Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Storage That Saves Space!

It has taken me all three years of teaching so far to figure out how to organize myself! I guess I spent too much time at the beginning just trying to plan, grade, and teach everything that I never bothered to organize. But I have made it my mission this year to go back and get organized.

1. Kid-friendly storage that works
I have just a few quick ideas for classroom storage. As we all know, if the students are going to touch it, it will never stay as neat as it was the first time you put everything in its place. I used to spend hours reorganizing my reading library and table supply bins, but my new organizational system is making it so that students are responsible for cleaning up themselves.

These are my cute owl buckets (inspired by a craft idea from Oriental Trading Company). At first they just sat around and looked cute, but now I use these buckets to hold pencils. All of the sharpened pencils go in the pink owl, so a student can grab a new pencil anytime they need. (This means we don't have to sit through the time it takes a 6 year old to sharpen). Broken pencils that need to be sharpened go in the blue owl bin, and I sharpen them later (or have a helper parent or responsible student do it).

What? You only paid $40 for your shelves? That is the question I get all the time when people see my classroom library. Back when Borders went out of business I went and swiped up these shelves from their children's section. They are solid wood and amazing! Keep your eyes open for furniture deals at Goodwill or other stores' clearance or going-out-of-business sales.

2. Oh so many papers!
In order to keep myself afloat above the overwhelming sea of papers, I got these cube stackers from Target clearance. I put them together in the usual cubes for holding books and such. Another teacher friend of mine told me she had used the extra shelf pieces and some zip ties to make shelves. Now I have sliding drawers for all my copies for each day of the week! I am in love :)

Dual Language Linky Party: How do I do dual?

Hi All!
Happy Summer (to those of you already on break)! We just got out 3 hours ago and I am already loving life just a bit more! Thus far I have posted lots of ideas and tips that I have, but I haven't really given a true explanation of my classroom. I was invited by Candis at I Teach Dual Language to join a Linky Party of dual language/bilingual teachers. While I don't teach in a pure dual language class, my class demographics and my teaching style draw many similarities. Anyway, here's a look into my wonderful bilingual class!

Like I said, I don't teach dual language; instead, I teach a multiage bilingual class. We follow the Transitional Bilingual Instruction model, which means that in my district we teach exclusively in Spanish for the first two years (kinder and first grade) and then teach half of second grade in Spanish and half transitioning into English. At this time we don't have a third grade bilingual class in my building, so students are then mainstreamed with additional push-in ELL support. So for me, I teach first grade with essentially a 90/10 Spanish to English ratio, and second grade with 50/50 ratio.

Many people ask me how I can run two different grades with different language requirements at the same time in one room; the easy answer: with lots of help. I have an absolutely incredible paraprofessional in my room (shout out, Arenia!) who helps with the craziness of having two separate grades in one room. Also, I utilize a lot of centers and small group work in order to rotate around students and divide my time evenly. As far as the breakdown of dual language instruction, it looks something like this:
    1. Literacy Instruction - 1 hour in the morning in Spanish, but switches to English for the second graders in January. This is specifically used to teach new information through direct instruction and group discussion. I teach the first and second graders separately (with lots of help from my beautiful assistant :)This is the time where I introduce our guide story, teach new phonics and grammar skills, and work on modeling writing techniques. 
    2. Literacy Centers - 1 hour in the morning in Spanish (again in English for 2nd grade come January). Students rotate through centers (we use the Daily Five) while I run my guided reading groups. My centers groups are not ability grouped, but my guided reading groups are. This means that I pull one student from each center when I do guided reading. This helps so that the students all get to work together in center time.
    3. Math - An hour and half or so in the afternoon. This is also taught in Spanish and is separated between first and second graders since the math curricula are so different between the two grade levels (i.e. first grade learning subtraction fact families while second grade is doing multiplication arrays). Second grade transitions to English math around March. (The time between January and March is heavily focused on connecting cognates to help bridge the Spanish to English transition)
    4. Science/Social Studies - A little over an hour in the afternoon in English and Spanish. I use a huge focus on cognates to teach my science and social studies curriculum. So many of the words in these subject areas are similar between the two languages, so this is a wonderful opportunity to introduce English vocabulary, make connections, and incorporate English literature that connects to our topics of study. I teach science and social studies together as one big group. I rotate through the two grade level curricula every other year, so every set of students learn both grade level materials, but not necessarily in the same order.
If you're still reading this, good for you! If you're confused, don't worry. I sometimes don't know how I keep it all together with so much going on. I really need to work on investing in that extra set of eyes on the back of my head (and some additional arms too).

