Sunday, November 15, 2015

Writing Workshop Part One

Last year, a group of teachers came to visit my classroom to see a reading and writing workshop in action. We had a great conversation about how to go about implement a writing workshop time in your classroom. This post is going to share with you some of the tips and tools I find helpful when getting a workshop up and running! When you begin a writing workshop, you will realize quickly that your students will not only become stronger writers but stronger readers too!

Things to help you get started with Writing Workshop

In order to get students to work independently, we need to establish classroom routines and procedures.   If the workshop time is predictable, this will help the students understand their role.

  • Each day the teacher begins with a short focus lesson.
  • The student quickly find their writing spot and begin to work.
  • The teacher confers with students and works with others in small groups.
  • At the end of the writing time, there is an opportunity to share.

Time Structure:

1.    Focus Lesson/Mini-Lesson (10 minutes)
2.    Time to write (30 minutes)
3.    Sharing time (5-10 minutes)

Writing Workshop Tips

It is crucial that the classroom teacher establishes rules and routines.  At the start of writing workshop, have folders and tools set up at tables before you have students meet on the rug for the focus lesson. During the work time, students should not be getting up to sharpen pencils or trading writing tools. All of these little management issues make a HUGE difference.

Students should have 30-40 minutes to write every day. We can’t expect kids to get better at doing something if they are not given lots of time to do it. At the beginning of kindergarten, this time would be shorter and increase over time. You should try to write at least four days a week.

Provide students with a lot of time to rehearse their story by telling it to a writing partner. There is a saying that,  If they can’t say it, they can’t write it. Talk is important in a primary classroom, students need to be able to tell their story out loud before they draw and compose their work.  In the upper grades, this is often referred to as rehearsal.

It is important that you begin writing workshop with a ten-minute focus/mini-lesson on the rug before students go off to write. When I first started teaching writing workshop, I did not provide a lesson every day,  I would just have students take out their folders and get started.   When I started to implement a focus lesson each day, the writing got better, much better.

Every day you want to teach your students something that will help them as writers. The focus lesson should have a visual demonstration for students. Remember when a mini lesson goes on too long, students start to tune out.  Your lesson should not feel like an assignment, but it should get them excited to try a new idea or technique. Students are given lots of choices during the workshop.

Create anchor charts with your class.  Make sure your students know the purpose of the chart.  You might release kids from the rug by pointing to the charts on the wall  and saying something such as, “ If you are working on illustrations today you may go, if you are working on sounding out words you may get started, adding action to your character, etc...”

At the start of the workshop, the teacher should spend the first five minutes walking around the room giving positive feedback to kids. This feedback can be verbal or nonverbal. The teachers tone should be one of joy and excitement with the work the students are doing. In the middle of the workshop, you may stop to point out the work someone is doing that connects to the teaching. When you MAKE  SOMEONE FAMOUS,  you will suddenly see lots of other students trying to become famous too!

At the end of the workshop, you want to leave time for sharing. There is a lot that can be said about the share time, and I plan to write about it soon. It is my suggestion to have only three children share at a time. Some days you may just have students share with their writing partner.

In my building, we met at grade levels and established how many weeks the units of study will take. I Recently had the opportunity to hear Lucy Calkins talk about the units. She made it clear to the audience that the units of study are meant to be a lesson a day for five-six weeks. Of course, there has to be flexibility in our schedules, and you may not get to a lesson every day, but you should have a deadline and try to stick to it.  Students should be told about the deadline (mark on classroom calendar).  

It is important to have some celebration at the end of the unit. This end of the unit celebration could simply be sharing your story in small groups or with another classroom. In a primary classroom, you may type up a child’s story and put it on the bookshelf.

