Saturday, February 21, 2015

How to…teach Kindergartners to write a how to.

Teaching kindergartners to sequence goes beyond the box of puzzles that can't be wrong. Use those puzzles to teach a writing sequence: First, Then, Last.  This can be an independent writing center, too.
Can you teach sequencing at the emergent level?

Of course, you can.  It was definitely a trick question.  It’s all about routine, practice, expectation, and confidence.  If you follow my blog you know I preach and preach about routine.  Emergent writers are especially in need of routine and confidence.

Sequencing is as easy as I-2-3.

First, teach the routine whole group.  Do you have those typical box sets of sequencing pictures?  The ones where the students can’t get it wrong and it doesn’t actually show you if they can sequence.  Well, don’t throw them out!  This is the perfect way to teach a writing lesson on the How To paragraph.
  Teaching kindergartners to sequence goes beyond the box of puzzles that can't be wrong. Use those puzzles to teach a writing sequence: First, Then, Last.  This can be an independent writing center, too.

Monday

Using the document camera…show the class the 3 pieces to the puzzle.  Students can easily put the pieces in order (and it’s a great time to let a struggling writer feel success).  Students will construct the puzzle and orally tell what they see.  Get them used to using the words “first, then, and last” as they tell their story.

Tuesday

Students should review the puzzle and orally agree on a sentence for the first piece of the puzzle.  If the students tell you a long and drawn out sentence, help them edit it to the basics.  Once they get the routine, they can elaborate.  Ask your students to write a sentence about each piece of the puzzle.  Using the key words “First, Then, and Last” and word wall words, compose “First, we see popcorn.”  Of course, you would stretch the sounds in popcorn to help students write this sentence.  This might take 10 minutes.

Wednesday

Students will reread Tuesday’s sentence and then decide the “Then” sentence.  “Then, we cook it in a pan.”  It’s basic.  It’s not Julia Child.  It’s a process.  Make sure to connect “cook” to “look” and “pan” to “can.”  Reread the entire passage.

Thursday

Students will reread Wednesday’s sentence and then decide on the “last” sentence.  “Last, we eat the popcorn.”  I would tell them about the silent “a” in the word “eat,” but wouldn't make it a lesson or a big deal.

Friday

Students get a copy of the story they have helped write during the week.  They can illustrate the puzzle pieces.

Finally, this needs to become a center!  That’s right.  That’s how this process becomes routine.  Students need guaranteed practice with sequencing.  Supply the center with a Ziploc bag with a sequence puzzle.  Each bag is different.  Students take a bag, make the puzzle, write the 3 sentences, then draw the pictures.  This center is good for 4 weeks, because they can trade around bags each week.  If you really want to get a lot for your time, put 3 complete puzzles in the bags (9 pieces), have the students make all the puzzles, and choose 1 to write about.  Now, this center doesn't need to be changed for 9 weeks.
Teaching kindergartners to sequence goes beyond the box of puzzles that can't be wrong. Use those puzzles to teach a writing sequence: First, Then, Last.  This can be an independent writing center, too.

Upping the Rigor

As students become more and more proficient with writing the how-to puzzles, it’s time to up the rigor.  The rigor can be added by requiring more sentences or by adding another step.  First, Then, Next, Last.  Students are given a strip of 4 pictures to sequence and adding a “next” step. Pictures are provided, but the students must order the pictures without the safety net of a puzzle.
Teaching kindergartners to sequence goes beyond the box of puzzles that can't be wrong. Use those puzzles to teach a writing sequence: First, Then, Last.  This can be an independent writing center, too.
Enjoy the FREEBIE Sequencing Sample Set, CLICK HERE.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Fall in love with Word Study...all over again!

Word Study isn't spelling, it's a systematic way to teach students how look at word patterns in reading and writing. It creates readers!  Fall in love with Word Study...again.
In the fall of 2005 I transferred to a school that was one year into Word Study training, so that year was a trial by fire.  I learned the basics of the assessing, grouping, instructing, sorting, and assessing.  The routines were set and the cycle continued.  I felt pretty good about what I was doing.

As the years past, I added and deleted activities and routines as I thought I should.  I’ve taken classes here and there and was comfortable.  This summer I decided I needed to take an “official” class to update what I know.  I also wanted some credibility with the staff at my school.  If I’m the one doing training, I wanted them to have confidence in me.

Feeling pretty good about myself and thinking I’d just sit back and take the class, I found myself taking page after page of notes.  All of the information wasn’t new, but some was a new way of thinking.  I did have an earth-shattering (almost) a-ha.  I'll post it at the end...stay tuned.  I was excited about word study all over again.  Here are some of my notes.

Meaning Introductions
Word Study isn't spelling, it's a systematic way to teach students how look at word patterns in reading and writing. It creates readers!  Fall in love with Word Study...again.

