Drafting & Revising How-to Books, FREEBIE

WOW! Coaching basketball has kept me busy for the past month, but I'm back to blogging (and ON BREAK!!!!) Yay!

I know you are probably neck-deep in holiday activities right now, but today I'm playing "catch up" with a writing workshop post- I wanted to finish what I started when I began sharing my "how-to" writing journey with my class this year, so today I'm sharing how we drafted and revised our how-to books! I love to read about how other teachers run their workshops, and I hope you are able to pick up a couple ideas here! If you'd like to read how we brainstormed, click HERE, and how we planned our books, click HERE.
Drafting and Revising How-to Books, Creating a Thoughtful Classroom
My writing workshop always starts out with a mini-lesson during which I usually model for the kids, and then they go off and write independently, hopefully ready to try out some of the things that I've shown them. I plan my mini-lessons as I go through the unit, trying to stay 1 step ahead of my most proficient writers so that I can model each stage of the process for them. If I don't do that, I find that my "fast" writers quickly say, "I'm done!" Well, we all know that they're not! The goal of writing workshop is to try to extend their comfort zone just a little bit, each step of the way so that thay grow as authors.

For the drafting stage, I showed them how I could use my planner to write my draft by elaborating on my ideas into complete sentences. If you take a look, the first part that I drafted is written in purple.
Drafting and Revising How-to Books, Creating a Thoughtful Classroom
The brown text and "tip" are revisions-- see more about that below!

On each page, I also modelled how authors use transition words to organize their writing. I printed off this min-anchor chart for my students to keep in their writing folders and refer to when they drafted. It worked well because they used transition words throughout their drafts! Click on the picture to download a copy!
Drafting and Revising How-to Books, Creating a Thoughtful Classroom

I also modelled how I can use onset rime and a little strategy I made up called  Stretch to Spell to help me spell as well as I can.

I finished the other pages of the draft on my own time because some of my writers were ready to revise. When modelling revisions, I showed them how authors go back and reread what's on the page and consider what more they could tell the reader. I used different colored pen to show what I added on.
Drafting and Revising How-to Books, Creating a Thoughtful Classroom

I also added a "tip" which could take the form of a bubble burst in the picture, a caption, or another sentence. The burst was a big hit and many of my little authors imitated that feature in their own books!

On this page, I modelled how writers can try out spellings in the margin to help them think about which spelling is correct; here we were considering the homophone <too>. This was a perfect time to reinforce the concept that spelling is based on meaning, not just sound!

I've got one more post planned to share our editing and publishing, and now that I'm on winter break, it just might happen in the next few days! :) Thanks for stopping by!


What is Interactive Spelling?

Spelling. Sigh..... love or hate relationship? For many teachers, it is that black and white. I've traded in the weekly lists and spelling tests for more meaningful practices that focus more on words in context- during reading and writing lessons.
Onset-rime Spelling Strategy, Creating a Thoughtful Classroom

The kids love it! Interactive Spelling is a tag phrase I'm making up, at least I don't think anyone has the rights to it!!! It it pretty self-explanatory; after reading a text together, you revisit some key words with your students to analyze them. Here's what we did in my class this week.....

Onset-rime Spelling Strategy, Creating a Thoughtful Classroom

First I read There Was a Cold Lady Who Swallowed Some Snow by Lucille Colandro, an adorable story with a repeating sentence pattern. (I'm sure you know about this series of books based on the classic, I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly). Temperatures here are starting to cool off (although we don't get snow) and I wanted to get my kids in the "winter" spirit. I only have them for two weeks on December; our break starts on the 12th! I get 3 weeks off- an international school perk- long winter break!!!!

Sorry, back to my post...

As I read the story, I stopped briefly here and there to discuss the vocabulary ("What's the difference between a stick and a branch?"). Not only does this contextual discussion help my EAL students, but it helps all of them to think more deeply about the story and its vocabulary.

The next day, after we discussed the story and retold it, I showed my kids the chart I had made ahead of time, highlighting the most important content words. They were a fabulous collection of words with digraphs and consonant clusters (consonant blends).
Onset-rime Spelling Strategy, Creating a Thoughtful Classroom

I have found that time spent on teaching students about digraphs gets you the best spelling returns! Don't wait to teach them about digraphs until after you gone through single-letter phonemes and short vowels- they need to be able to recognize digraphs early on in their reading journey because the English language is FULL of them!

