Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I survived two open houses in two days (classroom photos coming tomorrow)

Last night was my open house.  It was a whirlwind as always.  This year is strange in that my oldest is now a 7th grader at my school.  We have three houses :  white, red, and blue.  I teach in the blue house and he will be in the white house this year.  It is really strange to think of him infringing on my "school turf".  It will be interesting to say the least.

Open house went great and all the parents I met were very nice.  We have heard lots of negative things about our incoming 7th graders and I am trying to start the year with extra structure and positivity, to hopefully get everyone in our house off on the right foot.

I came home last night and feet and legs were aching.  Not used to standing for two hours straight, after being on my feet all day getting my room ready.

Today was our last inservice meeting prior to school starting Thursday.  We had a 3.5 hour meeting on the CCSS for math.  Our meeting was for grades 5-12 at the high school.  After that I went home to get my youngest two boys' school supplies together and organized for their open house that was tonight.  I picked up Chipotle for lunch and ended up eating it at school.  Chipotle is by far my favorite fast food restaurant.  I also treated myself to an unsweetened passion iced tea lemonade from Starbucks.

I have to say that I was completely burned out this afternoon from setting up my classroom for open house last night.  I have spent so many hours and days on it and I was just.done.with.it.today.  It didn't help that I woke up at 4 AM this morning and could not for the life of me fall back to sleep.  Despite being so tired, I could not sleep.  Thank goodness for TJ's chocolate covered espresso beans!

Tonight I went to open house for my middle and little.  They have an ice cream social with it and Cooper (little) kept asking me when we were going to the Ice Cream Social Study.  LOL Middle got the teacher he really wanted.  She is actually on maternity leave until December.  The good news is that her sub was a sub in my building sometimes last year and she was AWESOME.  She ended up doing a long term subbing in elem last Spring.  I am very happy to hear she is the sub and I know she will do a great job!

Needless to say the kids have not even started yet and I am freakin exhausted!  The carefree days of summer are nothing, but a distant memory at this point.  I did take some photos of my classroom and will take some more tomorrow.  I LOVE LOVE what I have done to my classroom.  I had lots of 8th graders come a visit me and they love the way it looks and our so jealous it was not that way for us last year.  Promise to do a post tomorrow with lots of photos, including my adorable no sew banner I made!  Time to head off to bed and get some sleep!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Daily agenda/Assignment Board

I am on school related planning overload and the kids have not even shown up yet!  I had this past Friday off and spent the morning working on new signs for my assignment board.  I changed the colors of the signs to match my new color scheme and added several more categories.  I am so happy with how they turned out.  I spent the afternoon taking the boys to the Dr.  My middle has bad seasonal allergies, but it just seemed to be more than that.  Sure enough I found out he has a sinus infection.  Luckily we were also able to get the flu mist for all three boys while we were there.  That will save some running around later when we are busy with school.

After the appt we stopped at Micheal's and I got some of the new Martha Stewart paint for a project I will hopefully be working on this week.  The boys were so good while I looked around.  We ended up having an extremely late lunch at Sonic once we were done shopping.

Back to the point of this post!  I use my side chalkboard as my agenda/assignment board.  When students walk into the room they can immediately see what the warm-up is they need to begin, what the homework is we are correcting, what we are doing in class that day, as well as, what that day's assignment is.  I teach one accelerated math class (last year I had two and life was AWESOME!), and three regular math classes.  I also teach a class called Core Plus, which I will explain in another post.

I have been using my assignment board for years and the kids love knowing what it going on.  If a student was absent the previous day, s/he can look at the board to find out what homework was missed.

I print the sign on cardstock, laminate them, and then attach stick on magnetic tape to them so they are magnetized to the board.  I have a clear container (forgot to take a photo of it) that also sticks to the board and I keep all my extra signs and chalk in it.

I took photos today of the board, it is already filled out for the first day of school which is this Thurs.  Typically we have either a lesson (from the text), activity, or assessment every day.  I have expanded the activity category this year to get much more specific with special types of activities we are doing.

