Thursday, December 27, 2012

Writer's Gum

If you are like me, then one of the most dreaded things you can hear during Writer's Workshop is "How do you spell _____________?"  What is the answer to "How do you spell _____?" at your grade level? Really. You have to know the answer to that and you have to teach it to your students. Do you want them to sound out what they hear? YES! That is always step one in spelling. As time progresses there may be other things you teach (using the word wall, spelling dictionaries, circling words you know you sounded out to get help with later in the editing process, thinking about how words look in books etc.), but in the beginning I hope it is sound it out and write what you hear. 

When you see the anchor chart, you can see what time of year this is- Chocolate, Halloween, Excited?! October!  It is the time of year that my kids need to sound out and stretch things just a little bit more than they have been.  We are ready to hear sounds in the middle of words too.  In my Leach's Literacy Trainings I have a video to show this lesson being done WITH REAL LIVE KIDS, but alas, I will try and explain it to you instead. 

The key to making this work is to give kids time to chew their gum. (IMAGINARY GUM people) They have to chew it, and blow bubbles with it, and pop the bubbles, and then pull it out of their mouth and put it back in etc. Once they have played, they are ready to use it for writing.

Begin teaching now...

"Boys and girls, I want to teach you how writers use their writer's gum! It's a tool that writers use when they are writing and they get to a hard word that they don't know how to spell. They might stop writing, but then they remember they have Writer's Gum. And Writer's Gum you can stretch out of your mouth as you say the word- and it helps you to hear all the sounds."  

"Let me show you what I mean." 

So I demonstrate. I stretch my gum out just a little and I hear a "Ch" so I write it on the chart. Then I stretch more and I hear an "O" and I write it... followed by the other sounds until I have chocolate written the best I can with the use of my gum.  Students help me use my gum and they practice using theirs with me in the mini-lesson for the other words: Halloween and excited

Is it "right?" No. Is it right with Writer's Gum? Yes! And THAT is good enough. 

Ta-Da. Writer's Gum. I can refer to this later in the year, I can have Writing Partners work on it together. I can speak it in a conference, I can remind a kid about it from across the room by just pulling my gum out of my mouth as a non-verbal cue!

I think it is pretty brilliant! I even thought this was my original idea until a few years ago when I was thumbing through THIS book! The book has become one of my favorites and is full of other great ideas like this one. 

Come to find out she wrote a counterpart for grades 4-6 too! 

I've loved using Writer's Gum in my classroom and maybe you will too.

Thumbs Up Thursday

It's the day after Christmas and I had fun at all the day after sales! I realize I've committed myself to a Thumbs Up Thursday, so I'm trying to think of something I could give a thumbs up about.

What about this... I've been wanting to post about it for a while. I wish I would have started it my first year of teaching.  But I only got the idea when I was at Christ Episcopal School in Louisiana a few months ago.

What great memories would that bring every time you sit down to do your teaching at the carpet every day?   The teacher said that kids ALWAYS find a place to squeeze their name on! I just love it. When I go back in the classroom, I will start this!

What do you think? What do you do to remember all the little lives you touch and who touch you in a given school year?


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Snowflakes for Sandy Hook

If you haven't heard... Sandy Hook Elementary's PTA is collecting student made snowflakes. They are creating an inviting Winter Wonderland theme to welcome back their students after the winter break. They will collect them through January 12th. 

They can be mailed to:
Connecticut PTSA 
60 Connolly ParkwayBuilding 12, Suit 103Hamden, CT. 06514


Thursday, December 20, 2012

My First Thumbs Up Thursday

While searching the web the other day, I came upon the BEST site. I know not everyone (Texas and VA) has adopted the Common Core State Standards, but the majority of the country has! This post is for the rest of you.  I happened upon The Curriculum Corner. This website needs to be added to your list of favorites. 

I am just in awe of the resources they are providing teachers! They describe the site,
"The development of stems from our dream to create a site where busy teachers can go to find current, relevant, meaningful and ready to go lessons and activities that fit their classroom structure and meet these common core standards." 

