Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Writing Paragraphs in First Grade...

So this year I was on maternity leave and missed 3 months of school from January until April.  When I came back from leave, I had about 3 weeks of instructional time until we starting doing Spring assessments.  If you are a control freak in the classroom like I am, you can imagine how frustrating this was!

However, I did not want my maternity leave to affect the expectations for my students so I put my adult pants on and said, "We CAN do this!".  

I came back to work on April 4th... it is now April 27th and my FIRST GRADERS can write a 5 sentence paragraph (we wrote them 2 weeks ago) with a topic sentence and a conclusion!  They are also starting multiplication (which I will be writing another blog about very soon)!

So, if I can do it, so can you!  And I want to add that this particular group of students does not have many strong writers & my long term sub did NOT do Whole Brain Teaching.  As a matter of fact, she is more of an old school teacher (she is retired) and did a lot of sentence frames and helping students spell words.  I give my students resources and strategies to find and spell words and then it is on them to do their best ... and I am not a stickler for spelling... grammar, yes but spelling I want them to try their best & use the strategies I taught them.

So with that said... how did I teach them in 2 weeks?  Whole Brain Teaching of course!

This is the key to writing paragraphs.... ready for it?

Yup this is it!  It is the TRIPLE WHAMMY!
Another genius idea from Coach B himself!

Here is a graphic with some information about the Triple Whammy...

You can get this (and all the other Brainys) on the Whole Brain Teaching website under the Brainy Game!

Here is how I teach this in a nutshell to save you time...

FIRST: I teach that a triple whammy is a 3 part sentence and we practice the gesture.

THEN: We practice triple whammys by talking to our neighbors about our 3 favorite colors, games, shows, movies, pets, books, etc!  
NEXT: We share out our triple whammys (using oral writing with punctuation!).  Once students are familiar with orally writing a triple whammy, we try actually writing it in our writing notebooks.  They write as many as they can in a given time frame.

AFTER THAT: I will have a student share out their triple whammy and then I will ask for details.  It looks like this...
S (Student): I like pizza, jelly beans, and apples!
Me: Why do you like pizza?
S: (Using complete sentences) I like pizza because (clapper) it is hot and cheesy!
Me: Why do you like jelly beans?
S: I like jelly beans because there are different flavors and they are sweet!
Me: Why do you like apples?
S: I like apples because they are juicy and healthy!
Me: Tell me your triple whammy again.
S: I like pizza, jelly beans, and apples!
Me: You just wrote a paragraph!

When you are having your students write orally, make sure they are saying things exactly how they should write them...which means you always want them to answer your questions with a complete sentence!  And if you are Whole Brain Teacher, you will also want the gestures for capital letters and punctuation.

THEN: After one student has orally written a paragraph with my help, other students always want to try it!  We will do this (with me helping) for a day or so.  Then I will ask if anyone is ready to try it on their own without my help!  It can get tricky so we practice this for a few days.

NEXT: I teach the students about Topic Sentences & Conclusions!

FINALLY: Student are ready to physically write their paragraphs!  Here are some of the paragraphs my students wrote just 2 weeks after I returned from maternity leave!

These are the 1st paragraphs my students wrote (final drafts).  Once students have this basic understanding, we work on developing our reasoning, using transitional words, writing spicy sentences, and improving in specific writing skills.

I also have a Kid Blog account that I use as an incentive and to meet Common Core Standards.  After my students write an acceptable paragraph, they are able to blog it!  You can read more about how I use Kid Blog here!

I will come back to this post and add videos of the steps & oral writing!

Happy Teaching!

Monday, April 18, 2016

How to Run Literacy Centers (and not lose your mind!)

I have had some teachers ask me to show them how I run centers so I figured, why not blog about it and share it with everyone!

I posted about this awhile back but it was at the end of another post & I felt that it needed one of it's own!  I hope you find this helpful if you are looking for a new way to run your center time!

So I got this idea from a friend I went to Grad School with.  I did a long-term sub job for her when she had her baby and I have never come across a better way to do center rotations!

Doing it this way, I get to see EVERY student EVERY day!

So here is a picture of how I set it up...

Once I have my students leveled with Fountas & Pinnell, I put them into leveled groups.  Red group is usually my RTI group, then blue, then yellow, and then green is my highest group.  I do FOUR 15 minute rotations.  The 4 rotations are:

Guided Reading (with me)
Independent Work
EA Center

How To Get Started
Before we can start running smoothly (because we all know that does NOT just happen) you have to train your students and teach them your expectations!

I do this by breaking my students into groups.  They will not be leveled groups necessarily because most likely you will not have had time to level them yet.  Make 4-5 groups of students and have 4-5 stations.  To start out, these stations should have activities that the students WILL know and can do INDEPENDENTLY.

The purpose is to teach them the expectations at this point and you can also do formative assessments while students are working.  The tasks should be easy for beginning first grade so you will be able to identify some of your higher & struggling students.  

When I start out with these stations, I am teaching students expectations such as taking care of materials, cleaning up quickly, lining up to rotate, working in a group, etc.  Whatever the expectations are for your center times, take this time to teach them!

My students are expected to clean up (make it look like it was when they got there) and line up (I have tape on the floor where each station should line up).  I wait until all this is completed before they can rotate.  Then we practice rotating to the next activity.

Most likely, it will be a struggle at first as the students are learning your expectations!  However, if you take the time to do this now, you will save yourself (and your students) so much time throughout the rest of the school year!

Once you have taught your expectations & practiced for several weeks....

I start centers by saying Red Group start at Guided Reading, Blue Group start at EA Center, Yellow Group start at Centers, and Green Group start at Independent Work.

The Red Group at Guided Reading would come to me where we do Guided Reading based on their F&P levels.

The Blue Group at the EA Center is a center I have my EA (or Spec Ed if you are inclusion) run.  I have the EA do sight word practice with my students throughout the first part of the year and then transition into writing sentences.  This year I was lucky enough to have an EA who was familiar with Words Their Way and she does that with my students.

The Yellow Group at Centers would go to the center that is on the pocket chart and work with their partner.  So this way there are only 2 students at one center and usually no more than 6 students at centers at one time.  I leave the pictures in place and rotate the center pictures each day.  

The Green Group at Independent Work will take out their designated Independent Work folders (which we made and practiced before we started this rotation).  They will work on work in that folder and if they finish, they will get a new paper from the differentiated drawers.  (I will add a picture of this soon!) I have a rubbermaid 3 drawer stand that I use for this.  I have one drawer labeled RED, one GREEN, and one for BLUE & YELLOW.  I put work based on the students levels in the respective drawers.

After 15 minutes, I call CLASS CLASS (Whole Brain Teaching) and the students clean up where they are at.  I have 4 designated areas for students to line up.  I just used Zebra duct tape (to match my jungle theme).  So..... students who were with my line up at the tape near my table.  Students who were at centers line up on the tape by the computers.  Students who were at independent work line up on the tape by the desks.  Students who were working with my EA line up at the tape near her table.

Once everything is cleaned up and students are lined up nicely, they rotate.  Since I spent time practicing in the beginning of the year, I will just say rotate and they will know where to go!

Once the students are used to this process, centers literally run themselves!  And you get more time with all your students!

Again, hopefully this is helpful to you if you are looking to change the way you run your centers!  I would also love to hear from you!  How do you run your literacy centers?

If you have any questions about this, leave me a comment or drop me an email and I will be more than willing to help!