As you can see, I wrote a dash for each single letter grapheme and a box with two lines in it for digraphs (to reinforce the idea of 2 letters representing 1 phoneme).

As a group, we announced (read out loud) each word and then used onset-rime to segment each word. I teach my kids to use their hands to do this:
Onset-rime Spelling Strategy, Creating a Thoughtful Classroom

Next, we repeat this gesture, and I ask the kids, "What letter or letters could we write?" I also prompt them to FEEL what their tongue, lips and mouth are doing because usually each movement signals a different phoneme, and consequently, a different grapheme (letter/digraph); I teach them to "feel the phonemes", rather than to "sound it out". Trying to decipher what you are hearing is a lot harder than to notice than what you are feeling.

When modelling this for your students, you might say, "When I pronounce /sn/, I feel /s/ and /n/; I could write <s> and <n> for those phonemes. When I pronounce /o/, I feel a long o phoneme. I can show that in different ways, but for this word I know I need to write the digraph, /ow/."

We went through all of the words, using the onset-rime hand gestures, and I invited all of my friends to take turns sharing the pen (who does love that?) to come up and spell the words.
Onset-rime Spelling Strategy, Creating a Thoughtful Classroom

Through this one lesson, we were able to apply two long o digraphs, silent e to signal a long vowel, CVC patterns for words, and knowledge of compound words (snowman) to spelling. The whole lesson took all of 10-15 minutes and was super easy to prep.

I'll leave this book out in our classroom library for them to reread again and again. Having helped to construct those words together in a meaningful context, I am confident that they'll know how to read them, and perhaps, even transfer their spellings into their own writing.

Do you use interactive writing or spelling in your class?


Prewriting a How-to Book, FREEBIE!

I'm back (finally) to share more about writing workshop! If you would like to read about how we started generating ideas for our how-to unit, click HERE, otherwise keep reading!

Organization is one of the 6 Traits, certainly an important part of quality writing. My first graders have been busy prewriting their how-to books... here's what we've done!
How-to Prewriting Freebie, Creating a Thoughtful Classroom

Graphic organizers are really helpful for organizing, but they can also be a little bit confusing for students because they don't always understand that they only need to write the main ideas with a few key words or a phrase. I made up this format hoping that the shapes and divisions would help to keep things brief. Click on the picture of it below to grab a copy!

How-to Prewriting Freebie, Creating a Thoughtful Classroom
(We use Handwriting Without Tears, so the lines here support that)

I think a book is more polished when it includes an introduction and a conclusion, so I also introduced those components. I explained that an introduction explains to the reader why they should read the book, and that the conclusion helps the reader feel like it's finished. Here is what I modelled using my doc camera:
How-to Prewriting Freebie, Creating a Thoughtful Classroom

I kept thinking aloud saying, "I only need to write the most important ideas..." When I wrote about steps, I explained that I needed to write "action words"- I have not explicitly taught the word "verb" yet, but I will.

I found that half the class wrote too much (mostly the more proficient writers) and the rest did really well to keep their planners brief! That's actually pretty hard because it essentially requires them to summarize the steps into concise little phrases! I know they will get better with more practice with prewriting.
Here are a couple examples of concise planners.... (if you read my last post, here is the follow-up to "How to Make a Paper Lantern":
How-to Prewriting Freebie, Creating a Thoughtful Classroom

How-to Prewriting Freebie, Creating a Thoughtful Classroom
Her introductions states, "no {pajamas} to school". Quite right! You must be dressed!
About the conclusion, I think she was out of ideas as to how to end her book. I don't really think getting dressed is truly fun, (unless your Rachel Zoe) so I'll address that later on when we confer...."What do you want the reader to be able to do now? What do you hope they got from reading your book?"

On this planner you can also see, "P1", "P2", etc. - on the following day, I showed students how to label each part of their planner to become a page in their book so they could start drafting. This makes it easy for students to keep their book organized- they know when to get the next page. Here are this student's first couple pages,  her introduction and materials page:
How-to Prewriting Freebie, Creating a Thoughtful Classroom
As you can see, I helped her add the last bit by spelling pajamas.
How-to Prewriting Freebie, Creating a Thoughtful Classroom
We will confer later about adding on the this page.
Thanks for checking in! I'm excited to share more about our drafts and revisions soon!
How do you teach how-to writing?

Planning for How-to Writing, FREEBIE!

