Monday, April 27, 2015

Read To Self… Is It Really Attainable?

Without making you wait for my definitive answer on this question, I'll jump right into it. My answer is absolutely, positively… YES! I made some changes to how I run The Daily 5, specifically Read to Self, in my classroom this fall.  As I reflect back on the year, I am SO happy with the changes that I made!I asked you guys what questions you had for me, and this post is centered around what you wanted to know!  If you're already starting to think about next year like I am, I hope you find some ideas from my classroom helpful to you! 
I don't do read to self as a traditional Daily 5 rotation. We read to self as a whole class. My reasoning behind this is that if my students are reading, I want to be able to work with them and get some reading snapshots other than just at my guided reading table! I found that reading all together really helped keep my students on task, and I really get a lot out of it because I am able to confer with them! {side note: I do have read to someone as a traditional Daily 5 rotation}

I start out the beginning of the year just like the two sisters suggest, setting expectations and building stamina. We made an anchor chart together as outlined in The Daily 5 book so that students know what their jobs are at this time, as well as what my job is. I also took photos of some of my students showing exactly what it looks like to be a read to self expert. It's always a great reminder to see what they should look like, especially since they can't read my anchor chart!
We started off by talking about the three ways to read a book and focusing on the first way, reading the pictures. That's exactly what we did to build stamina, read the pictures! So, yes, your students CAN learn Read to Self on the first day of school in kindergarten!
Here's how I handle book boxes. I have this lovely piece of furniture (I have no idea where it's from, sorry!) to store my book boxes in. You will notice that my book boxes are labeled by number and not name. This is simply for the ease factor. I do not have to replace name labels each year when I get a new class. Each of my students has a number, so they know exactly which book box to take! There are plenty of other ways to do book boxes, even some that I've tried before as well! (recycled cereal boxes, magazine files from Ikea that students decorate themselves, book bags, etc.)
Each student has their own book shopping bookmark. As they become a better reader, I check off more and more reading levels. 
When they go to shop for books, they take their bookmark with them to our classroom library. They choose 4 leveled books and 1 book of their choice from any bin.

Each morning, I put this cute little gift bag on one of my tables. 
The students who sit at that table have the chance to shop for books in place of their morning work. They must first put the books that are already in their book boxes back in the correct bins. Then, they are ready to choose their 4 leveled book and 1 choice book. My classroom library is set up with bins of leveled books (PreA-M) as well as themed books (dogs, sea life, horses, nonfiction books, math, etc.). Each bin in my library is labeled with a letter (indicating a level) or a picture (indicating a theme). Each book is also labeled on the top left-hand corner with a letter or a picture. This system makes it super easy for my kiddos to handle selecting and putting books away on their own!

ANYWHERE!! But there's a catch. At first, I assign them to their spots around the room. I change it up each day so that every student gets a chance to read in every or almost every spot. Then, after we've practiced this for a few weeks, I start allowing a few students at a time to choose their own spots. I make this a HUGE deal, and tell students that I will be looking for who is following our 4 rules (read the whole time, stay in one spot, get started right away, work quietly). The students who are doing the best job get to start choosing their own spots around the room. The other students will continue being placed around the room by me, and will practice following the 4 rules until they too earn the privilege of choosing their own spots. If they slide back and are not following the rules, I take the privilege away, and they must practice more before earning it back! I found this to be SUPER effective this year! Take a look below at some of my kiddos' favorite read to self spots…
As I said above, my students know that if they are not following the 4 rules (read the whole time, stay in one spot, get started right away, work quietly), they will lose their privilege to choose their own read to self spots. We review these 4 rules with hand motions each time before we do read to self, so they are pretty engrained in their brains. I also think that allowing my students to choose both good fit books AND a book of their choice helps to keep them engaged and on task. My goal is to get them to LOVE reading, not force them to read only leveled books!
I'm glad you asked! No, I don't take a coffee break or grade papers. I am as engaged in read to self as my students are! While my students are reading around the room, I circulate the room to listen to some students read. I try to listen to 4 each day, but now that our books have a little more meat to them, and I can ask comprehension questions, it's more like 3 a day. When I listen to them read, I take conferring notes. Depending on my mood, I either use my clipboard or my iPad. On my clipboard, I have one page for each student. I date the page, write the title and level of the book, and take notes of their strengths, weaknesses, and what to focus on next. I found this really helpful to share with parents during conferences in the fall. I simply photocopied my conferring notes and sent them home with parents! Click the image below to snag a FREE copy of the sheet that I use to take my conferring notes…
If I use my iPad, I use the app called Teacher Notes. When I take notes on this app, I am able to file it under a student's name for easy access! I can also record them reading during this time if I need evidence for something. Click here to read my blog post about Teacher Notes on The Primary Pack!
Have more questions? I'd love to hear them! Read to self is my favorite time of the day, and I hope some of the ideas in this post will help it be your favorite time too!
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Saturday, April 25, 2015

Stop, Swap, & Roll Blog Hop!

