My Classroom

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Ready for 2012-13!
The Original Seat Sacks are ready to go!

Books for the first week

I won this Wonderful Outstanding Word wall set on Really Good Stuff's
 #teachchat Twitter  chat Wednesdays at 8:00 pm CST

Classroom photos
Daily 5/CAFE boards are now in use!

Ready for the Daily 5/Daily CAFE!

I have been enjoying spending time "tweeking" the organization and flow in my room. 
Cozy library corner complete with pillows and disco ball!
Math manipulatives, work table, and book display

Pristine-looking classroom (until the first day of school ;-)

Newly organized and labeled book baskets.
Every year I try to make it better! I got the idea for the book repair box from a Twitter chat.  Students will put damaged books in this box and when parents come to volunteer this can be one of their jobs!
Pencil Sharpening, turn in work, return books, book repair, and paper supply
Clearly labeled cups and sharpeners

The Shush Guy!

To Download Click HERE

This cute little guy will help manage classroom noise.  When you want the room quiet just post him in a prominent position as a gentle reminder
Classroom Management Idea
There are lots of ways to distribute classroom duties. It can be done on a daily or weekly basis.  In my class, we have a daily President and Vice President.  I have a bulletin board by the door with 2 sets of index cards - one for the president - one for the vice president. On one set all  of the girls are first and on the 2nd set all of the boys are first. Each day we turn the cards to see who's next.  Here is a picture of the board:

I also have the duties of each officer listed so they know what they are responsible for each day. In addition to these duties, they also get to do show and tell on their day. 

I have tried other methods for job distribution, but I have found that this is the easiest and least complicated for the students (and me) to understand.

Progress Chart for the Writing Process
In 2nd grade we start working on the writing process. The writing process can be quite a daunting task for 8 year-olds, but this progress chart helps them see where they are in the process.  At the beginning of the year each student is assigned a number.  Each clothespin has a number. When the student is ready to move on to the next step, they simply move their clip!

Anchor Charts
One of the important aspects of The Daily 5 is the anchor chart. The charts are created over time by the students and the teacher. Initially we talk about the activity and write down what we think will help the activity run smoothly.  After doing the activity, we re-visit the rules and "tweek" them to fit our needs.  When we feel we have established a good final result, I create a poster. This poster serves as a reminder, but since the students have helped create the guidelines, they are more likely to remember what to do.  These are some samples of anchor charts that my class created for the Daily 5 and independent work.  When students are allowed input they are more likely to "own" the rules and are less likely to break them.  
Anchor chart for Independent/Center work

Anchor chart for "Read to Self" (a Daily 5 component)

Welcome your students back in style!
*FREE banner from Vistaprint!

Make your students feel welcome with this fun and colorful banner.  I got this one *FREE, but for an additional charge, you can customize your banner!  Thanks again Vistaprint!
*Paid shipping costs
**I was not compensated for this post, however the link to Vistaprint is a referral link and I will earn a small payment for every order.

Make end-of-day pack up time a snap!

My students use a planner everyday to record homework assignments and other important information.  I also use the planner to communicate with the parents and let them know how their child's day went.  If they had a great day, I usually put a sticker or stamp. Using stickers every day can get expensive and stamp pads are messy.  This stamp is self-inking and will make the end-of-day pack up time go much more smoothly.   

*Paid shipping costs
**I was not compensated for this post, however the link to Vistaprint is a referral link and I will earn a small payment for every order.
Use business cards in the classroom!

I just ordered *250 FREE cards from Vistaprint!  Instead of making a business card, I made Mrs. Morgan's Super Bucks.  The students will earn these cards for good behavior and other achievements and can be redeemed for homework, computer time, or a pencil/eraser.  I am so excited!
 Click HERE to order yours today at Vistaprint!
*Paid shipping costs
**I was not compensated for this post, however the link to Vistaprint is a referral link and I will earn a small payment for every order.

