Monday, August 27, 2012

Group Jobs

To facilitate classroom movement and efficiency during small group work, and to grow independent learners, we have group jobs in our third grade classroom. We have four jobs because four students sit at each table group, giving each student a participatory role. Jobs include Materials Gatherer, Team Captain, Procedures Expert, and Materials Returner. 


You'll notice the colored dot in front of each job on the Group Jobs bulletin board. This laminated colored dot is pinned to the board so we can swap jobs often by simply moving the colored dot to a different job role. One day a green dot may mean the student is the Team Captain and the next day, the green dot may mean that the student is the Procedures Expert. On each student's desk, we have a colored dot. On the student's name tag in the picture, you'll see that the student has a yellow dot. The job role for the day for that student is Materials Returner. 


On our side counter, we have twelve trays set up. The teacher places the day's materials, handouts etc... on each of the trays. The Materials Gatherer picks up the tray and takes it back to the table before we start a task. The Team Captain makes sure that the group is working together on the task and that everyone has an opportunity to contribute to the groups conversation and task. The Procedures Expert reads lab procedures, moves the group toward the goal, and asks the teacher a question if the group gets confused. When the task is complete, the Materials Returner is responsible to ensure the area is clean and the tray is returned to the correct table group side tray. 


We've loved this classroom organizational tool because it saves valuable instructional time and gives everyone purpose during each task. If you try it, we hope you love it, too!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Organizing Our Anchor Charts

We create Anchor Charts of student learning frequently in our classroom, particularly in our Closing Sessions. Sometimes these anchor charts are a "sloppy copy" completed during the Workshop and meant only to post in the classroom for a short period of time. 

However, on other occasions, we spend time after we've created a Closing Session "sloppy copy" with the students to make a polished chart that will hang for the entire unit, because it's a chart that students will have to reference often.  You can see one of those charts, Strategies for Comparing Fractions, hanging on our Math Anchor Chart wall.  I want to reiterate that these charts are never hung until after the Workshop and the "sloppy copy" is made with students.  Some of the charts, that take extra time to create, we laminate and use from year to year.

This year, we decided to be more organized with our charts. A colleague shared her strategy and we loved it. We purchased some pant hangers from Target that have an add on  loop at the bottom of each hanger. The hangers hold a chart and you can add the next hanger on the add on loop. The beauty of the system comes from the easily made stacks and we LOVE the fact that we can see the title of each chart. We  took it one step further and hung the charts by subject and unit for easy accessibility. The display you see below hangs neatly in our closet. We hope you love the idea as much as we do!

Classroom Centers to Roll Out Rituals and Routines

Like all teachers, my co-teacher and I spent time preparing and organizing our classroom for the arrival of new students this school year. We set the room up strategically as we thought through our systems. Making sure the learning community was set up to promote the growth of independent self-directed learners was our priority. Explaining these systems to students and our expectations was necessary but we wanted to strike the perfect balance between telling and allowing them to explore during those first few days of school. 

We decided to cover a few of the essentials that students always ask like,  When are we going to lunch? When is recess? Where is the bathroom? Beyond that, we decided to let the students do some exploring. Nine stations were set up throughout the classroom to cover and explain elements like 1) Lost and Found & PTA Bins   2) Recess materials   3) Math Games and Manipulatives   4) Science Jobs   5) Tray Material Retrieval   6) Materials Bins   7) Class Bank and Store   8)  Research Library   9) Laptops and CPS Clickers. An explanation was hung with each station number and students in groups of three to four visited each station. 

Embedded within the explanation were questions for the students to answer, and a few of the stations had a couple fun activities like voting on a name for our classroom fish and guessing the number of cookies in a jar. 

We broke the stations into two different segments during the day, so it wasn't too much reading for the students, and when we finished, we quizzed the kids on the material and handed out skittles for correct answers. It really was a great way to cover some of our rituals and routines without having to bore the kids with too much talking. We will certainly do it again next year, and might even add a student recording sheet to help with student participation and accountability. 

Classroom Blogging

Parents, particularly working parents, seldom have the time or luxury to visit the classroom on a consistent basis. I've found that they want to be involved but simply need a way.
Classroom blogging is an easy way to post pictures, write about experiences, and share a glimpse into student's learning. It isn't elaborate but it's a way to connect parents and we've found that they deeply appreciate the gesture.  To check out our third grade classroom blog, visit us at our 5 Star blog.  To visit two of my colleague's first grade classroom blogs visit them at their Sweet Shoppe and at Mallards Marvelous Menu

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Days of School

180. Most every student and teacher knows the number of days in the year, and in classrooms throughout our nation Day 1, Day 100, and Day 180 are the most celebrated. It's not uncommon for the number of days to be recorded as a visual reminder of where we've started, how far we've come, and when we've reached our final destination.  In fact, the number of days we've been in school has been integrated into many Math Skills Block programs including the one that is conducted in my classroom. 

This year, my co-teacher and I borrowed this idea from a colleague. On a piece of 8 1/2 by 11 card stock, we made a place value chart of hundreds, tens, and ones. We laminated the paper, hole punched a set of digit cards, attached a metal ring, and placed them on large push pins to the hundreds, tens, and ones. Of course, for our purpose, we only needed a O and 1 on the digit cards in the hundreds place.   

We put the Days of School chart right below our Calendar and right above our Counting Tape. We'll track the days of the school year on our new flip chart, and then we will also add the day to our Counting Tape. You can see that our Counting Tape has been set up below our board into three rows of 60 with space between each row. We keep the Counting Tape, too, because we use colored dots to count by twos, threes, fours, etc... as we add the number of days we've been in school. By the end of third grade, students will be seeing many patterns among the multiples of numbers.  We'll include questions into our Skills Block like, How many days have we been in school?  How many more days until our field trip? How many more days until we celebrate Day 100? How many more days until the last day of school? What day of school will be ten more than 60? How do you know?

Hope you like the idea as much as we did!  Good luck as you embark on this year's 180. 

Recipe for Success... Our Theme!

With each new school year, comes a new theme meant to capture the essence of where we are at that point in time and where we are headed next. The new theme is unveiled by our principal on the last day of the school year at our teacher luncheon. In anticipation, teachers wait for the announcement because the creative theme ideas and shopping begin. 

The theme is woven into the whole year from school and classroom decor, to newsletters, to special events. It's truly embraced and becomes a year long endeavor, and the icing on the cake comes when you see the children's faces light up when they enter the learning community.

The 2012-2013 theme is We have the Recipe for Success!  You can see from our classroom pictures that we've woven the theme into much of the classroom. Special thanks to a fabulous volunteer and my co-teacher, Ashley Russell.