Friday, September 28, 2012

Editing, Lowercase Letters, and Punctuation

     During Writers' Workshop, we have worked on writing up lowercase letters, capital letters at the beginning of our sentences, and punctuation. After working on lowercase and capital letters, we spent a day editing this story for our mini-lesson. They had to write the each work with the correct upper or lowercase letters. There was enough words so that each student had the chance to complete one word. This ended up being a little long for my first graders, but they did enjoy it.

     Then, we spent a week focusing on different types of sentences/ punctuation. My favorite activity was when we read Mo Willem's We Are in a Book! from his Elephant and Piggie series. I had the students raise their hands into a point if it was an exclamation, make a W with their arms if it was a questions, and cross their arms across their chest if it was a statement. They loved this book and remembered the motions. Sometimes, they were so into the book, I had to remind them of their job. Later that week, they continue to use those motions throughout the day to let me know if the sentence they spoke or read was a question, statement, or exclamation.

     Finally, we did another editing paper. This time, I wrote one sentence and gave each student a copy. Together, we found the letter and punctuation mistakes. Then, I had them rewrite the sentence on the line below. I knew rewriting it would be hard for them, and I can see that this is an area that they need more practice in. Unfortunately, this was one of the last Writers' Workshop lessons I will teach, so I will not have the chance to do this more. I am sad to stop this subject as it has definitely been my favorite to teach. I have seen so much improvement in my students since the start of the year!

     Last weekend, I was home for my mom's birthday, and we went to Dutch Fest with my cousin, who is in first grade, and aunt. While we were waiting, my little cousin pulled out a small bag with a pencil and paper, saying that she needed to write down what she saw so that she could remember it. My aunt looked at me and asked, "Is this normal for first graders? She just started wanting to take paper with her to write." I smiled.
     When encouraged, first graders love to write, especially about their own lives and ideas. I might just buy my students little notebooks for a good-bye present, so they can write about their adventures at home.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Challenging Students during Free Time

     When our first graders are finished with their morning work and other appropriate times, they are allowed to color in coloring books that are brought from home. I have found that one of the students does not enjoy coloring but could really use a challenge. One day for a review in math, I made a math matching game. She was pulled out for testing while we worked on it, so later she asked if she could keep one to play the next morning. After she played it, she wanted to take it home to play some more.

       I realized she needed a challenge and some games that would engage  her, so I made and found some for her to do instead of coloring in a coloring book. One I named Spill and Spell. There are dice, and she has to shake them onto the carpet. Then, using the letters she can see, the student will spell some words.

     My teacher also suggested that she could play on the computer since she finished so early. My class used Other students wanted to do it too, and now it has become an extended part of our literacy block. I did a few other games such as using pattern blocks to make different pictures, which I found online. I also did a math puzzle using addition and subtraction.

What do you do to challenge your high students?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Tales about Teaching Math and enVision

     The first subject I started to teach during student teaching was math. Growing up, I loved math. In fact, during freshman year I was a math major and took Calculus 3. Since then, I have been a peer tutor for math at my college. Last year, I took math for teachers and loved all the great ideas our professor gave us about how to teach math. He taught us so many different ways, we were definitely prepared. I found ways to make it fun with my fifth graders in the spring such as playing BattleGraph. I came in very excited to teach math to my first graders.

      Last year, the school I am at began using enVision. I had used enVision in my previous schools, and I was fine with it. It worked well with my small second grade class in fall 2011, so I figured it would be okay.

     The first unit for first grade is called "Understanding Addition." Each lesson has different parts you can use such as an online introduction to the lesson, a worksheet, a Common Core review, a workbook with differentiated pages (we assign homework from it), a lesson review page, and three differentiated games. Typically, my teacher told me that she starts with the introduction on the computer. Then, she completes the worksheet with the students. The front of the worksheet is always done together and uses manipulatives. On the inside, one page is labeled guided practice, and the other is independent practice. Finally, the back page has word problems.

