Monday, November 28, 2016

Christmas Writing Center

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:

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Sunday, November 27, 2016

Getting Flexible with Flexible Seating

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!!!

Standing Table
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.

Sitting 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!

Chair Parking
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.
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Sunday, October 16, 2016

Interactive Notebooks: 1st Grade Social Studies

Interactive Notebooks
This 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
Scholastic Teacher Store
Last year we asked our dear teacher librarian if she had any extra money to purchase books for our students that would match our community helpers unit.  We searched for the best "bang for our buck" and decided that we really liked this Community Helpers set from scholastic.  It contains 6 sets of books (6 books in a set) about different community helpers.  The books have beautiful pictures, nonfiction text features, and contain glossaries and key words to build vocabulary. The only down side is that they are written for some of the later in the year reading levels.  Students can however read the pictures. We would use these books as shared reading books, read aloud books, or read them during social studies to help use research different community helpers.

Researching about Community Helpers
Get this resource here
The first part of our notebook was dedicated to helping students capture information about community helpers and use their research skills.  I found there amazing foldables from Elementary Nest.
 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
Get this resource here
The other amazing resource that I used for our interactive notebooks was the Writing about Community Helpers from First Grade School House.  This set is amazing for stocking my writing center with pages for students to write about community helpers during work on writing time.  There are 13 different writing pages so students can write and draw about community helpers.  The set also include colored and black and white vocabulary cards.  My kids loved using these cards, and they were HUGE for my ELL students.  We add the community helper word list to the front of our notebooks, and then added everyday different words that we felt were important to community helpers. This set filled our writing center with wonderful resources to make our study of community helpers cross curricular.

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!
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Saturday, October 15, 2016

How Does Our Writing Grow???

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.

Thursday-Transition Words
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.
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Sunday, October 2, 2016

Why I Don't Do Reading Logs

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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?
  5. 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.

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How Do We Establish Fair isn't Equal in First Grade

Any teacher of any grade level would agree that we have all heard "that is so unfair" a million times! I always hate when my students say this, but I also understand from their lens, their point of view, and their age of development, fair is a big deal!  It is also a totally natural emotion for our little friends to feel and notice when things seem a little unfair.  As a result, I begin laying the foundation within the first few days of school that fair doesn't mean equal, and what is fair in our classroom is making sure that everyone gets exactly what they need to be successful.

A Story of Band Aids, Tooth Holders, and Ambulances...
Within the first couple of days of school, usually among hearing the typical "that's so unfair" I roll out my classic injury story.  To help show the students that fair does not mean equal, I tell a funny, pretend story about how 3 first graders are playing on the playground and get hurt.  I love picking students in the class, usually my fair police, to play the parts of our very injured students.  I explain to the students that each of the three students has come to me with an injury from playing on the play ground.  One student has lost a tooth, one student has scraped their knee, and one student has fallen off the monkey bars and seems to have broken their arm.  I then explain that if fair means equal, it also means that each of the 3 students will be getting the same thing from me, clearly a tooth box will be perfect for the lost tooth, scraped knee, and broken arm.  At this point, the students become very giggly because it is just down right silly that I would even suggest that a broken arm would be healed with a tooth box.  As they giggle, I then decide that clearly that is not the right treatment so maybe a band aid would work for all three.  Again, giggles usually erupt, so I finally suggest that clearly the broken arm needs to go to the hospital, so I  might as well just send all 3 students to the hospital. By this time, my first graders are very giggly at the thought that all three students would be getting the exact same thing.  This then leads us into a great conversation about how what each person needs is important but very different.

Applying it to Our Classroom
After we have some great giggles, we then talk about what this means in the day to day work we do in our classroom.  We talk about how some friends need certain things to help and support them, while others might not need those same things.  Then we talk about how my job and goal as a teacher is to give each student exactly what they need to be successful, even if it means that only one or two students need that support.  By this point in the school year, 7 week in, we have students who are using fidgets on the carpet, chewing gum for a sensory issues, eating snacks more frequently than others, working without a chair, the list goes on and on, without other students even thinking twice about those things being "unfair".  We have set the norm and expectation from the first few days of school that fair isn't about being equal, it is about each person getting what they need to be successful.

