Thursday, April 10, 2014

Organizing Homework

I'm linking up with Carla from the Comprehension Connection to share a tip for collecting homework.

In my 20 years of teaching, I've tried a number of methods for collecting students' homework, but this little pocket chart changed my life.  ;)
Lakeshore Learning
As a reading specialist, I no longer have a homeroom.  However, I still share this little tip with all my teacher friends.  

This is how it worked:  

Students were assigned a specific pocket in alphabetical order.  In the morning as my first graders would arrive to class, they would empty out their folder and put their homework sheet in their pocket.

The chart was located in a spot where we gathered for our morning meeting.  As a student gave the morning calendar report, it was easy for me to glance at the pocket chart for missing homework.

I kept a class checklist in one of the extra pockets, and I simply pulled it out and marked an X for missing homework or an A for an absent student.  It took me a matter of seconds.

The Student-of-the-Day would take the papers out of the pockets (still in alphabetical order) and place them on my desk.  It made correcting the papers and returning them to the students' mailboxes so much easier.

What's your secret to making homework hassle-free?  Leave a comment here or link up with the Comprehension Connection to share your idea.  :)



Wednesday, April 9, 2014

SLANT Box and a Giveaway :)

Have you heard of The SLANT Box Exchange? SLANT stands for Sending Love Across the Nation to Teachers. It's a monthly gift exchange for teachers hosted by Lessons with Coffee.  I love, love, love this idea!  



I spent the month of March to know two amazing teacher-bloggers, Meghan from Keeping Up With Mrs. Harris and Amanda from Third Grade Fabulous.

Meghan is my first match; she is a K-3 intervention specialist in Georgia, and she sent her SLANT Box my way.  How awesome is it that she shares my passion for teaching intervention kiddos?!  Here's a little peek at the goodies she selected for me.  I love the navy and pink running shorts... a subtle reminder that I need to get out there and run, lol.  :)

I shipped my SLANT Box to North Carolina.  Amanda is a third grade teacher.  From coffee to an addiction for cute office supplies, Amanda and I have so much in common.  Here's a sneak peek at the box I sent her way.  But you'll have to hop over to her blog to see what's inside.  ;)


This project was super fun.  It was wonderful getting to know Meghan and Amanda.  I'm looking forward to continuing these new friendships.

Giveaway Announcement: 


My friend, Andrea at Reading Toward the Stars, is celebrating her 2nd bloggy birthday by throwing a huge giveaway.  Several of her blogging buddies, myself included, have donated items for the giveaway.  Hop on over to wish her a happy birthday and enter her raffle for a chance to win some really awesome prizes.  :)



Monday, April 7, 2014

The New Daily 5: Chapter Three

Once again I'm linking up with my friend Jen from That First Grade Blog. We've been discussing The Daily 5, Second Edition by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser.  




Chapter three is all about teaching students to become independent readers and writers.  In a nut shell: set clear expectations;  model, model, model;  practice, practice, practice; and take time to reflect. Boushey and Moser describe in depth the ten step to teaching and learning independence.


Step 1: Identify What Is Being Taught

The first step is super easy.  When launching Daily 5 lessons, a simple routine is established. Tell students exactly what is going to be taught. Create an anchor chart that will be referenced throughout the year. The Sisters call this an I-Chart, short for independence.  The I-Chart lists the responsibilities of the students on one side and the responsibilities teacher on the other side.

Step 2: Set a Purpose and Create a Sense of Urgency

Students work best when they know the importance of the task at hand.  Gather at the meeting place and create an I-Chart listing the reasons for the Daily 5.  Students help to create the chart, so they are invested in it.  They have ownership.

Step 3: Record Desired Behavior on an I-Chart

Meet at the gathering place and list the desired behaviors on an I-Chart.  This is a notable change from the first edition, where students brainstormed the list and the lesson became too lengthy.

For younger students with shorter attention spans, you may wish to list only a few desired behaviors the first day and return to the chart later to add more.

Step 4: Model Most-Desirable Behaviors

Invite students to role-play the desired behaviors.  Engage students in a discussion about what they saw being modeled.  Ask students if these behaviors will lead to better readers and writers...yes!

Step 5: Model Least Desirable Behaviors, Then Most-Desirable Behaviors Again

Invite a student to model incorrect or least desirable behaviors.  Ask students if these behaviors will lead to better readers and writers...of course not.  Then ask the same student to model the desired behaviors.  This is a great opportunity to select a child that may experience difficulty during Daily 5.  The student has 'fun' role-playing, but you begin to shape his/her behaviors.

