Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Clean Start and Great Storage

My classroom furniture was moved out of my room this weekend and they have started waxing my floors.  Our school custodians are amazing!! They helped us move everything out and did a great job.  I am def. going to buy them lunch one day this summer for all their hard work and how helpful they are.  Hopefully I can get my furniture back in my room tomorrow afternoon or Thursday morning!! I am so excited to get everything organized and put up my new decorations!
I was playing in one of my favorite places on earth this weekend-aka Target- and I discovered their new (well new to me!) line of mix and match storage containers. It is called itso. They have laminate and plastic storage cubes in a variety of colors. You can add shelves to the plastic cubes.  Then you add plastic and fabric drawers and shelves which also come in different colors, sizes, and prints.  I got two plastic cubes and two large fabric drawers to put my Shared Reading Center in next year.  I suggest checking it out! 

Sunday, May 29, 2011

My Summer Reading List

Product Image
I have always loved to read and anyone who knows me can tell you that I always have a stack of books waiting to be read.  Here are a few I want to read this summer:

1. James Patterson's Women's Murder Club #9 and #10

2. Love Walked In by Maria De Los Santos
Product Image I just finished her book Belong to Me and it was great!

3. A Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff- I love vintage everything so I hope
this one is as good as it sounds!
4. The Candy Makers by Wendy Mass-
A co-worker who shares my love of children's books brought this one to me
Product Detailsand I am excited to read it.

These are just a few! My Amazon wish list is about three pages long!

If you need some suggestions try these out:
Water for Elephants
The Hunger Games
The Distant Hours
The Forgotten Garden
Fall of Giants

Happy Reading!!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Extreme Makeover: Classroom Edition

Friday was our unofficial last day of school.  We had 5th grade graduation and Kindergarten Celebration last week and we ended the week with our class parties.  After a long weekend, we will have two make-up days from snow (yes, snow in Alabama!) and a teacher work day.  Since most of the students will not return next week, I already started taking stuff down because I am completely changing my room this summer. When I got my first classroom three summers ago, I decorated it with lime green, white, and black polka dots with some hot pink accents and loved it.  After three years- the lime green has to go! So I went out and bought all new decor- dots on chocolate.  In addition to changing the color scheme of my room,  I also want to rearrange it to make it more open and kid friendly.  I am posting some pictures of what my room looked like Friday morning (a bit messy due to end the year and ok I am a bit messy).  My desks and tables will be moved out into the hall for floor waxing this weekend and I will be able to start changing it up (hopefully) when I get there Tuesday morning. I will keep you updated as a go this summer.  If you have any ideas ideas or suggestions please please let me know!!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Things I Have Learned

We only have a few more days left and I have been doing a lot of reflecting about this year and started planning for next year.  Life in Special Education is having a "What I have Learned" Linky Party and  I wanted to share.

1.  My classroom might never be perfect and that is ok.  I might always have a big stack of stuff on my desk, anchor charts everywhere, I might hang things and they will not be perfectly straight, and not everything will match. I have learned to accept this.

2. You have to be consistent.  Everyone tells you this but you never realize how important it is until you are in the classroom with your kids.  They need to know what to expect.

3. They are just kids.  I need to have high expectations for them (academic and behavior) but I can't let myself become overly frustrated with them for their mistakes (Lord knows I make plenty!). 

4. Plan, plan, plan.  You need to have a good plan for the day-this keeps everyone from becoming frustrated.  BUT- you have to be flexible and do what works for your kids.  It is ok to diverge from the plan when the plan isn't effective.

5.  Enjoy your kids! Take the time to talk to them and really (yes really) listen.  Asking them about something they told you a few days ok can make a child feel so important and build that relationship that is so important.

6. Laugh!  Laugh with your kids, at yourself, and with your co-workers. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

I Won! I Won! I Won!!

I won my first blog giveaway this week!! Thank you so much to Jenn from "Finally in First" for the super cute reusable tote bags.  This is going to make my shopping so much easier and eco-friendly!  This and the rapidly approaching summer vacation has inspired me to do a giveaway.  Check back in a few days for details!

