Monday, July 24, 2017

First Grade Math Lesson 1

Welcome to First Grade!  1st grade is one of the most exciting grades. It's the first time a child has HW, written tests and the curriculum and expectations really are increased. This blog post will be how I start 1st grade math on that very first day of school.

Tell your students that math is our lives everyday. Explain to your students that numbers are all around us. Ask your students what places they see numbers. Record their answers. 

Tell your students that today we will practice counting by 1's. See how far your students can count to. Some may be able to only count to 50, some to 100 and some may be even to count higher. 

Tell your students that we will start by practicing to write our numbers correctly. It's best the first day to do an assessment to see where your students are up to. Having that data will help drive further instruction and give you starting point for your second, third, fourth etc. lessons.

Play a game with the kids. I always "I Have Who, Who Has". Just play counting by 1's. The first day shouldn't be too difficult. It should be fun. Remember you have 180+ days to drill skills.

Exit slip (formative assessment). While you probably won't really need an "exit slip" the first day of school. Getting your students in the routine of what you expect is important to start off right away. Your exit slip for that first day can be a sheet where they need to fill in the missing numbers from 1-50 or where they need write numbers 1-25. Something quick!

Friday, July 21, 2017

Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer

Those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer...those days of soda, pretzels and *swimming!

Summer is the best time of year for so many. There's trips to the beach, days at the pool, day camp, sleep away camp for some lucky kiddos, ice cream dates, BBQs and just playing outside for endless hours. While I fully endorse all this play and fun in the sun, it is also so important make sure your child is reading daily (or at least 6 days a week). Studies have proven that children can fall up 2 levels below where they were when the school year ended in June by the time they return in September. Read this article to learn more about that here.

Why is this? Well there are a variety of reasons why children summer from summer brain or summer drain. One is that they're not immersed in reading and a rich literacy environment as they are during the school year. Another reason is they merely do not have access to books. Many teachers, such as myself, will have a library of books that range from many levels. Since I taught 1st grade my library ranges from B (which is middle of kindergarten) all they way through N (which is early 3rd grade). My students therefore have so many choices to choose from during reading time. In the summer, children don't always have a way to get to the library, local book store and some don't have the means to buy books. Another reason why so many kids fall behind is because they're the time that they aren't outside playing on the a device or watching TV.  All of these affect summer brain drain.

Now that we know why it happens, we need to come up with a solution to stop it from happening.

1 - Kids love iPads! As a parent you can download short stories and have your child read it to you. There are many wonderful websites.
Here are my favorites.  Read Works (this one is free) Raz Kids (this you need to pay for, but many schools pay a subscription and have student IDs. It is also something that might be worth it to do. Plus, they offer a 14 day free trial .

2. - Library visits! Go to your local library and have your child select lots of books. If you have trouble getting to the library often, set aside a time to go once and take out as many books as you can. Tell your child they can re-read the same book.

3- If you can afford it, take your child to a tutor. Good tutors will have a lot of materials to help your child succeed.

4- Make reading fun! Have your child read to you and then talk about the book. Make into a book club. You can even invite other parents and kids in the neighborhood to join. Select a book or a few books to read, pick a date they need to be done by and then have a get together where the kids can come dressed as their favorite character, talk about the book and eat some fun summer snacks!

5- Set a time. Be strict. It's important to set aside time to read. It we're not strict with ourselves it won't get done. I suggest to do a minimum of 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the evening for kids entering 2nd - 4th grade. Then add an addition 5-10 minutes to kids entering 5th-8th grade. Once they're in HS, they most likely will already have a required reading list.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Launching Writer's Workshop

This post is dedicated to launching a successful continuous writing block in your classroom. This is how I launch writers workshop in my classroom in the beginning of the school year.

First - Explain to students what writers workshop will look and feel like. Remind students that this is a new year with a new teacher and that even if they had a set routing last year doesn't mean it will be the same this year.

Second - Tell students what the routine will look like. For me this means taking the students on a "tour" of our writers workshop routine. We start on the carpet in our writing corner. I, the teacher, will model or show them what that day's goal is. It may be "how to hook your reader" or "how to begin a sentence". It's always important to put your objective either into a question or a statement. For example, "Good writes hook their read with a good opening line" OR "How can you hook your reader to make them want to continue to read your writing?".

Third - Explain to students that after you - the teacher, teaches them that day's goal they will then go to their desk and write, trying to use what they learned that day in their writing. (You may or may not say this but you can tell them that they will start off writing just a little bit and then as the year goes on they'll be given more and more time. You can also tell them you will walk around and help some students. It's important to remind them that you cannot help everyone everyday, but you'll do your best to help as many as possible. ---Side Note: It's a good idea to try to conference with 3-5 students a day).

