Wednesday, July 31, 2013

My First Classroom

     If you've been following me for a while, you know that this year, my first year teaching, I will be teaching at an international school in Venezuela. I arrived here earlier this week and have been doing new teacher orientation since then. School starts in a week and a half!

     Can I just say that packing to teach in another country when you aren't sure what resources you have (I did ask, but there wasn't not much of an answer)? Since I love books so much and use them in all of my subjects, I decided to pack my carry-on full of books. I even looked up the standards (AERO) and tried to find books that aligned with contents other than reading. My books (at least the ones I really wanted) all fit! I did get stopped due to these books when I went through security though. They had to be wiped with a small piece of paper to see if they contained something harmful. Also, I did not think about the weight implications when I packed this bag. I knew there wasn't a weight restriction, but I forgot that I should be able to lift my bag into the overhead compartment. Thankfully, two men (yes, it took two plus myself) were able to help me on both legs of my flight. One even took it down for me afterwards. I'm so thankfully to have books that I know, but I did find that the school has a few more books than I expected even if they are old and falling apart.

     Here are the pictures of my first classroom. When I came in, all of the furniture was in the middle and covered because they have to repaint the walls every summer. My goal the past few days is to figure out how to arrange my room. I'm still working on it, but I decided to post these pictures anyways.

     Since I have both forth and fifth grade, I wanted an area to have small group instruction, places for them to work independently or in small groups, and a whole group area. I also had to decide where I wanted my white board.

     My first step was to uncover everything. I found my curriculum! There is a lot of it since I have both grades.

     Then I found two bookshelves overflowing with books! We piled the books in this corner to move the somewhat ugly shelves (they're a burnt orange).

      Next, I decided it would be nice to have my small group area on this side of the room. With a lot of help (including from a student of mine), we unloaded the textbooks and moved the shelf to that area right next to the projector. I also decided to put the white board on that wall so that I can use it for whole group or small group. I'm hoping to use a carpet there for whole group.

     This picture shows the other side of my room. You can see my burnt orange bookshelves against the wall. I'm planning on scattering groups of desks throughout this side of the room. I don't plan on the students receiving instruction while at their desks often, so having them spread out more should be fine.

     I have already have met four of my fourteen students! I'm excited to begin but feel that there is no way that I will be ready. Teaching is overwhelming! I'm working on my room now and need to work on the first week of lessons soon. I will post more pictures as I am further along in organizing my room. If you have any tips or suggestions, I would love to hear your thoughts.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Teacher Stores are Overwhelming

     Yesterday my mom and I happened to pass by a store for teachers (The Chalkboard) while we were out. I asked to stop in because I wanted to buy a lesson planner. Wow, there was so much in that store it was hard to even find the lesson planning books! Then, there were so many that it was hard to make a choice, especially since I haven't used one before. Last fall, I typed out weekly plans for the weeks I was actually teaching, but this year, I don't want to rely on a computer since I'll be teaching abroad. Finally, I found a simple, sturdy, green one with a plain inside that didn't waste too much space (similar to the one on the right, but mine only has four periods). I considered getting two since I have two grades but decided that if I need to, I could just use the weeks after the yellow separator for the fifth grade and get a new book at Christmas. I didn't have time to look at anything else, money to buy anything, or space to bring it, so I left with just the planner, but wow, that store had a lot of stuff! I could have spent hours just browsing like a child in a toy store.

     Trying to plan for my classroom in Venezuela is proving to be very difficult. I don't really know what resources I'll have besides a general view. I also can't bring too much with me since my living supplies will take most of the room in my suitcase. Today, I sorted my books and picked a handful that I hope to have room for in my carry-on. I like to be prepared for my class, but I can't really do that like I usually would. Packing is quite the process, and I leave soon! School starts in less than a month, and I can't believe that I will ever be ready for it. I would appreciate any first year tips, lack of resources tips, or any other advice you have!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Suzanne Collins Author Study

     One of my favorite parts of being in an elementary classroom is children's literature! In fact, if I wasn't going to be a teacher, I would probably be a children's librarian. It also helped that I had the best children's lit. class in college, where the professor did a wonderful job getting us prepared to teach and excited for children's books. In that class, I learned that knowing about the authors is important and can teach students many things. My favorite way to do this with a class is to do an author study. David Shannon has been one that I have done with multiple primary classrooms, focusing on how he wrote the first David book when he was five and how he includes his dog, Fergus, in at least one picture in every book he illustrates. You can read more about this here. Well, since I love doing author studies, I thought I would start a series of author studies on my blog, so you can learn more about some superb authors. I'm hoping to feature some information about them, books they have written, ways to use it in the classroom, and other resources I have found. Without further explanation, here is an author's study on Suzanne Collins!