     During the first math lesson, which was also the first lesson I taught during student teaching, our principal walked in to do a snapshot. At this point, the students were completing some problems independently with my teacher and I walking around to help. When his report came back, it said that 95% of our students were engaged, which is great for a first lesson in my book.

    Throughout the first unit, I noticed that my math lessons were not going as well as I would have liked. The same five or six students were always raising their hands to answer questions and participate. Most of these students would have been able to complete the lesson worksheet without my help. When I called on other students at random, they either were not paying attention or really did not understand what we were doing. Some of these students, I would pull aside the next morning to work with them in a small group on what they did not understand.

     Slowly, I became frustrated with having to follow our curriculum directly. We planned with the other math teachers, and I had to follow the curriculum and was expected to use the lesson worksheets. These worksheets are long and often confusing for my first graders. I did not have an issue with them in second grade, but in my opinion, they are not always appropriate for first. My students also had a very hard time with the manipulatives. They were not using them or putting them away properly, despite reteaching the procedures multiple times. I would love to use the differentiated games more, but there just is not enough time, plus it always leads to arguments or confusion.

     To finish the first unit about addition, I had a review day. Together, we worked on dry erase boards. Then, I gave each student a matching game. It had a problem, picture, and sum. I cut the pieces apart and put different amounts in different color bags. Then, I gave students who needed a challenge a bag with 15 matches, most students received 10 matches, and lower students received 6 matches. This worked well! First, I modeled how to make them and ways to make it easier such as sorting the three categories first. Then, I walked around as they were completing it to help students who had trouble with sorting. Most understood the math concept though!

     For the first unit, I did a pretest and post test, and I saw improvement in every student! Well, except for one girl, who actually understands it, but thought she would do so well that she did not listen to directions. Despite my frustrations, they really were learning. They may have not showed it to me in class, but they did understand it much more than before, especially the word problems.

     In my future class, I would love to set up some sort of math stations at least 2 or 3 days a week. This would allow me to challenge high students more, re-enforce lessons with students that need it, and review all of our skills through different engaging games and activities.

     If you have read this whole post, I am proud of you for sticking with it! Here is the addition matching game. It's not a colorful game because I don't have a color printer available to me, so I do my best by printing it on colored paper instead. EnVision uses a domino look for addition in unit one, so the pictures reflect that.

How do you teach math? What strategies have worked for you?
Update: After taking a pre- and post-test on the first section, I found that all of my students did improve and learn from this curriculum, even when I felt very frustrated with it.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Fun in First!

     Today was so much fun! Well, at least the end of the day was. During specials, we had a BIP review meeting. It was running late, so I went to pick up the students from specials. When we were back in the classroom, I knew my teacher needed to finish the meeting for a few minutes, so I picked up a book that I was looking for a time to read. It was Duck on a Bike by David Shannon. I have been trying to familiarize my students with David Shannon. We have talked about how he wrote his first David book as a young child and how he draws from personal experiences. I even shared how you can find his dog, Fergus, in each of Shannon's books. Anyways, this book was such a fun read aloud. I used character voices, and my students were very involved. They even found Fergus, and this is a harder book to find him in! When my teacher came back in the room, I saw her smile. Then, she gave me another book to read, Bear's New Friend, and she told the students to listen to my character voices. I love reading aloud!

     Tonight, we had a rollerskating party. I went and saw seven of our students there (plus my teacher and principal)! It was hysterical watching my students skate. I even put my rollerblades on and enjoyed skating with them. Some were begging me to skate with them more. I loved seeing our students outside of a school and meeting their families again.

     Another fun thing about today was that my students found pencils in their Writing Workshop folders that were left by Sam (see this post for more info.). There is nothing like a bunch of first graders trying to thank Sam the library mouse loud enough so that he can hear them.

    Of course, today had some frustrating parts, too, like math. I just feel like I am not able to meet everyone's needs and the curriculum is too confusing for them, but that's another post. For now, I will focus on the things that remind me why I want to be a teacher, which is mostly the students.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Teaching Writing with Library Mouse - 1st Grade Ed.

