Monday, April 23, 2012


Yes, we have morning glory and radish sprouts!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

green thumbs

We're totally back in the swing of things in my room, completing two weeks post-break on Friday. Since then, we've had two separate field trips (one for each grade,) two fun friday parties (which not everyone has earned,) got a new classmate (hmm,) two more weeks of chugging along in reading (OMG you would not believe how much better they are getting,) done a few craftivities, and started a new science unit.

I've mentioned we do stations in math, and one of the stations is center time. I usually put out four or five centers to choose from, and they are generally review activities. Sometimes they are pretty challenging, sometimes not. I have about seven categories of centers, so they are not all out every week. One of our center categories is the Creation Station. Most recently, they made even and odd houses. This came from The Teacher Wife.

This picture was taken before it was quite finished, but you get the idea. Hers looks much cuter! I had planned to use butcher paper colors other than blue and yellow but M (my assistant) thought that if we were copying someone, it should be an authentic replica.

Right after we came back, we covered weather in brief. Urm, very brief. We do weather during morning meeting every day, but anything past that is a second grade standard. I only have one 2nd grader during science right now, so I figured we'd spend a week on that and hit the high points. My second grader ended up not at science for half the week. . . hmm. Anyway, we talked about the water cycle and how it rains a lot in the spring here, etc. My littles each wrote what they like to do on rainy days during writing time. M teases me about taking other people's ideas, but this is actually mine. I know there's probably a million people who've done something similar (I'm pretty sure I've even seen pictures,) and theirs probably came out better. . . but I was proud of myself for making the tracers myself and everything. My grandmother has informed me that, in the olden days, you had to do this for every craft you wanted to make because there was no internet. I have lots of sympathy.

Our reading series focuses heavily on decoding and comprehension, while in language arts my littles are still working on basic oral language concepts and following verbal directions. While it is what they need right now, I know I need to supplement a lot in order to cover all of our standards and have comparable experiences to first/second graders in general ed all day. We've read poetry before, but we'd not written it yet. I'm hoping to make a poetry center next year, but. . .  Anyway, we've also been learning parts of speech. Combine adjectives and acrostic poems and now we have rainbow name-bows! See Turnstall's Teaching Tidbits to get it. They're adorable hanging from the ceiling. 

We started our plant unit this week. Out of all the pictures, I forgot to get ones of our What We Know About Plants and Our Questions About Plants charts. I also didn't take any pictures of the seeds we planted in our little planter outside. I'll try Monday. 

Anyway, so far we've planted radishes, morning glory flowers, and spearmint outside. Those were the seeds promising the quickest sprouting seedlings. We also are doing the whole beans-in-baggie experiment (Grandma assures me they did this in "the olden days" as well, except without ziploc bags. So traditional.) 

We have four bags: kidney beans and lima beans, soaked and unsoaked. We're going to observe them every day. I am hoping that there's not too much water in the bags. Looking at this picture, I'm a little nervous. 

We put the bags on the door, since our classroom has no exterior windows. You can see our awesome Japanese Garden outside. (I have no idea what makes it Japanese except the sign saying so. I think I should research this.)

We also took notes in our observation logs. We made a big deal about how when scientists are conducting their experiments, they take detailed notes so they know what to expect next time, how things affected their experiment, etc. I thought about us just being gardeners instead of scientists, but since they (and I) doubt my ability to grow anything I thought we'd make it into an experiment. (And sometimes experiments fail.) They've seen the slow demise of the money tree my mentor gave me on the first day of school, so they're not expecting anything miraculous. 

Next week we'll hopefully see something grow. Also, I have a ton of IEP meetings. I have a case of the Sunday Nights, and I'm avoiding writing one as we speak. Hmm.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

multi-age mania

Christina Bainbridge is having a link-party for split/multiage class tips and tricks.

Mrs. Bainbridge's Class

I teach a K-2 flexible-model (itinerant, resource, and self-contained) special education class that is cross-categorical, but leans heavily into the social/emotional/behavioral realm. I have 6 students at the moment, but my caseload changes ridiculously often. (I've had 10 different kids total this year, tomorrow morning I meet little # 11.) Some of my littles visit me for only an hour, some stay all day. As a first year teacher I (of course!) frequently have no idea what I'm doing, but I have a few things that I could share. . .

- I don't group by grade unless I absolutely have to. When I pull small groups, I do it by ability level. This seemed obvious to me at the beginning of the year, but I also wasn't sure it would actually work with all the little personalities in my room and their concerns about the age-pecking-order. None of my littles get offended by having younger children in their group. Even when my older ones are at almost the same level as the younger ones, they will usually try to be a mentor (and will work harder so they seem knowledgeable!) 

