Sunday, November 10, 2013

Leaving schoolwork at school...

Back in March I posted a blog about managing my time throughout the week to make sure I didn't bring any work home over the weekend.  I'm back to report that IT IS WORKING GREAT!  As a matter of fact, I donated my teacher bag and I only bring my lunch box to work each day. 

There is only one exception: Thursday nights.  Thursday nights I bring home anything I may need to complete lesson plans for the following week.  This is usually minimal because I make sure I have a copy of the novel we are reading at home, and many of my other documents are accessible by email.

I'm not saying that I don't ever do work...I mean, sometimes I enjoy creating something fun and new for my classroom, but I don't bring work home (aside from one night of lesson planning). 

Here's how I do it:

1.  I stay after school until 4:30-5:00 each night.  Everyone once in awhile I leave a little earlier, but there are nights when I stay until 5:30.  It all evens out.  During this time I grade papers, make copies, make parent phone calls, send emails, etc.

2.  I immediately enter grades into the online grade book.  If I have to grade an assignment that takes awhile (like essays), I make immediate note of who did not turn in an assignment, and I add the zero in the grade book so kids and parents can see that something is missing.  Then, I am able to grade the papers as the week goes on, and enter the rest of the grades when they are done.  Because I teach three sections of Literacy and have to deal with a LOT of essays, I spend good time with my students doing individual conferences.  This time is valuable to them, but it also familiarizes me with their essay.  So, when it comes time for me to grade the published essay, I've already read their rough draft and reading the published draft goes a lot faster. 

3.  I only make copies after school.  I do this for good reason:  If my teacher friends who share the same machine have time during the school day to make copies, the machine is almost always free after school.    

4.  I don't leave a mess.  I straighten up the main areas of my classroom.  Then, at least once per week I try to straighten up a zone.  I have a table near the entrance to my closet that ends up catching the stuff I move around throughout the week.  I cleaned this table off on Friday and it felt great.  Next week, I hope to remove anything from my closet that I don't need anymore.  I'll let you know how that goes. 

A Little Vignette, if you will:

Three weeks ago, I stared my guided reading lesson plans.  15 different groups at many different levels.  I had 15 different books with 15 different plans.  I worked my tail off making sure I had a rough outline of each of these lessons.  The only thing I had to do was type them up and write up my shared reading plans.  But, I left them at school and didn't realize it until I was at my car and locked out of school.  I sent a quick email to my principal to let her know I left them there, and my normal Thursday night lesson plan email was postponed until I could get back in and have time to type them all up.  Well, I took it all home with me that next day...a Friday...a day when I'm not supposed to bring work home.  But, I had to make up for my mistake.  From the moment I put that stack of lesson plan papers in my car, the GUILT that I have unfinished work to do hit me like crazy.  I can still feel the sweating and shaking like it was yesterday.  I knew that if I didn't do those plans until Sunday, that my entire weekend would be spent with that pile of work staring at me because it was unfinished. 


Do you have any tips that help you stay organized and on top of your paperwork? 


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Spelling Centers

I try to make learning interesting for my middles, but sometimes I miss working with younger kiddos with fine motor skills and arts & crafts.  Yes, I can do arts & crafts with my kids...I just find it much harder to manage the shorter periods and an arts & crafts project.  I'm sure other middle school teachers can relate. 

So, I started making some activities for my friend who teaches in our lower school.  And OMG these turned out great!  She read the book, Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes, where the main character (a mouse named Chrysanthemum) loves her name until others make fun of her, and then had her students share their names using this spelling center.  Here are the results after just doing one part of my spelling center:

Students cut out the letters of their name and glued them to the page.  Each letter has a value, and students were able to create an addition number sentence based on the letters of their names.  She said students really enjoyed this activity, and also loved sharing out their total values. 

This is just an introductory activity to prepare students to work on a similar number sentence activity with their weekly spelling words, or a challenge activity for students to find the highest valued word within a given set of letter tiles.  The weekly spelling list activity allows students to evaluate the "values" of their spelling list with a data collection sheet. 

P.S.  Each of the activities in this spelling center activity have an alternate page for teachers who prefer not to use glue. 

I hope to make more activities like this because I had a TON of fun doing it. 

For a bunch of free spelling center ideas, visit this blog page.