Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sunday's Words for the Week

Sometimes you just have to laugh, right??
 It's been a stressful start of the year for me and I'm looking forward to October when maybe things will begin to calm down.

 I've spent many late night hours seeking wisdom in His word and it never fails to bring me comfort and hope.
God is good.
Have a wonderful stress-free week   -Doris

Saturday, September 29, 2012

A Day with Debbie Diller and A Spelling Station

Practice With Purpose: Literacy Work stations for Grades 3-6 (Pa... Cover Art
Debbie Diller comes to Spotsylvania County!
A couple of weeks ago my county provided an inservice with Debbie Diller.  I've seen her a couple of times before and have read all her books. This afternoon's inservice was focused on reading stations for students in the upper elementary grades.  Much of what she discussed and modeled came from her books, Practice with a Purpose and Places and Spaces.
She discussed the management of literacy stations and materials she uses.  We all agreed that our time is better spent focusing on instruction versus making lots and lots of literacy games and activities that students use once and then we put away.  I'm focusing on setting up literacy stations that remain the same for the most part.  We will change out the words, text or content instead of changing out the whole activity. It is easier for me and for students.  They learn the activities well and can do them very independently.
One example will be my spelling or word study station.  I have trained students on using about four different spelling activities and when they go here for station time they will bring whatever set of words they are working on.  So the activities will stay the same but their spelling words change each week.
One standard activity we use is the feature sort.  Station partners sit opposite each other, facing opposite directions and sort their words by feature.  Then they turn and compare.
 Here students have come up with another way to sort their words: by syllables, ABC order, etc.

We use a spelling folder and in class work or sorts are written inside.

 If students finished the "MUST DO" activity  before I have called "time's up"  they work on one of the "CAN DO" choices like have a spelling bee.

One activity that my students will do when at the spelling station is using the "LOOK, COVER, SPELL, CHECK" board.  This approach to studying spelling words is recommended by many experts in the field of language arts instruction. Fountas and Pinnell suggest using it with struggling spellers.  I like it because it teaches students how to practice their spelling on an independent level.  They can do this for homework without a parent assisting or calling out words for them.

I  created a board for students to use with this activity.  My students have words on cards.  They place the card on the "LOOK" square and analyze the word for word parts, tricky letters, spelling features or patterns,  then they slide the card to the next box that says "COVER".  They flip the card over so they can no longer see the word.  They slide the card to the next box that says, "SPELL". They attempt to visualize the word and spell it in their journal.  Then they slide it to "CHECK".  Here they check their spelling with the card.  If they got it right, they are done with that word and they go to the next.  If they got it wrong they run that word through the sequence again.

 I have this board posted as a free item on TPT.  Check here if you would like to download an copy for yourself.

 Other standard spelling choices might be to use magnets to spell their words. Students can both be working along side one another.  One reads a word card, flips it over and then spells and checks. I found these at the dollar store..I also have smaller foam ones that are lowercase letters.

Scrabble tiles are also used to spell words. On this sheet they read a word card, flip the card over and then look for the letters to spell the word.  On the recording sheet, they also total the numbers on the tile.  Great way to sneak in some addition practice.  Be on the lookout for old Scrabble Games at the Goodwill or at yard sales.

I find my students love using these materials and I'm not creating a new spelling station each week.  It's a win-win situation!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sunday's Words for the Week

I was glad to hear from all the Joshua Radin fans out there.  Here is a song that Melissa P. sent my way.  LOVE Streetlight and in particular the line..
So let the wind blow us to wherever it says we are supposed to go!
Take a listen.
Thanks Melissa 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Writer's Workshop: Writing A Friend Poem

Pinned Image
How cute is that???? 
 Friends are really important to our students.   I like using the topic of friendship as my very first writers workshop piece. We set up our writer's folders during the first week of school so we are now ready to get to it! 
I posted about these folders in a past entry so scroll back a bit if you are interested in hearing more about these.  I have the printables available on my TPT store.  You could check there too.
Doubling the folders allow students to have a section to glue notes and another section for references.
Two folders mean lots of pockets to put drafts they are working on.
Here are some examples

I LOVE using mentor texts when teaching writing.  Here is a super book to use to jump into the topic of friendship.  This is a great read for the beginning of the year when many students are trying to connect with others in the class. After reading this one we will create an anchor chart on "How to be a True Friend".  I also focused on identifying causes/effects in this one since that is our reading focus but this book could be used for MANY teaching points!  Use it for what your kids need.  
The next day I introduce a patterned poem by Jessica Crum entitled: Friends.  I use the technique of "Guess the Covered Word" to get students to practice using context clues when reading.  Then this one is glued into the poetry journal where they will get much practice reading it multiple times.   The next day I tell students we are going to borrow Jessica Crum's pattern to create our own patterned poems about friends.   We work through the writing process together as we brainstorm, draft, revise and edit.  I am sharing this eight day lesson plan with all graphic organizers, mini lesson notes, drafting paper, and grading rubric in my TPT store. 
So check here if you are interested:
Graphic organizers like webbing and brace maps helped my writers generate and then organize ideas. 
 I work my teaching of complete sentences and fragments, subjects and predicates into my writing block. It just makes sense to teach it there.  We analyze Jessica's sentences for completeness and then make sure we don't include fragments in our drafts.   I also teach how to edit for spelling through this writing lesson.
Spending time on prewriting sets students up for a successful drafting session:

