Saturday, January 24, 2015

Making Word Work Powerful: Differentiating Through Student Choice

Hi teacher friends! Today I'm going to share with you something new I've implemented into my classroom this year - differentiated word work during our Daily 5 time!

Because my district uses Fundations on a daily basis for spelling and phonics, my students use their Daily 5 Word Work time to practice their sight words.  As you know, in first grade, our students are ALL over the place in their reading levels.  The same goes for their sight word identification and their ability to successfully spell these words.  I have a few kids who have been mastering the second grade sight word list, and some little babies who are still working on spelling words on the kindergarten list. 

I use to put the SAME word list in my word work bins each week.  The kids would grab a word work bin and use the word list inside to practice their words.  The words on the list were current words and some review words from our units in Fundations.
You can read all about how I organize my word work by clicking HERE.
I'm sure you already see the problem with these word lists- many in my top group had already mastered those words. Some of the kids in my lowest group still couldn't READ the whole word list, let alone work on spelling them. 

I needed a quick, easy, and EFFICIENT way to differentiate these word work lists for my kids. I'm big on making everything in my room effective but not time consuming.  (I teach first grade and let's be real - I don't have time for fluffy, over-the-top sight word systems!) :)

The solution? Our My Word Work board!
(The border, library pockets, and letters on this board are from my favorite friends at Teacher Created Resources!) I LOVE how it all turned out! Their products perfectly coordinate with one another and it was fun to mix-and-match the decor items!

To kick off this word work routine, I met with each child individually and together, we worked to decide on 8 sight words that they really wanted to practice and get better at spelling. (Yes, this initially took a little time but after this initial meeting, my students will choose and write their own word lists!)  It was so neat to hear them say things like, "I always forget how to spell "because" and I write it ALL the time!" or, as one little firstie pointed to the list of words said, "I can read this word but I can't spell it yet."   I adored this whole process and my kids were SO excited to have a word work list all to themselves.  

After they picked out 8 sight words from our word wall (and for my top kids, they chose 8 words from the second grade list), they got to pick TWO words from anywhere in the whole wide world that they wanted to learn how to spell. Haha this was my favorite part! I got everything from "Elsa" to "giraffe" to "Minecraft" to "ribbon."  (Ribbon? Not sure where that random word came from...I'm looking forward to reading a narrative that has to do with lots of ribbon though.)

After they made their list, they slipped it into their library pocket on the board.  Now, when they choose to go to word work, they grab a word work bin and they grab their list from the board to practice.

When the bell goes off for our next small group round, they clean up and put their list back into their library pocket.
When students feel they have mastered their list, they have a friend give them a little informal "test" using their whiteboards. When they are ready for new words, they use the word wall in our classroom, grab a new list, and write their new words on it! (I help them with the 2 words they can pick out from "anywhere in the world!")

My students have taken on more responsibility for their sight words since we started our My Word Work board.  In reading groups now, I'll hear, "Hey! That word is on my list!" and I'm starting to see these words transfer into their writing more. This makes perfect sense, because they have now attached their personal touch to these words and the words are suddenly THEIR words.  My top kids are challenging themselves and every child is practicing sight words that are on his or her level.

And that makes me a very happy teacher!

Thank you so much letting me share our new word work board with you! I hope you found it helpful!  Remember, differentiating student learning doesn't have to be complicated, "fluffy," or over-the-top. It just has to be meaningful! :)

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Wordless Wednesday January 21st - Coaster Fun

What funny one liner have you heard from a student lately?

Link up your weekly picture below! :) 
The link-up ends tomorrow at midnight EST!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Differentiated Instruction for Making Inferences!

We have been fully immersed in making inferences in my first grade classroom over the past two weeks!  It is my all time FAVORITE comprehension strategy to teach! It is also, in my opinion, the most difficult strategy to teach little ones.  Drawing conclusions and making an inference involve a high level of critical thinking skills and application to prior knowledge. In order to be successful at this strategy, teachers in the primary classroom need to provide a great deal of support and scaffolding to ensure students reach success.

If you know me even a *tiny, tiny* bit as a teacher, it goes without saying that I am a HUGE believer of small group instruction and differentiation.  If concepts and content are not brought to a child's individual learning level, the child will never rise above his or her frustration.  On the other hand, if a child who already has a great deal of skills is not challenged, or, if the child's learning boundaries are not gently pushed, the child will never escape boredom.  

To help teach, practice, and apply inference skills within our small groups over the past couple weeks, I created a new product that I am SO excited to share with you: 

Eeekkk! That's me, squealing with excitement over the crazy progress my kiddos have made when learning how to draw conclusions and infer character emotions and actions.  The pack contains 10 engaging stories that are each differentiated into THREE tiers of complexity!  This makes differentiation effortless and efficient!  The levels increase in their text length, written response expectations, and critical thinking skills.  

