Friday, June 14, 2013

Problem Solving: Don't Solve the Problem

Are you frustrated with trying to teach problem solving? Here is a novel idea: Try not solving it. 

Materials you will need: word problems (look in your math T.E.'s, math centers, math journal topics, etc.), Math Action Posters - I have 1 addition poster that says Join, and 3 subtraction poster - compare, find the missing part, and separate.

Procedure: Tell kids that today we are not going to solve math problems. Nope! They are not to solve the problem. Instead they need to tell you what math action is happening in the problem.  So read the first problem: Mary Jane has 3 cookies. Juanita gives her 2 more. How many cookies does Mary Jane have?  Have them decide ( now here is the key): WHAT IS HAPPENING? Is something joining? Are the cookies separating? Are we looking for missing cookies? Are we comparing Mary Jane and Juanita's cookies? Once they understand you are NOT solving the problem, just thinking about what is happening problem solving gets easier.  This is the step we skip over too often and this is the step that kids don't get most often.  So once they understand ACTIONS, then they can understand the OPERATION that the action tells them to do.  So if they recognize the cookies are joining together, then they will know to add. The math action then tells them what operation to do. 

Such a simple activity, but so very hard for kids to get.  This is really good for all the different kinds of subtraction that there are. Try It!

No More Whole Group Phonics For Me

How many of you out there are like me? I hated teaching phonics whole group because I knew half the class didn't need it because the skill I was teaching was so far below their needs, the rest either needed it and couldn't attend whole group or weren't ready for it yet.
Well, this year I decided to take my guided reading and differentation to a new level. I decided to teach phonics in small group only during guided reading. No more whole group phonics lessons, which meant more time for guided reading. Who doesn't need more time for guided reading?
To do this, it meant that I was going to have to change how I used my assessments. In my district, we use TPRI (Texas Primary Reading Inventory - similar to DIBELS I gather) along with the Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark Kit. I used what I learned about children's phonics skills and used them to decide on the starting point for phonics instruction for their group, not just what level they read at.
So some groups started the year with short vowels, some with alphabet knowledge,  and some I started with a quick review of short vowels and moved right on into long vowels.
Naturally, I wanted to share what I had done. Behold! My newest creation. I have been working on this baby all year. I have been using the lesson plans and materials this year with my own kiddos and have seen some tremendous growth as a result. 

This is my guided reading lesson plan and material pack vol. 1 for short vowels (vol. 2 for long vowels, and vol. 3 for vowel digraphs and dipthongs will follow later this summer). It contains 11 weeks of short vowel guided reading lessons.  This pack provides all you need except for the books and poems, which I used from the basal series - it is good for some things. You can use the resources here for groups at any level. In some cases, I was teaching one phonics skill but using leveled readers at different levels to ensure everyone was getting what they needed.  With these materials, you can differentiate by better matching what students need to be learning.   

Interested? Click on the picture below to check out this pack at my TPT store.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Guided Reading: Fitting It All In

Welcome to Day 3 of Guided Reading Boot Camp!  The age old do I fit it all in? Well, I may not have a magic answer, but I hope how I organize my time will give you some ideas.

I have 5 groups of readers.
I am a general ed teacher in a special education collaborative classroom. My collab teacher takes 3 of the kids who are the lowest and works with them. I don't meet with them for guided reading.
So now I have 4 groups of readers who I see 4 times a week. How?

Blue group - lowest group below level
Red Group - on level group
Yellow Group- slightly above level group
Green Group- really high group

(yeah, I am not very creative in the group naming department - colors are easy)

I have 3 round each about 20-25 minutes. What? But I have 4 groups.

Round 1: I meet with Green Group- introduce their phonics skill with an activity, intro the leveled book for the week, and then review the independent work they will do the remainder of the week
Round 2: Meet with Blue Group
Round 3: Meet with Red Group

Round 1: Meet with Blue Group. 
Round 1 (on carpet next to teacher table): Green Group reading book and works on assignment for the day. While Blue group rereads for fluency, I take this time to get Green group going and to answer questions about the day's assignment.
Round 2: Meet with Red Group
Round 3: Meet with Yellow Group

Round 1: Meet with Yellow Group
Round 2: Meet with Green Group- review their phonics skill, review their work from the week and discuss the story, take a running record on 2 students
Round 3: HFW tests

If I didn't have the collab teacher, I would be rotating the red and yellow groups and meeting with blue and group 5 every day.  So Tuesday & Thursday I would meet with Red while Yellow is working independently on the floor on activity from previous guided reading book. On Wednesday & Friday, Yellow would meet with me while Red was on the floor working independently. 

