Sunday, February 20, 2011

Word Work

So, I have worked really hard over the last few years to figure out how to do word work in a way that helps my students to retain and apply their skills. We use the 220 Dolch words as our sight word program, Words Their Way as our word study program, and have designated 40 kindergarten and 42 first grade words for spelling words.

These are some of the organizational and practice techniques I have created to help my students practice all of these areas of word study.

Sight Words:Our whole school created games from The School Bell's Dolch Word Kit Website. At first, I was at a loss as to how to organize everything for students without constantly needing to set things up. I bought 3 drawer Sterlite containers - 4 of them to house the 11 lists. I then copied the games: Battleship, Pig and Stop, and Roll, Say, Keep on cardstock that was color coded for each list. Later I also made "I Have, Who Has" for each list from the Carl's Corner site and "Connect Four Games" (not sure where I found this idea) for each list. I have a few other ideas up my sleeve too.

I teach all of these games to the whole class at the beginning of the year. They run pretty effortlessly the rest of the year. I put a color-coded label on each drawer. This system has been pretty successful for the last 4 years. The students play these games during Daily 5, as morning work, and when they finish activities early.

Word Their Way:
Each of my students has a 5x8 manilla envelope to keep their sort in (I used to lamite these, but have found it doesn't matter if I don't and it save on both the lamination and the environment if I don't). In past years I have sent their sorts home on Friday to practice with their families. This year I have tried having the kids glue their sorts on Friday. Some feel that this takes up too much time, but I have found it to be a valuable assessment opportunity.

  • On Monday I introduce the sort, model and give students time to cut and sort their sort during Daily 5.
  • On Tuesday, the kids sort and write sentences - one sentence for a word in each of the the patterns.
  • On Wednesday, I have the students write the room for words with the given pattern. I have also collected a few phonics books over the years and put them out for the kids to find words in as well.
  • On Thursday, the kids roll cubes or use tiles to build words that have each of the pattens. The must make 3 of each word and any additional words are bonus.
  • On Friday, there is a finish up time and the students do a final sort and glue.
Some times int he year, this routine is easier to keep up than others. I keep all of the sorts in folders in a crate. I try to copy them all at the beginning of the year so that I am never scrambling. The blacklines for the activity are put out for Daily 5. Sometimes I have put them in packets. Other times I just put out the individual sheets.

My kids have individualized lists. I use mini notebooks from the Dollar Tree to write 4-5 words per week. I give out new words on Monday. Students practice during the week in the 10-15 minutes we have between specials and lunch using our "Spelling Tools". They buddy test on Friday. Any words that are not mastered go on the next week's list. The spelling tools I have are:
  • magnet writing boards - mini ones from Michaels and the Dollar General ($1.00)

  • alphabet stencils - Dollar Tree

  • "Fancy Pencils" - someone was throwing away these pencils at the end of last year. They are colored pencils that are swirly.

  • keyboards - paper printed keyboard that are laminated.

  • sign language boards - copied and laminated

  • magnet letters - from the Dollar Tree. I keep them in a cute little metal lunch box from JoAnn Fabrics. Students use the cover of the tin or a file cabinet to make and break their words.

  • letter beads - students string these onto pipe cleaners. They are also kept in the little lunch boxes.

  • wikki sticks
My rules are that the kids must make each of their words at least 3 times each time they practice and the materials must be put away neatly or the items that are left to are "closed" the next day.

Right now all of these materials are stored in a basket on one of the shelves. I hope to keep them is transparent shoe boxes on the cubby shelves once my shelf make-over is finished and I can get the labels made.

So far, these are the routines that I have come up with. What do you do for word work?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Transportation Notes

I don't know how I ever kept track of transportation changes when I first started teaching. I guess I didn't really think about it because I taught older kids and they knew where they were going.

The first year I taught first grade, I copied all student notes before sending them to the office so that I could remember what they are doing at the end of the day. I was planning with another teacher and noticed that she had a board near her door to note all of the transportation info for her class. Genius!

I found a board that was half whiteboard, half cork board at a yard sale. When I mentioned that I was a teacher, the lady gave it to me for free! I painted the wood and the cork board black. I used Vis-a-Vis marker to write "Pick-Ups" and "Bus Changes" on the board. This way I can note any changes that come in. I even put the note basket right underneath the board on a shelf so that I can immediately record this information before sending the notes to the office.

This year I added our information sheet with each student's typical afternoon arrangement to the board. I had always had it floating somewhere in the room and scrambled when I needed it for myself or a sub. This year, I put it in a plastic page protector (to protect it from the rain and snow when I go outside) and hang it on a re-use it hook. Then, any time I have a sub, I just refer them to the location of the info.

Just a few ideas I came across over the years!

