thoroughly enjoyed sharing this with my students each year. It's also fun to share pics of our meeting. Mr. Gantos shared during his presentation how he loves the smell of a new book. My first thought is, well, who doesn't? LOL...I get many funny looks from teammates when my scholastic box rolls in with crisp new books. I mean the smell of ink, paper, and glue - so many wonderful childhood memories there! Anyway, I love to share with them pics of Mr. Gantos presenting, and a pic that a teammate took of the two of us smelling one of his new books. He was such a good sport!

Mr. Gantos speaking at the Arkansas Reading Conference.

Enjoying the smell of a new book :)

More than anything, workshops like today are so refreshing to me. Today was simply a reminder of what makes me love what I do...I love reading, and I love sharing how a good story can move you, change you.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Busy day

What a mess I worked on yesterday! I decided it was finally time to get down to business and clean out my library book baskets. With over 95 baskets accessible to kids, I knew this would take me a while. No matter how hard I try at the end of each year to keep my baskets organized, there is always that last minute rush to get everything put away - even if it doesn't belong there - just put it somewhere! So now I am left cleaning up that mess. ;) Yesterday, I managed to organize each of the picture book baskets. This meant pulling them from the shelf and making sure that each book that is in the basket belongs there. There were hundreds and hundreds of books to check, but it was nice to spend the time revisiting all of the great texts I have. When you have so many, it is easy to forget some wonderful books. 

What a mess! 14 large picture book baskets to go through!

Just making sure all books are in the correct basket.
It takes a  bit of work sometimes, but the system
I use has been the best so far. 

Now that I have all of the picture books reorganized, I have to get a hold of all those chapter books! This will take me a while because I have so many new books and no room for more baskets. I have still not wrapped my mind around how I might correct this. It is just not in me to get rid of a book...Hello my name is Tina, and I am a book hoarder! In the seven years that I have taught, my library has grown by an average of 1000 books a year. I am just SO running out of space! Secretly, I am hoping that my school will see my desperate need for help and graciously offer to add on to my room, ha-ha!

No room for a single new basket - oh what to do, what to do??

Okay, so I have not finished the larger library and it might be a few days before I get it all done. It will take lots of soul searching as I go through each basket to determine what my students are actually reading and enjoying, and what I might actually be able to shuffle around to other libraries in my room. 

I did reorganize and clean up on of my smaller student libraries though. This small library is one of our nonfiction areas. Of all of the texts in my room, this is my greatest weakness! I spent a lot of last year focusing on nonfiction purchases, and I will continue to do the same this year. With Common Core rolling around, I really need to work on this! I have to admit that today's nonfiction doesn't even compare to what was being published when I was in fourth grade. I have really been enjoying some of the wonderful nonfiction  pieces that I have picked up lately, and even more, I am loving that the boys in my room are loving it just as much!
One of our smaller libraries...all organized (if  a little crowded)

After all of the cleaning in my room, my daughter and I completed a first for both of us last night. We ran our very first 5K! Those of you that know me, know that last year our school had our very own Biggest Loser! It was a life changing year for me, and I am having so much fun with it! This weight loss journey has led me to running...I am so new at it and not very good at it, but I sure do enjoy it!

Katie Bird and me after the race!

Woohoo...we survived :)

Friday, July 20, 2012

Back to school shopping :)

We ended up with 5 carts of supplies for our sweet fourth graders.
Couldn't get all of them in the pic :)

Well, it is finally Friday! I spent a wonderful day at the lake with my family, wrapping up a busy week of getting ready for a new school year. This year our school has opted to collect a supply fee for student supplies. Our school decided to purchase these supplies as grade level teams. So my teammate Sarah and I headed out to the local Walmart to buy supplies for all of our future students first thing Wednesday morning. When we started, we had no idea how long it would take us, but in the end, we made a fun day of it. Filling cart after cart with composition notebooks, and binders, and pens - oh my, we thought we might have to take out another teacher or two over those composition notebooks. (Just kidding, I promise. ;) We spent the next few hours unloading and separating box after box. By the time we finished, our classrooms were a bigger mess than before we started. I always seem to make a bigger mess right before the clean. 

"Oh, golly!"

I made it back up to school Thursday and believe it or not, managed to put most of the supplies away in their proper place, but my room is far from ready. Would it be completely nerdy of me to admit, that after spending a day with my family, I am looking forward to some "alone time" in my classroom tomorrow? Just me and all those books lol...my library is in serious need of reorganization! I am practically having nightmares about how messy it is. 

So yes, I do have a nerdy day planned tomorrow, and just maybe I will have some pics of my library to post. But even more exciting, after having a relaxing day surrounded my the sweet smell of books (those that really know me are laughing at me now) I will be running my first 5K with my daughter, Katie or Katie Bird as she is known by us! So...wish me luck!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Arkansas Scavenger Hunt

This post was originally posted on my TeacherWeb page: Mrs. Dunn's Class.

Hawksbill Crag Copyright © by Tim Ernst

Each year, Southside Fourth Graders take part in an Arkansas Scavenger Hunt! Collected items are proudly displayed in a scrapbook, which will be due at the end of the year. The goal is to collect as many items as possible for the scrapbook. Each item has a designated point value and it is possible to earn up to 149 points! Your goal is to try to get at least 100 points. Some of these items are easy to find and may even be found at school. Others may require a little extra effort. Scrapbook creativity is very important and can add up to 15 points alone.

