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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

4 Steps for a Succesful Writer's Workshop

Do you want to have your kids writing and talking about writing? Are you looking for a way to teach the writing standards? Then, this is the post for you! It is all about teaching writing through the workshop model of teaching. 
There is a very specific format to  Writer's Workshop. Each session includes a mini lesson, application-or work time, and a share time.

Step 1

First, let's look at the mini lesson. A mini lesson should last 10 minutes. The brain is wired to attend in 10 minute increments. By keeping the mini lesson to 10 minutes, the brain is able to focus the entire time! There are 4 specific components to the mini lesson.
The first part of the mini lesson is the connect.
  • To begin this part of the lesson, you should say, "Remember yesterday when we...".
  • The brain learns by pattern. When we use the same key words to start each part of the mini  lesson, the brain knows what is about to happen. 
  • This is not where we are asking kids, "Who remembers what we did yesterday?" YOU TELL THEM! You are trying to get all of the children in the same place so they are all building on prior knowledge.
The next part of the mini lesson is the "teach".
  • This is where you say, "Today I am going to...."
  • This is where you state the standard.
  • During this part of the lesson, you become the writer. You share what you are thinking and tell the children how you decided what to do.
  • Modeling is sooooo important.
  • This is where the kids see you actually model what it looks like. This is done during the teach part of the lesson.
The next part of the lesson is Engagement.
  • This is where you will say, "Now let me see you try."
  • During the engagement part of the mini lesson, the children will practice what you just did in the mini lesson.
  • While the children are attempting the new learning, you should monitor. Who is getting it? Who needs extra help in a small group? Was your teaching method effective?
  • During the engagement, the student's work can look very different. 
  • I love these three examples from the same lesson!
  • The lesson was teaching the children how to make a list of My Favorite Things.
  • Did each child master the lesson? YES! They are in all different places when it comes to their mastery of foundational skills, but when it comes to making a list of their favorite things...check--they all got it!
The last part of the mini lesson is the link.
  • During the link you say, "Remember boys and girls, today and everyday, good writer's..."
  • This is where you repeat the standard.
  • Then, in order to ensure that my children are practicing the academic vocabulary, I tell them to turn and tell their partner what good writer's do.
See the parts that I highlighted in blue? When I was first learning about writer's workshop, I put these sentence starters on an index card. That way, when I start my mini lesson, I use the same sentence starters each day.
During the mini lesson you are building anchor charts with your kids.
  • Anchor charts are not brainstorming charts. These charts are bullets of your mini lessons.
  • While you are teaching a unit, they are referred to by both the teacher and the kids.
  • The charts are not posters! These charts are made in front of the children.
These are some anchor charts. I know, I know...they LOOK like posters.  How could these have been made with children? When I first started with Writer's Workshop, I wrote the bullet each day on the chart during the mini lesson. But, here's the problem...I didn't like the way the chart looked so I would write it over. Does that sound familiar? Guess what, when you hang up that beautiful chart, your kids have no clue what it says! They had no part in that chart. Take ownership in your  messy charts and hang them up! OR if you just can't, which I couldn't, here's what you can do.
  • I made my charts ahead of time. Remember the charts bullet your mini lesson so there will be no surprises.
  • I added pictures to help my children know what each bullet says.
  • At the beginning of the week, I covered up all of the bullets with a piece of bulletin board paper.
  • Then, each day, we did "the reveal". I would lower the paper to reveal the next part on the chart.  
  • While we are working on a chart, I keep it on my easel in the front of the room.
  • As we finish with the chart, I move it to the display area.
  • Only the charts that you are actively teaching from should be displayed.
  • That means, when you move to non-fiction writing, you will not need your personal narrative charts displayed. You can take them down.
  • Have a specific place that you hang the charts. The brain is able to recall the information just because of where you hang the charts. The brain is able to take a picture and can recall the information even when the chart is down.

Step 2

After the mini lesson, you move to the Application portion of the Workshop.
  • The Application Time is where children apply what THEY know as a writer. Because of this, Writer's Workshop is the EASIEST way to differentiate! Each child plugs in wherever they are...some will draw, some will label, some will write! They are all working on the same genre.
  • Each child will have a writing folder.
  • I store the writing folders in these hanging file folder tubs.
  • There is a hanging file folder for each child.
  • They keep their writing folders inside of the hanging folders. This makes it very easy for them to find their folders.
  • In the red hanging file folders, I keep the various kinds of paper that the children can use.
  • We send the writing folders home.
  • The parents are invited to "scrapbook" the folder with pictures. The children can use these as inspiration for writing topics.
  • Inside the folder, the children need a place to store pieces they are still working on and ones they are finished with.
  • During Application the children begin by working by themselves.
  • You are building stamina slowly as children stretch the ability to focus on writing.
  • Once children are effectively working by themselves, you may introduce working with a partner.
  • Now you will be building stamina during independent time and during partner time.

