Saturday, January 24, 2015

Introducing Equal and Unequal

 Fractions.....Oh my goodness, I love them!

There always seems to be so many fun and engaging activities that can be done with fractions.  I get excited and look forward to it each year.

As my teammate, Jess, and I sat down to start talking about fractions we decided to start with a lesson on equal versus unequal.  This is the first part to understanding fractions and we wanted to make sure that they had a good understanding of this concept before we even got started.

The brainstorming started.

And I don't know how but the conversation led us to ice cream (well...not that surprising...I am typically thinking about food).  We wanted to somehow get the kids to experience equal and unequal instead of us just teaching them about it.

Here is what we came up with:
We decided to throw a little ice cream party for our classes.  Each kid was given ice cream inside a small clear cup (we wanted them to be able to see what everyone had).

We asked them to be polite and not eat any of the ice cream until everyone had some.  Once it was all passed out, Jess and I just stood there.  Waiting.....

They were all trying so hard to be polite and not complain about what they were given.  But finally we heard "why did I get more than Steve?"  The conversation started! 

We said, "What do you mean?"  The students went on to explain how they knew that the ice cream cups were not equal and how unfair that was.  This led into connections about times that this has happened to them with siblings, cousins, or friends.
This was just...what...we...wanted!  The emotional connection.

So we dug in!  We discussed the importance of dividing things equally at times and started to talk about fractions.  And we weren't planning to do so, but we brought up a Powerpoint I made last year that shows some real world examples of fractions in use.

It just went so well.  It was one of those super nice moments where you leave the lesson smiling, feeling good, and hoping that it sticks.

But the true test is always the next day, right? 

The next day we pulled up the second part of the Powerpoint to formally begin looking at fractions and what they really mean.  Our class started cheering.  What!  So silly but SO glad that we made a lasting impression on them.  Or if we didn't, at least the ice cream did :)

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Guided Reading Format: A Second Look

 Last week I had an out of town PD and an early morning staff meeting.  One thing thing was said in both situations that struck me.  I can't put quotes around it because I never, ever remember things exactly as they are said.  But, basically, I was reminded that we are constantly in the revision process.

And we are. 

Last year I posted a post about my small group routine.  Through some great PD on Jan Richardson's The Next Step in Guided Reading and observations I have made of our OG teacher, more revisions have been made to my routine.

 My new routine looks like this:
(based on Jan Richardson's template with my added components)

This looks like a lot and it is but I will tell you the routine is quick, efficient and when I complete the lesson by saying, "How was your effort today?" my kids reply, "What!! We are done?"
So...let's break this down.  This is a two day plan.  I fill out two of these a week and then my fifth day is for assessments.

Step One: Phonological Awareness or Familiar Reading

My first two to three minutes of group are spent on either Phonological Awareness or Familiar Reading.  It really depends on the time or year and what my group needs.  At the beginning of the year, I do a lot of phonological awareness activities.  This year I read a lot of rhyming texts and we used them to break apart sounds, count words, or change sounds.
But as the year continues, we move on to familiar reading.  Right now we are reading nursery rhymes and variations of nursery rhymes.  They are quick, simple, and fun to read.  I compiled the ones that I use here:

As the year progresses even further, we may use short passages or short books as our quick familiar reading at the beginning of group.

Step Two: Phonics

-Review vowels and consonants (takes less than a minute):
 I use flashcards for this.  It is very quick.  We say the sound, then the letter name. If my group does not need this review, I skip this component.

-NWF: nonsense word fluency (takes 1 minute):
 It helps me to determine if students are blending sounds accurately.  If this comes easily to my group, we look for nonsense words within larger words.  I want them to see the value in blending these sounds quickly and effortlessly.  I use these sheets for this:

Written review of sounds (about 1 minute):
At this time I want to review vowel patterns or chunks that we have been focusing on.  To do this, I may review some flashcards, but then I ask them to write the pattern.  For instance, I will say, "Write the chunk that says /sh/."  As they write, I expect them to say the sound. I typically choose about 3 patterns.  If there is an error, I correct the individual and they write the pattern three times.
After some trial and error, I have found that it works best for me to have them write these sounds on the back of their phonics sheet (photo below).

Introduction to new sound (about 1 minute):
This is when I introduce the new phonics pattern that I would like them to focus on.  After my introduction, they write this pattern three times on their paper as they say the sounds to themselves.

Highlight Sounds or Sentences (about 5 minutes):
This is where we put the phonics skills together.  I use this same sheet all week.  But basically, the students are either highlighting the pattern we are focusing on or they are reading the sentences where the skill is embedded.  ( I outlined my procedures HERE.)

Step Three: Sight Words

Dictate Words (about 2 minutes):
I ask the students to write three of the sight words that we have been working on.  They do this on a dry erase board.  At this time, students spell the word as they write.  If there are any mistakes, I assist the child and they rewrite the word three times.

Flashcards (about 30 seconds):
Then I use my Snapword cards to review previous or introduce new sight words.  These cards have pictures to help my visual learners but they have the plain old word on the back of them.

Phrases (about 30 seconds):
I just want to ensure that they can read these words in context.  So we read through a few short phrases together.

Step Four: Reading the Text
We read the same text for two days.  This is what the layout looks like for those days.

This is the meat of my guided reading time and it takes about 10-15 minutes (or it is my goal to spend that amount time on the book).  My introduction is quick and includes our examination of some key vocabulary words.  Then the students dig in to the text and whisper read independently. At times we chorally read together to build fluency and confidence.  The second day includes rereading but I also like to include some type of comprehension activity.

