Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Writing and the Common Core Standards

A box was delivered to my classroom last week. It was a box with nine books in it. The box was titled:

Units of Study for Primary Writing: A Yearlong Curriculum

Two of the books included in the box:

And the other books:

Poetry: Powerful Thoughts in Tiny Packages by Lucy Calkins and Stephanie Parsons
Nonfiction Writing: Procedures and Reports by Lucy Calkins and Laurie Pessah
Authors as Mentors by Lucy Calkins and Amanda Hartman
The Craft of Revision by Lucy Calkins and Pat Bleichman
Writing for Readers: Teaching Skills and Strategies by Lucy Calkins and Natalie Louis
Small Moments: Personal Narrative Writing by Lucy Calkins and Abby Oxenhorn
Launching the Writing Workshop by Lucy Calkins and Leah Mermelstein

Don't you just love those titles? 

These are added to my Summer Reading List. (Actually, I already started reading one of them. ) The year's not over, and I'm already thinking about next year.

Our district is in the process of implementing the Common Core Standards. We will begin with the writing standards.  Each elementary teacher was given a set of these books to use in the classroom. District training meetings and these resources will help support us as we make the transition to the new standards.

I had the privilege of hearing Lucy Calkins speak at a conference I attended several years ago. It changed the way I view children's writing capabilities. I've used this book for many years:

It's one of those books that I use as a reference book. It has sticky notes sticking out, writing on the margins, and highlighted throughout. Those are my favorite kinds of books.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on these books.

Seven more days of school left . . .

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

End of the Year Activities

We now have 11 more days left in this school year. The days are flashing by!

As we get closer to the last few days of school, I want to make sure I have activities planned that children are able to do together, either with a partner or with a group. I really want them to enjoy these days together as a class. Some children will be moving to other schools next year, and the children will not all be in the same classroom next year. I want the children to have fun, and continue to learn as our year together comes to a close.

Some of the things we will be doing:

The last week of school we have a game time. The children may bring board games to school and spend some time during the day playing and sharing some of the games they bring. I also have a collection of games that I take out that include:

Go Fish for CVC/CVCe words
Bingo games
Consonant Blends and Digraphs board games
High frequency word matching games
Chunk It! (onset and rime game)

I created First Grade Fun Games to use during this time.

Graphics by KPM Doodles and Fancy Dog Studio.

The set of games includes:

Just Beachy Compound Words
At the Zoo Contractions
Bouncing Into Fun Synonyms
Whale of a Time Antonyms

I create an autograph book for each of the students. It starts like this:

Graphics by KPM Doodles

I divide an 8 1/2 x 11 piece of paper into fourths. Each fourth becomes a page in the autograph book. Next to the child's name is a picture that depicts something about that child. For example:

Dylan: loves sports
Makenna: surrounds her papers and name with hearts (She loves hearts.)
Denise: keeps us updated about the antics of her pet dog
Teacher: loves the apple motif

The children love hearing why I chose a special picture just for them.

I do a mini writing lesson on what to write in an autograph book. We make a list of ideas. The children are required to write a sentence in their box when they sign each autograph book.

We brainstorm some words that the children may need to know how to spell.

The structure of the book helps them know which children's books they have already signed. When finished, they delight in reading what their classmates wrote to them. They can also color the pictures! 

I know we're not the only ones still in school. I would love to hear about some of the things you're doing during your last week of school.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Summer Reads

Jessica Stanford from Mrs. Stanford's Class is having a Summer Reads Linky.

I have belonged to professional book clubs at a couple of schools where I've taught. The teachers in the book clubs would collectively decide on books to read. We would meet at the school site and discuss the books and talk about how we could apply theories and practices to our particular grade levels and students.

A couple that come to mind:

Mosaic of Thought: Teaching Comprehension in a Reader's Workshop by Ellin Oliver Keene and Susan Zimmerman


Teaching with the brain in mind by Eric Jensen.

I guess you could call the following books Summer Rereading. These are books I reread and review each summer to plan for the beginning weeks of the school year when learning routines and procedures is critical to an effective learning environment.

I would love to hear about your summer reading favorites.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

End of the Year Thoughts

It's hard to believe it's almost the middle of May. After spring break, it seems that the time has flown.  My mind is swirling with all that needs to be done.

A LIST that keeps growing:

learning goals
end of the year assessments
field trips
Spring Open House
Mother's Day gifts
Memory Book
first grade play (school-wide performance)
report cards
getting the classroom ready for summer break
etc., etc., etc.

In the "busyness" of the past few weeks, one of the children brought this up to me as we were cleaning up and getting ready to go to recess:

Now if you teach first graders, you know that they just think their teachers are all of these things.  How touching!  I took a picture of it to put on my wall.

It made me stop and think about the few days we have left in the year. First graders grow so much in a year's time. They've become a social and learning community. It's really an exciting and special time. They seem so "grown up" and capable compared to the beginning of the year. 

Soon we'll be saying our good-byes, but in the meantime, added to my list is:

Remember to ENJOY each of these few days that are left in the year.

I hope you all do the same,