Wednesday, March 19, 2014

An Upper Grade Perspective on The Daily 5 (New Edition!)

I am so excited to be linking up with Kelley at Buggy for Learning as we venture through the NEW edition of The Daily 5. What? You didn't know there was a new edition? Yep, there is! And together, Kelley and I are looking at the new book with an lower grade/upper grade perspective. Want to read along with us? Come on! Grab your book (and, in my case, your reading glasses too!) and join us!

Kelley is the faster reader, so I am sitting beside her for Chapter 2...

The Sisters begin this chapter talking about TRUST--trusting that kids can develop the stamina to stay focused and engaged during authentic reading and writing activities. By the second page of the chapter, my heart was glowing... Their passion and caring for kids is so evident! You can actually hear their voices saying to readers, " 'We believe in you. We trust that you can do it.' " (page 24).

I have seen the Sisters present at a conference. Authenticity was quickly evident. It's clear that they DO believe that kids can learn to be successful, engaged, independent readers. And you can feel that same sentiment as you read this book.

Trust comes about through a systematic building of COMMUNITY where readers and writers can find a place, without worrying about their skill level, knowing that their successes will be recognized and celebrated. The tone of this section is so buoying, I found my self wishing it could be September all over again!

The role of CHOICE is infused in many aspects of Daily 5. Whether it be what they read, where they sit or which activity they choose at a given time, student choice helps build the foundation for success. This necessitates that we, as teachers, give up a little control in the belief that students will pick up that same control and make good choices.

In any classroom, ACCOUNTABILITY is a necessity. But I got a surprise when I read, "We needed to be accountable to our students..." I loved that! This is what makes The Daily 5 so compelling. Students and teachers are partners in the development of reading and writing skills. And, yes, they do need to be accountable for using their time well and making good choices, but I have a responsibility is designing a classroom where that is possible.

The Sisters refer to BRAIN RESEARCH often throughout the book, and I found myself laughing as I read about limiting the amount of teacher talk in lessons. I, too, have seen my students "zone out" when I was teaching what I thought was an "exhilarating" lesson. Like it or not, our brains can only handle so much input at a time before they need a break from all of that well-intended "action." Citing Regie Routman's work, the authors discuss the importance of having less time spent on our teaching and talking and more time spent on kids actually practicing and using the skills we are teaching them.

Based on this consideration, the need for BRAIN AND BODY BREAKS is a logical conclusion. Work in Daily 5 classrooms is broken up into "rounds" with the length of work time determined by students' stamina. In between, students put away materials and come back together. This simple infusion of movement allows for students' brains to readjust and get ready or the next "round" of learning. They are quick to point out, however, that these "breaks" need to be taught... in fact, teaching remains at the core of so much of this work. We teach students the elements of Daily 5 so that they will have the skills to "take off" and learn more as they work. Further differentiation is possible when students can manage themselves and their learning.

Chapter two was so motivating, I found myself anxious to get to school and watch some of the elements in action. While I have implemented different components of Daily 5 in my classroom for the last four years, I found myself encouraged by the amount of trust that is possible when you you build a community of readers and writers in this way.

Although this chapter would be applicable to kids at any age or grade, Kelley is sharing some great ideas on the primary perspective. Why don't you hop on over where she is sharing about Daily 5 too!.

And, better still, grab a copy and read along with us. We'd love for you to join in on our discussion!

PS That fun frame around the book is from Paula Kim Studio on TpT!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Monday Made It: Seuss and Supplies!

It's been ages since I had the opportunity to link up with my buddy, Tara, and her Monday Made It link up! I am never crafty, but, now and then, I "make" something that leads to some extra fun in the classroom OR makes things run more smoothly... And I'm excited to share two of those things today!

I love to organize things... and this time I gave organization as a gift! I have a friend at my school who works with different groups of children all day long (and some of them are from my classroom!) She literally has a parade of kiddos in and out all day long, and it's hard to keep supplies organized when everything (and everyone) has to move so quickly. I decided that I would try to make an organizational system that would let the kids put things away--with minimal effort.

Many of the kids that spend time in her room are from primary grade classrooms, and many are English Learners, so I knew I needed to minimize the use of "words." (Looking over the pictures, I think I will re-do the labels to include pictures and words, but, alas, that "adjustment" will have to wait a while).

