Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Reading Street in 1st Grade

A basal?! You use a basal?!? This is one of the most common questions/emails I receive through blogging, and I have to admit it is something I was very nervous about when moving schools. I never student-taught in a classroom with a basal, and when teaching 5th grade I solely relied on the Common Core. There were plenty of times when I *wished* I had something to guide me, but I flew solo. 
Moving schools/districts/grades over the summer, I still loosely say "I use a basal." In reality, our administration trusts us [teachers] and our ability to do what is best for students. In 1st grade, we use Reading Street (2013) as our scope and sequence (which has worked out very well). We do use the phonics, must-know words, spelling words, and some of the comprehension from the program but pull from other resources for writing, guided reading, and our Daily 5/small-group times.

I teach in a fairly affluent school, and our students are typically pretty high. With our student population there is a significant portion of Reading Street that does not work for us, as it's not challenging enough. Thankfully, we are blessed with the freedom to supplement. We completely skip the 'R' Unit at the beginning of the year, and we only pull the decodable readers for our lowest groups and ELLs (see them in the picture below). Right now, 2 of my 4 reading groups routinely use RS in small groups (my lowest group uses the yellow material - on grade level and my on-grade level group uses the blue material). In the other groups, I pull chapter books and nonfiction passages.

We are blessed with all of the Reading Street materials to pull from, and our materials take an entire cabinet, plus additional storage for the Readers and Writers Notebooks (which we rarely pull from because it's a book of 300 worksheets that lack rigor or interest. Once a week, I do try to pull the phonics practice page for morning work.) The bottom pull-out drawers hold our class-sets of basal readers: units R - 5...note I only pull 7 copies of each book each unit, as our reading block is structured in small groups and I would NEVER need 25 copies of the basal.
At the beginning of the year I pre-sorted our Leveled Readers by week putting the green, yellow, and blue readers together with a rubber band. Keeping all 3 books together makes them easy to grab and plan with. Over the summer, I want to use binder clips writing the Guided Reading Levels of each book on the binder clips.
We're also blessed with the Science Leveled Readers which are THE best part of Reading Street. I don't use them in conjunction with our reading program, but pull from it during Reading RtI. The texts are ridiculously interesting, packed full of nonfiction text features, and WAY more rigorous than their 'reading' leveled readers. I LOVE THESE TEXTS. To store these treasures I binder clip each set of 6 together, and tri-fold the coordinating graphic organizer, placing it inside the book. That way when I grab for the book next, I'll have the organizer ready without having to reprint it. Boom.
Using RS as a scope and sequence, our class Focus Wall highlights our learning targets for the week. It's not fancy, but it works (over the summer I have big plans to revamp this into a hands-on space that students can take ownership in). Our Focus Wall includes our comprehension, phonics, fluency, writing, and high-frequency words for the week. At the top of the board, I include the story sequence cards for the week. The string and clips are for displaying student work!
 So, our schools has these Reading Street resources, and I use parts of them through Daily 5 rounds and guided reading. I do mentor-text mini-lessons whole group for 5-7 minutes in between Daily 5 rounds, so I do not touch the whole-group parts of Reading Street. (insert rant about the ineffectiveness of whole-group instruction) I do the bulk (85%) of my instruction in small groups through Guided Reading.  My top 2 tips for making RS easy to work with in small groups - (1) set out the materials before groups begin, so as soon as students arrive they can begin working. (2) If you are going to use the basal (see below) go ahead and open the book to the right page. That way, you can just pass out the books when your ready and there is no need to waste 1.5 minutes of a 15 minute oration (i.e. 10% of your time) finding Pg. 135.
I do have my students to use a Leveled Reader as a warm-up or a phonics hunt. The problem with the leveled readers is even within the colors (green - below level, yellow - on level, blue - above level) the texts jump reading levels from week-to-week. One week a text will be a Level J, the next week it will be a Level G, and the following week a text will be a Level I. ALLOVERTHEPLACE. Our primary grades are blessed to have access to Reading A-Z, so we can pull just-right reading materials for our groups. 
This does mean that many times sometimes my groups do not read the basal story for the week as it is not appropriate for the group (i.e. it's a GRL J and they are reading on a G). But when I can, I do try to pull the story for at least one day. To read more about how I structure our guided reading time, click here.
While students are not with me in Guided Reading, they make their Daily 5 choices - word work, listening to reading, read to self, work on writing, and Lexia.

