Reflections of a First Year Teacher: What Worked

Wednesday, July 20, 2016
I learned more than ever this first year of teaching.
It was exciting, overwhelming and exhausting {to say the least!}

  But I made it!

In a year that sometimes felt like a sea of bad days swallowing me whole, these were the things that kept me afloat.  I know things will come up and I will tweak and I will make changes to fit my students' needs.  But now that my first year is done, finite, over--I *finally* have a foundation to build upon. And I cannot even put into words how goooooood that feels!


The first 24 weeks of the year I had 1 helper, a "Star of the Week" if you will, who did #allthejobs and it went great!
 I know a lot of teachers who got tired of keeping up with a job chart and have gone this route.  I really have no complaints about having just one helper--it works!  But after each kiddo had a turn, I knew I wanted to switch it up.

So the Job Fair was born!

I started with creating a presentation outlining all of the jobs in the classroom and the expectations for each one.  We use "Stahl Stars" as part of our positive behavior system so I incorporated those as incentive for meeting/exceeding job expectations.

I threatened   kindly warned that they could be transferred to a different job if they weren't keeping up or I might even fire them Donald Trump style! (Only kidding, I avoid bringing up that name at all costs.)

  I created enough jobs for each student because I want everyone to have a role in helping our class function better. At this point in the year, I knew what I needed help with and was tired of doing on my own (see: writing the daily lunch choices)

After the job fair, students had to fill out applications.  We talked a bit about how to write convincing reasons and not just "I think it will be fun".  I have to be honest, the reasons weren't that great despite our conversation.  That first round, students kept their job for about a month and a half.  I didn't originally plan for how long they would have a job, I just kind of felt out how it was going.  

The second time they applied for jobs, their reasons were SO much better.  Their persuasive writing had improved immensely which made me so happy! I wish I would've saved some of these but I gave them all back before snapping a picture.  #darnitanyhow #nextyeargoals

Pen Pals

Having a pen pal in elementary school is a memory that will stick with me forever.  My aunt kept in touch with her pen pal (from New Zealand) into adulthood and they ended up vacationing together! So I put it out there on Instagram that we were in search of pen pals and
Lovein2nd answered our call!

She and her 2nd graders reside in Iowa.  My kiddos were over the moon when we looked it up on Google Maps (and some of them claimed to have been there before-ha!).  While we only corresponded a handful of times, I will never forget the excitement of those first letters.  I started tearing up while thinking about how this might be the most memorable part of 2nd grade.

(I think I may have gotten giddier than my students when I found this in my mailbox)

Providing such an authentic reason to write was very special! While there has been such a shift towards technology that has greatly affected the ways in which we communicate, I am definitely a fan of keeping it old school (at least once in awhile!)  A text will eventually get deleted (or disappear when you drop your phone in the toilet) and a letter can last forever!!

Weekend Journals

Speaking of writing, a year long constant in my classroom is Weekend Journals.  I wrote a blog post about how I use them to get to know my students better.  You can read more about that here.  My weekend journal template is a freebie on TpT.  Click the picture to download!

Word Work
This may be a weird statement but: I LOVE WORD WORK! Seriously, my favorite center to prep. I bought the infamous 10 drawer rolling cart and had my students assemble. 
(Who said I don't do STEM?)

  I love that students get the choice and I actually enjoy prepping all of the centers. Call me strange but every time I stored a center for next year, my heart sang a little bit and now I have a seriously awesome start to next year for word work ideas. 

Here are three favorites of my students:

(I have regular ole paper ones, not these fancy plastic, I think I must purchase)
1 X Letter and Number Stencil Sets - Sizes 8, 10, 20, 30mm - Assorted Colors

Anything with fun markers (I CANNOT wait to use these new Ice Cream Mr. Sketch's)

Vowel Team centers

I am SO excited to have finished all of the Long Vowel teams! I am excited for my students to learn and practice in a consistent and engaging way! Since the activities repeat for each vowel team, they will definitely build independence!

Hand Signals
Classroom management made its way onto my "Room for Improvement" post (that one is still in draft : / ).  But not because I did everything wrong.  There were definitely strategies that worked out fabulously and hand signals were one of those.  My kids LOVED them.  I didn't even plan on mentioning them the first day or two of school but I had them displayed and kids IMMEDIATELY started to use them.  So much, in fact, that I hadn't even learned the signals myself.
Non-Verbal Hand Signal Posters {A Classroom Managment Tool}
These FREE hand signals by Jessica Travis will transform your classroom!

What worked best for you this past school year? What might you change up?  I will be back to talk about my areas for improvement in the next installment of "Reflections of a First Year Teacher"


Teaching Little Miracles said...

Great post, Molly! It is good to reflect on what went well and what you can improve EVERY year! You're off to an awesome start!


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