Thursday, August 28, 2008

Pre-Planning Prioritizing

For years and years, I always went into my classroom early because I couldn't get everything done during my pre-planning week. A few years ago, I finally figured it out.

I'm NEVER going to get everything done that I want to get done. There will ALWAYS be things that I could do or would like to do.

I finally learned that it was a matter of prioritizing.

There are some tasks/meetings that my district says I MUST attend.

There are some tasks that I MUST get finished within the pre-planning week or I am uncomfortable as a teacher.

There are some things that I WANT done before the first day of school but its not the end of the world if I don't get to it.

And of course, there are things that are on my never ending list of materials I would like to prepare but if I get it done this week, this semester or next summer, I will still have students who are safe and learning.

I have also found that some of the "must do's" are procedural tasks from the school or district. I have finally figured out that my assistant and I are a team. She is happy to take care of some of those tasks, if I let her! I learned to delegate and share tasks.

The following are my lists and their respective categories of importance to me:


Not my choice:
1) Attend annual policy and procedure welcome back meeting for the school.
2) Attend the superintendent's video meeting and welcome back.
3) Create take home packets including: student code of conduct, emergency medical forms, room mother forms, etc. (I ask my assistant to do this.)
4) Call the families of all of the students in my class and invite them to "Meet Your Teacher."
5) Attend team meeting at my school.
6) Attend depratment meeting (pre-k teachers) at the district level.

My Choice:
1) Try to schedule any initial IEPs and staffings that have been added to my caseload over the summer. (I like to get these done during pre-planning because then I can start with students on day 1. It doesn't always work out, but I try my hardest to get it done.)
2) Get the physical layout of my room organized and ready for children.
3) Have a welcoming bulletin board outside my class (my assistant does this for me).
4) Set up my anecdotal record notebook (my assistant does this for me).
5) Set up a folder/list of IEP due dates for students for the year.
6) Lesson plans for the first week of school. (I plan and my assistant helps me gather materials or prep materials for lessons.)
7) Take my assistant out to lunch! (We frequently go with other teachers and staff, but during the school year, we rarely get the chance to have lunch together. It's nice to carve out some time during the pre-planning week to spend some time together.)

I have found, that if I complete all of the tasks that the district requires of me and I have all of the things done that make me comforatble as a teacher, then I usually have an afternoon or two to take care of some of the special tasks that I enjoy (creating new visual supports, surfing the internet for new lesson ideas, visiting other classrooms and "stealing" other teachers' ideas).

Prioritizing what the district requires and what I need helps me to stay focused on the most important tasks and complete them. As a bonus, it reduces the stress and anxiety of completing numerous tasks in a short period of time. When the stress is reduced, I'm much more productive.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Web Resources from Successful Teaching

I just love the resources listed in the Useful Ideas In and Out of the Classroom at Successful Teaching.

I especially liked:
Arcademic Skill Builders



Both sites are new to me and look like great resources to share with the other teachers on my team and to use with students I tutor.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Free Online Books

I've been reading more and more about Universal Design for Learning in the past few months. I found a site that was new to me, UDL Wikispace.

As I was navigating my way through all of the cool resources, I hit on one in the Literacy Tools. There are many links to help students of all ages access literacy.

I browsed several sites with free online books that were familiar to me, but it made me wonder if there were other sites and resources that were similar.

Yes! There are tons!

Here are a few that I liked:


TarHeel Reader


(You have to create an account, but it is free.)

E-Books for Young Readers

Reading A-Z Interactive Books; RAZ Kids
(Click on free samples. A subscription to the complete library is $29-$59).

Clifford Books

Magic Keys

This one would be for older kids and adults....Mark Twain, Jane Austen, Jules!
Read Print

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Interactive Books

As I am preparing for a new school year, I have been thinking about what resources and materials I use on a weekly basis that could be easily shared.

I love to use interactive books and visual supports. I find that my students attend to the lesson and remain engaged for longer periods of time when a lesson is structured in a supportive manner.

One of my all time favorite sites for interactive books and visuals is the Speech-Language-Hearing Services of Jefferson Parish Public School System.

Here are a few tips to find great printable materials from the site:

Check out the AAC button (Augmentative/Alternative Communication).
The home page of the AAC button has many interactive books that you may download for free. This page requires the user to own a Boardmaker CD.

If you don't own Boardmaker, make sure to click on the Adapted Stories button. This is a group of shared materials that can be printed directly from the website. Under the Fall tab, I have printed, laminated and velcro-ed the Going to School book. I usually use this book during the first week of school. This was the first book I printed from this site....after using it in my classroom, I was hooked. I've printed, laminated and velcro-ed many more since.

For those of you who are new to interactive books or maybe just looking for more ideas on how they are used in the classroom, check out the Photos of Activities button. This section gives a photo of the finished interactive book and other classroom materials that the teacher used with the lesson.

Also be sure to look for the Lang Activities button. This button has many, many Power Points designed to increase language skills.

I use the Power Points as a "sponge activity" when students are bathrooming and washing their hands. My classroom is set up with an Active Board (an interactive white board). I use the Power Points on my Active Board, but you could also use them with a projection screen or connect your computer to a TV.

This year I think I'm also going to try using the Power Points with our computer buddies. We have a general education 4th grade class that visits us once a week to work on the computers. My school has a student drop on our server. I'm going to try uploading the targeted Power Point to the student drop and have the 4th graders download it to the student computers. Then they can read through the power point one on one with their partner. After they finish that, they will be able to chose an online game that supports the skill. I'll let you know how it goes!

Happy exploring and navigating the is such a wealth of ideas and resources.