Saturday, July 26, 2014

You're Finally Here! (Back to School Fun)

Well, it's just about here . . . the beginning of the school year.  I have one day and about ten hours left of summer break.  I was in and out of my room earlier this week, starting to get my ducks in a row.  You know how things are when teachers start back, lots of trainings, meetings, and catching up with coworkers.  My room isn't ready yet, but I have made progress.
Getting my room in shape is not my only challenge, planning for the first week can be a bit tricky.  Of course I'll spend a lot of time teaching and practicing classroom procedures with my new students.  I also have few go-to read alouds and activities that are musts.  One of my favorite back to school read alouds is Melanie Watt's book, You're Finally Here!

I've had this book for a couple of years and my students really enjoyed it.  The illustrations are lively and bold.  It's one of those books that you will probably find your students talking back to (like Mo Willems' Pigeon books).  Anyway, reading You're Finally Here! is a great way to kick things off with a new group of learners.

After sharing this book, I'll be using it as a jumping off point for some literacy and math learning with my new packet, You're Finally Here! {Back to School Literacy and Math Activities}.

This packet includes a getting to know you listening activity, an about me booklet, two abc order printables, two labeling printables, two graphing printables, two ten frame printables, and a craftivity.
If you are interested, You're Finally Here! {Back to School Literacy and Math Activities} is available at my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  You can click on the picture for more information.
This packet, as well as my back to school literacy and math centers, will be on sale for the next few days.  So, if you are looking for some new back to school resources, now would be a perfect time to stock up.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Good Fit Books and A FREE Craftivity for the Beginning of the Year

Summer break is winding down.  It's been a good run, but it's just about time to get back to business.  Time to put classrooms back together, dust off the book shelves, organize, and plan for the many lessons to come.
One lesson I teach during the first week of school is how to pick an appropriate book, what the authors of The Daily 5 refer to as a Good Fit Book.  Whether you use The Daily 5 or some other literacy model, it is very challenging to teach young learners how to pick a book that is appropriate.
The Daily 5 outlines a fun lesson using shoes to explain how to pick Good Fit Books.  (If you would like to read a brief description of this lesson, you can click here.  Also included in this post is a FREE anchor chart for Good Fit Books.)
The shoe lesson is fun and a great starting point for teaching students about Good Fit Books, but if you have young readers, don't be fooled into thinking that this lesson is the end of the story.  In most cases, helping students select appropriate books will be on your plate for the rest of the year.  That is why you should arm yourself with a library of read alouds that make it easier to explain how readers pick suitable books and and why it's important.
Some books that I like to have on hand for teaching about Good Fit Books are:  Born to Read by Judy Sierra, Dog in Boots by Greg Gormley, Wild About Books also by Judy Sierra, How Rocket Learned to Read by Tad Hills, Reading Makes You Feel Good by Todd Parr, Shoes for Me! by Sue Fliess, and The Best Book to Read by Debbie Bertram & Susan Bloom.

These books give explanations why it's important to read.  They also show how differences in personal interests can shape what we read.  You can use these books throughout the entire year.  Remember, book choice will likely be an ongoing topic with your students.
With that being said, Shoes for Me! and Dog in Boots are great read alouds early on since they both feature shoes and illustrate how a choice should be based on a purpose.  
Purpose is one of the key factors in choosing books.  It answers the question "Why do I want to read this book?"  You may have to give students some examples of the purposes for reading books:  to become a better reader, to learn something new, to have fun, to find information, and so on.  Your young learners need to understand that they should have a purpose when they pick books to read.
I created a cute and FREE craftivity to use with Dog in Boots.  You can have your own copy of this activity by clicking on the picture below.

The pattern for this activity is ready to print.  There are three book options for the pup to hold.  Two of the books highlight the idea of purpose in reading.  The third book is blank for you to use as you would like.

Now for a couple of related side notes . . .
If you are using The Daily 5 in your class, I'm sure you know about Check for Understanding as a comprehension skill.  In the first edition of The Daily 5, the authors described wooden check marks (I think a friend made them.) that the students hold during Read to Someone as reminder to Check for Understanding.  I don't know about you, but my woodworking skills are nonexistent.  So, I've never had that visual and kinesthetic reminder for my students, until now.
In the second edition of The Daily 5 the authors share a source for Check for Understanding check marks.  I searched Amazon and score!  I have my own class set.  They are called Check-A-Roo and are sold in sets of six.  I ordered two sets and that should be plenty.  Fingers crossed that they'll remind my kids to Check for Understanding.

One other goodie I'll be using during the first days of school is my set of The Daily Five Trace and Read Mini Books.  There is a mini book for each component of The Daily 5 with I Can statements outlining basic procedures.  These mini books are perfect for early in the year independent student work and an effective way to communicate to parents the basic expectations of The Daily 5.  Click on the picture for more information.

