August 30, 2011

Word of the Day

My word of the day is...t.i.r.e.d.
I've been putting in 16 + hrs a day on back-to-school prep if you add in my commute.
Did anyone else do that your first year...or now...the week before?

Every time I look at my classroom there's more to do- but it's looking and feeling like a fabulous place to learn. My school is also changing up the Unit Planning Process (I co-plan all the Literacy- Rdg, Writing, Word Study, Language test prep for my grade level). A lot to learn and do this year but it will surely pay off over time. I'm glad that there are 5 on my 5th grade team so that we can share and plan together!

I know this prep will be so worth it for those 25 fifths next week. One of my kiddos was at parent orientation night tonight and I took her up to my room. Just the look of joy as she looked around and immediately started browsing the library made me so happy! We are ready to get down to the business of learning.

PS- I will be posting my Thurs/Fri posts of Teacher Week this weekend- just got too busy! I want to share my resources and freebies though so check back soon.

August 25, 2011

Where it All Goes Down Wednesday!

I had new teacher orientation today where we played the M&M game (one fact about yourself for every M&M)...and 2 of my facts revolved around none other than blogging and TEACHER WEEK!  I now owe links to your fab blogs to several of my colleagues. :-)

Anyway, today's post is "Where it All Goes Down Wednesday," aka Classroom Tour! I love getting peeks (and ideas) from your classrooms. If you haven't already, link up at Blog Hoppin'!

Since I've only been in my room a couple of days it's definitely A Work in Progress.  I apologize for the cell phone pics but I wanted to document my first classroom's transformation. I'll take better ones once it's complete :-) My theme is: The Big Apple (think NYC/Broadway)!

This is what I walked into:

All of these pics I was standing in the doorway- so definitely small but I am determined to make it work with both table groups and carpet learning areas. I LOVE the shiny new Promethian Board- next generation SmartBoard. For an Inner City School getting this grant was huge- it's going to open up the World and so many resources to our kiddos.

Thanks to these lovely ladies- I am mostly moved in- we got a work out carrying my library and bookshelves up to the 3rd floor!

As of tonight- this is what you'll find in Room 302:
Right inside the door- It houses my fav quote by Nelson Mandela- the Let Your Light Shine Quote. The Statue of Liberty also fits into our Social Studies- of Early Immigrants.
Lockers and my number line. I think my Word Wall will go up above. I'm debating separating my Literacy Word Wall from Content Areas Words- any thoughts? To the right of the lockers (covering a few) are 2 huge cabinets. 1 is unlocked and houses student textbooks, supplies, games, etc. The other is lockable and where I will keep materials that I don't want out all the time.

 I arranged my desks in groups of 5. Once I get the rest of my desks I'll have 25- love that it worked out so even. :-) I have a freebie up of my table group jobs. You can find that here. I find it really helps facilitate group work. No pic of those because they are currently in line to be laminated (with a huge pile of other things). I set the desks up so that I can use either the white board to the right or the white board/smart board up front for direct instruction.

My desk/Guided Reading Area. If I had it my way I'd get rid of both and just use a rainbow/kidney table. However, due to the lack of elevator in my building they highly discourage moving big furniture in/out. Either way it's going to work! I have a set of shelves/bins behind  to store guided reading/math group materials and I can fit 5 chairs around the table. All that stuff on the window sill is from the teacher who left- next up on my to do list is to sort it!

You also get a peek at my carpet area which runs the front of the room. I'm not used to having the group area up front but with the Promethian board it is going to be great. I have a director's chair up there as well to go with the theme.
And last up for today- My Library- Easily my fav part of my classroom. I LOVE books. All the white magazine files (yet to be labeled) hold my Nonfiction collection sorted by topic for easy browsing. The buckets are labeled by Author, series, genre, buddy reads (my duplicate books), etc. I lucked out finding the 3 bookshelves on the right for a total of $4!

