Sunday, September 8, 2013

Back to School Activities

The Four Blocks © “Special Child of the Day” is one of my student’s favorite back to school activities.  I have found it to be a wonderful way to promote a sense of community as the children get to know one another through the interviewing and writing activities.  The Four Blocks © Literacy Model, Month-by-Month Phonics for First Grade book is a great resource for this activity.  I followed the suggested activities somewhat loosely this year but loved the way the authors designed the process to be a multi-level learning activity.    
The procedure went like this for my class: 
Each morning, children’s names were randomly selected from a basket.   (Four Blocks© suggests featuring one child each day; we featured 2-3 students each day in our classroom and that worked beautifully for this group!)  The children, whose names were chosen for the day, became our “special children” and sat in “special” chairs while they were interviewed by classmates.  As the children asked questions and learned about their friends, I was assessing the children’s ability to participate in collaborative conversations with their peers.  I also gathered information about the student’s knowledge of language conventions.

(The children gathered at the large-group carpet area for the interviewing/writing activities.  These two are sitting in their special chairs while being interviewed.)
After the interviews, we worked on shared writings about each child.  We wrote 3-5 sentences on chart paper, paying special attention to language and writing conventions.  (Although this is my tenth year teaching first grade , I am still surprised by the huge differences in the children’s ability levels.   This is a very diverse group.)  I wrote each child’s name on cardstock and we clapped and cheered for their names before adding them to the word wall.  We spent time analyzing each name, making note of such things as the number of consonants and vowels, the formation of each letter and connections to other words and names.  The most engaging part of this activity was when the children used the letters in the student’s name to make new words.  The children LOVED learning about their own names; finding rhymes and Word Wall words within their names; and, everyone enjoyed being word detectives and discovering new words.  I picked up more information about the children’s understanding of language conventions, phonics and word recognition with this part of the “Special Child of the Day.”
When the shared writings were complete, the children made pictures and wrote something to each child.  Everyone got to take their collection of student writings/drawings home.    Again, this was an opportunity for assessment and reflection about the needs of this group for future writing activities. 
(These pictures show the children working on their drawings and writings for the "special children.")

Table 1 Friends

Table 2 Friends

Table 3 Friends

Table 4 Friends

Throughout the first eleven days of school, the shared writings were displayed on a hallway bulletin board, featuring three to five students at a time.  Before the children take their shared writings (on chart paper) home, I will make a class book from this project.  I’ll type the shared writings into book pages so each child has his/her own page.  The children will add pictures to their page before the book is bound.  I think the children will really enjoy the book and continue to learn about their friends each time they re-read the book.

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