A Day in the Life of Ms. Briggs

I cannot believe this is my seventh week at Wacousta Elementary.

It has also been close to seven weeks since my last blog post – but let’s not focus on that – life has been busy!

Since I accepted the position as a Reading Specialist at Wacousta Elementary, my job has taken on many roles. My day includes working one-on-one with students who range from 2nd to 5th grade. I work with multiple reading groups in second and third grade to increase reading levels. We focus on phonetic skills by understanding vowel sounds and word parts. I also have two second grade groups where we specifically focus on reading with fluency – expression, appropriate pace, and accuracy. For these two groups, I have incorporated Reader’s Theater to increase these skills and display their importance (blog post to come).

I then jump over to 5th grade where I teach the “Reading Rewards” program. This reading program shows students how to read unfamiliar words that are often “long” and “intimidating”. This is a whole-class instruction that has been a lot of fun to instruct! I also work with various reading groups within fifth grade to address vocabulary among the anchor text, how to identify cause and effect, and the main idea along with supporting details.

Reading instruction is about 80% of my job, but the 20% remaining is mathematics support. I work with three, small, fifth grade groups working with them on the program “AutoSkills” that assesses students’ specific needs and scaffolds instruction. These three groups have been a great time. One group calls me mom – which I am not quite ready for. I also help with math instruction in two 2nd grade classes focusing on a group of students who need extra assistance.

After Wacousta, I head out to East Lansing to work at Sylvan Learning Center. I have been a teacher at Sylvan for four months now. Adding a second job onto my plate has been hard work, but super rewarding! At Sylvan, I work with three students at a time who all vary in ages from 5 – 55, academic needs, and grade levels. I have three, one-hour sessions a night where I might find myself trying to re-learn the basics of calculus or how to balance a chemical equation.

It is a busy day, but every time I leave the school I am smiling. Although this is not my perfect position as a certified social studies, mathematics teacher with a middle level focus – but I would not trade this experience for the world. It is a great feeling knowing that you found what you love to do and be able to do it everyday.

Not many people can say that they do what they love

but I get to 🙂

Things I “Stole” This Week // Ed. 4

So I was off my game last week with the start of my new job and finding my fit. Now, since I am not spending time in different classes everyday, my things to steal are minimal – but I will try my best to continue what I started!

How-to-Draw Videos

IMG_5610I was walking in the hall past a second grade class and I saw these drawings of Yoda on the wall. I was super impressed as to how second graders were able to construct such masterpieces so I went in and talked to the teacher. She said that one day they didn’t have library at the last minute. She had about 15 minutes to kill without any prepared lesson plans. With this, she pulled up YouTube, gave every student a piece of printer paper, and just sat back to watch the magic happen.

The YouTube channel is called ‘Cartooning 4 Kids’ and has so many different characters kids know and it explained how to draw them. This artist breaks it down into simple, slow steps for kids of all ages to be able to follow along to.

As you can see, the outcome was super impressive. It kept kids focused, engaged, and overall increasing fine motor skills and learning a skill that is not often taught – drawing! Also, they had a blast and have pride in their work 🙂

 

Good News Twitter Wall

This was something I found in a fourth grade classroom, but can be implemented in older grades as well. This teacher had laminated strips of computer paper in three columns on a bulletin board. Any student could write a good news tweet on these papers to be displayed for everyone to see that comes into that class that day. It is a great way to know your kids and for students to take pride in their good news! It also adds character to your classroom which is awesome.

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Biography Projects

This was in a fifth grade classroom that had just done research projects on different people. Every student was to research a different person and then create a project that documented his/her life. This project used different textiles, mediums, and a giant poster-board to show off the students’ person. Within the clothing of their person, the student was required to incorporate pockets so facts and information could be placed inside. It instantly became an interactive poster that not only was super informative, but showed off kids’ creativity and personality.

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Started from [Wacousta], Now Back Here

*cue Drake’s inevitable wisdom*

I am very thankful for this Saturday Morning. I am finally able to wrap my spinning head around this past week. All I can say that life is definitely a rollercoaster which can be terrifying at times, but overall – exciting.

For the past couple months, my income depended on which substitute teaching positions I landed that week. I knew this was not something I wanted to do all my life, but I had accepted the fact that one must start somewhere! Last Friday, I was playing the role of substitute teacher in one of my old high school classrooms when I was emailed by a previous teacher  – who now works in the Human Resource Department at my hometown school-district. The email was about an open Reading Teacher position at (go figure) my old elementary school.

Now I was hesitant with this position because of my limited reading instructional background since my degree is focused in mathematics and social studies. However, he was very confident that I would fit well within this position and wanted me to apply regardless. So I did.

I applied.

I finished the school-day.

I checked my voicemail.

I had an interview the following Monday.

Talk about a whirlwind of emotions! After my wonderful weekend, I showed up at the interview ready to go. I apparently knocked it out because the next day I was walking into Wacousta Elementary as the new Reading Teacher.

