I am so excited to set up my Christmas writing center this year in my classroom! I finally have a corner that is just for our writing needs. We have a shelf that has all our resources, fun paper, supplies, and anchor charts for learning. The beauty of having this space means getting to switch out the materials for holidays and other celebrations that are coming up. Leading up to Grandparent's Day, we had letter writing supplies so that the students could write letter. On Wednesday, I am excited to roll out our Christmas writing center! I had so much fun creating our writing center that I just had to share before everything goes out on December 1st!
Christmas Word Boards
My writing center will have two word boards for Christmas. I love the word boards because it is an easy way to build vocabulary and help students use topic related words within their writing. The 2 Christmas related word boards are "Christmas Words" and "At Santa's House". I hope that these will be helpful for my kids as they are writing letters, stories, and narratives about all their Christmas adventures.
Christmas Themed Paper
I also spent some time creating several different Christmas themed paper options for my students to use. They love when they get to write on "special paper". They also love coloring the boarders and pictures when they are done to add their own person style. I am so excited to see these special themed papers become wonderful works of writing.
Christmas Writing Task Cards
I am perhaps the most excited about the Christmas Writing Task Cards I have created for our writing center. I have made 30 cards with various writing prompts on them to help my students brainstorm ideas. They cover all genres of writing, and include create topics like "Design new technology for Santa's sleigh" to informative topics like "how do you take care of Santa's reindeer". I am thinking that these cards will live in the writing center and serve as an idea starter for my kids during our literacy centers. However, they could very easily be used for quick writes or journal prompts too!
I am so excited to integrate my new Merry Christmas Writing Center into my classroom starting December 1. You can add it to your classroom by checking it out my TPT store:
Monday, November 28, 2016
Sunday, November 27, 2016
One of the best pieces of teacher advice that I got when I went on maternity leave was that having a child changes who you are as a teacher. I completely 100% agree with this statement. Being a teacher mom means that you get a new lens to see all of the different things that you do in the classroom. Decisions are no longer made with just your teacher hat, but also with your mom hat, a hat that says, "What would I want for my child?"
This summer, I made an interesting observation about my little boy, he is totally going to be a stander in the classroom. He doesn't sit to color, watch Paw Patrol, or even eat meals. He is going to want to stand, wiggle, move, and shake while he works in the classroom, and I pray that he has a teacher who understands this! This also made me realize that I didn't have very many options for kids who want to sit somewhere other than a desk, so I spent my summer coming up with a few options to meet the needs of the mover, shakers, and floor sitters in my own classroom...introducing flexible seating!!!
One of the newly added spaces in my classroom this year was the standing table. The standing table is a chairless pod of 4 desks that have been raised. They are student standing height, and students are allowed to stand to work. They are placed at the back of the classroom so that standing students are not in the line of vision of other students. For my kids who love to sway while working, they love being at the standing table.
Just like we have a standing table, we also have a sitting table in our classroom. Our sitting table is made up of two trapezoid tables with the legs removed. I simply unscrewed and took out the adjustable legs. I have added pillows so that students can sit or kneel at the sitting table. The only unexpected outcome of the sitting table is that students want to sit on top of the table. Since it is so low to the ground, I do let them work there like that occasionally. The hexagon shape allows up to 6 kids to work comfortably at the sitting table. Sometimes in the morning, I will find up to 10 kids around the table working on making books or writing stories together!
This year, I also created a "chair parking zone". Chair parking is really just where we stack our chairs every night, but it is a place where students can drop their chair off if they do not want it at the moment. What I typically notice is that first thing in the morning, there are a lot of chairs in chair parking, as students will stand at their desk to do their work. By mid morning and into the afternoon, more students will get chairs to sit in. Students can get or put away a chair during any transition time, as long as their space is cleaned up by the end of the timer.
Room to Move
As always, I always have a room to move option in the classroom. I provide students with access to clipboards so that if they are working independently, they can work at their desk, under their desk, laying on the flooring, or anywhere else around our room. The expectations that are set at the beginning of the year is that they are responsible for getting their work done, cleaning up after them self, and making sure they are a hula hoop away from another classmate. When we first introduce this, there are definitely places that are a hot commodity, but once kids have had a chance to try every space, they settle into what fits them best as learners. They get their work done, and they can find a way to be comfortable while learning.
Sunday, October 16, 2016
Interactive NotebooksThis year, we decided as a team to utilize interactive notebooks for our science and social studies units. This decision was made made in an effort to be more cross curricular and to provide our first grade students with a more hands on approach to learning the content we were covering. Our first unit that we used our notebooks for was our communities unit in social studies. Before beginning this process, I was a little worried that this would be too much for firsties, but now that we are into our unit, we our loving our notebooks!
