May 1, 2016

The Unknown Impact

Last summer my building had a book study.  We got together once a week to discuss the book at hand.  Some gaps were discussed.  And some possible solutions were brainstormed.  We were eager to try out some of these solutions and May is the perfect time to start reflecting on the impact of these changes.

Today I wanted to focus on the Readbox.  You may remember from earlier posts that this was a large bookshelf that my teammate, Sarah, and I rolled out at dismissal.  Families could check out a book to read at home and return it when they were done.  The books were not leveled.  Just high interest books that we hoped would hook even our reluctant readers.

I have thoroughly enjoyed watching students check out the books all year long.  But what is even better is when they wanted to discuss the book with me at breakfast when it is returned.  Or that they read or heard a book in class and requested that it be put into the Readbox.

But this past week something else happened.  My first grade students were finishing a research piece on an animal of their choice.  They learned about how to write a table of contents and dedication page.  I enjoyed listening to them share their writing pieces during the "safari celebration."  And then I saw this:

 What I've just don't always know the impact that you may be having.

Apr 17, 2016

Teaching with Purpose

This is one of my favorite and least favorite times of year.  Let's start with least favorite reasons (just to get it over with)...
* Testing
* Testing
* Testing
Because of my position, I am pulled for the next three weeks to do state testing and benchmark testing.  This means no interventions, guided reading groups, guided math groups, or writing conferences.  It also means sadness for me.  It makes me feel like my year is over even though it is not.

That leads me to my favorite reasons (there is always a silver lining):
* Thinking ahead to next year
* Preparing for next year
* Getting excited about changes
* Organization
* Planning

I have a lot of things "cooking" at the end of this particular year.  My Title I teammate, Sarah, and I are trying to make the most of our minutes away from testing by rethinking our Readbox, Game Nights for next year, hallway decor, RtI process, and providing more purpose (my topic for today!)

Tammy from Forever In First has been sharing the wisdom of Regie Routman for years now, but I just recently listened.  I picked up two of her books...finally...and started with Teaching Essentials.  I have not quite finished the book, yet but there is so much that has already been tagged to be remembered and implemented.  This paragraph stuck with me:
...we must always question why we're doing what we're doing and why these students need to know what we're teaching.  We need to ask ourselves continually, So what?  What difference will it make?  Teaching something with more intention or finding out what students are really interested in is hard.  It takes thought, effort, extra hours, but in the long run we save time, because our students are engaged and want to learn. (p. 62)
Honestly, I read this paragraph and thought to myself, Yes, I do this.  I always set the purpose for our lessons.  But over the course of the next few weeks, Regie's words continued to come back. Forcing me to rethink what I was currently doing.  What I realized is that I do always set the purpose but I could do more.

And here's how...

In guided reading, we read a lot of leveled readers.  We do this to grow as readers, to enjoy reading books that are not too hard, and for me to work with students on their strengths.  But...I want to have better purpose when choosing the books.  When we read a book about Baby Bear, Father Bear, and Mother Bear, we are going to read because we have fallen in love with these characters.  When we read a nonfiction text, it will be because someone in our current reading group is interested in that topic and we will look to them to be our "expert."  And when we read a how-to, we are going to test it out.

Along with this idea, one goal I have for next year is to include more oral language activities.  This includes wordless books and asking students to orally tell the stories.  I want students to understand the purpose of their oral stories is for others to enjoy and learn from, while also improving their skill as a storyteller.  In the "Readbox," I plan to have some of these stories available (with a tape deck and headphones) for checkout.  Other families will be able to enjoy the story telling skills of our first graders.

For writer's workshop, I want the students to understand the importance and purpose that their writing plays in the lives in others!  To support this idea, I want to include writing pieces into our "Readbox" to be checked out at dismissal.  I want to use some pieces during guided reading lessons.  My hope is that these small changes, will have a lasting impact on the purpose that their writing serves for themselves and others.

In math, Jess and I work to set the purpose of each skill taught with a real world lesson.  For example, when we started our place value unit, we put out lots of Smarties.  After some good brainstorming, the students decided groups of ten would be the best way to count all the Smarties.  So this is what we did.  We made the Smarties into groups of tens and ones.  Not only did it help us to set a purpose to place value, but the students actually helped us to make the manipulatives that we would then use throughout the lessons.

