Saturday, 30 July 2011

Lamps purchased

Spent some time at Ikea this morning.  The lamps that I showed in my previous posts are unfortunately NOT plug in style, so I have bought 4 globe style lamps for four dollars a piece.  You have to buy the plug set up for 7.00 and then you buy the lights and then the shade that goes around the bulb is 4 bucks.  Overall I spent 60 dollars on the lighting.  I'm going to keep the receipts just in case I can either get reimbursed OR need to return them.

Here is the plan.  I'm going to go into the class and check to see if the ceiling outlets are random or attached to a switch.  I do have a slight problem.  If the outlets run separately then I have NO way of switching the lights off unless I climb up and unplug them.  This does not seem like a good idea to me.  Now, if the outlets are connected to the light switches then I have a way to turn them off and on, but I still have to leave my flourescents on because they are on the same switch.

I'm now debating, do I go ahead with the lamps or just return them?  What is the point of the lamps?  I wanted to give the room a more home like glow then the business/factory lights I already have.  But if I have to deal with both then really, what is the point?  What if the lamps CAN be set to work without the flourescent tubes?  Will they give enough light to work with?  Hmmmm.  Perhaps I am only going for the Look for the lighting and not it's practicality?  What is the purpose of the lights?  If the purpose is to light the classroom like a home and I can't do that technically then I will return the lights. 

I also have a problem with my rug.  It's not big enough.  I can't return it because I've been reimbursed for it already.  So my solution is to buy a second rug.  But I can't get one in the same colour.  What to do, what to do.  Does it matter if the colours match?  The purpose of the rug is to have a large enough area for my entire class to sit comfortably and listen to the morning/afternoon lesson before going to do their independent work.  So it needs to be large and comfortable.  It's shag and feels great. 

Also did a check on the math cards I ordered.  They should be in this week some time!  I can't wait!  Very excited to get a hold of those cards.

Next on my shopping list:  the Ikea shelving units which I KNOW I need.  I may be returning the lamps at that point as I'm really beginning to doubt the need for them.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Frames Found!

Cruising through the dollar store on Shaughnessy yesterday I found frames for my classroom.  I had been thinking about what kind of frames I would want.  Mostly, I was thinking wood.  The dollar store had 8X10 frame inserts, the kind you put IN the frame.  They are made of a harder paper and I could actually staple them to the walls or use push pins.  Plus they were only 1.75 each!  So I abandoned my wood frame idea and bought 24 of these in white, off white, burgundy and black.  I figure, if I use a green or brown backdrop to my bulletin boards, these colours will look good against it.  Although I'm NOT that great at colour schematics, so we will see if I am right or not! 

I am excited to try using these and let you know if they are durable enough to last. 

Friday, 22 July 2011

Shopping List for Classroom

Today I went to my classroom to get a feel of the open space.  I noticed right away that my shag carpet is NOT large enough.  I am going to need a second carpet to make the space the size I want it to be.  I'm going to need frames for the kids work, portable clear desks (like G uses) and 2 more expedit shelves from Ikea:

These shelves I put horizontally across my walls and they look fabulous.  I measured them to have 13 X 13 inch cubbies.  With 5 in all I'll have 40 cubbies.  I've already started to lay out what I want in each cubby.  At Ikea these cost 79.99.  I have 3 already and I will buy 2 more and keep the receipts for fall to see if I can get reimbursed.

Next I'm thinking of lighting.  Here are my two ikea lamp ideas:  The first is the cheapest one at 29.99.  I originally wanted 6..but maybe 4 would do?

I have 6 outlets in the ceiling.  If I plug the lamps in (assuming they plug in!) and then have a hook to make them drop as low as I want, then this will achieve my goal.  I plan to buy one for a trial run to see if I can make this work.  But wouldn't you also know that the district came and fixed my two flourescent lights that have been out for a few months.  I don't plan to turn those lights on anymore!  Okay option 2 is 79.99 and I don't think I will be getting it...but it is cool looking.

Like a fuzzy snowball.  But notice the lights seem to hook up to the ceiling wiring.  I don't like that!  I need plug in lamps.  Well, stay tuned, I have NO idea if this will work or not!

