Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Evolution of a New Classroom

My next teaching adventure has begun, nice and early in August. August 13th was my first day of 4th grade. I think it's going to be a fun year, once I figure out and settle into a routine with all this new curriculum.

My year started 9 days before the first day, when I got the key to my near empty classroom.

My first day was a lot of pushing furniture around. And teacher desks are quite heavy and unwieldy. 
The next day I started getting some of the boxes that have been commandeering my living room of all the classroom stuff I accumulated the past couple years. I have lots of cupboard space, which is pretty nice. Also mostly empty, save for a bunch of curriculum for Reading/Language Arts, social studies, and science. It's a good think I hadn't already filled all my nooks and crannies, because we got a new math curriculum, which came with two GIANT tubs of manipulatives. One is 99% a bazillion base 10 blocks. But I digress. My classroom started filling with things, and I felt better having groups instead of rows of desks.
My next task was the walls. They were so empty! My last classroom already had some bulletin boards up that were in good condition, so I never had to put any up. I got paper, and my wonderful boyfriend gave up most of his weekend and hung out in my classroom both Saturday and Sunday. He helped with the bulletin boards, and that's when it really started to feel like a classroom.

 Day 1 came much quicker than I would have wished. And not just because I could have used another week of sleeping in. As a teacher, there is always more you want to do. There is always something else you would add, if you only had the time. It is never, never enough. Perks of the job, I suppose.

 That being said, kids show up the first day, whether you are ready or not. So I had to be ready.
One thing I was never brave enough to play with at my old school was the die-cutter. (di-cutter? dycutter? who knows?) But with kids who may actually use and read and appreciate words on the wall, I created a couple of posters about behavior expectations. Walking quietly through the hall is still a challenge for 4th graders, but they respond pretty well to SLANT, and having a specific term for active listening.
As a teacher, there is no need to reinvent the wheel. The internet is a wondrous place, and I found tons of ideas for starting off the year. One idea I found was to use cards--I have 6 groups--Ace through 6 cards on every desk in every suit. They picked a card and matched it to a desk to find a seat the first day. After that, I can pick a card to elicit answers, or ask all hearts/clubs/spades/diamonds to collect  papers or whatever. It's a nice way to have groups!

 Here's another idea I found from a variety of sources: Pinterest gave me the idea for a magnet chart--a way to streamline attendance and lunch count for me, and keep track of where kids are. I set that up, but then needed to figure out the magnet situation. I was looking at magnet tape options at target, and the image for one was of bottle cap magnets. So I looked on Amazon, and not only found bottle caps, but a 1" hole punch (perfect size to fit a picture/number into a bottle cap!) and a plastic blob (I forget what they're called) that fit in each bottle cap to make it look more professionally done. Less professional is my daily re-gluing at least one number back into its bottle cap, as the kiddos are not gentle and the magnets smack against the shelves below and dismantle. But they'll get better.

  Growing up, each year, my mom would take a picture of me and my sister every first day of school. She would continue to request a picture throughout college, and since I haven't not had a first day of school any year since kindergarten, I continue to endeavor to send a First Day of School picture to my mom. They now take the form of selfies instead of portraits. Here is this year's:

As the days progress, I continue to add more to my walls. I ordered a dinosaur welcome sign (I have a little bit of a dinosaur theme going on--our classroom economy has "Dino Dollars"--each denomination has a different dinosaur on it). It naturally wasn't there the 1st day of school, and it was also much longer than expected (10 feet long!) but now hanging up on the wall above my head in the dark space in the picture above. Posters continue to go up--an empathy poster from our Second Step curriculum, and a "Kindness Contract" we wrote and signed as a class the second day of school.

As the year begins, and goals are being set by both me and the kids, I hope to keep you, dear reader, updated a little more often on my adventures as I discover 4th grade and a new school. So stay tuned for posts about my classroom economy, how 4th grade is similar and different from kinder, and in the winter, Dinovember: 4th grade edition. You didn't think I would give that up teaching an older grade, did you? 

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