Saturday, May 31, 2014

Surviving the Chaos... Hop to a Bundle of Goodies!

Sorry... the Hop is over...

But we will join together again for something fun!
WooHoo! My buddy Kristy at 2 Peas and a Dog has organized a blog hop... and this post has all of the info you need to join in the fun!

I am so glad that you are hopping along with us on this end-of-the year blog hop! For this special event, twenty teacher-bloggers have joined together to bring you some strategies and great ideas! My strategy is fairly mundane... but the links below can take you to some awesome ideas!


First let's talk about my strategy for surviving the chaos that is all too prevalent at this time of year. One of the things that keeps me sane (well... ummm... semi-sane?) is to keep a calendar with every minute detail included. I try to keep a few columns running... Things to Do, Places to Go, People to Call, and Looking Ahead.

This is a very busy time in sixth grade. We have several "culminating activities" on the agenda: Picnic at the Park, Game Day, Awards Assembly and Promotion. Sometimes I feel like my mind is filled with one endless list of details.

So I have lists. LOTS of lists. In fact, this week, I had several adults helping me organize things for our sixth grade picnic while I was still at school. I was beyond grateful for their help, but my control freak nature is always bubbling near the surface. Submit into evidence the list to the right... I'm so glad they still liked me when the picnic was over. And, for the record, it WAS lovely!

I know that list-keeping is a natural strategy for teachers. It's not the least bit novel. But my list making ramps up to a near frenzy in May and June! Those lists guide my day. My coffee and my lists are the beginning of each morning... and sometimes those same two items are close by right before I fall asleep! (No, not the same cup of coffee!)

While the hop is over, you can still visit the blogs below for some great ideas to tame the chaos.
And I'd love to know how YOU are surviving the chaos! Leave a comment below the links so that we can learn from your strategies too!

And just so you know: I used Lovin' Lit's Scalloped Frames (HERE) and Christina Bainbridge's font "CB Plain" (HERE--and on sale today!) for those little dividers.

Thanks for visiting! Happy Hopping!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Bright Idea: "Laptop Kits" to Keep Computer Supplies Organized

WooHoo! I'm so excited to be participating in the Bright Ideas Link Up once again!  And with so many bloggers linking up together, it's like an Idea Buffet!

This month I am sharing a strategy that allows students to keep their computer "supplies" organized...

Every May, as the school year begins to draw to a close, I am reminded about the "systems" we have in place in our classroom. Some are extravagant and some are simple--but combined, these systems help keep things running smoothly.

One simple system that works well in our classroom is the use of our "laptop kits." 

We are lucky to have a computer cart with thirty-four netbooks. They are now five years old and increasingly slow, but students still spend time on the computers almost daily. The computers are kept in a big, blue cart.

After a bit of training, students can access the computers independently, and they develop and use their technology skills on different websites and with different programs. Because students are often using programs with sound--alongside other students who are having a Book Club discussion or who are working with a teacher in a small group--they need to have a set of earphones or earbuds that can remain at school. I encourage them to have an inexpensive pair; nothing fancy is needed for our purposes.

This is where the Bright Idea comes in. Since my students change seats throughout the day depending on the subject or activity, we don't use the desks for storage. They keep their textbooks on shelves, they keep their papers in their binders, and they store things communally using plastic boxes for books and other supplies.

When we started using laptops, it was obvious that students would need a way to store their "gear." The system needed to be accessible, and easy, and literally, at their fingertips. "Laptop kits" were the obvious solution!

I use small heavy duty "zip lock"-type baggies. These have survived the whole year without a single calamity. Each bag has a brightly colored label, making it easy for the students to differentiate their bag from other students' bags.

Inside the bag are the components necessary for students to work successfully (and independently) on the netbooks.

Some students have traditional headphones (These won't fit in the bag.  Darn!), but most have a pair of earbuds--of every color imaginable. And last week, one of my students arrived with a pink glitter set and another had a pair with tiny monkeys! I try to find a few extra sets on sale in the summer and use them for drawings, prizes, and rewards--especially for those who cannot supply a set on their own. Some students also use a wireless mouse, so this goes into the kit--and the part that fits into the USB port goes in the little envelope.

The students have an ID code and a password that follows them through their school years. Students usually memorize these quite quickly (or arrive in sixth grade knowing them). However, students also have access to other programs and sites that require passwords.

Although they try to remember them, some passwords are forgotten or are simply to complicated to memorize. This system helps students locate the information quickly--without interrupting the teacher! I staple the passwords together with the students' names on top to keep them private--but also to keep them all in one place! The password sets are stored in the students' laptop kits as well.

And WHAT is this?

Likely your first guess was right: It's a baby sock! Our netbooks have a hard plastic screen and I continue to be astonished by the amount of dust and fingerprints (etc!) that can accumulate on a computer screen. Two fingers fit perfectly in the sock, and, now and then, a gentle wiping up allows the students to see the screen a bit better. This is not an option for many screen types, but for ours, it's a perfect match.

Here is Sarah's laptop kit safely stored in one of the table boxes for Table 2.

This system is a little more hygienic than storing the earbuds/earphones all together--and we needed a system that wouldn't create a traffic jam at another point in the room. The laptop kits have worked well for us--and it is rare for things to be lost. That fact alone leaves the teacher smiling at the end of the day!

I think the "kit" system could just as easily be used if the baggies were stored in students' desks or transported to/from the computer lab.

Like you, I am ready to start clicking on the links below. There are Bright Ideas from more than a hundred different bloggers, please browse through and choose a topic or grade level that interests you.

Thanks for stopping by. Happy Reading!