Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Morning Cart!

I noticed that mornings in my room were a tad bit chaotic and, well, loud! Mornings can be a stressful time. Some kids arrive at school after staying up late due to dance class. Some kids come to school hungry and from an unhappy household. Some kids are just not morning people! I want morning to be calm and peaceful in my room.

Previously, kids would come into the classroom in the morning after I greeted them. It was up to them to pick up homework for the night, file the previous day's homework in number order, then write in their agenda. There is a whole lot to get done and organized in the morning. Part of the loudness came from a large group of kids congregating near the homework turn-in and pick-up.

My previous morning to-do list:
1. Unpack & unstack
2. Take out homework folder from backpack. Put homework into folder, take out previous night's homework.
3. Go to homework turn-in box. Highlight name & number. File in number order.
4. Sit down and write in morning agenda.
5. Put away agenda & homework folder
6. Read quietly.

WHEW. That is a lot going on, and a lot of unnecessary movement in the classroom that can easily turn into too much noise and potential rowdiness.

Introducing... the morning cart!

I wheel this cart outside my door every morning. It is from Amazon, take a peek at it here! It is called the Indoor or Outdoor Folding, Metal, Rolling Serving Cart. It's a steal at $54. This thing is super durable and lightweight. There are cheaper ones on the market, HOWEVER, most of those you need to assemble. This baby pops out of the box all folded up... just open up, quickly screw the wheels on with your hands, and you are ready for action!

What I include on my morning cart:

- Inbox - This is where students drop notes from parents, lunch money, office forms, permission slips, etc. Anything important is put in here!

- Tribe Pick-Up - I put the homework for the night here.

- Homework - Kids place their homework from the previous night here. I used to have them file it in number order to make sure that everyone brought it in. BUT because I stand near the door to greet each child, I know exactly who doesn't have it, no time spent filing necessary!

- Copies - I put the copies for my copy parent here. This cuts down on parents coming in and class time taken up. The parents know right where it is, can grab it, make copies, and leave it there!

- Wednesday folders  - Our school sends home important papers and grading in the Wednesday folders. I have a classroom parent file these. The parent knows right where it is, so it's quite efficient! No coming into the classroom and searching for the file box.

These morning cart signs are now available for FREE on TPT!

What's nice about the morning cart is that it keeps the hustle-bustle OUTSIDE the classroom. It cuts down on kids waiting for a while to file their homework, or madly scrambling inside their backpack for a note from mom. After the initial work outside the classroom, they enter a peaceful and serene setting. I set the chill mood with classical music and all the lights off. No harsh, fluorescent lighting is needed in the morning!

I started the morning cart this year. I already have seen a world of difference since last year! Kids come into the classroom relaxed, hang up their bookbag, write in their agenda, and then relax/read/eat breakfast. Life is stressful enough, mornings in the classroom should not have to be!

How do you keep your mornings relaxed?

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Hopes & Dreams

Hopes & dreams! What are your hopes and dreams for the school year? Do you dream of your students being happy? Safe? Optimistic? I dream that my students will come every day to class ready to learn, and to create a warm and safe environment to learn in. Not only teachers have hopes and dreams for the school year- students do as well!

Hopes & dreams is a very fluffy way of saying a goal. So creating hopes & dreams is really just goal-setting for the year. My school follows Responsive Classroom, so student brainstorming & creating their hopes & dreams is expected in the first week of school. Some of the benefits of creating hopes & dreams the first week of school include:

  • A student connection to the school and other students ("you want to improve at your math facts? Me too!")
  • The student gets excited about all the fabulous things that they will conquer this school year
  • Helps students look forward to learning
  • Gives students a sense of belonging and significance

I start off by reading "Dex: The Heart of a Hero." This is an adorable book about a cute, little weiner dog that is made fun of. He wants to be a superhero, but other animals are constantly putting down his dreams. He works hard, and finally becomes a superhero. The book finally comes full circle with him saving the animals that used to make fun of him. The kids are a big fan!

Dex with his not-so-nice neighborhood pals
The kids love the little dog and the comparison between their own hopes and dreams and Diego's hopes and dreams. We talk about the difference between short-term and long-term dreams. The kids easily come up with long-term, but find short-term a little more difficult. I try to zone in on the question: "What are your hopes and dreams for this school year?"

We create an anchor chart together for our hopes & dreams. A lot of the kids have a very tough time communicating their hopes and dreams, and often freeze up when prompted. The anchor chart helps them come up with various options. You can see in the anchor chart below that we divided the hopes and dreams into academic possibilities, and social/emotional possibilities. Some academic hopes/dreams include showing work/thinking during math, paying attention when editing, reading different genres, and finishing books. You can see in the chart below that some hopes and dreams straddle both academic and social/emotional (such as taking care of materials & showing self-control with ones body). 

After our discussion and anchor chart, the kids start brainstorming what their hope & dream will be for the year. It is really fun to see what everyone comes up with! I print out clouds, and they write their hopes & dreams on the cloud and cut it out. We finish Monday- so I'll post the finished product up in two days! :-)

I love doing hopes & dreams because it gives the students a responsibility over their learning. It helps them understand that they are in charge of their future, school is what they make of it. Displaying their hopes & dreams year-round reminds them how important that their goals of, and serve as a fabulous reference point throughout the year. Did we accomplish our goals? Surpass our goal? Change our goal? I create one as well! It's important for students to see that teachers have their own hopes and dreams for the year as well.

What are your hopes and dreams for this school year? Do you use Responsive Classroom at your school?

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Classroom Reveal: 2016-2017 School Year!

My favorite part of every year are the first couple weeks of school. I LOVE meeting the news students, decorating my room, starting a fresh planbook, and taking in the dynamic and buzzing atmosphere around me. 

My room this year is very similar to my room last year, just with a few minor tweaks. Read on to check it out!

Panoramic view!

Looking at my guided small group section, and my CARES board.

A peek at the bookshelf which holds the kids' folder bins and notebook boxes.

Moving over to the front of the room! You can see the Hopes & Dreams board here, all ready for the students' aspirations!

The front of the room! That dinky rug in front is driving me crazy- I have a big one coming soon from Overstock!

Book bins

Classroom jobs and birthdays! 

Supply caddies on the sink area.

MY NEWEST OBESSION. This cart gets wheeled outside my door everyday. The kids turn in their homework, important papers, and pick up their homework here. This ensures that they never forget to pick something up in the morning, since I stand at the door and can remind them. 

If you're interested in picking up the cart, it was fairly cheap (less than $100, and shipped for free with Prime!) on Amazon. It's called the Indoor or Outdoor Folding, Metal, Rolling Serving Cart, and it comes in lots of different colors to match your classroom! 

Classroom library!

What colors or themes are you doing for your classroom this year? How are you feeling about the new school year?

CLASSROOM 2015-2016