As we approach the end of another school year, my mind immediately jumps to the beginning of next year and what I’m going to do differently, or keep the same…new posters or furniture arrangements, what apps we need on which iPads…
I’m sure I’m not alone.
However for the last 2 years I haven’t had a classroom to set up and I won’t have do do it for 2018 either. But it got me thinking about all the different classrooms that I rotate through and the types of things I would be focusing on as a teacher – if I was staying in the same room, or moving to a different one!
- Do you have a designated wall space for different subjects? Where do you display anchor charts for various subjects? Or key terminology?
I am a big believer in visual literacy around the classroom, including word walls, a ‘maths dictionary’ wall and I’ve recently introduced a VCOP wall into one of the classrooms I teach in. In the past, I’ve also had a ‘Wall (or Window) of Fame’ for any students who are featured in our newsletter or local newspaper – I simply cut out the article and blu-tack it to the area – a great way to showcase students and make them feel important. Birthday charts are also a way to help students feel valued, as well as a way to remember and plan for any birthday cupcakes that may be brought it!
I also like to include very clear instructions and guidelines. These posters from First Grade Glitter and Giggles were used quite often in my class, to avoid me repeating myself.
A few other things to consider: are you going to display a visual timetable for each day, or have a classroom helper display?
- Do you have photos or names of all students at the entrance to your class?
I always had some sort of theme to my class, so in the past I’ve created door labels with their names and our class logo, or ones with their photo. I’ve used similar labels for their lockers or bag hooks and if using set seating, I’ve attached labels to desks.
If your class has a name, for example the Year 2 Rainbow Fish, I always display that on the door too!
- Where will your students keep their stationary and books?
My students have often had their own pencilcases with everything inside. The problem I often found is that even though parents were asked, they didn’t get everything labelled and things went missing and suddenly I had 8 kids in my class without a pair of scissors.
Sometimes I had pencilcases just for coloured pencils, textas and crayons and I kept the greyleads, erasers, scissors and gluesticks in a communal area for all students to access. I found this worked really well, as students were required to work together to keep all the resources clean and tidy for the whole class to use. Depending on the grade level, I’ve also had tubs on tables with coloured pencils, textas and crayons too, so there were no pencilcases in my classroom at all.
I created book covers for each of my different subjects (usually an A4 size) and on the first few days of school, we spent a few minutes here or there colouring them in, so that students could personalise them. If students wanted their books covered in patterned contact, I simply attached it to the front of their book using a piece of clear contact. Unfortunately the ones I used to make were made using Microsoft Publisher before I used a Macbook, so here are some other ideas I found.
Notes from home:
- Where will you collect permission notes, or late slips?
I used to just have a pile of notes that I’d collect and then potentially lose them. I made myself a little mail box, so instead of giving notes to me, students would just slip them inside and I’d collect them all at the end of day when I wasn’t doing 20 other things and could deliver them to the office without getting distracted!
I found that it was also important to designate a box in the classroom for Library Book Returns, so that if students brought their books back before our allocated day, there was somewhere to keep them safe.
Hope you’ve found this helpful – comment with any extra ideas that you have for helping set up a classroom!
(I could go on and on, but nobody likes to read a whole essay!)
I download so many apps onto my iPad and only use a small percentage of them. I don’t download all of them for my personal use – I like to be able to recommend apps for others to use, that they may find helpful or interesting for them or their students.
By recommending apps to others, many people in return have given me recommendations of their own. Many of them I have used but not really made the most of it, so I’ve decided to write a list of apps that I want to give a red-hot go in 2017.
- Smiling Mind
- Adobe Spark.
Not a huge list, but these are apps that I’ve had other teachers tell me about, or found out about through my fantastic Professional Learning Network (PLN) on Twitter.
Stay tuned for updates on how I’m using these apps in the school setting…not just the classroom, as my 2017 role is going to be broader than a classroom!
In my second year of teaching, I began a classroom blog. That was my first adventure into classroom connections using modern technology…penpals had been a less than successful experiment in my first year!
In my fourth year, I was still blogging and came across @misskyritsis on Twitter. I have a feeling that we connected our classrooms using a Mystery Skype format and then a few weeks later, we connected with another Year 4 class to discuss and share our Christian Studies presentations about Religious Festivals. We Skyped @misskyritsis again, plus another class to share our Genius Hour ideas and progress. Kids love talking to other ‘real’ kids!
Last year, I was still blogging, Skyping and sharing comments and blog posts with classrooms all around the world. My Year 2s helped me write draft comments, reply to other blog visitors and broadened their geographical knowledge of country location due to the variety of people visiting our blog!
