Monday, December 1, 2008

Welcome Mary Beth Matics!

Once again, Chets Creek is adding a new teacher to help with class size. Mary Beth Matics will be helping in the primary school in Mrs. Cothern and Ellis' class and also in Mrs. Alvarado and Mrs. Mackiewicz' class. She is a parent who has been involved at the Creek for many years.

Coming from a large family (7 living siblings with Mary Beth, the baby of the family), Mrs. Matics was exposed to many varied career choices. Her sister, Gael, had the most influence over her when she did her teaching internship in Mary Beth's 8th grade English class. Her sister is still teaching (11th and 12th grade IB Economics and Psychology) in Charleston, WV.

Mary Beth has lived most of her adult life in Florida and both of her children were born in Jax. Jacksonville has been her home for the past ten years. Her daughter Hayley, now a 7th grader, went all the way through Chets Creek Elementary and her son, Coleton, is a third grader in Mrs. Chascin and Mrs. Rice’s class. (Both of her children did the K&1 loop with Haley Alvarado). Mrs. Matics has been a PTA member every single year since 2000, served on the PTA board as the Volunteer Coordinator, has been homeroom mom many times over, and is currently on the SAC Committee. She just LOVES Chets Creek Elementary! Prior to coming to Chets Creek, her children attended Community Presbyterian Preschool and Kindergarten where she was an Assistant Preschool Teacher - a job that did not feel at all like a job at all. After she saw all the wonderful things happening here at the Creek she knew her heart was in teaching and that she could not go back to my prior career as a licensed insurance adjuster. She was completely hooked so it was back to school she went to become a teacher!

Mary Beth Matics graduated from the University of North Florida, Summa Cum Laude, with a degree in Education. She is certified in ESOL (English to Speakers of Other Languages); Pre-K/Primary (age 3 through 3rd grade); K-6 as well as Exceptionalities K-12. She substituted in Duval County, mostly at Chets Creek Elementary and San Jose Elementary where she completed her full teaching internship.

Mary Beth has been a Nursery Coordinator at her church and a Florida Ballet Volunteer. Her greatest joy is being with her family. She is a soccer mom, a dance mom, and a volleyball mom. Reading is one of her favorite ways to relax. She also enjoys learning about technology and traveling - which she hopes to do more in the summers to come. Mary Beth says that becoming a teacher, and especially becoming a teacher at Chets Creek Elementary, is her dream come true!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

About the Holidays

There are so many traditions at Chets Creek around the holidays so the excitement is already beginning to build, but it can be a mine field for a new teacher. While it would be impossible to describe all of our traditions in detail, I'd like to give new teachers a brief overview and then invite all of our teachers to make comments about the best advice they can give about planning for the holidays.

The wreaths! "Wreaths" are due in the front office on December 3. Each class is asked to prepare at least one "wreath" to be sold at a silent auction during December. PTA is in charge of this long tradition. All of the money that is raised with your wreath project will be returned to your classroom. Sometimes Homeroom moms will take this project entirely on their own but often it's a collaborative effort between the teacher and their Homeroom moms. "Wreaths" have morphed into almost anything holiday-ish so you are only limited by your own creativity. Check out this wreaths blog entry from last year to get a kindergarten sampling of the auction items from last year. All of the items will be displayed in the lobby between December 1-11.

The faculty party! Each year the faculty joins together for a festive evening. It's a BYOB and an appetizer to share. Your significant other is also invited but often teachers just pair up and come together. I would say about half of the attendees bring a girl/boyfriend or spouse and the others come with another teacher. Either way, it's lots of fun. Dress is holiday-ish, a sort of business casual. Our Principal used to REQUIRE that every new teacher come and said she was going to take attendance! Of course, that's because she wants new teachers to understand how important relationships are in feeling successful. It's just such a great opportunity to meet in a less formal atmosphere and to get to know staff members that you don't get an opportunity to talk to in your regular day. You can "drop in" or stay the entire time. This year we will be going to Lori Lincous' house on December 6. Directions will be given closer to the event. Come, enjoy! You'll be glad you did!

The GIVING TREE! Each year, in the Lobby, you will see a wooden holiday tree with shelves for gifts. Children are encouraged to bring in new and gently used toys and canned goods. You will get a flyer from PTA about this later. This year if we collect 1000 cans, BJ's will give the school $1000, so make sure to put it in your Newsletter and encourage this wonderful tradition. If every child contributed just 1 can... Most of the toys and canned goods that are collected are shared with families right here in our school. The leftovers are sent to shelters and food banks. The Giving Tree will be available from December 1-15.

Secret Santa and the Holiday breakfast! For a week each December Santa's little elves can be seen all over the building. Faculty secretly pull a name of another faculty member and then leave little treats for them all week. The Spirit Committee hosts a holiday breakfast in the Media Center on the Friday of that week and all the Secret Santas are unveiled. This year it will be on Friday morning, December 12. Each grade level will be asked to bring something specific for us all to share. ALL staff are encouraged to attend.

The holiday tree! Each year JB erects a HUGE holiday tree in the lobby. The idea is that there is a picture of every single child in the school on the tree. Your job is to think of a small "ornament" that you can use to add one of the school pictures for each child. Often teachers use one of the Ellison cut-outs and add a picture. This does not have to be an elaborate project. The teacher ties all of the class ornaments together in a string garland and will be assigned a time on December 3 to come with their class and add their ornaments to the tree - with JB's help.

The 12 Days of Sweets! On the 12 days before we leave for the holidays, the office will be filled with sweets - from December 4-19. Teachers are encouraged to sign up at the "Spotlight" to bring one of their favorite holiday recipes on one of the 12 days. Get here early each morning and stop by to sample some of the best treats of the holiday season! You'll have visions of sugarplums dancing in your head all day!

The 2nd Grade Play! Each year 2nd grade presents it's holiday play on three different nights - December 4, 8, and 11. Each classroom is invited during the day on one of those days to the dress rehearsal. It's a holiday tradition to see a children's play.

Classroom parties! Most classrooms have some kind of classroom celebration on the last or next to the last day before the holiday. Most of the primary grades have morphed the "party" into a morning of centers with parent help, but a variety of activities exist from pajama and hot chocolate parties around The Polar Express to a multi-cultural day that includes a Christmas Around the World feast. Make sure to check with your grade level and gather ideas on what has gone on in the past. The teachers on your grade level will be your greatest resource.

Story time with Auntie Claus! On the last day before the holidays each grade level is invited to the Media Center for a story time with our very own Principal dressed up as Auntie Claus. She reads some of her favorite holiday stories and then each child receives holiday cookies and chocolate milk. Can't wait!

No Teacher Meetings, Team Meetings in December!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Welcome Laura Stewart!

Laura Stewart is joining the Kindergarten team this year after the year started becuse of the growth at Chets Creek! She will be working with students on a safety net, Reading Mastery, in the morning and then joining Nina Thomas in the afternoons.

Laura has lived in Jacksonville for most of her life, and is a product of Duval County Public Schools. She was even a 3rd grade student of our Principal Susan Phillips!

Laura graduated from the University of Central Florida in 2007 with a degree in Interdisciplinary Studies. She concentrated in Physical Sciences and Social and Behavioral Sciences. She also has minors in Sociology and Religious Studies. After graduating, Laura quickly realized that her plans to enter the Non-Profit field needed to be reevaluated. After spending a few months weighing her options, Laura began substitute teaching in the spring of 2008. She held a long-term assignment at Oceanway Elementary School in 2nd Grade, and most recently covered for a Kindergarten teacher on maternity leave at Holiday Hill Elementary School.

