Monday, April 22, 2013

 Be a Fly on My Wall

I am linking up with Jodi from Fun-In-First to offer you a look at a day in my classroom. As you know days vary and my schedule has some flexibility in it. This particular day we did not do centers ~ although we often do.

Top left is Rockin' Roll and Read made by Dana of Polka Dots Checks & Stripes, top right is a Silent E Bunting Game by Melissa of Fashion Craze Learning Days,  and bottom is a Kung Fu Four by Mary of Pitner's Potourri. All three are excellent games for struggling readers.

We start our day at 8:55 with a quick extra jolt of reading. At the start of the third quarter I became concerned that a few of my students were still struggling readers. They now enjoy a 15-20 minute extra small group reading lesson each day as soon as they walk in the door. We begin each lesson with a short round of  word game (shown above.) Followed by passage reading. While this group is meeting with me my other students are reading about the room in pairs working on developing fluency and expression.

On this day we played Rockin' Roll and Read.

We then work on reading fluency using Sight Word Fluency Passages for Reading Intervention created by Christine of Sugar and Spice. These passages have proven to be worth their weight in gold. Everyone of my students in this group has made great gains in reading :)

While I am reading with this group my other students are pair reading poems, plays and passages from April Fluency Passages created by Amy of The Resource(ful) Room. My children really enjoy them and love presenting them to the class. See video below.
After 15-20 minutes we all meet together for morning meeting. One of the reasons we did not get to centers today was that our morning meeting ran late due to 3 reasons ~ 2 good and 1 major goof up by me :( As the children gathered in our meeting spot there was quite a commotion (unusual for this group.) When I asked what was going on they said one of the boys said the "f" word, other students were quick to confirm this and the student himself said he did it. So without thinking I started on my we don't say those kind of words in school and sent him to the behavior chart to move his name. Big mistake on my part. I know better. Well he returned crying and I finally came to my senses and decided perhaps I should ask why he would say such a word at school. He was so distraught he couldn't speak so I asked if any of the other children knew why he said it. One boy spoke up and said he was trying to read a word on the map. I asked him to bring me the map ~ turns out this little guy with some speech issues was trying to say Africa, not quite sure how it ended up sounding like the "f" word, but I do believe this is what happened. So now I had to change gears. Apologize to the poor little guy and explain to my students that saying a naughty word is not really bad if it was truly an accident. I felt sooooooo bad.

Here's my Collection of Elmer books. Really amazing books written by David McKee. If you don't have them check them out. You won't be sorry.

After I tried to repair the damage I did to my poor little guy we moved onto lunch count and story time. We are working on fractions in math and I always try to ask a math question that has something to do with our lunch count before moving on. Today's first question was, "What is half of 12?" Well I called on one of my little ones who's hand was up, but I really wasn't sure she knew. She promptly answered, "6 is half of 12 because 6 plus 6 is 12." Well gotta love that Whole Brain Teaching, not only did she get the correct answer, she said it in a sentence and added the because clapper! I was doing the teacher happy dance there so I decided to up the anty and asked, "If I have have 4 friends and 12 candy bars how many candy bars will each friend get if I share them equally?" I was really surprised when one of my little guy's hand quickly shot up and he answered, " 3 because 3 plus 3 is 6 and there are 2 sixes in 12." Wow I am sure I could not have come up with that in first grade! Okay happy moments here:)
Next up my absolute favorite part of the day... story time. This year my students could listen to stories for hours. They love making predictions and connections. They really love when characters appear in multiple books. Today we read the last Elmer story I have. Then we sat and talked about all we've enjoyed while reading Elmer books. Last week when we started the Elmer books we did a mini nonfiction unit on elephants by Megan of Mrs. Mitchell's First Grade.

I tried to insert a video of two of my students reading one of Amy's poems, but I just couldn't get it to work. Sorry. The students loved watching themselves on video.

Next up morning work. I use Jodi's monthly packs because they offer a fluency component on one side and reinforce common core ELA and math on the other side AND they are already differentiated. Who could ask for more. At first it took my students a long time to complete these papers. Now they fly through them. This is the time I attend to student folders.

Last thing before specials and lunch ~ anthology time. I teach the strategies and skills as outlined by the program. We enjoy the stories, but I often add here and put my own twist on things. This weeks' stories had to do with insects.
At 10:45 my students leave for specials, they have a different one each day. At 11:30 I pick them up and drop them off for lunch. It makes for a short morning and a very long afternoon.