I do realize that I will never reach a point when my teaching is the best that it can be.  There is always room for me to grow and improve.  So I will keep reading, learning and growing from my students, experts like Regie, from my fellow bloggers, and all the teachers that I share a space with daily.

Apr 10, 2016

Writing Reading Balance

I am so sad that my blogging brain has not been ignited lately.  I have been struck by the reading bug this year.  So bad, in fact, that I have started to write down the titles I have read because I am losing track.  This is a good thing...but...

One of my goals this year was to continue to work on the balance in my life: wife, mom, teacher, blogger, reader, friend, sister, learner, daughter, TPT-er.  That is one person being pulled in a lot of directions but I like the challenge.  But we also know that one person can only be pulled in so many directions before she snaps.

Well...good news...I have not snapped.  But books do suck me in.  And when I sit down to write or create or read blogs...I hear my current book calling to me.  I give in.  So I think that for now that is just where I am.

But I have some blog post fires starting to ignite and I know they will need to be released from my brain soon. For now, I am going to let the book suck me in because readers are better writers and writers are better readers (or at least that is my excuse for now).

Mar 28, 2016

Personal Narrative Anyone?

Prior to spring break, our little firsties were writing personal narratives.  I'm not going to lie to you..... they are NOT my favorite writing piece to teach.  I'd much rather teach something like nonfiction, how-to, opinion, something that has more structure. A writing piece that is more straightforward.

After a one year hiatus from personal narratives, I decided to add them back in.  This time was different though.  They were moved to a different time of year AND we only used Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems (all three of them).  This year was also different because we used the nesting dolls to talk about how we have our big events, BUT..... those big events are full of smaller ones.

I tried and tried to get this across.  I'm not going to lie, I still have kiddos who can't get down to that one little event.  They are stuck in the big.  No matter what I say, no matter how we whittle it down, their little brains can't handle only talking about the small event.  This year, this time around.... I'm ok with it.

We worked on adding details to our sentences.  Again, I had a few risk takers, some just aren't there yet, again... it's ok.

Then, we talked about catchy leads and interesting closures. I had a few takers on each of these.  This little firsties had a terribly boring lead, but this is what she wrote after we had conferences.

Our personal narratives are finished, except we're publishing them.  I wanted to be finished before we left, but things happen, so we will finish that part up during writers workshop when we return.  I have the task of grading these precious little stories over spring break.  I have to laugh because near the beginning of our blogging career, I pinned a "Small Moments" rubric.  Each time I see it repinned, I just crack up because it is HORRIBLE!  I mean at the time I was like... "I'm awesome", but right now am so embarrassed by it I just want email the person who pins it to let them know I'm much better now!  And so you don't have to pin that horrible rubric, you can pin this one!  :)  It's MUCH better.  It's totally aligned with the common core standards and I love it!  It makes my grading life so.much.easier! And it's yours, just click on the rubric below!!!!

Happy Spring Break Friends!!!!

Mar 18, 2016

Growing Readers and Writers by Teaching with Mentor Texts

One of our most important goals as educators of readers is to help instill a love for reading.  Yes.  It is also to teach them how to read.  Yes.  But we also want them to understand what they are reading. And not just at a surface level, but at a deeper level.  So basically...our goal is to nurture our students into...
deep, thoughtful, fluent, "can't put the book down" readers.

Not an easy task.  But an exciting one.
And one that requires some great mentor texts that support and excite our young readers.

Last year, Tanny McGregor stopped by our classroom to present a new lesson on theme.  Within this lesson she used concrete materials, anchor charts, and discussion to help our firsties discover the theme across several texts. We were excited to put what we learned from her into place this school year.  And we knew just the books that we wanted to use.

 Ruby In Her Own Time and Leo the Late Bloomer are two texts with a similar story line.  As you can probably guess from the titles, both stories are about characters that learn to do things a bit later than their peers.  They are "late bloomers" and learn to do things "in their own time."

Ruby is a duckling that hatches later than her siblings, learns to eat late, and also learns to swim last.  But as the title states, Ruby learns to do all the things that her peers do, but at her own rate and in her own time.  Just like the little duckling, Leo learns to read, write, draw, and speak; however, he did not "bloom" until he was ready. It is interesting that the mother in both texts know that the child will "bloom" in their own time.

To begin, I want to introduce the word "theme" to my first graders because this a new term for them.  The Common Core states "retell stories, including key details, and demonstrate understanding of their central message or lesson."  The shift from the term "central message" to "theme" happens in forth grade, but I don't think it is a bad idea to expose them to both terms.

