Saturday, November 12, 2016

Morning Messages: What in the World Am I Going To Write Now?

Morning Messages: What Am I Going To Write Now?

 It's Tuesday morning I just got back from the copier, dropped a stack of papers on my desk, and I still have another pile to go. I'll have to run that pile through during my prep. I grabbed the purple scented Scentos markers (it's a purple kinda day) and so far I've gotten the date and "Dear Cla" written down on the chart paper that's glaring me down when I hear "Hi Mrs. Pettersen!" 

I look up at the clock "How in the world is it 8:25 already?" I swore I was going to write my morning message before I left yesterday afternoon but by the time I left yesterday afternoon I was running out the door- literally at 5:00 because I promised my son I would take him to the skateboard park before it got dark. Fail. It was dark before I even got to my car in the parking lot.  Sorry, Tyler. I'll try tomorrow.

Now I have one student telling me he lost a tooth, another one asking me where her homework goes (on day 46 of first grade) and a 5th saying "Hi Mrs. Pettersen" and I'm supposed to standing in the hallway greeting students as they arrive. But nope.  I'm on my knees STILL trying to write the AM message.  I realize I have NO idea what to write. Partly because I'm getting interrupted every 15 seconds and partly because...well....I have no idea what to write. "Today we have Art" is what I write everyday. Well...unless we have Gym. Then I write that.

I can't even. This is just ridiculous. I need more hours in the day. No I don't. I take that back. 

I used to bring the chart paper home and write the morning messages by hand every Sunday night and that worked out well. For about 2 weeks. Then the paper ripped and bent, I got lazy and didn't do it forgot to do it, my kids used half the paper to make "Keep Out" and "You Smell" signs on their bedroom doors, and there was the time the cat threw up on it.  True story.

So now... I make my morning messages on my laptop, save them to Google Drive and DONE!  I turn on my SMARTboard and that's it.  All I do in the morning is turn on my interactive whiteboard and my morning message is ready to go.

Morning Messages for kindergarten and first grade that are fully prepared with great ideas and content for ELA and Math review. Great for the morning meeting and the Responsive Classroom. Fully editable for customization. Turn on the interactive whiteboard and it's done!

I was out once this month but because I had a folder titled "November Morning Messages" on my desktop, on my laptop, my sub just clicked on the folder and she had a morning message already prepared.  And the heaven's opened up!

Because it's on the SMARTboard, suddenly my kiddos are soooo invested.  They LOVE it!  They can't wait to go up to the board to answer the questions and participate.

Morning Messages for kindergarten and first grade that are fully prepared with great ideas and content for ELA and Math review. Great for the morning meeting and the Responsive Classroom. Fully editable for customization. Turn on the interactive whiteboard and it's done!

For example, here they read the sentence and add the correct punctuation.

Morning Messages for kindergarten and first grade that are fully prepared with great ideas and content for ELA and Math review. Great for the morning meeting and the Responsive Classroom. Fully editable for customization. Turn on the interactive whiteboard and it's done!

Since we use Fundations for our Phonics program, we review key skills such as glued or welded sounds like the /all/ sound in ball.  I love how they get the practice, not only the skill- but also their handwriting!

Morning Messages for kindergarten and first grade that are fully prepared with great ideas and content for ELA and Math review. Great for the morning meeting and the Responsive Classroom. Fully editable for customization. Turn on the interactive whiteboard and it's done!

All the slides are in PowerPoint and are editable so you type in your own text if you want to customize it to suit your own needs, and your own curriculum.  Just make sure you save it so you don't have to do it again. Don't make more work for yourself, right?

I have loved this so much and it has saved me so much time, that I am busy making editable morning messages for every month!  If you follow my store on TpT, whenever I upload a new resource it is on sale for 20% for the first 24 hours.  I just uploaded December Morning Messages yesterday.

Morning Messages for kindergarten and first grade that are fully prepared with great ideas and content for ELA and Math review. Great for the morning meeting and the Responsive Classroom. Fully editable for customization. Turn on the interactive whiteboard and it's done!

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Morning Messages for kindergarten and first grade that are fully prepared with great ideas and content for ELA and Math review. Great for the morning meeting and the Responsive Classroom. Fully editable for customization. Turn on the interactive whiteboard and it's done!

Here's to the little things that make our lives a little bit easier!

