Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Reading Fairy

I've been waiting to make this post...and I just can't wait any longer. My students get frequent visits from the Tooth Fairy and the Desk Fairy (Deskerina) throughout the year. At the end of each year, I have a Reading Celebration with my students. It is an opportunity for my students to sing a few songs, showcase some of their work and read to small groups of special visitors (parents, grandparents, siblings).

This year something incredibly exciting happened to me at our Reading Celebration! Right before my celebration started, my principal asked me if he could have a few minutes to speak during the celebration.  Since he is the boss, I decided that handing over the microphone was a good idea. He also said he wanted to give me something. Fishy. I agreed, but reminded him that it would be completely inappropriate to give me one of those pink slip things in front of all the students/guests. He laughed (thank goodness - oy me and my big mouth). 

The Reading Fairy (yep, the real one) visited my principal with a special delivery for ME

The delivery was a letter from the Reading Fairy, which my principal read in front of all of my students and the 74 visitors. My principal read the letter, while I cried.  I could barely concentrate on the oh so super nice words he was saying because the letter was covered in sparkly fairy dust (and I was crying).  My students stared at him as he read with big eyes and their mouths dropped open.   I'm pretty sure they were just as excited as me about the letter.  What other proof could we need that there are really fairies watching over us? 

When my principal finished reading the letter, he handed me a check (a BIG one) and the microphone.  I was just about speechless (and still crying) from the letter.  I honestly felt a little overwhelmed by the check at first.  My first thought was that the Reading Fairy must be the result of a group gift kind of collection, so I thanked the "Reading Fairy" at least 7 times and then just stood there crying with my hand on my heart before I handed the microphone back to my student presenters.  Such a thoughtful, generous, incredibly sweet, unforgettable surprise. Honestly, it was definitely one of the highlights of my teaching career. 

I walked around wondering who could be responsible for the lucky Reading Fairy visit (and begging my principal to tell me) for a few days.  But, he wouldn't budge.  He would only tell me that it was a special surprise from one of my current families.  I will always remember their kindness and how excited my students were to discovery yet another fairy. :) 

I've been waiting to make this post, until I had a chance to do some shopping.  The letter suggested that I should use the money to buy some books and supplies for my classroom. and books...turns out the Reading Fairy is my kind of girl!

In the past two weeks, I started carefully selecting books for my classroom.  Some of the books I selected were mentor texts for reader's workshop, writer's workshop and math mini lessons.  I also bought some chapter books that I will use for read aloud time and a variety of leveled books to add to my community bins.  I also ordered several character education books and some books for the fairytale unit that I am working on.

My fairytale books and some of the character education books are still on the way.  And...I'm not finished shopping yet.  What an amazing surprise!  I am so grateful for this thoughtful gift.  For me, the Reading Fairy is another reminder that I should have faith (my olw).  Most families really do recognize and appreciate all that we do as teachers.


Friday, June 29, 2012

Daily 5 Book Study - Chapter 3

 Chapter 3 
What's The Difference? 
Key Materials, Concepts and Routines for Launching the Daily Five

 Establishing a Gathering Place
The gathering place in my room is called the meeting area.  I call it the meeting area starting on the very first day.  My class has rules for discussions in the meeting area. You can read a post about the rules for discussions in my room here.

I believe that teaching kids (and their parents) how to choose just right books is directly related to the amount of progress (and the rate of that progress) for our youngest readers. Last year, I did a post about my favorite books for the minilessons I do about just right books. The books I wrote about in my "Just Right Book" post are below. You can read that post here.  I also added Shoes for Me to my collection of mentor texts to use for teaching about just right books.

I also have a Literacy Information Night for the parents in my class about a month into the school year.  When I worked as the Literacy Intervention Specialist, all of the parents from my building were invited. Now that I'm back to my normal (1st grade - thank goodness!) teaching life, I just do the presentation for my own parents.  During my presentation, I share about the importance of choosing "just right" books and give parents resources for finding just right books for their child.  I also remind them (in my super friendly voice) how much it slows down progress when kids practice reading books that are way too difficult for them.  I encourage parents to read those more difficult books to their child and let their child practice books that are truly at their independent reading level (just right).

