New Classroom, New Grade, New Challenge!

Uff-dah (yes that is the Minnesotan in me but that is how I feel!) It has been one insane week with some BIG changes!!

Last Friday I posted about finally finishing my classroom but then was hit with the bombshell, someone in our grade level would have to move from 3rd to 4th grade. Well fast forward to Monday and that bombshell hit me especially hard. Because I am the rookie on my team, I drew the short stick and was told by our new principal and superintendent that I would have to be the one to move.

This was a lot to take in! They were both super nice about it when they came to talk/comfort me. They told me that they were going to make this change as easy as possible for me. I told them that I had just finishing moving into my new room (in the 3rd grade wing) 3 days prior so they told me I could stay in that room if I wanted to. Honestly, that day was all a haze. I had originally thought I was going to move over to the empty 4th grade classroom but as the day progressed instead of worrying about the new curriculum and my new students, all I could think about was moving into a new room. I realized my priorities were not in the right spot so I shouldn’t move.

I talked to my 4th grade team about that decision and they told me they would have made the same choice and there was no reason for me to add that stress! Of course other staff in the building didn’t agree with that choice so I was bombarded with non stop opinions for 2 days. I kept hearing from other staff members that parents will be upset and students won’t like “sharing bathrooms and locker areas with 3rd graders.” I get that some families might not be thrilled about the location of the classroom but at the end of the day it’s what happens in the classroom that matters the most. Finally, I told another team mate about the constant “advice” I was receiving and she stopped it in its tracks. She literally saved my sanity!

After all of the drama dust subsided I finally got to meet with some of my new teammates and spent many hours replanning my first few weeks of school. I definitely spent more time at school this week than I had planned (especially considering it was workshop week so I knew I would be there everyday anyways) but I left today feeling like I can do this. I taught 4th grade 2 years ago, so I know what to expect. It’s just sad that I don’t get to work with the same awesome people again. I was also excited to know what I was teaching for once but I guess I’m made for the challenge.

Anyways… after all of that fun stuff I wanted to share my new classroom that was prepped for 3rd grade but was transformed for 4th grade!

First things first, it might look plain but I love to use tables instead of desks. I HATE clutter. Tables don’t completely solve the problem but nothing gets buried inside. They are also a great way to promote groups and collaboration between students throughout the day. I also added little buckets on each table filled with a mix of markers, crayons, colored pencils, and pens. I found these adorable buckets (confetti themed) at Target for only $1.00 a piece. I have 7 tables so I have 7 buckets, each with a sticker number on them so I can have numbered groups.

The front of my room is not the most exciting but I centered it around our reading curriculum. When I thought I would be teaching 3rd grade, I was only going to be teaching reading. I found many word work, spelling, and writing activities on TPT over the summer to go with the curriculum, so I didn’t want them to go to waste. I LOVE the Teacher Resources confetti theme! I used it last year so I built off of it this year. I found those cute confetti circles with positive affirmations. I am BIG on positive mindset in my classroom so they were perfect!

Next is my new reading corner. I don’t have all of the space I would like for this area but I made the most of it! Our school does AR to encourage reading. The school gives away prizes for students when they earn a certain amount of points but to encourage taking AR tests more and having point goals, I have my own point/incentive program. Last year, AR was new to me so I didn’t have much set up. This year I wanted to have a bright and fun display of the points each student has next to a sign of the incentives for each goal. When a student gets 50 points they will get to take a clothes pin (they are all numbered so students find their class number) and clip it to the sign. As they get more points, they get to keep moving their pin. I found these amazing confetti/neon labels for $3.00 on TPT from Cherry Workshop‘s store. I used the signs in this file for many labels around my room.