Last of all I need to buy 30 or more clear plastic shoe boxes.  Not only for my students to put their extra supplies in, but for myself to store odds and ends.  Most of my stuff fits in my desk drawers and these cute small cubbies I have that are labeled for the kids.  They say "push pins", "elastic bands" extra.  I'm thinking of the extra materials I might need to supply.  So right now I'm in a holding pattern for the bins.  I need them to fit two to a large cubby (13x13) and I have no idea how many I truly need.  I also want matching baskets for some books I have.  Those will go in one of two material shelving units.  Today I found all my non-fiction materials and I want to put them together.  I also have my grammar materials to shelve.  Plus I need to label everything too.  It's a huge job I'm undertaking but I know it will be worth it in the end.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Shopping and public schools

This past week I had the chance to talk with some fellow teachers and discuss the state of public school.  One of the topics that kept coming up was the borderless public school issue.  Back in 2001 when Christy Clark was Minister of Ed, she came up with this idea that parents should be allowed to choose the school their child goes to, and removed the idea that you had to go to your neighbourhood school.  This has caused a HUGE problem.  Schools have to compete with each other.  I, as the teacher have to SELL my program.  At least it feels like that because people can threaten to take their "business" elsewhere.  Really Clark's whole mission was to create private school business.  The government doesn't want to pay for public education, so her move is to discredit public schools with rankings and competition.  Since then my district has put in new programs and been marketing themselves to get students.

Long ago in a far off place there was a lovely thing called a neighbourhood school.  Schools were all seen as "good" and people didn't go from school to school shopping for the one they want.  Children in a neighbourhood went to school together.  It was a happy place.  Parents and teachers worked together to help each student succeed.  I have to say my school is AWESOME.   I hate when I hear rumours about it, that somehow it is not as good as another school near by.  That is totally untrue.  Basically rumours are started by people who just don't get their way, or we tell them the honest truth and they flee! DARE WE!

These days I feel of two minds.  I work in a special program, so shouldn't I sell it?  But, shouldn't the program sell itself?  A lot of time people don't understand the program.  People want a certain spelling program or a certain math text.  I feel like I have to bow to these pressures to keep people in my program.

BUT guess what???  This year, that is NOT happening.  I know what I'm doing, I'm good at it...and I need to believe in myself and my program.  I plan to help my parents understand the program through an introduction guide I am going to give out in September.  A lot of parents work now and I think it's hard for them to feel connected to our classroom.  I hope that my website, my newsletters, my new "info" guide and my openness to email communication will help in this area.

What is my program?  Montessori.  It was created by Maria Montessori who designed it for children who supposedly "couldn't" learn.  Children with disabilities and poor disadvantaged children.  They did very well with hands on, sequenced lessons.   I discovered Montessori while teaching on call.  I found the philosophy suited ME to a tee!  Basically it involves independent choice, students choose what they want to learn (within a structured environment).  When the teacher sees they are ready to learn something new they sit down and do a lesson with the child.  My classroom has materials for all subjects, and it is my job to create a schedule where children can openly choose BUT still cover all subject areas.

So, the thought for me this year is....THIS is my program.  If you don't like it..that's okay...there are other programs for you to choose.  I must stay true to what I believe is right for teaching.  I can't just put a spelling program in because it "looks" good....and trust me I have a spelling program BUT I'm talking about ones I'm told to do.  Once upon a time I was actually bribed to do what someone wanted...don't worry I didn't take the bribe!  I need to stop feeling like I need to sell the program and myself.  I need to focus on my love for Montessori and my love for teaching.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Background Music in the Classroom

Spent some time today walking around looking at research projects from graduating masters students.  A classmate of mine (M) her brother did a really interesting study on Background music in the classroom.  I was thinking about this in terms of student learning.  He did a study with nature sounds, children's music, and classical music at three different volumes (quiet - 40 decibels, medium, and loud 70).  He found that none of the music made a difference overall, in tests with silence the children did the same as with music.  However, he did find that quiet nature sounds during math improved students scores.  SO...I'm thinking I may try this idea.

