Sunday, November 30, 2014

Layering my Classroom (And the Cybersale!!)

I think my love of 100 Minutes has been well documented since I started reading it this past summer…but today I want to talk about how I think it has helped me build in my classroom routines in my language program and add layers to my teaching.

Side note: 
This is a wordy and lengthy post…I apologize! But if you hang in there I have a whole list of must-have products from TPT sellers towards the end. 

I have already struggled with wanting to start EVERYTHING all at the same time and have my full program up and running. Lisa Donohue talked a lot about the importance of deepening your routines and taking students farther by adding on to previously existing structures and routines. I have found that thinking about my program in this way has really helped me to find the perfect time add a new layer to our existing literacy routines and provide my students opportunities to deepen their understanding of the concepts we are studying. 

Adding layers has been an especially important part to my class' success this year has I have a VERY wide range of abilities and quite a few ELL's and students working below grade level. Building in layers of routines to help deepen my program has really helped me to differentiate and work towards meeting all my students needs. It has been especially helpful as 6 students from my class receive ESL support three out of 5 days…that's a 1/3 of my class!! Then I have 3 other students who receive Spec Ed support everyday and 1 student who goes to a math group twice a week. 

My room is a constant revolving door. 

This has made scheduling guided lessons somewhat difficult but not impossible. Lisa Donohue wrote about intentional sequencing in her book 100 Minutes and it made so much sense to me…it was definitely the missing piece to the puzzle of my literacy program. 

It isn't perfect yet (and probably won't be) but it has helped me to see how to schedule our literacy block and why I should be putting  rotations in a certain order. 

So this is how I plan for guided reading and our literacy rotations. As you can see some of the boxes have X's in them. This is when my ELL's are receiving support and are not in the class with us. As  I said it isn't perfect yet. We have yet to build in Reading Response as a rotation (the goal for next week!) and I haven't yet met with groups for a Writing Conference. 
Always so much to do. 

This is our rotation board. Since it's new to me this year it's work in progress. 
If you like it you can find it here in my TPT store. 

Right now I have been using post-it notes to provide instructions to my students for each of their rotations. I am lucky this year that I have a full time educational assistant in my room to work with one of my students who needs 1:1 support. She has wonderfully taken the initiative to also work with three other students who need 1:1 support for most of their work. I often assign that group extra guided reading with her so that they are being taught in a guided group everyday…plus the time they are being pulled for ELL or Spec Ed support. 

Sometimes the scheduling makes my head spin. 

Here's a closer look at my Guided Reading Literacy Group Labels.

This is also the first year that I have been happy with how my guided reading program is running and I must admit guided reading has been a necessity in my class. I am VERY much behind in my literacy teaching due to the fact that some many of my students have so many different needs. Guided reading has been the key to this problem as I now teach all the components of my reading program in small groups. 

We save whole group time for interactive read alouds, chapter books, building on our routines and scaffolding our writing instruction. In the past I have focused most of my writing instruction on the text forms but this year it just wasn't feeling right so instead I have switched to a much freer writing approach, allowing my students to choose the majority of their own writing topics and forms. We are focusing on the writing process and how to edit and revise. 

Isn't it amazing how much your writing can change from year to year?

So now on to the good stuff…! 

What are some TPT products that I just can't live without?

Well, I'm glad you asked, especially since the Cybersale is on tomorrow. 

This amazing writing prompt product from Irene Hines has been the cornerstone for my weekly journal writing program. 

I just love it.

The Fluency Strip pack from The Moffat Girls has really helped my students who are ELL's and working below grade level to build on their fluency skills AND they love tracking their progress through the sets. 

I can not even tell you how much I LOVE The Weekly Word Wizard sets from SunnyDays. Since Grade 3 is a testing year in Ontario this product provides my students with constant practice of valuable grammar and vocabulary skills. 
I am loving it!!
The next few sets are already in my cart for tomorrow.

This next product is a MUST HAVE for anyone doing guided reading in their class. It has saved me sooooo much time when creating my guided lessons and helps to provide a consistent checking system of the skills we have already covered and need to review. Head over to Angeline Stewart's store to check it out. 

