Sunday, September 6, 2015

Establishing a Community of Readers

Both when I was a classroom teacher and in all my years as a reading specialist, I have students who lack confidence in themselves as readers. So, one of my goals has always been to make students gain confidence as readers. The main reason for this is because I do not want them to think learning to read is too hard and just give up. I not only want to help them become readers, but I also want them to learn to love reading and to feel confident as readers.  Check out some of the things I do in my room that you can also (hopefully easily) implement as well to help your little readers grow! :)

 Letting your students know and realize that they are readers and can read is so important. I don't let my readers get away with saying "I can't read" because it just isn't true! I love our "we are readers" sign with each reader's signature on there, it really creates a community of readers in our room! Each reader also made their own "loves to read about" banner to hang up by our sign. We talked as a group about the different things each reader enjoys! You can check this activity out here.

There are so many amazing books out there that encourage readers of all ages! I highly recommend any and all of these books to be read at the beginning of the year.

As teachers we all know how meaningful it is to be super enthusiastic. It really gets everyone more excited about whatever it is you are about to do together. By simply talking about reading throughout each day, you will notice a difference in how excited your readers get about reading each day!

Being a reading specialist, my theme each year is simple: READING! I think it is a great idea to encourage readers all day through things hanging on your wall. If it's important to you, it will be important to them too! You can grab the reading posters (on the upper right) for free here. You can also grab the poster (another freebie) from the bottom left from the super sweet Mrs B's First Grade.

This is something so simple to do once you get in a routine with it...but all it is: call your students your readers! This again makes a world of a difference in helping them realize that they are READERS!

 Another way to get your readers excited about and interesting in reading is through reading profiles/student interest surveys.  These are great to do at the beginning of the year. I recommend meeting with small groups or individually with each reader to talk about their favorite topics, characters, etc. It will tell you lots about your little readers. I absolutely loved used these reading profiles this year- you can grab this amazing Reading Profile freebie from Stomping Through First!

Have a great day!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Classroom Management-Adding a Little Something Extra

Stickers, stickers and more stickers! Stickers at the beginning of the day, stickers throughout the day and stickers at the end of the day.

Last year we began using stickers as an extra way to motivate our first graders.  Let me tell you they love getting their little stickers.  At the beginning of the year we gave stickers for the littlest things and then, once students bought in and love getting stickers, we are making them work a little bit harder for each sticker.

Every Thursday we do a sticker trade in.  The things students can turn their stickers in for are actually not "things" which is wonderful! No more buying little junkie toys from the Dollar Tree students get to trade in their stickers for all kinds of great things (see below!!!) 

There you have it...easy, simple and it is a great thing that I do on-top of Class Dojo this year.  When a student is "caught being good" he/she might get a Class Dojo point, he/she might get a sticker and sometimes he/she is just told it is important to do the right thing with or without positive reinforcement because that is what we do as good citizens.  Either way, if you have every worked with first graders you know it is great to have multiple forms of positive reinforcement in the classroom.

To keep track of their stickers we are using blank ten frames.  Grab this freebie below.  The best part about putting their stickers into ten frames is with each sticker trade in day students are left counting on ten frames.  Students learn very quickly that instead of counting by 1s, it is much faster and easier to count by 10s instead!  It is great practice and they don't even realize that they are doing math.

There are 2 versions of this freebie feel free to use whichever better suits your classroom needs.  The first one has room for 100 stickers and we duplex them so students can get a total of 200 stickers on their paper.  The second version is one I used for an individual behavior plan-where the student worked to get 10 stickers and then could choose from a list of rewards.

Happy Saturday!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Guided Math Part 3: Using Assessment to Group Students for Guided Math

Assessment is a crucial piece to my guided math instruction.  It is through using the right assessments that I am able to make better use of my time and my student's time during guided math, teaching kids the concepts that they do not already know or challenge them to dig deeper on concepts they know on a surface level.

Children come into our classrooms at different levels and with different strengths and different struggles.  It is our job throughout the school year to help students capitalize on their strengths and help minimize the gaps on the concepts they are struggling with.

