Sunday, April 22, 2012

Word Work in My Classroom

As the year is beginning to wind down, I have been trying to be sure all of my students know the sight words we expect them to read and write by the end of the year. 

Each nine weeks, we have to do a test on the words they are supposed to spell by the end of the year. I took the results from the test as well as the information I had from conferencing with my students during reading workshop to develop word lists for each of my students. I typed up 5-10 words for my students to practice if they choose some of our word work centers. 

Here is the template I typed in:

PDF Version:

Sight Word Lists -  

PowerPoint Version:

Sight Word Lists -  

At our school, we introduce sight words each week. Sometimes we introduce one, sometimes two, it just depends on the words. I hang them from the colored lanterns over my tables like this:

Each Wednesday their morning work is to practice the word or the week on white boards and then try to create a sentence. This Wednesday, we created a sentence together for each word to add in one of our centers. I really like the idea of a cut-up sentence center. I tell my students that it helps them with 3 things: reading, putting things in order, and handwriting. That makes it a great choice!

Once they put them in order, they write them on my favorite handwriting paper. 

I purchased the paper at Mardel. It is pretty pricey, but I really like it, and so do they. I have some of it in dry erase pouches to make it last longer.
Of course, the students who take their time at this center and use their best handwriting may get a 4 cupcake stamp and get to be on the Sweet Work display!


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Kindergarten Project Based Learning

Have you been hearing much about Project Based Learning? I am very new to the concept, but I love it. Please know that I am not an expert by any means, but I wanted to share a bit about my experiences with you.

To me, project based learning is all about getting students excited about learning content you have to teach anyway. It involves coming up with a problem that students will want to take ownership in solving. I've heard some say, "How is this any different than teaching with thematic units?" I can see how it could seem like a thematic unit because it ties multiple concepts across content areas into one problem. However,  it is not tied to a random topic that we have cute clip art for. It is about a problem that students with enjoy discovering how to solve.

Anyway, when you do a PBL (project based learning) in your classroom, the key component is the entry event. It is the thing that gets students excited about diving into the unit of study.  The first one I did was about farm animals. We needed to cover non-fiction in reading and writing workshop, and needed to talk about animals for science. So, I came up with this Voki for my entry event:

After that, my class had to come up with how we were going to solve the problem. We brainstormed things on a farm, talked about where we would find information, and ultimately came up with our driving question; What would Buster need to do to take care of a farm?

My students each chose different animals, tools or plants they wanted to study for the farm. They found information in books or on videos I found on the internet. The structure of creating the product was much like a research project I posted about last year.

I wish I had taken pictures of the books they created, but I sent them home after our Open House without even thinking about it.

Another key part to a PBL is the audience. A typical research project may be a self-selected topic by a student, but it doesn't always have an entry event and an audience. Turns out, Open House was the perfect timing for our PBL, and the parents ended up being the audience. 

That was my first shot at a PBL. We are currently doing another one centered around zoo animals. The things we needed to study in science were already timed with our zoo field trip. To turn it into a PBL, we just added an entry event, a driving question, lots of student direction, and an audience. I'll let you know more about that in a couple of weeks when it's over.

In the mean time, if you are intrigued or interested in the idea of Project Based Learning, check out this site that my principal shared with us. It has lots of great ideas and videos for all grade levels. Let me know if you have had any experience with PBLs or plan to try one of your own!

PS- I'm a five star blogger! Check out this post by Charity Preston of The Organized Classroom Blog to see if you are, too!


Sunday, April 15, 2012

Guided Reading Groups? Not here... Part 2!

You may remember my first post about doing conferencing instead of reading groups in my classroom a few months ago. (Not entirely necessary, but you can click here to read that one first if you want to.)

So now that you've had some time to get over the shock factor of no reading groups in my classroom, you may be wondering how you could try it out in your own class. Just so you know, I love it and am not missing reading groups even one teensy weensy bit!

In order for conferencing to work, I believe that you need to have 2 things in place in your classroom first.
  1. The kids need to be reading books EVERY day.
  2. The kids need to have leveled books to take home. 
My students have a mixture of leveled books and self-selected books from my classroom library in their book boxes. Once a week, I help the kids switch out their books. Since this is a skill they are still developing, I help them to make sure they have books that are on their level in addition to the ones they chose for reading just the pictures. I don't have a post dedicated to my classroom library yet, but if you want to see the set up, you can find it in this post.

