Saturday, September 27, 2014

1st Grade Reading Logs: Goal Setting for At-Home Reading

The best way for students to grow as readers is to spend more time reading and listening to reading. As teachers we know how important reading at home is. If our students read 20 minutes every evening, our classrooms would be SO different. Students need practice to become better readers and they need to hear fluent reading. 

I ask that students that students read 7 nights a week, BUT I also know that this is not very likely. Therefore, I have set a goal for every student to read at least 4 nights a week...meaning if our class reads 100 nights (as a team) each week we will be well on our way to becoming better readers.
Therefore, each week we get a goal of earning 100 Reading Stars. 100 nights of becoming a better reader together each week! As students read their four nights each week, they record their reading on a log (which stays in their home folder). 

For my friends who don't have the at-home support that means reading logs get completed, we have alternative plans. I have a wonderful parent volunteer who comes in 2 mornings each week and reads with 4 students one-on-one. After reading with Mrs. Amber these friends can have their reading log signed by her. I have another friend who logs his reading, talks to me about it in the morning, and I sign his log. Regardless, every student has a part to play in our 100 Stars, and we celebrate EVERY time someone decides to become a better reader. :)
Each Friday, as a part of our morning routine, students place their reading logs on our writing desk. After our 'Good Morning' song, we sit on the carpet and count our stars. As I call students up, they color a star on our SMART Board (I just inserted 100 stars onto a blank page, grouped them so they don't move, and saved the file.) Students who color 4 or more stars, receive a sticker and every students who helped us work toward our goal receives a cheer from the class. :)
After counting our stars, we graph our results. If we reached our goal, we talk about why we reached our goal and we have an in-class moment of celebration (i.e. a Go Noodle break). If we didn't reach our goal, it's a great chance to talk about the why. Sometimes friends forget their reading logs at home, they didn't read as much during the week (*gasp*), or sometimes they forget to have their families sign them. Regardless, we relate it right back to the 7 Habits: Habit 1 - Be Proactive. "I'm in charge of my life!"
After reaching our 100 Star Goal the 3rd week of school, we celebrated with a Stinky Feet day (i.e. no shoes in the classroom). :) This past Friday (our 7th week), we hit our goal again and we will be celebrating with lunch out on the patio on Monday. Woohoo!!!
For right now, our 100 Star Goal is working for us. We don't hit our goal every week, but it gives us a goal to shoot for. Even if we don't reach the goal, we know that any stars we colored means we are becoming better readers and that is AWESOME!

How do you manage independent reading  in your classroom? I would love to hear how at-home reading works for you and your friends. If you're interested in any of the resources I use, you may grab them from DropBox as a freebie!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Number Lines in 1st Grade: Outdoor Chalk Style

This week, we are wrapping up our last pre-textbook unit of learning, by adding fluently within 20. My friends are absolutely rocking it, so this week we've taken the time to explore the closed number line. We love using unifix cubes, blocks, dice, base-ten pieces, clear counters, spinners, and all things interactive. Knowing this, I was excited to first introduce my friends to the number line through some foot-on play. 
In typically first-grade style, we start with some concrete learning (pun intended) with outdoor-chalk number lines on our school's outdoor basketball court. Before school, I visited our playground and drew 3 number lines. One number line went from -2 to 20, one from -2 to 15, and the third from -2 to 10. (Why did I include negative numbers? Although we don't touch negative numbers in 1st grade, my kids need to know they exist. My friends won't think anything of it when they are introduced in a few years. This is an easier way for me, as a primary teacher, to bridge the intermediate-primary gap.)
 As a whole-class we practiced finding numbers on the number line, finding one more and one less, adding simple numbers together, and we stretched our brains to use the number lines to solve word problems. As a single friend was hopping on the number line, my friends joined them in hopping in their standing spots behind the number line.