As I begin teaching a new standard I give students a quick pre-assessment to see what knowledge students came into my classroom with.  Pre-assessments can be anything that will be meaningful and help to drive your instruction.  When I first began using assessments in my classroom, I was pulling from a variety of resources which caused a lack of consistency.  I also did not enjoy all of the time I was spending to find the "perfect" assessment.  As a result, I created a pack with each Common Core Standard for First Grade.

All students in my classroom are given a pre-assessment, like the one below, before I start teaching a new standard.  The pre-assessment is an assortment of questions that gives me a better idea of the knowledge students already have when coming into my classroom.  Before giving the pre-assessment we discuss  the "I can" statement and read it together.

After all students have taken the pre-assessment, I grade it and group students for my guided math groups.  I typically break my students into four groups: High, Medium-High, Medium-Low and Low.  There are times where I will have more students in one group and less in another but most times I find my groups end up being fairly equal. 

In order to quickly group students, I give each child a star on their pre-assessment in blue, yellow, brown or green.  These are the colors I use for my guided groups.    

I always make my pre-assessment out of 10 points to make grading easier.  I give students a number correct at the top out of 10 and a colored star.  It completely depends on the standard if I group students by the number correct on the top or if I look at the specific questions and group students based on the specific questions missed.

Now that my students are grouped, based on their strengths and struggles I am ready to teach!  How often you meet with each group will depend on the amount of time you are able to dedicate to guided math.  **Please click here to read about Getting Started with Guided Math for a blog post to help you figure out your timing.**

Every year is slightly different for me depending on scheduling and the needs of the kids but typically I have 15 guided math time slots. Which means I have a little over an hour for math each day.  I do about a 10-15 minute whole group mini lesson.  Then, students break into center groups.  Students go to 3 centers a day (meaning I have 3 guided math groups a day.)  3 Guided Math Groups a Day X 5 Days in a Week = 15 Guided Math Slots.

I meet with my lowest group every day, which gives them 5 times guided math slots.  My medium-low group I meet with 4 times a week.   My medium-high group I meet with about 3 times a week and my highest group I meet with 2 times a week.  That leaves me 1 open slot to pull any students that need extra help for that final slot.

What to teach during guided math is definitely another post on its own (stay tuned,) I will blog about it soon! But continuing with grouping...once my groups are set, in order to better organize myself, I use this easy template below.
On the template, I write the standard and I can statement this way I have easy reference to it when teaching my students.  It is important for my students to know what and why they are learning the standard.  I write student names for each group.  I also write the group's focus.  I use the pre-assessment to come up with my focus for that particular group-noting any challenges they had or strengths so that I know exactly what I want to teach each group.  The final thing I write is the materials needed so that before math I can quickly look to see who I am meeting with and what materials I need to grab.  

**To grab a blank copy of this template click here.** 

The post-assessment is the fun part!  No, really it is...because you get to see the growth your student's made over the duration of your teaching.  The post-assessment that I use looks very similar to the pre-assessment.  I typically print the pre and post assessment for each standard back-to-back so that I can easily see the growth that occurred. Below is an example of the post assessment from the same standard as above.

Although the numbers changed from pre to post-assessment the type of questions stayed the same so growth can easily be measured. 

Data is something I struggled with.  It is one thing to keep data on one child within your classroom but to keep track of data for twenty-something students is more challenging.  I knew I needed a quick and easy system to keep track of student progress throughout the school year.  

At the beginning of the year, I create a checklist for each student.  After a standard is covered (and post-assessment has been given) I mark each child's checklist.  

"Mastered:" Student fully understand the concept.
"In Progress:"  Student understands the concepts but I am not sure it will carry over when presented in a variety of way and over the school year.
"Not Mastered:" Student is still struggling with the concept.

This checklist below is another favorite from the pack because it helps me keep track of the standards I have and have not yet covered.  I can also look to see what skills students might need to review because we haven't gone over it in a while.