Saturday, October 8, 2016

How To to Fit in Meaningful Literacy Work with a Limited Time Schedule

How to fit in Meaningful Literacy Work with a Limited Time Schedule

I knew I was not going to do worksheets for morning work this year with my first graders.  I have done this for many years in the past and I have found that 3 things happen:

1. Some kids finish early and bug me while I'm trying to do attendance and read notes...
2. Some kids never finish and bug me while I'm trying to do attendance and read notes...


I look like this during my prep trying to correct all that AM work.

I just can't. Not anymore. There's got to be a better way...

So then I saw some ideas on Pinterest for morning work using various manipulatives.  Many teachers call this "Morning Tubs." I pinned a lot of Morning Tub ideas to a Pinterest board I appropriately titled.....wait for it....

And so "Morning Tubs" worked out great for the first month of school as the kiddos were still trying to grasp the routine and get to know one another.  I did not assign students to tables or particular tasks because I really wanted them to use this time both to get to know one another and to freely explore the manipulatives offered.  This proved to be a big help, especially come math time when we didn't need to spend so much time modeling appropriate usage and "free exploration" time since students had a free explore time in the morning.

I definitely liked how my students were interacting and able to spend some time socializing in the morning when they first came in. I saw them on-task and engaged. It was wonderful to see them using the manipulatives in some really creative ways. Some students even showed me ways to use them that I hadn't even thought of! 

There was one drawback to the morning tubs though.  It was noisy.  Not in a bad way.  As I said, the students were engaged and having fun, but after about 5-10 minutes the noise level in the classroom would get louder and louder. I'm not one of those teachers that needs a silent classroom but... starting the day off at Mach 10 isn't going to work either. So this was a problem.

Another problem I was having is that my district has shifted to a balanced literacy approach. Well...this isn't really a problem. In fact, I think it's pretty amazing.  The problem lies in that some things we needed to remove from our instruction to make room for other things.  You know how that is...

It happens in education all the time. Sometimes the changes are great. Sometimes they are not so great. I think in many cases, it gets hard for us as teachers to constantly have to adjust to soooo many changes so frequently. 

Prior to shifting to balanced literacy we were using the Daily 5 model. I really liked some of the components of that. In particular, I liked the listening and word work practice. I think any time early readers can listen to reading and practice early reading skills through application it is so valuable. Now, with the adoption of our balanced literacy model there is just no time for it.  So....

here is where the problem lies.....

It's the problem that teachers face all across the country...all across the world...every day....ALL. THE. TIME.






what if there was?

What if I used that 20 minutes of time that my students need to socialize and have shown me that they can be engaged...

and made that...

quality literacy time?

It would need to be independent because I need to be freed up to do the multitude of tasks that we need to do in the morning. You know how that is....

the 7,496 things we need to get done before 9 AM.

I thought and thought it over and talked about it with a colleague.

I got up in the middle of the night and brainstormed ideas.

I did voice to text messages to myself in the car while commuting to work. 

I've been doing Literacy Morning Work for about 3 weeks now and let me tell you, folks....

I am never, ever, turning back. 

It has been life changing.

My students are so engaged and I feel so good about what they are doing and learning in those 20 minutes. It's a power punch of learning. 

I can't wait to share with you how it works and what it looks like in my classroom...

When students walk in they look for any notes they have to give me in their folders and put them in the "notes" bin. Then they look up at the SMARTboard for the Literacy Morning Work menu that tells them what literacy station they are working in. It looks like this:

How to Use Literacy Stations for AM Work.

This is a simple slide that I made in PowerPoint. My district follows letter days, rather than Monday-Friday days.  There are 5 literacy stations:  Word Work, Book Swap, iPads (Raz-Kids), Handwriting, and Listening. 

My students begin entering at 8:25 AM. Once they enter they check for notes and homework and hang up their belongings in their cubbies which are in our classroom.  They look up at this menu on the SMARTboard and find their station.  Word Work, Raz-Kids (iPads), and Handwriting are always at the classroom tables.  We have tables rather than desks in my classroom. The listening center is its own table that is only used for this purpose. Students begin their station as soon as they enter. I take attendance at 8:45.  I suppose I technically should have them clean up after I do that and get started on morning meeting but they have been so engaged and enjoying this so much I let them go until 9AM. So....20 minutes has become 30 minutes (by my choice). I'll describe the stations in more detail.

We are bringing it back to 1973 here with the tape cassette player.

How to Use Literacy Stations for AM Work.