Short Intervals of Repeated Practice
I've done a lot of work with struggling readers during my career.  One of the most important things I've learned is how important it is to provide repetition, repetition, repetition.   One of the reasons I really liked the Daily Five right from the start is the fact that the Sisters stress the importance of repeated practice and modeling.  It's easy to rush through the teaching of routines, but it's always better to be slow, thorough and patient.  I'm good at being thorough and I think I do a good job modeling for the most part.  But, I'm definitely not slow or patient.

Figure 3 - 8  Ten Steps to Improve Muscle Memory
 This list is so important if you want the Daily 5 to be successful in your room.  I also used the same steps when I introduced my Math Stations (which I need to work on next year - oy - another post for another day).  I do these steps in the very beginning of the year to introduce the Daily Five.  Then I continue to use each step (with the exception of #5 - the incorrect model) for the rest of the year.  I just go through them quickly each day before my literacy center time.  The part that I'm sometimes tempted to skip, but that I think is the most beneficial, is the check in step.  I ALWAYS check in before my students start their next center/rotation.

Signals - In my classroom I use 2 signals.  I always use a set of bells to signal checking in time/changing center time during my literacy centers.  I also use the lights (like an old lady according to one of my volunteers).  My reasons for choosing those two is simple - one is auditory and one is visual.  I don't always use the lights with the bells.  But sometimes shutting down the light source is necessary for some of my dumplings.  In the summer I call those few students dumplings.  I think most of you call them "special friends" during the school year.  The picture below is the assortment of "signals" that I've used over the years. I used the green bells last year.  I get bored easily, so some years I switch the signal (but I always keep the same signal for the whole year - even though it feels poke my eyes out boring to do it that way). :)

 Book Bins
The confession of the day... I don't use book boxes for each student.  I trust (that's what they want me to do, right?) my students to visit the correct leveled bin and choose their own books from their "just right level" and put them back (nicely).  Last year, I wrote a post about how it works in my room.  You can find it here and see a picture of my community book bins.  The post shows one of my shelves full of community book bins.  I have two identical shelves full of those community book bins.  Each bins is leveled on the front.  I have a crazy amount of leveled books.  Some people collect gnomes (I think - ha) and I collect leveled books.  I love how it works for me and it gives my kids lots of choices.

Looking forward to chapter 4 - The Daily Five in Action!  I'm also working ahead on chapter 7, because I'm hosting that chapter.

Melissa from Mrs. Freshwater's Class and Jana from Reading and Thinking Out Loud are hosting  chapter 3 this week.  Please head over to her blog to read their fabulous posts and the other link ups for chapter 3.

Thinking Out Loud


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Daily 5 Book Study Chapter 2

This chapter outlines that foundations of the Daily 5. Since I love lists, here is a list of the important foundational highlights.
 1. trust
2. choice
3. community
4. sense of urgency
5. stamina
6. stay out of the way

 I first tried the Daily 5 (straight up) a few years ago. I'm not sure why, but I felt a lot of pressure to make it work like the Sisters are able to magically make it work. Then I decided...yoohoo...hello Kimberly...what do the very best teachers you know do? Oh yeah, they take the best parts of things and make make them work in a way that fits each specific group of students. Now, I am happy to report that I still use the Daily Five (but I've Kimberlyized it to fit my students each year). I do love the Daily Five and recommend it to others whenever I'm asked for recommendations. At the same time, I think it is important to give yourself permission to be the expert on what works for your students in your own classroom.  

Hmmmm...not a strength of mine. I feel like I make a huge effort each year to encourage the children to trust me as their teacher. I really want my students to feel like they can take risks, make predictions, guess, try new things and explore. According to the sisters, "trusting children is the underpinning of what makes the Daily Five work". Let me just say...oy vey. Can I disagree with the sisters? Yes, I can. I disagree. There, I said it. I do believe that with enough time spent to put the Daily Five into motion, MOST children are able to work independently. Saying that I completely trust all of my students to work independently would not be honest. I'll talk more about that during Chapter 7 (which I'm hosting).  

