Starting the school year for teachers is like January 1 is for the rest of the world. We make new plans and resolutions, with endless excitement and optimism for the upcoming year. Every year we say that this will be our Best Year Ever! But… what are we actually doing to make it the best school year?
I’ll tell you what I’m doing…
I’m starting a new school year in ELEMENTARY instead of HIGH SCHOOL. It’s crazy, I know. At first, I was not really sure this was going to be a good move for me because I really love the big kids but I’ve had the summer to wrap my head around it and I’m getting excited. In fact, I go back TOMORROW! So I spent all day yesterday in my classroom getting ready. School at the end of July on a Saturday has to be one of the most peaceful places to be…
I have some goals that aren’t really negotiable this year due to the fact that I am providing professional development in school districts and between 3 kids at home, teaching special education full time, writing curriculum and traveling the country to work with other teachers, it’s pretty busy. I LOVE it, but I need established systems in my classroom that will make my day more streamlined for me, and for substitutes and the paraprofessionals that are all working with students in my classroom.
We know that students love to have choice and teachers love to have control. But what if we didn’t care HOW a student learned something as long as the process and the end result was correct? For example, if a student is working on decoding CVC words and I present it to him/ her in multiple ways, but they find a way that works for them, I’m going to celebrate it rather than be frustrated that my way didn’t work. That’s pretty tricky to manage, right? That’s why we teachers like to have control because we are typically the hyper-organized and plan-way-ahead types of people…. so I developed a system of student choice where I always get what I want, and they always get what they want. (Due to confidentiality, this image was taken before there were any student names on the clips.)
I have a “Cricut” that will let me cut out custom letters. I really like how neat and clean it makes everything. I also like to mix and match fonts! This is a small corner on my white board. After the students’ names are on the clips, I will print out the icons from the app store that I want each student to work on. For example, if I’m working with the student who is decoding CVC words, he or she can go to their clip and pull the icons I have printed. I’ll have about 3-4 different app or website choices for them to choose from, but each app will address the skill I want them working on. If you need help selecting appropriate apps for kids, check out the Bridging Apps website. It’s a fantastic tool because you can search apps based on, operating system, developmental level and skill set. This is an easy way to differentiate your curriculum in a very private way. No student will see that other students are working on different levels because it’s customized for everyone. As students progress or get tired of the same apps, just put different choices in their clip. (I purchased the clips on sale at Hobby Lobby.)
*This is just one area of student choice. My classroom is a continual work in progress, and I’ll let you know how these strategies go as we go through the year!*
I don’t know about you, but I have a tendency to get SUPER excited about a new year and go Pinterest-crazy with pinning all of these ridiculously adorable classrooms and then when I make it, it looks more like a Pintrocity and I have overwhelming feelings of inadequacy. So this year I’m realistic. Making my classroom adorable for every season is just really not my thing. Like – At. All. When I make a bulletin board it has to be non-seasonal because it’s going to be up All. Year. Long. It also has to serve some function for me or the students or it just feels like clutter. I made this bulletin board for you for free. Click on the image and I’ll send it to your email account. This bulletin board is cute, yet simple enough to go with any classroom decor and seasonless so if you are like me and you aren’t going to redo your bulletin boards with every season, you really don’t have to!
I used a $1 plastic tablecoth as the background because it doesn’t fade like paper. I also used ribbons from Hobby Lobby as my border. They were in the clearance section. I used colored duct tape to make the boxes on the calendar. Amazon has a TON of fun colored duct tape. I’m also using it to color code student materials. I’ll show that in a later post.
If you are looking for additional calendar activities, check out this one on my Teachers Pay Teachers store.