Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Common Core How To Writing

I should really be sleeping. But, I can't. It could be because my heart is still jumping up and down happy about all the shiny gold medals Team USA won at the Olympics tonight! Or it could be that I'm starting to feel the pressure of school starting and it's already interrupting my sleep. We just won't think about that right now.

My students do lots of how to writing throughout the school year. I mentioned a bit about it here in one of my Daily 5 posts. In the post mentioned above, you can download a copy of my Summer How To Writing Book. I use the pages either individually or let the students put all of their summer themed how to writing in a book (cover included) at the end of the year. I've even used it for tutoring in the summer and with my own guinea pigs kids.

If you'll be doing how to writing with your students this year, please check out my Fall How To Writing Pack. You can find it in my Tpt store and at my Teachers Notebook shop. Here is a preview.

My winter and spring themed packs will be posted as soon as I make it to that section of my list. :)

I've also been busy organizing my craft room/office.  Well actually, I've mostly been moving piles from place to place, feeling totally overwhelmed and wondering why I can't seem to "finish" that room. I did paint a few shelves today.  My husband is going to help me put those up tomorrow. I'm too short to get them straight and/or at a normal spot on the wall. Then,  I think I'll just move everything into the hallway so I can start with a clean slate.  And... I need to have it lookin' "acceptable" by 6:30 because that is when a few of my best teacher friends are coming over to see our new house.  I'll try to remember to take pictures of the before/after.

I am also happy to report that I am gettin' the hang of the Twitter thing.  And...I have 24 followers more than yesterday (which was 0 when I started my account).  Thanks everyone!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Tweet Tweet

At our Michigan Blogger Meet Up yesterday, I was inspired to create a Twitter account. Erin (from Kleinspiration) gave an speech about how fabulous the networking opportunities are on Twitter. So, I can't decide if I just "finally folded" or if I was convinced by positive peer pressure...but I did it! I was inspired and I did it.   Thank you, Erin!

So...I set up my account. Made my first tweet (is that what those are called?) and then I waited for an hour...waited for my first follower. Nothin'. Maybe it's because I need to announce that I'm officially a tweeter to all of my blogging friends? 

 I already called two of my real life friends. Here are there responses to my exciting "I have a Twitter account" news.
 1. (my husband) "Lovely. Do you even know how to do that?" 
2. (a not-so techy friend from school) "What in the world is Twitter? Gillow, it's summer vacation." 

So, I can't exactly count on those 2 to "follow" me. If you would like to connect with me via Twitter, you can click on the cute little birdie button on my sidebar. Tomorrow, I'll figure out how to get back to my account with fingers crossed.   Hopefully, I will end up with a follower so I can tweet to someone other than myself.  By the end of the week, my goal is to figure out how to tweet from my phone (no laughing).  :)

Tweet!  Tweet!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Michigan Blogger Meet Up Photos

A few months ago, a few of us decided to try to plan a Michigan Teacher Blogger Meet Up. I worked with Erin Klein (from Kleinspiration) and Maria Dismondy (award winning book author from Be the Difference) to find a date and a location. Today was the big day and we had so much fun! We met at a Biggby (coffee shop) in Northville, Michigan.

 Here is a picture of the planning crew.
me, Erin, Maria
We had a goodie cup, a treat bag and prizes for each guest.
We had two book authors in our group, a few technology wizards, mostly elementary teacher bloggers and several guests who admitted being blog stalkers (like me).   I learned so much today and can't wait  to try some of the new techy things I learned from the other bloggers.

Here is a picture of our whole group!

me, Bethany (B2 Squared Learning), Katie, Kate (EduKate and Inspire), Erin (Kleinspiration), Karla (Teach With a Smile), Maria (Be The Difference), Patty (Second in Line)

back row - Rich (B2 Squared Learning), Nan (Third Grade's a Charm), Holly (Crisscross Applesauce in First Grade), Barb ("the Barb" that Holly is trying to convince to start her own blog), Marquin (Writing for Wrinkles), Christina (Bunting, Books and Bainbridge).

