Thursday, July 29, 2010

Using skills list in my Latin America study

Okay so I've decided to use skill list for part of my grading this year. I'm planning on doing it in both Math and Social Studies. I feel pretty confident with the lists I'm making in math (although I'll share those next month anyhow). It was harder for me to do it in Social Studies. I'm going to put both the KUD that I created for the unit and the skill list up here and I'd love to hear some feedback about either! Thanks in advance


Skill List

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Setting up my Classroom Part 1

Some background before I get into my actual plan for setting up my classroom. I began teaching in my district as a inter-school loop teacher which means that I went between the 3-5 Elementary school and the 6-8 Middle School. Each year I was in a different classroom which was obviously very difficult. To make matters worse, when I was at the Middle School, I was on the ground floor and my room was used by the Summer Y program. This continued for the past few years even after I became a full time 6th grade, Middle School teacher. Last year, when I moved from being on a two person team to a three person team, I also moved my classroom upstairs. That meant that my classroom was going to get cleaned in the first couple of weeks of summer. Unfortunately last year, they had to paint my classroom and did not finish this until halfway through August, about 2 weeks before kids came back. This year there was no painting so they had my room cleaned before the 4th of July. Imagine how excited I've been to set it up!

Above are some images of my classroom prior to my changing anything. My room is a bit odd in shape as it falls on one end of the school (meaning that no one abuts one side of my room.) Also my room is more wide than long as well.

As you can see, I have tables as opposed to desks. I'd much rather have round tables but that isn't an option so I'll take the tables I've got. I also have a IWB on the chalkboard, a kidney shaped table that plays double duty as my desk and a place to work with kids, various forms of shelving, and a bunch of chairs with tennis balls on the feet (an idea from my wife.) You can't see it in those pictures but I also have two working desktop computers available in my room and an ELMO.

In the following pictures, you'll see how I began my set up of my classroom.

You'll notice I've set the desks up in sort of a lecture room style. I'm not really completely happy with that as it suggests the focus of my class is on me, talking at the board which is rarely the case in class. I wanted the desk to focus that way in part because it allows students to share with one another either on the IWB or on the ELMO. Otherwise, I was just trying to use the room I had as best I could without putting tables right next to one another. I've also tried to leave quite a bit of space on one chalk board so that I can have a place for kids to put their ideas, drawings, etc. This was inspired by the white boards that Google has placed all over their Googleplex and other places of business. I'm thinking I'm going to bite the bullet and put out colored chalk for the kids to write/draw with even though I'm sure it will create a big mess. Its a shame I don't have a whiteboard and could go ahead and use markers instead but oh well... I wish I had smaller tables to put the computers on but I like not having them right next to one another but instead one on each side of the IWB. I think this will allow more room for students who might be working together to actually do work, as well as giving me more room when I or the students are working with the ELMO. I tried to use the most of my space by putting my shelves of materials (markers, paper, pencils, etc) and math materials along the window wall which I wasn't going to block anyway. Obviously I have a long way to go (as evidenced by the boxes of stuff all over the tables and the walls being essentially blank.) I'll touch on the rest of my set up when I can go back into my room and finish it off (the custodians have to clean and wax the hallways so I haven't been able to go back in) in Setting up my Classroom part 2.

Any thoughts/comments on how the set is going so far?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

I finally bit the bullet and started a blog. I figured after years of reading great ideas and reflections, I should try to add my 2 cents worth. Let me introduce myself and my plans for this blog.

I'm Eric Biederbeck. I teach 6th grade math and social studies at Essex Middle School in Essex Junction, Vermont. I've been in my current position for the past nine years. When I started, I worked in an interschool loop team which involved my beginning with students in 5th grade and moving with them to the Middle School for a year in 6th grade. After that year, I would go back and pick up a new batch of 5th graders. I did this for a few years but the grind of moving back and forth from one school to another took its toll. It was difficult to know the rules and procedures of each school as they tended to change a bit in the year I was gone. I also always felt like I was losing stuff or I didn't have the things I would need because they were stored in my other classroom or school. Therefore after two loops, I moved to a straight 6th grade position. I became the math and science teacher on a two person team. This led to four great years of working with 11 and 12 year old students. I loved working with this age group and I found that my teaching partner and I really worked well together. Then last year, because of changes in the school, we added a third partner and I went from teaching math and science to teaching math and one section of social studies. I was a bit bummed because I loved teaching science (the science curriculum for 6th grade was life science with a focus on several of the biomes of the world) but I was also excited about teaching social studies. The year went well with another fantastic group of 6th graders and our new teaching partner fit in well with our team. We are looking forward to an even better year when we start up again in September.

That gets me to this blog. I plan on using this blog as a way to reflect on things as the year progresses. Because I teach three groups of math, I'd imagine a majority of my posts will revolve around math concepts, ideas, and activities. I'll probably spend some time reflecting on the way social studies goes too as it is still quite new to me. I'm also in the process of looking at homework and at grading and I'll spend some time looking at how my new ideas in these areas are working. Of course I'll spend some time reflecting on the everyday stuff that happens in a middle school as well.

As it is summer (for another 6 weeks for me!) I'll probably not be posting as regularly as I plan to during the school year. I am working on such things as how to set up my classroom most effectively, how to send out a better team handbook, and other such things so I will post on those ideas during this summer.

I'm looking forward to putting this stuff out there and seeing what feedback I get. Thanks in advance!