Five For Friday: Five Changes to My Classroom This Year!

Hello, Friends!

All week I've been meaning to do a post about 5 changes I'm planning to make in my classroom this year...but, alas life has gotten in the way! I'm helping to write and pilot a new science curriculum to match the NGSS for our district, so I've been at school doing that a bunch, and I've been working on finishing a class that I'm taking through Learner's Edge about the 6 + 1 Traits writing model. So, since photos of me working on my computer are NOT exciting, I'll take you through 5 changes I plan to make to my teaching practice this fall. Here we go--two freebies ahead!

I'm actually using a Word Collector this year: Let's start with a little resource I put together this week. When I read the Daily 5 text for the first time a couple of years ago, I set up a giant sticky note as a word collector in my classroom. We referred to it consistently for about 3 weeks, and then...I'm not sure we ever added to it again. But I LOVED the idea, and have had it in the back of my brain these past few years to find a way to bring it back in a way that was practical. Then, when reading Vicki Spandel's text, Creating Young Writers, for this course, I got the kick in the pants that I needed to find a way to put this practice back into action. Spandel suggested having a word collector where you add interesting words as you find them while reading the multitude of rich children's books we read each year. Makes perfect sense. This is then a great word choice resource for students to refer back to in their own writing--of course! However, in my class, I have a range of writers, and I wanted to make something more personal.

So, I created this simple system:

Page 1 gets stapled to the "front" of the file folder...

...and pages 2 and 3 get stapled inside!
First off, I wanted to make sure that there was actually room for kids to write words, because, Lord knows, they don't always write small! Second, I wanted the size of the boxes to match how many words kids might add to the box. And finally, I wanted a simple format in which they could add to it, reference it, and put it away easily. I imagine that I will have a large version of this in our room, and will add to it as we encounter words that we love in the books we read throughout the day. During writing time, I'll make sure to begin at least a couple times a week with students adding any words to their word collectors from our class chart that they would like to add to their writing. Easy peasy!

Last but not least, where will it live? In their writing folders! I want them to refer to this during writing time, so I will be having students keep it in the "Ideas" pocket (which will be on the left side) of their writing folders. For that reason, I turned the file folder so that it would fit nicely in that pocket, but you could turn the folder any way you want, or even use construction paper instead. :) If you'd like this simple but hopefully practical tool, you can get it HERE.

This isn't one of our writing folders, but at least you can see how it fits!

I'm getting rid of my teacher desk: You heard me. Getting. Rid. Of. It. I don't know about yours, but mine is an oversized shelf that collects dust and junk. I don't sit at it. It's ugly. I can't push it up against a why do I have it?

Check out the upper right corner (don't mind the STEM challenge boats and smoothie toppings..)--it's a cluttered mess!
Left corner this time--the closet door behind it is what prevents me from being able to push it against the wall.
So, I emptied it this week, moved all of my office supplies into my nifty new toolbox (see last week's post), placed any filing supplies in a filing cabinet I acquired, and tossed quite a bit of junk (e.g., ancient Advil and chocolate stashes), and voila! No need for a teacher desk. Will post pictures of the happy void once I have them, but the hall outside my room got waxed on Tuesday, so I don't have pictures yet.

I plan to start our day with a song: In case you weren't aware, Hope King of Elementary Shenanigans is amazing. I saw her at the I Teach Second! conference, and was SO inspired by her energy and enthusiasm.

One thing that she does in her room is start the day with a song. Now, I've always started my day with some soothing classical music that plays while my students do their morning work with half the lights in our classroom off. Hope? High-energy students bouncing in, and drumbeats pounding out the rhythm to their class song as everyone sings along to start their day.

This year, I'm determined to give that a try (minus the drums, I'm guessing), even though it makes me uncomfortable. As teachers, if we aren't feeling uncomfortable at least once a day, we're probably not doing our jobs right. :) So, I've composed a song to the tune of Justin Timberlake's "Can't Stop the Feeling!," and I've got the lyrics for you right HERE! Enjoy!

I want to commend my colleagues!: Another inspiration that came out of the I Teach Second! conference was from Adam Dovico's session called Rolling Out the Red Carpet. He talked about many amazing ideas to make your school community that much more wonderful, but one thing he mentioned really struck me because of its simplicity. At faculty meetings, pass along some kind of object--a crown, a stuffed animal, a cape--and commend one of your colleagues. Pass on the good juju! The next meeting, that person will pass the object on, and commend someone else! So....

...I found this adorable guy on Etsy and snatched him up! I plan to pass him along at our first faculty meeting, and I hope he's a little morale booster for our fabulous faculty. Taking name suggestions in the comments!

No more morning work!: I don't have a picture to accompany this one, sadly, but I wanted to share it anyway. I plan to get rid of morning work this year, which is something that had been popping around in my brain for a while. For me, I couldn't really answer the question, "Why do I do this?," and knowing the answer to that is important to me. Every second in my classroom counts, and this felt like wasted time to me.

Now, my student begin entering the classroom at 8:20, but some may not arrive until 8:30, so I can't just roll right into instruction. However, I've decided to do literacy instruction first this year, so I plan to have those first 10-15 minutes be a daily journaling time. I promise to share more about this as I create the product that I plan to use for it, but the objective is to include more free writing/prompt-based writing in my day, without taking any Writer's Workshop time to do it. Will update you when I have more to share! Has anyone else gotten rid of morning work?

Happy Teaching!
- Lisa


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