Every time I look this I just giggle. I mean you remember these headphones? When you put them on you can't hear A THING.  I'm tempted to wear them all day at times.  Look at the size of those plugs!  If you and your 10 friends want to listen to a cassette story at the same time you can with the....splitter. Is that what it's called? I found all of this in our closet at school that was going to be thrown out- except for the cassette player. I found the tape player on Amazon and added my "oh-so-fancy" sticky dot stickers to help the kiddos decipher stop, go, and rewind.

How to Use Literacy Stations for AM Work.
4-5 Students use this station at a time. You need at least 2 copies of a book to make this work. Students share a book if need be.

If you are interested in recording your own voice you can do that pretty easily.

If you don't want to use a cassette player, you can easily use an iPod or any MP3 device and splitter such as this:

Here is a short video showing you how to recording your own voice and then various ways you can save it or share it with your students.

If you have an account with Reading A-Z or Raz-Kids you can print books for free too! So great!

I have students listen to the story 3 times. Mid-year they will start to complete a response to reading to reflect on what they have learned. This will be a future post. I will leave you in suspense....

How to Use Literacy Stations for AM Work. Students listen to reading.

We are very fortunate to have 5 iPads in our classroom. Students use the iPads during this time ONLY to use Raz-kids. They can use the iPad to explore the other apps at other times but not during Literacy Morning Work. If you are not familiar with Raz-Kids, it is a website that also has a mobile app that has over 400 eBooks for students. It offers both fiction and nonfiction, in various genres at various reading levels. Teachers can take online running records and students read and listen to texts and take comprehension quizzes. They earn points based on how much they read, listen, and comprehend.  My students know they may only use this time to read.  They have been taught that they become better readers by reading more and more. They use the points they have earned by reading and use them in the "rocket builder" during computer class and at home but not during Literacy Morning Work.  I set up the iPads closest to my desk so that when I am doing my morning tasks I can keep tabs on this but it hasn't been a problem thus far.

How to Use Literacy Stations for AM Work. Handwriting Station

As part of our balanced literacy program, we are using Fundations, a phonics-based reading and spelling curriculum. I am learning that my students really need additional practice with letter formation, even the "high-flyers".

Fundations teaches students how to form letters and students are given optional homework assignments to practice letter formation.

In class, as part of Literacy Morning Work, a handwriting station is proving beneficial. This is in addition to what we learn as part of our Fundations curriculum.  I'm finding my students need the extra boost.  

I purchased Handwriting-Make it Neat! Handwriting Practice, Instruction, and Fluency by Deedee Wills on Teachers Pay Teachers, which my student is using above in the handwriting station.

I made 5 copies of some of the pages and placed them in a page protector to use with dry erase markers. Students only work on one page per day. They practice a page 3 times. After several weeks when all of the pages have been completed, we will then practice with other mediums such as colored pencils, markers, pens, mechanical pencils, etc.  The reasoning is that each medium requires students to utilize a different amount of pressure when they write. Additionally, they will still need to use the pincher grasp when writing but they will learn that it will feel differently holding a marker than a mechanical pencil.

The "Minute To Win It" game in this resource by Deedee is really fun and an excellent game as the school year progresses for students to practice letter formation with more automaticity.  They do it independently using sand timers such as these:

Again, I have students complete this about 3 times. They know that "practice makes perfect."  We use felt, cut into squares as "erasers."

With the Lucy Calkins balanced literacy model, students are reading for 20-30 minutes independently and then another 20-25 minutes with a partner. That's a lot of reading!  What I first heard we were going to do this and that my first grade babies were going to be expected to read independently like this, I swear this was what my face looked like at our professional development....

Are they even serious?!

I was thinking...there is NO WAY! NO way first graders can read that long...especially in the beginning of the year. This is just nuts! Nuts, I tell you.

I was wrong. There it is. In writing. I. was. wrong.

They are doing it.  Everything I have heard and read about Lucy Calkins is true. She is a master at her craft because this approach is working. My first graders are reading and writing like they have never been before and I am just shocked.  I have been teaching for 20 years and I have never experienced anything like it before. I am sold.

Because my students are reading so much, they are going through books fast.  Every week they are reading, they switch out their books and get new ones.  I do have a few reading chapter books so some don't switch out as often. They use "book swap" time to read.

The Book Swap station takes place in our classroom library.

How to Teach Students to Self Select Books at their "just right" Reading Levels.

The books in our classroom library are organized both by genre and by reading level.

How to Teach Students to Self Select Books at their "just right" Reading Levels.

