Sunday, August 31, 2014

2014-2015 Classroom Reveal

It's finally time for my classroom reveal!

Don't you just love that phones can take panoramic pictures now? 

This year, I moved to the second floor of our fifth grade "pod" and so I now have tons of light, which I am super duper excited about! I'm not sure I will still love it when I'm trying to use my document camera, but for right now, hooray for lots of light!

If you don't already know, I am a Snoopy fanatic. This goes all the way back to my childhood. Snoopy makes me smile all over and he's totally gender neutral when it comes to decorating because boys AND girls both love Snoopy. There is actually more to this outer window now (it says "Mrs. Ostrander's Classroom" in the lower part), but the picture didn't come out, so I am sharing a picture from the work in progress. 

I have an outside entrance area, but for some reason, the picture didn't come out, so I will have to add it on Tuesday.

When you first enter, this wall is on your left. It is my favorite part, because I came up with a wonderful idea for it. I used clipboards from the Dollar Tree to create a student work wall, where students can display work that they are proud of. Each student has their own clipboard. You can read all about it here: Student Work Wall Display. In this area, I also have my classroom calendar, birthdays, and reward coupon chart for our classroom coupons. The blue drawers are from Target and hold supplies that we use most often: crayons, index cards, markers, and colored pencils. Of course, it goes without saying that the Peanuts Gang found their way to this display! :-)

As you move along the wall to the right of my clipboard display, I have a giant whiteboard that I LOVE. As you can see, it's already prepared for the first day of school, with lots of directions for my students to follow as they enter the classroom. On the left of my board I have my behavior chart, which is next to our daily schedule. Our clock has hands that tell the time in 5 minute increments because I hide the digital clock so that they do not rely on that. Under the clock are my daily objectives. Next to the clock is my place value chart. And of course, I have lots of motivational Snoopy and the Peanuts Gang posters hanging around.

Here's my lovely desk area. I will need to add pictures of my super organized area BEHIND my desk because that's worth showing off too. I painted the chair and the stool in the picture above a couple of summers ago. Again, there's lots of Peanuts going on here, but my favorite item in this area is this poster on the front of my desk:
Don't you just love it?
The green Peanuts chart is the way that we track student compliments (from other teachers in the hallway). They can earn parties when they earn Woodstocks all the way to the top (14 compliments, to be exact).

My classroom library spans along the wall that is filled with windows. I have books organized by genre, and then I use stickers to level each one. The books in the stand all the way to the right (that was a going out of business find I'll cherish forever) are chapter book series. The five ottomans that you see are filled with stuffed animals, as is the white bucket next to the series books. If you think that fifth graders are too old for stuffed animals, think again! They love to play with them and use them as reading buddies. They are very much still kids!

My reading monkeys are making an appearance again this year. I came up with this idea last year, which you can read about here: Reading Take Home Bags

To make my students extra curious about the library, I always put an "Opening Soon" sign across the books. We don't open the library until we've had time to explicitly cover the rules of our classroom library, since all of the books that you see are my own personal collection.

My Genius Board is ready to go and I can't wait to get this wonderful idea started in my classroom. If you want to know more about it, go to Runde's Room to see how she uses it in her classroom! I'm sure I'll be posting about it once we get it started too.

My classroom jobs boards is made out of Snoopy cut-outs, of course!

Both boards are large bulletin boards purchased from Office Depot and covered in fabric.

My back wall is where my one bulletin board exists. I don't have a ton up yet, because I'll cover these boards with anchor charts, problems of the day, and other resources that are current to whatever we are working on throughout the year. 

Here's my games and supplies area and MORE SNOOPY! I've got a curtain over the bookcase that holds all of my items for guided reading. 

Here's our cubby area. We only have 24 cubbies, and I have 27 students, so some of them will have to use crates to hold their items. My kidney table is all set up for open house in this picture.

The picture below is my mailbox area, as well as our math manipulatives and supplies area.

