Teaching Theme

I have survived my first week of school for the year, and actually, things are going quite well. I like my classes. I love the new way that I’m running things (more posts on that later). It seems like it will be a good year.

I changed my Do Nows a tiny bit this year (warm-up, bell ringer, or whatever you call it). On Thursdays, our concept is Terminology Thursday. I pick one literature term that all the kids should know, and I teach or review it with awesome examples. This week our lit term was THEME. Now, I’ve always struggled with teaching theme. Kids get it confused with main idea and just randomly picking something that happened in the novel. BUT this year, I finally got it right. Out of curiosity, I googled “teaching theme.” This video popped up, and my way of teaching theme will ALWAYS be this from now on.

I used her example of Finding Nemo with my kids, and they loved it. We had an awesome time talking about theme, which has NEVER happened before for me. The kids understood it, enjoyed it, and really were paying attention. I especially love the way that it goes from a topic to a theme. So how do you teach theme?

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Classroom Reveal!

And Miss Bowman said, “IT IS FINISHED!” My room is complete and hopefully will not need to change anymore before the first day. I’m quite pleased with it, I must say! Here’s the finished product.

Here is a quick overview of the back and front of the room.Front of the ClassBack of the Class
At the front of my room, I have two bulletin boards. One is my information board with a calendar that I use for posting important due dates. The other is a motivation board that is covered in song quotes. I will be encouraging students to fill it up this year. On the whiteboard, I have an agenda posted for all three of my classes, so I can avoid the question, “WHAT ARE WE DOING TODAY?!” as much as possible!

Info BoardMotivation Board

AgendasAgenda

I have my beautiful new podium posted with my awesome director’s chair that I bought from Pier One Imports. This box beside my chair is useless right now, but I think I might use it to hold my books that I will be reading with the class. My class phone is beside this with some random stuff and my placeholder bookshelf. I’m in love with my Shrek coffee cup though. I got it at Goodwill for $1. Also notice the “This is a NO Whining Zone” sign!

Chair and Podium

Phone Corner

The other side of my room has my bookshelves that hold my student mailboxes. This is where they store their individual PDSAs and interactive notebooks. Each student has their own. I got these online from IKEA, and I love them!!! I also have my procedures bulletin board on this side. It looks strict, but hopefully it works.

Mailboxes

Procedures Board

Also on this wall, I have my Wall of Shame board, where the kids will be posting grammar and spelling mistakes that they find out in the real world. This should be pretty funny! It looks bland now, but it should be full soon. I also put my differentiated work and absent folders in these crates to keep them in separate location from the student mailboxes.

Side WallCrates

My back wall has my novel bookshelf that will soon be filled with more nick-knacks. Po from Kung Fo Panda lives up top (the only safe place for him). The purple glitter skull is named Yorick (for my English peoples). I also adore my fabric flag of Frida Kahlo, but the kids think it’s weird. (IDC!) The wall behind my desk is for the little happy things that keep me sane. I am loving my new zombies metal sign. I will probably reference it a lot this year, tehe.

Panda Bookshelf

Back Wall Decor

My new desk configuration is AMAZING! I love it so much. I can use my document camera like crazy now with no weird torturous bending. I have my own little private area back here. I have my turn-in tray back here (since I’m lazy). Last but not least are my ugly filing cabinets and closet (don’t look).

Behind Desk

Side Table

Side of Table

The front of my desk is what usually makes my kids laugh at me. I have everything from Spongebob to “I like big books and I cannot lie” lyrics to stupid grammar jokes. This is my personality though, and I like for them to realize that I am indeed a person too! (GASP! TEACHERS ARE REAL PEOPLE?!)

Front of Desk

So how is your classroom looking? Any new suggestions for me? Do you like having all your personal little nick-knacks and funnies around your room?

Summer DIY Project: Ugly Podium

I don’t know about anyone else, but I always have these big plans to get all this stuff done over the summer and I NEVER DO.

Things like: “Oh, I’m going to read this book that I’ll be teaching this year and plan out some reading quizzes and discussion topics.”
How about: “Oh, I’m going to make a pacing guide for how long it will take to teach Julius Ceasar if we read 1 Act or more per week.”
Or my personal favorite: “Oh, I’m going to wake up early every day so I can exercise and eat healthy while I have all this free time.”