Student writing is graded with a rubric.  Here is an example of the one I use for this particular piece of writing:

Here are the completed pieces from this year: 

These are from my last year's class. You will be surprised at the variety of ideas they come up with!
I like this lesson for our first attempt at working through the writing process because it is simple and all students will be successful in producing a great final product.  It also introduces the basics about what good writers do.  This was my fifth year in a row using this lesson and I never tire from using it and seeing what the kids produce.
If you try it let me know how it goes! 
Happy writing -Doris

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sunday's Words for the Week

She spoke the truth! I had a rough day or two since the start of school. How about you?
Let's go way back to the mid 19th century for some advice.  Check out what Ralph Waldo Emerson had to say about days like this :

Such great advice! I'm guessing he experienced some hard days himself. A  bad moment doesn't make a bad day and a bad day doesn't make a bad week.  Tomorrow is another day.
 Here is my "go to" song for days like this.  I'm a big fan of singer/songwriter Joshua Radin. Love his sound and lyrics. This song always makes me feel hopeful.  Take a listen.

Thoughts?  Email Me...I love hearing from you all!
Wishing you nothing but sunshine...Have a great week!  -Doris

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Adding with Accuracy: Game On!

Hello All, I am finally back with a math related post! 
 School has been CRAZY with the beginning of the year busyness.  We are in the midst of doing boatloads of assessments. This is a hard time of the year for me because I am itching to teach but need to get reading, writing and spelling assessments done. Being a Virginia teacher means doing PALS assessments. I really do love what the PALS folks have done. I definitely use the assessment information to plan my reading and spelling groups but it is a time consuming process.  I've needed my kids to be pretty independent while I call readers back so in between sessions I've allowed them to work with partners playing a few learning games.
Here is one we played this week. We are working hard to increase our speed with the addition facts.  I've taught many of the addition strategies like doubles, doubles plus one, fast tens and nifty nines.  This game gives them practice in adding sums to 12.  Playing it is super simple so it is good for the beginning of the year. I love it for a math station because kids really can play it independently and rarely have questions about how to play.  
Kids need a game board, dice and two different colored markers.
Player one rolls the dice and adds for the sum.  He looks in the first circle to see if the sum is in the sum circle.  If it is, he can move.  If it is not, he stays put.  Players take turns rolling and adding until one player has made it to the end point.
I varied the game boards and kids liked playing the different ones.  I differentiated for the more advanced players by adding some extension boards.  These boards have the students moving to the next circle if they see an equivalent equation in the circle.  Great for those who need more of a challenge but still gets them to practice their addition accuracy.
Check here if you are interested in getting a set of these boards for your students.
Below is a sample of just some of the designs in the set. 

 Here is a cute book called Arithme-tickle.  A great way to integrate some reading with math.
Check your scholastic book orders for it.  Super fun and entertaining and a  nice way to jump start your math lessons!
Finally, Do you know that Greg Tang is working with Scholastic and has his own web page?
I LOVE Greg Tang's work and his philosophy!  Here is what he says about writing these math books:
“People often ask me, ‘Why do you write math books?’ The answer is simple. I want to make math easier for kids. When I look around, so many kids are doing math the hard way. They are counting when they could be adding, adding when they could be multiplying, and memorizing when they could be understanding. No wonder they think math is hard!
In writing my books, I hope to show kids how fun and easy math can be when they learn to think about numbers and problems in smart ways. I use poems and pictures in all my books because I believe words and images have the power to communicate mathematical concepts quickly and clearly and at the same time connect math to a world of things - nature, science, art - that matter to kids. My goal is simple. Help kids become smart, well-rounded individuals who love to learn. Enjoy!”
  I went to a fabulous Guided Math conference last year with presenter Barbara Blanke.  She was showing how she used Tang's books and displayed pages using the document camera. She used them as math talk problems. Well guess what? You can access all his books online here and display them on the Smartboard! Many of the pages are actually animated and interactive!!
Beyond his books, his site has games and printables.  You can sign up for a one month free membership to check it out!
Go here:

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Sunday's Words for the Week

Isn't that what we all want from life?  
I hit a bump in my road recently and was feeling the effects of it until some good friends showed me some tough love and reminded me of this surefire way to lift the spirit:
Want happiness?
 A real gem of an idea. Works every time!
I teach for Spotsylvania County Schools in Virginia and this weekend they hosted a phenomenal event called Camp Out, Rock Out, Knock Out Homelessness. It brought awareness to the challenges of this population of people in our county. I'm going to venture to guess that most people who volunteered to work that event got  themselves off their minds for a day and ended up feeling happier because of  it.