Students begin by getting their book bin and bringing it to the classroom library. Their book bin is filled with their books at their "just right" reading level: 2 dessert books (books entirely of their choice), their reading mat, and their book shopping list. The shopping helps them to determine books they can "shop" for. I laminate the shopping list and write book levels inside the circles with a dry erase marker since their reading levels change as they move up in levels. For example, the student's book bin pictured below can shop for 5 books at a level 1, two books at a level 2, two books at a level 3, and two dessert books. This student is choosing most of their books at their "just right" reading level, 2 just above their reading level, and 2 at their independent level.

How to Teach Students to Self Select Books at their "just right" Reading Levels.

I spent a lot of time modeling how to use the book shopping list at the beginning of the year as well as how to choose books, return them, use them appropriately, respect them, and so on. I'm glad I did because now students are able to return, sort, and swap out books independently. 

Once students are done choosing books, they can spend the remainder of the time reading their books. They are always happy to do so since having new books to read is rather motivational.

Word Work is meant to reinforce the literacy concepts that we have been working on during our large group with Fundations and our reading and writing work.  It is basic skill review.

Using literacy stations as morning work. Word work.

For example, this past week we reviewed the -at word family. I made this worksheet using the Fundations handwriting lines and students traced the -at words, built the words using plastic letters, and wrote the words with gel pens.

Each week the word work changes based upon whatever skills we are working on at the time.

For some great ideas for word work, I have pinned my favorites on one of my Pinterest boards titled simply "Word Work."  You can find it here.

If students finish Literacy Morning Work stations early and others are really engaged, they may read or work on their Kid's Quest. Kid's Quest is a monthly "magazine" designed to be an engaging and fun resource that keeps kids reading. It features thematic articles, activities,  "Did you know...?" facts, word searches, addition practice, and more. I have one for every month and my students really enjoy it. Students also can work on Kid's Quest if they finish work during the day early or when we come in from lunch recess for 10 minutes to unwind before returning to a lesson.

Do you need an engaging and fun resource for your early finishers? Do you need another option for homework? Would your students enjoy a quiet activity to help them unwind after recess?

What do you do for morning work in your classroom? What has worked well for you? How do you fit it all in? 

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Classroom Reveal 2016-17

I feel like I birthed a child or completed some sort of Olympic sport: "Back to School Back Injury Backflips". 

I'll save you my medical drama but to make a long story short... apparently we have these things called SI joints and I slipped mine and the pain is right up there with childbirth (I kid you not) so setting up my classroom with a slipped out SI joint has involved: chiropractor visits, doctor appointments, physical therapy, wine (not in the home, silly) ibuprofen, lumbar pillows, exercises, swearing, and Vicodin and not necessarily in that order.

It has also involved WWE wrestling. Yes, you read that correctly.

In order to get some work done I had to bribe convince my 10 year old it was a great idea to come to my school to help. So....watching his favorite....WWE on the big screen with fast food and milkshakes was a winner! 

Yup...parenting at it's finest right there.

Oh the things we do to get things done.....

Well...let's back up and pretend that never happened. 

So here is the entrance to my classroom from the hallway.

Black and bright colored word wall with ribbon

And this is my word wall. I'm a bit worried about fitting all the words on it looks cute so....I'll worry about that later. I did have to move the banner letters down because my buddy the fire marshall..... yeaaaaa.....

Whole Brain Teaching Classroom rules posters in Black and White Brights and Clutter-Free Classroom Hand Signals

At the front of the classroom, where we have our rug and our morning meeting, I have our classroom rules (based on Whole Brain teaching) and our hand signals. The hand signals are from Clutter-Free Classroom's Classroom Management Bundle which is amazing! If you don't already own it, I highly recommend it for new and veteran teachers alike.

I love, love, love these Alphabet Photo Cards from Adventures in Kindergarten that I use every year for my alphabet.  Since we use Fundations in my district, I love the authentic photos that correlate with the program but are, as I said....authentic.  I also love those Be an Expert books that are hanging from my easel (Be a Reading Expert and the other is Be a Writing Expert) by A Year of Many Firsts. She is pretty much my teacher crush so basically almost everything in my classroom (other than district curriculum and my own work, is hers).

I'm pretty spoiled to have these cubbies in my classroom which I use to have students store markers, colored pencils, and their ongoing work. Aren't those numbered labels by Ladybug's Teacher Files the cutest things ever?  They are free in her store. I used them last year too because they are too cute to resist.  I hang headphones that my students use for the iPads off the side of the shelf on Command hooks because...well honestly....because I just can't handle earbuds. They got lost, they get tangled, and don't even get me started on the earwax. I just gagged a little...

