After the Break

Today I started feeling ready to be back at school. I decided to channel that feeling into getting some things done, including coming back to this blog.

This year will be my third year teaching, but the first time I am repeating the same grade and I CAN'T WAIT! Getting to refine, or let's face it, re-do lessons/procedures/assignments from last year will feel great. And knowing more of what to expect is a calming feeling...although we never truly know, with new groups of lovely kiddos every year (I already can't wait to meet my new bunch!!).

This year will also be my last year of teaching...as Miss L that is! Even after a tough year last year, there is no way I would give up my job...I love it too much. It's going to be an adventure to plan a wedding along with all the after-hours work that comes with teaching, but at least I've had the summer to get a head start.

I think I will post about wedding planning along with lesson planning, because I've realized I want this blog more as a journal for me than anything else. Already our month of being engaged has flown by and I want to remember it all. I realize most of the memories I have of my dad are the ones I wrote about...I want to make sure I write everything about this time so I'll have plenty of memories. & thinking of it that way might also get me to actually write this thing!  :) Emily


Creating A "CARE"ing Class

WOW what a busy couple of weeks! I've been loving my kiddos, but I'm definitely excited for this looong weekend (4 kid-free days, because today was professional development).

I LOVE that my school prioritizes character education. After all, my little ones are not going to work hard, listen to each other, or motivate themselves if they don't feel safe first. So far we have covered 9 out of the 10 character traits my school focuses on- just integrity left, which encompasses all the rest (respect, responsibility, honesty, patience, kindness, perseverance, resilience, empathy, and self-control). Of course, I plan to incorporate them much more as the year goes on- but with the overview, at least they have a basic understanding of what each word means.

The class created our expectations (it definitely worked better to give them categories and have them brainstorm- I was impressed by what they came up with!).
We've already updated some: "Take care of your paper AND all belongings" and "Get started right away...follow directions the first time"
& Yes, the cross out is totally bothering this OCD teacher:)

We also focused on using "healthy" versus "toxic" words. I got this from the incomparable Hal Urban, who I saw speak at a character conference. Love, love, love...and the kids do too. I introduced it after our kindness lesson, when we read Thank You Mr. Falker. In the book, Eric is mean to Tricia while Mr. Falker is kind, so it was a good starting off point. We talked about how healthy words make people feel good and keep our classroom safe, while toxic words make people feel bad and poison the environment. We made a list of toxic words we didn't want to hear (name-calling, inappropriate words, whining, etc.).

Then we thought about healthy words/phrases. I gave them 4 categories- Cooperative, Affirmative, Reassuring, and Encouraging. We did Cooperative together, then groups brainstormed the other three.
Their brainstorming sheets- with kid-friendly definitions of our categories

Later, I wrote the phrases they came up with on leaves and created this bulletin board:
I've been referring to this board constantly- whenever we begin group work, if someone gets upset (I have a very sensitive little one), when we play games...and the kids are quick to point out if anything "toxic" has been said. I make a big silly deal of spraying air freshener:)

Of course, I still feel like there is so much to be done to really strengthen our community!! One thing I'm super excited about is this awesome idea from Miss Lee's Kindergarten via The First Grade Parade's post. Just saw it today, and I am immediately fitting it into my schedule for next week! It goes so well with the peace path I created (based on one I saw during student teaching, but then couldn't find for the life of me). I'll upload the PDF later!

Well, that's just a teensy glimpse into our first 2 weeks. Time to relax for the next few days....(who am I kidding, I'll still be working on stuff for school. I can't help it, but it's okay, because I love it!). Have a great long weekend:)


Reflections on the First Day

Well, back to marker all over my hands, sorting through piles of papers to find that one page you're looking for, and trying to remember to use the bathroom during specials time (that goes by way too fast). Today was my first day in second grade...and to be honest, it wasn't what I imagined. It's all so different from last year. You're probably thinking, duh, it's a different year! But it's way harder than I thought to adjust to this new dynamic.