Today was full of sharing and laughing.  I am inspired by the things I learned from the other bloggers.  I am planning to blog about some of the new things I learned soon.  Lookin' forward to keeping in touch with these new bloggin' friends.

Now, back to the Olympics! 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Michigan Blogger Meet Up

For the past two weeks, I've been blogging from the woods (during my 15 day camping trip).  You don't have to feel sorry for me, we have a very comfortable camper.  Otherwise known as my portable vacation home. We had fabulous weather and have so many happy family memories from our time together.  We biked 78.5 miles along the trails of Lake Michigan.  I'm very proud of my kiddos for accomplishing almost 80 miles on bikes.  Not bad for a 6 year old and a 9 year old.  We also spent countless hours at the beach, snorkeled for Petoskey stones, took our doodles on long walks, watched sunsets with friends that we reunite with every year and discussed everything from crocheting to German castles around the campfire with the grandparents.  Now, I'm home and trying to get caught up (while I tackle the mountain of laundry).

 If you are a Michigan teacher blogger, don't forget that we are having a Michigan Teacher Blogger Meet Up this Sunday, July 29th at the Biggby Coffee in Northville.  The meet up will be very informal...just a chance to get to know each other and visit. Please consider coming out to join us. 

 Special thanks to Erin from Kleinspiration and award winning author, Maria Dismondy for helping to plan this meet up for our Michgian Teacher Bloggers. If you plan to come, please visit Erin's blog to add your name to the list. We would just like to have a head count to make sure we have adequate seating.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Chapter 7 - Daily 5 Book Study

Chapter 7 - Putting It All Together and Troubleshooting
Welcome!   Here we are at the last chapter of our Daily 5 book study!  I'm co-hosting this chapter with Corrina from Surfin' Through Second.  Corrina is representing 2nd/3rd grade for this chapter.  Please stop by to visit her too!
Surfin' Through Second
One of the things I've learned as a teacher is that things don't always work exactly like I planned...and it's ok.  I've heard the 2 Sisters speak two different times.  Both times, I left completely inspired, with lots of new ideas and a few "worries" about why I couldn't get a few things to work quite like the 2 Sisters suggested.

This chapter is all about putting things together and working out the kinks (if you have any kinks...like me).

Every once in a while, I'm guilty of trying something new and never trying it again after it didn't work exactly like it was supposed to.  Thank goodness I didn't give up on the Daily 5, because I truly think it's worth moving into the troubleshooting phase (if it's not magically working exactly like the 2 Sisters get it to work). 

First step:  Self Evaluation
I use this form to pinpoint things that are working well and things that are working not so well with a particular class.  Yep.  I use the form each year because what works well in one class does not always work well with the next class (or even at a different time in the same year). You can click on the image below if you'd like to download a copy.

Check In
I think it's really important to make the check in time meaningful.  I "check in" before each rotation during my literacy center time. I don't check in with everyone, but I randomly choose students and they happily share/report to the class what they worked on.

I use a different check in signal each year.  Last year, I used the green bells.  But, this year I think I'm gonna bring back the rain stick.  Whichever signal I use to introduce check in time, I continue to use that same signal all year (unless I find that a particular class needs a much louder signal at some point throughout the year).

Typical questions I might ask during check in time...
What kind of story were you reading?
Were your partners good listeners?
Who is your audience for the writing you did today?
What stage of writing are you working on?
Did anyone enjoy a nonfiction book?

I do not ask students to record the choices they make during Daily 5, because my students do 8 literacy centers each week (5 of those are Daily 5).  However, I made this recording sheet for students to keep track of the choices they made when I did the Daily 5 the real way (before I changed a few things to make it work better in my room).  I thought I'd share it, in case it's useful for any of you.  You can click on the image below if you'd like to download a copy.

Many teachers express that they have a hard time with the Daily 5 if  they do not have a literacy block or if their literacy block is interrupted each day or on specific days.  My literacy block is not the same each day.  It is always in the morning.  But, sometimes it is early in the morning, sometimes late and on certain days it is split.  Just as the 2 Sisters suggest, sometimes I have to tell my students that we will continue with the Daily 5 (literacy centers in my room) when we return from whatever special class we have that day.