Behind the library you see my Stage Board....yet to be titled. I am laminating yellow construction paper now which will go up with paper clips so that I can mount student work easily- actually I like the kids to do it so they are in the practice of evaluating and choosing their best work to share.

So there we go- it's coming along well. Hope to put in a couple more days this week and then add final touches next week (our Professional Development Week). It's finally starting to feel like home- can't wait until I get the rest of it up and organized. Any questions? Email or Comment :-)

August 23, 2011

Teacher Talk Tues

Today's Teacher Week post is dedicated to Advice for New Teachers. I can't wait to read all the great advice from the veteran teachers! I'll be back tomorrow with pictures of my classroom. Off today to buy some more bookcases for my library area (thank you Craigs*list) and work a bit on my room.
Welcome new followers!

August 22, 2011

Meet the Teacher Monday!

Hi, Welcome to Grace Falls Like Rain for Teacher Week 2011! I'm linking up at Blog Hoppin'- an awesome collaborative blog of some of the best teacher bloggers out there. So excited to join this amazing education community. First up, Meet the Teacher Monday.
Tell us a little something about you...
I'm Kathleen, I teach 5th grade at a Performing Arts Charter School and I love the arts. I just finished my Masters in Educational Studies with Teacher Certification K-8 (Go Blue!) Before that I completed my Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance while teaching and dancing semi-professionally. While I'm not dancing anymore, I love using the arts in my classroom every day! (Once an artist, always an artist :-) There are so many benefits to using the arts (accessing the whole brain being a major one) that I can't wait to share throughout this year.  I am so glad I decided to go into education, teaching is my passion and I can't imagine doing anything else!
How long have you been teaching?

This is my first full year in a classroom, but I did teach arts-integration classes in several local schools for 4 years. My freshman year as a Dance Major I started a program called Mary's Movers, a Dance Arts Ed Class for K-3rd graders. Half the class was ballet/creative movement and the other half was reinforcing academic content through movement. That experience changed my life, not only in discerning that I was supposed to be a teacher, but also in how I teach. I student taught in 3rd grade and can't wait to work with my fabulous 5ths this year!
You might not know...
(Let's see how random I can be, in no particular order)
That I love diet coke, working for a high school youth group, cats (yes that's my cat in my profile pic hanging out in the splits), Grey's Anatomy, Make it Or Break It, Bachelor(ette) Nights with the Girls, Facebook, Blogging (and Blog-Stalking), Listening to worship music, Adoption advocacy, Musicals, Researching and Teaching Dancer Health and Wellness, and my latest summer craze, Harry Potter (yes, even though my generation grew up with the books, I just now read- and loved- them!)
What are you looking most forward to this school year?

So many things! Working with kids in the city- loving them, inspiring them to set goals for the future, learning lots from them, creating with them, Being a part of the fabulous 5th Grade Team at my school, Creating some new literacy and art units, and hopefully taking my 5ths to my University for a Field Trip.

*Fun Story- 4 years ago (right around the time I was deciding to teach) my English class had a component of teaching Creative Writing to Inner City Kids. It just happened to be in 5th grade at the same school I'm now working at! We took the kids back to our University for a field trip, to inspire them to add college to their goals. It was an amazing experience I hope to share with my students again this year! 

What do you need to improve?

As a new teacher starting out I have a lot I want to grow in. A couple of my goals are time management- not only during the day, but nights/weekends as well and to add in guided math groups to better reach my students at their level. I'd rather add in more goals or responsibilities later rather than to bite off too much at the beginning.
What teaching supplies can you *not* live without?

My Laptop- I have a SmartBoard this year so know that this is going to be an important tool in creating fun lessons for my kiddos.
Sticky Notes- I have them everywhere! Love to use them for exit slips/mini assessments.

Chart Paper/Mr. Sketch Markers- I love making anchor charts with my kids during mini lessons

Diet Coke- Enough Said :-)

Anything else you want to know? Please feel free to leave a comment or email me- (on the right).
Look forward to "meeting" more of you,

August 21, 2011

Freebie to Kick Off Teacher Week!