This year, I teach Preps on a Thursday afternoon. We do a poem and craft related to the sound of the week and then visit the library. Throughout the year, I stumbled across a Prep blog, which I showed the class. They loved seeing other ‘real’ Preps’ work and writing, so we began commenting. We Skyped them and their teacher @kaz_phi and talked about the similarities and differences between our school – their school is near a beach!! During our Bookweek, they Skyped us to share a picturebook that they had reflected in their artwork…so we listened to the story and created our own artwork too!
Yesterday was my birthday and the highlight of classroom connections is receiving a gorgeous audio message of a class of Preps singing Happy Birthday to me- we’ve never met in person, but it was so beautiful to hear it!
Why SHOULD you connect with other classes?
- geography skills
- authentic speaking and listening skills
- to share ANY aspect of your learning
- to learn from another class
- to widen your audience for class presentations
- debating purposes
Why AREN’T you connecting with other classes?
Today was my first day of relief teaching in the school that I’m not actually working part-time at this year. So, I was not connected to the school wifi, or have log in details or anything. For someone who loves integrating technology into lessons in any way possible, I was slightly ‘meh’ about my day in Year 6.
Regardless of this, I had packed my iPad in my handbag. What was I planning to do with it? No idea! But I was determined. I pulled out my folder of ‘Break’ apps, courtesy of @DaleSidebottom. I had ClassBreak, MathBreak, TeacherShake, QuizBreak, BrainBrea, ScienceBreak & LiteracyBreak. All of these can be purchased from the iTunes App Store, search: The Ultimate Teachers App Pack.
But which ones could be used without an internet connection?
- LiteracyBreak – a great range of Introduction Games, Nursery Rhymes, Brainteasers, Debating Topics, Writing Games, Bus Activities (think: school camp and long excursions!), Group Games and a section for ideas on Organising Groups.
- ScienceBreak – all sections except Science Videos (links to Youtube videos) will work offline. Great ideas for lesson starters, simple low-prep experiments, fun facts…and the list goes on!
- ClassBreak – a plethora of activities and games: icebreakers, PE, team building and time filler! Subject games & classroom activities, riddles, jokes, quotes of the day, brain gym & a true and false guessing game.
- MathBreak – this was my go-to app for the day and my favourite section was the riddles! Most of them were maths-related, but some were just good old fashioned logic thinking! This app also features a list of dice games and times table tricks.
Anything else? Well, I asked another teacher if there was a CRT log-in for the Interactive Whiteboard & classroom computer, and there was. (Always pays to ask!) Right – logged in and ready to go!
This was perfect, as I had 7 statements for the students to write out in their books and then decide if they agree or disagree with them…and then the good old discuss and compare, most popular responses etc. Perfect to do as a Kahoot survey! (You don’t have a free Kahoot account? Why not?!)
So, at the beginning of lunch, I whipped up a Kahoot survey (it took all of 4 minutes) and once the students had done the required work of writing the questions down, they decided on their answers – survey style. It was a great way of gaining a whole class snapshot of their beliefs & opinions and provided a healthy discussion board for us to chat about.
Aaaaand, just because I love inspiring students with clips from Youtube, this clip tied in really well with the topic of our afternoon lesson – serving others.
So never fear, relief teachers can use technology successfully! Anything else to add to my list?
As many teachers around Australia are gearing up for another year in the classroom, I am sitting on the couch watching tennis, reading books and painting my toenails. This year is all about wellbeing for me. Yes, I am working 2 days a week in a variety of classrooms and will also put my hand up for relief teaching, but ultimately in 2016, I am putting myself first.
In my Year 2 classroom in 2015 I began to think carefully about not only my own wellbeing, but the wellbeing of those in my care. Some of my students had diagnosed learning difficulties including Asperger’s and Oppositional Defiance Disorder, others came from broken families, some had infant siblings and the list goes on.
With a few prompts from our Student Wellbeing Leader, I began to put this concern for my students into action, by creating a Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Attendance Roll (using Smart Notebook software) that the students were in control of. Each morning, their names were clustered together under the ‘House’ icon, meaning they were at home. Once they walked in the door, they dragged their name to the appropriate column on the screen. Those students who were absent were still listed under the ‘House’, meaning they were at home.
Some pages were about feelings – “How are you feeling today?” and featured a variety of visual images to students to work with, to assign their name to one of those feelings. I found that these pages often gave me a chance to do a quick one-on-one chat with a child while they were unpacking their bag, or simply keep an eye on them for any signs of emotional distress throughout the day.
