Sunday, September 21, 2014

Making the Most Out of Reading & Math Workshop

Hi, friends! Long time, no communication -sorry. It seems like it's that time of year...but hopefully, I am hitting my first-grade stride and will be making more appearances here. ;)

About to start our 6th week of school, my first-grade friends are gaining more independence each day. As I have started full-blown guided reading groups, I'm trying to maximize the time I can spend with my budding readers. Therefore, I try not leave the guided reading table when I'm with a group. Still, I struggle with not immediately 'correcting' or reminding friends working throughout the room when I see things that aren't 'just-right.'

To combat this 'immediately' react feeling, I have shifted into a more proactive mindset using plastic pockets from Amazon. I put a white sheet of paper in the sleeve (just to create a blank background), draw a plus sign and a delta (to stay with our school's plus and delta reflection routine), and keep a dry-erase marker by my side.
As I am teaching and reading with students, I 'take notes' on the happenings of the classroom. When I see great successes (like a friend successfully logging onto Lexia Reading - woohoo) that need to be celebrated, I make sure to include them on my sleeve. When I see that friends are struggling pushing the headphones all the way into the iPod Touches (making the audio spread throughout the classroom), I record it as a delta - something we want to change. 

As a class we take 3-4 minutes at the end of our reading block, to reflect on our out time working to become better readers and writers. We talk about our pluses (celebrating awesome things!) and talk about deltas (things we want to change next time). 

Keeping a list gives me a way to remember great things, as well as, identify habits I need to re-teach over the next few days. I might teach whole-group, one-on-one, or in small groups...it really depends on the skill. Some deltas become just a verbal reminder to students at the end of our work-session, while others might require 2-3 minutes practice sessions over the course of a a few days. 
One tip when using this technique in the classroom: Since your list is sitting out on the teacher table where other students can see, always make sure to use student initials. Often times I write things I need to work on with a specific student and don't want other friends knowing about it. Easy fix? Use initials! :)

Since I've started keeping notes during small groups, I've been able to tweak and fine-tune so many things about our reading block. Each day our routine is becoming smoother and we are gaining independence. *Hopefully* we'll be ready for a full Daily 5 release soon! 

How do you build independence during your reading and math blocks? What keeps you from leaving your guided reading table? I would LOVE to hear your ideas. :)

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Daily 5: Launching Read to Self - Building Reading Stamina

Hey friends! This year, we're implementing a Daily 5 model for literacy and we are loving the different choices. Our block still looks a lot like centers, but I'm hoping to introduce choice at the beginning of next week!

On the 1st day of school, I introduced reading stamina and we starting practicing right away. Since I didn't know the reading levels of my students, I went ahead and pre-loaded our Really Good Stuff book bins with 5-6 books of varying reading levels. After using Reading A-Z's benchmark system, my students now know which books are 'just-right'. When they fill their book bins, they have 5 'just-right' books and 1 'just-for-fun' book, which can be any level.
While introducing Read-to-Self, I introduced the term - "stamina". Our conversation went like this - "Friends, I love running. My goal is to run a marathon this spring. A marathon is 26 miles. (ooooooo) If I went out and tried to run 26 miles, could I? No! Of course not. I have not built my running stamina. But if I start practicing now and run more and more, will I be ready? Yes! The same is true for reading. If I asked you to sit down and read for 20 minutes without stopping, could you? No! You haven't built your reading stamina. Is that okay? Absolutely! Just like I need to build my running stamina, we need to build our reading stamina. It is going to be AWESOME!"

Now that we were so very excited, we made our very, not-fancy Read-to-Self "I Chart" about how we will become better readers. We talked about the ways to read (words and pictures) and then, what our jobs are, and what to do if someone comes in the room (ignore them unless they ask you a specific question). Then, it was time to try it out! 
Once small groups of students grab their book bins and meet me on the carpet, we find our just-right spots. I'll be honest - hand-placing students in reading spots did not work for me. It took FOREVER and seemed silly. After our first day of building stamina, we talked about 'just-right' reading spots, and I began letting students choose their own. Most of my friends prefer small corners and spaces, but others (like the friend below) prefer stomach-reading. :) Having students picking their own spot from the very beginning has worked well. There is only 1 student who no longer has the choice on where to sit, and gradually he'll earn more choice.
When 1 student has broken stamina, I ring our bell 3 times and students know to quickly and quietly meet me on the floor to reflect. We write 'Pluses' and 'Deltas' on the SMART Board. Then, we take a moment to graph our stamina as a class. It has been so motivating for students to have a visual. Who doesn't want a taller bar graph?!? When we make it to 12 minutes of reading stamina, we will stop practicing stamina and just review after breaks or when we've forgotten how to become a better reader. You may grab this graph here or by clicking below!

As you can see, our first venture was short. Very short. 1 min and 42 seconds. Oy! Lots of room to grow, right?! ;) Slowly but surely, with more practice, we have grown SO much as readers. Just last week (when I took this photo), we hit 10 minutes of reading stamina!
We have been so excited about each victory and my students are becoming much better readers. It has been a S.L.O.W. process, but completely worth it. It has required patience and a whole lot of carpet reflections and a lot of - "Will __________ this make us a better reader?" But, this seems to be the story with 1st grade - patience, practice, questions, smiling, try again. It's a nice pattern, and we're all getting the hang of it.

The best part? I see a genuine excitement for reading in my students. They want to share their library books with me. They are reading in the gym before school starts. They love Mo Williams. There is a willingness to try hard things.

To me, this is the victory of reading stamina and Daily 5. Yes, there are a lot of wrinkles to iron out (i.e. independence), but the small victories are there! So, tell me, what are your victories in your reading block?

Saturday, September 13, 2014

What's on Your iPad Dashboard?

