Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Student Character Traits

With the start of the new year come new activities.
Since the only thing I knew about my students were their cumm folders and a few days of observations, I decided to do a project that allowed us to get to know each other better.

To tie this into our reading workshop, we spent one morning discussing character traits in conjunction with the reading strategies of inference and visualizing. We read my favorite book, Chicken Sunday by Patricia Polocco and discussed the different character traits we noticed.

Later that afternoon we worked on our Community Building and had to identify some of the character traits we noticed about our (randomly selected) partner. There were a lot of "he's nice" or "she's funny" comments, but learners who had been in school together prior to this year had a lot more detailed information to share.

Finally, for a homework assignment they were asked to come up with 20 character traits they felt described themselves. Here were some of my examples:

teacher, wife, sister, daughter, traveler, thinker, wonderer, worrier, peacemaker, athlete, dancer, creator, singer, poet, daydreamer, helper, listener, etc. 

During our community building time in the afternoon the next day we shared our character traits and I asked students to give suggestions to students who might not have met the 20 trait expectation.

Finally, we took out our MacBooks, took a self portrait (with NO people in the background) and then I walked them through the steps of turning their portrait into a word picture using tagxedo using the list of character traits they had generated.

Here are the directions I used, although I modified them for my kids. While this website doesn't show it, especially pay attention to the 'threshold' and 'blur' sections, as they really help define the lines of your objects. Also, for some reason I couldn't type in the text box, but I could copy and paste the list from a word document.

We printed the finished portraits and I laminated them and put them on my classroom wall. All day students, teachers, and administrators have been stopping and looking them over. Since I didn't label them with my students' names, kids from other classes have been reading the characteristics and trying to guess who they are.  I am excited for parent night to see if their families will recognize their kids!

I hope this help builds community, self-esteem, and teach character traits in your classroom as well!

~Michelle Louise

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Teacher Bag Help!

Alright friends, I need your help.

My favorite teacher bag has fallen apart and I need a replacement ASAP!
School starts NEXT week and I am feeling a bit worried. (I am so type A, everything needs a place from day one, that it's not even funny.) 

One of many holes in my torn Kipling

What teacher bag do you use? Where is the best place to look?
 I'm hoping to find one that is extremely durable, not canvas, and can hold:

  • a laptop
  • keys
  • phone
  • planner
  • water bottle
  • notebooks (at least 3)
  • large wallet 
  • cough drops/gum

Please ask your friends, your neighbors, your mom!
Your help is GREATLY appreciated!

~Ms. Michelle Louise

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Love and Logic

I am moving to a new school this year. One that has a religious focus and kids from all over the world, a school that is exactly what I love.

My previous school was great and allowed me to do fantastic things, but one thing it did not have was any kind of behavior management system or behavioral program in place.  The expectations I had in my classroom were not the same as the administration's or even some of the other teachers.  I struggled with creating an accountability system that worked because there was no consistency.

This year, I have decided to return to love and logic.  I don't know what it is about being in a religious school that makes me feel more inclined to love my kids. I really really liked my learners at my last school, I wept saying goodbye to some of them, but did I love them?

When I was teaching in the US I worked in an inner city religious school where we had behavioral problems left and right. Our administrator chose to focus on love and logic, rather than on rigid lists of good and bad.  I will always admire his choice as it changed the dynamics in lot of classrooms.
This is not a revolutionary idea, it does not require props or gimmicks, it is simply refocusing the idea of behavior in the classroom on logical consequences and leading your learners with love.

If you have not yet read this book, please do and then let me know what you think.

~Ms. Michelle Louise

Pre-Writing Anchor Charts

I love anchor charts.
Let me say that again, I love anchor charts!  There was a big push at my school this past year to stop using so many anchor charts, focusing more on digital anchor charts which can be immediately shared with the learners' iPads and eliminating "extra clutter."  You can imagine how ruffled my feathers were hearing about that!

I do not think that the same anchor charts should be up all year, so I have done what other teachers have, and created an anchor chart binder which we practice using as a reference source.  The more you practice this skill, the more the students will do it on their own. By the end of the year my anchor chart binder had been thoroughly thumbed through. (Make sure you have an easy to understand index and that your pictures are in sheet protectors so they don't rip from use.)
I modeled mine off of this one from teachingmyfriends.blogspot.com

Since the start of the school year is just around the corner, I thought I'd share some of the anchor charts I use when beginning my writing workshop. We start with a "Cherry or Pit" story about their summer so I can assess their strengths and then we begin talking about different ways to generate topics for writing.

Generating Ideas:  Stones in the River
I have my students create a river in their writer's notebook that is filled with boulders, stones, and pebbles. We discuss that boulders are the important people, places, experiences and things in our lives and that the stones and pebbles are smaller bits of these.  This serves as a bank of ideas that learners can come back to and use for creating their narratives and stories.

Pre-writing Strategy One:  Mapping
This is the first strategy I introduce and the one that most learners return to when they construct texts on their own.  It is very straight forward and the kids love hearing the stories that emerge as I walk them through the process using examples from my own life.

Pre-Writing Strategy Two:  Timeline
This strategy can be a struggle for some learners as it is very liner and not very "exciting," but for other kids who are drawn more towards structure, this is a great strategy to share. (I teach this second so that both styles of learning are addressed early.) You will have to review what "chronological" means and walk learners through this process of ordering twice before writing.  Choose a fun and interesting story to keep your learners engaged. 

Pre-Writing Strategy Three:  Sketching
This model is used to engage those learners who are not naturally drawn towards writing.  It allows them to incorporate their artistic side with their text.  I have a lot of fun talking and drawing my story with my kids and particularly love sharing the story of my very fat cat, Teeny. (I also use Amelia's Notebook as a model text at the start of this writing session.)