It is important to make sure students are given explicit and meaningful introductions to the sort.  Each word in the sort should be described and discussed carefully.  The headers should be used, not only, as the title of the column, but as a point of reference for the generalization.  Each picture or word should be matched to the header.  As the words are added to the columns, they are described as to why they belong in the column.  It’s not enough to say, “camp belongs on this column because it ends like stump.”  We need to make sure students are using the words to explain the generalization EACH time.  “The picture “lip” belongs in the “ip” column because I hear a short i in “lip.”  Students need to be able to explain the generalization as they sort.

Meaningful Practice
Word Study isn't spelling, it's a systematic way to teach students how look at word patterns in reading and writing. It creates readers!  Fall in love with Word Study...again.

The practice activities MUST enhance the feature.  If the activity doesn’t enhance the feature, don’t do it!  Word triangles, pyramids, or steps don’t teach the feature.  They don’t explain the generalization.  Create meaningful ways to practice the sorting.
  • Labeling the sort cards is a valuable experience.  Students need to see the cvc, cvcc, or cvce codes when they sort, so the generalization is more concrete.  When students need to add endings to words, learning that most cvc words double the final consonant before adding the ending students will be able to spot a cvc word without much effort.   Labeling is a stairstep skill. Adding a breve (the scoop above a short vowel sound) or a macron (the line above the long vowel sound) can add another level to the label.
  • Word Hunts - Another meaningful practice is the word hunt.  Students can use specaalized passages, independent books, words in the room, or poetry folder to find words that match the feature they are studying.  If their feature is a short a sort, finding short a words in their environment is important to making connections.  As they find words, they should label with cvc.  When they share their word hunts, students should be asked to explain the generalization to prove their case, similar to the justifications in the introductions.  Word Hunts are more effective if they are discussed and not just checked.
  • Speed Sorts - A new take on an old favorite would be: Speed Sorts.  That’s right, speed sorts.  Nothing new, right?  Wrong.  Students should not be racing against each other.  It puts the emphasis on the contest, not on the generalization.  The new-and-improved speed sort asks students to race against themselves.  It’s still a partner sort…one person has the timer, while one person sorts against it.  Each race is recorded for speed and each person races against their own speed.  (This can also be a great homework lesson with mom’s cell phone timer.)

Meaningful Homework
Word Study isn't spelling, it's a systematic way to teach students how look at word patterns in reading and writing. It creates readers!  Fall in love with Word Study...again.

If it's not meaningful, don't do it. It's just a time waster for everyone. Homework is another area where word study needs to be updated.  Teachers have fallen into a rut of sorts.  Monday – write your words.  Tuesday – triangle words (UGH).  Wednesday – rainbow words (double UGH).  Thursday – practice test.  Don’t forget the new rule:  If it doesn’t ENHANCE the feature, don’t do it!  This also applies to homework.  Without using, “It’s easier on the parents” or “But the parents don’t know what to do” as an excuse…it’s about the student and it’s about the feature.  There are great ways to practice the sorts that can enhance the feature.  Here are a few ideas.
  • Magic boxes are a great way to show the similar short vowel feature.  Students fill in the magic boxes with crossing vowels.  Vowels can be written with marker and pictures can be illustrated to show meaning.  
  • SAW – After Feature A students can use the SAW to practice.  Students SORT, ALPHABETIZE, AND WRITE.  Students should sort their cards.  Alphabetize each column individually.  Then, write the columns alphabetically.  Highlighting the features of the words in each list is mandatory.
  • Sentence Triple Threat – This is not the usual “Write a sentence” activity.  This activity requires students divide their list into thirds and write three types of sentences.  One-third of the words need to be written as a declarative sentence.  One-third of the words need to be written as a question.  One-third of the words need to be written as an exclamatory sentence.  Students should make sure to highlight the feature in the words.

Meaningful Assessment

Word Study isn't spelling, it's a systematic way to teach students how look at word patterns in reading and writing. It creates readers!  Fall in love with Word Study...again.
Of course, assessments are crucial.  We have to know what the students know and what they don’t know to be able to move them forward.  One of the biggest shifts in thinking is the difference between teaching in learning.  Teachers need to know if the students understand the features and are able to transfer their understanding to their own writing.  Frustrated teachers will come to me saying, “They know it on the test, but they aren’t using it in their writing.”  Well, I take a deep breath and listen up, “If they aren’t using it, they don’t know it.”  The teachers need to make the distinction between what they have “taught” and what the students have "learned."  One way to make sure the students are applying their knowledge is to have a row or two from the original sort that demonstrates the feature and the students have not seen, added to the test. That's right, just cut off the bottom two rows and save it for the test.  With good practice and homework, students should be able to recognize the feature and sort it appropriately on the test.  Students can also be given a dictation sentence BUT they should not be graded on any part of the sentence EXCEPT the feature words. This is not the time to assess sentence structure or sight words. Another shift in thinking is about the score the students get on a test.  Students should always get a 100% (or very close) on the test.)  If they don’t, they don’t know it and they haven’t generalized it.  Sooooo…Do IT AGAIN. Yep, do the same generalization with different words.  If everyone in the group makes a 100% except one child, then that child will need a review and a retest while the group moves on.  The bottom line is:  it doesn’t matter what you teach…it only matters what they learn. If they aren't transferring it, they didn't learn it.