A year ago when I was first beginning to blog I discovered the wonders of Teacher Week. I learned so much from other fabulous teachers and added many blogs to my Google Reader! This year I'll be participating. You can check it out here!
There will be another freebie on Friday but to kick it off I'm offering my Upper Elementary Table Jobs Printable. I was introduced to table jobs during my student teaching and I loved how it supported group work (which I do a lot of). I generally have 5 students per group and the jobs rotate every week or so. I have a NYC/Broadway theme because I teach at a Performing Arts School. The titles also introduce my students to other jobs in the theatre/movie industry, but you can re-title many of them to fit your theme,  I've even included an extra blank one.
Here's the link to the Google Doc:

Enjoy! Hope to see you at Teacher Week,

August 15, 2011

Teacher Camp Resource

I just got back from spending last week at Saginaw Valley State University (SVSU) for the New Teacher Institute...aka Teacher Camp. SVSU is the university that charters my school and 17 others across Michigan. I was impressed, not just with the prep/support this year, but with all they are teaching/researching. As all you teachers well know, this is a challenging time to be a teacher with all the many changes- common core? decline of teach to the test? (fingers crossed on that one) funding-where/what? politics? technology?'s good to have additional training and support.

I always say "Knowledge is Power." 

They gave us a binder full of resources- printed and web along with a few books. The First Days of School and Teaching with Love and Logic are old classics of course but we also received  

 Oh.My.Gosh. has this rocked my teaching world. I am teaching in the inner city and this book is a God-send. It goes through the differences between lower-middle-upper class and how it relates to American Schools (which follow middle class conventions). Knowledge is Power. I have marked this baby up and know I will be turning to it all year to help my students grow and thrive. If you teach in areas of poverty I highly recommend it.

They also gave us some great math and science internet links. I'm so excited that I will have a SmartBoard this year- to tap into these great resources with my kiddos.  I'm including them below- there are hundreds!

Math Internet Links
Science Internet Links

I have a little less than 2 weeks to get my classroom up and running and then a week of PD before the kids start back. What PD have you had this year? Do you have any SmartBoard resources?

August 6, 2011

Are you Smarter than a 5th Grader- Library Edition

It was finally time to tackle the boxes of books and get them sorted into my library.
A 5th grade library to be exact...
Yes, that wasn't a typo, my grade-level switched this week!

I am not too worried, still have time to plan since our kiddos don't start until after Labor Day-
I'm just so thankful to have a job! Pray for all those teachers still looking!

Anyway, my good friend C and I spent the day labeling/sorting/and picking off price tags.
I ended up with 51 book bins thanks to my year-long thrifting hunt.
I think the most I paid for a book was $1.00- most were 3/$0.99 or even free :-)

Here's a picture of my sorted library sans-labels (they currently take up a wall of my living room).

The tan bins are my chapter books. I got a set of 36 at for $32.

The white file folders are my non-fiction/informational books. I got sets of 5 from Ikea for $1.99.
The red bins are mixed chapter/ picture books. This is the shelf I talked about here!

I made simple labels out of Name Badge Stickers that I also got at the thrift store :-)
Microsoft Word has those great label templates where you can type in your Avery label number (5146), import a list from Excel (my Book Basket Titles), and Voila! Customized labels.

They are white labels with a gold border and I used a red font. I'll upload a picture here later.
If anyone wants them, email me at and I'll email you the document. Some are by genre (Fantasy, Mystery, Historical Fiction etc.), some by author (Roald Dahl, Noel Streatfeild, C.S Lewis etc.), and some by topic (Space, How-To, States/Government etc.)

I think it's more important to sort books this way then by level- we as adults choose books by interest and then find a good fit within that, so why should we teach kids differently? I don't want my kids obsessed with what letter book they are reading (Fountas and Pinnell A-Z). Rather, I want them to enjoy reading and develop the ability to select appropriate reading material on their own!

Do you agree? Disagree? How do you set up your classroom library?