Saturday, September 20, 2014

23 Kids and Counting

This year has had an interesting start.  As usual, I've been trying out some new strategies and organizational techniques in my classroom.  The beginning of the year is always very demanding, but I really love that it is a fresh start and a chance make positive changes.
My resolution for this year is to incorporate more opportunities for student choice during our day to day routine.  My plan involves allowing more choice into our literacy centers, our math centers (now Math with Someone), and our Daily 5.  Before the school year started, I thought long and hard about how I planned to structure and organize this choice with my 18 new first graders.
Then the first bell rang and we were off.  By the end of the first week, my 18 had grown to 20.  At the conclusion of week two, we were up to 21.  Fast forward to week six and add a set twins to the mix, my class is up to 23.  I've never had 23 first graders in one class before (and I've been teaching for a while).
All sorts of new (I don't want to call them challenges, let's just say) conditions occur as a result of having 5 more students than usual in a classroom.  Things certainly take longer.  You name it . . . getting backpacks, handing out papers, going to the restroom, grading papers, making copies.  Multiply all the little daily happenings by 5 more students and time ticks away even more quickly.

Despite having these new conditions, my goal of increased choice remains the same.  One way I've added more choice is during our Daily 5 time.  In the past, I leveled groups and created a rotation schedule for each of the Daily 5 activities (Read to Self, Read to Someone, Work on Writing, Listen to Reading, and Word Work).  Since I needed to meet with small leveled groups and everyone was doing all five activities everyday anyway, I figured a schedule was fine.  However, after reading the new edition of The Daily 5 this summer, I discovered the authors have a new attitude about the number of rotations students should complete each day.
They now suggest two to three rotations each day.  This reduction in rotations helped open my eyes to a way for my students to choose their activities and to be able to mix with different groupings of students during their rotations.
I started out by creating a weekly student tracking sheet for the Daily 5 rotations.  (You'll notice Work on Writing is not on my tracking sheet.  That is because I choose for everyone in our class to write at the same time, everyday.)

When students check in with me before each rotation, they color the picture for the activity they are about to complete.  I also keep a clipboard where I mark the students' choices and I track the times students meet with me.  I call the names of the students that will read with the teacher before any of the activity selection takes place.
Students keep their tracking sheets in a journal in their desks.  We have used this system for the past few weeks and so far it has worked out great.

If you are interested in reading more about how I organized student choice during math center time, click here.

One unexpected condition I came across this week, resulting from my rather large class, was my write the room activities are going to look a bit different this year.  Meaning, I'm going to have to find new places to hang cards so that I have enough for everyone to write the room at the same time.
We did an addition write the room and a short vowel sort write the room on Wednesday and Thursday.  I guess in the past I've not introduced write the room quite so early in the year, because Wednesday's attempt was a bit of a train wreck.  However, we practiced going around to all the cards and staying in order a little more.  By the time we wrote the room on Thursday, everyone (pretty much) knew what they were doing.

Our short vowel write the room was differentiated with word/picture cards for students that need that extra support and word cards for the students that do not.  I printed the cards on red and yellow paper.  I  put a red or yellow dot at the top of the each student's recording sheet so that he/she would remember which color of card to read.
The students loved it.  They are all about getting up and moving.
If you would like a FREE copy of this write the room activity, click on the picture below.  It is available at my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

Thanks for stopping by.  I'll be back soon with some more fun from my crowded room ;) .
Have a great week.


  1. Thanks for the freebie... I will be heading over to go get it. :0) 23 kinders!! Wow!! Looks like you got it all under control. Have a great year!

  2. Thank you for the word sort- everything does indeed take take longer with more students, especially when it wasn't part of the "plan". I have 27 and our line down the hall goes forever!

  3. I am at 19 grade 1's and can only imagine the havoc that 4 more students would create!!! Thanks for sharing how you organize and track your daily 5 - we are still working on stamina : ) Thanks for the write the room activity!!

  4. Love your blog. Would you consider sharing your student tracking sheet for Daily 5? I like it so much better than what I am currently using. Thanks for the freebie.

    1. I'll see what I can do. My page is fairly specific to my class. I'll need to put together a variety of layouts that could be useful to a variety of D5 approaches. So, check back.
      Thanks for stopping by.

  5. It's so funny... All the things that are administrative tasks(attendance,lunch count, setting the timer) I assigned to the kids and my life is so much easier and the kids feel more in charge... I never thought I would want them to touch the timer... But I just tell them the time and it's all good...

  6. I know just how you feel! I have 31 kinders this year. Our line is super long and when we go around a corner, I can't see half my class. It's a little scary! :) My saving grace is that I get to have half in the morning and half in the pm three days a week. It's more assessments, report cards and parent conferences. i'm exhausted!

  7. Amber, it looks like you're doing amazing with all those kids. I know exactly what you mean- once you get over that 20 mark, even you just feel it- making that many more crafts, looking at that much more writing, finding time to read with more individually. I always love seeing your room. It looks so organized and bright and happy. :) Have a great weekend!