Why I lowered all my tables in my class

I am enjoying this school year. This class is the best that I’ve ever had in my years of teaching. I’ve never had so many students in one class that want to learn. Even the few that are off task aren’t horribly off task. This has been a great school year.  To say that I’m thankful or blessed is really an understatement.

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My class has finally won the Accelerated Reader Trophy

So in typical Jason fashion I got an idea. I decided to drop all my tables down so my students could sit on the floor rather than chairs. My thought was that it would squash the wiggling and extra moving in class. I am not totally creative. I saw something like it here and thought I’d give it a try. My chiropractor friend agreed that it would be a good idea to try.  I have been pleasantly surprised at what I’ve seen so far.

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  • I let the students pick to either sit on a colored cushion or a carpet square.
  • I also let them sit at which ever table they want to. (I never tell them that they have to sit in a certain spot, but I do tell them where they can’t sit.)
  • They can sit on their bottoms, sit on their knees or some form of the two. They can’t lay on the floor and they can’t crawl on the floor.
  • Taking care of all materials still applies.
  • Every month we will revisit, discuss and vote to keep the tables like they are or go back to the old configuration.

So far I honestly have no complaints. The students seem to like it. Only one had a contrary view. We came up with some ways for her to get comfortable and she’s a fan.

What I’ve seen so far.

  • My students move A LOT less. They wiggle and fidget, but not really as much up and down out of their chairs movement.
  • No leaning back in chairs. #Given
  • Students work together more. They have space. For some reason I think sitting in chairs took up to much space in their minds. Now they instantly give each other “elbow room” without being told.
  • They’re not nearly as talkative. (I’ve never felt the need to make everyone be quiet all the time. Why? They know when key and certain times they have to be quiet, but as long as the voice level is such “that Mr. Whitaker can hear his music” they’re good to go.

I am also doing a little more with digital classroom stuff. Just to save a little paper and keep my organization neater. I’ve started doing simple “exit tickets” and short quizzes using on line formats. The students submit what they do and we’re all happy. By no means am I a pro at it, but I am getting better. We use a ton of tech on the teachers end, but now I want to get the kiddos to do some as well.

Almost ready for the reveal

I’ve been talking about changing the homework in my class for a while. I am almost ready to reveal the (hopefully) finished product. My students have been pretty good at reading and building their stamina. I think this is going to be a real boost to their understanding of the reading process, comprehension and overall love for reading. I will be dropping the finished product this week.

Parents can I get your insight

I am considering changing my homework for my class. I want to see my kids reading more, discussing their reading and overall being empowered through text. Right now the only time I can squeeze in more reading is homework.

My plan is to roll out 3rd grade book clubs in lieu of homework. This is what I see.

Each student/reading group will  have a book or chapter to read every night. The next day during their reading time they’ll reply to questions through our class website. We’ll also discuss the book in our specific reading time. Towards the end of the session they can do a project, open discussion or even an Accelerated Reader quiz on the book.

Dear Parents, I want to know what you think about homework and this idea. If you student just came home with a book every night with dedicated pages to read how would you feel? I will not be offended in anyway so please be as honest as possible.6620d-6a0120a8d8c83d970b01676357327a970b-pi.

 

First full week in review.

This week was OUTSTANDING!

I love this group of kids! I’m so very happy to have come aboard. Now let’s review this week in pics.

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 The 5th grade team thought it would be nice to start everyone’s week with a special card. They were right. That was kinda cool.

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My neighbor who’s a 1st year (Shout out to The Most Beautiful 1st Years in the World, Perry and Davis) and I combined classes to help all our kiddos get the grip on how Number Talks work. Ms. Storie is a great teacher! We had so much fun doing this.

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I like centers a lot. I did an inventory and I found that I have almost 65 handmade centers for 2nd grade. Since I’m in 1st grade and I can’t use 65% of the things I have from last year I guess all I can do is…make more! So expect an explosions of charts soon.

