Saturday, August 23, 2014

Celebrate! A New School Year!

Discover. Play. Build.
Ruth Ayres has created a wonderful spot for sharing moments from your week. She even has  a page to give you all the details you need to know about sharing your own celebrations. So head  on over and see what everyone else is celebrating. 



This was my tweet at the end of the day on Thursday.  It was an amazing day. I had so much fun with kids. Since I am now teaching mostly upper classmen, I know almost everyone who comes to class. I didn't have to spend a lot of time learning names, so we could get right down to the business at hand.

I started off each class with a seating arrangement activity (we'll do this for the first five days of school).  I don't usually have seating charts in my classes, but I want to make sure that kids have a chance to interact with everyone in the class early on in the semester. They tend to get stuck in the same spots all semester!  High schoolers are definitely creatures of habit, so forcing them to sit with others, even for five days, will help create community. As we form discussion groups and conference groups, I want everyone to feel comfortable with each other.

Once seated, in most classes, we solved group mysteries the first day.


Again, a method to my madness.  Each group received an envelope with clues to a mystery--either a murder mystery or a bank robbery.  They were to divide the clues as evenly as possible and then work to solve.  They could not pass around the clues or put them all out in the middle of the table. The only way to share was to read them out loud.  They had to participate, listen, follow directions, and HAVE FUN.  All this will be needed when we start discussion groups and writing conference groups.

We ended our day with our home base advisory groups.  We have had homerooms before, but they were usually used to hand out information and take Iowa Assessments in.  Our CBE team wants all students to have a positive relationship with at least one adult at school. When we visited Pittsfield, New Hampshire's Middle High School last year, we were impressed with their advisory periods and how they ran. They happily shared info with us, so we could create our own.  Both Thursday and Friday we ran an early out schedule and had advisory at the end of the day.


We will stay with our advisory groups for all four years they are in high school (we've done that for awhile). Our fantastic principal sent out detailed plans on what to do during that time, although if we changed things up a bit, it wasn't a huge deal. We were involved in get to know you activities the first day (and the obligatory dress code rules) and on the second day we talked about student led conferences (for second semester) and what they need in teachers, what kind of learners they are, etc. Since I have freshmen this year, it was great for me to get to know them this way.  I knew all their names by the end of the first hour and even remembered them all the second day!

And so here I sit on Saturday  morning, eagerly waiting for Monday morning.  I can't wait to see where this year takes us....

Stay tuned!






Saturday, August 16, 2014

Celebrating Summer

Although I haven't been writing much this summer, it doesn't mean I haven't been celebrating! This has been a summer of family and friends and not be quite so connected.  Many Saturdays have found us with a cabin full of grandkids.  Our oldest son and his family moved to the lakes area this summer, so now we are all close together. It's been a blast! And Chloe has become quite spoiled with all the attention and activity.  I'm afraid she will have kid withdrawal this winter.



Another great thing to celebrate...quality time with my hubby. Now that he is semi-retired, he is spending a lot of time at the lake with me. We made an impromptu trip to South Dakota and Mount Rushmore, a place I had never been. We had a great trip and are already thinking of where we could go next year.



This week I spent time with friends...golfing, shopping, lunch and just staring at sunsets, marveling at how lucky we are. I have been told more than once by one friend that I am purring....I laughed, but she is right. I have been quite content this summer.



However, the last couple of days I have been restless because

School starts next week!!!!!!!

I am excited to get started. Excited to see kids. Even excited to be on a schedule. I wrote a post about my classroom yesterday. Click here if you want a little tour.  I feel ready for the new year.  I have a general plan for my new class, a couple of ideas to kickstart the old ones. Also, this year, I'll be teaching advanced English for 8th graders. I'm excited about that.  Can't wait to challenge them.

So, long story short, it was a fantastic summer.  Here's to a wonderful school year!





Friday, August 15, 2014

Come. Take a Little Tour....

So is it wrong that I am impatient for school to start?  Kids don't start 'til Thursday, but I am anxious to have them there. Schools seem so desolate without kids in them.

Last week I put together my room and organized some things, so thought I would share a tour of my room today.
Come on in....


I love this view as I enter my room. I hope the kids find it as welcoming as I do (if not, we'll change it!) I'm so lucky to have a principal who believes in creative learning spaces. The collaborative desks are great for conversation, writing groups and kids who just want a desk!  Dry erase markers work well on them for planning out projects and writing pieces. The couch and comfy chair grouping is positioned in front of a wall strip of plug-ins. It makes a fun seating area and charging station for laptops (we are in our second year of one to one). And, of course, my classroom library takes up a lot of space!




The tops of the book shelves showcase books that are important in my life.  They track key books in my reading life (one of the first things I will talk about in class).


Gone With the Wind was the first "adult" book I ever read. It led to a love of historical fiction, sequels, autobiographies and "behind the scenes of movies" books. And, oh yeah, a love of rereading favorite books. I've read this book 26 times and always find new things when I read it.




The Wizard of Oz and Wicked. Original and spin-off.  My kids all know of my love for both of these books and their movie/play formats.  Also, notice Rebecca.  I have to credit this book with my love of creepy, scary, supernatural genres of books. I fell in love from the first line...."Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again."


Me, who thought I just wasn't a fantasy person.... But I am a fan of great writing and great characters. When I talk about these books, I talk to kids about letting go of preconceived notions of books.

Then we hit the bulletin board (thank heavens I only have one. I am not a "Better Homes and Classrooms" kind of gal....).


Above the board are the three "rules" in my classroom. Be kind. Do Your Best. Be Respectful.
Covers just about anything, don't you think?

I have another seating area back here. I brought the "comfy " pink chairs in from the area outside my room (which I realize I didn't take picture of). That will be what the kids grouse about the most. But, there has been a lot of not working going on in the hallway as they lounge in these chairs, so this year, they are in the room. I also have several stability balls (great for kids who are a little "active") and a couple of beanbags in the room for more comfortable seating. It doesn't show in this picture, but there is also a solo desk sitting in front of the window for those who need a place to stare and think or work alone for awhile.  It looks out into the courtyard full of flowers. A good spot for a little daydreaming.

The left of the board is my book graffiti wall. Only one quote is on it now, and it is from Neil Gaiman's intro to the 60th anniversary issue to Fahrenheit 451. "Fiction is a lie that tells us true things, over and over."  My college prep literature class will read this first this semester....more about that in another blog post.

The right of the bulletin board wasn't done when I took this picture, but I created it from this:


I have always had a "quote" wall in my room. A place to record all those crazy things kids say in my room. This year, though, I decided another graffiti  wall would be fun. So I painted my closet doors with whiteboard paint. I'll let the kids fill it with writing.


And, we end with my favorite poster. One I've had for a very long time, even before I found my community of writers....


So there you are. A short tour of my room. My home away from home. I love the bright colors and comfortable places to sit. I'll bring plants and pillows back in when I start next week.  And starting Thursday, it will be noisy, messy and chaotic. Nothing will be where I put it. Kids will rearrange to make things comfortable for them. And you know what? It's OK. Because it's their home away from home too.