Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Happy Birthday to Me!

The saying "work smarter, not harder" has never been one to describe me.  I am always a work-harder kind of girl.  I wish I weren't.   I would be so much more efficient if I would be a smarter worker and, in the long run, probably a better teacher and most definitely a better wife.  My honey is always getting the short end (more like the crabby end) of my stick since I'm leaving it all out there for my students.  I don't know how teachers with kids do it.  I will never be a mother.

Last Thursday I was at school working much harder because I was having a sub the next day and of course my sub folder needed to be updated.  I was also working harder on putting together Writer's Workshop final copies and working harder on trying to get Monday's plans and papers in place because I was leaving for Chicago to be the matron of honor in my college best friend's wedding (whose toast I was working harder on in my head).  My sister was also expecting and I knew I needed all of my weekend free just in case my niece or nephew made their debut.  8:00 rolled around and I still needed to put Math Centers together.  The time to work smarter had arrived.

I plopped my weary body down in the math center and desperately tried to think of what I could quickly whip together.  I couldn't pull anything I already had since I'd swapped Chapter 1 in our math book for Chapter 3 and my old centers are all Halloween themed.  And then the light bulb (finally) turned on!  My friend Carissa had written a grant to receive materials from the Boxcars and One-Eyed-Jacks company and my next-door teacher-neighbor Lynne had been raving about how easy they were.  I jumped up and pulled that sucker out and there it was...a pouch full of materials, just waiting to be used, and an idea book brimming with already-done activities.  Ever so faintly, I could hear the Hallelujah chorus being sung.

I found Lynne's game, Counting Crunchies, and decided it would be great, but I needed Crunchies.  I had no Crunchies.  But what I did have were 6 ugly boxes of random mats and manipulatives I snagged when I was student teaching and have NEVER used.  This is the part where I sang Happy Birthday to myself.  There, in ugly box number 4, were tree mats and red and green pom pom "apples."  Don't worry, I'm not crazy, it really was my birthday on Saturday. I added some pinchers to manipulate the pom poms with because it made me feel better, like I had at least come up with something.

Roll die, put apples on the tree.  Easy as apple pie!

I had a cute "roll and write the number" paper from Angie that made up Center 2 and needed something else.  The Boxcars and One-Eyed Jacks had lots of card game ideas, but all a little complicated for this point in the year, except for one that sounded a little like War.  So guess what Center 3 became?  War.  Practicing number recognition?  Check.  Reinforcing greater and less?  Check!   All that is in the box for the center is a deck of cards that's missing the royalty.  It has cracked me up every time my kiddos have gotten it out this week.

Race to the Top!  Which number will you roll the most?  See that post-it labeling that ugly box?  Oh yes, nothing but the best in my classroom!  Sheesh.  Working smarter means realizing that sometimes cutesy has to wait, right?
Playing War.  I LOVE these tiny decks of cards; they are perfect for tiny hands!

Ok.  Here's where it gets a little nutty.  Obviously, 17 children cannot use three Math Centers.  But why not repeat the centers?  Center 4 is a repeat of 1, Center 5 is the same as 2, and, you've got it, 3 and 6 might as well be twins!  Right now I'm trying to teach the routines and procedures for math centers and review the numbers 1-10.  Instead, I feel like I'm often repeating over and over how to play six different centers.  Teaching three simple centers has freed me up to instill the procedures and every single group has been on-task all week.  Yes, they will repeat each game, but I find they actually understand the task/game and do a much better job the second time around.  Did I do it?  Did I work smarter in my prep-time and teaching time?  It's a birthday miracle!

In the end, it took me about 20 minutes to get centers set up and my kids grouped and displayed.  I use powerpoint to display where they need to go. 

Each slide is a rotation.  This year I've also added a "captain" who gets out and puts away the materials.  The child on top is the captain and they all get a turn in the rotation.  If you'd like to have it you are more than welcome!  Enjoy!  To make things extra-easy, you can turn my students' names into yours by using Find and Replace.  Simply decide which name you will swap (ex: my Dominic for your Suzy) and click "Edit", hover over "Find..." and choose "Replace..."  Then type the name of my student in "Find" and your student in "Replace" and you should have a display in no time at all!

While a bit of a work-ethic epiphany and ready-made centers may seem like a birthday gift enough, my sister gave birth to a handsome, healthy baby boy on Saturday.  Now that is a true birthday miracle.

In love! I might have to become a mommy someday after all.

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