My literacy block includes:
morning message (focus is on sight words, spelling patterns, reading fluency)
minilesson for reader's workshop (focus is on reading strategies)
literacy center time (Daily 5 during this time)
check in time between rotations
small group reading instruction

The most common problem for most teachers who are trying to accomplish assessment during the Daily 5 is that students won't stop interrupting them.  I do some assessment each day during my small group instruction.  The assessments I do include: teacher notes based on observation, phonemic awareness inventories, running records, vowel assessments and the Ganske Spelling Inventory.  I use two strategies to help me accomplish my assessments.

1.  a fancy hat
 (that no student can miss on my head when they come to the table to interrupt me)
When I'm wearing the hat, it is a visual cue for the students
 to let them know that they can not interrupt me.
There have been years when I have had to resort to the pizza hat.  
It's about the size of a large Domino's pizza and fits right on my head.  Ha!

2.  a student monitor
The student monitor is a job assigned by the teacher.  The student monitor carries a clipboard and a pencil.  Other students are encouraged to ask the student monitor if they have a question or need help solving a problem.  If the student monitor can not answer their question or solve the problem, he/she writes the question/problem down and passes it to me like we used to pass notes to each other (back in the day).

2 Things that Have the Most Effect on the Success of the Daily 5 in my Room
1.  practice sessions - In a previous Daily 5 post, I shared about my practice sessions.  You can read this post here.

2.  room arrangement - Defining each space has been helpful in terms of the success of the Daily 5 in my room.  In each space, I include the anchor chart that we made together for introducing that part of the Daily 5.  I also include a picture of what each space should look like while students are working there (student participation in a photography session required) and what it should look like when it is all cleaned up.

Making the Daily 5 Work When You Get New Students
Unfortunately, there are sometimes students who miss the introduction of the Daily 5.  When this happens in my room, I give the new student a literacy center partner to help them with the procedures/rules.  I also check in with the new student privately between each rotation until he/she seems comfortable.

What Do I Do When a Student is Not Able to Be Independent with the Daily 5?
 I follow the same procedure as the Sisters (on page 103).  I have had to take a few choices away from three students in the past few years.  I'm happy to report that all three students were motivated enough that they all were able to earn the right to make their own choices back quickly.

Legal Lingo:  The freebies in this post (and my other Daily 5 posts) are not endorsed by the 2 Sisters. Please consider visiting their website at www.thedailycafe.com.

*The fonts I used to create the freebies are from Hello Firstie Fonts by Jen Jones.  The clipart is from Digiweb Studios. You can find links to both on my sidebar.

I'm looking forward to reading about your successes and any troubleshooting you may have done in your classroom.  Please link up to share your thoughts about this chapter of Daily 5 below.  Posts that are unrelated to chapter 7 of the Daily 5 will be deleted.

Don't forget to stop by to visit Corrina from Surfin' Through Second. She is hosting this chapter for 2nd/3rd grade teachers.

I would also like to thank Mel from Seusstastic Classroom Inspirations and Nicole from Teaching With Style for organizing this book study for everyone!  Please stop by to visit them as well.

I'm so glad that you joined us for the Daily 5 book study!  I've learned a lot from the things other teachers shared during each chapter!  It's not too late to return to the posts about the other chapters if you have not read those yet. So much to learn, so little time.

I'm glad you stopped by to visit today!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Daily 5 Book Study - Chapter 6

Chapter 6 - Working on Writing and Word Work 

 Working on Writing
In the first part of this chapter (about working on writing) the sisters write about the importance of providing time for students to write about what really matters to them. I do writer's workshop in my classroom. But, I do not have students continue working on something from writer's workshop during the working on writing center. If you've been following my other Daily 5 posts, you'll remember that I have 8 literacy centers and 5 of those are Daily 5 activities.