Being LazyNone of those things happened. INSTEAD: I ended up reading adolescent novels that I can finish in one day and have music playing in the background while I read. I ended up watching every single episode of Dexter on Netflix. I ended up sleeping until ten on most days, and then playing a game that I like to call “Eat Everything in Sight Because You’re Home Alone All Day and Bored.” So I have enjoyed this mantra to your left all summer long.

PodiumOne thing that I did accomplish was painting the old, disgusting podium that was sitting in my classroom. I inherited this podium with my room, and I think every teacher that has used it has painted it a different color. Without taking the previous layers of paint off, mind you. Needless to say, it was really bumpy from all fifty layers of paint and quite wonky. I brought this bad boy home and gave him a much-needed makeover. Unfortunately, I don’t have a before picture to go with the after picture, but trust me, it’s a major improvement.

Front PodiumFirst, I had to take all the old paint off. When I say that there were fifty layers of paint, I wasn’t kidding. Okay, so there was only like five layers, but that is still a lot. The bottom layer had student names all over it. (I wonder if there was really a student who liked to be called Pumba, but I’ll never know.) Then after the paint stripper had burned my eyes out of the sockets, I sanded it down. My dad then added a new strip of wood to the lip of the top because it was falling off and badly broken. He also secured the bottom so that it wasn’t so wobbly. I gave it two coats of black paint. Then a couple days later, I did my multi-colored polka dots.

I have to say, I wasn’t too sure about how it was going to turn out, but I LOVE IT. My mom is a teacher too, and now she wants everything made of wood in her classroom painted with polka dots. *SIGH* I should have known not to do any projects around her. What do you think? Oh, and is it inappropriate to paint on the top part: Bang Head Here? Just wondering. For now, I’ll leave it be.

Posting Procedures: YAY or NAY?

Last year I had a ROUGH group of boys in my class. The four of them were great friends and really should have NEVER EVER NEVER been in a class together. They were the type of kids that have a rough life at home, and it reflected in the classroom. They had trouble interacting with others in a positive way. They would only talk to me if it was smack or negative. They thrived on making each other laugh and making me grit my teeth. The other students in the class hated them and made it quite well known. I broke up two or three fights that were two seconds away from being fist fights. It was a struggle. I read all the resources that I could find about classroom management. I talked to all my teacher friends and asked for advice. I talked to my school’s administration. I talked to their football coach. Nothing helped. It was a constant power struggle for who was in charge of the classroom. I let them win. I was tired, and I had had enough.

THE Classroom Management BookWhy am I telling you all this, you might ask… Well, this summer I read THE Classroom Management Book written by the Wongs. It was an amazing read, and I very highly recommend it for all teachers. It had many techniques and procedures for everything from preschool to high school students. While reading this, I learned that supposedly by posting your classroom procedures and teaching them to your students within the first few weeks of school, you can drastically change the environment of your classroom. Now, I am definitely skeptical after the rough class that I had last year, where I doubt simply posting the rules could have helped these kids to focus and learn. However, this year I will be giving it a chance.

I have typed up all my procedures, and unfortunately I’m still skeptical. I am a young teacher, and I would say that I am pretty laid back when it comes to rules. I have a few things that I am a stickler about, but other than that, I’m chill. I think I got railroaded some last year. I am determined to not let that happen. It is easier to be tough and then ease back than it is to try and get stricter throughout the year. By posting the procedures, I am hoping that I can show the kids that I not only care about them enough to have these in place, but that I also will not allow others to disturb their learning process (like I, unfortunately, did last year).

Power StruggleThere is always room for growth, and for me, there is room for LOTS of it. I look back on last year and that tough class, and I am sad. I’m sad for the four boys who were uncomfortable in my room without structure. I’m sad for the other students who were angels that had to suffer through all the inappropriate jokes, screaming, and cussing. I will not let this power struggle happen again. I have put a few procedures in place specifically to try and remedy these types of situations. I’ll let you know what happens this year and if I think that having procedures posted makes a difference.

What do you think about posting your procedures in your classroom? Have you done this and seen any results (negative or positive)? Did the students have any comments about the use of specific procedures in your classroom?