Have fun searching and exploring this wonderful state of ours!

5pts each:
  • Leaf from our state tree
  • Picture of our state bird (photo, coloring, drawing)
  • Article about AR's population (newspaper or internet)
  • Article About the record high or low in AR
  • Logo from a sports team from Cabot or AR
  • An article about a natural disaster that took place in our state
  • Colored drawing or picture of the AR state flag
  • Map of AR
  • Map of Cabot
  • Headings from the AR Democrat-Gazette, Cabot Star Herald, and The Leader Newspaper
  • List of current state officials (Governor, Lt. Governor, and Secretary of State)
  • Information about at least 5 AR rivers
  • Write the names of at least 5 AR authors
  • Write a paragraph telling how AR got its name, who thought it up, why we decided to use it

8 pts each
  • Photo of you in front of the local fire station or fire truck
  • Photo of you in front of Cabot City Hall
  • Business cards of at least 5 Cabot businesses
  • Autograph from the mayor of Cabot
  • A brochure of a State Park
  • Photo of you in front of the state capital
  • Something proving you have been to the Cabot Library
  • Something proving you have visited the Clinton Presidential Library

This has always been a fun project for our class. Each year, I have students and parents comment about how much fun they had creating a scrapbook that they will cherish for years to come! I have included some examples of student work below. In the years since we started this project, we have tweaked it here and there; however, now that I only teach literacy and my partner teaches math, science, and social studies, the project has changed even more. I will post this years requirements and examples as we work on it later in the year.


Friday, July 13, 2012

Responsive Classroom

I just finished a full week of Responsive Classroom training! I am so excited about all the wonderful tools and strategies shared. I must say that I honestly cannot wait for our Morning Meetings this coming school year. It was great to sit in a room (even if it was freezing...;) with so many amazing teachers eager to share their thoughts and ideas on creating that safe and caring environment for our students.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

What's in a name...

So what exactly does fourth grade have to do with Flamingos and Butterflies?

When I began my journey into education, the push during my college years was for student teachers to create a portfolio of their teaching experiences, as limited as they were. I remember sitting in my class listening to our professor go on and on about how important these portfolios would be to our future employers, but most importantly of all - they must have a theme! I laugh about it now, considering that not one of the administrators that interviewed me asked to see it. At any rate, I tossed around a few ideas just wondering what would be the most imaginative, amazing theme - something that would really set me apart from all of the other future teachers. Again, insert laugh out loud here because you know my future job hinged on whether or not I picked the most perfect theme. (I must tell you that our professor insisted no more bears or apples...jeesh, just what did that leave?) So here I am, still tossing around ideas and venting to friends and family the way a frustrated mother/wife/college student will do when she has no clue what to do. During one of these little venting moments a friend jumped up, ran to the other room, and returned with a stack of printer  paper with a beautiful monarch perched on a leaf printed on it. She looked at me and said that when she thought of me, this is what she thought of...butterflies. Fun and lighthearted. Well, I guess I had a starting point. What could I do with butterflies? A little thinking and searching lead me to a quote by Richard Buckminster Fuller: "There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it's going to be a butterfly". I thought of my future students and how no matter what I would have in front of me at that very moment, their futures and possibilities would be endless! They would be my little emerging butterflies...ready to change and grow into something beautiful and amazing. A theme was born, and like when you buy a new car, suddenly everyone is driving the same thing; well, I saw butterflies everywhere. A collection seemed to sprout and before you know it, friends, family, and students gave me some sort of butterfly at every turn.

Hmmm...now Flamingos. Where do I begin? I nervously took my first teaching position in a small school as a fourth grade teacher. No pressure that two of my fourth grade teammates would have children in my room, yeah, NO PRESSURE there. Like they wouldn't quickly figure out that I had NO IDEA what I was doing, because no matter how hard you try, a college classroom will never prepare you for the real thing! As it turned out, I ended up with an amazing group of women. I would not be the teacher I am today without this group of strong mentors! Well, low and behold, this same group of women were just as fun outside of school as they were amazing in school. After teaching with them for that first year, they invited me to join them on their summer beach trip. My teammates and another group of teachers from our school drove to the beach, laughing hysterically the whole way. We make amazing memories every summer, and often throughout the school year, a phrase or look can set us off into another set of hysterical giggles. These strong, fun women had a name for themselves; they were Flamingos!

So now, my ninth year in teaching, I spend my days surrounded by Flamingos and Butterflies...and I wouldn't have it any other way!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Classroom library

Stopped by the school today after Responsive Classroom training and managed to get started cleaning up one of our libraries. Still have a long way to go and summer break will be gone before I know it; sometimes being a book hoarder can come back to haunt you. (Only sometimes :) There is something so peaceful about being surrounded by so many wonderful books! My classroom is honestly one of my favorite places to be.

Getting started

So this is my first attempt at blogging, and after spending more time than needed choosing the perfect flamingo pic from my computer, I am wondering if it is going to be more challenging than I anticipated. Maybe I need to focus less on the small details and more on simply letting go and writing...something I preach to my students all the time.

Truth be told, this journey into new territory is an attempt to transfer all my current classroom website content at Mrs. Dunn's Class to a blog format. This will definitely be a work in progress, so please check back often for updates!