Saturday, October 15, 2016

Conferring in Writer's Workshop

Conferring. It's my favorite part of writer's workshop for so many reasons:
  • You get to spend time one-on-one with each child in your class (that doesn't happen often!)
  • They get to tell you all about their life, their stories, their efforts...
  • You get to affirm their strengths.
  • You get to teach them as an individual and empower them as a writer. It's so amazing!
My most challenging part of conferring is note taking. For years, I struggled to find a system that works for me. I tried a grid for the whole class, I tried post-its, I tried a notebook...I tried it all! Finally, after many years of tweaking, I landed on this individual note taking sheet for each student. It's not perfect but it's been working well for me!

Each unit, I print one for each student and I three hole punch them. Instead of putting them in a binder (hate the bulk of that when conferring!), I put a metal ring through one corner. This also allows me to divide the notes up when I have other adults helping me (lucky me...I have a part-time assistant and a language arts resource teacher who come to my writer's workshop from time to time). 

Each writer's workshop, I select a few students who I plan to meet with and put their note taking sheets on a clipboard with a laminated "cheat sheet" of teacher prompts that coincide with the parts of the conference: "Research," "Compliment," "Teach," "Guided Practice," and "Link." Having these on hand helps me to keep my conferences running smoothly and efficiently.

I also created spaces on the note-taking sheet for "folder checks." This helps to keep me accountable to peeking inside my writers' folders from time to time to get a big picture of how their work is progressing. From these folder checks, I usually make note of some kids that would benefit from small group work on a particular skill (ie. punctuation, spacing, producing a greater volume of writing, or a specific teaching point of the genre.) I record notes from these small group sessions in the "Other notes" section. 

At the end of the unit, I file each students notes in their individual file so I can have them on hand for conference prep and report card writing. I use a binder system for storing my student records so it's easy to pop these notes in since they are already 3-hole punched. 

There are SO many ways to keep records when conferring but this one has worked the best for me so far. Happy conferring!

Note taking sheet and Cheat-Sheet are available at my TPT store:

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

MORE Morning Meeting Activities

My posting about class activities is BY FAR the most popular posting I have ever done. It has been pinned on Pinterest more than 500 times!! SO, that has inspired me to do a follow-up post.

I can never get enough ideas for Morning Meeting activities. You've got to keep them fresh and inspiring so your class doesn't tire of the same old, same old. Here is a list of more activities you can do during your morning meeting...or anytime your class needs a little brain break!

Here Come's the Judge: The kids like this game so much you would never know its main purpose is to sneak in some more spelling/sight word practice. To play you will need several small whiteboards (we use the lined kind), whiteboard markers, and erasers. You might also set up 4-5 chairs for the "contestants" but it's not necessary. To begin, the meeting leader calls 4-5 contestants for the first round. The contestants take their places with a white board and marker. Then the leader calls out a word from the class word wall. The contestants carefully spell the word with their best handwriting. When all contestants have finished, the class sings (to the tune of "Here comes the Bride"): "Here comes the judge, here comes the judge." The judge then carefully studies all of the contestants words and declares a winner based on best spelling and handwriting. The winner becomes the new judge and the game repeats until all children have had a turn.

What Did I Change?: This game is a simple game but you will be amazed at how thoughtful and calm your class will be while playing. Form a "sitting circle." Select one person to go in the middle. They should slowly turn around so you can study what they look like. Then that person retreats to the hallway briefly to change one thing about their outfit, shoes, hair, etc. When they return, they step into the circle and slowly rotate while the class studies again looking for changes. The person in the circle can begin calling on children who try to guess what has changed. Continue until someone finally guesses correctly. That person can then come into the center of the circle and repeat the process.

Piggy Bank: I invented this game after I noticed my class having a difficult time with counting coins. You can play this game with any denomination of coin but we like to play with quarters because it's most challenging! Gather in a standing circle. Each person is given a quarter and you place an empty container/basket/bowl in the center of the circle. It is a timed game so you will also need a timer. Determine the "piggy bank" goal (ie. the total that will be banked). We like to do 100 cents or $1. The first person begins by saying the value of their coin (ie. "25 cents") then they pass it to the next person and they say the new total ("50 cents) continue passing the coins until you get the total. That person says, "$1...Piggy Bank!" and drops the coins in the container in the center. Continue the process until all coins have been banked. The goal is to be able to do it as quickly as possible. We like to keep a "Piggy Bank" record posted on our wall. Each time we try to beat our record!

World Ball: This game was actually made up by a student! All you need is one of those inflatable globe balls. The class should stand in a circle and the leader starts with the ball. They toss it to a classmate and he/she names an ocean or continent or country they can identify on the globe. Then he/she tosses it to someone else. Continue until all children have had a chance to name something on the globe. Ta-da! Geography practice!

Hope this has given you some more ideas for getting your class moving and working together!    

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

I consider myself to be pretty "tech savvy." I blog, tweet, post, pin, program. I thought I had seen it all  ...until I saw THIS:

It looks like an ordinary book....

But download the IMAG-N-O-TRON app...

And hold the iPad over the pages and THIS happens...

MIND BLOWN!!! I've learned the term for this technology is "augmented reality" (AR for short). As someone who thought I had seen it all, I absolutely HAD to understand how this works. My best explanation is that it's similar to a QR code but instead the app is programmed to recognize the specific pictures as the "target." Once it recognizes the target, it triggers corresponding audio and video overlay.'s just magic!!!

I'm going to try having my tech savvy first graders create their own augmented reality experiences using an app called Aurasma.

It's not quite as impressive as the examples seen in The Fantastic Flying Books of Morris Lessmore, but it will be a start at introducing them to this amazing use of technology. The possibilities for augmented reality in our daily lives are endless! I think there's a lot more to come. Just check out the Ikea app!!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Go Noodle

The website that will change your life...

'Tis the season for lots of indoor recess, at least where I live in Minnesota, and this website is a life saver! It is the best collection of brain breaks I have ever found on the web. So easy to use and kids LOVE it...they BEG for it...they borderline worship it!

All you have to do is sign your class up...

Choose a "champ" (a mascot for your class)...

And get started selecting from an always growing collection of brain breaks!
They have activities designed to calm, energize, and challenge.
Most take only a minute or two and will leave your class refreshed and ready for more learning.

So...sign up and GO NOODLE!!