In Word Work, students pull their Word Ring to work on their phonics skills. I created the word rings using words suggested by Reading Street. The green words (approaching grade-level) are the must-know and intervention words for each week, the yellow words (on-grade level) are the phonic-skills words, and the blue words (above grade level) are the enrichment words. You can read about our Word Work routine here and how we differentiate our centers here.
Throughout our Daily 5 block, our friends are also on the look-out for our grammar or phonics skill for the week to write a spotted word on our Word Collector. It's great to see our skills in action in REAL books, and helps me see student misconceptions about our skills. Read more about our Word Collector here.
 We also use the Reading Street big books provided for each unit. For each unit, there are 2 big books. One of the books is a contrived phonics-based book but the second is a high-quality, real piece of literature....which is AWESOME! I love exploding my friends to REAL authors/illustrators - Peter Reynolds, Mem Fox, etc.
We use these big books in Word Work and Read to Self at the end of each unit. Our team creates a scavenger hunt with each book highlighting grammar and comprehension skills we've been working  in the unit. It's perfect practice applying the skills, and they are timeless reads every 1st grader should enjoy.
A final component of Reading Street I regularly use is each unit's Grammar Jammer movie that's found on Pearson Success Net. These are fabulous videos and songs that coordinate with our week's grammar skill. From nouns to verbs to pronouns, we all love a little ditty to help us learn.
So, friends, this is what works for our 1st grade team from Reading Street. There are several parts we struggle using - fluency, writing, the weekly assessments, the unit assessments (ohmygoodness!), the focus on whole-group, and the stark difference in reading levels from week-to-week in texts. Thankfully, we can tweak and pull for these things. I am glad, though, to have a frame of reference - especially teaching 1st for the first time - and have a printed scope and sequence. 

Please tell me, how do you using Reading Street? Are there any treasures in the program that I need to learn about this summer? If so, I'd love to hear what's working for you! :)

Monday, April 13, 2015

1st Grade Writing: Integrating Writing and Reading

Hi friends! Today I wanted to stop by and give you a general writing round-up of what our 1st grade writing looks like. I always love the chance to see what writing looks like in other classrooms, so I wanted to give you a sneak peek of our room. Writing seems to be one of the subjects that is always 'pushed' so integrating writing across all subjects has been huge. This post is specifically looking at the writing going on in our Daily 5 Reading Block. I still have explicit writing instruction (either first thing in the mornings or after our afternoon RtI class), but the bulk of student practice and motivation comes from our reading block. 