I hope some of these suggestions and activities are helpful as you start back to school.  If you have any questions, please email me.  Thanks so much for stopping by.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Daily 5, Second Edition, Some Seriously Surprising Discoveries

I was so excited to see a new edition of the book, The Daily 5, released earlier this year.  I've been using The Daily 5 with my first graders for a while now and I love the way it focuses on teaching independence, but I've had to leave some aspects of it by the wayside (depending on the group of students). 
 I was interested to read if the authors, Gail Boushey and Joan Moser, address any of the issues that I've personally had with The Daily 5.  But mostly, I couldn't wait to read the brand new chapter about The Math Daily 3.  
The Daily 5 Second Edition touches on many of the questions I've had over the years.  It also addresses questions I didn't even know I had.  As I read this book, I came across some new and surprising ideas that I'm interested to try in class and some that I may save for another day.

The Daily 5 No Longer Means Five Rounds Everyday.
Instead of trying to fit in five rounds of Daily 5 activities (Read to Self, Work on Writing, Read to Someone, Listen to Reading, and Word Work) everyday, the authors now suggest two or three rounds each day.  Two rounds for older students with more stamina.  Three rounds for younger students.
I was so happy when I read about this shift.  Last year, I actually changed to three rounds in my class, but was feeling a tad bit guilty for deviating from the five rounds each day.  Now . . . one less thing to feel guilty about.

 If You're Doing The Daily 5, You'll Want to Learn About the CAFE System.
The CAFE System is what the authors of The Daily 5 use to shape their instructional content, to monitor their students, and to drive their assessments.
CAFE stands for (Comprehension, Accuracy, Fluency, and Expanding Vocabulary).
When the first edition of The Daily 5 was released, The CAFE Book had not been published.  In the second edition of The Daily 5, the authors spend a good deal of time explaining how to integrate The CAFE Stem into The Daily 5.  Very helpful.

With The Daily 5, If You Do Not Have a Gathering Space, 
Now Is the Time to Create One.
The authors recommend all whole group instruction take place at a gathering spot on the floor to help with behavior management through proximity.  It also allows students more opportunities to share with each other and for the teacher to more easily listen in and join conversations.
I agree with this setup and already do a good deal of instruction at my gathering area.  After reading all the benefits, I'll probably do even more of my instruction at our gathering spot.  

Picture from

The Daily 5 Could Mean an Unconventional Classroom Setup.
The authors suggest having only half as many tables/desks and chairs as you have students.  They also recommend having low tables, counters for standing, a couch, area rugs, a loft, and a few single seats around the room.  This setup allows for a great deal of flexibility for students as they choose their spots in which to work.
I had to do a double take when I read only half as many tables/desks and chairs as students.  I tried to imagine how I could possibly make this setup work in my class, everyday, all day.  I just can't quite wrap my head around this idea.  I guess I need to see it in action before making the leap.  I'll start with baby steps and check if there is any furniture in my classroom that can be removed to create a more open space.

Picture from

Maybe, Just Maybe, Not All Students 
"Work the Whole Time."
The second edition of The Daily 5 devotes a considerable amount of time to barometer children (those kids who consistently break stamina first).
In the first edition, teachers had to stop the whole group if a student breaks stamina (stops doing what he/she is supposed to be doing).  This is still the case in the second edition up until a point.
After teaching the students how to be independent and doing plenty of practice, some students still may not follow procedures (I know . . . SHOCKING!).  The authors realize stopping the whole group would not be in the best interest of the class, so they offer levels of support.
Some of the levels of support include short bursts of alternative activities and movement, self timers, thoughtful work spaces, recess practice, and increased frequency of teacher check in.
The authors write about giving the barometer children tools such as manipulatives (ex. small bag of legos), alternative reading materials, and a timer.  Students can work and then give themselves a break using these tools, so that they do not disrupt the rest of the students.
I'm interested in trying some of these supports with my students this year.  I have my fingers crossed that these supports will take care of my barometers.

A Good Fit Book Remains a Major Hurdle
As the authors discuss teaching students how to pick a good fit book, they stay true to their IPICK acronym from the first edition of The Daily 5:
I: select a book and look it over, inside and out.
Purpose:  Why might I read it?
Interest:  Does it interest me?
Comprehend:  Do I understand what I am reading?
Know:  Do I know most of the words?
However the bar set for the C and the K (comprehend and know) is very high at 99% accuracy. 
With my young readers, finding books that they can read at a 99% accuracy rate and are appealing to their interests is a huge challenge.  To address this challenge the authors recommend revisiting how to pick good fit books frequently throughout the year with the whole group and with individuals. 
They do not encourage teachers to level their libraries because they think that students grow too dependent on the leveling system in your class and will not be able to pick an appropriate book out in the real world.  (hmmm . . . interesting)

The Daily 5 Mini Lessons Should Be Just What They Sound Like, MINI.
Despite the crazy evaluation rubrics most of us have to deal with, the authors of The Daily 5 emphasize the importance of keeping direct instruction brief, no more than 10 minutes at a time.  In the book they present brain research to support what teachers of young learners already know, students' attention spans have limits.  The book does a great job outlining how these mini lessons work in the context of The Daily 5.

