Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Collaborative Writing

This year our principal is really getting us excited about collaboration. He has sent us a lot of great articles and has even gotten the staff together for faculty collaborations.  I am trying my best to include collaboration within the classroom as often as I can because it is truly amazing to see the children working together! 

The first time I introduced collaboration was during our bat unit. We worked together to complete a bats vs. birds venn diagram. Let me tell you...it wasn't that pretty! There was a lot of arguing over who was going to put the fact on the venn diagram, who was going to read the fact, who was going to get the tape...you name it, they argued about it! 

I realized that I obviously didn't show them what collaboration looked like well enough. So we gathered back on the carpet. I pulled a couple kids to sit in a little circle with me, the rest of the students stayed on the carpet and watched. Then, I led a collaboration group. I showed them how to take turns, what words to use (I just went, now you can have a turn), what kinds of questions to ask (do you agree?, what do you think?, etc.)

Then I told them that the next day we were going to do the venn diagram again and I was going to see if we could do it better! Sure enough, they did much better! Still a tad bit of arguing, but I heard some great questions being asked and I saw some real collaboration. 

The next time we did a venn diagram in class was during our Pilgrim unit. We compared and contrasted children now to Pilgrim children and they did wonderfully!! Practice definitely makes perfect ;)

I decided to try out some collaborative writing to see how my students would do with it. Let me just tell you...it was the CUTEST THING EVER! 

Their goal: each group had to write 2 facts about the Mayflower.
Right away they went to their tables with the paper I provided and I heard them giving each other 'jobs'. They split up the amount of words in the sentence and everything. I heard one student say, "The sentence has 11 words, we can all write 2 words!" WOW!
Other groups took a different approach. One student helped sound out the words for another student who wrote. Then the 2 students who didn't have a job yet decided to split tracing the words in permanent marker when the writer was finished.
But, the picture above was my absolute favorite. One of my little ELL girls is not yet sounding out words and really doesn't know enough letters yet to write. When I walked by the table I almost asked what they were doing because I knew it would be hard for this little girl to have the job as the 'writer'! Then I looked a little closer. Another student had made the 'dash' lines for all the letters and was letting her trace them! WOW, just wow! I was so proud of them for working together so well.
When they were finished I let each group share their facts and then we added them on to our Mayflower!
I love how it turned out and some of their facts still make me smile!
'The Mayflower has a poop deck' definitely got my kids all giggling. And the splitting up of the word 'cargo' to 'car go' was just too cute!
This Pilgrim house was also made using collaboration. Each group had a job: to make grass, wood for the house, straw pieces for the roof, etc.
We tried collaborative writing again the following week. This time writing ANY fact they wanted about Pilgrims or the Mayflower. Again, they did beautifully! 

How do you use collaboration in your room? I would love to hear some new ideas!!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

November Centers

We have been BUSY learning all about the Pilgrims and Native Americans! I have really enjoyed watching my kids learn so much and be able to compare and contrast themselves to the children/families then.
I had all my students practice/review letter/letter sounds this week during their centers.  Even my readers need this practice occasionally-they still tend to confuse a couple letters now and then!
From the November Word Work pack
I usually don't use the activity sheets at the word work center, but this one I just had to use--it was easy for me to see who needed work on what letter! For instance...the K and Q below ;)
I actually never used some copies that I made last month (please tell me I am not the only one that does that), so my students built their Fall sentences this week...it is still fall so I am good ;)
From the October Word Work pack
 This was difficult for some of my kids. They weren't reading the sentence to make sure it 'made sense'. This is definitely a center I will need to do again!

I have been building CVC words with my kids every week and they are becoming pros! It is definitely time for me to move on to more difficult words!
From my November Unit
 I put some of Deedee's activities in my writing center this month. Love this list one of my girls made! Thanks Deedee!
My students are making me look good with writing this year. They are seriously all becoming so independent! I had to share two writing pieces that were completed totally independently! 
(and this turkey is way better than the ones I draw!)
 I love the little Pilgrim boy below! Too cute!
 We are still enjoying our Pilgrims up on the wall! I can't believe it is almost time to pull these down and hang up some holiday crafts!! Where does the time go?

