Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Word Work Centers and a Halloween Game

      The last few weeks I have been thinking a lot about word work in my classroom.  With the Common Core Standards for English-Language Arts (CCSS-ELA) out in the last year or so, I need to revamp my word work curriculum and activities to correlate with the new standards.  This will be a process, I know, but I've been wanting to get started.  Also, my school has a half hour intervention block each day where I am meeting students one on one or in a small group to do an intervention.  I wanted to incorporate some word work centers during this time.

      A couple of weeks ago I came across an old blog post by Beth Newingham on her Scholastic Top Teaching blog.  It describes in detail the word study program she created based on Words Their Way, Fountas and Pinnell phonics, and sight words.  I really like how she used assessments to guide instruction and created centers for students to practice the skills being learned each week.  This is a lot of work in the beginning and seems a little overwhelming.  So, I thought I'd take some of her ideas that I could begin with and build more things in as I go along.

     My school already uses Words Their Way and we also have the Fountas and Pinnell phonics program for each grade.  You can check them out by clicking on the pics below.

This is the program overview book with lots of printables, games, etc.

This book is one of the word sort books available.  Typical second graders work on these sorts.
       Since I have these resources and already do the assessment and word sorts that are part of the Words Their Way program, I decided an "easy" next step would be to make some games and activities that I could use as centers during the intervention block.

        I decided to have four centers:

  1. Smart board
  2. Sight Word Work
  3. Games
  4. Word Hunt
Smart Board
       For the Smart board center, I created a version of Roll a Word for kids to practice the idea.  I got the idea from Learning with Mrs. Parker.  Follow the link to her blogpost where you can download the powerpoint file for free.  I just copied and pasted it into the Notebook software for the Smart board and added an interactive die for the kids to roll.  Each week I change the sight words to match our words for the week.
Sight Word Work
      At this center, I put a paper copy of Roll a Word with a die.

     Another choice at this center is rainbow writing.  I did not create this but found it a few years ago online and it was created by Ms. Ross.  Click on the picture below to go to the google doc.

The actual sheet is much higher quality than this picture.

       I also will create games each week that go along with whatever sort we are doing.  Last week I created a short and long i racetrack game with a Halloween theme because we were learning about short i words and long i words with the CVCe pattern.  Click on the first picture below to check out the game and get your copy.

Here's one of the games before I added the title on the right side or laminated it.  But, you get the idea. :)
I don't know why the picture won't center, either.
So far the kids have loved the games center and the adorable candy corn Halloween characters in the short and long i game.

Word Hunt     
      The word hunt center is done in their word work notebooks.  Whatever patterns we are studying for the week are the focus.  For example, last week the headers for our word sort were "pig" for short i, "kite" for long i, and "oddball" (words that don't sound right or don't follow the pattern).  Students write the headers at the top of each column in their notebooks and read from their bag of books (or book box).  When they find a word with the right sound and pattern, they write it down under the correct header.  Simple.  They love it.

     So, that's where I'm at with word work centers.  I still have a separate word work time each morning when I introduce the sort, teach sight words, other word work topics, etc.  I would love to hear how you teach word work or organize your word work centers.

       Please leave me a comment and feel free to follow my blog.  :)  Happy hump day!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

We Scare Hunger!!

      So, ever since I worked in the central city and fell in love with children who came to school hungry each day because they didn't have any dinner the night before, I have made it a point to be sure I teach my new students each year about a world that some of them can't imagine.  The truth is that one in six children in our country (that's right, in America!) go hungry each and every day.  To do something meaningful during all of the Halloween hype, last year I organized a school wide campaign called Halloween for Hunger.  It wasn't my idea...the wonderful people at Free the Children started this international campaign.  This year they changed the name to We Scare Hunger!  It's such a fantastic idea and really is pretty simple to organize.  Click on the picture and then scroll down to go to an introduction video.

     The basic idea of We Scare Hunger is that instead of going trick or treating for candy (which we want but don't need) we can go trick or treating for nonperishables and donate them to a local food bank/shelter.  How genius is that!  No. child. should. go. home. and. worry. about. if. they'll. get. to. eat. or. not.

     Does your school have a Halloween dance/party?  That would be a great time to hold a We Scare Hunger food drive.  And, it's not too late to whip up a flyer to send home, either!  The PTO at my school hosts a Halloween Dance and so to benefit the cause, I asked them to request people bring a can or other nonperishable to get into the dance.  We were able to get a lot of food this way and will be doing it again this year, too.

