Tuesday, December 30, 2008
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, Merey 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
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. I hope that you will take a look at it and if you have ideas that you think should be added, will send them to me at http://firstname.lastname@example.org/. Maybe you will think of ways that you can use a wiki in your own work. 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 phenomenol.
Teachers have stepped up with passion and commitment to provide leadership for a "green" emphsis for the grade level.
First grade teachers continue to provide leadership schoolwide to our Intervention Team, to Science, and to our co-teaching professional development.
And more importantly, this team has not forgotten joy!
As I reflect on our "next steps" for the new year, two things come to mind. One has to do with relationships and the other with curriculum.
Relationships. 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 WOW days (which included more intense time for conversations that had to be cut because of the budget), and the grade level has gotten big - 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 of response to literature 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.
1. As a teenager I was invited to spend a summer as an actor 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 the 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. 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, I tag the following people:
Saturday, December 27, 2008
There are no real surprises except I obviously have been writing more about writing than reading most recently. 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!
"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, I certainly couldn't have said it better myself!
Friday, December 26, 2008
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!
- 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.
Friday, December 19, 2008
One of my favorites this year is a fifth grade class that created centers for a first grade classroom. They designed activities, collected the supplies and then went in and enjoyed the crafts with their younger friends. In this "gimme" society, it is so refreshing to see teachers plan activites about giving. Thank you Jessie Lipsky and Bobbi Matthews for this true gift of giving.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
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
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
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
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 (we do that on the DRA2) 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
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 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, Heather Correia, 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.
we said you are not in five
Thursday, December 4, 2008
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.
Check out this kindergartner's blog about winning his class' advent box.
Debbie called her children to the carpet with a Science song that teaches the scientific method. To view Debbie's class singing the song, go to her blog featuring the video. The words go like this:
Science Workshop Song
We 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. Now this is professional development at its best!
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
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.