When I first started teaching, there were limited resources for teaching writing. Now, there is a great deal of resources available. You do not need to buy a very expensive writing program.  A valuable resource for someone new to writing workshop is the book About the Author, by Katie Wood Ray and Lisa Cleveland and the book Talking, Drawing, Writing by Mary Ellen Giacobbe and Martha Horn

To me, writing workshop is the heart of the classroom. If I could have any subject to teach all day, it would be writing. For one thing, writing is inexpensive all you need is paper, a stapler and writing tools.  Writing is an essential life skill. When students learn that they have the ability to communicate with paper and pen, it can be powerful, and life is changing.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Shared Reading

The school year has begun, assessments are completed, and you have already set up your classroom structures and routines. Hopefully, you have had plenty of time to foster relationships with your students and build a classroom community.

Now you’re ready to think about the needs of your students. You may find you have many students with (many different) various academic needs. Some students may know a few letters, some the whole alphabet, and some may even be reading! You many think, “ How am I going to reach all of these kids, and where do I begin?

I would suggest we start with two things; shared reading and interactive writing.  For this post, I am going to share with you a five-day format to use during shared reading time.

What is shared reading?

When thinking of shared reading, you may think of “big books” that you share with your classroom and students can read. Shared reading is an interactive read aloud that supports students in their reading development. The teacher reads big books to model fluent, expressive reading and the use of effective reading strategies with a text that is slightly above their independent level.If you have a way to enlarge a book on a screen in your classroom that would work too. 

An easy way to think about shared reading is:
I do
We do
You do

Students gather on the carpet to read a big book together.  Each day of the week something different happens with that book that teaches students something important about the process of reading. Implementing shared reading on a regular basis is a great way to meet the diverse needs of students in your classroom. Students are successful during this time due to the high level of scaffolding the teacher provides.  When teachers revisit the text each day, the scaffold should lessen with students doing more of the work.

Below is a suggested five-day format to use. I think it is important for you to decide on the needs of your students and grade level.  I first learned about this format last spring when I attended a Teacher College Reunion workshop called Shared Reading, Shared Writing, and Interactive Writing Make a World of Difference: Maximize these Components of Balanced Literacy by Lindsay Barton.  The newly published units of study from TCRWP have a fantastic layout for kindergarten, first and second-grade classrooms.

Shared Reading- Weekly Structure

Begin with an anchor chart that connects to the teaching you will do that week. Here are some examples of some anchor chart:
Jen Serravallos book  Reading Strategies  is an excellent resource to have!  

Day 1- Word solving and comprehension

cover 4/5 words 

Day 2- Cross-checking
You want to model checking your reading when you’ve made an error and also when you have solved a word correctly.

Day 3- Word Study
Snap words (word wall words)
• Study phonics
• Grow new vocabulary
• Connect what we know about words
to our reading.

Day 4- Fluency
Reread texts with words automaticity and fluency. Reading not too fast and not too slow. Make the words flow in BIG scoops, not one word at a time. Use your smoothest voice to read together. I’ll listen and help only if you need it. Ready? Go!

Day 5- Interactive writing- write about the text, grand conversation, readers theater, write letters recommending the book, add speech bubbles to the book.

We think Super Mouse is thinking...

I think shared reading develops a sense of “togetherness” in a classroom community. The choral reading of the text is powerful. You can hear confident readers. From many conversations,  I have had with primary teachers they feel that this five-day format is revitalizing their shared reading time and giving them a stronger structure to their teaching.  I hope you try it in your classroom too! Let me know what you think!

What to learn more about shared reading?
Read It Again! by Brenda Parks

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Monsters and Pumpkins

This blog post will share with you a new pumpkin poem to use during 
shared reading time and some new monsters books! 
My friend Amy shared this poem with me.
How cute is this? 
Each child made a pumpkin 
that was attached to their name.  

Click here for more Halloween poems.
 Interactive Writing in Kindergarten
I love how this teacher scaffolded the lesson by having the students write just one word.

Illustrations by Michael Robertson

There are lots of reasons why I love the book Monster Trouble by Lane Fredrickson.  This book is filled with action and humor. Winfred Schnitzel is not afraid of monsters that keep her up all night, but she is TIRED!  Can Winifred Schnitzel overcome her monster troubles?  Winifred Schnitzel shows high resolve using trickery and smarts to overcome the problem in the story.

