Monday, August 30, 2010

Assessments, Why and What Ones Should I Give?

The beginning of the school year is stressful to say the least. There is a mile long to do list with no end in sight. Teachers spend day and night going to meetings, setting up their classrooms, making name tags, creating a theme for the classroom, putting up bulletin boards, making a back to school packet with information (that may or may not be accurate come January), lesson plans for the first days of school (maybe a week if your lucky), creating a rewards system, etc. What’s crazy is I probably didn’t even mention a tenth of what a teacher has to do before the students even walk into the classroom.
            Another “biggie” on the to do list is deciding which assessments to give! Every year I would change or tweak the beginning of the year assessments to help give me feedback to help drive my instruction. We assess students at the beginning of the year for a couple of different reasons; to benchmark the students so we can see their academic growth, to help establish homogeneous groupings for small group reading instruction and math instruction, and to drive our instruction and focus on areas of need, to name a few.

The following assessments I gave to my first graders. 
**If you teach a different grade you will want to look at what students should of learned in the previous grade and what you will be teaching in the first term. 

Language Arts
Letter Names
Letter Sounds
Write ABC’s
Sight Words (1st term)
Beginning Sounds
Medial Sounds
Ending Sounds
Fluency (Grade appropriate passage)
Guided Reading Level A-Z (Fontas and Pinnell)
Words Their Way spelling inventory

Number ID
Orally Counts
Count by 10’s
Count by 5’s
Days of the Week
Months of the Year
Coin ID and Value
Time to the Hour
Shape ID

This list may sound extensive, but the information gained from these assessments was irreplaceable. After these assessments, I knew my students and I was better able to fulfill their academic needs. These assessments took about 5 weeks on average to complete. Remember to get valuable feedback takes time. I also delegated some of the assessments to trustworthy parents.

TIP: How do I keep track of all the information?
   I would make a simple spreadsheet in Microsoft word for language arts and math for each term. I would list the skills across the top and the names I would run down vertically. Organizing the assessments in this way, helped me be able to quickly glance at areas of concern, with out having to look at each individual paper. 

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I love to read!

Wow! I didn't realize how time flies so quickly when you are having fun! 

I have now seen Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love come to life on the big screen and amazed at how the story came through. I am surprised because I usually detest when books are made in to movies, but I was pleasantly surprised! I now want to sell all of my belongings and go travel the world specifically learn to speak italian and eat, find a "Richard" to tell me like it is, and find my true love in Bali. 

A girl can have dreams you know! 

I also this week have read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Yes the title is a mouth full, but it is worth reading in between the Daily 5 and Debbie Diller's Making the Most of Small Groups! If you like historical fiction this is a winner! 

I also have been impressed upon to read a classic Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. I am loving the inner monologues and the unique characters! I don't know about you, but I could read forever! 

If I could only channel my passion for reading to ALL of my kiddos, hmmm...  

I am looking for book recommendations! Please send them my way:)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Do you Zumba?

     I can't tell you how much I love going to my new Zumba class! It totally beats typical running on the treadmill or riding a stationary bike. It takes a couple of times to actually get the movements down and for you to feel totally comfortable moving your body, but during the class I can't stop smiling. I have a perma grin on my face! 

Have you Zumba'd before?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Ugh! It's raining!

As summer comes to a close, it has to rain! I normally don't complain about a good rain shower. I usually call it a day, find a blanket, curl up and read a good book! It's hard to do this when you actually have a to-do list that is ever expanding and you feel as though there isn't enough time to get it all done. 

Hopefully, the rain won't lull me to sleep anytime soon! I guess I should be thankful for the cooler weather:) 

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Owen and The Scream

This is another integrated art lesson plan, that uses Kevin Henkes' book Owen and Edvard Munch's painting of The Scream to help talk about being afraid! 

Grades: K-2

Length: 1 Day

Objectives: 1) To make inferences about how Owen and his parents might be feeling or thinking. 2) To make Text-Self Connections.

Questions: Why does Kevin Henkes use the Edvard Munch’s painting The Scream in Owen?

