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Friday, December 30, 2011

Regie Routman Saved My Life

Three and a half years ago I was lucky enough to attend a reading conference in Spokane, Washington where Regie Routman was the keynote speaker. She helped me become a better wife, mother and teacher with one phrase: "The best teachers live a life outside of school." She went on to explain that it is through that living we find our inspiration to teach. I am going to share this message with my students when we return to school on Monday and use it as a catalyst into our new reading, writing, math and science units. We'll launch each study with the same big question: How does what I am studying relate to the way I live outside of school?

Here are a few ways I live outside of school...

How do you live to inspire?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Reading Teacher-November

I am behind in my professional reading!  I am finally getting back to the November issue of The Reading Teacher.  I think I glanced at it briefly when I carried it in from the mailbox weeks ago.  The article Seven Rules of Engagement; What's Most Important to Know About Motivation to Read by Linda B. Gambrell (2011, pp. 172-177) is a great reminder of the power of motivation for young readers.  I am finding the "classroom tips" for each rule most helpful.  To be honest, it has been very tricky motivating the group of readers I have this year.  Here are a few of the tips I plan on incorporating in January:

1. Begin doing a weekly "teacher book-selling session."  Quick share 10-12 books to pique student interest.

2. For those little ones who continue to choose independent reading books that are to 4 or 5 books related to the students' interest and then have them choose 2-3 of those while conferring.

3. Don't label any books as "easy."  Label them as "hard," "harder," and "hardest."

Hopefully these small steps will help all the readers in my class BELIEVE that they are capable and competent!

Happy Holidays!

We made it to the break!  Yeah!  I had so much fun with my studnets on the last day of school.  We spent the morning caroling with almost half the elementary school and then spent the afternoon reading and playing board games.  We had a "Secret Santa Reader" gift exchange and to my amazement all 15 of my students (even those little guys that don't have a lot of stamina built up for reading) spent 25 solid minutes reading and sharing their new books with each other.  I am thinking I should wrap books up for "read-to-someone" time in the future!   I bought four new board games for our classroom and had each table group open one.  They were so excited and now we have more games for rainy/snowy days when we can't be outside.  Several students brought games as well.  Such a fun way to get to spend time together.  Here is an Animoto video I whipped out to share with the kids right before they went home for their much deserved winter break.  Enjoy and Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sight Word Phrases with Pictures

Class sizes are bulging across the country right now, but I am lucky to have only 15 students this year.  However, many of these little ones are reading and writing below grade level.  Because of this I have been studying like crazy to come up with strategies to help them.  I have been reading an excellent book called The Successful Inclusive Teacher: Proven Ways to Detect and Correct Special Needs, edited by Joyce S. Choate.  Many of my students need a lot of help with sight words (reading and spelling) and fluency.  One of the strategies in this book suggested making flash cards with pictures to help students make a visual connection with the word.  I decided to try this with the phrases and short sentences for repeated reading that Timothy Rasinski suggests using to help build reading fluency in his book The Fluent Reader, 2003. New York: Scholastic Professional Books. I am introducing ten phrases a week and then students will practice reading and writing them during our Daily 5 word work.  I am also sending the list of phrases home with students to practice reading and writing over the weekend.  Here are the first three Fluency Practice.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Adjectives...and Letters We Flip For.

This is a chart I made to help students remember which letter's can have more than one sound.  There are few  more I will be adding....ow and gh to name a few.   I find this chart especially helpful for those kiddo's who struggle with accuracy.

These are some turkey's that we made during our adjectives unit.  After reading  A Plump and Perky Turkey by Teresa Batemen and Jeff Shelly, and brainstorming a list of adjectives, students created a turkey using acrylic paint, construction paper and paper plates.  Students then wrote stories about their turkey's using adjectives.  The turkey's and stories were quite entertaining!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thanksgiving & American Symbols

I decided to do a timeline of American symbols. I have started with the Wamponoags and Pilgrims since Thanksgiving is just around the corner. We read a poem written by 3rd graders who had studied the Wamponoag tribe. After reading the poem we talked about what we thought the authors message was. Then we went through and underlined all the words we didn't know or understand. This was interesting because some of the words we underlined were common words used in a different context. After discussing the meaning of this vocabulary we read the poem again and discussed whether or not we understood the authors message better. All of the children seemed to have a better understanding of the authors message after discussing the unknown vocabulary and re-reading the poem. After our discussion students drew pictures and brainstormed keyword labels to put on their pictures that would help them retell what they had learned about the Wamponoag tribe to classroom visitors. We plan on sharing our learning with our family and friends when we return after the holiday break.  We also read about the pilgrims and their journey across the Atlantic Ocean on the Mayflower. Students made  hand print Mayflowers (an idea I saw on pinterest) and labeled the important parts of the ship that we learned about.

