Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Modified Spelling Lists and Phonics

As a resource room teacher you will probably be giving alternate spelling lists.  Start thinking now about how you are going to manage that.  I like Rebecca Sitton's spelling word list: http://rmtc.fsdb.k12.fl.us/literacy/files/1200wordlist.pdf  If you look at other sites, you will notice that this list contains Core words and No Excuse words for grades 1-5.  The core words would be the spelling words. This is how she has it broken down:
Core Words: 1st Grade = 1-30 2nd Grade = 31-130
3rd Grade = 131-265
4th Grade = 266-400
5th Grade = 401-600 and beyond

No Excuse Words:
1st Grade = 1-21
2nd Grade = 1-36
3rd Grade = 1-60
4th Grade = 1-100
5th Grade = 1-150 and beyond

I'm going to pretest my students who need a modified list.  We will decide a start point for them.  They will always know what their spelling words are going to be (the next 10 words on the list!).  From a management standpoint, this is as good as it gets.  However, these students also need to study spelling patterns so make sure that is included in your lessons.  Many of my students are in 4th and 5th grade.  Phonics games are too babyish for them.  I found a neat ESL website that has printable phonics games and flashcards.  They aren't babyish and my kids love them, especially the phonics monsters: http://bogglesworldesl.com/phonics_monsters.htm  Play around on the site, there are a lot of good printables there!

Happy Spelling!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Online Plans

Once again, sorry for taking so long to update this!  I'm finally getting back in control of my paper work/life!  I've been looking for a new way to keep anecdotal records - I say new but I really haven't done anything consistently.  My record keeping last year was basically keeping all of their work (writing pieces, running records, math sheets, tests etc...).  This year, I have been doing long extensive projects with my students and I really don't have a lot of concrete work to keep.  I wanted to write notes in my plans but I couldn't find a plan format that I liked besides the one I was using.

I'm not sure why I even cared about my plan format because my plans are useless.  I only do about 50% of what I write in the plans because of meetings and workshops and projects the students are doing in the classroom and class parties.  I don't have time to go back into the computer and move around what I didn't do and add what I really did.  My plans don't help me from year to year because it isn't an accurate reflection of what was done. 

Today, I found a free (for the first year, $7.95 a year after that) online lesson planner (http://www.planbook.com/).  It allows me to put in my 6 day schedule.  You just click on group you want to write plans for and type them in.  There is also a spot for homework which I am using for anecdotal notes. I can write my plans out for the week.  On Monday, if I notice that Johnny really needs extra help with subtraction, I can simply hit "extend" on my lesson.  That sends Monday's lesson to Tuesday and moves all my other lessons for that group down by a day.  If Mrs. Jones need me to push into the room on Wednesday, I can hit "bump" on that groups daily lesson and it will move all my lessons for that group down a day.  I can add Events (like snow days) and it will either come up as a reminder on school days or you can set it as a non-school day and it will move all my plans down a day.  Finally my planbook will accurately reflect what I'm actually doing in the classroom!  It's worth looking into it - especially if you are like most teachers I know and hate your plan format. 

Happy Planning!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Lesson Planning pt 2

Sorry it's been so long since I have last updated.  In August we put an offer in on a house and we are now ALMOST ready for closing (should be any day now :D ).  I also just put in my application for graduate school.  Needless to say, my weekends (and weeknights) are getting really busy with work that isn't school related and I don't want my lesson plans to suffer.  Staying after one night a week isn't working for me right now.  Every time I plan on staying late there is something time sensitive that I have to do at home (usually mortgage paperwork).  I decided to create a chart of my schedule for the week.  My columns are the days of the week and my schedule is the rows.  I've also included a To Do column AND row.  I can quickly map out my plans for the week as well as a to-do list for each group and a to-do list for each day.  Now Monday morning I can type out my plans for the week and make copies for the week during preps.  It only takes me 5 - 10 minutes to quickly map out my week and by the end of it, I also have a list of everything I need to create, copy, and find for the week.  It breaks up the task of planning into smaller chunks of time which is helpful right now when I only have small pieces of free time! 

As always, I hope this helped some of you! 

