Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Pacing Guides

Besides my golden rule (ask for help!), the best piece of advice I could give a new teacher (or veteran!) would be to make a pacing guide/course calendar. I didn't create a pacing guide my first year of teaching (and you can see how well that went for me here), but I've done it ever since. Your year will run so smoothly with a flexible pacing guide.

The idea of planning out your entire school year can seem extremely overwhelming at first, but I think I've got a system figured out that really can save a teacher a whole lot of trouble. I thought I'd share that with you today. :)

Keep in mind, we will have to create a pacing guide for each unique course we teach. I am blessed to only have two preps, but I did have to do this entire process twice. So yeah.

You Will Need:

  • a school calendar
  • several sheets of notebook paper and pens in multiple colors (trust me on the colors thing... you'll see why)
  • your textbooks/course novels

Step 1: Mind Map the Shiz Out of Your Class
Do you know Mr. Weinstein? Me neither. But I do know his methods, and I do know they work. He has greatly inspired my new writers' workshop this year (coming soon to a blog post near you). He's a big believer in mind maps. It's like web organizing on high fructose corn syrup. Anyway, you'll want to sit down with a sheet of paper and write your course name in the middle. Then you go to town, mapping out the course as much as you can. This is where the colors come in. In Language Arts, we have five major content areas we cover: fiction, non-fiction, conventions/grammar, writing, and vocabulary development. I assigned a color to each one of these areas while mind-mapping, and I started with five branches. Then I started to build each branch by plugging in my unit ideas, short stories, writing pieces, etc. It's easier if I just show you the picture.

Step 2: Time Management
Once you've mind-mapped your class, you will need to clearly define your units. I think about ten units a year is a good goal, if you tend to do 12-20 day units. (Tip: don't think about your units in weeks because that gets skewed. Your school "week" only has five days, and you've also got holidays and other breaks thrown in there. Think days.) Chunk up your map into units (you've probably done some of this without even thinking about it) and start figuring out the number of days your units will need. Once you've done this step, you're ready to start prioritizing units and listing them chronologically.

Step 3: Plug It Into Your Calendar
The picture above shows this next step too. Once you've got your units and your approximate number of days, start plugging those bad boys into your school calendar. At this point, you will probably have to make some adjustments to the number of days each unit is going to take, but that's totally okay. Be flexible. (Tip: add at least three extra days to each unit, if you can. Ultimate flexibility.) Watch out for things that can trip you up; you probably don't want to finish up the last day or two of a unit after Spring Break, for example.

Step 4: Create the Pacing Guide.
Now you can make your actual pacing guide. I just use Microsoft Word for this. I screen capture the corporation calendar and paste it into my Word document. Then I create a text box for each month and plug in my information. Again, this is so much easier to understand with a picture.

Once you've got a pacing guide established, planning is cake! I've already planned the entire 1st quarter of the year, following the pacing guide and continuing with my color-coding principles. ;) I zoom in a bit and actually broad-plan each day of the unit, like this.

Once I've got that, then I can put my more extensive plans in my Sanity Saver. This is my first full week, and it's a little weird-looking because I use my first full week of school to talk about skills.

Hopefully this is helpful and it sort of makes sense! If you've got any questions, feel free to drop those in the comments section below!

Happy It's Almost Time for School!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Yellow Sheet in Detail (with a guest appearance by Dwight Schrute)

I've had quite a few requests for more information about the Yellow Sheet referenced in this post. First, I need to clarify that the original idea wasn't mine; I borrowed this idea from Elizabeth at E, Myself, and I and I tweaked it to make it fit my personal needs. I thought the best way to explain this would be storyboard style, so here we go.

Once upon a time there was a student. No, it wasn't really Dwight Schrute, but for the sake of this example, we're going to pretend that it was Dwight.

One day, Dwight chose not to bring in his homework, so Mrs. Richardson made him take the walk of shame (different from the cone of shame, but that's a completely different media reference) to pick up the dreaded "Yellow Sheet." Dwight filled out the top portion of the Yellow Sheet, like so, and then he placed it in the homework tray. 

When Mrs. Richardson gathered up the day's work from the tray, she pulled out Dwight's "Yellow Sheet" (which stood out easily from the rest of the white homework papers) and tucked it inside of her Missing Work Log. (Side note: I do have to keep a separate binder for these sheets because there always wind up being quite a few in there and it makes my Sanity Saver too bulky.)

