Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Reading with Your child

I have written before about a new feature on the Chets Creek website, Read with Your Child. The idea was to videotape teachers at Chets Creek reading to their own child so parents of our students could see what it looks like. We always say to parents, "Read to your child," but sometimes I'm not exactly sure if parents really know what that LOOKS like. Do we, as teachers, have techniques that we use that parents might adopt if they just see what they look like? Do parents know how to use their voice to engage the child by using a deep, mean voice for an ugly troll or a wee little voice for the smallest billy goat gruff? Do parent know how to stop expectantly and let their child complete a sentence? Do parents know that if a child is struggling to read a book that they can jump in and help by reading a page or a line or a word? Do parents know that we want the child to practice reading the books we send home each night but we also want them to read TO their child - something fun that they both really WANT to read together?

I am really proud that so many first grade teachers were willing to step forward and be videotaped with their own children - Haley Alvarado with her newborn son, Meredy Mackiewicz with her toddler, Randi Timmons with her preschooler... but the reason I'm writing about this topic again is because Melanie Holtsman has just added a few new videos to our library and one is of first grade teacher Cheryl Dillard reading with her first grade son. It's such a wonderful example of a mother and her first grader enjoying reading together. At the same time that she is enjoying the time together, she checks his comprehension of the story in the most natural way and helps add to his vocabulary! Enjoy this delightful video below!

Monday, December 29, 2008

First Grade Wiki

Several years ago we decided that we would develop a notebook of resources for our first grade teachers. Because we don't really have a Teacher's Manual for Readers' and Writers' Workshop, it seemed each year we were gathering the same things over and over before each unit. The idea was to put together a notebook of resources that we could look through before we taught each unit to give us ideas and resources for mini-lessons in particular. We kept the notebooks up for a few years but as so many of our teachers looped and came back, the notebooks became overwhelming. They became too big and too bulky. We got so we put in everything instead of just the "tried and true" stuff and we were limited by only being able to put in paper copies of things. Finally we went to a system of each teacher just keeping what she wanted, but we have realized, especially with our new teachers to the grade level, that we are still pulling together stuff before each unit and teachers will say, "I've never seen that" because they weren't on the grade level the year that particular thing was added.

This year, Melanie Holtsman introduced us to a wiki - a way to collaborate on-line. This seemed like the perfect venue to add, not only paper copies, but web sites, files, blog entries, slide shows, videos - well, the possibilities are limitless. We have closed this wiki so that it can only be edited by our community of first grade teachers, but we are certainly interested in sharing it with a larger community.  Check out our first grade wiki! This is our first attempt, so let me know what you think!

Sunday, December 28, 2008


As we come to the close of this year, it is a time to relect on things that have gone really well and things that we really want to focus on for the new year.

It's easy to think about the good things that have happened in our first grade at Chets Creek so far this year. This is an extremely talented group of first grade teachers.
  • Technology is at the top of the list- outstanding blogs, a new wiki, voicethreads, flip camera videos - risk takers in every area of technology.
  • The student work produced and excitement around the Mem Fox Author Study was phenomenal.
  • Teachers have stepped up with passion and commitment to provide leadership for a "green" emphasis for the grade level.
  • First grade teachers continue to provide leadership school wide to our Intervention Team, to Science, and to our co-teaching professional development.
As I reflect on our "next steps" for the new year, two things come to mind. One has to do with academic disequilibrium and the other with curriculum.

Academic disequalibrium. This has been an unusual year because the county adopted a new core reading program. We began the year with not enough information to know how the new adoption would effect our Pacing Guide. The materials dribbled in and we struggled to figure out what we had and what we were suppose to do with what we had. As we have tried to incorporate the materials where it made sense, we have created disequilibrium on the grade level. In giving teachers choices and freedom to think and make decisions about what they wanted to adopt and teach, they have struggled with doing things differently instead of all being on the same page - which is the scenario they are more familiar with. Nothing at Chets Creek has ever been dictated to teachers. Instead, in the past, they would meet and talk through pacing and decide colliagially what they wanted to teach and how they would support each other. But this year the county's adoption and the edict to have all schools use the same program presented a different set of challenges to our well oiled machine. This year sharing among teachers has broken down because for the first time in a long time, everyone is not doing the same thing, time has been more limited without PLC days (which included more intense time for conversations had to be cut because of the budget), and the grade level has gotten even bigger - 15 teachers! In thinking about the isolation some teachers may be beginning to feel, I realize that it is important as we come to January to regroup. That will be easier as we all work through the Kevin Henkes Author Study which is a study that was developed at our school. This group has worked through and revised this author study several times together, so it provides a familiarity which should help solidify the team. They will also begin a test-taking unit that they originated, so they have a deep history of collegiality embedded in these units as they come back. While the strength of their bond has been tested, I have faith that the stronger members of this team will provide the glue that will bring them back together.