Storybird is a Success!

My students are loving Storybird.  Did you know you can do a school/class fundraiser with your students published stories?  We are so excited about this we are trying it out so we can buy more books for our classroom library.  Here is one of the stories a student published.  She has been writing at home on the weekends!

Cats on the Moon. by A2011P on Storybird

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Reluctant Writer's Beware!

I have been reading and rediscovering this weekend!  I have a class full of reluctant writer's and my usual tricks are not working.  I hit the books and looked through my notes from previous years and my trip to the ISTE conference that I attended  in Philidelphia this past summer.  Storybird!  How could I have forgotten you?  This morning my Kindergarten son and I explored the website and created a storybird.  I can't wait to introduce this website to my second graders!

An Alien and a Monster on Storybird

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Move Over Pokemon!

In one of my earlier posts I mentioned a trading cards website that K-2 and 5th grade used at my school to make trading cards for some of the plants, animals and geology we learned about on a field trip at the begining of the school year. We finally got all the cards printed and spent a half-hour on Halloween trading our cards with each other. It was so much fun! The kids were really excited about it and couldn't wait to get back to class and read them. I will definately be doing this again. Learning was definately contagious on this day!

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Gradually Releasing Students During Daily 5

Last fall, while revamping my reading program, I discovered Gail Boushey and Joan Moser, The Two Sisters (I can't believe it took me so long!). I bought both of their books, The Daily Five and The CAFE , devouring them cover to cover over the summer (a subscription to their website is worth every penny). This year I jumped in with both feet and started doing CAFE and Daily 5. I am EXTREMELY happy with the independence and reading growth I am seeing in my class already. Unfortunately we only have time to make 3 of the Daily 5 choices during our reading block (I am working on getting all 5 in) and I was noticing that most of my students were sticking with Listen-to-Reading, Read-to-Someone and Word Work. I thought I better jump in and provide a little more support in this area so I came up with a chart that would help me keep track of who needed support choosing a Daily 5 job. This chart is definately helping those students who need more guidance with their choices and it is helping keep me organized too!

If you turn this chart over you find another for math! The Sisters have been working on a Math Daily 5 too. This is my shortened version which works well with the Bridges-in-Mathematics curriculum we use at my school.

Daily 5 Choices and CAFE Strategy Menu.

Math by myself and Math with someone choices.

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Even and Odd Street

I love surfing the net for new and innovative ideas. Finding Amy Lemons blog, Step into Second Grade, has inspired lots of ideas! We had been exploring even and odd numbers during our calendar piece of math when I came across her idea for Even and Odd Street. Several of my students appeared to be grasping the concept of even and odd numbers, but not all of them. Once we posted the houses on the bulletin board and discussed the patterns we were seeing I could tell the concept clicked for all of them. Thanks for sharing your great idea Amy!

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Monday, October 17, 2011

Writing Through the Mask

Over the summer I spent a lot of time reading the works of Katy Wood Ray.  In our writer's workshop we have been working with one of her strategies and  "imaging the life" behind the books we have been reading.  Our guided question for the past two weeks has been "What experiences might the author have had to give them the idea for this story."  Last week we made Halloween Hang-ups by Martha Stewart and "imagined" the life behind our creepy characters.  I used one of Ralph Fletcher's writing strategies called writing through the mask to help guide their writing.  The kids ran with this and did an amazing job! My most reluctant writer was busily writing for the entire workshop!  Here are some pictures of the hang-ups.  

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Saturday, October 15, 2011

Who Knew!

Researching is what second grader's in my class LOVE to do!  Our school just bought a subscription to which is a great website for emerging and transitional readers.  We took a field trip to a local lake and upon our return researched animals that live in the forested habitat that we visited.  We then created trading cards using this website .  We will trade them with K-1 and 5th grade students on October 31st.  Here is a card that I made as an example.

What Did You Do This Summer?

Most of my current students have been going to school together since Kindergarten.  We live in a small town and everyone knows each other so "getting to know you" activities don't really work for us at the beginning of the school year.  I still wanted to have an ice breaker and decided to ask parents to email me a picture of something their child did this summer so I could make a slideshow we could watch on the first day of school.  It was a wonderful way to start the year.