Friday, March 25, 2016

How a Classroom of 1st Graders Became Published Poets

Kwame Alexander, the 2015 Newberry Award Winner, has a new program out called "Page-to-Stage Writing Workshop" and it's incredible. He asked Ann Marie to look at his teaching guide and use it with her first graders to assist them in publishing their own book. You can read her blog about it over on the Scholastic webpage.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Not Your Ordinary Week

Sometimes, to liven things up, my students and I invent a theme for a particular day of the week. We don’t do this every week, just during those times when things start to get monotonous or challenging (before winter, spring, and summer breaks, around testing time, etc.).

Here are some examples: (can you tell we like alliteration?)

Musical Monday: Students can bring instruments from home, we may play music all day, we might play a game of “Name that Tune” or we may study a composer for the day.

Mysterious Monday: When the students walk in, they have a mystery to solve. Maybe there’s a surprise wrapped in a box, maybe something is missing etc… Follow the clues.

Tell Me Tuesday: We show our students a picture of an unusual creature that we think will be unfamiliar to them. Then ask questions such as, “What do you think it eats?” and “Where do you think it lives?” (My class has been doing this for the last few weeks for morning work since our old routine got stale. They're loving it!)

Walking Wednesday: Students and teacher take a walk outside, around the school, the track, or even on a nature trail.

Thank You Thursday: Students write thank you notes to friends, family, or teachers to thank them for something they’ve done.

Think About it Thursday: We pose a thought provoking question to our students and give everyone a small copy of the question to glue in their journal. They love sharing their opinions!

Fitness Friday: We learn a new kind of exercise or an idea for staying healthy and fit.

Free Read Friday: We drop everything we’re doing and grab a book. Students head to a cozy spot in the classroom and read.

Monday, March 7, 2016

The Shape of Things

When it comes time to teach shapes in first grade, there are always students who struggle. Some students think all shapes with four sides are rectangles while others fail to realize that no matter how you rotate a triangle, if it has 3 sides, it’s a triangle! To help our students develop a firm grasp on shape identification we made this book.

Each student gets a book with a cover and four pages divided in half (one for each basic shape). On one side, students draw examples of each shape and on the other they draw non-examples. For instance, one page says, “These are rectangles.” and “These are not rectangles.”

Once students have polished their shape identification skills it’s time to discuss the different attributes of shapes (i.e. how many sides, vertices, and right angles each shape has). Sides are simple. They learn those in Kindergarten so we simply remind them it’s a straight line on the shape. Vertex and vertices are a little tougher since they generally use the word corners in kindergarten. Our content word wall helps us a lot here! If students are having difficulty, we put the words “corner,” “vertex” and “vertices” on one line to show students they are synonyms.
After a few days, most students have mastered this new vocabulary. Finally we introduce right angles. Our brilliant math interventionist has students physically make a right angle using their arms. They put up one arm and say, “right” and then the other and say, “angle.” It’s a great multisensory approach to this math lesson. After students are able to describe the traits of various shapes, I use two SMARTBoard lessons I created to have students sort shapes and determine which shape does not belong in a group of shapes. When students select their answer they have to explain which attribute makes it so that the shape does not belong. It’s a fun challenge that makes students use their knowledge of shape attributes. **Note- to open the file I've attached, you must be on a computer that has SMART Notebook software installed on it.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Estimation Station

We created an exciting way to practice estimating skills. It’s called The Estimation Station. The station can be set up on an empty desk, a TV tray, a table corner, or even on top of a low bookshelf. 

You will need a clear jar, like a small jelly, relish or pickle jar, or a large baby food jar with the lid. If you prefer plastic, try a small mayonnaise jar. Then fill the jar with candy but not in front of your students. Count the candy as you put it in. Write your total down somewhere so you won’t forget! Here are a few kinds of candies we have used: Starbursts, sweet tarts, candy corn, M&Ms or jellybeans.

Next, put out small pieces of paper so the students can record their guesses. We print out a sheet with our students’ names on them already. (First graders are famous for forgetting to write their names!) Lastly, we add a plastic container or covered shoebox with a slot in the top. You might already have a voting box from class elections you can use. The students will put their guesses inside. We also put out a sign. One at a time, the students visit the station. You can have this as an organized activity, using a class list, calling one student at a time, or you can leave the station out all day and encourage students to visit whenever they’d like. They will look at the jar, turn it around, pick it up and even shake it. Then they will make their guess on the slip of paper and drop it in your slotted container.

After all the guesses are in, we sit as a class and count the candy in the jar. There are always lots of rumblings and gasps as students remember their guesses and exclaim how close they’ve come (or not). We look through each guess and set aside the close or exact ones. The winner (and sometimes winners) gets to keep the contents. (Just transfer them to a Ziplock bag.) 99% of the time the winner wants to share with the whole class (believe it or not)!

We usually do The Estimation Station every day during our magnitude unit for about two or three weeks (depending on our candy supply)! If you’d like for the station to last longer, you can set it up for one day of the week. We’ve done both and they are equally as fun. Start estimating!