Tuesday, July 23, 2013

It's a little sneak peek! The makeover continues...

Here is another quickie post for you so that I can share a few little gems from my new room. It has truly been a labor of love and I cannot wait to share the final reveal with you. First up is a little bulletin board fluff!
This is a super simple recipe for cuteness! There are tissue pom poms (1 large green and three small blue purchased at Party City), 5 doily punched paper medallions (Martha Stewart- these came in set to be put together and used as a bunting), and to top it all off, a glittery ladybug and a butterfly. All of my bulletin boards are covered with heavyweight black broadcloth, green and white polka dot borders (Teacher Created Resources), and topped with white Bordette borders. I love the look of layering the borders and after having black boards last year, I would never have anything else. I LOVE the way they look and truly highlight the student work that is displayed.

Next up, I spent a little more time in my small group area. Here is the shelf as is stands now. Although, I may tweak it a little before the final reveal.

I am LOVING this shelf. It is hard to tell in the photo, but the bottom is skirted and is covering dozens of games and puzzles that can easily be taken out when needed. I purchase the green bins and black baskets at Daiso. Living near the bay area, we are blessed to have Daiso stores everywhere. It is like a 100 yen store (Japanese dollar store). Most of the items are $1.50. I get TONS of things for my classroom here. I prefer it over the Dollar Tree or the Target Dollar Spot because it is just made better. The tubs that I buy here are very durable and are uniquely cute. These green bins are some of my favorites because they are round in the front and squared off in the back. They are adorable. If you don't have a Daiso near by you can order online HERE, but you have to buy them in sets and it is a limited offering. Now back to my shelves! The glass jars on the top are from Big Lots (only $5 each). They are definitely the icing on the cake!

Last up today is a project that I just started, contact paper cuteness.

This picture is not the best, but you get the idea. I did this last year and it was so cute that I had to do it again in my new room. This time in lieu of the zebra, I went for a subtle pale teal and white quatrefoil design (Marshalls). I am not going to cover all of my surfaces, but just use it as accenting. If I have the time, I would like to use it alongside some chalkboard contact paper for the outside of my bathroom doors.

Well, this is my last week of summer school (halleluiah!) and now I can get into the classroom for longer periods of time (when I am still awake). These 10pm nights in the classroom are taking their toll. My littles are definitely worth it though and I cannot wait to share this space with them!

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Makeover Continues

I was able to get into the classroom for a few hours tonight. My wonderful son worked on organizing my picture books while I worked on the word wall. I even got one of the trees started! I will be posting a step by step tutorial of the tree build for those of you who would like to add one to your classroom.  I am so happy with the way the room is turning out. I am actually giddy!! I will be in the classroom all weekend, so get ready for LOTS of photos.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Never Ending Classroom Makeover

I thought that I would post some quick progress photos of  my new kindergarten classroom.  I started in one corner and have been working my way around. I started with the space that needed the most work (lots of painting). Below is a photo of my playhouse. It was UGLY before. It is almost completely finished! I need to upholster one more panel, hang the window box, and add a few little goodies to the inside.

Here is a little picture of my shelving. Before it was mismatched sponge painting with 80's stencils, now it is shiny black with some fun border trims and a black skirted bottom. I have another shorter shelving unit that was also redone to match.
This is what I have left to tackle! Believe it or not, I feel confident that it will be finished soon. I can't wait to share the final room photos!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Question Generating with Littles {a FREEBIE Too}

As an I.B. PYP teacher, question generating is something that I do with my students regularly. From the first day of the unit on, students are asking questions that guide the inquiry. Question generating with young students can be quite difficult. Many times, the questions will be vague, repetitive, off topic, or lack the depth necessary for valuable inquiry. Over time I discovered few ways to get students to develop meaningful, thought provoking questions.
     The first is quite simple, unpack the central idea really well. If the students have no clue what the central idea means, you will surely get lots of crazy questions. (Like a student that I had a few years ago whose question for our forces and motion unit was "where did the cops take my uncle Peter?")  Help them define essential vocabulary and, when possible, give them opportunities to freely explore realia or participate activities that will give them insight into what they will be inquiring into during the unit. Often, the opening provocation and learning engagements (found in your unit planner) are enough, but if they are a complete flop, find new ways to get them excited.

