Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Reading Groups Update, freebie and my Sweet Hubby

Most of you know that I am working on my small groups this semester. I've been focusing on my reading group for the past few weeks. (I have plans to work on math groups, but we haven't had a full week of school since we've been back. It's not looking good for this to be a full week either.) This week I didn't get my plans written out and I'm not sure it's made much of a difference. This week's theme in reading is birds. My kids are very interested in birds and animals in general. We use the Treasures reading series. I usually use the leveled readers that came with the series for my groups for the first part of the week. One group read a story called "Amazing Birds." They took the book home Monday and then Tuesday we read the book together  I had them tell me some things they learned from the book before we read it. As we were reading the book, I realized it would be a good book to work on pulling facts from the book. So I made a table for the kids to pick three birds and then write 2 facts. I meant to take a picture of this group, but I didn't think about it until it was too late. The next group read a book about penguins. I can't remember what it was called now. But for this group I made a circle map for them to pull 4 facts from the book. I was so proud of these kids. These 3 students are ELL students and they did a great job pulling the facts from the story. By this time, I had remembered to take some pictures.

I am really pleased with how well this went. I still need to work more on meeting with my groups and doing some word work with them. But I think I'm making progress with my goal of improving my group instruction. I have one group where they are all reading on at least a 2nd grade level. I haven't really been sure what to do with them. I don't have but a couple of sets of chapter books where I have more than 2 copies of. So the four students are reading different books. They read a chapter at home each night and then we work on different comprehension skills. One day we worked on character because they were all reading Junie B. Jones. This week we worked on text to self connections and then tomorrow they are suppose to summarize what they have read so far. I try to check in with this group even when I don't actually meet with them. They tell me what chapter they are on and I try to tell them what skill I want them to focus on. My groups aren't perfect but they are progress. I have the graphic organizers as a freebie if you are interested. They are pretty simple but they did the trick. (Click here)

Let me know if you find these useful. I love it when people can use what I create for my class.
I'm working on starting reading notebooks with my kids. Then they have a place to respond to the different books and stories we read in class. Today we used the story map from my Monster Mapping for Stories product. I copy these 2 to a page so they fit perfectly in a composition book. Once I get these going, I'll blog about them.
The last thing I wanted to share was about my Sweet Hubby. He's a veterinarian and since we're studying about birds this week, he brought a few animals in. He brought the clinic cat, Martha, an Indian ring neck parakeet, Beaker, and a Moluccan Cockatoo, Zachary. The kids loved it. I am lucky that Chris enjoys doing stuff like this and he's great with kids. Here's a couple of pictures from today.

I hope you're staying safe if you are in the areas of thunderstorms and tornadoes. We're experiencing a lot of flooding. I was hoping for a five day week this week but it could be iffy if the rain continues.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Saturday Sayings

I loved linking up with Tammy at Forever in First a couple of weeks ago for her Saturday Sayings. I'm excited to be linking up with her again this weekend. This are some of my favorite posts that I look forward to reading all week long. I have been rereading the book Growing Readers by Kathy Collins in search of good Saturday Sayings. I found several quotes that I really think give a lot of food for thought. But this one fit what I am currently going through in my classroom.
(Graphic from Sassy Studios and Font from Hello Fonts)
Yesterday I posted about some of my frustrations with my class right now and how I was trying to do things. I got some encouraging words from my readers and I appreciate it. It makes me feel better to know I'm not alone in these challenges. But I read this quote and it was like an aha moment. I couldn't help but think that having students work in groups during whole group math was the only time in my day I tried a group. The rest of the time I always used partners. They read with partners; they do word work with partners; they do their math workstations in partners. So I should probably continue with this idea that they are already used to with whole group math.This also leads to me thinking about the way I approach math completely. It's the area where I'm getting frustrated and the kids are getting frustrated. What am doing in my classroom practices with math that I'm not doing in reading and language. Or what am doing in reading and language that is successful and I'm not doing this in math. I think I'm expecting them to work together to explore different ideas and problems in math but I don't know that I'm doing that in other subject areas. I'll definitely be thinking about my beliefs versus my practices this week as I plan out the activities. Be sure to hop over to Tammy to check out her Saturday saying and anyone else that linked up.

