Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Few Tricks Up My Sleeve

As adults, don't we all have those words whose spellings pester us?  I love a good spelling trick.  I only know the difference between "affect" and "effect" because "a" in "affect" is at the opposite end of the alphabet as "v" for "verb" so in my brain they go together.  If not for this little trick up my sleeve, I'd be up a creek.  

Over the years I've collected and invented a few tricks that help my writers spell a few of the first grade words that pester them.  Most of these tricks happen to be kinesthetic, which John Medina, the author of Brain Rules, would be pleased to see.  He believes that movement improves memory, and we all know he's right.  Enjoy.
(Thanks to Garrett's mom for giving me permission to use this video.  He gives a great demo!)
I would love to add the tricks up your sleeve to my collection.  Please do share.

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Monday, February 27, 2012

Of Thee I Sing

My room is often filled with singing.  It's got a basket overflowing with classroom books we've created too.  Put those together and you get two classroom books that are based on songs we sing about our country. They're not overly creative, but they're enjoyed and loved by my little patriotic Americans. 

I simply typed up the words to both songs with only one line per page.  Then the kids drew the American flag on their page.  Pretty simple.  

In honor of our country, we also drew The White House, and the kids wrote about what they would do if they were the president.  (You can see the little president peeking through the doorway.)

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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Saturday Sayings: Fun Isn't Enough

Here's installment number two of a little something I'm calling Saturday Sayings.  It's my attempt at reflecting on some of my favorite professional quotes.  In other words, I'm not all that smart, so I like to keep track of what the gurus say. Hopefully some of you will enjoy hearing their thoughts as well.  This one came from a Regie Routman conference, straight from Regie's lips.  Sigh. 

I love hearing, "That was fun!"  If that's all my kids can say though, I missed the mark.  I've made a concerted effort in the past several years to make sure I do a better job of letting my kids repeatedly know why we're doing what we're doing throughout the day.

"Hey guys, now that you know the three sounds of cousin ed, you're going to be better readers and writers.  The next time you see him, you'll probably say to yourself, 'Yep, I know all about this.  No problem.'"  

As I'm typing this though, I'm already thinking of parts of my day where I haven't been as explicit as I should.  Thanks Regie for keeping me on the straight and narrow.  What a learning process this is!  
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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Right in Front of Your Nose

Links are powerful but more so when they're right in front of your nose, especially if you're a six-year old.  Below is a picture looking down at one of my two tables that kids can write at during Write to Self.  For years I've covered the tables in butcher paper to protect them from wayward pens, markers, or even graffiti.  (Yes, even in 1st grade.)  Then one year it finally dawned on me that kids would be more likely to use the helpers I recently posted about (click here to see that post) if they were practically part of the table itself, right in front of their noses.  Some of the helpers seem upside down from this view.  Kids sit on both sides of the table, so they aren't upside down to them.

I've included all my table versions of the helpers below.  (These are smaller than the ones I use on my wall.)  If I did this right and if there's anything here that looks useful, you should be able to click on the pictures for your own personal copies.  

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Monday, February 20, 2012

Their Name on the Board

I wholeheartedly believe this comment by Lucy Calkins... 

"When a school system recognizes that writing is a crucial tool for learning to read and to think across every subject area, then time for writing becomes non-negotiable."

Writer's Workshop is a must-have in my room, but it's possibly one of the most rewarding and hardest parts of my job all at the same time.  There are days when it's not easy to manage 25 writers who need 25 different kinds of support, but I can't imagine life without it.  Yet there are times when it's nice to have a little something extra to motivate and inspire more kids to either stay on-task or try a certain strategy.

Sometimes after a mini-lesson I'll draw something specific on the board and invite writers to sign their name to it at any point during their writing time if they try the strategy that the mini-lesson highlighted.  For example, when we were learning how to revise leads, I drew a big L on the board.  Writers who worked on their leads wrote their names inside the L.  

This picture is from a lesson about using ellipses like one of our writing mentors did.  Kids who tried them out signed their name.
We've talked a lot about the use of dialogue, so writers who tried out this strategy signed the quotation marks.

When learning the difference between list language and story language, I wrote some words on the board that we talked about during our mini-lesson that might help their writing sound less like lists and more like stories.  Whoever tried one of the words signed the box.

I don't do this consistently because it's not necessary, but there are days when it's a helpful strategy to have around.  What kid doesn't love to write their name on the board?
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Saturday, February 18, 2012

Saturday Sayings: Fill in the Blank

I've had a hankering to post semi-regularly about my favorite professional quotations that I love to collect.  They're so much a part of the teacher I am today.  Cheesy?  I suppose so but very true nonetheless.  (Certainly can't say that about teacher's manuals or curriculum, for that matter.)  If interested, look here to read about how I collect and store quotes from my professional reading.  I was really hoping I could use the word "Quotations" in the post title, but I wanted to be alliterative and I couldn't find a day of the week that began with Qu.  Thus, Saturday Sayings might have to do.