I finally put a carpet in my room this year. It's a small sacrifice because we have to care for them ourselves. I bought a little push carpet sweeper that I am hoping will work miracles. It is my plan to have the students in the back two groups move to the carpet for any whole group lessons on some days, then on other days, I will have the students in desks move to the carpet, while the students from the back move to their desks. Gotta keep things interesting so those students are engaged 100% of the time! 

Woohoo! Just a couple of days to go before it's time to begin my tenth year of teaching and welcome my kiddos to their fifth grade home! 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Creating a Student Work Wall Display With Clipboards

This year, I was moved to a new classroom. I'm still teaching fifth grade, but I swapped classrooms with another teacher so I had to move up to the second floor. When I found out that I had to move, I was concerned about the layout of my new room. Not only was I losing wall space because wall of my room is windows, but I was also losing a bulletin board. When I first started in my district, my principal asked me if there was anything that I needed. At that time, I had just one bulletin board in my room. I asked her for an additional board so that I could have one area designated for displaying student work and she ordered one for me. I loved having a designated space where I could celebrate the work my students had done. So, the problem with moving to a new room was that I now had to go back to just one bulletin board. How was I going to display student work and anchor charts, posters, etc?

Then I found something amazing. As I was scrolling through Facebook, I saw that my friend Nikki at Teaching in Progress posted a picture of some really adorable clipboards that she found at The Dollar Store. I thought they were so cute, but I already have a set of clipboards for my class, so I really didn't have any reason to buy them. Then, all of a sudden, it dawned on me! I knew what I could do with them! I could put them on the wall to create a student work display area. I have an open wall area right by the door where it would perfectly. So, I was off on a mission to find enough clipboards for each student. I really wanted to be sure that each student had their own designated spot to display their work. It took three Dollar Stores, but I found 30 of them! (I don't have 30 students, but I wanted to be on the safe side, because I know I will have a big class this year).

Then I had to decide how I was going to get these clipboards to stay up on the wall all year AND not damage the walls. I spent a lot of money on Command Strips since they always come off the wall easily and hold items on the wall very well. Home Depot had a great deal on them so I lucked out. Then it was off to school to see if my idea would work.

26 clipboards and 104 Command Strips Later…SUCCESS!

I've added a student since then, so now I am up to 27 clipboards and 108 Command Strips. The wall is final ready to go. For open house, each paper said _________'s Future Masterpiece. As for me, this display is MY clipboard masterpiece! 

Friday, August 29, 2014

Five For Friday Linky August 29

It's time to link up for another...

Five for Friday is a weekly teacher linky party where you post five random things from today or this past week on your blog.

I officially finished the last 20 pages for my summer reading assignment. Lucy Calkins really has me thinking about the way that I teach writing. I'm definitely going to approach writing a bit differently this year and I'm excited to see the results. This book was a little repetitive, and it has a lot of information. I thought I'd finish it quickly, but it took me awhile to get through it, because all of these wonderful ideas kept popping in to my head. I had about 10 pages of notes by the time I finished! 

My summer has been all about organization. How happy was I to find this amazing blogging/TpT sales/Pinterest/everything a teacher blogger can dream of Blog Post, Giveaway, and Linky Planner and Organizer? Let's just say that I LOVE it and it's one of my favorite purchases of the summer! Now I'm not only organized for teaching, I'm organized for blogging too! 

Open House was a great success! I love being in a district where so many parents take the time to come in. I can already tell that my group of 27 students are going to be awesome! Each student had a welcome bag on their desk, with my annual goodie bag Welcome Poem, which got a lot of revisions this year.
The welcome poem can be downloaded for free here: Welcome Poem for a Bag of Treats

My "Parent Vitamins" were a big hit! 

I saw a version of this on Pinterest, and I loved it, but it only led me to a picture file so even after a google search, I still have no idea who the original creator is. I loved the idea, I just had to change up a bit. I put two fun packs of M&M's in each one - that way each parent could have one! On the other side of the bag, I made matching messages that were meant to put parents at ease. They loved it! 