    Also, we actually went trick or treating on Halloween during school to neighborhood homes.  The week before, we walked our route and left flyers at each home letting them know we would be back on Halloween between certain times to collect their nonperishables.  With my second graders, our area was about two blocks long, and it took us about an hour to walk there and back. We knocked at each house, and people were very receptive to seeing kids out for a good cause.  I also included in the flyer that if people would not be home, they could leave food in a bag out on the front steps/porch and we would pick it up.  This worked well, too.  Here's a few pictures of the fun last year.

     This year I'm feeling a little more adventurous and am letting my students put on costumes for our walk.  After all, they are supposed to be trick or treating to make hunger disappear!

     I'll be sure to post pics from this year next week!  Feel free to follow me so you don't miss them.  :)

     Please leave a comment and let me know if you also participate or plan to this year!  Have a great week!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Beginning of the Year Writer's Workshop

      One day this week about mid-way through our writer's workshop as I sat and watched a table of kids work between writing conferences, it hit me.  Quiet.  Focused.  Everyone was writing.  All I could hear was our quiet work music (classical for kids).  It was blissful.  Finally, the first four weeks of work building routines, stamina, and identities as writers had paid off.

     So I thought now would be a good time to talk about launching a writer's workshop and building a community of writers in your classroom.  Beginning on day one of school, we discuss that every single day we will have a special time in our class called writer's workshop where all of us get to be authors.  I teach them that every day we will start together on the carpet and learn (mini-lesson).  Then they'll go off and be authors on their own.  Finally, we'll come back and share about what we learned as writers.

    Beginning the year with some kind of project instead of jumping right into the first unit of Lucy Calkin's writing curriculum has worked really well for me.  I do this for a couple of reasons.  First, it is a fun and non-threatening way for even the most reluctant writers to jump into writing time.  Second, it gives us something cute to display right off the bat! :)

   This year, I used Steppin into a New Year from The Bubbly Blonde to launch our writer's workshop.  You can see more details about my first week plans for workshop at this post.  However, I set up the activity by reading letters from last year's second graders to my students to give them an idea of what second grade will be like.

      After hearing the letters, we made a list of things that second graders can do.  

        Finally, students wrote about what they wanted to do as they were "Steppin into Second Grade."

"I want to lern about bees.  I want to solve equations in math.  I want to tell time.  I want to plant flowers.
I want to lern about cutture (culture).  I wnat to make patterns.  I want to writ poems."

      I was careful to be sure the craft to go along with the activity was done at a separate time of day so students began to understand that at writer's workshop we write the whole time.

     After students all got to feel successful with a writing activity that I intentionally scaffolded quite a bit ahead of time, they were ready to jump into writer's workshop.  Again, before officially launching the units of writing for the year I spent a day thinking about what writer's workshop looks like/sounds like.  

     Nothing fancy...just functional.  The visual is a great way to help kids know exactly what's expected of them at writer's workshop and is great to revisit each day until it becomes automatic for them.

    Finally, I would just like to share a few quick tips that I have learned about making writer's workshop as successful as possible:

  • Play quiet, instrumental music -  Students love having that one special time during the day when they get to relax and concentrate on their own writing.  I have a few different c.ds that we rotate- classical music for kids, a concentration music c.d. from Target, etc.
  • Celebrate! - The first month of workshop in the primary grades is all about celebrating your students as writers.  Make a huge deal out of kids who get pictures and words on their paper and who write the whole time.  Emphasize the hard work...not the correct conventions.
  • Quiet teacher voice = quiet student voices 
  • Don't hover! - Students learn how to be independent when they are given the chance.  Walking around as students are working just to re-direct or correct makes it harder for students to practice being independent writers.  Resist the urge!  Pull up a chair to a table/group of desks and observe from there for a few minutes before beginning conferring.
  • Let students write on their papers, not you! -  Resist the urge to correct things on students' papers with your pen/pencil.  Carry a white board slate with you for modeling/student practice instead!
  • Watch for positive student behaviors-  By emphasizing the things you see students doing the right way, you will encourage others to join.
    Writer's workshop can truly be a magical time during your school day.  If you haven't started yet or have never tried, it's not too late in the year to start!  Give it a try and let me know how it goes!

    Please leave a comment with how you successfully launch a writer's workshop!