Thursday, February 16, 2017

Raising the Expectations - Half-Way Through

We need to Raise the Expectations for Independent Centers now that the year is half through. We take "process" centers and raise the expectations on the process.It's time to up the game. BUT, that doesn't mean changing the game.  You know I'm a "process center" girl. I believe in centers where we can teach a process and then change the product. That's exactly what we do half-way through the year. We don't throw out the baby with the bathwater, but we do have to raise the expectations.

Read it, Write it

We need to Raise the Expectations for Independent Centers now that the year is half through. We take "process" centers and raise the expectations on the process.
This is certainly a great process center, especially at the beginning of the year. It helps with reading, writing, and ordering the words. It is also great for making connections with illustrations and meaning. However, this is way too easy now...and it will take them two minutes to do it. How can we up it? Require more than one sentence. Require they write a new sentence. Require the illustrations be more detailed. There are lots of ways to up the game. I love this illustration. The cookie is on the fox's back and we know that won't end well.

Labeling

We need to Raise the Expectations for Independent Centers now that the year is half through. We take "process" centers and raise the expectations on the process.
This is another process center where the expectations can be increased. Students can be asked to write more sentences, label additional items, and more. They can be asked to add an new picture to the paper and label the new object. 

CVC Boards

We need to Raise the Expectations for Independent Centers now that the year is half through. We take "process" centers and raise the expectations on the process.
I LOVE CVC boards. I believe in this center. Students must be able to stretch and slide their way through words as they read and write. This center helps with encoding and decoding. As students get quicker with this skill, up the game. Choose a word and write about it. Choose two words and write about both in each in one sentence. You can also increase the word choice adding blends and digraphs to the center.

Stencils

We need to Raise the Expectations for Independent Centers now that the year is half through. We take "process" centers and raise the expectations on the process.
This is a "throw away" center. I call it that because my students did this center as a final center. It was "just a fun" center. Students have to trace the stencil with a pencil and add details, then they have to write sentences. They can use more stencils, but they have to write more sentences.

Don't forget the 4 Square Center, Squiggle Center, and Listening Center should also be upped. Each of these centers could demand 4 or 5 sentences at this time of the year. 

If you would like to have a sample of Raising the Expectations, click the link or the picture below.
Pin for Later:
We need to Raise the Expectations for Independent Centers now that the year is half through. We take "process" centers and raise the expectations on the process.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

5 Ways to Create Independent Children - Home/School Connection

Home/School Connection: Creating Independent Children. The goal of both parents and teachers should be to create independent learners and citizens. Here are 5 ideas.
I am starting a Home/School Connection series on here. My intention is to empower parents to help their children by building a strong Home/School Connection. One of the biggest concerns I hear from teachers is about students who rely on the teacher for everything. We have to build a sense of independence in children, but we also need to build a sense of desire to be independent in children, as well. Parents are partners in this. I am often surprised by the parents who are surprised their child is independent in my class. For the most part, I think that's based on expectations. I expect independence, create routines to support independence, and a praise and reward independence.

Organized for Success

Home/School Connection: Creating Independent Children. The goal of both parents and teachers should be to create independent learners and citizens. Here are 5 ideas.I'm not saying EVERYTHING in your life needs to be completely organized and scheduled. Life is messy and unorganized and, well, life. BUT small steps in keeping your child organized can help them become independent. The bookbag always goes on the table. The shoes always go by the front door. A friend told me, "The weekly homework goes on the front of the refrigerator under a certain magnet until Friday. When we work on it, it comes off. When we're done, it goes back in the folder.  Everyone knows where it is and what we do. We all know the routine and no one gets upset." This is a great plan. Children are upset when they don't have what they need, but organizing things like homework helps them be independent. When my boys were young, we bought a 5-drawer plastic cabinet for their rooms. Sunday night, we picked our clothes for the week. They had to put socks and underwear in each drawer. Then, they had to make 5 piles on their beds with shirts and pants. My husband and I would double-check their choices, then one outfit went in each drawer. This was a life-saver for mornings. We didn't have to debate what to wear, but more importantly, they could dress themselves without my help. Teaching small steps in independence, encourages larger ones.