After wrapping-up our how-to writings in March, our 1st grade team partnered with our Computer Lab teacher to work on animal research projects. As a part of read-to-self, students began researching their chosen animal - habitats, diet, etc. 
After researching, students brought their new learning to my teacher table and we started constructing our paragraphs (which students finished independently in Work on Writing). The research was pretty cursory and just a first introduction. As we take computer-lab time to research, we'll start developing multiple paragraphs. As you see below, there are lots of facts included in this piece, but we're still lacking developing.  Still, you can see the basic outline of a paragraph including a main idea and a wrap-up sentence!
During the Guided Writing portion of Guided Reading, we're also learning how to respond to questions about a text. We always start with oral writing - sharing our ideas verbally, but also use a RACE (restate, answer, cite evidence, explain) structure to organize our ideas. It's an easy acronym to remember and it is very pointed...it's hard to get lost in RACE. In 5th grade I used to RUN (read the question, underline, number) the RACE. In 1st grade, we're just RACEing (with a wrap-up sentence on the end)! ;) For my more developed readers and writers, they RACECE to beef-up their writing.
Here is a sample response from one of my grade-level writers. She's done a great job of restating and answering. Then, she pulls evidence from the text and explains the evidence (Peter was starting...). This writer ran the RACE, but forgot to wrap-up.
Here is another friend's response to the same question. Although the writing is difficult to read, I can still see the foundation for a fabulous paragraph. I love the restating and the answer. Then, I love seeing one of our sentence stems - "This tells me..." Like the sample above, I would have loved to see a wrap-up sentence. Still, I am so proud of this writer! Since the response was done independently, it's a true teaching tool. Reading these I know that I need to reteach and practice wrap-up sentence.
If you're interested in using RACE in your classroom, you can snag this anchor chart here from DropBox. Although, I would definitely consider making a chart as a class, so there is student investment.
Here is another example of one of our independent responses using the RACE formula. Notice, though, I have scaffolded students with the writing checklist at the bottom of the paper. This is one of my strategies, and one that is very appropriate for 1st grade. It helps guide students in their thinking, but doesn't provide the content/answer.
Much of our writing takes place during our Daily 5's Work on Writing time. Students are expected to visit Writing at least 3 times a week. On the wall you'll see 2 anchor charts we made as a class (I know they're not 'cute' but they are real and what my friends need to keep on track.)

At the beginning of the year, I used to keep stools at Work on Writing, but they were never being used. So, I stole the stools for guided reading, and my friends love standing. If they want to sit, they can grab a clipboard or find a spot around the room.
 Students may write in their writing journals or on Pacon Newspaper. It's really writer's choice. I don't love the Pacon paper but it's so much more environmentally friendly. I felt like I was killing a million trees each week. Now, I can plan on going through 1 pack of paper each quarter.
After students have finished hand-writing their pieces, shared with a partner, and shared with me, they have the option to publish their pieces during Daily 5. Not all friends decide to do this, but for most, it is very motivating. Students know to grab one of our classroom laptops or iPads and get to work. If a student is publishing for the first time, they'll often pull a stool next to me at the teacher table. Since I'm leading Guided Reading, they know not to interrupt, but still my being there provides a comfort level. Typically, it takes 2 rounds for students to publish a piece. 
This morning, after a long Spring Break, we wrote an opinion paragraph as a class on the white board. I wanted to quickly re-fresh opinion paragraphs, so students would be ready for Work on Writing. I was *blown* away when one of my friends showed me her opinion-piece draft that she worked on during the 1st rotation. Then, during the 2nd rotation, my friend chose to publish her piece on Microsoft Word. (Disclaimer - this is friend is a strong writer) After she shared her writing with the class, several of my other friends were motivated to go-back and 'beef-up' their opinions.
So friends, how is writing going in your classroom? Do you ever feel like you're always out of time? With 31 instructional days left, I'm definitely feeling the crunch. Will my soon-to-be-2nd graders be ready?

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Stand Up, Hand Up, Pair Up

Happy Sunday, friends! Tonight I want to share with you one of my favorite Kagan structures - Stand Up, Hand Up, Pair Up (SU, HU, PU). Kagan Structures are all about cooperative learning – not group work – with frequent modeling, celebrations, community building, and brain breaks…sounds fun, right? Kagan structures hold every student accountable and eliminate ‘hogs’ and ‘logs’ in the learning process (Kagan's words…not mine).
To prepare for SU, HU, PU, I write out 12 different matches on half-index cards. If you're feeling really fancy, you could always type them...but hand-written cards work well, too. In terms of cards, phonics skills and grammar skills work really well (synonyms, antonyms, past/present tense verbs, plural nouns, possessive nouns) as do some math concepts (making 10, making 20, words/definitions).
Before each.and.every.round, we review the expectations. When I'm first teaching SU, HU, PU, I model and we practice. A LOT. This game can go 1 of two ways - a fun and interactive way to practice a skill or a ridiculous free-for-all. So, practice - a lot. (You can snag the poster here.)