All ready to go for the first day of school!

My new signs.  I have them in teal for Math 1, and lime for Math 2, 5, 6 (those are the class hours).
I tried to think of all the different things we do in class other than a lesson and I came up with the following:  Problem Solving, Learning Stations, Literacy, and Technology.

I love my assignment board.  I am lucky to have two large chalkboards in my room.  I use the front board for our word wall and other things (we rarely use the front board as a chalkboard because I have a SMARTBoard.

Let me know if you have any questions about the agenda/assignment board.  It works great for middlc school where you teach more than one class.

I have been getting my craft on this weekend and will hopefully have some photos to share with you soon.  Also my room will be all set up tomorrow for Open House.  I have a post soon with photos of my classroom all decorated and ready for the kiddos!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

First Day Back and Learning Stations

Today is my first "official" day back to school, however, I have already spent many many hours getting my classroom ready.  We all know how of their own time teachers spend getting their classrooms ready to go without being compensated for it.  Things are looking pretty good if I do say so myself.  I am still figuring out my Math Learning Stations, but I have kind of narrowed down some topics to start with:

September/October Learning Stations:

Focus:  Basic concept review for WKCE test. Module 1 and Module 2

SMARTBoard: (2)
Desktop Computer: (2)
Laptop Computers: (varies)

Manipulatives:  (multiple)
     Pattern Blocks (4)
     Pentominoes (4)
     Tangrams (4)

     Word Wall (2)
     Math Poster (2)
     Scholastic Math Magazine (multiple) (4)

Basic Skill Review for WKCE:
     The Number System

Math Games- cards or dice: (multiple)

Math Games:  free selection

The number in parentheses tells me how many students would do that learning station at a time.  Some will be more flexible where I could easily add more students.  My class size ranges from 27-30 students so the key if figuring out logistically how to get each student to the station they need to go to.  

I also need to find some basic skill review focusing on number operations, measurement, and geometry as review for the WKCE which is our state test we take in November.  I have a huge issue of the timing of our state testing in WI.  They are really being tested on what they learned in 6th grade, however, they have three months off school and then I am teaching 7th grade curriculum at the start of the year.  It drives me crazy and that is why we have to spend some time reviewing.  

I have not put anything together yet for those stations so I will be a busy girl getting my math learning stations up and running the next couple of weeks.  I promise to do more posts on my stations as I get them figured out.  I have been focusing on my manipulatives right now and making the necessary copies that are needed to go with them.  Do learning stations at the middle school level is a daunting task so I am trying to use the knowledge I have gained from primary teachers to adapt it to fit my level.

Off to get ready for my first day.  We have a one hour district wide meeting this morning at 8 AM and then head back to school for a 1.5 hour meeting.  I love our principal and her meetings are always worthwhile and cut right to the chase.  She runs the best meetings where you don't feel like you are wasting time on nonsense.  After that the rest of the day is mine to work in my classroom!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Meet the Teacher Monday

I am linking up over at Blog Hoppin' for Meet the Teacher Monday.  Join in and meet other teachers!

Tell us something about yourself:

My name is Sherrie and I teach 7th grade math.  I have been married to my husband Greg for 14 years and we have three boys, Ben 7th grade, Drew 4th grade, and Cooper K.  I love to watch my boys play sports and we had a busy baseball filled summer.  All three are playing football this fall so the busyness will continue.  They all take swim lessons in the summer and the older two did very well in their golf leagues this summer.  My favorite color is pink and I love pretty things.  

I grew up with three brothers (I was destined to be surrounded by boys) and wanted to be a teacher ever since I was in third grade.  I love Starbucks and drink pumpkin spice lattes or peppermint mochas when the weather is cold, and when it's warm out I drink unsweetened passion iced tea lemonade or mocha light frappucinos.  I drink iced tea year round and it has to be UNSWEETENED, I know you southern girls may be cringing at the thought, the same way I cringe whenever I mistakenly am brought a sweetened iced tea by mistake.  :)

How long have you been teaching?

