Thursday, July 21, 2011

Things I'm Happy I Do in My Classroom (that is until I find a better way to do them)

As I've been exploring all the great ideas available on the internet, jumping from blog to blog and website to website I am very well aware that there is a lot of good stuff out there.  One of the problems with seeing such great stuff is that it makes me feel like I'm not doing enough.  Obviously I'm here learning so that I can continue to improve my teaching,  but I also need to acknowledge that there already is a lot that I do that I'm happy about, at least for now.

Feeling over whelmed I felt it was important for me to actually document things I do in my classroom that I'm happy with.  Things that I feel make  a positive impact to my teaching and the learning of my students.  But as you'll see as you read, even things that I do that I'm happy with are still being constantly tweaked.

Community Read - two mornings a week when the children are dropped off for school  I  invite their parents/caregivers/siblings into my classroom to read with their children. I began it with much doubt of success from my colleagues, but it has been nothing but successful.  For those that don't have visitors to read with they either double up with other children and their families, or they read with one another.  During community read the children typically read from their just right book boxes (see below for details on those).  This takes place for the first 15 minutes of the day although I'm considering starting it five minutes earlier (before the first bell) to encourage those parents that need to rush off to work to arrive a bit earlier so they have the extra time to read with their children.  I'm also thinking that I will once again invite older siblings, or big buddies to come and join those children with no one to read with.

Free Write - three mornings a week (soon to be changed to two with the addition of Free Talk one morning a week in  the 2011/12 school year) I allow the children to "Free Write". Obviously I provide mini lessons on what "Free Write" looks like in the classroom but once it's up and running the children are free to write what they want, how they want - eg on computer, using stamps, using stickers,  on the giant white board, in mini books, in their free write notebooks etc.  What I found this year is that their desire to write increased and so too did their ability to write.  Free write is above and beyond the writing we do in the literacy part of my program.  It's been  a great way to start the day and get everyone settled and it encourages children to arrive on time.

Just Right Book Boxes - each student in my class has their very own Just Right Book Box. In it they keep their guided reading books (and if they go for extra reading support those books too), their poetry books, their chosen just right books, and their literacy conferences book (more about that below).  I help my class figure out what a just right book for them is.  The books in the boxes are always changing as interests and reading levels change.  These book boxes are used all the time and the children love having their own book boxes.  The parents love them too because they can easily see what their children are reading and they can snoop in their literacy conferences book to see what goals they are working on (again more on these below).

Just Right Book Boxes

Home Reading Book Cart - A few years back one of my fellow teaching colleagues pushed our administration for money to create a k/1 home reading book cart.  Over time our cart grew from one to two and our collection of books continues to grow.  Our home reading book cart is kept in the k/1 hallway and is shared by three grade one classes and three kindergarten classes (plus the odd grade two or three student that can benefit from our lower levelled books).  It gets a lot of use.  The books on the cart are sorted into the Fountas and Pinnel reading levels and are a pretty equal balance of fiction and non fiction.  The students know what their just right level is  so they take appropriate levelled books home to read.  As their reading levels increase they change the tub the chose from (never really getting bored at any one level). Each child has a library pocket on a class chart and each book has a card in it.  Each night the children leave their book card in their library pocket on the class chart.  They return the book the next morning, put the card back into the book and chose a new book for that night.  I find that by sharing all the books we have a much larger variety of books. It's been a real success and relatively easy to maintain.  It's something that makes me happy.

Home Reading Book Cart

Literacy Conference Books - for the 2010/11 school year I created individual literacy conferences books for the students in my class.  I found in the past I was setting individual goals with my students but had no real specific place where the goals were being recorded - they were being recorded but just in a whole bunch of different places.  This frustrated me so last year I created the Literacy Conferences Book.  It is a small notebook that is written in from both sides at the same time.

For the first side of the notebook I created a simple cover which says, "Literacy Conferences - Writing". On the inside cover I glue in a goal setting sheet.  It's the same sheet for everyone but obviously the goals are different for each student.  I created the sheet by looking at the goals I set with my students the year before, then I tried to organize them into a way that would work for me.  I put all writing conference notes into this side of the notebook.  I also write any things I notice about their writing but don't have a chance (or I just don't find the time) to tell them. The students can add their own notes too to help them remember the goal(s) they are working on.  The parents can "snoop" into this notebook too when they come for community read (or any other time they are able to get into our classroom).  Maybe next year I may even invite the parents to write their own comments in the book too.  We'll see.

The simple cover I glue on the front of the writing side of the notebook.

The form I glue into the inside cover of the writing side of the notebook.

The flip side of the same notebook is the Literacy Conferences Reading side.  It operates similarly to the writing side in that I glue a cover on the front (which is actually the back of the same notebook as the writing one) and on the inside cover I glue in a list of reading goals.  But... that's what I did last year.  The goals I set up really had me frustrated and didn't work for me.  So, at the end of the school year I created a different sheet.  Instead of it being a list of reading goals, it's a list of reading strategies.  The list has come from a variety of sources but most credit has to go to The Cafe Book by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser.  I haven't used this sheet yet so I'm excited to give it a try this September.  On this side of the notebook I record all reading based comments.  I'll do informal running records in the book, I'll glue in reading strategies to work on, I'll make comments about their oral reading and reading comprehension etc.  This book is brought to all guided reading sessions, and individual conferences.  Again this book is kept in each child's just right book box so it's easily accessible by me and by parents.

The simple cover I glue on the front of the reading side of the notebook.

The form I glue into the inside cover of the reading side of the notebook.

This year I didn't finish any notebooks although I did come close.  However if one side met the other side  it would just be time for a second notebook set up the exact same way.

So these are a few things I'm doing in my classroom that I'm really happy with.  Maybe you've got something you're doing that you'd like to share with me?  I'm always willing to try new things (that is if they pass my critical analyzing first).

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