Step Five: Introduce New Sight Word

This last step is very quick.  It takes less than a minute.  I introduce one new sight word that will become part of their dictation practice that I shared with you above.  We "play" with this word by mixing up letter tiles and fixing the word or I write the word with missing letters and they correct me.

And our groups always end by discussing our effort (mine included). 
I is a lot.  It is intense.  But I have really enjoyed the changes and feel like I am hitting their needs. 

Plus....I am always up for more revisions :)

Monday, January 19, 2015

Explicit Phonics

Planning....Does it take anyone else forever?
My guided reading plans take me quite a while to plan because I want to make sure I choose the right text and skills for the individual students I am teaching.

One part of my group time that was taking me a lot of preparation was the phonics portion.  I like to have the students highlight the sounds throughout the week, sort the words by sounds, and read words with the phonics skill in context.

But what I found was that I was creating new phonics sheets each week or searching through my file folders to find what I needed.  It...was...not...working for me anymore.

So after 6 months of slowly working on it, I finally have a completed set of sheets that I use in guided reading groups now.  YES!

Here is what I do:

Monday: I introduce the new skill by decoding the words together with these "flashcards."  I could cut them apart but I actually just keep the whole sheet together.

Tuesday: We practice this skill together by highlighting the pattern.  My time in group is short; therefore, we only highlight the first two rows.

Wednesday: We move on to the last two rows and complete our highlighting and decoding together.

Thursday: I want my students to use the phonics skill in context.   First, they read the sentences independently or chorally.  Then I ask them to look for the pattern within the sentences.  They get to circle the words with the focus skill.

 I have been using these sheets all year (as I slowly made them) and have found that the kids really enjoy them.  They love using highlighters, markers, and searching for the patterns hidden within the sentences.  Here is a list of all the skills that I hit:
short a
short a, ck
short e
short i
short o
short u
Long vowel sounds:
-e, ee, e-e
vowel y
vowel digraphs:
or, ore
er, ir, ur
Other skills
initial blends
final blends
3 letter blends
plural –s
endings –s, -ing
sh digraph
th digraph
wh, ch, tch
nk, ng
soft c, soft g
2 syllable

I hope they can help your kids too!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Bright Ideas: Add a Little Color to Your Writing

 We are so excited to share our first bright idea of 2015!

A few months ago Em and I were brainstorming how to help our firsties remember lead vs. closure vs. meat of their stories.  We have picture clues but found while we had them posted everywhere and even on the papers, it just wasn't sinking in.  Last year we would use M&M's as bribery, I mean incentives.... green for capital letters and red for punctuation.  Em had the "Bright Idea" to transfer this awesomeness to our paper.  She had recently picked up a pack of green from our teacher free store and I had some pink laying around... BAM!  Green for lead and red (well... pink in our case) for closure. :)  All pages in between are white.  My teacher heart sings!

If you have found this bright idea to be helpful, please check us out on Facebook or Instagram!

Be sure to check out the blogs below for more BRIGHT IDEAS by grade level and topic!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Shades of Deep Thinking

Karen and I started our week after winter break on metacognition.  It made such a positive impact on our firsties last year that we wanted to make sure we hit it right away in January.  But we made some changes to the lesson that we think went really well.  By Friday our reading salad looked like this:

I wrote all about it on Adventures in Literacy Land today. And it includes a freebie!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Real Teachers of Blog County

We just can't do it all, can we?  We try.  We really do.  But that is just not the way it works because there is just never quite enough time.  So something has to give.

That is why we are linking up with Hilary this week to share a spot in our classrooms that is...well...real!

Em teaches in three different classes, plus has some of her things in a janitor's closet.  But there is a spot where things just get dumped because time is short.  This is the case for random math materials, books, and papers.  They will get organized at some point but not right now :)

Maria has many, many read aloud books that were extremely one time!  But...oops!  These books are screaming to be organized.  They will have to wait until summer :)

What about your classroom? 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

A Winter Wonders Celebration

January has hit.  It means a couple of different things to me.

1.  It marks the ONE YEAR anniversary of Adventures in Literacy Land. Time has flown by and I have really enjoyed being part of such a strong literacy community.  I have learned so much.

2. It is mid-year for my firsties.  Things start to really click at this time of year and fluency becomes more of a focus for us.
What better way to celebrate both of these milestones than through a Winter Wonders Blog Hop!

There are so many ways to integrate fluency practice into your daily schedule.  Some things that you can do to work on fluency include:

*repeated readings
*reading phrases
*buddy reading
*listening to a fluent reader
*listening centers

But some struggling students need even more.  I have found that some students struggle with fluency because they still have not mastered the high frequency words.

I wanted to combine some of these fluency strategies into one lesson (because I know our time is always limited!) And we are going to call it a 2-Way Fluency Scoot.

During this game students will buddy read, listen to others, read phrases, and read high frequency words repeatedly.  Students will read "growing sentences" to each other in the form of a SCOOT game!

The way these sentences are set up students should be able to read the text fluently by the time they get to very bottom of the page.
Students record this type of activity by evaluating the fluency.
Please click on either image above to grab this freebie!  I hope this game can help to work on fluency in your classroom this winter!

If you would like to find out about the other winter activities we will be doing this year you can follow us on bloglovin'!

Head on over to your next stop and find out what Winter Wonder Erin from I'm Lovin' Lit has in store for you!