Sunday, July 27, 2014

Saturday Treat for My Sweets: B2S Class Books!

I'm back from vacation and ready to roll after a fun week of hiking, free wine-tasting and poolside lounging!  :)  Just in case if you're new to the blog, here's how it works:
  • Swing by the blog on Saturdays to snag a sweet free treat
  • See a sneak peak of the Sunday Super Steal Deal item (or items)
  • Super Steal Deals start on SUNDAY and last all week!
  • Facebook Fans have an additional opportunity to win the Sunday Steal Deal (so make sure you're a fan!)
Today's free treat comes from my two class book packs.  There are TWO covers (black and white/color options) and book-specific prompt pages to help your class start creating class books on Day One!  Click on either picture to snag your sweet freebie.  :)

My kiddos love to create class books.  We usually make 1-2 per week (on Fridays when we have a shortened literacy block).  During this time I do a whole-class writing lesson, modelling my response first before letting them go to write their own pages.  I focus my mini-lessons to correlate with what we're learning about in writer's workshop and the weekly books relate to our theme.  In the beginning I do a lot of mini-lessons based on the writing process and mechanics, such as...
  • What is the first thing a writer should do?  THINK what they want to say!
  • How do I show what I want to say?  Through pictures and words!
  • How do I write that word?  Stretch out the sounds!
And so on.  We spend a lot of time referencing our writing anchor chart, which is modeled on this way more awesome and cute one from Mrs. Jones's Kindergarten:

Eventually mini-lessons progress to more complex aspects of the craft.  For example, in the mini-lesson below I modeled using a nonfiction text feature (labels) to help teach my readers about penguins.

Then I let the kiddos pick their own polar animal to write about.  Here's what they were able to say after two weeks of learning about our polar pals!  (You'll notice that these are not prompt-specific pages.  In the class book packs there are differentiated page templates to support the different levels of your writers, in addition to prompt-specific pages).

And this one is my absolute favorites!  I just love all the blood and guts.  :)

On the very first day of school we make The Kindergarten Kissing Hand after we have read the book with our parents and then said goodbye.  It's a great way to start modelling making text-to-self connections (How did Chester feel?  How do you feel?) and learning about the 3 ways to read a book (pictures, words, retell)!  I also get a valuable portfolio sample with this book that tells me many things right off the bat- how they write their name, their knowledge of letters/sounds, and I get a self-portrait.  

The kiddos get so excited when I put the class book in our special class book basket in the library and explain that this is where books we publish will go all year long and they will get to check them out.  At the end of the year I have a system to determine who will get to take which book home, which you can read about by clicking on the picture below.

You can grab all these awesome book covers, prompt-pages, general templates and more for this week's Sunday Steal!  BOTH book packages are discounted at 50% 

P.S. The rest of my store is also 20% off for the next two days!  Enjoy and good luck getting ready for back to school!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Daily 5 Book Study: Chapters 3-4 {2nd Edition}

Welcome back to another blog post all about the new Daily 5!  This post is all about Chapters 3-4.  We are really getting into the meat of the book now!

One thing I love about most about the Daily 5 Model (and there are many things!) is the gradual and structured release of responsibility.  If you follow the 10 Steps to Teaching and Learning Independence, most of your kiddos will catch right on and it will be smooth sailing from here on out.  Here they are!

This whole process is grounded on what many of us know about memory.  

Let's look at each step in detail!

1. Identify What Is to be Taught
Right from the beginning it's important to create a lasting anchor chart (called an I-Chart) with the kiddos.  The first step (in the words of my college supervisors) is to set the objective.  This step outlines WHAT will you be teaching today and is written at the top of the I-Chart.

You may be wondering what an I-Chart looks like.  Here's what our Word Work I-Chart looked like during its initial construction (sorry for the super poor lighting!):

An I-Chart outlines what the students and teachers are doing during that round of Daily 5.  It serves as a reference all year long.  I like to make a rough-draft with my kiddos on the active board, then later on make a permanent chart with pictures of the kids modeling each step to hang in the relevant area.  Here's the newest and cutest version:

2. Set a Purpose and Create a Sense of Urgency
This step explains WHY you are teaching the objective.  Why is it important to learn how to read to self?  Will it make you a better reader?  Is it fun?

3.  Record Desired Behaviors on an I-Chart
The rest of these steps focus on HOW the objective will be accomplished.  In a notable difference from the first edition, this time the two sisters recommend writing down and explaining each desirable behavior on the I-Chart (rather than having the kiddos' brainstorm).  I think this is an option in the interest of saving time, but I really enjoyed our class discussion on the topic.  To help guide my littles in the direction I wanted them to think, I modeled what being a good reader looked and sounded like, then had them describe what I was doing.  

You may run into kids wanting to focus on negatives (things readers shouldn't do) rather than the positives.  My class definitely had this mindset last year, so to help them out I reminded them to think of and share only "yes choices."  