Be sure to check out the "I Cans" of the Common Core for each grade level.  Thank you  to Jill and Kathy for making a site like this! THUMBS UP from Leach's Literacy Training! 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

FREE Spelling Menu

Have you ever used a menu in your classroom for center work or to differentiate learning for students? I first learned about them on this site...Dare to Differentiate. This site alone is worthy of a BLOG post.  Be sure to check it out.

So how does a teacher use a menu in the classroom? They can be used for a lot of subjects/centers. They help teachers get to happy hour on Friday nights rather than having to stay at work making new centers! Every teacher loves that right? Menus (just like in a restaurant) don't change often, but there is enough variety that students have plenty of choices for how to do their work. The choices/menu items can be differentiated by difficulty (or calorie count- ha).

The example I am sharing with you is of a Spelling Menu. The words change each week, but the ways for students to practice them can be set up menu style- and therefore last a month! Happy Hour anyone?

You can get this free in my NEW Teachers Pay Teachers store. Yes, I finally did it! I want someday to make really cute stuff that is worth a buck or two, but until then, I will be giving things away for FREE! Under one condition- you have to "follow" my store if you get the download? Deal? What are you waiting for... go to my TpT store!

FREE Math Center

If any of you have ever been to a training with me that was more than one day in length, we may have played Penny Yahtzee- and we had SO much fun doing it, right? It is one of my favorite things to watch teachers do! Rolling and dropping and getting so excited! I just giggle. 

Recently a teacher emailed me asking for me to send her the directions. I didn't know what to do because I didn't have them written down. She said she was having a math night at her school and wanted to let kids and families play it. 

Well that got me thinking. This could easily be a math center for students. So, I opened up a Word Document and started creating. I can just see kids playing it and loving it and practicing math skills without even knowing it.  Directions are attached! Playing cards are attached! This can easily be manipulated with different math operations. It can be simplified, it can be extended. A teacher can have all kinds of fun changing up the cards and challenging kids to work on math that is at their grade level.  

I went ahead and started a Teachers Pay Teachers store. It is just easier to upload things there. Keep in mind however, this is FREE! If you download it, will you please FOLLOW my TpT store?  I plan to have lots of free goodies in the future too.

What do you think?


Writing Partners

Writer's Workshop consists of a Mini-Lesson, time for kids to WRITE (the best part of it all) and a chance for writers to come back together and share.  I'll be honest, sharing was the hardest part for me to fit in!  (see last post about the Writing Brag Board) I'd look at the clock, realize we were late, and tell everyone to hurry up and get cleaned up and lined up for lunch! I also realized that there was only one of me to go around and kids were valuable resources for other kids. It hit me one day when while having a conference with a student I heard another group of kids having their own conference with one another. I decided to capitalize on that! 

And voila-  the idea for WRITING PARTNERS!

Writing partners begins as a very simple concept and over the course of the year, grows to be so much more! This picture below is of course pre-pinterest, when things did not have to be cute and covered in scrapbook paper. It is simply chart paper- although I did use two different colored markers- and I have partnered up LIKE ABILITY writers.  That is now their writing partner and probably will be for the duration of the year unless abilities shift around dramatically. 

So what do these partners do together? In the beginning, they meet during Writer's Workshop to share their writing with each other. You know the kids that finish early every day? Now they have something else productive (and focused on writing) to do. They walk with their writing partner to a spot in the room and sit next to each other to show off their work/writing. It's as simple as that... to start. Teach the procedures of where you can sit. How loud you can be when you share with each other and any other management items you'll feel necessary, and let the partnerships begin. 
What I found is that the more I teach writing (which is every day in a mini-lesson) the more my students internalize the teaching and begin to use the words/lessons with each other in meetings with their Writing Partners. Some students begin to have peer conferences naturally with each other, but once working with partners has been established, I teach them how to do deeper work with one another. 

Possible Mini-Lessons:
Writing Partners can check each other's work with Word Wall Words
Writing Partners can help their partner add details to the pictures.
Writing Partners can think of questions to ask after hearing their partners story.
Writing Partners can help the writer think of more things to draw/write. 

A few mini-lessons to explain the process and steps of working together in beneficial ways is all it takes.  I have shared this with teachers across the country, and I am hopeful it is happening in many classrooms.  Here however, is a note from a teacher "In the Trenches". She started her writing partners this week!  This email from her is what urged me to put Writing Partners on my list of things to blog about. 

