Sneak Peek Take 2

I was working again today (be sure to see the Sneak Peek from Monday if you missed it!) and have a few more things to share.  If you can share this with a Rm. 202 2nd grader, please do so!  If not, enough it for yourself!  I have at least one place I need your help with (see the picture captions below), so please leave a comment!?  I think I’m almost there!

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The calendar’s ready for Open House night, are you?? 🙂

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I got the timeline all back up–whew! Because we wrapped it all around our room last year I had to take it all down and start on an upper row, so now it’s a double-decker timeline. That leaves some room under it now for our self-portaits–that we’ll redo during our first days together to show our 2nd grade selves! The black doors will hold anchor charts (right now I’m thinking one door for each subject to start out with), and the closet on the right will be labeled “Quote Worthy” and will collect smart words that inspire us.

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Because I moved my kitchen table over from where it was last year, I decided to use this shelf space differently, too. The top shelves of books are still my stuff (the top is professional books, and the bottom one is books I teach with), but the bottom is now for kiddos. The bottom row is puzzles and games that kiddos would use for choice time or recess, and the upper shelf is reading and math games. We will work very hard in the beginning to make sure we put things back just this way every time. I might even post a picture nearby so they remember what it’s supposed to look like!

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Ok, so this is the part I need some help thinking through. Because of the way I’m using this shelf space differently (and partly because of a different layout in the rest of the room), the whole left side of this wall of shelves is EMPTY!! Ok, well I threw some tubs and crates up there to see what would fit, but they’re all empty, too. I thought I could use the bottom shelf for tables tubs (they’ll hold pencils, iPads and Writer’s Notebooks for each team) instead of putting them on the windowsills. Not at all sure what to do with the rest of it. I know that having TOO much space is not really a problem, it’s a gift that not all teachers in all classrooms have (sorry, Mr. Bearden!), but i just want to make sure I’m not missing something. I like the idea of leaving it all free so kids can have it for whatever–display space, drying racks, places to house “stuff” they’re working on but are not finished with yet….what ideas do you have? And yes, I will ask Rm. 202 friends when they get back, too, because I’m sure they will have a great idea I hadn’t thought of!

One more…

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Just doing a little bit of labeling tonight! Can’t wait to see it all tidied up and in place. Soon! 🙂

That’s all for now.  It’s coming together!!

(Just for fun…here’s a Sneak Peek post I wrote in 2012 when I taught 5th grade….)

Ch-ch-changes…

Are you singing?  That’s part of a song, right?  Well either way, it’s part of what I’m thinking about right now as we begin this new school year.

Now, of course, there are many things that AREN’T changing (which is nice), like where our class is, and that most of the kids are the same, but many other things are going to be different–one of which is related to this picture.  Think you can figure out what it is?

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(Hope that doesn’t gross you out….:))

Ok…so yes, things will be different (and SUPER) in second grade, but really the change I’m talking about here is this: Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 9.22.35 PMI know, this was an incredibly indulgent post, but a new haircut makes you excited, you know?  I also wanted to make sure that those of you that just saw me the other day weren’t too shocked when you saw me again. 🙂  Thanks for reading a post just about the KOOKYTEACHER part of the blog.  Next time more about the 20somethingkids–I promise. 🙂

Sneak Peek!

It’s officially August, which means that my husband and I become teachers again (instead of just cool people hanging out during the summer!), and begin to spend time in our classrooms.  It was my turn to spend a little bit of time in Rm. 202 today, and I thought I’d share a sneak peek of how it’s coming together.  I am still very far from being finished, but have the furniture in the right general area and the layout is pretty much set.  I’m pretty happy with how it turned out.  I’d love to hear what you think, though!  Share your thoughts, won’t you?  🙂  (And as I post these pictures, I realize I should have done this whole post as a video.  Duh.  Sorry!  Next time. 🙂 )

