Saturday, January 14, 2012

A Day in My Shoes... A Linky Party

Today I am linking up with Ana at Ingles 360 as part of TBA International Blog Hopping journey.

Ruby Red Slippers

This post was originally published as part of a linky party at Katie's Adventures of a Sixth Grade Teacher... where the topic was:  “A Day in My Shoes...”

My shoes are a bit scuffed and worn down at this point.  Just like me at the end of the day on Friday…

4:00 The Alarm Rings
I usually get up between 4:00 and 4:30 because that is my most productive planning and thinking time.  After checking the news on my computer and a quick check on some blogs, I polish up my lessons and make sure I have what I need.  Sometimes I need to collect some items or print a few things, and I do my best to accomplish this and be out the door and into freeway traffic by 6:30.

6:35 First Stop
At the first exit from my house is the local Starbucks.  At this point, my day usually gets a lot cheerier.  From here, it takes me about half an hour to drive to school.

7:00 Getting Set Up
Once I’m in my classroom, I unpack my belongings, turn on the technology, and write the schedule on the board.  Then I grab my fluorescent orange vest because on Friday mornings I have duty.

7:20 Morning Duty
My duty on Fridays is “Meet and Greet.”  I stand in front of the school and greet families and students, welcoming them to school. I usually give everyone a high-five (Purell, anyone?)  For the longest time, I would put my hand up to give a high five, and students would think was I signaling for them to Stop.  I didn’t know this and I simply could not figure out why so many children were afraid of me—since they always seemed to stop when they saw me in the morning.  Now I say “High five.”  Lesson learned.

7:30 Time to Come on Campus
At 7:30, I walk with the children from the front of the school toward the playground area.  Here, they drop off their backpacks on the playground, and they go to Walk and Talk.  Students in all grades walk together in a big oval around the field.  This helps them to wake up and get energized for the day.  It also keeps some children from standing on the playground and hitting each other over the head with their backpacks which is what they used to do before we started the Walk and Talk program.

7:40 Line Up Time
A bell rings at 7:40, and all of the students line up with their teachers and classmates. 

7:45 Morning Assembly
At this point, a student leads the Pledge and we sing a patriotic song.  The principal makes a few announcements and there may be other comments by PTA, teachers, or Student Council members.

7:50 To the Classroom
We walk to the classroom and hang our backpacks on the hooks outside our room.  Children bring their books, binders, and other belongings into the classroom.  There is no room for backpacks inside because the room is crowded with thirty four sixth graders, and as it is, I have to walk sideways to navigate in between the tables.  Because I have some students in my classroom who are deaf, there is always an interpreter in the classroom as well.  They’re one of my favorite parts of this school year and I am continually awed by their talent and their gracious hearts.

7:55 Getting Settled
Each morning, there is a message on the Promethean Board reminding students what they need to do.  Students have a number of morning tasks.  They record their reading in their Book Logs.  They turn in their homework.  Some students have morning jobs that help keep our classroom running smoothly (checking in homework, organizing the library, etc).  Although it is posted on the board (and it IS January), I still need to remind a few kids what they should be doing.  This is complicated by the fact that there are often several children who choose this exact moment to tell me that their hamster died, or they fell off their bike, or they are going to be absent for a week-long trip to Disney World, or they have misplaced  their pencil, homework, backpack, or some other must-have item.  Once everyone is settled, the students begin their independent reading work (or at least they pretend to).

8:10 CAFÉ Choice 1
I have five different reading groups in my classroom.  During the three CAFÉ choice rounds, they are doing one of several things: guided reading with me, reading or discussing Book Club work, independent reading/writing/word study work, working on reading or writing tasks on the computer, or reading with an adult if we are lucky enough to have a visitor that day.  On this particular Friday, our work ranged from a group following the plot sequence in an excerpt from a Beverly Cleary novel to a group looking at character motivation in the short story “The Necklace” by Guy de Maupassant.   I often work with a group on the floor, which goes something like this: Start with my group, ask another group to focus, continue with my group, ask a child why he is out of his seat, continue with my group, ask two students to stop talking, finish with my group.  Sigh.