The key to making the floor groups work is proximity to the teaching table and accountability for the day's work.

Hope this helps.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Classroom Management: Quick Pick & Sticker Sticks

Every year, I create two sets of sticks - quick picks & sticker sticks.  I use jumbo craft sticks to create these.
Quick Picks are sticks with numbers of the students in my class. (Each child has a number.) I use these to call on students to answer questions or anytime I need to pick a student for something.

Sticker Sticks - I get stickers to match my theme. I get stickers that have a matching pair. For example, two sticks will have a green robot, two will have a red robot, etc.  I do this for 11 pairs (a total of 22 students).  I use these whenever I need to have students work in groups.  They each draw a stick, then find their matching pair.  If I need larger groups of 4, then I have them pair up with another group. If I have an odd number of students then the odd man out gets to pick the group he joins to make a triad.

Cheap and easy. Hope this helps.

Guided Reading: Lessons

Welcome to day 2 of my Guided Reading boot camp!

Today we will talk lessons.  Now each box in the long range planner is a week in guided reading lessons.  A lesson for me runs 4 days as such:

Fluency: Students begin by rereading previous guided reading books and high frequency word lightning pages from their book bags while I get myself set up for the group.

After this, each day brings a different plan

Day 1:
Phonics: introduce the phonics skill for the week - a says /a/ like in apple, read short a CVC & high frequency word cards, use 2 cubes that I made 1 has different short a word families (at, ap, etc.) and the other has consonants and consonant blends (b, r, t, etc.).The kids roll the cubes and say the words.  They say if they are real or nonsense and play moves to the next reader.
Reading: Introduce the book, build background, bookwalk, frontload words, make predictions, then let kids read independently listening and cueing as necessary.
Responding: Elkonkin boxes - write short a CVC words

Day 2:
Phonics: review short a sound, read short a CVC & HFW cards, word sort as a group some CVC words
Reading: start by having kids ask a question about the book, students reread independently while teacher listens and cues as necessary. I take a running record on 1-2 kids on 1-2 pages at this point.
Responding: writing sort - this time you say the word and they decide where to put the word and have to spell it. Can do this is word family books.

Day 3:
Phonics: review short a sound, read short a CVC & HFW cards, making words  - teacher directed (short a words of course)
Reading: read a decodable short a book, Review the guided reading story with the genre's comprehension organizer, students reread book to find or prove answers as necessary. I take a running record on 1-2 kids on 1-2 pages at this point.
Responding: sight word fluency writing: write the sight words as many times as they can in -- seconds/minutes.

Day 4:
Phonics: review short a sound, read short a CVC & HFW cards, word sort on their own this time
Reading: read a decodable short a book, I take a running record on 1-2 kids on 1-2 pages at this point.
Responding: writing response related to the book such as draw a picture of a time you __ and write about it. If you have leveled readers provided to you with plans as the Journeys program provides, you can use the Writing response page.

Tune into tomorrow for how to fit in all your groups.

Hope this helps.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

End of Year Filler #2

Here is another time filler or center activity:

Picture writing
Step 1: get pictures- from magazines, calendars, greeting cards,pokemon cards, baseball cards, anything and everything
Step 2: hand out - or if using in a center, put in a box
Step 3: students write about the pictures.  For my firsties, I wanted them to write 5 sentences. 1 descriptive sentence. 1 question.1 exclamatory sentence. 2 sentences about the tells about the picture and answers a "wh" question.
Some of the best writing I ever got was from this activity.  They loved my example and couldn't wait to get their picture.

from Pat Pavelka - check out her video here

Friday, May 4, 2012

Planning for Next Year

I know...The school year has not officially ended and I am writing about next year, but this was one tough year.  Hence, my non-existent posts. So I really need to look forward to something right now other than summer.

I found a wonderful site ( through a teacher friend and I have to say I am hooked.  I am so ready to start planning my classroom decor.  I am planning on going with the bird theme right now, but there is a lot of time between now and the beginning of next year.

I especially like her ideas about decorating to keep a fire marshall happy.   

Check it out! You won't be disappointed.

Hope it helps.