Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Book Commercials

Have You Advertised A Book Today?

Have you ever noticed how your students will fight  flock to your classroom library to be the first one to read "the book" you just finished reading to the class? Did you ever wonder why other books in your class library sit there, unread, week after week? It's because they weren't advertised. 

When you are excited about something, so are your kids. You should have seen how excited my kids were, today, when I showed them a bag of rocks. Truth be told, rocks don't get me too excited, but I had to "act" excited so the kids would be excited (and, there were).

To help motivate you students to read, try to do a "book commercial" for at least 5 books a day. To do a book commercial, follow these simple steps:
1. Choose a book, and get familiar with it.
2. Display the book and tell the students that it's the most amazing book because...........
3. Be sure to do a picture/book walk.
4. Build enthusiasm by asking who thinks they will want to read it today.
*Book commercials only take seconds!

Another way to motivate your students is to recommend books for particular students. Don't you notice how we, as adults, tend to read books that others have recommended to us? I know I read anything my sister recommends because I know she has great taste in books. 

When you come across a book that you know will interest one (or more) of your students, be sure to tell the student(s). For example, "Amy, I saw this book about Kenya, and I just knew you had to read it because you lived in Kenya." 

What a way to show your students you really know them AND you care enough about them to recommend a book just for them.

How do you motivate your students to read?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

December Ideas

December is Coming!

It's so hard to believe that December is right around the corner. Our family enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving with our extended families, and after relaxing for a few days at my parents' house, it was time to head back to our home. 

Upon arriving home, my children ran right in the house to find Arf, the Elf on the Shelf as my husband and I unpacked the car. The following day, we put our Christmas tree and lights up and started decorating for the upcoming holidays. As we were doing each of these, I thought about all the family traditions we have and where they came from...which ones are new and which ones have been around forever. This led me right into thinking about December and my upcoming unit on December holidays and traditions.

Throughout the years, I found it best to keep it simple, and focus on a few holidays and traditions. It is very easy to get overwhelmed with all the holiday books, crafts and learning activities that are out there.  And, it doesn't make sense to cram too much in because we only have a few short weeks until our winter vacation. As I was looking at my friend's blog at readwithmeabc planning, I saw a great idea for a holiday linky party at  The Hands-On Teacher.

 You can see some of my December ideas below, but be sure to click on the link button to learn about many awesome holiday ideas for the classroom from others.

Here are a few of my favorite December activities, books, ect.:

Focus on Families- Right about now, I begin my December holidays and traditions unit. Upon return from the break. We will read a selection in our anthology and in our social studies text about families. Since we are learning about nonfiction right now, we will tie in nonfiction text features (headings, photographs), extract the main idea/details to support it, and compare/contrast the differences between the two texts. Students will work on a family project that includes decorating a poster to tell about what December holiday they celebrate, family traditions and what they like best about that holiday. They bring the posters in and share them with the class (as they are brought in). They are then displayed in the hallway with the sign "Room ____ Families Celebrate".

My Top 5 Holiday Books:
*The first two are favorites around my house.

David is at it again in this hilarious Christmas read. My sons love when he streaks down the sidewalk and when he pees his name in the snow.

This holiday story is about little Llama going shopping with his mom. She rips him away from his t.v. watching to go shopping, and he is not happy. We love it so much because this has happened to us a million times! Of course, there are rhyming words galore.

Santa needs help to guide his sleigh. Which animals would be best for the job? A great book for predicting and describing.

This is a classic that every child should read/hear. It is the book that so many other holiday books were modeled after.
This is a modern day classic. I still get tears in my eyes when I read this or show the movie.

Holiday Song Packets
Each month, I make song packets for the children to sing/read. They pull them out when we have Morning Meeting, when they read with a partner/self or when they have some extra time. Song packets have become very popular. My December song packet has favorite holiday classics such as Frosty, Rudolph, Feliz Navidad, The Dreidel Song and Jingle Bells. I also throw in The Gingerbread Rap. I picked that song up at a conference years ago. Anyway, I think song packets are a great alternative to worksheet packets that are used for busy work. Students can do so much with song packets, and they are meaningful/fun. 