He also said, playing music that's upbeat when kids come in can have a great effect on their mood.

I will be trying these ideas!  Let me know if you have :)

**I credit Megan's brother MATTHEW (last name ?) for this info.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Ceilings for sound

Tonight I went to the keynote speaker at SFU.  I was noticing that the theatre is designed with a ceiling that is quite wavy.  It made me wonder what effects the ceiling has on the sound in the room.  I'm thinking of the fabric I'm going to drape from the ceiling.  I wonder if I have it wave like this ceiling if it will dampen echoes and extra noise.

This is the exact room I was in.  The ceiling is wavy with pot lights (I HATE pot lights) but the ceiling is very cool looking.  It's metal, bent like an accordian, with small holes in it...all through like a speaker.

Suggestions?  Does fabric set in waves help with noise levels?

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Ideas from Masters Class!

Today T and P did a great activity where you put your fear on a piece of paper, ball it up and chuck it at them.  I really liked that!  Idea, idea!
I can see using this with children for different emotions.  It's confidential.  They had us read them out at the end, we didn't know whose was whose.  Maybe I would do that OR keep the papers to inform myself of issues in my classroom.

Great ideas ladies!

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Field Trips

I was reading the NAMC blog on facebook today about practical life activities for children in my age group.  I was thinking that at the beginning of the year the KIDS could help me plan field trips.  They can keep track of who brings notes in and the money.  That would be very practical.  I think they can also help me plan the arrangements by phone.  There are three points to practical life activities in 9-12:

  • Care of self – planning what will be needed (snacks, money, clothing, equipment, transportation…)
  • Care of the environment – taking care in and of our surroundings (“look but don’t touch” at museums; recycling and throwing out our litter; using ‘inside’ voices in public areas; learning the “pack in/pack out” rule)
  • Grace and Courtesy – handling ourselves in social situations (making reservations, using manners, writing thank you notes)

I've never given the children the power to chose field trips before but I might be able to work on this idea this year.  I also plan on letting them Plan the flow of the subjects for the year for Cultural.  I'm going to give them the subjects we will be studying and the weeks it will take and they will plan which subject will go where and when.  Experimental planning!

Some Practical life ideas taken from the blog above:
Here are a few more ideas for upper elementary Montessori Practical Life outdoor activities:
Hauling things: dirt for a garden, sand for a playground, rocks for a pathway
Making paths and walkways along the school grounds
Creating and executing a plan to reduce, reuse and recycle at school
Raking leaves
Shoveling snow
Building and mending fences
Mowing grass
Planting and caring for a garden
Washing cars
Walking dogs
Routine car maintenance: checking oil, filling windshield fluid, changing a tire
Building playgrounds

Well I am doing a garden and they will be planning it.  I also will be starting composting and they will plan that too.  Wouldn't it be really cool to join up the high school and have the older kids teach mine how to make frames, and those could be for their work on the walls!  Hmmmm

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Death of the Big Blue Shelf!!!

Today I went back to school.  Yeah I know...why Sandra why?

Well, my house cleaners come and I have to be out of the house during that time.  So I took myself to school to do a little Montessori research.  I wanted to look over my NAMC binders and see what materials I needed for September and to reteach myself some of the materials.

While I was there our caretaker H offered a suggestion.  Why was I going to repaint the big blue shelf.  One it wasn't on wheels, it wasn't attached to the wall...why did I want it?  Good question H.  So I got him to haul that thing OUT!  I am going to replace it with 2 more Ikea shelves (which I need to purchase).  On top of that H and I got talking.  He offered to put mini wheels on all my shelving units so that he can clean better and I can move them around easily.  Smart H, very smart!  So lucky me!  My shelves are getting wheels!

I also got to look at the room S set up.  It was really cool.  Green carpet with blue paper on the boards...very Earthy. 

Ideas are flowing!!!

Monday, 4 July 2011

Ideas from Greg

Went to visit Greg's room today!  Got some great ideas.  Particularly, use my sound system again.  I do have a sound system that helps my voice carry around the room.  I hadn't used it because I thought it was contributing to the overall noise.  I'm willing to give it another chance.

