Monday, December 31, 2012

Wondering about Worms

We have been infested by small thin worms that have been making their way up our door that leads out to the Kindergarten playground. It has been a great way to work science into wondering, writing and of course speaking and listening to one another. Above this poster where many kids posted their thoughts, I placed this book about worms...(love this book) Yucky Worms by Vivian French.
A few kids picked it up and learned about the little creatures trying to live outside our door.  Ruby even wrote a book about worms during writing workshop.  Knowing we will dig a little deeper into non-fiction reading and writing after break, I like to come back to topics, reading and writing we have a  little background for as we start a new unit in workshop. This title, Ruby's non-fiction piece and the wonder post-its stuck to the poster will help me model how we read, ask and answer questions and write using non-fiction text.  Right now I'm wondering what the door looks like as well as what the kids will say about the worms after all the snow this break!!
Happy New Year!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Yoga Breaks with You Are a Lion!

I think you can tie a book into everything we do in first grade! This year I found a book of yoga poses, You Are a Lion by Taeeun Yoo, that we have been using for movement breaks and transitions. The kids love it! They beg to do yoga in between workshops and it allows them to move, stretch and breathe! It is filled with simple poses and pictures the kids can try like fluttering like a butterfly and stretching like a cat. I was reminded of this book as I saw an overdue reminder from the library. It is one that I need to buy because someone always has it in his/her book bin.  Hoping you are getting lots of time to breathe over holiday break.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Books that Inspire Drawing

We have a basket of books about drawing.  In the Drawing Books Basket I have added how to draw books, characters who draw like Dog and books that inspire creating like Beautiful Oops.  My kids have been loving the messages these stories send as well as the stories about some of the characters who create. Just this week I picked up Andrew Drew and Drew from the bookstore.  Immediately my kids were thinking about Beautiful Oops! and Jeremy Draws a Monster.
In Andrew Drew and Drew, Andrew helped us realize that drawing is a process. Sometimes you begin and your picture takes you to another idea. Andrew draws what he knows and what he imagines. One boy who loves to draw even shouted out, "that is like me!" I think this book will be great for the beginning of the year when kids are just beginning to bravely get their pictures and ideas on the page.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Asking and Answering Questions

Last week I shared a few books in the Freckleface Strawberry series that invited conversation understanding towards friendship in the primary grades.  These stories also fit nicely into a unit we are working on about thinking as we read.  I am using my favorite picture book characters (and the series they are often part of) to help my kids begin to see that readers are thinkers.  I often begin with questions that primary kids students think  about when they read about characters they love:
Why did you choose to read about the character?
Who is the character?
Where is the character?
What are you thinking about the character?
What have you learned about the character?

I invite them to think about these as we read and reread characters like:

We practice this work and then kids begin to choose one character they want to learn more deeply about.  Partners chat about these questions, students share their thoughts and kids begin to have many new characters they want to read about next.

Now we are to a place where kids have strengthened their thinking in read aloud. They are ready to dig deeper into specific comprehension strategies.  Questioning has happened quite naturally so we are digging deeper into thinking about questions we have before we read. Just last week, Freckleface Strawberry Best Friends Forever and three questions were asked before we started. I jotted them on post its and then came back to answer them the next day. With this work, kids are beginning to ask, write and answer their own simple questions in the books they read.

Our next step is to sort out which questions are helping us understand the characters and story more deeply.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Ten on the Sled by Kim Norman

What better way to celebrate the season than a new song book!! My kids loved listening and thinking about Ten on a Sled by Kim Norman as it reminded us all of Roll Over by Merle Peek.

As we read the winter version, the kids were noticing new animals: caribou, walruses, hare, seal and new words that alliterated with how the animals exited the sled: hare hopped off, bear bailed, and seal slipped off. It was fun and gave kids lots of opportunities to think about what was happening along with decisions the writer made using punctuation to create such a lively read.  