We read up to 20 minutes each day. We always start reading workshop with at least 10 minutes of Read to Self time. Sometimes they have a dedicated Read to Someone time for 10 minutes after that, and other days they continue Reading to Self for a bit longer. It all depends on the mini-lessons planned and the engagement level of my students.

My students also have a reading folder that goes home on Mondays and comes back on Fridays.

In it, there are guides for the parents on how to read with their children, a baggie to hold the books, and a reading log.

 I try to send home one familiar read and 2 unfamiliar reads that are on a student's level each week. I haven't been able to keep it up all year, but most weeks I have. This in conjunction with the reading log is what helps conferencing to be so successful.

The reading log that our team uses has all of the typical spots to record such as the date, book title and parent initials. The part that I really like about our reading log is where the parents check off easy, just right or too hard. This has helped me to gauge whether or not a student is ready to move on to the next level in books. I can't share the exact reading log with you because I didn't make it, but here is one I made for all of you to have for free!

Reading Logs -

Now for the conferencing part...
If you read my post from before, you have already seen the basket I carry around with me. Here it is in case you missed it:

It's basically anything I would use in reading groups plus a book for each child and my clipboard where I keep notes for each child.

The main piece of my conferencing is the clipboard. I typically do a mini running record on a new book I give them. I also write down any strategies I noticed them using or any strategies I introduced. I also jot down words they struggled with that would be good for them to practice in word work. With so many notes about each child, I can easily pull information to e-mail parents or use in report card comments.

Here are a few samples of what I have jotted down during student conferences:

Sorry if they are hard to read. Sometimes my writing gets a little messy when it's just for me! 

Sometimes my conferences run very much like a Guided Reading lesson, but the majority of the time they do not. Remember, Guided Reading was developed as an intervention strategy. Not all students need intervention. When I hand a book to a student and they are so excited to dive right into the book, I let them. Of course I talk about how a picture walk could be a strategy that they use, but not every student needs that.

To me, the best thing about conferencing has been getting to know my students so much better. I can tell you more detailed information about their progress than I could have when I did guided reading groups.

If you want to read some professional books that talk about conferencing, here are a couple that were recommended to me:

I hope this inspires some of you to try something new! If you still have questions, feel free to email me. I'll do my best to answer them!


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Signal Words Mini-Lesson

In the past couple of weeks, we have been reading books during Reading Workshop mini-lessons and noticing the signal words that "tell us something is going to change in the story". 

After their experience with this in reading, we created an anchor chart for signal words to use in their writing. 

We related signal words to signs on the road because they tell us to notice something that is changing just like signs tell us to notice or do something differently.

Here is the book that we read before making the anchor chart:

It's called City Signs by Zoran Milich.

Now that we have the anchor chart, my kindergartners are coming up to me in the middle of read to self time to tell me that they found a signal word in the book and they can't wait to use it when they write. :)


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Easter Bunny Applications

Just before Easter, we spent some time in Writing Workshop creating Easter Bunny Applications. We had so much fun brainstorming what the Easter Bunny did and what kinds of things they are good at that would make them a good Easter Bunny. 

*As a side note... as much as I love using chart paper and writing things out, sometimes it's easier to turn on the projector and brainstorm together on something like PowerPoint. I love using it because I can type so much faster than I can write, and it is SO easy to erase if I make a mistake! You may want to consider it for something you will only need once. Save some trees... :)*

I found the Easter Bunny Application from Mrs. Williamson here. You'll probably want to check out her awesome blog!

Then, they worked together to fill out the applications and made their faces look more like Easter Bunnies.  Aren't they precious?


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Bunny Hop Freebie

Welcome to the Bunny Hop! TBA is holding a Bunny Hop where you can grab all kinds of fun freebies. I'm so happy to be a part of it!
I created this sight word find with Kindergarten sight words. My students love looking for words with magnifying glasses. Enjoy!

Spring Sight Word Find -

Tomorrow you can click the egg below to find your freebie at Finding Joy in 6th Grade!