Another confession...I do not let my students choose the order in which they'll participate in Daily 5 type activities. That is what the sisters recommend. I actually have 8 rotations each week, which we call Literacy Centers (5 of those are Daily 5 and then I have 3 other rotations each week). I introduce the Daily 5 components to literacy center time first. I do build choices into each center the students visit. For example, the students might listen to one story at Listening to Reading (but they may choose which way to respond to the story). 

  I think building a sense of community among students in the classroom is extremely important. The sisters say they spend at least 20 days building community. I often feel pressured by the weight of the curriculum and do less community building than I should. I do a lot, but I'd like to do more. I made this planning sheet to help me keep track and stay organized in terms of community building next year.


  Several of the community building activities I do are in my Activity Pack for Back to School.

I will also be doing a linky party in July about books that teachers use to build community in their classrooms. Start thinking about your favorite community building books now, so you can link up in July or just stop back to visit to check out the list.  

Sense of Urgency
I love that developing a sense of urgency is such a big part of the Daily Five. Kids feel empowered when they know why they are doing something. As a result, they are more motivated learners.  

My heart felt happy this year when my son, who is in Kindergarten, announced that his class was building stamina during read to self! I seriously had tears in my eyes at the dinner table. My husband gave me the "now what are you crying about look". My little guy is doing the Daily Five! I already loved his teacher (my daughter had her a couple years ago) and now I love her even more!

Stay Out of the Way
This part is easy for me when things are going well and hard for me when things are not going well. When I host chapter 7, I will share how I change things up when things are not going so well. It is a technique that allows me to still stay "out of the way", but helps keep the kids on track.

I'm linking this post to Nicole's post from Teaching With Style.  She is hosting this chapter of our Book Study.  I can't wait to read all of the other posts about Chapter 2!  Next week, please visit Mrs. Freshwater's Class and Thinking Out Loud for Chapter 3!

That's all folks...this girl is headin' out to get some exercise.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Michigan Blogger Meet Up

Michigan Teacher Bloggers...there is going to be a Michigan Teacher Blogger Meet Up this summer! A few weeks ago, a few of us started talkin' about how we would love to have a Michigan Teacher Blogger Meet Up. So, we (Maria from Be The Difference, Erin from Kleinspiration and little old me) picked a date and a place. Wow, that was easy.Here's the plan!


Mark your calendars!  Leave a comment or send me an email if you think you'll be able to come.  We hope to see you there!


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Daily 5 Book Study Chapter 1

Let's get this party book study started!

The Daily 5:  Fostering Literacy Independence in the Elementary Grades by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser (the sisters) is really one of my favorite teaching books.  For a few years, I worked as the Literacy Intervention Specialist in my building.  That was before I begged (and I do mean begged) my way back into my favorite position (1st grade).  When I worked as the Literacy Intervention Specialist and whenever I mentor new teachers, I am frequently asked about my favorite teaching books for teaching reading.  When I give out the list of 7 or 8 books, this one is up there at the top.  You can tell by looking at the condition of my copy, with my post-it notes dangling from the edges, how much I love it.  Why does my copy have a spiral binding?  All of my favorite books do...and you can read about that here.

 Mel from Seusstastic Classroom Inspirations is hosting chapter 1 of our book study for first grade teachers.  Nicole from Teaching With Style is also hosting Chapter 1. I'm linking this post to their collections of chapter 1 posts.  Please head on over to visit.  I'm sure you won't be disappointed!

Before I share my is the 30 second explanation I give to teachers who are brand new to Daily 5 and The CAFE and don't know a lot about either yet.  
These are just my words...
"The Daily 5 is what your students can do independently, while you meet with your reading groups.  The CAFE is a systematic approach to teaching reading strategies, doing assessment and conferencing with students."

Chapter 1 Thoughts
I've had the opportunity to attend two different presentations by "The Sisters" in the past couple years.  The first time, I was just gettin' started and not sure if the whole thing was for me.  By the second time, I was in the trouble shooting stage (which is when I celebrate all the things that are working and Kimberlyize the rest to make it work for my students).

 In the first chapter (figure 1-1) the authors talk about "How We Have Evolved".  For the most part, I like their ideas (except for where to keep the stapler). Quite honestly, I hate it when kids break my stapler.

