As some of you already know, I teach in Virginia, one of four states that did not adopt the common core. Though we are not adopting those standards, the state has been changing our state standards to be more rigorous as well. Our fifth grade students have always taken a writing SOL (standards of learning), which is split between multiple choice and essay. Last year in late fall they released the prompts that students could potentially have for their essay portion. Well, there are 44 prompts and the students will only get one on testing day. Of course, we don't know which one, and not all students get the same one on testing day! Suffice it to say, it's great to have all of prompts in front of you, but it can be a bit overwhelming when you are thinking about exposing your students to each one! Last year, I worked diligently to prepare sample essay after sample essay, and I think that I've completed about 20 at this point, but God only knows that I can't expect my students to write 40 essays in a year. Since will be the first year that we have the prompts before the year begins, I'm trying to be better prepared.
So last week, I was chatting with one of my favorite colleagues and an idea popped in to my head: What if students completed a prompt a day at the beginning of writing each day with just one task in mind? There are 44 prompts. If I give them a prompt a day for 44 days and just have them do a five-minute brainstorm, then they will have been exposed to each at least once by Thanksgiving! Then, for the next 44 days they can fill out a graphic organizer for each prompt, which will mean they are exposed twice! AND THEN (bonus points if you get the Dude, Where's My Car? reference) they will do a paragraph each day for 44 days. Essentially, I have the potential to expose them to each prompt THREE times, and that's not even counting the explicit writing instruction and practice they will complete with several of these prompts. Sometimes I love these ideas that pop in to my head.
So for three days I've been working on days 1-44, creating a prompt slide for each prompt that I can display for the whole class, and then creating prompt strips which students will get to glue in to their writing journals (hi ho, ho ho, it's off to Walmart I go for 17 cent notebooks!). Alas, I still have two more sets to create for the remaining days, but I've got days 1-44 covered.
In addition, I did get to spend some time in my classroom this week. I've made enough progress to say (right now) that I am going to enjoy the next week off. That doesn't mean I won't be working from home, but it does mean that I might be working from home by the pool!
One of my accomplishments this week was that I bought a small bulletin board (24 x 36), wrapped it in cute black swirly fabric, and created my jobs chart from it. I don't have a ton of bulletin board space and need a good amount of space for word walls so I stole an idea from a coworker and got the board, which can easily lean against the windows! Here's a couple of pics. My cat Brewster insisted on being in the "before" the owls picture. Seriously, he wouldn't leave that board alone!
I had to condense two jobs to make all of these fit, but I'm quite happy with the outcome. These are large owl cut outs. The students will each get a small owl cutout with their name on it when I introduce jobs during the first week. When they select a job their little owl will get pinned next to the owl with their job on it. As you probably guessed, all of those students without jobs for the week will be "on vacation".
We have a board outside of our classroom that we share with our neighboring teammate. My teammate across the hall already came in the other day and put his board up. What's awesome is that he's a Charlie Brown fan, so our boards usually compliment each other quite well. This year I bought this awesome You Can Do Anything Snoopy Bulletin Board Set from Really Good Stuff. As mentioned before, I also invested in two giant rolls of fadeless paper in green and blue. I don't know about you, but I get pretty darn happy when my roll fits the length and width of the board! Woohoo! Anyway, I was inspired to get this up and I am thrilled to pieces with how it came out. Sooooooo cute! I just know our students are going to love our "Snoopified" area! Hooray for feeling accomplished!