Deciding to enter teaching was not a huge surprise to Laura or her family. All four members of Laura’s immediate family have now been teachers. Laura’s mom is in her 20th year of teaching at Oceanway Elementary School in 2nd grade, and Laura’s dad teaches in the Career Academy (Business & Entrepreneurship) at Ed White High School. Laura’s older brother, Allen, has also spent time teaching. After spending two years teaching English at Sandalwood High School, Allen is now in his second year at Columbia Theological Seminary in Atlanta where he is studying to become a minister.

Laura loves to spend time with her boyfriend, family, and friends. She also works as a youth group leader at her church, and has recently taken on the daunting task of helping to lead the youth choir.

Laura is thrilled to begin her teaching career at such an amazing school! She is looking forward to soaking up all of knowledge and experience of the wonderful faculty and students at Chets Creek!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Open House Advice from the Top!

Chets Creek Elementary Open House
September 2008
You never get a second chance to make a first impression – WOW them!

The following are items that should be covered at Open House. If you are addressing a looped class of parents feel free to address only those items you feel need to be touched on.

I. Purpose of Standards-based Open House
To help parents develop a clear understanding of what a day inside your standards-based classroom looks like.

II. Environmental Checklist
_____Attractive sign-in sheet and pens close to the door for parent sign-in.
_____Agenda of program to be covered written on board or hand-out
_____PTA envelopes available at sign-in
_____Classroom and offices clean and organized
_____Detailed Daily Schedule posted with Standards Based components included
_____Schoolwide Behavioral Standards/Classroom Covenants/Class Promise displayed
_____STARS wagon/basket outside door with books neatly arranged
_____Classroom libraries organized and labeled by genre, author, themes, levels, etc
_____Optional: “Packing List” for donations of classroom libraries with book
title, author/illustrator, other things … (YES! DO IT AGAIN!!!)
_____Book-of-the-Month spotlighted in room
_____Word Wall displayed with some words added
_____Standards-based bulletin board complete outside of room with a minimum of standard,
task, and student work, commentary

III. What to include in your Open House Presentation?
Standards Based Education (What and Why)
Assessments (Diagnostic/FCAT)
Behavior Standards (including STARS Procedures)
Readers to Leaders (Million word Campaign) – your grade level specific information
Book of the Month
Reader’s Workshop
Writer’s Workshop
Math Workshop
Science Workshop
Home-School Folders/Planners

IV. Possibilities for Open House Presentation
A. Student led focus walks with flow chart of key items
B. Demonstration lesson and debrief (Every Day Counts, Skills Block etc…)
C. Let students lead agenda
D. Activity based agenda to cover topics
E. Standards-based PowerPoint (Add your own slides, pictures, clip art, if you choose)
F. Teacher directed presentation/conversation
G. Video of day, lesson, or tour

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Open House

Open House makes many a new teacher shake in her shoes! All those eyes looking at you - so how can you make the experience less stressful? Below are suggestions from some veteran teachers.

Suggestions from 5th Grade teacher Tom Ruark: By far, the most productive Open House "routine" that has worked for me, as a math teacher, is to have the parents participate in a scaled down version of our Math Workshop. I have a Problem Of the Day (probably Every Day Counts Calendar Math) activity followed by a Math Investigations mini-lesson and accompanying student sheet. I advise the kids that they cannot do the work for their parents, but that they may help if their folks get stuck.

This allows the less "needy" parents to work with their kids in a real math environment, and allows the more "needy" parents to search me out and ask questions that allay most of their fears. At any rate, most seem to like this operation (they would stay for hours if we let them:-} ), and those who don't leave without saying a word, which always leaves me feeling great. I have officially entitled this "A Day in the Life".

From 3rd grade team teacher Jenny Nash: We usually send the children on a scavenger hunt or guided tour of sorts through our classrooms. However, there is one thing I wanted to share. I take this time to teach a little manners and social skills to my students. We have a lesson the day of Open House on introductions. (One of the items on their agendas/tours is to introduce their parents to me.) We role play in the classroom and I, of course, get silly and encourage them to introduce me as the best teacher in the whole world, etc. But on a serious note, I teach them the concept of waiting politely when I'm engaged in a conversation with another family, using eye contact and proper hand gestures, introductory language ("I'd like you to meet..."), what names to call adults by, what details to include in a personal introduction, etc. I LOVE DOING THIS. First of all, I think this is an area MAJORLY lacking in our children today (appropriate social manners). Secondly, I love to see the students pride in themselves when they have the opportunity to shine in front of their parents that night! Just a little touch from the mommy (and traditional, Southern girl) in me! :)

From 2nd grade co-teacher Vicky Sharpe: Brooke Brown and I usually do a video, "A Day in the Life of Your Second Grader". It has all the kids in it singing their transition songs and explaining what they do in all their workshops. We also have Eric Blair put the opening of the announcements at the beginning. The parents love that! Before the video, we have all the students come down to their carpet spot. They know the CHAMPs for the carpet and will be much better behaved. After the video each child has a check sheet at their desk which tells them all of the places to go and look in the classroom and also items and work to show their parents in their desk. Usually after this, open house is over! It is easy and fun for the kids! The parents love to hear what the kids are doing from the kids themselves. :) Brooke and I roam around the room helping out with anything that we may need to and talking to the parents.

From 3rd grade co-teachers Cheryl Chascin and Cynthia Rice: For the past several years we have created a PowerPoint slide show of a typical students' day. We begin taking pictures on the first day of school and try to keep a camera at the ready for photos of the students in action. We even include recess and lunch. Parents love seeing their children working and enjoying school. They are often amazed that we fit so much academic time into the school day and cover so many subjects. The best part about this is that we don't have to talk too much - just a brief introduction and a question and answer at the end. We get to stand back and watch the smiling faces of the parents. The kids get a kick out of seeing themselves, too. One thing we learned the first year we did this was to preview the slide show in school with the kids before Open House. That first year, the student reaction to the slide show was so vocal that it disturbed the Open House happening in the class next door!

I hope one of the things that you noticed in all these suggestions is that the teacher is NOT at the front of the room doing all the talking! Now, that's the way to relieve the stress!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Standard-based Bulletin Boards

Many years ago the decision was made that bulletin boards at Chets Creek would be teaching and learning boards instead of fluff. The idea is that a bulletin board is a window into the instruction in your classroom. The boards are used to show the teaching that is going on inside the classroom but are also used for learning as other teachers, classes, students, parents and visitors all stop to read the student work. Bulletin boards are one of the ways that we make our teaching visible, transparent.

The bulletin board shows the connection between a student's work, the standard the work is to meet, and the assessment that is used to decide when the work is good enough. Much of the work posted early in the year may not meet the standard or may be displayed as "a work in progress" but as the year progresses, more and more of the posted work will meet the standard and even exceed the standard.

