Today was my last day with students...and I can barely contain my excitement!!! This has been quite an interesting year for me, full of "firsts". This was the first year that I taught 7th grade science. This was the first year that I taught 7th grade math, and this was the first year that I had a full time student teacher from the first day of school to practically the last day of school.
Aside from all of the "firsts", our school district went through some pretty drastic changes this year as well. We extended our school day from 7:25-2:20, 1/3 of our plan time was taken away, we had one full class added to our daily schedule, and we added an hour long advisory class to our Wednesday schedule. I tell you truth...if I didn't have my AMAZING student teacher this year I would have lost my mind!!
So, I want to reflect on this past year. I want to share with you some of my success this year and also some things I would like to tweak for the upcoming year (I can't believe I'm already thinking about that).
- I tried multiple reward systems throughout the year. I tried to place stickers on their assignments and if they filled up a "sticker" sheet then they could pick out of my prize box. The only problem with that was that I had a really hard time keeping up with it and consistently placing stickers on various assignments. So it got to the point where the idea accidentally fell off the face of the Earth and students were left with a half filled in "sticker sheet". After that, I moved on to my "Den Dollar" system (our school mascot is the wolf). This was great because I was able to use it for so many things. Students earned den dollars for:
- High test scores
- Coming in after school to work
- Completing a weeks worth of a classroom job (another success)
- Winning review games
- Good attendance
- Pay for a hall pass
- Full credit on a late assignment
- Sitting in the teacher's chair
- Spinning my wheel of fortune board
- Getting an extra copy of an assignment they lost
- Homework pass
- Another success was assigning classroom jobs. I am such a control freak that I never thought of classroom jobs as a good idea. It was my student teacher that finally convinced me to try it...and I LOVE IT!! We came up with a long list of jobs, but I think that for next year, I won't have as many...only because a lot of the jobs were not a "daily" thing, so they lost their value. Some of my favorite jobs were:
- Homework Checker
- Captain Planet (They were responsible for placing our recycle bin out on certain days of the week
- Paper passer outer
- Teacher's assistant
- I found the BEST blog for science teachers!!! This blog was so SO so helpful. The teacher of the blog was amazingly organized, he shared all of his assignments, and many of them were redesigned to specifically fit into our composition books (just a little glue stick action...and waa-laa...instant organization. The name of the blog is: My Science Lessons. And I am so excited because he just posted that he is assigned a Life Science class next year, so I can't wait to see what lesson plans/assignments he will be using!!
- For Christmas, this year, my husband surprised me with making two of the COOLEST things for my classroom: a Wheel of Fortune and a Plinko board!! They were such a hit in the classroom. I just couldn't believe how much the kids were into it...and boy did they want to save their money up to give the wheel a spin. Craig colored each section a variety of colors so that I could use it for my "probability" lessons in math. I laminated different amounts of "den dollars" so they could lose money OR gain money depending on where the spin ended. I even had a bankrupt and a jackpot section. This was such a huge success. I could envision using it as a review game. I used velcro to place the money on the different sections so they could easily come off and I could come up with different questions. As I'm writing this, I just thought of using it as an entry task somehow. Having a variety of questions/tasks that they had to complete...I could even have it become a "job". One student, at the beginning of class, would have to spin the wheel to see what their entry task would have to be for the day. YEA!!! I amaze myself sometimes. I'll be thinking more about that this summer and I'll get back with you!
- Towards the end of the year, I came up with a new table arrangements and I couldn't be happier. Basically, I have taken two tables and created multiple L's around the room. That way they are sort of zig-zagged around the room. I like it because there really isn't a "front" section of the classroom, or a back section. One student isn't the highlight of the rest of the tables, essentially taking the spot light off of the class clown. I also placed the desks in such a way that it has created a divider between each of the lab stations around my counters so that the groups are well separated and staying on task.
- One of my favorite things I did, was use this itty-bitty tape (I actually think it is called white-board tape) and I created a M-F calendar on my white board. I love to plan ahead at least two weeks in advance. For each class, I used a different color pen, and then tests were always written in red so that they stood out. This was so much fun to fill out (for the obsessively organized person), but I also loved it because the students would go right up to the calendar to see what we were doing each day, they new when tests were coming...and it, for the most part, alleviated me from getting 30 questions from the class, "What are we doing today?"
- I have never truly found a hugely successful system on what to do with absent student's work. I get so annoyed with different students coming to me every single day asking me, "Did I miss anything". Then I have to figure out how many days they were absent, and what assignments they missed. It would be so WONDERFUL if I had a system in place where they could be responsible for getting their own assignments. Last year, when I taught one prep (8th grade science), I created three different binders (labs, notes, classwork) and placed all of the extra assignments in the binders. If a student was absent, then they could go to the binders themselves and get what they needed. It was great...for the most part. Unfortunately, this year I moved to three preps...and I just didn't want to keep up a bunch of binders for each class. Hmm...I'm thinking I'm going to have to suck it up next year because it worked pretty well. In trying to find another system, I found the idea of using my extra filing cabinet in the same way as I used my binders. I'm not exactly sure how I would make it work, but I would name the folders M-F instead of by the name of each assignment...that way I would be able to reuse the folders each semester. I am envisioning hanging a large sign above the filing cabinet "Were You Absent?" Then the students would go straight to the cabinet and find the day that they were absent and take out each assignment for that day of the week. Hmm...I'll think more about this!
- My student teacher had a great idea for my pencil dilemma. I can't tell you how many students would come to class without a pencil. I ended up charging them "den dollars" every time they needed my pencils...but it got so bad, that I didn't like that I had to actually pay real money for their lack of supplies. I will get two cans...one can for pencils that are sharpened and one can for pencils that need to be sharpened. Students could earn "den dollars" for sharpening the pencils...but now that I'm thinking about it, I need to come up with a system that would make sure that my pencils actually get returned at the end of each class. More brainstorming!!!