Sunday, February 22, 2015

Phonics: What Why & How

 Phonics and spelling instruction can vary a lot from classroom to classroom.  Over the last twelve years that I have been a first grade teacher, I have seen fads and techniques change too.  Because of this, it can be confusing to know exactly what we should be doing for our students! 

Although I would never call myself an expert, the information I am sharing is what I have learned through 18 years in the primary classroom.  I love to research and read so hopefully I have some light to shed on this from both an experience standpoint as well as a research based standpoint. 

First, I should mention that curriculum adoption provides a teacher with a resource, but the teacher's methods and practices should be the main driving force in the learning.  What I mean is that we pull the resources from our adoption to add to our instruction, but regardless of the curriculum, our lessons remain consistent.

What am I supposed to be focused on for phonics?
  • Combine sounds from letters and common spelling patterns to create recognizable words

  • Decode words with common spelling patterns
For engaging instruction we want the students to be actively learning.  What exactly should they be doing?  Pull the verbs out of your learning objectives.

Out of our learning objectives above, the verbs are:
  • combine
  • create
  • decode 
 These verbs will be what your students should be doing in your lesson.  We want students actively engaged in the learning.

 The underlying purpose of phonological awareness and phonics instruction is to create lifelong learners that connect and apply what they know now with new levels of understanding.

Week after week in a kindergarten and first grade classroom new sounds, patterns, and words are being introduced to no avail!  The pace is fast and furious.  We must be consistent, clear, and provide high quality instruction orally, kinesthetically, and in hands-on and written activities.  We must also take time to review previous knowledge and provide an avenue for connections to be made!

Kindergarten and first grade teachers have been doing it for decades

 Let's break up HOWwe teach this into two areas.
  • Phonological Awareness  
 Provide explicit and systematic instruction focusing on only one or two phonemic awareness skills, such as segmenting and blending
Examples of this include all oral activities where the teacher talks with explicit mouth and hand instructions and the students interact orally blending, stretching, hearing, tapping, or chunking sounds.  A mouth moving puppet is also used to add interest and to have a back and forth flow to the lesson.

Begin with auditory phonemic activities and link sounds to letters
 When ready, students take the oral activities and link them to written letters and words.  Phonological games can be played orally by tapping and blending sounds, as well as by writing on a recording sheet as a game with a partner.

Use letters to manipulate phonemes and help students apply their knowledge of phonemic awareness when reading and writing
Students may be able to apply their learning orally, but will still require practice of letter manipulation to apply it in writing and reading.  Those that come to you already ahead of the class with reading still need time to manipulate letters and sounds.  Many times these kids lack the skill of segmenting because they learned to read so quickly and maybe without some foundational skills.
  • Phonics and Word Study
Provide explicit, systematic phonics instruction that teachers a set of letter sound relations.
 Consistency provides structure and confidence for your young learners.  Being exposed to a new sound pattern in a structure and format that is not new lowers anxiety and builds confidence in experimenting decoders.  To read a break down of my daily word work activities you can read this post. 

Provide explicit instruction in blending sounds to read words 
We all know that practice makes perfect.  Provide materials that allow students to have opportunity to practice what is being taught.  Remember that students need to actively practice new concepts and review old ones to continue to have success.

Give substantial practice applying phonics as students read and write. 
Have fun with spelling patterns and really anchor the new pattern to meaningful activities that excite and inspire your learners!

You are the best resource for your students!  Pull what works well with your class from your curriculum, provide explicit and consistent instruction.  Engage your students with the verbs from your learning objectives and most of all have fun!

 If you are interested in the items you see in the images of this post, you can click any image to find that particular product.
 There are even more spelling phonics patterns available by clicking the image above.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Story Starters Galore

It's that super fun time of year when your students start to possibly be less than motivated at the writing center.  I know, I know that never happens in your classroom. (justmine)

 On Friday I noticed some staring at the wall and some darting eyes happening at the writing center.  Little sweeties had their journals out and ready, but no fresh ideas were happening for them and I was deep in reading group-land and couldn't help!  Well aside from shouting some ideas out over my readers...  #effective #bestpractices  #lookaway

I grabbed a post it note and scribbled the idea down to make some fun grabby story starters to put in the center of the table for those times when no ideas are flowing. The fun part is that the picture is a motivator, and the story opener is on the backside. 

I started with February since it was fresh in my hair on my mind.  (pretty sure I found a red sucker tangled in my hair from our Valentine's Party)
This really cute bucket came from Walmart.  They just put them out with all the Easter/Spring things!

Bucket O' Dental Health

Bucket O' Presidential Story Starters

Because we have just one little week of February left, I wanted to be sure to have March ready to go!