This past week has been a jumble of emotions. My position had not been completely finalized so they were unsure what specifically to do with me. There were schedule changes, location changes, and duty changes. In the wrong atmosphere, this would have been a nightmare. HOWEVER, the staff at Wacousta Elementary has been AMAZING – just as expected. I could not have asked for a better support and friendly faces that welcomed me back this week.

After a few location changes within the building I finally have my own space! The great thing about Wacousta is that they have moveable walls to create and modify spaces as needed. There are even rumors I will be getting my own desk (!!!)

As of right now, I will be working on reading skills with 2nd, 3rd, and 5th graders. I will also be doing some skills in remedial math with 5th graders. I have already met some amazing students and I am so very excited to be working with them for the rest of the year.

Also, how cool is it to be teaching where it all started?!

Wacousta Warrior for life ❤

“Priorities”

I found this in a high school classroom. I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE it.

Priorities

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They Thagreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous “yes”.

The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

“Now,” said the professor as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things— your faith, your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions. If everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.

The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house, and your car. The sand is everything else— the small stuff. “If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you. “Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness”. Play with your children. Spend time with your parents. Visit with grandparents. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your spouse out to dinner. Play another 18. Take care of the golf balls first— the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.”

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented. The professor smiled. “I’m glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple cups of coffee with a friend.”

Things I “Stole” // Classroom Library Edition

I am here to break the stigma that you need to be a English Language Arts teacher to have a classroom library. However, kudos to those ELA teachers who tend to have the most filled, the best set-up, and the utmost passion for getting students to believe that they too can love reading, they just need to find the right book. All I am asking is, LET ME JOIN YOU!

I love, love, love reading. Yet like most students, I really didn’t find this passion until late in high school. I thought reading was only for times teachers forced you to read books that they enjoyed, not about entering a world you find thrilling. I want to be a teacher that gives students the ability to enter as many worlds as they can and embrace reading as a passion, but not as a structured subject.

This starts with the classroom library. I have been in multiple classrooms that had libraries that I fell in love with. I just hope I can recreate these to engage my future students as well.

Libraries Need to Feel “Homey”

All the libraries that I liked in these classrooms had an edge of comfort for students to find their perfect book. There is something about using lamps for accent lighting, rugs, and homey decorations around classroom bookcases to take the edge off of finding a great book. It almost makes it less intimidating to take a book off of a shelf.

Along with decorations and lamps, this teacher also had a whiteboard displayed showing what book(s) she was currently reading. Her favorites were also labeled so students knew exactly which books she would recommend if they asked.

Organization

There are multiple ways to organize your books in your classroom, but it must be in a way that makes sense to students. I have seen this done in multiple ways, but many are often organized by genre. In the classroom below, this teacher labeled each section of her shelves in terms of genre and then alphabetically.

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If organization of your books by genre is too much work, organizing them alphabetically 64288a9e40f36fe548020be6e6c91ff7.jpgby  author might make more sense to you and your students. How does one do so easily though? The coolest/cheapest way is simply using the free paint stirrers home improvement stores love to hand out. Simply write the letter of the section on the end of the paint stirrer to section off authors’ last names.

You could also use paint stirrers to organize by genre as well if labeling your bookshelf isn’t something that you’re into.

Accelerated Reader (AR) Books

If your school incorporates the AR program, your students may benefit greatly by having AR books at the ready. By clearly labeling the books (stickers work), students can easily grab a book that they know is at the correct reading level or how many points they will receive when later taking the test.

If you are in the elementary grades and working more with picture books, stashing books in plastic milk crates are a great way to organize them. You can clearly label the outside of the AR points the books hold for students to easily find the correct crate. Books should be arranged so students are able to sift through them easily.

Historical Fiction and Non-Fiction

This is where the social studies aspect kicks in. I was excited to enter a classroom where I saw milk crates or bins without lids that had creative labels on the outside that explained what period of time could be found inside. Growing up, I really enjoyed learning about the Civil War and the era of slavery. I would have loved to have a bin at my disposal that I could move on from book to book about a topic I loved – rather than searching on only the days we had library time at the middle school.

When dealing with Non-Fiction, one classroom had the Dewey Decimal system in place and arranged books in bins as such. Each bin had the decimal labeled and the topic it covers. On the books themselves, she had labeled the decimal clearly so students were able to put back the books after they were finished. This is extremely important to also label books where they go so students can easily clean up after checking them out. The teacher shouldn’t have to do everything!

Checking Out

This seems to always be a problem with classroom libraries. Students borrowing books and simply never seeing them again. Either the students are super forgetful or they become misplaced. Either way, when you a put a book in your library, you must be okay with the fact that you may never see it again – especially in the same condition.

One way I have seen of fixing this problem is a classroom check-out system. This teacher had inserted library check out cards in everyone of her books. This shows when the book had been checked out and who has it – simply like a city library.

Though this doesn’t stop students from taking the books off the shelves and not telling you, it does help keep track of which students are borrowing  your books and where they are in the world.

Filling your classroom library with age appropriate books is only half of the battle. Creating an area for students to actually enjoy finding a book and opening another world is most important. There are so many ways to organize a classroom library and it fills my heart every time I see a different set-up. It If this does not define me as a proud to be book nerd, then I don’t know what would.