Ok, this tour starts as you come in the door and then works around to the left…

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I’m super excited about this first meeting area. One of the last times I taught 5th grade I had two meeting areas (you’ll see the other one in a minute), and we loved the flexibility of being able to use different areas for different things. This year, in addition to thinking about meeting spaces, I am also thinking more about how kids will use those spaces. In this case it means that those 2 tables are lowered all the way down and kiddos can sit on the floor to work at them. Or hey, they could even be benches if kids wanted to sit on them when we meet by the ActivBoard. I haven’t fixed this part yet, but I’m gonna add tennis balls to the bottom of those so they can easily be moved around as we need to change our space. Thanks Ms. Appelbaum for reminding me of how flexibility is a really good thing. Such a simple idea, but one that I was NOT thinking about…

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To the left of those blue tables is our main meeting area. We got a new rug from Mrs. Marks over the summer (after we did some super smart work to figure out it would fit and wrote a letter to our custodian , Mr. Maus, asking him to move it for us!) and it’s looks great! The black shelf in the middle houses most of our writing supplies, and the black shelves on the right are one set of our cubbies. There are two “personal offices” (a.k.a. desks) for kids who want to work alone. Another new addition this year is the rectangle table in the art area. I found it in my garage, and it’s the perfect size for the space. I’ve raised it all the way up, so kids can stand to work (and I’m thinking about adding stools, too). The counter is still a mess, but that’s where the creative stuff in our room lives. Kids can stand at the counter, too, once it’s cleaned off.

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This is the view from my chair at the rug. 🙂 I moved my kitchen table this year to utilize (finally!) the only white board in our room. Last year I met with small groups on the rug at the easel, but might do more with this space for groups instead. Or not. Flexibility is the key, remember? The black doors will house anchor charts (I’m thinking each door will be a different subject).  The two doors on the right will be where I plan on putting our “junkpile” for making stuff, but I’m still working on it.  I had a hard time finding a permanent place for the block box, so finally decided to keep the wheels unlocked and now it will roll wherever we need it to go! That rug is one that kiddos use with the cars when they build. It’s moveable, too. Still haven’t decided where to put our trampoline

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View from that tall table…these two tables are “regular” height and actually have chairs! The coffee table returns from last year, and I moved the library to this spot by the front door. There’s a great shelf under that black bulletin board that fits our big books, and the rug will be nice to sit and read on with friends! The plan for that bulletin board is to be “What do you Wonder About??” where we’ll collect our questions and wonderings this year.

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Two years ago the library was here in our room, and then last year I moved it to the middle. Then I decided I really liked the way it worked this way, so I moved it back! You probably noticed, though, that many other horizontal surfaces in our class also have book boxes, so really the library is EVERYWHERE!

Whew!  That was fun!  What do you think?  What questions do you have?  Suggestions?  Please share your thoughts!  I’m excited to continue working.  And then, of course, it’ll be fun to see how it all works (or doesn’t!?) when there are kids in the space.  🙂

Things I Learned on My Summer Vacation

Summer is one of my favorite times of year.  I love being able to sleep in and stay up late.  I LOVE traveling and exploring new places (or revisiting old, favorite places for the 20th time hee hee).  Most of all, I love the time to be able to read, write, learn and really digest new things that I don’t have time to attend to during the busyness of the school year.  I thought I’d share some of that learning I’ve been doing.  First up–math! You probably don’t know about this fabulous place in NYC called Mathematics in the City.  And if that is true, then you also don’t know about the amazing teacher leader/trainer/consultant/math guru named Kara Imm.  Man, I’m sorry for you, and want you to book a flight right now.  Seriously it’s worth every penny.  It’s ok.  I’ll wait. 🙂 So, anyway, my experiences with Kara go back to a couple of years ago when she first came to Kirkwood to help us learn more about fractions.  Yes, I survived.  I learned alot and I even had some fun along the way.  I definitely began to understand fractions in a way that I know I didn’t when I was in school.  That new understanding really helped me as I then taught my 5th graders (at the time) to truly understand fractions and what they mean, not just how to do an algorithm or figure out a formula.  She then came back a year or so later and helped us through a lesson study–again with fractions–and we learned a little more. Well, fast-forward to today (a couple of years later), and we were lucky to have Kara back AGAIN.  This time she worked with our whole staff, around many math topics, and helped us all bond as we figured out how to best help kids understand mathematics.  One thing I love about the way Kara presents is that there is ALWAYS some teacher-doing-math time.  I never did that kind of thing until I went to a writer’s workshop presentation many years ago and they had me write (which I thought was totally weird).  From that first moment, I totally got how important it is, though, for teachers to feel the same struggles and frustrations as their students go through.  We got to work through many hard investigations and work through them the way our kids would.  It was really interesting that for many of us, these problems were made harder than they needed to be, though, because of the way WE learned fractions.  Like I mentioned before, I wasn’t taught the WHY but just the HOW, which in many ways is not the easiest or most efficient/effective way to solve the problem.  So, giving this same investigation to 5th graders who don’t have a UNLEARN many inefficient strategies isn’t really that bad.  Our kids are not so confused and frustrated as we are. We did two big problems: one called Muffles’ Truffles (which involved early multiplication) and another with a scenario about Frank, a farmer, and how far he drives.  It’s a problem that involves a gas tank and figuring out (with fractions) if Frank has enough to get him where he’s supposed to go.  While there’s not really any way to truly understand the scale of our conversations and they work we did without being there, here are some notes that my partner and I used to draft our thinking.  There’s also a picture of the chart we made for our Math Congress (which is a topic I haven’t written much about but TOTALLY should!), which was a way to consolidate and present our final draft to the other mathematicians. IMG_489911694842_10204737906631950_6188272882800941260_n

