For our second classroom tour we have the amazing Emily Bisso – middle school teacher, literacy goddess, and fashionista. I had the privilege of working with Emily (or just “Bisso,” as she sometimes rolls) this summer and learned so much from her about teaching and staying positive. Here is her beautiful classroom . . .
Ms. Bisso welcomes you to her classroom!
“There are little Miami Redhawks with creepy kid faces cut-out on top, and my trusty peace plant.“
Where do you teach? I teach in Brooklyn, NY, in a neighborhood called Ocean Hill. It is very small and between Brownsville and Bed Stuy. My school is Ocean Hill Collegiate Charter School (part of Uncommon). I was on the founding team in 2010.
Who are your students? The most amazing, caring, ready 10-year-olds in the planet. They are generally from Caribbean heritages, and our parents are super supportive. They almost all live in the direct neighborhood. You can find more information about our kids at the school’s website.
What do you teach? I teach 5th grade History and I’m the network History chair for 5th grade and our school.
“I eventually cover all those windows in words (put backing on them so they don’t fade, or butcher paper – it still lets light through) and you can’t see well, but each couple of panes is already marked off as one of my units. They are color-coded in an OCD way to match the library color codes (purple is Native Americans, for example). I can easily pull the shades down when it’s time for a quiz, and boom – words covered. Always thinking. My biggest yay moment is that when kids want to stare out the window…they CAN’T. Up on top is some of my timeline, roughly years 1400-1777”
“Big motto (You Have the Power to Change the World) for staring, word wall JUST for geography (see image below for what it becomes), the map (again, see below for end product). Direct teaching happens up here, faceboard is up here for conferences which’ll start in Oct., and homework/notes, listening board, etc.”
“Last year’s geography word wall in June”
“The map at the end of the 2011 – 2012 school year”
Describe your teaching style in one word. Relaxed.
What is your go-to literacy strategy? I love RAFT – role, audience, format, topic – to get kids to think about what it would be like to be someone else, something else – my favorite RAFTs are when weird 10 year olds want to be inanimate objects.
How do you motivate your students? I like to put wigs on kids . . . it’s weird. I’ve also used trackers – kids love to track their growth! We set individual goals and I have check-ins around their data to make it personal. I don’t do a whole lot of shazam-type stuff – it’s not very me – so I stick to cutting out pictures of my children, pasting them on different mediums, and data. Nerdy, true.
“Two big flags – a political cartoon one that kids ask about all year that connects to our big theme of “You can create great change” and the Miami one that my gung-ho adorable Advisory partner got and helped me hang. You can see the library on the left, which has a close-up…plants…and my three color-coded tracking charts that correspond to the kids’ tracking charts in their binders. We track exit ticket and quizmastery – only quiz mastery goes up there (they can track ETs all they want, I get weirded out). The board has lots of blank space – I hang work all cray like. Stars everywhere. It marks our units – I’ll hang the big nontraditional assessments and save ones from previous years to show as examples. On the bottom you see binders, which are labeled by class.”
“My classroom library by unit”
“Classic kidney table for conferencing with students – Faceboard behind it”
What is your favorite way to check for understanding? I love a good old-fashioned quick write followed by a share. Sue me. Especially when you have kids evaluate afterwards.
“I like to fill the door with student responses to various questions. Here they answered the question “Where are you from?” and I wrote out selected responses on sentence strips.”