I started teaching back in 1990.  I was a December graduate and I did a long term subbing in 7th/8th grade Spanish for six weeks during the Spring semester. The next fall I taught 6th grade and did that for seven years.  I then taught 7th grade SS for two years and have been teaching 7th grade math ever since returning from maternity leave when my oldest son was born.  When I got moved to math right after having a new born and after spending HOURS AND HOURS revamping the SS curriculum  I remember telling my principal, "You better let me retire in 7th grade math if I want to."  I am on my second new principal and fourth new AP since then and I am still teaching math.  :)

You might not know:

I am an Elementary Education/Spanish double major.  During my sophomore year I studied in Valladolid, Spain.  In college I was president of both the Eled Club and the Spanish club.  I never student taught because I had an internship.  I started teaching the first day with my own class of 12 6th grade students.  The principal was my cooperating teacher and he would come in to teach Math and Science in the afternoon for the first few weeks of school.  I was the only 6th grade teacher in my building so I was really on my own.  It was completely overwhelming and I remember thinking to myself before the first day that I had absolutely no idea what I should be doing and wondering at what point would I feel like I knew what to do.  Back in those days there were no goals and standards and the curriculum guides just listed the chapters of the text.  So I did what any eager, but clueless college kid would do, I started at the beginning of the texts.  That experience was AH-MAZING and once I was an official first year teacher the other veteran teachers could not believe it was my first year.  I told them that's because my first year experience really happened when I interned.  I even had to do PT conferences all by myself.  Scary!

What are you looking most forward to this year?

 I'm really looking forward to implementing my math learning stations.    I am also the middle school math liaison and we are in the process of a huge K-12 math review.  I look forward to being an integral part of making that successful.  I am excited to work with our team's new SS and LA teacher and also my new AP.  I also can't wait to see my finished classroom with my new color scheme.

What do you need to improve?

I have never done math stations and there is almost nothing out there for middle school as far as resources go.  Now if I was a primary teacher I would be set!  I wish Debbi Diller would write a book for middle school.  My goal is to differentiate more for ALL my kids from intervention to enrichment.  I want to really grasp and weave the standards for mathematical practice into my classroom.  I am looking forward to implementing some new instructional strategies that I am hoping with increase achievement for all my students.  I also need to do a better job this year of keeping my binders and materials organized after completing a module.  Last year I was teaching a new class and our prep time got shortened so that left me overwhelmed.  As we move into the CCSS I will need to revamp what I teach.  I also want to incorporate more literacy activities in my classroom.

What teaching supplies can you not live without?

My number one tool that I just could not live without is my SMARTBoard.  I wrote and was awarded a grant for it three years ago.  I love my pilot G2 pens like nobody's business.  I also love my Lilly Pulitzer stationery and coffee mugs.  I am a bit Type A with some things like organization and I could not love without all my desktop organizers.  I also could not live without my teacher binders.  When I am in a meeting with my Lilly notebook someone almost always makes a comment on how much they love my notebook.  On days where I am bit tired I survive with my Starbucks mocha or my TJ's chocolate covered espresso beans.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

It's the most wonderful time of the year linky party

I am linking up today with  Clutter-Free Classroom to talk about The Most Wonderful Time of the Year. I just love the beginning of the school year.  I always feel such hope and promise of a great school year to come.

~  I am absolutely adoring my new color scheme I will be using in my classroom: lime, pink, and teal.  If you search through my posts you will see lots of furniture and organization tools fitting my color scheme.  You could say I got a wee bit obsessed with it this summer.  I cannot wait for my classroom to be set-up so I can post photos of the final product!  I love to look at my perfectly decorated classroom with everything organized because after the first day with kiddos all bets are off on it ever looking that good again (until back to school night next year).

