Holy C.O.W. ~ I'm Published!

I am so excited!

I had the absolute privilege to co-author an article with a fabulous colleague from Virginia Beach, Beth Estill.  Everyone in our area knows how fantastic she is...and the news is going to spread farther now.

How did we get here?

Most Virginia school systems use the PALS test for our K-3 students.  The PALS test is a Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening.  C.O.W. (Concept of Word) is one sub-test on the K and 1 test.  But it's an important sub-test.  On the kindergarten test the C.O.W. section takes the knowledge of the other sub-tests (initial sound match, rhyming, letter identification, letter sounds, and spelling) and puts them into action with a isolated word list relating to a previously taught poem.  For first grade, this test is an option; however, we used it as an universal screener for all students.  Having previously read the article, Concept of Word in Text: An Integral Literacy Skill, originally published in Reading in Virginia, the Virginia State Reading Association journal. In November, I attended a workshop Beth was holding at a local school.  The workshop was all about C.O.W., Concept of Word, that is.  The group from my school was eager to try Beth's "program."  During the teacher workday 4 days later, we were training our teacher assistants, and a week later we were rolling!

Developing C.O.W.

Developing C.O.W is for students who recognize only 0-3 words in the 10 word list.  For the most struggling students, Beginning C.O.W. creates a "muscle memory." Students take 2 sentences, practicing one-to-one, word order, beginning letter match, and finally isolated word list from the sentences.  The routine is VERY regimented and specific.  Each day the activities are done in small group (4-5 students) and lasts no longer than 4 minutes.

Rudimentary C.O.W

For the intermediate students, those recognizing 4-6 words on the 10 word list, the routine is slightly changed using 4 line poems. The size of the group and the duration is the same.

It worked!

I found out Radford University was starting an on-line educational journal, Educational Practice and Reform.  I thought Beth's C.O.W. program was the perfect choice for an article.  So...I begged.  I asked to co-author the article, and here it is.

It's great to share a success in the classroom. Click the title of the article, if you'd like to read it in it's entirety.

How C.O.W. Can Change the World of Emergent Readers.


Homework ~ Practice, Review, and Independence

Occupying 7 hours of days with 5- and 6-year-olds can take a lot more planning than anyone would expect (except a teacher).  It certainly isn't for the weak.  On top of all that planning, teachers need to spend more time planning homework.

The Catch 22 of Homework

  • Homework shouldn't take too much time...they need practice, but they need to breathe after a long day at school.

  • Homework should be independent practice.  Parents aren't in the classroom, so can't expect them to know our routines or classroom procedures.

  • Homework shouldn't be punishment.

  • Homework should reflect the weekly lessons.

  • Homework shouldn't take more time to plan than it takes to complete.

  • Homework should have some student choice.

Word Wall Words

Students need to use word wall words...every day, every night, every lesson, every book.  These words should be seen in their leveled books, in their writing, and in their homework.  Research shows word wall words or high frequency words are key to creating fluent, emergent readers.  We introduced 2 new words a week.  Students can choose which additional words they would like to practice.  Using one of the two open-ended options for homework each week, helps the students practice their words in a variety of ways.  The word wall word homework is divided by learning styles:  verbal/linguistic, verbal/spatial, bodily/kinesthetic, and musical.

One choice has the choice board posted on-line or filed in a clear sleeve in the homework folder.  Students follow the directions and choose the number of required homework assignments.  They use a separate sheet of paper or a homework notebook to create their homework.  If they choose an activity with no required written response, a parent must initial the choice.  There are options for each semester.

The second choice is a copied paper sent home each week.  Homework options can be completed on the back of the paper and parents can initial choices on the front.

Shared Reading

In kindergarten, our Shared Reading is our poem of the week.  This poem is practiced daily in a whole group setting.  We pay attention to one-to-one pointing, rhyming words, word wall words, beginning or ending sounds, and the list goes on.  In addition to the poem being read daily for a week, the same Shared Reading poem is sent home the next week for homework.  The poem is copied on a half sheet of paper.  The student can use paper for their choices.  Once again their are two options.

One choice is left in the homework folder and used as a guide.  The activities are done on the poem paper.

Another choice is copied each week and the parents sign the choice on the paper and the use the poem paper for the activities.

Our Shared Reading homework were based on (The NEW) Bloom's Taxonomy.  Students can choose homework based on the complexity of the task.  At the beginning of the year, they can choose from any of the assignments.  As the year goes on, they must choose at least one higher level thinking activity.

Daily or Weekly?

Weekly...no debate.  Life is crazy.  I don't have time to check homework each morning and I don't want to punish students when their life is crazy and they can't do homework one night.  I understand holding students responsible for homework, but the bottom line is this:  they are 5 or 6 and their parents tell them what to do.  I keep the choice boards in the homework folder.  Each week I send home a half-sheet with a homework poem and another half-sheet with the new word wall words.

I hope this takes a little off your plate this school year.

 If you would like the homework sheets, CLICK HERE!

Book Room Who? How? and When?

Teachers in my school started the last week in August.  Teachers were busy with workshops, meeting, room arranging and decorating.  I decided to offer Brownies in the Book Room during the afternoon before Open House.  I was busy doing reading evaluations on new students, so I left the brownies, chocolate, caramel, and Redi-Whip (c) on the table.  I had decorated the Book Room like a party and forgot to take pictures. :(

I felt like Sally Field

Using that infamous clip when Sally Field accepts her Oscar for Norma Rae, when I returned to Book Room later in the day, half the brownies were gone and the notes were left on the table.  I was so excited!

Book Room Etiquette

There had been issues in the past with the check-out system not being understood, not being used, and everything ending in disarray.  I wanted to replace the original check-out system with a check-out system that was easy to use.  I figure the easier it is, the more it will be use.  I posted the Book Room Etiquette posters in two different places in the room.

Leveled Readers

Essentially everything in the Book Room can be divided into 2 sets:  Leveled Readers and Resource Materials.  The first pockets in the Book Room are for checking out leveled readers.  Teachers add their index cards to the pocket on the box as they take the bag of books they are borrowing.

Resource Materials

All other materials in the Book Room (books on tape, big books, games, letters, pre-made literacy centers,  materials for gifted education, and the professional library) had a pocket and a card for check-out.  Teachers place the card from the resource in their second pocket.

I'm pretty excited about the Book Room.  I feel like my heart and soul went in the Book Room this summer, but when one of my told me MY Book Room looked great, I was quick to tell her, "It's not MY Book Room, it's yours."  I mean it. My biggest hope was that teacher's will use it!

I hope you have enjoyed my quest to build a better book room.  I could have never gotten it done during one summer if it wasn't for friends who helped, my sons who worked, and my mom is was my "pocket put-it-on-er."

There are 3 FREEBIES for Back to School.

The first FREEBIE for this post is a Monthly Home Reading Log.  If you'd like it, CLICK HERE.

The second FREEBIE is a Summer/Fall Compare and Contrast.  If you'd like it, CLICK HERE.

The third FREEBIE are Color Sheets.  If you'd like the sheets, CLICK HERE.

The clip art is courtesy of My Cute Graphics
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