These are the three main strategies I use when starting my writing workshop. I'll add more anchor charts in the near future.
Happy writing!

~Ms. Michelle Louise

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Teachers Pay Teachers

First of all, let me say how impressed I am with all of the teachers who keep a consistent and up-to-date blog out there! Bravo! I clearly lost my gusto amidst lesson planning, assemblies, and keeping my 5th graders focused on their year long goals.

I did start spending more time on crafting items for TeachersPayTeachers, so if you get a chance, please take a look at some of my items. Everything that I make, I use! If you have something that you'd like made, please don't hesitate to ask me.  Here are a few of the items I've made and rational behind them. (If you click on the images, they will take you to my store!)

I hope you enjoy!

~Ms. Michelle Louise

I have been leading an after school activity for first graders for 2 years now.  I call it "Stories and Me!" and it is a great way to have fun with little ones while still putting an emphasis on reading.  Each session starts with a healthy snack, roll call, and then a read aloud. After the book (filled with lots of active engagement and funny voices) we do a craft activity related to the book, clean up, then have a sweet snack, and go home.  This all takes place within an hour and is just plain fun!  Since I'm moving to a new school this year, a friend asked if I could pass on my binder of activities so that she can carry on the tradition.  I decided to type it up for her (since it was a little scattered about) and then decided other people could benefit from it as well. So here you go! 15 Weekly Book Activities!

My new school is a huge advocate for parent volunteers. In fact, rumor has it that parents get into arguments about how limited their time is in the classrooms! I am a little worried about managing such...helpful parents, so I created this binder.  The idea is that volunteers can come in, open the binder, learn about our class, fill in a sheet about their role and responsibility, work with the learners and then give me feedback so that I know where to go next. Hopefully this will be a fabulous tool in the classroom!

I love persuasive writing and I love seeing what my learners feel passionate about to try to convince other people to believe what they believe.  I made this poster (and learner notebook) pack because I didn't like the boring typed posters we had for our 5th classrooms. I also wanted something engaging and interesting looking for my learners to put in their writing notebooks. Thus, this was born!

These two sets of reward cards have been my best sellers by far!  I was getting tired of food or store bought rewards for individual behavior, so I created these two sets of cards that were big hits in my classroom!  I laminated them so I could reuse them again and again. The kids really like them and so does my wallet!

These book labels were made out of sheer necessity. The classroom I inherited had poorly labeled and organized book baskets. They were ugly and unappealing, I couldn't imagine any child going over and choosing a book from the baskets that were (at the time) on the shelves. These labels were the very first things I made when I got into my 5th grade classroom and I feel that they accurately reflect most upper elementary school classroom libraries.  

Once I had my book basket labels made, being the OCD person I am, I had to make classroom labels that matched. These are the results.

The last item (other than a free poster) is one that I created for my lower elementary friends.  They wanted a cute and friendly "Star of the Month" poster which learners could fill in share with their classmates. This pack includes a poster for each month, sheets to nominate different stars, and student fill-in forms. I think it's very chic and may use it in my new classroom as well!

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Seven Days of Christmas

We are only 7 days away from winter break (if you count today).  As always around this time of year, my learners were starting to get a little restless and to treat each other not so nicely all the time.  While I tried to stress again and again global citizenship and with freedom comes responsibility I decided it was time to break out a behavior chart in order to earn some holiday classroom cheer.

After scouring Pinterest, I realized there was nothing quite what I needed, so I decided to create something of my own. Here is our '5C Christmas Tree of Goodness and Kindness':

Each morning we talk about how our actions impact others.  Sometimes it's reflecting on a short reading, other times its sharing something positive we have done for others.  Starting our day off thinking about our actions has really helped guide my learners in making better choices.

Our christmas tree has 5 main layers (the top is for the star that we are going to make as a class) and we will use the two sides of the door as decoration space as well.  Each day, the students have the opportunity to earn an ornament for completing their homework on time, helping their classmates, and practicing goodness and kindness.  At the end of the day, the students are given an ornament which they take home to color and then add to our tree the next day.

Our goal is that each student will have at least 5 ornaments on the tree (out of 7 possible days) which will earn them a movie morning of 'Elf' and hot chocolate. The students who haven't earned that right are going to work with another teacher either tutoring younger students or helping around the schools o they can practice goodness and kindness.

So far the kids love it!  Our classroom is getting decorated, spirits are lifting, and it feels great to work towards a common goal.

I've hung this sign by the tree, please feel free to use it in your own classroom.

Happy Holidays!

~Michelle Louise

Book of Inspiration

Sometimes teaching is an overwhelming job. I truly feel that most teachers hold themselves to the highest expectations and stretch themselves very thin.  We love our students, our colleagues, our families, and our friends, and sometimes its hard to find the right balance, especially when our kids start push our buttons.

This past month we had 2 straight weeks of indoor morning and lunch recess... The kids were cranky. I was crabby. I lost my focus on the joy in my classroom and needed a reminder of why I do what I do.
That is where this little gem came in and saved the day:

My aunt was a fantastic teacher and she told me when I first started student teaching to keep a box or book of all the good things that happen in class--emails, letters, student quotes, random thoughts about teaching--and that whenever I felt down, I should pull out those tokens of joy and look at them.

This notebook was bought in a stationary shop when we first moved overseas. The cover says: "Wrote Down Something That Make You Happy Every Day."  That alone makes me smile every time I read it!

This little book has expanded and grown so much that it has a HUGE binder clip on it and I think I'll need to make a new one next year.

Here are a few of my treasured pieces that will hopefully make you smile as well:

A book is easy to keep in your desk but any box or container will do. A little bit of happiness is always right at your fingertips. Enjoy!

~Michelle Louise