~I plan on achieving some major instructional strategy changes this year.  My biggest project under construction is implementing math learning stations with my 7th graders.  After lots of searching for middle school resources on this topic (without much luck at all) I am starting to solidify my plan for how to make these learning stations work in my cramped classroom that will be filled with nearly 30 middle school sized bodies each class.

~I have two new members on my team and a new AP so that is bound to change things up this year.  I am excited to work with these new people.  I also love seeing all my good teacher friends that I have missed over the summer.  I have a great support system of coworkers and I enjoy spending time together, as well as, working with them.  I also love seeing all the ideas and plans I worked on over summer break come to fruition.

~Fall is my favorite season and I love nothing more than a sunny crisp fall day filled with football and Starbucks pumpkin spiced latte or peppermint mocha.  I will have my fill of football with three boys playing this year!

~The beginning of the school year means my baby boy will turn 6 on Sept 9th.  Every year I think to myself, what on earth were you doing having a baby one week after school starts.  This year I am bound and determined to have his whole birthday party planned and everything purchased prior to the start of the school year, otherwise I get stressed and don't enjoy the fun of the party planning.  His theme this year is football.  Should be a blast!

~The beginning of the school year means fun back to school shopping trips for school supplies, new clothes and shoes and lots of new goodies for my classroom.

~I love going to my happiest place in the world Door County.  The leaves are amazing and fall is my favorite time to visit.  I love the apple cider and honey crisp apples we get during the fall.  It will be tough for us to squeeze in a trip this year with all the football.  A girl can hope!

~This time of the year is filled with unlimited promise.  At this point I have an idealistic attitude that anything is possible for the coming school year.  I enjoy setting up and decorating my classroom, when I am able to do it on my own terms and time schedule.

~My favorite thing about the beginning of the school year is that we get a fresh start EVERY.SINGLE.YEAR.  How many careers do you get that?  It's like a DO OVER every single year to make yourself the best teacher you can possibly be.  That's what I love the most, a new batch of kids to love, teach, and hopefully impact in more ways than I can even imagine.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

I WON!!!

This morning my local Office Depot store had their Teacher Appreciation Breakfast.  I got there a little after nine and it was busy, but not obnoxious.  I waited in line for a few minutes and filled out a raffle ticket with my information.  They had an awesome display of Krispy Kreme donuts, Starbucks baked goodies (all their cake pops and mini desserts), other bars and cookies, coffee, juice, and soda.  It was quite impressive.  I had a red velvet whoopie pie and a mini carrot cake cupcake.  Yummy!

I did some shopping.  I really did not have anything pressing that I needed to pick up, but it was nice to wander the aisles leisurely by myself (no boys along) and pick up some fun new markers and post-its.  I also got a new Fiskars scissors pack.  I have seen lots of teacher bloggers talk about how much they love Flair markers so I decided to see what they are all about.

My Office Depot goodies.
After making my purchases at Office Depot I headed out in the rain to JoAnne Fabrics.  I ended spending a couple hours in there wandering around and trying the find the perfect fabrics to use for a classroom banner I plan on making.  I think I hit the jackpot.  I cannot wait to put this all together and see the finished product.  While I was shopping my husband called and told me that I needed to call someone back at Office Depot.  

I am in love with my classroom color scheme!

I called the guy back and found out that I WON THE GRAND PRIZE!!  

My new awesome wireless printer/fax/scanner/copier.

What a productive morning it was!  We have a pretty nice printer/fax/scanner, but that is mainly for Greg to use for his business.  It will be so nice to have a color printer all to myself.  I am supposed to be able to print stuff off my iPhone and from anywhere via email or something.  We need to sit down and get is set up and figure things out.

We are now off to Bayshore for some shopping (nothing school related except maybe clothes), dinner at CPK, and some grocery shopping at Trader Joe's.  Hope you all are having as great a Saturday as I am!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A few new photos and a couple of tips for decorating your classroom

The past two days I have spent eight hours day on a math review committee.  We are working on looking at the CCSS and also doing research on best practices among other things.  The days went really well, other than the AC not working in the library of the HS where we were meeting.  It was hot!  Today we got done a bit early so I headed to my classroom to see if I could accomplish anything while my dad was still watching the boys.