Fourth - Then tell them that after they read we will all come back to the carpet and get to share our writing with our friends and then give one another feedback.

Remember, the first day you "launch" writers workshop, you won't actually be teaching it. Then the following days you will be walking them through it. It takes about 2 solid weeks to get them started and then an another 3 weeks to officially get them in the habit. Basically the "First 30 Days".  It may seem like a long time, but 5 weeks of 10 months is not that much, it will make the rest of 8 months and 3 weeks go smoothly and successfully!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Finding the Right Book for Your Child

Selecting the right book for your child can be difficult. Often times parents will look the cover and title and then quickly flip through the pages to check to see if it looks age appropriate. While finding a book that is age appropriate is extremely important, especially when it comes to content, it is not the only deciding factor.

We must remember that every child is unique and every child learns and develops at a different pace. If your son or daughter is a struggling reader, meaning he or she may be in 3rd grade but be reading on a early 2nd grade level it would not be helpful to find a book for a 3rd grader. When children read books that are above their independent reading level they start to get overly frustrated and become turned off from reading. You must select a book that fits your child interest and is on their individual reading level.

Scholastic has a wonderful feature on its website where people are able to type in the title and author or ISBN number into the search engine and the website will generate the book's level. Figuring out your child's reading level can be tricky because it is dependent on variety of factors, such as, ability to decode new words, reading fluency, comprehension and use of a variety of reading comprehension skills and strategies. Your child's teacher or tutor can assess child's level. Essentially a child's reading level should move up every 6-8 weeks beginning in 1st grade through the middle of 3rd grade. As he or she comes toward the end of 3rd grade, each level's difficulty gap widens and the time he or she spends on a level can be longer.

A wonderful website that can be used as a tool to help your child even more and is a wonderful resource of book is Reading A to Z also known as Raz Kids. Most districts have memberships and will give students a student ID and PW. Ask your child's school if they have one.
Link is below:

Reading A to Z

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Reading - How to get our child to become a better reader?

I think we can all agree that most parents want to see their children become great readers. Parents want their children to love reading and it makes them happy when they see their child pick up a book without them having to be told to do so. One of the mothers of a former student of mine said to me that she always wished she had loved to read as a kid and it saddened her that her son felt the same way. She then proceeded to say that since being in my class he has started to like to read more and will pick up a book on his own.

So,  back to my original question "How do get our children to become a better reader?" The answer is somewhat's by reading more. The more that your read, the better reader you'll be. Think of this way, you want to make the basketball team. What do you do? Play more basketball, practice more and make the time needed to make the team. Reading is very similar. The way we become better readers is by finding a book we enjoy, picking it up and reading it. The more you read, the quicker reader you'll be and the better you'll be.

Now comes the hard part, what to do if your child just doesn't like to read. He or she doesn't feel motivated to pick up a book and read? How do you get your child to become motivated to read? Before I give you my suggestions, I will say that some kids, some people don't like to read as much as others, just like some people don't like to sports as others do or don't enjoy cooking as others do. However, I know that if you are to follow these important suggestions your child will begin to enjoy reading more and thus will become a better reader.

Suggestions to Become a Better Reader:

- What does your child like? If your child enjoys stories on princesses, then find a book about princesses. Go to the library or the store and together walk around and select a book

- Take turns reading. Have your child read a page, then you read a page, then your child, then you and so on. Eventually, your child will start to read every page on his or her own.

- Read to your child! Parents tend to think that once their child is able to read on their own, they no longer need to be read to. That is not the case! Reading to your child through middle school is shown to be effective. However, when you read to your child make sure you are reading something they would not be able to read on their own. For example, in 3rd grade - you can read Harry Potter to your child. Once you make it to 3rd or 4th book, he or she will be able to read it you!

- Each time your child reads to him or herself or to you discuss the book. Ask him/her questions about what they read. Did they like it? Why or why not?

- Setting aside a block of time. Remember if your son or daughter wanted to make the basketball team you wouldn't have them practice in the yard when time allows and then hope for the best. You'd push them, tell them they need to set aside time for training. The same goes for reading. Set aside a block of time each day.

6 years old            start off with 10 and work your way up to 20 by adding 2 minutes every couple of weeks.

7 years old            start of with 15 (unless you've already hit 20) and work your way up to 25 minutes

8 years old            start of with 15 (unless you've already hit 25) and work your way up to 35 minutes

9-11 years old      start of with 20 (unless you've already hit 35) and slowly work your way up to 45 minutes by adding 2 minutes every month

- Before bed always have your child read, look at a book's pictures or listen to a story for 5-10 minutes. No TV or technology before bed (most suggest an hour, but even 30 minutes can make a huge difference).

Happy Reading!