Until next time,

Becky

Sunday, September 12, 2010

And so it begins...

So as an update to my last post, I do have a classroom now.  If my school gets more students this month, I may be kicked out of it but as of right now it's mine.  I have students in one building but not the other one.  Monday we are meeting to figure out the students at building number 2.  Since I don't have the students that I had last year, I had to go through all of my records on them so I could hand them over to their new teacher.  Looking at my records, I realized that I REALLY needed to change my system.  It's no wonder why I felt like everything was so difficult - I made it 5 times as hard as it needed to be!  I did a lot of pointless work but I guess that's part of learning. 

As for this year, I've decided to use a new system called The Literacy Cafe.  It was created by the same women who gave us The Daily 5, Gail Boushey and Joan Moser.  To sum it up, The Literacy Cafe is a system that lays out how to display reading strategies, assess students strengths and needs, and how to keep track of assessments, lessons, strategy groups, conferences, and individual student notes.  And to top it all off, all of this information is kept neatly in 1 binder, organized by student.  That means that I can easily bring information on individual students to RtI meetings, parent conferences, and classroom teachers without breaking confidentiality.  The paperwork lays a trail proving that my assessments drive my instruction.  Did I mention that this is all neatly organized in a binder? (Binders are by far my favorite way to store paperwork.)

I'm excited to get to school tomorrow so I can set up my binders (one for each building).  I'm going to keep writing and math data on each student in the same binder - unless the binders get to be too big.  Of course, since all these books are directed at classroom teachers, I'm going to have to modify the program to fit my room but as far as the organization of the records, I'm good to go!  I'll keep you up to date on how the program is working for me as the year goes on.  In the meantime, if anyone has used The Literacy Cafe, let me know how it went and what changes you made!

Welcome back to school everyone!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Reality

It's August 31st.  Students come back to school in 8 days.  In my district, we are required to begin seeing students the first day of school.  As of right now, I do not have a classroom, I have NO students, I have no mentor, and I have no copies made because there is no paper.  I do, however, have a list of 40 half days that I will be out of my classroom.  40.  That number doesn't include annual reviews or workshops. 

So to sum this short post up: I have no clue whats going on as far as my job is concerned but I know that my students will be taught by a substitute more than by their teacher. 

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

My Simplified Library

Last year, I spent a ton of money on books.  I bought a lot of chapter books for my students, however, I'm the only person who used my books.  The students took them out of the library so they could take them home.  I used my copies to follow along with them.  I would also bring them home on weekends to read so I could help the students do book reports. 

This year, I'm going to keep all my chapter books at home.  That will leave me room on my shelves for my easy reader book sets, professional books, running record system, paper, and games.  I'm not sure if I decided to keep the chapter books at home because it makes the most sense while I'm split between 2 buildings or because it gives me an excuse to buy the Ikea bookshelf I've been eyeing. 

Mailbox magazines and books with reproducibles will be kept at school where I have access to the copy machine.  I'm hoping that this new system will allow me to stay more organized.  If I was only in one building, I'd bring all my books to school but being in 2 buildings, this seems to be the best option. 

Monday, August 2, 2010

Storage Solutions

I share a room in both buildings I work in.  This was great as a first year teacher because I had access to all of the experienced teachers materials and they were right there if I had any questions.  It made my first year much easier!  However, now I'm sitting in a dining room full of books, posters, and teaching supplies.  Why?  Because all of those wonderful resources I had access to have filled the closets of my classrooms.  We aren't allowed to leave books on shelves in our classrooms because the custodians wax the floors.  They need to be able to quickly move furniture.  So everything came home with me!

To save confusion, label all of the books you purchased with your own money with your name before it goes into your room.  Anything that belongs to the district or building doesn't get a label.  Books I could have probably set on the counters in front of the windows but since I was teaching over the summer, I brought them home. 