After Centers time I asked my dear, precious ones what kind of educational experience they’d make for a classmate using these random bags of manipulatives. They might only be a few weeks out of Kindergarten, but they’re pretty bight. They had some neat ideas. I will showcase these new centers when we put it together.

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The lunchbox saga has been solved. I scored a great Norchill cooler bag that can hold almost 2 days worth of food along with a 64 ounce growler (The Tank)! That’s a lot of space. Most importantly it keeps stuff cold sitting in my classroom.

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We set some reading goals this week. I know they’re afraid to read, but I am going to get them out of that real quick. I’m looking for a creative way to post these around the class so the kids can check off as they read. Maybe to a class total chart as well. That would be cool. Of course having them read to me, write a book report or read to a Book Buddy.

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Oh, yeah I wore a few bow  ties this week. I think I’m going to give in to the Jeans Friday. Thought I’d be stanch stickler for my tie, but I find myself moving around on the floor, running and doing more now. The tie was to restrictive.

How was your first full week of school?

What happened last year

The new school semester has started off so strong I haven’t had time to blog or to recount what happened last semester. Thankfully, I have a day off to think about it. Here’s what happened last semester in no particular order.

  • I don’t have a filing system. However, my crazy paper mess makes sense to me. I don’t LIKE it, but I can usually find things within a matter of minutes.

  • BOWTIES! What else is there if not bowties? wpid-20150109_175519.jpg

  • My charts are ROCKING! I’ve found them so useful this year. I do have them hanging in a system. System is to easy to understand! I think my co-workers have been poaching my charts!wpid-20140513_110035.jpg

  • My progress monitoring of struggling students is working. I can see where each student is and a have a plan for each one. I’ve even got a shout out a couple times for having my paper work on point.

  • When I saw that something didn’t work I didn’t try to make it work. I just dropped it and kept it moving.

  • My centers are so/so. I overhauled my Centers chart and now it just doesn’t make sense. Should have left it well enough alone. That being said the kids have great center time. They like it and they’re learning. I simply have to have a better rotation schedule.

  • I didn’t do a great job laying down the rules/procedures of the class. Some have picked them up, but the vast majority aren’t trying to do right.

  • We don’t go outside AT ALL!

  • I find myself busy most of the day. Not a lot of down time. That’s good. That’s bad.

  • MEAL PREP! Excellent idea. I don’t know who I picked it up from, but I’m glad I did.wpid-20141007_095025.jpg

  • My class isn’t on auto-pilot. I think this is a goal that I should let go of. My students more than likely aren’t going to be the kinds that will follow a schedule without someone pointing out to them to do it.

  • Keeping all homework in a spiral notebook was a great idea! Keeping all classwork in 1 spiral wasn’t as good an idea.

  • I’m so glad that they started the 4 week lesson plan. It makes it so much easier to plan.

  • Speaking of planning, I’m doing a pretty good job planning. I could always do better.

  • Class Dojo is perfect! So glad I didn’t give up on this.

  • I stopped asking dumb questions. Here are a few.

    • Did that make sense to you? (Of course it made sense to a 7 year old!)

    • Why didn’t you do ABC? (Because I didn’t want to!)

    • Do I need to call your mother/father? (Just call ’em don’t prime the pump)

2015 has started off perfect. I realize that last semester I spend a lot of time trying to get 4-6 students to do while the other suffered. This semester the 4-6 are going to have to get in where they fit cause I’m focusing my energy on those who want to be prepared. We only have 80 days of school left! No time to patty cake with those who aren’t trying to do what needs to be done.

No matter what I have just about 640 school hours to get as much info into the minds of these students. 3,2,1…go!

2013-14 School year. The Good. The Bad. The Ugly.

Is there a  school out there that does an end of the year survey of what worked, what didn’t and what certainly doesn’t need to happen again? There has to be some value to hearing what the staff thought about the last 170 or so days. Deep down inside I fear it would become a gripe session for some and the most constructive comments won’t be shared for fear of reprisal. So this year I’m going to talk about what happened in my little slice of  APS. Room 157.