Black and White Brights Classroom Decor Set

Does your school have a "bathroom policy?"  We can only send one child of each sex to the bathroom at a time so I have students sign out on a clipboard when they leave, but I'm going to keep it real here. It gets busy and sometimes I forget that I just let Jake leave to go to the bathroom when Jason asks to go. So I ask the kids to turn the boys/girls pass over before they leave the room. When they return, they flip it back to the front as it is shown here. That way, when I am across the room, I can tell at a quick glance if there is a boy or a girl in the bathroom down the hall at that moment.  The hallway poem is part of my Classroom D├ęcor: Black and White Brights resource.

Students use baskets as mailboxes to organize their paperwork to send home each day.

The Melonheadz kidlettes on my closet doors just crack me right up. I mean can you not look at these and not smile?  That's why they are there!  :)

The kiddos are VERY lucky to have their cubbies in the classroom and I am a stickler about them keeping their areas clean.  We do a lot of modeling about the cubbies and the space around them and what they should look like.  It is not a walk in the closet.  What if everybody did that? Sound familiar? The blue/green baskets serve as their mailboxes.  At the end of the day in a Responsive Classroom approach, students collect their mail and any completed work that they did for the day and put it in their basket, take it back to their table and place it in their folder to take home.

They follow this system that I keep posted on the SMARTboard to remind them.

It's FREE in my store if you would like to grab it here.

Post/Display your expectations for classroom routines with this FREEBIE.  Great for students who need the visual reminders

Guided reading table with Wall Pops helps to identify student space and they serve as dry erase boards when used with wipe-off markers. Bins behind the table hold materials needed for each guided reading group

This is my guided reading spot. Although my district has shifted to a balanced literacy approach (Lucy Caulkin's reader's workshop style) I still meet with groups of students for guided reading.  I love the wall pops that define table space and we also use as dry erase boards with wipe-off markers.

I bought a white shelf from Ikea a few years ago and I used it as a window seat last year. But it was a little too high for some of my first graders to climb up on.

And it had a little makeover because it used to look like this: 

Believe it or not, last year I thought this was the cutest thing ever. This's NOT.  It drove me nuts that the bins don't match.

So I bought some bins from IKEA that all matched and now...

These bins from IKEA make the perfect organizational tool for organizing materials needed for each guided reading group.

Would you look at that?!  I feel all professional and everything.  And every time I look at them I smile.  It's the little things, right? I am going to use the bins to store the ongoing work I have going on with the groups I meet with for guided reading.

A classroom llibrary should be a warm and invited space for students with books at varying level, clearly marked and labled and accessible to all students
"Your classroom library holds a lot of power. It sends a strong message to the readers in your classroom, and it should convey that reading is important and that books are to be celebrated, treasured and enjoyed" (Calkins, 2015)

A classroom llibrary should be a warm and invited space for students with books at varying level, clearly marked and labled and accessible to all students

I LOVE Mo Willems and have so much respect for him as an author. No other author has helped my students to become a reader more than Mo Willems so it seemed only natural that I share my collection of his books with the students. They love them as much as I do and almost every student book box is filled with at least one Mo Willems book each year.

A classroom llibrary should be a warm and invited space for students with books at varying level, clearly marked and labled and accessible to all students

I have decided to display our brag tags/badges this year.

Display brag tags in a pocket chart for easy accessibility and viewing. Students can hang and display their brag tags when they are not wearing them by their student number

To do so, I used Whimsy Clips Kids with Stars clipart to hang the badges with pushpins.  Each kid with a star is labeled with a student number.  All of my brag tags are displayed in the pocket chart for easy organization and for students to see what they can earn.

Good writers follow a checklist to make sure they have included everything that good writers do when they are writing and editing

The Writing Checklist by One Sharp Bunch by Ashley Sharp on the left of the bulletin board is fantastic and I use it every year as I introduce each concept during writer's workshop. We reference it all year as we work on our writing.  Did you use lowercase letters? Did you use fingerspaces and so on?  The writing pencil "What do Writer's Write?" is by The Teacher Wife.

So this is it...
Table bins help students to organize supplies needed for daily lessons to maximize instruction and cut down on transitional time
My home away from home.

And where I'll be spending A LOT of time, love, laughter, and tears the next 10 months. 

So here it goes...year 25....