This clever book is an adventurous read with rich vocabulary, bold illustrations, and a surprise ending. The use of rhythm and rhyme add greatly to the charm of this engaging book.

Mind Your Monsters by Catherine Bailey
Illustrations by Oriol Vidal 

When reading the first page of this book, we learn that

Wally enjoyed a quiet, normal life…
…until one day monsters invaded his small town and made a mess of everything.

The illustrations are captivating,  easily drawing young children into the invasion taking place in this small town. The pictures are very detailed and give the reader helpful information about the text.
There are many opportunities that encourage students to try and predict if Wally will be able to save the town. He first tries to ignore the monsters, but that doesn't work! Eventually, the town is saved because Wally uses good manners.
This story has a great message for kids!

To be honest, when I first read this book I liked it but I didn’t love it.  When I read it to a few first-grade classrooms, the response was strong: students loved it.

The children’s response was so strong that after a few reading, I began to fall in love with this book too!

Happy Halloween!!!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Transitional Words

I went to a workshop a few summers ago, and the presenter shared the idea of putting transitional words into the daily schedule.

When I was teaching kindergarten, I would often add these words to my daily schedule around winter time. I think if you teach first grade or second you could add them now.

Isn't this a great way to introduce some of those transition words we use for writing?

I included the daily schedule icons too!

click here for the daily schedule
click here for transitional words
click here for transitional words Word template

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Saturday Story

I have not blogged in a long time!
Life has been very busy, and I had to put my blogging hobby on hold.
I am back with a book review.

I am always looking for a new read aloud and in today’s blog post I am going to share with you a new book called Sloth Slept On by Frann Preston-Gannon.

I was immediately drawn to this charming story because of the captivating illustrations. Frann Preston-Gannon does an excellent job of taking the reader on an adventure in words and pictures. Students will quickly realize that the words tell one story and the pictures tell another.

Sloth Slept On is an engaging and delightful picture book.

About the Book
One day while playing in the backyard, three children notice a mysterious creature snoozing in a tree. They try to get the creature to tell them his name and where he belongs, but they get no answers. The children have lots of questions, and so they set off to find some answers never noticing all of the posters and newspaper articles about a sloth that has broken out of the zoo!
Where will they find all the answers about this mysterious creature?? Ahh, yes books!!!

Bumper Sticker for Book:
Books can answer questions for you!

Reason It’s a Good Read Aloud:

This book has a great beginning that gets the students’ attention. Some students will immediately pick up on the clues that the Sloth has escaped from the zoo and some may not. This story is short which is important for teacher read aloud. The length of this book makes it easy for repeated reading.

Ideas in the Classroom:

*Primary students love to make predictions! Sloth Slept On offers many opportunities for students to turn and talk to a partner about their predictions.
*Sloth Slept On is a book in which students need to interpret the pictures as well as the words.
*The story has a strong beginning, middle and end for retelling.
*Frann Preston made many interesting decisions when creating the illustrations, layout, and font.
*Sloth Slept On has a surprising ending that students will find humorous.
*This book has the ability to engage students in great conversation about fiction and nonfiction.

Sloth Slept On by Frann Preston-Gannon is a must buy picture book for your classroom library!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Alphabet Countdown!!

The Alphabet Countdown does not begin for me until the middle of May, but I am trying to be  super organized!Every year it sneaks up on me. For this post, I plan to list the different ideas I have for counting down the last 26 days of school.  This year, I plan to tie in some books to the theme each day.  If you have any suggestion for a letter, please share! 

Do what works for you!