Writing Center Ideas

I have been playing with a few ideas to revive journal writing during Daily 5. It is that point in the year when I need to get extra creative because all of my old tricks are getting boring. Here are some of the ideas I incorporate into the "Write to Self" time:

1. Prompts in cute containers.The kids went crazy over this! I bought little heart containers for valentine's day at the Dollar Tree. I hand wrote starts and questions about healthy hearts, dental health, and valentine's to put in each heart. The kids used these for writing ideas.
I also have a variety of the cute little eggs that come out around Eater time. I bought carrots for our nutrition unit, frogs and monkey for our zoo and animal unit, and sports ones for general use.

2. Cute writing utensils.So I bought a few of those huge pencils and pens at Michael's and the Dollar Tree. Cute idea, but they did not help the handwriting! Maybe not the best idea, but is got the kids writing.

3. Sticker Stories
I picked up a few packs of stickers in the stationary and craft sections at the Dollar Tree. Students were allowed to choose 3-5 stickers to build a scene int heir journals. They then illustrated their scenes and wrote 3-4 sentences. They LOVED this! I have also used the foam stickers. I do give them two days - one to illustrate and one to write, before I expect their work to be complete.

4. Stamp Stories
I have bought a few stamp sets over the years that correlate with our units. The kids stamp a scene in their journals, color, and then write.

5. Stencils Stories
Same as the stamp and sticker stories. I keep a look out for stencils at yard sales.

How do you make writing in journals more fun?


So I am in the midst of a classroom makeover. It is officially winter break for me, but I am excited to have an entire day sometime next week to work on decorating and organizing my classroom. I have to be honest that I have never been the most organized teacher. I appear very left-brained, but have become very right-brained over the years. My mind goes in a million creative directions at once and that lack of focus leads to stacks of papers and lots of piles.

To add to my general lack of organization, I moved classrooms this year. I cried over it. I have moved 6 times in 10 years and this last move nearly pushed me over the edge. I had actually been in my last room for 3 years and had finally figured out where to put things. I think people seriously underestimate the magnitude of moving a classroom.

My new room is 2/3 the size of my old one with less storage and limited space for student coats and backpacks. It also sports/sported yellow tiles and a mustard yellow counter top ala 1970 and is directly across from our cafeteria rather than my previous nice and quiet hallway. However, where my old room had whitish tiled floors and white cinder block walls (very hospital like), my new room has carpet and beautiful woodwork. Plus IT IS WARM! I always froze in my old room.

I guess overall, I like my new room. It is homier and I can actually get dressed in the morning without wearing leggings under my clothes. In general, it does need a lot of work though. When I moved, I shoved almost everything into the cupboards with no rhyme or reason. I am looking forward to having the chance to sift through it all. And the built-ins were pretty beat up.

So far, I have covered the counters with contact paper. I know that it sounds like a nightmare - I hate contact paper. But, it actually looks like I have granite counters installed! People ooh and ahh over it! I like to joke that I got granite counters out of the bargain when I moved. It looks like a whole new room - a bit more modern and the counters are not glaringly obvious when you walk in! New counter color!!!

My To Do List:
1. Move bank of computers to be flat against the wall - for more space and a homier look.

***Done :)

2. Put fabric skirts on computer stands to cover storage.
I have sewed these and they are ready to be attached with velcro. I saved a bundle by using fabric I had on my bulletin boards when my color sheme was more pastelly. I bought RIT dye for 2.69 and dyed the fabric before sewing it into panels. I saved about 10 bucks using the dye!

3. Build/Find/Add to coat cubby storage area.

4. Find/build shelving for under the Promethean Board.
I'm thinking about adding plastic rain gutters for books.

5. Install shelves in the bathroom to store tissues, soap, and hand sanitizer.
Have the brackets from a miscalculation when we build our pantry. Now I just need to get the wall mounts and shelving. And then to install it, of course.

6. Paint metal shelves and venting unit.
What color? They are kind of a coffee color now. Maybe gray?

7. Find new, more narrow book boxes.
I bought mine from the Dollar General this summer. Love them and they work great for the kids, but they are just to wide to fit the shelving units. Right now they are all stashed on those plastic shelving units for garages. Not horrible, it just takes up floor space. Plus they are bold turquoise, lime green, and fuchsia - way too much color!

I LOVE the ones from Really Good Stuff and Oriental Trading, but they are SO expensive!

8. Clean out cupboards.
Easier said than done!

9. Finish installing shelves above the coat cubbies.
One is done. I need to cut a foot off the other board that I bought.

10. Reorganize classroom library.

Hmm! Not too big of a task?!?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Beginning

I have been reading several AMAZING first grade blogs for a few months and have been beyond inspired by the great ideas and materials they share! So, I am taking the plunge. I am beginning a blog dedicated to teaching first grade - and maybe a few other things along the way! I can't wait to connect with others out in the teaching world and share a bit of what I do in my little world.