Sunday, September 20, 2015

Introducing Narrative Writing- The Ultimate Writing Workshop

We are well into our Narrative Writing Unit and Writing Workshop has definitely become my favorite time of the day!  I really feel like I have been organized with Writing Workshop this year more than I have ever been!  Anyway,  I wrote a post about setting up Writing Workshop by introducing rules and routines (these are the first 4 lessons in my Ultimate Writing Workshop Narrative Writing Product).  You can check out that blog post {HERE}.

I have just finished Lessons 5-10.  The topics of these lessons include:

What is a Personal Narrative? 
We brainstorm ideas and listen to a story that is a Personal Narrative.

I Don’t Know What to Write! 
We use our Ideas to Write About Chart in our Writing Folders as a tool to help them come up with topics to write about.

Planning- Pictures First!
We start to plan our 3 page stories while talking about sketching the pictures first.  The reason for this is so that the students will remember what they are writing about the next day.

Help!  I Don’t Know How to Spell It!
In this lesson we start to talk about how we spell those longer words.  We stretch those words like bubble gum and we practice this in our Interactive Writing Lesson.

Using the Word Wall to Spell Words
We also discuss how we can use our Word Wall and our Writing Words books to find sight words that we need to learn how to write.

Using Words We Know to Spell New Words
Lastly, we discuss how we can spell words using words we already know like –and to write the word s-and.

We have been writing stories together using Interactive Writing on the Smart Board.  This allows me to model all of the skills that I want them to become independent at in their own writing.  I conference with 4-5 students every day.  I love the conference time because this allows me to meet with each student and work on their specific skills at their level. 

For example, I have some students writing stories like this:

And I have some students writing stories like this:

When I conference with my students, I really try not to focus on the mechanics of their writing too much.  I ALWAYS first have them read their story to me.  I focus on the IDEAS in their stories and we talk about the great things they have already done and then we talk about how they can add to their story and make it more interesting. 

When we conference, I help the child set a goal.  The goal is directly related to the lessons that we have covered so far.  For example, I have several students working on adding more to their words and pictures.  I have some students working on stretching out words when they are spelling longer words.

We sent home our first stories the other day.  Every couple of weeks, I have the students give me their best story (or two).  I keep them in my conferencing binder so I can use them for assessments etc.  They take the rest home.  I always send home this EDITABLE letter with their first writing samples.  I really want to make sure parents aren’t trying to “fix” all of their writing when it comes home.

Next week we will be moving into how to write Small Moment stories and focusing in on those Small Moments. 

The plans that I made for this unit are so EASY too follow!  It’s one page and includes the Materials needed for the lesson, Connection, Mini-Lesson, Student Engagement, and ideas for Sharing.  There are 25 Lessons altogether!

All of the lessons also have a Notebook File that can be used on Smart Boards.  You DO NOT have to use this option to use this product, it’s just an added bonus!

More to come later after we do our next 5 lessons!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

When Hairy Met Tallie

Hi friends!
I wanted to share a book with you today.  Sam, a friend of Stacie Carroll's contacted me about a book that Stacie wrote, When Hairy Met Tallie.  Stacie is a mom that is passionate about helping children learn to accept themselves and others just the way they are.  

The book is based on a true story of Stacie's life with her daughter Tallie.  Tallie is often made fun of because she is "different".  This was very hard on both Tallie and Stacie.  One day, Stacie picked up Tallie from school with a life size skeleton in the front seat of the car.  Tallie loved the skeleton instantly and decided to name him Hairy (because he has no hair).  Hairy has changed Tallie's thinking of herself because "everyone is the same on the inside".  

Sam sent me the book and told her I would post about it if I liked the book.  I LOVED the book and so did my students.  I shared it with my class and I had 3 or 4 kids asking if they could put it into their "book box".  I shared it with my first grade team and one of the other teacher's had to bribe Jace (who is autistic) to give it back to her.  He was totally infatuated with the real pictures in the back of the story and wasn't about to give it up!

If you are interesting in purchasing this book, you can click on either picture or on this link.


Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Writing Workshop- Getting Started

If you know me at all, you know that I have a passion for Guided Reading and meeting the needs of all students during Guided Reading in my classroom.  What you might not know is that as much as I love Guided Reading, Writing Workshop is actually my favorite part of the day... there are two big reasons why!

 1.      The kids LOVE writing workshop.
2.   Each student is working at their own level! 

Please know that what I write in this blog post is how I run my Writing Workshop.  I realize different things work for different people.  What I am going to write about works for me and my kiddos.  I hope that maybe I can give you some ideas to add to your writing workshop time…

Why do I choose to teach writing in a Writing Workshop format?
  • ALL students are working at their own level!
  • Students get to choose topics that interest them to write about.
  • The mini-lesson allows for Interactive Writing (share the pen).
  • Writing Workshop allows the teacher to conference with students individually or in small groups to focus on their needs.

How do I get started with Writing Workshop?
  • I start on DAY 1.  I encourage students to just write, write, write from the start.  Anything goes and no matter what they are writing about- it is AMAZING!
  • I get REALLY excited each day before we start writing.  I tell them how much I love writing workshop and how much they are going to love it too!  Positive energy about writing is really contagious!
  • The first days/weeks I really focus on the rules, routines, and organization of Writing Workshop.