Let's take a look at each level:
 As the levels increase, the picture support decreases, therefore requiring students to depend more on the textual evidence within the passage to draw their conclusions.

Here's an overview of how to use this pack.  It contains posters for inferences, thinking stems, and character emotion anchor charts for students to use for support. You pick the level that is appropriate for each of your small groups. Choose to use all three levels, one, or a mixture - the choice is yours!

Here are some student work examples of my kiddos making inferences!

I plan on making more differentiated reading passages packs for other comprehension strategies as well!  The ease of using this pack and the effectiveness of being able to have all of my students read and discuss the same story, but at their own level, was priceless!  

After small groups, we were all able to equally discuss and participate in a whole class conversation about the story we had read that day! #myteacherheartishappy

I hope you enjoyed reading and learning about my new differentiated reading passages pack and how I used these in my classroom.  You can find this new pack by clicking HERE or clicking on the picture below:

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Using Thinking Stems In The Primary Classroom

Hello Teacher Friends! 
Today I would love to tell you about how I use thinking stems in my classroom!

Thinking stems are simply a way to help your students start their thought when they are participating in class discussions, answering questions, or sharing ideas. Our students have amazing ideas in their heads, but they often do not know where to begin when they attempt to share those ideas with us through oral discussion or written work.  Thinking stems provide a model to our students and help them to better organize their thoughts.  

I post thinking stems everywhere in my classroom and I refer to them I want my students to reply in speech and in writing with complete sentences, and thinking stems provide a model and support for them to do just that!

Thinking stems are always posted on our classroom anchor charts to promote classroom discussion and participation during our mini lessons and carpet time:

Before we begin a new reading strategy or concept, I like to write thinking stems that we will strategically use throughout the week on cards that I post at our small group table and at the carpet.  This provides a visual reminder for my students and helps them "start their thought" when they want to share their thinking at the table.
I LOVE to use name plates to record our thinking stems because they are durable and the perfect size!  These beautiful black and white name plates are from Teacher Created Resources.  

Here is our Thinking Stems bulletin board!
It is posted at the back reading table. I use push pins to hang up the name plates so that I can easily and quickly change our thinking stems based on what we are currently learning.
The border around this bulletin is Teacher Created Resources' Double-Sided border in Black Decor. I love it against this bright pink paper!

Here's a close up of some thinking stems that my first grades are currently using in their discussions and writing when we share our inferences with one another.

My students also use thinking stems as writing "starters" when they respond to text.  Here is an example of how this little one used our thinking stem board to record his inference as he responded to text during guided reading.

Have you ever called on a student who you KNOW knows the answer and is capable of sharing something....but the student just STARES at you?  When this happens, I refer students to a thinking stem and I have the student orally say the thinking stem aloud.  7/10 times the student is able to come up with SOMETHING to share about the question I asked.  Thinking stems really boost a child's confidence when it comes to classroom participation!

(My kids love when I wear my crown during guided reading. When it's on, they can't interrupt the small group table!" ;)

I hope this post gave you some ideas on how to use thinking stems in your own classroom. They are a valuable tool for our students' thinking and learning!

Happy Thinking and as always - 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: January 14th

Do your students self-assess their understanding of key standards and concepts? We choose a new focus standard every few weeks. Students move their magnets up the learning ladder according to how well they are understanding the concept! 

(Grab these posters for FREE by clicking HERE)

Link up below with your Wordless Wednesday picture or take a look at others' weekly picture! :) I LOVE reading your comments and can't wait to hear how you have students self-assess! :)

Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Best Phonics GIVEAWAY Ever!

Hi Everyone!
Are you ready to enter The BEST Phonics Giveaway Ever?!
I am teaming up with some fabulous teacher bloggers and friends to bring some lucky teachers our favorite phonics products to use in their classrooms!

Before you enter the giveaway, grab some great phonics teaching tips by checking out our posts! 

Now...who wants to take a look at what you can WIN in this giveaway?!

You can click on the pictures below to check out each friend's phonics tips!

*You can grab a FREEBIE page from the product I have included in this giveaway by downloading the Preview File in my TpT shop.  Just click HERE!
It's time to ENTER THE GIVEAWAY for your chance to WIN!!
 You can enter everyday! There will be 3 grand prize winners.  Remember the giveaway will end Sunday at midnight!!! Good Luck! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Wordless Wednesday - What's Your Favorite Spot In Your Room?

Welcome back, Wordless Wednesday!
This linky is up and running again after a short Christmas break. 
Link up with me every Wednesday with one picture and a question to ask your followers - let's collaborate and share together! Please link the picture above back to this post. :)
I went into my classroom for a few hours over break to clean and organize.  It was so peaceful and quiet! I had to take a picture of how cozy this little corner looked! 
This is my favorite spot in my room - my small group area! :)

What is your favorite spot in your classroom?
Share your favorite spot in a comment below and then link up or visit everyone else's Wordless Wednesday pic below! :) You could even link up a picture of your favorite classroom spot! :)