Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A Thanksgiving Directed Draw

Happy Thanksgiving break, friends! Today I'm sharing our first venture into in-class art: watercolor paintings. Enjoy the mess and adorable pictures. :)
It terms of supplies, there is a considerable initial cost to art in the classroom.If you don't have classroom money left or personal funds to use, consider posting an arts-based project on Donors Choose! Under the influence and direction of Katie King (Queen of the First Grade Jungle) I ordered a class set of Prang Watercolors and 80 pound paper from DickBlick using a 25% off coupon. I also snagged black permanent markers and individual water bowls from Amazon under the direction of The Wonder Teacher.
We started drawing using pencils. I drew on the WhiteBoard and my friends drew at their seats. We used a "Monkey See, Monkey Do" method. In terms of directions, I really just winged it. I started with a triangle for the nose and a gobbler. Then, we added a circle for the face and a body for the turkey. Next, we added feathers. As we drew together, we talked about using the WHOLE page, and going with our gut (so we did not leave too many pencil marks). After students drew their turkey, they traced their lines with black permanent marker.
After tracing our work, we started painting. Using The Wonder Teacher's terminology, we talked about making our paints really juicy with water. This was a HUGE learning curve for my students as their tendency was to dig in the paint and not add enough water. We chanted, "Swirl, swirl, swirl in the water. Puddle in the paint." a lot. ;)

Beware, this is a messy process and the first time it does require a solid chunk of time. We had to press pause for specials/lunch, and this is our art-tornado.

Overall, it was the most wonderful day. My friends absolutely loved the chance to work with watercolors, and they LOVE art. They worked so intently and quietly to get everything 'just right'. Plus, it was a fabulous lesson in flexibility and going with the flow. 

It was such a successful and fun venture. If you have the funding and opportunity, give art a chance. With our first watercolor-experience, it was skill-based (learning how to watercolor). Moving forward, I'm looking forward to integrating art into our reading curriculum, especially as we start our research unit. So, get together your art supplies and stay tuned! :)

Monday, November 24, 2014

Digital Publishing: Creating Books on the iPad

Today was our first venture into Digital Publishing, so I wanted to stop by and share our experiences with it in 1st grade. Per Common Core, students are expected to "With guidance and support from adults, use a variety of digital tools to produce and publish writing." 
A 2-day week was a perfect time to set the foundation for the standard - how to use digital tools to publish our ideas. Before beginning the publishing process, we took the time to map out our ideas - "For what are we thankful?" I used this graphic organizer to help focus and guide students (you can grab it here for free). This writing was fairly guided, but it is our first attempt. As we become more comfortable with the technology, I will definitely bump-up my expectations and demands on students!

Once students finished brainstorming, I taught them how to use the app, My Story, as a whole group. With a whole-group lesson, I introduced just the basics (the name of the app, where to find it on the dashboard, how to create an author portfolio, and how to create a new book), and taught the specifics (adding text, taking pictures, adding illustrations) in smaller groups while the rest of my friends participated in some Thanksgiving-themed ELA centers. Before you start all this teaching, make sure to add the My Story app to the bottom dashboard. This eliminates a layer of stress and worry for students. Placing an app onto the Dashboard gives students easy access to it.
There is a $3.99 cost to the My Story app, but in my classroom, completely worth it! After a few basic trainings (how to capitalize letters, how to go back and add words, how to space, etc.) the app is very intuitive. Students can easily add pictures, drawings, text, and audio. I did work with students in 18 minute small-groups on basics of the app. After the first 6-7 students, students were comfortable exploring the app themselves and ready to create their first book. I did stay close by to answer questions, of which there were many. 
Overall, it was a successful (but stressful) first venture. I definitely should have brought a Diet Coke today. :) My friends were awesome. It was me who forgot they are SIX (not 5th graders!) - ha. It was a great lesson in patience as I used my words - not my hands - to explain how to work with this publishing app. 