Speaking of giveaways- Education Journey is giving away a $10 gift card for my favorite store Teachers Pay Teachers!!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Class T-Shirts

My 4th grade team decided that we wanted to do some kind of t-shirt project for our kids as an end of the school year gift.  At first we were going to tie-dye but then decided that would be a lot of work for us and not as much for the kids.  Not to mention not wanting to send home sixty something kids with tie-dyed hands and clothes.  In the end, we decided to order a white t-shirt for each of our kids (click here for the site we used).  We sent home a letter asking about sizes before we ordered.  Then we bought fabric paint in a variety of colors and had each student put a hand print on their classmates' shirts.  The teacher hand print went over the heart! After they were dry, we used paint pens to write the year and our school initials over the teacher handprint.  Once the shirts were dry, we bagged them in clear plastic bags and tied them with purple (our school color) ribbon. We also found a cute end of the year poem to attach to the bag.  Check out more end of the year poems here.  We plan to give them out this week and have all the students were them on our class party day.
Jonah's shirt

Finished bags

Helpful Hints:
  *Paint the kids' hands- don't dip them
   *spread a long piece of butcher paper across your floor and spread the shirts out
* have kids pick one color and go down the line
*my kids worked in pairs- on painted the hand and held the paint plate while their partner did their handprint
*Don't wear your favorite shirt on painting day!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Field Day

Our school had field day on Friday complete with inflatable jumpy things, concessions, and field day events.  I am incredibly proud of my 4th graders for many reasons.  They beat the other 4th grade classes and were named Field Day Champs! They followed directions and got along on the jumpers and shared their tickets for the concessions.  The thing I am most proud of from this wonderful day was their attitudes.  They cheered so hard for each other and congratulated each other-even when they did not win an event.  My class has had some trouble getting along during the last few weeks of school so to see them clapping and high fiving people they had disagreed with was so awesome! This really reminded me of how special each of them really is and how much they have grown this past year.
  One more thought from Friday.  At the end of the day we put on Finding Nemo (I had forgotten how funny that movie is!) so we could wind down.  It still amazes me when they all get so quiet and involved in a movie and then burst out laughing at the same time.  They can frustrate me to me no end from time to time but at the end of the day-they are just kids.  This is our last full week of school-hope it is as much fun as Friday!

Monday, May 16, 2011

To Tenure or Not To Tenure?

Hey Guys,
  As the end of my tenure year quickly approaches I have spent a lot of time reflecting on the practice of tenure.  In Alabama, teachers are tenured after only three years.  I have been asking myself a lot of questions- Is three years enough time to effectively evaluate the teaching practices of a person? Is tenure helpful to the education system or does it hurt it and the kids in the long?  Don't get me wrong- the idea of being guaranteed a job in my school system bring me a lot of peace of mind.  Not having to worry like crazy every time evaluations come up or the last day of school approaches will help me relax (some) and focus on what is important. But maybe the ones that deserve tenure are the ones who don't need its protection?  Maybe there are two types of teachers- the ones that fade over time (you know the ones I mean-the ones that don't try as hard or volunteer for as much) and the ones that still get excited about new ideas and student success no matter how long they have been doing it.  When it comes down to it, are we protecting the "good" teachers or the "bad" teachers?  Is there a happy medium, a way to offer some protection against cut backs but still hold every teacher accountable?  Just something to think about! Please feel free to give me your opinions!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Finally in First Giveaway!

Hey Bloggy Friends,  Sorry for my lack of posts.  I have end of the year-itis so bad!  I wanted to tell you about a great giveaway going on at the cute blog Finally in First.  Jenn is giving away five sets of reusable totes.  They are great looking and practical.  Check it out!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Graphing With First Grade

We are reviewing graphing skills this week in 4th grade. Graphing is always one of my favorite math concepts to explore with my students.  We do some of the typical graphing activities when we first introduce it- like graphing the colors of your M&Ms and group projects.  To fight the end of the year blahs and generate data with larger numbers, we decided to collaborate with our first grade friends who are also reviewing graphing this week (this was the brain child of the fab Brooke who also teaches 4th grade with me).  We broke our kids into small groups and each group was responsible for coming up with a question and at least 4 answer choices.  I asked my kids, "What do you want to know about the 1st graders at our school?"  After each group put their question and answer choices on a piece of butcher paper, we went around to all the first grade rooms to collect our data.  The first graders were working on tallying so the little ones took turns coming up to each group and answering their question by putting a tally mark on their answer choice.  To keep this organized, the 4th grade groups sat in different areas of the room with their butcher paper on the floor.  The 1st graders rotated in small groups until they answered each question.  Once we collected all our data, we returned to our room where the students worked on creating line graphs and bar graphs.  Later in the day, the first graders came and collected their own data with the big kids.  This was a great way for each grade level to model and practice their graphing skills.  And they all thought it was so cool-esp. the ones with older/younger siblings.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Tornado Plan

Hey Friends, 
Most of you know that my community was recently devastated by tornadoes.  I am still so thankful for the safety of my students and co-workers.  When reflecting on these horrible storms, I began to wonder how much my students really know about tornado safety.  My students are reaching an age where are starting to be left alone at home or with siblings. They need to know where to go and what to do if this happens again.  I made a Tornado Safety Plan for my students to take home and complete with their families.  If you live in an area where these storms occur, please send a plan home with each of your students!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

It is the end of the Year-What do I do with my Kids?!?