We started our year learning about community helpers. This is an extension off what students learned in kindergarten. I was hoping that the notebooks would provide a place for students compare community helpers, keep a word bank, and be hold our assessments and other activities that we did in social studies. I was so thrilled when I found the best resources to meet this goal!
Why make it cross curricular?
In my classroom, it is really important for me to make my science and social studies units cross curricular. I want to integrate them across the content of the day as much as possible because we get such a small amount of time to teach science and social studies. We spend at least 60 minutes a day (if not more) in our major core areas, but yet we only get 30 minutes for science and social studies. I value the content in these areas as much as I do the content in our core areas. I also think that the same "rules" about the amount of exposure students need to develop mastery also applies here too. I spend a lot of time looking for quality resources, books, and centers to leave out throughout the day, so that students can have repeated exposure to this content as well. I love that the interactive notebooks provide an hands on-way for students to capture their learning, and utilize many different skills when completing science and social studies tasks.
Reading about Community Helpers
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Researching about Community Helpers
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I love the Labor Day and Community Helpers activities because there are 9 of these fun foldable community helper information sheets. Everyday in social studies, we would read a book about a community helper, gather information on a class bubble map, and then glue in our matching foldable, and fill out or draw what we had learned about how they help, what they use, and what they can do. My students were able to color the picture of the community helper with the time left or the next day during morning work. This set also includes two matching activities that reinforces what each community helper does and the tools they use. I loved leaving this activity for a parent volunteer during reading groups.
Building Vocabulary and Collecting Words for Community Helpers
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I love how our interactive notebooks for Community helpers turned out. I feel like my students were using the vocabulary and ideas they were learning about throughout the day. I also feel like I have an amazing portfolio of work that shows off their research skills, their ability to collect and understand vocabulary, and their thoughts about the different members of our community! I am so thrilled that we found the amazing resources that we found to make this unit happen!
Saturday, October 15, 2016
We have been working on personal narratives for what seems like ***f..o..r...e...v...e...r*** in first grade. We use personal narrative to teach a whole host of writing lessons because personal narratives are familiar to first graders and first graders LOVE to talk about themselves! This week, in light of fall weather, pumpkin spice lattes, and leaves changing, my personal narrative mentor text was about a special trip to the pumpkin patch that I took when I was 6, aka a first grader. My students love hearing stories about when I was in first grade because I just don't think they believe sometimes that their teacher was their age once too! Anyway, I used my own writing as our mentor text all week. Each day we "grew" my writing. Over the course of the week I taught 5 different lessons, and my students helped write, rewrite, add, take away, and grow my writing. I love how we learned from each other and how I could see our writing together transfer to their own writing.
Monday-A Complete Sentence
On Monday, I started writing my Pumpkin Patch story from my plan. My students have seen me write from my plan a million times, so the focus on the lesson needed to be something new and exciting. I have noticed through writing conferences that my students are struggling with knowing what makes a complete sentence, a pretty tough task for first graders. I decided that this could be our focus today: a complete sentence has a somebody doing something. I know that complete sentences can have more, but this was a great, simple place to start. As I was writing my story, we would stop after every sentence and check for a somebody and a something. Three sentences in, I decided that I wanted to intentionally write an incomplete sentence so that my students could correct the sentence. They immediately knew I didn't have a somebody and added the we written in red. I stopped our lesson here for the day and charged them with the task of rereading their writing for somebody and something in every sentence. This was also our share out focus at the end of writing.
Tuesday- Using Our Spelling Strategies
One of the hardest parts of first grade writing is that students get bogged down with spelling. They are still learning important phonics patterns, vowel/consonant relationships, and even many sight words. Every week I try to model how to use my spelling resources to help me as a writer. My goal is for my students to be able to problem solve independently, do their best work with the strategies they do have, and not be slowed down in their writing by spelling. We started the lesson by rereading our writing yesterday. I think explained to my students the I needed to finish my work and started to write "We go to the". I then stopped and asked them to help me stretch out pumpkin patch. As we worked together to hear the sounds, my students easily identifies pump. Next, we have been learning about the ck blend and we could hear the /k/ in pumpkin. They decided that the /k/ could be a ck, so I ran with it and completed the word with in- pumpckin. Then we worked on patch. They were able to hear all of the letters in patch except for the t- pach. We underlined the words to remember for later, and their task of the day was to remember to stretch out words and try to hear all the sounds.
