Sunday, September 14, 2014

Daily 5: Launching Read to Self - Building Reading Stamina

Hey friends! This year, we're implementing a Daily 5 model for literacy and we are loving the different choices. Our block still looks a lot like centers, but I'm hoping to introduce choice at the beginning of next week!

On the 1st day of school, I introduced reading stamina and we starting practicing right away. Since I didn't know the reading levels of my students, I went ahead and pre-loaded our Really Good Stuff book bins with 5-6 books of varying reading levels. After using Reading A-Z's benchmark system, my students now know which books are 'just-right'. When they fill their book bins, they have 5 'just-right' books and 1 'just-for-fun' book, which can be any level.
While introducing Read-to-Self, I introduced the term - "stamina". Our conversation went like this - "Friends, I love running. My goal is to run a marathon this spring. A marathon is 26 miles. (ooooooo) If I went out and tried to run 26 miles, could I? No! Of course not. I have not built my running stamina. But if I start practicing now and run more and more, will I be ready? Yes! The same is true for reading. If I asked you to sit down and read for 20 minutes without stopping, could you? No! You haven't built your reading stamina. Is that okay? Absolutely! Just like I need to build my running stamina, we need to build our reading stamina. It is going to be AWESOME!"

Now that we were so very excited, we made our very, not-fancy Read-to-Self "I Chart" about how we will become better readers. We talked about the ways to read (words and pictures) and then, what our jobs are, and what to do if someone comes in the room (ignore them unless they ask you a specific question). Then, it was time to try it out! 
Once small groups of students grab their book bins and meet me on the carpet, we find our just-right spots. I'll be honest - hand-placing students in reading spots did not work for me. It took FOREVER and seemed silly. After our first day of building stamina, we talked about 'just-right' reading spots, and I began letting students choose their own. Most of my friends prefer small corners and spaces, but others (like the friend below) prefer stomach-reading. :) Having students picking their own spot from the very beginning has worked well. There is only 1 student who no longer has the choice on where to sit, and gradually he'll earn more choice.
When 1 student has broken stamina, I ring our bell 3 times and students know to quickly and quietly meet me on the floor to reflect. We write 'Pluses' and 'Deltas' on the SMART Board. Then, we take a moment to graph our stamina as a class. It has been so motivating for students to have a visual. Who doesn't want a taller bar graph?!? When we make it to 12 minutes of reading stamina, we will stop practicing stamina and just review after breaks or when we've forgotten how to become a better reader. You may grab this graph here or by clicking below!

As you can see, our first venture was short. Very short. 1 min and 42 seconds. Oy! Lots of room to grow, right?! ;) Slowly but surely, with more practice, we have grown SO much as readers. Just last week (when I took this photo), we hit 10 minutes of reading stamina!
We have been so excited about each victory and my students are becoming much better readers. It has been a S.L.O.W. process, but completely worth it. It has required patience and a whole lot of carpet reflections and a lot of - "Will __________ this make us a better reader?" But, this seems to be the story with 1st grade - patience, practice, questions, smiling, try again. It's a nice pattern, and we're all getting the hang of it.

The best part? I see a genuine excitement for reading in my students. They want to share their library books with me. They are reading in the gym before school starts. They love Mo Williams. There is a willingness to try hard things.

To me, this is the victory of reading stamina and Daily 5. Yes, there are a lot of wrinkles to iron out (i.e. independence), but the small victories are there! So, tell me, what are your victories in your reading block?

Saturday, September 13, 2014

What's on Your iPad Dashboard?

Happy Saturday, friends! I hope this lovely, fall-feeling day has treated you well.

This week I am presenting at my first conference, so I have spent today putting the final touches on my presentation: Technology-Based Assessment. During one of my 'Social Media breaks' I shared this picture on Instagram. After some questions, I decided to take another break and share more about part of my presentation - organizing your iPad Dashboard for easy accessibility!


Why utilize the dashboard?

Keeping your iPad dashboard up-to-date with resources your students are using, gives students easy access to resources. It allows students to gain independence and autonomy when using technology in the classroom. Keeping an up-to-date dashboard is also a great visual reminder of what's important in your classroom. Am I focusing on skill-specific apps or more robust apps that have applications across multiple subjects?
 What's on our dashboards?


What's on our 1st Grade Dashboard?

i-nigma: our preferred QR Code Scanner. Want to learn more about QR Codes? Check out these posts.




