Monday, February 25, 2013

Peer Editing

All month we have been writing reports.  Each child has chosen a topic that he knows a lot about and wants to teach the rest of the class.  Today students met with their partner to do some peer editing.  The partners were looking for places where they could add capital letters and punctuation and then finding words from the word wall (also posted on the back of each student's Writing folder) that were misspelled.  They did an amazing job helping each other!

Center on Skills

About once a week the children spend an hour participating in Skills Center.  We have six centers and the children spend 10 minutes in each center.  Each center is a review of a skill we have recently studied.  Below are a few of the most current.

Contraction Concentration played with a partner

Bingo with words that have a long vowel and a silent e at the end.

Putting words in ABC order to the second letter.

Putting contractions together and taking them apart.

Making the first grade sight words with individual letters

Happy Valentine Day

One of my favorite things to do with children is to let them create something from their own imaginations.  So today, we gave the children a folded white sheet of card stock - a blank canvas - to make a Valentine card.  We also put several pieces of colored construction paper cut into different sizes, some heart patterned paper, and some pink, red, and white foam hearts out for the students to use.  The only instruction was on how to make a heart - fold a piece of paper in half, draw the number 2 starting on the folded edge and then returning to the folded edge before the straight bottom line.  Then cut out the heart - A few students even figured out how to make a heart within a heart.  Moms and Dads and Grandmas and Grandpas got really special Valentines today!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Practicing Spelling Sight Words

I LOVE Pinterest and one of the reasons is because I get the coolest ideas.  Below you can see us practicing spelling words.  We are using plastic plates.  We have white boards in our classroom but for something quick and easy, passing plates is a snap.  We use dry erase markers but these have a pom pom glued to the end of the marker to act as an eraser!  How cool is that!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Lucy Calkins - About the Common Core

So today I traveled to Orlando, FL with eight of my Chets Creek colleagues for a Heinemann Workshop with Lucy Calkins.  I learned so-o-o-o much.  Here is a review of some of the big ideas.

What are the issues with the Common Core?
  • The problem in American education is poverty.  23% of our children are growing up in poverty which is up from 10%.  Standards cannot make up for all that poverty takes away from these children.
  • The estimated cost of the Common Core is $15.7 billion for the beginning phase.  The problem is that half that money is going to developing new assessments and the rest to the new technology needed to give the tests!  Where will the money come from to provide rich libraries and non-fiction books for each classroom?
  • The Common Core is not really researched-based.  We really don't  know what the pathway is to achieving the Common Core Standards.
  • The design itself may be flawed.  Working backwards from college readiness may not really provide the best standards for K-1 students.
We are at a crossroads.  Can we see opportunity and possibilities?

We have learned a lot about what NOT to do.
  • Adopting a new core reading program will not solve the problem.  We spent $87 million on new reading core and reading flatlined.  Adopting a basal and trying to teacher-proof learning just shows a lack of confidence in the profession.
  • Turning down the lights and turning on the music and just letting children write will not produce results without quality instruction.
  • Adopting too many innovations with a little bit of this and a little bit of that will not work.  If you have more thatn 4 or 5 innovations, you will not see gains.  Innovations need to be implemented with 90% fidelity to make a difference.
What we need is a model of continuous improvement.

Why is the Common Core gold?
  • It's a wake up call.
  • It calls for collegiality.  Gone are the days of closing your door and doing what you want. We are now in a time when teachers will have to work together in learning communities in order to lift the level of their practice.
  • There is an emphasis on writing.  Not only are there writing standards, but part of the reading standards are about writing.
  • There is an emphasis on text complexity and moving kids up through levels of more and more difficult text.
You need to know that comprehension is complex and that there is no researched magic list of strategies that will guarantee that you get all your students to the standards.  The BEST strategy is still a teacher who can make a difference.

