Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Bucket Maps... an Inspired Idea!!!

So, I was reading through some past Bright Ideas posts, when I found one that really spoke to me. This POST from A Peach for the Teach (make sure you check it out!) just stuck out like a sore thumb! Except, that makes it sound bad, and this was incredible!

Only six days into school my students' lack of organization is already driving me insane! I am more than a bit on edge when it comes to things being where they belong. 

I don't allow students to keep a whole lot of anything in their desks, so that isn't really an issue. Their team supply tubs, that is a whole different monster though! Enter inspiration stage right! I quickly (I mean like five minutes quick) whipped up these bucket maps with the identified places for each item in the bucket. 
 Of course I ran them through my trusty laminator. I don't honestly know what I would do without this thing!
 I trimmed the edges using my paper cutter, and then put a dot of hot glue in each corner.
Finally, I pressed it firmly into the bottom of our team bucket! This way students know exactly which container goes where! Today was our first day with the bucket maps, and I can't tell you what a difference it made at the end of the day! 

Monday, September 1, 2014

September Currently

It is the first day of September, and Labor Day, for which I am eternally grateful. First of all, I get the long weekend after the first day of school. Also, I am moving next weekend, so I NEED this time to pack.

I am linking up with Farley for another Currently! I can't wait to see what everyone has been up to!
I said I was moving right? Can you hear how excited I am? NOT!!!! My cat on the other hand thinks that the boxes all over our house are the best thing ever. I am pretty sure she has no idea we are moving, but instead thinks I am the best cat mom ever by providing her with this marvelous playground. She especially enjoys said playground in the middle of the night/wee hours of the morning.

I am LOVING this long weekend! I went home from work determined to pack, but life kind of happened...
Saturday we packed for a couple of hours, BUT it was the first home game for my alma mater, Texas State, how could I miss that? They even won! (65-0, do we consider that a win or a stomping, especially after some of the mean things the other team said about us first!!!)
While at the game, my mom called to let us know her car wouldn't start. I have an extra, so Sunday we drove down to loan it to her. Once we were there we decided to stay for a movie, because you know, the packing will get done tomorrow right?
That brings us to now, which as you can see I am really busy packing at the moment, so busy in fact that I won't be able to participate in this month's currently I am doing nothing at all!

I am thinking about all the things that need to be packed, and how I probably don't have enough boxes for it all. That counts as being productive right?

I am wanting to be done with moving. The only thing worse than having to pack is having to unpack...

I am needing to actually pack instead of sitting here talking about it, go figure!

Finally, three trips I would like to take are to:
1. Australia-I mean really who doesn't?
2. Argentina-My aunt and uncle went this summer and their stories make this a must do!
3. Thailand-Not going to lie, Thai is my favorite type of food. I also hear that it is gorgeous, but mostly for the food.

Hope everyone has a fabulous month, and that I survive this move!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Take Home Binders and a Freebie!

Our school buys a binder for each student to use as a Home-School Communication Binder. When I first heard this I thought it would never work. I really thought that most students would lose theirs. I really did. I have now been proven wrong and don't know what I would do without them.

Reason #1:
The whole school does it. This makes it incredibly easy for parents with multiple kids. They know just what to expect from each one. They are also used to the binder and expect it the next year.

Reason #2:
It is a one stop shop. The front pocket has their reading log. There are sheet protectors with resources to help students at home. Finally, there is a pocket for students to take books home in. It really is a great collection in one spot.

Speaking of the resources, we added something new this year. Parents are always asking how they can help their students, and we love them for it. I have always told parents the number one way to help is to ask questions while or after your students read. This year I am taking all the guess work out of asking questions and including this handy little one-pager on asking questions.

I have had a lot of awesome feedback from parents already, and I am hoping that it will be useful for you too! So, click on the photo or here to download yourself a copy! 

Here is my question... What resources do you give your students to help them at home?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: Composting

Does your school compost food or paper towels?

I am looking forward to hearing all about it in the comments!

Monday, August 25, 2014

First Day and Classroom Tour

OOOOOOOOOHHHHHHH! Back to School, Back to School. Got to show....
You get the idea, or if you don't it is from Billy Madison. I have not seen that movie since I was in middle school, but the song still pops into my head every year around this time. Almost a sort of traditional trick that my brain plays on me.

Either way, today is the first day of school for me, and per usual I couldn't sleep leading up to it. So... I remembered that I took pictures of my room, but never shared them.