     Secondly, before you begin generating questions, be certain to let the students know that their questions have the power to guide and direct the learning in the classroom. When offered a chance to powerfully impact the UOI (unit of inquiry), even the youngest student will step up and ask some fabulous questions. Often we as teachers simply assume that the kids know that their questions guide the inquiry, but the littles are still learning how I.B. works and don't always know the important role they play in an inquiry-based classroom.  The key to this is that the teacher must not only remind them that their questions matter, but must also use the questions to guide the learning and, in doing so, should draw the attention of the class to specific student generated questions as they are being investigated.   A student who is investigating something that they really want to learn about is much more invested and will be chomping at the bit to ask more questions!  They will quickly discover that there truly is power in their voice.

     Third, have students generate questions in different ways. Formal question generating is often the path we take, but think about other ways that you could get students to ask some questions. Create a burning questions board that students can add to at anytime during the day. Flip the classroom by having them watch an engaging, thought provoking video at home and then have them bring in three or more killer questions, generated from the viewing, to share with the class. Take them into a new environment to generate questions. If you are studying life cycles, take them to the garden for some question inspiration. Have them generate questions as a follow-up to a field trip or, better yet, give them a questioning journal to record questions during the field trip. Imagine all of the amazing inquiry that will result from a little variety!

     Next, use those questions like crazy! It is easy to post the questions and refer to them now and then, but in order to ensure a steady stream of increasingly valuable questions, you have to infuse them into your daily routine, even if it is only for a few minutes here and there. When I was an I.B. newbie, I would work really hard the first two weeks to squeeze questions out of the kids, I would post them, and refer to them now and again, with a final review the week of the summative assessment. As a result, I rarely got new questions mid-unit and the excitement of the inquiry would fizzle. When I discovered how powerful the questioning cycle could be, it changed everything. I found that by taking time to regularly look at questions, discuss them, answer them (when the students have discovered the answers), and add new ones, I had a continual flow of questions, increasing in quality and focus. 
    Lastly, the littles need guidance as to how to write great questions. I call them "killer questions." At the beginning of the year the students are introduced to the process and we practice, a lot. Before every formal question generating session, we review the five traits of a killer question (look below for the FREEBIE).

Killer Questions are
1. on topic
2. focused
3. ask something that you don't already know
4. make you think
5. are answered with at least one sentence (for older students I would increase this number).

When I first introduce this to students, I use a kid friendly, generic topic like candy. I prepare several questions (some killer, some not) and have the students work in groups to determined whether they fit the rules or break them. They then take the "not-so-killer questions" and rewrite them together to make killer questions. When working with unit question generating, we go through the same process. Prior to sorting the questions for inquiry, they critically reflect on their questions within groups to ensure that they are "killer questions." They use the traits as a guide and if the question needs some help, they work together to make it better. It truly is an amazing thing to watch!

While I still get the questions like, "Who invented the penis flytrap?" the overall quality of the questions is significantly better. I hope that this helps you in your question generating journey! I would love to hear any ideas you have for getting killer questions.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

I am back!

Well, it has been two months since my last post (YIKES) and I am so glad to be up and blogging again. Between closing out the school year, moving to a new home (after 7 years of collecting), moving to a new classroom, sending my hubby to Kenya and my daughter to Mexico, and teaching summer school, my life has been CRAZY. I knew that it was all going to come at once, but I was still not prepared for it all. I am nearing the end of the chaos and I am so glad. My house is now unpacked, I am half way through summer school, my hubby is home from his trip, and my daughter returns tomorrow. The only major task that I have waiting is my classroom and it is a whopper! I don't finish summer school until 4:30 each day, so I am only able to get a few hours a day in until I need to get home. I am planning on spending all of Saturday there so I at least feel like I put a dent in it. Here are a few photos of how it looked yesterday when I left:

Crazy isn't it? I will be sharing the progress photos as I build the room. I am thrilled that I have so much space to work. It is going to be a back breaker, but will be so worth it!
Here are my notes so far (I think that I need three of me!):
Join me Saturday for some progress pictures!


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