Friday, January 30, 2015

Five For Friday: Last Friday in January!

What?! The month of January is already over? Its hard to believe!

Here is what we have been up to this week!

one: Book Talk is in full swing in our classroom! We all want to talk about what we are reading, but it is a learning process for first graders! You can find more details about how Book Talk is going here!

two: I posted a new product this week! We started using them in workshop right away! They are a great way to practice the different plural noun spellings and its only $1! You can find them here!

three: We are working on asking and answering questions this week. I decided to use this time to introduce writing thoughts on post it notes while we read. So we read Hondo and Fabian together and the kids and I wrote down our questions while we were reading. The next day we picked three questions (ones that I thought we could answer and were ones that lots of kids had in common). We reread the story with those three questions in mind. The discussion that followed was so deep as we had to use those inferring skills to figure things out! My favorite quote of the discussion (when we were trying to figure out if there were adults in the story) was "we can hear the mom talking but we can't see her." We never saw a picture of her, but she inferred that one of the quotes may have been by a mom. I was so impressed with my kiddos! 

four: We LOVE  Mo Willems! We are beginning a new IB unit, How We Express Ourselves, and I plan to use a lot of Mo Willems to help us think about expression. During our Read to Someone time I put out several Elephant and Piggie books and the kids each take a part. They have LOVED it! I have never seen some of them so engaged in their Read to Someone time! I think I am going to make some elephant and piggie masks to add next week to keep them excited. ;)

five: No five for friday is ever complete without a picture of my boys! ;) Alex's pose seriously cracks me up. He is a bundle of silliness mixed with some sweetness and a little (or maybe a lot of) stubbornness.

Linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching!

Happy Almost February!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

2015 Focus: Book Talk!

Last week we started building book talk into our independent reading time! 
To get started, my literacy coach and I did a mini lesson together. We modeled what good book talk looked like and what not so great book talk looked like. The kids shared the things they noticed, what we were talking about, how we were talking etc. Then they got started! Our actual independent reading time was pretty short the first day. They were definitely enjoying the chance to get up and chat. So we met back together and discussed the good things I noticed and heard when they were getting together.
Each day we discuss the procedures. Things like: be sure to spend some time reading first, go to someone near to you, tell them you want to share some thing about your book, share, walk back. 
Can you tell some of the things we have been struggling with? ;)
And honestly, its mostly for this one sweet boy who takes tiny steps over to a friend, hides behind a book while he mumbles something and then slowly walks back. It is so precious. He wants to share but is almost too shy to do it! 

Day 3 we ended up making an anchor chart with some book talk starter sentences.
We had to talk about the fact that we are not getting together to read the page, but share something interesting, or something they learned. The sentence starters have helped with that some! 

There was lots of chatting the first week, because it was a novelty, but the kids quickly settled back into the routine. I of course have to remind one or two kids to get back to reading, but for the most part they have figured it out. Some share often, others don't. Some kids have their "go to" chat partner, while others like to visit 2-3 other people. Its interesting to see who they decide to talk with. I have been able to start conferencing again, which is nice. I spend a good week just wandering around and monitoring. 
So now it is on to my other goal of gathering good data in my conferences for our strategy groups! It's starting to come together now that mid year testing is over, but it has a ways to go! 
Another aspect that I have finally introduced is using post it notes to start recording our thinking. We did it whole group in our reading mini lesson the other day when we were practicing asking questions during a story. 
I want to do it a couple more times together before I let them take it to their independent reading time. I just loved the questions they asked with the book Hondo and Fabian, and then our follow up discussion the next day was so interesting and we searched for clues in the text and pictures! (and we ended up doing a lot of inferring!)
If you want to catch up on my Independent reading focus check the label 2015 focus for the old posts! :) 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Five For Friday!

You know when you have to sometimes laugh to keep from crying. That pretty much sums up how comical this week was. 
Oh the stories... that I would share with you if we were drinking a cup of coffee! Definitely not on a blog though! ;)

It's finally Friday! Here is what I have been up to this week...

Happy Monday off! I took advantage of the day to go see a friend and then take a quick trip to Ikea! Alex was happy to come with me, but was pretty worn out by the time we got to the end of Ikea... too much walking! :)

A beautiful sunset is such a perfect way to end the day!

We are starting a unit on measurement, so after we traced and cut out our foot, we went around measuring things to find objects that were about the same length.
It was fun to watch them wander around the room and get creative with how to find matching lengths!