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Saturday, October 1, 2016

Guided Reading for Early Readers

We are officially six weeks into the school year, which means that we have had significant time to get established in our routines.  One of the most important routines that is ever established in my classroom is what my kids do during guided reading time.  I spend a significant amount of time training kids, that whole philosophy of going slow to go fast.  So now we are there, we are finally to a place where we are starting to pick up some speed so that we can go fast.  Monday will start my first day of guided reading groups and I couldn't be more excited.

This year guided reading is going to be a bit more challenging than it has in the pass.  The tricky part about guided reading in first grade is that we cover so many levels.  First graders come in around a level four and leave at a level 18. They of course fall somewhere above or below from there.  This year, I have kids as low as a level 1 (think mid kinder) all the way up to a 20+.  The challenge is that even the basic format of each of these levels looks so different.  Sometimes it is hard to keep it all straight.  I wanted to share what my early readers, levels 1-4, are going to be doing during this guided reading time.  These sweet readers are going to need repeated exposure to phonics, but I also firmly believe that comprehension and reading strategies must go hand in hand.  The twenty minutes that I get with these readers must be purposeful and so precisely used if I am going to help them make the growth that they need.

Day 1 with a Text
Sight Word Review-1 minute
To begin an early reading group lesson, I start with a sight word review. I pick 3 sight words that appear in the text, and we quickly write them, orally spell them, body spell them, and find them in the text.  One of the most important things to know about sight words is that they do not follow typical patterns for spelling, so kids need constant exposure to them.  I had heard once that the average child needs 40 exposures to sight words to recall them.  Think about how hard it is for our struggling readers who need more than the average number of exposures.

Book Intro- Less than 5 minutes
Next, I introduce the book that we are reading to the students.  I will have the students do a quick book walk with me, and I will introduce any words that I think might be tricky for the students.  At this level, words that I might choose are words that are not cvc, known sight words, or have multiple syllables.  I also use this time to build vocabulary with new words and introduce synonyms for any words that might be in our reading.

Teaching Point-2 minutes
Before students have had a chance to read the book, we have a little lesson.  This sets the tone for what I want them to practice today as a reader.  During our lesson, I model for the students what I want them to do as readers.  For my early readers, I try to focus on self monitoring, using word strategies and phonics skills to solve unknown words, and practicing for fluency.  For my early readers, I would say that 3 out of 5 lessons a week are phonics based lessons.  How can we use what we know about letters to help us as readers?  This teaching point is quick, lasting only a few minutes.  It is merely modeling and planting the seeds of what good readers and thinkers do.

Reading the Text, 1:1 Conferences- 8-10 minutes
Next, I ask the students to read and reread the text while I listen and conference with them.  During this time, I can help guide students based on individual needs.  For my early readers, I am making notes about if they have left to right reading, one to one print matching, and sweep and return skills.  I also begin to introduce self monitoring at this time, because it is such an important skill.  I believe that the sooner kids can read something, process, and say "hey that doesn't make sense", they stronger a reader they will be.  We also pair self monitoring with cross checking, does that look right, sound right, and make sense?  During this time, I try to squeeze in 2 conferences.  What I love about a reading conference though is that often times other first graders will listen in and they benefit from the lesson being taught.

Comprehension Lesson- 1 minute
After students have read and reread a book, we then move into a quick comprehension lesson.  These lesson are quick, about 1 minute, and focus on retelling what we read, something that we noticed about the character, something that we learned from the book, or the main idea of the story.  I firmly believe that even our early readers need to know that part of reading is understanding.

