My favorite product is my Call the Cops Writing Resource. This was an idea that I came up with after being introduced to the COPS acronym at an Orton-Gillingham training last spring. COPS stands for Capitalization, Organization, Punctuation, Spelling. I wanted it to become a phrase that was used constantly in my classroom, but it needed rewards and consequences. That's where the Get Out of Jail Free Cards and the Speeding Tickets come in. My students can earn Get Out of Jail Free Cards when they are caught doing something right, or when they make a significant improvement on work. For example, sometimes I will go through an entire stack of papers and realize only ONE KIDDO has the date on his paper!! He would then earn one. The Speeding Tickets get issued when kids are caught rushing through work and skipping COPS. I also give my students COPS points on their work. For example, I used to write "- 2 points-please check your punctuation" and now I simply will write +2 COPS or -2 COPS and my kids understand why they were given certain points. Call the COPS has changed the way my kids self-edit and self-monitor their writing and it has made it easier for me to communicate with my kids about the quality of their writing.
My favorite area is my outdoor classroom. We Buffalonians are having that February slump where we are just done. with. winter. I cannot wait until the weather warms up and I can take my students outside again! I love planning special outdoor classroom activities with my students. Last spring, I had Fuzzy Friday each week. Each Friday we had our DEAR (Drop Everything And Read) time out in the grass. Each student brought a stuffed animal, a drink and a towel. We had reading picnics and story time out there. It was the perfect end to our week. I love using special reading time as a reward!
Confession: I'm a little bit of a noise freak. I know all teachers are, but I definitely let noise bother me more than other teachers. (I also mute the TV during commercials and I don't listen to music on the drive home from work.) I am a "closed-door" teacher- meaning I have my door closed 90% of the time, simply because I can't stand the sound of other classes passing by or any background noise. With that being said, it's no surprise that I LOVE a good signal to cut the noise and get my students' attention fast. This year, I didn't need as many signals because 5th graders, well, they just do what they're supposed to do. Occasionally I would have to do a tried-and-true clapping signal, but typically the sound of my voice would bring them back. Kindergarten, however, is a different beast. Last year I had the chattiest class ever. Clapping signals didn't work because they would clap, while continuing to talk! Or they would clap, then when the clapping was over they would start their conversations up again. I found that the best way to signal was to get their mouths in unison so there was less of a chance that they would be talking when it was finished. These were my two favorites:
Teacher: "Hocus pocus!"
Students: "Everybody focus!"
(sung to Frere Jacques)
Teacher: Are you ready? Are you ready?
Students: Yes I am. Yes I am.
Teacher: Show me that you're ready. Show me that you're ready.
Students: Yes we can. Yes we can.
Here is another cute song for lining up in the hallway that worked well for my kindergartners:
(sung to If You're Happy and You Know It)
Put your finger on your lip, on your lip
Put your hand on your hip, on your hip
Put your finger on your lip and your hand on your hip
Put your finger on your lip, on your lip
Ahhh sanity. What keeps me sane? Besides Starbucks, definitely Saturdays. I had to think about this for a long time because I couldn't pick just one or two things that always keep me sane. My Sanity Saturdays vary with activities and that is why I love them! Last year I made a pact that I would keep my Saturdays as "me time." I am very cautious when my friends and family want to make Saturday plans because my Saturdays are so sacred. I love getting up early, making a pot of my french press coffee and reading blogs in bed for hours. It took me a long time to understand that relaxing is OKAY and that I need to recharge after the week is over. At one point, I was completing my master's on Friday nights and all-day on Saturdays, waitressing on Sundays and working full-time from Monday-Friday. I never sat down and relaxed because in the back of my mind there was always something I felt that I should be doing. Now I know that it's okay if I spend an entire Saturday on my laptop and if I don't actually tackle that one project. I love keeping it simple and wasting away the day. After all, time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.