Over the years, the school has adopted a specific criteria for bulletin boards. This is not to say that the teachers at Chets Creek don't often adapt the criteria as they take risks in showing work that has never been displayed before or use their creativity to rework the criteria. The proving ground is that a teacher can explain what is on her board and why she did or did not follow the specific criteria. Basically a Standards-based Bulletin Board contains the following features:

  • Title - Each board has a title that describes the big picture. Teachers sometimes use catchy phrases or a play on words to entice someone walking by the board to stop and read.
  • Standard - The standard is reproduced exactly like it is written in the Standards book or comes directly from the Sunshine State Standards.
  • Task - The task is an explanation of what the class or student was asked to do. Teachers often include a list of the mini-lessons taught prior to the specific assignment so that the reader can easily see how the specific task fits into a string of lessons.
  • 4 pieces of student work - 4 pieces of student work are posted that often show a range of work.
  • Commentary - Each piece of student work includes a commentary written by the teacher or by the student that explains why the particular piece meets the standard or does not. Sometimes the commentary includes "next steps" to show where the student should go next. The commentary can take many forms: written in paragraph form, bulleted or in writing, can be in the same form found in the rubric book

In addition to the required parts above, the bulletin board might also include student work copied directly from the Standards Book as an example of the expectation for a particular standard, rubrics, artifacts such as photographs of the process, models or artistic representations of a product or experiment, charts, graphs and anything else a teacher may dream up! Risk-taking is encouraged and reinforced!

Thanks to Christina Walag for sharing her collection of bulletin board photos over the past few years below!


We all know that bulletin boards are about the depth of the student work but several years ago we decided that the depth didn't really matter if bulletin boards weren't attractive and interesting enough to make people stop and read, so we present the following tips and suggestions from the Bulletin Board Police:

  • Does my bulletin board have a title that brings all the pieces together? (such as "Apple-tising" for functional pieces about making applesauce)

  • Is my board appealing? (You slaved over it and now you want people to read it! Think about the boards in the building that catch YOUR eye and make YOU stop and say, "Wow- what is this?" You want that to be YOUR board)

  • Is my most important point displayed at eye level? (That's where most people read)

  • Is my bulletin board easy to read and follow from left to right? (most people read from left to right and top to bottom)

  • Do my bulletin board borders look new? Do my borders coordinate well with the theme or color of my board? (anything bent or torn needs to come down - today!)

  • Are all papers securely fastened to the board? (One staple or one clip makes the work look temporary)

  • Does all my work in the hallways look fresh and new? (any work that is old or tattered needs to come down. Any seasonal work that is more than a month old should come down - no pumpkins in January!)

  • Is my commentary easy to read? (font should be simple and .14 or larger so it is easily readable)

  • Are there any spelling or grammar mistakes on my board? Check and double check spelling and then let a friend check it again. One minor error might be overlooked but many spelling and grammar mistakes will make the borad look unprofessional)

If you ever want a second opinion before putting up your bulletin board, stop by and talk over your board with your coach or a colleague. Or... e-mail your commentary for a coach to review before you put it up. We all learn more when we depend on each other for collaboration!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

All about Targeteam

by Lauren Werch

What is TARGET?

TARGET stands for Teachers Accessing Resources through General Education Team

What is the Main Ideas of TARGET?

Target is a proactive approach to address all students’ educational needs. The student's teacher seeks assistance while problems are small and more easily manageable. Help is directed toward the student and the teacher in the general educational environment.

Who should be referred to Targeteam?

The Flagging criteria for a child to be referred to Targeteam can be any one of the following:

• Failing grade or significant decline in an academic area
• More than three disciplinary referrals within a month
• Parent request for Target services
• FCAT (Level 1 or 2)
• Diagnostic scores in the lowest quartile

What is the Target process and how long does it take?

The Target process is a four part process:

Phase 1 is coordinated by the student’s general education. The teacher identifies a student with a need and designs either a behavior or academic goal, initiates parent contact, utilizes classroom resources, and collects data for a minimum of 4-6 weeks on student progress toward the goal.

Phase 2 is conducted by the Targeteam, a school-based interdisciplinary team with parent involvement to advance intervention efforts toward the student's behavior or academic goal. This stage is held in multi meetings (a minimum of 3) over a period of at least 6 weeks.

Phase 3 is held only if the student's goal is not met in phase 1 or 2 and the team feels the student should be referred to the Multidisciplinary Referral Team (MRT). This team considers possible referral and eligibility for ESE (Special Education) services.

Phase 4 is entered only is a student qualifies and requires an Individual Education Plan or Section 504 Plan.

How do I sign up for the Target meeting?

A Data Input form must be completed for a student after Phase 1 is completed. Please submit this form to Lauren Werch (primary students) or Liz Duncan (intermediate students). One week before the scheduled day and time an invitation will be sent home to the student's parents and you will receive an email notification.

When are meetings scheduled and where do they meet?

Primary(K-2) meetings are held on Tuesdays at 8:00 and 8:30 in the small front conference room and Thursdays at 8:00 and 8:30 in the Guidance conference room.
Intermediate(3-5) meetings are held in the Media Center (room behind the front desk) at 8:30 on Wednesday and Thursday.

What do I bring to the Target meeting?

Bring the student's cumulative folder, data relating to the student need, interventions tried, and ideas for specific short and long term goals.

How do I find information on students already in the Target process?

Students in the process that attended Chets Creek last year should have copies of goals, objectives and intervention pages attached to their yellow promotion card. Please check the cumulative folder carefully for any information that looks like the Target process, especially for a student you feel is in need.

Who is part of the Targeteam?

The primary team has a facilitator (Lauren Werch), school psychologist (Laura Nilsen), two primary general education teachers (Debbie Harbour and Randi Timmons) and an ESE teacher (Lourdes Santiago). The intermediate team has a facilitator (Liz Duncan), guidance counselor (Betsy McCall), a general education teacher (Ann Tillis) and an ESE teacher (Tammi Sani). In addition, all of the student's academic teachers and parents are a part of the team.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Reviewing Cum Folders

This week, you should have checked all of your cum folders. Ever wonder exactly what it means to "check" your folders? As you have probably discovered, the cum folders can be found in The Guidance Office with the homeroom teacher's name on the front of the drawer. The first thing to check of course, is if every child on your roll has a cum folder! Tracy Carlin is the person to see if a folder is missing.

You often hear techers say that they don't want to check the cum folders because they don't want to form prejudices about children before they are able to form their own first impression, but this can be dangerous in the case of medical problems or custody arrangements. Often a child is entitled to particular services so a teacher needs to look for a few things from the very beginning. Below are some of the things that you should check to give you more information about the students in your class:

1. Target (our school intervention team work is filed in a manilla folder), ESE (Exceptional Student Education - Special Education folders, which include services for the gifted, are green), Speech and Language Services (in a pink folder), and Section 504 Packet Plans(which are also in a manilla folder) all have their own folders within the yellow cum folder. Each of these will tell you something particular about a student.

2. There will be an orange sheet of paper that will tell you if the child has had any interventions while at Chets. Attached to this are any PMPs (Progress Monitoring Plan) that will also tell you about intervention plans that have been designed for the student in previous years. The PMP will be signed by the parent indicating that the teacher and parent have had a conference discussing the needs and results of these interventions.

3.Custody issues will be a formal decree found after the Code of Conduct form towards the front of the yellow folder.

4. Students that have serious medical alerts will have a red dot on the front of the cum folder. You will also find additional facts about the medical condition with the health information inside the cum folder.

5. Make sure to also look for a red folder because this will tell you a child's ESOL (English Speakers of Other Languages) status. There will also be a Home Language Survery that will tell you if the family speaks another language at home and what that language is. This will be a big help in knowing if you need an interpreter for conferences. An active ESOL student requires that the teachers use ESOL strategies in the classroom documenting them in her lesson plans. An ESOL student in the 2 year monitoring phase requires a teacher to document progress on the left side of the folder on form c. An ESOL student who is finished with the 2 year monitoring phase does not require any additional paperword on the teacher's part but all of this information will be helpful as you get to know your students.