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 We talked multiplication and we talked fractions, we talked Math Congress (nope, haven’t written about it yet…), and we also discussed the topic of basic facts.  This is a hot topic in math these days (and for a while, really), and for many years we’ve responded with daily kill-and-drill activities, timed “mad minutes,” and crazy stressing out on memorizing lots and lots of facts.  Kara brought some info related to how important it is to respond in a different way.

For many people (including teachers, parents and students), being QUICK is best.  But we were reminded that being quick doesn’t equal being mathematically PROFICIENT, which should really be our goal.  She gave us information on how facts DEVELOP, they don’t come first.  She also helped us see that the facts (in this case we focused on multiplication tables) are not random (which is how many kiddos see them, saying “there must be 100s and 100s to learn!”), but are connected.   Seeing those connections and building on the RELATIONSHIPS between facts is how to both LEARN them and UNDERSTAND them rather than just MEMORIZE them.  For many this was mind-blowing, and for others it was validation of what we already knew to be true.  For sure, though, it was nice to be “allowed” to deal with learning facts in a different way going forward.

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My notes from Day 1 of our Math Institute.

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More notes from Day 1. It seems I was so busy DOING math on Day 2 that I didn’t write anything down!

One more important topic of discussion (and of course we experienced them, too!) was number strings.  In short, these are a related set of problems that kiddos use mental math to solve.  Practice is done regularly (maybe even every day), and these help mathematicians become more flexible as well as see the relationships and connections mentioned earlier.  I’ll write more about this next part later (yeah, like I said I would with Math Congresses), but one way we learned to assess newly gained knowledge is to use a two-pen test.  Yep, it’s just what it sounds like: a test you take with two different pens.  The first one is a timed portion to see what kiddos know how to do quickly, and then the second pen is used to finish the rest of the page, with whatever time frame is needed.  Teachers can get all kinds of useful information about what facts kids know and which ones they still need to work on.  Genius.  We will definitely be trying these out in 2nd grade this year!

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Whew.  That was a lot.  I know I tend to be long-winded, so if you hung in this long I TOTALLY appreciate you.  🙂

Now I ask you–what did you learn on your summer vacation?

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See? Minds blowing!

Together Again!

I’ll start with the only picture I took today:

cropped-img_4894.jpgYep–it’s the same as the header on the blog now.  It’s the snack we shared at our Back-To-School Park Party today.  Looks yummy, right?  And weird, I know, that I only took this one picture.  And before I was even at the park!  Goodness, Mrs. Bearden, you call yourself a blogger? They were just so busy running all around everywhere getting all hot and sweaty and having fun that I couldn’t get them all in the same frame for a pic.  I know, I know, my sincerest apologies.  🙂

Today’s get-together was a little bittersweet, as we were not able to visit with everyone of our Rm. 202 friends.   What a great opportunity, though, for those that were able to attend, to reconnect and remember how amazing is our community of learners!  Oh, and to think about how LUCKY we are to be able to stay together for another year!  We’ll be missing a few good friends, but have a few new ones joining us, and for sure we’re set for a FABULOUS year.