Word Work-3-5 Minutes
Finally, we end our lesson with a word work activity.  During this time, we work on both sight words and a spelling pattern that we are learning about (like cvc words).  We will practice spelling words, using sound boxes, identifying the missing letters, sort word patterns, and practicing, "If you can spell hat, then you can spell"  This work is so important to providing students with the repeated exposure to phonics that they need to both read and write.  I try to change what we are doing every day so that students do not get bored.

Day 2 with a Text
Day 2 with a text looks similar to day 1 except that a few things have been removed to open up time for writing about a story.  A day 2 lesson begins with a sight word review, followed by a teaching point and 1:1 conferences.  After doing 1:1 conferences, we then do writing about the book.

Guided Writing-10 Minutes
On a second day of reading a book, I will have the students do guided writing in their reading journal. For guided writing, students might write some sentence about the book that I am dictating to them, or they might write their opinion about a text.  When I am creating the sentence for the students to write, I try to integrate both the sight words and the phonics skill that we practiced the day before. This provides students with an authentic opportunity to practice what they are learning.  Guided writing does take up a huge chunk of time, but is well worth the investment.

This is a basic break down of my early readers guided reading lesson.  It is a jam packed 25 minutes, but in first grade, if students are still early readers, then they need this time and focused attention to move out of being an early reader.

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Saturday, September 10, 2016

Practicing CVC Words in Daily 5 Word Work

I am so excited that my first graders will start Word Work next week! We use The Daily 5, so we have been slowly building our stamina in different activities for the kids to do during our reading block.  What is challenging about this is that we have a curriculum for phonics, so I have to find a balance between using our phonics program and providing other hands on activities for the kids to do.  I am excited to have several different activities for my kids to work on throughout the week to help them master their CVC words.

CVC Go Fish and Memory Game
What I love about this game is that most kids already know how to play Go Fish or Memory, the prep is easy-print, cut, laminate, and go, and I can get double mileage out of one set of cards!  Students can use the same set of cards for both Go Fish and for Memory.  To make a match the students match up a CVC printed word with the matching CVC picture.  I am teaching students how to play both games, partnering them up, and letting them decide what game they would like to play.

Build the Word
These cards are by far my favorites! Each card has a CVC picture and then 3 sound boxes to allow students to build the word.  The sound boxes are big enough for yellow letter tiles or magnetic letters.  My hands on kids who need manipulatives love to build the words, and it is a little more structured then letting them free build with the magnetic letters. For my visual kiddos, the card visuals are a great way to connect a picture to a printed word.

Missing Sound
This activity is similar to build the word, but instead of making the entire word, students are filling in one missing sound. I use this activity at the beginning of the week, while we are still learning about CVC words and students need to practice identifying each sound one at a time. I put the correct missing letter on the back of the card so that students can self-check their work.  I laminate my cards and let students use a washable marker or dry erase marker on their cards, but the cards also work with letter tiles, magnet letters, and clothes pins.  I keep this activity on hand too for kids that are struggling with CVC words throughout the week.  It allows them to experience success while still practicing hearing all the sounds, and they can have a picture to print card to help them learn to identify and spell these different words.

Friday is my “game” day, and this will be the game I am using this Friday to help my kids.  I am fortunate to have my TA during my reading block.  She will be the caller for the game.  As she calls, the kids will be looking for the printed words. I love that this activity is helping the kids practice reading all the sounds in the word, because some of the words are visually similar, example, pet and pit.  By Friday, my kids will have spent 5 days practicing their CVC words, so reading the words will hopefully come easy.

Read a Word File Folder Game
I love file folder games! My kids love file folder games.  After they learn about how to use and take care of our file folder games they beg me to play them! I love this game because players travel through the game board and take turns reading different CVC words.  I have my kids play this game with me or our TA a few times but then set it out for them to play on their own once they have mastered it.  I do wait until the end of the week to roll this game out because it requires the players to check each other.  I want to make sure that they have practiced CVC words enough, and that they understand what that means before they begin playing this game.