Fabric.  Greg suggested using fabric on the ceiling to dampen the noise.  I never thought of that!  So I'm going to give that a try too.  Also need to find out which breaker switch turns those ceiling outlets on and off. 

New adventures await!   Fabric store, here I come. 

Sunday, 3 July 2011

A dream of books

Now I know I've lost it!  I took a nap and dreamed of organizing my picture books.  I have been wondering how to make them look less messy.  You know the kind of books.  They are fiction and non-fiction easier readers.  I have an alphabetized library of chapter books, as I've said before.  My picture books are a mess to behold!

I searched a few images of book baskets.  I'm picturing putting the books into fiction and non-fiction sections, alphabetized by author (fiction) and subject (non-fiction).  I'd love to have wicker, but wicker is a lot more expensive.  So I need to start with some low price dollar store MATCHING baskets.

I stumbled on two websites.  The first was organizing library books, which is where I got the fiction and non-fiction splitting idea.  The other is a second grade blog by a teacher who loves green and frogs and had some design ideas of her own.  I really enjoyed her blog.  Her room is a bit more busy than I'd like but it is stunning none the less!

Saturday, 2 July 2011

The Ikea Shelf

This is a photo of the Expedit shelf from Ikea.  This was taken in September of last year after I set it up at the front of my room.  As you can see it is wood coloured and fits right under my white board!  I have bought 2 more of these and removed the little rainbow coloured drawer set on the side.  That whole wall will have these shelves across it!  They are very large storage cubes and have depth as well.  I find the top of the shelving smooth and very easy to clean.  I am hoping to store the children's supplies and projects in these areas.

As you can see my room was quite colourful.  For this year I am putting away the colours and going with brown and white for boards so the kids can write on them.  I am also going to purchase or have a friend make some student frames so THEY can post their own work.  I will save my posters and equipment for learning times only.

Last thought for today.  Should I mount my projector?  I always have to move the desk it's on and line it up correctly.  But if it was mounted to the ceiling, I wouldn't have this problem.  My screen is already mounted so it's not moving.  What do you think?  Pros and cons?  Hmmm.

Oh and check out the photo above.  Do you see the GIANT white tubing that clutters up my ceiling.  Yup that is the heating system.  It makes using the top parts of the walls impossible.  

Friday, 1 July 2011

New Adventures

Inspired by colleagues I've decided to document my journey this coming year. 

About Me:

I am a grade 4/5 Montessori teacher.  This will be my 13th year teaching.  I am in a Masters of Educational Leadership class and plan to do my research project on the effects of classroom design on my teaching and my students learning. 

Interest in Design:

For my last master's paper I looked at physical organization.  I really found it interesting how schools are laid out and how classrooms can be designed.  I was lent a book called The Third Teacher from my colleague H and I LOVED the book.  I was determined to start thinking outside my four walls.
This past year I had a very challenging class.  15 boys and 8 girls all very high energy.  My classroom was LOUD and most of my time was spent dealing with behaviour issues.  But then I started questioning why?  I spent half my day asking kids to take hats off....why?  I spent a lot of time asking kids to sit...why?  What was I thinking?  Do kids really need to sit?  Do hats really need to be off?  Hmmmm. 
I also have space limitations.  Our school used to be a California school, with outdoor access and NO hallways.  Year ago hallways were added, shrinking the classrooms significantly.  Apparently, according to a colleague of mine our classes are 20 square feet below ministry standard.  So, faced with that, how do I fit all those kids in?  Gotta think outside the walls!
This year full day K was introduced to our school.  I was inspired by their use of outdoor space.  Our principal created garden spaces for all, and fenced in areas for children to explore.  I am lucky enough to have an outside door and an area of grass.  It's small but it has me thinking, why can't my kids just go outside to do work?  They were always trying to escape to be out there anyway! 

My friend G has a great blog all about his thinking about teaching and design.  I'm so inspired by this!  So I plan to document what I will change and what I have created. 

What have I bought and gotten rid of?  Well last year I bought an Expedit shelf unit from Ikea.  It is wood and holds TONS of books.  It fits right under the white board perfectly.  I was so happy with it that I have purchased two more for September and will put them all along one wall. 

