Sunday, March 29, 2015

Stand Up, Hand Up, Pair Up

Happy Sunday, friends! Tonight I want to share with you one of my favorite Kagan structures - Stand Up, Hand Up, Pair Up (SU, HU, PU). Kagan Structures are all about cooperative learning – not group work – with frequent modeling, celebrations, community building, and brain breaks…sounds fun, right? Kagan structures hold every student accountable and eliminate ‘hogs’ and ‘logs’ in the learning process (Kagan's words…not mine).
To prepare for SU, HU, PU, I write out 12 different matches on half-index cards. If you're feeling really fancy, you could always type them...but hand-written cards work well, too. In terms of cards, phonics skills and grammar skills work really well (synonyms, antonyms, past/present tense verbs, plural nouns, possessive nouns) as do some math concepts (making 10, making 20, words/definitions).
Before each.and.every.round, we review the expectations. When I'm first teaching SU, HU, PU, I model and we practice. A LOT. This game can go 1 of two ways - a fun and interactive way to practice a skill or a ridiculous free-for-all. So, practice - a lot. (You can snag the poster here.)
This is a great time to practice those important 1st grade social skills. Greeting a friend, giving a kind high-five, making eye contact, listening, and taking turns. 
As students are working to find their partner, I am circling the room making sure friends are following our guidelines. If I see something has gone wrong, I stop the class RIGHT AWAY to review and practice. The most common error?? Students waiting for their best friend to need a partner. We spend lots of time talking about how to partner with the 1st person you see with their hand up. We'll talk about our feelings, role play, and practice we can empathize with someone we pass up!
After my friends have partnered several times, they'll eventually find their match (the whole matching process normally takes 3ish minutes). Once friends have found their match, they meet on the carpet EEKK style (elbow to elbow, knee to knee) and practice using their partner's word in a complete sentence.
 When all of our friends have found their pair and are sitting on the carpet, partners present their words and sentences to the class. We always speak to our friends (not the teacher) and give each pair a Kagan cheer for sharing. As students are sharing their ideas, I am recording the matches on our whiteboard, creating a visual for the rest of our reading/math block. The entire process (reviewing the expectations, mixing, partnering, sharing) typically takes 15 minutes.
 If you ever have a chance to attend a Kagan training, do it! They are so interactive and hands-on, and you leave with dozens of ideas you can implement right way. To read about other ways I use cooperative learning, check out these posts (general Kagan post and brain spills). If you use Kagan in your classroom, what are your favorite structures? What's your favorite skill to review with SU, HU, PU? I'd love to hear your ideas!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

1st Grade How-To Writing

Tonight I'm sharing about how we 'launched' our How-To writing unit, as well as, resources and mentor texts that are helping us master this genre of writing!

Outside of How-To writing being a part of the Common Core, it provides a great practice in logically sequencing events (a tough first grade skill) the level at which someone else can follow the directions. Additionally, it gives us the chance to review and practice those very-important transition and time-order words (first, second, then, next, also, last, finally, etc.).
As a class we walked through every step of making a paper airplane (from this online tutorial), writing the directions (including time-order words) as we went. We included an illustration, as well, so our reader could also 'see' the steps in making an airplane. Making the planes required a lot of synergizing as many of our friends had never made their own plane before. Thankfully, several airplane-making pros stepped-up to help friends!
Why the thin writing paper instead of copy paper? Great question, friend. As I was practicing for this lesson (oh yes, I practiced), I learned that paper airplanes with this particular design plummeted to their death if made with computer paper. The thin grey/brown writing paper was light enough that it allowed the planes to travel across the room!
Teacher hint - have your students color or identify their airplanes in some obvious way before you start flying them. This will save heart-ache and time and a chorus of -"That's mine!"