Luckily my teammate is in the same second-year first-time-to-second-grade position as me, and we felt blindsided together. We reminesced about last year, when we left school on the first day saying "YES that was the best day ever!". Our principal laughed and told us we had first-year teacher adrenaline last year, and this year was a more realistic first day. Plus, we've only ever had one group of kids to get used to.

This is probably a lesson all second year teachers learn...but these kids are NOT those kids. This group needs different things, reacts in different ways, shows their emotions differently. Different, different, different...and that's OKAY. I just need to learn to be a little different too...be the teacher that these kids need, not my first class.

I'm changing my mindset tonight and thinking of a new approach for creating our class expectations tomorrow. Instead of coming up with expectations and then categorizing them (we tried brainstorming expectations today, and we weren't touching on the ones I really felt were needed...and this group is just WAY wiggly...they were having the hardest time focusing for any length of time!). Tomorrow, I'm going to try giving them three categories (Respect Learning, Respect Others, and Respect Myself) and see what we come up with for each one. It's always been hard for me to completely scrap one plan in favor of another....but here we go, I'm going to be DIFFERENT!

To end on a positive: today we read Judith Viorst's poem The First Day of School and then my kids wrote down their own what-ifs (or just what they were feeling if they couldn't think of what-ifs). One little boy showed me his: "What if people make fun of my middle name?". My mind reeled with potential names....it was Jackson. What? That is so normal! Some worries are too funny...reminding myself that as I worry over my plans for tomorrow.


The Final Countdown

I can't believe school starts on Tuesday! Although many of the older teachers tried to talk me out of it, I will certainly be up at school tomorrow getting everything finalized. My "To Do/To Buy/To Copy" list is still a little too long for me to feel ready.

But even though I'm not ready, I'm definitely excited...especially because I got to meet most of my new second graders on Friday afternoon! The kids were shy (that won't last) and the parents were all super nice (I hope that lasts!).

Here is a little overview of what Friday looked like in my room:
I had parents help their child sort their markers, crayons, pencils, glue, erasers, and kleenex so I could collect it without taking up time on the first day. Since only 4 of my kids didn't come, it should make things a LOT easier on Tuesday!

I had a pile of papers for parents (health form, note about a peanut allergy in our room, bus form for the first week, and on top is my first newsletter and a contact magnet that I'll show you up close). I had a former student come in and help me pass all the papers out-- just being able to say a "former student" is so cool to me! Such a second year teacher:)
Complete side-note, but I had 6 of my kids from last year come visit me on Friday and I almost teared up (sap that I am) because I realized how much I miss those goofballs. I know I'll come to feel the same way about my new group...it's just hard to imagine right now!

Back to the point-- on the other side of the parent pile is a note to each student and a pencil. Here is an example of my cheesiness (they were all a bit different, but each had a BEE pun of course):
She's in the middle of the alphabet...my handwriting was good on the first few...
The picture doesn't show it, but the pencil has bugs on it to match the garden theme.

The contact magnet was my favorite part of the ensemble, and it was a last minute project that I took on after my teammate showed me her business card magnet. Parents put it on their fridge for easy access. Genius! Here's my take on it (made it on Word, then had our parent help team laminate, cut them out, and put the magnet on the back--LOOVE parent help team, even if the edges aren't as straight as my perfectionist self would've done. Gotta let some things go when there is so much to do!):
Had to make it internet appropriate, but you get the idea

I also had cloud cut-outs set out for the students to decorate with their names.
I plan on punching a hole in the top and hanging these from our ceiling (the kids thought that sounded pretty neat). I originally planned this so they would have something to do besides linger, but it ended up being a great way to connect with them immediately and see their creativity. One boy drew skateboards and we had a great conversation about his favorite hobby. Another little boy drew a whole battleship story around his name (the "a" was a black hole..so imaginative:)

This post is already so long, but one last thing to share. I'm part of the Climate (Character Ed) Committee at my school, and I wanted to do something small for our staff on the first day. So here is what I came up with...
One of these will greet each person in their mailbox on Tuesday morning

Ah, cross that project off the to-do list! Only about 12312 more to go....goodbye summer!


Student Work In Bloom

I really wanted to create a special place to showcase my student's work. I decided to do it outside right our room so that others can admire their accomplishments as well. It took me awhile (and several packs of staples) but I am so happy with how it turned out!