Because he had superior brainpower ("Through concentration, I can raise and lower my cholesterol at will.") Dwight decided it would be wise to turn in the homework assignment the next day instead of never turning it in.

Upon receipt of the late homework assignment, Mrs. Richardson pulled Dwight's Yellow Sheet from her binder and filled out the lower portion. This showed the date that Dwight turned in the assignment. It also showed his original score on the assignment and the amount of points deducted because of lateness.

Mrs. Richardson them removed the very bottom portion of the Yellow Sheet. She found scissors to be most effective for this task. (She also doesn't understand why this picture turned out kind of greenish-blue.)

She stapled the bottom portion of the Yellow Sheet to Dwight's graded assignment. This assured that Dwight was very well aware of the score he received and the kind of negative impact his tardiness had on the score.

As for Mrs. Richardson, she now had an excellent record of the late assignment for parent-teacher conferences.

And that, kids, is how the Yellow Sheet works. :)

You can download the Yellow Sheet for free! Just click that "Free Templates for You!" tab at the top of the website and get going!

Also, for your entertainment, here are The 30 Best Dwight Schrute Quotes.

"I am fast. To give you a reference point I am somewhere between a snake and a mongoose... And a panther."

Happy Saturday!

Friday, July 26, 2013

2013 Classroom Tour

Hooray! I'm so excited to writing this post because that means I'm (99%) finished with my classroom! I did indeed decorate my classroom a bit, and I've updated several things from my classroom in 2012. Let me show you around!

First, a couple of views of the room as a whole.

From the classroom door

From the door

From the front of the room, by the bookcase

Back of the room, facing the classroom door

Now, for a closer look.

The front of my classroom.

You can see the remnants of my "Aah! School starts so soon and I have so much to do!" mind map on the board. :)

The Sacred Table - this is a new idea I found somewhere on Pinterest (as soon as I figure out where, I'll link to it). Adam helped me swipe this cute wooden table from storage at the school and this will be the class's sacred table. This table will be a place for students to go when they need a little extra help or if they have a lot of questions, and it's considered sacred because students should feel safe to ask any questions they have without fearing ridicule. I'm loving this idea. Hopefully it works out!

My homework assignment and class agenda board.

Old idea with tidier labels.

Workshop Supplies Crates - I've added a writer's workshop program to my curriculum this year for both English 9 and 10. I'm really looking forward to this and I'll definitely be posting about this in the very near future. My Writer's Workshop crate consists of red pens, extra highlighters, my little draft labels, glue sticks, and Post-It notes. My Reader's Workshop crate (which is really just for annotating text) consists of lots of Post-It notes and some bookmarks.

My old classroom rules poster. I've got a shiny new one that should be arriving in the mail next week!

A little wisdom :)

My updated (and much better-looking) information bulletin board! I love the new fabric!

Sign Out Sheet - This is an old idea that's new to my classroom. I really hate that tiny moment of sheer panic when you realize one of your students is missing and then you thankfully remember that you let them go to the bathroom. This is mostly to help me stay cool as a cucumber. It's a dry erase board too, so that's handy.

High School Word Wall - This is new and I'm excited about it. I'm giving my vocabulary program a mini-makeover (you may recall that I was singin' the Vocabulary Blues here and here). I promise there will be a blog post about my vocab mini-makeover soon too, but for now I wanted to introduce you to my high school word wall. Instead of being organized by letter like many of the elementary word walls, this one will be organized into five categories:

  • literary terms
  • writing terms
  • found words
  • words we love
  • vocab workshop words (from the vocab book)
The back of the classroom
(Still have to cover the ugly filing cabinets)
Student supply center

Homework trays

Somehow my original Absent Binder got thrown away over summer break, so I had to make another one. :(

My binder full of book reviews and recommendations
Paper, paper, and that yellow paper the kids really don't want. :P
Folders for graded student work... hopefully this system will work because I've never had a "returning work" system work yet. :\
My desk that I don't love
I'm forgoing the desk calendar this year and just keeping my Sanity Saver calendar at hand.

Ta-Da! My Giant Calendar! - Inspired by the link in this post! A little ribbon, some card stock, and magnet tape can go a long way! :)

Well, even if the teacher isn't quite ready for the year, the classroom is. :)

Are you sharing a classroom tour this year on your own blog? Post the link in the comments! I'd love to see them!