Friday, March 20, 2015

Back from my hiatus.. and how I explain reading to parents (and students!)

Well hello! I've been absent for about 9 months now because..
I had a little baby! Leo is now two months old (how!?) and I'm currently on my maternity leave. It is very different than being at school. I am loving having this time with my sweet baby! I'll blame my lack of blogging on the fact that I had a very difficult year... we experienced some devastating losses, beginning with a miscarriage and then my father passed very suddenly almost one year ago to the day of the birth of my baby boy in January. It has been a very bittersweet time. So much of my time has been focused on myself and my family, and not as much on my blogging life. We are finally in a little "routine" (ha! "Routine"!) and he is bringing us so much joy!

Before I left for my leave, I spent a lot of time (as I'm sure you all are) on reading comprehension skills. I often am asked told in a conference or meeting, "my child can already read all of the words in these (easy) books and need harder ones!" I'm guessing many of you have been told the same. This is something I've struggled with as a teacher - helping parents understand that reading is much more than just reading the text! I've spent a lot of time this school year working with parents AND the students (because they are accountable for their learning!) on all of the elements of being a great reader.

Here's what I tell my families:

Reading is not just reading words; reading is thinking! Currently, we are instructing students on how to retell a story using key words such as first, next, then, after that and finally, how to make meaningful predictions and thoughtful connections (to self, to another text, and to the world around them). Thoughtful readers are able to summarize the texts they read, are able to make inferences and think about the deeper meaning of the text, including characters' feelings, the setting, the problem and solution, as well as to determine the important parts of the story. The assessments we use in first grade not only look at the accuracy of the reader, but also at their fluency and comprehension. When a child can do all three of these things at a given level, then they are ready to move to a more challenging text. I tell my first graders the same thing - reading is more than just reading the words - reading is thinking! They know that I have high expectations and that a book is not "too easy" unless they sound smooth (no robots!) and can do some good thinking about the books that they read.

Here's how my "book shopping" works:

In my classroom, we shop for new books on Fridays during our reader's workshop time period.
On Fridays in our classroom, readers take the time to shop for good fit books. Within our book baskets, there is a range of text levels. I organized my books in my shopping library in color bins (I can't find my picture of it!) - white is levels 1-4, yellow is 4-8, green is 8-14, blue is 14-18, and red is 18+. One of our goals in first grade is for students to be able to independently determine if a book is a good fit - not only thinking about the words, but also their fluency (do I sound like a robot or does my reading sound smooth?), as well as their comprehension (can I retell the story? Can I make predictions/connections? Can I ask and answer questions?). Some good fit books may appear easy, however, the goals of first grade reading are to be able to decode, read with fluency and expression, and comprehend on all levels. 

Each student shops from a shopping list that they keep in their own book bags in the classroom. These are kept private. Each student chooses five "entrees" and two "desserts". My shopping library contains the entrees (the colored bins), while my regular library is organized by genre, author, book type, etc. Here's my regular library: another small one in front of my whiteboard. 

My students have their own plastic folders that they take home each week that we call their reading bags.When a child brings home their reading bags on Mondays, this includes three books that they are excited to "show off" their reading skills with. These books are from their reading bags that we use within the classroom. They are appropriate for that specific first grade reader. The student has practiced these texts all week long, reading them over and over to check for accuracy, fluency and comprehension skills. These books should be easy for the students! They are not necessarily memorized. Also, during our 1:1 conferences as well as our reading groups, we are addressing all of the first grade common core literacy standards! Reading bags return to school on Fridays so that students have a chance to practice and show off all week long.

I also tell parents who mention their child enjoying books such as Magic Tree House or Rainbow Magic Fairies (but aren't quite ready for them!) the following:
If you and your child are enjoying other books at home, please continue to do so! Continue to have conversations with your child about these books. Begin asking them about some of the comprehension components as you and your child read together. The number one goal of reading in first grade is for each child to develop a love of reading!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Back to School Blues and Exciting NEWS!

It has appeared I have fallen off the face of the Earth with only a post here or there recently. I'm excited to announce that it's partially because....

We are expecting our first child this January! Pregnancy has made me all kinds of tired. 

And.... we now know....

We had a little gender reveal this week with our families- so fun! Everyone was so surprised - Most were betting that I was having a girl :)

And now, I go back to school tomorrow for teacher days. UGH! When did that happen?! I'm so not ready! I need at least another month. I'm sure you all feel the same way, back to school already or not! I'm finding that classroom set up is worse when you're already exhausted. So far, I've done a bulletin board that I'm pretty proud of! :)

And today, I'm relaxing and enjoying my last day of summer by working on my plan book for next year and creating a new student information sheet. I love having a 2 sided sheet tucked into my planner for each student for easy access. I revamped my student information sheet, and it's up for FREE on my TpT! You can also click the pictures to head there to download. I hope you can use it! 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Monday Made It!

I am so excited that I actually created something for my classroom! I have been anti-back-to-school for awhile now, and I am still happily enjoying what's left of my summer! My kids return 9/2 and I return the last week of August, however, I think it's about that time that I make my Lakeshore run and start thinking about what I need to create or recreate for back to school :( 

Today I used my Silhouette Cameo that I WON from Erica Bohrer's blog a couple of years ago! It had been collecting some dust since last school year :( I needed some snazzy new pencil cups for over by my pencil sharpening area. I purchased a these containers at Michael's! 

After some careful vinyl color selection, I cut the text for my containers and then the pencils. The pencils took FOREVER due to the multiple colors of vinyl needed, but they are so worth it :) Look how adorable! 