            Owen by Kevin Henkes
            A print of The Scream
            White paper


         1)    Show students a copy or a picture of Edvard Munch’s painting The Scream.
         2)    Ask students the following questions: Why they think the painting is called The Scream? Why do you think the person is screaming?
         3)    Tell them you are going to read the book Owen and that you want them to stop you when The Scream reminds them of something that they see in an illustration.
         4)    Read Owen by Kevin Henkes. Throughout the read aloud ask students how Owen is feeling? How are the parents feeling?
         5)    Ask them to share their Text to Self Connections, as well, while you read. 
         6)    When students spy Kevin Henkes’ version of the scream, ask students to make an inference about how Owen might be feeling. Why do you think Owen is feeling that way? What is happening in the story?
         7)    After reading, give students time to think about a time they have felt afraid or felt like screaming. Have them share with a buddy.  
         8)    Today the student’s job is to create a drawing of when they felt afraid and felt like screaming. (If they are having a hard time coming up with a time when they felt afraid, share a time that you have felt afraid. I like to use getting lost at the store and not knowing where my mom was.)    
         9)   When students have completed their artwork, choose how to celebrate their work (gallery walk, buddy share, whole class share, or group share). 

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Rewards and Consequences

                  I’m a fan of having a positive reward system! Do I indulge my students with a treasure box, NO! Believe me, parents appreciate it and I don’t have to waste my money on cheap toys that break (It is a win, win for both of us). Can my students earn privileges for good behavior? Of course! Not only do they get a lot of verbal feedback about how awesome they are, but they can also earn rewards for their good behavior. (If you give a compliment, be specific and direct i.e. Susie I loved the way you lined up so quickly and quietly!)
                  Last year to reward my students for good behavior, I used a ticket system. I loved and hated it. I loved that my students would follow the rules to hopefully earn a “blue” ticket, but I never knew if they were doing it for the ticket, or because it was the right thing to do. I would say in the beginning it was to earn the ticket, but when the tickets came out less frequently during the middle and end of the year, I knew my students were no longer doing it because of the “ticket.”
                  I have seen the ticket system work in two different ways.  You can decide what would work best for you and your students!

For both options you will need to create a chart of possible choices that your students can choose. Rewards I used were, Froggy, Ringo and Bob (these were are classroom stuffed animals), teachers chair, master of the beanbag, line leader, class DJ, free centers and happy phone call.

Option one-
1.          Label a jar “tickets”
2.         Place in a spot that is easily accessible
3.          Make sure when a student receives a ticket they write their name on the back and turn it into the jar (at an appropriate time).
4.         On Friday, pull out 5 names.
5.         These friends would get to choose one choice from the list.

*Teaches probability, the more tickets you have in the jar, the more likely you will get picked!

Option tw0-
1.          One small container for every child
2.         When a child receives a ticket, they place their name on the back and place it in their container.
3.          Students when they receive enough tickets, may make purchases in the beginning of the day for one of the choices off the list. (You will need to assign different values for the options.)

*Teaches the value of saving and purchasing!

However, I do believe in having consequences for students who choose to make poor choices in my classroom. I’m very clear all year long that we have two choices, to make a good choice or a poor choice. If you choose to make a poor choice, there will be a consequence. I enjoy the card system!

Card System
                  Each child has four different colors (I use grey/purple, green, yellow, red). Each color means something different. When a student pulls their first card, it means I made a poor choice and I need to change my behavior. If they pull to the yellow card, it means I lose my recess and I will get a note sent home. If I pull to the red card, it means I need to stop what I am doing and think, and a phone call home (either during school or right after school).  I usually gave a nonverbal warning, verbal warning, then I will have a student pull a card, then repeat. Some offenses call for an immediate pulling of a card or two cards, I won’t explain the reasons but I am sure you can use your imaginations.

I know the push in education has been to give students constant positive praise, however, how many bosses do you know give positive praise to their employees for showing up to work or handing in their work on time? If you know one, let me know! I have yet to meet a boss that gives constant positive praise to their employees. As educators it is our job, to not only educate our students, but also to prepare them for the real world. What happens if you get caught speeding? If you are lucky you might get off with a warning, but most of us will get a speeding ticket to discourage us from speeding again. A speeding ticket is a form of a negative consequence.  We need to show our kiddos that there are both positive and negative consequences!

Discovering Primary and Secondary Colors!

These lessons can be given through out the year! It is actually best to separate these lessons so that they have multiple opportunities to absorb this information. 

Grades: K-2 
Length: 4 days (Does not need to occur back to back)

Lesson 1 Discover the Secondary Colors

            Mouse Paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh
            Model Magic (Red, Yellow and Blue)
            Color Wheel

Before lesson begins
Give a piece of red, yellow, and blue model magic to each child. Have students make 3 red balls, 3 yellow balls and 3 blue balls. Students should not mix the colors!!!

            Remind students to keep their hands locked while you read and that they should only touch the model magic, only when you have told them to do so.

Have them point to the colors as you read them “one red, one yellow, and one blue.” Stop and tell them that these are the primary colors. (Make a list of primary colors on the board).

What are the primary colors?