Curriculum. Another change for this year was the county imposing a learning schedule for writing. In year's past we had aligned our reading, writing and skills so that we had echoes across the day - each subject supported the other. In trying to move toward the county's directives, that "tried and true" alignment was fractured - another reason some teachers are feeling disjointed. So far, teachers have spent 9 weeks on a narrative unit and spent the rest of the time before the holiday working on nonfiction writing - basically reports. Teachers have done this in different ways. Some teachers have also looked at functional writing at this point in time. Some have not. My goal as we come back together in the new year will be to look at the work our children have done in nonfiction writing, compare it to the rubric so that teachers can reflect on where they are and what they have left to accomplish before finishing nonfiction portfolio pieces as we come to an end of the second nine weeks.

This time of rest and rejuvenation is just what is needed to reflect about where we've come and where we want to go in the new year. It's easy to lead when things go smoothly, but the challenge is in leading and hearing each voice when things are not quite perfect - which simply means we have a learning opportunity. So... bring it on! We want to prove once again that we really are lifelong learners, that this opportunity will make us stronger and that we are all about solutions.

7 Things Nobody Needs to Know

I was tagged by Melanie Holtsman to write 7 things that nobody knows about me. It was really hard because my life is pretty much an open book and those that I share my office with know just about everything, but here goes...

1. As a teenager I was invited to spend a summer as an actortress apprentice with a summer stock company, the Vagabond Players at Flat Rock Playhouse. Besides being a stage and house manager, lighting director, learning to handle props and scenery, I played Rapunzel in the summer children’s production of a play. Rapunzel, Rupunzel, let down your golden hair…
2. I was a Girl Scout, beginning in elementary school and remaining until I graduated from high school. My troop began with 18 girls in second grade and we all graduated high school together. The key was an amazing Girl Scout leader. As a Girl Scout I visited Juliet Lowe’s birthplace in Savannah, Ga., visited the World’s Fair in NYC, mastered first aide, learned to play bridge, and did the only camping I’ve ever done in my life. The picture is of our Senior year in high school (I'm in the front on the right - notice the gloves!)

3. In high school I was voted “Most Talented” in my Senior class.

4. I was the Editor of my college annual - small Methodist girls' college.

5. I became a Special Education teacher because I had an opportunity to travel the southeast as a teen spokesperson for Easter Seals. The year that I was “Miss Teen SC”, “Miss Teen America” was named the ambassador for National Easter Seals. As a result I was invited to travel in my part of the country, to make speeches, to visit children’s hospitals, to be a part of telethons, etc. It was the first time that I had been exposed to children with disabilities. I traveled for Easter Seals for 3 years all over the southeast. The experiences and the families that I met changed my life.

6. As a child and teenager I wanted to be a missionary. If I hadn’t fallen in love with my husband in high school, I think I would have followed that dream. After my first child was born, I tried desperately to convince my husband to embrace missionary work in Africa – he thought I had lost my mind – so I decided to make teaching my mission instead.

7. When my husband went to West Virginia University to finish his doctorate, I took a job as an administrative assistant with a developmental disabilities grant. PL 94-142 (the public law that guaranteed all children a public education) was new. As a result of that job I had the opportunity to open the first classes in the state of West Virginia for severely and profoundly disabled children. I hired and trained the teachers, led the project to write the curriculum, and led the first parent meetings. It is still one of the things that I am most proud.

Now, who shall I tag?

