Friday, November 23, 2012

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite times of year, and as I recover from my food coma, I have many school-related things to give thanks for this year!

1. Listening to Reading Grant
Every year, my school's PTO offers grants to teachers who have projects in need of funding. As I was thinking about all of the things that I need for my classroom (and my wish list is never-ending), I decided that I wanted to create an opportunity to add the fifth part of the Daily Five into my classroom - Listening to Reading. We had all of the other components going, but I didn't have any access to grade appropriate audiobooks nor did I have a way for them to listen to them. Then I saw someone pin this on Pinterest, and the wheels started turning:

I had two first generation iPhones sitting in a desk drawer waiting to be repurposed or recycled, and it occurred to me that they could be used for Listening to Reading -- especially with one of these headphone splitters. So I typed up a grant proposal, shopped the iTunes catalog for audiobooks, and crossed my fingers. A couple of weeks later, I was alerted that my project had been funded!

We recently started using the audiobooks in the classroom, and I have to say that I'm really pleased with how it's going. I created a schedule and gave the students a list of titles of audiobooks to choose from, and each group picked their own book to listen to. They've loved it! I was a little worried that there might be fights about volume controls since the headphone splitter doesn't allow individual volume control, but there's been none of that. Just a bunch of kids contentedly listening to extraordinary readers share books the kids love. I especially like it for some of my struggling readers because they're able to tackle texts that they wouldn't be able to handle on their own. 

So far, I've just been having the groups summarize the chapters as they listen, and that's been working out well. Eventually, though, I'd like to design some activities that they could do at the listening center. Any suggestions or resources to share?

2. We're becoming a 1:1 iPad SCHOOL!
I know. Huge, right? I thought about leading with that, but I didn't want overwhelming jealousy to color your reading about my grant. Like I said, I have LOTS to be thankful for...

As I think I've mentioned before, I teach in a building that's just fourth and fifth grades, but it's a big school -- 550+ students, 10+ homerooms per grade level and growing. Last year, I was one of two pilot classrooms with 1:1 iPads, and I loved it. This year, I've had to share the iPad cart with my floor while we waited to hear what was going to happen with funding for iPads. (I have not loved the sharing part at all for a variety of reasons, but that's a different post...). Last week, our school board voted to approve a lease that will eventually roll out iPads to grades 4-8 in our district, and starting in April, we'll have an iPad for every student in our building. (They'll get them in grades 6-8 in later years.)

I could not be more thankful for this decision, and I'm so excited about the possibilities!

In the meantime, I'm on a team that will be responsible for teacher professional development with the iPads as we figure out what apps to get, what teacher training needs to be done, and so forth. I'm really looking forward to this process, and be sure to stay tuned as I expect to have LOTS of future posts about iPads.

3. Blogging and TpT 
Finally, of the many school-related things that I'm thankful for this year (and I could keep this list going for quite some time!), I'm particularly thankful for discovering so many great teaching blogs and learning about Teachers Pay Teachers. There was a time in the not-so-distant past when I was getting pretty burnt out on teaching and seriously considering a career change. If I left the classroom, I knew that I would stay in education (maybe get a PhD or something...), but I can genuinely say that those feelings have subsided. Blogging has given me an outlet to write -- something I truly love to do -- and TpT has inspired me to be more creative. It has also given me a little bit of extra income so I can invest in my classroom without feeling like I've short-changed my family in some way. So for all of you in my extended blogging family or those of you who have supported Eberopolis in one way or another this past year.

As a small way of saying thanks, I'll be participating in the TpT sale on Monday and Tuesday. Be sure to check it out!

Have a great weekend!

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