Now its noon and we begin math. Yesterday we made fraction pizzas that I have seen on several blogs. We started by reviewing our pizzas then we used this great fraction matching game by Michelle of Our Sweet Success, very cute and free!

The bulk of our math lesson was completing a fraction activity with kites created by Jennifer of Cuddle Bugs Teaching.
Next up - Guided Reading. I have 3 groups. My top 2 groups are working on this amazing pack called Find Us Forever Homes created by Tracy of Creekside Teacher Tales. I meet first with my high flyers, set the stage and send them off to work independently. At the end of the period I meet with them again to check on their progress. My middle group does the packet with me and sometimes in pairs after a strong introduction. I meet with my struggling readers for a second time each day now. This is when they read books. Today we were reading the little book that goes with our anthology.

A high flyer completing the activities for the dog Lucy.

The middle group working together on the dog Jack.

My third group reading their books.
While I am meeting with these three groups I offer the students a variety of activities to complete. On this day they were working on their Elmer stories. I find I get some of their best writing after they have heard several stories about one character, and I ask them to write their own adventure for this character. Elmer has sparked the most writing I have ever gotten!

Some of that beautiful Elmer writing.

We are also working on a collage to display with our stories.

After guided reading we go outside for a 10 to 15 minute recess.

This is normally followed by our RTII groups. All first graders are grouped based on DIBELS scores and sent to appropriate teachers in small groups for interventions. I teach a group of 12 tier two children using My Sidewalks On Reading Street.

But..since our poor upper grade children were state testing for two weeks we did not do RTII during this time. Instead I took what I was already doing at the end of the day Jodi's Spring Fluency Pack and expanded upon her weekly themes.

On this day we spent time learning about ladybugs. The paper on the left is from Jodi's pack, there is a nice ladybug poem on the other side with some questions to complete. The Ladybug Life Cycle book and worksheet below come from Michelle of Apples and ABC's free Ladybug Life Cycle pack.

At 3:25 I walk my students to the door, no buses here, everyone walks.

There you have it, one day in my classroom, similar, but different from all my other days.

I leave you with these gorgeous flowers from my garden...

My wish for you is that all bleeding hearts from last week ~ those in Boston, Texas, Kansas and where ever you may be find peace and begin to heal.
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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

 Answering The Tough Questions?

For the second time this school year we find ourselves asking the tough questions. Why? Why? What next? In less than one hour I will have to face my group of first graders and somehow answer their questions. It will be my job to reassure them and let them know they are safe. But I have to ask myself is anyone safe anymore? Both these tragedies hit me very hard. Next to my family ~ first graders and runners/spectators are my favorite people. Why would anyone want to hurt them? First graders are so full of life wanting to explore and learn with smiles on their faces. Runners and their families are celebrating life every time they run. A finish line is the happiest place on Earth, especially if you've just completed a long distance. I am very sad that fear has crept into schools and finish lines:( I have seen what the loss of a child does to a family and it is not good. I hope and pray these tragedies caused by people end and that somehow, someway as an educator I am able to promote peace.
To all those directly impacted by tragedy my thoughts and prayers are with you and your families.
Melonheadz Illustrations
has created this amazing illustration which shows exactly how I, and I'm sure many others feel.
Thank you for this beautiful tribute to all those touched by the sadness in Boston.
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Sunday, April 7, 2013

 Could it be ... Spring?

Well its be a very long wait here in PA, but I think Spring is finally arriving...

My one and only blooming Daffodil, hope the others follow soon.


Yes, I know, no flowers yet, but Lupine is one of my favorites.

I've saved the best for last. Our resident Dove has returned to hatch a new little one or two!
I hope wherever you are Spring finds you soon too!
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Friday, April 5, 2013

 Jogging For Jonah

Well my heart aches for this little guy and others like him!
If I lived closer I'd join the run, but instead I've made a donation. I'm hoping you will consider supporting this cause too :)
Tamera of My Heart Belongs In First  has gathered together a wonderful set a products worth $85.00 which can be yours for just a $10.00 donation to this cause. Head over to her blog here for all the info.

Just a Bit More Fluency...