Ta da....!

I'm going to write "Ms. Leonard's 2nd Grade" on the first cloud, then the rest are going to say "Look What's In Bloom!".

Each spot will be labeled with a student's name and they can attach their work on the paperclips. Super easy to switch out! I have an odd number of students, so that big sheet will explain what is being displayed.

I have a couple of ideas for what will be up here at first, but then I really want to turn it over to the students and let them decide what work they are most proud of. I think it'll be fun for them to have a little spot of their own. Plus, it's not up to me to switch it out-- ah, I love sharing responsibility with the kids:)

Another busy week about to begin....and meeting my class on Friday! WHOA!


Word Wall Complete!

Yes, it's finished, and it feels so good to cross something off my list!

Here it is:
Excuse the fire alarm...

I wish I had taken a closer up picture...the color of the felt ended up going really well with the ribbon. Here's a closer view of the title:

The whole thing is above my coat rack. I'm glad I had a big wall available, because there are several ways I want to use it. I really don't want it to be a place where I stick words on there and the kids just look at it every so often to check their spelling.

Instead, I want my students to be part of the process of adding words to the wall and I want the wall to be utilized often as a resource and place for inspiration.

Here are a few of the ways I plan on making this happen:

1) I will have some important sight words up, as well as special words that might be used often (such as the name of our school).

2) Words specific to each subject/unit will be added as we learn new vocabulary. Students will help choose which words in the unit should be posted on the wall (a great formative assessment too--I can see if they choose the most important terms).

3) Students can submit interesting words they found in their independent reading books (just thought-- we could also decide as a class if we find a neat word in a read aloud).
I'm going to have students fill out a word web (I definitely need more practice with googledocs. It's really easy to make though!). Basically, they find the definition, synonyms, and antonyms and they use the word in a sentence. They can illustrate the word on the back (or not, if it's too difficult or they choose not to). Then they'll add this to a binder and we'll have "Our Class Dictionary". This way, the students will actually interact with the words, and if someone wants to use a word on the wall but aren't sure what it is, they have a quick way to find out.
We will be getting 8 computers in our room this year, and I think I'll have students fill out their word webs during their time on the computer. (Love, love, love Merriam-Webster's Word Central for students to use!). I'm not sure exactly how that's going to work out yet, and I'll be sure to report back on how all this works out.

4) Finally, we'll add words during writing time. I'm especially thinking about whole class lessons when we talk about "showing not telling" and describing things in their stories. However, it could also be when someone is sharing and the class likes a word they used.

So far that's all I've got-- any other ideas out there? I hope the "Garden of Words" really does become an awesome resource for our room!


Part 2- Easy as ABC

I was a bad blogger and didn't take pictures of each part of my letter making process. But that's okay, because it was mainly trial and error. Steps 1-8 are in my previous post.

STEP 9 begins on your couch with a Project Runway marathon playing. [I can't believe they are starting a 9th season! Crazy!]
Lay out your felt, scissors, and di-cut letters- one of each letter in capital and lowercase.
Contemplate giving up and buying pre-cut letters. Compare the cost of the $2 for felt to pre-cut letters. Re-commit yourself to the felt.

STEP 10: Trace the di-cut letter on the felt using blue marker so it won't show. Then try to re-trace inside the letter because you want the letters smaller. Cut it out and decide it's still too big, so trim around the edges until you like it.

STEP 11: Do some variation of step 10 about 52 times. Painstakingly match previously made letters to make sure they're all the same size.

STEP 12: Get stuck on the X. Consider removing X from the alphabet to save you the trouble. Finally accept your best attempt.

STEP 13: Sit back and admire your bounty of letters.

Oh and an added bonus to this project...

You can feel a teensy bit like the blue man from Big Fat Liar. (You know you saw this movie.)

Now I just need to add these letters to this:

And of course get more ribbon [and the correct ribbon] to finish sectioning it off. Then I'm going to use the space to the right of the board to title it. I think I'm going with "Garden of Words".
Hopefully it'll all come together soon!!!