Happy Saturday, friends! I hope this lovely, fall-feeling day has treated you well.

This week I am presenting at my first conference, so I have spent today putting the final touches on my presentation: Technology-Based Assessment. During one of my 'Social Media breaks' I shared this picture on Instagram. After some questions, I decided to take another break and share more about part of my presentation - organizing your iPad Dashboard for easy accessibility!


Why utilize the dashboard?

Keeping your iPad dashboard up-to-date with resources your students are using, gives students easy access to resources. It allows students to gain independence and autonomy when using technology in the classroom. Keeping an up-to-date dashboard is also a great visual reminder of what's important in your classroom. Am I focusing on skill-specific apps or more robust apps that have applications across multiple subjects?
 What's on our dashboards?


What's on our 1st Grade Dashboard?

i-nigma: our preferred QR Code Scanner. Want to learn more about QR Codes? Check out these posts.




Booksy: a fantastic (paid) app that allows students to keep a bookshelf of high-interest books (Dinosaurs, Germs, Mars, Insects, Bats). Each book can be read aloud to students and includes great multi-media features
Spelling and Vocabulary City: with a free and paid version, Spelling City is the perfect place to practice our differentiated spelling lists, as well as, take practice tests


Bitsboard: a very diverse app that provides mini-lessons and practice activities covering a variety of topics/content areas. You download the specific lessons or skill you want to target on your 'BitsBoard' and then may actually create your own modules.


ShowMe: an easy-to-use platform for students to show what they know and talk about their learning. While writing on the iPad, students can record their voice - creating a tutorial or presentation over the specific skill or content being taught


Socrative: a simple tool for intentionally tracking formative assessment data. Teachers upload quizzes for their students and get live-feedback as their students complete the assessment. The data can then be emailed or downloaded to track student progress. *Fingers crossed* I'll be introducing this app to my 1st graders this week! :)



What was on our 5th Grade Dashboard?


NearPod: an interactive, audience-dependent avenue for teaching content and informally assessing student understanding along the way. Using NearPod, every student has the presentation at his/her fingertips.


NewsEla: a website that offers current events and news articles for teachers and students, as well as, Common-Core aligned comprehension quizzes. Read how we used it in our classroom here. There is not a NewsEla app; rather, I created the icon using the website link. Learn how to do this here.
i-nigma: our preferred QR Code Scanner.


Socrative: a simple tool for intentionally tracking formative assessment data. Teachers upload quizzes for their students and get live-feedback as their students complete the assessment. The data can then be emailed or downloaded to track student progress. We used this EVERY DAY to take our flashbacks at the beginning of class and our exit slips at the end of class.


Safari: for our daily research and question needs


Dropbox: an easy resource for file sharing and uploading. Each of my students had a folder on our DropBox where they could store articles they want to read, their research, or their assignments

So, please tell me, What is on your iPad Dashboard?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Organizing On-Demand Writing: The 4 Square Planner

Teaching on-demand writing was my most dreaded 50 minutes of 5th grade each day. It was frustrating, agonizing, and filled with tears, crumpled papers, mangled erasers, and very terrible writing. Terrible. We weren’t able to write a single, cohesive paragraph. In fact, we spent the first 9 weeks of school, learning to writing paragraphs. 9 WEEKS. And still, our paragraphs were weak at best.

It was an uphill battle. It was hard. Really hard. My kids came to me unable to write a parapgrah, but in the Spring were expected to take a 90 minute state writing test that required a 5-paragraph essay with a thesis statement, 3 main ideas, supporting details, and conclusion paragraph. Oy! After observing writing at another school, I found our saving grace for the year - 4 Square Planning.

Finding a way for students to organize their ideas and thoughts completely changed our year and my students' writing. We were successful, and by the end of the year, my kids were decent writers. I saw thesis statements and main ideas and supporting details. There were no more torn papers or tears. After a very rocky start, writing was a successful venture. 

I've shared about how we used and adapted the 4 Square Planner (a writing tool created by the awesome Judy Gould) in 5th grade on Laura Candler's Corkboard Connections. Stop by Laura's blog to see my student's planning in action!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Mailbox Magazine Giveaway! #bethedifference

 Mailbox Magazine is one of the most trusted names in educational publishing. I remember Mailbox Magazine when I was in elementary school 15 years ago (what?!). So when they contacted me about participating in their #BeTheDifference campaign, I was thrilled to join!
Mailbox wants to know how we, as teachers, make a difference in the lives of our students. They sent me a fun little box of goodies to do this. We pulled it out the 2nd day of school (I wasn't brave enough the first) for the Name Game. 6 of my 23 friends our new to our school this year, and they come from all different classes. To be a team, we had to know each other's names! We gathered in a large circle around the room and toss the ball to each other. Before you passes the ball, students had to say, "My name is ___________ and I am passing the ball to my friend ___________." Students had to be engaged because they could not pass the ball to someone who had already caught it. We timed ourselves to see how quickly we could get to the entire class, trying to beat our time each round! After PLENTY of rounds, we finally made it below 2 minutes - ha. 

From name games that make everyone feel apart of your classroom team to sharing your favorite reads, how do you make a difference for your kids? I would love to hear your fun and simple ideas to use with my sweet firsties! The Mailbox wants to know and there are some pretty awesome prizes for telling them. Head over to their Facebook Page. Look for the #BeTheDifference tab & click.
They are also giving away a Mailbox Gold subscription to TEN lucky blog readers! You can learn more about Mailbox Gold in this video. Now, this is a quick giveaway so act fast! If you are a winner your name will appear on the Rafflecopter widget as soon as the giveaway is over and I'll forward your email address to the fine folks at The Mailbox. Good luck and go #BeTheDifference!
a Rafflecopter giveaway