Saturday, December 27, 2008


I was tagged recently by Melanie Holtsman to create a Wordle. My vocabulary is increasing daily - wordle, meme - I wonder if these words have even made it into the dictionary yet! My Wordle is a collection of the words that I have most recently used on this blog.

There are no real surprises except I obviously have been writing more about writing than reading. First and grade should be together because my entire blog this year is about first grade. No surprise there. I like that students and children come up so often because that is the entire point!

Here is how to create your own Wordle Meme:
1. Create a Wordle from your blog's RSS feed.
2. Blog it and describe your reaction. Any surprises?
3. Tag others to do the same.
4. Be sure to link back here and to where you were first tagged.
5. Create different Wordle clouds of your blog's RSS over a period of time. Do it once a month for the next year to capture the spirit of the times.

Teaching Essentials

I just completed Regie Routman's Teaching Essentials. The only thing that surprised me in this book was its length. I first read Regie Routman's Transitions in 1990 as I returned to teaching after several years at home on the mommy track, and my connection to her work was immediate. As the years went along I read each of her lengthy, meaty books filled with detailed stories and her thoughtful journey. This book, much like Debbie Miller's Teaching with Intention, was like sitting down with a dear friend and discussing a long and meaningful career. Instead of summarizing the book, I have taken some quotes directly from the book that ring so true for me.

"Assume all children are smart and treat them that way."
"It is writing that turns children into readers."
"Anything we teach children in depth is likely to be learned."
"When a lesson goes badly, I ask myself, What didn't I do that is causing the students to be successful? I never think, What's wrong with these students? I place the responsibility on me, where it belongs."
"Teach with a sense of urgency."

"In a decade of working in schools across the country, I have learned that high achievement school wide only happens when there is collaboration and conversation throughout the whole school, across all grade levels and disciplines."

"It's all about relationships. I've learned that if we don't have positive, trusting relationships with our colleagues and students, not much of any consequence is likely to happen. On the other hand, when we do have that trust, we can ask for and expect more from our colleagues and students."

"I have always believed that mentoring is a part of our job as teachers, whether we get paid for it or not, and that we have an unspoken obligation to support our peers."

"One of the first questions I would ask any teacher seeking employment is ... Talk about a book or text that had a lasting impact on you, and tell why."
"If something seems like a ridiculous practice and a waste of time, it probably is."

"Without a level of smartness and engagement, we are at the mercy of the latest published program or 'scientific' study and limited to following procedures without understanding them."

"Teachers are the only professionals I know who will do what we know is not beneficial for our students and their families rather than challenge obviously ineffective current ideas or new programs."

"Rather than jumping through hoops demonstrating your fidelity to the latest program, put your energy into expressing your fidelity to your students."

"Even when a program has passed muster, we must provide a balance by using a variety of excellent resources... when one textbook becomes the total curriculum, we shortchange our students."

"Knowledgeable teachers and administrators carefully pick the best parts of any adopted program and ignore the unfavorable features."

"Avoid elaborate centers, overlong assignments, cute activities that take lots of time but teach little of importance... Keep asking yourself: How is what I am expecting my students to do helping them become more proficient, confident, independent as learners?"

"Start with the student, not the standard."

"Rethink group structures in reading... Working with students in small groups is an effective way to constantly assess how students are progressing and what they need to move forward."

"My experience as a teacher-researcher has been that students of all ages read and write more and with greater quality and independence when the task and the text are authentic and relevant."

"We all do better when we have some choice in what we are being asked to do."

"One week, one semester, one year with an outstanding teacher can change a child's life forever."

"...simplicity, intelligence and whimsy. I wrote those three words down and posted them above my desk. I frequently refer to them as a metaphor for how I want to live my life."

Wow, Regie, that about wraps it up!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Teaching Persuasive Writing

For the first time first grade teachers in our county are being asked to add a new genre of writing to our curriculum - persuasive writing. The unit is planned for about three weeks at the end of the third nine weeks, so one of my goals for this break was to find resources that are practical and exciting for my teachers as they delve into this new genre.