Friday, January 25, 2013

What a week!

I'm off school again today for weather reasons. It was suppose to ice today. I'm not sure if it really did or not because I haven't left the couch this morning and I don't plan on it. But from what I've seen on facebook the roads are pretty icy. I haven't blogged since Tuesday because I haven't really had time and I wasn't sure what to blog about. It seems that it is way easier to share our ideas and what's going on in our classrooms when things are going well. And this week things just weren't going well. But I am going to tell you about it anyway and hopefully some of the great teachers out there that read my blog will have some advice or suggestions.
This week would in theory be our third week back from winter break but last week we only went to school two days and one of those days we were let out early. Then we were out this week on Monday for MLK day. My kids have been wild. They haven't been bad it is just like they have forgotten everything they have learned about being in school. They were great the week back from winter break. This week was another story. They were getting up in the middle of the class and leaving the room without asking; they were interrupting my teaching to ask to go to the bathroom. I can handle those things. But it seems they have forgotten everything they have learned in math especially. We were finishing up our unit on number patterns and it was like they just weren't getting it. We'd be counting by 2s, 5s, or 10s and they could do it with no problem but then when it came to apply that knowledge it was like they had no idea how to count by those numbers anymore. I was getting frustrated which definitely didn't help anything. We got through it and I still have a couple of kids that don't seem to get it but it was time to move on. Yesterday we started our unit on place value. We've talked about place value already and do some work with it each day in our morning meeting. The problem wasn't that they weren't getting the lesson it was they didn't seem to know how to work together. I gave each group of students 50 unifix cubes. Then I gave them a number. They had to get the number of cubes out and make groups of 10 out of it. This is where it all falls apart. They couldn't seem to work together to do this. So I made one student in charge of getting the cubes out and the rest of them were suppose to help count. Then they were suppose to take turns making the groups of 10. It was fine when there were enough cubes for each student to make a group of 10 but then when the number was smaller like 21. They started pulling more cubes out of the bag so they could all make groups of 10. It was so frustrating. But as I'm typing this, I'm thinking maybe I should have them work in pairs instead of their table groups which either had 3 or 4 students. Then I have the problem of the 2 students who have no idea what I'm talking about. They don't understand anything we are doing in math right now. So here are my questions that I'm hoping you can advise me on:

  • How do you get your kids to cooperate in groups and work together without doing it for the other person?
  • Do you group your students in groups of 4 or so or do you do pairs?
  • What should I do with these two students who don't seem to know what is going on? 
  • Should I let my assistant teach separate math lessons for them? Should these lessons be during the whole group lesson or another time?
Then I have the problem of all week, we didn't have time to get our math stations in which meant I couldn't work with any students one on one. I'm doing a miserable job of keeping up with my groups. I just don't seem to have the time to get it all in. I'm not sure what I can let go of. I truly believe their read to self and read to someone time is very important and this is the only time I have to read with students and do groups. Then I also have whole group reading lessons, spelling/phonics lessons, math lessons, writing time, and math whole group. That is what I can consistently get done. Language, science/social studies and math work stations get thrown to the side a lot. I'm just not sure how to fit it all in. I try to integrate my science and social students but that isn't always successful.
Ok so I've moaned and groaned enough. I'm just struggling with getting it all in and it is frustrating. I hope that I'm not the only one who has these frustrations and I'm also hoping there are some teacher friends that can help me with some of this. Hope you have a great Friday. I would love to hear your thoughts.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Wintery Science Activites

