Sunday, September 22, 2013

In which I talk about school incessantly...

Since nobody reads my unknown little blog, and I'm okay with that, it's kind of like my online journal. I've been working on school work all morning long, so it's on my mind and I want to "say it out loud" to someone. This seems like the best place for it.

I teach third grade this year and I love it! But being at a new school in a new grade, there is a lot of work to be done. I like to think that all the work I am putting in this year will make everything a lot easier next year. I will beg and plead (and refuse to move, if it comes down to it) to stay in third grade forever. I know my principal likes to change things up, but that is not a worry I need to focus on in September! So I am working very hard these days just knowing this will all pay off in the long run.

Let me lay out my system for you, dear imaginary readers. I teach third grade language arts and social studies. My partner teacher teaches math and science. This year, we are team teaching. We have classrooms that have a "curtain wall" dividing them. We've open up the curtain and mixed up our classes. Basically, we have thirty kids and two teachers in a self contained environment. Only I am still only responsible for language arts and social studies and she is responsible for math and science. We just take turns teaching and supporting each other. So far, it works beautifully. We've been doing it for two weeks and we've pretty much ironed out all the kinks.

Now, here is my plan for teaching. Each week, I choose a reading strategy, a grammar skill, and a story from our reading book. 

Monday is word study day. I give the spelling pretest and then the list of vocabulary words. My students look the words up in the glossary and record them in their personal dictionary. Then they listen to and follow along with the story on audiobook. (Different spelling activities are assigned for homework each night.)

Tuesday is reading strategy day. I have a prepared half sheets of notes about the chosen strategy. These are the things that are tested on district benchmarks throughout the year and the state test in April. We've already covered summary, inferences, and character relationships. This week we are doing locate facts and details. So I introduce the strategy, they glue the notes into the reading section of their reader/writer notebook, and we do a crafty/hands on/fun activity to apply the skill. This is usually a foldable or graphic organizer or the like. They read the story again with their table groups then we do the application activity.

Wednesday is Critical Thinking Questions day. They read the story independently, then answer the 5 critical thinking questions from the book after their story. These are also done in the reading section of their reader/writer notebooks.

Thursday is Writer's Workshop day. I have a prepared notes page for the weekly grammar lesson. We've done singular and plural nouns and we are doing common and proper nouns this week. I introduce the topic then we brainstorm and make a class T chart/poster. They glue their notes into the writing section of their reader/writer notebook and then write a story on a given topic that relates back to the story of the week. This week it's about things we collect. Then, they use two colored pencils to search for and underline their common and proper nouns. Later it may be verbs, adjectives, compound sentences, whatever. They are applying the grammar lesson to their own writing. Then I have a worksheet to complete on the topic.

Friday is Poetry day. We do our Spelling Test. Then we read a poem. I have been searching online for various poems that go along with our weekly story. We read it as a class and discuss the poem. Then they glue that in the reading section of their reader writer notebook, write two sentences, making a text to self and a text to text connection, then they illustrate their poem.

Whew! I also have two or three social studies lessons during the week. We take turns teaching science and social studies. Luckily, another teacher on my team plans those. We also have a set time for a read aloud and independent silent reading each day. That's a school wide initiative. We also spend fifteen minutes at the end of each day writing in our reflection journals. Basically, writing about what they learned each day. That's also a school wide initiative.

Stations is the last thing we are working the kinks out of. We are trying to set aside about forty-five minutes in the afternoon for stations. The current plan is to have eight stations. Two Language Arts (one independent/hands on activity and one reading with the teacher), two math stations (again one independent/hands on and one with the teacher), one science, one social studies, and two computer stations. Since we have combined our classes, we have 8 student computers. The plan is for the kids to do two stations a day and get through all eight stations in four days. Friday's station time will be spent on Ketchup and Pickle Time.

Today, I made a list of all the things I need to do to prepare for the upcoming week each week. Since I am determined to follow this weekly routine, my prep work should also become routine. Then I made it cute and printed it on card stock, of course. I broke the list down by day, Friday, the weekend, and Monday. So far, it made things feel less overwhelming and I should be pretty well prepared for the week.

Well, that's all my current thoughts on school. I still have papers to grade and a quick trip to Walmart to do. I need pretty plastic folders and another bowl for taking my lunches. Plus laundry to work on, finger nails to paint, a movie to watch, and dinner to cook. I better get going!

Until next time...

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