I have just finished Sarah Picard Taylor's Teaching Persuasive Writing. Sarah is part of Lucy Calkin's Teacher College Reading and Writing Project so her lessons fit easily with the Units of Study for Primary Writing and Stephanie Parsons' First Grade Writers that we already use. This pocket sized book is an easy read and more than that, a common sense guide to making persuasive writing relevant to our young writers by showing how easy it would be to deliver their writings to a real audience. Taylor suggests a unit of signs and posters that affect people's lives for kindergartners, persuasive letter writing for our first graders to help them make our world a better place, followed by writing reviews of movies, food, books and video games in second grade!

These are some of the things that really sparked my interest for a first grade unit of persuasive letter writing:
  • Designing special writing paper for persuasive letters that could be part of an art lesson and could be copied for all students to use.
  • Launching the unit by reading Click, Clack, Moo which is the story of how a group of barnyard animals used letter writing to change their world.
  • Mini-lesson to raise the level of writing such as providing reasons in order to persuade, using a particular incident to persuade, using transitional phrases (This is important because... Another reason is... For example,...), revising to add details, imagining your audience, how and when to use a writing partner, and using the word wall to spell conventionally.
  • One of the most exciting ideas was to actually send out the letters into the world. There is no better way to teach a child that his writing can make a difference than to actually send out some letters and have the children receive responses! It also would help a student internalize the idea of author's purpose - why do author's write what they write.
There are so many things that our young children feel passionate about from changing their bed time to why we can't recycle the Styrofoam plates in the Dining Room! They talk about the things that matter to them on a daily basis. I can just see the "power of the pen" that these young writers could feel. What a gift to give writers so early in their writing careers! Suddenly, I can't wait for this writing genre!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Auntie Claus

Resource teachers pose as Santa's Helpers
including  PE teacher Wes Timmons as dear ol' Santa!
Susan Phillips as Auntie Claus
Another Chets Creek traditions is that Auntie Claus (our Principal, Susan Phillips) reads to every single student on the last day before the holiday. In a school of over 1200 that's a pretty big deal! She brings each grade level to the Media Center at a time certain and dressed in her somewhat bizarre "Auntie Claus" outfit, she reads an age appropriate book to each grade level. Of course, for first graders she reads Auntie Claus, a previous book-of-the-month. Then, because she is in charge of the world, she orders milk and cookies for every good little girl and boy - which is served by the Resource Team dressed as elves and Santa's helpers! What an incredible gift to the children of Chets Creek and to the teachers on this last, somewhat crazy day!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Holidays Around the World

Another example of how teachers infuse academic lessons into holiday festivities is first grade teacher Toni Chant's "Holidays Around the World"  which is so appropriate this year as our theme is "Around the World in 180 Days"!Although our first grade has a Pacing Guide,  each teacher is encouraged to use the students' writing that they see each day to make decisions about what needs to be taught in each particular class and in what order. You will notice that all of the first grade classes are doing nonfiction writing at this time of year but some started with patterned or "question and answer" nonfiction books. Another class started with "All About Me Books." Some will infuse procedural writing into their report writing while others will do instructions/ "how to" writing as a separate project. The final product expectation for report writing is the same for all first grade students although the path to that point may look different in each class. In Toni's case, her class worked through researching how countries all over the world spend their holidays. They completed an attribute chart and a web for each country of interesting information. They even culminated their work with a holiday feast of foods from around the world. The holiday report example below actually includes information from eight different countries and then ends with a chapter about the child's own celebration in the USA. I have included the first and last chapters from this report. Notice that in the final chapter the writer begins using the nonfiction convention of bolded or underlined type at the beginning of each section.In Mexico they speak Spanish. Los Pasados is one of the holidays in Mexico. During Los Pasados children walk from house to house asking for a place to stay and on the third day they say, "No place to stay in the stable." In Mexico the flag colors are red, white, and green. In Mexico there are toys that are called crackers. Crackers are toys that one person holds one side and one holds the other and when you pull it breaks open and inside there are sometimes beans inside there and also paper crowns inside the cracker. Also Mexico is located in North America. In Mexico they eat tortillas, tacos and burritos. In Mexico they wear sombreros and play the maracas. Mexico is south of the United States and North of Brazil.