I am so excited for my kids to use all of these activities this week! We are going to have a great week learning about Daily 5 Word Work and CVC words.  Check out my TPT store for all of these activities and more.

Happy Teaching!
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Monday, September 5, 2016

Data Walls
            One of the best ways to see data cross laterally is through the use of a data wall.  I started using data walls to have a visual of how my students were moving academically and behaviorally.  The data wall shows how students are moving quarterly, natural student-  grouping based on skills, and students who need may need to enter into RTI instruction.  This great tool then hangs in a confidential place, and is referred to as I plan instruction, make groups, choose who needs double doses of instruction, and even as a tool to prepare for parent-teacher conferences. 
Creating a Data Wall
            The data walls that I use are created with large pieces of chart paper and sticky notes.  To begin, I divide my chart paper into a 4 x 4 grid.  I choose to do a 4 x 4 grid because our school tests 3 times a year, and we have 3 possible levels for student achievement (at, approaching, and below grade level).  A 4 x 4 grid allows me to capture all of these variables, and gives me space to add labels to my matrix so that I can place my students appropriately.  If I was going to use trimesters with 4 benchmarks, I would use a 4x5 matrix.  Then, I use the bottom row of boxes to label each testing season.  I skip the first one, because that is where I put the subject that the data wall is for.  After I have completed this, I then write my benchmarks moving down from the first column. I choose to color code my benchmarks based on RTI, meets and exceeds are green, below is yellow, and unsatisfactory is red.  I also use a blue to signify what the above grade level would be, because we expect a year's growth for everyone, regardless of where they come in at.
            After I have made my walls, I then gather my materials to begin to add student data.  I love staying within the color coordination of RTI because then I can easily spot who my tier 1, tier 2, and tier 3 kids are.  I order red, yellow and green Post-It notes for this reason. This year, we have had a hard time finding the red colored sticky notes and plan on using regular yellow sticky notes with color coordinated markers to write the student data.  After I collect the data for my students, I then write out a sticky note for each child.  I like to put their name at the stop of the sticky, a photo of the student on the left side of the sticky, and any notes that are important to the data wall about the student.  For example, I could have a tier 1 student on the DRA, who might be on the bubble for comprehension. This is a note that I would put on the sticky note.  For students who are on yellow sticky notes or red sticky notes, I will also add the date that they were progress monitored.  This adds a level of accountability.  I can easily see who I need to check in with.  The student sticky note houses a growing body of evidence of progress monitoring, interventions, and any other information that may impact the growth and development of a student.
            This process is repeated at the beginning of every testing season.  I do not like to move student sticky notes from one testing window to another because I like to see how students are moving.  This is a great way to catch a student who drops, or a student who stays stagnate.  It is also a great way to catch a child who suddenly grows, monitor interventions, and really make decisions to impact student learning.

Grade Level Walls
This year, our entire team is going to be using the data wall.  We wanted to share the wall for several reasons.  It allows us to see any grade level trend throughout the year that are impacting all of our kids.  It allows us to see natural groupings within classes so that if we want to share kids, we can easily identify how kids can be grouped.  The down side to sharing a data wall is finding a way to be able to identify each classroom at a glance also.  To problem solve this, I decided to add a colored dot that coordinated to each teacher at the top of each sticky note.  Now we can easily see trends not only within our classroom, but within our grade level while still being able to identify our own kids.
Although we love sharing our data together as a team, it does take a certain level of trust as a team to have our data out there.  A team data wall is not an opportunity to decide who is a better teacher or which teacher is lacking at something.  The goal of the data wall is to move students forward.  The sole purpose of the color dots is merely to be able to keep track of our own kids.

Moving Forward

Data can be such an important and purposeful tool.  Student data allows us to pinpoint where students are lacking a skill so that we can move them forward quickly and best utilize our time in the classroom.  I love my data walls and it is one tool that I truly utilize to plan and guide my instruction.
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