After we built our paper airplanes and polished our writing pieces, of course, we had to see if our planes flew! Each table competed against one another, and then, we had a final winner's round. It was so much fun to see how differently our planes flew.
Outside of our introductory lesson, we've been attacking How-To writing from several different fronts. Moby and Annie are always a go-to for our learning, as they reviewed time-order words with us and the importance of properly sequencing events. To help hit the point home about sequencing, I tell 'how-to' brush my teeth using directions that are ALL mixed up. Then, students work together to put the events in an order that makes sense. Conclusion - order matters!
We've brainstormed all kinds of time-order words for our pieces to mix-up and spice-up our writing!
Throughout the week, I'm pulling from three of my favorite mentor texts - How to Babysit a Grandpa, How To, and How to Teach a Slug to Read. These are perfect for showing students how real-author use how-to techniques (logical order, sequencing, time order words) to share a story or information with a reader.
Outside of our designated 'writing time' my friends have How-To writing as a choice during our Work on Writing time during Daily 5. I put these prompts on a binder ring and it makes them easy-to-use for our little hands and keeps the cards from being lost. I'm REALLY in love with the math how-to cards. These math-based prompts offer an addend challenge to students as they explain their math thinking to others in a logical and systematic way - BOOM!

As we start writing our How-To pieces independently, we'll self-assess our writing and use the below checklist (personal ones and a class anchor chart) to guide our work.
In retrospect, this is a unit I'll definitely teach at the beginning of the year. Teaching at this point of the year, is much simpler and requires less groundwork, but still, it's a nice review of skills we've learned throughout the year in reading and writing. Plus, now that we're officially readers and writers, it's amazing to see what my students come up with!

What are your favorite ways to teach how-to writing? I'd love to hear your ideas!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Dr. Seuss - Read Across America Week

Happy end-to-Suess Week, friends! I must admit that I had a full 5 days of Seuss-goodness planned, but I wasn't sad when snow canceled days 4 and 5. Sometimes too much goodness is exhausting! Here is what our very abbreviated week looks like - 
Each Monday morning my friends LOVE walking into our classroom to see what books are on our themed bookshelf. I try not to set out morning-working on Mondays, so they can get straight to reading. It's the best! (To see some of our other bookshelves search #1stgradebookshelf on Instagram)
We started the week learning about the man behind "The Cat in the Hat" - Dr. Seuss. Moby and Annie introduce the idea of the 'pen name' to students, some background on Dr. Seuss, as well as, what lessons Dr. Seuss tries to teach us.
Then, each afternoon we took half of our theme time to welcome a guest reader. Each reader brought their favorite book to read to us, and then, they read our 'Seuss' book of the day. My students LOVED having their parents and grandparents in the classroom and it made them feel so special. ;) Plus, I was introduced to an AMAZING children's book Rosie Revere, Engineer that's all about making mistakes and growth mindset. I ordered the book as the parent was reading it!
With the remaining half of our theme time, we enjoyed a Cat-in-the-Hat directed drawing. We've done several watercolors throughout the year (see our turkeys and snowmen here), but running short on time, we stuck with pencils, permanent markers, and crayon. 
Using a tutorial by Jennifer White (First Grade Blue Skies), I introduced the shapes and proportions on the board as students followed along with a pencil. Once students finishing their pencil drawing, they traced their work with a marker. Then, students traded the marker (I don't like leaving permanent markers in their hands for too long) for brand-new black and red crayons!
Every time I include art in the classroom, I am BLOWN away by the results. My friends do such a fabulous job and they are always so proud of themselves. It's amazing what can happen when we break things into small steps and work together.
Our drawings will stay in our classroom through Celebration of the Arts night, and then, become a 1st grade momento for each family. Kid artwork is the absolute best!
Each day of the week (remember there were only 3 because of snow) I picked a different book to be our theme. On our 1st day of Seuss celebrations, we read The Cat in the Hat and wrote opinion pieces about whether or not we would want the Cat to visit us. We then, highlighted our opinions in blue, our 'becauses' in yellow (the reason), text evidence in green, and then, a wrap-up sentence in orange. I'd love to share these writings with you, but the Seuss Police are not about sharing..AT sorry, friends!