The colors of the flag is read, white blue.
The common language spoken in the USA is English.
USA is located in North America.
For the holidays I eat turkey, pie and fruit.
My family and me celebrate Christmas and Ramadan - even Easter, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

"How to" Prepare for the Holidays!

Couldn't help but feature this "how to" piece from the Mall-ards. It's a perfect example of how teachers have tied the traditions of the holidays to the Writers' Workshop. The Mall-ards made these wonderful multi-stepped cinnamon-smelling ornaments as holiday presents for their families. After the children made the ornaments they wrote the directions. Notice how this young writer used the nonfiction conventions of labeling and captions from the previous unit on writing reports!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Does your principal cook for you?

It's that time of year when we take the time to say thank you to all of the people in our personal and professional lives that make a difference. Above is a picture of our Leadership Team at Chets Creek, the people in my professional life that push me to be more than I ever thought I could be, the people who pick me up when I'm down and who have been my greatest cheerleaders over the years. Each year around the holiday season our Principal invites us to a Leadership meeting that is held off campus. This year we went to the home of Standard Coach, Suzanne Shall. Our principal, Susan Phillips, arrived much earlier than we did and by the time we began to arrive, she had prepared a delicious meal!

The agenda was lite including a personality game to help us see the way we are seen by other people and then a "Truth or Dare" type game to help us get to know each other even better. Melanie Holtsman shared some of her excitement about the Google Teacher Academy and the things we might be learning in the next few months. We ended with a fun game that included Susan's present to us. Each teacher picked up a bag from the table and we stood in a circle. As Susan read a story we passed the bags to the left when she said "left" and to the right when she said "right." At the end of the story each of us had a bag in our hands. As Susan spoke eloquently about the economy and families in our midst who were suffering, she asked us to open our present. Each of us held a gift card that she challenged us to use on someone in need. Wow - is there any better gift than to be able to make a small difference in someone else's life? It goes to the heart of our mission at Chets Creek.

To our Principal we must say a special thank you for the Leadership that she provides. We are a strong diverse group of individuals - not always the easiest to lead and yet she knows when to support each of us and when to reel us in. That's a VERY special gift and we are all better for it. Thank you Susan... for the magic!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Vertical Articultion of Assessment 2008

Today a select group of teachers met together for vertical articulation around assessment. This group of teachers was selected because they have experience in multiple grades within the K-1-2 framework. The teachers began with an overview of how first graders begin comprehension FCAT-style testing in January of each year and how they build new testing strategies each month. Second grade teachers then discussed their first nine weeks of assessment and explained some of the challenges they see as children move from the end of first grade to the beginning of second grade. As the teachers discussed the "gap" between first and second grade and with give and take on both sides, the teachers identified areas that needed to be reworked at both the end of first and beginning of second grade. Next the group broke into smaller work clusters to refine the identified assessments. This is difficult and tedious work but it provides common assessments so that teachers can bring work to the table and have conversation around the results. Are students learning what we are teaching? When a teacher sees that another teacher's students are having greater success on certain test items, it leads to discussions on instruction which is indeed one of the reasons that we give assessments.

In first grade, students will return from the holidays to begin learning about test strategies. They will receive a grade level passage for homework on Monday that they will be asked to read to an adult every night at home. The purpose in this is to practice for fluency but also not to penalize students that cannot easily read the text. At this point we are not testing the child's ability to read at grade level as much as we are teaching them specific test strategies. We want them to be able to read the text so that we can assess if they actually understand the test strategy we are teaching. In January we will be teaching first graders:
  • How to bubble in by filling in the entire bubble.
  • Reading all the answer choices before you bubble in.
  • How to show your proof by underlining or highlighting the answer in the text.
On Friday of each week, the child will bring back the grade level story they have been reading at home and will get 10 multiple choice questions about the story to complete in class. In January the teacher actually reads the questions and the answer choices to the class but as the year goes on children will be expected to read the questions and answer choices independently. New strategies will be added each month along with new types of questions (question stems). A second story will added to each assessment in April with only the first story being practiced at home. The idea is to teach and prepare students to take that first lengthier assessment when they enter second grade and ultimately to feel confident when taking the FCAT for the first time in third grade. It's not ALL about testing but we do want to lay out a test-taking genre that is naturally embedded into our daily work. Today we laid done the stones of that foundation in a sequential, organized way!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Skills Block