After our whole-class practice, I wanted to give my friends some small-group practice. Yesterday morning, I quickly made 3 sets of questions. We color-code differentiation in 1st grade (which is AWESOME), and I made three different sets of cards. Green (lowest) were basic addition problems. My black cards (normally yellow group) were a mix of addition facts and word problems. Then, the blue set were addition word problems to 20. 
 I then split students into 3 groups of 7 students (I have 23 students but 2 were absent yesterday). Each group worked as a team to read the questions and use the number line to solve them! Putting students in control, it was fun to be able to stand back and watch my kids in action.
It was easy to see who 'got' the number line, who preferred the hands-on learning, etc. After I made my initial rounds, I did hang-out with my green group. I asked a lot of questions (using my best math vocabulary) to get them thinking and working together.

Some friends didn't quite trust the number line yet, and need to 'confirm' their answers. ;) 
It was such a fun half-hour and a great way to get outside and introduce math in a FUN way. I don't want my first-grade friends thinking math is a difficult, cumbersome academic subject that is confined to a Go Math textbook or workbook. Rather, we had a BLAST hopping from number to number, solving math problems. As one of my sweet littles said, "It like we are outside and playing, but doing math too!"


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Narrative Writing: Launching Writer's Workshop

Hey, friends! Today I wanted to drop by and share how our Writer's Workshop is developing. We jumped right into Narrative Writing and we are loving sharing stories about our lives. 

Pulling out our handy-dandy binoculars, our first series of mini-lessons was zooming in on small moments.  Our writing mini-lessons are all based on mentor texts. Our school does not have a writing curriculum, so I have the freedom to pull from some amazing books. I love having students model their writing after real authors! For zooming-in on small moments, we have used Fireflies, Roller Coaster, Owl Moon, and Thunder Cake. (Thanks to Katie King for the suggestions!)
Again, inspired by Katie (Queen of the First Grade Jungle) Instagram Post, we created this anchor chart together. As students suggested a WATERMELON top or a seed top, they had the chance to use the coveted binoculars. 
During our writing mini-lessons, we also do a lot of shared writing as a class. This is an example of our WATERMELON story. It was actually our first 'class narrative.' We underlined words we were unsure of (so spelling doesn't stop us from writing). As we learned more and more about zooming into small moments, we went back and added details to our writing. We picked 'Building a Sand Castle' as our 'seed' moment and wrote a delightful story together; I wish I had taken a picture. Our zoomed-in story included details such as packing wet sand, stick flags on top of the castle, and a circular moat. :) I love this Shared Writing time and seeing how much my friends liked having an example!
As we complete mini-lessons, we add that skill or focus to our writing checklist. Once all of our skills  are on this list, students will receive their own smaller checklists that they can use for their own pieces. Right now, the checklist helps us stay focused and reminds us of past learning. 
After our mini-lesson and reviewing expectations, we get down to writing! Students choose their own writing spot  (on the floor, at my teacher table, at their desk, at our special chairs, in corners - whatever works for them), I turn on a Pandora Nature Music Channel, turn off the lights (we have 3 HUGE windows), and set the timer for ~15 minutes. As we build our writing stamina that time will continue to grow! 
As students are writing, editing, brainstorming, etc. I move around the room meeting with individual students. I join them in their writing space. I try to meet individually with students twice a week. I would love for it to be more often, but I just don't know how!
The last 7-8 minutes of our writing block are reserved for sharing. This is the biggest motivator for my kids; they LOVE sharing their writing. Typically 4-5 students share each afternoon, so every child has the opportunity to share each week.

Our sharing routine looks like this -
  1. Encouragement/Building Community  Teacher: "I choose __________." (in a sing-song voice) Students: "Let's go __________!" (in a sing-song voice that matches mine)
  2. Sharing the Work: The student puts his/her work under the document camera so it projects on the screen, and wears the microphone to share. 
  3. Specific Compliments: Then, the friend who just read his/her work chooses 2 friends from the class to give a specific compliment ("I love how you told me what the water felt like." "You did a great job of including periods, so the reader knew when to stop." "I really liked how you underlined words you were unsure of how to spell rather than stopping writing."
Class Cheer: The presenter may then choose a class cheer to receive. We use Kagan Cheers and love them. Our favorites? Trucker, roller coaster, seal of approval. :) 
And that, friends, is our writing routine. It is working for us right now and even in the couple of week since we've started, we are seeing HUGE progress. It has been wonderful!

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 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?