One thing I love about family reunions like these is the ease everyone feels as they come and can just hang out with old friends!  It’s so different from how we all remember feeling last summer—how when I came to do home visits and our kiddos were waiting patiently (and nervously), looking out the window to meet their new teacher?  Even with the most confident kiddos there was still some uncertainty–will I like my teacher?; Will I have friends? What will 1st grade be like?  This year? SO DIFFERENT IN SO MANY GOOD WAYS!

Here’s what I love about looping (for those of you who were looking for a list. 🙂 ):

1) Like I mentioned before, the beginning of the year has a familiarity that is different than with a new class.   Looping brings a chance to reconnect with “old” friends and pick up where you left off.  All that “getting-to-know-you” that we did last year will come in so handy now as we look back on fond memories and look forward to making new ones.

2) We can jump right back in where we left off!  Instead of spending the first 6 weeks of school learning about new procedures, routines and friends, we can get started with learning about new curriculum, sharing new books and making new connections!  Think of all the extra time we will have!

3) Like the last one, we can jump right back in on class projects and activities we left in May.  Since I knew that we would be together again, there were several things we left “undone” on purpose, knowing that we’d be able to come right back to them in August.  What a gift–wish every year could be like that!

4) Everyone already knows and trusts each other!  Yes, we are different people than when we left for the summer (some of us are OLD and 8 now!), but we all have a base and strong foundation from which to continue building as we get to know our friends (and even me!) better.  We can build on what we know about each other from last year and add to it!  There will even be ways to get to know some friends in ways that weren’t possible last year for whatever reason; another year gives us more time and space to really “get” each other as learners and as people!

5) We get to build on common experiences.  I always love how many times in the 2nd year of a looping situation you hear me (or a friend) saying, “Remember when we….?”  I can’t promise that I will keep track of that tally, but it will happen, and I will probably find a way to document it.  I might have to say I’m most excited about breaking our own record for number of Read Alouds that we added to the timeline.  I think we added 20, which beat my class from 2012-2013, which read 17 together.  So here’s your challenge, Rm. 202–21 or more!

6) I know I already mentioned time in #2, but there is SO MUCH TIME that I can save as a teacher with trying to figure out where everybody is as a learner.  Again, some things will have changed and kiddos will have grown over the summer, but it’s so great to walk in on Day 1 and KNOW the readers in my class (I’m excited to fill book boxes and get readers ready for another great year!), to KNOW what they can do as writers (and then plan for how we’ll do even more AMAZING things), to KNOW the mathematicians in my room and be able to listen as I attend trainings with a little bit different angle than some others (I can already plan specifically for what I know my kiddos can do and what they might need more time on), to KNOW how adept they are with using technology and how willing they will be to continue to go with me and try new things.  I know what they know about science and social studies, as well as what we’re interested in knowing more about–I can use this as I plan our year!  It’s so simple, but is such a WEALTH of knowledge that most teachers (including me last year) don’t get for many more months down the road.  I can tweak things that didn’t quite work and continue those that did.  See?  The gift of time came up again!

7) I hope I don’t speak out of turn when I mention that another thing I love about looping is that trust that is already built with parents.  While I’m sure that not everyone agreed with everything I did or how we did it (thanks for being nice about it, though, friends!), I think I can confidently say that you know that I care about our kids and want just what you want–for your kiddo to feel loved, to belong and to learn something new every day.  I love working on a team with families, and am excited each day to see what new things are brought to the table.  I hope I do you proud as I continue to work to inspire our  learners to find their best selves and work to heights they hadn’t even realized they could reach.  I am so lucky to get to work with this AMAZING group of kiddos every day and SO APPRECIATE that you share your 2nd grader with me.  🙂

WOW.  I didn’t know that was going to come out of a picture-of-fruit-and-we-missed-you post, but it did and now I’m feeling even more excited and energized for our year together.  Here’s to making 2015-16 the best yet!

Will you help me out with something, please?  I would love to make this blog a more interactive place this year, and so would you please leave me a reply to this question–What are you most excited about for our year together?  What is your child thinking about getting back to work with their Rm. 202 friends?  What else are you thinking? 🙂

THANK YOU and HERE WE GO!!