Assessment is a crucial part of teaching.  It helps educators individualize education by teaching students exactly what they are struggling with and/or challenging them in areas they have already mastered.  There are many different kinds and forms of assessment that can be used in the classroom.

All of the printables shown in the pictures above are a part of my Common Core Assessment Pack for First Grade that I use with my first graders to help me assess each of the Common Core Standards as well as helps me keep track of student data with checklists and charts.

In this pack you will find pre and post assessments for each standard, checklists to track student growth and kid-friendly objective posters for each standard.  It is a pack designed to make assessment easy and quick for both teachers and students.  This pack also allows for easy sharing of data amongst teams, parents, and administration.  Even my students like seeing their progress from pre to post assessment!  Click here or on the picture below to see this Common Core Assessment Pack.

Guided math has helped my students grow tremendously as it allows me to better meet each of my student's needs.  Assessment plays a critical role in guided math as it allows you to group students and again best meet individual needs.

Other Guided Math Posts and Freebies:

Happy Thursday!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Fluency Fun!

Literacy has so many different aspects to it that we are supposed to be intentionally teaching/doing each of those things is fluency. Now, thankfully, fluency isn't necessarily something that requires a ton of work on our part, but more heavily relies on the work the student does.

One thing you can easily do to make sure that you are doing something each day to teach fluency is modeling! Simply reading a book aloud to students provides them with an example of a model reader. It helps them get an idea of what they should sound like when reading out loud or even in their heads.

Now...why is fluency so important??

When introducing fluency in our classroom, I read one story to my little readers in 3 different ways. If it is a short story, I will just reread it 3 times switching from much....too...slow reading to waytooquick reading to just right, naturally paced reading. If it is a longer story, then I do a few pages each different way. Then as a group we discuss which version was the best and how they could tell. I ask them how I could improve my other two ways. Reading in the 3 different ways CRACKS my little readers up...which always cracks me up. They know I sound ridiculous, but what they don't get is that is exactly what they sound like! This is the perfect, quick way to introduce/review fluency. Later in the year, I then ask for student volunteers to show us 3 different ways of reading- they get a kick out of this as well, of course!

What else can you do to focus on fluency each day?

Assessment: Most schools use some sort of benchmarking system that focuses on fluency. Now, my experience with these has been that it is pretty much just not fun for all parties involved. We get bored administering it and many of our little readers get super frustrated because they passages are WAY too difficult, have no pictures OR it just encourages them to rush rush rush. Instead, the passages I've been using encourage students to focus on more than just speeding through (...or moving at a snail's pace) for a minute.

 Fluency Centers: A fluency center is something that should be included in your rotation...and once you initially get it going, you are set for the whole year! My personal experience with Fluency Folders has been that my little readers LOVE them. And why shouldn't they? They get better each time which builds their confidence as readers and makes them proud! As a reading teacher, that is always a goal!

How to get techy with fluency!

Download these two free apps if you want to get even fancier with your techy-ness!:
QuickVoice Recorder & Voice Recorder - I like them both- both are very simple to use and provide clear recordings!

Daily 5 Ideas: Lots of us use Daily 5 as a way to manage/run our literacy block. Good News: Fluency can easily fit in as a focus throughout the week during Read to Self or Read to Someone!

If you are looking for fluency passages to use in your class for assessment or simply for everyday practice, check out the links/images below! The passages are leveled for each grade level, aligned with F&P!

Have a great day!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Social Media Fun- We are Everywhere!

We so appreciate everyone who  follows our lil' blog, but we wanted to make sure you know where else you can find us too! We love social media and the way it gets us to connect with other educators and friends from all over the world. Social media helps us not only make new friends, but it also lets us get a quick, daily peek into other classrooms. This is why we love it...and why we are on it frequently each day! So, check out the links below and please say hi if you are new followers on all these other forms of social media! We'd love to see you on there too!

Instagram  Learning to the Core
Facebook Learning to the Core
Twitter @learntothecore
Periscope @learntothecore

Have a great day!
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