If there is anything in the cum folder that you do not understand, do not hesitate to ask about it. Tracy Carlin can answer any of your questions or can direct to the person that can!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Getting a Sub

It won't be long before you will need a substitute teacher, because of sickness, personal leave or a TDE (Temporary Duty Elsewhere). The person at Chets Creek that knows EVERYTHING about subs is Julie! She will be your new best friend.

Normally you will be given a list of preferred subs. They are subs that only sub at Chets Creek or that have been recommended by one of our teachers. It is still early in the year to have that list, so if you need a sub and don't know anyone, do not hesitate to ask Julie for a recommendation. You can also ask teachers on your grade level/ subject areas for their favorite sub. Within the next month you should get a list from Julie, but it changes often, so always feel like you can ask her for a recommendation.

To put in for a sub, go to the Kelly sub web page - You should look for the KASS sign in. A teacher's ID number is her identification number with enough zeroes on the front of the number to make eight digits. A teacher's PIN number is the last four numerals of her Social Security number. Julie will be glad to walk you through the first few times you need a sub.
Whenever possible you should contact the sub before putting her into the system to make sure she is indeed available. Just because she shows up as available on Kelly does not mean she can take the job. Even in an emergency you need to contact the sub first. If it's really early in the morning or a last minute problem, call Julie or send her an e-mail. She checks her e-mail first thing in the morning and usually knows who is available. (I told you Julie would be your new best friend!)

Julie will put a leave form in your box when Kelly notifies her that someone has requested a sub. It is the teacher's job to fill it out, sign it and return it to Julie as soon as possible. Actually, if you leave the building during the day for any reason or don't come to work at all you must fill out a leave form - even if you don't need a sub. If the absence requires a sub it has to be a half or whole day. If, however, you do not need a sub, then you may take leave for just the time you are gone.

Sometimes you will not need a sub after all and need to cancel. To do this, call 245-7555. This is another job Julie will do for you if you ask.

What should you leave for a sub? To facilitate the tasks of a substitute, minimizing interruptions of the normal routines, teachers should provide a folder that assembles the following information:

A. Daily schedules (including lunch). Identify those on free and reduced lunch for substitute
B. Resource classes and times
C. Class roster/Fire Drill roster
D. Seating charts
E. Student lists for instructional groups
F. Transportation plans for students (walkers, bus riders and bus numbers)
G. Names of students who may have medical problems or who require special attention
H. Directions for locating instructional material and equipment
I. Names of classroom helpers
J. List of additional academic activities (listening games, stories, songs)
K. Other pertinent information specific to class needs
L. Name of a buddy teacher should assistance be needed

All other activities and objectives such as art, physical education and music should be noted and the activities to be covered listed. Plans should reflect required time allocations. Lesson plans are to be used daily and placed on the teacher's desk for easy access.

Advice about subs from 3rd grade teacher Jenny Nash:

During my first year of teaching, I was introduced to the concept of a "sub binder" by my mother-in-law. It has proven to be a lifesaver for me, and I've had many thanks from subs over the years. Before my first absence each year, I compile (or update) a neatly organized binder, complete with a front page letter of welcome and thanks from me (which I sincerely mean!), that explains EVERYTHING about my classroom! (class list(s), rules, behavior management plan, incentives, daily schedule, general classroom policies such as helpers/jobs/routines, etc.) I also preserve my name tags from the first weeks of school in a basket and include information on where to find those for the students, in the event the sub would like to use them. My mother-in-law originally recommended to include extra work that could be used to fill time if needed, but I've never found this necessary. (Most often, they don't get to all the plans I leave, anyhow. I guess I tend to over plan.) My lesson plans are detailed. I include examples, etc. so they are very clear to someone who may or may not have any background in education. However, thanks to the permanent sections in my binder, I only need to detail my expectations for the teaching and student activities. I also star a few names on the class list(s) indicating reliable students to ask questions if/when something comes up. I also leave REAL work and plans for the subs. I do this knowing that the lesson will most likely need to be reviewed upon my return, but I have found that students who sense a difference in their academic rigor (i.e. movie vs. lesson) are more likely to act out and push limits. (This is another positive comment I often receive from subs, "Thanks for letting me teach!") Finally, I also ask for a note from the sub letting me know what they got to/didn't get to, as well as kids' behavior, etc.

I'll be happy to let anyone stop in and check out the binder if they're interested. I keep it in the same place all the time and inform my officemates where it is, in the event of an emergency absence. Worst case scenario, I email plans and they've got all the rest in the binder! :)
If you want to see a seasoned teacher's sub plans, just ask. They will be glad to share. Just remember that it is always your responsibility to make sure that the substitute has plans for the day!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

It Happened! - the first day!

For a really inspirational message about how the first day worked out at Chets Creek, read the Principal's blog and comments. This is the way school should start for teachers - and for families!!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

First Day Stories

The first five years of teaching I taught third through fifth grade students with learning disabilities in a self-contained setting. When I transferred to a new school, I was excited to learn I would be teaching first through third grade students with learning disabilities in a self-contained setting because I felt like I would be able to intervene with younger students before they got to the point that my old students had when they came to me. So...I planned for my first day with these young students and felt pretty confident. My classroom looked great. I had activities prepared and a smile on my face as I was greeted the kids with hugs and smiles. After having my ENTIRE day's plans DONE by 10:30...I was was scrambling for something to do! I had no idea they would finish an art activity in 10 minutes because fifth graders would take forever to do similar things. Their attention spans were so short! I was totally out of my element. I managed to make it another hour until lunch with readalouds, and then I marched out to my car and had a good cry. What had I gotten myself into?!? I thought I knew what to do. The rest of that day was a blur, but I went home and spent hours on the phone calling all of the primary teachers at my previous school asking what they had done that day. I went to bed with a better game plan for the next day, and well...I fell in love with teaching primary! The lessons here are: over plan, ask for help and try, try, try again.
Melanie Holtsman

My first day of teaching the principal entrusted 36 first graders to me. He didn't give me thirty-six desks or tables, but that's another story. I don't remember anything about the first day, except the dismissal. It is critical, that if you don't do anything else, you do two things on your first day. First, you need to know how each student is getting home. At 3:10, I had a group of little people around me, and one little boy was crying. I kept saying, "Peter, don't worry. You are a car rider, and your mom will be here soon. Peter, please stop crying." He cried for a very long time, and then finally said, "My name is not Peter, it is Jimmy. Are you sure my mom is coming!" Secondly, you need to know each of their names!
Christy Constande

My favorite first day story is one I often tell about Haley Alvarado. So with her permission, I'll tell it once again. Haley's first class at Chets Creek was very challenging. In kindergarten you never know what you are going to get because nobody places the students evenly among classes because they don't know any of the children before the first day! Haley just happened to get a very challenging bunch that first year and quickly learned many things, including how to manage students with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). On the first day of her second year, she came to me a lunch time with a handful of new student forms. "I can't believe every student they have added to my class today has ADD. I have four new students and each one has ADD." "How do you know they all have ADD?" I asked. She pointed to the large letters at the top of each page that had ADD circled. "Haley, that doesn't mean they have ADD. That means "add" them to your class!"
dayle timmons

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

First Day Ideas

Here are some cute activity/ice breakers for the kids to do on the first day from 2nd grade teacher Denise Evanko.

