Thursday, July 25, 2013

My Hopes and Dreams for the 2013-2014 School Year

Usually around this time, I begin reflecting on my hopes and dreams for the following year, inserting bursts of enthusiasm about how much I love teaching. I am entering my tenth year of teaching and my first year in fifth grade, so I am... naturally... a bit nervous. However, that nervousness is manifesting itself as excitement as well because as a gifted adult, I love thinking about how students' minds and imaginations evolve. The possibilities of collaboration are endless, and whenever I reveal a new science experiment, my eyes still glisten with childlike glee. Writing math word problems generates grand excitement as well because I love to throw in vigorous twists that get my students to deepen their thinking. Sharing literature I am most passionate about is best when my students understand how the book lures me in for more every time I read it. Most importantly, writing is my abacus, and I love how it can be integrated across the curriculum. Gifted education is a fervent passion of mine-- one that has been a part of my fiber since I was probably my students' age.

I was always a divergent philosopher of sorts, sometimes too much for my own good. My mind also thought of ideas beyond the curriculum at times, and I had a very strange and involved way of studying for tests that would probably not work for many others. The way I learned was quite different, and some complex, droves of insanely creative ideas have crossed my mind for as long as I can remember.

So what am I excited for this year? I usually do not embrace change well, but first comes embracing the change of doing something different, breaking away from the monotony of doing the same thing for almost a decade. Now I have to acquaint myself with the ever-pressing Common Core standards... at a new grade level. Here is the list of the rest of the things that are strangely exciting me right now:

1. Encouraging my students to learn together in interesting ways:

A few years ago, a fellow teacher (Brad) helped me to make something I always wanted to have a reality-- a prize wheel. I am ecstatic about introducing this fabulous motivator to my class. For some reason, regular activities seem even better when something like this wheel is involved.

It was simple to make-- of course, he did the complex portion, getting it all attached, but I purchased a big wooden circle and long rectangular piece at Hobby Lobby. Of course, I painted the wheel portion and applied a bit of glitter. It took about fifteen minutes to get together once the circular portion was completed.

Beyond this wheel, I love finding music that I can play to energize my students, sometimes during transitions and other times, during games. There are numerous ways of randomizing partnerships in the room as well. I have downloaded iPad apps that also add to the fun-- one is even a randomized prize wheel, and another really good one is a countdown timer. Of course, I have much beyond that to invigorate the class, but that's for a whole other part of this post!

2. Manifesting creativity:

This is my Winter/Spring/Summer/Fall creation from last year (December 2012), where I wrote a vivid description of each season after completing the painting. The activity encouraged students to focus on vivid, precise word choice. I like how I will be able to incorporate this activity with my students probably sometime around the holiday season again, how it addresses many fifth-grade standards and incorporates something I don't do often in the classroom-- artistic expression.

Beyond that, the Minded crate comes to mind-- and how it encourages students to embrace the multiple intelligences. Two of the areas are Music-Minded and Art-Minded!

3. The games and activities I have created:

I love how over the years I have had the opportunity to create tons of games and activities for my students, as you have seen some on this website and several others on my other weblog. To the left is a simple symmetry game I made using wooden circles, permanent markers, and poster board where the students drag the circles around the perimeter of the circle to see what the figures look like when rotated in different directions. Here are a few others I am particularly looking forward to using this year:

The Spiral Twirl-- A fun review game where you can use any questions in any subject! 
Suffix Switch!
Team Climb Competition-- Looks like something you would see at camp...

4. Curriculum: My fifth grade students will be using the same curriculum as other fifth graders across the district, though they also are exposed to Singapore Math, Sadler-Oxford vocabulary studies, William and Mary literature units (and other units in other subjects, from what I have gathered), and Renzulli Learning, which is a phenomenal supplement. When I interviewed for my position, I did not know as much as I could have, though now, I have read up on each and certainly feel more comfortable. Additionally, I love bringing in resources from Stephanie Harvey, Linda Dorn (Thoughtful Logs), Scholastic, and Math/Science Exemplars to supplement the standards.

5. Amazing Support: I love the fact I am blessed to share my resources with many sensational people through Scholastic as well as the weblogs and domain. I have met many exquisite individuals whom I would love to thank individually for being monumentally inspiring in my teaching career. It amazes me when someone notes me as being inspiring to them because usually, that person inspired me to become who I am today as well as many others. Additionally, I will love communicating with our pen pal classes via the Internet-- we have a class in St. Augustine as well as one in Canada, hopefully. I may strive for one in our nation as well.

6. Technology: That brings me to technology! Of course, I cannot go on enough about the benefits of having an iPad to use with my students. I love exposing my students to literature via Scholastic Storia, using the Barefoot World Atlas, and using podcasts to enhance the curriculum. I also cannot wait to see what we are doing with our St. Augustine pen pals; my pen pal teacher Kristin is looking into using Skype for the classroom, and I want to see if it is a possibility, by any means. Besides that, I am ecstatic to try green screen technology, which my friend Megan is masterful at. Additionally, our school's library has a beautiful green screen wall and phenomenal editing software to make the transition a bit easier and more exciting for me. 

7. A Magazine Subscription: There is so much I love about Scholastic Scope, which is intended for the middle school classroom but will be a superior resource in my fifth grade room. The paired texts impress me as well as the responses to literature and overall text complexity. You Write It is also a wonderful feature. Here is the September 2013 sneak peek. 

8. A Classroom Family: Though I don't know whom my "unfortunate victims" will be yet (LOL... you don't know how insane I am, but it's okay... nine years of students have survived my wrath!), I love introducing myself to my students and getting to know them as well. The first week is a monumental time, and this year, learning about my students will be adventurous and invigorating because I have never been exposed to their awesome and unique personalities. Nor have they been exposed to mine, but that's all besides the case. When the classroom is completed, it will have a warm, friendly, and inviting atmosphere-- and show my students that their creative approaches are encouraged as well. Within the first week, they will be exposed to my "humor" (if you call it that!), writing, some of my creative collaborative ideas, and stories. I cannot wait to hear theirs as well and see how each student will enrich the classroom environment.

I am certain there is more to say, but...I am certain it will all come in the near future!

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