Archive | August, 2012

Three best ideas from conference days….

29 Aug

 “Classroom teaching…. is perhaps the most complex, most challenging, and most demanding, subtle, nuanced, and frightening activity that our species has ever invented….The only time a physician could possibly encounter a situation of comparable complexity would be in the emergency room of a hospital during a natural disaster.”-Lee Shulman

This week has been a huge blur. Monday started with teacher orientation followed by conference days today and tomorrow. A lot of information is being given out to me in such a short amount of time…which makes for a very overwhelming week and sleepless nights. However I am discovering amazing new resources and tools that I hope I can start implementing in my classroom soon. Here are my favorites:

1. Charlotte Danielson Rubric:
Some schools are using this rubric to fit into the evaluation piece of the new teacher evaluation system. Reading performance indicators on the rubric on each ‘domain’ of teacher performance, I can easily understand what I can be working towards; and which behaviors to change. For example, one aspect of the rubric is “Demonstrating knowledge about how students learn”.
An unsatisfactory behavior for this is :

The lesson plan includes a
teacher presentation for an entire
30 minute period to a group of 7-
year olds.

I chuckled at that one. A distinguished behavior for this category is:

The teacher plans to provide
multiple project options; students
will self-select the project that best
meets their individual approach to
I just think this rubric really spells out what actions indicate effective teaching. 
2. My Big Campus: my district will be using this website and I can’t wait to learn how to use it! You can do blogs, wikis, post homework and even have online tests! I am so excited. I have always wanted to make a ‘school facebook’….and this application would basically take the place of that. 
3. Edutopia: This is a great professional development resource that I had no idea existed. There are countless videos and webinars on every aspect of education. Watching some of the videos I was amazed at the activities some teachers were executing in their classrooms around the country. I no longer have to go to a day-long workshop to get professional development. 
It’s good to know I am getting something very useful out of the time I’ve spent at conference days. Can’t wait for the kids!!


I’ve also started a teacher Twitter account…follow me! @MissBurgwin

How to set up your classroom to support the Common Core Standards

23 Aug
       I’ve been pretty busy last week and this week preparing for the first day of school and setting up my classroom. I’ve actually NEVER had my own classroom so this is all new to me. I’ve never had to deal with organizing, putting up posters, setting up different areas of the classroom, etc. I feel like I want to have everything perfect and set up before the first day but I know it’s not going to happen. I have found a lot of great ideas on Pinterest, and I know I will find more as the year progresses. I just always had an idea in my mind that I would be so organized and have everything set in stone about how my classroom will run and what it will look like, but it’s not the reality. You try things…then it turns out it didn’t work. You can’t just have everything set and expect it to work. 

    This year I am focusing on setting up my classroom to help students adjust to the new Common Core National Standards. All the teachers I know are going into major stress mode about these new standards! A couple of important things I’ve noticed about the shifts for literacy are the emphasis on text-based questions and answers, close reading and non-fiction. So my students will be enjoying a very non-fiction heavy year 🙂

 I found (then made) this poster on Pinterest to emphasize students to pull evidence from the text to support their answers:

I also designed this poster myself to highlight key words to help students with analysis, summarizing and reading strategies:

I’ve also been using the sticky note strategy for a couple of years now. The first year I did it I had a poster with sticky note starters and students used it frequently when stuck. That poster got ruined in the many classroom moves I’ve had to do over the years, so I wanted to design a new format for this display. I ordered the poster in the middle from Really Good Stuff, then I created the sticky note starters and cut them out in ‘think’ bubbles.

Another new thing I am really excited about in my classroom is my ‘missing work’ pocket folder. I have NEVER had my own classroom as mentioned before and therefore was in many different classrooms so couldn’t really have a ‘hub’ for students to grab work if they were absent. I can FINALLY have a station for students to self-advocate and get missing work when they are absent. I ordered the pocket chart from Really Good Stuff and labeled it with the days of the week. I always have piles of extra copies after doing a lesson so I am planning on just putting the copies in the corresponding folders and students can grab what they need and then ask me after school for clarification on certain things. Let’s just hope that A. students use it and B. I can keep up with adding things!

I took the picture before I added the days of the week

I hope to continue to find new things that support the common core in my classroom! Until then I am anxiously awaiting the first day of school. Only a week and a half left!!

First Day of School Activities!

9 Aug

I can’t believe there’s only 2 1/2 weeks until I start school again! Summer went by in a flash, as usual. It seemed like it was even faster for me because I had a move and I will be starting my fourth English teaching job in 5 years! God forbid I am at a school for more than a year…and this is not by choice! Anyways, I have been brainstorming and planning for activities for the first day of school. I decided to do a variation of a couple of things I have done before.

First idea: ‘Toilet Paper’ Ice Breaker Activity
Many teachers (especially middle and high school teachers) will start out the class describing the syllabus and going through the rules….yawn. I plan on covering that material, but starting off class with something a little more fun.
I’m planning on having instructions for students as they come into the room for them to locate the roll of toilet paper at the front of the room and take ‘as much as they think they need’. This creates a humorous and confusing atmosphere as some students try to roll out the whole roll, and some; trying to look cool, take a couple of sheets. The directions are purposefully ambiguous. After all the students are in the room and everyone has their TP, I will let them know that for each ‘square’ of TP, they have to write down one fact about themselves.  Some students will groan when they realize they’ve got quite a biography to write!

After giving students time to write, each will share. I will share a fact about myself too, but will save most of the important info for the second activity.

Second idea: Get to know the teacher listening activity
This is a great idea to let your students get to know you and allowing them to practice their listening skills. Just prepare a short biography of yourself (or create a ’25 fun facts about Ms./Mr._______________) with accompanying questions for students to answer. You could even have them guess the questions to some of the answers before you read the bio to see if any of the students can correctly guess facts about you. Or, tell students to take notes as your read the bio. Optionally, allow students to look at the questions and answer them as you read it a second time. Then have the students work with partners to make sure they got the answers to all the questions.

Those are two activities I will be doing for the first day of school this year; will let you know how they go! I’m sure they are a million more creative things a teacher could do but I find these simple and they don’t rely on intricate technology or expensive supplies!

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