Sunday, September 28, 2014

1st Grade News

We follow the McGraw Hill Reading Wonders program for spelling and phonics (pattern phonics).  We also use the Wonders basal reader story to teach reading comprehension skills;  the majority of reading instruction occurs during ability-based reading groups, however.  We use the McGraw Hill leveled readers and a large selection of trade books for comprehension strategies and skills during reading groups.
 Link for the newsletter here
We are changing up our center routine this week and adding iPads to the Word Work center.  We have room for improvement with transitioning between centers, but for the most part the other centers - listening, teacher and read-to-self are working very well. 

I changed the center rotation cards this weekend for the bulletin board to include the iPads for word work.  I uploaded that document here.  The graphics are from MyCuteGraphics.
We spent a lot of time at the beginning of the year developing skills for the read-to-self center.  Each child has his/her own denim bag filled with books.  Some of the books I choose for them (leveled).  The children also pick out books and magazines from our classroom library for their book bags.  The children read independently for about 10-12 minutes which is no problem for this group.  Most are a little disappointed when this center ends.

 I have two large containers of stuffed animals for this center.  The children LOVE to read with a buddy!  Most of the stuffed animals are from my own children and some have been gifts from students and their families.  I throw all of the stuffed animals into the washer and dryer occasionally and whatever makes it through both machines, also makes the return trip back to school.
 The bean bags are from a Martha Holden Jennings Foundation Grant-to-Educators grant I received in 2005 for listening center materials.  The bean bags are just beginning to show a lot of wear and tear (boo hoo.) 

Some reading positions look so uncomfortable to me.
He enjoyed his reading audience.
I watched as he repositioned the stuffed animal each time he turned the page.  :)
For the first few weeks of school, the children worked with slates & markers or magnetic letters and practiced spelling and high frequency words during the word work center.  This week, the children will begin working on iPads.  Each child has access to his/her own iPad (a gift from our awesome PSO!)  The children choose an APP from a Word Work folder our team of teachers created for each iPad.

He was challenged by a friend to create a triple arc for matching letters.

I plan to enjoy the magnificent fall beauty with my first graders this week.  We'll venture out to our outdoor learning lab during writer's workshop.  Hopefully, I'll have a few great pictures to share. 

Happy learning!

Matt Glover

After a district inservice day, especially one with an excellent presenter, I always leave feeling a little overwhelmed and I wonder if I’ll ever be able to process and utilize what I learned in that short time period.  Our first inservice day in early September was no exception. 
Our guest, Matt Glover, an author and literacy consultant spent the day with our district K-3 teachers discussing ways to support and enrich children’s writing development.  At first, I was blown away at Matt’s student’s work samples:  kindergarteners writing multi-page picture books and using challenging, intriguing vocabulary words in their stories.  Then, I felt skeptical and questioned the idea of teachers spending so much time developing writing skills through the process of book writing.  I wondered why the focus on book writing when we’re not developing authors of childrens books. 
Matt Glover

Matt’s response to my question was simple:   most children have experiences with seeing and listening to picture books, so teaching children to view themselves as authors is an authentic, meaningful writing connection for young children.   
For the past month in my classroom, I have seen evidence of the effectiveness of this approach through student work samples and discussions.  During Matt’s presentation, he discussed instructional techniques that help children “read like a writer.”   One technique calls on teachers to identify particular writing skills while reading aloud from a “mentor text.”  For example, while reading aloud to my students, I focused on the author’s (or illustrator’s) skill of using facial expression to demonstrate feeling.  This child applied that skill to her book cover with a drawing of a character with a huge smile above the book title, “How I Love My Mom”.  
Another example – this student demonstrated her understanding of particular genres.  As she was writing in her book titled “Oceans,” she used a book from our classroom library to help create a realistic drawing of the ocean.

Matt Glover spoke about “nudging” writers along in their development and cautioned against “pushing.”   We watched authentic video clips that featured Matt’s patient, gentle instructional approach during writing conferences with young children.   
When I feel confident about my system for organizing and collecting student work samples, and my system for offering a variety of different book formats, I’ll share on this blog. I have an iphone filled with pictures of student work samples, and I’ll share those as I reflect upon the progress of the writers in my classroom.


 Have a wonderful week, all!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Beginning of the Year Books

What if Everybody Did That? by Ellen Javernick
This is the chattiest group of adorable, little first graders I have ever worked with.  I'm serious when I say they talk all day long... When a colleague suggested this book, I was happy to give it a try. :)
Although to this day, there is still room for improvement with controlling the impulse to talk out, this book was extremely helpful!  The beautiful illustrations present more than a dozen scenarios about making appropriate choices.  In the story, after each minor infraction, the young boy is asked, “What if everybody did that?”

(On this page, a straw paper is blown across a restaurant.) 
The book ends on a positive note, which was a perfect way to begin a discussion about making appropriate choices.  We created a "We can make good choices" poster with the children at the center of the poster.  The visual reminder is a nice way to revisit and reinforce these skills.

 I received this book as a gift from a special student and I love sharing it with my class at the beginning of the year.  It's a perfect book for helping children learn to feel good about themselves.  The character in this story, Milo, is constantly told by his friends that he can't be what he wants to be during pretend play.  When Milo gets home and shares this with his mother, she helps him understand he's special and can be whatever he wants to be.
As a follow-up activity, we created this display about our special first grade friends.  Each child told me something (s)he could do.  I typed the responses and placed them next to the drawings (from a template).   This bulletin board is right above the snack storage area and the kiddos love to read the note cards together in the morning.

"I can be helpful to friends." "I can give my mom kisses."  "I can help people when they're sad."  "I can swim.  "I can ride roller coasters."

1st Grade News

We are looking forward to our second full week in first grade!
Link to view or upload this week's 1st Grade News
Because I managed to delete my entire Meet the Teacher Night 2014 post (ugh), I'm uploading pictures from that post for a few wonderful families who have been asking about them.  :)
So many brave, happy faces on the first day of first grade.  :)
In these pictures, the children were working through an activity from The Four Blocks Literacy Model, called  "Special Child of the Day".  Many similar "star student" activities exist, but I love The Four Blocks activity because of the multilevel learning approach. 


We began the school year with the class interviewing two students each day, asking questions, such as, "What is your favorite after-school activity?  What is your favorite animal?  What is your favorite food, book, color or movie?  Once we finished the interviews, the children helped me write sentences on chart paper.  We checked the word wall for correct spelling of sight words and students volunteered to help spell other common words.  We read the student writings together and displayed the posters in the classroom.
We studied the special student's name by pointing out vowels, consonants, how many letters, and hidden words within the name.  We cut apart the letters in the name and used those to make new words that we recorded on chart paper.
After the group writing and choral reading of the sentences, the children wrote to the special child of the day and drew a picture.  While the children were writing, the special child walked amongst the students and provided feedback and comments about the writing and pictures.  During that time, I assessed handwriting (letter formation), word wall knowledge, phonetic spellilng, and sentence writing.  These papers were sent home with the child at the end of the day. 
Writings from two different students
Finally, we added the special child's name to the word wall, and the kiddos LOVE that part of this activity!

 I moved the word wall to the chalkboard and added magnetic backing to all the words so the children can walk up to the word wall and remove word cards to use when writing.
We finished our last special child interview on Friday and our hallway is now filled with posters about the neat kiddos in this year's class.