Sunday, July 27, 2014

Seven Tips for Departmentalizing in Upper Elementary

In our school, 4th grade is the first year that our students exchange classes.  Many students are nervous about this new experience.  To help students transition, my colleagues and I work very closely together to establish routines, and make this new experience of exchanging classes a positive experience for our students.

Here are 7 tips for departmentalizing in upper elementary that we have found helpful.

1.  Establish routines with exchanging classes.  Work closely with your co-teachers and establish consistent expectations of  hall behavior, exchanging classes, lining up, etc.  If students know that all teachers have the same expectations, exchanging class will go very smoothly.
2.  Line up to exchange classes.  Although middle school and high school have bells to exchange classes and students simply leave at the bell, our students are taught to line up on our signals.  They line up and stand in the hall to wait to enter the next classroom.  We (teachers) have become very good at watching the clock to exchange class on time, limiting the wait time for students.  By having students line up together, we can teach students a routine, teach them how to exchange quietly and quickly.
3.  Limit materials that students must take from classroom to classroom.  Have as many materials in the classroom as possible so students do not have to remember too many items.  We keep a set of textbooks in our classroom for all students to use so that they do not have to bring textbooks to class.  Materials such as composition notebooks and workbooks stay in the classroom and are passed out as needed.  In our situation, students only need to bring three things: a folder (for homework and loose paper), pencil pouch (containing crayons, scissors, and pencils), and a book to read.  Make it simple for students to remember.
4.  When it is time to exchange, name everything that your students need.  Say something like, "Gather your pencil pouch, folder, and book to read."  Just reminding students can be a huge help. 
5.  Allow one or two weeks for students to get used to the new routine.  It may not be perfect on the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd day of school, but in one or two weeks, exchanging will become routine for you and your students.
6.  Work closely with your co-teachers to help students know their homework assignments.  Part of our daily afternoon routine is to write homework in our homework journals.  My colleagues and I email one another to let each other know homework assignments and tests days so that we can write it on our homework board and help all students write assignments in their homework journals.  By working so closely together, we enable our students to understand our expectations and the importance of studying and preparing for tests, completing homework assignments, etc. 
7.  Be positive.  Let students know from day one, the positives of being departmentalized. Build an excitement for exchanging by telling your students what your students in the past have loved about being departmentalized.   Some things that my students love about being departmentalized include that the day goes by very quickly and  they love having a different teacher for each subject.
While departmentalization in upper elementary may not be the perfect situation for every school, I absolutely can't imagine teaching any other way.  Definitely, the key to our success has been my wonderful co-workers!  They are truly fabulous! 
Have a blessed day!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Seven Benefits of Departmentalizing

Departmentalizing, changing classes, specializing...whatever your terminology, departmentalizing can seem like a daunting task to an elementary teacher who has never tried it.  For my fourth grade team, changing classes has become part of our fourth grade daily routine, and to be honest, we can't imagine it any other way. Although for many schools, departmentalizing does not begin until middle school, most of my 24 years of teaching upper elementary have been spent in some type departmentalized setting. Since my move to fourth grade about ten years ago, my fourth grade colleagues and I have enjoyed this, and  I have specialized in language arts.

For my co-teachers and I, departmentalizing has several benefits not only for our students, but for ourselves as well.

1.  The first benefit is rather an obvious one. Students are better prepared for exchanging classes in middle school.  By exchanging classes in elementary, students have experience before entering middle school.
2.  Teachers are able to teach to their strengths and become "experts" in their field.  Students benefit from teachers' knowledge and expertise.  I know that I certainly feel that I have become a much better language arts teacher because all of my time and energy is focused on this one area. 
3.  Students are exposed to the instructional style of more than one teacher.  For many students, this can be a benefit. 
4.  Our students each year rave about how quickly the days go by because of exchanging classes.  Perhaps it is because students are more focused in each class, the day is set at a faster pace, or that students have had a minute or two to walk and exchange classes.  Whatever the reason, students enjoy each day's pace. 
5.  Teachers have the opportunity to get to know all of the students in the grade.  For some, this may not seem like a benefit, but I find that it truly is an advantage.  I love getting to know all of the kiddos, plus because all of my co-workers have all of the students, we are constantly talking and discussing ways to help meet the needs of individual students.  Anytime there is a problem or a need, I know that I can go to my fourth grade colleagues for help, suggestions, or advice.  We are constantly working together to help meet the needs of our students.  HUGE advantage!!
6.   Students have an opportunity to release energy.  Just by getting up and moving from classroom to classroom helps students release energy. They then come to each class more focused and ready to work.
7.  Because students are in a class for only one class period, time for discipline problems and behavioral issues is greatly decreased.  Also, because students are up and moving between classes, extra energy can be released which also helps to diminish behavior problems.
Although departmentalizing may not be for every teacher at every school, my colleagues and I feel that it has certainly benefited our students.  Each year, our students tell us that they love exchanging classes.  They look forward to that time each day, and on the very rare occasion that we don't exchange classes, students usually express their disappointment. I think that is a testament to departmentalizing working for us.
Have a blessed day!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Five for Friday