But books are just one section of a classroom.  I have math manipulatives, art supplies, pencils, paper, erasers, rulers, games, bookmarks, prizes, different types of paper, etc...  I can't take all these home every year.  And during the school year, all of this stuff stays in MY desk because I had no place to put it.  My area of the room was constantly a mess because I had limited the space I had in my classroom.  There is no point in trying to make room for my belongings in the cabinets because they are full of materials that I can use with my students.  To make room for myself in the classrooms, I am buying a few little plastic storage containers from Target.  You can add wheels to the bottom and each unit has 3 drawers in it.  Right now Target has them in 3 or 4 different colors.  I am going to keep math supplies and games in one, art and writing supplies in another.  During the year, I can keep some light items, like different types of writing paper, on top of the units.  At the end of the year, the custodians can simply wheel them out of the room. 

I am excited to see how much more organized my desk will stay with all of that stuff somewhere else! 

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Desk Essentials

Here is what I am packing to keep in my desk for my second year of teaching...

First, there is the usual items:

1.  Pen/Pencil organizer - I use a cute coffee cup
2.  Pencils
3.  Pens in assorted colors
4.  Stapler
5.  Hole punch
6.  Paper clips
7.  Rubber Bands
8.  Scissors
9.  Tape/Tape dispenser
10.  Post-it notes
11. Some sort of file holder to keep on your desk
12.  Desk Calendar
13.  Sharpies/Markers
14.  Index cards - multiple sizes/colors
15.  Push pins
16.  Envelopes
17.  Stamps
18.  Decorative printer paper for letters home

Now the "extra" things you may not think about:

1.  $5 in quarters to use in the vending machines
2.  Extra bottles of water
3.  Motrin/Excedrin - whatever you may need (may want to keep this in your purse)
4.  Calming CD's to play while the kids are working independently
5.  A few snacks - in case you miss or forget lunch
6.  Some extra cash for birthdays/gifts, PTA/PTO events, school lunch (I never carry cash so keeping it at work is essential for me)
7.  Extra phone charger, in case your cell dies while at work
8.  A few pictures of family and friends
9.  Paper weights - for when you have the windows open.  Several times my kids have run around grabbing papers that were flying all over the room.
10.  Thank you cards for unexpected gifts
11.  Birthday/Holiday cards

I will keep updating this as I think of more.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Holiday Activities

As you go through your first year as a resource room teacher, you will gather a lot of ideas and materials from the classroom teachers.  Get a 1-2 inch binder to hold your holiday materials.  I bought the dividers that are pre-labeled with the months on them.  I set up my binder to follow the school year (started with September) and added a few page protectors to the back.  I started this binder while student teaching so I had a small collection of materials already.  As the year progresses, I make copies of any activity I like.  I can easily just stick it in my binder when I get back to my room.  I use the page protectors for tracers/examples that can't be hole punched. 

PLEASE forget trying to keep all of your materials in page protectors.  You will not have time to pull out all the papers every time you need to make copies.

Only collect activities that you really like.  You don't have time to do multiple activities per holiday.  At the beginning of each month flip through your holiday binder and make copies of anything you will use that month.  Do your holiday activities EARLY.  If you don't, the classroom teachers will ask you to push in so the students can do their holiday activities.  Happy Holidays! 

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Wrapping up the Year

Today I began packing up my rooms.  In one building, I'm switching rooms so I started moving things into my new room.  There is an unbelievable amount of work involved with switching rooms.  On top of that, there was a lot of stuff I should have done before students left (if I had known about them before now!). 

1.  If you have students who are moving to the middle school, contact all of the middle school special education teachers and see what information they want (IEPs, Behavior plans, sample work...).  You don't need most of that stuff the last few weeks of school.  Gather it up and send it out early! 

2.  Write your progress notes/report cards early.  You don't want to do it the last week of school and lets face it, the students aren't learning much the last few weeks anyways. 

3. Start a shred pile/box.  Let the classroom teachers know that any confidential papers they don't want, they can throw in the box (at my school we are responsible for teachers IEPs). 

4.  Go through your filing cabinet.  Hand back any work you want your students to take home.  Recycle any papers that you don't need anymore.  I sent a bunch of  paper home with students as scrap paper.  The kids don't care if there is stuff written on the other side.  Just make sure you don't send another students work home as scrap paper. 

