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    where to begin
    By sandy

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    I remember feeling just as you are now. I was excited and overwhelmed at the same time to have my own classroom with unlimited possibilities. I really went all out decorating, rearranging, organizing...Finally, by about the second or third week of August, I realized that my room was perfect, but I had no idea what I was going to teach and when. I knew the basics, but I hadn't really made a master plan.
    I would suggest trying to avoid this problem by working for a balance. Start looking at your curriculum, making sure you know what objectives you're responsible for, start looking for resources you have available for each, and trying to find things to supplement if needed. Make sure you have a plan for what you will teach when during the day and week, and also plan out your year, what you expect to accomplish within what time frame. This is challenging your first year, because you're not sure how long anything will take.
    Once that is finished, or simultaneously, I would tackle the room. As far as posters go, I made a lot of my own, using Printmaster. If your school has a laminator, this is a great way to go. You can also try a company called Argus. They send out catalogs several times a year, so see if your school has any. Check with veteran teachers at your school, if you're comfortable with this, to see if they have extra posters lying around that they will lend or give you. I have lots of posters in a drawer, because I just can't put up everything I have. I usually offer that new teachers should come and have a look before they buy anything.
    Math manipulatives don't have to be expensive. We share a lot among grade levels, which helps, too. Does your school have a die-cutting machine? Using this with craft foam or const. paper can be a cheap way to make manipulatives. Also, try the dollar store. They often have dice or dominoes (several in a pack) very cheap.
    One manipulative I use a lot when we just need to count out lots of items is beans. I have ziplock baggies filled with dried pinto beans. They work well, and it's no big deal if you lose a couple. They will last forever.
    I also use playing cards for a lot of activities. You could check the dollar store for these as well, or maybe contact a playing card manufacturer or casino for their rejects. I got a huge box of blank playing cards which I use to make game cards, flash cards, etc. from a playing card company because the color was a bit off.
    Hopefully some of these suggestions will help!
    Good luck! (You'll love 4th graders!)


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