Let them Collaborate

Home/School Connection: Creating Independent Children. The goal of both parents and teachers should be to create independent learners and citizens. Here are 5 ideas.Children can do so much more independently than they think and sometimes, more than we think. Let them help you make list of what they are in charge of independently. When we let them make the list, they will be more apt to do it. Look at small parts of your day to make the list. When it is breakfast, ask them what they can do for themselves. Let them help you decide. Don't do everything for them. It will work against everybody in the end.

Have Accountability

Home/School Connection: Creating Independent Children. The goal of both parents and teachers should be to create independent learners and citizens. Here are 5 ideas.If you are making an Independent Chart...make them do it. You can't expect them to be independent when YOU want them to be. They need to be held accountable. Here's a biggie: there isn't necessarily an award for doing what you are supposed to do. It's just what you are supposed to do. You can compliment them and brag about them. BUT allow that to be the reward. Help them take pride in their work. Here's the other part: Don't make excuses for them either. Sometimes, they need a consequence to build a need for independence. We tend to want to protect our children from consequences, but we're teaching them how NOT to be independent.

Give Choices

Home/School Connection: Creating Independent Children. The goal of both parents and teachers should be to create independent learners and citizens. Here are 5 ideas.Another part of being independent is not always "getting your way." The world isn't that way, so creating a world that is will be doing you and your child a great disservice. Giving choices is a perfect way to allow them input, without allowing them to "rule the roost."
"Would you like to pick up your clothes before or after your both?"
"Would you like to help with cleaning the kitchen today or tomorrow?

Build Stamina

Home/School Connection: Creating Independent Children. The goal of both parents and teachers should be to create independent learners and citizens. Here are 5 ideas.You can't expect independence all at once, but you also can't expect to go from relying on you to completing large tasks independently over night. Start small and build on success. Tell them to write their name on their homework while you are out of the room, and expect it done when you go back. "You complete the first row of math problems, then we'll check it." Another idea for reading time, is giving your child time to preview a book before you read it. When your nighttime reading begins, ask them to predict what will happen or ask if they have any questions before your start. A fun way to start the story is with an "I wonder..." statement. "I wonder what will happen to Jack and Annie tonight." They need to have time to themselves to become independent.

Now, parent-to-parent, this is harder on you than it will be them. I understand the mom-thinking or the dad-thinking, "This is my baby. I don't want to rush him/her to grow up." This is sabotaging talk - for you and them. If you do everything for them, they won't build problem solving skills, won't need to be self-reliable, and they won't become independent...and that should be your goal.

Pin for Later:

Monday, February 6, 2017

I don't know this word...Now What?

When working with struggling readers, we MUST empower them with tools for creating independence. Using cvc labeling and then the sound and slide strategy, we are building a reader.
I talk a lot about students becoming decoders and readers. A LOT. I know I do, but I am so passionate about giving students the tools to become independent and successful readers. I have a student who is new to me and our school and she is behind in reading. Really behind. I would like to make the most of my time with her. I have been using LLI and our fix-it strategies, but I needed something else in our tool belt.

Labeling and Coding

When working with struggling readers, we MUST empower them with tools for creating independence. Using cvc labeling and then the sound and slide strategy, we are building a reader.
I have been spending more and more time thinking about the "rules" of reading. You know, all those things you teach like, "When two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking." Except it isn't exactly a rule. It only occurs 47% of the time. 47%. That's not a "rule." So what can we do instead? With "Mallory," I want to make sure she has tools that will help her. She is reading on a Level B and we are working hard with decoding cvc words. We have discussed how cvc words have a short vowel sound. I asked Mallory to label the words with c and v, if the word had a cvc pattern, she should circle the word in green. If it did not have the cvc pattern, she would x it in red. After she was done, she would read the cvc words using sound and slide.  ***By the way, we are only looking for "cvc" at this time. We aren't looking at words that are cvcc with a digraph, like "fish." We'll get there.***

We're getting there.

I am really proud of Mallory. We are making progress.