8:50 Shared Reading
I love this part of the day.  Most of the students sit on the rug for this lesson, and the sense of community is quickly visible.  We have grown comfortable together. The text is usually on the Promethean Board and students have copies if they will be annotating.  We often discuss in pairs (knee-to-knee) and sometimes we “walk and share" as a bigger group.  A writing activity usually follows. The text may be fiction, nonfiction, poetry, or, my special favorite, song lyrics.  This may explain why students occasionally begin singing “Yellow Submarine" in the middle of a math lesson.

9:30 CAFÉ Choice 2
Another round of groups, choices, and tasks, with the addition of a push-in teacher who provides extra support to some of the kids who are struggling.

10:00 Recess
Ahhhhhh.  A few minutes to catch my breath.  These fifteen minutes are usually spent tutoring a child in math, working through a behavior issue, or making a quick phone call.  We only have “prep” or “conference” time one day a week (for 50 minutes), so recess minutes are treasured.  Often I spend this time running across the grass (Shhh.  Don’t tell!) to the office to run off some forgotten assignment.  If the copy machine is broken (!), I spend recess trying to quickly design an alternative lesson that can be done without the materials I had planned on using. The bell always rings too soon.

10:20 ELD/ CAFÉ Choice 3
The students who are designated as English Learners are broken up by fluency level and redistributed to different classrooms for instruction.  This means that each teacher receives students from different classrooms and different grade levels at this time.  Fortunately I only have fifth and sixth graders in my group this year, which is far preferable to the fourth/fifth/sixth combination group I had last year!  During this time, the students not in the group move on to their third rotation of CAFÉ choice literacy groups.

10:50 Math
More than any other year, I have students with a HUGE range of skills in math.   At the beginning of the year, I was dismayed to discover that I had a number of students who were not able to count by twos or by fives.  I was also amazed to find out that I had a few students who were remarkably proficient in algebra.  This, my quest this year has been to try to find something for everyone.  Still, all of the students will be tested on the same material on the state test, so I feel compelled to be sure that all of them have practiced the skills that are reflected in the state standards.

Usually our lesson proceeds like this:  I design a flip chart on the Promethean Board.  After an introductory discussion, I demonstrate the concept. We then work through a few problems for guided practice, often with manipulatives.  When we break for independent work, students go to different tables where they work on different tasks. 

One group needs very little support.  They complete a few problems as evidence and then move on to a “Work Ahead Module” in algebra.  There are two more groups that can complete the assignment with occasional assistance so I circulate amongst them when I can.  I also have some “Math Masters” who are designated as support staff for other students.  I have two other groups of student who need a LOT of help.  These students begin with easier problems and there is a lot of support using manipulatives.  If there are any volunteers available during math, they come to support the kids in these groups.

11:55 Lunch!
Our lunch is only thirty minutes long, but we are allowed five minutes for travel time. (Students have twenty minutes to eat and ten minutes to play.)We are in the building farthest from the cafeteria, so we always intend to start out early, but by the time we have put away out math work, gathered our lunches and gotten organized, we usually arrive a few minutes late.  Lunch is usually spent with chatting with my sweet colleagues or in my classroom trying to get a lesson or materials ready for the time after lunch.

12:30 Social Studies
We have just finished our Unit on Early People so the social studies time was jam-packed.  We are sooooo behind and it seems like we never have enough time for "the other subjects." During social studies, we reviewed three PowerPoint presentations, watched a video clip on hunter-gatherers, and played a game to review the material for the test.  I found myself wondering why eleven and twelve year-olds still feel the need to call out “He’s cheating!”  I was relieved, however, to hear that most of the students seemed to know the answers to most of the questions.

1:00 Science
Just a few minutes to squeeze in science today.  We reviewed the layers of the earth (with gestures!) We will be learning about tectonic plates on Tuesday, so I wanted to review what I thought they might already know.  There were more than a few looks of confusion, so I made a mental note to add some material to next week’s lessons.  So often I feel like we need more minutes in our day!

1:30 Book Buddies
On Fridays, we have Book Buddies with the kindergartners.  This is an activity that was implemented over a decade ago, and many lasting friendships have been made.  Each of my sixth graders reads with one of the kindergartners (from two classes).  We also do other activities together.  A few months ago, the kindergartners were an appreciative audience at our flute recital.  We played “Mary Had A Little Lamb” and something that sounded a little like “The Lion Sleeps Tonight."  They clapped enthusiastically.  It is fun to realize that in a few years, these kindergartners will be the "Big Buddies" reading to another group of kindergartners!