The Good

  • BOWTIES!
  • More times than not, I kept my cool. Once I made a slight change in my perspective it really became easy.
  • Everyone is moving on to 3rd grade. Except me, Thank You Jesus!
  • I started with good systems in place.
  • Homework and classroom journals, ROCKED!
  • Time management.
  • College road trip
  • I stuck to my AM schedule like a champ.
  • I stayed true to Jason. I didn’t let anyone impress me to be someone else.
  • Lesson plans in general were on point.
  • I was able to roll with most of the changes that come with working in a school.
  • I remained true to a lot of my physical goals. All be it they hit a deep pot hole.

The Bad

  • Paperwork management.
  • My “7 Habits of Happy Kids” theme didn’t help with good habits.
  • Still think I talk to much. I repeat myself a lot!
  • Paperwork.
  • Sad face for science.
  • I didn’t vocally encourage my student’s as much as I mentally thought it.
  • I relied on copies a lot more than I intended.
  • Some of my systems fell apart by year’s end.
  • Drumming up parental buy in.
  • Waste
  • I didn’t start one new project in the building. I have nice ideas, but I didn’t stick my neck out there once.

The Ugly

  • The system of identifying struggling students didn’t work well.
  • Creating plans for struggling students just became blah. Nothing exciting. Nothing that pulled them into the lesson.
  • I wore a horrible bowtie/shirt combo once and my coworkers still dog me out about it.
  • There are a few days where I know I didn’t even remotely make the sale. I didn’t get the kids to WANT to learn.
  • I don’t hug my students. They probably needed a hug more than I realized.
  • I left Crossfit. Major sad face.

Please feel free to give your feedback on your year in the comments and take my “scientific” poll.

I may have fixed a HUGE problem in my classroom

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If you know me or follow my blog you know I'm not very organized. I want to be. However, BEING has alluded me to years. Last year I was buried in paper work. I honestly can't say I know what happened to it all, but I can tell you my inner tree hugger is silently crying. 

In order to save a tree or two and to keep my sanity I did something different this year. To my surprise so far it's been a 10 bow tie idea! I have the students keep the "Red Number Journal" for all class work and the "Blue Number Journal" for all their homework assignments that require them to write or what not.

  • I'm not sure, but I certainly feel I've used a lot less paper. 
  • I was able to check homework today in less than 3 minutes where as before I'd have to hunt down papers and the such. 
  • The kids have a great note system whenever we go back over their journals and put a sticky for key info. 
  • The kids can get to work quickly in the morning. No searching for paper or writing sheets. Just go to the next empty page, date and start. 
  • Whenever I have parent conferences I know I can quickly put my hands on ALL the kids class and homework in less than a minute. 
  • I feel as if the class moves better and flows easily. Translation…less stress. 

 

 Most teachers waste these composition books. During pre-planning I sent my helpers to find as many partially used comp books as they could. We neatly tore out the used pages and slapped a sticker over the name. I'm pretty sure I have almost 50+ recycled journals ready for duty. 

Not sure where I got this idea. I don't think it qualifies as a true interactive notebook,but I will give Pinterest credit either way. The teachers on my hall used to have 3 journals. 1 for Reading, Math, Social Studies and Science. That made me even crazier, cause I know most of the students didn't use them fully. Plus the kids didn't have a good place in my room to put their stuff so instant insanity. This year, thankfully I have a much better system and I see it working. 

One day I will report that I've found a great way to do my lessons in advance. Yeah, right. Anyone have any good suggestions on what to do with lesson planning so not to have to do them Sunday night? 

Tomorrow I must talk about what I did to defeat the ugly "Mr. Whitaker can I sharpen my pencil" monster. 

