Friday, August 30, 2013

Managing IEP and 504 Accommodations

Keeping up with IEP and 504 Plan accommodations for 10 students can be challenging.  It's easy to forget things, or to confuse one kid's needs with those of another.  I struggled with all of that, until I started using this system to keep track.

It's pretty simple, really-- I just write the students' names in the left-hand column, then check off any accommodations they need.  (I left some spaces blank to the right in case I encounter any new or unusual accommodations.)  I make a few copies-- one goes in my planning book, one goes inside my desk drawer, and one goes in my Sub Tub.  Then it's just a quick glance to remind myself who needs copies of notes, who gets tests read aloud, etc.

Note- it's also helpful for me to jot the initials of the student's case manager next to their name.  

You can download my chart for yourself here!
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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

What Do You March For? #IMarchFor

50 years ago today, a man spoke about his dreams and changed the world. 

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr., his famous "I Have a Dream" speech, and the March on Washington, Teaching Tolerance is hosting a virtual march-- and my Advanced English 9 students and I are in. 

Yesterday, we read "Marigolds," a short story by Eugenia Collier.  In it, a young African-American girl struggles with growing up in pre-Civil Rights America.  She is poor, hopeless, and angry.  This story led us perfectly to Dr. King's speech.  Today, we read the speech while listening to the recording from the Lincoln Memorial- on August 28, 1963.

As a class, we talked about the rhetoric of speeches which stir people to action.  "I Have a Dream" was more than a little inspiring, and my kids created their own dreams.  Tonight, they're writing-- but today, we're marching.

Today, I'm marching for kind words.  My classroom motto last year was "Peace and Love."  This year, it's a little more forceful-- "Be nice or leave!"  There are a few phrases which make me lose my teacher-mind-- "retard," "That's so gay!," etc.  Kids learn pretty fast that unkind language won't fly in my room.  If only the rest of the world felt the same-- what an amazing world it would be.

Check out my students' "marches"-- and post your own to your favorite social media using #IMarchFor.  

I love that this assignment allowed me to teach history, literature, writing, speaking, and social consciousness.  I also love that it'll help me get to know my students a bit better.  Their passions are extremely varied, and it was great to see them debate their beliefs respectfully.  Highlight of my day: as the bell rang, I told my kids I was excited to read their work tomorrow.  Not one, not two, but three kids said, "I'm excited to write it!"  Bless their little hearts.  <3 font="">

Now go post your march!  As Dr. King said, "We must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.  We cannot turn back."
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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Quick and Easy Seating Charts

     Well, I've made it through the first "week" of school.  And even though that week was actually only three days with students, I am exhausted.  
     One thing that makes my first few weeks manageable is a seating chart.  For the freshmen, few of whom I already know, I seat my students in alphabetical order by first name.  This helps me learn names more quickly-- I know if a student is on the right side of the room, his/her name must start with a letter early in the alphabet.  That helps trigger my memory and I learn more quickly.  Unfortunately, those alphabetical seating charts don't always put kids in the seats that actually work best for them.
     After I've had time to learn names, I am ready to re-do seating charts.  If you can manage a room full of hormonal half-adults without assigned seats, more power to you!  But I have got to assign seats.  It makes all our lives a bit easier.  

5 Steps to a Seating Chart that Suits Everyone

1. Make notes as to where you'd like certain students to be.  Note behavior issues, students who work well (or don't) together, and IEPs that require preferential seating.

2. Ask the kids.  I know this goes against everything an old-school teacher might suggest, but really- I have each student answer three questions:
      - Where would you prefer to sit and why?
      - With whom do you work well?
      - With whom do you not work well?
Honestly, this requires a good rapport with students.  I wait until I know them well enough to either trust them or not.  If you give kids a little freedom to make these choices, they appreciate it and most times will not abuse the privilege.  Important: I make it clear to kids that I will not necessarily put them where they request, but that I will try.