I love how writing is right up there with speaking and reading.  Kind of makes it sound like it's just a wee bit important, huh?  I'm often perplexed at its absence though.  Time is a typical excuse.  Okay, I can empathize.  It's a valid issue.  I feel the time crunch as much as the next teacher.  Are there ever enough minutes in the day?  It makes me wonder though, "What's third on the list then?"  Speak, read, and... fill in the blank.  What's in the blank that eats up time and pushes daily writing to the bottom of the list?   

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Official but not Traditional

My kids know better than to ask me how to spell a word.  

Me:  If you can say it...
Them: can write it.

When they can finish my sentence, you know they've heard me say this a time or two... or a hundred.  This is not to say that spelling isn't important.  Official spelling starts in November.  It might be official, but it's not traditional by any means.

Everyone gets their own individual list.
There are no spelling tests.  

Yep, each child gets their own words.  Why not?  While one child needs "actually" another needs "have."  The words come right out of their daily writing.  What better place to find the words they don't know.  In fact, their writing is their test.  It's the ultimate test of how well they've learned the words.  If they truly know the words, they should be able to spell them correctly in their own writing on a daily basis and not simply for one moment in time (ie. Friday test).  Here's the lowdown...

Each child's spelling words live in a small memo book like this, which is updated every two weeks and always stays at school.
I write the words on the left.  The child copies the words onto the right side of the page after creating a crease down the middle.
Then I cut on the crease.  The child reads each word to me, and I highlight the part that I think will be tricky or that I want to reinforce for that particular child.  I ask, "What do you notice?" and we have a quick discussion about what they notice concerning the highlighted chunk.

Finally I staple the list to a short note for parents, so they're reminded of what to do with this list at home.

I shall leave you with a little something from Sandra Wilde who says it better than I ever could. "The first component of a good spelling and punctuation curriculum is extensive, daily reading and writing."

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Love is in the Air

I teach nothing like I taught 18 years ago, but there are a few things that are still with me.  I believe it was my cooperating teacher during my student teaching experience who first made these elephant Valentine bags, and I've been making them since.  They're just cute is all and every one of them unique, which is the way I like it.

Here's a little something we do with conversation heart boxes.    After doing a graphing activity with them, their picture went into the little box's window, and a little love note to parents went inside.

How about these hats?  I apologize for not knowing where I found the idea.  

I'd love to thank Deb from Simply The Classroom for this next activity.  I wasn't going to post it, but then I read Scotty's letter.  It's pretty sweet.

Then there's the question of what to do with all those valentines.  I make mine into a book that the kids enjoy reading throughout the year.  I cannot take credit for the poem though.

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Friday, February 10, 2012

...98, 99, and Finally 100! (not followers - at least not yet)

First and foremost, I must thank Jenn Warwick for being the mastermind behind my blog's new look.  I love it Jenn!  Bless you.

I've been hearing about everyone's 100th day for weeks now and was feeling a bit left out, but we finally made it!  Here are a few snippets from our day of festivities.  If I've done this right, there are several freebies below.  (Thanks to Lori from Conversations in Literacy and Sandra from Sweet Times in First for helping me figure it out.)

The week before the 100th day arrived, I sent home this homework.  (Besides nightly reading, it's practically the only time of the year they've got homework.)  

When the kids arrived, this is what awaited them.  I've been doing this for about six years.  It's never made the day without a breakage.  First grade little bodies aren't quite sure how to maneuver very gracefully.

Each kiddo received their own one-of-a-kind 100 dollar bill with their picture on it.

Anyone with perfect attendance got a certificate for being at school a whole 100 days.  

I wasn't going to include this, because I know a lot of people do this already.  I couldn't resist, partly because of what Dakota wrote and partly because of what she told me after she wrote it.  "I'd keep half of it."  (smile)

The kids thought about what they couldn't do on the first day of school but can do 100 days later.

The kids wrote to 100 by 5's, 10's, and 1's.  The successful completion of this task got them into the 100's club, which honestly doesn't mean a single thing, but they think it sounds cool.  (By the way, I make sure everyone gets in.)

The kids enjoyed thinking about what they'd like and not like 100 of.  Garrett said that having 100 mothers would be really intense.  (big smile) 100 toilets?  Me either Savannah.

I borrowed this next activity from Math Their Way.  The kids repeated the writing of their names in 100 boxes.  Then they assigned a different color to each letter which created some cool patterns.

Does it take 100 licks to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop? 

We also did a magic trick.  If you count and drop 100 pennies into a hat and say the right magical words, a dollar bill comes out. The same happens with 10 dimes, 20 nickels, and 4 quarters.  Here's some evidence of our learning.

Lastly, I wanted to share these portraits of what the kids will look like when they're 100.  I thank Pinterest for this idea.  Our extra little touch was how we crinkled up their writing to make it look old too.

When I am 100 I will be like my mom. (another big smile)

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