Pin for Later:
When working with struggling readers, we MUST empower them with tools for creating independence. Using cvc labeling and then the sound and slide strategy, we are building a reader.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Classroom Makeover: Making a Space for Learning

Classrooms need to be spaces created to optimize student learning. It's our first line of defense. This classroom got a make-over in January. Let's make this space work!
I've been spending the last few days in a small school district in our state. We got the idea to do a Classroom Makeover for a teacher while I was visiting. Evidently, there was a lottery for all interested teachers and Jessica Watts was the winner. She was excited and I was, too. 

Classrooms need to be spaces created to optimize student learning. It's our first line of defense. This classroom got a make-over in January. Let's make this space work!

Before

She was excited and so was I. I was in her classroom Thursday to lead small group instruction and demonstrate whole group writing. She was more than open with what she wanted from her classroom. Jessica and I met in her classroom at 9:30 yesterday morning and walked around the room and talked about what areas in the room were working and what areas were not. She doesn't spend a lot of time in the whole group area, but wished it was better organized. She wanted each desk to face the front of the room, so seeing the Smart Board wasn't a issue. She also wanted a writing center that the students could use.

Word Wall 

Classrooms need to be spaces created to optimize student learning. It's our first line of defense. This classroom got a make-over in January. Let's make this space work!
Although looking at the first picture, you can't tell how big the blue pocket chart is, but it's a three-sided pocket chart stand. It stands about 4 1/2 feet tall. When I was doing a whole group writing lesson, we were going to write the word "everything." I asked the students if the word "every" was on the word wall, they all looked around to see. The funny thing was, they didn't all look at the word wall immediately, they looked around to find the word wall. Jessica was quick to say, this was such an a-ha moment for her. They obviously weren't using it because they didn't even know where to look for it. Some of the students in the front corner of the room couldn't see the word wall (because the blue pocket chart stand was in the way), so they had to stand to see it. When we found the word wall and found the word every, I asked them to spell it out loud for me. Another thing we realized during the writing lesson is that her words were too small. The students had a hard time seeing the word. I also talked to her about not laminating the word on the word wall. When we sat at the student desks there was a glare on some of the words and they were hard to see. During our re-do, we added black paper to wall between the bulletin boards, so we could expand the area. We also looked at spacing the letters strategically. Don't get me wrong I'm so type A, I like things spaced evenly, BUT all letters are not created equally on the word wall. There were going to be ALOT of words under F, H, S, and T. We had to make sure we could use that space well. Likewise, there aren't any words under Q, X, and Z. The words on the wall now are just unit 1 for Journeys, their reading center. She will add more later. ***This is just a thought. The words provided by Journeys(C) don't all have to be put on the word wall. Word walls should be used for high frequency words. Some of the words provided aren't necessarily "high frequency" words. I just ask that you are selective about what words are on your wall. I believe when the word walls are too busy with too many words, students don't use them.*** We also moved the whole group area under the word wall and moved the color and shape posters above the word wall. Now, all our anchor charts for words are in one place and she can use the word wall in her whole group lessons easily.

Small Group Area

Classrooms need to be spaces created to optimize student learning. It's our first line of defense. This classroom got a make-over in January. Let's make this space work!
The small group area was in the back of the room. We wanted to be able to post the fix-it strategies behind her desk. She also tried to use the small table behind the desk for reading supplies, but it wasn't quite big enough. We also needed to have a place to store their independent reading book bags. We moved the table to the side wall of the classroom between windows. She has a place for fix-its, a place for book bins, and a clear line of sight for the whole classroom. We also moved the small white shelf to behind her table and rotated the file cabinet to the side, so they can use magnet letters on the side easily. As she starts to use this space, she will make the shelves work for her.

