Sunday, October 19, 2014

Differentiating Your Classroom with Color

Hi, friends! I'm stopping by to share how I've stepped up my differentiating-game this year. My new team is fabulous at finding just-right learning materials for our 1st grade friends, and we have found a just-right system to make sure these materials get in the right friends' hands. 
Like most teacher stories, it all starts with school supplies. This time, it's three reams of Astrobrights colored cardstock - green, yellow, and blue.
We flexibility group our friends into these 3 groups - green (below grade-level), yellow (on grade-level), and blue (above grade-level) for math and reading. To make it easy to remember think of a first grade outside picture (green = grass, yellow = sun, blue = sky). Our kids can move anytime they are ready, no big deal. Right now, I actually have 2 yellow groups and am slowly transitioning them into a blue group. I have a FABULOUS group of friends this year!
Our friends know what color they are in math and reading. During Daily 5 or centers, students grab the folder or word-ring that is just-right for them. In our Word Work center, our word rings hang on Command Hooks in an extra cubby. Students grab a word ring and an activity tub (Versatiles, Magnet Letters, Super Sentences, etc.). Students are able to work on the same activities, but with their just-right words.
In Math Stations, we use Sterlite Tubs to hold our materials. When students go to grab a math tub, it holds 3 folders - green, yellow, and blue. Students grab their just-right tub and get to work. If we were playing a game of Go Fish - the blue folder would have cards for Make 40 Go Fish. The Yellow Folder would have cards for Make 20 Go Fish, and the Green Folder would have cards for Make 10 Go Fish. Same game, just-right for all my friends.

In our listening center, the 3 colored folders fit on top of the shelf. Students can choose any book to listen to. Then, after carefully listening, they pull a recording log out of their folder. The papers in the green folder often include a word bank and space for drawing their ideas, the yellow folder includes more lines for writing, and the blue folder includes a recording sheet for a 2nd grade reading skill.
Here is an example of folders for our Versatile Tubs in Word Work. Our skills for the week were Short E and Beginning Blends. The green folder is focusing on short e, the yellow folder us focusing on blends using picture clues, and the blue folder focuses on blends in the context of complete sentences.
It's really that simple and effective. Students have access to the content and material that is just-right for them, and it requires little management. I am not planning 15 different reading/math tubs each week. Rather, I plan 3 Word Work activities and just change out the word rings each week. I plan 4 math tubs and just change-out the cards or numbers in the tub each week.

This is what is working for my friends. What works in your classroom? How do you manage differentiate with your friends? I'd love to hear about your system!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Fall Break Goodness

Today marked my 9th, and final, consecutive nap for the week which can mean only one thing, fall break is coming to an end. It has been a wonderful week of doing things I love (outside of school) and catching-up with some dear friends.

It has been 2 full weeks since I last said 'Hi' which is a first for me. As I head back to school tomorrow, I'll become a more consistent blogger - pinky promise. :) Until then, I just wanted to share some photos from my past few weeks. If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you may have seen some of these photos. :)

Reading.Books.Real.Adult.Books. Thank goodness for breaks that give us time to read. I read 32 Third Graders and One Class Bunny. When I posted this picture on Instagram I receive lots of positive feedback on it. Honestly, I was kind of *mehh* about it. I stopped reading with 25 pages to go. I know. I just wasn't into it...but lots of other people were.
Breaks are a great chance to *tweak* things that are not just-right in our classrooms. Please tell me I'm not alone!?! I am bleeding pencils and dry-erase markers. Literally, bleeding. I am so tired of these writing implements running away that I tagged them with tape and flags. We shall see if this helps...*fingers crossed*
Working on a project for our school, I also had the chance to walk around our entire school and take pictures of awesome things. Friends, I was impressed. Very impressed. If you haven't taken the chance to walk around your school and look at the walls, do it! I rarely make it to the Kindergarten wing or Intermediate Land, so it was such a treat to see what is going on in other classrooms. I also snagged a picture of our main stairwell; I love this!
The first few days of break, we had wonderful weather. I had the chance to porch-sit and update some of my earliest projects. My Super Data pack was the 2nd ever product I posted on TpT, and it received a much needed update. If you owned the original download, please go back and re-download it. It is a COMPLETELY different product now-ha!
See???? It is SO much better now. :)
As I mentioned above, the weather was only great for the first few days of Fall Break. After that we had a lot of rain and even a few moments of hail. I just had to snag this picture because I know my first graders will love seeing it. Only in Kentucky is it 70 degrees, sunny, and hailing! 
Other than afternoon napping, cooking is one of my favorite break activities. Cauliflower pizza, quinoa/vegetable soup, apple bread, and taco casserole were all on the menu this week!
 Are you in Kentucky, Indiana, or Tennessee??? If so, consider coming to EdCamp Kentucky! It is going to be an amazing unconference. An unconference has no set agenda, but it is led by the attendees. Basically, it gets together hundreds of people who love something (i.e. education/teaching) and you create the schedule/agenda together based on what you want to learn more about or want to share. I'll be at EdCamp Kentucky in Louisville and cannot wait. It's going to be fabulous!
Well friends, it is going to be an awesome week! I am so excited to see my first-grade friends and hit our learning groove. My on-grade level friends are going to receive their 1st Readers Theatre scripts and my above-grade level friends are starting their first chapter book - Frog and Toad Are Friends!
Right now, though, I am going to head to the kitchen and finish painting our new classroom mailbox. For $3.00 at Hobby Lobby (with a 40% off coupon) this mailbox was a steal, and it is going to be perfect for letter-writing this week! (If you don't have a Hobby Lobby near you, you can snag your own mailbox on Amazon.)
We have so many awesome things to look forward to this week. I hope you and your friends have an equally fabulous start to your week! :)

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!