I also created pages for graphing what each student ate for breakfast – we found that cereal was always the most popular – and check-ins for the end of playtime, end of the day, or to see how many stars you would give the weekend you just had?
This Smart Notebook document is available from my TPT store, which you can find here.
I’d love to hear any other feedback about how you cater for Social and Emotional Learning in your classrooms – mindfulness is a huge buzz word at the moment, but it’s no good if we don’t put it into action!
In the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Toula’s father Gus has an addiction to Windex. To him, it is the solution for everything.
“My dad believes in two things: That Greeks should educate non Greeks about being Greek ad every ailment from psoriasis to poison ivy can be cured with Windex.”
It was his go-to answer. He didn’t think twice about it, didn’t listen to others and didn’t consider any other options.
It got me thinking about how often do you use a ‘Windex solution’ in the classroom? A Windex solution I often hear these days is ‘just Google it’. Google, Google, Google. Even my not-so-technological father is a culprit for over-using this term.
By just ‘googling it’ we are admitting to students that no, teachers aren’t all powerful, bottomless pits of endless knowledge (even though many students think that!). Yes, we are assisting them in finding the answers to their own questions…or are we?
How else can we find out the answer? Resorting straight to Google is not the answer!
Talking to others, posing follow-up questions, making charts & tables, reading books, using prior knowledge…all valid options!
Let’s make sure we are encouraging other methods and solutions rather than just resorting to the Windex.
I’ve just returned from the Critical Agenda’s Annual Conference “Supporting Students with Special Needs”.
One of the workshops I went to was presented by Megan Iemma (@megsamanda), focusing on using ICT in the Special Needs classroom. Megan presented us with a large range of different websites and apps that (I thought) were for students to use in the classroom. However as I listened more, I realised that a lot of these tools were for teachers to use in the planning stage of their lessons and that sometimes the students would benefit from the technology without actually using the technology themselves. I was particularly focused on the literary/dyslexia side of things.
Examples of these include:
Megan’s workshop really made me think about how I use technology in the classroom and that sometimes the biggest advantage for the students is when the teacher has used technology to differentiate the learning task.
What sorts of apps/programs do you use to help differentiate tasks for students?
This year our school has adopted the 5 C’s for our core values and overarching motto. They underpin our relationships with students, the Chapels and devotions we have and our behaviour management. At our fortnightly assemblies, we recognise a student from each year level who has demonstrated the particular ‘C’ of the fortnight.
The 5 C’s are:
Committed (to learning)
Even though I introduced these with my class early on in the year and refer to them throughout the week when praising certain behaviour, I felt that I wasn’t utilising the 5 C’s to their full potential. I recently began using ClassDojo and the little lightbulb in my head lit up last week when I came up with a way to integrate the two aspects.
Previously, my ClassDojo positive behaviours were things like ‘On Task’, ‘Listening’, ‘Helping Others’, ‘Teamwork’, ‘Persisting’ and ‘Following instructions quickly’ (I have a lot of dawdlers in my class!). After I integrated the 5 C’s into my positive behaviours, they now look like this:
Some of theme are a little long to see at a glance and I’ve added a few adverbs to help my students further understand. I now have:
Committed & On Task
Complete Instructions Quickly
Courtesy & Kindness (Speaking Kindly)
As a fan of alliteration and catchy titles, I’m hoping that these 8 C’s will tie in with the 5 that we already recognise as a whole school, meaning that students will be completely immersed in the language and the expected actions.
On Wednesday I arrived home at 5:30 and crashed on the couch in tears. I honestly felt like my students had broken me.
Over the last four years of teaching, I have prided myself on having fairly ‘good’ behaviour management. I’ve had behaviour management ‘systems’, visual strategies and classroom expectations. All have worked well.
This year is different.
I have lots of external classroom support, but it means so many of my students are in and out of the room at different times, in different rooms, with different teachers and aides…that it means I have to be planned and organised to the utmost degree…and God forbid that one of them is away, because I’m turning into that pedantic teacher that cannot handle any change to the timetable because it means that a) the students cannot handle it and b) their teacher is about to explode.
I spend my days given instructions at least 8 times over. I also use visual cues and hand signals to give directions to save my voice – however they only work when the student actually cares to look. By the time all of them have worked out the directions, we’ve lost 20 minutes of learning time. Use a timer you say? Yes, there’s a massive countdown timer on my interactive TV…but there are some students who are oblivious to any sort of timeframe.
I skipped my yoga class on Thursday afternoon and went home in tears again. My job overwhelmed me. The insane combination of behaviours and learning disabilities had made my head spin.
I feel like I am failing the children who are actually wanting to learn.