Monday, December 17, 2012

Today and Tomorrow

 Today I am still struggling to understand
 I can't imagine
  if and what my first grader's will be thinking, today
 I have played out in my mind what they will ask, what they will know, what they will fear.
 I am praying for words that will simply help wrap arms around them
 as Newtown has embraced its community.
 So that we can begin to feel closer to tomorrow
 where we can begin to focus on the simple wonders of 6 year olds.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Kids Planning Play

On the flight to NCTE, I sat with Mandy from Enjoy and Embrace Learning.  She happened to have a new book in the Calkins Help Desk Series: A Quick Guide to Boosting English Acquisition Choice Time K-2. She shares her thoughts here.  My thoughts are that it is a book helpful for all learners. Many of the ideas tie right into the common core standards for speaking and listening.  I was flipped through it thinking some of the ideas might help my kids during play.  I am not big on centers and having kids place a card on an activity they want to work through because I feel like I control so much of their day already. But, I did like thinking about how the teachers tied much of their learning like...picture books, science ideas and purposeful building into play.  I liked the notion of having a plan for play and I have been asking my own students to begin thinking about what they will be doing or creating.
So with many ideas racing in my mind, I asked my kids what their favorite activities were during play.  They came up with this list:
After talking with them about how reading could be play with character and books, I had a small group of girls act out :

I observed as they planned for a couple days who would be who, using rock paper scissors to work through the tough decisions. When two girls wanted to be the Good Fairy, they decided to compromise and both play the role. One student read aloud and made the props while 5 others rehearsed. Two days later they asked to perform for the class. I took a movie with my camera and then uploaded it to our web page where they can watch it anytime. We have already viewed it twice because they love to see themselves.  Some students are now writing about the play during workshop and others (including the boys) are planning on a new performance. Their ideas are never ending and they are figuring it out on their own.
As I think about what next,  I will be helping them dig deeper into other areas on their list. And, I'll post again about what they think of next.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Finding Answers in Interactive Read Aloud

My heart is filled with the faces of the 6 and 7 year old that live and learn in room 108.  They are learning what it means to share, figure out problems they may have with learning or often with each other and they are learning what it means to accept each other for who they are.

Today as I read aloud, I savored the time we had thinking about these same lessons (and doing lots of the thinking work of asking questions) while reading a picture book. Reading aloud is my favorite time of day and because of that, I try to do it as often as I can.  If you are believer in the interactive read aloud (where the kids thinking drives the community's understanding) as I am, you know how much they can learn when they have time to talk throughout the story.

I chose this book today because I have a student who really needs practice letting go of things (little things).

As I read, students shared their thoughts aloud: "She is not afraid anymore" and "Freckleface Strawberry and Windy Pants Patrick are friends now!" I know bullying is an important issue but I think we can sometimes isolate kids when we just define it and over emphasize who is bullying; we need to help kids help each other. I like this book because it embraces how we are more the same than different,  a concept (even young ones) can begin figuring out. So later we read: 
As I read aloud it one little girl said, "I am friends with lots of kids. Not ones that look just like me. I am friends with everyone in here and they don't all have the same kind of hair that I have." Then later someone said:
"Windy Pants Patrick and Freckleface Strawberry listened to their hearts."
These stories have supported the work we are doing as readers who ask and answer questions about text but most importantly they are helping us answer questions about ourselves.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

What's First Grade?

A few months ago I was chatting with the most amazing first grade teacher in our district.  I was listening to her talk about how she and her students were creating for a hallway display communicating what first grade meant to them.  I LOVED the idea, asked her if I could use it and tried it on my own.
I started by reading one of my favorite pattern books: 
 Then we had lots of talk about how to answer the question: What's First Grade? Students who were able to narrow in and think about an image or idea shared. They came up with lots of ideas and I challenged them to be purposeful in their illustrations as we had been studying them in writing workshop. I posted it in our hallway for family night.
 Their ideas range from jump rope and running to....
 writing workshop, stories and checking out books.
 Oh and lots and lots of tether ball!!
I think I might have them re-illustrate after break to see if their ideas have changed. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Finding Learning in Little Things

