Sunday, August 19, 2012

The 8th Grade Year

For those of you who don't know, I'm teaching 8th grade English this year. I know, most of us try to forget the 8th grade. That most awkward of awkward years when we knew everything and were too cool to do anything. I know it is definitely on the years that I try to block out. But it happened, we all survived, and now it is partially my responsibility to let this generation of awkwardness know that they too will make it and will come out on the other side alive and much wiser through the wisdom found in young adult literature.

My classroom tour:

Can I still put all of my student's names on frog cutouts and title it "Ms. English's Pad"?

We'll start at the door. This is my announcements bulletin board. I'm still at a loss for ideas on what to put on a bulletin board for middle schoolers, so this is my best attempt at an interesting bulletin board. I found the letter cutouts at the Dollar Tree (score!), and the background is a piece of fabric from the remnants bin at Walmart. I made my board a little more interesting by modge-podging scrapbook paper to the front of clothespins and glueing thumbtacks to the back. So now whenever I need to switch out papers, all I have to do is unclip it. No holes everywhere!
I also "rescued" the table from a spare room and spraypainted the top purple. I had to glue a board back on the tabletop, and it originally had a bright teal peace sign and initials all over the top. A few coats of paint and some wood glue seemed to make quite a difference. Now it sits at the entrance and holds any papers I need to pass out as students enter, and it also doubles as a spare desk when needed.

This is my back wall, and I am in love with these bookcases. They are the best thing that ever happened to a classroom. They hold all of my dictionaries, extra books, teaching resources, and anything else that needs a home. The trays in the middle are where students turn their work in. I took plain black paper trays, ran a strip of the polka dot duct tape down the front, and labeled them by period. I also have the two blue baskets down below, one for late work and one for make-up work. Keeps everything neat and organized, and minimizes lost papers. To the right of the bins, I have my missing work logs and my make-up work files. Both are new this year to keep the kids more accountable for their own work. You can read more about the missing work log and the inspiration for the make-up work file box here. Essentially the way the way the make-up files work is that I have two sets of 5 hanging file folders (color coded), one for my regular classes, one for accelerated. Each file is labeled Monday-Friday, and at the end of each day, I put whatever assignments/handouts I used that day in the appropriate file. When the missing student returns, they are responsible for going to the box and getting whatever they missed. This is also great for extra handouts because students know where to go get them instead of constantly asking for replacements.

  This is my desk area (please disregard the know how it is). At the front is my main desk that faces the students. I found the paper clip note/picture holder at Dollar Tree, and the two little bins in the dollar section of Target.  Behind the desk is my computer desk where I keep my printer and other computer goods as well as a dry-erase calendar (Hobby Lobby) and the little owl bulletin board (Target). I also plan on making one of these soon to also help with organization.  Speaking of organization, I'm quite proud of my duct tape filing organizer, which was inspired by the one here, except I rigged mine to where it sticks to the wall. Here I keep office forms, discipline forms, and any papers that need to go to ELL or SPED teachers.

Continuing around the room, I have my podium, chair, and filing cabinets. The chair is my investment for this year (Pier 1), and so far, no regrets! I love it! I would love to turn the filing cabinets into something like this or this, but I'm not sure how the powers at be would feel about me mode-podging and spraypainting their filing cabinets. So instead I created a no-name board. I took my clothespins and stuck magnets to the back instead of thumbtacks, and now I have a magnetic bulletin board that doubles for hiding the ugly filing cabinet and also gives me a place to put papers with no names on them for students to claim instead of me trying to track down who the paper belongs to.

 Hopefully my SmartBoard will get here soon. Until then, we're kickin' it old skool! Seriously, that's a chalkboard in the next picture.

On the chalkboard I post the objectives we will be covering for the day and the homework for the evening. The students know that the chalkboard is the first place they should look when they sit down and to go ahead and write down their homework. The Star Wars board is an inspiration from another teacher that has worked beautifully for classroom management. Each period is competing against each other (Accelerated vs. Accelerated and Regular vs. Regular) for stars each day. They can earn stars for the entire class prepared and working on their bellwork when the tardy bell rings, everyone turning in their homework, and for the class behaving and acting as they are supposed to for the whole period. Notice I said the ENTIRE class for each of those. This requires each student to pull their own weight and channels peer pressure into a positive form of encouragement. The class with the most stars at the end of the 9 weeks gets to spend a period watching the movie connected to the literature we read that 9 weeks. Movies can be powerful rewards!

Back to the organization part, teachers, if you haven't found this site on Pinterest yet, you need it! She has free adorable customizable substitute binders and teacher binders. I got giddy with glee when I saw them!

So that is my classroom tour. Hopefully you found some inspiration, and if you have any questions or comments, let me know!

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