|My three year old daughter, meeting Junior when he first moved into my fourth grade class.|
When I first started this adventure, I began by looking for zebra finches, since I had previously had a pair and knew that they are low maintenance. I searched on kijiji.ca, a Canadian equivalent to Craig’s List. There were several people who were looking to sell finches. There were pet shop owners, elderly people who were too busy or unwell to look after their birds and there were breeders who wanted to sell their finches. I found that for the type of experience I was looking to obtain for my students, I needed to be sure that the birds I purchased had already reproduced.
|Salt and Pepper, two of Ping and Pong’s chicks|
|Jewel, Junior’s mother|
|Blue, Junior’s father|
|Jewel, on my shoulder while I was teaching|
|Birds of Feather unit, available on TeachersPayTeachers|
|Ping and Pong (Zebra Finch couple)|
In the few months that we had Ping and Pong in the classroom, they had several sets of babies.
|First set of baby finches|
|Looking at the inside of a rejected finch egg and comparing it to a Canadian dime.|
|The contents of a finch nest|
|Salt and Pepper, two females babies from Ping and Pong|
|Blue and Jewel|
|Romeo and Juliet|
This Monday was our school’s first day with our students. I had to prepare my classroom for fourth grade students instead of first grade students like I did last year.
This year, one of our special education consultants came to see us during our pedagogical days before students started school and talked to us about how students need to feel like they belong in their classroom and not like tenants in their teacher’s classroom for the year. She suggested that students work together to make decisions about how rules will be chosen, about rewards, where they feel they should sit in the classroom and even let them make decisions about the classroom layout, so that the environment makes sense to them.
So far, we have decided what our rules are, how students will be rewarded, decided on the class jobs that we will need, and I we even discussed how students should choose their desks at the beginning of the year.
This is working out. I see that there may be tweaking to be done concerning seating, I’ve had to be careful when guiding discussions, and I’m having to let go of some of my OCD compulsions, but overall, I am under the impression that students are feeling comfortable, welcome, and especially important and valued.
Because my classroom is not ready to be revealed yet, I will show you what my first grade classroom looked like before and after I got to it.
Since I don’t have a class reveal yet for this year, I will show you what my first grade class looked like before and after I got to it.
In the last few years, I have tried different ways of getting in touch with parents. I have tried traditional means, using things such as calendars, weekly newsletters and messages in student agendas. Although these ways of communicating are efficient at getting news home, it is time consuming and uses a lot of paper. Anyone who knows me knows that I cringe at the thought of printed off copies of paper to send home. If these copies make it home (and don’t stay hidden in the black hole that is most students’ desks) they are most likely going to end up remaining unread, quickly glanced at and ignored or cluttering a refrigerator and being buried under a pile of other papers of the same type from all of the family’s kids.
I like sharing what we are doing in the classroom. I like sharing student work, photos of students in action and videos to help students with their studies at home. I like sharing articles and documentation to help parents with their tutoring duties. I have tried a few ways of doing this. Here are a few, including advantages and downfalls.
A few years ago I had an email list for my class. I asked parents for their email addresses at the beginning of the school year and started sending reminders, weekly news and personal messages concerning specific students to their parents.
– Everyone has an email account. It is accessible and simple for most parents who may not necessarily be comfortable with technology.
– You can attach documents such as photos, videos and links to websites.
– It is hard to keep track of whether or not emails are being seen by recipients. Emails can go unread for a while and they can be deleted without being read.
– Once an email has been read, it will be deleted or lost in a slew of other emails, making it harder to retrieve information or documents that might be pertinent in the future.
– It is one directional. If parents have questions about an email, you may have to repeat your response to several parents.
Wanting to keep all of my information for my class in one place, I started my own website. I got a simple to remember domain name (www.misschantal.ca). I gave my web address to my students’ families at the beginning of the school year. I had sections for weekly news, homework, interesting articles and website links to help students with their classwork.
– Information is centralized.
– Information is easily accessible.
– There is no way of knowing if parents have visited the website.
– Setting up a website and updating it is time consuming.
– The class website doesn’t facilitate two-way communication.
– The entire world has access to the class website. This means that it is important to have written consent to post photos of students and their work on the website to share with families.
For those of you who don’t know Class Dojo, it is an awesome classroom management tool. It provides immediate real-time feedback to parents about their children’s behavior. Parents can log on to their accounts (or connect through the free app) and be notified of each positive and/or negative behavior their child demonstrates in class. There is also a messaging section where teachers can broadcast a message to the entire classroom community and where teachers can chat privately with a particular parent.
– You can share photos.
– You can see who has seen which messages. Their is a “read” message under messages that have been seen. Whole class broadcasts also include lists of parents who have seen the message.
– There is a classroom management component that is interesting.
– You cannot attach files and documents to share.
– It does not provide the sense of community.
With Facebook you can create a closed group. This means that as the administrator, you have control over the content of the Facebook group that you create and only members that you accept into the group have access posted content.
At the beginning of the year, I gave parents the name of my class’ Facebook group. Parents then find the group by doing a search or by using a link that you provide to them and they ask to join the group.
– You can post photos, videos, documents, links, articles to share with the members of the group.
– You can post little comments and last minute reminders to the group’s page and parents can receive automatic notification that something has been posted to the group’s page.
– Parents can answer each other’s questions, saving time for you.
– Parents can share neat information with you and each other.
– Information is centralized.
– You don’t need to answer the same question 5 times. If parents have questions, you answer them once on the page for everyone to see.
– It creates a sense of community. All parents and students are in it together with the teachers.
– You can have more than one teacher participate in a class Facebook group.
– You can track which messages are seen and read by each parent in your group.
