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Friday, 29 January 2016

First Week of School

Take a look into my planning for the first week of school....

When students are first allowed into the room I make sure to take the time to introduce myself to every student. This is an important step to making sure they all feel welcome and it helps them settle faster. Break the stranger barrier before their parents leave. I also introduce myself to the parents and direct them to the instruction sheet I put on every child's desk for what they need to do with their belongings. I found that instructions displayed around the class usually got lost in all the commotion of the room.

Once the bell goes I instruct the students to say good bye to their parents and come to the seating area. I find acknowledging parents in this way makes it clear, in the nicest way possible, that on this occasion they are not invited to stay.

I then tell the students about myself and give them some relate-able facts about me. Give the students a chance to make connections with you and understand you don't live at school! Following this I play a mix of 'get-to-know-you' games in between discussing unspoken classroom rules and procedures. My favourite game to play is 'My name is...' but will be playing it slightly differently next time after reading this blog by Cult of Pedagogy.

Class rules is next on the list and I take all of the students' suggestions, group the similar ones, then scaffold students to frame all the class rules into positive form. You want students remembering what TO DO not what NOT TO DO. The next day I put up the rules up on display. I printed mine on A3 and use them every year as the rules the students come up with are always pretty much the same thing. Once I show them the typed up rules I get them to sign their name in agreement to follow them.
Purchase my class rules here: TPT or DBT

Next we make desk tags. I get them to pick the colour of a half (lengthwise) piece of A4 card. They write their name in large letters in pencil first then once approved they go over it in permanent marker and decorate. This gets laminated that night and on their desk the next morning. It allows them feel like they belong and have ownership over the room.
We then move onto diary writing where I go through how I want them to set up their book in terms of ruling up and date. Make sure to read their diaries as they are writing and ask questions to show you care about them.
For maths we start with Number Crunch then proceed with an about me activity on numbers all about them.

We finish up this section with a fun maths game.

After lunch is usually where I start a fun unit such as health or D&T.
You will notice I don't do any assessments on the first day. This is because most data gathered in the first day is not an accurate representation of students ability. Students need to get back into the swing of things and get their brain juices flowing.
I start reading groups in the first week based on information given by the previous years teacher. These groups get shuffled around as much as necessary in the first few weeks. 
I continue with about me activities throughout the week, start units of work and conduct assessments such as reading, spelling and numbers.
Asking students about their future families is always a great read for parents!

These houses open to reveal pictures of the students family. A great way to you to gain insight to the students home life.

Templates and other about me activities can be found in my About Me Packaged available for purchase on TPT and DBT,

I love teaching graphing and data analysis in the first week as it is another means to get to know students and is an easy concept to cover. I like graphing birthdays and how students get to school. I've included graphing templates, questions and components to make large graphs for display in the About Me Package or they can be purchased separately on TPT or DBT.http://designedbyteachers.com.au/marketplace/class-graphs-great-for-back-to-school/

I hope you have a fantastic week getting to know your class.

Monday, 25 January 2016

Classroom Decoration

I am having great withdrawal symptoms at the moment....from classroom decorating. Every year since I graduated I feel like my classroom has looked better and better. This year, being on maternity leave I have no classroom to decorate.
So while I can't decorate a room of my own I can hopefully pass on some tips to help you decorate yours!

Your theme might be based on colour, texture, topic era or mood. Something simple is often easiest to find items for, A specific theme like pink cowgirl might be a little hard to shop for. Make sure it is engaging and stimulating for the students but not overpowering or distracting. My theme in my classroom is purple with some rainbow thrown in,

Tip 2: CLEAN
I have never got to decorate a classroom that wasn't built after the 1970's with furniture more modern then the late 90's. These older classrooms can always be hard to decorate because no matter what you do they always look old and already have a very haphazard feel to them. The thing that I find makes the biggest difference is giving everything a good clean. Its amazing how fresh somethings can look after a clean....you don't know how many decades its been since they have had a really good scrub! Some schools will also let you paint walls and furniture which can give things a new lease on life. (If you are going to paint I BEG you to pick ONE colour....my last class had 8 different colours and none of them went with each other)

I love the price, look and ease of table clothes for covering up walls. I find material too heavy to stay up and pin into, crepe paper looks tacky and rips too easily and paper seems to have all the issues of the previous two.
Its safe to say you won't be changing out the things high up on the wall very often so make sure they are items you want to stay up for a long time (if not the whole year). Get your students involved in what goes up and show of their work. Ask yourself what value students will get out of each decoration. A display board with a quote and a cute pictures may look great the first time you look at it but what are the students actually getting out of it? Was it worth the time you took to make it?

You don't have to fill up every space, or have every decoration you've seen on Pinterest. Keep it simple and de-cluttered.
I loved creating this post and seeing how my class has progressed. The before photos are my first year in that room in 2012 and the afters are from the beginning of 2015. I am so excited to see what I come up with the next time I am back in a room.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Planning Documents

Today I'm going to break down my planning process for you and show you the layout of all my documents.

The first step I take is to have a look at the curriculum for my year level. I use the checklists I created to easily do this without the large amount of excess pages you get when downloading it from ACARA. I then later use this document to record what I teach each term so I don't miss anything. This document is my yearly plan.

 Get all these checklists FREE from my TPT store or DBT store

This then leads me to my term planner. I keep my term planner general so that I can get to school and complete diagnostic assessments to see what level to teach each topics. 
The information in this document comes from the curriculum. I pick out things that I believe should be covered in Term 1 which are usually the simpler things or quickest to teach. You will notice the planner shown about explicitly links to NAPLAN. I teach to the curriculum not NAPLAN but still need to incorporate it into my planning. This includes covering the full scope of maths concepts and strategies for completing tests.
Read my post on My NAPLAN Plan of Attack

When doing a term planner I like to have a theme that I can link to. I only pick the theme for term 1 after that students get to pick by brainstorming and then voting.

At the bottom of the planner you will see topics that I have a separate detailed planner for. I only do these types of planners for text types and areas other than maths and english.

I then use all these documents to do my weekly planner which I do in the second last DOTT session the week before (I do lesson prep such as photocopying in the last). I copy and paste from the unit planners and then look at the term planner for the rest.

I store the term planner on the first page of an A4 display file followed by each of the weekly timetables. In the back of the display file I have the curriculum checklists. The unit plans stay together with all their lesson resources in a lever arch file as I do not need to refer to them much once all the photocopying is done.
My timetable follows the same pattern most week which helps make planning quicker.
Good luck with your planning this year!

Monday, 11 January 2016

First Steps for Preparing to go Back to School

This year I am on maternity leave.....for the whole year! That means no back to school planning, no classroom decorating, no getting to know a new group of students. Yes, I am disappointed about all three of those things. I can, however, live vicariously through all of you and help you to plan for an awesome year with a mini series of blogs all about getting ready to go back to school!

The most important thing is to get into a positive mindset about going back to school. Find something you can get excited about. Maybe a new year level, a new theme to your classroom, a new planning format. Starting with something you are motivated about will help get the ball rolling on everything you have to do.

Create a plan for your back to school preparation. What do you need to do? When are you going to do it? Think about curriculum planning, classroom decorations, resources and activities for your first week back.

So what's your back to school style? I always wanted to be the 'The Hated' but would end up being 'The Do It Later'! I have gotten much better over the last few years and think I have transitioned to 'The Relaxed!'