This week my literacy coach and I introduced book talk to the kids! I am wanting the kids to feel free to share an interesting thought during their independent reading time and then go back to their reading. The kids were so excited. Some bounce up every couple of minutes it seem, and one other sweet boy inches his way to his friend then says something without her even paying attention! So of course at the end we are always talking about how to make sure it is purposeful, and that we go back to reading and such! We made this anchor chart to help us with some good sentence starters to make sure our comments are purposeful! 

I've wanted to start on some games for February that match up with some of the math and reading standards we need to cover this next quarter...
This is as far as I have gotten!
Yeah, not very far... it probably won't even stay like this. Some weeks, my evenings can be super productive, but not this week! My brain is worn out! Hopefully I will get more productive this weekend!

As usual, I am linking up with Doodle Bug Teaching's Five for Friday! TGIF!


Friday, January 16, 2015

Five for Friday: Thank Goodness for Long Weekends!

It's Friday again! It's been another interesting week! I am thankful for a work day today and a chance to get everything set for our 3rd quarter! Its hard to believe we are half way done with the year!
Here is what has been doing on this week!

1.  We had to get new bulletin boards up so I decided to do one based around the Oliver Jeffers' books we had been reading! He is a favorite author! You can check out some of the ways we have used his books in our room here!

2. We have had so many rainy days, so I decided to bring some puzzles from home! We ended up doing them during our math block one day... Some kids got through several puzzles, other groups 2-3, this group... they finished 99 pieces of a 100 piece puzzle! Wish we knew where that missing piece is!! Puzzles are wonderful tools to help teach problem solving and logic skills! I am going to be keeping several at school so we can keep practicing!

3. Last night we had a school family night... We decided to show our parents how they could use games to help their kids practice sight words and math facts at home! 
We had three stations: board games, top it (with a deck of cards), and bang! With Popsicles sticks! It was a huge hit and so many parents commented on how they felt like they could do this at home, which was the goal, so overall it was a great success!

4. Thank goodness for work days! I needed one so badly to get us ready for the second half of school. Every year it seems like I end up changing our organizational systems based on my kids' needs! To help manage papers we are going back to workshop folders, we are pulling out journals to help with our Daily 5 writing station, and I am switching out their writing folders to include some writing tools (you can find them here). I got so much more done too! But, not report cards....that will be a task for the weekend. Thankfully most of my list got checked off...
...and then it grew with new ideas and things I wanted to do!

5. It was a difficult week... lots of things going on. I am trying to have a good attitude about life, but it is SO hard sometimes. A couple weeks ago one of the elders in my church preached a sermon from Isaiah 9:6 and it was such an encouragement to remember some of these beautiful attributes of who Jesus is! Even in the midst of disappointment, it is nice to hold on to His truths!

Have a restful weekend! I am so thankful that we have Monday off! I look forward to enjoying the weekend after all the work I got done today!

Be sure to check out what other teachers have been up to at Doodle Bugs Teaching

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Author of the Month

I love doing author studies with my kids. Sometimes we go more in depth with the author's work than others. But one thing is for sure. If you introduce your students to a fabulous author, all of his or her books will disappear off your book shelves! 
I've decided each month to highlight one of my favorite authors and some of the different ways we use their books in our classroom!
To start us off in January...

Over the last year I have fallen in love with everything by Oliver Jeffers. He is such a fabulous author and illustrator. Most people know him by his illustrations in:

but if that is all you have read you are MISSING OUT!!
As we were reviewing our comprehension skills after we came back from break, I decided that we would read a bunch of Oliver Jeffers' books to help us out!

Our bulletin board kind of summarizes some of the things we have done with his books so far...

We started off with his four books about the boy and we used those to help us go deep with a character.

First we put the books in order by publication date...
Then each day we read one and analyzed what kind of person the boy was. I love how my kids kept noticing lots of the learner profile!
{it's sticking!}

I also love how easy the boy was to draw! (My artistic talents are quite limited!)

Next up we read STUCK! 

That is definitely in my top 10 favorite books! It is hilarious! I was excited to find some videos to go along with it. {See here, here, and here} They helped explain some of this thought process and his style of drawing. So interesting for the kids as they work to think like authors! We made our own version as a writing activity, and used a similar thought process for putting our items in order by size! That helped us the think about telling a story in a logical order.
Of course we added our items to the tree. 

Then we read

That was a great way to practice retelling a story.

We are reading through his newest book right now! 

I am contemplating having the kids work on an story for a different letter too, I may make it a workshop station. Or maybe using it to build a dictionary of ideas of things to write about.