 When identifying a theme across multiple texts, Tanny called them "Text Cousins." As the lesson progresses, the possible themes are recorded on a large chart paper.  This allows students to think about all the possible themes based on evidence from all three texts.

 To begin our study of central message, I will display a quote from Gandhi.  I will read it, we will read it, and they will read it.

The students can then identify surface level information about this quote such as: 16 words, 2 contractions, or 2 sentences.  As these surface level items are discussed the students will get to touch the surface of the sand in my glass bowl.

Side note: I am using "moon sand" for this lesson because I like the way it moves when we dig deeper for the theme.

After students explore all their surface level thinking with the quote, I want them to begin thinking about what Gandhi really means by this quote.  What is his message to us?  (As I ask this question, I am going to dig deeper in the glass bowl.)

As students share their thinking in this lesson, I will keep track of these theme ideas on our chart paper; however, students will also get to dig deeper into our bowl and place a "digging deep: theme" card at the bottom of the bowl.

We will continue our discussion of digging deeper into the theme with the book Leo the Late Bloomer; however, I will only be showing the illustrations from this text and talking with students about what they see going on in the story.  I want them to focus on the overriding theme and message from the author through the illustrations.  Once the picture walk is complete, students will add their theme ideas to our chart (while also digging deeper into our bowl).

The final book, Ruby in Her Own Time, will then be read aloud in its entirety.  Students will "turn and talk" to decide what they think the possible theme could be across all these texts.  As we record these theme ideas, I will be asking what evidence led them to that conclusion.

This lesson can be used with any texts that fit the needs of your students.  Within this resource, you will find the quote from Gandhi typed up in case you would like to use these specific "text cousins: (as Tanny called them).  Along with the quote, there are surface level and digging deep cards.

The surface level/deeper thinking cards can be used as an additional visual when the students touch the surface of the sand or dig deeper into the bowl.  I would like them to not only see the surface of the sand but also SEE where their thinking would fall in this bowl.  Then when they have deeper thought, I want them to not only dig, but place a thinking card.

Two graphic organizers are included to assist your students understanding of surface versus deeper thinking.  The first organizer is more of a labeling activity to help them show you what they learned from the lesson.

The second organizer requires students to determine the theme of a text and provide support for their thinking.  This could be used in a whole group, small group, or independently. hope that this is a lesson that you can use with your students this year. Be sure to grab your Freebie by clicking on any of the product images!  Please let me know if you have any suggestions or questions about this lesson on theme.  Thanks!

 Before you move on to the next post, my mystery word is Butterflies. [HERE] is the link to the form you can use to keep track of the mystery words at each stop. You'll need them for an entry on the Kindergarten-2nd grade Rafflecopter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Mar 8, 2016

Wordless Books for Inferring

There are some lessons that I get really excited to teach each year.  Tanny McGregor's lesson from Comprehension Connections fall into that category for sure.  The excitement comes from the lessons being so concrete and hands on.  But the excitement also comes from the prospect of how the lesson will change from year to year.  No lesson is ever the same...and that is why I love this profession so much.

This past week we formally introduced inferring with Tanny McGregor's concrete ideas of shoes and trash.  I shared our routine for this part of the lesson over on Classroom Tested Resources.  We also used some alphabet books to help students practice "reading between the lines" or inferring.  I shared these books over at Adventures in Literacy Land. But today, I wanted to focus on two new books that we tried out this year. comes a little honesty...I was super nervous to use these two books.  They are wordless. I have not really incorporated many wordless books into my teaching.  Lita Judge is an author that will be at the Mazza Museum this summer (I will also be attending) and as I became acquainted with her books, I realized these two would be perfect for a first grade lesson on inferring.

Yep...they were!

We started with Red Sled.  It is a sweet story about a bear that takes a child's sled during the night hours to enjoy with some animal friends.

On the following day we moved on to Red Hat. sweet.  This was about a baby bear and many woodland animals enjoying a day with a red hat.  The great thing about using both books was that the students used evidence from BOTH books to make their inferences.

Now that I have had my first experience with wordless book (hard to admit!), I am ready to use more of them!  Next on my wordless book horizon: Sidewalk Flowers!

Feb 28, 2016

Sunday Scoop

 What a week ahead!  Leap Day and Read Across America...good to think ahead.  Linking up with the Teaching Trio for a Sunday Scoop.