I'm the kind of person who likes all her shelves around the edges and NOTHING in the middle of the room.  I love the wide open feel of that.  I used to have shelves creating little spaces for reading or math, but now I like the open feel. 

This year my library books were all alphabetized by the kids, by author's last name.  I found this was a great idea because the kids really liked keeping it in order.  After all they had done the hard work of alphabetizing it and they got angry if kids dumped books!  I hope to keep this this same and have the kids teach the newer kids how to keep it nice and neat.

My large cabinet is used for my storage.  If you saw inside it you would lose your mind!!  It is very well organized.  I have all my arts and craft supplies binned and sorted too. 

The biggest change for me will be the removal of ALL DESKS.  I started thinking mid year...why do I have desks?  What are they really for?  I spend all my time taking toys away from kids who hide them in desks, asking kids to find work they have stuffed in the desk, cleaning out desks, having children hide books in their while I'm talking to them.  Desks really were my pain.  As a child I hated these desks.  You have to bend awkwardly to get stuff out of them.  Complete waste of space.  SO I decided I will remove them and put tables in.  So I have 8 trapezoid tables ready to go.  They are all wood finish tops and I plan to put a plant on each.  I have also purchased a raspberry shag rug.  I's coloured and wild but I just fell in love with it and felt it would be a fun place to sit and learn!  It's also easy for kids to clean.  I do not trust the ancient vacuums that the custodians are forced to use. 

I also loved the idea of Ikea lamps replacing my horridly unreliable flourecent lights.  Unfortunately my back window is barred up and lets in very little natural light.  BUT I am lucky enough to have 6 outlets in my ceiling beams because my room was a computer room.  So bring on the globe lights baby! 


My other love is Montessori.  I teach it, I live it....I breathe it.  BUT the biggest problem I have is that I am confined to public school schedules.  Montessori really thrives on having a very flexible schedule.  With bells and structured PE, LIbrary, Music etc...this is a hard thing.  I also spend half my year questioning myself.  Should I use textbooks, no yes, no yes.....back and forth!  Well this year I have a plan.  Believe in Montessori wholely.  Go with it and do it! 

I just ordered a set of math cards that goes exactly with my materials and the age 9-12 curriculum.  In my classroom children work at their own pace.  Some do grade 3 level math while some do grade 7. 

In Language I have always believed in free writing time.  You can write whatever you want, poems, comic books, stories, long as YOU want to do it.  I was an author as a child, I loved story writing, but I was given the freedom to do it by many wonderful teachers.  I want my kids to have the freedom to write.

Now Cultural is where the problems lie.  Cultural is anything other than Language or Math.  So this year I tried this station approach and failed...failed hard.  I did it with the Human Body unit.  I thought I'd create a station for each system, and have hands on stuff at each.  Oh I was gung ho baby!  But when I got to the end of the unit I gave them the standard paper test.  HUGE MISTAKE...half the class failed.  So why was it that they could tell me stuff about the human body but not write it down.  Well I taught them hands on...but tested them with paper...WHAT!!!  So lesson learned.  Hands on is good, but my old methods of collecting data of their knowledge..did not work. 

I also love project based learning.  The problem I have with it is that they love to take them home and then I have half student/half parent projects.  How do I tell what they really did?  But I don't have enough computers for the kids to research daily IN the classroom.  Catch 22.  I will need to work on that.  I need more library space and more computer time.  I need to match the project time to my given computer/library time and use the librarian for help on this too.  I have plans I do....

Final thoughts

As July begins I'm thinking and reading and recording as much as possible.  I really want to make this next school year exciting for my students.  I want to work on the NOISE level in my class.  I am a loud person, so it starts with me.  I want to spend September working on how to get along with others, how to solve problems and how to respect ourselves and our space.  My kids often have been with each other for the entire schooling time.  So they really know each other's buttons and it causes huge behaviour issues.  I've already spoken to my support teachers on how to set up behaviour plans for students in September.  I have at least 4 kids who need them.  BUT will my new design and my rededication to Montessori ease these issues?  We will have to see.

Have a great summer and please comment with ideas or any help you have!  Photos soon.