5.  Organize your desk/shelves.  Pick a day and have your students help you.  They LOVE to help and you have 25-40 helpers! Once they leave, you are on your own.  Have students return books and materials you borrowed from other teachers.  They can take inter-office envelopes down to the office.  It will save you a lot of running around the building. 

6.  Find out what materials you need to keep on each student.  I needed to keep draft IEPs for next year, WIAT tests, final progress notes, Running Records, and a few work samples that show their ability. 

7.  Go through your plan book and make sure it looks decent.  We have to turn our plan books in to the principal and you don't want to try to re-write lessons the last day of school. 

If your desk, filing cabinet, and bookshelves are organized and cleaned out before the students leave, packing up is just a matter of boxing books and turning in your keys and planbook.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Spelling

As a resource room teacher, many of your students will probably have a lot of difficulty spelling even simple words.  I have recently started using the students writing as a way to create their spelling word lists.  My plan for next year is to give the students a few weeks to adjust to school.  I will look at the spelling lists they are given in the classroom (and look to see how they are doing so far).  Then I will decide which students need an individualized spelling list.  After getting parents permission, I will use the students writing to determine their spelling list. 
I created a sheet titled "Future Spelling Lists".  Together, the student and I will look through their writing.  We will pick out words that they really need to know and add them to the list.  Set a number of words the student will have each week, say 10.  Assign the first 10 words on the list.  If the student spells the word correctly on the test, put a check next to the word.  If the word is spelled incorrectly on the test, do not put a check.  It can be added to a future spelling list.  If you notice that the student is now spelling the word correctly in their writing, highlight the word to show true mastery.  I am going to keep this list in the students writing folder. 
If you are having trouble finding 10 misspelled words a week, talk with the teacher about current and upcoming units in science, social studies, and math.  Use some of the vocabulary words as spelling words.  Another list could be the names of pets, friends and family members.  I hope you will find this helpful!

-Becky

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Planning

My apologies for not updating in a while!  There has been a lot going on lately and since I didn't follow my own advice, I was short on time.  Set aside one day a week to stay late and write your plans for the following week. Once they are written, make the copies you need and stick the materials into manila folders, labeled with the days of the week. All Monday materials will go in the Monday folder etc...I personally keep these files on my desk in a step sorter. I have gotten my kids used to using these as well. On Monday, I will have the Tuesday folder on the table with the kids. At the end of the period, they can throw their unfinished work into the Tuesday folder for tomorrow. If a substitute comes in unexpectedly, your plans are done and your materials are ready to go. After a few weeks, your students will be so used to this system that they can show the sub exactly where everything is.

-Becky

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Mental Health Days

I really needed a mental health day today.  Although today is more like a get-all-the-paperwork-done-without-students day.  It seems impossible to keep up with all the paperwork I have this year.  I know it's  not impossible but it sure feels that way.  I have service logs (each day I see a student I have to write down the date, time I saw them, if I was out or they were out, and what "day" it is in the 6 day cycle.  If I miss a day, I have to write down my make up times.  I have to turn these in to 3 different people...well 4 because I have 2 principals...at the end of each month.), IEP's to write, end of the year reflections, reflections for my portfolio, forms to fill out for district office, welcome letters to write for my incoming summer students, and gathering lesson ideas for the summer students.  After making that list I'm starting to feel like one day off isn't enough!  It doesn't help that I have a sore throat and I feel like I'm starting to get a sinus infection.  I'm going to go curl up and watch some HGTV for a while before I begin to tackle this daunting to-do list. 

-Becky

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Schedule

My schedule changes every 2-4 weeks. Students are added, moved around, or no longer need my help. It's easy to just copy and paste kids around in your schedule but I really recommend printing out a new copy of your schedule EVERYTIME it changes. Keep them all in a folder with the dates of the changes and why it changed. I would also keep a list of students in that folder. When you get new students, write down their name and the date they were added.  If students are switched from another teacher to you, have them email it to you.  You can simply say "I have to go get my next group, can you just email me the name?" Get everything in writing...it's better to be safe than sorry. 
-Becky

