Thursday, July 28, 2011

Fancy Nancy!

I tried this my first year of teaching, but since it was my first year (and I didn't know quite how to balance what I thought were "best practices" and the basal) it didn't go as well as I'd hoped. Now, in my 5th year, I am going to try it again....a Fancy Nancy Word Wall! I love Fancy Nancy, and so do my students. I just had to share the letter cards I made that are at Staples as I type getting laminated. If anyone has done this in the past and has great ideas, I'd love to hear them. I plan on using this word wall and Fancy Nancy books to teach vocabulary, vocabulary strategy mini-lessons, and getting kids to keep their eyes open for new fancy words and ways they can use the fancy words we already know! I'd also love to come up with a way to keep track of students who use words from the Fancy Nancy word wall during writer's workshop. I plan to decorate/ have students decorate each word as they go up in some fancy, fun way...probably using glitter, since glitter makes everything better :)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Repeated Reading Chart...freebie :)

I just made a repeated reading chart to track my students' oral reading rate.  (Download here:
repeated reading chart) I won't use this strategy for my students way below grade level or way above grade level, but it's a great strategy to use to build fluency for the rest of the kiddos. If you haven't done repeated readings before, here's how it works:

1. Choose a text at the student's high instructional level (close to independent so the student isn't focused too much on decoding).

2. Time the first read through, graph it. Go over errors. Tell student to practice reading the book during independent reading time (or at home).

3. The next day, or in two days, reread the same story. Time it, graph it, go over errors.

4. Repeat this as necessary. Once there are no errors and the reading rate is acceptable, choose a harder text and repeat the steps!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Workshop Help Desk

I thought I would link up with TBA today to talk about writing. I teach writing using the workshop model, and I totally lean on Lucy Calkins every step of the way! Last year, I discovered some very helpful, inexpensive books that supplement her units of study (although Lucy didn't write them, she edited them). The series is called "Workshop Help Desk" and I highly recommend them! Here are two I love:
This book really helped me plan my mini-lessons for my persuasive writing unit. I had never taught persuasive writing before using this book, and it gave me a clear idea of what I wanted my students to be able to produce by the end of the unit. 

This book gives a year-long plan (specifically for 2nd grade) for writer's workshop and offers great tips for mini-lessons and how to organize units. It's no more than 50 pages - so a very quick read that I refer back to a lot! She has these for all grade levels too!

Homework Help

I need some advice. Other than sharpening pencils, homework is probably the source of most of my headaches before 10 AM. I don't know about the rest of you, but I don't grade homework. I'm a little embarrassed to admit this...but I check in the homework every morning to make sure it's getting done (I try to glance at a few kids key kids' work to make sure they're getting it), but at the end of the day....I throw it away! What ends up giving me my headaches though is that it's the same 3-5 kids and then another random 1 or 2 who don't turn in homework consistently on a daily basis. What makes me so upset is that those 3-5 kids who don't turn in their homework most days are the same 3-5 kids with failing grades. I try reaching out to parents, offering positive incentives for turning in homework, and taking away privileges for not turning in homework. Nothing seems to make a difference.

One of my goals for this year is to make homework more meaningful and in turn hopefully I will have 100% (or close to it) homework completion each day. I have read other bloggers' ideas and teacher websites and have found a few different possibilities.
1. Weekly schedule for homework (different activity for each day of the week)
2. Weekly packet (due Friday)
3. "Speller's Choice" activities to choose from

Here are my questions:
1. How important is it to go over the homework in class?
2. How much do phonics worksheets help students? Are they worth it?
3. Do you send homework home graded? If so, what are the benefits that you've seen?

I would love to hear what works for you!! I welcome any and all ideas!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Favorite Author Linky Party

I love this idea for a linky party...probably because I have so many favorites! Thanks, Clutter Free Classroom for thinking of it!

If I had to choose one author with whom I couldn't get through the year without, I think it would have to be  Jan Brett. Some of my favorite books of hers are: The Mitten, The Hat, The Gingerbread Baby, and Hedgie's Surprise.
I love using this book for sequencing! And, as with all Jan Brett books, it's great for teaching making predictions!