I like the way it turned out, but the real test will be in its efficiency in keeping supplies available and organized. I love the little containers in the drawers. They are large enough to make it easy for little hands to retrieve and put away materials. And since the containers are clear (other than the pencil trays), it's easy to see the materials in each drawer. The top drawer has pencils... lots and lots of pencils! She should have sharpened pencils for weeks! I also made a can for pencils that need to be sharpened and one of my students has volunteered to be her pencil monitor!

There are lots of materials that might be needed for (almost) any project she can imagine...

 And a variety of paper types for a variety of learners...

 Here are two views from "inside"...

I hope she loves it as much as I enjoyed making it for her!

My second "Made It" is more of a Borrowed-and-Used It" situation. We celebrated Read Across America a little late... but we had a great time!

The fourth, fifth and sixth grade students rotated through the classrooms, where they participated in different activities in each room. There was a Bingo room, and a drawing room, and word play room, and then there was my room... which was all about The Lorax and the need to save the trees...

Following a discussion about conservation and caring for our resources, we used these cards to play... SPOONS!

Many of my students do not know how to play "traditional" board and card games, so it always fun when we learn a new game together. I used graphics from "It's a Silly World" (Read Across America) clip art collection from the 3am Teacher to make the cards for our game. Such fun trees! It made the game so much more fun! And the kids loved them!


So that's the extent of my craftiness for the week (or month?!). I am thankful that Tara gives us a chance each month to share and showcase our "creations." I always love to see what others have shared in the link-up and I'm always in awe of the creativity of so many bloggers! Hop on over to Tara's blog and see for yourself... Just click the image below!

Thanks for visiting today...

Sunday, March 9, 2014

A Bright Classroom Management Idea: Number The Spots

I am so excited to be participating in the SECOND Bright Ideas Blog Hop! This is a special kind of Hopping Party: It's not about advertising TpT items or linking up to other products or printables. It IS about sharing good, solid strategies and ideas that are working in real classrooms.

 This time around, Shelley Grey from Teaching in the Early Years has organized over two hundred bloggers spanning the grade levels and content areas... so there is certain to be "something for everyone." Shelley has done an amazing job organizing us all. And I am truly excited to share my "Bright Idea" with you today!

I hate to admit that it often takes me a long time to learn things. I have tried a lot of organizational strategies over the years, with varied success, but once I implemented this one, my whole life got easier. That probably sounds overly dramatic, but it is, indeed, true.

Recently, I had to survive without my table numbers. Things were miserable and I couldn't wait to get them put back into place once again.

Now, I'm not talking about "table numbers" in the traditional sense. I currently have 34 kids, but I always set up for 36 kids. We have often "visitors" fora variety reasons or sometimes a student needs a more "comfortable" chair during an activity. I have groups of students at desks... three two-person tables making a total of six kids grouped together. And I have six table groupings which I call (cue drum roll...) Table 1, Table 2, Table 3... Okay, I think you get the idea. Like many teachers, I even have a number hanging above each table.  But that is not what I am talking about in this post.

I am talking about the numbers that are actually on each kid's desk. Every student's desk "spot" is numbered 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6. (There are two kids to a table, but they each have a numbered "spot.") We work at different tables all day--but that doesn't change things, because it's the spot that is numbered, no matter who is sitting there or what we are doing. By the way, until I wrote this post, I never knew how hard it would be to photograph the corner of a desk. Yaaaawwwnnn! It is less than thrilling to look at, but it IS important to this discussion!

And this is so easy to implement! If you are not color-crazy like me, you can skip down to the picture with the number on the white board. If color matters in your decor choices, read on!

First I ran off the numbers... 1 through 6 on a page. I hated to waste the extra space so I added a little affirmation in the corner. Every August when I print them up again, I get a cheerful little reminder! (Is it scary that I am still surprised to see it each year?) By the way, those are Jen Jones fonts and frames. Don't you just love Hello Literacy?!

When you cut up the page, you have six numbers of one color...