M&M's and Me!
As the students walk in my class on the first day of school, I stand by the door with a bowl of M&M's. I instruct them to take 1-4 M&M's. They have to decide the number that they wish to take. I also instruct them not to eat them until I tell them to. Finally, I explain to my students that for every M&M they picked, they have to tell the class one thing about themselves. I demonstrate the activity by being the first one to share and eat my M&M's!

Sing! Getting to know each other.
(Sung to the tune of "The More We Get Together")
Sit in a circle and then sing: Here we sit together, together, together Here we sit together, all here on the floor.
There's ________ and ________ and ________ (etc, until every child has said their name)Here we sit together, all here on the floor.

Guess who?
Have students fold over a piece of white paper and fold it hamburger-style. On the front, have them draw their self-portrait. Model using details (glasses, length of hair, buttons on clothes) Tell them NOT to write their names on the pictures because we will use the clues inside to figure it out. Inside they can write words or phrases to describe themselves. Pull a few a day and have the class guess after the clues. Then, have the creator stand up.

Time Capsule
I also had each child add a sheet to a time capsules that asks general questions like: favorite t.v. show, song, color, best friend, food, game. I kept them and have them complete it again at the end of the year to see how we changed.

The following first day activities come from an excellent blog of reading and writing lesson ideas. Check it out:

Idea #1 Name Tag Glyph (Back to School)
The students will use stencils to trace the letters in their name on a paper strip.They will use these directions to make their name.

  • 1st letter-boy-stripes/girl-checkerboard

  • 2nd letter-do you have any brothers or sisters-yes-red/no-green

  • 3rd letter-do you have a pet-black dots-yes/no-white dots

  • 4th letter-Which subject do you like the most?reading-red; math-blue;science-green; pe-purple; art-orange; music-yellow; other-brown

  • 5th letter-How do you get to school?walk-yellow/bus-purple/car-red/van-0range/other-green

  • 6th letter-Do you like ice cream?yes-black triangle/no-white triangles

  • 7th letter-Do you like sports?yes-black stars /no-white stars

  • more than seven letters - color the eighth like the first one, and so on.

This idea came from the Mailbox magazine, Aug/Sept. 2002


The chart below tells you what each color bead means. Read the chart carefully and choose your beads.

  • RED – if you are a girl

  • BLUE – if you are a boy

  • ORANGE – how many sisters you have

  • GREEN – how many brothers you have

  • WHITE – how many pets you have

  • BLACK – how many different elementary schools you have attended

  • YELLOW – if you like reading (0=don’t like, 1=a little, 2=a lot)

  • PURPLE – if you like math (0=don’t like, 1=a little, 2=a lot)

  • SPORTS BEADS ~ pick 1 bead to show which sport you like the best

  • SMILEY FACE BEADS – if you like third grade (0=don’t like, 1=a little, 2=a lot)

* Once you have your beads, get your initial beads and make a cool pattern.Please bring your necklace to me when you are finished and I will put the end on it.

Fill out the questions below. Just look at other students’ necklaces to find your answers!

1. Name one person who has the same number of sisters as you: ______________

2. Name one person who has the same number of brothers as you:___________

3. Name one person who has more pets than you do: ______________________

4. Find two people who have gone to more than one elementary school: __________________ __________________

5. Find one person who likes reading the same as you do:________________

6. Find one person who likes math less than you do: ____________________

7. How many people in your group like third grade a lot? ________

8. How many people in your group have pets? ________

9. How many people in your group like reading and math a lot? ________

10. How many people in your group have only gone to one elementary school?____________

11. Write your own question! ___________________________________________

Answer to your question: _________________

Getting to know you necklace - DIRECTIONS

1. I buy the beads (colored, sports, and smiley faces), string (black stretchy necklace cord), and clasps in the craft section of Wal-Mart.

2. Before the day of the activity, cut the necklace cord and attach the clasp to one end. Make sure you make it the right length for your kiddos!

3. Copy the paper and fold it in 1/2 below the smiley faces. Let the kids choose their beads using the chart. They get a cord, arrange the beads in a pattern of their choice, and bring it to you to attach the other end of the clasp. It's very helpful to have another adult or two to help you tie! I usually don't have help, so I plan the activity so that I can tie the necklaces while they are in specials or at lunch and then we continue the activity later...

4. When everyone has a necklace the kids should all put them on. Then they flip their papers over and go around the room answering the questions by looking at everyone else's necklaces.

5. Helpful tip: Tell the kids that they will probably want to wear the necklace again, especially at the end of the year. (For some reason they always do...although some will wear theirs throughout the year). Anyway, I always tell them to find a safe place to hang it at home so they won't lose it!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The First Day of School Plan

"What you do on the first days of school will determine your success or failure for the rest of the school year. You will either win or lose your class on the first days of school."

-Harry Wong

Advice from the Peanut Gallery to help prepare for the first day of school

Maria Mallon (1st grade) says, "First day of school - it's here - be prepared - have every minute planned. Have books ready to read, projects ready to work on, and fun games to play (whole group). Make sure you know how every child is getting home. Greet children at the door - thank parents for coming and remind parents that school is starting (and they have to leave.) I like to have bins set up outside the classroom for supplies that come in - labeled with item names.
Rituals and routines for looping classes are reviewed. New classes are taught these for the first few weeks - how to go to the bathroom, Fire drill, how to line up, lunch room expectations, dismissal expectations, how to sit in hallway in the morning, how to come into class in the morning, what is expected when a visitor is in the classroom, jobs list, etc. Visit the lunch room and the table before lunch and talk about lunch room manners.

The day will fly by. Have treats (ice pops) for children after recess - it is so hot the first few weeks of school. I think that if you are having fun and are excited, then the parents and children will feel the same way. It is a brand new school year -- how great is that!! I suggest getting with someone you feel comfortable with - ask questions -- and have the best year ever!! We were all in your shoes, we know what it feels like, and we are glad you are going on this journey with us!!"

Debbie Harbour (1st grade) says, "The day goes by faster than you think. Do some type of game to get to know the kids. I read a book about the first day of school pretty early in the day. I always do some type of scavenger hunt. For kindergarten we have clues to follow from Chester Raccoon to learn all the different places around the school. Then at the end they find a treat. For first grade we will use clues for each place but we will leave the teachers small treats to say welcome back and then find treats waiting for us. (ice pops work well since it is hot outside). Make sure you take time for recess as well. Don’t forget the important things like bathroom and dismissal discussions. Above all, remember things always take longer that first day than expected."

Denise Evanko (2nd grade) says, "On the first day have a cart with a label that says, "SCHOOL SUPPLIES". I was amazed at how much stuff I got. Have a place in your room to store it all because it will come in all week long. Also, let them know where you want papers to be turned in. Have a checklist of all the forms that need to come back. Providing incentives really helps getting all the papers back quickly! Talk to your team and run through your first day with an experienced teacher. They can help tremendously!

Christy Constande (4th grade) suggests, "I would try to run the first day of school as close to your daily routine as possible. Of course you want to include creating your list of behavioral expectations for the classroom, the special 'first day' activities that we will have, and any theme related or team building activities you have up your sleeve, but I would also include a Readers' Workshop, Writers' Workshop, at least one read aloud, and a math lesson. Establishing the rituals and routines from the minute the students walk in the door has helped me tremendously.