I got one of my most putzy tasks accomplished, which is decorating the front of my classroom door.  Seriously it took me an hour and there is so much tape on everything it will stay up for the entire school year.   I changed up my decor for the front of my door and I absolutely loved it.  I changed things a bit this year and added a new poster that I love and am very pleased with how it turned out.  I will probably add a couple of Calvin and Hobbes comics to the front door.

Love my new Learning Zone Poster!

Using yarn for straight letter placement.  Also to fancy up my letters, ruler border,  posters  I added some silver star stickers.  I just love how the finished product looks.

A tip for putting up letters and bulletin boards if you are as anal retentive as I am about things being straight.  Tape a piece of yarn to use as a guide.  I got this awesome trick from my teacher friend's husband who was helping her put up her bulletin boards yesterday.  Another tip it to add stickers to your bulletin board letters, borders. or posters.  I used silver stars, but you can use anything, especially if you have a theme going in your class.  I just think it really adds something to the letters.  I add the stickers to everything before I laminate it.

My comfy rocker chairs with a pink ottoman.  The big pillows will be for students who want to work or read on the floor and be more comfy.  Pillows from Sam's Club, everything else from Target.
 I need to find a good storage option for the pillows.  Any ideas?  I thought about a black laundry basket, but I think the pillows are too big.  I will probably bring in a laundry basket tomorrow and check it out.
I love my pink and green.  Chairs from Target and pillows from Sam's club.
I am starting to feel like I am accomplishing something in my room.  I don't officially start back until next Thursday, but I (like many of you) prefer to get as much of my classroom set up out of the way so I can start off the year feeling organized.  I plan on going back to school tomorrow for a few hours in the morning to do some more classroom set-up so I will hopefully have some more photos to share with you.

Now that I am done with my math review until our September meeting I plan on really figuring out my math stations.  I will definitely be sharing how I plan in implementing them, in an upcoming post.  I also will be responding to some questions/requests that have been posted in the comments section or emailed to me.  If you have any questions please feel free to leave a comment or email and I promise to post answers in the next couple of days!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Busy as ever!

I have been very busy doing lots of professional reading, trying to figure out how to implement math stations in my classroom this coming year, interviewing VP candidates (my #1 choice was hired YAY!), attending several committee meetings, and getting my classroom set up.  Here are a few new pictures of my classroom and a few new purchases.
The awesome pillows are from Sam's Club.  The ottoman and lap desks are from Target.

Posters and border from The Learning Shop a local teacher store.

My bookshelf for math stations materials and manipulatives.

This will be my "math corner".  The book cart full of textbooks will hold games and manipulatives once textbooks are handed out.

That's all I have time for right now.  I have meetings for our district wide K-12 math review today and tomorrow 8-4.  I have read so much this summer for the review and I plan changing up things quite a bit in my classroom this year.  I plan on doing some upcoming posts on instructional strategies that will raise student achievement, how I weaving literacy into my math instruction, information on how I am setting up my math stations (that is definitely a work in progress), and I will share pictures of my classroom as I get things set up.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Back to the Grind

I don't officially start back at school until Aug 25th, but I already have several days of meetings and a day on the interview committee to hire our new AP.  Today my meeting was 12-4 PM and it was to set up the professional development schedule for the coming year.  I am the middle school math liaison and I will work with our K-12 math coordinator as well as our former math coordinator who is now a consultant (she retired this past school year) to help with our K-12 math review as well as running the professional development this year.  Tomorrow I will be at school 7:30-3:30 for the interviews.  This Friday my teaching team is meeting for lunch.  We have two new teachers joining our team this year.

Next week I have a meeting for the Positive Climate Committee that I am a part of at my school.  That meeting will only be a couple of hours and then I am hoping to spend some time in my classroom working on getting things set up.  I also have two days of the Math Review committee 8-4.  Needless to say my summer seems to have slipped away right out from under me.

