Thursday, September 18, 2014

New Year, New Things!

I am officially a month into my second full year of teaching! It has been so much fun already.

This year instead of being a self contained 5th grade classroom, we have been departmentalized. I now teach math, science, and social studies to 2 groups of kids each day. I teach math every day, then swap science and social studies units. My partner teacher teaches reading and writing. As much as I love to read (reading chapter books aloud to my class was one of my favorite things to do), I couldn't be happier with the subjects I am teaching.

I also have to say, being a second year teacher is light years better than being a first year teacher! I am loving being able to anticipate misconceptions and confusion when it comes to specific math topics and lessons. It makes my whole day run more smoothly. You also can't beat prepping 2 subjects (plus an interactive read aloud) per day instead of 5-6! Somehow I still find things to keep me busy until dinner time... Oops! But basically, I'm having an amazing year so far.

I kept a lot of things the same in my classroom from last year. However, I did make some adjustments and updates with the new class format.

Last year, I used tickets as a positive behavior reinforcement, and had ticket store on Fridays. That worked great for my class. This year, though, with 50 students to motivate, I didn't think it would work so well.
Enter, my Bravo! Board!

The black magnetic boards are from Dollar General! They are mini wipe-off boards. I just used command strips to attach them to my bulletin board fabric. So far, so good!

I love this thing. I've been waiting to share it until it really got some good use and I could vouch for it's effectiveness, and after a month of daily use and plenty of rewards, I can say that it will definitely be sticking around!
I came up with this idea over the summer (with inspiration from other teachers, of course), and implemented it on the very first day of school.

Here's how it works:

My kids are divided into tables (colors). The morning class are the circles and the afternoon class are squares (I use these shapes other places in the class to identify which class is which).

When a table does something AMAZING like staying on task while working together, being the first group ready to transition, etc., they earn a STAR (I painted about a million little wooden stars gold and hot glued small magnets to the back of each one. Thank you, Michaels!). An individual may also earn a star for their table by doing something AMAZING.

Once the table has reached their goal number of stars (I'm starting with 5 and then I'll work up from there to challenge them), they get to choose a pom pom from my cup. Each pom pom's color matches a prize on the Bravo! Board. I try to give them the reward as soon as possible because I am sure I'd forget if I put it off until a certain day. For example, if they choose candy, I give the table a jolly rancher or pixie stick immediately. No big.

The most popular prize so far has been lunch with Miss Leslie! Several tables have drawn the red pom pom, but a few have drawn "team choice" and chosen to have lunch with me! It's so much fun getting to hang out with them on a small group, no pressure basis. The other day, one of my sweetest friends said that in all his 7 years at our school (including Pre-K!), this was his first time eating lunch with a teacher. It's a small "price" to pay for fun memories for these guys.

Speaking of, a great thing about the Bravo! Board is the price! Many of the prizes are free, and the gum and candy are only chosen some of the time, so that expense is small. Last year, I was constantly buying chips, candy, and mechanical pencils to restock my ticket store. This is so much better!

Something else new in my class this year is Math Workshop!

Last year, I met with small groups on a daily basis, and really loved the close interaction. This year, I decided to just go for it and have real rotations. I have 4 rotations and 4 small groups with about 6 kids in each. I wish I could make them smaller groups, but then each rotation would have to be shorter, and they already fly by!
I'll make a whole post about how I do Math Workshop and what each rotation entails soon. I've got a lot to say about it! (Hint: I LOVE IT.)

My last classroom update is my Gotta Go passes. I borrowed this idea from a teammate from last year (The Teacher Dish), and I'm not looking back! Last year, students had to pay tokens to use the restroom, and could use leftovers at the ticket store at the end of the week. Lots of kids didn't like that because they thought it was unfair. After I had time to think it over, I think I agree with them. So this year, I thought, "I'll just let them use the restroom once during my class and it will be no problem." Well. I was wrong. It was hard for me to keep track of who used their "one time bathroom break" during each class, and sometimes kids do need to go twice.
Enter, the Gotta Go pass.

Everyone gets 6 of these to use in a week (just in my class, not my partner teacher's class). They write their name on their passes and keep them in their pencil pouches. Then, when they need to use the restroom, they just have to come up and show me their pass. I either nod or say "no," and they move on. They drop their pass in a bucket on my desk before they go. On Mondays, I pass back all the passes and they start over. There's no real benefit to hoarding your passes, but if you run out, you don't get to go. I spend so much of my day working in small groups, so having kids come up and ask, "Can I go to the bathroom?" 15 times during math rotations just was NOT working for me. These passes make necessary bathroom breaks much less of a disruption. I also use a different color for my morning and afternoon class to keep them all straight. Works wonders.

Whew! That's all for now! I'm off to wrap this week up and enjoy my weekend.

-Miss Leslie