You will be receiving " loads" of supplies and paperwork. Ask around. Many teachers have a system for collecting the goodies and important paperwork. My teaching partners and I don't take teaching time that first day to collect. We set up areas for the students to deposit their supplies, and then we organize it after they leave.

Students will also be bringing back lots of paperwork from the first day packet that is sent home. Just ask, many teachers have set up a spreadsheet for the paperwork that is collected. That way you can keep track of who has brought it in and who hasn't.

Vicki Groves (1st grade) says, "Day 1 must-do activities: How to use the restroom and where it is... Tour of school... (practicing lining up and walking in a line as a class)... Where to sit in the Dining Room and how to get lunch... How to go home... Where to come and what to do on day 2... Most important...How do you get home today? I fill in the rest of day with recess, at least one read aloud, a few "getting to know you" games/activities, a Readers' Workshop and a Math Workshop.

Tom Ruark (5th grade) suggests, If I had any advice for a new teacher, it would be as follows: However you can (write it on the board, call on the phone, send a note, wear a sticker...) let the students and parents know that you will take care of these children as if they were your own! In fact, they will be yours before you know it.

I will probably say the following affirmations many times on the first day:
You guys seem so bright. I am so lucky!
Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the planet!
We are going to have a great year!
Collectively, we are going to break some IQ records!
You guys are so bright I need shades!
I can't wait to get to know you guys better.
If you ever feel a little lost, that's a good thing. If you knew everything, you'd be bored, and I wouldn't have a job!
My goal is to create a classroom where everybody feels safe to participate. Any ideas on how we can do that?
Confusion is a sign of great learning!
Let's have a golf clap and a princess wave for Mr./Miss_______."

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Advice about Orientation

Orientation happens before the first day of school, so your target is to have your room ready (at least neat and clean) by Orientation when you will first see parents and your new students. The schedule for Friday, August 15 is as follows:

8:00-9:00 Kindergarten and 2nd grade
11:00-12:00 1st and 4th
2:00-3:00 3rd and 5th

From 1st grade teacher, Haley Alvarado to 1st grade teachers: Below is a example of the Orientation info Meredy and I going to use for our class. We'll have to put the small details in later. You can easily put it into a PowerPoint format if you prefer that method. Other things you will want, maybe, are a sign up sheet for possible volunteers (in/out of the class), Fun Friday (parents sign up to bring in a snack or treat for the whole class on Fridays) sign up.

ABC’s of First Grade

A Absence: If your child is absent, please make sure to send in an official doctor’s note to be an excused absence. If your child will be leaving early for an appointment, please let us know in the planner what time he/she will be checked out.
Arrival and Dismissal: Students should arrive after 8:30 a.m. They will report to the hallway outside of the classroom each morning. School begins promptly at 9:00. Dismissal will begin at 3:15 p.m. from the car loop circle. All students should be picked up no later than 3:40. If your child is a car rider, you will need to be in the lane closest to the school. The outermost lane is reserved for Kindergarten only!

B Behavior Expectations: See the attached sheet.
Birthdays: If you wish to bring in a treat for the class for your child’s birthday, please let us know in advance. Birthday treats will be handed out during recess or on a day that you volunteered for Fun Friday.
Breakfast: A school breakfast is served every morning from 8:30 – 9:00 a.m. The cost of breakfast is $.70.

C Communication: A weekly newsletter from us goes home every Monday. Parent/teacher communication will be done through “blue home-school folders.” Please read monthly calendar for events in the classroom and resource schedule.
Conferences: Parent/teacher conferences are held before and after school at a scheduled time. Both Mrs. Mack and Mrs. Alvarado will be present for each scheduled conference. We will hold a conference with each parent in the start of the 3rd nine-week period.

D Daily Schedule: Look at the schedule posted outside of the classroom.

E Emergency information: If for any reason your emergency numbers change during the year, please inform the office and us ASAP so you can be located quickly if an emergency occurs.
Early Dismissal: Early release days are every other Wednesday. Students will be dismissed at 2:00. Due to professional development on these days, we will be unavailable for conferencing.

F Field trips: If you would like to chaperons, please remember that younger children will not be allowed to attend and that you must drive your own car. Please send permission slips back ASAP. Field trips must be paid with CASH. All chaperons must attend the volunteer orientation.

G Grading: Students in First Grade will receive grades of E, S+, S, S-, and U. They earn grades in Communications (Reading/Writing), Mathematics, and Social Growth and Development (Behavior).

H Homework: Homework will be sent home on Monday. Your child is asked to complete this work by him/herself, under your supervision, and return it on Friday. Homework is counted as a percentage of your child’s academic grade. Homework that is turned in a day late will have points taken off.

I Information folder: Please make sure you fill out all items in the folder and return them to school as quickly as possible.
Illness: If your child is sick, please keep him/her home. If your child becomes ill at school, you will be contacted and expected to pick him/her up promptly from the clinic.

J Junk: Sometimes your household “junk” can be used in the classroom. We collect toys and treats for our “treasure box.” Occasionally we will need extra household items such as toilet paper rolls, baby food jars, soda bottles, or other items for projects and experiments.

K Keeping in touch: Communication is very important. You can contact us through notes in the daily folder or leave a message on our voicemail: 992-6390 Ext. 109. We check home-school folders each morning, therefore this is the best way for us to get your message before our day begins.
Keeping up: First Grade is going to be a year of lots of new learning, projects, and fun! We highly recommend making it a priority to review our monthly calendar of events on the front of the home-school folder. Also, take time to review your child’s homework assignments and graded assessments, so that you are always aware of your child’s progress.

L Lunch: Your child may bring a lunch or buy a school lunch. Lunch is $1.30. Milk may be purchased separately for $.40. Please send any money in a baggie marked with name, lunch number, and amount. Send checks on Monday if you are planning to deposit money into your child’s account. Your child’s lunch number must be on the check (these numbers will be given to you). Our class will go to lunch each day from _____________.

M Math: The First Grade mathematics curriculum, Math Investigations, provides students with mathematical experiences that help them develop number sense and a positive attitude towards mathematics that will continue through their school career and their lives. We employ a hands-on problem solving approach.
Medicine: All medicine must be kept and administered in the main office. Children are not allowed to carry medication with them.

N Necessary School Supplies: Please make sure your child has the school supplies they need as indicated on the school supply list. Please be reminded not to label your child’s school supplies.

O Outside: Our class will have 30 minutes of playground time each day. Please make sure your child is dressed appropriately for play and weather.

P Parental Involvement: Your support of school activities makes your child feel important and sends the message that you value school. We are always happy to have your help in/out of the classroom and for special activities.
PTA: Please join our PTA! Our PTA supports many events, buys books, and provides money for miscellaneous items throughout the year. You do not need to join for each child. If you would like to sponsor a family for our class, please let me know. The cost of PTA is only $5!
Parties: There will be special events throughout the school year. The room parents usually organize these events and coordinate volunteers and donations. All are welcome to participate in the festivities.

Q Questions?

R Resources: Students will participate in resources Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from _____________. Students are fortunate enough to participate in Art, Music, Media, Science, Character Education, P.E., and Technology.
Report cards: Report cards are issued every nine weeks. These reports reflect the progress your child has made towards our First Grade academic objectives and uses a grading system that reflects the developmental nature of First Grade learning.

S Scholastic: Scholastic book orders are a great way to build your home library with quality children’s books at reduced prices. For every dollar you spend, our class receives points towards the purchase of books for our classroom library. All scholastic orders need to be made out to Scholastic in the form of a check or money order.

