Monday, May 19, 2014

Lesson Plan Notebook Organization

It seems as if I have been using lesson plan notebooks my whole teaching career.  I know I haven't because I can vaguely remember the little green lesson plan books that had a few lines and a place to put the date and grade taught.  These work well for some teachers.  However, if you are a detailed OCD type personality, those little green books are what nightmares are made of!  My large, bold left-handed handwriting is also an enemy of tiny lines in tight spaces.

Being the crazed detail person that I am, those little green books disappeared from my classroom early on in my career.  I have used my lesson plan notebooks as far back as when the state of Georgia was using the QCC's (I can't even remember what the initials stood for it's been so long ago).  I redid all lessons when the Georgia Performance Standards (GPS) were introduced.  Now I have been redoing my lesson plans all over again since the Common Core Performance Standards (CCPS) were implemented last year.  I feel so strongly about my notebooks, it is well worth the effort and time to redo my plans each time the standards change.  

My notebooks are never complete though.  I add and take away items and plans each year.  I revise and redo!  Most of you know that even a great activity on paper can bomb in a real-life classroom.  Those activities are taken out and my lesson plan is revised, and a new activity takes its place. 

Although I rarely use my lesson plan notebooks while I am teaching, it is a daily lifesaver for me when preparing for the next day's lesson.  I have everything I surprises.  My students and I are able to utilize every second of everyday in the classroom.

Organization of My Lesson Plan Notebook

I always label the front and spine of the notebook with the name of the unit I will be teaching.  I usually use the generic name.  As you can see, this notebook is simply labeled Place Value 1. (Yes, this unit has 2 notebooks).  Most of my notebooks only have 1 volume but, my place value (NBT) unit is rather lengthy.

When the front cover is opened, I always have a yellow section that is labeled To Be Copied at the front of the notebook.  I laminate 2 yellow pieces of copy paper and place red sticky tabs in the outside middle of the yellow papers.  They are then placed together in the notebook, (the plain one in the back of the one labeled To Be Copied.  All papers that I will need to copy for the unit are sandwiched between the yellow sheets. 
It is so easy to add or remove papers at any time!  This also makes it easy to copy everything I will need for the unit at one time.  There it all is at my fingertips.  

The next section in my notebooks is the lesson plans themselves.  Before I place a lesson plan in the notebook, I place it in a see-through sleeve and attach a sticky tab on it which tells what day the lesson plan will be used.

I use a template to keep my lesson plans uniform.  It is a basic template that I adjust as needed since I keep it on my computer.  Preparing my plans digitally makes revisions and additions much easier.  Below is an example of one of my daily measurement lesson plans.

  I'm a color-coder...a symptom of OCD, I think. :)  I color-code all items throughout my lesson plan red if the items need to be printed.  I color-code any notes, manipulates, large charts, resources, etc... in blue to indicate that I already have these materials.  Blue is a signal that I need to locate the items or lay out my notes on my digital projector.  The yellow high-lighter is used for various things, such as differentiation of assignments, a flashing-neon sign that homework is being assigned, or as a spotlight on a crucial part of my lesson. 

I have tried many variations of labeling my daily lesson plans throughout the years.  After much trial and error, I use the most simple way possible...I label my days as day 1, day 2, day 3 and so on.  This way, no matter what happens...a snow day, holiday, or surprise fund-raiser event, I will not need to relabel my plans.  

If you look closely you will notice that some of my lesson plans say 3b or 3c.  This is where I have made additions to the original lesson plans.  No one should ever be content to teach exactly the same thing every year!  Change is good.  Change keeps things interesting! 

Placing the lesson plan in the notebook is just the beginning.  I use my notebooks for so much more than my lesson plans.  Behind each day is where the really important items are. :)  A three-hole punch is my favorite teacher tool!  I punch holes in everything I can and place it in my notebook.  I place any mini-posters (anchor charts) answer keys, notes, vocabulary, pictures or diagrams, student examples from years past, notes on common errors, misc. resources, as well as the kitchen sink behind each lesson plan. :)  

Mini Poster (anchor chart) that I will use on the digital projector for the day.

A copy of the cover of the book I will read for the day

Answer Key - It is always readily available.

Student example of vocabulary notes

Directions for an Activity  

I am planning on adding a few other features to my lesson plans this fall, such as a section labeled informal assessment.  

Any other items I use but will not fit in my lesson plan notebooks are  filed or stored in certain places in my classroom for easy accessibility. I will be posting my organization of the manipulatives and activities I use in future posts.
  I love, love, love organizing things! 
I especially love my notebooks.  
I am "famous" around my school for them. :)

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

CRCT Pleasant Surprise

A couple of weeks ago when the upper grades (3-5) at the elementary school where I teach were preparing to take the dreaded CRCT, the lower grades (K-2) got together and made us care packages.  They handed them out the Monday of the first test.  It was a little thing, but, it really meant a lot.  It took a little of the anxiety from the atmosphere and made us feel like we were all in this thing together...the ol' team spirit.  All the lower grade students had certain rooms they delivered the treats to. They delivered them as a class.  It was really cute. We gathered around and had a group hug before they left. :) 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Interactive Mega-Math Notebook & Technology

Whew!  I finally finished combining all my 4th grade Common Core interactive notebooks into one large mega-bundle...503 pages!  I have combined products  before but never with two types of documents.  I completed my first of five interactive notebooks in Microsoft Word before I found the ease and joy of creating documents in PowerPoint. So, I completed my last 4 notebooks in PowerPoint.  That was all fine and dandy until I decided to combine the individual notebooks into a mega-bundle.  Oops!  