On Friday Maria Mallon and Cheryl Dillard (the "Mall-ards") used video streaming to broadcast a live first grade Skills Block lesson to the First and Second Grade Literacy Leaders (about 180 lead literacy teachers - one from each school) who were having a day of professional development at the Schultz Center. The lesson (about 30 minutes) was quick-paced, fun and interactive. The teachers called the students to the carpet with a song from Jack Johnson - Curious George (the sound track), "We're Going to Be Friends." The teachers started the Skills Block with fluency practice as they read their Class Promise together, adapted from Debbie Miller's Reading With Meaning.
Next came their Morning Message which was a review of all of the skills that they have been learning (vocabulary, phonics, phonemic awareness, punctuation and capitalization including quotation marks, and spelling). The class worked against a timer (8 minutes) to edit as many of the mistakes as they could, children coming up one at a time to correct a single mistake. At the end of the 8 minutes, the teacher underlined and corrected any mistakes that had not already been identified and counted those mistakes. She then subtracted the number they missed from 100 to post a class score! They always try to beat their score from the day before!

The class then reviewed both a vowel combinations chart and a blends chart as a choral reading. 
Vowels chart
The children also recited the vowel combinations from the chart which they do every day. They are so familiar with this chart that you actually hear them saying the appropriate line while they are writing and trying to figure out what letters to write for an unknown word. Sometimes you will see them go up to the chart and find the picture at the end of the line and then trace their finger back to see what the letters look like that make that sound. In some classes copies of this chart are also put in the child's writing folder. One of the things we want to see is the transfer of skills taught in Skills Block to the child's actual reading and writing.

The children practiced sight words by singing assorted sight words to the seasonal tune of "Jingle Bells." This version of the song was written by one of our first grade teachers and was shared with the grade level. This particular version uses some of the words introduced during the first two nine weeks of the Houghton Mifflin Core Reading Series. Since so many of the Literacy Leaders asked for these words (you could use any sight words you want to practice by matching syllables to the original syllables in the song), I'm posting the seasonal "Jingle Bells" and an earlier "Row Row Row Your Boat" below. Next month it will be a new tune with some new sight words.

To the tune of "Row Row Row Your Boat"
I jump two three four
go on here and where
we said you are not in five
who does not live away
once upon is my to do
what they pull for one
he can find the too before
two three four and done

To the tune of "Jingle Bells"
flower bird
children grow
mother of all call
paper so she try first love
today her funny cat
picture these
people fly
father see five fall
family friend eat every room
our world a blue green house

Next the children did a quick word sort. The teachers set up three columns - words that have the ou, oy, and ar sounds. First the teacher let the children hear the word (phonemic awareness) and then let them see the word (phonics) to place it under the correct category. The category and word cards that she used were from a Lakeshore kit called "Chant and Sort Vowel Cards."

For vocabulary the children practiced antonyms as a matching game with the whole group and then went to their tables to play a form of "Go Fish" with antonym (opposite) cards.

At the conclusion of their Skills Block lesson, Maria and Cheryl debriefed with the Literacy Leaders explaining how they had decided on the activities for today's lesson, what had come before this lesson and what will follow. Although their lesson was unique to the needs of their population of kids at this time, it gave the Literacy Leaders a view into the thinking process the Chets' teachers use to draw from all of the resources that are available to them as they match the resources with the on-going assessment they use as they watch how their children are working with each new and reviewed skill.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Dream Team

Our school has a "no meetings" policy for the month of December. It's nice to take a break... but the group of first grade teachers that I work with always want to meet, even when we are given permission to skip the time together. I guess it's because they really like each other and are sincerely interested in what the other teachers on the grade level are doing. With 14 members on our team it's hard to keep up with what everyone is doing! It's not a competitive feeling but a collaborative spirit that binds them together. Last night, even though they didn't have to meet, they decided to bring a potluck dish to Debbie Harbour's house. Not only did they enjoy the fellowship but they each brought ideas to share about things they do at the holidays - academic ideas, songs and poems, thoughtful ideas for room moms, crafts they make with their children, parent gift ideas... That's especially important because we have a first year teacher and two teachers new to our grade level this year. The more seasoned members of the team were happy to share what they do, especially their "tried and true."