The Dreaded Day (Sort of)

I know that I’m supposed to be annoyed about going back to school. When people ask me if I’m ready for summer to be over, I growl and say all the things that teachers say like “It went by so fast.” In reality, I’m ready. I can only take so much lying around and doing nothing before I start to go crazy. I have scrubbed my apartment from top to bottom. I did some tutoring for a couple hours a week. Now, I’m ready to get back and do what I love the most: teach.Back to School Cartoon

Yesterday, my mother and I went to my school and took a load of things. It’s always good to have a little help. It’s funny because since my mom is a teacher too, I have always been dragged into helping set-up for the first day. Loading and unloading bookshelves, hanging bulletin boards, and all that fun jazz has just been part of the job. Now that I’m a teacher, my mom is also asking me what she can do to help. It’s really the best kind of support that a new teacher can get. Plus when she retires in a couple years, I get all her stuff!!! And no, I don’t care that it will all be preschool and Kindergarten stuff. My room already looks like a Kindergarten room (just with bigger books and desks).

When you start teaching, you NEED someone to help you. You need a couple practiced teachers to give you advice. You need someone that you can complain to about all the meetings, paperwork, and the annoying changing of the passwords that happens every month it seems. You need someone that has been there and understands, someone that will get why you randomly just bursted into tears when you got home that day. The best way to get everything you need is to have many people like this in your life. You should have people from every subject and grade level. You wouldn’t believe the things that high schoolers and Kindergarteners have in common (like following directions *cough, cough*).

My FamilyThe best part for me is that my mom is also my best friend. My poor father has to listen to our LONGGGGGG phone conversations and stuff. He has recently told me that he just takes his hearing aid out, haha. Either way, I’m so blessed to have such wonderful people in my life to help me through all my problems.

Who is your shoulder to cry on? Do you also tell them all your awful / hilarious stories that happened during the day?

The Joy of School Supplies

Well, it’s that time of the summer… All the teachers are pushing and shoving through the school supplies section of Walmart, searching for the colored folders and cheap crayons that they MUST HAVE. Me, on the other hand, I bought my things early in July, so I could have the best of the best. I thought I’d show you some of the great deals that I got this year. I guess that also means showing you the things that I shouldn’t have bought but did anyway because I have no self-control. On with the show!

The summer sales are the time to pick up the basics that you need all year while they’re cheap. All my classes complete interactive notebooks and individual PDSA folders throughout the year. As always, someone won’t bring one and it falls to me to provide one. I stock up on bound journals and floppy folders while they are super cheap. At Walmart, I found these five packs of notebooks for $5 and the floppy folders were $0.17. I was kind of disappointed in the folders because they used to be $0.10.

Floppy Folders      Noteback Pack

In the clearance section at Walmart (which I scour every time I’m there), I found these project kits that have stickers, border, and other thingys in them. I teach 10th grade English, which is World Literature, so when I saw the continent set, I was super excited. Then I saw the other set with books on it, and I had to get them. They were a dollar a piece. Isn’t that crazy?!

Project Poppers - Front      Project Poppers - Back      Project Poppers - Back Close

DSC00569This might be my favorite purchase that was also from Walmart’s clearance section. Last year when my class held discussions, my kids had such a horrible problem with talking over one another. I had been wracking my brain with how to fix this. I found my solution in this furry monster ball. I have named him Mr. Schneebly (after my favorite movie, School of Rock). This is really a ball that bounces, but it is soft (which is important because I know that it WILL hit someone in the head). For $5, I thought it was a pretty good deal. The brand on the back says Fuzzbies.

Hall PassesAnother issue that I had last year was with my hall pass. Our school uses clipboards as hall passes, and OMG, they are disgusting. Kids take them to the bathroom and put them on the floor while they pee or whatever. YUCK! So when I was at the Dollar Tree the other day, I found these hall passes. I bought one for the bathroom, nurse, office, and just for the hall, in general (because we know that kids always need to run random, useless errands to other teachers). I plan on buying some cheap lanyards to put these passes on, so that they can hang around their neck and not be thrown on the floor like the clipboards.

Funny Tissue PacksWhile at Walmart, I also found some packs of little tissues that have funny sayings on them. I thought these would be good gifts for my teacher friends on the first day back to school. They were pretty hilarious to me. It makes me want to keep them, but that kind of defeats the purpose… They say things like “The dog ate my lesson plan.”

Of course, I also had to buy some boring things like sticky notes, index cards, pushpins, and GERM-X!!! Funny story about Germ-X: Last year, I had a student steal my gigantic pump bottle of Germ-X that was on my desk. He stuffed it in his bookbag! Can you believe that?! Anyway, I also bought some cute, little, multi-colored paper pendants from Hobby Lobby. I think that I will be using them to write my Common Core Standards on, but we’ll see how that goes (*wink*).Extra Supplies

Did you get any good school supplies deals this year? Did you find some cool, new products to use in your room? Let me know!