Now is as good a time as any, so here we go. In no particular order, here is our room!
 One of my goals this year is for students to keep as little in their desks as possible. I am trying to combat the, "Which journal is that again?" or the, "I can't find my math workbook!!!!" Instead, I am stashing the materials around the room sorted by table teams. In the picture above, the notebooks on the left are their science INBs, the workbooks in the middle belong to math where their math INBs will also go, and the folders on the right are their writing "notebooks." *(I will have more on the writing notebooks/folders in another post soon!)
 Next up is my teacher area. Which truly isn't all mine. I don't believe in having just a teacher area since the classroom really belongs to the students, so they use my desk all the time. I keep an extra stool (that you can see if you look really carefully under the desk) for students to sit on. That way, even if I am in my chair working with students at the table found right in front of my desk, another student or sometimes two will tuck themselves right in there and work on the computer or at my desk. You can also see my lovely toolbox and mishmash of other teachery stuff that is necessary to have close at hand.
 Our writing area is looking a little simple at the moment, but we have not started yet, so that is why. One thing I did was take the legs out of the table so that students sit on pillows on the floor while working on writing. Mostly, it is just a couple less chairs that I need to keep in the room which is pretty refreshing and opens the space up a bit.
 This incredibly difficult to read bulletin board says, "I Can Use a Chromebook to..." We are fortunate enough to have 8 Chromebooks in our classroom thanks to the generosity of Donor's Choose. Our district is also starting a bring your own device program this school year, so I wanted to make sure to have a place that lists many options for students to use their device or a Chromebook on. There are many times when we will all be doing the same thing with our devices, but there will also be times when students get to choose how they will be using it.
 Our entryway is probably the only part of our room that is for pure decor. I started off my first year with just a few license plates, but students have brought more to me throughout the years. It is just a fun part of the room.
 Here you can see a wider shot of the team materials, but also students' book boxes up top. This area is basically the material mecca of our classroom. Our side of our Texas History INBs everything will be found here.
 I struggle with word walls. I don't know why, but I have the hardest time keeping up with them. This is my newest way of giving the old college try. We shall see how it goes.
Finally, we have our CHAMPs expectations. I love being able to just move the magnet. I honestly only do it for the first couple of weeks and then have a student take over the job. They are much better at remembering it than I am. I do love though that at any given time I can send student eyes to it as a reminder. 

Well, that is that, I hope that everyone starting today has/had a great first day. For those of you that have already been in for some time, just think how much easier it is already becoming to get up in the morning. Finally, for those of you that I haven't started yet and are smiling because you slept past 5:30 this morning, I will have that same smile on my face when we get out before you! :P

Saturday, August 23, 2014

A Little Bit About Me!

It has been a while since I have introduced/shared some information about myself, and since this is the time of year where I do that a lot, I figured I would share a little here too!
My name is Alyssa. Basic huh? I might give just a little more than that. I live with my sister in Austin, TX. She moved into my one bedroom apartment with me over the summer. It is a little rough at times, but mostly works.
Fear not though, we only have about two weeks left before we move into a bigger place and can hopefully have a little more space to ourselves.
While moving and packing is less than fun, it is more than a little entertaining to build kitty condos out of boxes for my cat, Birdie. She may look meek in that picture, but she is a force to be reckoned with.
This weekend is the last one before school starts, so I am staying away from the school and trying to get outdoors.
 This morning we went to Mount Bonnell and hiked around a bit. We really enjoyed it, but also decided we really need a dog to do these things with too.
Over the summer I got the absolute privilege of going to the TPT conference in Vegas and room with my friend Kady from The Teacher Trap. I had a blast spending time with her and at the conference.
Last weekend I had lunch with some other amazing Texas bloggers. A big thank you to Katie from KTP on TPT for organizing the whole shindig. She did a fabulous job. 

No that you know how I have been spending my time, I will get down to the teachery stuff. 
I am starting my sixth year teaching a fourth grade self-contained inclusion classroom in Hays CISD. (In Kyle, just south of Austin.) Last year we made amazing gains in writing, but are looking for more. I am really excited to be using a true writing workshop model. We also have a lot of work to do in math and reading. Math is a little worrisome for me this year with the new TEKS put into place. 

All that being said, I could not be more excited for this year! I can't wait to see how it goes!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: Pencils

How do you handle pencils in your classroom?

Can't wait to hear from you in the comments!