3. Go to HappyClassApp.  This site allows you to set up a classroom and arrange your seats as they are in your room.  Then, the fun part.  HappyClassApp allows you to set rules for each student- Alison prefers to sit up front, Will prefers the back, Brandi and Trent work well together, but Evan and Morgan do not, etc. 

You can even "pin" students to specific seats if you need them in a certain spot.  Once you've set rules (based on your preferences combined with the kids' preferences), you click the "Optimize" button.  The app automatically rearranges students to make the best fit for everyone.  If a student is unhappy, their name will display a frowning face.  Click the "optimize" button again, and the app will try again until everyone is happy (including you!).

Because of those "so-so" happy kids,
I'd probably optimize this one again
until I got a better result.

4. Number your classroom seats.  I use colorful masking tape, and starting on one side, assign each seat a number.  (Tip: It's also helpful to put a strip of tape along the wall to remind kids where their rows should be and which seats belong in each row.  It makes straightening the room a snap.)

5. Print out the HappyClassApp seating chart, and number each seat on the chart.  Post it in your classroom, and tell students to find their spot.  No one wanders around trying to figure out which seat is theirs on the diagram, because they just go to their number.  Easy peasy!
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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

First Day Fun

Just finished up my fifth 1st day of school.  Shew!  I am exhausted and starved, but it was wonderful.  Here's why:

1. I am teaching one class of English 10 this year, and since I teach all the freshmen, they were all familiar.  It was fun to already know some names (and personalities) on Day 1.  

2. I am also beyond excited about teaching newspaper for the first time.  Lots of fun!

3. I introduced my expectations and procedures with memes- similar to this pin on Pinterest.  Seriously, SO FUN.

4. The kids actually laughed at my memes.  Score!

5.  I asked kids to draw me an "entertaining picture" if they finished their bell-ringer student survey early.  These happened:

I love these kids.  Happy New School Year!

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Monday, August 19, 2013

Monday Mash-Up: From Apostrophes to Bayside High

Busy week, everybody!  Open House today, one more glorious lunch out with my teacher-friends work day, and then it's ON.  The kids return Wednesday-- so let's celebrate with my favorite blog postings of the week.

1. "Keeper of the Knowledge" from Erika at Something Beautiful
I love this blog.  Erika's not a teacher, but man, is she hilarious!  I have to include this one because of her side-splitting rant about the erroneous use of apostrophes in plural words.  Preach it, sister!  The English teachers of the world are behind you.

2. "The truth about homework in schools" from Life of an Educator by Justin Tarte
Disclaimer-- I am not sharing this one because I agree with everything Justin says.  I am sharing because, as a teacher who believes in homework, I do think we need to more carefully consider the purposes of our assignments.  Take a look at the comments for thought-provoking, intelligent, respectful conversation among educators.

3. "Schools Need More Zach Morris and Less Jessie Spano" from The Nerdy Teacher
A vlog, this one is an ode to the students who aren't perfect.  Sadly, there are those in the world who'd rather just teach student-council member honor students and forget the rest.  Where's the fun in that?  As a student, I was a Jessie Spano-- but some of my favorites people are Zach Morrises.(Major bonus points for connecting it all to my favorite childhood tv show!)

4. "Five Pesky Classroom Behaviors I Don't Allow" by Ariel Sacks at the Center for Teaching Quality
Ariel provides a list of unspoken rules she keeps in her classroom, and a great explanation for each one.  As I read, I was thinking about my own "not-allowed pesky behaviors."  I think my biggest pesky behavior pet-peeve is desk-tipping.  

And a reminder-- TeachersPayTeachers is having their Back-to-School sale right now-- up to 28% off everything when you use the code "BTS13."  Sale ends at midnight tonight, and they even accept school purchase orders as payment!