Booksy: a fantastic (paid) app that allows students to keep a bookshelf of high-interest books (Dinosaurs, Germs, Mars, Insects, Bats). Each book can be read aloud to students and includes great multi-media features
Spelling and Vocabulary City: with a free and paid version, Spelling City is the perfect place to practice our differentiated spelling lists, as well as, take practice tests


Bitsboard: a very diverse app that provides mini-lessons and practice activities covering a variety of topics/content areas. You download the specific lessons or skill you want to target on your 'BitsBoard' and then may actually create your own modules.


ShowMe: an easy-to-use platform for students to show what they know and talk about their learning. While writing on the iPad, students can record their voice - creating a tutorial or presentation over the specific skill or content being taught


Socrative: a simple tool for intentionally tracking formative assessment data. Teachers upload quizzes for their students and get live-feedback as their students complete the assessment. The data can then be emailed or downloaded to track student progress. *Fingers crossed* I'll be introducing this app to my 1st graders this week! :)



What was on our 5th Grade Dashboard?


NearPod: an interactive, audience-dependent avenue for teaching content and informally assessing student understanding along the way. Using NearPod, every student has the presentation at his/her fingertips.


NewsEla: a website that offers current events and news articles for teachers and students, as well as, Common-Core aligned comprehension quizzes. Read how we used it in our classroom here. There is not a NewsEla app; rather, I created the icon using the website link. Learn how to do this here.
i-nigma: our preferred QR Code Scanner.


Socrative: a simple tool for intentionally tracking formative assessment data. Teachers upload quizzes for their students and get live-feedback as their students complete the assessment. The data can then be emailed or downloaded to track student progress. We used this EVERY DAY to take our flashbacks at the beginning of class and our exit slips at the end of class.


Safari: for our daily research and question needs


Dropbox: an easy resource for file sharing and uploading. Each of my students had a folder on our DropBox where they could store articles they want to read, their research, or their assignments

So, please tell me, What is on your iPad Dashboard?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Organizing On-Demand Writing: The 4 Square Planner

Teaching on-demand writing was my most dreaded 50 minutes of 5th grade each day. It was frustrating, agonizing, and filled with tears, crumpled papers, mangled erasers, and very terrible writing. Terrible. We weren’t able to write a single, cohesive paragraph. In fact, we spent the first 9 weeks of school, learning to writing paragraphs. 9 WEEKS. And still, our paragraphs were weak at best.

It was an uphill battle. It was hard. Really hard. My kids came to me unable to write a parapgrah, but in the Spring were expected to take a 90 minute state writing test that required a 5-paragraph essay with a thesis statement, 3 main ideas, supporting details, and conclusion paragraph. Oy! After observing writing at another school, I found our saving grace for the year - 4 Square Planning.

Finding a way for students to organize their ideas and thoughts completely changed our year and my students' writing. We were successful, and by the end of the year, my kids were decent writers. I saw thesis statements and main ideas and supporting details. There were no more torn papers or tears. After a very rocky start, writing was a successful venture. 

I've shared about how we used and adapted the 4 Square Planner (a writing tool created by the awesome Judy Gould) in 5th grade on Laura Candler's Corkboard Connections. Stop by Laura's blog to see my student's planning in action!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Mailbox Magazine Giveaway! #bethedifference

 Mailbox Magazine is one of the most trusted names in educational publishing. I remember Mailbox Magazine when I was in elementary school 15 years ago (what?!). So when they contacted me about participating in their #BeTheDifference campaign, I was thrilled to join!
Mailbox wants to know how we, as teachers, make a difference in the lives of our students. They sent me a fun little box of goodies to do this. We pulled it out the 2nd day of school (I wasn't brave enough the first) for the Name Game. 6 of my 23 friends our new to our school this year, and they come from all different classes. To be a team, we had to know each other's names! We gathered in a large circle around the room and toss the ball to each other. Before you passes the ball, students had to say, "My name is ___________ and I am passing the ball to my friend ___________." Students had to be engaged because they could not pass the ball to someone who had already caught it. We timed ourselves to see how quickly we could get to the entire class, trying to beat our time each round! After PLENTY of rounds, we finally made it below 2 minutes - ha. 