I bought these mini confetti labels from amazon for $6.99. They come in a pack of 30 and I love them for my lunch count/attendance taker. I used them last year as well. It’s a quick and easy way for me to see what the lunch count is and if anyone is absent. Last year I struggled with organizing papers for each subject that was handed in throughout the day. This year I decided to buy these drawers from Target for $9.99 each (not the cheapest but worth it) and label them for each subject. This way when my students hand things in, they will already be sorted by subject for me. I also wanted to spruce up my dull walls (I like to put fabric in the background to brighten things up but the walls are so high in this new room that I can’t reach the top) so I put up these 3 positive mindset posters from the teacher store Lakeshore Learning. I love their messages but I also find them super cute!

The back of my room is my favorite. Again, most of these are all from the confetti themed section found at Teacher Resources (also their store on Amazon.) My schedule was made using the neon labels I bought on TPT that also had the signs I used for my AR display. I love the teacher hack of using a push pin wall to display student work in a quick and easy way. I hot glued a push pin to the back of a clothes pin and a number tag to the front of the clothes pin to make the mounts. That is all the work I have to do there. Now as the year goes on when we have a project, I won’t have to waste time stapling or taping up their work because they can easily do it! Growing up with a teacher mom, I would usually be the one to put up and display her students’ work. I hated it and it easily became my biggest pet peeve. So seriously, this is my favorite time saver!

 

Oh man it has definitely been a week and the kids aren’t even here yet. I’m just hoping it’s all is up hill from here. To help take care of with my newly added stress, I got a sweet little surprise today. I have one student this year that I also had in my class last year. Luckily, she was one of my all time favorites! Today I got a sweet little gift and card from her saying she was excited to have me again. It’s those little things that make all the difference! I seriously started to cry when it showed up at school today! Now to enjoy the last official weekend before the year begins.

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Reading Cafe Open for Business

We are getting closer and closer to the end of the year and those school days left are decreasing fast (but not always fast enough.) At this point of the year, I am officially done with all of my required curriculum materials (expect for one more math test) so I am pulling out any and all activities I can.

One activity that I found and purchased on Teachers Pay Teachers was a Book Tasting Kit. I have seen this idea on Pinterest and through different teacher’s instagram accounts and I wanted to try it so bad. The one I bought was from Staying Cool in the Library‘s page. I think this kit is great because it has two separate kits inside of one so that it can be leveled to a specific grade level. There is an upper elementary version and a primary version. I used the primary version for my kiddos because I wanted it to be fun and easy with limited writing. I wanted the major focus to be on the books.

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What I did was I printed out the “menu” pages found in the kit and made each student in my class their own menu to use. Inside each menu I included 5 “review” pages that they used when they found a book.

I set up 5 different stations of genres in my room and placed many of those types of books at each table. The genres I pulled out to use for my kids were historical fiction books, realistic fiction books, mystery books, fantasy books, and biographies/autobiographies. At each table, they had to pick one book they thought looked interesting and filled out the form in their menu. They read a page or 2 from each book and decided if the pages were easy or hard to read. They then described the cover and any other pictures that might have been in the book. They finally rated their book out of 5 stars. Once they finished with their one book that was recorded in their menus, they had a few extra minutes to look through other books and discuss the ones they found with the others in their group.

I gave each round/station about 8 minutes at each table/genre. Overall, it took us a little over 40 minutes total to get through all tables. Most of my kiddos had a really good time and really took their time looking into different types of books and genres they aren’t used to. When my students entered 3rd grade, hardly any of my students wanted to read chapter books. As the year went on, they started to get into the Dogman series, The Bad Guys series, and of course, the Junie B. Jones. books. As great as it was that they were starting to read chapter books, they didn’t really extend their reading any farther. Most of them stuck with these books throughout the year. My goal with the book tasting was to show them that there are plenty of other amazing books out there. I wanted them to walk away with a list of new books to read over the summer or next year when they walk into 4th grade.

Of course, I had that handful who couldn’t handle it. I decided to put my struggling kiddos in the same group for this activity so they wouldn’t disrupt anyone else and take away from their learning. It was great for the other 4 groups at the other 4 stations but that one group was very difficult. I had my sister come volunteer in my classroom just to keep those kiddos on task. (That still didn’t work too well.)

