Friday, October 12, 2012

What Works Wednesday!

So I want to do a helpful post of some substance since I haven't for a long time! ;) 

What's working for me this Wednesday (er...Friday) is... 
my adapted Daily 5 Rotations board. 

I am trying Daily 5 for the first time this year, so it continues to be a learning experience. I first saw Daily 5 on Pinterest and I was intrigued. Isn't everyone always trying to improve their independent work time during Guided Reading?? I felt that I had a good system before, in terms of "crowd control," but I knew it wasn't as productive as it could be. So, after seeing a lot, thinking it might be the system for me, but getting more and more overwhelmed by the sheer number of resources available online, I bought and read The Daily 5 (the book) on my Kindle :) 

After reading the book, I got it. I understood the process and was ready to implement this school year. 

I did notice that my students had excellent stamina while I was watching and able to circulate around and work with them. Probably it is my fault, because I wasn't super-loyal to building stamina up from 3 minutes on for each D5 choice (I didn't have the time necessary to do that--I had to start my guided reading groups sooner than that allowed.), but as soon as I started pulling reading groups, the students' ability of choosing any D5 station they wanted wasn't working. Students were constantly choosing the partner games or Read to Someone, which is perfectly wonderful, but when 14 or 15 students choose a game from Word Work,or they choose Read to Someone, it gets awfully loud and interrupts our reading group, even if all of the students reading and playing are quietly on task.  

So, I knew I had to limit the number of students in each station per day. I tried assigning each reading group to a certain station at a certain time, but that seemed a lot like cheating the program because it took all the student choice out of the equation. Plus, the students were a LOT less excited about Daily 5 each day. I settled on a hybrid model and I love it. It is still a work in progress, but here it is...

I have four reading groups, and they each named their group with a color. The inspiration for this board comes from the Math Workshop board on Clutter-Free Classroom. I love it!! 

Each group has a "Read to Self" rotation required (not because they don't like Read to Self--they do!!! But because this allows at least six students in my class to be silent and it helps to have this silence spread out evenly among the rotations so no one rotation has a ton of students choosing a noisier choice.) and a "Reading Group" rotation required, obviously :) This leaves two "Free Choice" stations and the students can choose among the other D5 choices, whichever they like. They seem to like this a lot! It gives them structure, which they (and I!!!!) crave, but allows a bit of freedom as well.

In addition, I did not include Listen to Reading this year. I simply did not have the number of CDs or books on tape or the time it requires to spend setting up a system that I didn't have at all in place before trying D5. So, I have adapted it and now one of the D5 "Free Choice" choices is for the student to do Study Island on the computer. Our district uses SI and it's a wonderful program with a ton of customization options. I simply set up an assignment for a certain group of readers, and they go online and practice that skill on SI, and then they get a grade, which I can see and use to set up future assignments and to drive instruction. They LOVE the computer time as well!

In short, this is my What Works Wednesday, even though it has taken until Friday (woop woop--it's Friday!!!) to get it posted. That's the story of my life--running behind ;)

I have all the Rotations cards made as well as the bulletin board header on my TpT page for only $1.99! 

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Monday, October 8, 2012

Currently October--My First Currently!!

Thanks for hosting a linky party, Farley! One of my newest favorite blogs @ Oh' Boy Fourth Grade is hosting this party, and I couldn't wait to join the fun :) 

Listening: Listening to my 8-month old talk, coo, laugh, and play is the best sound in the world. <3 truly. 

Loving: Isn't fall amazing? It's so nice how cozy long sleeves and socks will make you feel! LOVE fall.   Also LOVE picking our own pumpkins for the first time as a family xoxo. 

Thinking: Ugh! Long weekend=over :( The good news: our fairy tale unit continues tomorrow, and it's super fun!

Wanting: So tired...think I'm getting a cold :/ The babe has been snotty for a few days, so I guess it's my turn...

Needing: More time at home! Also, my sweet tooth is calling :) 

Book: I LOVE Chris Van Allsburg. I just read The Wretched Stone to my class and I read several of his to the kids every year, as well as at home with the babe!

...well, off to relax...'night!


Fractured Fairy Tales Unit

I decided to make my first major writing unit a unit on fairy tales. I have involved reading strategies and writing strategies, and the kids are having a blast! I am also going to incorporate a parent involvement component as well--after we're done writing our fairy tales, we are going to read them for the parents to hear. It will be a kind of "Fall Fairy Tale Reading" and we'll have refreshments to go along with it!