It's Friday, and I'm linking up with Doodle Bugs for Five for Friday!

What is better in the summer than fresh vegetables?  This summer we have had fresh corn,
and squash.
And now we have ripe tomatoes, so my husband and I have eaten tomato sandwiches almost everyday.  They are our favorite!
I have also been busy this summer making new products for my store.  One of my latest creations is my Pencil Borders and Pencils Clipart Packet.  This set has 4 different pencil borders and 4 different designs of pencil clipart, each in a variety of colors.  They would be perfect for parent notes, award notices, creating classroom awards, PowerPoint backgrounds, and more. 
Pencil Borders and Pencils Clipart By Kelly B.

I have also bundled 12 of my owl themed products into one huge Owl Themed Mega Bundle.   If you have or want an owl themed classroom, this packet is perfect for you!  This mega bundle is filled with owl themed graphic organizers, owl themed parts of speech posters, owl themed motivational posters, owl themed classroom decorating packet, and more!  Save over $20 on this packet valued at over $44! 
Owl Themed Mega Bundle:  Owl Posters, Packets, and Classro
Thanks so much for stopping by, and I hope your Friday is blessed! 

Monday, July 7, 2014

Monday Meet Up

I can't believe how quickly this summer is flying by! I'd love for it to slow down just a little! We have had some of the most beautiful July weather that I can ever remember.  Instead of the humid hot July that we are accustom to in the south, we have had some absolutely gorgeous days with low humidity.  In fact, we spent most of July 4th outside enjoying the comfortable weather!  It was marvelous! Today, I am linking up with The Teaching Tribune for their final Monday Meet Up

1.  As a child I remember our family going camping in the mountains.  We had a lot of fun.  I remember playing in the streams that we camped beside, hiking to waterfalls, and campfires. 
2.  If I could change my name, I would probably keep my first name, but I would change the spelling to K-e-l-l-i.  Why?  I'm not sure, but I've always wished that my name ended in an "i". 
3.  One summer, my classroom at school caught fire.  Fortunately, no one was there to get hurt.  Someone at the post office next door noticed the smoke and called the fire department.  It was a faulty air conditioner that caused the fire.  My room didn't burn, but everything (and I do mean everything) had smoke damage.  I spend my summer days (along with some wonderful volunteers) cleaning smoke damage from my classroom and trying to salvage what I could.
4.  If I could pick a fictional character to meet, I would pick Harry Potter for my daughter.  I would love to see her face if she could meet him.  She is a huge fan, and is begging to go to the new Harry Potter Universal theme parks.
5.  I have one brother.  He is very sweet and very smart.  In fact, he is an electrical engineer. 
6.  I love home made butter biscuits with jelly or honey.  Yum!!
Thanks for visiting, and have a blessed day!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

New Borders are Here!!

I am so excited to finally have my new borders sets completed!  I have 3 new sets that are now being offered in one bundle!  I have created Borders Bundle that contains Circles Borders, Headers, and Page Dividers.  85 borders in all!
For July 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, I am offering this bundle for 50% of the price of purchasing each border individually! Don't miss out on this savings.  These borders will not be offered at this savings again. 
I am linking up again today with the Teaching Tribune for Two for Tuesday
The second item from my store that I am offering 50% off are  my Describing Characters Graphic Organizers. This is one of my best sellers, and one of my favorite packets.  They are perfect for character studies, writing about characters, character analysis, etc.
Describing Characters Graphic Organizers
I am also linking up with Farley for the July Currently! I'm so glad that I remembered.  You'll have to stop by and read her post to send her some bloggy love!!  She has had a rough summer, and she sure could use some uplifting words of encouragement. 
Be blessed!