Monday, September 26, 2011

An Apple a Day...

does NOT keep the doctor away! After coughing and sneezing my way through most of last week, my body has finally said "enough is enough!" I spent all night coughing and got zero sleep. I haven't been out of the house except to buy groceries since school ended Friday night. I am getting very, very tired of feeling lousy. And, to top it all off, I have given the cold to both my hubby and my daughter (who is too sick to go to school today).

Plus, today was a Professional Development day and I was looking forward to planning curriculum with the other two grade 1/2 teachers I work with. Sigh. I hate, hate, hate missing work and am praying that I will get enough rest today to go in tomorrow. Missing a pro d is bad enough but missing teaching time this early in the year is a nightmare!

Ms. Hughes

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Shopping Zen

For those of you who do not know me I do not like grocery stores. Put me in front of 100 people and ask me to give a speech and I am all in. Put me with those same 100 people in a grocery store with shopping carts and baskets and my stress level ratchets up 100 fold. It makes no sense but there you have it.

I generally avoid grocery shopping by having my hubby do it but today I had to go to the Safeway to pick up a few things for dinner. Can you say long line ups? The self serve line was 20 people deep. The cashier lines were easily 10 people deep. I had three choices: 1) waste time in line reading trashy magazines 2) get so stressed out that I risked my blood pressure or 3) take a deep breath (or many deep breaths!). I chose 3.

20 minutes later I was calm as calm could be. The lady behind me was on her way to a mini heart attack but I had discovered the zen of shopping! It was like having 20 minutes of meditation in the middle of a big crowd.

Now to learn how to transfer that over to work! My goal for this week is to stop and breathe whenever moments at work start to stress me out. I would love it if I could say that I never have those moments but, hey, I am human and I am dealing with 22 children between the ages of 5 and 7. Plus parents and colleagues and planning lessons and administration.... well, you get the idea! So, my mantra for the week: Stop and breathe!

Ms. Hughes

Saturday, September 24, 2011

What's In My Bag?

Blog surfing through my saved teacher's blogs and websites I came upon this fun linky party and thought I would join in!

Well, I do love bags. Not as much as I love shoes but, still, I have way too many of them! That said, most of them are not practical for school. They are mostly cute purses that I use once in a blue moon. Last year, when we lived a mere four blocks from my school, I would use a simple over the shoulder bag that I whipped up. It carried lunch, my keys and little else.

This year, having moved a good 20 blocks from school, I have been using my good egg's (otherwise known as my teenaged daughter) old backpack. It is big, roomy and pretty.
One thing it isn't....waterproof. I discovered this the other day during a long, wet walk to school in a torrential downpour. Everything was soggy!

So, what's in my bag? Well, I have a rule about bringing work home. I don't. Unless absolutely necessary. Not that I don't do school related work at home but I don't carry marking back and forth etc. I have some professional books that I use at home, I plan on the computer and use my flash drive but that is it. No papers come home. No marking. Nothing.

My bag has the basics I need going back and forth every day.

my lunchbag

my Vera Bradley umbrella

my traveling medicine kit
(which includes Tylenol, allergy meds and Benadryl cream for skin reactions to allergies) Isn't it cute? I bought it at a fair a couple of years ago.

 my little green notebook
(it fits in the palm of my hand, has a spot for a pen, a notepad that has a great cover and makes me smile when I see it and slots for credit cards that I use for reciepts. I love having it on hand to jot down the title of a book or an address or whatever.)

my daughter's old ipod
(I love, love, love listening to my favourite tunes during my walks to and from work)

and the other stuff that fills the small front pocket
(keys, bus tickets, gum, tic tacs, kleenex, cheque book, hair clip, assorted receipts that didn't get tuck into my green book and the cute as anything little Vera Bradley black and white change purse that was a gift to my daughter that she didn't use)

So, there's my bag. Not a lot in it but the basics. Now if I could only find a way to waterproof it! I expect that I will have to invest in something else pretty soon because in the Pacific Northwest the words Fall and Autumn are synonymous with rain, rain and more rain. I will be heading to MEC to see if there is anything there that will withstand the weather and also meet my fashion requirements! LOL

Ms. Hughes

Friday, September 23, 2011

Fun Friday

or maybe I should say Finally Friday?!?! I've been teaching with a cold all week and the coughing every night is not making for very relaxing sleeps. As a result, my patience has not been as high as I would like. Plus, I can say for sure that the "honeymoon" phase in our class is definitely over!!!!! We are all getting very comfortable with the classroom, each other and the routines. Perhaps a little too comfortable! Nothing that a good weekend's worth of sleep and some review of classroom expectations won't fix!