By the way, here's my EARTH-SHATTERING change in thinking.

Word study isn't spelling!  Please don't call it spelling to anyone.  It's not about spelling, it's about word patterns, decoding, and understanding how words work. Yep, I was in the awful habit of interchanging the terms "word study" and "spelling."  I am so so glad I took that class last summer...and I'm not afraid to say it.  They are not the same.  
Word Study isn't spelling, it's a systematic way to teach students how look at word patterns in reading and writing. It creates readers!  Fall in love with Word Study...again.

I hope you have something new to try in your word study.  I hope I've helped you fall in love with Word Study...again.

Click here if you’d like a Classwork/Homework Idea Sheet.

Click here if you'd like a Word Study Sample Set.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

For the LOVE of READING...

And other things.

What do I love?  Let's talk beyond the easy (family, family, and family).
Valentine's Day means love...but this post is about why I love teaching!

I Love Kindergarten

I know I've said it before.  There's nothing as fun and exhausting as teaching kindergarten.  They come to you knowing precious little and you get to be the first one to teach and mold and instill the love of learning.  I can't explain how important.  Not everyone can teach kindergarten...it takes a special person to understand you are the first to touch their lives.  You are the first to create a love of learning.  You are the first...now that's important.
Valentine's Day means love...but this post is about why I love teaching!

I Love Centers 

I do love center time in a kindergarten classroom. Centers should be the best time of the day. You get to teach reading and they get to work independently, grow as independent beings, practice reading, practice writing, practice fluency...I could go on and on and on. If it's set up correctly, it can be managed by your students so guided reading can continue.  If this blog has a FAQ section, the first question would be "What is the key to surviving centers in kindergarten?"  The answer is easy: Routine.  I'll be posting a full explanations of centers on Adventures in Literacy Land on the 10th, but the simple answer is ROUTINE (and expectations).  More to come on that one.
Valentine's Day means love...but this post is about why I love teaching!

I Love Writing

Showing students from an early age that writing is fun is such a rush!  I believe the biggest reason students don't like writing is they FEAR writing.  First, they don't know what to write about and are afraid their writing won't be good enough.  Then, they are afraid they'll spell something wrong.  UGH.  Why do they learn so quickly to ask someone "How do you spell...?"  Taking those fears away creates a love of writing.
Valentine's Day means love...but this post is about why I love teaching!

I Love Reading

How can you not love reading?  By equipping students with the tools to read - you change lives. Period. It doesn't matter if you are teaching a kindergartner with early reading instruction or a second grade in an intervention groups strategies to get on grade level...it's amazing! My best advice again is: ROUTINE. Read Every Day. No excuses.
Valentine's Day means love...but this post is about why I love teaching!

I Love Owls!

It happened by accident. I was the "bee classroom" for a long time. I had a hive outside my door and my rules were: Be kind. Be safe...and so on. Then, I changed schools and they already had "bee classroom" right across from me. So, I decided to be the "owl classroom," but this was 8 years ago when you couldn't find owls anywhere. Then, all of the sudden, they are everywhere. I can't help it.  I'm not even sure why?  But I do.  I have found myself slowly becoming the "crazy owl lady."  They are so cute.
Valentine's Day means love...but this post is about why I love teaching!

I Love Teaching

I was born to be a teacher. I love it. I have posted a Happy Valentine's Day Activity Set on Teachers Pay Teachers...

But here is a Valentine's Day FREEBIE just for you.  Click on the picture...and you'll get a sample.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Seriously...More Winter?

6 more weeks of Winter?

Why would the groundhog betray us.  We Virginia girls like to be warm...and I CRAVE the beach and sand in my toes.

Let's not let that groundhog win.  Let's have fun with more winter things.  (I'm trying.)

Here are a few freebies to keep you warm.


1. A sort with the sn- blend.  I am getting tired of snowmen, but they sure are persistent fellows, aren't they?

2. A winter or spring sort.  I know I like Spring better, but after sorting these items, let your children write about their favorite.
If you'd like the FREEBIE, CLICK HERE!

Enjoy and stay warm!