Hey friends! We have recently started our unit on how-to writing. Since we are just getting started, our focus this week was on planning and organizing our ideas. This can be a challenging stage of the writing process for any student, but modelling certainly helps!
Planning Stage for How-to Books, Creating a Thoughtful Classroom

I love this FREEBIE chart that I got from The Teacher Wears Prada. Having students move their name clips from stage to stage helps to reinforce their understanding of the writing process.
Planning Stage for How-to Books, Creating a Thoughtful Classroom

Occasionally, you have some students that are really passionate about certain topics and have a wealth of ideas, but most of the time I have found that it's challenging for the majority of firsties to brainstorm multiple ideas for how-to topics, so I start out by modelling some for them. I thought aloud (a lot) about whether I knew enough about a topic to add it to my collection of ideas. Of course, I tried to add many ideas that they could relate to.
Planning Stage for How-to Books, Creating a Thoughtful Classroom

I passed out clipboards (we were gathered on the rug) with a graphic organizer like my chart and asked them to list some of their own ideas. We discussed how all of them would be able to add "how to get dressed", but many of them would not list "how to play an instrument" if they were not already taking lessons for one! If you would like a copy, click on the picture/caption!

Planning Stage for How-to Books, Creating a Thoughtful Classroom
I made the center frame blue simply so that it would print in gray scale making it easier for the kids to see which column they were writing in :)

Students sat and thought (and sat and thought some more!) for about 20 minutes. A lot of them copied my ideas, which was totally fine for now- they need a starting point, however, a lot of them were able to think about something unique that they actually knew how to do. Here is a sample of one student's organizer:
Planning Stage for How-to Books, Creating a Thoughtful Classroom
FYI, the "for Bees" are our school rules! 4 Be's: Be Honest, Be Responsible, Be respectful, Be Safe.
Such a sweetie, this student definitely follows the rules!

The next thing I asked students to do was try to select 1 idea from each box to "test", meaning the 5 finger test- you should be able to explain at least 5 things (including materials and 4 or 5 steps) for that how-to topic. Lucy Calkins refers to this as "trying on a topic" (to see if it "fits" you!)

I paired up students and had them share their topics and conduct their topic tests. In the end they had to select 1 topic that they felt would be the best to write about. The friend above will be going with the topic, "How to Make a Paper Lantern". Can't wait to learn about that!

Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to check back in soon as we share more about our how-to writing unit!


First Grade Decoding Lesson - "Chunking Strategy"

How are words like cookies? Almost a month ago (I know, bad blogger!!), I taught my students about using the "chunking" strategy- this is when the reader looks for and uses a word part, or chunk, that he/she can read in order to decode the entire word. Many teachers use "Chunky Monkey" to teach this strategy (and that's a fun and memorable idea), but I prefer to use (giant) chocolate chip cookies- if you can incorporate chocolate into your lessons, I say why not!?!???
Chunking Strategy Mini-Lesson for Reading, Creating a Thoughtful Classroom

The idea behind this lesson is really simple - I compare reading unknown words to eating a very large cookie... you can't read/eat it all at once, so you need to bite off smaller digestible chunks first! 
Chunking Strategy Mini-Lesson for Reading, Creating a Thoughtful Classroom

My class had just reached 20 minutes of read-to-self stamina, so knowing I wanted to do this lesson, I promised them a special snack to celebrate that reading goal (I don't normally feed my firsties cookies!) 

I slaved in the kitchen the night before used a Betty Crocker cookie mix and my pop-out tart pan to bake a giant chocolate cookie. As I showed my class, there were lots of "ooh"s and "aaah"s, maybe even a little drool. 
Chunking Strategy Mini-Lesson for Reading, Creating a Thoughtful Classroom

I asked them if I could eat this whole cookie at once. Of course, they said, "No way!" That's when I explained the analogy to them. Using my anchor chart, we analyzed each word together looking for meaningful chunks. I modeled how to cover parts of the word with my finger to focus on only one section at a time. Naturally, not all of these words are challenging for all of my students, but they did serve as good examples of morphological principles.

 Of course, after the mini-lesson we all shared the cookie. Here we are right before I sent them back to their seats! Yes, they're rubbin' bellies!
Chunking Strategy Mini-Lesson for Reading, Creating a Thoughtful Classroom
Now when we encounter challenging words, we refer to them as "big cookie" words and I ask students how they might bite off a chunk to solve it. The analogy has stuck and the strategy works well for my kiddos!

How do you teaching "chunking" to your students?