We then enjoyed a strawberry and banana snack in the afternoon. These were perfect because every student received 1 toothpick full of fruits and all of my students (even those with allergies) could enjoy them!
On Tuesday, our guest reader joined us for One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish with a goldfish snack. 
Then on Wednesday (our last day of the week due to snow) we enjoyed Pink Ink (pink lemonade) reading "Happy Birthday to You!" I know Dr. Seuss' birthday was on Monday, but this was the least expensive snack to ask a parent to send in 50 of. ;) Each Wednesday, we have 3rd grade reading buddies that come read with us. In the words of my littles - "Wednesday is the best because of extra PE and Reading Buddies."
At the beginning of last week, we started a school-wide data collection project. Due to the snow, we'll continue the project this week. We asked each students in our school (~750 students) to choose their favorite Seuss book below. Even if only half of our school votes, we'll still have plenty to talk about! It's been fun to watch the graph grow throughout the week, as well as, to make sure we had read all the books before we placed our own votes! Also, from a teacher's perspective, this was the simplest bulletin-board EVER - book covers, blue painters tape, garage-sale stickers, and a sign/email asking friends to vote. BOOM.
Well friends, it was a fabulous and fun short week. Dr. Seuss coupled with Place Value Boot Camp made the excitement levels in our classroom at an all-time high! What are your favorite ways to celebrate Dr. Seuss in your classroom? Anything I need to add to our week next year?

Friday, March 6, 2015

Resources for the Common Core: Learning your Standards

One of my strengths as a teacher is my love for content and curriculum. I absolutely love planning the just-right learning targets and activities for each of my learning groups, and I am blessed to be at a school that trusts its teachers. Kentucky is a Common Core state, and my school uses Go Math and Reading Street for our scope and sequence. With that said, we are able to pull outside resources that will work for our students! Today I wanted to share with you some of my favorite Common Core resources and references. 
This may seem silly, but the 1st priority in teaching the CCSS is actually knowing the standards and referencing them daily. My old district was religious about making sure our standards, learning targets, and exit slips all matched - the wording, the intent, and especially verbs. I keep the CommonCore and the NGSS apps on my phone and iPad. It's easy to pull them up, even when you don't have an internet connect. Plus, it makes it simple to check the grades above and below you, to know where to start and what students need to be successful in future grades. Although not available for iPhones, I also really like the Common Core Concept Bank (only available on an iPad). ConceptBank offers sample questions for K-12th grade for each standard which is a great model for creating assessments for learning targets.
After re-reading the standards and before teaching specific standards (especially math) my first go-to resource is ReadTennessee. The focus of Read Tennessee is really deconstructing the K-3rd standards and giving teachers concrete examples of what the standards means. For math, they've also done a wonderful job of explaining what 'math talk' sounds like for each standard. Perfect for teacher models and anchor charts!
 The site also includes several resources and links to outside websites for each Common Core standard. From SMART Board resources to center ideas, each standard (math and reading) looks like the menu below. My favorite tab is definitely 'Examples' - that's where you see the great continuum of learning examples, what does the standard actually ask, as well as, sentence stems for math talk.
 Another go-to resources for Common-Core goodness and reference materials is EngageNY. This is a website where you can spend HOURS digging through and it is easy to get be prepared with a focus.
The major drawback is that the sight is curriculum specific, so it can be difficult to navigate. The math lessons are divided by modules and the ELA lessons are divided by workbook numbers. Therefore, there is some hunting involved. However, if you spend the time hunting, you are rewarded with specific lesson plans, activities, word lists, math center ideas and even student reflection sheets. EngageNY is definitely content THICK which is an amazing and FREE blessing!

For math, I really like their Math Studio Talks which break down the standards in video format and show lots of ways to introduce and practice the standards with students. The videos aren't theory-based, but a lot of hands-on this-is-how-to-do-it-with-students model. Plus, the materials that are used in the videos are fairly general to any math classroom, so they can apply to any classroom.
Last, I want to share my go-to writing resource - Achieve the Core. Like the other resources I've listed, Achieve the Core is a no-cost math and ELA resource for teachers. While it does have some reading and math resources, they are lost in a confusing maze of page redirects and inter-website links. It's kind of painful. BUT, their writing resources are the BOMB!
I really like their writing resources because they are truly Common Core focused (i.e. more real-world). They include writing prompts that have been used in K-12 classrooms and then, show real-classroom writing samples for each grade level (high, medium, and low). They even include passage-based writing prompts for all grade levels! I love having a reference in terms of 'What does 1st grade writing look like?' Often times, I will pull writing samples from the site, and show them to my students. Then, we'll spend time reading and critiquing the sample.