- My littles have single-grade regular-ed homeroom classes they're assigned to, no matter what. They go to recess, lunch, and specials with them (Lord willing and the creek don't rise . . .) This gives me some extra time with just one grade at a time and it also helps build social and functional skills . . . but the biggest draw of it is that my littles form friendships that encourage them to go back out to regular ed.

- Most of my reading lessons are in extra-small groups or individual, using Reading Mastery or guided reading (depending on the little.) I have my assistant teach one direct instruction language arts lesson and another direct instruction reading lesson, while I teach the other groups. We've tried to work out a good rotation through this, but our timing is always terribly off. I'm thinking of adding more formal literacy centers so the faster-finishing group has more structured activities, especially since the centers are working so well in math.

- We now do a math station rotation. (So far, so good!) Each little has fifteen minutes of my undivided attention for new instruction and remediation, fifteen minutes for "independent work" (my assistant keeps an eye on this little,) fifteen minutes of math centers with review/practice activities, and fifteen minutes of math computer games. This has let me differentiate my instruction a lot. 

- I do whole group writing, science, and social-emotional lessons. We also cover math/reading during morning meeting and morning work. I can push my younger/lower ones or review with my older/higher ones during this time. 

- I know this is supposed to be me giving tips/tricks (I feel like mine were the opposite of earth-shattering, though. . . ) but I also have a question for the rest of you guys. How do you teach science? The standards for my kids are so different from grade-to-grade, so I can't just do a differentiated unit on one thing. Right now I'm supposed to cover weather, plants, and animal habitats. I can sort of weave them together, but some of the other units are completely unconnected from grade to grade. I also have a pretty limited amount of time for science. Ideas?

Sunday, April 1, 2012

spring fling

I have finished one book, read two more, and started on yet another this weekend alone. 

This may have something to do with the fact that I've done no lesson planning, even though it's 6:30 on Sunday evening. . . because it's Spring Break! Oh my gosh I am so excited!

Anyway, my kiddos have been chugging along. I think we all need a break from each other, though. I'm resolving to come back from Spring Break with a refreshed, positive attitude. I'm also implementing a new literacy rotation (which I'm still not happy with but it will have to hold for now) and a workshop-ish math rotation so that I can work with every kiddo each day individually during math. My four math kiddos are so, so different in strengths/weaknesses. I have one 2nd grader with really variable skills both high and low, one above-level 1st, one on-level 1st, and one below-level 1st. I think this will give me a better chance to challenge my higher guys, but also I think my lowest little dude needs one-on-one work in math to improve. I think that it will be best for all involved.

Here's a run-down on some of the things we've been working on. . . 

I finally got up the nerve to paint with the littles. I'd committed to letting them make a clay bead and paint it to conclude our Earth Materials Unit in science. I had heavy reservations, though, and was hoping they'd just forget. While I was picking up markers at Target, I saw the washable paints and decided I could just suck it up and do it. I set the expectations clearly, reinforced those friends using the materials appropriately, and threatened certain friends with never painting again provided incentive to correct inappropriate behaviors.

And, in the end, the paint all stayed on the table. Not on hair, clothes, carpet, etc. They did amazing. I let them paint pictures after the beads, saying the paint probably wouldn't be out again for a while, but we may paint again soon since it was a success.

We did a kite glyph early last week. I just realized, looking at this picture, that one of them is put together wrong. Anyway, we learned some spring-themed factoids about our classmates (one new friend started Monday,) and we'll graph our data after the break. We got the glyph from Great Glyphs Around the Year. The link goes to Amazon, but I got the ebook (and a bunch of other ones) during the $1 sale that Scholastic did last weekend.

On the last day before break, we wrapped up our 3D shapes unit. We'd been using Angry Bird Anger Management this week to talk about our reactions when angry and how we can have more positive reactions. I tied these together by having them make their own angry birds.  The littles loved this, but I think I overestimated their fine motor skills. M and I did most of the work.

 Lots of glue and tape were involved.

Some of us were better at cutting than others.

Even M had trouble putting together the yellow bird!

But, eventually, all were satisfied and played happily together! Success! (And, everyone could identify each of the shapes!)

We concluded Friday with a party. . . 

With cupcakes. (And cards, as you can see one little writing.)

Umm, messy cupcakes! Because . . . 

One little has a birthday this weekend that we were celebrating and we were wishing farewell to another little who will not be returning to our school after the break. I will miss him so, but with the way he ran out of my room as soon as they called for car-riders while ignoring my attempts to say goodbye gives me the idea that he won't miss me.

Finally, I took a quick picture of my part of our Easter Spring display on the way out. Thank my mentor for the idea (and my boots!) since I provided the March idea. I'm going to take a better picture once we're back, but I was rushing out to beat the traffic near Big City.

(PS - two of my kids dictated to me what I should write for how I'm Egg-stra Special. Blame them.)