Bucket O' March Prompts (32 for each month total)

Just in case you are in for the long haul on this grabby idea maker.  :)

 To get any of these just click the product covers.  

And if you happen to be getting snow please send some down here to central Texas.  
Thank You!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Teaching Time Freebies!

This week we have been discovering the clock in our room.  Our standards say to represent and tell time.  What better way to represent time than to make our own clocks in every way we can!  In small group today we worked on this concept up close and personal!
Rather than just telling the time, we are working to understand and represent clocks.

In groups, students were given the parts of a clock and had to create a model.

In our journals, students independently created their own little clock and showed analog and digital time to the hour.    

 Math tubs had a blast rolling and writing the time to the hour in digital and analog time too!

Grab all the fun you see in this post HERE

Sunday, February 8, 2015

February in the Classroom

Hello there!  I hope your weekend is cozy, slow, and productive.  What's been happening in your room amidst the groundhogs, hundredth day, and presidents?  Here's what we have been working on!  Grab a snack...It's over 20 pictures long.

Wednesday was our 100th day.  By a little miracle from the heavens, it was also an early release day for PLC.  It made for the perfect amount of crazy in one day.  It really was a sweet and fun stress relief day! 

Throughout the week we worked on When I am 100 writing.  Our district requires 4 writing pieces that go through the writing process.  We chose to use this writing activity to meet this quarter's writing process requirement.  Here's how it went down in my room.

 We began with this little graphic organizer.
 This was my illustrious chart.  Sometimes you just have to keep it simple...
 On day 2 we wrote a rough draft

On Day 3 we edited.
First we edited our work for capitals and using a highlighter. We highlighted all the words that were supposed to start with a capital. When we found a letter that wasn't capitalized, but should have been we circled it with our highlighter.  This is taught during morning message and we use whole body reading to help us know where capitals and punctuation belong.  (More on that in another post!)

Next we traded our paper with a peer.  The peer read our work out loud to use so we could hear how it sounded from another mouth.  The peer used their highlighter to double check our capitals.  

Day 4 we wrote our final drafts.  For the reward of all of our hard work, we got to see ourselves 100 years old!   (I used Old Fart Booth app)
 This was such a funny moment...I had a group at my back table and they saw their 100 year old selves.  They held them up to each other and one sweetie said to the other, "It's ok maybe you won't live to 100 and you won't really have to look like that."
Tada!  Finished products!  I tried to get the writing to show up but clearly I am camera challenged!
If you would like this 100th Day organizer and paper for next year, you can get it HERE!

In math last week, we worked on addition and subtraction problem solving.  On Friday, students created their own math story problems by choosing a bag and a number story sheet.  The bags have a math mat and manipulatives that match. 

 Students had a target number that they worked with all week to become an expert on that number's combinations.  This activity will grow with them as they get a new target number upon mastery of the old target number.  It's a permanent math tub choice.  There are a series of activities they must do with their target number before reaching this point.  My teamie made the adorable number story paper. Click HERE for the math mats.

  Another tub we worked on this week was Kitten's Treat Shop.  Students collected pennies, nickels, and dimes and then counted at the end to see who had the greatest value of coins.

Here's a peek at our math journal activities for next week.   

We have volunteers that prep for us each week!  It's a life saver and I am going to show you how to make it happen for you and your team too!  Those papers in the above picture were given to me that way.  It's amazing.  It's not hard to get this to happen for you!  Let me show you!

We have a counter space out in our flex room.  (if you don't have a flex room, then designate a spot in each teacher's room for their tub, or one teacher's room for the master folder and the teacher tubs) 

Each teacher has a tub with their name marked on it.  (We have 5 first grade teachers on our team)  In the picture above everyone but two of us had already taken their full tubs into their rooms to put everything out for next week.

Peeking into my tub...

We have our planning meeting as a team on Wednesdays after school to decide which standards we will focus on for the following week.  We have one tub for masters and inside the folder, we mark any and all things that we want prepped for the following week.  Then On Thursday morning we all pass the folder around and put our name and amount we want copied, laminated, or prepped of each activity.   Sometimes there are centers in there to be prepped, but this week was pretty easy.  (Says the teacher that didn't have to prep anything)

(Turn your head this one is sideways) Here's what it looks like now that it has been copied. notice the coffee stains on the label.  #reallife  #volunteersarethebestpeopleonearth

Each activity in the master folder gets a post it and if we want that activity we mark it down. 
How do we round up the volunteers?  We use sign up genius.  We picked Thursdays and we send out 4 slots each month.  Out of all 5 of our classes, we only need 2 parents that are loving and kind and don't mind helping out.  There hasn't been a week at all this year when someone wasn't there to do the work for us.  It's a miracle.  If you only do this for yourself it would still be worth it.  They save us hours of time every week.

Have a great week!