Well, I'm home today for a snow day. It has been a weird week of weather. Tuesday and Wednesday we were out for flooding. Then Thursday we got out an hour early. Snow was pouring by the time I got home and the road to my house was already covered. It was so beautiful. But today the sun is shining thankfully. We haven't had sun in over a week. And the snow is melting. I had plans of teaching all about MLK jr. this past week. But with no school, it just didn't happen. It think I'm going to have to let go of some of the activities though. Friday we have to have our science fair projects completed. Every grade level in my K-8 to school participates in Science fair. In kindergarten and first grade, we do a class project. And I haven't even started on ours yet. My plan for this year was to do the Crisco blubber project. I think I did it last time I was in First grade. But this year, I plan to add a research component for my kids with it.
So I wrote this on Friday and never got around to finishing it. I was busy this weekend with a fundraiser for the student at my school who was recently diagnosed with cancer. It was amazing to get to talk to people about him and to hear others stories about their experiences with cancer. We got to meet this 5 year old boy who had beat liver cancer. He was so cute showing us his scar and he told us that Jesus healed him. It was so cool. I had to really struggle not to cry when he was telling us his story. Anyway,. I took a little break from blogging and such this past weekend.
Today we started talking about polar animals and the arctic to get ready for our science fair project.I had seen this idea on someone's blog. (I can't find it again. I had thought it was The Teacher's Cauldron or Tunstell's Teaching Tidbits but I couldn't find it on either one) where you put pictures around the room with paper and let the students look at the pictures and then add their questions and ideas. So I googled some images on Arctic animals and got this set up.

I put pictures of different polar animals and then a couple of scenery pictures. The kids walked around the room and looked at them and then I let them sit at each table for about 3 minutes and add their thoughts and questions.

After they wrote their questions and ideas, we read them over and dismissed some errors to their thinking. Like that polar bears are nice. Then we made a circle map of the Arctic on the promethean board.

We also read a book about the North Pole, South Pole.

This gave us some new information. My plan had been to add some more to our chart but when we finished the book it was lunch time and we had to move on to other things. So tomorrow, we're going to add to our chart and do some writing about polar animals. This is our research for our science fair project. I have a couple of great packs from some of my blogging friends that are going to help with our research. The first is from Jennifer Kadar at Simply Kinder.
The second is from Maggie at Maggie's Kinder Corner. She has a pretty cool unit about Animals and Plants in Winter. You can check it out here.

Both of these items will help with our research and our presentation about the animals. I'll be back later this week to tell you more about our science.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Five for Friday on Saturday

I  started a post all about science this week yesterday but I never finished it. So hopefully I'll get it posted tomorrow. I decided my brain wasn't really into finalizing my science plans for the week since I had a snow day yesterday. My brain wasn't really into doing anything. So I was going to do this fun post from Doodle Bugs Teaching.

I saw several people post this last week and it looked like fun. So here I go. 

1. I've blogged about this boy before. His name is Regan and he's a sixth grade student at my school. This week he started chemotherapy and radiation at St. Jude's for his brain cancer. He has a contagious smile that he's kept this whole time. Today one of the shopping areas in our downtown (I live in Gatlinburg, TN. If you've ever visited this tourist town you've probably been to this area, The Village. It's where the Donut Friar is) is having a fundraiser. So I've been helping a little bit with that. I'm so amazed by our community and how it's come together for this boy and his family.
2. I had Tuesday and Wednesday off from from school. So I got busy on a couple of new units. One being my snowman scramble. (You can get it on sale at my Teacher's Notebook Store this weekend.)
3. After raining for 4 days straight, Thursday afternoon it turned into snow and we got out of school early and then no school on Friday. This is the view from my back porch. It came down fast and we had about 4 inches before it started melting.