As students worked, I asked that they finish all the text before adding illustrations or audio. Students added their 4-5 pages of text, then added their illustrations/photos, and lastly, they added their audio.
 Out of my 23 friends, 11 friends published their Thankful Books today. Typically, I would not want or expect students to finish in such a small about of time...BUT we are confined to 2 days, our goal was learning the technology - developing our writing will come later, and they are 1st graders. There is an aura of awesomeness to publishing a book!

As you'll see below, students had a lot of choice when creating their books - text color, background color, type of illustration (hand-drawing, photo, clipart graphics, or a combination of all 3). You'll also notice the green play button at the bottom on of each picture, this is audio of students reading their book.
After publishing their books, we added the Thankful Books to our iBook Shelf on our iPads (so friends may read them), and I emailed the links to the books to our families. I love how My Story makes it easy to celebrate and share my friends awesome writing. Plus, all parents/grandparents/aunts love 1st-grader drawings, writing, spelling, and reading. It's just a fact, I say. ;)

 Well, friends, it really was a great - but exhausting - day. I definitely needed a Diet Coke, but my friends learned SO much about using iPads to share our writing, and they were thrilled to become real authors. It was such a sweet moment to see my friends' smiles as they shared their books with their friends. First grade rocks!

Monday, November 17, 2014

{Freebie} Subtraction Word Problem Mini-Book

Happy Monday, friends! Today we narrowly avoided a snow day (hip, hip hooray). I'm not always a no-snow-day supporter but (1) it's November (2) I want a full week in school (3) I didn't want to cut my Thanksgiving Break short (we would have lost next Wednesday!). So, therefore, yay for a full day of school!

Over the past few weeks, I have been taming our reading block to make sure I have time for guided math everyday. I typically meet with my lowest friends, and it is such valuable time together. Right now, we are in full-court-press mode with word problems. Moving more toward a "Number Talks" type of class, real-world math consumes more of our time together.
My friends need lots of word-problem practice, more than is provided by our math curriculum. So, I have started creating monthly, differentiated word-problem mini-books. Right now, we are working our way through Subtraction within 10 (with my sweet and lows) in turkey style. You can grab this free mini-book here!
While you're there, also check out my December Mini-Books. This set includes 3 mini-books for subtraction within 10, 15, and 25. This is a perfect resource for differentiating your math small groups or math centers!
Well friends, I'm headed to bed. It's 8:25 on a Monday, so you can definitely understand the need for sleep. :)

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Guided Reading: 1st Grade Style

The school year is in full swing, and we are now 3 weeks into choice with Daily 5. I know. It's crazy talk. My friends have become so independent and love the chance to guide their own learning. For me, it has been such an am amazing 'teacher moment'. There are so many times when I look-up from my teacher table and am filled with pride. My friends are doing it! :)
Of course, the reason we use a Daily 5 or Workshop schedule is so we can have that critically important guided-reading time with all of our readers, every day. Small group is when growth happens, and our beginning readers thrive during this time. 

