Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Importance of the First Day in the Artroom

So in my last post, I shared my Special Needs checklist. While I wait for that form to be filled out & returned, I need to gather info on my own about my students. So I use my eyes and ears during that first class.

During that first meeting I watch to see how individual kids follow directions. Since I use assigned seating on that very first day, I watch to see how the students handle my direction to find a matching card that shows where they will sit.

Are they focused on the task or easily distracted? If they didn't understand/hear my directions, do they ask another student, watch what others are doing or come to me for help?

Once seated, they'll fill out a sign-sheet at each table. On these sheets, I make notations throughout the class about what I observe: Are they listening? Following directions without prompting or re-focusing? Cooperating with those around them? Contributing to the class discussion or talking while I'm talking?

I have 2 activities planned once everybody is seated & signed in:
1. A PowerPoint presentation that explains rules, rewards, consequences, fire drill & lockdown procedures and an explanation of off-limit areas in my room (storerooms, my desk).
2. Assessment drawing

Assessment drawings earn the following designations: E - Exceeds grade level expectations, M - Meets grade level expectations or L - below grade level expectations and sometimes LL for far below grade level expectations.

Behavior & assessment notes/scores are entered on the class list for that first day. As the Special Needs info arrives, that is also entered on the same sheet. All the data is used when I make out the permanent seating chart. More on that in the next post...

Saturday, August 25, 2012

An Ounce of Prevention...

I'm a big believer in preventative discipline. One of the keys to that knowing your students. My planning for this starts before the first class...

To gather info, I created a Special Needs list. This document consists of a checklist for each teacher that contains their student names (copied & pasted off our district website). The categories on this list are: Resource (SPED), Speech, TST (our designation for students performing far below grade level but not labeled SPED), Gifted-Math, Gifted-LA (Language Arts - our school is the district magnet school for gifted), Non-reader, Monolingual/Spanish (80% plus of our student population is Hispanic), Fluent Spanish & English (these kiddos can help translate if seated next to a monolingual student and this also designates the student as an English Language Learner), Medical Needs (allergies, asthma, ADHD w/meds, etc) and new this year - Special Home situation (homeless, lives in shelter, newly divorced parents, etc.) There is also a 'Comment' section where teachers can explain anything not already covered in the list.

Kinder teachers have an abbreviated form since there is not a lot of info on their kiddos yet...

I hand each of my teachers their copy on their first day of class with me - the expectation that it will be filled out & returned asap. Some forms are returned that same day, some much later but I get all back within the first month of school. This information helps me form a picture of the class demographics and influences my teaching strategies for that particular group of learners. I send out the same checklist at the start of 2nd semester since our population is very transient plus the info for some students has changed since the start of the school year...

In my next post, I'll talk about how that info makes it way into my class lists (used for attendance & grades) as well as the seating chart.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Art Table Helpers

You've read here before how I prefer to appoint one person as a helper for each of my table groups. My room is s-m-a-l-l so I don't want everyone and their dog wandering around during clean-up time. I have found that most behavior issues arise during transition times so I prefer to have most kids in their seats while giving helpers specific directions on how to clean up in a timely way.

Anywho...there are always a few who take it on themselves to 'help' the helpers so I was inspired this summer to identify those who should be out of their seats and those who should not. I was shopping at my fave, Treasures 4 Teachers and found blue, printed lanyards in the stuff-a-bag-for-$5 section that seemed just the ticket!

So I tried them out our first week back & the kids felt really special wearing them but...the lanyards didn't 'look right' to me. The curse we carry with us - for something to earn a place in our rooms, 'it' has to 'look right' - right?!

So, I tried sewing a 'sleeve' of patterned fabric over the printed lanyard which was more artsy looking. But it was too time-consuming and my sons (ages 19,23 & 26) said they were too 'girly'.

So then I crocheted a rainbow of cotton yarn over the blue fabric but again was told by my boys that NO boys would ever want to wear them so back to the drawing board!

By now I was thinking of making/sewing my own lanyard with ribbon and keychain rings. Fortunately, I was able to find a rainbow (color wheel) grosgrain ribbon at JoAnn's fabric store.

The tags needed to be able to withstand constant pulling, licking, chewing, etc. so I cut up some of my valuable plastic trays.

I cut the table numbers out of scraps of wallpaper or magazine pages and used book binding tape to secure it all together. The 3-hole power punch in the office was used to punch a hole in the top.

I installed a row of hooks on the side of a cabinet to hold all the lanyards when not in use.

After a week of classes, I can say that it is a rousing success on many levels. The kids take pride that they have something the others do not. The students can easily identify who their helper is that day. I can easily identify who's missing when I'm giving clean-up directions as well as who's wandering when they shouldn't be...

But I still may tweek them a little, I'm thinking about making the numbers more brightly colored - they don't seem quite 'right' yet...

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