I am so proud of this team. They have been dubbed the "Dream Team" on more than one occasion, even though the members have come and gone over the years (6 of the current members, by the way, have become Nationally Board Certified since coming to Chets Creek!) Occasionally they have been called demanding but it's because they have the same high expectation of ALL the people that they work with that they have for themselves and for their team mates. They are supportive, caring and the most professional group that I have ever worked with. It has been a thrill to watch them grow individually and collectively, but more than that, it has been such a growth experience for me to learn from them. I count my experiences with them as some of my most profound professional development.

Science Live!

This morning first grade teacher Debbie Harbour used video streaming to broadcast a Science lesson live to the Academy of Science teachers who were meeting at our district's professional development sight at the Schultz Center. Her lesson was part of the district's Learning Schedule on Water.

Debbie called her children to the carpet with a Science song that teaches the scientific method.  The words go like this:

Science Workshop SongWe use science every day
To help us make predictions.
Classify, estimate, this helps us communicate.
Process skills will teach us ways to make new observations.

Debbie then began her lesson with a KWL chart to find out what the kids already know about water and what they want to know. One of the things that the children wanted to know had to do with safety around the water (a good lesson for Florida children!)

Integrating technology, Debbie then showed a quick video of water safety and gave the children their group assignments. Each table of children was given a different location (beach, pool, water park, pond, river) and asked to design a group poster of safety rules around their specific water area. Debbie actually gave the children a checklist for their posters making sure that they were very clear about the expectations.

The children quickly got to work. Looking around, anyone would be impressed with how engaged the children were as they discussed the rules and pictures they wanted to include on each poster. You could tell that this group of students has done many group projects before because the rituals and routines for this type activity were firmly in place. Debbie closed by showing some of the children's poster work.

After the Science Workshop the children went to read independently as Debbie debriefed the lesson she had just taught with the Science lead teachers at the Schultz Center.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

First Reports: "All About Me"

As first graders start writing reports, we encourage them to write about something they know lots about. Now what do first graders know more about than themselves?! Below is an example of one first graders' "All About Me" report. Notice that he has learned to use the conventions of using photographs and a Table of Contents in this nonfiction piece. There is also evidence of his editing as he tries to add some more interesting descriptive words! Each page is followed by a transcription of his words.
Table on Contents
1. What I Look Like
2. What I Dream About
3. My Family
4. My Favorite Place

I look like my mommy. My eyes look like sky blue. My hair looks like light brown. My skin color looks like ice cream tan. I am three foot. My age - 7. Born 2001, September 2. Born in Georgia. I am a twin. I have a twin sister named Mattison

I dream about being a Georgia Bulldog football kicker. I hope I be number five. 5- THAT'S AWESOME!!! Because I practice kicking of the ball every day.

My Mommy looks like me. Her name is awesome. It's Monica. She's 5 foot 4. She's almost the biggest. She's 33. My Daddy is cool. His name is Joe. His age - 35. He's the biggest in the house. My twin sister, she's 3 foot tall. We're almost the same. Puppy named Hank. He's a weeny. He was born in Nashville, Tennessee.My favorite place is the awesome soccer field. I have a awesome number five! 5! My team name is very cool - Team Chili's. We won 5 games. We lost 0 games. We got 5 ties. I have a special cool ball. It's cherry red and white like white papers. Our jersey color is water blue and sand white. My position is ball passer. I pass the ball and sometimes I'm goal keeper. I don't let the other team score a goal. My team socks color is yellow and fireman red.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Nonfiction Conventions

One of the things that we teach first graders about nonfiction is the conventions that are specific to the genre. The Mall-ards standard-based bulletin board this month is a great example of the Nonfiction Conventions Notebook that each student created with a definition of each convention and an example. Each example was created after a mini-lesson that investigated the convention by the teacher showing examples and then the students finding examples in non-fiction books. Enjoy the results below.