The school year is winding down and the kids just seem to be winding up!  Testing is over and everyone is getting restless.  So what is a girl to do with twenty kids at the end of the school year?  This is something that I have been thinking about a lot this weekend.  So here are some ideas to keep your kids busy and learning!
1.  Revisit favorite books and stories from the year and do the extensions you did not have time for like writing and crafts
2.  Have a spelling or math or science competition with another class or grade level
3. Make a class memory book- I have seen several of these on TpT
4. Talk to the teachers in the grade level above you about what their students this year needed more preparation or practice with.  Or go ahead and start introducing some of the skills and concepts they might see next year.
5. Schedule a guest speaker.  This could be a friend or relative with an interesting job.  My mom is coming to do an activity with my students before school is out!
6. Find lessons you want to use next year and try them out on your kids.  It won't hurt your kids and you can fine tune them before next year.
7. Do an author study or a short literature unit with a picture book

I hope these ideas are helpful! I know how easy it is be lazy this time of year but your kids still deserve the best instruction you can give them!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Great Giveaway!

Happy Friday everyone!  If your past two days have been anything like mine you deserve some rest this weekend.  I found a new upper elementary like I am having so much fun exploring.  It is called "Life Isn't Always Frogs and Cupcakes."  There is a giveaway going on over there that you really need to check out.  It is a $15 giftcard to Amazon-my favorite place to shop online. Head on over and enter!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Shared Reading Center

Every teacher has favorite picture books that they always read aloud to their students (or if you are like me you have an entire spare bedroom of them!). Why not turn them into a literacy station? My fab reading coach, Amy, told me about this station idea and we are calling it the Shared Reading Center. I am positive my creative bloggy friends can come up with a better name for it. Here is what you do, simply attach a library pocket into the back of the cherished book. Then write a few questions related to the story or reading skill on index cards and put them in the back of the book. Next find a cute basket or bin to hold all the books( I am still working on this part). When students come to the station, they read a book of their choice with their partner and then answer one of the questions in their literacy logs (notebooks my students carry to every station and use to record their work and thinking). I think it is important to have read the book aloud to your class before placing it in the center so the students will have some experience with it and won't struggle as much with new words. This station can easily be updated throughout the year by adding new read alouds so students will not get bored. You could even differentiate this station by color coding the index cards for different reading levels. 

I created a list of general questions you could use for this center.  Each book could use a more specfic question and each book will lend itself to a different reading skill or strategy.  If you come up with any more questions for this center please share!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Hats for Hope

Thank you again for all your support.  Several people have asked how they can help us here in Alabama. One way to help is by collecting and sending clothes and supplies. If you are able to do this let me know-I am still working out some details on this.  For those of you who live farther away, donations to the Red Cross would be very helpful.  When the hurricane hit Haiti, our students did a fundraiser called Hats for Haiti.  Students were able to to pay one dollar and wear a hat all day.  Our students thought wearing a hat in class was so much fun and most families could donate a dollar.  I have made a poster for you to post in your school and a note to send home with the students.  We did this for two Fridays and then donated the money we collected.  Another way to help is by simply having your students make cards.  You can send cards to the address below and I will make sure they are taken to schools in the heavily hit areas.  Thanks again! I promise I will post a new idea tomorrow-this tragic event and those affected by it have been my main focus. 

Katie Coleman
4600 Hazelwood  Road
Adamsville, AL 35213

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Storm Update

Thank you for all of your prayers and support!  I have updates about my school and community to share with you all.  My school is fine and the community around it is as well.  There was no power in the area until yesterday.  Other nearby communities in our district have been almost completely destroyed as I am sure you have seen on the news. I road through the area and it is unrecognizable.  There are no words to describe it. Our PE coach lives in a badly hit area and has lost her home and two of her vehicles.  Two employees from our school district were killed in the storm.
  We are still waiting to hear when we will be able to go return to school.  A lot of the roads are impassable, many schools are still without power, and some schools in our district are without safe drinking water.
  I am so grateful for the safety of my students and co-workers! Many of the wonderful people I work with have been volunteering and donating supplies.  I am so proud of my school and community.  It is easy to feel helpless in times like these but we are working together and supporting each other like we always do.  I want to encourage you all to donate to the Red Cross and help support the victims of this terrible storm.  If you are interested in having your students write letters or donate to students in Alabama please let me know.  Keep us in your thoughts!