4. I got my hair cut and colored this week. I was inspired by this pin and another one that i can't seem to find. It feels so good to get all the dead stuff cut off. I have pretty thin hair and it looks better when it's shorter. I also went really dark which was a nice change.
5. This picture is actually from today. Because of the weather earlier this week, I got to have breakfast with the hubby. You can draw on the tables with dry erase markers at this place and we went again this morning. So I wrote this and took a picture as our picture of the day.
Anyway, so that's my five for Friday err, Saturday.  Go check out the other ones at the party. I'll be back tomorrow with a post that has some educational substance. At least I hope so.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Random ramblings on a flood day

Today is day 2 of being off school for flooding and heavy rains. Yesterday I got up and got ready and was on my way to school. I thought it was weird that I didn't see any buses or very many cars. When I got to school and there were no cars in the parking lot I figured out we were out. It worked out since I was running late anyway. But it would have been nice to have known before I got out of bed. We have a telephone system that calls when we are out. I didn't get a phone call so I just assumed that we weren't out. Apparently the telephone system had some glitches. But I did get to have breakfast with my hubby. I also got a haircut, had a meeting and dinner with friends. It was a good day off. My friends we had dinner with were also teachers so we were excited when we saw on facebook that we were out again today. Poor Chris he still had to get up and go to work this morning. I on the other hand slept in pretty late this morning. It was so nice. I rarely am really able to sleep in. I really needed today to just do nothing. It has been so nice to sit on the couch and work on my computer. I didn't spend as much time resting over the weekend as I wanted to. My knee has been pretty sore since going back to work and I've been fighting off a sinus infection so today was perfect. I have had a couple of ideas for some new activities to work on so today was the day. I just posed this activity down below, Snowman Scramble. I can't wait to try out with my kids as soon as we're back in school. I'm having a giveaway of it on my fb page so check it out.This picture is from my teacher's notebook store. I just updated the store and am having a sale there this weekend. It's 25% off. What I need to be working on is unit 4 of my words that pop up. I have had a couple of teachers ask me about it and I'll be starting unit 4 next week. So I should probably get on it. But I'm switching the program I do the unit on so I've been a little reluctant to work on it.
I really don't want this post to just be a commercial for my new unit but I don't have much else to share. Since I haven't taught these past 2 days. I'm trying to think of something interesting to post about our day on Monday. But I'm not coming up with anything. So maybe I'll just ramble a little bit about reading in general.
Reading is one of my favorite things to do. I love to read especially on days when it's rainy and cold like today. Books and reading is such a big part of my life I'm even on my city's library board. This is just a new adventure that I've been on. I started on the board this summer and it's been a good experience. I love our little library. When we first moved to Gatlinburg, the library was right down the street from the elementary school. My sister and I would stay at the library and do our homework while waiting on our parents to pick us up. I loved it. I think I had read every book in the library by the time I got out of high school. When I moved back home about 6 years ago, the library really hadn't changed much. There were not as many new books and I was pretty sure I check them all out. But a few years ago, a brand new library was built. It is a beautiful building. But I still wasn't sure that there were a lot of newer books. In the past few years, the library's new book collection has grown and it's now a place I love to go get books or to read at. There's a fire place and a cat. It's a great place. I love being on the board because I get the opportunity to make this place I love even better. We had a board meeting last night, and it never fails that our discussions end up talking about books and what we have read. We were discussing reading on an e-reader versus reading a real book. There are 2 other teachers on the board so this discussion bled into what we wanted for our students. I enjoy reading on my kindle. It's so convenient but I also love reading a real book I can hold. One of the other teachers was talking about how she wanted her students to only read real books. This got me thinking and I'm not sure how I feel about it. I think part of reading is the experience of holding a book and how it smells and how it feels. What do you think? Do you have a preference for what kind of books you want your students reading? Do you have a local library you love?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Word Work Ideas and A Freebie

I'm blogging over at Top Teacher's Kinderland today. You should check it out. It's all about word work, spelling and there is even a freebie. While you are there, you should consider following the blog. It's a great place to be.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Small Group Sunday (and some freebies)