Teaching Homophones- Going Batty!

Do you teach your students about homophones? They pack a lot of punch for teaching important spelling concepts! I love to introduce homophones in context during shared reading (homophones pop up often in many big books) or a read aloud. Recently, I found a cute picture book in our school library that was the perfect tie-in for homophones. After reading it with my class, I adapted a great fall freebie from a Cupcake for the Teacher and used it as a homophone craftivity...take a look!

Craft for Introducing Homophones, Creating a Thoughtful Classroom

I know many of you cannot share Halloween-related stories, but Which Witch is Which, by Pat Hutchins, is actually about a child's birthday (it's a costume party, but NOT Halloween), so you can justify this, in my opinion!

Two twin sisters dressed as witches attend the party, and the question throughout the book is, "Which witch is which?"

We discussed the meanings of the words <which> and <witch> and talked about how they were built; in English there are many different graphemes (single letters/digraphs/trigraphs) to represent phonemes (sounds). To read more about this, click HERE.

Craft for Introducing Homophones, Creating a Thoughtful Classroom
Next, we brainstormed a list of homophone pairs and trios on the whiteboard. I write one homophone pair on a sticky note for each child to transfer to their bat. Now we were ready to get our craft on!

I used Teri's FREEBIE and had my kiddos trace and cut the bat parts out of black construction paper.
Craft for Introducing Homophones, Creating a Thoughtful Classroom

They wrote the homophones on the bat wings, and then wrote sentences using the words to show what they meant.
Craft for Introducing Homophones, Creating a Thoughtful Classroom

Here are some final products...
Craft for Introducing Homophones, Creating a Thoughtful Classroom
Craft for Introducing Homophones, Creating a Thoughtful Classroom
Craft for Introducing Homophones, Creating a Thoughtful Classroom
I thought this one was so sweet!

My kiddos had a blast making this seasonal craft while exploring language and spelling! We will continue to be on watch for other homophones. If you'd like to read a previous post on our homophone wall, click HERE.

Thanks for stopping by!


How to Manage Math Workshop in 1st Grade

How do you teach math? Do you teach lessons to the whole class? Pull small, guided math groups? I'm no math expert, for sure, but I've found that having a balance of whole group and small group instruction really helps me differentiate and help students acquire the skills they need. Over the past couple of years, I've developed my own version of math workshop (and it continues to evolve!)- it works well for my first graders and they LOVE it! Here's how it works....
Math Workshop in First Grade, Creating a Thoughtful Classroom
In the morning (before my official math block), I use Number Corner as my calendar math program. It's the first year that my team is using it and we are finding it to be very comprehensive and effective. Each daily session lasts about 20 minutes- I move at a pretty good pace and try to make it really interactive so my kids are engaged, otherwise it's just too long for a firstie!

Later on in the day, I teach a math block for 45-50 mins. On the first day of the week, I assess students on what they worked on the previous week. I feel that if they really know it, the weekend won't matter. Besides, I need to I introduce the new stations (math centers) for that week.

I follow the M.A.T.H. acronym like many other teachers. I purchased the Math Workshop Rotation Board from Clutter-Free Classroom and adapted it into my own rotation poster.
Math Workshop in First Grade, Creating a Thoughtful Classroom
Students have two rotations per day; I see two out of four groups a day/ each group twice a week. As you can see, I write the date on the poster to help students keep track of where we are in the rotations.

I prefer to call my groups "teams" to encourage cooperation and peer teaching. I chose to name the teams based on colors so I could easily print their names on colored paper- that way when groups change, I can easily reprint names. Nothin' fancy, but easy and effective!

Here are the stations:

Math Facts: Students practice addition and subtraction concepts or math facts for fluency through games and activities.

At your Seat: This is when students work on their math journal. I pull from Reagan Tunstall's interactive math journal resource. These activities are more independent practice to either reinforce or review what we've been learning.

Hands-On: This is a hands-on game using manipulatives. It may be something we have done is small group previously, or a game that reinforces a skill or concept we have studied, but presents it in a different way.

Teacher's Choice: This is when I pull my guided groups. I teach all students the same objectives, but differentiate for my students based on what they need and what they are able to do.

We don't have Target or Wal-mart in Bangladesh, but we do have a school carpenter! I have this shelf in my room for storage. I keep station materials in these baskets (the other half of the shelves not pictured hold supplies and guided reading materials!) Again, nothin' fancy, but it serves its purpose.
Math Workshop in First Grade, Creating a Thoughtful Classroom
I have one "turn in tray" on top of the shelf to collect recording sheets. I check those daily to see how students are doing.

