Traffic Light Reflections

30 September 2015
I'm trying something new with student reflections this year - traffic light reflections.  In the past, I've done Glow and Grow reflections (you can read a little more about that strategy HERE), and I still love love love those reflections, but with my students already familiar with our Traffic Light Comprehension Dots  I decided to keep things simple for them, and changed up our reflections a bit.

(That and I found the coolest light up traffic light at Hobby Lobby and made it a fixture in our class - it's the little things that make me happy).  ;)

I'm planning on doing student-led conferences near the end of the year this year, so I wanted to make sure their portfolio pieces contained a lot of reflections they could refer back to - not only for the conferences at the end of the year, but also to drive their everyday goals.

This week we've used the traffic light reflections with our first writing piece - I just kept it very simple and made a quick template with three dots to resemble the traffic light.  They colored the dots red, yellow, and green - and then had to write down something from their writing for each level of dot:

  • red shows an area where they know they need to improve
  • yellow shows an area where they are working on and improving in ... but can continue to work on
  • green shows their strengths - something they are really proud of
They also used the red, yellow, and green to mark their own writing and show where the areas were in their writing.  When finished, the reflection sheet was stapled to the back of their writing, and placed in their portfolios.

We also used the traffic light reflection on our summary of learning at the end of our math unit this week.  As part of our review before our summative, I do a "summary of learning" where they come up with and reflect on all our learning goals from the unit (this time using "I Can" instead of "I Will" because it's the end of the unit).  I did a class anchor chart, and students copied this into their own notes.  I then asked them to individually reflect on those goals - putting a traffic light dot beside each goal, depending on their level of comfort with the goal.  I reminded them to let this help drive their studying and review for the test - spending more time on concepts they felt were a yellow or red.

We also reflected as a whole group - asking everyone how they felt about a specific goal, and taking a vote for the traffic light reflection dot for each goal.  This was done on our anchor chart.  This gives me a great insight into which areas to do a little more review on before the summative, and I can see who to quickly pull for a little small group practice.  I usually get asked, "Do students really want to admit they don't understand and put down a red dot on their paper, or raise their hand for a red dot?"  And my answer is YES.  I've done traffic light comprehension dots (and now reflection dots) for 4 years now, and my students have always been willing to admit where they need a little extra help without any apprehension or embarrassment at all.  And I am so thankful for that.  And so are they - knowing it's one way of letting me know they need a little extra something from me.

Happy Wednesday!


A Tree for all Seasons

27 September 2015
I'd like to introduce you to the newest attraction in my classroom - our beautiful, life-size learning tree.  I am in love with it.  And so are my students.  Seriously in love.  It took me a few days to get it finished, and the students weren't quite convinced it was actually tree for the first day or two, but it was so very worth it.  It's going to be a permanent and treasured fixture in our classroom all year long.

It all started with these little back to school apples. I like to do this craftivity during the first week of school.  They tell me a lot about the students, let me get some quick insight into their writing skills, and look great in the classroom - especially during parent nights and open houses.  I usually just line them up along the top of our bookshelves for a perfect back to school display.

But then, two of my blogging friends raised the bar ... all the way to the top.  Mrs. Mathis' Homeroom  and Teaching is a Gift also completed this apple craftivity and sent me the most gorgeous pictures of the trees they made to hang the apples from.  I was hooked.  And I just knew I had to do this right away.  

I started with a roll of brown craft paper I bought at Staples (the kind you use to wrap packages in).  A small roll will do because you don't use all that much.  I cut a strip the length of the wall I was working on, and began scrunching it up and taping it to my metal wall with packing tape - now, these metal walls are terrible for tape actually sticking to them, but the packing tape has worked wonderfully.  For the branches I cut smaller strips and scrunched and twisted them up.  I slid in one end behind the trunk and taped it there, and then used another piece of tape at the end of the branch.

After the first day my students didn't believe this was really a tree.  I'm quite sure they questioned their new teacher's artistic talents.  lol

But then, as more branches were added, the tree began to take shape.  And then once the leaves went on (I used two colors of construction paper, cut out random leaf shapes, and just stapled the leaves to the branches), it really really started to look like a tree.  

To hang the apples, I stapled the apple leaves to the branches - two staples through one of the leaves, and it held perfectly.  One of the other teachers used tape, and the other hung them with Christmas hooks.  All three techniques have worked quite well.