If you want to grab my version of parent vitamins, you can download it here: Parent Vitamins

Student desks are ready for the first day with my wonderful new students on Tuesday! I spent all day yesterday getting everything ready for the first day. That meant cleaning up from Open House, organizing all of the papers that I was handed during open house, copying the papers I need to make our first day a success, and making sure everything in the room is organized and ready to go. I can officially say that I am ready for the first day, which means that I get to enjoy my four-day weekend starting NOW! It also means that there will be a classroom reveal this weekend so stay tuned!  

This is the note on the desk: It's available with the Welcome Poem here: First Day Welcome Note for Supplies

Wishing everyone a fabulous Labor Day weekend! For those who have already started, I hope your year is off to a great start. For those who start on Tuesday with me, let's all work hard to make this our best first day EVER! 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Sunday Social - August 24th

It's time again for…

The Sunday Social is my favorite way to share a little about myself with all of you! I've found tons of awesome blogs through this linky and I love that it brings together bloggers of tons of different topics. So without further ado, off we go! 

Sunday Social Questions: 

1. What are you most looking forward to about fall?

Fall scents! Crisp air, pumpkins, apples…oh my! I love every scent associated with fall! I'm already planning my fall trip to Yankee Candle!

AP Photo/The Yankee Candle Company

2. What is your favorite sports team?

I am a die hard Red Sox fan. I love my team, for better or worse. I'm from NY, which pretty much makes me a traitor, just ask my husband, who is a fan of that pin-striped team from NY who shall remain nameless. Yes, we have a rivalry marriage! 

3. If you could go back to college, is there one thing you would change?

No way, those were some of my best memories. Mistakes are going to be made no matter what path you choose. We're supposed to make some questionable decisions, date some frogs before we meet our prince, and have the time of our lives. I wouldn't take a second of college back. 

4. What was your favorite class you ever took in high school or college?

Introduction to Criminal Justice (my first degree is in criminal justice). The professor was a riot! He made that class so incredibly interesting because he had a ton of hilarious stories about his prior experiences in the field and he used a lot of sarcasm and sarcasm is definitely my cup of tea.

5. Reach into your purse. What is the first thing that you grab?

Tickets from The Sound of Music. Last night, my hubby and I went with friends to support a former student who was in a local community theater production of the show. She was a fabulous Louisa Von Trapp! 

I hope that you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it! Visit A Complete Waste of Makeup to link-up!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

First Year Flashback Linky

I'm excited to link up with The ESOL Odyssey to look back at my very first year of teaching. Since I am about to enter my 10th year, it seems like a perfect time to look back on my first experience. 

My first experience wasn't really a first year, as much as it was a taking over a fifth grade classroom on April 26th of 2005, roughly 4 weeks before I would even earn my master's degree. The teacher in the room had decided to return to his job as a postal worker with just under two months left of the year. I was hired on full-time, not as a long-term sub. I became a teacher in another teacher's room, really. Since that wasn't a full year experience, I'm going to reflect back on my first full year, which happened in the same school in Western MA the following school year.

What age group and subject were you teaching?
I was teaching third grade, all subjects. 

What was your first classroom like?
I remember that my first thought was that my room was huge and I still think it was the largest classroom that I ever had. The building was super old. In fact, it was built in 1904! I was on the second floor in one of two buildings that weren't connected. The ceilings were high and I had a corner classroom so I had a lot of windows. My lights never worked though so on days that weren't sunny, it was pretty dark in there. It was also really dusty. I remember mopping, scrubbing, dusting, and doing everything I could to keep it clean even though we had great custodians. There was constantly dust in the air no matter what I did! I also remember that it was super cold in the winter (and winters are cold in Western Massachusetts) and super hot in June and September (no central air in a 100+ year old building) There was lots of storage space. 

Were you given supplies or materials?
I don't remember getting a lot of supplies, though I am sure we were given the basics. I'm one of those people that always stocks up on materials during the summer so that may be why I don't recall. I remember that I had already built a substantial classroom library because I ordered tons of books through Scholastic during my student teaching so I had a good little library going. 

