Back in the Swing of Things

This week marked the beginning of the new school year for me.  I am teaching in a new school, two new grade levels, with a new schedule.  The block scheduling for my freshman is still leaving me a little unsure of where I am, but my seniors are great so far!

I co-teach my freshman, alongside the history teacher, so I am still finding my way as far as class time, routines, etc.  But my seniors are all mine.  I work alongside another English teacher, teaching the same works and using the same projects, but the class itself is mine to plan.  Today I really got into “the groove”.  We are reading William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, one of my favorites.  But today I also started our first read aloud.  Unlike in the past, when I focused on the mock Newbery, I am working to align my read-aloud with our unit theme.  As we are studying the human condition, and reading books like William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, I selected our first read-aloud carefully. We are reading Janne Teller’s Nothing. (see my review)  The book itself is stunning and I think it has Printz Award written all over it.  Even more importantly, it fits our unit perfectly while also exposing my students to literature from a modern European perspective.  We read the first 20 pages in class today and the comments were very positive.  I can’t want to continue!

I also did my first booktalks with my seniors.  I pulled all of my Lord of the Flies read-alikes and booktalked a few.  My students are all very smart (it’s a magnet-like high school), but they are not necessarily well-versed in current YA (although they are huge nonfiction and fantasy fans, with a few graphic novel lovers thrown in the mix).  During our first class meeting we introduced ourselves and named books that were important to us.  The books named included Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything, Scott Pilgrim, Vol. 1: Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Stitches: A Memoir, and The City of Ember (The First Book of Ember).

So what did I booktalk? The Hunger Games!  None of my students had read it and only two had heard of it.  I now have a waiting list for it. :)  One student took it home this weekend and was getting a firm reminder from her classmates to finish it this weekend.  I also booktalked Gone, which piqued their interest, too.  It’s awesome getting back into my normal routine!

Finally, I had each of my seniors sign up for Edmodo and Goodreads.  I just started using Edmodo and I think I love it so far!  I already know I love Goodreads.  I plan to use Goodreads for my seniors’ letter-essays, along with class book discussions.  Has anyone else used Goodreads in the classroom?  I would love to hear about your experiences!

One week down!

We headed back to school this past Thursday. It’s always a humorous morning- the bell rings and students slowly begin to walk down our hallway. The silence is palpable. There are shy smiles, a few lost students, and a the static sound of nervousness fills the air. my team and I always laugh to ourselves, saying we should savor the moment, as they will never be this silent again!

The first two days back are always full of procedures, routines, and paperwork. Oh, the paperwork! But it is nice getting to spend those first few hours as a class, not worrying about switching classes or planning lessons, beyond building community and routines and procedures. My class seems wonderful this year. Within the first few hours they had begged to explore the classroom library, and who am I so say no?! We also began out first read-aloud, Flying Solo, and my homeroom seems to be enjoying it.  I love setting the tone those first few days, showing the students how important reading will be in our class.  But more importantly, it shows them how much fun we will have with reading.

On Friday afternoon, we did a quick class switch (my team is departmentalized).  My afternoon class only has 15 students!  15!  And I have 18 in the morning.  (I lose students in both classes to resource room/pull-out).  We switched for half of a normal period, giving me an hour with both classes.  We went over a brief outline of the year and then got started with our “Where I’m From” poems.  (more about that in a different post)

It is shaping up to be a great year.  The students are enthusiastic and I can’t wait to dive into the curriculum this week!  Off to write my first week’s lesson plans now.  :)

Still working, still exhausted

I spent another few hours at school today- hanging butcher paper, setting up new bulletin boards, picking up class lists, and all those odd and ends that need to be done at the beginning of the new school year.  My mother and sisters came in today to help out and I think we made a lot of progress!

Tomorrow I need to spend just a little more time in the room, and then I should be done!  Hopefully I can devote more time to the blog then!

Getting Ready for the New School Year

I spent the majority of today preparing for the beginning of school.  I ran a bunch of errands this morning picking up school supplies.  (sidenote- how awesome is Staples?!  There sales are amazing, especially for teachers!)  When I got home, I spent a few hours cleaning the house and my car, both of which I want spotless before school starts.  I know once the year begins it will be a while before I am ready to spring clean again!

Finally, I started working on school work.  Yesterday I dropped a bunch of boxes off in my classroom and today I sorted through the remaining boxes.  I threw a lot of trash away and I feel much more organized.  I also set up my table communal supply bins, which I hope will alleviate some organizational problems for my students this year.  I promise to post pictures once they are all full and complete.  But first I need to grab a few more items from the supply closet at school!  After cleaning, organizing, and setting up I moved onto planning.  I set up my gradebook for the year, which is always a chore because I need to divide it into two classes and three subjects each.  But writing out the names helps me become a little more familiar with my students at the beginning of the year.

Finally, I worked on my new planbook.  I type my plans on the computer but I haven’t yet settled on a format that I absolutely love.  However, today I reworked and modified a template from Mandy Gregory and I love it so far!  I print my plans out and keep them in a divided binder, which also has my other important paperwork in it.  It really helps me stay organized!

Tomorrow I plan to head into school bright and early, with my sister tagging along to help.  She is the organized one, with pretty handwriting.  Hence, she loves writing out my nametags and helping with my bulletin boards.  And I love having the help!  I plan to spend about 3-4 hours there (until I get kicked out!) and hope to get almost everything done.  Hopefully I will have some pictures to post when I get home.

Teaching with Intention by Debbie Miller

I just finished a fantastic professional book and it’s really inspired me to get moving on my plans for this year. (Well, that and the fact that school starts in 2 weeks!). Debbie Miller’s Teaching with Intention: Defining Beliefs, Aligning Practice, Taking Action, K-5 is a must-read for ALL teachers.

This easy read will motivate you to reflect deeply on your teaching practices. More than once I found myself nodding and saying, “Yes!” while reading this book. The workshops that Debbie observes and writes about are the workshops we all want for our classrooms. Instead of basals and scripted programs, Debbie walks us through figuring out our own core beliefs and how to make sure they guide our teaching and interaction with students. The first chapter is called “Picture Perfect: How Does Your Ideal Classroom Look, Sound, and Feel”. Debbie shares with us that by determining our vision of what we want for our kids/classroom at the en of the school year we can set up a classroom that allows that to happen from the beginning. She stresses that the right environment is critical to student learning and achievement.

She continues on with ideas for aligning (best) practices, assessment, and setting up lessons that are in line with our beliefs. And all of this is done in a small, easy to read book! Also, a color insert of classroom pictures is included, and I am still drooling over those rooms! Needless to say, my ideas for classroom decor this year have changed since finishing this book. Definitely get your hands on this before school starts (or even if it already has!) You will not regret it. In fact, I can imagine rereading this every summer just to get recharged and energized for the coming school year

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