"I decided this week to introduce writing partners. They LOVED it and so did I! They talked about writing, wrote, talked some more, wrote, and shared ideas! They really enjoyed themselves. Although I'm pretty sure one student felt uncomfortable to whisper to someone during writing time. He kept looking over his shoulder nervously at me like he was about to get in trouble. Thanks for the idea."

So what are you waiting for, get your markers, make your chart, and get Writing Partners started in your classroom too! 


Friday, December 7, 2012

Writing Brag Board

Managing a Writer's Workshop is NOT an easy task! So many writers! So many ability levels! And only one teacher! Writer's Workshop begins with a mini-lesson, followed by time for students to write, and finally a sharing time. I found that sharing time was often hardest to fit in. Before I knew it we would all be busy writing and already be late for lunch! Uh oh! No sharing today. Time to line up.  I also found that I needed to give kids a lot of feedback in the beginning of the year in order to establish a strong Writer's Workshop. 

So I started a Writer's Brag Board. It is NOT fancy! It is also not cute (Thanks Pinterest for upping the "CUTE" factor for us all). The Brag Board allows me to "share" good things I saw happening while kids are cleaning up from Writer's Workshop. As kids are shuffling around the room and putting away folders etc. Over the noise and movement you can hear my voice, "Boys and girls, today during writing time, I saw Jessica add details to her pictures." Jessica comes up to write her name on the board. "Boys and girls, today while you were writing I saw Cole write and check the word wall to spell the word can!" Cole comes up and adds his name etc. 

I can also use this to praise behaviors I want repeated for a successful workshop. "Ethan! Ethan is going to put his name on the Brag Board today! Ethan stayed in his seat the entire time we were writing today!"  or "Boys and girls, it was so quiet in our room today! I saw Hope whispering as she reread her writing! Hope come add your name."  If kids are doing it right- tell them! Too often we are always focused on what needs fixing. The Brag Board keeps us looking for the positives! What if you Brag on the same student more than once? They get to put a star by their name. 

Here's a Writing Brag Board from the "teaching trenches".   I taught it to a teacher and then saw it in her classroom when I went for a visit. Keep it going! Will this be in your "teaching trenches" next?  Let me know!


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Invented Spelling

FAQ: "Is it OK for student's to use invented/phonetic spelling? What if we hang it in the hallway or send it home to parents? They can't read it!"

Invented spelling, temporary spelling, and developmental spelling are terms typically used to describe young children's spelling efforts before their spelling becomes conventional.  However, letting students spell "wrong" has bothered many people- not usually teachers however!

The fact of the matter is, invented spelling is based on knowledge of phonics.  Common sense tells us that five, six, and seven year-olds should not be expected to accurately spell all words on their first attempt. And research tells us that once students have learned more phonics and done more reading that it will of course have an impact on their spelling.  Think back- didn't your mom keep things from your childhood that had invented spelling? Wasn't it cute? Wasn't it developmentally appropriate? And guess what? You can spell now! You wrote that way then, but you can spell now.  In response to parents being able to read things that are sent home, I ask this question: "Who are you teaching? Students or parents? Who do you most want to be able to reread their writing?" My answer is students. I teach and will always be teaching students.

We have to take into account also how it feels for a student when a teacher (who is only trying to help) marks on their paper with conventional spelling. "If you write on my paper, it is no longer my paper". Children do not learn to spell by having you pour your spelling knowledge onto their work. They learn to spell by developing and extending their knowledge about letters and sounds.  They use what they know and take risks to learn more.  The place for kids to have this daily risk taking while still feeling safe to do so is Writer's Workshop.  When we write over or under student approximations at spelling, we run the risk that students will stop writing what they want to and stick to writing what they can spell.

Donald Graves (a teacher of writing teachers) stresses that children need to be able to write freely without interruption to their thoughts. Allowing children to attempt spelling enables them to use the vocabulary of their oral language in their written language. Spelling is functional- it enables the writer to express meaning. It is, therefore, a tool for writing, not a barrier to the process.  There are lots of mini-lessons for teaching "spelling" during a Writer's Workshop... those will be coming soon in another BLOG post.