I wanted to share something really awesome that happened today at choosing time. Choosing time in our class means exactly what it sounds like - the students get to choose what they would like to do. They go to lego or other construction activities (marble run, train set etc) or read books or draw or write a story or create art get the idea! Making choosing time happen is a philosophical decision for me. There is so much in the curriculum that I could easily spend every single second of the day having the class doing worksheets and teacher driven activities BUT I believe that children need the free choice time to play and explore - they need student driven activities. It is during these times that they are able to consolidate other learning and it is during choosing that I get to see aspects of the class that I can't see during other activities. To me it is an invaluable part of the school day.

Today one of the students brought in a book she wanted me to read to the class. I read it during Daily 5 time and loved it! This is one book I will be buying this weekend at Kidsbooks. It is called The Rough Face Girl and is an Algonquin version of Cinderella.

It was written by Rafe Martin and David Shannon did the illustrations. The writing, the pictures, everything was just right. You know when you read a book that just makes your heart feel a little more full? That just adds a little something good to your soul? This is one of those books. I loved how this Cinderella story does not completely follow the traditional one. The main character does not just sit around waiting for a fairy god mother to appear and help her escape her life of drudgery. This character takes action - she makes her own outfit, jewelry and footwear before heading out to meet the Invisible Being to whom she ends up married. He doesn't marry her because of her outer beauty though. He marries her because he has the ability to see into a person's heart to see their true personality. He falls in love with who she is NOT what she looks like. This is my kind of book.

After reading this book, the class went to choosing. A little while later I noticed three students looking at the book. They had found fabric in the art zone and went to work. One of them headed to the library to ask Conan the Librarian for books about First Nations people. What were they doing you ask? Well, they were building a wigwam. How cool is that? These are the "leather" sides to the wigwam being decorated in symbols just like in the story. I can't wait to see what they use for the logs!

It is still in process but don't you think it is going to be awesome? Now the question is: If I had taught a lesson on First Nations people and assigned the task of creating and building a wigwam, would these students have created something like this? I don't think so. Hearing the story, having a small spark flare inside them at the listening, being given the time to collaborate and the freedom to choose materials, all of these things worked together to create this learning opportunity. And that is the reason that I will never, ever, ever drop choosing time from my weekly schedule.

Ms. Hughes

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Technology is wonderful...

...except when it isn't. Our smartboard has decided not to co-operate. For a few days we had quite a psychedelic light show as the board flickered on and off at random intervals. Very annoying. Then, on Monday, it just died. It won't turn on. It won't do anything. Sigh...

The tech guy came and it looks like a new bulb or possibly a new arm for the board. This could come in a week or it could come in a month. There is no way to know. And once the part arrives, I will have to wait for the tech guy to come back out and fix it. I guess it is one of the perils of technology.

In the meantime, I am having to work it old school. This is not as easy as I had hoped. I didn't realize how much I have come to rely on the smartboard in the year I have had it in our classroom. Morning attendance, calendar, mini-lessons in math, reading, writing, social studies, all are on the smartboard.

Thank goodness I kept the chart stand when I got the smartboard AND that I ordered chart paper in June because I am using it all day long right now. On the bright side, it is giving me lots of opportunities to use my smelly felts. I do love those Mr. Sketch markers. Yum!
Also, it has reminded me how much I like having the class do things on charts that I can hang up. Today we started a mini-unit on healthy eating and the class brainstormed all of the things that they know about fruits and vegetables. It was really nice to be able to write down their ideas and let them choose a smelly marker to write their name beside their ideas. They liked it because it was the first time I let them use the markers! The smartboard is super convenient and has become a mainstay in my teaching but it is still nice sometimes to do things the way I did for the first 17 years of my teaching career!

Ms. Hughes

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Today for math we sorted our library books. I want the class to take ownership of the classroom books and plan how they will be organized and stored. So, in groups of 2 or 3, the students first sorted by fiction and non-fiction. Then they narrowed it down further into sub-categories. At one point in the morning our carpet area looked like this!
They came up with most of the categories I expected but a few I didn't. We had the basic fairy tales, abc's, animals, insects but also ended up with categories like things that swim and imaginary animal stories. It was organized chaos for awhile but I am glad that I did it this way this year. Usually I organize the books how I want them and then teach the students how to use the tubs properly. This way the students are so much more invested in keeping the tubs neat and tidy! The funny thing was that the kids didn't even realize that they were using a math skill to organize the books. They just though it was fun!

The class had gym today with Ms. O. She will be teaching them gym twice a week (Wednesdays and Fridays) while I take her class for Computers and Healthy Living. It is a win-win for me!!!! She came to see me after school and told me how great they did. From listening to lining up the whole class made good choices while working with her. Right on!

And we had the best time at choosing this afternoon. Everyone got along (yay!), there was a ton of imaginative energy flowing everywhere and, most important of all, we learned while having fun!!!!! I had the kids at the art table brainstorm with me items that we would like to have in the centre. We got a great list started. I think number one on their list is markers. I wish I had a budget that allowed me to keep 22 students in markers all year long but I just don't. Markers have a short life between being used A LOT and having lids left off. If I could invent a never dry marker I would be a gazillionaire!!!!

