Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing

I love reading aloud to my class but sometime struggle with the purpose.  We generally summarize the story afterward and predict what will happen next but sometimes I think I do it just for fun.  And that the kids want me to do it so they don't have to work!

We began the year by reading Judy Blume's Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing.  The kids LOVED it! It was wonderful.  They were asking to read it almost every day.  I enjoyed reading it to them and we had a good time.  By the last few chapters though it was dragging on, solely because we got so busy that we did not have time to read. The kids were begging though!  In effort to finish the book but still provide some learning in a culminating activity, I scoured the web for an answer.

I found this free worksheet from Super Teachers.  It was exactly what I was looking for.  It gives 3 options for activities: drawing a picture, writing a book review, or writing a test.  I encouraged my students away from book review because we had not talked about any of those things yet.  BUT I had some amazing things happen for the other two.  I had a handful of students write a test up and they had some wonderful questions and answers.  The drawing project revealed some amazing artists as well.  It was awesome.  Here are some pictures of the drawings.

I only wish I would have made coloring it part of the requirements! But we were pressed with time so it is what it is.  

In other news, today we had our first fire drill.  Let me tell you, fire drills in Thailand are waaaaaaaaay different than I am used to.  Maybe it is because I have always been at a fairly small school but I was shocked.  In Thailand as in many parts of Asia things are very close together here.  The entire school building  (K-12) is connected by ramps and awnings and hallways and whatnot.  SO the entire campus is considered dangerous if fire were to start/spread.  Our fire escape route requires complete evacuation of campus.  We have to cross the street and walk around the block to the field that is at the school across the street.  It literally took us 10 minutes to walk to where we needed to go!! That is unreal to me!  

Plus, I have a handful of students who this is their first year in public schooling. They had no idea what a fire drill was and what we were supposed to do.  Even though we went over procedures multiple times, they could not grasp the concept of "no talking".  It was quite frustrating but I know something we need to work on!   One of my students was terrified by the bell and that we were walking across the street.  It was quite overwhelming. 

Anyway, I learned a lot from my first fire drill as a teacher and my first drill in Thailand.  It is definitely something I will never forget.  

Do you have any crazy fire drill stories?  I am very glad that the first one is over and now I sort of know what to expect!

Monday, September 24, 2012

ClassDojo, Math Rotations, Organization Galore!

I have wanted to blog about things for so long but every time I get home I am exhausted.  The first couple weeks are overwhelming!  I guess by week 7, I should probably have my act together! Let me tell you we are finally getting there. 

I started using ClassDojo and my students love it.  The reason for impletmenting this along with my clip chart is simply for negative things and whole class rewards.  I feel silly saying the entire class gets to clip up.  I also have had problems with students not doing homework and not having a way to record it or students being late from recess with no record of how long.  Plus those are not reasons to clip down…. Right?  Thus the introduction of classdojo.  Since my kids love it so much I am going to run with it.  They all get excited when they hear the ding.  Yes, I keep the sound on because I do not have a smart board only a projector.  The projector is not always on so they know when someone gets/loses a point when they hear the sounds.  

The other thing I am quite excited about is my math and spelling groups.  We are using Words Their Way for the first time this year and I LOVE it.  I will explain more on that later though.  I have been doing math groups for the last week and a half.  The students have finally gotten the routine and it has been wonderful.  I do think that it will only work for certain chapters where there is a wide variety of levels but for this chapter it is perfect.  We are discussing addition and subtraction and my students are all over the board.  You can read more about how I implement my groups here.  Each day I project the At Desk and Math Facts information on the board.  This way the students always know what is expected. I would like to make a board to remind them of where to rotate and what they are doing, but for now projecting it works.  Plus, I keep the same movements each day so the students know where they are supposed to go now.  Some days when I know the lesson requires more teaching time I take more time to whole group instruct.  Other days I say very little about the instruction because half of them understand already.  It makes my heart very happy to see the way the students know the routine and move accordingly.  I can also tell that it is stretching my above students and allowing for more time for my lower students. 

The one thing I do know I need to get better on is concluding the math time.  Once our last group is done we move on to silent reading or lunch/special. I think a simple question time of “what was our lesson about?” or “any questions” or something like this will work.  Do you have any suggestions for me? What type of math wrap-up do you do?

By this time are you in routine yet or are things still getting settled? Some days I feel like our class has been together forever and other days I feel like it is the first week all over again! 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sunday Encouragement

Today I am in need of the encouragement.  So here it is.  Hopefully it can help someone else as well.  