Overall, my kids had fun and found a ton of new books they are eager to read. It was a lot of prep work getting everything printed and put together but it was worth it. I recommend trying this out (but maybe not at the end of the year because the energy level is WAY higher than normal!)

Side Note: If you want to add some more flare, have some instrumental French music playing in the background. It sets the mood pretty well and who doesn’t want to pretend they’re in a French cafe?

 

We only have 8 school days to go!!!!! We are so close people!!!!

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For more day to day activities and lessons, go follow my class instagram account @lifeoftherookieteacher!! With the end of the year, I have many fun projects coming up. I will also be sharing some fun summer activities and you don’t want to miss that!

Field Trips, Animals, and Inheritance

Happy Wednesday my fellow blog friends. This has been a crazy week already and we still have 2 more days to go until the beautiful weekend is upon us.

This week started with a bang on Monday because it was our glorious field trip day. Remember when field trips used to be the best day of the year and you looked forward to sitting on the bus with your best friends and getting to be in a small group with one of your friend’s mom because they were your chaperone? Remember how fun and exciting it was being off of campus for the day and getting to experience new things you never would have gotten to experience if you were at a different school? Yeah, field trips used to be the life. Too bad it doesn’t stay that fun and exciting when you have to play the teacher role.

For our field trip we had 2 different activities planned for the kids. The first part of our trip was taking the kiddos to a giant park where they could run and get their energy out. They would get to run, scream, and play to their heart’s content. We then had a picnic planned before our second stop. My coworkers told me that this was going to be everyone’s favorite part of the day because the park is so big and different. As soon as we arrived, however the issues began.

In a previous post a few months back I mentioned a student who should be receiving services for EBD but has never been evaluated for it. I’ve mentioned my concerns and gave examples of some of the choices she makes on a daily basis. I worked side by side with her social worker to get the process started. As of today, she is officially in the process of being evaluated. Well this little girl was not having the park whatsoever. She told me she thought the whole thing was stupid and a waste of time. She then got mad when I told her to put her lunch at the same picnic table as the rest of her group before she went off to play. Apparently that was the wrong thing to say because she took off.

When I say took off, she literally ran away from me around this giant park. It took some time of following her before she finally made her way to the gated in playground with all of the other students. Instead of enjoying the nice warm weather at the park, I spent most of my time watching and worrying that she would run off again.

The second part of our field trip was to a local Nature Center. We had been learning about adaptations in science, so at the Nature Center they focused on animal adaptations in nature. The first thing we did was go on a nature hike. Again, this activity should have been super fun and relaxing but my little girl did not want to go for a walk in the woods. She first refused to go with the group and then, once I finally got her to join us, she got upset again and ran off into the woods away from our group. This terrified me because I had no idea where she went. Luckily, the path wasn’t that long and I found her not too far from us but I couldn’t trust her to be without full on supervision for the rest of the trip.

On top of my runner, I had a nice little injury incident between the park and the Nature Center. Right after lunch, as we were getting onto the bus, three of my students were playing with sticks. I asked them to put the down and head to the bus. Well I guess I should have been more specific about putting them down because one of my students chucked the stick off to the side and hit another one of my students right in the face. She had a gash right on her eyebrow. The cut wasn’t that big but it was bleeding A LOT. (Just an FYI as well, the girl who got the cut who was bleeding is also my biggest hypochondriac and her mom is a very opinionated mom who shares everything and anything on Facebook. It was perfect.) I got to be a mini doctor on the bus to the Nature Center cleaning up her bloody face.

Needless to say, I was very happy when the day was over. Man do I miss those fun field trip days when I was the student and not the teacher. Besides all of my little incidences, however it was a very fun field trip for the students so it was worth it.

The fun part of the week so far has been a science project we worked on today in class. Along with adaptations, we have also been covering genetics. (With 3rd graders, this is super generic and basic.) We’ve done a lot of talking about how we inherit traits from our parents. We’ve learned the difference between inherited characteristics and acquired characteristics. In order for my students to get the full effect of this (as 8/9 year olds) I found this super fun activity on TPT that has students make a monster based on the traits of 2 monster parents. (I’m sure you’ve done a version of this activity at some point during your schooling but I personally think this one was pretty great.)