Now, after reading quite a few of his books at home, I had come to see Oliver Jeffers as a really humorous author...
and then I read

I was reading it aloud to my boys at home. 
I read until about half way through,
and then I flipped back a couple pages, 
and then I read it again, and I couldn't read it out loud anymore 
I'm like the world's worst person for crying while I am reading a book 
(cannot read Stellaluna or Thank You Mr. Falkner out loud without getting weepy.)
It is such a beautiful book. Beautiful.

But what a great way to show kids how authors can bring about a variety of emotions from their readers. I really need to find out more details about the background of that book.

There are lots of interesting interviews I found with him.
One for teachers to check out--here. It includes a video of his book making process, but the whole interview is not appropriate for kids. ;)
The other is an interview by a group of third graders found here.

He has so many great books! Be sure to check him out!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

GoNoodle Linky!

I ran across this GoNoodle linky party today and had to join in! 
I am a HUGE fan of GoNoodle! It has been amazing since I ran across it last year.
They are always adding great brain breaks and doing things to make it better! I was so happy when we could start adding youtube videos to the site! My kids love the Learning Station videos so it was great to add those in and get points for doing those too!

Favorite GoNoodle Break:
It is hard to choose a favorite GoNoodle activity! We have been doing a lot more from the FLOW category since coming back from break. I love looking around and seeing all the kids with their eyes closed and focusing in on what the person is saying! It helps me regain my sanity too! ;)

I'm also so thankful for how educational some of the brain breaks are! I regularly do Word Jam, Bodyspell and Freeze before we start a lesson because I can tie them in with content! It's a fun way to practice spelling and a great way to learn new vocabulary!

Happy Place:
I'm easy to please! Right now if I am curled up under a blanket on the couch I am happy because it usually means I have a couple of minutes to myself. And that is always treasured!

Guilty pleasure:
The pen isle is so dangerous for me! I have trouble resisting buying some fun new pens or a pretty journal. But if it's been a crazy week or I have to get myself excited for something, new pens always seem to help! ;) 

Keep Calm and... 
Most popular tags for this image include: coffee, keep calm, brown, drink and drink coffee

Putting a coffee pot in our hallway workroom was the greatest thing ever! Just the smell of coffee can put a smile on my face! I make sure to drink lots of water as well, but I am so grateful for coffee!

Four days until a workday and long weekend for me! We will be GoNoodling our way to Thursday afternoon! ;)

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Independent Reading: What Needs Some Work

Check out my other posts about why this is my focus {here} and what is going well {here}.

This past week I met with my literacy coach to chat about our independent reading time. We talked about some things that I liked about our time, and some areas that I wanted to keep making better. There are two main areas that I would like to see some changes and what I am going to start working on to make that happen!

Meaningful Peer Conversations

If adults love talking about books and what they are reading, we can probably assume that kids will want to as well! I want my kids to be able to share with someone an interesting find, comment about something new they learned, express surprise or frustration over an ending, AND then, get back to reading. Oh, and without distracting the whole class too.That is no small task for first graders! I think that being able to share with a partner something they noticed in a book will help deepen their comprehension. The goal is just to make sure they are staying focused on meaningful conversations. I think the key to this is LOTS of modeling, set procedures, and some guided practice of what it looks like and what it doesn't.

Conferencing and the "What Next"

Since we have been working mostly on decoding strategies, it is pretty easy to listen to my kids read a bit, then talk about the strategies they used really well and give them one to work on until we meet the next time. But as we move into comprehension, it is not so clear cut or easy to give a take away in a short amount of time. I don't want to leave my kids with a tip that only scratches the surface.

In the middle of my conversation with our literacy coach I also mentioned that guided reading was not working so great this year, for a variety of reasons. I can' pull groups, but am not always able to give them my undivided attention, the planning sometimes gets overwhelming, and it doesn't always feel purposeful. Then she mentioned STRATEGY GROUPS to me, and the light bulb went on! Its not that its so different then guided reading, it was just a new way of looking at it. It also helps the instruction between independent reading and small group time become more purposeful because the groups would be based on the decoding strategy or comprehension skill the students need, instead of just their reading level. They can practice the strategy using the books in their bag of books. And the groups will be really flexible because as I conference with kids I can create the groups. Is guided reading leaving my room? No, but for the needs in my room right now, I think that this flexible grouping will benefit us all a lot more, and help me to feel like we are more productive with the time we have.

I made this document to help me plan for strategy groups! Feel free to use it. :)

Give me a couple weeks to get things up and running and I will let you know how things are going!