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Formal Observation

I had my formal observation on Friday and I am so glad to be done with it!! Hopefully it went well enough that I won't need another :)

I wanted to share my lesson with you because I absolutely loved it and the kids did SO well with it! We use Marzano for our observations, and this lesson was designed with that in mind--lots of Marzano tallies! ;)

My formal observation was on Friday, but I started teaching about children now/children then on Monday. We always start by going over our learning goal. The learning goal correlates to one of our social studies standards.
 Then we discuss where they feel they are on the learning scale. When I say 'status check' the children reply with 'status check' and then they hold up their hand-displaying a zero, one, two, three, or four depending on where they think they are on the scale. You can find my learning scale HERE for free. As you can see below, on Monday 17 students felt as if they were at a two and three students felt as if they were at a one when it comes to comparing/contrasting children now/then.
 Throughout the week we read Sarah Morton's Day and Samuel Eaton's Day. I only read a couple of pages a day. As I finish reading, I have children turn to their buddy on the carpet. I clap my hands twice and say 'teach'. They clap their hands twice and say 'okay!' When they turn to their buddy they discuss anything new that they have learned. When they are finished I call on different buddies to share what they discussed. I wrote down their new learning onto a post it note and give it to them to 'splash' onto our anchor charts. Here is what our anchor charts looked like by Thursday.
On Monday we also 'splashed' on our new vocab words for the week. Everyday before reading I remind my students of the words and tell them to put their thumb up if they hear a word during reading. If they hear a word we move it over the the left side of the Word Splash and we discuss the meaning. (I don't like to put pictures on the vocab cards because I want students to figure out the meaning.)

Now fast forward to Friday ;)

Friday morning my observation was at 8:15. Before it began I quickly went over the learning scale and reminded students that today was the day we were going to do another 'status check' to see if they moved up on the scale!  I had the children come up with their own goals. They decided that in order for them to hold up a three at the end of the lesson they should know 4 facts. In order for them to hold up a four they should know 6 facts, etc. 
When my observation began I read over the learning goal again. I asked students why that goal was important. They responded with things like, 'the Pilgrims were one of the first to live in America and we also live in America'. Then I reminded them that on Monday 17 students felt they were at a 2 and 3 students at a 1. I told them I can't wait to do a 'status check' today to see if they have gotten better! 
I then said that before we started the lesson for the day I wanted a couple of students to review what we had on our anchor charts. I called on a couple of students to share some differences between children then/children now.
Then I sat down and we went over our carpet rules. You can find these rules HERE. I say 'mirror' and they say 'okay'. As I read the rules, they repeat after me. 
I reminded students to listen for a Word Splash word while I read. Then I read one page from the book, If You Were On The Mayflower. The page discussed the chores that Pilgrim children had. (I only read one page because I wanted to make sure I got through the entire observation before my vice principal left!) On the page they heard our vocab word Pilgrim. When they did they put their thumbs up. I paused from reading and had them remind me what Pilgrim meant, then I continued. When I was finished I had children turn to their carpet buddies and discuss whether they learned anything new that was NOT already on our anchor charts. They came up with a couple of things and we quickly talked about it. 
I then told the students that it was time for their challenge! It was time for me to see whether they have met their learning goal!! I explained that I was going to give each group a bag of statements and that group had to decide where it went on the Venn Diagram. 
If you look closely at the photo above, you will see that in the corner of each statement there is a shape. This is so I know what group put the statements on the Venn Diagram in case they put it in the wrong spot. Each group took their bag to their tables. They had to work together to figure out where it went. (Keep in mind...I did this lesson before for practice with bats/birds) Each group had their own tape too. So after everyone agreed they taped their own statements onto the Venn Diagram. At their tables you could hear them reading the statements (one reader in each group), asking each other where they thought the statement went, and finally asking if everyone agreed. If they did, then the 'taper' went and taped it onto the diagram.
These statements are from my November Unit on TPT here.
When everyone was finished they met me back at the carpet. I invited one group at a time to stand up next to me. I read their statements and the rest of the students had to give a thumbs up if they thought the group had placed it correctly and a thumbs down if it was incorrect. We celebrated the groups success and then I called the next group up, etc. 
I really wanted someone to put a statement in the wrong spot so we could have a mini debate, but they got them all right! 
I told them I was so proud of them and then we did our final 'status check'. This time one person felt as if they were at a one, four people at a three, and sixteen students at a four. I then explained to the students that it was okay that 'little Timmy' felt as if he was at a 1 on the scale because 16 students thought they were at a 4! That meant that they knew at least 6 facts AND they could help a friend! So if they can help a friend, they can help 'little Timmy!' 
I then told them that I had an extra challenge for them!!! Since so many students were at a 4 on our scale I wanted them to go back to their groups and write one fact (as a group) that we did NOT put on the Venn diagram. When I gave them their papers some of them were like 'wow this is a challenge' it was so cute! They all got right to work and I went over to 'little Timmy' and asked him a couple questions about children then/now. He answered all of them and I told him that I think he knows more than he realizes and gave him a high-five. 
At this time my vice-principal closed her computer and headed out! She told me it was awesome! HUGE relief!
Believe it or not we did ALL of that in about 40 minutes!