I love using The Mitten to teach compare and contrast, as there are so many other versions of this same story. It's a great book to use during a thematic unit on any winter topic. I have used mittens before to teach compound words, create number stories, and  partner game for math where each student draws pictures/shapes/designs on one mitten and then using only descriptive language tries to get their partner to draw the exact same mitten.

My students absolutely love this book. I have used it in a Gingerbread Man unit. We have used gingerbread babies as a measuring tools as an introduction into standardized measurement, and soooo many other things during reading and writing! If you want more details, I'd be more than happy to share!
This is a great book about friendship - can spark important conversations and be used as a model. I have also known people to turn it into a readers theater, although I have not tried.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

First Days of School

I love reading the book Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes on the first day of school. When I taught first grade, I spent more time on the concept of names (letters and sounds), but now that I teach second grade, we spend a lot of time on what it means to be a good friend as well.

Some fun activities:

1. Letter bead necklaces: I found great foam letter beads at Michaels and my students loved making name necklaces. It also helped me learn their names quickly!

2. Name Graph: Count the letters in first names to make a class graph (Chrysanthemum has 13 - we usually include her in the graph)

3. ABC order: Students line up in alphabetical order with name cards

4. Word Wall: I usually add students' names to the word wall - there are so many things you can do depending on the names in your class. (i.e. Gillian/ Greg, Cecilia/ Chris/ Cara, Sara/ Shawn, Will/Bill, Ry-an/ Re-bec-ca, Edgar/Ethan...)

5. For "homework" I send home a sheet that has questions for students to fill out with their parents about how/ why they got their name

6. I often use this book as a lead in to talking about class rules/ responsibilities. We talk about how Chrysanthemum's feelings changed throughout the story and why, which leads into what we can do to make sure everyone is happy and able to learn each day. This is also a time when I have thought about doing a sequencing activity either with pictures or sentences - in response to how did Chrysanthemum's feelings change during the story.

7. Paint names on a large piece of construction paper/ and or a self-portrait (I know paint is bold for the first day of school so you may want to use crayons and other art supplies instead).

I'm sure there are so many other ideas out there as well!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Math Word Wall Words part 1

I just finished making all of my math word wall word cards for the year. I saw great ones on Christina Bainbridge's website, and used hers last year. I decided to keep going with her theme and create words for the whole year.  unit 9 and 10 math words

I am not sure if I uploaded them correctly on google docs so let me know if I need to redo it!

I'll put my other units up here later, so check back!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

New Look!

I am loving my new blog design thanks to Dreamlike Magic Designs! They have so many cute blog templates - I was wishing I had more than one blog so I could get more than one design! What do you think of this one?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Phonics Dance

I just saw a post on the Phonics Dance at The Schroeder Page and decided to take the plunge and order the manual, CD, and the hunk the chunk cards. Any suggestions for how to use this program within my literacy block? I do Daily 5 for literacy stations and mini-lessons using CAFE/ Storytown (Harcourt) to guide me. I would love to hear how everyone uses the Phonics Dance in their rooms!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

I Can't Resist the Dollar Section!

Today was such a great day! Not only did I receive my Really Good Stuff order, but I went a little nuts in the dollar section at Target!

Here's what I found:

The readers theater were $1.99 - thanks to Christina Bainbridge ( I didn't miss this great sale! The math games are going to be used during math workshop. I am especially excited about the small purple box - if you can't see what it is - it's a bunch of number grid puzzles. So many of my students struggle to find those patterns, and this will be a fun way to practice! The tennis balls are a replenishment of what I already have in my room. They are a huge life saver! With 30 plus kids any noise we can eliminate, the better. Finally, the birthday chart is just cute and I don't like my old one :)

Now...for Target...

