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.

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