Just recently my student teacher gave our class a little cactus she brought back from a trip to Arizona.  I was excited to receive a plant for our classroom and began brainstorming all the learning we could tie into this small gift that brought such excitement.  Starting with the care directions, my students began to review what living things need and we had lots of discussion around new science words including :  temperature and measurement.  We read about our cactus, interpreted what we learned and then wrote a guide to remind each other about how to care for it.  Using interactive writing, we all dug into word work and practiced stretching through sounds in words, practicing high frequency words, digraphs, noticing short vowel patterns, compound words and the list goes on. One student added illustrations to the steps we composed during play. And, a few students have written about the cactus on the blog, sharing their thoughts about the new plant on our windowsill.  I love it when something so small can conjure up so much learning.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Collaborative Writing

In a quick conversation with two readers who LOVE to read Life Size Zoo and Sharks, a realization occured: we can teach our classmates about what we are learning on the blog!! Let the posting begin (with some more talk about taking what we learn from reading and then forming a thought out loud in our own words).
After reading some comments from some blogmates, one student declared: "I taught something to a second grader!!"

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Photo Posting

It has been way too long since I felt like I have had time to blog.  Life happened, kids activities increased, we moved, the list goes on until I stop and think that I really have not been setting aside time to get to it. And, I miss it.  I miss connecting, sharing ideas and discovering new ideas in the interconnected world of blogging and twitter.  Ruth reminded me at a writing retreat this summer that 10 mins of writing a day can make a difference.  So with her advice in mind as well as my obsession with Ree Drummond (of who I am infatuated with because of her ability to post quick ideas and stories using pictures), I have decided to challenge myself to begin photo posting with a few words to help describe the purpose, process or ideas that accompany the pictures of learning in my classroom. My goal is to post each weekday.  I am beginning tomorrow and look forward to the challenge!

For tonight, I leave you with a happy pic of these page turner bookmarks that my student teacher made for each of my students!! They would make a great holiday gift if you have time on your hands. Here is the link she used to make them.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

A Must Read: The Joy of Planning by Franki Sibberson

Planning has been something I've loved but also something I need more time for and practice with as I map out a unit of study or think about planning over longer chunks of the year.  I embrace it because I feel like it is my time to be creative, think about what my kids need and merge that with the curriculum. After reading Franki's newest book: The Joy of Planning, I have been smiling about her fresh look on what she mentions in her intro as "Falling Back in Love with Lesson Planning."  Franki's perspective on planning minilessons while balancing common core and students needs has breathed energy into my own planning.  She is a reflective and thoughtful planner. The questions she uses to plan her study have helped me better explain to my student teacher the importance of these four pieces she uses to organize her studies: reflect on goals for students, gather texts needed, differentiate so kids can enter the study where they are as learners and consider if the assessment matches the goals.

 She begins the book with ten solid beliefs about planning minilessons and how these beliefs have evolved for her.  As I read these, I couldn't help but nod as she mentioned big ideas like interactive, independent, community conversations and planning for the reader.  She says, "The teacher is the person who spends time with the students in her care, and it best suited to create lessons that will meet her students where they are. Because lessons are designed to help build understanding, it is important teachers develop the lessons they teach so they can revise and replan as needed, based on student response."

While Franki wrote this book with 3-6 audience in mind, her thinking is still crucial to K-2 teachers.  First, because we all plan minilessons.  No matter what "grade" we teach, each of the beliefs Franki mentions in her intro help us consider students regardless of grade level. Second, the book is filled with ideas and mentors that accessible to many readers, including primary. With common core, we all will be scaffolding our teaching to address characters, theme, and non-fiction texts.  Third, I love how Franki embraces the use of picture books for many of these lessons. She embraces many texts that students in 3-6 may have encountered in their primary classrooms.

 Last, I love how she loads the book with questions. These questions give us something to consider when trying to plan our own minilessons as well as set the pace for students to drive the thinking. These questions at the end of each of her lessons really are the heart of her thinking.  These questions are also differentiated enough that primary teachers could grab one or modify for their own classroom. In her lesson titled: Talking and Thinking about Characters she uses Today I Will Fly by Mo Willems. She ties the lesson to common core work with "drawing on specific details from text" as she asks her 4th graders to think deeper about how they know the characters Elephant and Piggie. In first grade, we set goals for our students to "describe characters" at the beginning of the year and later to "describe characters using key details in text.  Franki poses a couple questions for her fourth graders: How are Piggie and Elephant the same? How do you know? As primary teachers we might use her questioning strategy to pose:  Who are the characters? How do you know? and later in the year, What do we know about Piggie and Elephant? How do you know?

If you are looking to reflect back about planning in your reader's workshop, this book will certainly be a great text for developing thoughtful minilessons.  It clarifies Franki's planning process and has authentic ideas as well as real questions that have helped me refine my own practice in planning.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

New Room, New Spaces

This year I am in a new room. It is a large room, with wonderful space that I was a little intimidated by as I moved my belongings into it this summer. As I unpacked and shopped for new pieces (thanks to that store) I began to love my new room. I thought I would share some pictures and talk through some of the pieces I bought as well as a few changes I have made in my new larger space.
This piece to the left my husband made for me out of rain gutters inspired by the rain gutter shelves I drooled over in Pinterest. The shelf to the right is my favorite buy from IKEA. It has allowed my to showcase books in baskets and stack books on the shelf next to these baskets. I used pictures of authors or characters on the shelves to help organize these books so that kids would know where to return them.

I decided to label my math bins with typed names on each bin. It feels neater and cleaner to me. I also decided to feature the math books in baskets in this area. I also have the plastic drawers ready for the math games I am starting to introduce. I like being able to pull out the drawer and place it on the table so kids can get to the supplies for that game and then slide it back when time to clean up.
I have moved my computers around the room to allow kids to access them throughout the day and to send the message that technology fits into everything we do as learners. I used an old white IKEA table covered with an old map I had to host one computer work area that I am hoping kids will use to research the birds we begin to notice outside the window on PebbleGo.

My wonder bulletin board features many plants and animals we will encounter in our many visits to the Metro Park across the street. I want to use this board to begin conversation about what we will see, notice and wonder about as we frequent the park.
The small stools you see have been the biggest hit this year. The kids love to hang out on these during writing workshop and math time, playing games and writing.
It may be hard to see but I added magnetic letters and pictures above my larger baskets: in this case the characters that we love baskets. The bigger baskets have been tough for kids to move so I pulled out the top shelf so that they could get their arms into the space above these allowing books to get in and out easily.
Last, this is my word work and work play area filled with many hands on letter and word game-type materials. I placed the basket of books for word learning above this shelf and I am loving this space. These are just peeks into these new spaces inside this new room that has brought lots of smiles already to 20 first graders (and me)!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Opening Minds #2 #cyberPD

After reading Chapter 4, "Good Job!" Fedback, Praise and Other Responses,  I found myself wanting to cringe at the number of times I say those praiseful words: good job, super or nice job during the course of the day. I feel like I have used these phrases as a way to manage kids by finishing a conversation with "praise" instead of telling a student I need to talk with another student or that is is important to keep thinking and persuing their thoughts about the writing or reading they may be doing.

This chapter also reminded me of another book I have read called Nuture Shock in which authors Bronson and Merryman also note the research of Dr. Dweck who summarizes "when we praise children for their intelligence; we tell them this is the name of the game, look smart, don't risk making mistakes."

My big take aways from this chapter:  Praise is about us.  I stopped to think about how I could focus on process oriented feedback.  To do this I had to think about what person oriented feedback I am in the habit of and then set next to it some options for process oriented feedback that I want to work toward.
 Language Habits I want to Change                           Language that will work better

Wow, great job                                                            Look at how you
                                                                                    You could teach others
                                                                                     What can you do know
                                                                                     How did you do that?

Nice job noticing                                                         Thank you for sharing...
                                                                                     You tried hard...

In Chapter 5,  I found myself loving the conversation between Manny and Sergio.  I liked thinking about the importance of making meaning in a conversation and the importance of modeling this for our students.  I think so many times adults and kids are too focused on taking responsibility for the temporary meaning they have made. The conversation becomes about the power (expert vs. novice) rather that making meaning of the topic. I also thought about how I could help encourage these symmetrical conversations in my classroom and in my life. After reading the examples in Cheryl's classroom. I began to think about how the language I need to use needs to be inclusive.  I wote down a few phrases that will guide this work:
What do the rest of you think?
So we have two different ideas...
We have listened to one another and have so much to learn from each other...

Lastly, in Chapter 6,  Johnston states...
"We have to help them learn to imagine what goes on inside heads and not just the cognitive strategies begin used to solve problems, but the complex social-emotional logic that lies behind behavior."

This chapter had me thinking about the importance of social imagination and how to incorporate it into the classroom. I thought about  how explicit I can be with social cues (When I picked up this book I made a face, what was I thinking?), modeling how to listen effectively and how to solve problems.  These behaviors all seem to fit so nicely into workshop routines where kids learn to go and think with a partner or group. I know using fish bowls to involve students in explicit modeling of social behaviors will be key.

I have to say I feel like this book has had the most impact and push to change my behaviors as a teacher this summer.  I am loving it.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Opening Minds : #cyberPD

Thank you Cathy for hosting this PD online around the book: Opening Minds by Peter Johnston. I remember devouring Choice Words and really beginning to think deeply about how my language can impact, first, my own children.  They are always the guinea pigs for me and the practice before the classroom.
After reading chapters 1-3, I found myself nodding my head in agreement with Johnston.  His research and beliefs about the impact of language in almost spiritual for me (especially the pages on praise when reminded that praise is about us vs. the children). There were a few places in these first few chapters where I tagged the pages with little post-it flags (that I drew a heart upon) signaling my love for the explanation of his thinking.

1) My first flag appeared on page 14 when Johnston begins to dig deeper into explaining the fixed and dynamic learning frames. On this page, I began to synthesize what he was saying into my own understanding:  We have to teach children the value in learning and perseverance; not in feeling smart and achieving the highest test score. While I believe this, executing it with supporting language will be the challenge for me.  I began to look forward to learning more.

2) On page 18, I also flagged the line describing how dynamic learners work toward improving the group relationship:
"When people are trying to learn something together and they disagree, dynamic-learning theorists focus on the conflict in ideas and try to integrate their different perspectives. In the process, each develops a more positive view of his or her partner's ability."
This section hit home because I began to think about the importance of modeling. What kind of language will allow me to do this?  What do I say now and how will that change this year?

3) In chapter 3 I began to write ideas for language prompts that will support my students in the classroom.  I love to draw on expert teachers and learn from them. Pegeen and Susie certainly know how to honor children and their ideas.  On top of each page I found myself collecting phrases that support the dynamic learning frame and rereading them to solidify them in my brain. Here are a few I collected:

You have learned so much!
He just made a bad choice, don't you think. Not a bad guy, just made a decision with out considering others.
Look how you figured that out! you made a plan, you listened to one another...
How did you do that?
How did you know that?
Thanks for teaching us that.
Are you ready to get started?Do you have a plan?You don't need to tell me your plan. I might be able to figure out your plan from your behavior.

This book is reminding me again that so much of our work in the classroom has to be selfless.  The work that goes into begin selfless can be hard and takes practice. Kids come first.

Monday, June 11, 2012

999 Tadpoles by Ken Kimura

I love frog stories in first grade because like frogs, first graders are thrown into a world of many.  They need help understanding how community works as they begin living with lots of other students for a full day.  Fine As We Are by Algy Craig Hall (an old favorite)  and this new book I picked up at Barnes and Noble, 999 Tadpoles (don't you love the title... just reading and thinking about 999 is going to be a conversation in itself), both embrace the importance of living and working together.

In 999 Tadpoles, Mother and Father frog take their young frogs on a journey to toward safety in hopes of finding a new home.  In their adventures they learn about the dangers of the world as well as the importance of sticking together. Ken Kimura weaves in humor with his delightful story and the pictures by Yasunari Murakami are simple yet captivating.  I am excited to be adding it to my classroom library for next year.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Monster Returns by Peter McCarty

I just spotted The Monster Returns by Peter McCarty at the bookstore and was excited to see this second in the picture book series which began with Jeremy Draws a Monster.  Jeremy is a character that makes us think here in first grade. His second book helped us think more about predicting as the kids shared their thoughts about what Jeremy  might do when the Monster sends a note declaring he is back after being drawn away on a bus in the first book .  Jeremy delights us with a imaginative plan that pleases everyone.  This book is as good as the first!

McCarty has also written Henry in Love and I just pre-ordered his newest book titled Chloe which is out May 15.  I am a fan!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

What is Not Covered by Common Core

In May I often walk into the classroom feeling overwhelmed by the number of activities, assessments and programs that we have scheduled. With 18 days left, I am living the much to do, so little time.  My friend Lauren and I have been reminding each other (and our students) to slow down. I think we have to slow down and take time for finishing projects or units of instruction in the midst of assessment. We have to slow down and show our kids how important it is to keep listening to each other even if we would just rather be done.

Beginning to explore common core has also presented some of the same overwhelming feelings at times. Not in the sense that the standards will be "hard" to teach or that some standards will be new, but overwhelming because there is quite a bit to read and absorb when slowing down to begin to understand the purpose and philosophy of the common core.  When visiting, you can read about college and career anchor standards, explore your grade level standards, read about the factors that make up text complexity and it's importance within cc, the process in which the standards were created, how to read the standards and more.  After really just skimming many of these pieces, I found my favorite part of common core.  It is titled "What is not covered by the standards" and found underneath the key considerations tab which is under the introduction.  There are a number of key points underneath this heading help us remember that while standards are important, we as teachers are able to make creative, caring and developmental decisions about the students we teach. Common core does tells us :

1. PLAY is important for all students.
"The Standards define what all students are expected to know and be able to do, not how teachers should teach. For instance, the use of play with young children is not specified by the Standards, but it is welcome as a valuable activity in its own right and as a way to help students meet the expectations in this document." 

2.  Be creative!!
"The aim of the Standards is to articulate the fundamentals, not to set out an exhaustive list or a set of restrictions that limits what can be taught beyond what is specified herein."

3. Think about the unique needs of students

  • "No set of grade-specific standards can fully reflect the great variety in abilities, needs, learning rates, and achievement levels of students in any given classroom. However, the Standards do provide clear signposts along the way to the goal of college and career readiness for all students." 
  • and
  • "Each grade will include students who are still acquiring English. For those students, it is possible to meet the standards in reading, writing, speaking, and listening without displaying native-like control of conventions and vocabulary."
4.  Think about the whole child 

"Students require a wide-ranging, rigorous academic preparation and, particularly in the early grades, attention to such matters as social, emotional, and physical development and approaches to learning. "

 Even though there is and will likely be exhaustive sources and ideas for use with common core, I feel less overwhelmed by the fact that the writers of this initiative have asked us to consider what it doesn't cover.  Here we find some license to keep differentiating, listening, observing and making decisions about what is best for our students. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

What Makes You Smile?

Last weekend, my husband surprised me for our 15th year wedding anniversary.  He planned an evening away in Granville, Ohio. We stayed at the Granville Inn, enjoyed a carriage ride through town and walked up and down the streets of this beautiful college town.  We browsed the bakery and bought yummy cinnamon sticks for Easter breakfast, and shopped in a small store filled with scented candles, jewelry, where I found this book: What Makes You Smile?

I picked it up and thought how it would (1) be fun to share with even first graders and (2) has possibilities for opinion writing ( and we are immersed in thinking about it right now).  The book begins with an explanation of its purpose and how it is just the beginning of a list of things (list book too and I can use at the beginning of the year as a mentor) that make you smile. Then the writer invites us to start our own list.  We have read a handful of pages over the past two days and kids are loving it, agreeing and sometimes disagreeing with the ideas the author has written like puppies, homemade cookies, slumber parties, running through sprinklers and towels hot from the dryer.  Today, we decided to write our own (opinions) ideas about what makes each of us smile.  We jotted them in less than five minutes and then I read them aloud and the kids loved hearing each other's responses. It has inspired kids to create their own books about what makes them smile and tomorrow we talked about adding our reasons for each to build on supporting our opinions so that we can create a class book. Tonight I will leave you with with a few hoping you'll enjoy or even share what makes you smile. And yes, the 3rd post it on the right says: Chipotle:)

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Book Loving Nieces

My sister texted me this message with picture included:

"The girls turned our room into a classroom- sorted all their books by author or genre. Thought u would enjoy."

Doesn't put a smile on your face when a four and six year old adore reading and organizing books as much as we do?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Happy Ending

Tonight I had 45 minutes in between the time I dropped my first son off at soccer and the time I needed to pick another one up.  I hate driving all the way home because by the time I get there, it is time to get back into the car.  I thought about shopping but quickly decided I really don't be needing to spending money so I did what I should have thought of first:  stopped by my sister's house to hang with my family.

My sister and brother -in-law live particularly close to us and to one of the soccer practices. I love to visit my nieces and nephew when my own kids aren't around because they are stuck having to talk and play with me instead my boys whom they adore. I sat and helped little Jilly (6) on the computer, Brody (almost 2) and I made faces at one another giggling and sticking out our tongues and then Audrey (5) came and lounged on my lap watching her favorite cartoon on tv.  And, I caught up with my sister, trading gossip and complaining about life stress. I love how sisters are always there to listen.

It was a gift to be able to end my day with their company. It helped turn my stale mood into one of appreciation.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

2 Days into Opinion Writing

It has been two days of reading and talking about what opinions are and  how characters we know have opinions.  I have been trying to point out when we use opinions in the classroom and when I have an opinion about something.  Today, as we were voting about which play we enjoyed watching after another first grade in our building performed some fairy tale plays, one of my students shouted out, "We are telling our opinions!"  Yeah, I thought. This conversation about opinions is sticking.

So, the most natural thing happened after watching these plays.  I pulled out some larger (newer sized paper) pulled out the sharpies (for outlining their pictures and words) and let them write their thoughts about which fairy tale play they enjoyed.  With a quick conversation about how we could begin to tell Mrs. Wilkins' Class how we felt, we brainstormed some beginnings.  Then, I let them go to see what they could do.  All of their pieces are giving me ideas about what I need to teach next.  Some kids were excited to dive into this new genre while others wanted to finish writing they have in their folders.  About 1/2 were excited to share their opinions especially after they asked if we could share our writing with Mrs. Wilkins' performers.

I noticed that the kids who tried opinion writing were the risk takers today and have confidence for trying new things. The pieces that they attempted are pretty strong for a first try. I know that I can help build depth in their topic choices and details as our unit progresses for these kiddos.  I think the kids that tried today are also very auditory so talking and listening to each other then writing comes easier.  Some of my more visual learners will need the support of the mentors that come out of this first try at opinion writing as well as some other ideas that might interest them. They will also need the scaffold of shared/ interactive writing which I am sliding into my word study time. Today, we worked on a class letter in which we are writing our group opinion about our favorite play. Writing the beginning of this together was rich in conversation about everything: ideas for what to write, letter etiquette, accessing and adding high frequency words, punctuation, hearing then segmenting words and writing parts we are learning (hearing e sound in dear and identifying it as ea, cl as the blend in class, and the ed in loved).  But, the writing was lacking the discussion of the apostrophe used for ownership (whoops !). Save that for when we come back to this tomorrow.