...and I am done! YAY!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Word Work Center

The word work center is now turning into my favorite center and it is definitely because it is NO WORK at all for me!! Everything is set up in the  center, the students know how to use it all, and they have total choice in what they do.
These are some pictures from my October Word Work centers. Students are spelling their CVC words with magnetic letters.
and working on beginning sounds!
 This month SOME of my students are ready to take on the challenge of middle sounds. I introduced this center during small groups to see if any of my groups were ready. A lot of my students had difficulty with this. We have been working on beginning sounds so much that they would read the picture and immediately listen for the beginning sound. I had to keep reminding them to stretch the word and listen for the middle vowel.
 My students LOVED this next center, 'Building Teepees'. They had to match the letter with the corresponding beginning sound picture. My lower group definitely still needs this practice and it is a great review/independent center for my other groups. 
I have to brag a teeny, tiny bit...my students are doing AMAZING at CVC words!! I think they are enjoying the magnetic letters so much, that they don't even realize they are learning!
I am storing the centers for each month in a 2 gallon zip-lock. This way next year, I can just pull out the baggie and I am ready to go!! 
I have my formal observation tomorrow so I will be back this weekend to share my lesson and let you all know how it went! Crossing my fingers for a nice, non-chatty Friday ;)

Monday, November 4, 2013

All About Bats Unit: Wrap Up!

I feel like the worst blogger! I haven't spent nearly enough time blogging and sharing ideas with you this year. I swear I have the best intentions...and then life happens!
This Fall I have totally been on the wedding circuit! I've almost been away every weekend since Labor Day! I. AM. EXHAUSTED. I was actually home this past weekend with no plans for the first time since school started and I barely moved from the couch! But, hey...that gave me enough energy to get through Monday and I am back! (for now)  ;)
Last week we wrapped up our Bat Unit.  I am really trying to make an effort to only have centers that I know my students will be able to complete 100% independently. This way I am not bothered during my guided reading group. 
In the pocket chart center, students put their bat cards in ABC order.
 Then they recorded their letters on their activity sheet.
During my guided reading group, we worked on beginning sounds. I let one student at a time choose a bat. They had to flip the bat over and tell us what the picture was. 
 Then, they all record the sound they heard. They loved this!
At their 'star' table (which is my parent center), they played Spooky Spin and Write! This is another activity that works on beginning sounds.
I have my formal observation coming up this week. Eeks. For it, I am comparing and contrasting children now to children of the past (Pilgrims). I wanted to practice so I quickly made an activity comparing birds and bats.  
First, we read Stellaluna. Then I had the students turn to their 'carpet buddy' and discuss one thing that was different between bats and birds and one thing that was the same. When they were finished I called on different groups to share what they came up with. Then, I showed them 4 different baggies I made. Each bag had different facts inside. I told the students that they would go back to their table group and they would work together to figure out where each statement went on the class Venn Diagram (bats, birds, both).
 I also explained to them that they would have to make sure every one at the table had a 'job'. Someone may be the reader, someone may hold the statements, someone had to get the tape out, etc. BUT they were not allowed to put the statement on the venn diagram until everyone at the table agreed on its placement!
...and yes they are in costumes...it was on Halloween and I made them work! Such a meanie ;)
 When each group was finished we went over the Venn Diagram. I read each statement and I had them put their thumb up if they thought it was placed in the correct spot. If they thought it was placed incorrectly then they put their thumb down. A couple times we had some thumbs down, if that was the case then I made the group stand up and either defend their answer or change it.
I made little pictures in the corners of all the statements- circles, squares, stars, and triangles. This way I knew exactly which group put on which statement.
The lesson turned out great! I love to see my students working together! Now let's hope it goes this well on Friday when we compare children now to Pilgrims children!