Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Smash Books: Year 2

After tackling Smash Books for the first time last year, I decided to make a couple of changes to how I'm organizing them this year. I was really pleased overall with our implementation of these (you can read about my experiences here and here and here), but there were a couple of things I wanted to do to make the Smash Book even more organized.

Here are the three changes I've made (so far) this year.

1. Five tabbed sections - I broke the Smash Book into five sections this year:

  • Table of Contents (T.O.C.)
  • Words Worth Knowing (W.W.K.)
  • Skills
  • Reading Journal
  • References
The little tabs will make it easier to flip through the sections of the book.

2. A references section - I'm going to use this for the non-skills material, such as the syllabus, the student account log, the learning styles and multiple intelligences quizzes, etc. These are things I want the students to keep and reference back to, but I think it might be easier to keep them separate this year.

3. A reading journal - I want to do a better job of encouraging my students to read, so a section of the Smash Book is dedicated to letting students record their thoughts about their reading. The section includes:
  • Books I Want to Read
  • Books I Abandoned
  • Favorite Quotes
  • Book Reviews (short form and long form)

Each year I use a Prezi to walk students through setting up the Smash Book, so I thought I'd share that with you. It's public and editable to your needs, if that's something that interests you. Just swap out your own pictures and instructions, if you like. You can find my Smash Book Set-Up Prezi (with a more detailed look at the guts of my Smash Book) here.

Happy Teaching!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Classroom Tour 2015

This past week was my first week back to school (our first student day was Wednesday) and I had to scramble this year to get my classroom together! It was so unlike me... usually I spend a couple of weeks throughout the summer doing a little of this, a little of that. That wasn't possible this year because 1. CPR classes being held in my classroom and 2. baby. So it was a mad dash to the finish line this year, but I'm really happy with how things went. Actually my pictures this year were taken at the end of the first student day, so the room had already been pulled through the ringer and survived! #winning

I didn't make any major changes this year; in fact, I went back to my roots in a couple of ways. After five years of trial-and-error, I decided to pull some of the best things I've done and incorporate those into my classroom environment. I think you could call this the "Best Of" Classroom Tour.

(Want to see how my room has evolved? Here are my classroom tours from 20122013, and 2014.)

For fun this year, I did a little panoramic action to take a 360ยบ view of my classroom. Obviously it's a little warped, but this gives you an idea of what my room as a whole looks like. As I mentioned in this post I've decided that the seating arrangement that ultimately works best for my classroom (due to physical space, number of students, my goals for the class, and various other factors) is the Runway. My room is divided by a runway, with one group of students facing the other across the room. I am very thankful to have much smaller class sizes this year (currently my largest class has twenty-nine students), which has allowed for a wider runway and more space between desks. The students all have a good view of the Smart Board in the front of the room (which we use every single day), but they can also see me just about anywhere in the room. I can teach from the front of the room, the back, or even one of the corners, and there's no severe rubbernecking going on.

If you're wondering about the sticky notes on the desks, I use those to determine student seating for the first day of school. The desks are temporarily numbered with sticky notes. When my students come in on the first day, they find their name and number on the Smart Board, which directs them to their desk. It's a great system.

Okay, let's look at some details.

Classroom Door
So there's my door. As they walk in, students get a little tough love and a little inspiration in their own language. I ran out of time so I didn't get a chance to laminate these, but I will definitely be printing off second copies (in color maybe, if I'm feelin' fancy) and kindly asking the librarian to laminate them for me because she doesn't trust me to use the laminator myself. #icantimaginewhy

Information Bulletin Board

A Closer Look
There's my bulletin board, still rocking the green fabric which is holding up nicely after a couple of years of use. I still have all my required disaster drills and the dress code posted, along with my classroom procedures and the list of consequences. I revamped my tardy sheet this year just to make it look a bit nicer and decided to go with a paper version of the sign-out sheet this year so I have a record to look back on (if you recall, I was using a white board for that before). I'm having another go at my Classroom Rewards Card again this year, so the reminder about that is hanging up on the board. Finally, my class roster lanyard is up there too.

I still have my Smash Book Set-Up papers up as a reminder for everyone as we get going again this year. I also typed up the Holstee Manifesto (discovered via Pinterest) to hang up because, well, I like it.

My homework area is the same as it has always been and it's one of the most utilized spaces in my room. I moved the Absent Binder to the front of the room this year in the hopes that my students will do a better job of checking it before asking me about what they missed.

Teacher Station
It's been a few years since I've used this noisy, slightly broken, rolling podium for something other than as a flat surface to ultimately collect crap. I never teach from behind a podium (I either move throughout the room or sit in a student desk or my teacher chair up front), but it is nice to have a landing point in the front of the room so I'm not constantly running back and forth to my primary teacher station. I have a second set of supplies here, along with all of my teacher edition books. The plastic set of drawers where I keep my copies is in there too.

Classroom Calendar
I downsized my classroom calendar just a bit this year and I used masking tape for the lines. I am forever in search of a better way to do the lines of this calendar. Thus far I've used ribbon and wet erase marker. Now tape. Still not happy, but maybe happier? I really needed a laser level for this job but, again, I was racing against the clock. I also do not love the days of the week across the top (for reasons unknown to me the paper warped in, like, a day) so I'll be redoing and laminating those too.

I moved my round table/grading station/T.A. station to the other side of the room so I actually have access to my cabinets now, rather than student desks blocking them. The one new thing I did this year: I got a vertical file holder to hold graded student work. My T.A.s are going to be responsible for handing out the graded work. We'll see if it works.

My homework trays, paper drawers, and the home of the dreaded Yellow Sheet have all stayed in the same place.

Teacher Station
There's my primary teacher station, looking rather sloppy with that homely gray cardigan I love so much thrown carelessly over the back of a very tired-looking chair. I still love using a regular table and a simple small bookshelf rather than fighting a clunky old desk. The space feels more open and inviting and it stays considerably tidier than my giant old desk did.

So there you have it. Life in A104. Thus far it seems that this environment is going to work out really well for us this year. I'll be keeping you posted if I decide to make any major room changes.

What's going on in your classrooms this year? Feel free to leave your ideas or links to your own classroom tours in the comments below!