If you're like me, then you're probably thinking - no way target has all that amazing stuff for $2.50 or less! I had been searching for those tiny buckets for weeks and no one seemed to have them...I about jumped for joy when I saw them. I read on Beth Newingham's website (amazing teacher) that she uses them for "bucket fillers." Those little sparkly puff balls will be the fillers! I also got some great pencils and stickers for $1 each, a pocket chart for $1,  star pointers, and alphabet stamps and ink pads for $1 that I plan to use at the word work station as an option to spell that week's spelling words. The little yellow bins were $2.50 for 4. The packet of speech bubbles I thought I could use for math work stations. Debbie Diller talks about writing down talking tips or conversation words (I can't remember what she calls them in her book) basically to help students use the math vocabulary at the station. I thought these would work well for that! Finally, off to the right there is a white tube of white contact paper. I can't remember where I saw this, but some amazing teacher had the idea of using little rectangles of this (I think she actually uses foam) as a "manipulative mat" during math so the materials don't go everywhere. I thought I would try it out!

Target is definitely worth the trip!!

Monday, July 11, 2011

PRC2: The New Partner Reading

Like so many of you out there, I use the Daily 5 to manage my literacy stations. Partner reading is one of my favorite stations, and I recently came across a way to make it even more meaningful! I am in graduate school getting a masters in reading and my professor at my summer practicum was involved in creating the PRC2 (Partner Reading and Content too) model for partner reading. PRC2 can be used at any grade level and is for mainly reading in the content area, but I'm sure it can be adapted for fiction reading as well. The goal of PRC2  is to get students talking/ having discussions about what they are reading, and consequently develop their comprehension of informational text. I have heard so many teachers say that they have students who are fluent fiction readers, but when it comes to nonfiction the kids are lost. This is an awesome way to get students interested in content, focused on what they are reading, and forces them to monitor their comprehension. I have seen multiple vidoes, read the book, and tried it myself last week at my practicum, and I so far I love it. I can't wait to try it with my 2nd graders!

Here's how it works:
1. Make sure you have a variety of levels on the same theme, as students should be reading at their independent or high instructional level (I wrote a donorschoose grant for books on the science topics we cover to add to my collection)

2. I am considering matching students monthly by reading level as "reading buddies"

3. Partners choose a text they want to read. I am going to have bins of books available specifically for this purpose

4. Students sit shoulder to shoulder and divide the pages. If there is text on both side of the page, one student is responsible for the left page and the other is responsible for the right side.

5. Read both pages together (silently if students are ready for that or orally)

6. Reread the page you are responsible for and come up with a question to as your partner

7. Optional - "performance read" - student reads aloud the page they are responsible for. This works on fluency, but if my students are not doing any silent reading I will skip this step

8. Partner 1 asks Partner 2 his/her question (see template). Partners discuss

9. Partner 2 asks Partner 1 his/her question. Partners discuss

10. Record their fndings/new learning

11. Repeat for next set of pages.

*If there is very limited amount of text on a page - have each partner do two pages or even more. Teachers need to model, model, model what to do with different text structures so there is enough text to have discussion, but not too much text that comprehension is lost. I am thinking about dividing the text by headings if appropriate. For the lower level texts (A-G) they may have to read the entire book, take turns reading the pages and both come up with questions about the same text, if that makes sense.

Here are some mini-lesson ideas for teaching PRC2

- How to divide the text
- Thick/Thin questions
- How to ask follow-up questions
- What to do when your partner doesn't know how to answer your question
- How to fill out the PRC2 recording sheet

You can get the book on Amazon for under $5 - well worth it!

Here is a form I re-created and modified from the book that I plan on using this year with 2nd graders. I hope the link works!

PRC2 recording sheet/ tips

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Daily 5/ CAFE

So many people are blogging about daily 5 and CAFE so I thought I would join in the fun! I have been doing daily 5 and cafe for two years now and just love it!

Last year, my literacy stations included: read to self, partner reading, RAZ-kids, work work, work on writing, and reading response. Literacy Stations was by far my kids' favorite part of the day. They love having choice at each station as I have multiple activities at the word work, work on writing stations, and reading response station and they choose their own books (with guidance in choosing "just right books") for partner reading, independent reading, and RAZ-kids.

