Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Workshop Way

Well I have had a very busy summer, between working (mostly) full time at a day care as a full time float teacher (just for extra summer $$$ :)), and switching to a brand new school, attending the required trainings, setting up my new classroom, and just trying to wrap my mind around the philosophy of my new school.

That's not to say that I do not agree with it, or that I do not wish to incorporate the ideals, because it is actually quite the other way around.  I really find the whole thing to be very powerful in theory, beautiful even! It is just that it is very different from many things that I have learned in college, and it is CERTAINLY different from what I saw at my previous public school.  But as I have said in previous posts, I am teaching at a Charter School so they can be a bit more "Out of the Box" when it comes to this type of thing.

It's called Workshop Way (r), and it is based on the work of Grace Pilon.  I just finished a five day training on it, and immediately searched the world wide web for anything, ANYTHING about this program from teachers who have embraced it.  What I found was very vague, limited information that seemed to leave readers more confused than when they started.  Even when I took to the blogging community, it was essentially unheard of.

However, I understand it, at its core, and while it is somewhat confusing at first (and still can be-at times) I really do believe in what the message is here behind this program, and that is that you can't leave Human Growth up to chance.  Meaning, you have to teach students how to live their lives as "fully dignified, intelligent human beings" as Grace Pilon would say.

"It is a way for students to learn how to learn, how to think, and how to manage their lives"

The easiest way to explain this is to take the words straight from her mouth from a quote in an article called The Workshop Way to Student Success.  She says that Workshop way is

"a way for a teacher to organize time, content, and materials so human growth is not left to chance.  It's a way all teachers can give all students the condition that release their remarkable human potentials.  And it works with all students because it does not depend on where students start.  Neither does it depend on prior learning of students or on the background of teachers."
I highly recommend anyone to read the full article above, as it will give you much more information than I can at this time.  Admittedly I still have such limited knowledge on the subject because I have not  taught, or lived rather, this philosophy.

What I can say about it is this.  In my classroom I will be hanging six of the philosophy signs:

Everyone has the right to time to think.

It takes COURAGE to be willing to risk.

We are FREE to make mistakes while learning.

We RESPECT the rights of others.

We don't have to know everything today.

It is intelligent to ask for help.

My students will be familiar with these mantras, and understand them as universal truths inside our classroom.

I will also be setting up tasks for students to be doing independently while I meet with each individual student to listen to their homework, which is a list of vocabulary words and phrases that they read fast in order to develop fluency, word meaning, confidence as a reader, and accountability for studying the list each night.

The homework comes in a pack that my school ordered from the company, as well as the ideas for the tasks.

You can order these items here. 

I will be posting more information about the tasks, homework, and overall climate of my new classroom as everything progresses.  I have a feeling that this year is going to go a lot more smoothly than it has in the past because of this program.  It's all about taking the fear out of taking risks while learning.  We will see how things go!

Please let me know if I have violated any copyright laws with this post, and I will do what I can to fix it!  Like all of my students, I am still learning too!!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Math Fact Tubs

The secret: FROSTING!

When I was in college, a professor of mine gave me an amazing tip.  She said to save frosting tubs and use them to store little centers or work stations.  

Around Christmas time, I sent out a school-wide email informing the teachers that I am collecting frosting tubs, and to send any of them my way. It was perfect timing, as third grade was just finishing up their Gingerbread Houses! I ended up getting about ten of them in all.  

---I would suggest having people clean them out first, because I spent a good chunk of time scraping frosting, but I took what I could get from nine year olds on a sugar high!-- 

I have done many things throughout the year with these frosting tubs... I love them because you can easily give them removable labels with index cards, they are small enough to sit at students' desks, and they are easily stored.

ANYWAY, what I used one tub for each set of math facts.  One for adding zero, one for adding one, one for adding two, one for take away one, take away two, and I even made some more challenging ones for my higher students such as adding ten, making ten, and doubles. Sometimes I just have a whole center based on one puzzle, or I let them take a tub back to their seat when they are finished with their work.  They have really proven to help sharpen their mental math skills this year, and the kids really enjoy using them.

For each set, I took several index cards (probably 15-20) and put a problem on the left side, then I wrote the answer on the right side.  I waited to cut them up until after I laminated them all, to save time and energy cutting all of the individual pieces.  I used different colored markers to make each set, so I could easily tell which set a piece belonged to in case one got misplaced.  I am really happy with the way these turned out!

Update:  I made a TON of literacy and math puzzles for frosting tubs available here for download!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Any takers?

Guess how long it took me to sharpen all these colored pencils?


A long time.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


I don't know how it is everywhere else, but many public schools in Arizona require you to write your "kid friendly" objectives on the board.

I added a little color to mine, even though the papers got caught in the laminator, so now they are a little wrinkled... (UGH the plastic that was going in fused with the plastic coming out, and it was a huge jumbled mess!)  But even so, I think its alright for this year.  

I especially like my SWBAT sign.  I used a sentence strip and mounted it on several colorful index cards.  Its awful psychedelic, don't you think?

Color Rings

These little gems are called Color Rings in my class.  They are leveled flashcards for advanced kindergarten.  My class started on an almond color ring that has all of the letters and color words.  In order to pass the almond ring and move on to the next, the student must name all letters and the corresponding sounds, as well as all of the color words.  They must be able to get through the whole ring with no mistakes in order to move on to the next. The rest of the rings cover a total of 240 sight words.  They keep the color ring at home and practice with their parents until he or she is confident that they will make no mistakes.  I will then test them on the particular ring. 

This is not a mandatory assignment, but It really gives them an advantage for first grade.  Plus, many Kinders jump at the opportunity to learn more sight words in a more structured way.

The color rings progress in this order:
  1. Almond
  2. Red
  3. Orange
  4. Yellow
  5. Green
  6. Blue
  7. Purple
  8. Brown
  9. Pink
For a full list of the words, plus the templates used for the flashcards email me at mmbrgr1@gmail.com

I'll post a picture of all of the color rings together later.

Monday, April 30, 2012

My Classroom

Classroom pictures:

I figure that I'll just post a couple pictures of my classroom and the things that I have made this year.  It is a work in progress as this is my first year as a teacher.  Keep in mind, that I made (or bought!!!) practically everything that was used in my classroom this year.  I did what I could with what I had, and some things ended up pretty cool! 

Here is a center that I made for beginning sounds.  It is a magnetic picture sort that I made out of the front side of my desk.  


First Things First-- A little humor!

Well this is just about the funniest thing I have ever seen.  I stumbled on this, and I seriously cannot stop laughing.  So for all of you that are living in the old school pop era, in the words of Justin Timberlake, "It's Gonna Be MAY!"

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Well Hello!

Welcome to Ms. Berger's Teaching Blog!

I am pretty new at this, but I have been obsessed with some of the other teaching blogs out there, so I figured that I would give it a try. So with that in mind, please note that this is a work in progress, and I am taking any and all feedback that I can get as to how I can improve my blogging skills!