My favorite thing about the Daily 5 is that it encourages student responsibility.  With more students in our classrooms, students with more complicated needs and less support at home (in most cases) it is important for students to learn responsibility in a way that empowers them to be good citizens within our classroom community.  Each time I read this book, I am impressed by the fact that "the sisters" spend "at least 20 days building community".  Wow!  I need to do a better job with that in my classroom.  More than ever, I think kids need to be taught how to take care of materials, to show respect for each other and to work hard.  The routines for starting up the Daily 5 help to introduce those skills and give kids an opportunity to practice them in the classroom each day.

The "sisters" based the Daily 5 on the research of some of my favorite researchers/authors.  One of those researchers that I have a huge amount of respect for is Richard Allington.  Allington is famous for encouraging teachers to give students more time to practice.  Sometimes we talk to much (for me that is a major understatement) as teachers.  Teaching kids the routines/habits to practice reading/writing/listening independently is one of the best parts of the Daily 5...which gives students more time to practice and me more time to work with small groups. 

All throughout the book study, I will be offering freebies as I link up with the other bloggers who are hosting chapters.  I'm hosting Chapter 7 here on my blog, so I hope you'll stop by for lots of freebies that week too.

Now, head over to visit Mel at Seusstastic Classroom Inspirations.   She is hosting the link up for Chapter 1 for first grade teachers.  Then stop by to see Nicole from Teaching With Style.  Nicole is hosting the chapter 1 link up for 2nd and 3rd grade teachers.

Off to walk to the library with my own kids.  Hooray for summer!

It's almost time... Mel from Seusstastic Classroom Inspirations is hosting a Daily 5 Book Study this summer! A few bloggers you might know are hosting different chapters each week for the next two months.

 Click on the image above to visit Mel's post on TBA about the Daily 5 Book Study. You can download the pages Mel made for note taking and a special bookmark (made by Nicole from Teaching With Style) to keep track of who is hosting each chapter. Hope you'll join us!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Holy Pink Paperclips and Currently

It doesn't take much to make me happy.  It's really all about the simple things in life. Yesterday was a lucky day! I walked into the teachers lounge to fill up my water bottle grab Dt. Dew #2 from the fridge...and there they were...thousands of PINK PAPERCLIPS!
Yep - the sign says FREE!

Holy pink paperclips!!!!  The smooth kind that are coated and they are the BIG ones!!!!   Instead of finishing my report cards, completing student files or searching for the library books that I "owe" in my room, there I was jumping up and down taking pictures of pink paperclips (and filling a bag to take to room 23).  I guess they were donated by a local company.  Oh happy day!

And...I'm linking up again with Farley from Oh Boy, Fourth Grade to share what is going on Currently.  Head over to read about what everyone is up to currently and to check out her new blog design!


Monday, June 4, 2012

A Special Visitor for My Class

A couple years ago, one of my teacher friends introduced me to two fabulous books by Maria Dismondy. All the stars aligned recently and my class ended up winning a special visit from Maria Dismondy! You can read about how that happened by reading my recent post on TBA.

Maria is now the author of three amazing books! I've used her first two books (Spaghetti in a Hotdog Bun and Juice Box Bully) for writing lessons. I can't wait to use her newest book (Pink Tiara Cookies for Three) for a writing lesson as well. All three of her books prompted intense discussions with my students about being kind, accepting each other and fairness. You can check out her books on her website by clicking on the image below.

 Maria was so sweet to my students and explained how she became an author.  She also encouraged them to keep writing and patiently answered all of their questions about her books... while I snapped pictures like a 13 year old who just spotted Justin Bieber.  Let's face it, it's not everyday that a real author visits your classroom!

little old me and Maria Dismondy

It was an amazing opportunity and I am so grateful that Maria shared her morning with us.  She claims that she drove up to my school in our little village in a "regular" car, but I'm sure she pulled up in pink limo with her very own pink tiara.  Thank you, Maria!  We loved your visit!

Michigan teacher bloggers...stayed tuned! We're planning a Michigan Teacher Blogger Meet Up!  More details coming soon...