Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Increasing Students Blending Fluency: Slinky Style!

Is it winter break yet!? 

Don't get me wrong, I love my job, but I am just feeling so scattered impatient blah. It has been a whirlwind lately with home and work and I feel like I'm just barely treading water in both areas. I just need to recharge.

This eCard about sums it up.

This year the reading scores in my classroom are very drastically polarized. I have kids already way above a 1st grade level at a DRA 24+ and then kids way below 1st grade reading level at a DRA level 1. No one in the middle. As you can imagine this makes differentiation difficult at times. 

I have been really struggling with my low reading group. I meet with them every day for about 20 minutes and we work on blending, blending and more blending. We've played games, we've done worksheets, we've done name it, I've probably tried it. It's just not clicking. 

A lot of my kids are doing the "/k/ /a/ /t/. Top." I'm sure you're familiar with this. They're not even close and it is so frustrating! The sounds are all there, but they are unable to successful put them together.  

So I decided to get a little creative. I went to the store (and by store I mean Amazon...) and bought some slinkies! My thought process was that they would be able to visualize the stretching out of the sounds better with a visual/tangible tool.

I downloaded these *FREE* large letter cards from Rulin' the Roost and gave it a go!

Oh. My. Gosh. I literally saw the light bulb go on for some of my students, both metaphorically and literally. They physically lit up once they realized they were finally getting it after struggling for so long! I was SO proud (minus that Seahawks jersey....).

This may be the best purchase I've ever made for my classroom. 

But now I have a question for you: 
How do you structure your guided reading? I really want to revamp my guided reading instruction over the break so I would love any and all insights!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Five For...Saturday?

This week has been cray cray! Like seriously, cray cray. Here's how my week went down.

Monday: Teacher workday
Tuesday: Veteran's Day --> No School
Wednesday: A normal school day
Thursday: "Snow" day --> No School 
Friday: A normal school day

Needless to say, my whole routine is all thrown off. 


I've managed to get it together (a little bit) for my five for Friday. Or really Saturday. Don't worry, I'm going to take your through my week right now!

Monday: Teacher work day. Is it just me or are these the least productive days ever? For some reason I always struggle to get motivated on these days. I planned my week, organized my classroom, watched a lot of Top Model and then ran some errands for our upcoming PYP unit. Overall fairly successful.

I was also able to get in a run (the only one this week). And it was the longest run that I've had in a long time! Progress!

As you can see I'm a little behind this week on my miles. How are you doing?

Tuesday: Appointments, appointments and more appointments. Seriously, so many appointments. I had to take all 3 of my pets to the vet, my husband to the doctor, and then had an appointment for myself. Phew. Grateful for the time to get them all done!

Thank you Veteran's! You help keep my family healthy and safe in more ways than one this year!

Wednesday: We spent all day Wednesday learning about Veteran's day. Our current PYP unit is on celebrations and holidays around the world. Our planner focuses on winter holidays like Diwali, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, etc. I thought it was also important to talk about Veteran's day and why people celebrate it, especially since it results in a day off from school.

We made vocabulary flip books, acrostic poems, mystery pictures, and so much more. Integration at it's finest! 

Thursday: Oh snow day. We had some pretty chilly temperatures on Thursday with snow and freezing rain in the forecast.  I woke up at 5am to a text saying 2 hour delay and then a text at 7am saying school was canceled. And thank goodness because look at all the snow. We really dodged a bullet there.

I laughed way too hard at this. So true. But the unexpected day off was much appreciated!

Friday: One of my students brought me a present today, well a snack really. She decorated a paper bag and inside place this note along with an orange and a snickers. 

The note says:
Have a good snack!

Taste my snack and

1) Circle if it is good or bad. 
Yes     No 

2) If it is yummy or yucky circle it. 
Yum! or Yuck!

3) The heart means it's good and the triangle means it's bad.
(I don't know how to get the shapes on here)

And now we are in Eugene for my husbands birthday. I also set up a Price is Right game for him! It turned out so much better than I expected. And he loved it!

Well now I am off to log some more miles for my running challenge. Thank goodness our hotel has a gym!

Wanna link up your Five for Friday too!? Head on over to Doodle Bugs Teaching for all the deets!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Routine, Templates and Fluency, OH MY!

Every time I switch schools (which has been often, thank you budget cuts) I get asked about how I help my students increase their fluency and boost their reading scores so much throughout the year. There is one strategy I use that I think plays a huge role in my students fluency: Templates!

Templates, for those of you who are unfamiliar, are a quick choral "warm-up" that helps students build fluency. They also mimic DIBELS and EasyCBM which are used for a lot of progress monitoring. It helps students get familiar with this process. 

One thing I love about using templates is that they are totally adaptable to students needs and they build throughout the year. At the beginning of the year I just do a row of letters and maybe a row of CVC words to assess my students current blending capabilities. As the year progresses I add nonsense words, word families, blends, sight words, vocabulary and even sentences. 

Templates also help hold all students accountable. Because it is choral and repetitive (we keep the same template for a full week), even students who struggle are able and expected to participate. If all students are not participating, as a class we start over. 

So here is what my template currently looks like! Like I said, at the beginning of the year it is just letters and maybe some CVC blending practice. The word family and sight words correlate to our Storytown curriculum and change as we change. But the best part about this is that it is totally adaptable to your curriculum and needs. 

