Saturday, November 26, 2011

"These Are a Few of My Favorites Things"

I have taught all subjects for many years but, mathematics has always been my passion.  The last few years I have been privileged to teach math exclusively.  I love it!  I teach 4 classes of mathematics to all the 4th graders in my elementary school.  I teach the workshop model in my classroom, although, believe me, I teach the skills that are needed also.  I love the workshop model because it allows children to touch and move, talk and discuss, and stirs the curiosity of a child.  
There are items that go with Math Workshop that I depend upon  daily to help my classes run smoothly and efficiently while making it easier and fun to learn.  Here are a few of "My Favorite Things":

My document viewer, computer, and digital projector.
I would be lost without my document viewer.  This is my second year to have one and I wonder how I ever survived without it.  When it is used with the digital projector that hangs from the ceiling in my classroom, the possibilities are endless.  I especially love to send a student to the document viewer to model a great way to solve a problem in the middle of class...seeing is believing!  This is so much better than the old over-head projectors. Want to show a great activity from the internet?...easy as pie. I like the Smart Board, but, I love my document viewer.    

Group Supply Caddies
My desks are arranged mainly in groups of 4.  In the middle of each group sits a caddy of supplies.  Since I teach 4 groups of students each day these caddies are time-efficient and life-savers.  I supply everything a student needs to complete tasks and activities.  Valuable transition time is saved in each of my 4 blocks by having all items needed ready and waiting.  I change up what is in the caddy depending on the unit or standard my students are learning.  However, the staple supplies are always included in the caddy:  glue, crayons, scissors, and scratch paper.   The paper on the left and right sides of the caddy are scratch paper.  I take old worksheets, etc... and cut these in half and place in the caddies.  (Other teachers also send me their leftovers).  My students learn quickly to get out a piece of scratch paper whenever they need it.  We do most of our computation on the scratch paper.  This saves time and recycles paper.  I have a basket of scratch paper on a shelf.  If a group runs out of scratch paper, the ritual and routine is for 1 member of the group to go to the basket and get a stack of paper for his or her group and place this paper in the caddy.  Believe it or not, I found all but one of these caddies unused, just sitting around.  I found one to match the others at a school supply store.  The caddy is Rubbermaid.

Mrs. C's Personal Caddy
 I keep this caddy sitting next to my document camera.  I keep base ten blocks, pattern blocks, centimeter cubes, post it notes, pencils, highlighters and other items such as a small ruler and protractor at my disposal.  I always like to have alternative ways to model a problem and reach as many children as I can.  You can't always stick to the lesson plan, no matter how much time has been devoted to it.  This caddy comes in handy on many days as an "emergency caddy."

My Bell and Accountable Talk Cards
Both of these items make life easier on me, especially during workshop.  My students know that when I ring the bell, they are to stop talking, working, or moving and to listen.  It sometimes takes a few consequences to make believers out of some students.  However, when everyone realizes I mean business, the bell is a wonderful asset in my classroom.  If I want to tell the whole class something or have a student come up to the document viewer and show their work, I do not have to waste valuable learning time getting everyone's attention.  Getting my students' attention is easy and painless.
The yellow and red cards are simply construction paper rectangles that I laminated.  During workshop, or even individual work time, if a student or group is not using accountable talk, is off-task, or if the noise level is not appropriate for the task being completed, I will place a yellow warning card on the desk or desks.  If the problem continues, a red card is placed on the desk/desks.  The group or individual is no longer allowed to finish the task or activity.   An alternate worksheet or book page is assigned instead.  The alternative assignment must be planned ahead.

My Beloved Manipulatives

 These manipulatives are my babies.  I have spent many years collecting, searching for, begging for, making,  organizing, packaging, and labeling these hands-on items.  I try to have everything ready to go for each class.  Each day my classes complete at least one hands-on activity, sometimes we complete 2-3.  I admit that I have not yet perfected the art of organizing my manipulatives.  I strive to do better.  I would like to purchase some containers this year that are the same size and shape for my babies.  They deserve it.  If there is one thing I want to improve, it is to have everything for each standard stored in the same place.   

The Clipboards
 Simple but, a life-saving organizer!  With 4 classes and almost a hundred students a day, I don't know what I would do without these clipboards.  I use these clipboards to write down all the important information for each class during the day.  This includes who is absent, who needs extra help, who didn't complete the assignment,(class work or homework), discipline issues, parent conferences, meetings and anything else I feel is important.  One of the ways I use the clipboards is at recess.  Two of the four teachers on our team of 4th grade teachers alternate days to conduct a "study hall" during our recess time.  I hand out the clipboards to the appropriate teachers with the information they will need to conduct the study hall efficiently.  I also clip put any missed assignments or unfinished work at the back of the clipboard.

 The Magnetic Whiteboard
 I appreciate technology and use it daily.  However, I still love my magnetic white board.  My students still love coming up to the white board and using the many items I have "magnetized."  (The color tiles the girls are using actually come magnetized.)

Friday, November 25, 2011

A Big Hello!

My name is Lisa and this is my 19th year in the classroom.  I spent 7 years teaching 6th grade at a middle school and have been teaching 4th grade at a rural elementary school for the past 12 years.  I began my career with a Degree in Business Administration, working in a bank.  I decided after a few years of banking, the business world was not for me.  I took a deep breath  and headed back to college.  I have never looked back.  Besides my teaching degree, I have earned  a Masters of Education and I'm half-way through my Ed.S, (Specialist Degree), in education. 
I have been married for over 26 years and have three teenage children, (yes, any sympathy is appreciated).  I have a 20 year old son in college majoring in engineering and16 year old twins, a boy and a girl.  They are all very active and I feel my age trying to keep up with them.  I decided to take off a few years when they were young and stay home with them.   I feel it was a good decision.  But, as soon as the twins were in Pre-K, I went back to the classroom.
I love teaching!  My family can't understand how I can work long hours during the week, then come home and spend the week-end creating and re-creating lesson plans and activities.
Although I am extremely excited and nervous about beginning this blog,  I look forward to this experience.