Wishing you a happy week. -Doris

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Reading Accountability: Encouraging Volume Reading

I do believe the best way for students to develop their reading skill is to do lots and lots of reading. We call it volume reading and students are working on increasing their stamina for reading in our classroom.  We are up to about 25 minutes of straight getting up, no stopping, only real reading.  We get situated in our reading spots away from distractions and with enough reading material to go the distance.  Then we get lost in our books!

One little trick that helps encourage students to go the duration is what I call, "MYSTERY READER". Before reading begins I tell students that I am picking a student who I will be doing spot checks on throughout the reading time. I tell them that everytime I glance at this student, he/she needs to be real reading. The trick is to keep this person a mystery until after the reading period is over. That way every student believes it may be them. Kids do love this and respond well. If the student is getting up, playing or just fake reading (we can tell teacher friends, can't we?) I just announce to the class that the mystery reader didn't make it but don't tell them the name. I will go to that person and talk to them individually at another time to coach them on how to make it the next time.

If the mystery reader made it to the finish line (read for the whole duration without stopping), we say they were a great bookworm and will be rewarded with a gummy! 
A big bummer for us this year is that we are no longer running Accelerated Reading.  I liked the program as a way to keep checks on my readers and to be sure they were understanding what they read.  Since that accountability piece is gone I am looking for options for keeping track of the reading they do at home.  I have created a Reading Time Sheet for students to start using for part of homework.  They will color in the number of minutes they read each night, record the title of the book and write two lines about their reading.  Not too much to ask but more than just a parent signature. 

I have included this sheet in my TPT store as a Free Download.  Feel free to give it a try if you would like. 

I'm always on the lookout for other ideas to try.  Would love to hear how you monitor home reading with your students!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Sunday's Words for the Week


It's Labor Day weekend. Teachers know a thing or two about laboring, especially around this time of year.  I am so thankful for this extra long weekend! Teaching can wear you out physically, intellectually and emotionally! Just two weeks in and I am already feeling the need to lay all my teacher obligations down for a bit, seek out a quiet spot and find peace and rest.

 What a glorious promise! 
I will leave you with these words from Echoing Angels.
What teacher does not long for peace at the end of long hard day?

"And through your frailty My strength will rise"
I am grateful.
Best of luck to all my teacher friends  who open doors next week!
Wishing you peace....Doris 

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Let's Pause for A Poem: Fluency Practice

Yes, well we won't make any gains on the fluency graph with that one now will we? (:
The National Panel of Reading identified fluency as one of the five pillars of reading instruction along with phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary and comprehension.  There is no doubt that fluency is tied to a child's ability to decode and recognize words. Because of the focus on reading for meaning in third grade I am even more interested in the impact fluency can have on comprehension.  Fluent readers are more likely to comprehend what they read.  That's because they expend less cognitive energy on decoding words and therefore can focus more on the meaning of the words on the page.
So how can we help our readers become more fluent?  Many experts in the field suggest multiple rereadings  may help students make progress in becoming more fluent text readers.
I think poetry is the perfect vehicle for this type of practice. 
We set up our poetry journals the first week of school and I have trained my third graders on our poetry procedures.
Many have asked me to share this sequence so here it is:
The first step is to show students the poem on the smartboard.  I cover some key words and we play "Guess the Covered Word".  Students use context clues to determine what the missing word might be. They write their word on a dry erase paddle and hold it up for me to see.  We talk about what words would make sense in the sentence, then I reveal the word the poet used.  We continue this way until all words are uncovered.

Next students are given their copy of the poem and they glue it into their poetry journal. We all choral read the poem our voices in unison.

 The following day we look at the poem again.  This time students participate in "Actors and Reciters".  In this activity half the class recites the poem practicing their fluency and expression. The other half acts out each line voices allowed!  Then we switch roles.  Kids love this!

During literacy station time my students will read this poem again during Poetry Partner Time.  Students read the poem three times: once alone, once taking turns reading lines with their partners and then a final time choral reading it with their partner.
The final step is to illustrate the poem for meaning  This means students must prove to me they understand the words.  Pictures are drawn with labels.  Words are considered "no excuse" spelling words since they are right in the poem. 
Finally, the students are allowed to sign up to be do a solo recital of any of the  poems in the poetry journal for the class.  They all have a PAW with their name on it.  They move their paw under the "Pause" for a Poem sign.  I will "Pause for a Poem" several times a week.  I generally pick those few minutes while waiting for dismissal or in a few minutes between transitions. 
Wow, so that's a lot of multiple rereadings! 
If you are interested in any of the materials shown on this post you can head here for a Poetry Start Up File.  Sorry, no actual poems in this one...will try to work on that next!