Sunday, August 16, 2009

Countdown to Day 1

I just returned yesterday from the State Board meeting of the California School Library Association in Sacramento. We have such an awesome group of board members dedicated to carrying the message of why school libraries are so vital for our students. We did some great planning, and I got such incredible support from all of them for this new blog. I feel blessed to have so many of them and all of you wonderful teacher librarians who may be reading this supporting me as I launch my “new adventure.”

I can't believe there is just a week until I officially start back to work! Teachers go back next Monday, August 24, and school starts for students on Wednesday, August 26. I have already spent so much time getting ready for my new position as a 7th grade language arts teacher, but I still have so much more to do!

Here is some of what I have done already and what I plan to do:

  • I have met with several classroom teachers for advice on curriculum and classroom management. They have all been wonderfully supportive. I am very lucky to have outstanding teacher colleagues at my school who want to help me with my new work.
  • I read Harry and Rosemary Wong’s First Days of School: How to Be an Effective Teacher and watched Harry Wong’s The Effective Teacher videotapes. I have also been working on my own classroom management “plan.” My “MO” is that I never actually finish anything until just before it is due, but I feel like I have my plan well along the way so it will be ready in time for school. I am working on a complete script and PowerPoint - or a Prezi if I have time to learn how to use it - for the first day of school, a list of rules and procedures I want to follow in my class, and a parent letter to send home. I believe strongly in the power of positive thinking, along with hard work. I am telling myself that I will be a good classroom manager as long as I do the important prep work!
  • I have been working on plans for curriculum and lessons. There is a lot to prepare! My current idea is to work out two weeks of lessons before school starts and then plan the rest as I go. After I introduce myself and I go over all the rules and procedures with my students, I am planning to use my colleagues' biopoem assignment as the first student project.
  • Today, I painted my classroom! One of the teachers convinced me that it would be much quicker and easier to paint than to put up colored butcher paper. I hadn’t painted a room since I was a graduate student! I decided to go with blue and green, and I alternated those colors on the panels that go along one wall of the room. I promised myself that I wouldn’t be a perfectionist, and it definitely isn’t perfect. But, I think it’s pretty bright and lively. ☺ Here are a couple of photos:

  • I have been working on setting the technology I will use with students in the classroom. Here is my current plan:
  • I have created an blog as both a blog and homepage. It will be my main communication about class activities and assignments for both parents and students. I have been using Google’s blogger for all my blogs in the past, and for this one you are reading; I thought it would be good to try this other software option that is specifically designed for education. My blog is still not ready for the students and parents to see, but feel free to take a sneak peek and give me feedback.
  • I am setting up a blog for each class period. In these blogs, students will take turns being the “scribe” of the day who will record what the objective of the day and what the class did and learned.
  • I am going to ask the parents to help their children, most of whom will be under 13 years old, to set up a gmail email account that will allow them to send and receive emails from school and to use Google docs. Thanks to our district's EETT grant, we will have access to classroom sets of laptops on a regular basis. I want the students to be able to easily access their work both at school and home. While sending documents back and forth through email and using flash drives are definitely viable options, I think that Google docs will be the easiest way to accomplish that.
  • I have created a class wiki for various class projects that will allow each student to create his/her own page. I'll include the link to that once it is more fleshed out.
  • I am going to have every student create his/her own personal blog. I am still waffling between using or Google Blogger for these, but am leaning toward Any thoughts? In these blogs, students will write about what they are reading, what they are learning about language arts, and the technology tools they are using. Last school year, I had some students “beta test” CSLA’s Middle School Learning 2.0 tutorial with a slightly modified clone site. I plan to have my students complete all those activities during the course of the year.
  • I am going to ask the parents to help their children set up a VoiceThread account. We will use VoiceThread to have asynchronous conversations about literature and to allow students to create their own VoiceThread booktalks to add to my existing booktalk blog. I also hope to use VoiceTheads for other projects I develop along the way.
  • I will also be using a Moodle course as a protected, private environment where students can upload assignments and participate in forums. I think it is incredibly important for students to learn how to behave appropriately and protect their privacy in public on the Internet. That is why I want them to participate in public blog, VoiceThreads, and wiki project. I think it is also important to provide protected environments where they can be free to participate without the worries of protecting their identities. I believe that balancing assignments in public blogs and wikis with those on a private Moodle site will allow them to learn the difference between public and private Internet environments and the appropriate behaviors in each.
  • I am, frankly, overwhelmed, about the amount of grading I will need to do. I know I will have to be grading many writing assignments. I am planning to set up quizzes in Quia for most of the non-writing assignments. I am hoping that my students will enjoy online quizzes and the other activities that Quia makes possible, and that using this software can both engage them and alleviate the load of grading for me a bit.
  • I learned about Edmodo from my friend Marie's CSLA conference proposal. I’m wondering, though, if that is perhaps one more tool than both my students and I can incorporate into our repertoire. I guess we’ll see as we go along.

I know this plan is ambitious, but I am determined to use my new classroom position to take full advantage of the technology tools available. I have been promoting the integration of technology into the curriculum to teachers to enhance student learning. This is my chance to really test out my ideas to the fullest. Please wish me luck, and, please, please, send me your feedback and suggestions!


  1. I think this is even more ambitious than cooking all of Julia Child's recipes in one year. I can't believe all that you have accomplished over the summer. Truly amazing;D

  2. Jane! Your classroom looks fantastic! What a wonderful place for you and your students. That alone should win you points :-) They don't have a dreary classroom.

    Your class blog looks great! I like the colors - they go with your classroom!

    Sounds like you'll be super-ready. Just make sure to have at least 15 minutes of "back-up" activities for the first day - it always seems to fly by and then I'm like "now what do I do?" But I'm sure Harry Wong mentioned that (I LOVE his book). Edmodo is cool and easy for students to set-up (no email address needed), but I use it with only 30 students - I don't know if I could handle more than that. You may want to try it with just one period first.

    Have fun, Jane! You rock!

  3. Jane -- you take my breath away!! I can't believe how much you have done and are doing. I love the colors of your classroom -- my mentor teacher back in 1971 taught me that blue and green were the best for classrooms, and she painted hers every year! I like your take on this so much better! And the array of technology you have lined up for your classes is truly amazing!! I really think you need to be a mentor teacher one day, if you should ever want to do such a job. This is such an inspiring blog. Thank you for sharing.