Saturday, April 12, 2014

A Bright Idea: Getting Dotty with Supplies

Yippee! It's another day to share tips and strategies as a part of the Bright Ideas Link Up! On this round, we are switching from a "hop" to a "link up," so you can scroll down and look at the options at the end of this post. Bloggers have listed their "Bright Idea" on the button along with the applicable grade levels of the post--so you can choose that way... or just click on something that looks interesting!

I have six table groupings in my room, with six students in each group. This year there are thirty-five sixth graders in our classroom, so there is little room to spare. Throughout the day, students change seats often. Depending on the activity, they can be found sitting at one of the six tables--or at an assortment of extra locations around the room. We are more-than-crowded in our little room with kids and books, and it is difficult for students to bring all of their "supplies" with them every time they move to another table grouping. Consequently, we use shared supply boxes in my classroom and it has been an effective system in my room for many years.

But it was not a system completely without difficulties. For years, I would find myself frustrated when an item would be on the floor and I would be asking (more than once): "Which table is missing a blue marker?" or some variation of that question.

Fortunately, that all changed when I employed the dot system...

The supplies for this system are minimal. I have six tables groupings, so I need six colors of adhesive dots. I generally use blue, green, orange, pink, yellow and red, but those colors don't all come in one package. This year, I found the neon dots at the 99¢ Store and the Avery dots were calling my name at the local office supply store. And later, I found a package that had "dark pink" dots that look almost purple (if you dim the lights and squint a little). Be still, my heart! Luckily, I use the leftover colors to label books in my classroom library, so nothing is wasted.

The final requirement is a package of pre-cut tape strips. These are often packaged with an around-your-wrist band or a small round dispenser to make it easier to grab hold of the tape. Of course, you can use "regular" tape instead, but these tape pieces are already all the same size. No thinking involved. I find "regular" tape dispensers to be a little...ummm... unreliable. Before finding these, I would often end up looking like an episode of I Love Lucy with tape wrapped around my wrist or in my hair. And halfway through the first box of markers, I was already less-than-delighted with the whole process...

Our "table boxes" have markers, colored pencils and crayons (along with some other non-dot-worthy items). See those green dots? Those are my pathway to sanity...

Here are the markers from the green table box...

And here are the colored pencils...

 And here are the crayons...

Hey! No dots! Truth: I used to put dots on the crayons too. Now I buy my crayons for twenty-five cents at WalMart during the Back-to-School sale. I am simply not going to work that hard to keep track of crayons! I usually buy an extra box or two of crayons to have on hand if a student cares enough to go searching for a missing color. So, you see, I haven't completely lost my marbles (close, but not completely!) But it is rare that we lose markers or colored pencils!

I can usually get all of the supplies "dotted" during one (at home) movie. More than once, I have dotted up the supplies during a long car ride in August. I also add dots to the marker and colored pencil boxes, and I double reinforce the "flaps" with tape so that they will last through the year. It's a little investment in time during the summer that carries us all the way through June.

The supplies are kept in a box on top of the table. If the group moves to floor, the whole box goes with them. I got a lot smarter when I put the dot on the outside of the supply box too! Now, if I find a missing marker, I scan the room for the box with green dot, and I know where I will find the marker-box-missing-one.

Recently, the students figured out that the whole table has a color too! Table two is green. The sign hanging above it is green. The book box is labeled green too. This is important because it lets a visitor know which table is table two. 

Okay, here I have a little confession: "Green" is not really a color in my room. That table is actually turquoise which matches my room colors. But until the "dot people" come up with turquoise (or purple!) dots, we have to fudge just a little.

I have also used these dots to mark "sets" of things--even the backs of puzzle pieces! It's just an easy way to re-connect a missing item to the rest of the set!

So that's the Bright Idea from my classroom. If you scroll down just a little, you will see a link-up to enjoy more Bright Ideas from over other 150 bloggers. I hope you brought your sunglasses, because that's a lot of brightness! Click on the links to browse by topic or grade... or just discover a new blogger!

Have fun... and thanks for visiting!


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

An Upper Grade Perspective on The Daily 5 (New Edition!)

I am so excited to be linking up with Kelley at Buggy for Learning as we venture through the NEW edition of The Daily 5. What? You didn't know there was a new edition? Yep, there is! And together, Kelley and I are looking at the new book with an lower grade/upper grade perspective. Want to read along with us? Come on! Grab your book (and, in my case, your reading glasses too!) and join us!

Kelley is the faster reader, so I am sitting beside her for Chapter 2...

The Sisters begin this chapter talking about TRUST--trusting that kids can develop the stamina to stay focused and engaged during authentic reading and writing activities. By the second page of the chapter, my heart was glowing... Their passion and caring for kids is so evident! You can actually hear their voices saying to readers, " 'We believe in you. We trust that you can do it.' " (page 24).

I have seen the Sisters present at a conference. Authenticity was quickly evident. It's clear that they DO believe that kids can learn to be successful, engaged, independent readers. And you can feel that same sentiment as you read this book.

