Without knowing my classroom layout (or grade for that matter), I’ve been spending a couple of hours each morning while my children are asleep organizing for a classroom, creating Power Point Procedure Slides and binders such as Parent Communication Logs (or just browsing ideas on Pinterest with coffee). While working in the second and third grade rooms this year, I wanted an all-in-one system where I can account for all students in one glance. While in Hobby Lobby one day for a daughter’s school project, I saw a dry erase calendar for sale and envisioned it by my door – a student tracker. Few revisions were made though I did scrap the words on the buttons – they couldn’t be read from across the room and weren’t necessary. At the top are a row of green and red magnetic push pins to show attendance on the roster number each morning. Additionally, there are dry erase tabs to write student names in sharpie for substitutes and for the beginning of the year while matching names to numbers. Plus, kids love to see their names – it’s more personal. When students leave the room, they simply put the appropriate button in their square. I downloaded an Avery Template into Microsoft Word, then found clipart images that represented various school locations. I bought the wooden circles from an online craftstore, along with epoxy bottlecap dots to cover the labels with a finished polish. Each color/symbol represents a specific location except for yellow = resource/extension. I don’t feel these need to be distinguished; I know whether a student is receiving TAG support or intervention. I prefer the positive symbolism of the light bulb. Each student is leaving to receive support to reach a personal best. Blue = water fountain and Black = restroom. Only 1 boy and girl may leave at a time. Silver = nurse. I have two buttons in case a buddy needs to walk with a student to the nurse for any reason. Green = library and Purple = Office/Other. Because the board is dry erase, I can also write or have a student write short notes within the squares if necessary. Student being picked up at 1:15? Write the time in his/her square. Also, in a fire drill, I can grab the board for quick reference. I can’t wait to try this out!
Content is important. Everyone should have access to a broad range of understanding our world in order to interact successfully, make intelligent decisions, and enjoy life more fully. When I look at content I try to keep this in mind. Consider persuasive writing – vital to understand for any child who wants to swindle, I mean receive as an investment into personal education, the need for the new Lego Movie lego set. Fast forward several years, when the same child now needs to buy life insurance for his/her family. On the receiving end of persuasion, this same person needs to be able to evaluate which persuasive strategies the agent is employing, then sort through the extra information, to determine what best meets the needs of the family. Watching commercials or listening to a politician requires the same skill. When I taught persuasive writing in a third grade classroom, first we looked at the character in the mentor text, I Wanna Iguana by Karen Kaufman Orloff, to decide which techniques he was using to persuade Mom to let him has his friend’s iguana. Then the students discussed favorite commercials, talked about the purpose of the commercial and what tools were used to get the buyer to purchase the product. Of course, all of this was written on a handy dandy anchor chart, some by me and some by the students – shared writing! Finally we looked at an OREO graphic organizer to begin our prewrite to persuade people to protect the earth. The next day we viewed “The Great Kapok Tree” on youtube (the book is by Lynn Cherry). The students compared persuasive techniques from the day before, went through their organizer to see if they wanted to make changes/additions, then began their first draft. By the way, when discussing persuasive techniques, the students were highly engaged, taking turns respectfully at a higher level than usual which earned a gumball for positive communication skills towards a class reward. It was a great feeling!!
Why Bring this up now? Beyond the Math Classroom
One, summer is a great time for reflection. I hate sitting idle, but also because I’m reviewing math concepts which may be used towards multiple grades. Today, I looked at a couple of math books on fractions wanting to create relevance for the students in future years. Math is so much more than computation. It’s considering patterns, relationships, and promoting problem solving which is needed daily. As far as relevance, I think for younger students, I will lean towards cooking and sharing food which is something all kids can understand. With older students, I can really delve into shopping with real ads so the relations between fractions, decimals, and percents can be explored. Recently, I purchased hamburger patty squares for concrete investigations into equivalent fractions, fractions to decimals, fractions to percents. At a math conference last year, I saw this used with colored pencils – fascinating. I plan to use a strip model more than circles because it is much easier to draw on paper without error for assessment purposes.
Note to consider: One review center I want to keep in mind when exploring fractions will be creating pictures out of pattern blocks, then creating fractions out of the different shapes (using correct terminology). For older students, I can change this to individually created flags which we can express in fractions, decimals, and percents. Also, I want to use a paper balance for students to investigate comparison of fractions. Return to page 259 of Elementary and Middle School Mathematics. This can be done with discretely colored unifix cubes first, then expressed in a math journal or on a math balance sheet I can create.
So what is an educator to do while waiting to land a dream job to share the joy of learning, while teaching life skills? This eager beaver prepares for a future classroom in my spare time. Sure, I give time to my family, but often my mind drifts to procedures, game extensions, formative assessment tools, or simply classroom decorating while an impatient family member prods, “Earth to Mom again.” Recently, we watched The Lego Movie. I couldn’t help pulling out a pad to take notes about different scenes and characters. Seriously, this move is awesome (if you’ve seen the movie, you know I had to use this adjective). It will appeal to any elementary, plus older, age groups. Later, I created a game board which now is in my “to be laminated” pile, then bought 10 Lego Movie mini-figures as game pieces. They came in 3 different Lego sets which I’ll place in my Rainy Day Activity box. If I use it for math, I can incorporate characters and scenarios into my word problems. I can also use it as a general Reader Response board, Character Analysis, or Content review which will still be more engaging with Lego figures. Depending on how long it takes to obtain a position, I might create a Positive Behavior management system using the Lego Board enlarged, similar to the Homework-opoly board that is floating around. I’m also preparing an interactive bulletin board for formative assessment with posterboard T-charts/Venn Diagrams, etc. I’m reading Science Formative Assessment by Page Keeley which I will adjust to serve all subjects. However, if I know what grade I will have, then I will concentrate on content extension games to use during flex group periods. As far as the interviews, is anyone a fan though I certainly understand and support the process of finding a mutual fit? So I will smile, walk in, share my thoughts…and until then, prepare. There’s always plenty to do so the time will pass quickly. Oh, and with summer, I can enjoy more time for socializing also. Here’s a picture of my board – the white squares will have questions, problems, or board action directives if I use pre-made problems. The action figures (not pictured) will move along the spaces – I will probably alternate “move forward _ space(s)” and using die according to the games I make because I plan to use this board for multiple games/subjects. Much to do and enjoy – cheers!