Wednesday-Being More Specific
By Wednesday we had completed my writing. We decided to reread it together. Then I challenged my students to decide if there was anything they were wondering, questions they had, or things that I just was not very specific about. They brainstormed with a partner and decided that I could add more details, more sentences, and found placed where some things just didn't make sense. As we started to add to our very first sentence "When I was 6 my grandpa went on our field trip to the pumpckin pact" we realized that I needed more space to add complete sentences, so we got out scissors and glue and began to cut apart and glue together our writing. My students at first were shocked that I would "destroy" my writing. However, by the end they were pleased with how much we improved our writing by adding details. Our lesson ended with one students asking, "can we do this?" Lucky for him, that was their task for the day.
First graders love transition words, and they love using them in counting order- first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth... For our lesson on Thursday, I wanted to introduce to my students to other transition words they could use in their writing. To start, we read "If You Give A Cat a Cupcake" and listened for the transition words. We made list as we went, and then added to the list some of our own ideas. I intentionally left fourth, fifth, and sixth off. After creating our list, we went back into my writing and decided where I could use transition words. We concluded that I needed a transition word when whatever was happening changed. For example, after talking about going on a field trip, I described the lunch I packed for my grandpa, I needed a transition word here. When we got down to the end, my students were very tempted to use third, but I explained that as a writer, I liked the word finally here. Their challenge for the day was to add transition words to their writing and to go back and try to add words to previous writing.
Friday- Cleaning it All Up
Friday was our day to "clean up" our writing. We checked our writing for capitals and periods. We have the kids mark the capitals and periods in their writing using a red light/green light systems. Periods help us stop and are marked red. Capitals tell us to go and are marked green. After every red light, you have a green light. We also checked back into our student dictionary to verify the spelling of pumpkin. During this time, I also reminded the students that "ck" for /k/ was a great guess, but we have also since learned that "ck" is only at the end of words. Their goal was to clean up their writing and be ready to share in small groups.
I am throughly pleased with all the mileage we got out of one piece of writing. I love how my students were engaged everyday in a new way to tweak and improve their own writing by writing along side me. Moving ahead, we are almost done with this piece. We have one last lesson on creating a quality illustration to match our writing.
Sunday, October 2, 2016
We were at dinner the other night with good friends of ours when the topic of reading logs came up. Our good friends have a first grader, who up until this year, loved to read and excelled at reading. My dear friend then brought up, "Since school started and he has had to do these reading logs, I have just seen his passion and excitement for reading die down and now he hates it". I proceeded to pry a little more to find out what exactly he was having to do on these reading logs. Every night, this student has to read for 20 minutes and then record at least 4 words that he had to use his decoding strategies to sound out. I sat quietly for a moment, and then asked her, "Are you going to talk to his teacher about this, because at the core of what is happening, your child is being turned away from reading." I don't know how this situation will end, but it made me realize how much I dislike reading logs. There are a number of reasons why I personally choose not to use reading logs in my own classroom.
- They are not authentic- I want my students to see themselves as readers and readers do not record every word that they needed to decode when reading. Although decoding is a great skill that readers use, meticulously recording every word is not something that readers typically do. I would say the same thing about answering comprehension questions, filling in information, or any other mundane tasks that go hand in hand with reading a book at home.
- It interrupts their reading- It doesn't matter if students wait until the end to record their word or answer or they stop in the middle of their reading to record what every they are working on, it interrupts their reading. When we are working on fluent reading, building stamina, and really practicing those more challenging strategies, we do not want our students interrupting their reading with tasks that are more or less aimed at holding them accountable.
- It takes the fun out of reading- We are working on learning to read every day in our classroom. We work on learning to read through shared reading, guided reading groups, independent reading, writing... it really is an all day task. Whens students go home, I want them reading proudly with their families, showing off their new skills, building their identity as a reader, and building an understanding that reading is enjoyable. These things do not happen when we are asking them to log words, answer questions, or do other tasks that take away from the pure enjoyment of reading.
- They typically aren't differentiated- Education has come so far in differentiation by reading logs are typically a one size fits all, which doesn't grow readers. In this particular case, the student completing the reading log does not need to be recording words he is decoding as a reader. He has outgrown the need to record them, and now needs something more challenging. When I think about the students in my own classroom, not every single student is working on that skill, so why would I want them focusing on that at home via the reading log?
- There are other ways to hold students accountable- I've heard many teachers say, but how will I know they are really reading at home? Easy, they will get better at reading in the classroom if they are continuing to practice at home. You will see small steps, small strides in their reading daily, weekly, monthly, if they are really reading at home. They will be coming to reading group recalling new words, reading with fluency, having better understandings of text. And, if they are able to enjoy the books they are reading at home, they might even want to tell you about them at school, check more out from the library, and even write about them!
The last thing I would ever want to hear is that a child is my classroom feel out of love with reading because I asked them to complete a mundane task instead of simply become a better reader by reading.