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The Bow Tie Teacher

Homework doesn’t work if Home doesn’t Work

I'm through with homework. I'm not sure where I fall in the ranks of the on going war over homework, but I'm sure I made someone mad with that statement. I've worked a lot of angles with HW and I'm surprised how few really panned out. My new school does the weekly homework. It's a culture thing and I thought it was on point. 

    The problem is my student's don't care about homework and I have a very limited amount of time on Friday to check it and give feedback on what's missing or what wasn't done correctly or if the student needs help. It tends to just pile up. And if you know a teacher you know that we're great at making piles of paper and not so much as getting those piles dwindled down.

    Here's the problem. I am really flustered that my students just blew off the history project we did as a 2nd grade. It was cute and I envisioned each year being able to use these as teaching tools for the next class. When I tell you after 3 weeks of planning and a lot of conjolingmy class only turned in 2 projects, I was fit to be tied. Yeah, I was disappointed in the kids. *I sincerely don't think they realize how important education is. But even more I was just to through with the parents. I called, wrote notes, emailed and text. The result was 2 projects on time.

    If I were sane I wouldn't be shocked. I usually get 4-5 COMPLETE homework packets a week. Mix in there 4-5 that are imcomplete and you have my class is consistent. The next two days after the projects were due, I got 2 more. One looked like it had been done on the bus, in the dark, but he was bold to turn it in. 

So, I'm thinking about doing something different. I'm going to stop doing homework. I'm going to go back to a book in a bag and nothing else. The kids really responded well to the book in the bag. But since it was something they were doing before I came to this school I didn't invest in it and let it slip away. 

    What tends to happen is at the end of the day I read a book to the class or we watch a reading story. This that cool down time usually 15 minutes or so. I know for a fact that their homework isn't that long so I could have them breakout out their "end of class work" and do their particular days homework as an end of the day project, know it's done, give support to those that need help and keep it moving. Sending this home and getting a montage of half done work isn't working at all. 

I know I need to read up more on this debate. I used to believe in homework and really make a lot of noise about it. Now I'm not sure that's the best way to get things done cause right now very little is getting done.

 

March 7th is the end of our crossfit challenge. I feel good, but I'm certainly not eating everything as I should/could. I got 10 days to clean it up. Juicing is certainly helping me. I feel strong and haven't had an iced coffee in two months. *Even though as I'm writing this I'm debating getting one just to break up the eating. Stronger than ever, I expect to win this challenge. 3,2,1…Go!

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Let's create something new
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Too Much Homework Can cause Stress, Depression And Lower Grades.

Let’s create something new

I'd like to propose some crowd sourcing for a problem I have in my classroom. I've always thought that getting as many ideas would create the best solution to a problem. Feel free to post another blog, article or a reading that adds to the discussion and let's see what kind of solutions we get. Let the good ideas flow. 

Problem: Students aren't turing in weekly homework

Details: Every Monday the students get a homework sheet with the weekly homework outlined for them. They're asked to turn in the work on Friday. Notes home to parents don't get answered and phone calls have been less than responsive.  It makes no never mind in my book if homework is graded or just busy work it's value is the reinforcement of the skills taught in class. Keep in mind that of the 7-8 students that regularly do their homework 2 look like they did it on the bus on their way to school. 

Question: What would you do? How do you get students to put more effort into their weekly homework? Do your kids do homework? 

I have some ideas, but I'd love to get as many original ideas from you all as possible. By the way, my 1st grader does her homework gleefully. My wife and I check it and initial it every night. 

School year is great. I do have some other issues that I'd like to crowd source, but this one is probably the biggest waste of my time. 

Besides that we're in the midst of a fitness/eating challenge at Crossfit South Cobb. I got full intentions of winning and I'll keep you posted on the end results. 

If I string together enough little wins

Today was another W for "Super Learners Central". Taking the time on the front end to practice procedures is making me feel better about the time when we dive into the meat and potatoes of class. I also know that some of my kids aren't the strongest in every subject. I can see little signs that tell me where to work with each. But one thing is for sure they're all Super at doing these procedures so they at least have that win under their belt.