     Last week, I started teaching Writing Workshop. When asked who liked writing a few weeks ago, most students responded saying that they did not like writing. I knew this was the first thing we needed to work on if we were going to get anywhere in Writing Workshop. They cannot all hate writing, so I decided my first week needed to be spent motivating them to write.

    When I was in a second grade classroom, I used the book Library Mouse to inspire a writing project, and I thought that this may also work with my first graders. On Monday, we read the book Library Mouse by Daniel Kirk. I had them listen to find out what the library mouse liked to do and how he started it. In this book, Sam the library mouse loves to read and decides that he will write books too. He begins by remember what he read in a book about writing: "Write what you know." He writes his first book about the life of a mouse. This fits perfectly with what I need to be teaching in Writing Workshop, since the first unit is about small moments from their own lives.

     I sent my first graders off to write a book about themselves. I let them know that if they needed more paper they could get more since stories about yourself can get long. I also told them that if they wrote a story that was at least two pages, then they could receive a cover later in the week. They immediately got to work. It was hard to get them to stop writing so that we could go to specials! They were so focused it worked like magic.

     On Tuesday, I told them that when I came in, I found a book that Sam the library mouse had left for us. I downloaded it from Daniel Kirk's website. They could not believe that Sam wrote them a book. We read it and talked about what Sam had starting writing first in Library Mouse, and they started writing.

     On Wednesday, Sam left another special gift. It was the Meet the Author box! When they looked inside, they saw a mirror, just like in the book. Some students were so surprised. One girl squealed, "It's me! I'm the author!" I also introduced "When I'm done, I've just begun" on this day, since some students were beginning to stop writing during Writing Workshop.

    I was amazed to see the difference in my writers from where they were at the beginning of school to where they are now. Most did not like writing, and on Monday, everyone could not wait to start writing. My teacher said that she even had students coming up asking when Writing Workshop is. A little motivation goes a long way. I'm thinking Sam will need to bring everyone erasers when we start working on editing skills.

    What do you do to motivate your writers and help them to view themselves as authors?

Saturday, September 15, 2012

First Weeks of School

     Wow! I haven't blogged since right before the first day of school (that's four weeks ago!). Time flies when you're teaching! I love my first graders. We have 23 now (just received a new one on Monday). It's fun to be able to get to know each student. In past labs, I felt that I never fully learned each student's personality, background, and how they were doing because I was only there two days a week at most. Now I know what each student's needs are. One girl is smart and gets in trouble when she's bored. One boy has Autism and is afraid to go into the bathroom, thinking that the fire alarm will go off. Another girl seems a little immature and unfocused, but she really is smart and learning. Another boy is the sweetest little gentleman and takes a long time finishing his morning work because he wants to do it perfectly. It's so neat to see where they are all at! After being able to get to know each one, I could not imagine not differentiating my lessons. The students are all so different and special!

     Anyways, back to the first couple of weeks. One fun activity we did was a skittles get to know you game. Every student was given five skittles (really if I did this with first grade again, I would give less). Each color had a different question to answer (What is your favorite color? Tell us something about your family. What is your favorite part of school?). Then, we went around the circle, listening to everyone answer the five questions. It was fun, but a little long for first grade.

     Another neat thing my teacher did during the first week was give the students a Super Duper 20x 100+ Invisible Thinking Cap. They were so excited. We tied them on tight. Turned the knob on and made sure that we could see their lightbulbs were on. My teacher explained that this cap never came off and eventually was absorbed into their brain. It really helped them focus during the next class! One boy started to cry, and when asked what was wrong, he explained that he did not catch a thinking cap when they were thrown out, so the whole class threw him one.

     The first few weeks have been spent mainly establishing our routines and procedures. We are doing the Daily 5, and this week I am going to start meeting with small groups. I have been working hard establishing Writers' Workshop this past week, but that's a whole different post.

How have your first weeks been? I will try to post more regularly, because I really do like sharing. Also, note that these pictures were taken from a google search and aren't my own (Isn't the thinking cap cool though?). Have a good week! Feel free to leave comments. I love reading each one.