While I am sad that my students don't have the opportunity to continue with Spanish dual instruction beyond my second grade class, I do see the immense benefits of bilingual/dual language instruction in the three short years they have it. First of all, setting the foundations of literacy in the students' native language (Spanish) is so immensely important. Reading is so phonetic in Spanish, not to mention it happens to be the language my students think in and speak, so it's easier to learn to read. By the time I begin teaching English literacy, my students have such a strong foundation in Spanish literacy that they just breeze right into English. I love when the students shout out, "That's a cognate" or, "Hey, that's the same/that's different that in Spanish!" I know some people worry that two languages will confuse children, but I can tell you first hand that bilingual instruction is a blessing that all children should have the opportunity to experience.I know that my students will have so many more opportunities in life, for jobs, for travel, for friendships, and for cultural understanding because of their bilingual education. Skeptics are and always will be a challenge, but my students are the proof that there is nothing better than being bilingual!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

More Fall Fun...Día de Acción de Gracias (Día del pavo)

    Thanksgiving was really fun this year. Most of my students had no idea why we celebrate Thanksgiving and who the Pilgrims were, so we started with two days of lessons on the Mayflower, the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag, and then the Thanksgiving Feast. We used Scholastic's amazing Thanksgiving resources, including the Tour of the Mayflower, Daily Life, and the Thanksgiving Feast. With extra time we also watched the webcast virtual field trips of Plimouth Plantation. I highly recommend taking advantage of all the free resources Scholastic has to offer!
    I also made a Power Point Presentation (saved here as a PDF) in to reinforce what we had learned about the Pilgrim's journey on the Mayflower in Spanish. I used the lesson ideas from Scholastic as well as their interviews with a passenger in this Power Point. Please feel free to download it from me, and use it alongside Scholastic's resources.
This is the title page of the PowerPoint Presentation I made in Spanish to supplement the Scholastic resources on Thanksgiving. You can download it free from the link in the paragraph above. Enjoy!

    After we went through the PowerPoint, I had the students make their own postcards, imagining that they were Pilgrims sailing on the Mayflower. They were really cute and the students really got into the pretending. I gave each student one of the postcard templates and asked them to write a letter to a friend or family member they would have left behind in England or Holland. I wanted them to write about how they were feeling during their trip on the Mayflower. They included conditions of the trip, dreams about life in America, and reflections on leaving home to travel to the unknown. My students never cease to impress me with their thought and creativity.
Download the postcard templates via the link in the paragraph above. I had my students draw a picture of them as a pilgrim on the Mayflower on the opposite side of the postcard.
Once we learned about the history of Thanksgiving, it was time to celebrate! We made Rice Krispie Treat Turkeys and turkey head hats. I found the turkey hat idea, again, on Pinterest but originally from Oriental Trading Co. They were easy for the students to make as an art center, and these hats offered a nice break from the Pilgrim/Native Americans hats.
Ok, well that's enough Thanksgivng for May! I'll see you all soon....really, I swear!

The Tastiest Turkeys There Are

Bah! I haven't been on to blog in MONTHS! I am ashamed :( It is crazy how life can get pretty busy, huh? My dad got remarried, I bought my first house, and the normal craziness of a multiage class has kept me pretty booked solid. Anyway, excuses, excuses, I'm here now to blog about Thanksgiving ( May...that's sad).
My hands-down-favorite Thanksgiving activities to do with my classes are included in this post, as well as the next. Go ahead, get some ideas for next year, and forgive me for my absence :) I plan to be back a whole lot more (if not right away, at least in exactly 22 days when summer vacation starts!)

Rice Krispie Treat Turkeys
Ok, so these are just too cute, it almost hurts. I remember making these all the time with my parents when we were little, so I couldn't wait to bring them into my class. Here's what you need:

-Oreo cookies (one per student)
-Candy corn (about 5 per student)
-Chocolate frosting (I pick chocolate just cause it's my favorite, but you could pick whatever flavor)
-Rice Krispie Treats (you could make your own, but I find it easiest just to break the prepackaged ones in half)

Step One:
Begin by balling up one half of a Rice Krispie treat. I usually wear cafeteria gloves (cause it gets really sticky) and ball them up myself before I give them to the students. This year, however, I had the kids do it themselves and they loved it! I figured, they're going to get messy anyway, so why not let them smush, crunch and squish Rice Krispies themselves?

Step Two:
Split apart an Oreo cookie and attach it (with frosting - the best kind of glue) to the bottom and the back of the Rice Krispie Treat body. 

Step Three:
Using more frosting, add candy corn feathers to the top of the back Oreo cookie and one in the front of the Rice Krispie Treat body to be the beak.

Step Four:
Eat them! This is the messiest, but tastiest and most fun part of the whole process. Enjoy!