Early November Update:  We've taken down our apples and added our Fall poetry leaves to the tree - and now it is a beautiful Poet-tree.  :)  The leaves may be dropping off the trees outside, but we have a gorgeous Fall tree of learning in the classroom to brighten our days.

If you've been following me on facebook or instagram, you may have already seen some of these pictures as part of my #project 188 - where I share a pic from my school day for each of our 188 school days (we just finished day 14).  I often share different pics on instagram and facebook, so be sure to follow both!  

Happy Sunday!!!


Classroom Tour 2015

20 September 2015
So, you're all probably totally over the gorgeous classroom tours that were all over facebook and pinterest last month.  Maybe I just like being fashionably late ... or maybe I just haven't been able to find the time to share my pics earlier (the latter being the case ... always).  ;)

As I've shared earlier, I switched to a grade 4/5 class this year, and with the grade change, came a room change.  This was my first room change in 12 years - I had changed grades before, but kept the same classroom.  It wasn't a big move - literally next door, but with 12 years of junk valuable teaching materials crammed into every corner and cupboard in my old room, it certainly felt like a big move to me.  This picture shows what my old classroom looked like cleaned out at the end of the year.

And so the move began ... I was so overwhelmed I didn't know where to begin.  You may notice that my new classroom looks extremely similar to my old classroom - there are 4 small pie-shaped rooms in my end of the school - and they are all almost exactly the same ... with the exception of my beloved smartboard which I had to leave behind ... I'm still not quite over that.  :(

After a day or two of working on my own, I decided to bring in the troops (my girls) to help me finish the job - sometimes they were a big help, and sometimes I questioned my decision repeatedly.  haha.  But, somehow, it all got finished.  I decided to change up my colour scheme a bit - leaving behind the deep red and bringing in some fun black and white polka dots (most of my decor was purchased from SchoolGirl Style).  I kept my teal and turquoise accents because they went so well with the black.  

I have a lot of empty wall space still - I'm waiting on some bulletin boards to be installed, and I like to fill the classroom with student work, but it's getting there.

This is my reading area - my books are organized by genre / author / series in the cubbies.  The area above the bookshelves is one of the areas where I'm still waiting for bulletin boards (this is where my reading, writing, and math goals will go from my Building Better Responses resource).  I do love this happy little corner - and since my girls were happy to curl up in a bean bag chair and grab a good book, it must be kid-approved, too.

This is my desk area - I can't quite give up my desk yet.  Behind my desk is my tech area - printer, document camera, laptop, laminator, etc.  And I was super excited that there were already little hooks there perfect for hanging my question fans.  The little table beside my desk is for working with small groups - I've been wanting a kidney table for ages, but I haven't been lucky enough to get one yet.  The polka dots on the table are vinyl circles - which students can write on with dry-erase markers during our small groups.

View from the door.  I completely cleaned off ALL those bookshelves and started from scratch.  A lot of work, but everything is perfectly organized ... for now.  ;)  I attached my grammar dots to the fronts of the cupboards - colourful and practical.  :)

My back wall.  That big bulletin board (my ONLY bulletin board at the moment) will be my writing board - students will update it weekly with samples of their work, becoming an interactive writing portfolio for them.

My very large white board area.  I went out and purchased these cubby bookshelves for under the whiteboard because it just needed something there.  The baskets in the cubbies will be for student supplies (you know, all those extras they can't quite fit in their desks) and I did enjoy decorating the top of the shelves - some beautiful hard cover books with stuffed animals that go along with the books, some cute boxes I have manipulatives stored in, and a few flowers.  The rainbow drawers house tons and tons of student supplies - everything they need to get them (and me) through the day.

I didn't wait for long to begin to decorate the area above the board.  On the first day we made "All About Me Hands" where the students traced their hands and filled the inside with their name and some of their favourite things, then I put the letters COLLABORATE above the hands because collaboration is so important in our classroom.

And, that's about that.  Not quite as colourful nor as full as my previous classroom.  But that's OK.  I can't wait to see it evolve this year as it becomes a lively place full of learning and growth and engagement.  I'm pretty sure it won't be long before I love it just as much as my other room.  

Happy Sunday!!!