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Attendance

How are you going to keep track of attendance? Some schools will require you to take it everyday (especially in the middle school and high school). If not, you should still keep track for your own purposes. My records do not always match the schools (times are off, dates are entered wrong). Mailbox magazine has a lot of helpful organizers for teachers in it. Go to your library and flip through some of them. Look for a class list to keep attendance with. I personally didn't keep up with the organizer I found. My schedule changes too quickly - I see some kids every other day etc... I now keep track in my lesson plans. I have two columns set up. In the first column I list the time, teacher, grade, classroom number, and students names that I see in that time period. In the second column, I write out my plan for the day. I simply put a check or an A next to their names everyday. If students are out frequently, I try to mark the reason. For example, if a student is continually getting lice, I mark the days the student has lice. You never know when that information is going to come in handy!
-Becky

Monday, May 10, 2010

Welcome Letter

After you decide on your rules and consequences, your next to-do list item is creating a welcome letter to students and parents. My letter was very simple. I introduced myself as their child’s special education teacher. I told them that I thought parent-school communication is very important and I gave them my contact information. I also stated that I attached an information sheet to the letter and asked them to fill it out and send it back by the second week of school. The contact sheet asked for:
1. Students name
2. Mothers name, phone, email
3. Fathers name, phone, email
4. Best way and time to contact them
5. Any allergies their child has
6. Blank lines for anything else they think I should know about their child
In your letter, you can also include any special activities you have planned (make sure they are principal approved before telling parents). My school didn't allow me to have my own supply list but if you can, add that as well. Some teachers offer a Hershey Kiss for every book donated to the classroom (and a label with the students name inside of course!). My blackboard site was not up before school started, but if yours is, include information on how to access the site and what information you have on it. There are many pieces of information you can include in this letter but there is also nothing wrong with keeping it very simple. You can always send home other letters.

-Becky

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Rules and Consequences

Once you have a job, writing your rules and consequences is the most important thing on your to-do list. Take your time with this. Choose rules that are easy to understand yet are broad enough to cover many situations. Some of my rules are:
1. Enter and exit the room quietly (I share a classroom so this is VERY important to me)
2. Think before you speak and act. (This covers all bad behaviors)
3. Come in with a positive attitude.

Most of the books I read said you should write these with your students. I think that in a resource room and your first year, you should have them written and ready to go on the wall Day 1. Reveal the rules one by one and go over why each rule is important. Have the students practice each rule before going on to the next. I had my students sign the rules on the first day of school. Then I hung it up in a visible spot. If you spend a good portion of the first week on the rules (in depth the first day, review them the next few days), the students will follow them.
When you write consequences, make sure you pick things that you can stick to. If you are really against sending students to the principal – don’t use that as a consequence. Pick things that you are comfortable with. I like to use a visual system with my students. I use a color system – green is good, yellow is first warning, orange is miss 10 minutes of recess, red is all of recess and a letter or call home. Each student has a pencil name tag that is glued onto a clothes pin. Their pencil is clipped onto the color they are on. Everyone starts at green.  As they break rules, they move to the next color.  Make sure the rules and consequences are posted in the room. 
Also have some sort of reward system in place. Even if it is as simple as “I’m going to randomly reward students who are following the rules.” I give out random tickets (like carnival tickets I found at orientaltrading.com). Students can earn a ticket for coming into the room quietly, helping a friend, following directions, using vocabulary words…anything! My prize bin is organized by the number of tickets things cost. They save their tickets in a zip-lock bag. Review the rules and consequences when students need reminders (especially after long breaks). Don’t forget to go over fire drill exits and procedures etc on the first day as well.
-Becky

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Hello World...

Hello World,
Allow me to introduce myself and my concept for this blog. My name is Becky and I am a first year Resource Room teacher. I teach students from K-5th grade in 2 different buildings. Needless to say, organizing myself to teach 6 different grade levels at 2 buildings was not an easy task. It's still not easy even after 8 months of practice! As I was searching professional books for help, I realized that there is nothing out there for specifically for Resource Room teachers. My goal for this blog is to reflect on my teaching and share with you my tips and tricks for getting through the first few years. I also want this to be a learning experience for me. Please share your ideas with me as I share with you. I hope you will find my experiences and advice helpful. I look forward to sharing with you!

-Becky