I do have to say that my mind is totally focused on school these days.  I have been reading lots of professional books and articles.  It will be a busy year for me with all the committee and liaison work I will be doing.  It's exciting to be a part of such meaningful change, it's always hard being out of my classroom.

We did have a great vacation last week.  We went up to Green Bay and hit Bay Beach, stayed at the Tundra Waterpark, and visited Lambeau Field.  My husband took the boys to Packer practice last Sunday night and the highlight of the practice was Nick Collins doing a Lambeau leap right in front of where they were sitting.

The train ride at Bay Beach.

Outside Lambeau

The only photo of me on vacation.
 After our whirlwind tour of GB we headed off to my favorite happy place in the whole wide world, Door County.  We visit DC 1-3 times per year.  We always stay at the same resort in Egg Harbor and we have some favorite restaurants we dine at.  This year we tried out four new restaurants which is a record for us.  My favorite was a new tapas place that just opened this year in Egg Harbor.  Greg and I went there twice for an early dinner and then picked up take out for the boys.  It was blissful having a kid free dinner and the food and sangria were fabulous.  We spent our days swimming at the pool and shopping. We were supposed to come home on Wed because our resort was booked that night, but we just changed resorts and stayed another night!
Enjoying their favorite treat, gelato,  in DC.
Breathtaking view from the patio of our resort.   The boys were captivated!

I am anxious to get back into my classroom, but they are currently waxing the floors in the 7th grade pod so I don't think I will be able to get in until Sunday or next Monday.  I have plenty of things to do here both school and home related.  I hope you are all enjoying the end to your summer and for those who have already started back to work, I hope your first few days have been smooth!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Classroom Organization w/ two great tips for you!

I spent several hours in my classroom last week doing some organizing and starting to put a few decorations up around my room.

The biggest accomplishment was removing EVERYTHING from my Blue wheeled cabinet, where I store math manipulatives and games among other items.  This was a MAJOR project and it was great to find things I forgot I had!  I found lots of items I can use for my learning stations.

No one knows what is lurking behind closed doors!

SCARY cupboard island!  (That's a shout out to crazy Kelly from RHNY)  The frightening before photo.

Not perfect yet, but much better.  This was Phase 1 to declutter and get most things into storage containers.

TIP #1:  My Daily Files.  I have been using this system for years.  Before the weekend I make sure all copies are made and I place everything in the appropriate day file.  This system is wonderful if you have an unplanned absence because everything the sub needs is right there.  I actually laminated the file folder and have used these for a couple years now.  The 5 slot sorter is awesome and made of durable plastic.

TIP #2:  A little tip for storing small hanging items.  This year I  had my students lay each decoration on a piece of paper.  I think stacked those and put them in a file folder and taped up the sides.  When I went to put these back up (they hang on paper clips) it was a piece of cake!  Nothing was tangled and I didn't have to start from scratch with new ribbon/paperclips.  A huge timesaver!

I hope this post was helpful!

Monday, August 1, 2011

My Target Finds from last week Part 2

Last week I did two trips to Target.  There have been so many lately I am losing count.  I get voucher money for being a math liaison this year so I am planning on saving my receipts this summer from my various shopping trip for reimbursement (for those of you wondering when my shopping madness will end).  It has been a few years since I did a major restructuring of things in my classroom and I feel this year is time for some change.  I am still diligently working on my math learning stations idea and am reading, reading, reading (check my Shelfari and you will see I am not messing around with all the professional reading I am doing this summer).

The latest Target haul

Colorful crates

Now where can I find a pink one?

I DO NOT recommend getting those food storage containers on top of the storage boxes.  I went to put some dice in one and it was difficult to get the top on.  When I tried to open it, the top cracked.  They would be trashed in two seconds with my middle school crew.

Come to mama!

Some magnetic letters to go with my numbers.  I could not resist the pink and green paper clip tabs and the pink goody bags.
Can't wait to get into my classroom and get everything organized!