Thursday, December 12, 2013

Teaching Sentences

Why is it so hard to get first graders to understand sentences? I have tried so many methods over the years and this one is FINALLY working!

I did a class mini-lesson about the 3 things a strong sentences need:
Starts with a CAPITAL letter.
Has spaces between the words.
Has an End mark (. or ! or ?)

I created this chart to help reinforce my teaching and remind them in their day-to-day writing (sorry about the string in the's from my old-school pull down screen):

One of my colleagues tried this in her classroom and a student said, 
"Finally...something we can actually use!" :) 

Happy Sentence Writing!!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Meeting Greetings

Each morning, we start our class meeting with a greeting. I write our greetings on large Popsicle sticks and store them in a cute mini-pail from Target. As we learn new greetings, we keep adding to the collection (and we take away those we get tired of!). 

Here are some class' favorite greetings:

One approach is to learn different ways to greet each other in different languages:
Italian: "Ciao __________."
French: "Bonjour __________."
Spanish: "Hola ____________."
Korean: "An nyoung __________."
Chinese: "Ni hao __________."
Swahili: "Jambo ____________."
You can also add a greeting called "Around the World." Each student chooses a language to greet the next when standing in a circle. This works best when you have learned a lot of greetings in other languages! You can also include English greetings in this,too.

Another type of greeting my class enjoys is a "name game" type greeting:

Hello Everyone: Together the class sings this song, "Hello everyone, what do you say, it's gonna' be a happy day. So greet your neighbor /shake-shake-shake/ (gather hands and shake), and boogie on down /boogie-boogie-boogie/ (do a little twist dance), give 'em a bump /bump-bump/ (gently bumping hips), and turn around (turn)." A nice variation is changing the type of day (happy--> fun, exciting, great).

Jump Jump: The class sings this song and repeats until each child has a turn. (To the tune of BINGO) "There is a kid who's in our class and _____is his name-o, jump jump _____, jump jump ______, jump jump ______, and ______is his name-o."

1 Minute Hello: Sounds simple but the kids LOVE it! Set a timer for 1 minute. They mingle around greeting each other, "Hello ______."

What Do you See: This is a class chant set to the rhythm of "Brown Bear." "__(name)____, __(name)__ who do you see?" the child responds using another child's name, "I see _______ looking at me." Continue until all children have been named. 

Fishing: One child stands in the center of the circle. He/she makes a gesture like casting a fishing rod toward another child. That child becomes the "fish on the line" and swims into the center. Both children greet and switch places. The new child in the center becomes the fisher person and the game continues until everyone has had a turn.

Say Your Name: A song that is great for practicing syllables with names. All sing, "Say your name and when you do, we will clap it back to you." That child then states his/her name and the class responds by clapping it in syllables. Repeat until everyone has had a turn.

Eyes Closed: This is another one that is so simple but my class really enjoys it. A child goes to the center and everyone else in the circle closes their eyes. The child in the center says, "Good morning _(name)__." That child can open his or her eyes, go to the center of the circle, and greet that child. The first child returns to the circle with eyes open. Everyone else remains eyes closed until they are called. Repeat by greeting another child with his or her eyes closed. It's interesting to have a discussion after this one to see how it felt to have eyes closed for that long.

Hope this has given you some ideas for new meeting greetings! Comment below if you have more.
I am always on the look out for more great greetings!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Name Stories

One of my favorite projects of the whole first grade year is the "name story." It's so simple...ask the kids to go home and ask their family about the story of their name. Then they record it in their own first grade writing (which makes it extra adorable!) on a lined page. This year I found a really cute way to display them in the classroom, too.

I pasted each child's name story on a piece of construction paper, stapled 2 together on one edge, then stapled it to the bulletin board like the open pages of a book. I printed a large 8 x 10 picture of each kid on a color copier, cut it out, and placed it behind. It's made a super fun and attractive 3-D display of some very special stories!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Reading Super Powers!

Emerging readers are growing a collection of strategies to use in their reading work for determining unknown words. Instead of calling them strategies with my readers (though they do know that term, too) we call them SUPER POWERS! It is more motivating and it sets the tone of bravery with word solving (not just trying to sound it out then helplessly looking at the teacher). Here's how it works:
Each reader is presented with their very own "Reading Super Powers" strategy card inside a plastic page protector. It helps to present it in a very ceremonial way, possibly even wearing a cape! As they learn new strategies, a reminder post-it is added to their super powers card. This happens gradually over time through reading groups and in conferring. I present different strategies depending on each reader's growth.

