Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Decorating Your Classroom

Today I made my annual trip to the local teacher supply store. I love the way it smells in there! That store, libraries, and coffee shops are my three favorite-smelling places ever. Our teacher supply store even has a resident Min Pin to greet everyone!

We're on a pretty tight budget and I didn't want to spend a ton of money, but did want to freshen up my room a bit. I ended up spending about $25 on new bulletin board paper, a new border, new letters and two posters. I've used the same bulletin board paper/border/letters for all 6 years of teaching so far, so I think I earned some new stuff!

My life is complete--I found purple chevron bulletin border (our school colors are purple and gold)! I decided to do a teal background for my bulletin boards and black and white polka dot letters. I also got these two funny posters.

The poster that you can't quite see says (on one phone): "Bks R Lke Rly Lng Txt Msgs" and the other phone replies: "Rly?" I got a kick out of that one.

I already have some posters in my room. One says "Excuse Limit 0" and another is a picture of a cute frog looking pensive saying "There was homework?"

I prefer funny, witty, or sarcastic posters to cheesy or inspirational ones, just because I know my audience and the kids would prefer things like this.

I don't go hog wild with decorating in my room. I have a large bulletin board, that this year will be used as our Vocab. Word Wall. I have a small bulletin board at the front of the room that I will use this year as the Class News section, with announcements, school calendar, and classroom rules posted. The front wall of my room is taken up by my white board and Smart board. The back wall has student computers lining it, as well as some filing cabinets. The wall opposite my huge bulletin board is all windows.

Besides my pretty new bulletin board, I don't get into decorating my room too much. I want it to be colorful and pleasant but could never get as involved as elementary teachers do. Hats off to them, seriously. I could never put in that much time switching up my classroom decor according to the seasons. Two of my walls are painted purple and I have pretty colorful glass vases and fake flowers adorning my window sill. On my desk, I have some personal photos and frames, but nothing fancy.

I plan on going in to work in my room on Thurs. and will try to snap some pics.

So how do you decorate your room? Do you go all out? Change things up every season? Think less is more? Any good finds at the teacher supply store?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

How do you handle late work?

I think one of the most frustrating things about teaching is when students don't complete homework on time.

Unfortunately, it happens quite a bit. Students either say they completed it but it's at home, they did it but their home printer broke, they forgot they had it, etc. The excuses are always plentiful.

I have thought long and hard about how to combat the late work. What's super frustrating is that 90% of the time, I give them at least 5 min. at the end of the hour to start on that night's work and many will just close up early, or they will start working on it but totally forget to finish it by the next class period.

So far, here's how I handle late work:
For every class BUT my college class, they can turn in late homework one day late for half credit.
*It started 5 years ago as a dept. policy that NO late homework was accepted. The problem was, SO many kids got zeroes and were not doing the work, which meant they weren't passing the tests, etc. It is definitely their responsibility to do the work and do it on time but I also just wanted them to DO it, which is why I transitioned last year to my new policy now that everyone kind of does their own thing in my dept.

For my College class, no late homework is accepted, but I will accept major essays one day late for half credit. This policy will not change; it's a college course and should be more stringent.

So mainly I'm bouncing around ideas for how to handle late work in underclassmen. I know some of my fellow teachers give homework detentions. If a kid does not have it done the day it's due, they can turn it in the next day for 75% OR they have a homework detention, where they have to sit after school with the teacher and complete the assignment for 50%. If they don't serve that detention after a couple days, it becomes a referral.

The teachers who use this, like it. It is more bookkeeping on the teacher's end to keep track of who didn't have which assignment and how many percentage points they earn and who has how many days to serve, etc. I would need an organizational system for this.

I also saw the Pink Slip idea over on Hangin' with Hekken today that I really like. This puts the onus on the kids to keep track of how many points they can get for late work and you have something tangible with their signature that proves they did not give you any work. (I have taught for almost 6 years now and have NEVER lost a student paper, but one of their favorite excuses for missing work is that I must have lost it!).

So I am considering typing up my own pink slips and using that, possibly also using the three-day late policy she has on hers too.

So what do you do? Do you allow late work at all? If so, how many days late will you accept it and what percentage can they earn? Anyone ever tried homework detentions before?

Monday, July 22, 2013

Teaching Irony (you CAN use Alanis Morissette)

I opened a store on Teachers Pay Teachers! For more project ideas like this, visit my store here.

One of the literary devices (now known as Tier 3 words in Common Core) we teach is irony. I usually teach dramatic, verbal, and situational irony in relation to whatever literature we are reading.

Sometimes, it's hard for kids to grasp irony. Verbal irony is pretty easy, because it's basically sarcasm, but the other kinds, not so much.

It doesn't help that many of them hear irony and automatically think of this song:

Unfortunately, as you have probably heard, many of the "ironic" statements in this song are not actually ironic at all.

BUT that doesn't mean you can't use the song to teach it; you just make the kids get involved.

I'll usually play the song and video, which many have heard before, and ask them to explain the ironic examples. It's kind of a trick question because many aren't. I usually have one or two students who will point that out, but if not, I will just take the incorrect examples they give and ask them to explain how that is ironic. Many times, they will then catch the mistake.

So after we discuss the fact this song is really a misnomer, I pass out the lyrics and in groups, have them fix all of the incorrect examples of irony and make them ironic.

To get them started, I show them an example. I will pick one or two from this College Humor list.