    • While the children are working by themselves and with partners, you can pull small groups of children for conference groups.
    • Pull children who have a common need.
    • Address that need in a small group lesson.
    • You can also talk to individual children, but I usually try to do groups.  This helps me see more children.

    Step 3

    Once the Application Time of the lesson is over, you are ready for Share Time.
    • Share time is done daily.
    • This is the time that you are celebrating and lifting writers. You are developing their confidence to attempt things on their own. You are showing them that writing can look different, but that all writing conveys meaning!
    • Have you looked at your listening and speaking standards? In those standards it states that children can engage in conversations about grade level topics. It also says that children can engage in conversation with multiple exchanges. Share time takes care of ALL of those standards!
    Share time can be to the whole groups, with partners, or in small groups.

    Step 4

    That's it....that's the format for Writer's Workshop. But, how do you know if they have "mastered" the standard? How do you assess writing?

     The only way to accurately assess writing is through a rubric. This is the rubric that we use for personal narratives. 
    • Numbers 1 and 2 are used to assess the writing standard. For the writing standards, the children do not have to actually "write" text.  The standard says, "Draw, write, or dictate...."
    • Numbers 3 and 4 are for the foundational skills.  Help the reader is where you are looking for spacing, punctuation, dominant sounds, etc. depending on the time of the year.
    • Number 5 is for the speaking and listening standards.
    • Once I use the rubric, I can now show growth on ALL of these standards!
     Now what? Where do you get started? Here is a spreadsheet that I use for the first 3 months. You can download by clicking on any of the images.
    The anchor charts, rubrics, student papers, etc. are included in the unit, I Can Write.
     Here are some of my other writing units.

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    Sunday, August 21, 2016

    Tackling Transitions: Five Easy Steps to Tame Your Transitions

    While many teachers have already started school, the rest are just a few weeks behind those ever important first few weeks of school. As we start a new year, one question we need to ask is, "What is important about those first few weeks?" My principal once told me, "Get them here, get them fed, and get them home!"
    But, in the classroom establishing routines and procedures becomes our number one important task! As my friend Donna says, "You can't teach a class you can't manage!" Here are 5 Easy Steps that we use to Tame Our Transitions!
    The first thing is to develop catch phrases. These are phrases that you use when you want a certain reaction. ***These phrases are most successful with repeated practice during those first few weeks. Practice using them at random times, reminding the children at each time the expectation. Notice children who are doing the right thing and tell the other children what they are doing correctly!

    Attention Getting Phrases:

    Whenever I say "1,2,3 Look at me!", my children respond with "1,2 Eyes on you." This is my signal for getting their attention regardless as to where we are or what we are doing.  It is important to be consistent and to stick to one phrase. Using many attention getting phrases will confuse your children and not get you the results you want!

    Reminder Phrases:

    Reminder Phrases are a great way to remind the children in a non-confrontational way of the expected behavior. I learned this one from my friend Mary, a first grade teacher. One day in the hall, I heard her tell her children "Check Yourself." All of a sudden they all returned to the line and assumed the correct posture for moving down the hall.  Wow! I am so stealing that idea!  I use it for more than hallway behavior. If I am reading a story and I see kids moving around, I can just say "check yourself."  During those first few weeks of school we have practiced what it looks like to sit on the carpet during story time, so  when I say those magic words, the children quickly get back on their square with their hands and feet in the proper places. 

    Get Ready Phrases:

    I wanted to have a way to get the children ready to move to the hallway. Catch phrases trigger the brain in a much quicker fashion than when we are nagging or telling the children over and over what we want.  To get ready for the hall, I say "ready set" and they say back "you bet".  They know this means to get their bodies and mouths ready for the hallway.

    Another way to Tame Your Transitions is to use non-verbal reminders.  Ever catch yourself nagging? Sounding like Charlie Brown's teacher? I'm sure we have all found ourselves in that trap.  How can we get the behavior we want without saying ANYTHING? Here are a few of my favorite:

    Target Rule:

    Whenever there is a certain rule that the children are having a difficult time with, I make it a target rule.  Collect several small toys, clip art images, magnets, etc. Display the items. (I usually start with about 5-6, but if it is a real problem, you may need more. You don't want to run out!) If I am working on them not yelling out the answers when I ask a question, I write that as my target rule. Then, when someone "breaks" the target rule, instead of lecturing the children, I simply remove one of the clip art images.  I don't need to say anything--they get it! The clip art acts as a visual remind of a behavior!