Amazon Product Review:

Educational Insights Science Challenge Of The Week 

In 2nd grade, the priority is reading, reading, reading, and math, math, math! science/social studies is generally taught at the end of the day and, I have to admit, there are some weeks when we only get to science once or twice. It all works out in the end, but it would be nice to have science on a more consistent basis.
     Every morning my students do "morning work" which consists of editing 2 sentences per day using correct grammar, spelling, capitalization, and punctuation. They also have a "map of the week" which has 2 questions per day. So why not add science to the morning work? 
     The other day, while I was looking around my blog, I noticed this product on the *Amazon ad window located on my side bar. After researching it, I have decided that this product would be an easy way to incorporate science into the morning work routine. For the more advanced students who finish their work quickly, additional research or products could be done throughout the week to supplement the initial challenge. There are 20 cards which can be matched up to what we are working on that week.  I also like that it requires critical thinking and can be customized to fit the students' learning styles. Supplemental work could include online research, writing, drawing...the possibilities are endless! 

What do you think?

*This is my personal opinion.  Although I am an amazon Affiliate and receive a small commission for items sold, no compensation was received for this post.
A Blast from the Past:
I wrote this post in August 2007 while I was working as a paraprofessional and finishing up my degree and teacher certification. I had forgotten about it until recently when I was scrolling through a now-abandoned personal blog.  The TAKS test in Texas is about to become the STAR test, but the idea is still the same...high stakes testing and accountability.  It's a little long and heavy-handed (give me a break, it was for a class), but I believe it is still relevant.

I work as a paraprofessional in an elementary school in Fort Worth, Texas. I have first-hand experience of the stressful day-to-day activities that are involved in preparing students for standardized tests.  I believe these tests undermine the creativity, free-spirit and true education that students could be experiencing if they weren’t required to learn test strategies and state mandated educational goals.

Standardized Testing:  Creativity Lost
It is the day we have all worked hard for and anticipated since the beginning of the school year.  We had the pep rally yesterday.  A fun, uplifting event complete with cheerleaders from the High School, a catchy rap song performed by the principal, vice principal and counselor, an inspiring clip from the movie “Facing the Giants”, and finally, a heartfelt speech by the principal assuring everyone that if they believe in themselves and do their best, they will succeed. What she does not mention is that if they don’t succeed, they will have two more opportunities to succeed once they have completed after school tutoring and summer school.
My job this morning is to distribute juice and granola bars to each classroom.  In addition to these healthy snacks, the third grade teachers are preparing breakfast burritos for their students to ensure that they have had their daily dose of protein.  The fifth grade teachers have concocted a “magic” cereal mix for the students to munch on all day.  During the day, I sit at a desk in a darkened hallway and remind students to be quiet and monitor the bathrooms so that no more that one person is in them at a time.  At lunchtime, I sit with the students and monitor the conversations.  By the end of the day all but 30 of the students are ready to go home.  The lucky students who get to leave walk in a zombie-like state outside to the freedom and fresh air that they have been deprived of all day.  
     By now you have probably guessed that this is not a typical school day.  It’s the day Third Grade and Fifth Grade take the Reading Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS)—the dreaded standardized test that Texas uses to measure the performance of students, teachers and administrators.  A total of seven days are mandated by the state to administer reading, writing, math, science and social studies tests to the various grade levels and each of these days will be just like the one I have just described.
     In defense of my school’s administrators, I commend them for using their creative energy to put forth a positive effort. After all, they really don’t have a choice.  This is a state-mandated process that must be taken seriously by everyone whether they like it or not. Arguments in favor of standardized testing include practicality, objectivity, and an unbiased measure of performance, however; these are greatly out-weighed by all of the negative aspects involved.  Sitting in the quiet, darkened hallway, I think back to the beginning of the year and the laminated cards we made for each of the students outlining the different strategies used for math and reading.  The pink reading cards give students directions on how to find the gist, important words, context clues and other tricks for dissecting and interpreting short stories.  The green math cards show the student how to decipher word problems by getting rid of unnecessary information, circling all of the numbers and underlining important information.  What both of these cards fail to do is to teach the child how to truly enjoy the short story or to actually gain an understanding of mathematical concepts.  They are teaching the child how to take a test.     
     Of course, the teachers must be held accountable and the performance of the students is a direct reflection on their performance as a teacher.  Unfortunately, the state also mandates what they will teach through TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills).  As a result, the tests and the TEKS become the curriculum.  Teachers can no longer teach thematic units or give extended projects that utilize students’ creativity and problem-solving skills because they have to make sure they are staying within the guidelines that state has put forth.  This causes a lot of negativity among the teachers and it makes it hard for them to keep their enthusiasm and energy level strong throughout the school year.  Students also feel the stress and understand that if they do not perform well, they will be retained.  This causes a diminished morale among both students and teachers.
The Reality
What is the Answer? 
     No one will argue that students, teachers and administrators must be held accountable. But the process by which this is measured must be changed in order to offer our students a better, more meaningful education.  Cookie-cutter methods of teaching will produce students with basic knowledge, but not the skills they will need to compete in an ever-changing, technologically advanced society.
Product Review From ReallyGoodStuff:*
Really Good Welcome Journals - Primary
64 pages -5 3/8" by 8 3/8"
Set of 12 journals - $3.99! (That's only $0.33 per student!)
3/4" writing guidelines with skip lines will make writing easier after the long summer!
My 2nd grade class starts journal writing on the first day of school.  This product from ReallyGoodStuff is a great "starter journal". The 3/4" writing guidelines and skip lines are perfect for working on handwriting and the small size is not too overwhelming.  Eventually, we will move on to spiral notebooks, but these will be a great learning tool for the students to develop their journal writing skills and document the first few weeks of school.