Hubby and I have had a rough week. I mentioned a week ago today that we got a puppy and were so happy.  Unfortunately she was very very sick.  She spent half of the time we had her at the vet.  And last night she did not make it.  We buried her in the back yard and got rid of all her things.  It was terrible.  Hubby especially has been so distraught over the whole thing. He was home with her a lot and really bonded.  I did too but knew that she wasn't healthy.  It has been hard for me to see him this sad.  I know that everything will be ok but right now it is just sad.  

I hope your weekend was better than ours.  I have been throwing myself at my work so hopefully I will be on top of some blogging this week!

Be encouraged this Sunday.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Math Workshop Introduction

I have been totally inspired by all of the posts about Math workshops.  I have been very unsatisfied with whole group instruction but struggled to figure out what to do.  The next chapter that I am doing is all about adding and subtracting, either using mental math or regrouping.  You understand. Fairly simple things that do not take a lot of whole group instruction.  (Much better than introducing American money to kids who have never seen or used it!)

Well I have decided to dive right in and try to do a rotation workshop type thing.  I love the way that Elizabeth from Fun in Room 4B has explained her rotations.  I have also been reading over Clutter Free Classrooms's description of her math rotations.  But for now I can not figure out what to do with 4 stations.

So what I am thinking is having 3 groups and 3 stations.  For now that makes the most sense for me.  The three stations will be Math Facts, At desk, and Teacher Time - I just need the H for the MATH. Maybe eventually I can add that on!  My school is really big with math facts so I need to provide time for students to work on that and get used to it.

Here is my plan: Start the lesson with a brief, very very brief overview of what the lesson is about. Explain the main idea so everyone has that.  Then move into the rotations.  Normally, we would check the homework together but since we are just starting the chapter we cant do that.

So far we have maybe taken 10 minutes at the absolute most.  With 30 minutes left that gives us 10 minutes per station.  Starting with my on level students at Math Facts, they will practice their math facts with flash cards with a partner.  I will start with my below level students at Teacher Time to give them any additional help that they might need and more review and examples.  My above level students will start At desk working on the material in the text book for practice.

When we rotate, the on level students will come to Teacher Time and the low level will go to At Desk to practice what they just reviewed.  The above students will move to Math Facts.  Same things will happen.  For the next rotation, above level will come to Teacher Time to check their desk work and see if anything needs reviewed.  On students will go to At Desk to complete the assigned problems and low students will move on to Math Facts.

Whew.  That sounds like a lot of work.  Hopefully my kids can handle this and I can too! Does it sound like it will work?  What advice do you have for a new teacher trying to implement Math rotations/workshops?

HELP! I love reading all these blogs and being so inspired to try something new.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Attention grabbers.

Have you seen things like this all over pinterest and blogs?? This one is from I Love 2 Teach.

I thought this was so cute and wanted to introduce it to my class.  Currently, I use a bell to call students attention while they are working but I wanted something fun that I could say to them to get their attention.  We had just changed desks so lots of commotion was happening.  I decided it would be a perfect time to introduce some of these.  Since I knew that my kids know what McDonalds is, I thought I would start with that one....

Let me tell you.

It was so funny.
I asked them if they had ever heard it before......
no! They hadn't
I had a few kids guess that the theme song was Old MacDonald!! I honestly laughed at them... (woops) but several others thought the same thing. OOpS!! 

Then I tried to do the "Goodness gracious great balls of fire one....
 a phrase that I quite enjoy.  
Nope, that did nothing for them either.  
They had never heard that and thought I was crazy.

I tried the na na na na Hey Hey hey, goodbye.  Never heard that one either!  Ugh.  

This new idea that I was really excited about completely and utterly bombed.

Now I know that if I really wanted to do this I could just make them learn it and we could use it.  But it isn't as fun to do these things when the kids have no idea what they mean.  

Yet another reminder that teaching in Thailand is WAAAAAAAAAAY different than teaching in America.  

I will say that I do something that does work wonders and the kids do enjoy it.  We started this the first day of school so they are used to it and it works.  (I just wanted to add other things). 

When I want to get their attention while they are doing whatever I say:
One (clap) Two (clap) Three (clap), FREEZE.  Whatever they are doing they have to stop and look at me.  Sometimes they are mid walk and have to stop.  Sometimes they are in silly positions and have to stop.  My only rule is that both feet have to be on the ground! (I have had a kid fall over because he was being extra silly.)  I like this a lot because they know what freeze is.  Plus, it allows them to be a little silly if they want while still giving me all of their attention.  

What type of attention grabbers do you use?  Do you ever introduce new ones throughout the year or do you only do it at the beginning of the year?  

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Sunday Encouragement

I just realized I have been terrible about remembering my Sunday Encouragement. Today I am being a little silly but it does have serious implications.  I typed YOLO into pinterest and found this picture that I really do like.  Although I think YOLO is a silly phrase, it is a fact of life that you only live once. It should be lived wisely and without worry right?!?