I'm always on the lookout for new holiday craft ideas and ideas for student-make parent gifts. Do you have any?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

I realize it's the night before Thanksgiving, but I finally figured this out, so...
I'm linking up with First Grade and Fabulous for a holiday recipe exchange.

Greek Cheese Ball
1 loaf French baquette
olive oil
1 pkg (10 oz) fzn chopped spinach, thawed
2 T Greek rub (if you don't have this, mix together 1 tsp lemon zest, 1/2 tsp oregano leaves, and 1/4 tsp pepper)
8 oz crumbled feta cheese
2 (8 oz) packages of cream cheese, softened
1/2 C sundried tomatoes (I buy the chopped ones, or I chop the whole ones in a chopper)
3 T shelled pistachios, coarsely chopped

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Cut baquette into thin slices (1/4" thick). Put slices of bread on a baking stone or baking sheet. Brush with olive oil. Bake 10-12 min. Remove and put on cooling rack.
2. Line a colander with paper towels. Put spinach into colander. Wrap the paper towels over the spinach and press until the spinach is almost dry. 
3. Put cream cheese into a medium bowl, and microwave for 30 sec. on HIGH, or until softened. Stir in spinach and the rub. Add feta cheese. Mix until well blended (I put it all in my Kitchen Aid mixer).
4. Line small mixing bowl with plastic wrap. Spread 1/3 of cheese mixture on the bottom of bowl. Top with chopped tomatoes-make an even layer. Spread the rest of the cheese mixture over the tomatoes.
5. To serve, invert the bowl with the mixture onto a serving platter. Remove plastic wrap. Press pistachios onto top of cheese  ball. Serve with baquette slices. 

*My family loves this recipe-I think it's from Pampered Chef? They request it all the time. I'm going to make it for a Thanksgiving meal appetizer, so we can eat it as we are all waiting impatiently for our meal tomorrow :).Enjoy!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Let's Talk About Independent Reading

Independent Reading:
Independent Reading has changed dramatically over the last 12 years I've been at my school. I think that, with so much research done on the topic (I love Allington's work-so practical), it had to change. We all know that when readers spend a lot of time reading books that are "just right" for them, they get better at reading (including all aspects of reading). For years, I taught my children how to pick "just right" books, and the importance of them, and they had opportunities to "shop" for books in our class library to keep in their reading boxes. I would monitor their selections to ensure they were picking books that were at their reading level. This was a more informal approach to what we do today.

A few years ago, my district adopted an independent reading program developed by the American Reading Company (ARC). This is a highly structured independent reading workshop. The children are "leveled" (this included using the BAS to find their independent F&P reading level as well as leveling each child with the ARC's assessments). Once a child's independent reading level is found, he/she is placed in a color. These colors go from Purple (Read to Me-mostly beginning K children who were never read to), to Yellow Yellow (patterned text-there are 4 levels of this), to G (60 Power Words and beginning sounds), to GG (blends, more Power Words, category words), etc. It actually is used all the way up into the high school. There are colored bins with books that have colored labels. Students are to choose 5-8 books each morning upon arrival, and they put them into a reading pouch. Books are exchanged with other classrooms one day each 6-day cycle.

For 30 minutes each day (right now we do two 15-min blocks b/c I feel that's developmentally appropriate for them at this time), the children read their books. Before reading, I remind them of their focus skill for reading (comprehension or other skill-this skill is the one we've been working on throughout our literacy block). They are also each given a power goal that is set by me during their reading conference. Not only do they have to read the books independently, but they also have comprehension skills and reading foundational skills that they must know and demonstrate their knowledge. These skills are all tied to the CCSR. I have a schedule to meet with 4 students each day, and it's working very well. At the end of the reading time, students have "accountable talk"-they turn and talk to their neighbor and discuss their reading/book(s) according to our focus. I then choose one name out of my equality stick box and that student has to stand up and share out with the class. We give him/her points (on our fingers) for his/her response (this is tied to our current reading response rubric). WHEW!!!

