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?

Pin for Later:
How to fit in meaninful literacy with a limited time schedule in your kindergarten, first, second & third grade or homeschool. Ways you can incorporate literacy centers instead of morning work in the morning to make the most of your time. Students get key ELA skill review and practive while you take attendance and do various clerical skills you need to do in the morning. Literacy stations are designed to make students self-sufficient and be a review. Word work, listening, reading to self, selecting books, & handwriting make for a balanced literacy clasroom model {K, 1st, 2nd, 3rd grade}

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