Saturday, September 20, 2014

Remembering 9/11

In all of my years of teaching, I've always left it up to the social studies teacher to cover important events from history. This year, however, with time in social studies being cut due to increased time in other subject areas, I decided to spend some time weaving these important lessons into my curriculum.

My first opportunity came the week of September 8th when one of my favorite teacher-authors posted this lesson in her blog. When it showed up in my Bloglovin' news feed, I knew that I wanted to use it with my students.

On September 11th, I took my students to the library and showed them parts of a video about 9/11 that was provided by Ms. Ignelzi, our school librarian.
Students engrossed in the viewing of video coverage on 9-11

On September 12th, we went to the computer lab, and students had the period to peruse this 9/11 interactive timeline and fill in the timeline of events.
Students reading, listening to audio recording, watching videos on the interactive timeline from 9/11

On September 15th, Shannon Stanley, the language arts teacher on my team, had the students use their timelines to fill in a graphic organizer and write a summary of the events.

I was moved by the maturity and empathy that my students displayed during the lesson. Strange as it seems, most of my current 7th graders were not born on September 11, 2001. They had heard about airplanes flying into the twin towers, but the tragedy took on a whole new meaning when they saw a video and engaged in the interactive timeline.  On this day, they learned the true meaning of a hero. After this lesson, I am sure that they will always Remember September 11th.

Thank you to Erin Cobb for putting together this lesson and posting it as a free resource in her Teachers pay Teachers Store. 

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Change Can Be Good

Panicked incredulity set like a heavy bolder in my chest as I was told, with less than a week to go before the start of the school year, that I would be switching classrooms. After 10 years in the same classroom, I had no idea how I was going to get everything packed up and moved into a new room before our August 13th start date. I received permission to start packing up my old room, but was told that I couldn't yet begin work in my new room. I was overwhelmed and less than thrilled. I already have a hard enough time handling change, but I was afraid that this would put me over the top. I took a few deep breaths, prayed through my anxiety, and begin packing up 10 years worth of materials. 

Ten years of materials, packed and ready to be moved

Discouragement bubbled up more than once, especially when I realized that the room I'd be moving to was smaller than my room. I had purchased a love seat and recliner for my seating area before I found out about the move, so I really didn't know where I would put everything.
                                               My first views of my new room

 I scoured Pinterest for ideas and formulated a plan. Once I had permission to start moving,  I recruited some former students, and we made the transition to the new room. I still have several boxes that haven't been unpacked, but I am satisfied with the results, and, most importantly, my 7th graders love the room.

My Classroom
Students sometimes work in groups, and I have desks for the first time ever, so this is the configuration that I went with. 

I absolutely love the windows and all of the natural light. Eventually, I'll hang my reading posters and charts on the windows as we cover our standards. 

My back board has a place for announcements, student work, and word work. See the cover that the student computers are on? There are TONS of boxes of books and listening centers housed underneath the workstations. I had nowhere to go with them in the room and settled on this as a storage solution. (Idea from Mrs. M. Nowak.) The boxes contain books for which I had multiple copies, so I put a few copies out for the students and left the rest in the boxes. I replenish the supply as these books are checked out of my library.

Front Board-I used my letters to label different parts of the board.

View behind my desk-The printer/copier/scanner was my gift to myself so that I don't have to go home and remember to print/scan stuff. It has saved me so much time! The candy, gum, and snacks are rewards for my student. The blue bookcase (from Ms. J. McDonald) houses my teaching materials. The organizational unit on top of the bookcase was an idea from Erin Cobb. The labels were a free download on her blog.  
Nonfiction books and resources for my students


I love that this room has these draws to house some of my nonfiction books. I used my self-created labels so that students know the genres of books in the draws. 

My fiction books are housed in these colorful baskets from Dollar Tree. Once again, I used my labels so that students know the genres of the books in the baskets.  
More books-Is there any such thing as too many books?
These labels are inside of my books. This way, students know the genre and level of book they are reading. They also know where to put the books once they've finished reading them. (The ones in my TpT store do NOT say Mrs. J. Miller!) You can download your free sample of the leveled labels here and the free sample of the genre labels here.  

Students have binders, spiral notebooks, and composition notebooks that they keep in my room. The counters are a perfect place to keep them. I am very strict about their materials staying nice and neat. There is a student in each class period who makes sure that everything stays organized. Another perk of my new room is the cabinets under the counters. I have more book than would fit into the baskets on the shelves, so the overflow is in baskets in the cabinets. They are also labeled by genre.

My comfy reading area: the carpet was donated by a businessman in Merrillville, IN. The love seat and recliner (in the far left corner) were purchased at a local Goodwill. Too bad I had just missed the 50% off Saturday, but the price was still unbeatable. I purchased the bean bags (only 1 in view) from Big Lots the previous year. The book spindle was donated several years ago by the parent of a student. The wire shelving unit came from Walmart. It had been at my house, but I didn't need it there, so I brought it to school last year. It's been nice to have the extra storage. The brown cushions on the floor under the window were from a couch that I used to have at home. The small brown side table used to be my husband's, but we didn't need it at home. This reading area is a favorite of my students.

Now that I've been in the room for a few weeks, I must admit that the change has been good. I have loved the opportunity to reorganize my classroom library and get rid of some things that were taking up space. It's true that I wish I would have had more time to get things done before the year started, but everything has worked out just fine. 

So maybe the next time I am faced with change, I won't feel anxiety and apprehension...