Ms. Hughes

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

We set a record today!

For the first time since I have been using the Daily 5 structure for our reading block, a class has reached 20 minutes of reading independently in 4 days! WOW!!!!!

What a difference it makes having grade 2's in the class. The stamina that they have built up in grade 1 is great. They are wonderful role models for the grade 1's. I was able to pull three of the grade 1's to do a letter recognition and phonological awareness assessment. Soon we will be able to start guided reading groups! Usually we are well into October before we reach this point. I can feel already that this year is going to be an awesome year for Daily 5!

Ms. Hughes

Sunday, September 18, 2011

here is the glyph that we did the other day. it turned out really well. i have noticed that some of the older kids who were buddies with my class of kids last year have been reading the glyph and trying to find their previous buddies.

Ms. Hughes

Thursday, September 15, 2011

First Day of Daily 5

Yesterday we had a mini - lesson on picking books for our book boxes. We learned the I PICK chant. Check out another class doing it here:

It was really cute watching the kids all trying to follow the other kids in the video.

Then we went and picked books. I have not put out my levelled books yet so students are choosing from the wide variety of picture and chapter books in the class. We have been learning about the three ways to read. Those that can read words are doing so and those that are beginning readers are practicing reading the pictures. They are keeping their books in these great boxes that I recycled from my Dad's office.
They will easily hold all of their reading books, poetry journal and guided reading bags. We decorated two 8 1/2" by 11" sheets of paper and glued them on the outside to personalize them.

Today we started Read to Self. The class did a great job! We got to 5 minutes with all of them staying in one spot the whole time, starting to read right away, reading the whole time and being very quiet. The goal is to get to 20 minutes of doing read to self. They already have more stamina than most classes so we will most likely meet our goal fairly quickly. The sooner that they are able to do this independently, the sooner I will be able to start working one on one with students assessing their reading levels. I already have a pretty good idea of where they each are but I would like to do a formal assessment to help with making the groups for guided reading.

Ms. Hughes

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

How to get through a day when you are exhausted...

the answer? choosing time!!!! my class so far is awesome. i have 9 grade 1's and 12 grade 2's. they work and play together so well. i am crossing my fingers that this is not just a honeymoon period and that it will last. i may cross my toes and eyes, too!

at this time of year my main goal is to have students really enjoy being at school and in our classroom. i want them to slowly build stamina to work for longer periods of time. to that end, we are spending our days doing a seatwork type job followed by a short choosing time. i repeated this three times today. the activities were not difficult but they allowed me to go over expectations for scissor and glue use. we also learned how to put pages into our duotangs. we did one of our September poems. it comes from one of the old readers i found in the cupboard years ago! the class had to read the poem and add the pictures to their page.

to get a copy of the poem and the pictures to cut out and glue on click here.

Ms. Hughes

All About Us Glyph and other stuff

September 12, 2011

Today was our first full day as a class. We had a great day! So far, the class is all getting along together well. I know that we are in what is called the "honeymoon" period but I can't help but hope that it lasts!

We did a class glyph about ourselves. It will be up in the hall tomorrow. I'll take a pic to post if I remember. Don't know what a glyph is? Well, it is a picture that contains data about any given subject. It has a key to read and try to figure out which glyph belongs to which student based on how they answered a series of questions. I love doing glyphs and so expect to see a few this year! It is a great way to practice data collection and analysis. Today we also decorated our book boxes, made our Poetry book covers, worked at a number of choosing centres, read stories, practiced lining up and much more.

I told the kids that the number one thing to know about me is that "I say what I mean and mean what I say". So, for example, if I ask a student to get a drink of water and then come sit at the carpet, it DOES NOT mean "get a drink of water, run around the classroom, check out the Lego and then come sit at the carpet"! (and, yes, this is a true example of something that happened today!) I really try to be very clear in my expectations. I find this helps students to do their best work. We also started brainstorming rules that we feel are important to help our classroom community work well together. We will be solidifying these rules and creating a class pledge later this week.

Tomorrow is our first day of Music with Ms. Der. We will be going from 9:00 - 9:45 every Tuesday morning. And, on Thursday we have our first Library day with Mr. Raikes. Our gym days are going to be Wednesday and Friday. Mr. Langille, Ms. Opatovsky and I are working together to schedule our Science and Social Studies lessons which we will be team teaching. I can't wait! It is so much fun and so rewarding to work closely with other teachers. The teachers learn from each other and all the kids learn from more than one person. Win-win!

Ms. Hughes

Back to School

September 4, 2011

Welcome back to school! It is hard to believe that the summer is over and we are already back in session. This year looks to be an interesting one with lots of construction and learning going on. I am looking forward to meeting my new class and getting to know all of the families. Happy back to school!

Ms. Hughes