I've already mentioned on here that my OLW is intention. I'm trying to be more intentional with my planning and lessons. I especially want to accomplish this in my small groups. I thought that if I set aside a blog day for it, maybe it would help me stay accountable. We came back to school on Tuesday so already I was a day behind on my planning sheet.
 This is how much I had filled out by Tuesday afternoon at school. I had planned that day and then the next day. I was already seeing where this sheet was going to cut it for me. My top group of readers were working on a chapter book and I was struggling to meet with each group.
 This is how my sheet looked at the end of the week. Not so hot on the whole planning part. I didn't meet with groups like I had wanted and do the activities I wanted. I think part of my problem was not planning ahead. If I had planned ahead I could have asked my assistant to meet with a couple of groups each day. So Friday afternoon, I changed the format of the sheet and planned through Wednesday. I'm hoping after I meet with the groups on Monday I can finish up the planning sheet. I think I am at least starting out the week a little better this week.
I also got my fluency sheets for unit 3 complete. These have practice for long a, long i, s blends, digraphs and triple consonant blends. Of course this is the last week I'm working on unit 3 in the reading series but better late than ever. I use these as a warm up to start the group with. I have the students take turns reading rows of the words to practice their fluency and decoding skills. Here's a freebie for you:

Click here to access this freebie.
Click here for unit 1 of these words.
Click here for unit 2 of these words
I'm also sharing an updated version of my planning sheet. Click here to get a updated copy of the planning sheet. 
Hopefully you can use one or both of these sheets. I haven't read anymore in my Making Small Groups Work book. This past week was just too crazy to do much reading. I also didn't tackle any math groups at all. But there's always this week. How did you first week back at school go? Be sure to let me know if you download these freebies and how they worked in your classroom.
I'm linking up with Classroom freebies today for Manic Monday so be sure to stop by and check out the other freebies.

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday
Please keep the student at my school, Regan in your prayers. He starts his first round of treatment at St. Jude's tomorrow.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Snowman week and a giveaway

It's winter time even though it feels like 70 degrees outside today. I am hoping for cold and snow soon. We have 13 days built into our schedule and last year only used one. So I would really like to use a few this year. But even though we haven't had any snow or really cold weather, I plan on talking about snowmen with my students in a week or so. I had planned on doing it next week but I wanted to do some MLK day activities. Anyway, I got a great packet  from Valerie Young at All Students Can Shine . I plan on using this with my students and reading a lot of fun books about snowmen. These are some of my favorite snowmen books.

We'll be reading these books during the week and doing a variety of activities with them. Quite a few activities we'll be doing will come from Valerie's unit. (You can check the unit out on TPT by clicking here)

Valerie has included several different writing activities in the unit and word cards to go with winter and snowmen. I've printed out the word cards and I plan on introducing those to my students next week when we read The Snowy Day as part of our work on narrative writing. She has provided with 2 different choices for cards.

I personally like the smaller cards better because they are light on the ink and paper. Plus my wall space is limited. There are a variety of word cards that are associated with winter and snowmen.
There is a labeling sheet, word scramble and a couple of sheets to write with. I plan on using these during our word work and writing time. I give my students a menu for 2 weeks and they can choose the activities they want to work on. I like this because Valerie gives several choices for what the students can do. She also gives choices that use less color ink and less copies. I'm all about those two things.

The last thing in the pack I want to highlight is the super cute craftivity. I am pretty picky about the way I do this in my classroom. Valerie has 2 choices. You can copy the different pieces on construction paper or you can use tracers. I used the tracers because I like my kids to be a little more involved in the process.

I used scrapbook paper instead of construction paper for my example and think it turned out pretty cute. So I'll probably let my students do the same. I'm linking up with Jessica Stanford for the product swap. You can check everyone else's products out over there.
Valerie and I are having a giveaway for both our units. You can enter here or over at her blog to win this Hide and Seek Snowman unit or my Puppy love math activities. . a Rafflecopter giveaway