    Clean Up:

    Another non-verbal reminder is for cleaning up.  When it is time to clean up, I simply turn on music. The kids know, when music comes on, clean up! If they get cleaned up before the music is off, they earn a piece of the Mr. Potato Head (or whatever we are building at that time of year).
    You may be asking, "What do the kids 'get' if they make the Mr. Potato Head or if they keep the magnets on the cookie sheet?" A huge part of Taming Transitions is to get your "team" to work together!
    Have you ever used a treasure chest? A place where kids visit if they are doing the right thing? I know I did at one time.  Here's what I noticed...the kids that went, would have behaved even if there wasn't a treasure chest. The children who didn't go, were not motivated or were unable to control their behaviors to get to go! Think of it like this...what if the principal had donuts. When you walked into the faculty meeting, he had a list of teachers who had turned in their plans on time. Only those teachers were given donuts.  Would that develop team spirit? How would you feel if you did get a donut? Would it motivate you if you didn't, or would it embarrass you or humiliate you? Instead, a dynamic leader, knows to develop a get the teachers to work together and support and help each other.
    In our class we work together to earn marbles for a class jar. We call them happy rocks...because they make the teacher happy!  At the beginning of the year, we earn marbles quickly, filling up the jar in the first few days.  If we keep the magnets on the cookie sheet, we get marbles. If we help  each other, we get marbles. If we clean up, we get marbles. If we get compliments, we get marbles.  We are working as a team! 
    You might be asking, what is the reward for filling up that jar or making the Mr. Potato Head? Here's what I am not going to do...I'm not going to give them candy. I'm not going to go to the dollar store and buy them something. Instead, I want them to learn the REASON for good behavior--we get to do cool things! Once we fill the jar, I simply look at my plans and see something really fun that I ALREADY had planned (they don't know that!). That becomes the Marble Jar Party or the Mr. Potato Head Party! It sounds like this, "Oh my goodness. Look we filled our jar! Today after recess we are going to stay outside and use sidewalk chalk. You can write your names, letters, words, or numbers. Show me what you can write! Won't that be fun?"  That's right! It was something I was going to do already! 
    One of the best ways to tame transitions is with music. I have my favorites, I am sure you do too.  I love anything that Jack Hartmann does. He has a utube channel! You can get his music for FREE!  Here is his channel  Another favorite of mine is Shari Sloane.  She is a kindergarten teacher in Minnesota, presenter, and musician!  You can order her cds from her website or on iTunes.
    I made power point presentations to go with my favorite songs by these two amazing talented people!Here's how I use them:
    •  I saved them as a pdf.
    • The pdf can be converted to smart board slides and I can use them on my smart board while we are cleaning up.  I play the song from my ipod as I flip through the slides.
    • I can also print them as little books.
    • I took a blank cd and burned each one song onto the cd.
    • Then, I put a sticky cd pocket  to the back of the book to hold the cd.
    • If you want to read more about music in the classroom, here is a blog post I did about it. 
    Make the most of your transitions by making them count!  Ever play the quiet game? I know I did! I did it because I didn't know what else to do! But, there are so many other things we can do that also build concepts at the same time! Think about those activities you use during math and literacy that came become a transition activity. Here are a few examples:

    Five Little Chefs:

    First Get Ready!
    • I made the puppet faces using splatter guards. The kids LOVE them!
    • I made an interactive chart where the chefs and the numerals are removable.
    • I made a flap book so that as I sang the song, I could flap down one of the chefs.
    • I found a placemat with chefs that I cut out and put magnets on the back of each chef.
    • The tune for this song is "Five Little Ducks".
    • I made a poetry card and pages for the children to manipulate the chefs as we sang.
    • I put the poetry cards in our poetry center for the children to visit again.
    Here's how you can use them:
    • During Math, we used the flap book, placemat magnets, and the student reproducible to develop a conceptual understanding of adding one more. As I manipulate the magnets, the children manipulate their paper chefs. Then, we record the number sentences on the recording pages.
    • During Literacy, we used the interactive chart and chef puppets, to develop concepts of print and oral prosody.  Developing prosody is essential to becoming a fluent reader. I talked about this more on the music post referenced above.
    • Now we are ready to use these items as transitions. As the kids are cleaning up, use any of the props to engage the children as they gather on the rug.
    I love to use cookie sheets! Here is a example for the Five Little Snowmen chant.
    • This is great for teaching combinations of 5 or the concept of one less.
    • As we say the chant, we remove the snowmen from the cookie sheet. 
    • Be sure and put your words on the back of the cookie sheet! It's amazing how easily we forget them! I put the words on the back of the cookie sheet with magnets. That way, when we are singing, I can display the text. Then, just return it to the back of the cookie sheet for storage.
    • Once again, the kids are manipulating the snowmen as we sing to develop those number concepts at the conceptual level. 
    • After using the snowmen in a math lesson, I invite the children to store them in a snack size baggie. They keep the baggie in their carpet bag. Then, whenever we are singing the song, they can pull out their snowmen for 100% engagement!
    If you are looking for these resources, all of the phrases, non-verbal engagement, team building sign, Five Little Chefs chart and book, Five Little Snowmen, and many other resources are from the unit Tackling Transitions.
    The poetry/song cards and the student reproducibles for the Five Chefs as well as many other songs/poems are from the unit Poetry Plus.
    The music books/pdfs for the smart board are in these units. You will need to purchase the music from Shari and Jack.
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    Friday, August 12, 2016