-Technology weary parents may not like the Facebook option. It has happened that parents from my class did not have Facebook accounts. (In this case I usually suggested to create an account and have offered to help them with it if they needed it.)
– You need to obtain consent from parents to share student work and photos of students on the group’s page, since although in a class group only parents have direct access to images, they can be saved and shared from the group.
– It is important not to communicate using private messages in Facebook because it gives parents access to your personal account.
I have found that a combination of three types of communication is ideal: student agendas, Class Dojo and Facebook.
In my classroom, I use student agendas for writing homework (it teaches planning skills to students). Also, with the agenda, my less-techie colleagues can continue to communicate with students’ parents.
Class Dojo is the classroom management tool that I use and adore. I also like that I can chat privately with a parent through Class Dojo and track communication.
Facebook is my favorite tool for whole group communication. It saves time, creates a sense of community and allows me to privately share all types of attachments and information.
Follow me on the Miss Chantal Cares Facebook page for more about communication, more ideas, school funnies and daily inspiration.
I was driving past a high school in Ontario this summer and noticed that it was covered I solar panels. My first thought was “AWESOME!” and my next thought was “how’d they do that?”.
Pretty neat! Now I only need to find out how that’s working out and how I can get this for my school!
I am so excited to get my class list and schedule so that I can insert the information into my new teacher planner. I am going to save so much time this year and really be organized.
I am going into my 10th year of teaching. Time flies!
The last few years I have changed schools, either because I have had to, being young and having less seniority than any other permanent teacher at my schools, or because I was trying to get closer to home to have a few more minutes at home with my little girl. Because of this, I haven’t always had much control over deciding which grade I was going to teach. This year, I had a bit of control. I had to choose between moving up with my first graders into second grade, or moving up to fourth grade. I chose the latter.
I love teaching any grade. I love teaching, period.
I loved organizing my first grade class last year, down to deciding between tables and desks for my students (I chose tables and didn’t regret it for a second during the year) to decorating my reading corner and designing my classroom job task cards for the bulletin board. I loved organizing my program and implementing my lessons. I grew a lot last year, learned a lot about myself and my teaching style.
|Classroom Jobs Display Set|
This year, I have to rethink everything. Last time I taught fourth grade, two years ago, I hadn’t had time to get organized the way I do this year. I was ill, waiting for surgery, and was trying to survive. This year, everything will be PERFECT!! (Yah, right).
Now I am looking for ways to organize my class similarly as my first grade class, but with my larger furniture. I want my class to be appealing and welcoming, organized, age-appropriate and conducive to individual and group work.
I also need to update some of my materials and projects to make them level-appropriate, because they are as interesting and appealing to my little kids as to the older kids in the school.
I have my work cut out for me and I have a lot of thinking to do.
I welcome comments and suggestions about blogs, articles and sites to check out.
I learned, this week, that finches are very sensitive about moving.
Before March Break, there was only one of six eggs left to hatch. Five baby finches were born in the classroom in the presence of my students. They loved it. They ran in every recess to check on them and see how they were doing.
|Four baby finches|
During March Break, the heating in my school is turned off. I had to move my birds, my fish and my plants to a warmer temporary home for the week.
Unfortunately, my mama and papa birds decided that they did not like the move and they stopped taking care of their babies. Despite my best efforts of trying to keep the babies warm and to feed them, they all died two days after bringing them home.
I will be bringing the birds back to school tomorrow. Today I found a new egg in the bottom of the cage. Not all is lost. The parents have moved on and I don’t plan on moving them again until the end of the school year, so the next batch of babies should be alright.
My students will be able to compare their observations from the last set of babies to the next. It will be interesting to see how this will go.
More to come!
In my class we have two finches, a couple named Ping and Pong. They are a breeding pair, and I knew this when I adopted them and brought them into my first grade class. Little did I know that within a few weeks my students were going to get excited because they found a finch egg in the bottom of the cage!
Since I wasn’t expecting the birds to lay eggs that quickly, I tried to make a makeshift nest and put the egg in it, but the birds knocked it out of the “nest” and it cracked on the bottom of the cage.
That evening I purchased a finch nest and the makings to go into it. The next day I placed everything into the cage.
When I came into school the next day, the finches had laid a new egg in the nest. The next day there was another one. And then another one. And then another one. Finally, after less than a week, the finches had laid a total of six eggs. The male and female took turns sitting on the eggs. The kids were pumped! They rushed into the classroom every morning and after recess to check to see the status of the eggs.
|Four finch eggs in their nest.
They are about the size of Cadbury Mini Eggs.
Never having taken care of breeding birds, I was nervous about cleaning the cage. Did they reject the first egg from the bottom of the cage because I had touched it? If I touched items in the cage, would they reject the new eggs?
|Ping (the light colored female) and Pong (the colorful male)
in their dirty cage.
Finally, I googled it. I learned that the cage should continue to be cleaned because of the risk of disease for the chicks once they hatched.
The cage is now clean. (Phew!) I am a bit of an organization and clean freak in my classroom. The new status of my cage was comforting to me.
Students began to ask me when the eggs would hatch. I had been told about two weeks, originally. To be certain, I asked the staff at my local pet shop how long it should take and they told me it would take about 24 to 28 days for the eggs to hatch.
Yesterday, after lunch hour, a student came into the classroom, raced to the birdcage, (as usual) and exclaimed, “A bird hatched! There’s a baby!”
I figured, yah, right. His wants to play a trick and tease his classmates.
Nope! An egg had hatched! It took about 21 days after laying for the first egg to hatch.
I tried to fend off the students since the parents had gotten jittery and nervous with all of the kids racing to the cage and sticking their faces in to get a look. Instead, I took a picture with my phone and showed it to them.
This morning, another egg had hatched.
|Two babies out and four eggs left to hatch.|