T Transportation: We must know how your child is getting home on the first day of school! Please make sure you fill out this important information about how they will get home each day. If your child is a bus rider, we need to know the bus number and the stop number. Please notify us in writing if your child is going home a different way than he/she normally does. This is a MUST! Do not leave a phone message; we cannot ensure that we will receive it in time!

U Uniforms: Uniforms are white or navy shirts and khaki or navy bottoms. Opt out forms are available in the Office.

V Volunteers: Volunteers are greatly appreciated both in and out of the classroom. If you are interested in volunteering, please look over the various volunteer roles that are available and sign up on the “Volunteer Sheet”.

W Wish List: There are extra items that we could use in the classroom. These are items that the class will be using throughout the year. Our wish list of desired classroom items is on the sign-in table. Thank you for your support!

X X-Etc: Fun Friday is a weekly celebration. Parents are asked to sign up to provide a small snack and drink for the class on the day they volunteered for. This is also a great time to celebrate your child’s birthday. Look for the sign up sheet.

Please label all of your child’s personal belongings with his/her first and last name. Lunch boxes, jackets, sweaters tend to be very difficult to find if lost.

Y Your role as a partner in education: Help your child become responsible. Ask questions. Look in your child’s daily planner for important papers and sign the home-school folder daily. Look over your child’s homework. Read the newsletter and the Chets Creek Connection. Read to your child and listen as they read to you.

Z ZZZZ’s: Make sure that your child gets plenty of rest. Setting and keeping a bedtime is a wonderful gift you can give to your child. It will help them to be alert and ready to learn each day.

We look forward to another great year with your participation and support!

From 1st grade teacher, Debbie Harbour: Plan well for Orientation and it will go smooth. I always wear a dress and try to look extremely put together. One of the most important things I learned was to put a basket and sticky notes at a table. Tell the parents if they have any questions when you are done to put their name, child’s name, and the question on a note and stick it in the basket. You will get back to them as soon as possible. Blame it all on time! That way if you don’t know the answer, they won’t know you don't know. Also, make sure you have sign up sheets. Anyone who needs them can e-mail me for samples. Add in a sheet about yourself. Parents like to know a bit about you. I like to have cookies for the kids to eat because it keeps them busy, out of my stuff that is all set up, and quiet!

From 1st grade teacher, Maria Mallon:

  • I suggest wearing professional attire for Orientation (it's an hour) and you can change after. You want to make a good first impression!
  • Have a script ready on all the points you want make clear. Most of it will be about the first week of school, homework expectations, time to be at school, etc. Parents will be as glazed over as you are - so don't worry about getting up in front of people. I like to have an ABC's of the 1st Grade program run off for each parent. I briefly touch on A-attendance, B-birthdays, C- communication, etc. This keeps me on track - and can be done on PowerPoint.
  • A wish list is nice to have for those "extras" - Sharpies, binders, printer cartridges, gift cards (to Walmart, Office Max, Target, Michaels - $5.00 are always nice). I put what I would like on an index card for the parent to take with him/her at Orientation. On it I write the item I would like and have them return the card with their name on it so I know who to thank when the wish list items come in.
  • On the tables I put the ABC program, any sheets from the office, a welcome letter, a gift bag for each student, and candy.
  • Remember it's not an Open House, so you don't have to get super detailed. Keep it upbeat, fast-paced, and fun. Have sticky notes for questions. If they have questions just ask them to put the sticky note on the board with their name/phone # and then call with the answer before the first day or write up a question/answer sheet to send home on the first day.
  • Make sure you tell parents where they will be dropping their child off on the first day and not to linger. School is starting.
  • You will be saved by Mrs. Phillips ending the Orientation in one hour. She'll come over the loud speaker and thank parents for coming and then ask the teachers to come to the Office for a meeting.
  • If parents want a mini-conference, remind them about the question/answer sticky notes and you'll get back to them. (Make sure you get back to them.)

From 1st grade teacher, Vicky Groves: The most important thing to do at Orientation? Find out how each child will get home on the the first day of school? I usually have this on a chart with the student names listed and before the parents leave Orientation I am sure to ask if they filled it out. If they didn't come to orientation...these are the children that I call over the weekend or I target the first day of school..."How will you be going home today?"

From 2nd grade ELA teacher (first year teacher last year) Denise Evanko:

  • For Orientation, the basics you need to go over: the planner, discipline/behavior management, grades, the daily schedule, a introduction of yourself. Give the parents a basic run down of your day and what you will be doing with their children.

  • Make sure to have a "wishing well" posted in the room of things you will need/want for your room. You can write them on post-it notes so parents can grab them as they leave. Some things I asked for were double sided tape, magnet strips, labels, sandwich bags....

  • Have a sign up sheet for parent volunteers throughout the year posted.

  • Make sure you have contact information for each child. At Orientation have a sign-in sheet that has: name, phone numbers, and how child is going home on the first day.

Tips from a 3rd grade co-teacher, Jenny Nash: Last year, Joe and I team taught, but we decided to combine our Orientation, since parents want to meet us both anyway. We had the room set with sign-in sheets at tables around the room (divided alphabetically and labeled for easy navigation). On the respective tables, we had pens and the required information forms/permission slip for first day of school WOW activity. As parents arrived, we circulated, asking parents to work on those and leave them in bins on a designated table in the room (separate bins for each homeroom -- clearly labeled). We had previously personalized a shared power point. After the room appeared to be "full", we introduced ourselves and co-presented the slide show. Items mentioned included our backgrounds/experience, teaching arrangement, daily schedule, administration, how to pay lunch money (and cost of meals), dismissal times, resources, communication plans (including my class blog address), etc. We had our first edition of our classroom newsletter available for them to take home (included classroom policies, rules, behavior plan, contact info for us along with preferred method of contact -- email, rewards plans, etc.). After the formal presentation we had a sort of "cocktail hour" and mingled to meet students and parents. No, we did not have refreshments. I am a big believer in mingling. I think that is what parents come to these events looking for -- a chance to speak with the teacher privately for a moment and get a smile, introduce their child, etc. I try to soak up names as much as possible. This year, I think it would be fun to get a picture with children. It would be helpful for learning names/faces/stories, but also just neat to have at the end of the year.

Advice from 4th grade teacher, Christy Constande:

  • Orientation is a perfect time to make a first impression. I used to try and present too much information at Orientation. As I have matured, I have simplified things. There is usually a powerpoint that is created and is shared that you can use to guide your orientation if you want. This year's will probably be outstanding!

  • Something we started a few years back was a "family photo op." We find a place in our room, something that will provide a good back drop, and we have a dry erase board and we write for example, "Michael and family." We then develop the pictures, study them over the weekend, and then post them in the room. The children love seeing the pictures, and during the year if we have a parent conference, and can't remember what the parent looks like, we have a cheat sheet!!

  • We have something on each child's seat for them to do related to our theme while we are taking pictures. We also instruct the parents to fill out the one form that states how their child is getting home the first day. This MUST be collected before the family leaves so you know how each child is getting home. You can put baskets in the middle of the tables, or collect them by the door.

  • After the pictures are taken, we introduce ourselves, utilize the powerpoint, and tell every parent the truth - that we love what we do each and every day, and that we are going to love and take care of their child academically, socially, and emotionally. That is really what they want to hear the first time they meet you.

  • We always give the students something- a goody bag with candy, fruit chews, pencils etc. If you can find something related to the theme, that would be great.