Aside from reading independently in school, students are also required to read for 3o minutes (2-steps) each night at home. All of their reading steps and their reading levels are logged on paper (and recorded on the ARC's computer system).

We receive the most cutting edge professional development regularly, from this company. I am a reading specialist, and I feel so much more prepared to teach reading as a result of all of this training! 

This approach to independent reading/readers' workshop is very intense, but now that we are in our third year, we are seeing great results. We also know exactly what a child needs to work on and what they have to do to be able to read higher level texts. 

By the way, we still use our old reading boxes. Students still shop for books that are "just right" for them, but these are from our class library. They still get poems for their poetry binders and fun song packets to put in there. Students have many opportunities to read from their boxes as well...I just couldn't let them go!

I also think CAFE blends very nicely into our readers' workshop (just as Daily 5 is great for the guided reading block), and I hope to learn more about CAFE in my upcoming class. Guided reading still takes place daily as well, and this is where we incorporate skills groups that target specific skills.

The next post, I will explain how guided reading is done. The reading response rubrics and our class library will be coming up soon too in future posts. This feels great to get all these ideas/thoughts written down. I am writing these posts to share what we do in my school, but also to see if anyone else is doing the same kinds of things (and to find out how you are doing them). 

So, how do you run your independent reading/readers' workshop?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

I'm in the Cafe/Daily 5 Grad Class!!

A few months ago, I was looking at the Daily Cafe site, and I saw that there was going to be a grad class offered online, though the University of Iowa. Well, my interest was piqued! I hurried, and I scanned all of my needed documents to the university, but I was 5 people too late. Oh, well! 

Then, I saw that there was going to be another session open, but I actually forgot about that deadline...I have no idea how-with three children, a full-time job, etc. Anyway, much to my surprise, I was automatically enrolled in this session (begins in Jan.). I paid for the class...only $400 for a grad class! I am so super excited. 

I'm sure I'll be sharing what I learn. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Let's Talk About Word Study...
For the past few years, we've been using Words Their Way as our primary spelling approach. This approach to spelling instruction has been eye opening. Before receiving training in, and using Words Their Way, I tried bits and pieces of it when I could. Throughout my graduate courses in reading, I learned about Words Their Way and couldn't wait to try some parts of the program (the parts I could mesh with our previous spelling program that consisted of...pretest, practice list of words, test, repeat). I even bought three separate Words Their Way sort books so I would have them in my professional library. You can imagine my surprise when our building principal announced that we were going to be using Words Their Way the following year. And, guess what showed up in all of our mailboxes? Yes, the main Words Their Way book with the three separate books I had purchased. I now keep a set at home and at school. 

So, I finally got the hang of it last year. By "hang of it", I mean I felt I had all the routines down and I truly understood this developmentally appropriate/differentiated approach to spelling instruction. 

I've included some of the ways I organize my groups and the spelling test paper I use. In the classroom, I post a 6-day routine on chart paper. Since I have three spelling groups, I put each group name on a post-it and each day I rotate the post-its down. I call them "A", "B", and "C"...I know they're super creative names. It's very simple and organized. By the way, as with everything, setting up the routines takes a lot of practice at the beginning of the year, but it's worth it!

I've also started incorporating each group's targeted spelling skill(s) into our morning message or brainstorming words that contain a certain feature (ex: -at words) on a chart. I make a big deal about how a certain spelling group is learning words like that, and I post the word charts. 

We (the great teachers I work with) use the same Feature Guide for the Primary Spelling Inventory. We just staple each inventory under the Feature Guide. Each time we score the inventory, we use a different highlighter or pen. Again, it's very simple (and simple is good)! 

What spelling approach do you use? If you use Words Their Way, what spelling games/activities do you use? I'm always looking for more simple, fun yet effective games/activities to use.