A general breakdown of our time looks like this: 8-9 minutes reading selected text, 3 minutes text hunt focusing on weekly skill, 3-4 minutes connecting comprehension skill to our text/writing about our text/teaching a new center. 
Today I wanted to share what my guided reading time looks like. Since we've started making choices, the transition time between rotations has been extended. Therefore, I set-up my teacher table before school. That way, when other friends are making choices, the group of friends who are meeting with me can get started reading. I put a whiteboard on the bottom of the pile, a blends chart for my 2 lowest groups, and then, the book we're reading. 
 As their friends are making choices, my Teacher-Table group knows to get started reading whatever is in their spot. For my on-level groups, I do use our Reading Street basal.
These friends are also loving Reader's Theatre, so I like to throw in some fluency practice a few mornings a week. We are really enjoying these plays I picked up on Amazon. 
 For my below-grade-level friends, I pull from Reading A-Z, as well as, Simply Second's Vowel Pattern Books.
After we have finished the 'choice' part of the transition (normally lasting 2-3 minutes), I head to the teacher table and listen to a friend read. This is normally when I am doing a running record, a fluency assessment, or taking data for our tiered folders. When I need a writing utensil, I grab for this small, Ikea flower pot that sits on my desk. It's not fancy, but it does the job. Plus, it doesn't take up a lot of space on my teacher table.
Students reading to me, to themselves, and to a partner normally takes 8-9 minutes of our time together. After we've read our text for the day (at a whisper by ourselves and then, with a partner), we interact with the text focusing on our skill for the week. Right here you see a friends searching for plural and singular nouns. To make sure we all stay on track and don't waste any of our precious guided-reading time, I always set a timer for ~3 minutes. 
After our Skills Hunt, we focus on blends, digraphs, or long vowel sounds. 
I'll also use part of our guided reading time (normally no more than a few minutes) to teach new centers or activities students may have the choice to make in later weeks. Teaching Versatiles whole-class is just not possible. Students really do need that hands-on practice. 
This is a picture from my green group and our final week on Short Vowels. We celebrated with this Short Vowel Sort (a freebie). It was a great chance to review our short vowels before moving to long vowels, as well as, to practice sentence writing.
So, this is what our guided reading time looks like. With my below-grade level group, I plan 20 minutes, but my two on-grade level groups get 15 minutes. Not included above is my above-grade-level group - we have moved completely to Chapter Book studies - Frog and Toad, Horrible Harry, Cam Jansen, etc. They are VERY high and the basal is way, way, way too easy. We spend our time together reading, connecting comprehension skills to our reading, or writing about our reading. 

Overall, this system really works for me. I would love to spend the entire time reading, but have found with the Daily 5 my mini-lessons have been cut much shorter (which is fabulous), but I do have to make-up the instruction somewhere else. Teaching our skills and comprehension understandings with texts in hands makes it more real-world and not so arbitrary. So, for us, it works. 

So, please tell me, what does guided reading look like in your room? What works for you?

Monday, October 27, 2014

Field Trip with Ease

Hey, friends! Today we ventured to the Pumpkin Patch and Apple Orchard, and it was a BREEZE. So, I wanted to share some things that made our day go oh-so-smoothly.

First, I will admit, I had 17 parents/grandparents join us. I know. It may sound like a nightmare, but it was amazing! I only have 22 friends, so it allowed me to really enjoy my time learning/exploring with the class. I was able to go pumpkin picking, play tag, and even enjoy an apple-cider treat. :)

Outside of amazing parent support, I prepared a few other things to make sure everything went smoothly. In my teacher drawstring bag (not stylish, but so easy to carry), I put a clipboard with 3 class lists (you never know!), wipes, hand sanitizer, plastic Ziploc bags, plastic grocery bags, bandaids, Painter's Tape, and Sharpies. I definitely should have included a whistle....live and learn!
Why the Painter's Tape and Sharpies, you ask?? These were the BEST tools for our pumpkin picking adventures. As we were finding our perfect pumpkins, I asked a parent to label the pumpkins with each child's name. It kept the pumpkins from being mixed up, and when we had to put them below the bus in storage while we traveled, we didn't lose our pumpkins. It was the simplest way to keep everyone happy!
After we returned from our adventure, we spent the rest of the afternoon talking and writing about our days. This week we are learning to write our first REAL paragraphs! Paragraph writing is a year-long skill, and our first efforts today were awesome! We used a variation of the 4-Square Planner to organize our thoughts. Our first paragraphs included a main idea (My favorite part of our trip....), a reason (with a highlighted because), a detail, and a wrap-up sentence. For our first efforts at paragraph writing, I was VERY pleased! (If you would like this template, you may grab it here.)

This is one of my favorites - "I loved jumping from hay stack to hay stack because I got to play tag with Ms. W. I had to run fast to get away from Ms. W when she was it." #nomercy #playtowin #bestdayever 

We'll friends, that's it for tonight. We had a wonderful, wonderful trip, but I am tired. The games of hay-stack tag and slide races did this teacher in. ;) Until next time, adios!