Lucy Calkins - About Opinion Writing

The afternoon of Lucy Calkin's Heinemann Workshop in Orlando, FL was spent looking at writing.  Of the three types of writing emphasized in the Common Core - narrative, informational, and opinion - opinion writing is the one that we have done the least with in Kindergarten and first grade, so what does Lucy say it should look like?

Persuasive Writing In Kindergarten - Using Words to Make a Change
  • In your school - Students look for problems in the class and around the school and find solutions.  They make signs.
  • Writing letters to make a change - Write letters addressing a problem with  solutions to spark change.  You can embed a story or anecdote into a persuasive piece or add politeness in the closing.  You can persuade with information.
  • Take on a persuasive project that requires research to make the world a better place.  Sound like an expert.
Persuasive Writing in First Grade - Writing Reviews
  • Best in Show -  Ask each child to bring in a shoebox collection of something they care about.  When you care about something, you have a best.   Now how do you decide which is the best item in your collection - the winner?  Which is the second place? third place? and why did you make that choice?  Which thing in your collection takes the booby prize?  Can you defend your choices?
  • Writing reviews - First graders can write reviews of restaurants or video games or toys...    They learn to hook the reader, to defend their choices and to make comparisons.  They learn to use checklists.  They study published reviews.
  • Writing persuasive book reviews - Learn to share a summary of a book but don't spill the beans by telling the entire story.  Don't make it too long or too short.
That gives us a great outline for persuasive writing and what it should look like at both grades, but I can't wait until Lucy's new Units of Study for Writing, which are grade level specific, come out in March.  It's been ten years since the first primary units were written for K-2.  Lucy said 65% of the classrooms in the country have those units!  Wonder where the money will come from to buy the new units?

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Master Teacher

There is nothing that I enjoy more than watching a master teacher at work! I had that chance today. We have a kinder teacher whose mom retired this year. Mrs. Jackson was a longtime kindergarten teacher, turned Counselor, and boy, can she read a story! She volunteers in her daughter's classroom and once a month does a Guidance lesson for all kinder and 1st classes- going to each of the 16 rooms! Amazing, right?

The kids applaud and jump up and down when they see Mrs. Jackson enter the room. While she would be fine if I took a break while she did her lesson, I always find a reason to hang around just because I so enjoy listening to her stories. Today she told a story about Princess Phillips who lives in the castle called Chet's Creek! I was hanging onto her every word!

But it's what she did with a little munchkin that sits right at my feet that helped me know I was watching a master at work.  This child normally sits at the foot of my rocking chair (absent from the picture below).  She raises her hand to answer every single question and then at least another dozen times when I'm not asking a question!  Have you ever had that child?  When you do call on her, at least 90% of the time her comment is nothing close to an answer to the question or even on topic to the conversation.  I usually just ignore her hand at inappropriate times and try to always call on her when I think she might really know the answer, but the hand keeps going up - ALL of the time!  Obviously what I am doing is not working.   As I watched Mrs. Jackson, I notice the hand go straight up as soon as Mrs. Jackson started the first story and without missing a beat, Mrs. Jackson very gently took the child's hand and placed it down by the child's side.  She never even looked at the child or lost a moment's focus with the rest of the class - just gently put the child's hand down.  For the rest of the story, to my amazement, the child sat intently listening to the story without raising her hand a single time. One time, I noticed she started to raise her hand and then just put it right back down.   Now that's a master teacher - one who just knows what to do from experience or just innate instinct - so simply, so easily, so effortlessly.  She didn't think about a strategy to keep the child on her bottom with her hand down.  She just knew what to do. 

Some people have referred to working at Chets Creek as being in Camelot and I think they are right.  It is all about Princess Phillips in a castle named Chets Creek where they care so much about a little girl named Kate that they tried to raise money to find a cure and where they plant a garden to feed children that are hungry... and where we have volunteers like Mrs. Jackson who amaze us every day!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Happy 100!