Happy Saturday, everyone! I am thrilled to be part of the Stop, Swap, and Roll blog hop with Jungle Learners! 
I was super fortunate this week to get to review a great product from a new friend, Leslie from Color Cut and Glue!
Leslie has been a first grade teacher for 25 years, and I teach kindergarten, but it was SO hard for me to choose which product I wanted to review from Leslie's store! She has so many great products that are perfect for my two high groups of kinders. After a hard decision, I finally decided on Bring in the Clowns!
This worked out perfectly, because three out of four of my guided reading groups have been working on the ou/ow sound (or cow of /ow/ as we call it) for a while now! These activities really helped me to reinforce this! 
Bring in the Clowns is jam packed with fun and engaging activities! The first activity that I did with my two high guided reading groups was Center Ring Sorting. They sorted the -ow word cards by ending sound. I used this activity with its recording sheet, where students recorded the words, and then chose 3 words to use in sentences.

To differentiate, I had my lower groups simply sort the words, and then choose one word to use in a sentence. They were able to be successful too!
("Dinosaurs eat down on the ground.")
Next, we played Three Ring Rhyming  My kiddos had a blast with this one because they loved the game aspect. They didn't even realize that they were learning! This was a great game to introduce right after the word sort because a few of my kinders discovered that the words rhymed during the word sort. What a natural next step!
I used the rebus spelling activity as a guided reading warm up for my whole class because they have a lot of experience with secret sentence papers, and this was so similar!
My high students were able to choose 3 words to use in sentences as well!
Later in the week, we played Trapeze Matching. My guided reading groups worked together to read the clues and find the matching word. They acted like little detectives trying to solve the clues! Adorable!


At the end of the week, my kinders were familiar enough with each of the words to play BINGO! This was a great culminating activity, and super engaging! I even had a student be the caller so that they had all of the ownership in this game.
Like I said before, this product is so JAM PACKED with amazing resources, that we didn't even get to use all of the activities! Here's a look at a few of the things that we didn't get to:
-In Circus Order
-Under The Big Top Spelling
-Order Up The Greatest Show
-Scrabble Spelling
-Three Ring Words
Do you think this product would be a perfect fit for your class? I'm excited that I get to give one away to a lucky winner! Enter the rafflecopter below for your chance to win this fabulous product!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Don't forget to visit Leslie's blog to enter to win my K-2 Writing Office & continue to hop around!

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Friday, April 17, 2015

Exploring Cross Curricular Connections

Hey there! Happy Spring Break to anyone else who is also enjoying some "relaxation" this week. Because I'm a total NERD, I spent my first 5 days of break at two different PDs {which is why I am blogging a bit later this month- thanks to my lovely friend, Lauren, who swapped days with me!!}. It was pretty neat to see the content of this blog post that I have been planning for a while now discussed at one of the SDE sessions! It was nice to see that I'm on the right track. 
First, let me say that achieving cross curricular connections is not as daunting as it seems! Since my curriculum is pretty much set in stone, I cannot teach thematically. However, making cross curricular connections is how I make sure that our lessons MAKE SENSE to my kiddos. I don't want them to think that reading can only be done at reading time, writing can only be done at writing time, etc. I want my students to see that all learning is intertwined!
For the past few weeks, we have been reading nonfiction texts. Since The Very Hungry Caterpillar is one of my favorite Eric Carle books, I decided to read it after we read a few nonfiction texts about caterpillars and butterflies. We spent some time discussing how this fiction book is different from the nonfiction texts we read.
My students are absolutely in love with this book, so when they saw me bring it out to read it again during math time, they were super excited! So how did I incorporate The Very Hungry Caterpillar into math and our measurement unit? We started by making our very own caterpillars. I gave everyone a full sheet of 12x18 construction paper, and let them rip or cut the paper into any size that they wanted. They loved the ownership that this gave them.
Next, they scrunched their caterpillars like a fan, and made it as tiny as it could. 
I let them choose whatever they wanted to measure their caterpillars with! Literally, anything- legos, unifix cubes, colored tiles, dice, base 10 blocks, crayons- anything! They could not believe that I wasn't telling them what to use. Who knew a little choice could go such a long way!
My students had to use all of the measurement rules to accurately measure the small caterpillar. Then, they chose three things that they wanted their caterpillars to eat, and recorded them on the sheet. They did not have to use the food from the book, but many referred to the book for help with spelling {what smarties!}.
Since everyone's caterpillars ate a lot of yummy food, they obviously grew! My students stretched out their caterpillars as much as they could, and remeasured them using the same units of measure that they originally chose. They recorded the caterpillars' new lengths, and we had a discussion about how much each caterpillar grew!
We needed a way to display our caterpillars, so why not throw in a little art?! I am not normally this adventurous, but I wanted to add some FUN in to this culminating activity. I showed my kiddos how to paint with watercolors, and we painted backgrounds for our caterpillars! {Thankfully, there were no spills!}
We glued our caterpillars to our backgrounds, and attached our recording sheets! I can't wait to hang these projects up when we return from Spring Break! Make sure to stop by my blog next week to see how they look! Do you have a cross curricular lesson or activity that you love? I'd love to hear about it in the comments!! Happy Friday, everyone!