This is a great time to practice those important 1st grade social skills. Greeting a friend, giving a kind high-five, making eye contact, listening, and taking turns. 
As students are working to find their partner, I am circling the room making sure friends are following our guidelines. If I see something has gone wrong, I stop the class RIGHT AWAY to review and practice. The most common error?? Students waiting for their best friend to need a partner. We spend lots of time talking about how to partner with the 1st person you see with their hand up. We'll talk about our feelings, role play, and practice wrong...so we can empathize with someone we pass up!
After my friends have partnered several times, they'll eventually find their match (the whole matching process normally takes 3ish minutes). Once friends have found their match, they meet on the carpet EEKK style (elbow to elbow, knee to knee) and practice using their partner's word in a complete sentence.
 When all of our friends have found their pair and are sitting on the carpet, partners present their words and sentences to the class. We always speak to our friends (not the teacher) and give each pair a Kagan cheer for sharing. As students are sharing their ideas, I am recording the matches on our whiteboard, creating a visual for the rest of our reading/math block. The entire process (reviewing the expectations, mixing, partnering, sharing) typically takes 15 minutes.
 If you ever have a chance to attend a Kagan training, do it! They are so interactive and hands-on, and you leave with dozens of ideas you can implement right way. To read about other ways I use cooperative learning, check out these posts (general Kagan post and brain spills). If you use Kagan in your classroom, what are your favorite structures? What's your favorite skill to review with SU, HU, PU? I'd love to hear your ideas!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

1st Grade How-To Writing

Tonight I'm sharing about how we 'launched' our How-To writing unit, as well as, resources and mentor texts that are helping us master this genre of writing!

Outside of How-To writing being a part of the Common Core, it provides a great practice in logically sequencing events (a tough first grade skill)...to the level at which someone else can follow the directions. Additionally, it gives us the chance to review and practice those very-important transition and time-order words (first, second, then, next, also, last, finally, etc.).
As a class we walked through every step of making a paper airplane (from this online tutorial), writing the directions (including time-order words) as we went. We included an illustration, as well, so our reader could also 'see' the steps in making an airplane. Making the planes required a lot of synergizing as many of our friends had never made their own plane before. Thankfully, several airplane-making pros stepped-up to help friends!
Why the thin writing paper instead of copy paper? Great question, friend. As I was practicing for this lesson (oh yes, I practiced), I learned that paper airplanes with this particular design plummeted to their death if made with computer paper. The thin grey/brown writing paper was light enough that it allowed the planes to travel across the room!
Teacher hint - have your students color or identify their airplanes in some obvious way before you start flying them. This will save heart-ache and time and a chorus of -"That's mine!"

After we built our paper airplanes and polished our writing pieces, of course, we had to see if our planes flew! Each table competed against one another, and then, we had a final winner's round. It was so much fun to see how differently our planes flew.
Outside of our introductory lesson, we've been attacking How-To writing from several different fronts. Moby and Annie are always a go-to for our learning, as they reviewed time-order words with us and the importance of properly sequencing events. To help hit the point home about sequencing, I tell 'how-to' brush my teeth using directions that are ALL mixed up. Then, students work together to put the events in an order that makes sense. Conclusion - order matters!
We've brainstormed all kinds of time-order words for our pieces to mix-up and spice-up our writing!
Throughout the week, I'm pulling from three of my favorite mentor texts - How to Babysit a Grandpa, How To, and How to Teach a Slug to Read. These are perfect for showing students how real-author use how-to techniques (logical order, sequencing, time order words) to share a story or information with a reader.
Outside of our designated 'writing time' my friends have How-To writing as a choice during our Work on Writing time during Daily 5. I put these prompts on a binder ring and it makes them easy-to-use for our little hands and keeps the cards from being lost. I'm REALLY in love with the math how-to cards. These math-based prompts offer an addend challenge to students as they explain their math thinking to others in a logical and systematic way - BOOM!

As we start writing our How-To pieces independently, we'll self-assess our writing and use the below checklist (personal ones and a class anchor chart) to guide our work.
In retrospect, this is a unit I'll definitely teach at the beginning of the year. Teaching at this point of the year, is much simpler and requires less groundwork, but still, it's a nice review of skills we've learned throughout the year in reading and writing. Plus, now that we're officially readers and writers, it's amazing to see what my students come up with!