But that is not the plan! Most of you know that I am a little...ummmm... obsessive... when it comes to colors. I have six table groups and six "spots," so I run off the numbers on six colors. These are the colors in my room: purple, magenta, turquoise, and bright blue... with a few dashes of lime green and and occasional hint of orange. And these colors are reflected in my table numbers. Every table has all six numbers and all six colors... but at each table the same number is a different color. (Just think 6 x 6 if you want to get "mathy" about it). It doesn't matter if this description doesn't make sense. This is not a Common Core math word problem. Relax. Just go with it... (And I am sure that if the whole table had the same color--or even if every single "spot" had the same color, the system would work just as well!)

Then I cut up some Contact paper, just slightly larger than the size of the numbers. I know contact paper is a bit "old school," but it works great in this situation. If you cut the Contact paper large enough and get a good seal, the kids are less likely to pry up the numbers. The Contact paper keeps the numbers on the table. It potects the numbers from being torn (or written on). And it helps keep the colored paper from "running" if the desks are being cleaned or there is something liquid on the table.

The Contact paper I have is made by the official "ConTact" manufacturer (or so I'm guessing!) It is very durable and it sticks well to the desks. It also has grid lines which makes cutting the rectangles a snap. I used my paper cutter because... well, just because, but, with the grid lines, scissors would probably work too! I like to cut them all at once. And I always cut extras because I either mess up when I am affixing them to the desks or some calamity occurs and I have to replace the numbers. I keep a set of extra numbers too!

Then I mix up the numbers. As I said, the color of each number varies from table to table. And I like to arrange them randomly. The kids spend a lot of time wondering about my system. Here's the truth: I don't have a system. I just don't like to have the blue number from table 1 next to the blue number from table 2... etc. It is a bit like a classroom Sudoku puzzle, and it is fun to do when your To Do list is lengthy and you just can't face anything else you're supposed to be doing! Also, my tables have rounded corners, so I cut one corner on the diagonal so that it fits across the rounded edge and doesn't lift up as easily.

In the end, it looks like this. I couldn't get a "sky shot" of my room, so I had to just "go graphic." Now imagine six table groupings that look just like this...

So why is this helpful???

Because... this is one of the best management systems I have ever used!

Each week, it is another "number's" responsibility to make things work in our classroom. In the picture below, you can see it is #4's week. 

So, if you are sitting at the spot in your table grouping with #4... You have sooooooooo much to do! And I can relinquish responsibility for about 23 tasks... which builds responsibility into the classroom AND keeps everything humming smoothly. I think we are at Day #112 at my school. At this point, there are so many things that happen without me thinking--or even asking.

For the list to make sense, you need to know that we have supply boxes on our desks filled with the supplies that we need throughout the day. If, for example, we needed scissors, and I was foolish enough to say, "Please get a pair of scissors for the next activity..."I KNOW there would be 34 sets of hands (that's 68, if you are counting!) grabbing for scissors. Even with warnings and pleas, I have seen this simple request turn into a nightmare. Now I say, "If you are sitting at spot 4, please pass out scissors to the people at your table." The table numbers reduce the scenario to one set of hands per table...and life goes on happily!

What else do we use the numbers for? Anything that needs to happen for six kids and can be accomplished with the help of just one. Just yesterday I am sure I asked...

And those are just the things I could think of at the moment. Because students have the responsibility for a week at a time, things fall into place quickly. Then I change the "big number" Friday afternoon, I announce it on Monday morning when we take on new classroom jobs for the week, and the responsibility shifts to the next number.

For years, I chose a student at each table by a descriptor such as: If you are the one with the most pockets, the earliest birthday, the tallest, the least tall, the one wearing the most colors, ETC. That's sort-of-fun for the first week... and then I find that all of that thinking takes more time than the lesson I have planned! Now I just say, "Number 6, please get a basket of algebra tiles for you and your tablemates," and we quickly transition to the next lesson.

Ahhhh. Contented sigh. I've been wanting to share this strategy for a while. Maybe you already do this and I am the only one tardy to the party. I think it work just as well in a small class (5 tables of 4, for example) because one of the benefits is that it limits the number of kids out of their chairs and reduces the number of students asking, "Can I help?"

I am glad I have this system in place. I know it has saved me plenty of time and more than a few headaches! Thanks for listening to me ramble on about it!

I am guessing you are now READY to hop over to your next stop...

Angela at the Daily Alphabet is talking about an easy math focus! Her blog is always filled with fun-to-read posts and I just know you are going to love her Bright Ideas about number sense. Just click on that cheery button below to take you there!