Here are the "yes choices" you want your kiddos to make to become better readers:
  • Read the whole time
  • Stay in one spot
  • Get started right away
  • Work quietly
  • Build stamina
*NOTE: When working with kindergartners you definitely want to break these behaviors up into smaller more manageable chunks!  Try adding 2 desirable behaviors each day to the chart.

4.  Model Most Desirable Behaviors
It's important that you have the STUDENTS model the behaviors you've charted together.  Not only do the kiddos love the attention, it's a great way to point out each behavior in action.  

Here are some snapshots I took of my kinders while they modeled most desirable behaviors (I later used these photos for our permanent I-chart).  Their faces are blurred to respect their privacy, but just imagine the cutest kiddos in the world and that describes my class!  :)

Always follow up with this essential question (the answer should be an emphatic and resounding YES!)

5.  Model Least Desired Behaviors, Then Most Desirable Again
The sisters suggest skipping this step in Kindergarten unless if you absolutely have a "barometer" child- you know, the ones who are guaranteed to act up and set the weather in your classroom!  I have to say I agree that modelling incorrect behaviors can be confusing for our kinders, especially if it's their first year in school.  If you choose to do this step, pick a student or two to model least desirable behaviors.  Ask the students the essential question (this time the answer should be NO!), then have those same students model the most desirable behaviors and ask the question again.  The key is to focus on and return to the positive.

6.  Place Students Around the Room
To begin with, you are in charge of placing students around the room for practice.  Try to send them off as close to each other in time as possible so that everyone has an equal chance to build stamina.  I love Erica's Book Nook Chart to use initially in the Read to Self send-off (later students will be able to choose their own spots, sometimes with reminders to choose the best spot for their body and their brain):

7.  Practice and Build Stamina
This is a great time to observe and learn about what and where works best for your students!  Pay attention while you....
8.  Stay Out of the Way!
These two steps occur together.  This is the time for your students to practice what it will be like when you're with small groups- which means you can't be hovering over them, or they'll never build independence.  When the focus is lost, round 'em all up and record their stamina. 

I use the timer on my active board while students are reading.  They love to see how far they have gone when I signal for us to stop!  Here's the newest and cutest stamina chart.  

Last year it only took 5 days for my kinders to reach where we needed to be (the Sisters say to expect typically anywhere from 5-10 days).  We celebrated with a super fun Teddy Bear Tea Party!  :)  They got to bring their favorite stuffed animals to school for our literacy block and snack that day.  Their job was to teach their stuffed animal all about the right way to do Daily 5.  It was awesome!

9.  Use a Quiet Signal and Bring Students Back to the Gathering Place
I love how the Sisters emphasize saving your voice for instruction rather than management.  Quiet signals work like a charm!  In my classroom I use a rainstick, but you could use chimes, a bell, etc.  Once "the spell has been broken," use the quiet signal and in a quiet voice direct students to return their book boxes and come back as a group.  It's very important to stop once those undesirable behaviors start cropping up.  As the Sisters say, they're difficult to change once they're ingrained, so you don't want them practicing the wrong way!

10.  Conduct a Group Check-In
At first you'll be checking in with how the group did meeting the D5 expectations.  The students self-reflect and rate how they did, then set their goals for the next practice.  You can use a 1-2-3-4 rating system or in my class, we just use our thumbs (up, down, or in the middle).

At this point, you can choose to launch another practice round of Daily 5 or break it up with something different.  That's one thing I love most about the Daily 5- the flexibility!  The Sisters have some great advice about it:

Phew!  I can't believe I talked so much about one chapter... onwards to the next one!

The Daily 5 is easy to implement and really mostly requires things you already have on hand or things that are easy to get.  I've made a quick checklist you can refer to as you get started:

I think the classroom environment (and especially the classroom library) are key to running a successful literacy block.  Here's a glance at how my library was looking while I was setting up last year:

The plastic lawn chairs were only $5 at Walmart and were probably THE place to sit all year.  They were an easy and inexpensive way to provide some alternative seating!

I organize my books both by theme and level.  It took awhile to sort everything into piles and make, print, then attach Avery index labels (which ended up getting expensive), but it was definitely worth the effort!  I love how organized my library is and it is easy for the kiddos to maintain.

There are lots of great ideas to organize your classroom library, but I am absolutely in love with Maria's labels (available in black and in white).  She's got lots of great tips for setting up, organizing, leveling and labeling the library of your dreams:

I also love these cute and classy labels from Ladybug's Teacher Files.  I think they are awesome for the older grades she includes genre labels:

The most expensive thing (besides all the books!) ended up being the book bins.  Last summer I ended up doing some comprehensive research about the best book bin buys for Daily 5!  You can check out that post by clicking on the picture below:

Thanks for bearing with me all the way through these two chapters!  I hope you got some good ideas and let me not forget the FREEBIES!  :)  The 10 Steps to Independence, Getting Started Checklist, I-Charts, a Stamina Chart, and the Thumbs-Up GroupCheck-In Poster have all been added to my Daily 5 Freebie File.  I hope you like them!