During the Launch, Foundation Lessons Can Be Integrated. 
The launch period is extremely important for how your class runs for the rest of the year.  An ounce of prevention is a worth a pound of cure.  If you spend plenty of time teaching desired behaviors and practicing them during the first few weeks of school, The Daily 5 should run smoothly (on most days).  
The authors recommend starting the launch with Read to Self and next Work on Writing.  After that it doesn't matter what order you introduce the remaining choices.
In the past I followed this sequence.  I started with Read to Self and then two or three days later, I introduced Work on Writing.  After a couple of more days, I would bring in Read to Someone.  Next would be Word Work.  Listen to Reading was the last choice I presented.  I waited until I was ready to launch a choice before I would do any foundation lessons about that choice.
However, in the second edition, the authors recommend integrating foundation lessons from all Daily 5 choices as a way to preteach desired behaviors during the early days of the launch.  Since students are still building stamina during the first few weeks, there should be some extra time to present these foundation lessons.  That way, when you are ready to launch each choice, you can jump right into the practice sessions.

I'm sure if I read this book again tomorrow, a whole new set of discoveries would get my attention.  The Daily 5 Second Edition did not let me down.  It stays consistent to the first edition in many ways, while bringing some new and updated practices to the table.  
I know I didn't fill you in on The Math Daily 3.  That will be for another time.  I'm still thinking about how I want to implement it when we start back to school.  When I do figure out what I'm doing, I'll be sure to let you know.
Thanks for stopping by.  If you would like to read any my other Daily 5 posts, click here.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

You Oughta Know: The Rule of Three

The Three Stooges, three strikes, three blind mice, three sheets to the wind, Three's Company, three ring circus . . . look around patterns of three are everywhere.
One pattern of three You Oughta Know about is The Rule of Three.

The rule of three I'm referring to is often found in children's literature.  In many stories the main character struggles to solve her problem three times before succeeding, failing, or changing her mind about the desired outcome.  This technique encourages readers to become invested in the character's journey.
In my first grade class I break it down by telling my students that often the main character will try three time to get what she wants.  After three tries, she either gets what she wants, doesn't get it, or she changes her mind about what she wants.
Knowing this rule of three is very helpful to students' comprehension levels and writing abilities.  After I teach this rule, my students always look for the pattern in our read alouds.  Whenever they identify the rule of three in a story, their hands will shoot up.  They cannot wait to share their discovery.
Later in the year, I start focusing on the rule of three in our writing.  When I model write, I will write a story with three events and then a resolution.  With my students, I start out fairly simple and just try to get them to tell about three things that happen.  They will progress from there.

A few of my favorite books that are nice examples of the rule of three are:
Click Clack Moo by Doreen Cronin,

A Mud Pie for Mother by Scott Beck,

Birdie's Big-Girl Shoes by Sujean Rim, and

Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina

Of course many folk tales and fairy tales have the rule of three.  Think about The Three Bears, The Three Pigs, and the Three Billy Goats Gruff.  There are many, many more examples if you just keep your eye out.
I made a graphic organizer to go along the rule of three.  If you would like to use it with your students, click on the picture for a free copy.

The rule of three is something teachers should know about and use in class.  When students start using it in their own writing or identifying it in stories, without being prompted, you know your kids are thinking and making connections.

Thank you for stopping by and a special thanks to Ms. McClain at Buzzing With Mrs. McClain for including me in her blog hop.  

Friday, July 4, 2014

Getting to the Point With Touch Math (Plus a FREE Set of Posters)

Happy summer all!
I cannot believe how quickly it is passing.  I (like most teachers this time of year) am preforming a balancing act.  I'm trying to balance productivity with some needed down time.  Since I was on vacation last week, this week I decided to check a couple of items off of my to do list for school.  One item on my list was to complete my touch math addition packet.
I am a huge fan of touch math.  Using touch points to add and subtract has served my students well over the years.  I am always please with their accuracy and I have touch math to thank for it.  
All along I have been teaching touch math with the same set of materials.  They're great, but they're getting a little ragged and I can really use some additional practice printables.  So I came up with Touch Math Magic {Basic Addition With Touch Points}.

This packet includes an informational note to parents, touch point number posters, desk helpers, memorization cards, and 40 printable practice pages.  The practice pages are simple and come in a variety of layouts.

There is also a set of play dough (or wikki stix or dry erase) mats that are perfect for touch point memorization.
(I'll use these mats as part of my beginning of the year math centers.)

I'm really excited to start the year with this set of resources to supplement what I already have.  If you are interested in this packet, you can find out more about it at my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  

Below you will find a FREE set of touch point number posters from this packet.  Click on the picture for your copy.

Touch math is a great math strategy for young learners.  If you have never used it before, it's definitely worth checking out.
As always, thanks for stopping by and have a wonderful weekend.