The activity is called HEREDITY Creature Features – Inherited and Environmental Traits. I found this on iTeachSTEM‘s shop. The activity was made for 5th-7th graders but I was able to “dumb it down” enough for my 3rd graders.

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The first thing students do is flip a coin (we rolled a die) to decide if a child would receive a trait from the mom monster or the dad monster. I did an example on the board and then they took off to do their own.

Once they were finished rolling their dice to pick the traits of their monster, they got to draw them out for the class to see.

Tomorrow my plan is to have us go through all of them and talk about how our monsters are all related because they got their traits from the same parents but non are exactly alike. I honestly think they turned out super cute!!! They loved doing it and understood the difference between inherited and acquired traits.

 

For more day to day activities, go follow our class on instagram @lifeoftherookieteacher!

Yoga Calm in the Classroom

Oh man it’s been awhile. I didn’t realize how crazy busy I’ve been until I realized I haven’t written anything in weeks. A lot has happened since Lorax Day at school. With the end of the year here, my students are insane (like most students are at this time) and I needed a way to calm my students down.

My class is a mix of really great and sweet kids but their emotional needs are VERY high!! I have 5 girls who are all working in social groups because of anxiety and social needs and then I have a handful of boys who are off the charts hyperactive. I love them all but the last few weeks, it’s like all of their issues have been worsening by 200%. Because most of my girls work with the same social worker, she knows my class pretty well. She has spent a good chunk of time in my classroom this year helping my girlies and helping with the needs of all of my students.

She knows how hyper and emotional my class is so we’ve been brainstorming ways to help all of them at the same time while helping my mental sanity as well.

Another social worker in our district started working with a program called Yoga Calm. Our social worker heard how amazing it was doing in our middle school and thought that it would be a great thing for my class. I’m super open to anything and I was desperate for a change so we decided to give it a try.

Our plan was to start each day with a 10 minute “yoga calm” activity. The social worker would come into our room and we would have the students move the tables in my room to the back to create more space, turn off the lights, turn down the shades, and then they would lay in their own spot on the floor. It was a great plan in theory but the first day we tried this, it did NOT go quite as calmly as planned.

We started to try this on Monday of this week. I explained to my students what would be happening before the social worker joined us, so they weren’t completely thrown off with the change. When she came into our room (I’ll admit here, I was NOT thinking) I told my students to move the tables to the back of the room (yes, that was the only set of directions I gave them at the time.) Let’s just say, it was not a calm affair.

Once everything was set, we all came to the front to sit in a circle. They were very antsy and crazy already so it made me very nervous they weren’t going to calm down. We did a few calming activities and then a group activity. Most of the kiddos did really well (some could not take this very seriously on day 1) but it took us about 30 minutes to do a 10 minute activity.

Luckily, days 2, 3, and 4 went so much smoother. We have a pretty solid routine. When they see the social worker enter our room they calmly set everything up the way we originally had planned. They find their own quiet spot on the floor and they start to breath. Honestly, I’m still shocked with how calm they get. After our 4th day, ALL of my kids are able to “meditate” their own way on the floor. After some meditation, we go over some yoga poses and then we do a group tree pose together while talking about ignoring distractions.

Once our yoga calm is over, we start our day and holy cow they are seriously ready to learn!! It’s unbelievable to me how calm they are once we finish and how set they are on having a good day. Even my high energy students are set to go better than they have all year.

I am seriously so grateful for this program. We’ve only been working on it for the past 4 days but it has been my life saver! I highly recommend looking into it. It only takes 10 minutes every morning and it saves a ton of wasted time during the day that is usually spent trying to get students back on track. It’s so amazing.

As of today we only have 20 more school days to go until it’s officially summer. It’s seems so close yet so far away. If you are needed some help with the behaviors of your students (knowing summer is fast approaching) this is the ideal answer!

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