Exploration and Discovery

Exploration and Discovery
The Outdoor Classroom

Thursday, July 21, 2011

classroom is in order- now to plan out the pace and opening weeks

After a week and a half of painting, alphabetizing, and removing extra furniture, the classroom is looking ready for the welcoming touches. I found a closet full of borders, posters, and resource materials and placed what was most relevant to the initial curriculum and basic grammar review- the eight parts of speech and the many regions of Indian tribes of North America. Had a clever aha moment as I was posting the boards on the different tribes to place them according to their location...ie. the Southwest, the Far West, The Plains, The Far North, the Eastern Woodlands. If it helps me remember it will probably help the kids, right?!.I also put up some book covers of some of the classics by the library to inspire reading of books above and beyond Goosebumps and Captain Underpants. I found a beautiful hardback edition of The Secret Garden at the used book store for a couple of bucks; I think of it as the jewel in the haystack that is our classroom library. Hopefully someone will discover it and have the sheer pleasure of holding it as she/he reads it.
I am researching on line, reading textbooks, and gathering supporting materials from Creative Teaching and various Scholastic booklets. There are no shortage of activities to help the kids get the concepts- it is the mapping out of the introduction/review of the concepts that I am working on. Where to start? I want to see how well the kids write at the start, but realize there will be a huge gap between the highest and most basic of readers and writers. I am trying to accommodate the lessons and activities to engage everyone- a tall order to be sure.
I know that the first week will be a combination of team building activities, review, clarification of rules, responsibilities and expectations. I also know that it is best to over plan and to schedule every minute of the day - especially for the first few days . Seating arrangements, establishing hand raising protocol, how kids can communicate need to use the restroom or sharpen a pencil without interrupting the rest of the class- those are the kinds of details that I am trying to work out mentally in advance- sometimes in the middle of the night :)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Cleaning the classroom

Well, it looks by all accounts that I will teaching this fall. I have not signed any paperwork or been given any guarantees, and I am fully prepared to find out something has made it impossible for me to be the honest to goodness teacher, but in the meantime I had to dig in. I have spent the last four days cleaning: removing staples from the wall, pulling down old signs, scrubbing desks, vacuuming air vents, painting over scuff marks and coffee spills, and wiping  weeks and weeks of DLR transparencies clean and hanging them to dry (thanks Carol!). So, I feel that I am starting in a clean, new space- or I have just given some random senior teacher who will be bumping me the greatest gift in the world! Today, after moving the desks for the third time, I settled down to sorting through the library and figuring out how best to organize the books, screening and sifting out inappropriate titles and dog-eaten copies along the way.I, once again, am struck by how much ground there is to cover in a single school year. I know a lot of these kids, having subbed in their class on a number of occasions, but that is quite different from knowing their reading level and their comprehension level to know what will be a realistic starting point for everyone .
I started digging through all the files I found in the classroom and was pleased to find a number of compelling activities and summary sheets for all aspects of writing and reading. Tomorrow I will go through the social studies files and see what  is  there. I have set up the two working computers and the one shared printer and find myself feeling discouraged about how much I had hoped to integrate technology into the curriculum. The class will also have access to a portable computer lab, but I am not sure about the hours of availability and need to feel sure that it is equally accessible to both morning students and afternoon students.
I am glad I have been given this time to get ready for my first full time class, even if I end up getting switched at the last minute. It has given me an appreciation for how much time is needed to do a thorough job to prepare for the first few weeks of school and the year in general. I understand that many people would not be willing to put in this amount of time or do the grunt work that I am doing because we are not paid for it- that is the beauty of being older, having a number of careers under my belt, and perhaps, being a parent- you do it because you feel better for having done it- they couldn't pay you enough anyway, so do it for me, do it for the kids, do it because it just really needs to get done.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Planning out a school year

the first couple of weeks are not about teaching curriculum, but establishing the environment and clarifying the procedures for the kids. There are approximately 36 instructional weeks in a school year after winter break, spring break, and various three day weekends. The first two weeks are about establishing routines and introducing materials, not to mention learning names. The last week is for closing up shop and cleaning the classroom.;that leaves 33 instructional weeks to introduce, reinforce, assess, and have a certain modicum of fun with the curriculum. Can I do it?