Here's the general timetable for Math Workshop:
Math Workshop in First Grade, Creating a Thoughtful Classroom
We all gather on the math rug at the beginning and I teach a mini-lesson based on whatever objectives students need to learn. Currently, we are working on beginning addition and subtraction concepts and strategies.

At the end of the mini-lesson, each team goes their separate ways to their assigned stations. My teaching assistant monitors the stations so I can focus my attention on my guided group.
Now, we practiced this A LOT at the beginning of school! On the first day, I just had students walk to their station (table) and stand there a minute before practicing the clean up procedure. We did that a couple of times. The next few days, students went to their stations, and then played very simple games so I could walk around and monitor them (My group was also playing a game- I was not teaching). During these days, I explained to them that I expected them to know which team they were on and where that station was when it was announced, so we practiced reading the chart together, row by row, column by column! Finally after a week of low-key games to practice moving to stations, I finally began "real" stations and only announced teams and their stations (like you see in the video). This year I only have 14 students (I know, heaven!), but I have also done this with 20 and it works, too!

I religiously set my timer for ten minutes and get busy! My guided group basically follows the sequence of a mini-lesson. It's fast and furious, but very FOCUSED. Some people may think that 10 minutes isn't enough time, but I don't want to overload my firsties with too much information in one sitting, so I keep it concise. Of course, if we need a couple extra minutes, we take them!
Here's what I do:
Math Workshop in First Grade, Creating a Thoughtful Classroom
Once the session (10 minutes) is over, students clean up their station and prepare it for the next team. To manage this, I use a simple call and response cue; I say, "Clean up, stand up," and the students repeat it back to me. I do this purposely so they hear themselves saying what they are supposed to be doing!! Pretty slick, right? Once they "clean up" their materials, they need to "stand up" behind their chair to show me that they're ready to come back to the math rug for the 2nd mini-lesson. Somedays, when I am pressed for time, we may not have a second mini-lesson. Instead will just reconvene on the rug to transition- MUCH less traffic and confusion than moving from 1 station to the next (learned that lesson the hard way!) Once students are cleaned up, I say, "Math rug." They respond, "OK." Then they just come back- simple! Here's "clean up, stand up" in action!
SORRY my voice is so loud! Obviously, someone had to hold the camera!

Finally, when we gather for the last time, it's to review what the mini-lesson focus was and to share any reflections. This is handy when students do some fabulous thinking or put forth extra effort during small group- you get to give them praise in front of the group and reinforce critical and creative thinking!

So, this is how I manage my math workshop. I'm still learning and growing in this area, but enjoying the process. My kids love that focused small group time with me as well as the different activities and learning games at stations. I feel like it's engaging, yet balanced (not too many centers or groups) and best of all, easy to maintain once procedures and expectations are taught.

I'd love to hear how you teach math in your classroom!
Thanks for stopping by :)


Morning Meeting, Celebrating Students' Birthdays

If you teach K-2 you know that birthdays are a big deal, a really big deal, to your kiddos! Do you, or can you celebrate them at your school? We do in a few simple ways....
Creating a Thoughtful Classroom,  Birthdays at Morning Meeting

My school states in our handbook that students may bring in cupcakes for their classmates (we're a private school) to share at the end of the instructional day- I can live with this, and that's what we do. Short and sweet!

At the beginning of the day I also like to recognize the birthday boy or girl during morning meeting by making them a birthday cake, out of their friends of course! Huh? How is that possible?? It's something I picked up years ago at a Dr. Jean Workshop (her idea, of course!), and the kids LOVE it!!! Here's how it works....

All the kids hold hands to form a giant circle with the birthday child standing in the middle. He/she picks friends to be the candles. The friend-candles circle around the birthday child, inside the bigger cake/circle. Then, I usually "light" the candles by making a striking match sound ("shooop") and tapping each candle on their head. They respond by putting their hands up in a point above their heads. Finally, we all sing "Happy Birthday" and the kid of the day gets to make a wish and blow out each candle. I always remind them to aim at the TOPS of their friends' heads- "Don't blow your friend in the face!"

We celebrated a birthday this week, so here's how it looks.....

Adorable, right? The birthday girl is smiling so big she looks like she's gonna pop, right?! SO excited!

How do you recognize birthdays in your classroom community?

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