Teacher Feature- New Adventures in First Grade

Hey, friends!  This is Michele Smyth joining you from New Adventures in First Grade !  I am getting ready to begin my 6th year of teaching.  I started in kindergarten and made the switch to first grade last year.  What a busy year!  For the first time, I am staying in the same classroom (I'm on my 5th one!).  This has given me some extra time this summer so I am really trying to make the most of my time away from the building.  As we all know.... teachers never REALLY take the summer off.  I am so excited and honored to be with you this weekend sharing some summer ideas.

I've only been out of school for a week (Michigan starts later), so I'm slow with my summer To-Do List.  Each summer, I try to focus on a few things that will make my teaching practice stronger and my family's life easier when school begins.  Here's my list!

Teacher's Summer Top 10
(in no particular order!)

1.  Take time to enjoy friends and family.
Too often, we let the summer go by and we have missed the opportunity to spend time with those we value and love.  I cannot tell you how many times I have been at the computer or doing school things, instead of playing in the year with my kids or calling a friend.  To quote Ferris Buller... "Life moves pretty fast.  If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." 

2.  Lead a "reader-ly" and "writer-ly" life. 
We teach in a reader's and writer's workshop format in our district (ala Lucy Caulkins).  I cannot tell you how many times I have been stumped for a personal story to share with my students about a struggle or great experience in a reading/ writing mini-lesson.  Students desperately want to connect what they are learning to a "real experience".  I will often talk about how what they are learning is "what adult readers/ writers" do.  I never what to be plastic or glaze over a teaching point- I want my kiddos to all see the value in what I am sharing or teaching them.  I LOVE reading (like I think I am single-handily keeping Amazon and my public library afloat!).  So, this summer, I am focusing on my writing.  I struggle to make the time and find it to be more challenging.  Aside from blogging, I'm going to try to write letters to family and short stories about our summer. 

3.  Pick ONE professional development book to read and study.
There are so many great books and resources available to us right now.  It's easy to get excited, motivated, and overwhelmed all at the same time.  I always have about 5-6 books waiting on deck, but I am focusing on just one for a study this summer.  Here is my pick (but I still may get to read the others in a less-intensive way).
A Framework for Understanding Poverty
Link to Amazon.com
4.  Commit to reading 2-3 children's books each week (or grade level appropriate).
One thing I learned when switching to first grade is that there is a whole world of children's books, aside from read alouds.  Sure, I knew they were there, but in kindergarten I had few readers who made it to Level H or above.  There are GREAT series for all types of readers that will hook them into reading for pleasure.  As I read, I am making a list for my students to have for next summer (and to add new items to my classroom library).

5. Read the Common Core State Standards and make notes.
My district is switching over in phases, so I'm not rushing into it.  However, I am thinking about the implications on my teaching and what I can begin integrating in right now to prepare.  This will affect what I purchase and what I spend my time focusing on while I prepare.  I also feel it's important to REALLY know what the standards for each level contain.  For the first four years of teaching, I included the benchmarks/standards in my lesson plans each week.  This helped me learn the standards and how to make the curriculum fit.  If the curriculum does not address certain standards, teachers must fill in the holes.
Visit my blog to find a link to the common core standards.
         Total sidebar!  We have really spent time defining the difference between Standards and Curriculum.  I'm sure you all knew (wink!), but many of us in our district were confused.  Standards are the concepts that students are required to know and understand.  Curriculum addresses the delivery of the teaching (math series, workshop lessons, science program, ect.). 

6.  Check out DonorsChoose.org to help fill your classroom needs.
I have received over $3000 in materials and books from the generous people to who donate to DonorsChoose.  If you are not familiar, DC is a non-profit that is dedicated to public school teachers and classrooms.  Teachers submit a proposal by answering questions and donors visit the web site to support and donate.  It is SO EASY.  The process take under and hour (including shopping from the website).  People are so amazing and willing to help out.  Give it a try- you have nothing to lose!
DonorsChoose.org - Teachers ask. You choose. Students learn.

7.  Create and freeze meals for the first month of school.
This will be a new one for me.  My first attempt at this.  I've been inspired by all of the food floating around Pinterest with freezer ideas.  I did a quick search and found HUNDREDS.  My crazy-organized friend does this every year and I have been envious every time she mentioned what she had "pulled out of the freezer to cook".  I think I'll start with a list of foods that freeze well, then make the grocery lists.  Buying in bulk is generally cheaper, so it will cut costs, too!  I'm thinking that I will do this at the beginning of August.  That will give me a few weeks before I go back to my classroom.

8.  Create a Reader's Workshop tool bag.
This is an ongoing project for me and has recently caught on with the rest of my school.  My awesome principal even bought cute Thirty-One  bags for those willing to make them.  I posted on my blog about them HERE.  I've tabbed 5 books with teaching points and have other items I need while conferring with students.  Favorite part of the toolbox is my conferring guide.  Using the Fountas & Pinnell book for guidance, I have teaching points for word work and comprehension for every level of reading.  Someday, I'd like to add book series in too, but it may be a while!

Product Details


9.  Think about classroom design and make a plan.
We spend so much time in our rooms and it is a second home for our students.  I truly believe that environment is a HUGE factor in learning.  I only put up items that are being used currently by students (anchor charts & such) and enhance their learning.  There is a fine line between fabulous decor and an overwhelming amount of distraction :) .  I do have some purely decorative items up, but I avoid the kitty cat on a limb posters at all costs!  I have two favorite sources for my room inspiration.  The first is a fellow Michigan girl, Melanie from SchoolgirlStyle.com

She has TONS of photos on her blog and even sells some amazing decor items.  I'm all about matching and having color themes.  If you're like me- Melanie's your girl!  My other favorite is Debbie Diller.  I used her book to help organize my furniture placement and to create a child-focused learning space.  You can maximize your time in the room with proper planning (and hold on to summer longer!)

Spaces & Places: Designing Classrooms for Literacy [SPACES & PLACES -OS]

10.  Read and explore blogs!
I'm sure I don't have to tell you this one (wink!).  However, how many of us have taken the time to read past entries.  I have quite a few bloggers that I just found and I can't wait to sit down and read their older entries and learn from them.  Pinterest is great for this!  I can just pin the items I want to remember for the school year and not mess up the flow of reading.  New bloggers start every day, so you'll never run out of opportunities to learn from other teachers.  Don't limit yourself to your own grade level.  I've gotten many ideas from upper elementary teachers for my room and my own children.

Thank you again TBA for this opportunity to share and be a part of this community.  You all ROCK!  Come stop by my blog and say hi.  I'd love to meet you!

Have a happy summer!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you!