For instance: An old man turned ninety-eight. He won the lottery and died the next day… of chronic emphysema from inhalation of the latex particles scratched off decades' worth of lottery tickets. (The part before the ellipses is what's originally in the song; the students would need to add something to it like they did in the example to make it ironic).

I also just came across this video this weekend that I am going to show after my students come up with their "fixed" version. I think these girls' take on it is pretty funny.

I would hold off on showing this video or the entire College Humor list until AFTER the students have at least attempted revising the lyrics themselves; otherwise, you may get a lot of copycats!

Just a fun, comical way to teach irony, bring in some videos, and maybe school some kids on 90s music who have never heard of Alanis Morissette ;)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Liebster Award!!

Ms. W. from over at Tales of Teaching in Heels ever so kindly nominated me for a Liebster Award! (Update: And I was also nominated by Erin at Miss Lifesaver, so a big thank you to her also!)
This is an award to recognize new bloggers with less than 200 followers. I just started this blog in Feb. (and admittedly have not been blogging as much as I should) and am now up to 20 readers. Hopefully soon I will hit 50 :) So thanks, Ms. W. for the nod!

Below you'll find my answers to the 11 questions she asked of me, 11 random facts about myself, and my nominations for 5 bloggers with less than 200 followers. To accept my nomination, you should answer the questions I've typed below, post 11 random things about yourself, nominate 5 other bloggers with <200 followers and notify them of their nod.

Here are the 11 questions she asked of me with my answers:

1. How long have you been teaching? This year will be my 6th year of teaching (wow!)
2. What's your favorite teaching/coaching moment? Rapping Shakespeare with my students was definitely fun ;)
3. What's your favorite blogging site? (it doesn't have to be related to teaching)
As a new homeowner, I like a lot of DIY/home decor blogs. One I read frequently is Young House Love.
4. Which store is your favorite place to buy things for your classroom? I like a local teacher supply store, as well as Hobby Lobby.
5. What advice do you wish you got as a new teacher? The first year will be tough and will probably make you cry at times, but just keep swimming. It DOES get better!
6. What three things are always in your teaching bag? green & purple pens, highlighters, calculator
7. What teacher inspired you as a student? My high school band conductor (I was a huge band nerd!) Her love of her students and her passion for teaching was so inspiring. She treated us like we were her own kids and truly was invested in our success and our lives. I still keep in touch with her today and will never forget her.
8. What do you love most/worst about teaching? Most: Interacting with kids and when they "get it"
Least: Grading papers on weekends!
9. What's your favorite piece of technology to use in the classroom? How do you use it? The Smart Board I just got installed in May! I haven't had a ton of time to use it with students yet, but so far I have annotated articles with them on it, which was cool.
10. How do you plan to incorporate the new Common Core Standards this next year? I'm on the CC committee for our district, along with my dept. chair. The first thing we are going to focus on is changing the way we do vocab. No more vocab. workbooks with random word lists. We are now focusing on tier 2 words from the lit. we read, as well as tier 3 words that come from our reading selections.
11. What do you love to do when you aren't teaching? Read for fun, travel, play with my dog

Aaaaand my questions from Miss Lifesaver:
1. How do you seat students in your classroom? I let them pick their own seats the first few days of school, see who their friends are that they choose to sit by, and then make sure to NOT sit them by those kids.
2. How do you solve the dreaded "I can't find my pencil" issue? Each student gets 3 freebie passes for the semester to use when they forget supplies or homework in their locker. Once they have used those passes, they owe me a 10 min. detention to go get forgotten supplies.
3. What's a typical lunch for you at school? Leftovers from dinner the night before or a big salad
4. What one technology do you want most for your classroom? It had been a Smart Board but I finally got that :) It would be nice to have an ELMO.
5. What hours do you typically work in your building? 7:30 to 3:30 or 4
6. Do you see yourself teaching the same subject/grade in 5 years? Maybe, maybe not. I have always been interested in teaching at a community college.
7. If you weren't teaching, what would you do? I would LOVE to be a full-time author!
8. What is the best TPT resource you've ever purchased? n/a
9. Whose blog are you always excited to read and why? I love to read all the other secondary blogs, just because I feel like they are so much more rare and it's something I can really relate to.
10. How much do you collaborate with colleagues? Quite a bit, esp. teachers teaching the same courses as me.
11. What is one thing you hope to improve on as a teacher this year? Improving my questioning techniques and incorporating even more technology

11 Random Facts about myself:
1. I grew up dancing competitively.
2. Because of dancing for so many years, I have really strong toes and can pick up stuff with them.
3. My favorite U.S. state is Hawaii.
4. I've never left the country yet :(
5. I actually like vacuuming.
6. I'm an only child.
7. My favorite holiday is the 4th of July.
8. I've been married for two years next week!
9. I think my dog is my child.
10. I have a Master's in Writing.
11. I like school so much that I cried on the last day of Graduate school.

My 11 questions for my nominees:
1. How long have you been teaching?
2. Did you ever consider other careers besides teaching?
3. What do you like most about your school?
4. What's your favorite lesson/unit you have taught?
5. Name 5 things always on your desk at school.
6. What's the hardest thing about being a teacher?
7. What's the best vacation you've ever taken?
8. How many schools have you taught in total?
9. What is the most essential item/thing you do to make it through the school day?
10. Describe your favorite outfit you wear to teach.
11. What are your favorite hobbies?

And my 5 nominees are:

Go check out their awesome blogs!