That's when the trouble began!  Why didn't I think about the fact that a Word document and a PowerPoint document were not compatible?  Just in case there is someone else out there that doesn't know this little tidbit, trying to combine the two is like trying to combine oil and water.  It just doesn't work.      

Over the last few weeks, I have been frustrated and near tears every time I tried to put the documents together.  Then a good friend of mine suggested I try Adobe Acrobat Pro XI.  WoW!  It was a game changer.  Acrobat Pro lets you combine different types of PDF's.  Not only that, but it allows you to edit PDFs.  That's right...EDIT!  It even has a security feature so that the PDFs you create and upload are actually secure.  

The only thing this program did not let me do was compress my PDF.  I am not sure why.  It said an error had occurred on my images. Now, I am a researcher by heart.  I am always searching and looking up things.  So, I started searching for an answer to why I kept getting the error message.  I still have no clue, however, I found out it happens a lot.  There were many forums on the internet where people were having trouble with the same error message.

The good news for me is that I didn't actually need to compress the large file.  I uploaded it on Google Chrome instead of Safari, which I usually use.  It took only a couple of minutes for my mega-bundle to upload on Chrome whereas it would have taken forever with Safari. If you do not use Google Chrome, you can download it for free.  Just do a Google search for Chrome.  Chrome seems to work better for me on Pinterest too.  Sometimes Safari will not let me scroll to individual boards but, I have no trouble scrolling when using Chrome.

If you are interested in buying Adobe Acrobat Pro XI, (I strongly suggest you do, if only for the security factor), purchase the one that is for Students and Teachers.  (Of course, only purchase this version if you are actually a student or a teacher.) :) I wouldn't recommend buying it from Amazon.  If you read the comments about the headaches and hassles many people had by purchasing it from Amazon, you will head on over to Adobe and buy it directly from that website:  Adobe Acrobat Pro XI (Student and Teacher Version)  Once on the Adobe page, look over to the right column and you will see the Student and Teacher version for $119.00 as one of the choices.  You can't beat that price!  It is definitely worth the money.

Short-story-long, I finally succeeded in getting everything together and uploaded my mega-bundle to my TPT shop this evening!  It looks great, even if I say so myself! :)

I hope my trials and errors can make life easier on someone else.  Have a great week and if you are feeling like me, continue the summer break countdown!  (8 days left for me!)

Here are some pictures from my new Interactive Math Notebook Mega-Bundle.  It is Common Core aligned and complete with all the 4th grade Mathematics Common Core standards for the year!

All 5 of my individual math interactive notebooks are included in the mega-bundle.

Click on any of the pictures to go to my TPT store, Mrs. C's Classroom.

Monday, May 5, 2014

TPT Teachers Sale!

Yay!  The TPT Teachers Sale begins tomorrow!  I am ready.  I have my wish list updated and ready to go.  Feel free to stop by my store and visit.  I am taking an additional 20% off all items in my store. Just click on the banner below to speed on over!  Remember to use the promotional code: TPTXO


Sunday, May 4, 2014

Art Appreciation Day

Last Friday was Art Appreciation Day at our school.  Every grade level and every classroom participated.  Some of the teachers in my grade level were very excited.  One of my 4th grade partners taught the Fine Arts activity until this year.  I, unfortunately, was not feeling in the spirit of things.  CRCT  had just been completed and I was looking forward to getting back on a regular schedule.  I'm the math teacher after all.  I teach almost a hundred students mathematics everyday.  I didn't want to do artsy stuff.  I wanted to do all the cool activities I had planned before the dreaded state mandated test and didn't get to do because I ran out of time trying to get in the standards.  Well, I went along with it for the kids! :) 

To make a long story short, Friday ended up being a great day!  It was what we all needed, especially me! My partner said it wasn't necessary for me to get out of my comfort zone.  She suggested mosaics using pattern block die-cuts.  I also threw in scratch construction paper to allow for a little creativity.  It was a lot of fun.  The kids had a blast!  

We didn't get finished, but, we will complete them Monday.  The kiddo (and their teacher) needed to let loose and have some fun, while learning about art.  (Yes, I had a mini-lesson on the history of mosaics. I kept it short!)  I did stress a little trying to keep the pattern block die-cuts  coming for 4 blocks of students but, we ended up having plenty, thanks to a wonderful parent volunteer.  It would be much, much simpler with just one class of students.  
Here are some of our projects that we started Friday. Lookin' good!

Our mascot is an eagle so, we had a couple of these.  This little guy just began by making the talons.  He just kept adding pattern shapes.

He did finish the eagle part of his mosaic.
I think it turned out great! 

I would almost forget the mosaics were made of construction paper.  This one isn't completed yet, but, it's looking so good.

The beginning of another design.

The American Flag

This mosaic uses pattern blocks and torn paper.  It is going to be gorgeous when finished.

I can't wait to see this one completed. 
 Nine year olds sure can be creative!