Monday, October 28, 2013

Changing Times

Reading Erica Bohrer's facebook post today about being older than the internet made me laugh! In fact, I found this shirt with the same theme recently.

 This year, I've been smacked in the face with the reality of my age 3 different times.

 We have a cart full of laptops that we can check out to use with our students. I've been doing that once a week. Unfortunately, I didn't realize that I would have to teach my students how to use a mouse and that they would also almost snap the "top" off the laptop because they kept pushing on the screen (thinking it was a touch screen).

 The second time was just last week when I was asking the children if they had any connections to a story we were reading. I've been talking about connections since school started in September. I asked one little girl to share her text to self connection and a little boy raised his hand and said, "Mrs. Gillow, when do we get to use your phone?" I politely responded, "Ummmm...never."  That's when he announced that if we were ever going to "text" anyone, we would have to use my phone (because none of the kids have a phone). Honestly, I've already done several lessons about text to text and text to self connections. I even did a whole lesson on the "text" in books at the beginning of the year.

 The third "hey, you are old" moment was when the majority of my students had no idea what a chalkboard was when it was mentioned in a book. We have white boards, interactive whiteboards, document cameras and LCD projectors in our classrooms. Only a few of  my students knew what a chalkboard was and I explained it to the rest. I told them about how I used to be in charge of cleaning the erasers and the chalkboard in elementary school. They thought it was quite funny that I went home sneezing every day from the cloud of chalk that would puff out of the erasers as I banged them together each afternoon. Just amazing how times have changed.

I recently wrote a grant to get two mini iPads for my classroom. We are having so much fun exploring different ways to use the technology in my classroom. I don't think I'm ready to tell them that I'm older than the internet. My birthday is next week. When they ask me how old I am, maybe that will be my response. "I'm older than the internet!"

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Reusable Anchor Charts

This year, I'm really trying to focus on working smarter not harder. I'm not sure if it's working yet...but it's worth a try. Oy...

 In the spirit of working harder, I'm trying to make some of my anchor charts reusable. I did some reading and rethinking about my anchor charts this summer. You can read a post about how I'm working on improving my anchor charts and see some other pictures here.

 Here are two of the reusable charts that I made with my students last month. The first one is from writer's workshop. I made this chart when we learned about how writer's share stories. The first picture shows the parts of the chart that I made and laminated in advance. The second picture shows samples of student work added to the chart to help the children understand the two ways writer's share stories. Since the chart is laminated, I can change the student work samples to give different students a chance to be featured.

I made this chart (based on the Daily 5), to introduce the 3 ways to read a book during our beginning of the year reader's workshop lessons. I've made this chart for 5 years in a row. Since I'm working smarter, not harder...I won't have to remake the whole thing next year. I put the title, the image and numbers on the chart in advance and laminated it. I do think it's important to build the chart with my students, so the handwritten parts are written on large post-it notes and added to the chart during my lesson.


As I'm sitting here typing, I just received an email notification that I have my first donation for my Donor's Choose project that just got posted today!  Yippeeee!!!!  I'm trying to get a mini iPad funded for my classroom.  You can read about my project and check out my Donor's Choose page by clicking on the image below.  Donors Choose is matching any donations made to my project for the first few days when the code INSPIRE is used.  Fingers crossed...

Time for me to get some sleep and prepare for a sleep in past 5 a.m. day!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Candy Corn Word Family Mobiles - shhhh!

Do you ever feel like you have to close your classroom door, pull down the shades, creep around like a Navy Seal and prepare a statement of defense in advance to do an art project these days? 
Folks - it's a crime. Not doing the art project, but feeling like that when 

Last week, with the doors open and the window shades up... I let my kids make candy corn word family mobiles at our art center (which is one of my weekly literacy centers). Yep, I said it. I let them paint, use shaving cream, playdoh, ink dot bottles, play foam and sometimes I let 'em touch the markers. The project they do at the art center is always an opportunity to practice something we are working on, but at least my paint is not getting crusty in the cupboard.

This is my sample.  
I used the at family, 
but I invited students to use any short a word family.