*I was not compensated for this review.  I am sharing my experience with this product so that other teachers may benefit! The opinions are my own.
Product Review From ReallyGoodStuff:*
Class Picture Autograph Frames
These sturdy card stock photo holders also serve as autograph books! Die-cut tabs hold a 6" by 4" or 7" by 5" photo, with plenty of space inside for students to collect classmates autographs.
$12.99 for a set of 32
I was trying to find a special end-of-year gift for my students that didn't cost very much, so you can imagine my delight when I stumbled upon this item at ReallyGoodStuff! I used a class picture taken during our field day a few weeks earlier and I presented their gift after at their end-of-year pizza party.  The students had so much fun autographing each others' frames. It was a great way to end a great year!  Thank you ReallyGoodStuff!
The Details:
~The whole 2nd grade team (4 teachers) decided to give this so we ordered 3 sets  
~Picture developing at CVS for $0.10 per print
~Final cost per teacher: $14.50 (about $0.65 per student!)
~cute and fun
~high quality
~easy to use
~great value
~The only problem I had using this item was getting the pictures to stay in the little slits.  This was easily fixed by using a piece of double-sided tape to secure the picture.

I highly recommend this product!

*I was not compensated for this review.  I am sharing my experience with this product so that other teachers may benefit! 
My Classroom
I LOVE my classroom.  It's so fun getting it ready at the beginning of the school year. Everything always looks so pristine.  Of course, by this time of year, it's getting that "lived in" look - which is not a bad thing.  My students are in this classroom approximately 5-6 hours per day.  Why shouldn't they feel at home?

My kids love the sunny library.  I have collected a lot of great books at garage sales, from friends, and through Scholastic.  

I  organize my books by author or genre.  I print labels with words and pictures so the students know where to return the books.

Our school recently purchased the Accelerated Reading Program, so eventually I would like to organize my books based on their system.

Every afternoon we do "Read to Self".  This is an independent, quiet reading time. The Daily 5 is a great resource for implementing this.  The students enjoy it and it's great way to have productive "down time". 

I invested in individual whiteboards for all my students.  This saves on paper and the kids enjoy using the markers.  Our student school supply list includes a package of whiteboard markers so at the beginning of the year each student is issued a dry erase marker, a black sock (used as an eraser), and a whiteboard.  They store these items in a large stretchable book cover (I got mine at Target for about .80 each during the back to school sale) that is placed on the back of their chair. Although I spent about $75 on these supplies, I consider it an investment.  I will have to replace some of the book covers next year, but the dry erase boards and socks can be re-used year after year. 

During the first week of school the students and I develop specific rules for using the whiteboards and markers .  Involving the students in establishing rules and procedures is a powerful tool.  They become accountable for their actions and are less likely to break a rule that they have helped create.  In addition to the whiteboards/markers, the students help create rules for restroom breaks, recess, morning procedures, and packing up/end of day procedures.  All of this groundwork is laid during the first 2 weeks of school and enforced daily throughout the year.  

My rule of thumb...consistency, consistency,consistency!!!!!