To be honest, I probably have a different philosophy than many elementary teachers when it comes to writing.  I believe that it is important to develop good writing habits when practicing writing.  Call me type A.  Call me a control freak.  I like the writers in my room to develop good writing habits and produce high quality work.  Yes, I like them to express their creativity and I encourage them to share their thoughts in writing.   But, I admit that I feel a little crabby if  a student in my classroom tries to write page after page of letter strings (with no visible conventions) that he/she is unable to read. I want to be able to read it.  I want them to be able to read it too.  I also want it to make sense.  I can't be the only teacher who feels like that, right? 

Since I have those preferences about developing good habits during writing, my students do very specific things during writer's workshop and very structured things when they visit the working with writing center.  I think the structure of the activities that my students do during the working with writing center allows them to be independent enough for me to accomplish my small group time without interruptions.  Below are some of the things my students do during the working with writing center time. 

My students work on how-to writing, which they are able to accomplish independently.  This is a summer how-to writing book that I made for my students.  Each student gets their own copy of the book but can work on the pages in any order (giving them choices).  If you click on the picture you can download the book.  I have how-to books for other times in the year that I will be adding to my Tpt and Teachers Notebook shops soon...just haven't gotten around to that yet.

Here are two of the other things that my students do during working on writing time.  These products can be found in my both my Tpt store and my Teachers Notebook shop.

Word Work
Word work is a student favorite in my classroom.  It is also one of my favorite things to plan/create.  My students do lots of sorting activities, spelling activities, sight word practice, word family activities and even practice sentence building (and identifying parts of sentences) during the word work center.

I do not introduce any new concepts or skills during my centers.  I want my students to be able to work independently during this time.  I want the children to be challenged enough to stay busy, but able to work without help while I work with small groups of students.

I use this planning sheet when planning my word work activities.  It helps plan a variety of work work activities over time. You can click on the image to download a copy if you'd like.

Here are a few of my favorite word work activities.  These can be found in my Tpt store and at my Teachers Notebook shop.  In August, Tpt is having a back to school sale and I'm going to stock up on some new word work activities from other bloggers.

Deb from Fabulously First is hosting this chapter of our Daily 5 book study for first grade.  Jenn from Best Practices for Teaching is hosting this chapter for 2nd/3rd grade. Please stop by to visit their fabulous posts and to read what others are saying about this chapter.  You can even link up your own post about this chapter of the Daily 5.
Fabulously First

Best Practices 4 Teaching


Thursday, July 12, 2012

100 Best Resources for Teachers

This just in... my blog (and several of my other favorite teaching blogs) have been added to a list of resources for teachers.

You can check out the list of 100 Best Web Resources for Teachers in 2012 by clicking below. I feel honored to have my blog named with the other blogs on this list (many of my favorite bloggers are also on the list).
Best Teaching Resource 2012

 I blog because I love to share ideas, network with all of you and learn from other teachers. I also talk excessively and my family prefers that I have another "outlet". :) Thank you for your support of my blog and all of the inspiring ideas and resources you've shared with me!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Daily 5 Book Study - Chapter 5

Chapter 5 - Read to Someone and Listen to Reading 

Let's start with Read to Someone...
In this chapter, the sisters outline the focus lessons for introducing read to someone.  I do all of those lessons, except Day 5 (How to Choose a Partner). Since I do the Daily 5 during my literacy center time, my students do read to someone with their literacy center partners.  As I mentioned in the previous book study posts, I have 8 literacy centers each week.  Five of those are Daily 5 activities. 

I think the key to success during the introduction of read to someone is the concept of  EEKK (elbow to elbow, knee to knee).  Most of my students do really well when they are sitting that close to each other.  While my students are building stamina for this part of the Daily 5, I take pictures of each pair of students sitting EEKK.  I print the pictures and each child writes about why it is important to sit EEKK during read to someone.  When they take it home, I ask them to explain it to their parents.  Here are 2 different versions of a EEKK sign that I made. The form that I use for the EEKK writing with their pictures.  And... a read to someone form that I use to hold students accountable during read to someone time.  Directly below you will find the legal lingo to go with them. 