In honor of only living once, hubby and I added a new addition to our family last night.

Meet Suzy.  She is a shih tzu puppy.  She is so so SO cute!  We were planning on looking at dogs but were not planning on taking one home! I guess she was just so cute that we couldn't leave without her! This weekend was originally going to be used to figure out my writing lessons but has turned into puppy training.  It has been so fun!

Remember, you only live once! Take those risks. And enjoy life!  Happy Sunday everyone.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

DRA2 Update and Crafty

Today, I did my DRA testing and it was a lot better than I thought.  I definitely had my freak out moment this morning and almost lost it but once I got rolling it wasnt that hard.  I have a handful of readers that are well above grade level reading at a 50 independent at the beginning of 3rd grade.  I was told not to go past that this early since they wont have any where to go by the end of the year (we are supposed to stop at 60 in grade 4).

There were a couple times that I had to ask a pro for help about how to mark something or where to even start a new child who I knew was a struggling reader.  I was surprised at how serious some of the kids took the assessment.  But of course I had a couple who did not care and did not try as hard as I knew they could.  That is always disappointing.  Overall though it was a great experience and learning time.  I will be much more prepared and knowledgeable about it next time!

Since I was testing all day I wanted an activity that would allow kids to be pulled out.  So I had the kids do a craft!  They loved it and did awesome.  I was so pleased.  You may have seen this picture on Pinterest

bummer it doesnt link up; if you know where this came from let me know!
I LoVE this quote.  I have been wanting to post it in my class since the start.  Especially working at an Asian school, I feel it is important for them to know that mistakes are okay and that we just need to try our best.  Sometimes that is overlooked in this culture.  Anyway,  I wanted the kids to have some ownership over it so I outlined the letters and had them color it.  Since I have 17 students, half of the class had 3 letters and half had 2 letters.    We will glue them onto colored paper for a background and post it in our room.  This will be our daily reminder!  I was so proud of them when I saw how hard they worked on their letters and made it beautiful.  I can't wait to hang it up!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

DRA2 and first day with a sub

Tomorrow is my first day having a sub fill in for ME! I am used to being the substitute coming in for the real teachers but tomorrow I get to have a substitute.  It is somewhat silly because I have to be there as well but at least I don't have to do recess duty or deal with all of their silliness.

Why you might ask!?! Well tomorrow is my day to do my DRA2 testing.  This is my first time doing DRA2 but I am familiar with Running Records and all that jazz. I go through moments where I am freaking out about it and other moments when I think I can totally handle it.

I think where I get nervous or frustrated or lost is with my kids who are new to school who have never done DRA before.  I have no idea where to start them!  Plus, I have some ESL students who can read fine but have a hard time summarizing or giving details.  Ugh.  They make me nervous.  I don't want to overwhelm them with the test but I worry I will mess it up.

Plus all the other teachers keep telling me that it is a bear to grade and review and finalize! This makes me so so SO nervous.  I have visions of me staying after school all night to get them done and pulling all my hair out and having paper thrown all over my classroom.  You get the picture? I hope so! I am freaking out.

But I am also excited because this is yet another step in becoming a 'real' teacher and having to deal with all of this stuff.  Plus I get some one on one time with my kids so that could be nice.

Then I start thinking about how I am having a sub for the day.  But since I am still there Can I still come in and answer questions or teach something or be silly with them?!?  Or should I be completely removed from the class?  Also, I feel like I need to write everything down and explain everything but I will be there so I should be able to explain what I need to to her in the morning, right?

So many thoughts going through my head.  Now it is your turn, experienced teachers! Have you ever done DRA testing? Any advice on the testing itself? What about having a sub while still at the school? Are you visible or imaginary ;)  Please help a newbie out!!

Monday, September 3, 2012

September Currently

What a couple weeks.  I am so sorry I have been MIA the past week.  This week we decided we moved into our new place.  We finally have a place of our own in Thailand and our suitcases are finally unpacked - first time in over 6 weeks!!  Anyway, I am back and ready to blog it up, share some ideas, and ask questions as I am trying to figure out this crazy world of blogging and teaching!

But to start things off here is my Currently - linking up with Farley's amazingness!

My favorite things are cheesy I know but it is where I am now!  I LOVE my morning rides to school on the motorbike. I never thought I would like or even love riding that thing, but I really do.  The mornings are so peaceful (when we beat the traffic of course!) that it soothes me on the way to school.  And feeling productive! Who doenst love that feeling, especially as a new teacher I am trying to focus on those things.  

Don't forget the rule of 3 and to check out the longest list ever at Oh Boy 4th Grade

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