Thursday, January 9, 2014

Math tools

One of the things I've been trying during my current math unit is helping my students to explore different ways to solve story problems. I noticed that many of my first graders struggle with the task of showing their work! Their work space was so disorganized. A colleague introduced me to "EWS - equation, work, solution". My kids' math work is so much more organized! We set it up like this: 

Many of my kids use number lines, hands (to show counting on), or ten frames to solve story problems. I noticed they were really struggling with the task of drawing these items on their work space. Here's my solution:

I keep a supply of "math tools" on our supply shelf.

These little cut outs have been a huge time saver! For me, their thinking is more important than perfectly drawing a number line - especially for my kids struggling with their motor skills. The kids are really loving using the tools on their papers when solving story problems! If you think this will work for your class and want a copy of my hands/ten frames/number lines, let me know and I can link them here or e-mail :)

Monday, January 6, 2014

My Spelling and Word Work Cycles

Do you have a spelling program? We do. And a phonics program. But not really. And we have to mesh them together. When I started teaching first grade, that became difficult. Balancing both and fitting it all in was really hard. Then I went to Teachers College over the summer, and had a life changing spelling and word work experience! Teachers College recommends having an 8 or 10 day spelling and word work rotation focused on specific sight words, spelling words, and phonetic concepts. Genius! Plan for 10 days, copy, implement, and plug in your mini-lessons before your kids hit their centers. So here's how it works! I've gotten lots of questions (in the class I teach for my district and on my blog!) about how I work my spelling and word work cycle, so here we go!

I plan for 10 days at a time. I have 10 centers that stay the same all the time. In September, I taught these centers explicitly- we all practiced at the same center. The only thing that changes is the task (slightly) based on the new words and concepts. The kids know what to expect at each center, so I don't need to repeat directions and I have more time for a whole group mini lesson. So, with my spelling (we use Sitton) and phonics (Fountas and Pinnell) books in hand, I sit and plan for the 10 day cycle. I use this planning page:

Pocket Chart: Typically a word or picture sort, or a scrambled words activity. 
Snap Words: Always focused on my core words for the week (taken directly from Sitton Spelling with a couple of additions - for example, I'm beginning to intro blends this week, so I included the word blue this week with our spelling words so we can discuss related bl words). These activities may be smelly spelling (see my TpT for the freebie!), rainbow writing, stamping, or another snap word related activity. Snap words are my sight words :)

Games/Activities: focused on the phonics concepts/snap words - might be play doh (building the words), color by snap word, a matching game, or something related to phonetic concepts that I have from TpT (i.e., Abby's blend books). I also use these from The Moffatt Girls frequently! 

Lexia: always the iPad app "Lexia"! 
Build, Mix, Fix: Taken from Fountas and Pinnell - build the snap word, "mix" it up, and "fix" it, 3 times each. 
iPads: This week, it's scanning QR codes ip/it! Sometimes it's another spelling/word work app, like Magnet Letters. 
Word Sort: These sorts are usually related to the word families/phonetic concepts we're studying and goes right into their word work journals. I love these from First Grade and Fabulous!

Vocabulary: Teachers College had so many ideas for teaching vocabulary words! Some things I'm trying - a vocabulary word ring, pulling certain words from read aloud for study (kids draw a picture of the word and a definition in kid-friendly terms), stretch the sentence (adding more words or changing words for fancier words). I'm still working this one out! I WISH I had more pictures of this - maybe I'll do a separate vocab post :)
Fix It Up: I LOVE this packet from Growing Kinders. I also love this Sentence Builder packet from A Cupcake for the Teacher. I use these all the time! 

Speaking/Listening: I usually make this a listening center activity or a fluency activity. I like to make different word rings/sentence rings. I have a freebie, Frosty Fluency, that I've used for this! My kids love to use the toobaloo!

I store my materials in this - 10 drawers, perfect!

Groups: My kids are put into 5 groups. I have 23 kids, so 4-5 per group. I group my kids based on assessment - I use the sight word district assessment, DRA, informal assessment, and my "end of cycle" assessments to group the kids into their 5 color groups - pink, purple, blue, green, and yellow. 

Starting the cycle: At the start of each spelling cycle, we sit whole group and use dry erase markers and boards to practice writing the words as a "pre-test" - I can easily walk around and see who already knows them/who doesn't. We put these words on our word rings. I typically give my students 7-9 words per cycle, and they are all "snap" or sight words from our spelling program. 

Keeping Organized: In addition to my rainbow cart, the kids each have a spelling folder. ALL of their spelling work is stored there until the end of the cycle. Then, they staple it together so that I can correct it at once. The centers allow me to be "free" (I usually don't designate myself as a "teacher center" for spelling - I like to rotate and confer on the fly), so I'm typically quickly checking work as it's completed, as well. Each student keeps their own personal word ring in a zipper pouch in their take home binders. 

Homework: I LOVE Erica's Spelling Homework packet! It's editable! I pass these out on our cycle start date, and they are due back at the end of the cycle (2 weeks). I add in our spelling words, change the activities as needed (my higher level learners MAY have an additional couple of words per cycle or a more challenging activity, while my struggling students may have a couple of words from last cycle added in for review). 

End of Cycle/Assessment: I give my kids a cloze story exercise. It's a little fill in the blanks story using that cycle's words. I correct them, pull mastered words off of each student's word ring, and then the cycle begins again! :) 

I'm still new to this, so I'm definitely not an expert! This is just what works for me. It also works for (and totally engages) the kids! My goal for the rest of this year is to increase the amount of differentiation on my centers. I'm using Erica's packet to differentiate their homework for spelling, now I'm working on pulling out specific words for students to add to their word rings/spelling lists and gearing each center toward my different learners! It seems like a lot of work, but after one good planning session and a long trip to the printer and copier, I'm pretty much set to go for 2 weeks - all I need to do is plug in my mini-lessons! This week, we're introducing beginning blends, continuing work on short i and short i word families, and practicing digraphs. These are focused on whole group, during mini lessons. Then, students go off to their centers! 

Let me know if you have questions or need something clarified. I'd love to answer!