This year I am thinking of adding a fluency station. At this station I will have repeated reading passages with stopwatches for students to track (on graphs) their oral reading rate, poetry, readers theater, rhythm walk sentence strips, and anything else I can come up with!

What I love about the CAFE model of guided reading is that it allows me to differentiate for more than just level - I can group by strategy! I love the actual menu and showing students what strategy we are working on and why we are working on it. The goal sheets are so nice for 2nd grade because it allows students to take ownership for their learning and gives independent reading a purpose. I also really like the idea that I might need to meet with some students in individual conferences as opposed to small groups. If you haven't read the book, I strongly recommend it! The sisters are geniuses :)

The schedule went like this:
- 15-20 minute comprehension mini-lesson focusing on explicit strategy instruction and always using read alouds
- 20-25 minute independent reading - students have book boxes (I meet with guided reading group)
- 10 minute accuracy/decoding/phonics mini-lesson
- 20 minute "round" of literacy stations (I meet with guided reading group)
- 10 minute fluency/ vocabulary min-lesson
- 20 minute "round" of literacy stations (I meet with guided reading group)

Here is a picture of our CAFE board at some point in the middle of the year...a work in progress!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Debbie Diller's Math Work Stations

I just got into Debbie Diller's math work stations book, and found some things I am LOVING and some things that I am still wondering!

- gradual release
- talk cards
- "I can" statements taped to the cover of each bin
- working in partners rather than small groups
- short mini-lesson before the stations to set the stage
- self-sustaining stations (can last a month or longer if needed)

Still Wondering:
- Do the students even do the practice pages in their math journals (we use Everyday Math)
- Do you get behind in the pacing of the core curriculum if you spend so much time going over the stations?
- We use "tool kits" in Everyday Math - are those still necessary? If so - how do you get enough materials for 30 kids and for 10 stations?
- Is there a way to organize the stations around a math skill rather than concept? For example, number sense station rather than addition/ subtraction station?

Please leave comments, suggestions, thoughts!!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Parent Communication

I was on the Really Good Stuff website yesterday and saw a parent communication journal that I decided I couldn't afford to buy for all of my I created my own form. I plan to use the form weekly and store them in the student's take home folder using the 3 brads in the middle. Of course probably a couple students here and there will lose their folders so for those few students that I might want to have documentation on I will make copies of the signed forms for myself! What do you think of the form? Should I change it? Feel free to use it/ change it if you like it. Somehow it when I uploaded it onto google docs the clip art happy face, sad face, and straight face disappeared. They were in the top row to show what kind of week the student had. It's easy to add them in!

On another note, I got my Debbie Diller Math Work Stations book today, which I couldn't be more excited to get into!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

First Post

This is my first post...and I am new to the world of blogging so bare with me as I figure this out! I decided to start this blog as a way to put ideas out there about teaching and to get feedback from anyone who is reading! We'll see how it goes...

My mission this summer is to develop math workshop. I know this is old news for some amazing teachers out there, but I have never tried it. I just ordered Debbie Diller's Math Work Stations book, which I am hoping will be helpful. I teach 2nd graders (about 30 kids in my class each year) and our school uses Everyday Math, which at first glance seems hard to teach workshop style. Keep in mind I have 60 minutes at best to teach math each day. Here is what I am thinking so far:

- 3 rotations
- mini-lesson taught multiple times (2 or 3) to smaller groups of students that take about 20 minutes
- math work stations

I teach reading workshop using the CAFE/ Daily 5 model and want to come up with something like CAFE for math. My ideas so far are: quick recall, number sense, and computation. QNC? Not quite as catchy as CAFE...I think I'll have to keep thinking of a name for it! I am thinking though that each mini-lesson could fall under one of those umbrellas and then as we add skills/ strategies to the "QNC Board" students can do activities or play games at the work stations to practice.

Anyone have any thoughts on this? I am open to any and all suggestions?