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Archive for August, 2009

The city of Reading

The city of Reading

I spent last week in Pennsylvania and worked in the city of Reading. How appropriate! (It’s pronounced red-ding, though). My drive there included driving through farmland in Lancaster County (where I grew up) and passing through city streets with woods in the background. Pennsylvania means “Penn’s Woods.”

School starts here this week, and the 3rd-6th grade teachers I was with did a great job of working together to plan for starting stations in the next few weeks. We brainstormed which stations they’d use first, how they’d introduce them, and even did a few together. During breaks, I peaked into classrooms.

One 6th grade classroom had wall to wall cabinets on two walls. The teacher is looking for solutions of how to hang things on the doors for display, since there is virtually no wall space. Sixth graders keep their things in these “lockers” behind the doors and open them frequently. Any suggestions??? Please post your ideas so they can be shared!

 

A farm in Lancaster County, PA

A farm in Lancaster County, PA

Bulletin boards covered in the same color red

Bulletin boards covered in the same color red

How would you use these cabinets for display?

How would you use these cabinets for display?

Organized supplies in sixth grade

Organized supplies in sixth grade

Playing "guess my word" during the inservice

Playing "guess my word" during the inservice

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On my way to the airport earlier this week, I stopped by Jamila’s second grade classroom to see how her first day of school was going. She was reading aloud a book about Guinea pigs to introduce a new class pet to her students. “Why are you wearing rubber gloves?” I asked.

“For guinea pig protection,” she replied. “He was scratching me, and I’m not used to him yet.” It is her first class pet. I see an observation station in her future! Check back to watch how this station unfolds in Jamila’s classroom. When will she be able to remove the gloves??? Stay tuned!

The new classroom pet - in hiding

The new classroom pet - in hiding

Jamila reads aloud to her class

Jamila reads aloud to her class

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The first days of school usually provide time for a few extra read-alouds. Here is a list of books I found to help young kids ease into back to school time. I was cleaning my office yet again this weekend and came across this list I’d tucked away.
 
1. I Am Not Going to School Today! by Robie H. Harris (McElderry, 2003)
2. Imagine Harry by Kate Klise (Harcourt, 2007)
3. It’s Time for School with Tallulah by Nancy Wolff (Scholastic, 2007)
4. Off to Kindergarten by Tony Johnston (Scholastic, 2007)
5. Hamsters, Shells, and Spelling Bees: School Poems edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins (HarperCollins, 2008)
6. Mildred and Sam Go to School by Sharleen Collicott (HarperCollins, 2008)
7. My Kindergarten by Rosemary Wells (Hyperion, 2004)
8. Amelia Bedelia’s First Day of School by Herman Parish and Lynne Avril (Greenwillow Books, 2009)
 
Please post any of your favorite titles for back to school, too!

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Back to school tips

What are some of your favorite back to school tips? We’d love to have you post them to share with others and get some chatter going.

I surveyed the girls that work at Debbie Diller & Associates to bring you a few of our favorites:

From Christe Cantu:  In the K-2 classroom, I like to take quick pictures of the kids as they come in on the first day of school. That way, we’re ready to sort the names in the pocket chart in order to get the Names Station up and running as quickly as possible.  Plus the pictures can go home later in the year as keepsakes of the first day.         

In the first day go-home packet, I also ask parents to write a letter telling me something special about their child.  I received some really touching letters and learned things about my students I might have never known.  It’s wonderful to see children through the eyes of their parents!

From Gretchen Childs: One thing I did in my kindergarten class was that as soon as I received my class list, I sent a postcard to each student saying “Welcome to kindergarten and I can’t wait to meet you!” 

From Pam Pierce: I used to take my kids on a scavenger hunt around the school to get them familiar with the office, library, cafeteria, nurse’s office, gym, etc…  I had little clues at each location and we would solve the clue and then go to the next spot. It was fun!!

From Debbie Diller: On the first day of school, I’d write a letter to my 3rd graders introducing myself to them. I’d include things about my family and what we liked to do, as well as what kinds of books I liked to read. Then I asked students to write a letter back to me. What a quick, easy assessment this was! I got to know my kids and quickly learned quite a bit about their reading, writing, spelling, and even handwriting! I still have some of their letters. These were special keepsakes.

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Jon cooking my belated birthday dinner

Jon cooking my belated birthday dinner

Today is the first day of school for most of the kids around here. I worked with several teacher friends this weekend to look at lesson plans and IEPS for next week. Can’t wait to hear how everyone’s first day of school goes. Even though I no longer have my own class, there are several local classrooms I work in whenever I’m home. Looking forward to going back to see the kids next Monday. Even bought a new “back to school” dress at Anthropologie, one of my favorite stores. Bet you’re busy shopping, planning, and getting ready, too!

 
Hope you plan something fun for the day before you start with your students. Our son, Jon, came over Sunday night and cooked dinner for my belated birthday celebration. Chicken cordon bleu… delicious! Take good care of you and yours as you prepare for school to start. Let us know how your first day of school went!

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While in Maine last week, I met with about 400 teachers at the Elks Lodge in Waterville. As part of our work together, we thought about anchor charts we’d make with children this year. Before creating an anchor chart with children, it’s a good idea to think about what it might look like. So we made some samples together. What an engaging process this was! The pictures tell it all.

The Elks Lodge in Waterville

The Elks Lodge in Waterville

Cause and effect anchor chart

Cause and effect anchor chart

K-2 anchor chart about deep comrepehension

K-2 anchor chart about deep comprehension

Morning routine anchor chart for K-2 classroom

Morning routine anchor chart for K-2 classroom

A math anchor chart

A math anchor chart

Making anchor charts for an upper-grade class

Making anchor charts for an upper-grade class

Teachers working together

Teachers working together

Upper-grade teachers check out each other's work

Upper-grade teachers check out each other's work

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A group of 5th graders read short text and use graphic organizers on main idea to deepen comprehension

A group of 5th graders read short text and use graphic organizers on main idea to deepen comprehension

I love Mainers! I worked with such a great group of teachers in Waterville, Maine last week. We studied the power of small groups. If we can remember why we teach in small groups, it’s easier to carve out time for this important part of the day.

Teachers in 4th-6th grade brainstormed these as their top reasons for using small groups:

1. Increases comfort level for students

2. Immediate feedback can be provided to students

3. Students can’t hide

4. Allows the needs of groups of students to be targeted 

5. Helps teachers observe student learning more carefully

6. Provides opportunity to individualize instruction

7. Instruction can be more easily differentiated

8. Allows teachers to match reading levels and interest levels to students

What are some of the reasons you use small groups? Leave your ideas in the comments section!

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