Or, if you are in more of a "random" mood at the moment, just click on any of the links below! Wishing you a wonderful time along the way as you meet some new bloggers and gather some great new "Bright Ideas"!

Thanks SO MUCH for stopping by! And thanks to Amy Alvis for the background paper!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Five for Friday... and RAIN!

WOW! What a week... Okay, I'll admit: I think I say that every week!

Today I am linking up with Kacey at Doodle Bugs for her Five for Friday linky party. I don't get myself organized for this link-up very often, but I always enjoy seeing what other people post. And today my little purple bloggy button will be in the mix!

Here's a peek at some things that happened in sixth grade during this week of February...

I think we are FINALLY getting the hang of fractions! I know, I know... This is a fourth grade skill. But we are slowly making progress (and I also have seven kids who are working on some advanced algebra skills). Despite our slow pace, I honestly think that fractions have become more "understandable" to more kids this year than any other year. Sometimes they say they "see" fractions (in a good way!). I hope to send them to middle school with better number sense and more confidence. And I think fractions and decimals provide the foundation for understanding and accessing many other math concepts.

I gave the test twice (with different problems) this week. By the second round, more than half of the students scored "proficient." It was a new class record! One of my kids (who really struggles with math) went from getting none right on the first test to answering seven out of eight correctly on the second test. I cried! Then she cried! Then we both had a great laugh. Sometimes teaching is truly JOYful!

The fourth of my five reading groups is finally getting comfortable with Book Clubs. After complaining (extensively!) that it was too hard and that the book was too confusing, they are slowly becoming comfortable with reading for meaning and discussing the text. This group was not used to the "analytical" part of reading; they just wanted to know what happened next (and how many pages to the end). How fun to drop in on their group and hear them asking each other questions and even challenging an answer now and then. One more group to add to the mix (hopefully, next week) and they will all be a part of a book study. Whew!

I love a happy accident. Somehow I ordered the same item from Really Good Stuff (which I call Really Great Stuff!) three times. (I really should LOOK before I hit "Submit"!) Now I have a collection of pencil baskets in the prettiest colors! Even if I never use them, I will just enjoy stacking them up and rearranging the colors!  I DO have plans for a few, but twenty-four? Maybe I could have a bloggy giveaway?!

I just LOVE the TpT sale! Although I have a store, I am far more interested in being a purchaser! I bought lots of great stuff... including Ashley Hughes' umbrellas... HERE at TpT. Even the sale banners were pretty! This one was made by friend, Zippy, at Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah Designs. She's another of my go-to clip artists. Check out her shop if you aren't familiar with her lovely work.

I'm so proud to be a part of the TpT community... and prouder still to know so many teachers who create and share such wonderful things. I'm guessing that TpT has saved me hundreds of hours--and I have been able to purchase lessons and activities that I wouldn't have thought to create even if I did have the time! I can't wait to try out some of my new purchases next week...

It rained on Thursday! Rain. I can hardly remember what it looks like, it has been so long. (This group of kids has heard the words, "California drought" more often than most classes through the years.) The rain didn't last, and it wasn't much, but it DID happen during recess. (Of course!) I brought my rain boots... and I didn't get to wear them because there were no puddles! 

I bought these boots for a trip to Canada several (and I mean several) years ago. They are my "adventure" shoes, but occasionally they are called into service when it rains... which is, well, seldom. At this rate, my rain boots will outlive me!

On Friday, it rained MORE! We are just not used to rain in our corner of the country! More than once, I saw the kids looking out the window, mesmerized. At one point, there was rain and wind. Several were convinced there would be a tornado. Or a hurricane. Or a tsunami. Not that it changed anything. Most of the boys were wearing shorts. Two of the girls had on short-sleeved shirts--and no jacket. And there was only one umbrella in the bunch... brought by a child new to the United States!

Somehow the rain was a nice ending to the day. It felt a little like it was polishing off the week and getting us ready for what lies ahead.

This weekend will be spent doing report cards and sorting through my TpT acquisitions from the sale (YIPPEE!). I hope that the weekend finds you well, with a chance to mix school thoughts with some relaxation.

Now check back into Doodle Bugs' linky. Better yet, let all of us know how YOUR week went...