I'm not sure we did anything different than any other class celebrating the 100th day of school today, but we sure had lots of fun!  We started with the children explaining their 100 collections that they brought from home.  My favorites were shark's teeth and Q-tips!  One student just poured Cheerios into a Ziploc.  When we asked if he was sure he had 100 Cheerios, he admitted to not counting so we made him count them during snack!  No free rides.  My favorite collections were the ones brought in by Mrs. Mallon and Mrs, Dillard's class in water bottles!  Love this idea!

Then we made the cutest hats ever.  Not only were they fun but the children had to put 10 dots on each of 10 strips of paper and then write from 1-100.  We used extra bulletin board border so the prep was really fast.  The 10 snack is always a hit! The kids get so excited about counting 10 pieces of 10 different snack foods and didn't realize that they are actually working on counting skills!

The 100 Fruit necklace is another favorite.  The youngsters are encouraged to string 10 of one color before switching colors so they can practice counting to 10 and seeing that 100 is really just ten tens.

We hid 100 Hersey Kisses and then challenged the children to find them and put them on the 100s chart. We did such a good job of hiding the kisses that we still haven't found five of them!  Is it possible that one of the kids ate the missing 5?

I know it seems like everything this year was has been food but we also played the 100 Dice Game and rolled dice, coloring in the sum of each throw to see how many roles it would take to reach 100.
To offset the sweets, we did 100 exercises, but we are the SWEET Shoppe so... we ended the day with cupcakes!
Such a fun day!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Down 'n' Dirty

New bulletin boards went up today.  We decided to display our combination of Science and Writing.  In Science we have been doing a unit on "What Plants Need to Survive."  As part of our on-going gardening project we are planting potatoes.  I posted earlier about how we planted the potato eyes and then came in and wrote instructions for other classes. 

For our bulletin board border we had our children first draw themselves planting the potatoes on an index card and then had them draw what they thought the potatoes would look like when they were ready to harvest.  The picture to the left is one of my favorites!  I guess we forgot to discuss that the potatoes actually grow as part of the roots under the ground!  The children are going to be quite surprised that they don't see the potatoes growing as leaves and flowers!  Can't wait til harvest time!

We decided to use our potato planting papers for our bulletin board.  It was especially difficult to choose just four pieces of work, because there were so many that we really adored.  Below is Hailey's instructions with her thoughtful and heartfelt opening and closing!  Following that is the teacher commentary.

Hailey’s Commentary


You have to adore Hailey’s introduction - an original.


She has several steps in her process and uses the transition words
first, next and finally.


Hailey ties her closing into her introduction by suggesting that
some of the potatoes might go to Second Harvest.  She goes on
to explain that Second Harvest is a truck that brings food to people
who are hungry.  Love how she’s thinking!


Hailey’s pictures reinforce each step of her procedure



After an editing conference, Hailey added capitals at the beginning
of each sentence.


She also added some of the missing punctuation.

Sight words

Hailey spells most sight words correctly without consulting her word wall.

Potato Planting

Thanks to a wonderful volunteer, Dr. Brenda Zenk, our school garden was prepared for potato planting.  We went to the garden today and gave each pair of children a potato prepared for planting (you can see an example on the left).  Potatoes had been cut to have 2-3 eyes in each piece.  Trenches were dug about twelve inches deep with our class name attached to the row.  In pairs, the children dug a hole with a trowel approximately 8 inches deep and dropped their potato "seed."  The potatoes were planted about 12 inches apart. Then each pair covered the potato piece with about 2 inches of soil and 2 inches of leaves.  The leaves provide nutrients and, like mulch, keep the potatoes from freezing.  It will take about three months for the potatoes to mature so we should be harvesting in April.  Mashed potatoes? Potato chips? French fires?  Can't wait!

When we returned to the room, we reviewed the steps to planting and talked about writing the instructions for other classes that might enjoy planting their own potatoes.  Below is Avery's example of the instructions:
Hmmmm... Maybe this is our next bulletin board!