I finally learned how to really use the hook tool and the transfer paper. I had been peeling individual letters. Um, duh. That's what the paper is for. So. Much. Easier!

Since I had my machine up and running and I was on a roll, I decided to snazz up my kitchen, too! I created labels for my flour, sugar and brown sugar containers that sit on my counter. I am in LOVE with how they turned out! I added the cute kitchen utensils too! Now I want to use my Cameo on my entire classroom :)

Link up with 4th Grade Frolics and show off your Monday Made It! 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Back from vaca.. Giveaway winner!

Yay! Jennifer Nicholson Agolino, you win! I am e-mailing your TpT gift certificate and your items. Thanks for entering, everyone! :)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Back to School "Must-Do's" and last day for the $25 TpT Giveaway!

Today is the last day to enter for a $25 TpT gift certificate plus my new chalkboard decor. I'm so close to another milestone on TpT that I may need to have another giveaway celebration very soon! :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I've been using my Pinterest to organize my classroom ideas this summer. Because I'm only getting 15 students next year (as opposed to the 24 I had last year), I'm ready to do some rearranging. I also had students use their personal supplies last year and they kept them in their black holes desks, but this year, I ordered materials for community supplies. How many of you prefer community supplies vs. personal supplies, and vice versa?

I have caddies like this, but I am loving these table signs for the fronts!

Now that I have all sorts of space up front, I really want to create a crate seat bench to coordinate with my other crate seats that sit at my guided reading table:
I covered my crate seats in vinyl instead of fabric to keep them cleaner, and it really has kept my crate seats in great condition for almost 3 years now! My seats are below:

I'm also loving the brightly colored bins for paper organization. My papers for Writer's Workshop are a hot mess on my supply shelf! 
Love the bright library bins, too! 

I DESPERATELY need to give my insanely old filing cabinet a makeover. I love the contact paper and washi-tape idea here!
Mine is rusty and ugly!

I have lots and lots of Sterilite drawers in my classroom that are in need of a makeover! I also wanted to have drawers like this (only smaller) between table groups for community supplies!

What's on your Must-Do list for BTS?

Friday, July 11, 2014

Five for Friday! ($25 TpT Giveaway!)

1. Hubs came back from his business trip. Here are 2 of his greeters :o)

2. We spent last week at my in-laws on a lake. Here's Lola the boat dog!

3. I'm starting to think about back to school! I am working hard on a new morning work packet - I just don't have time in the morning for my kids to do an actual worksheet, and I hate the disorganization I had this year (read: chaos) by kids just coming in and grabbing books for the first 10 minutes of the day. I'm working on creating my own dry erase style reusable morning work activities! This is easy, simple, reusable morning work that will free up your photo copier and (hopefully) make your mornings (and mine) less chaotic! I'm hoping to have some ink in my printer to print it and get it organized to blog about next week :)

4. I've also spent lots of time this week working on my new teacher planner for next year! A Teeny Tiny Teacher has the BEST template - and it's free on her blog! I downloaded it and played with some colors and started entering my schedule into it. Love! Last year I bought an Erin Condren but really only used the lesson plan portion, so I couldn't see spending a lot on another planner this year. I am so excited to use this template! Click the picture from A Teeny Tiny Teacher's blog to go over to her page and find the template for yourself - love it! 

Here's mine with some "stuff" filled in and some colors that I played with:

5. I am running a fun little giveaway! I created some new chalkboard decor (see below- click the pictures to go to my TpT to see them with some more thumbnails!), so I would love to give all three away PLUS a $25 TpT gift certificate for you to buy some more back to school goodies (not that I'm thinking about that yet... ughhh). Enter below and share away! :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Throwback Thursday (and my giveaway!)

Before I launch into my Throwback post about math talk and math journals, just a reminder that I'm running a small little giveaway with two great prizes! My 3 new decor items and a $25 gift certificate to get some additional back to school goodies on TpT! :)

I spent most of my morning on Pinterest getting some pins organized and planning for the next school year and I've been thinking a lot about math journals. I (heart) math journals! I use my prompts daily with my math groups during my math daily 5. This year, I stuck with the daily 5 format for my math workshop year long, and one station was the "Writing About Math" station, in which my firsties used their math journals to answer journal prompts. Last year, I wrote a little blog post about math journals and math talk, and it's been repinned lots of times on Pinterest, so I'm using that as my "Throwback Thursday" post today! Also, I created a fun little freebie for math talk to glue into the inside cover of their math journals (I use a spiral bound notebook). I plan to print this at a slightly smaller scale so it glues in and fits nicely. It's below if you want to snag it for your own students! :)
Math Talk Menu


I Heart Math Journals! (a quick little giveaway)

I have seen the light. I never did math journals before when I taught K or 2. This is a recent adventure for me, and I am SO happy I started them! I just got through 18/19 of my parent conferences, so excuse the quick post.

I am writing about math journals for 2 reasons: first, because I just had conferences and I was able to use my math journals to show student work, growth, and areas for improvement. We do math journals at least twice a week for morning work, and it is always a choice at the math daily 5. Journal prompts range from story problems to missing part problems, how many of each? problems to true/false problems. My kiddos have gotten so good at showing what they know! The thing I love the MOST is the sharing aspect of journals- everyday, my kids share what they wrote and how they solved it. I have my kiddos in pairs, we created a poster on math talk, and we are on a roll!

The second reason I'm writing is to show my April/May journal prompts that I just posted to TpT, and I would love to give 2 copies away tonight! The first two comments get these prompts free! :)

If you want to check them out on TpT, click the pic!