Trust comes about through a systematic building of COMMUNITY where readers and writers can find a place, without worrying about their skill level, knowing that their successes will be recognized and celebrated. The tone of this section is so buoying, I found my self wishing it could be September all over again!

The role of CHOICE is infused in many aspects of Daily 5. Whether it be what they read, where they sit or which activity they choose at a given time, student choice helps build the foundation for success. This necessitates that we, as teachers, give up a little control in the belief that students will pick up that same control and make good choices.

In any classroom, ACCOUNTABILITY is a necessity. But I got a surprise when I read, "We needed to be accountable to our students..." I loved that! This is what makes The Daily 5 so compelling. Students and teachers are partners in the development of reading and writing skills. And, yes, they do need to be accountable for using their time well and making good choices, but I have a responsibility is designing a classroom where that is possible.

The Sisters refer to BRAIN RESEARCH often throughout the book, and I found myself laughing as I read about limiting the amount of teacher talk in lessons. I, too, have seen my students "zone out" when I was teaching what I thought was an "exhilarating" lesson. Like it or not, our brains can only handle so much input at a time before they need a break from all of that well-intended "action." Citing Regie Routman's work, the authors discuss the importance of having less time spent on our teaching and talking and more time spent on kids actually practicing and using the skills we are teaching them.

Based on this consideration, the need for BRAIN AND BODY BREAKS is a logical conclusion. Work in Daily 5 classrooms is broken up into "rounds" with the length of work time determined by students' stamina. In between, students put away materials and come back together. This simple infusion of movement allows for students' brains to readjust and get ready or the next "round" of learning. They are quick to point out, however, that these "breaks" need to be taught... in fact, teaching remains at the core of so much of this work. We teach students the elements of Daily 5 so that they will have the skills to "take off" and learn more as they work. Further differentiation is possible when students can manage themselves and their learning.

Chapter two was so motivating, I found myself anxious to get to school and watch some of the elements in action. While I have implemented different components of Daily 5 in my classroom for the last four years, I found myself encouraged by the amount of trust that is possible when you you build a community of readers and writers in this way.

Although this chapter would be applicable to kids at any age or grade, Kelley is sharing some great ideas on the primary perspective. Why don't you hop on over where she is sharing about Daily 5 too!.

And, better still, grab a copy and read along with us. We'd love for you to join in on our discussion!

PS That fun frame around the book is from Paula Kim Studio on TpT!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Monday Made It: Seuss and Supplies!

It's been ages since I had the opportunity to link up with my buddy, Tara, and her Monday Made It link up! I am never crafty, but, now and then, I "make" something that leads to some extra fun in the classroom OR makes things run more smoothly... And I'm excited to share two of those things today!

I love to organize things... and this time I gave organization as a gift! I have a friend at my school who works with different groups of children all day long (and some of them are from my classroom!) She literally has a parade of kiddos in and out all day long, and it's hard to keep supplies organized when everything (and everyone) has to move so quickly. I decided that I would try to make an organizational system that would let the kids put things away--with minimal effort.

Many of the kids that spend time in her room are from primary grade classrooms, and many are English Learners, so I knew I needed to minimize the use of "words." (Looking over the pictures, I think I will re-do the labels to include pictures and words, but, alas, that "adjustment" will have to wait a while).

I like the way it turned out, but the real test will be in its efficiency in keeping supplies available and organized. I love the little containers in the drawers. They are large enough to make it easy for little hands to retrieve and put away materials. And since the containers are clear (other than the pencil trays), it's easy to see the materials in each drawer. The top drawer has pencils... lots and lots of pencils! She should have sharpened pencils for weeks! I also made a can for pencils that need to be sharpened and one of my students has volunteered to be her pencil monitor!

There are lots of materials that might be needed for (almost) any project she can imagine...

 And a variety of paper types for a variety of learners...

 Here are two views from "inside"...

I hope she loves it as much as I enjoyed making it for her!

My second "Made It" is more of a Borrowed-and-Used It" situation. We celebrated Read Across America a little late... but we had a great time!

The fourth, fifth and sixth grade students rotated through the classrooms, where they participated in different activities in each room. There was a Bingo room, and a drawing room, and word play room, and then there was my room... which was all about The Lorax and the need to save the trees...

Following a discussion about conservation and caring for our resources, we used these cards to play... SPOONS!

Many of my students do not know how to play "traditional" board and card games, so it always fun when we learn a new game together. I used graphics from "It's a Silly World" (Read Across America) clip art collection from the 3am Teacher to make the cards for our game. Such fun trees! It made the game so much more fun! And the kids loved them!


So that's the extent of my craftiness for the week (or month?!). I am thankful that Tara gives us a chance each month to share and showcase our "creations." I always love to see what others have shared in the link-up and I'm always in awe of the creativity of so many bloggers! Hop on over to Tara's blog and see for yourself... Just click the image below!

Thanks for visiting today...