I will be posting my unit plan for this unit once I am finished and have honed what I'm doing, as well as some pictures from along the way, and of course, some pictures of the Fall Fairy Tale Reading!

My outlook was to do an entire unit on Fairy Tales and have the students culminate the experience by writing their own fairy tales. But, after talking to a colleague about the idea, she mentioned that she has done fractured fairy tales with her kids. I loved the idea and researched it for myself. I found a really great website from Read Write Think on fractured fairy tales that shows the kids what fractured fairy tales are and then helps them/walks them through brainstorming their own funny version of a fairy tale. Once I discovered that, I was off and running... this point, we have:

-listened to a variety of "traditional" fairy tales, such as "The Shoemaker and the Elves," "Sleeping Beauty," "Cinderella," "The Princess and the Pea," "The Three Little Pigs," "The Emperor's New Clothes," and more

-brainstormed characteristics of fairy tales

-filled in a fairy tale characteristics chart for each fairy tale and spinoff (email me for the file!)

-listened to a variety of modernizations and spinoffs, such as "Princess Furball," "Sleeping Ugly," "The True Story of the Three Little Pigs," "The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig," and more

-we earned a class reward as well, so we decided to watch Disney's version of "Beauty and the Beast" and we filled in our chart and discussed the fairy tale elements present in the movie

-explored the Read Write Think site as a class, discussed what a "fractured fairy tale" is and read the fractured version of the Prince and the Frog

-made a triorama contrasting the three versions of "The Three Little Pigs" and discussed other differences between traditional and modern and/or fractured versions (as well as versions from other cultures, of which there are many!!) (Email me if you are interested in the triorama!)

Still to do:
-have kids explore the Read Write Think site independently
-have kids begin brainstorming and eventually write their own fractured fairy tale
-draft, edit, revise, publish fairy tales
-dress up like fairy tale characters (????)
-host a "Fall Fairy Tale Reading" for parents and other relatives to come and hear the kids read their fairy tales

Whew! It's been a lot of work so far, but it's been very fun and I'm sure the rest will be even more memorable! I have already gotten some parent compliments on how much their children are enjoying the unit, so that's a great thing :)

Updates to come:
-unit plan

Stay tuned.


*This post is part of my "Teaching Writing" series!*

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Conferences--It IS almost that time again!!

It's crazy but true. Conferences are really just around the corner, a little more than a month away. The key to great conferences is just to be as organized and as ready as possible. Easier said than done! I just posted a conferences packet that will give you everything you need to have a successful, organized, and well-planned conference season :) Link here to the bundle on my TpT store!

My bundle includes the following:

*A sign-up sheet for parents to sign up for their *top 3* times/dates and send back to the teacher.

*A master scheduling table for you to keep track of all your conference dates and times, as well as student names and parent/guardian names. Once you have all (or all the ones you expect to get back!) your sign-up sheets returned, you can begin placing parent names and dates into the table in order. That way, you know who to expect and when, at a glance!

*A confirmation sheet for your scheduled conferences to send home to parents, noting the time and date of their conference. This acts not only as a confirmation, but a reminder to parents to hang on the fridge (or wherever!)

*A parent conference focus form, with a list of topics that you will cover and that parents can return to you with any additional concerns that they might have. This allows parents to see that you are well-prepared, and that you care about their concerns.

*A selection of *3* different conference focus forms for you, the teacher. These are to be used one for every student, to be set up prior to conferences. A conference focus form will keep you focused on what needs to be discussed, as well as act as a kind of checklist so you don't forget to mention anything during the conference. Sometimes we can get flustered, so I find that having all the information in front of me helps. The forms each have space for you to make notes prior to the conference and during the conference, if there is anything you need to follow-up on or check into.

These forms are all done in .docx format, so they are fully customizable. I typed any text in RED that will absolutely need to be changed to reflect your information, and of course, any other text can be changed as well! 

I find that for me, it helps me to set up a folder for each child in advance of conferences, with some work samples in it, along with the conference focus form, and any parent focus forms that are returned, so I can be sure I hit those points, if they had any additional concerns. For work samples, I like to include: any work of concern or that exemplifies a particular point you are trying to make (works slowly, handwriting is illegible, works carefully, does a particularly neat job, etc.). I also like to make sure there is a variety of work in the folder (i.e., math, writing, science, etc.) from a span of time (not all from the week before!).


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