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Sunday, August 18, 2013

How NOT To Lose Your Mind at Open House

Open House night can be a back-to-school nightmare.  I teach primarily freshmen, who are in the weird spot between childhood and young adult.  What that means is that, unlike my colleagues who teach upperclassmen, I see lots of parents at open house.  (Score me!)  Unfortunately, I'm terrible at learning new names.  And of course, I have about 100-120 kids per year . . . times 1-4 parents each . . . = a lot of new names.  In addition to the pressure that comes from remembering everyone who comes through, I'm also trying to:

1. handle registration paperwork (lunch forms, medical permission, demographic information, locker fees, etc.) for my 16 advisory students- and

- welcome new students warmly- and

- tell all the people what materials they need for each of my classes- and

- point parents in the direction of Remind101, as well as my classroom Facebook and Pinterest pages- and

- answer parent questions and connect with them.

At least we know Ryan Gosling appreciates us, right y'all?  : )

Needless to say, it can get overwhelming.  When there are 10 people in my room during a 10-minute period, all needing/doing different things, it's nearly impossible to connect with each one of them.  Here's how I structure Open House night to fix help that situation.

1. Set up individual folders for homeroom students.  Inside, I put all the paperwork I need filled out.  I also include a handy checklist, telling them what forms must be returned, what forms are optional, and what is just there for their information.

2. Add a special welcome.  This year, I made little treat bags for each of my advisory students(our version of homeroom).  Roll your eyes if you must, but I like my cheesy-ness.  Cheesyness?  Cheesiness?  Hmmm.

3. Set up multiple materials lists.  Many parents are just there to quickly find out what school supplies they'll need.  They've got places to be, so I'm happy to be accommodating.  I post a list of class materials outside my room, and this one on the board.  I even added a stack of scrap paper and pens so they can write it down.

4. Make it easy for parents to get your contact information. I'm using QR codes posted strategically on my door and around my room.  When scanned with a smartphone, they'll lead parents to a page detailing my school email address, links to my Facebook and Pinterest pages, and my planning time.  Another great (and lower-tech) way to easily pass on contact info: VistaPrint regularly offers deals on business cards-- even as low as free!

5. Add a place for parents to sign in.  I do this because it allows me to have a record of all the parents I spoke with when my memory fails me.  I use this sheet, which I found on Pinterest a few years ago.  It allows parents to leave me with their email or cell number, so that I know how they'd prefer to be contacted.  I can then send out a quick email thanking them for coming-- great way to establish a rapport with parents. 

6. Now that everyone has a place to go when they arrive, I can relax and work the room, answering questions and doin' my thang.  

Open House is tomorrow for me-- what fantastic things are you doing to welcome your kids back?

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Friday, August 16, 2013

Classroom Tour 2013

My classroom is officially ready for kids-- which is good, because they'll be there, ready or not, on Wednesday!  Take a peek:

I'm ready for my close-up . . . 


teacher resources shelving

entryway shelving

FREE adorable supply labels 
courtesy of Shari Abbey on TeachersPayTeachers

classroom library
Front Wall

front whiteboard/SmartBoard area

paperwork/forms for students

homework board

daily schedule
1- How sweet is my Día de los Muertos calacas?
2- Check out ol' Willy Shakes watching from the closet door- he's my homeboy!

My Desk Area

my desk and student-conference chair

I was told to put a lamp in my room for years-- never listened.  I finally did a week or so ago, and I'm in love!  It's so cozy.

Resources I need constantly- lesson plans, reference books, commonly-used teacher guides and games.  To the right is my "snack stash" and to the left is the organizer where I store ready-to-go copies and papers that need returning.

The kids love this big calendar on my desk- they're always quick to remind me when a new month rolls around!

The Far Side
File cabinets (with top drawer reserved for students to turn things in) and student-needs center.

My little-used podium- I bought this beautiful weaving in Costa Rica.

This table will soon hold novel sets and/or mail crates; right now, it's full of school supplies I scavenged during locker clean-out in May (for parents who need a little help with school shopping).

I know two things that could make my room even nicer:
1- kids!
2- an apple-cinnamon candle (but, Mr. Principal and Mr. Fire Marshal, I learned my lesson.  Promise.)

Are you posting a classroom tour on your blog?  Please share in the comments!

Open House Week