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!!!


How To Come Somewhat-But-Not-Really Close To Completing A Word Wall

STEP ONE: Go to Joann's in search of the perfect ribbon. Get distracted by the 70% off aisle for 10-15 minutes, but ultimately decide you don't need any of it. Arrive at the ribbon aisle and search in vain for flowered ribbon to match your vision. Give up the vision and spend more time than you will admit holding different ribbons up to see how they look together. Finally purchase your ribbon:
The ribbon trifecta: green with checks, blue with dots, plain yellow
{personal image}

STEP 2: [Important note: already have the paper & border up from the day before, when your boyfriend came to help but instead you kept taking the stapler and doing it yourself, you control freak you.]
Carefully measure the width of the board and mark off every 9.5" so you'll have 13 boxes across and 2 down.

STEP 3: Cut the ribbon into strips and start stapling.
It's all straight, riiight?
{personal image}

STEP 4: Realize that you do not have enough ribbon. Grumble angrily at yourself for not thinking about this at the store.

STEP 5: Go back to Joann's. Grumble angrily when you notice there is no more of the blue ribbon. Snatch up the green and yellow anyway because you are determined to finish this project.

STEP 6: Go back to school. Start to put up the yellow ribbon and realize you bought the wrong style. Grumble furiously at yourself for not paying more attention.

STEP 7: Switch your focus to the letters for the wall. Try using the felt you bought in the di-cut machine but it gets stuck. No need to grumble...those letters are too big anyway. Di-cut one of each letter in capital & lowercase to be a stencil for the felt.

STEP 8: Realize you have a lot of tracing and cutting work ahead of you. Decide it would be best completed in front of your television.

PART TWO Coming soon:)


New Teammie Love

I know I promised pictures...but things sure are slow going in my room. I mentioned that I was moving grade levels, but that's not all-- out of 24 classroom teachers, 12 are changing grade levels and 5 are new to our school. That's a grand total of 17 teachers trying to set up new rooms! With even seasoned veterans up at school since mid July, it's been a little chaotic.

One major roadblock is that all the big paper for making bulletin boards is used up. Well, not all, but of course all the colors that I need! (I'm sticking with blue, green, and yellow to keep it from becoming a rainbow explosion).

Since I decided to do my word wall on white paper and use colorful ribbon to separate the letters, I should get that finished today (if I can find the ribbon I want! My perfectionist/OCD tendencies really come to light when I make bulletin boards!).
Yes, I'm the crazy teacher who uses a ruler to make sure my borders are straight!
{google image}

BUT I will share one small project I'm working on-- my first Pinterest project!

As I said, our grade levels are changing a lot. So my second grade team is brand new!
Teammie C is the only one staying in 2nd. She was one of the teachers that opened our school 20 years ago (we're the newest elementary school in our district).
Teammie S and I were first year teachers together last year, but she taught first grade while I taught third. Now we're meeting in 2nd!
And finally Teammie J is a first year teacher this year. She's actually completing the same program I did last year, the Mizzou Teaching Fellowship Program.

I wanted to give them a little something on the first day of school to show how excited I am to work with them this year. Since I am low on funds (read: broke!) and any $ I do have is funneled towards my classroom, I wanted something affordable (read: cheap!) and easy to make (since again, I am not crafty).

I saw this on Pinterest:
Cute idea from A Place Called Joy

And this is my re-creation on Microsoft Publisher...I could not for the life of me get it to look right as an image. Even in the link, the word MINT looks white when in my actual creation it is mint green of course:)

I'm going to print these on 2"x 4" mailing labels and stick them on a mint tin. Coupled with a cute card, I hope they'll be a nice little treat for my team! I'll share the finished product later on.

Off to school--wish me luck on my word wall:)


New School Year Resolutions

I'll be up in my classroom later today and will take pictures of some of the projects I've been working on (slooowly, it feels like!).

Until then, I saw that Clutter-Free Classroom is having a linky party about New Year Resolutions for the school year. Since I'm brand new to blogging, this is my first linky party...but it was seeing a friend's post (Hey, Messy Girl:)) for Clutter-Free Classroom's favorite author's linky party that finally made me get this blog started!

So now on to my resolutions for my second year of teaching...it will be good to put them into writing so I can remind myself as the year goes on.

1. Stay true to myself as a teacher.
I do feel like a little bit of my teaching philosophy got lost last year as I felt overwhelmed by curriculum, limited time, an emphasis on test scores, and older teachers with unwavering ideas that didn't quite match mine. This year I want to stand my ground more firmly, and stick with ideas that I firmly believe in.

2. Stay on top of grading.
I'm not sure if this will be as big of an issue in 2nd grade as it was last year in 3rd. It seemed like I could grade from school's out to bedtime and still be behind! I need to get into a routine early in the year and make sure to get all work back to students QUICKLY. Otherwise, the feedback and ensuing reflection are less meaningful.
Going along with this, I want to make sure to make time for going over work and prompting that reflection.

3. Stay inspired and connected.
Already in my first week of blogging, I've tackled and completed more projects than I would've otherwise. I'm not a crafty person by any means, and only marginally creative...so it's been great to borrow and steal ideas from the web! I only hope I'm able to contribute as well.
Also, reading other teachers' experiences and thoughts re-energizes my love for my job. Belonging to such an enthusiastic, inventive, and dedicated community is inspiring.

4. Stay focused on the students- ALWAYS!
To cope with all those factors listed in #1, all I have to do is remember my students, and I automatically feel less stressed. Their needs will guide me and their personalities will make it all worthwile. As I set my room up this summer, I keep thinking about the 21 little ones that will populate it, and I get excited all over again:)

Happy almost New School Year!


Buzz on in...

I know it's summer, and I'm supposed to off lounging by the pool every day or jetting off on vacation every week...or whatever all the non-teachers accuse us of doing during our summer break (out of jealousy of course). But as July winds down, all I can think about is my classroom.

I'm staying at my same wonderful school for my second year of
teaching, but moving from third grade to second grade. As I prepare for my new room & new grade level, my mind has been buzzing non-stop with ideas for decorations, activities, and management tactics. Every night before I fall asleep, I am envisioning the ideas for the school year.

The first thing I wanted to get straight was a theme. I know themes aren't necessary-- last year I had the very bare bones of a "town" theme and learning still happened-- but since my ideas for my new room kept zooming all over the place, I wanted a focus. I found that focus through my rug. Last year, my extremely generous principal let me choose a new rug for my classroom. I absolutely love this rug and it was complimented by everyone who came into my room.

A portion of the seriously gorgeous rug :)

Its pattern inspired me to choose a nature-themed classroom for this year. Since "nature" still spans a pretty expansive spectrum, I honed in on the "garden" aspects (think: sun, flowers, bees, ladybugs...).

Once this was chosen, my mind immediately hooked on coming up with a catchy phrase to put around our doorway. Again, not necessary...but oh so cute and fun! I racked my brain (and the Internet) for days before finally landing on the right combo of words when at the mall with my boyfriend. (I don't think he was as excited as I was, about the phrase or our activity).

So here it is... Buzz on in to our 2nd grade garden!

Much more to come... can't wait to share :)