If you were to walk into my room during Writing Workshop, what would it look like?
  • Writing Workshop lasts about 45-60 minutes every day.
  • First, we do a mini-lesson (usually on the SMART board).  I try to keep the mini-lesson between 10-15 minutes.  Many times we are writing together doing a shared interactive writing and writing stories together.
  • After the mini-lesson students will begin writing on their own.  I call table groups to get their writing folder as we watch how well everyone can get started quickly and quietly.
  • I have soft music playing.  I usually listen to a Pandora station.
  • Students will be spread around the room.  I switch off each day, BOYS will work on the floor one day while the GIRLS are at their seats and then visa-versa.
  • Students on the floor are sitting on mats in their own area (they get to choose).  I don’t allow students to go under desks though or else it turns into a fight of who gets to sit where.  They must not be able to hold their arms out and touch another student.
  • I meet with students (usually about 5 each day).  We discuss their writing and talk about where they are going with it.  I focus on WHAT they are writing and spend very little time worried about mechanics.
  • Students write for about 20-30 minutes and then come to the “story pit” to share. 
  • I have sharing/conferencing charts that I use.  Each group has about 5 students and I meet with those students that day and then they also share.  They share their stories no matter where they are in the writing process.  We focus by giving 2 compliments and an idea.

My newest product is structured the way that I run my Writing Workshop.  I did these lessons with my first graders and they are now writing up a storm!  I love to see how excited they are when writing time comes around every day. 

This product includes:
·      25 Narrative Writing lessons including getting started with Rules, Routines, and Organization
·      Lessons are also set up in SMART Notebook Files to allow for interaction on a SMART board (this is not needed but is an added bonus!)
·      Writing Folder (pages to set up your writing folder)
·      Set-up directions
·      Conferencing sheets
·      Narrative writing rubric that focuses on skill taught during lessons
·      Sharing Charts (editable)
·      Letter to send home to parents explaining Writing Workshop

Lesson Topics include:  

Each lesson is set-up along this format...

Here is a sample from Lesson #1

We have done Lessons 1-4 this year and I couldn't be happier with how it is going!  The kids love it.  In fact, we didn't do Writing Workshop last Friday and you would have thought it was the end of the world as we know it!

I will be sharing more about my lessons soon and all of the fun things we are learning with Narrative Writing!  Stay tuned...

Saturday, September 5, 2015

GoNoodle Back to School Blogger Blitz!

Have you ever heard of Pop See Ko, Kitty High Five, or Just Kidding?  If not, you are missing out!  The Koo Koo Kanga Roo guys are a blast and my kids love them.  Are they a little strange?  YES!  Thanks why they are so much fun!  

GoNoodle is a fun website that has TONS of fun brain breaks for your kids!  The Koo Koo Kanga Roo guys are only one small part.  There are Zumba dances, Brainersize with Mr. Catman, Kidz Bop and so much more!

We use GoNoodle in our classroom as a brain break during math.  We have our main lesson and then before playing games we do a brain break to wake up our bodies and our brains!  The kids love it!

We also use it for birthdays.  There is a great Birthday song by the Koo Koo Kanga Roo guys that the kids love!

Do you hate indoor recess as much as I do??  Have no more fear!  All you have to do is put on one of the several recess brain breaks and your kids will entertain themselves!

These are just some of the ways that we use GoNoodle in the classroom.  If you haven't used it, I encourage you to try it!  We only have one recess that only lasts about 15 minutes so GoNoodle has really helped my wiggle worms keep on task!

GIVEAWAY!  GoNoodle is giving away 25 GoNoodle Headbands for your class!  I actually have one of these that I picked up at the iTeach 1st Conference in Las Vegas this summer!  The kids loved when I busted it out today!

Yes, I know- I look ridiculous but I will do just about anything to entertain these kiddos!

Enter the Rafflecopter below to win your own class set of headbands!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

GoNoodle is also having a 15% off sale at their GoNoodle shop.  Just enter the coupon code: BTSwithGoNoodle.  The sale runs from September 4th-September 11th.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

A Peek into our First Grade Spelling

Last year, our school decided that we needed to do something different with our spelling program.  We used to have individualized lists which sounds AMAZING right?  It was- but it was also a HUGE undertaking and was stressful every week.  We had to depend on parents to give our spelling tests.  It would take a couple of hours each week and if they didn’t show up then the rest of our day was consumed with giving spelling tests.  We loved the differentiation and wanted to keep some differentiation with our new program but we needed to make some changes.

I created a system that introduced the first grade spelling patterns as well as some commonly misspelled sight words.  There are two different tests each week.  Here is an overview of how we used it last year.

First, we would give a pre-test every Friday.  The pre-test would be the words from the Blue List.  These words are basic first grade patterns that we wanted all first graders to master.  If a student scored 80% or above, he/she would get the Red challenge list.  The Red challenge list consists of words with the same spelling pattern but the words are more difficult.  If the student scored below 80% he/she would get the Blue List.  Spelling lists were sent home on Friday with the students.  Both lists consist of the same two sight words as well.  The sight words are not on the pre-test.

On the pre-test, the students write the words on the Try-it side of their paper.  Afterward, they put their pencil away and take out a crayon or colored pencil.  We go over the words together and they write it correctly on the Practice side of their paper.  OR you could just collect the papers and grade them yourself.

We practice our words throughout the week doing different activities and we have our test on Thursdays.  When we did our test, my teaching partner and I would each take a group.  I would give the test to the Blue group one week and she would do the Red group and then we would switch the next week.  This system worked really well.

On each test there is also a dictated sentence.  The dictated sentence includes both sight words as well as a couple of the spelling pattern words that we had for the week.  At the bottom of the test paper, there is a place for the teacher to record the students Capital Letters, Punctuation, Spelling, and Neatness.  I used a plus, check, minus system.  (See picture). 

Also included is a recording sheet that has the tests split up by the quarter or trimester.

So, if you are looking for a new spelling program, maybe this is something that you would like for your school too!  It worked well for us last year!

Thanks for stopping by!
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