Step 6: Place Students Around the Room

Students learn how to choose a spot in which to work.  The students with the greatest length of stamina are invited to go first.  Students choose their spots by asking themselves, "Is this a spot where I can be most successful?"  


Step 7: Practice and Build Stamina

This step is so important to the success of The Daily 5 implementation.  Students practice and build stamina.  If a student goes off-task, the signal is given and students regroup.  The teacher keeps a class poster of the stamina built everyday.  It's a terrific motivator for students and a visual reminder of their successes.  

Since each class of students is different, your students' behavior will set the pace for building stamina each year.  

Step 8: Stay Out of the Way 

This step may be the most difficult for teachers.  Once students begin to practice and build stamina, teachers need to step out of their path. They will learn independence when they rely upon themselves to get the job done. 


Step 9: Use A Quiet Signal to Bring Students Back to the Gathering Place

When stamina breaks down and less desirable behaviors occur, use a quiet signal to call students to the gathering place.  The Sisters suggest the "Above-Pause-Whisper" method.  Use an above signal (for example- a rain stick or chime), pause until you have students' attention, and then whisper the directions. 


Step 10: Conduct a Group Check-In

It is important to have a check-in after each independent work session to reflect on how things went.  Ask students to rate how they performed and set a goal for the following day.  I-charts and expectations can be revisited if needed.  

Are you using The Daily 5 in your classroom? What are your greatest successes? What aspects are most difficult for you? Please share your thoughts in the comments or join the book club and link up with my friend, Jen, at That First Grade Blog.  :)

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The New Daily 5 - Chapter Two

Our Core Beliefs: The Foundation of the Daily 5



In chapter two, Boushey and Moser explain six core beliefs of The Daily 5.  Chapter 3 will explain the seventh core belief.  These core beliefs are the foundation of The Daily 5.


"Meaningful learning requires respect and trust between teachers and students." 


In this section, The Sisters discuss the importance of trusting and respecting all of our students.  We must establish a classroom community built on trust and respect and continue to develop it as the year progresses.  We must also explicitly teach and practice expected behaviors.  Over time students learn to self-monitor their own behavior.

We must trust that students will display the expected behaviors during Daily 5 time.  If a student is not reading and writing independently, we must believe that it isn't because the child wanted to misbehave, but rather, he need more time to practice expectations and build stamina. This is a perfect opportunity for reteaching.

The Sisters suggest checking in before, during, and after Daily 5 with students that are experiencing difficulty. This is a great way to build confidence and redirect behaviors in a respectful manner.



As teachers we spend a great deal of time creating a sense of community in our classrooms.  Its starts from the very first day of school by getting to know one another.  A healthy classroom culture provides members with ownership.  Students hold each other accountable for learning, behavior, effort, order, and kindness.

In The Daily 5 model, the whole community rejoices when students achieve their goals.  Similarly, they join together to encourage, support, and hold each other accountable for learning behaviors.



Choice.  It's the one that gets me every. single. time.  It's such a simple thing, really.  Children LOVE choice.  It's self-motivating and puts them in charge of their own learning.  So why is it so difficult for me to relinquish that control?  I like structure and routine.  I get a little nervous when I step outside of that box.  I worry that students' choices are going to lead to off task behavior.  When this happens, it is time to refer back to principle number one, trust and respect.


In The Daily 5 model, accountability is a two-way street.  Both teachers and students must be held accountable for what goes on during Daily 5. Teachers must explicitly teach students exactly what our expectations are for Daily 5 time.  It is the teacher's responsibility to hold brief meetings with students when a break-down in routines occurs. Problems are addressed and expectations reviewed and practiced during the class meetings.  

Similarly, students are held accountable for choosing an appropriate spot in the room to sit, maintaining an acceptable level of noise, selecting meaningful writing topics and just-right books, and sustaining engagement in each activity.



The Sisters reviewed brain research to determine an appropriate length of time for the whole-group focused lessons. They learned that the chonological age of students is about equal the number of minutes students are able to stay attentive.  Due to these findings the sisters have shortened their whole-group lessons. 

The Sisters suggest using Regie Routman's 20/80 concept.  In traditional classrooms, teachers spend 80 percent of a lesson instructing ,while students spend 20 percent of the lesson practicing. Routman suggests flipping that model to be most effective: 20 percent of a lesson is direct instruction and 80 percent is student application. Students need lots of time to practice reading and writing, and they need timely, focused instruction help them grow.