Let's Begin

Bring a stuffed animal to school. 
Activity: Make a classroom graph of the animals. 
Read: Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems
Art Day 
Activity: Make a special art activity. 
Read: The ART Lesson  by Tomie dePaola

Activity: Make a Birdhouse.
Read: Riki's Birdhouse by Monica Wellington
Activity: Look for bugs.  
Read: I Love Bugs by Emma Dodd 

Card games and Counting   
Activity: Learn a new card game and have some counting investigations at math time.
Read: Ten Times Ten  by Herve Tullet or Counting in the Garden by Kim Parker
 Dot Day  
Activity: Make a Dot.
Read: The Dot  by Peter Reynolds 
Dance, Drawing and Dot Day  
Activity: Dance 
Read: Dance  by Elisha Cooper
Earth Day and Exercise 
Activity: GO NOODLE!
Read: Things I Can Do To Help My World   by Melanie Walsh

Bring your favorite book to school and Fairy Tales 
Activity: Share our favorite books.  
Read: Yummy by Lucy Cousins 

It's Game Day 
Activity: Bring a Game from home or have students make a game.
Read: Green by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

It's Hat Day 
Activity: Wear a hat to school. 
Read: Do You Have a Hat?  by Eileen Spinelli

Let's learn about insects today! 
Activity: Drawing and looking for insects.
Read:  Insect Detective  by Steven Voake

Activity: Let's make an I Spy book or posters.
Read:   I Spy In the Sky  by Edward Gibbs or I Spy by Jean Marzollo

Joke Day 
Activity: Bring in your best joke to share.
Read: The Everything Kids Joke Book  by Michael Dahl

Kite Day 
Activity: Fly a kite. Students can bring in a kite from home. You could make paper kites.
Read: Stuck  by Oliver Jeffers or Kite Flying by Grace Lin

Listening Day 
Activity: Go on a listening walk. 
Read: The Listening Walk  by Paul Showers 

Lego Day  
Activity: Create something with Legos.   

Math Games 
Activity: Teach a new math game. 
Read: Fish Eyes  by Lois Ehlert or any favorite math book.

Nature Day, Pick a new name (It sounds silly, but the kids LOVE making up a new name)
Activity: Write a poem about nature. 
Read: Outside Your Window A First Book of Nature by Nicola Davies or Nature Projects for Every Season Spring by Phillis S. Busch 

Name Day 
Activity: Pick a new name. I know this sounds silly, but the kids love it. Have the students wear name tags.   
Read: The Name Jar   by Liz Boyd

Outside day and let's get organized  
Activity: Do some learning outside and organize the classroom.   
Read: Inside Outside  by Liz Boyd

It is Poem in your pocket day!   
Activity: Bring a  poem from home and put it in your pocket. This poem could be written by you or someone else. 
Read: You Read To Me,  I'll Read To You  by Mary Ann Hoberman 

Pajama Day  
Activity: Wear pajamas to school!
Read: Ira Sleeps Over by Bernard Waber

Quilt Day 
Activity: Let's make a memory quilt of the year.   
Read: The Quilt Makers Gift   by Jeff Brumbeau or The Keeping Quilt by Patricia Polacco

Rock Day 
Activity: Let's go rock hunting today!    
Read: If You Find a Rock by Liz Boyd or Everybody Needs a Rock by Byrd Baylor

Science Day  
Activity: Do a fun science activity. 
Read: One Small Square Backyard by Liz Boyd or What is Science? by Rebecca KaiDotlich

Treasure Tell Day 
Activity: Bring in an object from home that has a special memory.  
Read: Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge  by Mem Fox 

Uplifting day- students will give compliments to each other  
Activity: Give each other compliments.    
Read: Have You Filled A Bucket Today?  by Carol McCloud

Video Day 
Activity: Make a book trailer today of VIP books or watch an educational video.
Read: VERY funny books  

Wonder Question: How do you catch the wind?  
Activity: Go out and catch the wind (read the book below).
Read: I Face the Wind by Vicki Cobb 

 Wacky Wednesday (even if it is not Wednesday)
Activity: Wear something wacky to school.
Read: Wacky Wednesday  by Dr. Seuss 

X-tra long recess!

Your choice today! 

Zip off to summer! 

Below is the sheet I send home.

I usually add the dates on the 
sheet above
before I send it home.

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