Center Storage Area

Classrooms need to be spaces created to optimize student learning. It's our first line of defense. This classroom got a make-over in January. Let's make this space work!
Jessica already had center buckets for her student supplies. Students had all their materials for that bucket in one place, but they bucket were all over the place. Some on shelves. Some on the floor. Some on tables. We moved all the center supplies to one place. The built-in shelf unit was out of the way, so the students wouldn't trip over them when it wasn't center time. She already had labels on the buckets and we discussed adding labels to the shelves for easy clean-up. She will be changing out two of the buckets (on the table) because they didn't fit on the shelves. Jessica also made the decision to take down the big pocket chart stand. It contained 3 pocket charts, 1 for reading center rotations, 1 for math center rotations, and 1 for a pocket chart center. We married the 2 center boards into 1...students in the red group will use the top row for reading centers and the second row for math centers. The students were used to this type of center rotations, so we wanted to have some consistency for them. We moved the third pocket chart to the back of a book shelf.

Writing Center

Classrooms need to be spaces created to optimize student learning. It's our first line of defense. This classroom got a make-over in January. Let's make this space work!
Jessica had great hopes for her writing center this year. She thought she had a place for anchor charts and writing supplies, but she quickly found it wasn't big enough. Students tended to get their writing journals and leave the area for a bigger space and then the anchor charts weren't as easily visible. We had moved the small group table from the back to the side. She had a rectangle table used for interventions where the whole group area is now. The rectangle table was now in front of the two doors and the rotated file cabinet. This opened up the counter next to the sink. We decided to move the writing center supplies and anchor charts to the back of the room. Students could take their journals to the rectangle table and have full access to the writing center anchor charts and the word wall. We were excited about this change.

Student Seating

Classrooms need to be spaces created to optimize student learning. It's our first line of defense. This classroom got a make-over in January. Let's make this space work!
An interesting thing about Jessica's class is that this is the third year they are together. Jessica has looped with them since their Pre-K 4 year. The great benefit to that is building relationships, consistency, and knowing what students have done and what they can do. She has seen growth beyond the average teacher. A downfall is that they are all VERY familiar with each other. They will talk to anyone beside them, no matter who is beside them. They are family. Jessica currently had students is rows because she wanted to make sure they all could see the front board. She said finding a way to organize them was the biggest game of Tetris. We moved her students to groups. They could all see the front and had the benefit of collaborative learning. Because this the real world and students have different learning needs, she has two students who need more space than usual. These students were strategically placed at the corners of the two front groups. There desks can be easily rotated for collaboration.

A New Look

Classrooms need to be spaces created to optimize student learning. It's our first line of defense. This classroom got a make-over in January. Let's make this space work!
We were happy with our day. 5 hours later we had made a difference. Some things will need to be crafted as they are used. Jessica will make the area her own. As she knows what she needs handy for small group, they shelves will be made more purposeful...some things can't be "designed," they have to be created. I was happy, but what I liked didn't matter. It was all about Jessica.

She loved it.

Classrooms need to be spaces created to optimize student learning. It's our first line of defense. This classroom got a make-over in January. Let's make this space work!
Jessica sent me a message later that night: "I'm putting a big bow on the classroom door Monday." I'm glad she liked it. I had a BLAST. Wonder if HGTV would consider a Classroom Maker show? If so, I want to be the host.

If you would like the Journeys(C) Word Wall Words for First Grade, click the link or the picture below.
Pin for Later:
Classrooms need to be spaces created to optimize student learning. It's our first line of defense. This classroom got a make-over in January. Let's make this space work!


Thursday, January 26, 2017

Happy Birthday, Bessie Coleman: A Woman to Honor

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B_ESxPSKuOGvTHNYaUJmUnFSR1k/view?usp=sharing
Bessie Coleman was a woman to honor. She is noted as the First African-American Female Pilot. She was also the First Native American Female Pilot, as her father was born of both races. This girl born into a family of sharecroppers in Texas had dreams we can only imagine. When becoming a piloti n America in the early 1900s wasn't an option, she saved her money, learned French and moved to France to learn to fly. What an amazing thing!

Her life and death are interesting, but I'm not sure I'd share with kindergartners exactly how she died. (She fell out of a plane during a practice run for an air show.)

Enjoy this free 4 square about this amazing lady. Click the picture above or this link: Bessie Coleman 4 Square.

Pin for Later: