January 31, 2015

Building Independent Spellers with a Spelling Word Card

Having access to a kid-friendly spelling resource is key for elementary writers. For a long time  I purchased a small spelling booklet for each student. I taught how to use it and modeled frequently. But here's the thing - kids rarely used it independently! Flipping through a booklet to find the correct spelling took more time than most kids were willing to invest.

During my Master's program I tackled this problem and created the Spelling Word Card - a simple, one page, kid-friendly spelling resource for middle and upper elementary kids. Over a four month period, I collected words students frequently asked how to spell. I combined those with their common spelling errors. I also picked words from the Dolch list my students had not yet mastered.

I've been teaching a while and have found it is the most efficient way to build independent spellers. The cards quickly become a well-used resource. Bent edges. Small rips. Lots of 'personality'. Love it!

Each child has his/her own card stock copy. There is a spot for a name so kids add words throughout the year. It becomes a personal word wall.

The following ideas help kids use them independently.

1. Introduce the card then play lots of games. Kids need to know the words included.
2. Expect students to have it out for any writing assignment in any content area. If you have a classroom economy, silently pass out 'cash' to anyone with the Spelling Word Card on their desk.

3. When a child asks how to spell a word ask "Did you look on your Spelling Word Card?" Most return to their desk and use it.
4. Some lil' stinkers will say "yes" - even when they didn't. But, you'll get a sense pretty quickly of the words included. Just smile and say, "Bring me your card and show me where should that word should be." Usually they don't come back.
5. If a word is not on the card I write on the white board and have them copy it onto the card. The helps create ownership.
6. Tell parents about the card and send a copy home.

Click the Spelling Word Card to get your own copy. Happy teaching!

January 29, 2015

Why is this Desk Backwards?

One of my adorable little friends has a problem with organization. I bet you have a student like this too.
Her desk was so jumbled and cluttered she couldn't find the materials she needed. From the simple things - like a pencil or ruler -  to the more critical - a writing draft or her Reader's Notebook - it all eluded her in the 'Black Hole' that was her desk. She was stressed out. I was frustrated and, quite frankly, the other kids were beginning to pass judgement.

I realized this child needed help and resorted to a strategy I learned when I was a student teacher (oh, so many years ago). I turned her desk around. She is still part of a table grouping, yet only has a desktop.

I didn't make a big fuss as we sorted her desk contents and put it all in a basket to the side.

This has been a lifesaver for this child. 
I'm not going to fool you, the basket is a disorganized mess, BUT everything is contained. Most importantly, my little friend can find what she needs because it is all visible! I'd love to hear your ideas on how to help disorganized kids!

January 24, 2015

Student-Created Anchor Charts with Reward Coupons for Big Kids

The process of integrating a Reading Workshop approach (a la Daily 5) with our new basal series has been interesting, challenging - and sort of fun too. Now, at the half year point, the concepts and skills are circling back for the second (and for some, a third) time.
To freshen things up, I've introduced my class to a new Rewards Coupon for Big Kids. It's called "Create Learning Poster For Wall" and it has been a hit! You only need a piece of chart paper and a set of markers.
Typically two kids choose this reward and the task is to make educational anchor charts to share and post. I give them the idea and they are expected to complete it in about 15 minutes. They share their poster and love it when I refer to it in class. This is a win-win. The kids are making learning concrete, and it brightens the room.
Main Idea and Key Details

Root Words

Student-created anchor charts do not always have the style I would choose, but the kids 'own' it and they love it. I'll add other student-created anchor charts using Rewards Coupon for Big Kids They make everyone happy.

January 22, 2015

Signing up for Reading Rotations: How to Keep Your Sanity

Since embracing the Reading Workshop Literacy Block format I've tried a LOT of systems to manage the whole process of signing up kids for literacy rotations. The management systems I tried held students accountable, but they just about put me over the edge. Calling out each student's name and waiting for a response... Signing up on the SMARTboard.... Moving clothes pins to posters... I tried it. I really did. All variations of it.  It was time consuming and tedious. Are you with me?

I'm happy to share the system that (finally!) works in my classroom.
At our school, the first bell rings at 8:00. This is what my whiteboard looks like. It's empty except for the students' names I've put under Teacher Time. I do this before leaving the day prior.

I greet kids at the door and as they trickle in they know to sign up for rotations. Some days I have three and some days I have four.  Based on where their name is 'locked' in Teacher Time, they decide where to sign up for the other blocks.
Here are the two tricky parts:
1. If I have three rotations, one Teacher Time has two groups at once. An assistant takes one in the hall at the same time I'm working in the room.
2. If a rotation  has a star in front that indicates work is done on the laptops. I have access to 8 laptops. So.... only 8 kids can sign up in that block.

Announcements are over at 8:20. This is what my board looks like. My Lit Block is ready to rock and roll!

Following my strategy reading lesson I show and explain what the required work is for each rotation. As we progress through the Lit Block a student erases the rotation as it is complete. Students know where to go next because now it's at the top.

At the beginning of the year it took roughly three days of modeling and practice before they could do it independently. Now they are masters. Students participate. Classmates help classmates if there is an issue. The cuties know what they should be doing!
Finally a Lit Block rotation system that works for me.The kids do the work and I just supervise. Love that!