    Name Games for the Entire Year

    When it's time to plan activities for those first weeks of back to school, we often think about their names.  But, how about name games that we can use the WHOLE year! Here are a few of the name activities that we use during our year.

    Signing In

    Who remembers the day when the teacher took attendance by calling out each individual child's name to have him/her respond with "here"? That's something I haven't seen in a while. 
    We take our attendance by having children answer the question of the day. While these questions can be anything that you choose, we want to call attention to the features in their names. We have them sign in by answering these questions:
    • Do you have __ in your name?
    • Do you have __ letters in your name?
    • Do you have __ syllables in your name?
    • Do you have __ consonants in your name?
    • Do you have __ vowels in your name?
    • Is your name longer than ___'s name?
    • Is your name shorter than ___'s name?
    • Is your name the same length as ___'s name?

    Name Puzzles

    Name puzzles can be used all year to teach many different standards. To make the puzzles, here is what we did.
    • Using a table or spreadsheet, type the individual letters for each child's name. This will be important when comparing the length of their names---Jill will be the same length as Mark!
    • Photocopy letters on cardstock and laminate. Copy their first name on one color of paper and their last name on a different color of paper.
    • Insert a photo for each child. I cropped mine into a circle since I was using these circular containers.
    • Insert a text box with their name. Crop to a circle. Make their first name the same color as the color of paper you copied their first name on. Make the last names the same color as the color of paper you copied their last names on.
    • Print their photos and names on a FULL sheet label. 
    • Cut out the names and photos and stick to the lid, photo on the outside and name on the inside.

    Puzzle Name Activities

    Here are some of the name puzzle activities.

    Adding Up Consonants

    • Invite the children to select a picture of a friend.
    • Get their name puzzle puzzle.
    • Get out the letters for the first name.
    • Sort the letters by vowels and consonants.
    • Count the number of consonants and write it below their photo.
    • Put this name puzzle away.
    • Repeat with another name.

    Adding Up Vowels

    Play this game the same as the Adding Up Consonant Game, but the children will sort and count the vowels.

    Adding Up Our Names

    • Invite the children to select a name puzzle.
    • Sort the letters by vowels and consonants. 
    • Write the child's name in the first box.
    • Write the number of consonants and vowels in the correct box.
    • Add them together and record the total.

    Comparing Names

    • Invite the children to get their own name puzzle.
    • Lay the letters to spell the first name in a straight line.
    • Select a friend's name puzzle.
    • Lay the letters to spell their first name below your name matching the letters one to one.
    • Record the names on the recording sheet and circle the answer.

    Syllable Counting

    • Invite the children to select a photograph of a friend.
    • Glue it into the box as shown.
    • Clap and count the syllables.
    • Circle the number of syllables.
    You can also use this version. It is a little more challenging to have so much on one page. But, it would be great for later in the year.

    Class Books

    Class books are a great way to develop prosody. Class books are often rhythmic and repetitive. Children will revisit, re-read, and remember these books, especially ones with their names. 
    To make this book, here is what I  did...
    • I made a table with the letters in their names, ran copies, and cut the letters apart.
    • The children glue their picture to the top of their page.
    • Then, they find the letters to spell their name 3 times.
    • Once each child makes a page, bind the pages together to make a book.
    • Sing to the tune of Bingo.
    We also made a Cheerleader book. This is especially fun when you add pom poms and megaphones for the rereading. Here's how we made these books:
    • The top book is an accordion fold book.
    •  This type of book works well when children are gluing.
    • Invite the children to glue a title page, pages for each letter in their name, and the last page.
    • Children find the letters to spell their name, gluing one letter on each page.
    • After the project dries, accordion fold the paper and staple along the edge to make a book.
    • The bottom book is another class book.
    • The children find the letters to spell their name and glue them to the page.
    • Then, they find a card with their name and glue it down.
    • You can add a picture for easier name identification.
    All of these activities are included in this names unit. You can find it by clicking on the image above. There will be several surprises, too! :)

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