So there you have it…

My literacy program in a nutshell. I hope you get some good deals tomorrow and I'd love to hear about any suggestions you have for literacy products from your own TPT store or others that you think might benefit my students. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Literacy Workshop…Revisiting 100 Minutes

In the past few years a few things have 
totally changed the way I teach. 
Have changed the teacher I am.
Have changed the way I view my profession.

The first was switching from teaching Grades 7 & 8 rotary to teaching Grades 3 and 4 core.
I used to teach two classes English, History and Geography on a rotary schedule where my students switched classes every 40 minutes.

I now teach one class of students everything and at most they only leave the room for 40 minutes a day. 
And it's so much better. 
I know my students better.
I integrate my content more effectively.
I like it better.

The second major shift was when I read Guided Math by Laney Sammons for an online book study with Brenda from Primary Inspired

Thinking about how to differentiate my teaching and teach in a guided setting really helped me to understand how I could help each of my students to achieve success. 

Then this past summer I read 100 Minutes by Lisa Donohue…and wow, did that ever change my teaching. Coming from the intermediate grades I really had no idea about guided reading. How to do it, what it was, how to plan for it, etc. I read The Daily 5 that first summer in an attempt to be ready to teach Grade 4 and have a guided reading program. 
However, I can't say that it really helped me that much. 
It was just too much to wrap my head around.
Too many rotations.
Too many options and choices.

A few years later I read Guiding Readers by Lori Jameson-Rog and lead a book study here on my blog and it really helped me to understand what guided reading was and how it could be used to help work with my students at their instructional reading level. But a few maternity leaves have popped up in the meantime and I just wasn't able to get a successful program up and running.

Until now!

I am pretty proud of my guided reading program even though it is still in the early stages I can see where I am heading with it and I know that it is going to be very beneficial to the students in my class. Especially since this year the reading levels of my students range from D to U!
Yes, in one Grade 3 class. 

The biggest takeaway from 100 Minutes for me was the idea of "intentional sequencing". It just made so much sense and really made all the difference for me with having a literacy workshop program that was up and running the way I wanted it for me.

That doesn't mean it's all gone smoothly by any means…
In my class there are 6 students who receive ESL support 3 days a week during my literacy block so that has made scheduling my guided reading and writing groups somewhat tricky. 

I would recommend 100 Minutes to anyone that is interested in having a workshop style program for their literacy classroom and is unsure of how they might go about organizing the time.

Click here to see how 100 Minutes has helped me layer my classroom and my MUST HAVE products from TPT for my literacy program. 

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Remembrance Day Freebie

I think that Remembrance Day is one of the most important topics we have the opportunity to talk to our students about. 

So much of our life is possible because of the sacrifices of the past.
So much needs to be remembered so that the past will not be repeated.

Every year I dedicate a big chunk of time talking about the sacrifices made by the soldiers in our armed forces, the meaning of the poppy, reading picture books and watching videos. I want my students to understand how much they have to be thankful for because of those who dedicated their life to serving our country.

In the past my students have written letters to veterans thanking them for their service and have spent time talking with members of the armed forces to learn more about their careers.

To help with the reflections I want my students to participate in I have create a few worksheets/printables that can be used in any class for a variety of settings. 

Click on the image above to go to my TPT store and grab a copy. 

As we read through the publications sent to us by Veteran's Affairs my students took the time to create a thought page of all the words, ideas and questions that came to mind as they read. Each time we watched a video or read a picture book over the past few days they added more ideas to their thought page.

On Monday and Tuesday (Remembrance Day here in Canada) I will have my students complete a reflection that explains why they wear a poppy and a recipe for peace. I'm hoping that they are able to grasp the complex nature of this topic and understand the importance of giving thanks to our service men and women.

Looking to the future I am hoping that once again my class will be interested in writing letters to the veterans in order to fully express their thanks.

I'd love for you to head over to my TPT store and grab a copy if you think it would be useful in your class. 

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