See you next chapter!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Daily 5 Book Study: Chapters 1-2 {2nd Edition}

I'm FINALLY getting around to linking up for the new Daily 5 book study!  I was lucky enough to attend a training by the two sisters last fall, so I got a sneak peak of some of the content and was able to use some of the info to manage my D5 Literacy Block last year.  I've been dying to read the new edition ever since.  On to Chapter 1!

I LOVE this quote from Regie Routman at the opening of the chapter:

This chapter details both the two sisters' journeys from their first years of teaching (aka seatwork), through centers and workshops to the newest version of Daily 5.  The current Daily 5 is a great management system for your literacy block and is structured so that children can independently engage in authentic reading and writing tasks.  It's flexible, easily differentiated, and incorporates student choice.

The teacher, on the other hand, has more time to give individualized instruction and spends less time managing behavior.  All of my favorite things!

The newest version of Daily 5 differs from the original in several key ways.  I think it's much improved!  Here's a highlight of the differences and similarities...

What I seriously love best about the new edition is how much more primary/kindergarten friendly it is.  There is an intermediate vs. primary schedule and many more tips that are geared towards the littles.  Overall, the second edition is much more cognizant of age differences and includes many more brain-conscious strategies.  Love it!

I also love the official approval to do just 3 rounds of Daily 5 each day (which I already did anyways).  Phew!  One major difference between the sisters and I is that I have more balance between student choice and teacher choice.  For example, my students rotate in groups to different D5 areas.  Once they get there they have lots of choices of what they'd like to work on, plus more options if they finish early.  This way I can make sure I'm meeting with all my groups.  We do 3 rounds of D5 Monday-Thursday.

The D5 cards are magnetic and are easy to move down after each transition (note that I also have Technology as a separate card, but that usually entails word work apps on the iPad since I don't have computers).

For the sisters, Work on Writing and Read to Self are non-negotiable items each day, but since Meet the Teacher is non-negotiable for my class I alternate between days when Work on Writing/Read to Self are must-do's.  Here's what my weekly schedule usually looked like last fall:

*Note WOW = Work on Writing, WW = Word Work, RTS = Read to Self, LTR = Listen to Reading, RWS = Read with Someone.

You can grab my newest and cutest version of these cards by clicking on the image below!  They come in rectangles...

Or circles!

I am also in love with these posters with real-life photographs from Kristen over at A Day in First Grade.  Check em out!

Onwards to Chapter 2!

The reason why I love Daily 5 so much is because it aligns so closely with my own beliefs as a teacher.  It's based on a core system of beliefs (backed up by significant research) that I couldn't agree more with.  They are the heart and soul of the Daily 5!

Trust and Respect
One of the things I love most about Daily 5 (I know I say that a lot!) is how respectful it is of students' interests, abilities and time.  During Daily 5 we are asking students to participate with us in authentic tasks.  We are trusting them to do their best and scaffolding them to get there.  Too often I think teachers don't think of trust and respect as a two-way street.  You have to give it in order to get it.

I am ALL about community.  In fact, I don't use a behavior chart because I feel it's potentially very damaging and counterproductive to creating a caring community of learners (granted, I also usually only have 12 kids in my class).  There are a few key things I think are important to remember in establishing and maintaining your classroom community:
  • Establish routines.
  • Practice, practice, practice.
  • Play team-building games.
  • Use positive reinforcement (not praise).
  • Role-model!  In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, "Be the change that you wish to see in the world."
Aren't you much more motivated when you have a choice?   Choices help students feel empowered and encourage them to take ownership of their learning!  In my classroom, students choose which books to read, where to read, and what activities to participate in while at Work on Writing and Word Work.  The two sisters go a step further and allow students to choose which Daily 5 activities to engage in (with Writing and Read to Self as must-do's).  

I have less trouble with holding students accountable for their learning with Daily 5 than I've ever had before.  Firstly, I value their effort (whether the task is completed or not) as meaningful practice in building their skills.  Secondly, the entire classroom works with me in helping their peers do their best.  I also use team captains (denoted by a star next to a student's name in each group) to help trouble-shoot any technical issues or questions while I am with a group.

Brain Research
I love love love how much more brain-conscious this book is!  In general, it's good to follow the rule of thumb below...

So basically, years = minutes of direct instruction.  Keep it short and sweet.  Make it count!  It's also good to remember the 20/80 rule.  20% direct instruction, 80% practice.  You know the old saying that practice makes perfect?  Keep practice purposeful and in context to help build students' muscle memory!

Transitions as Brain and Body Breaks
Another thing I love about the Daily 5 is the opportunity for brain breaks and focus lessons between each transition.  I use a rainstick as a signal to grab students' attention (do you want your voice to be used mostly for management or instruction?) and then we come back together before breaking up again.  I can't stress enough the importance of this time!  Helping students reset now keeps the rest of your block running smoothly, especially if you have a whole 90 minutes to get through.  You can find a lot of fun ideas in my blog post about movement in boy-friendly classrooms:

See you soon for the scoop on Chapters 3-4!