When children read on their own, they have the super powers card close by to remind them of their strategies. If they come to an unknown word...HAVE NO FEAR! YOUR SUPER POWERS CARD IS NEAR!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Author's Celebration

One of my favorite times in the classroom is our Author's celebrations. It's the time when we celebrate all the brave work the children have been doing in writer's workshop and the growth they have made as writers. This past week we had our first Author's Celebration of the year. This is how we celebrated:

We designated a shelf in our classroom library to hold our special published books and had a shelf opening ceremony...

Each author wore a name tag during the school day to advertise their accomplishment (We got these great name tags from the Really Good Stuff catalogue)...

And we shared published books with classmates and collected autographs on the back page of the book.
It was a day of pride for my writers (Their teacher was pretty proud, too)!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Teaching Readers to Warm-Up with a Book.

Young readers benefit from previewing a book before diving in to read it. It helps them get a sense of what the story will be about and to begin to think about the words they may see in the text. I used to call this routine a "picture walk" but I've come to discover that strong readers are really doing more than just looking at the pictures when they warm up. Also, it's a good habit to preview books that don't even have consistent pictures. For these reasons, I've started calling it a "book walk" or just "warming up" with a book.

This is the chart is use with my class as I am introducing this process. I use real pictures of the actual book I used as a model (a favorite...Wishy Washy Day!):
The rest of the chart is just sentence strips of various colors. Keeping these separate helps me to build the chart gradually as I introduce the process to the class. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Organizing Technology

Laptops, iPods, iPads...OH MY! Actually, I'm very lucky to have these great technology resources in my classroom but organizing them can be a nightmare. Especially organizing them in a way that kids can take on the job of taking care of these devices. Here's a few handy tips I've discovered:

Earphones can be stored in those sturdy re-usable sandwich bags:
A pot lid rack (mine is from Target) makes a great stand for laptops and iPads.
To keep the power cords in place, clip some 1 inch butterfly clips on the shelf below and run the cord through to hold it. I tuck a power strip behind the rack for all of the plugs.

Friday, November 1, 2013

WOW words!

It happens all the time to're reading along in a book and you all of the sudden come to an AMAZING word. It might be a really long word that you have to figure out, it might be a unique word, or just a word that's fun to say. My class collects these words on our chart of WOW words!
Most of the time these words come up in our class read aloud books. When it happens, simply write them on a post it and put it on the WOW words chart. Eventually, kids start to do this with their own reading and post-it work. Readers and writers can't have enough WOW words!! Keep collecting!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

When I'm Done, I've Just Begun

It's a common mantra in writer's workshop, "When I'm done, I've Just begun!" This chart is my most 'pinned' item on Pinterest (and a very popular chart in our classroom!):

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Keeping Track of Writing Partners

Maybe this sounds like your have writing partners, you make one partner "partner one" and the other partner "partner two," you ask them to turn and talk with "partner one" going first, and NO ONE has any idea who is "partner one" (including the teacher)! To solve this dilemma in my classroom, I hung a small chart below my teaching easel listing partner 1 and partner 2. Now there is no confusion at all!

PS...I also assign the more "proficient partner" as #1 so if I know it's something a little more challenging I'll have partner 1 go first to make it easier for partner 2. The kids don't know's my little teaching secret!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Start the Day with Morning Meeting!

Morning meeting is such a special time in our class. It helps to build a strong and positive community of friends and learners.  I seem to play around with the format each year, but here's a look at what we're doing this year in our meeting time:
Morning Message 
Schedule of the Day
Counting the Days of School
Class Jobs (Change weekly)
Lunch Menu
Pledge of Allegiance
This is our meeting board:
Here's a closer look at some of the elements:
Top left: Calendar. Children add a shape with the number of the day to practice patterns.
Top right: Our class leader selects of our greeting and activities from buckets with labeled craft sticks. We add new one (and remove tired ones!) as the year goes on. These little metal buckets are from the $1 section of Target!
Bottom left: We use the practice clock with moveable hands and a format for practicing writing digital time. This is introduced mid-year when we begin practicing telling time in our math curriculum.
Bottom right: Some of our team activities have records that we keep and try to break. We post these in our meeting area using dry erase markers on laminated shapes (a hot dog for the game "Hot Dog," a ball shape for "Silent ball").
Here's a close up of our JOBS Chart:
The class helps come up with the ideas for class jobs at the beginning of the year. Each student has a job and they jobs change on a weekly basis. We keep track of that using this mini-pocket chart (another find in the $1 section of Target!)
Enjoy your morning meetings!