Monday, August 29, 2011

How To Make the New Year Easier - Year After Year

There are several things I do at the beginning of the year that saves me quite a bit of time during the year so I thought I would share.

  • Create skeleton sub plans.  These sub plans have all of our times and subjects on them as well as any pertinent information.  That way when I need a sub in the room all I do is plug in the specific information and presto - sub plans are done.  Here is an example.  These also come in handy in case you wake up super sick, which I have tried, at least you can email this to the school secretary.
  • Write a Dear Substitute Letter.  I have students with special needs in my room as well as kids that need extra care.  At the beginning of the year I write a brief letter to my subs explaining a little bit about my kids and their needs, without breaking confidentiality of  ourse, then I have it to give to each new sub.  Here is an example letter.
  • Lessonplanner.  I do not buy a lesson plan book because I end up spending a ton of time writing everything in it.  Instead I have tables set up and I make my own.  Every year I just have to tweak the times and change the subjects around, voila, my very own neat lesson planner.  As the year progresses I will also type in when some kids get pulled out, band lessons, etc. 
  • Set up a parent email group.  I use this parent group all of the time and never have to worry about not including all of my parents. 
  • Use Numbers instead of Names (on the boring stuff).  My students are all assigned numbers for things like their take home envelopes, their book boxes, and files that keep on them.  That way I don't have to print out new name stickers year after year, they simply get a number assigned to this more boring stuff.
There are many more tips but these are the ones I always get done right away.  Happy year to you.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

On Those Two First Days

I am in the countdown, getting butterflies, and starting to have those back to school nightmares about how much the kids will hate me.  Yes, school starts in 3 weeks.  So yesterday I sat down and brainstormed what I would do those first two days or week with my kids.  We start weird this year with orientation on Thursday and then full day Friday but then Labor Day weekend so I don't plan out the lessons.  But I do make a list of all the things we should do.  Care to see it?

So what does it say?
  • Flag pennent - a way for my kids to show their personality and decorate their cubbies - it's a 5th grade thing
  • Wordle about me - I have parents hand in 5 secret adjectives to describe their child and then we add 5 of our own and it make a really great Wordle about the kids which we hang up - the students get so surprised over the adjectives their parents use.
  • Intro to Blogging - we start to talk about blogging on the second day of school because it is a huge part of our classroom.  And then we start to discuss safety.
  • Paper blog lesson - this is a great lesson shared by @McTeach and one that I love to do with my kids.
  • Lunch magnets - sign in, sign out
  • Name sticks - I randomly pull sticks when we discuss and use them for group work.
  • Pencil cups - I have tables this year so no more name tags on desks.  Students will instead have a decorated pencil cup with their name on it.  They work on this while I read aloud.
  • Writing sample - I love seeing how they grow.  I think this year's topic might be "What color is 5th grade?"
  • Read Dear Future Mrs. Ripp Student letters aloud.  Every year my students write a letter to the new kids sharing information about this classroom and how to get the best out of it.  This year some of those students are still with me so I am going to share their letters with the whole class when they work on projects.
  • Time Capsule - we measure height and write down our favorites and dislikes.  The kids always crack up at the end of the year about what they wrote.
  • Make Animoto classroom vision - the kids figure out our vision for the room and put in into Animoto.  It really gets them thinking and helps them take ownership of the room, here is last year's.
  • Discuss classroom jobs - I have helpers every week and this year I added new jobs like Googler and Mapper.  The Goggler will google questions we have submitted on a list and the mapper will keep track of where we connect with.
  • Morning Routine - we discuss expectations; what type of morning do the kids want?  How do we get started for the day?  We come to an agreement on how it will run best.
  • Random Pictures of Mrs. Ripp - I will be sharing a slideshow of random pictures from my life to see if the kids can guess what they mean to me.  The following the kids will bring in their random pictures.
  • Connect the students - this is a great activity that only requires paper and sharpies.  The kids all write their name on the border of the paper and then one person makes a statement like "I play soccer."  Anyone else who plays soccer gets to connect their name to theirs and then the next person states something and so on.  In the end you have a huge spiderweb of how connected we are in the classroom which I display even though it is super messy but it kind of looks like art.
  • Rules discussion - I don't set the rules, the kids do.  So how do we want our room to function, how do we want it to sound, to look like?  What will we do to maintain it.  That conversation starts on the first day.
  • Be a tour guide - I have some of my students from last year so why not have them give tours of the classroom.  I have changed some stuff but not everything so then everyone can feel at home.
  • Name your table.  The students will come up with a table name and then create a banner for it.  This will happen monthly as the students change tables.

So there you go, just a couple of my to do's for the first couple of days.  If you see something you like; borrow the idea.  

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