Thursday, June 18, 2015

Thinking Thursday...a look back at our year

I have decided to not only use my blog as a way to network with other teachers, but also as a tool to reflect on what works and what doesn't in good Ol' Room 105!

So here is a glimpse into our year!

We started out as a class of 25.  A few more then what one would like to have effective hands on teaching but nowhere near as bad as the stories I hear of people having 30 plus in their room.  We were the inclusion class and had five students that were taking an extra year in 1st to fine tune their skills.  We also had one student who was diabetic, so we all became familiar with that early on in the year.  We had a Special Ed teacher that pushed in every day for an hour and a half of ELA instruction and 3 days a week for an hour of Math instruction.  We also had a Special Ed assistant who pushed in for 2 days for an hour of Math instruction and 45 minutes of ELA instruction 5 days a week.

At the end of September, it was announced that we would be adding a 4th First Grade classroom and closing a Second Grade classroom.  One of my teaching buddies took this opportunity to come down and teach 1st!  Any time you have to split a class and start a new one it is tough. The kids that moved embraced it and we started October as team of 4 First Grades!

Another change this year was I switched to tables!  I do not like desks, particularly in the younger grades.  We don't have basal texts and they just don't know how to organize a desk.  I loved tables, they didn't move around (as much as desks), it really helped to do more group activities, and it provided a cleaner look for the room.  The negative was how we organized our supplies!  We had team tubs at each team.  A team tub included a pencil cup, a team folder, their individual take home folder, and a pencil bag/box.  The tubs we used were cute, but not effective.  I went ahead and used some PTO money I had to purchase three drawer tubs for next year, one for each table!  I hope this is more effective!  I will let you know!

ELA instruction:  Ahhhhhhhhhhhh  my district does not have a curriculum for ELA, what we do have is a pacing guide.  The pacing guide covers Reading Comprehension, Writing, Grammar, Fluency, and Word Study.  We tried to incorporate some themed reading to meet the pacing guide and introduced our firsties to Pete the Cat, the If you give a ...series, Splat the Cat, and Amelia Bedelia.  We also threw in some Frog and Toad and Dr. Seuss.  The problem we ran into was not having actual books the kids could read and hold in their hands.  ELA was something I didn't feel very strongly about at the end of the year and therefore will be a PRIME focus for 2015-2016.

Math instruction: this year our district recommended using Engage NY as a resource to accomplish teaching the Common Core standards!  We jumped in with both feet but as the year went on, it was apparent that my kiddos needed a different resource.  I am not about to argue Common Core standards with anyone, as I feel everyone is entitled to their opinion, what I will argue is that as a teacher, I know my kiddos and I knew they needed something else.  I am all for higher order thinking, but I am a strong believer that if you don't build a strong foundation in the lower will be hard to achieve that higher order thinking as they get older.  I was able to utilize My Math through a trial, with their company.  I really liked how it was laid out and I really feel like the light bulbs were starting to shine in our room.  It was a great resource as we conquered Common Core Math!

Small Group Reading: our ELA block was from 2:15-3:30 each day, and for the last 30 minutes I had both the Special Ed teacher and assistant.  We decided to break the kids up into smaller groups and each work with a group, each day, for the whole 30 minutes.  That left 3 other groups working independently.  Some groups were seen every day and others 2 -3 times a week.  I loved how this worked.  One thing I would actually change and it is on my to do list for next year, is the organization of this time.  I felt very unorganized and felt time was wasted gathering supplies for the first 5-7 minutes.  

Writing:  Please tell me that I am not the only one who struggles with teaching finding time to teach writing!  I hope that our newly created ELA map will allow us to effectively teach writing!  Once again, timing is key.  We must build the foundation for writing, before we can expect actual "writers".

Classroom Management:  One word Class DoJo ! If you do not know what this is, click on the link!!!  My kids really responded to Dojo's.  As the year went on, I included them in creating our positive and negative dojo's!  That was interesting.  About 95% of the time, when it was time to get busy...I would hear the question, can you leave the Dojo's up?  They loved seeing how they were doing and how close they were to their next reward!

Overall this year was a winner in my book!  The final 18 students I ended with will always have a special place in my heart.  It was a crazy year and a year I will always remember, as it was the year I became a MOM!!!!

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