  • Also at Orientation you are invited to post a "Wish List." You can change the name of it to relate to the theme. It is an opportunity to use cut outs or stickies and write the name of supplies that you could use in the classroom. Shoot for the stars. You can ask for gift cards, the specific names of paperback books that you would like, film, items you need for an upcoming craft, decorative computer paper, wrapped candy, etc.

Advise from 5th grade ELA teacher, Terri Lehane:

  • Ask around to see what your grade level teachers are doing. Everyone is willing to share. Work smarter not harder. Ask them to e-mail their agenda or power point. Use those ideas and tweak for your class.

  • Before Orientation, get to know your class. Doing a "welcome board" helps you to know the kids. Try to match faces to names. It always impresses parents when you know their child's name, or something about them at Orientation.

  • Last, but not least, ask for help if you feel overwhelmed. We have all been there, and everyone is willing to help.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Advice about Pre-planning

This is some advice for you as you get ready for Pre-planning - so you don't look like the picture to the left!

From Kindergarten teacher Deb Cothern: Be prepared to be a little overwhelmed and know that you are not the only one. Throughout the building there are sooooo many creative ideas that it is easy to find yourself wandering around and feeling lost. Don't panic!! As long as your room is clean, organized and inviting you will make a "good" impression. Keep in mind the every square inch of your walls should NOT be covered. In fact if your walls are too busy it can make the students feel overwhelmed. Your walls will eventually be filled with the artifacts from mini-lessons that you create together with your students.

From 1st grade teacher Maria Mallon: Any time you can put into your classroom before the start of Pre-planning is worth its weight in gold. Try to get as much cleaned, set up, and organized (files, binders, office, etc.) before Pre-planning begins. In this way, when you are called into meetings or pulled away from your classroom, you won't be stressed thinking of all you have to do. Plan on spending full days plus before Pre-planning begins...

From 1st grade teacher, Debbie Harbour: For brand new teachers this is such an overwhelming time. Even for seasoned teachers, we still wonder how we will get everything done, and even now, don’t know where to start. Start with your furniture. Once you decide the layout of your classroom then all other things can fall into place. Each part of the day, prioritize what to do and try to finish the project before moving on (sometimes this is easier said than done). If you stay later in the evening there aren’t as many people there and you tend to get a lot done. Do as much computer work from home like getting papers for Orientation and stuff ready. More important ~ go by everyone’s room often to get ideas and look for things you may not know you need. Ask anyone ~ we share very well. When it comes to buying stuff, spend what you can, but don't overspend. Remember you can make a lot. Also, there will be lots of teacher kids around (especially teenagers who need service hours) and they will help you move, cut, or hang. Take advantage of them.

From 2nd grade teacher (new last year), Denise Evanko:

  • Check the Sunday ads for coupons for AC Moore and Michaels to buy decorations and random items.
  • Don't underestimate the Elision machine in the library for decorating your room. You can create decorations for free!
  • Finally, put up a bulletin board titled "Getting to Know You" or something along those lines. On the yellow promotion cards, you will find a statement that last year's teacher made about each student. You can use these statements for your bulletin board. This should be up for Orientation.

From Cheryl Chascin: One tip I have for handling supplies as they come in is to print address labels during Pre-planning. I create labels for Reader's Journal, Writer's Journal, Dialogue Journal, Homework Folder, etc. (you can even use cute fonts that go with the theme). I also create a sheet of labels for each student with their name. Using these labels, students can easily identify their own supplies. We collect notebook paper and pencils (with student name labels attached) and store them in the cabinets, distributing them several times during the school year so that students always have a ready supply. Leftover labels can be saved for new students. Leftover name labels can be used as name tags for that first week or on field trips during the year.

From 5th Grade ELA teacher, Terri Lehane:
  • Work on getting your room ready first.

  • Don't make yourself crazy. Borrow ideas- Walk around the school and write down what you would like to add to your classroom- you will get other ideas just by looking at what other teachers have done.
  • Once your room is complete, prepare for Orientation. Ask around to see what your grade level teachers are doing. Everyone is willing to share. Work smarter not harder. Ask them to e-mail their agenda or power point. Use those ideas and tweak to your class.

  • Before Orientation, get to know your class. Doing your "Getting to Know You/ Welcome" board helps you to know the kids. Try to match faces to names. It always impresses parents when you know their child's name, or something about them at Orientation.

  • Last, but not least, ask for help if you feel overwhelmed. We have all been there, and everyone is willing to help.

From Music teacher, Dee Dee Tamburrino: Get an early start each day of Pre-planning. The sheer numbers standing in line at the Ellison and laminating machines are overwhelming. Don't worry - we'll recognize that "deer in the headlights look" and will be there to help!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Theme-related Decorations!

by Melanie Holtsman Since I spend much of my summer tracking down theme related decorations for the office and common areas... here's what I have learned about finding "stuff" for this year's theme:
  • There is a map and country flag border at Schools Aids on St. Johns Bluff as well as some great continent posters.

  • World Market has a great "old world" map poster and some neat knickknacks (it might be fun to buy some of their candy from your country if you like having that kind of thing for Orientation or Open House).

  • When searching for clip art images I usually go to Google images and find something there.

  • The easiest way to make a unique decoration for your classroom is to find an image that doesn't have a lot of detail and project it (using your laptop hooked up to your projector) and trace it on bulletin board paper to be colored in with watercolor, marker or tempera paint.

When you're stumped for an idea of what to do for a decoration - go ask someone who has a style you admire. I bug Christina Walag all the time when I need a fresh eye or new idea. That girl knows how to put heart in her details!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

About Math for K and 1st...

From one of our Primary Math coaches, Michelle Ellis, comes with this advice about Math:
As you begin to plan for your classroom this year, your Math Workshop set up will be very important. You will need to have a place where you have your math mini-lesson. Debby and I have found it helpful to have a different meeting area for Math than the ELA meeting area. We use opposite sides of the room. In the math meeting area we have all of our math manipulatives, calendar math, number line, and math vocabulary wall. We usually bring the students to the floor for our mini- lesson unless we are using the document camera. We have our 10 minute lesson, then send students to either their tables or floor if they are playing a game for the work time. For the closing we either keep the students where they are if they need their work to share or bring them back to the floor for the discussion.

This coming year the math standards and learning schedules have changed. You will notice starting with week one you will be required to have a "Math Choice Time". This does not mean it is your choice whether to teach the games, but it is just another name for "math centers". Every week you should have Choice Time at least twice a week. That means you will need to set up an efficient way to keep these games. Many of the games you will revisit often through the year. Some of the games will change and become harder as the year progresses. It will make your life easier if you have a permanent area set up, the students will need to be able to easily and quickly get out the games each week. You should not have to pass out each game, each time you play. You will need to plan for a place to keep extra game sheets so the students can get their own when needed. When you teach the students how to play a new game, you will also teach them where the game will be stored, where to get the game sheet if needed, and how to clean up the game at the end of the work time.

Since this game time is called "Choice Time", you will need to think through the way you will tell each student what game they will play each time. Think about the students you would like to have a math conference with, you may choose their first game for them, then they can pick their next one. The students who you are not meeting with that day for a formal conference may just pick their game from the beginning.

I have started a discussion on the "ning" for new ideas on how to store math manipulatives, so if you are wanting new ideas or have some to share, please check it out. As always, if you have any questions concerning the new standards or learning schedules, my door is always open! :)Michelle