Legal lingo - These freebies are not endorsed by the 2 Sisters.  Please consider visiting them at www.thedailycafe.com.

The fonts, one of the borders and the backgrounds I used are from Hello Fonts by Jen Jones.
I love her stuff!

Like most lower elementary teachers, I spend LOTS (and I mean lots) of time establishing routines and procedures in my classroom.  The older I get, the more time I spend on it.  Years ago, I would feel frustrated by the amount of teaching time it took to establish routines and procedures.  I quickly learned that it was not worth it to cut that time short and jump into the real curriculum.  The Daily 5 feels the same way to me.  It only works for me if I am patient during the introduction/establishing routines/building stamina phase.

Listen to Reading
I didn't realize it until I became a teacher, but I am sensitive to loud voices.  I'm not really sensitive to other loud noises, but those kids who talk/whine loudly/yell in the classroom drive me bonkers!  This year, I'd like to use this book when I teach the lessons about the appropriate volume I would like to have in the classroom.  Just have to find a copy that costs less than $33.  I'm working on that.

I tie the introduction of Listen to Reading together with the life skill of "listening" that I also cover at the beginning of the year.  Here are some of the mentor texts I use for mini lessons about the importance of listening.

I'm linking up with Kelli from Castles and Crayons. She is hosting the 1st grade portion of the book study for this chapter. Mechele from Barrow's Hodgepodge and Melissa from Dilly Dabbles are hosting this chapter for 2nd/3rd grade. Please visit them to check out their fabulous posts!  You can also link up with your ideas about this chapter of the Daily 5.  Please make sure you only link up if your post is about this chapter of the Daily 5 (Yes, I have to say that... sad, but true).

Castles and Crayons


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Daily 5 Book Study - Chapter 4

We're moving on to Part 2 of The Daily 5: The Daily 5 in Action!

When I start the Daily 5 in my classroom, I follow the steps in the book to introduce each of the "5". I do the lessons as mini lessons during my reader's workshop time. After the initial Daily 5 introductory lessons, my reader's workshop mini lessons change to focus on specific skills, concepts and/or strategies.

 I make lots of anchor charts during the introductory lessons. Note to self: take more pictures next year (which is kind of comical if you know how many I take each year). Anyway, I make one chart about the 3 Ways to Read a book. Next, I make the I-chart for Read to Self. Then I make another chart to record our stamina as we practice each day.  I keep the first two anchor charts up in my room all year and we refer to them often.

I've found that it is really important to keep your practice sessions short enough to guarantee success. The sisters recommend starting off with 3 minutes of practice. That was way too long for some of my dumplings (special friends) last year. I had to start with 1 minute. It worked (barely). We increased to 2 minutes (after 3 days). Honestly, it took us a week and 2 days to get to 5 minutes. I do lots of modeling, but some groups just require more practice, praise and guidance. I was determined to make sure each practice session was a success (and end on a positive note each time). Eventually, we got there.

When the routine for read to self is well established in my room, I add a recording form for my students to do at the read to self "center". Remember, I have 8 literacy centers (5 of them are Daily 5 activities). Once again, I give myself permission to do what works well for my students (and break a few rules on the way - oh well). Here is the recording form that my students use and the legal lingo that I need to use with any freebies related to the Daily 5.  I like my students to be held accountable for what they are supposed to be doing independently while I am working with small groups.  I find that having a "report"  for the students to fill out helps them stay on track a little better.  It also serves as a talking tool if I need to "conference" with anyone about their behavior during this time and a reward for the kids who feel really proud to take home this report to prove that they are doing a great job during read to self.

 Legal lingo - This freebie is not endorsed by the 2 Sisters. Please consider visiting their website at www.thedailycafe.com.

The font that I used is from Hello Fonts by Jen Jones. 

I'm linking up with Jennifer from First Grade Blue Skies and Laura from Tattling to the Teacher. They are hosting Chapter 4 this week for 1st grade. Tessa from Tales Outside the Classroom is hosting Chapter 4 for 2nd/3rd grade.

First Grade Blue Skies

Happy 4th of July everyone!