The Daily 5 consists of five workshop sessions, or rounds. The length of time for each session varies, based on student stamina.  At the beginning of the school year, and with younger students, all five rounds take place during the literacy block. With older students, or once stamina is lengthened, there may only be two or three longer rounds.

Transitions are provided during Daily 5 each time a workshop round has ended.  Students clean up their materials and check-in at the large group area.  The check-in provides an opportunity for movement and a change of pace for students.  These breaks are the perfect time for a short, focused mini-lesson before moving to the next round.

Are you using The Daily 5 in your classroom?  What are your greatest successes?  What aspects are most difficult for you?  Please share your thoughts in the comments or join the book club and link up with my friend, Jen, at That First Grade Blog.  :)

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Phonemic Awareness

Phonological awareness, phonemic awareness, and phonics...do they all mean the same thing?  Join me today and tomorrow at Adventures in Literacy Land for a two-part post where I'll sort it all out for you, suggest a few great resources, and share five fabulous freebies.

Adventures in Literacy Land

Happy reading!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The New Daily 5: A Book Study

Have you heard about the new edition of The Daily 5 book?  Well I'm reading it for a book study that is being hosted by Jen @ That First Grade Blog right now.  I can't wait to share the chapter highlights with you.


About Me

First, I'd like to introduce myself to the book study group and share a little background about my school.

I'm an elementary reading specialist for grades 1-5.  My district has been using The Daily 5 framework for several years.  I participated in a book study at school for the original version when I was a first grade teacher.  We implemented Daily 5 later that year.

Our school currently uses The Daily 5 framework at the primary level and our own scaled down version (Daily 3) at the intermediate level.  I'm interested to see how the Boushey and Moser layout The Daily 3 compared to what we currently do.  I'm hoping to use what I learn from this edition to support classroom teachers.


Chapter One Highlights

The chapter opens with this quote from Regie Routman: 
The typical teacher has children doing a lot of "stuff."  How is what I am having children do creating readers and writers?
I think this quote asks an important question about our reading instruction.  It sets the tone for the book and is the basis of The Daily 5.

Boushey and Moser explain how their beliefs about literacy instruction and teaching practices have evolved over time.  They discuss how, in the past, their teaching was basal driven with students completing busy work quietly at their seats.

After years of research and working with experts in the field of reading, they have come to understand that engaging in authentic acts of reading and writing every day is what children need in order to become better readers and writers.

Thus, The Daily 5 was born:  Read to Self, Read to Someone, Listen to Reading, Work on Writing, and Word Work.

One shift in the new edition is that students may not do all five of these activities in one day.  But rather, teachers may choose to do The Daily 3. In this model, the two constants would be Read to Self and Work on Writing.  Students would choose their third activity and the order in which they completed all three activities. 

I think what's most worth remembering from Chapter 1 is that The Daily 5 offers a framework for the literacy block where students engage in meaningful reading and writing activities, with most of their time being spent reading.  How beautifully simple, yet effective!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Mentor Texts for Writing Ideas

I'm joining my blogging buddy, Carla @ The Reading Tutor OG, for the Mentor Monday Linky. Carla is a guest blogger today, while Emily enjoys time with her precious newborn baby girl. :)
This week the topic is using mentor texts to wake up writing with wonderful ideas.

Ideas make up the content of a piece of writing, the heart of the message.  Writers develop ideas in a several ways:
  • They choose fresh, original ideas.
  • They write about something that matters to them.
  • They narrow their topic and get specific.
  • They develop their idea by adding interesting information.
  • They make their idea come to life with juicy details.
However, sometimes writers have difficulty getting started.  They get stuck trying to select an idea that motivates them to write.
Heart Map {Freebie} created by 3rd Grade Grid Iron
Invite writers to create Heart Maps.  Students fill in their heart maps with things they love: interests, hobbies, sports, people and places that are close to their hearts, etc. Anytime students need inspiration, they refer back to their heart maps.

Mentor Text for Writing Ideas:
Nothing Ever Happens on 90th Street by Roni Schotter


A few years ago I came across a book that is perfect for encouraging students to push past writer's block.  In the book, Nothing Ever Happens on 90th Street, Eva's neighbors offer her advice as she struggles to come up with a good writing topic.  

After reading the story with students, we record the neighbors' advice on chart paper.  Then students use the advice to develop their own stories.

What books have you found helpful for waking up writing with wonderful ideas?  I'd love to know.  Leave a comment or link up with The Reading Tutor OG to share your thoughts.  :)

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!