Just after I posted on fluency I found Tori's truly amazing post at Tori's Teacher Tips. I immediately put her ideas to work with my kiddos and they just ate it up and flew with it. Head over to her blog here to read more. I can't wait to read her other ideas.
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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

 Improving Fluency

Fluency ~ A Piece Of Cake?

The cake my dear daughter made for Easter dinner!

The Challenge

We are an RTII school. In January, all our students were DIBELS tested. After the testing, our principal met with every teacher in the school. She showed us the results of our students. Then she informed us that we had to make a plan and actively work towards moving ALL the students in our class to Tier 1, the core group. Luckily, half my students made core, but that still left 9 students to move - with some of them needing to move 2 tiers :(

The Plan

Now I needed to stop and think very carefully about how I was using every minute of my day ~ what to keep, what to delete and what to add.

What To Keep

* I kept my read aloud time. This takes awhile because we really take our time and dive totally into the  stories. I feel the time invested here is well spent since it carries over into their own reading. 
*Guided Reading had to stay. I meet with each of my three groups every day.
*RTII Time is required, no discussion allowed here.
*Spelling is used as phonics time to show how sounds work in words. This is a very short mini lesson each day with written homework.
*Lunch and Specialist

What To Delete Or Cut Back On

*I almost completely deleted recess. This wasn't too bad because our weather was awful all winter and no one really wanted to go outside. If Spring ever finds PA we will head out to play again.
*Math time was cut a bit short. It will have to be shored up in the fourth quarter.
*Oh no ~ direct instruction of writing took a big hit. This was a hard one for me, as writing was my concentration during the second quarter and my students were beginning to make good progress.
*Anthology time was shortened, but not eliminated. I like the skills taught and many of the stories are very good. The little readers that go with our program worked well as one of the guided reading books each week. The sight words and vocabulary words are appropriate.
*Science and Social Studies had to be integrated into read alouds and reading passages.

What To Add

Here's where I needed to gather new resources. Well I entered giveaways, crossed my fingers, got lucky and won some high quality materials. Then off I went to shop in my new favorite store TPT.
*Each day now began differently for my students. My 6 students needing the most assistance were identified. They now know to enter the classroom, hang up their things, and quickly meet me at the guided reading table. There I use Sight Word Fluency Passages by Miss DeCarbo they are available here. These are amazing short passages that practice important sight words. They are presented similarly to how students will see them when DIBELS testing. While this group is reading with me my other students are sitting around the room reading in pairs.  I was lucky to win Amy Marshall's March Fluency Practice available here. They practice reading to each other the poems, plays and short passages. I give them opportunities to read to the class. The March Practice was so good I have purchased the April Practice to use again this month. This only takes 15 to 20 minutes. Then we continue our morning as we used to with lunch count, etc. After which we enjoy a good story together.
*When returning to their seats, our next addition, is Jodi's Common Core Differentiated Morning Work available here. There is a page for every day of the month. On one side of each page are practice problems for ELA and math (sneaking some math in here.) The other side of the page has a word of the day. It is used in a sentence and then a paragraph. We practice reading these together and sometimes in pairs. At first these pages took a long time. Now my students whip right through them.
*Later in the day we complete one of Jodi's Spring Fluency Pages from the packet available here. This was a big purchase for me, but it has provided me with an extra fluency page for every day until the end of the year. I like that there is a theme for each week. Sometimes this can double as Science or Social Studies depending on the theme.
*The last TPT products that I use to improve fluency come from Sarah Paul. Her things are fabulous! They hit Common Core very well. I can give my students very appropriate work that they can complete while I am working with guided reading groups. Sarah's materials are available here.
Thanks to all for providing me with such high quality materials!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I first found each of these sellers by winning one of their packets in a giveaway or by trying one of their freebies :)

The Results

Well we won't DIBELS test again until May, but my DRA scores have jumped tremendously :) I am confident my students will do well in May. All but one of my students are now reading on grade level, with the majority reading well above first grade! I was very fearful of cutting back on writing instruction, but their writing has continued to improve - no loss here. What did take a slight dip was math. I will be sure to be careful about doing a great job teaching math our last quarter.

New Challenges

How to keep those high flying readers interested? Where to find high quality reading material to supplement what is in our guided reading library? Back to TPT I go. Well have you seen Tracy Tegelers' materials?  If not you've got to check this out. I think it will be tomorrow's buy. If you have any suggestions of other materials available to use in guided reading with high flying first grade readers please leave a comment below. Thanks!
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