From name games that make everyone feel apart of your classroom team to sharing your favorite reads, how do you make a difference for your kids? I would love to hear your fun and simple ideas to use with my sweet firsties! The Mailbox wants to know and there are some pretty awesome prizes for telling them. Head over to their Facebook Page. Look for the #BeTheDifference tab & click.
They are also giving away a Mailbox Gold subscription to TEN lucky blog readers! You can learn more about Mailbox Gold in this video. Now, this is a quick giveaway so act fast! If you are a winner your name will appear on the Rafflecopter widget as soon as the giveaway is over and I'll forward your email address to the fine folks at The Mailbox. Good luck and go #BeTheDifference!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Working our Way to 120: Games and Centers

Hi, friends! Over the past week, we have been working hard to make our way to 120. We put off starting our first unit in Go Math to build some foundations and make turning pages in our books MUCH easier. :) As five and six-years olds, we are definitely concrete learners. Our first-grade friends love things they can touch, explore, and physically see. This meant while we had to build number sense with the 120s chart, it also had to be 'real' for our friends. Below are some of our favorite activities and games! :)

The first day we started our 120s learning, we used the 120s chart as a pre-assessment - Write as far as your can on the 120s chart. Out of my 23 friends, 1 friend made it. Then, everyday we spent 10-12 minutes to re-try each day. Our goal? To become 120 Champions! What does every 120 Champion need? A goal medal, of course. ;) As students made it to 120, we had an Olympic Medal Ceremony. I became an Olympic Announcer, we played Olympic Music from YouTube, and I put the Olympic Rings on our SMART Board for students to stand in front of. After being awarded their medal (purchased from WalMart's party section), the crowd went wild and students threw their hands up in the air. It was rather dramatic and awesome. Our first-grade class was given a very hard task. We practiced and succeeded!
I have one 1st-grade friend who is easily overwhelmed with written tasks we complete. We're working on building that 'grit' factor, but until we can complete academic tasks without crying, I help him breakdown tasks. An easily solution for the 120s chart is to fold it over 2 rows at a time. After your friend writes 20 numbers, they can show you the chart, you can celebrate, he/she can grab a drink a water of and then, you unveil the next two rows. Each day, our goal was to get 1 fold lower! It took us a week-and-a-half, but HE MADE IT!!! I was so proud of him, he received his gold medal, and he didn't cry. We learned that he CAN do hard things. Woohoo!!
We also spent time looking and playing with patterns on the 120s chart. Before making our 120s number lines, students hunted for 'patterns', that we then highlighted on our own charts. Friends, I'll admit - this is hit or miss. Some of my friends 'saw' the patterns while others just highlighted it...BUT eventually it will come. These are patterns I can't just 'tell' students about and they'll believe them. Students have to spend enough time working with the chart before it 'clicks'. We will continue using and working with these patterns in RtI and math centers until we all have our wow moments. 
Another great game for recognizing number patterns on the 100s chart, as well as, 'before' and 'after' is SPLAT online! We played as a class on our SMART Board. Using different paint colors, students can visualize patters on the chart. We also played that students would take turns making number puzzles, "I'm think of a number that is one more than 15." Everyone would circle it on their 100s chart (at their desk using a dry erase marker) and then, one special friend would SPLAT a number on the board.
After highlighting patterns on our 120s chart, we turned our charts into number lines! This was a Lightbulb Moment for so many of my friends. "The 120s Chart is actually just a number line?? Say what?!?!" If you try any activity in this post with your friends, this is the ONE! I blogged about it earlier in the month; you'll definitely want to check it out here.
We've also been Racing to 120 with a partner. Using laminated 120s charts, clear counters, and a dice, students have been getting hands-on practice with the hundreds chart. As students move their piece, I asked that they say the number they are passing - just to make sure we have practice calling all the numbers to 120 by their names! For groups that were ready, they were given 2 dice to roll at a time.
 We're also loving our 120 Puzzles. I snagged a 120s chart from online, quickly cut each puzzle into 10-12 pieces, and placed each puzzle in a Ziploc bag. During our whole-group time, students worked with their table to make the puzzles (each player taking a turn placing a piece before the next partner could go), and during centers, students had the choice to work individually or with a partner. If you have multiple puzzles going, make sure to write a letter or number on the back of each puzzle in the set so you can easily sort the sets if they get mixed up!

 Also, a highlight of our day is always Jack Martmann's "Count to 100 Everyday" Song. It is a blast and gets my first-grade friends up and moving. Each decade is accompanied with a different exercise (windmills, running in place, shoulder shrugs). Since Jack's song only goes to 100, we finish the last 20 numbers acapella. ;)
It was a fabulous first look at 120, and we had a great time practicing. After practicing as a class, we were able to use the games and activities in math centers. This definitely won't be our only look at 120, but it is a great starting place. PLUS, my friends can now turn the pages in our Reading Textbook - woohoo!!! :)

What are your favorite 120s activities? We're always looking for ideas for our RtI groups, as well as, centers, so please do share!