Meet the Author
     Suzanne Collins was born and stills lives in Connecticut. Although she now lives in the same state, she moved around often as a child since her father was a U.S. Air Force officer. She is using this experience to write her newest book, which I wrote more about below. She graduated from Indiana University with degrees in drama and telecommunications. In 1991, she began writing for children's television and has won many awards from this. This start to her career and her major would be an interesting topic to discuss with upper elementary students who have read her books. It doesn't appear that she began writing with the intent of writing a young adult literature, but I'm sure this experience surely helped her.
     According to her website, Suzanne came up with the idea for The Underland Chronicles after thinking about Alice in Wonderland. She wrote this series between 2003 and 2007. In 2008, the first book of The Hunger Games was published and quickly became internationally known, read by all ages, and on the top of many bestseller lists for many weeks. Now, movie versions of this series have been coming out, and Suzanne has been writing another picture book. She lives in Connecticut with her family.

     When people think of Suzanne Collins, they automatically think of The Hunger Games, but that is not the only series she has written. She actually started her writing career by writing stories for children's television like Little Bear, Oswald, Clifford's Puppy Days, and more. It's hard to imagine that someone who wrote something as intense as The Hunger Games has written lots of preschool level shows, but it's true, and I think it's important for students to realize this. In this section, I'll feature her books. She has two series and one picture book with another picture book coming out in September.

 The Hunger Games series
     This series is very well known, so I won't spend too much time on it. These stories take place in Panem, where 12 districts rebelled seventy four years ago. As a result of the rebellion, the Capitol show their power by holding a Hunger Games every year in which two twelve- to eighteen-year-olds from each district fight each other to the death, hoping to be the last one standing. These books are stories of rebellion, freedom, war, and love. Teaching at an elementary level, I probably would not use these books in my classroom (as much as I love them), but I know many fourth and fifth graders who have read them.

The Underland Chronicles
      This series is lesser known, but just as good as The Hunger Games. I listened to the first few on audiobook on my way to and from school this fall, and each time it would leave me on a cliffhanger! Then I read the last few so fast because I couldn't put them down. Gregor is an ordinary 11-year-old kid from New York City until one day while he is doing laundry. His little sister, Boots, crawls into a vent and falls down into the Underland, which is a whole new world with giant rats, cockroaches, spiders, and bats. Trying to find a way back home, he meets some unusual humans that live down there and have never seen the light of day. Gregor discovers that there are prophesies that the Underlanders expect him to fulfill. Throughout the series, Gregor keeps being called/sent back to the Underland to fulfill yet another prophesy, which always includes many adventures and war.
     According to Scholastic, these books have a fifth grade reading level. Personally, I loved these books but would be careful which students read them given the content. I am usually overprotective about potentially scary things in the content because I was the child who would have nightmares after reading something this thrilling. There is violence, war, and death, but it is tastefully written. I would still be cautious, especially for kids with vivid imaginations. I really enjoyed these books as would many upper elementary/middle school boys, and I am hoping to have a set for free reading in my fourth/fifth grade classroom this fall!

When Charlie McButton Lost Power
    This rhyming picture book has a wonderful meaning behind it. Charlie McButton loves electronics and plays on them all the time until one day when the power goes out. Desperate for a single battery to play an electronic game, he tries to steal one from his three-year-old sister. In the end, he ends realizes that he can have fun without electronics, which is a message so many children need to hear these days. This book would be good for all elementary ages.

Year of the Jungle
     Year of the Jungle is Suzanne Collin's latest book and will be released on September 10th. Since I haven't read this book myself, I'll let the description from Publisher's Weekly that is quoted on her website tell you about it: “In this picture book, Collins sensitively examines the impact of war on the very young, using her own family history as a template." This sounds like a good book to have in my international classroom this year. I can't wait to read it!

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