**Note: I choose letters (even for nonsense words) that I know my students struggle with**

It takes about 5-10 minutes first thing in the morning. Here is how I do it:

To get started I use a call and response. 

T: Eyes up
S: (repeat)
T: Let's go!
S: (repeat)

Letters: I use a pointer for each letter. Students say the letter name and sound. We start slow at first, but try to speed up as the week progresses and we get more familiar with the new template.

Word Family/Blend: For this template we were working on the -all word family. I like to underline the word family so that students start to recognize it in words. We then sound out the word and then blend it together, but instead of sounding out each individual letter, we sound out the word family together. Students would say  /k/. /all/. call. 

Nonsense words: I am a little hesitant to do nonsense words because it feels wrong teaching students how to read words that are not real. However, I think it is good blending practice so I do use them early on in the year while my students are still getting the hang of blending. I take them away as soon as they have mastered blending. This section is done the same as the word family section. Students say each individual sound and then blend it together to read the word. 

Sight Words: I do this part a little differently. I place the pointer in front of the word and pause for a couple seconds before sliding it under for students to read. The reason that I do this is to allow process time for students who need that extra couple seconds to identify the word. 

**Note: If I hear a mispronounced sound, blend or word I address it immediately by saying my turn and then modeling the correct pronunciation. I then say your turn and have students try it again on their own. I repeat until the mispronunciation is corrected.**

I do keep the colors the same. Letters are always red. Word families and blends are always green. Etc. I do this so that students know what to expect for each color. One time I accidentally switched the colors for our word family and our nonsense words and believe you me, I didn't hear the end of it for a whole week!

At the end of each "warm-up" I call 3 brave friends to pick a color that they want to do independently. They get so excited when it's their turn. They love showing how smart they are. Even my lowbies enjoy this because there is something that they can do and feel successful about. 

Easy Peasy. 

My students love this. I also allow students to practice template during Daily 5 time. Students take turns being the teacher and walking a small group through the template. I love seeing them practicing. I also love hearing them quote me. "Ooh. I need all eyes on me. Let's try that again." --> Do I really say that that often!?

 (usually more kids are participating but of course not the day I decided to take the picture)

There you have it. That's my top secret strategy. I would love to hear what you think if you decide to give it a try (or if you already do something similar)! 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

T.G.F.F. (Thank Goodness for Farley) - November Currently!

November! It's officially the holiday season! I don't know about you but once November hits, I am in full on Christmas mode. Don't get me wrong, I love me some Thanksgiving! As far as holidays go it is actually my favorite. I mean, who doesn't love an excuse to eat their body weight in deliciousness!? But I love love love the whole Christmas season. The peppermint drinks, the music, the movies, the decorations...and yes I have already indulged in all of those things as of yesterday <3

Okay, okay, enough about my love of the holidays. I just need to take a moment to say how much I love and appreciate Farley over at Oh' Boy 4th Grade! Without her monthly currently's I would be even worse at blogging than I already am. (Is that even possible!?) I just get so wrapped up in the day to day classroom life that I forget to take the pictures and blog about what I'm doing but I'm working on it. I promise. 

I am just so thankful for her currently. It reminds me to check in to my blog and to catch up on my blog reading! So that is what I am doing this lovely fall Sunday. Football and blogging. And probably a  peppermint hot chocolate, because who am I kidding, I can't be stopped. 

Listening: I am still in bed, in my robe listening to the rain fall and admiring the beautiful fall colors outside. My puppy is snuggled up next to me and my husband is still asleep. Other than the occasional snore (from both my husband and my dog) it is very peaceful. 

Loving: Does that answer really surprise anyone? I am loving that I get to wear all of my boots on the reg again. I have missed them. They are definitely a staple of my wardrobe. 

Thinking: It is probably too early, but I can't help it! I'm like a little kid when it comes to the holidays. #sorrynotsorry

Wanting: Well there are 2 things I am really wanting right now other than someone to bring me breakfast.. 

1. I really want to get better at blogging. I haven't really made it a priority and I rationalize it by saying "I'm sure someone has already done this". I started this blog for a reason: to share and connect. I need to stop talking myself out of (and stop belittling my ideas) and start blogging regularly. Even if someone has already done it, I may have a different spin on things. 

My school is currently in the process of becoming a PYP school and the attribute that we are focusing on this month is being a risk-taker. Now is my chance to practice what I preach. I have purchased an awesome blog organizer pack from the ever so talented Schroeder Shenanigans in 2nd and I am hoping this will help push me in the right direction. 

2. I just learned about this awesome fitness challenge on Instagram from charm_city5 called 100 by Christmas! The goal is to run/walk 100 miles between Nov. 1st and Christmas day! Anyone want to do it with me!? We can help hold each other accountable.

Needing: So conferences were last week. And I don't have to tell you how tired I am after those long long long days. To top it off, I totally lost my voice. I guess I talk a lot or something? It has been gone all weekend. I sound like an 80 year old smoker. It's quite lovely.

Reading: Unfortunately I am not reading anything exciting. I actually can't even remember the last time I read something purely for enjoyment. Right now I have been knee deep in PYP and Number Corner reading. 2 new things that have been added to my plate this year. I am hoping to find a book (for fun) to read over winter break. Any recommendations?

Don't forget to head on over to Oh' Boy 4th Grade to get your November currently and to link up with the fabulous Farley. 

Happy Sunday! I'm off to make some breakfast and start getting blo(r)ganized!