What was the hardest part of your first year of teaching?
The school was in danger of state takeover so there were a lot of people coming in and observing all the time. At one point, we had a meeting where higher-ups from the district came in and gave us a "prescription" for teaching reading. With this prescription came a timer and a plan for every second of reading right down to the minute. I felt like all of my creativity had been stripped away in one moment. I remember bawling right in the middle of the meeting, thinking that I had not become a teacher to be a robot. I had to learn how to follow exactly what the district wanted and still be creative and engaging, and I met the challenge, and surely grew a lot during my first year as a result.

What was the best part of your first year of teaching?
Responsive Classroom! Our entire school used Responsive Classroom. We read the books, we were trained, we were all on the same page. I learned how important it is to build a community in your classroom and create a place where students feel important and safe. Learning the components of RC taught me how to really think about what my students need and want to be successful and I have carried that knowledge with me for all of my years of teaching. I am convinced that my behavior management is always praised because the core of my classroom is consistently built on Responsive Classroom, even though I'm no longer in a Responsive School. If you aren't familiar with it, I strongly suggest checking it out. Responsive Classroom

What do you know now that you wish you knew that first year?
I wish I had understood differentiation as much as I do now. During my first year, differentiation just meant putting students in different groups and attempting to address their needs based on the groups I could fit them in. I now understand differentiation to be so much more than a leveled reader!

This was such a fun reflection time right before the year begins! Be sure to head over to the linky and read about other first day experiences! 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Summer Task Card Organization Mission…Complete!

I have to admit, I'm a bit of a task card addict. I own at least half of Rachel Lynette's Store. Ditto for Teaching With a Mountain View. Throw in a set here, a set there, a set EVERYWHERE and you'll get the two giant boxes of task cards that I had at the end of the last school year. Thrown in plastic bags in no apparent order, they kind of drove me crazy last year. I can't begin to tell you how many times I printed cards that I already had simply because my cards were in chaos and I couldn't find anything. When the year ended, I turned to my friend Judy and said, "It is my mission to find a way to organize these task cards this summer." That is how my mission began.

This is what things looked like at first:

And yes, I like to create a bit of a mess as I work. Also, this didn't go as smoothly as I thought it would. I started off with the plan to do the following:

1. Place all answer keys in binders with the cover.
2. Place all cards in baggies in containers.

#1 was a good plan, though perhaps not yet to it's full potential. But #2: Not so much. Let's talk about why this simple plan didn't work: BAGGIES ARE A PAIN! There, I said it! Basically, I got everything organized and then realized that when my task cards were in baggies in a container, they were still unorganized and worse, they were all getting squished. I ended up putting everything away for awhile, forcing myself to take a "Task Card timeout" to rethink my strategy.

Then I saw a few people post that they organize their task cards not with baggies, but binder clips! Ah, what a genius idea! Without the baggies, the task cards would actually fit and they would be held together all nicey-nice! I also decided that I would need some sort of tab to organize the task cards by their skill/strategy/concept. So, here's what I ended up needing:

Materials: Card stock, sheet protectors, binder clips - use the small when the stack isn't too large and it saves space. I learned this the hard way, but can you ever have enough binder clips? No way! 

Also needed but not included in this picture, though you can play seek and find and identify these objects in the first picture:  containers (I found those awesome white ones at Target and they worked the best), sharpies for labeling, scissors for cutting, and binders. These are also known as the common sense items, but you know, I want to be sure that my post is clear! :-)  

So I cut card stock, I labeled card stock, I clipped task cards together, I put answer keys, answer pages, and covers in sheet protectors. I worked hard, covering every inch of our place with materials until we couldn't even eat on our kitchen table. But slowly, over the course of about a week, my project came together.

First, the math task cards:

I'm giving you two views here and thus you are getting two shots of my first reading container. So if you are thinking, "Why does she have two narrative elements sections?" I don't. I just shot those pictures at two different times during the process, but I think you get the gist, right?

I don't want to leave out how wonderful the binders look. I put the covers and keys in the binder in the same order that the task cards are in their containers. That's one of the things that I had not thought of when I first started this project, but I'm certainly glad I did! 

And with that, my task cards organization mission is complete and ready to go! Don't they look fabulous? 
You may be wondering about that container that has baggies, gasp! Those are huge sets of multiplication war that no binder clip on Earth would hold. That's also why those are in a separate, wider container.