After you read, “the red mouse stepped into a yellow puddle, ” direct students to mix one red ball with one yellow ball. Tell them to mix them until a new color comes to be. What color do you see? ___________ (Orange). Write the word Secondary Colors on the board. Underneath write red + yellow = orange.

Have students lock up their hands and continue reading. After reading, “the yellow mouse hopped into a blue puddle,” direct students to pick up one yellow ball and one blue ball and mix together until they see a new color. What color do you see? ________ (green). Write on the board yellow + blue= green.

Have students lock up their hands and continue reading. After reading, “then the blue mouse jumped into a red puddle,” direct students to pick up one blue ball and one red ball and mix together until they see a new color. What color do you see? _________ (purple). Write on the board, red + blue= purple.

Finish reading!
The primary colors are red, yellow and blue.
Secondary colors are colors that are made when two primary colors mix together. Review the mixes.
            What happens when you mix red and yellow? Yellow and Blue? Red and Blue?
The secondary colors are orange, green and purple.

Introduce students to the color wheel and show where the colors are and how the when two primary colors mix, it makes the color that goes in between.

Lesson 2 Making the Color Wheel

            Color wheel
            Blank Color Wheels (white construction paper works best)
            Water Colors
            Paper Towels

1)    Review Primary and Secondary colors.
2)    Tell students today we are going to be making our own color wheel using only the primary colors!
3)    The following directions should be done in the format I do it, You do it.
-       paint one part red. Rinse and dry brush.
-       skip one part, paint yellow. Rinse and dry brush.
-       skip one part, paint blue. Rinse and dry brush.
-       What happens when I mix red and yellow together? Put a lot of yellow watercolor in the empty spot between the red and yellow. Rinse and then put red in the same spot, mix together until you make orange.
-       What happens when you mix yellow and blue? Put a lot of yellow watercolor in the empty spot between the yellow and blue. Rinse and put blue in the same spot, mix together until you make green.
-       What happens when you mix blue and red? Put a lot of blue watercolor in the empty spot between the red and blue. Rinse and put red in the same spot, mix together until you make purple.
4)    Let air dry. After they are dry have students on the bottom make a label. Primary colors are red, yellow, and blue. Secondary colors are orange, green and purple.

Lesson 3 Making the Color Purple!
*** I like to use this lesson when we are talking about text-self connections when we have had previous experience with Lilly.

            Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes
            A Collection of Purple Objects (preferably different shades)
            Large Poster board (4-5 kids will share)
            Red and Blue Paint
            Paint Brushes

  • Read Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse.
  • After reading, have students look at the different objects of all different shades of purple.
  • Ask, how do you make purple?
  •  Today you are going to work as a team to discover ways to make purple and different shades of purple. But first, what two primary colors make purple? The best way to make different shades of purple is to make dots. (You can make a connection if you have made the dot art, found in the lesson titled “Everyone is an Artist”)
  • Tell them not to mix in the cup of paint, but only on the paper.
  • Have them begin to paint. As they paint walk around the room and ask the question, How do you make a lighter purple? Darker purple? Guide them to the conclusion the lighter the purple the more red they need, the darker the purple the more blue they need to use.
Lesson 4 Making the Color Orange (I would suggest using this lesson around Halloween)

      A book about pumpkins (can be nonfiction or fiction)
      Red and yellow paint
      Paint brushes
      18x24 white construction paper (1 piece per 2 students)

  •  Read and discuss pumpkins.
  •  Ask, How do you make orange?
  • Today you are going to make orange and different shades of orange using the primary colors red and yellow. You are going to be working with a partner to make a pumpkin that are different shades.
  • Remind them not to mix in the cup of paint, but only on the paper.
  • Have them begin to paint. As they paint walk around the room and ask the question, how do you make a lighter orange? Darker orange?
  • Guide them to the conclusion, for lighter orange they need more yellow for darker orange they need more red.
Lesson 5 Making the Color Green (I would suggest using this lesson near Christmas or St. Patrick’s Day)

            Read a book about trees or St. Patrick’s Day
            Yellow and Blue Paint
            Paint Brushes
            9X12 white construction paper

  • Read aloud the book of your choice.
  • Ask, how do you make green?
  • Today you are going to make green and different shades of green using the primary colors, yellow and blue.
  • Remind them not to mix in the cup of paint, but only on their paper.
  • Have them begin to paint. As they paint walk around the room and ask the question, how do you make a lighter green? Darker green?
  • Guide them to the conclusion, for lighter green they need more yellow for a darker green they need more blue. 