What are your favorite ways to teach how-to writing? I'd love to hear your ideas!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Dr. Seuss - Read Across America Week

Happy end-to-Suess Week, friends! I must admit that I had a full 5 days of Seuss-goodness planned, but I wasn't sad when snow canceled days 4 and 5. Sometimes too much goodness is exhausting! Here is what our very abbreviated week looks like - 
Each Monday morning my friends LOVE walking into our classroom to see what books are on our themed bookshelf. I try not to set out morning-working on Mondays, so they can get straight to reading. It's the best! (To see some of our other bookshelves search #1stgradebookshelf on Instagram)
We started the week learning about the man behind "The Cat in the Hat" - Dr. Seuss. Moby and Annie introduce the idea of the 'pen name' to students, some background on Dr. Seuss, as well as, what lessons Dr. Seuss tries to teach us.
Then, each afternoon we took half of our theme time to welcome a guest reader. Each reader brought their favorite book to read to us, and then, they read our 'Seuss' book of the day. My students LOVED having their parents and grandparents in the classroom and it made them feel so special. ;) Plus, I was introduced to an AMAZING children's book Rosie Revere, Engineer that's all about making mistakes and growth mindset. I ordered the book as the parent was reading it!
With the remaining half of our theme time, we enjoyed a Cat-in-the-Hat directed drawing. We've done several watercolors throughout the year (see our turkeys and snowmen here), but running short on time, we stuck with pencils, permanent markers, and crayon. 
Using a tutorial by Jennifer White (First Grade Blue Skies), I introduced the shapes and proportions on the board as students followed along with a pencil. Once students finishing their pencil drawing, they traced their work with a marker. Then, students traded the marker (I don't like leaving permanent markers in their hands for too long) for brand-new black and red crayons!
Every time I include art in the classroom, I am BLOWN away by the results. My friends do such a fabulous job and they are always so proud of themselves. It's amazing what can happen when we break things into small steps and work together.
Our drawings will stay in our classroom through Celebration of the Arts night, and then, become a 1st grade momento for each family. Kid artwork is the absolute best!
Each day of the week (remember there were only 3 because of snow) I picked a different book to be our theme. On our 1st day of Seuss celebrations, we read The Cat in the Hat and wrote opinion pieces about whether or not we would want the Cat to visit us. We then, highlighted our opinions in blue, our 'becauses' in yellow (the reason), text evidence in green, and then, a wrap-up sentence in orange. I'd love to share these writings with you, but the Seuss Police are not about sharing..AT ALL...so sorry, friends!

We then enjoyed a strawberry and banana snack in the afternoon. These were perfect because every student received 1 toothpick full of fruits and all of my students (even those with allergies) could enjoy them!
On Tuesday, our guest reader joined us for One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish with a goldfish snack. 
Then on Wednesday (our last day of the week due to snow) we enjoyed Pink Ink (pink lemonade) reading "Happy Birthday to You!" I know Dr. Seuss' birthday was on Monday, but this was the least expensive snack to ask a parent to send in 50 of. ;) Each Wednesday, we have 3rd grade reading buddies that come read with us. In the words of my littles - "Wednesday is the best because of extra PE and Reading Buddies."
At the beginning of last week, we started a school-wide data collection project. Due to the snow, we'll continue the project this week. We asked each students in our school (~750 students) to choose their favorite Seuss book below. Even if only half of our school votes, we'll still have plenty to talk about! It's been fun to watch the graph grow throughout the week, as well as, to make sure we had read all the books before we placed our own votes! Also, from a teacher's perspective, this was the simplest bulletin-board EVER - book covers, blue painters tape, garage-sale stickers, and a sign/email asking friends to vote. BOOM.
Well friends, it was a fabulous and fun short week. Dr. Seuss coupled with Place Value Boot Camp made the excitement levels in our classroom at an all-time high! What are your favorite ways to celebrate Dr. Seuss in your classroom? Anything I need to add to our week next year?