1:55 Almost Done
The children gather up their backpacks and get ready to go home.  There are smiles and laughter and good-byes (and a few shouts of “Text Me!”).  The day is over and the weekend lies ahead.

2:00 Going Home
I walk the kids to the front of the school where some meet up with friends, siblings, and family members.   Some of the kids walk home and few leave by car or bus.  Many of my students attend the after-school program each day at our school.

If there isn’t a meeting, I check my mailbox and head back to my classroom.   Although I know it is a bad habit, I often collect my belongings into a bin or my "rolly cart," turn off the technology and head for my car.  I think better at home and O can avoid the distraction of visiting or having visitors which can keep me at school for an extra hour (or three).

I have tried to be succinct (especially since I had to re-type this post after losing the first effort to Cyberspace!) and yet it still looks somewhat like plans to build some sort of crazy machine.  This confirmed to me that teaching is complicated and difficult work.  That’s why I love blogging!  You are communicating with people who understand what a day is like.  I guess that’s what Katie was thinking when she planned her link up.

So you’ve heard about my day.  What was the day like in YOUR classroom? 


  1. ha ha ha high five...that's so funny. I can picture it. The big eyes and stopping in their tracks. I also LOVE the solution to the morning stand around and get in trouble scenario. So smart. Loved reading your day and now I know I am not alone at 4:00 in the morning. Cheers morning person buddy!!! (and quickly becoming BBFF-blogger best friend forever!)

  2. Only one 50 minute prep a week??? Wow. I thought ours was bad. We have two 48 minute ones :/

  3. I like "Walk and Talk".
    And I wouldn't mind duty if I was just greeting people. :) Sounds fun!!
    You get up waaaaaaaaay too early!
    A Teeny Tiny Teacher

  4. I, too, like the Walk and Talk. Your Cafe #1 sounds like when I'm doing a book talk with a student; I feel so sorry for the student who just starts to talk and I say, "Excuse and so what are you doing?" Then the student will begin again and maybe we'll get through one part of the talk, and I'll have to say, "Excuse and so - focus!" You get the idea. It's no wonder I was trying to pick up a chair I was sitting in with me STILL in the chair and I couldn't figure out why I wasn't able to do it. Thank goodness the student whom I was sitting next to was the only one who knew what I did!! Teaching is a great profession but definitely can be exhausting.

  5. I love seeing other 6th grade classrooms using CAFE in their class! I sometimes wish that we were self contained 6th grade, but I love teaching just ELA to them.

    Thanks for linking up, and retyping!

    Miss Klohn
    Adventures of a 6th Grade Teacher

  6. You should TOTALLY get professional development for that post!!! And bonus points for being SUCH an amazing influencer to those 6th graders . . . WoW!!! LOVED the peek into your world.


  7. 34 sixth graders, my goodness!

  8. I love the way you are teaching math! I have a class like that this year (my 7th graders) and have been struggling to keep everyone engaged and on their personal levels!
    To The Square Inch

  9. OH MY GOODNESS your day starts early!!! I don't even know what 4am looks like ... although it's probably because I go to bed around 2am (I do my best work late at night)! LOVE this peek into your day ... (and I think you should come up HERE for a visit ... the weather's much colder, but the prep time is much better) ;).

    Runde's Room

  10. Wow you get up early!! I could not do it, props!!

    Thanks for visiting my site :) I'm now a new follower of yours!

    A Cupcake for the Teacher

  11. You have a short student day. What specials do your kids go to? Only one 50 min prep per day. YIKES! I can see why you end up taking stuff how. I am giving you major props for having 34 kids in your class. I have 29 this year and can barely move around my small oddly shaped room. :)

    1. Your day sounds intense! And you have so many students....bravo to you for getiting so much done!

  12. Thanks for sharing! I must be lucky! I teach 6th grade at a middle school and I only have to teach reading and one other prep. My students rotate to different teachers. We have issues with lockers and bullying in the halls... I do have 43 minutes of plan and 43 minutes of team time a day.....


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