The World of Charlie and Lola

The brilliant Lauren Child has a gift of bringing characters alive that easy to relate too. The problems she uses in her books are every day problems that all kids at one point or another go through or can relate to. Her books allow for students to make text-self connections with ease. Her straightforward writing also allows students to practice identifying problem and solution in stories. Her style of writing and the font she chooses and the emphasis she places on letters or different words, help teach students how to read with more inflection. When used correctly it can build their fluency skills.

The following is a list of my favorite Charlie and Lola books:
(All books are best read with using your best English accent!)

Boo! Made You Jump! (Halloween)

There are so many more to choose from it is hard not to get carried away! If you have little ones at home there are board books too!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Importance of Writing - Part 1

With all of the focus now being shifted to our student’s ability to read on grade level by third grade, what happened to the art of writing? From year to year, I have seen in many schools how writing is becoming less of a main subject and one that doesn’t carry much wait anymore. Reading and writing go hand in hand. Writing helps build phonemic awareness, practice known phonic skills, encourages students to find new vocabulary to express themselves, teaches about organization of both fiction and nonfiction (depending on the what the focus is) and can help build fluency as they are required to reread their work each day to continue the text they are writing. Do these areas seem familiar? Well they should, I have touched on the five pillars of reading and how writing can help our students become better readers. Good readers are not always good writers, but if you have a good writer usually they are also avid readers. 

What should my first writing project be about?

What do your students know most about? They know most about themselves. The first writing project should be about them.

In first grade, we made an “All About Me Book.” Where I gave them most of the words and they were responsible for filling in the blanks and illustrating the pages. Topics that I included were, This is me!, This is my family.(encourage to label their picture with names), Here are my friends. (encourage labeling the picture with their friends names), and I love to _____. This simple four page book was a way for all students to fill like a writer regardless of their abilities.

In second grade, I made it a little more challenging and expected them to write a “memoir.” This began our memoir unit. Can you tell you students go write a memoir and get back to me? No, of course not. You need to prepare them for their own writing by sharing memoirs that other people have written and get ready to share a story from your past as well.

       Setting the stage for a great first book of the year!
Over several days read the following books and talk about, What is a memoir? *A memoir is a memory. Something we remember that has already happened to the writer.

Step #1
Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox (this book discusses what a memory is from the perspective of wise adults, it starts a good discussion)
The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant
Night in the Country by Cynthia Rylant
When I Was Little by Jamie Lee Curtis

Step #2
First Stage of Writing – Getting Ideas
Have them make a list of all the memories they have:
       Losing my first tooth
First day of Kindergarten
Family Vacation to…
My new baby sister/brother
My trip to the emergency room, etc.

Once they have their list of ideas, they need to pick out their favorite story and the one that they remember the most about.

Step #3
Show them how to web about their main idea! (Share with them a story from your childhood)
       What people/animals are in the story?
       Where did the story take place?
       What happened in the beginning/middle/end?
       Was there a problem?
       How was it solved?

Step #4
After my web, now what!
       Show students how to use your web to make it into a story. In our web, we can’t write everything down that is important to our story. So we have to use the web to help us remind ourselves about what they story is going to be about, but it is up to us as writers to fill in the holes. As you write your story from your web, model how to skip every other line (this will help when you get to the revising stage of writing.) Remind them to stick to one main idea!

Step #5
I’m done writing my memoir!
Well, all good writers go back and reread their work to make sure it makes sense. If it doesn’t make sense, it gives us a chance to add more details or to get rid of parts that don’t really stick to our original story.

Step #6
After we read our own story it is always good to give it to a buddy to read to make sure they understand it. The buddy’s job is to read and give two suggestions on what would make the story better.

Step #7
Now they have read it themselves, a buddy has read it. Now it is time for students to edit their own work (circle words they don’t think are spelled right, make sure their our capital letters and ending marks).

Step #8
After they edit themselves, now they can meet with you, the teacher. In your conference with the student you will give suggestions to them about their writing (it is up to them to take it) and to help them with the words they think they have misspelled. Depending on the child, you may want to help with capital letters and ending marks. (Considering this is their first story I try not to be too picky, because writing for most kids takes a lot of courage.)

Step #9
It is time for the final draft!
Each student will use their first draft with all corrections and additions to their story and make a final draft. Before releasing them, remind them it should be in their best handwriting and that neatness counts. They should use all corrections and implement it into their final draft. I also give them special writing paper, with lines and a space to illustrate. After they are done with writing their final draft, it is time for them to illustrate their memoirs. I remind students that they need to read each page and create an illustration that matches the words.

Step #10
Writing is down, illustrations are complete. It’s time for the cover page!
       I like to have students create a self-portrait using construction paper and tear art (no scissors necessary).

Have students put their memoir together and give students an opportunity to share their memoirs with each other (rereading is a great way to build fluency!).