 My students LOVED making the mobiles and were only slightly disappointed when I told them they had to leave them at school so I could hang them up.

  I'm only 4'11", so the mobiles hanging all over my room don't hit me in the head. I thought I saw the fire marshall shake his head at them when he was visiting last week, but he didn't say much so I think I'm safe for now. I won't keep them up for long because I can only handle thing dangling from the ceiling for a couple weeks the kids want to take them home.

Considering that I fell asleep in the chair at the hair salon tonight, I probably should go to bed.  Oh, how I love Fridays!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Support for Struggling Readers In Full Swing

If you've been following my blog for a while, you know that I've done a lot of work, presenting and studying about how to help struggling readers. I love working with struggling readers. Even though I enjoy the challenge, I still feel the (sometimes overwhelming) "pressure" to get them where they need to be.

 Here are some of the things I do with my students to give them extra support.

1. Instructional Reading Time
 Each student visits my "horseshoe" table for reading practice with me at their instructional level 4 times per/week. Struggling students visit the horseshoe table 5 times each week.

 2. Literacy Work Stations 
 Each student visits 8 different centers throughout the week to reinforce skills and participate in independent practice activities. 5 of my stations are Daily 5ish. You can read about how I plan some of those centers here.  Then I also have a few extra stations. My students visit 2 centers each day (only 4 days a week). On the 5th day, we do our spelling test (with super spelling slippers and individualized word work while I work with struggling readers one more time).

 3. Individualized Word Rings 
We use the Dolch list for sight words. Each student in my classroom has a word ring to help them practice the specific sight words they each need to learn. My word rings have the first 5 "unknown" words that the student missed on the list. They practice reading their words to a parent volunteer each morning and to me later in the day. If they know the word automatically (3 seconds or less), they get a tally mark on the back of the card. When a word card has 10 tally marks on the back, it is replaced with a new unknown word from the list. By the end of the year, the goal is for all of the students to no longer have a word ring (because that would mean they know all of the required words).

 *I let my students pick fancy piece of cardstock for the front of their word ring (so they can easily pick their own out of our bin if I ask them to go get their word ring).
4.  Personal Reader Folders
Each of the students who start the year with a reading level that is on grade level or below grade level get a personal reader folder in my classroom.  The folders contain simple stories that I wrote myself.  You can read more about my personal reader folders by clicking on the image below.  During reading group time, the students with a personal reader folder highlight specific things in each story (a particular sight word, word family or vowel pattern).  Then they practice reading the story to me and partner.  After a few days of practicing a particular story with me, they read the stories we have already worked on to parent helpers (4 days a week).

I have 3 sets of Personal Reader Folder stories available in my Tpt store.

5.  Individualized Word Work
I use the Ganske Developmental Spelling Inventory (DSI) to determine which skill each child needs to work on for individualized word work.  The Ganske DSI is a continuum that ranges from beginning consonants to long vowel patterns and other unique long vowel patterns.  I prepare bins full of games/activities for each step on the Ganske continuum.  Based on each students placement on the continuum, I am able to determine which skills he/she needs to work on.  Then I tape a class list to each of the bins full of games/activities I prepared.  On the class list on each bin, I highlight the names of the students who need to play those games.  For example, if the Ganske indicates that a child needs to work on digraphs, then I will highlight his/her name on the digraph bin. That makes it easy for me, the students and parent volunteers to determine who should play the games in each bin.   I do the Ganske at least 4 times a year, to document progress and update the individual work work bins.

I use games/activities from several different sources.  But, I have made many of the ones I use myself. 

Here are a few of my students favorites.

I'm working on a few new games for digraphs and blends that I'll be posting soon (and using in my individualized word work bins).  

6.  Reading Buddies
My students who are below grade level have reading buddies who visit each day to listen to them read. My building is a K - 2 building, so we use 2nd graders as our reading buddies.  The 2nd graders who are reading buddies are chosen by their teacher and come to my room every day after the morning announcements.  It's a win-win situation for our little ones.  My first graders love to read to a "big kid" and the 2nd graders feel the reward of being a leader in our school.

Guess I better get busy working on my planning for the week!  Happy Sunday!