Monday, October 15, 2012

A Little of This and a Little of That

Whoa!  This weekend, I bought a book called Who Switched Off My Brain by Dr. Caroline Leaf, because that's how I feel about half the time!  Between teaching second grade, raising two precious girls, being a part-time wife (my husband travels a LOT), being a new blogger, running a new TPT store, learning the new common core standards, and having a new reading series, I feel CRAAAAAZY!  Is it a teacher thing, a mom thing, or just me?

Anyway, I have been working on some things to help me at school, and wanted to share them with you.  Of course, being the perfectionist that I am (A.D.D. + O.C.D. = DANGEROUS!), I want everything in my life to be just that...perfect.  A little overwhelming, to say the least.

First, thanks to Tori at Tori's Teaching Tips, I finally have a volunteer system down-pat (seriously, thanks, Tori!).  I have several moms who volunteer weekly, and others who come when they can.  Either way, I have something ready for them as soon as they walk in:
  • Editing Groups - these moms are wonderful!  They jump right into a writing lesson and either "wander around" helping kids, as needed, or they take a small group to my kidney table and formally edit their writing with them.  They use our word wall, our editor's checklist, and a "read it out loud" system, so that my kiddos will become proficient at this on their own, at some point.
  • Math Assistant - these moms are fabulous, too!  They take a group of students, be it higher achieving, or lower achieving, and work with them on problem-solving strategies, numeracy, and whatever our focus skill is for the lesson.  If you haven't watched the common core resource videos online at The Teaching Channel, you're missing out on some AMAZING work being done in England.  I've modeled my teaching around these outstanding instructors.
  • Reading Queen - I know, I am the queen most of the time, but I relinquish my crown to these special moms.  They take a group of readers into the hallway, or into the 2nd grade storage room (that sounds awful, but it has a nice workspace in it, too), to read their leveled readers and work on specific skills for literacy folders.  This allows me to have less kids in the room, work with a group myself, and keep others on task with literacy tasks that are finally becoming routine!
  • Filing - two moms come in specifically to put my graded papers in children's take-home folders.  I despise filing!
  • Copying - every once in a while, I have a mom show up, out of the blue, so I keep a "Needs to be Copied" basket with papers I'd like to have for the next few weeks, with specific copying instructions post-it noted.
  • Assembling - again, occasionally, I have some brilliant plan to put together some big, wonderful project and need help cutting, laminating (HA!  My school NEVER has any lamination film, and if by some weird chance we do, the laminator's broken) with contact paper, and putting together sets of projects for my kiddos

Next, I've been working pretty hard on getting a routine down, like I mentioned above, for Literacy Stations.  I have the standard, 2-pocket folder with "work in progress" and "completed work" labels inside.  You all know about those.  But, a friend shared her secret with me, and I'll share it with you:  her stations are stationary!  I LOVE it!  Each week, my students know they have to:
  • complete a vocabulary organizer
  • read a leveled book and take an A/R test on it
  • take a copy of the poem of the week to highlight rhyming words, with a different colored highlighter for each rhyme, glue it to nice drawing paper, and illustrate it
  • read another leveled reader and do a B/M/E organizer for it
  • complete two focus skill activites, and
  • meet with me
I have also included a Literacy Workstation Checklist table that students can fill in as they go, and made some signs to put on each station's container.  You can get a copy of those by clicking on the picture below.

I usually don't meet with groups on Mondays, because I introduce our main story, read it aloud to them, go over all the stations, and introduce the focus skills.  Every other day, I meet with two groups, unless one of my Reading Queens shows up, and then I meet with one group, she meets with one, and I get to observe and take anecdotal records (imagine!).

I have absolutely ZERO creativity, but some talent, so I've come up with some new spelling activities to add to my stations, beginning this week.  You can grab the whole thing at my TPT store.

Finally, we begin studying weather this week, so I have made a Weather Journal you can pick up at TPT.

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