So, friends, those are 3 of my favorite resources when planning and learning my standards. Tell me, what are your go-to websites and apps? Is there anything I should check out? If so, please let me know. I'm always looking for other ways to bump-up my instruction and would love your input! 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Place Value Bootcamp - 1st Grade

Place Value Boot Camp: a place where there is significant amount of whistling, yelling, and push-ups ...all in the name of learning, of course. If you're ready to create a hands-on and memorable place-value experience? If so, Place Value Boot Camp is for you and your students. 

To get started I snagged a bandana from Wal-Mart for $1, a pair of aviators from a co-workers, and my first official teacher-whistle from Wal-Mart, as well. Once you have your props ready, it's action time!
This awesome experience was inspired by The Teacher Tipster's awesome place value chant. If you're not familiar with The Teacher Tipster, he has some of the most fabulous and engaging lessons for little people. He is like the Ron Clark of Primary Land!

To build suspense for the day, I told my students that I had a meeting and they would have a guest teacher to pick them up from specials. So, Sgt. W picked up my friends from PE and marched them back to the classroom. My kids were in SHOCK and tried to conceal their giggles with serious faces.

Before beginning with the core of our lesson, I introduced some basic 'military vocabulary' (atten hut, about face, etc) and we practiced marching. Then, we learned the "Talls and Smalls" chant from Teacher Tipster. Then, I called cadets forward to the carpet. I then told them if they were talls (tens) or smalls (ones). Then, as a class, we counted the number in front of the class. 

As we practiced, we sang "First you add up all the tens..." (10, 20, 30, 40) "Then, you add up all the ones.." (41, 42, 43, 44, 45). "What number, friends?" "45!"
The cadets that weren't modeling the numbers in front of the class, used EXPO markers to track the numbers in a tens/ones chart on their tables. Then, students wrote the expanded form for each number (Note - we haven't introduced this vocabulary yet...that will come later!)
Our boot camp session would not have been complete without push-ups, right?! I would highlight a number on our SPLAT Board and tell students to "Drop and give me the number of tens/ones in _____!" <insert blowing of whistle>
About three-fourths of the way through boot camp, I awarded each student with their own dog tag. I picked up 2 sets of dog tags from Party City the night before and they were the perfect memento from our day.
On the back of each dog tag I wrote a different number better 0 and 99, as well as, each student's last name. I had the cadets organize themselves from least to greatest (Whoa! This was a tough skill we definitely still need to practice). Then, we played the "Drop and give me 10 game" (Don't you love that 6-year olds think everything is a game??). I could call out a number "If you have a 5/6/7 in the ones/tens place, drop and give me 10." This was great practice in identifying the digits in different numbers. Plus, it was easy to check as students were standing in numerical order.
To cap off Place Value Boot Camp, we enjoyed a Place Value solve-the-room by Susan at Thank God it's First Grade. It was the perfect chance for students to practice counting tens/one, as well as, for me to meet with a small-group of friends who needed extra practice. Since I had already introduced expanded form, I did ask students to draw the model, write the expanded form, as well as, the final number. You can grab the hunt from Susan here and the recording sheet I adapted here.

Well friends, it was one of those most-perfect 1st grade days. It was full of magic and laughter and great place-value practice. After our Boot Camp, it was time to go to the Mess Hall for lunch. When I picked my friends back up in the cafeteria, they were SO excited to tell me all about Sgt. W. ;)  Oh to be six...
After our snow days, we'll continue practicing place value and pull out some of the ideas I used 2 years ago with my student teaching class. When I finally have my kids back, I'll share pictures of our place value work!