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Thursday, April 9, 2015

How I Got My Kids EXCITED About Measurement!

As I'm sure all of you know because of my obnoxious Instagram posts {not sorry!}, I am a fur mom! I brought my wonderful baby boy home almost 3 weeks ago, and he is definitely keeping me entertained {and on my toes}!!! 
Well, my kiddos know all about Dexter too. They are constantly asking to see pictures and videos, and had so much to ask me when I returned from picking him up. They love him almost as much as I do! That's why, in the middle of our measurement unit when I was feeling like length, width, height, and weight were getting a little dull, I decided to focus on something that they would be excited about… DEXTER!
This lesson was totally a spur of the moment idea, and it's funny because I always fine that my best lessons aren't the ones that I've planned for weeks! Is it like that for you too?
I wanted to challenge my kinders, so I decided to step out of the box and see how they would tackle the lesson themselves. I grabbed some popsicle sticks and some unifix cubes. I told my kiddos that I measured Dexter with popsicle sticks, and he was 2 popsicle sticks long. Then, I measured him again with unifix cubes, and found that he was 16 unifix cubes long. My question to them was: I think he will be 3 popsicle sticks long next month, so how many unifix cubes long will he be?
I only gave my students 3 popsicle sticks and 16 unifix cubes. I told them that they needed to figure out how to solve the problem without taking any more cubes! This really stumped some of them, but it was AMAZING to see their thought process throughout this whole lesson.
I think almost all of my kids tried to start at 16 and continue counting until their finger reached the end of the third popsicle stick. They were so convinced that they had the answer, and was disappointed when I told them to keep trying! Two little mathematicians worked through it until they solved the problem! I was amazed with their thinking, so I had them record their process in their journals, and then share with the class.

One of the students showed their process on the document camera, while the other explained it to the class. I am not sure why they chose a triangle shape, but it worked for them! They figured out that if 2 popsicle sticks are 16 cubes long, then 1 popsicle stick would be 8 cubes long. If you add 8 three times, you get 24!
Then, I had them check their answer using extra unifix cubes. The class was shocked by their discovery!
I hope this post has given you a little inspiration to get your kiddos excited about learning!!
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Saturday, April 4, 2015

You Oughta Know!

Hi friends! I'm super excited to be linking up with Buzzing With Mrs. McClain for her You Oughta Know blog hop!
So today, I think that you ought know about...
Do you have iPads in your classroom? Do your students use them for educational purposes like a Daily 5 rotation, part of your guided reading block, part of your math block, or for phonics instruction? There are a million and one ways that iPads can be used in the classroom for educational purposes, and just as many apps to go with them! But, it's always a hassle to make sure your kiddos STAY on the app or website that they should be using!

I am so thankful that my teammate, Barb, introduced me to this fabulous iPad feature called guided access. You can completely lock your students into an app or a website with just a few simple clicks! I created a little video tutorial to explain how to use guided access, and I'd love to share it with you!
This feature has completely changed the use of iPads in my classroom and allowed me the ability to focus more on my instruction and less on classroom management! I hope you find this teacher tip helpful! If you have any questions or comments, please comment below! I'd love to hear your thoughts!


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