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Paper, Pencils and Planbooks

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So, you’ve decided that you want to teach? You’ve probably discovered by now that it is not as easy as it looks. It requires a lot of self-discipline, consistency, planning, organizing and patience.

First things first, you will need to organize your space. This isn’t as easy as it seems. It is actually a two part process. You must first decide where your furniture will go and then you must organize your classroom library. I will suggest some books that will give you ideas for getting both of these tasks under your belt. It doesn’t matter if it is the middle of the year because if you find that the arrangements you created at the beginning of the year aren’t working for you or your students then it is time to do a little rearranging.

A good start for designing your classroom is to buy Classroom Spaces That Work (Strategies for Teachers Series, 3). Find a structure that is conducive to both you and your students. My first year I had a tall bookcase in my room that blocked my view of my kindergarten students when I was in the back of the room. Let me tell you, those little rascals took advantage of that blindspot on a daily basis. I was constantly breaking up wrestling matches on the rug. I had a nice big room but had no idea how to arrange it. Unfortunately it was almost the end of the year before I discovered Classroom Spaces that Work.

Now that your room is set up, you will need to organize your library. Fountas and Pinnell are the gurus of leveled books so you’ll need a copy of their book Leveled Books for Readers.

Now you need to think about rules. Without a code of conduct in your classroom you can hang up any thoughts of actually trying to teach academics. The first six weeks of school should be spent establishing routines and consistently enforcing the rules that you and your students have agreed upon. Here are a couple of good books to help you through the process, The First Days of School: How to Be an Effective Teacher is the most basic book you will find for new teachers. The most helpful book I have read concerning discipline is Setting Limits in the Classroom: How to Move Beyond the Classroom Dance of Discipline because it offers solutions for instilling discipline while maintaining the students’ dignity and yours. You will save yourself the agony of a lot of sore throats and hoarse days if you follow the suggestions offered by the author.

It is time to get down to the business of teaching now that those other areas are covered. You need a good plan book, not so much to follow while you teach, but you should outline your lessons and a good plan book also keeps the administrators happy. A plan book that many teachers find especially helpful is the Teacher Created ‘Lesson Plan Book’. If your school uses Four Blocks then you will need the Four Block Plan Book “Plus”. This plan book has nice big boxes and on each page there is space for recording your guided reading groups, conference notes, word wall activites and on the back activities. I am using it this year and I highly recommend it to any new teacher who must follow the four blocks.

Everything is set up and ready to go but now you might be panicking and wondering, ‘what do I teach?’ Last year I had no prescribed curriculum and I felt completely lost. I followed the scope and sequence and tried to create lessons that fit within those guidelines. It would have been much easier if I had planned out units of study at the beginning of the year. A great book for helping you do this is Understanding by Design. It is a step-by-step guide for planning lessons and units called “backward design units.” Starting from where you want the students to be at the end of the unit, you can plan your unit “with a clear understanding of your destination,” and how you will guide your students in that direction.

The two main subjects that will shape your units are language arts (reading and writing) and math. Two math books that are helpful for teaching math are About Teaching Mathematics: A Kindergarten Through Eighth Resource by Marilyn Burns and “So What?”: Teaching Children What Matters in Math. The Burns book will give you ideas for teaching comprehensive strategies to your students. So What will help you make math more meaningful to your students who often don’t understand how relevant it is in daily life.

If you are teaching K-2 students, I have an invaluable list of books that will help you teach your students to read and write. Lucy Calkins is a well respected expert in this subject and she has series of books including, The Art of Teaching Writing. After reading Calkins I became more clear about what a writing workshop should look like in my classroom. This is a book that I recommend for any new teacher who is unsure how to begin teaching young children to become writers.

Phonics is making a comeback, so if it has worked its way into your curriculum here are a few books to help in that department. Naturally Four Blocks is the way to go. Get hold of The Teacher’s Guide to the Four Blocks: A Multimethod, Multilevel Framework for Grades 1-3, Month-by-Month File-Folder Word Walls (Grades PreK-2), and Month-By-Month Phonics for First Grade: Systematic, Multilevel Instruction. The Month-by-Month Phonics books have activities for teaching phonics that will carry you month-by-month from the beginning of the school year until the last month of school.

In addition to everything else, you should also make sure that your students have a secure knowledge of at least 100 new sight words by year end. 100 Write-And-Learn Sight Word Practice Pages (“Engaging Reproducible Activity Pages That Help Kids Recognize, Write, and Really LEARN the Top 100 High-Frequency Words That are Key to Reading Success”) has ideas for using your word wall to help reinforce their sight word recognition skills. You are pretty much ready to meet your students head on at this point. You’re well prepared, and I am confident that you will manage to get through the school year with your sanity intact.
Edited: PC

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