August 2016 | Teaching in the Tongass

Saturday, August 13, 2016

surviving the first week of school

I want to tell you a story. Imagine a bright-eyed, can-do, I'm-a-Stereotypical-Gonna-Stand-On-Desks-And-Change-The-World-With-My-Teaching attitude, with fresh ideas and materials, pencils sharpened and books leveled teacher. First day. Parents leave. Just the kids and me. I was born for this. I have wanted to teach since I was 7 years old (some people called me "bossy" and others called me a "leader" know what I'm talking about). This day was going to be one to remember. I went through my checklist of "get to know you" activities and icebreakers (thanks to some helpful friends on ProTeacher--remember Proteacher?!) and my notes from student teaching. I had attempted several of the activities and quickly figured out a few were too difficult for this group of 2nd graders. Aaaaand then I looked at the clock in horror. It was only 9:30. After I walked my class out to recess, I FREAKED out. I had nothing else planned. I wanted to bawl my eyes out. I calmly walked across the hall to one of the literacy coaches and told her my situation. She laughed and calmed me down. She brought over some "choice" activities (I had student taught in 4th grade and had never heard of "choice time" until right then) and easy literacy games (dry erase boards, sight word dice, etc.). I was nervous that I'd be in trouble for letting the kids play until I could figure out what other activities to do at lunch (totally oblivious to the fact that I had an old-school principal that was a huge proponent of centers and a more hands-on approach anyway). The kids were fine, and I don't even remember what I ended up doing the rest of the day. When my mom and former host-teacher came in to visit at the end of the day I burst into tears (I cry very easily...pretty much at any confrontation or ounce of discomfort and tears come to my eyes--super cool when you're trying to be professional). I remember feeling like I had made the biggest mistake someone could ever make and was in the wrong career because it was SO MUCH HARDER THAN ANYONE CAN IMAGINE. They reminded me that if I still felt like that at the end of the year I could try switching to an intermediate grade if one opened up (it did, and I stayed because, turns out, second grade is actually where my heart is!). I went home with that in mind and trudged through the rest of the fall and things certainly got better.  

I can laugh about it now of course, but back then that fear and anxiety and pressure was VERY real.  On my first day, I had a rude awakening. Teaching wasn't what I thought it would be. It wasn't even what my student-teaching self thought it would be. I remember thinking, "Gee, when my classes end and all I have to do is teach it will be so much easier." I was so naive. Soooo naive. If you're reading this, you are probably a teacher and you likely know what I'm talking about. So, my hope in this post is twofold. 1.) I want to remind myself what it's like to be a new teacher (which, we basically all are every fall) and 2.) help other teachers prepare for the day they are most likely to go home crying (not parent-teacher conferences, that's another post for another time). Even if new kids are added to your roster after you've labeled and alphabetized it all. You'll be okay. Promise. 

first day of school activities


Monday, August 8, 2016

anchor chart alternatives

Over the past 2 years I've worked on covering as many topics as we address in reading and writing in various anchor charts. So, what is an anchor chart you may ask? Well, really it is a poster that students can use to reference while they are working. My favorite kind are the ones we create together. I print and glue down the foundation pieces (like the title and decorative pieces) and and the students fill in (I hold the marker though) with the information that we come up with together (and more realistically, in some instances, that I prompt them like crazy to come up with haha!). In that process, I've created over 50 different anchor charts to use in various ways (for individual students and for whole class viewing) throughout the year. So, here are 11 different ways you can use reading and writing anchor charts in your classroom (I'm using the same one throughout this post so you can see the multiple ways you can use them).  

(this post contains affiliate links)
 First, all of these anchor charts are the same. I did this intentionally to show you how you can use the same information in various ways. You can download the FREE Writing Hooks Anchor Chart here. You can see the whole collection of reading and writing anchor charts here.
1.) This is my favorite method of displaying a whole class anchor chart. Basically, it's 4 pages cut and taped together to make a poster. You can watch how easy it is to assemble here.
reading and writing anchor chart ideas
2.) Another FANTASTIC way to display these is with my new best friend, MAGNETIC PAPER. Whaaaatt?! If you have a magnetic white board, this is a MUST. You can find it here.
reading and writing anchor chart ideas
3-5.) I'm sure you've seen these displays before, but just in case you haven't...the clear plexiglass ones are for 8.5x11 print sizes and 5x7 print sizes. You can find them here and here. My crafty husband whipped up the pvc pipe stand in 10 minutes and I added some book rings...voila! Perfect for a writing center or for students to carry to their desk! Just print at a reduced size (use the percentage tool when you open the PDF to print) to fit however big you make it (these small ones are printed at 70%).
reading and writing anchor chart ideas

 6-7.) And if your students use composition or spiral notebooks, just print at a reduced size and have them cut/glue in--they'll have no excuse NOT to use them as a reference tool if they're right where they are working!
reading and writing anchor chart ideas
8.) Another binder ring favorite. Just print 4/page, double-side them, laminate and hole-punch! I love this because you can keep it in your teacher binder to use when you are conferencing and need to remind a student of a concept--or, even better, you can leave it somewhere for them to take to their desk.
reading and writing anchor chart ideas
9.) Create a mobile using the provided bigger pieces to cut out! I used fishing line to make this one, but any sort of ribbon or string would work. You can hang it against a wall or from your ceiling.
reading and writing anchor chart ideas
10.) This is probably the easiest way to provide them to your students (if you use binders like me). Slip them into a page protector and you're set! Easy peasy!
reading and writing anchor chart ideas
11.) Using the provided cut apart pieces, pop into your favorite anchor chart (you can find this black pocket chart here) and you're set!
reading and writing anchor chart ideas
12.) And because ALL of my sets come with the pieces to build your own, you can still create them WITH your class and not have to worry about the drawing or your writing not fitting on the page/slanting towards one side!

You can grab this FREE binder cover/spine if you want to keep all of your anchor charts in one place.
And here they all are on one Pinterest friendly image for you if you want to pin and come back later!
reading and writing anchor chart ideas
And if video is more your style, you can watch as I go through each of these:
So that's it! I hope you enjoyed these different ways and are inspired to have a little fun with your anchor charts! You can purchase the money-saving Writing Workshop Anchor Chart bundle by visiting my Teachers Pay Teachers store or by purchasing the direct download by clicking below. Due to the nature of this being a digital download and nonreturnable, no refunds will be given.


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