Students have learned 4 of the Daily 5 choices. They have been practicing Read to Self, Read to Someone, Work on Writing, and Listen to Reading. Once students were independent with these four choices and could maintain stamina for about 20 minutes, I was able to consistently meet with Guided Reading groups. Currently, I am able to meet with 3 groups every day; however, I am hoping that, by the end of this week, I will be able to meet with 4 groups per day. It is truly in these small groups where I feel I can best teach my students and meet their individual needs. Each group centers around specific skills and strategies to push my students forward in the area of reading. Because of this focused instruction, I have already seen a lot of improvement in my students' reading since this type of instruction has begun.
The four main components that each group is based on consists of: Comprehension, Accuracy, Fluency, and Expanding Vocabulary (the acronym CAFE supports these four skill areas). The majority of my groups are working on Accuracy. The main strategy that each of my accuracy reading groups are working on is: "Find the first part and look through the whole word." Students are taught that when they come to words they don't know, they are to find the first part of the word (I usually have them frame the first one or two letters of the word with their pointer fingers and say those sounds) and then look through the rest of the word. This strategy really helps students to look at the first sound(s) of the word to help think of a word that matches that beginning sound.
One of my groups is working on comprehension. These students are learning that comprehension is the main purpose of reading. All readers read to understand the words. If we're not thinking about what we're reading, we're not doing our job as a reader. The strategy these students are focusing on to help them understand what they're reading is: "Check for understanding." Students are taught to stop and check for understanding. If students are not able to retell what they just read, students are then supposed to "Go back and reread." These two strategies alone will help students become more aware of what they are reading.
Even though groups are focused on different components of reading, I teach each component to the entire class in my whole group lessons. All student learn different accuracy strategies and comprehension strategies. Students have learned that there are 3 ways to read a book:
- I can read the pictures.
- I can read the words.
- I can retell the story.
To sum this up, all students are learning how to read the words accurately and how to retell stories.
Students are still writing personal narratives, or true stories from their lives. To help students accomplish this goal, students have had to learn how to write. Similar to reading, students have learned that there are three ways to write:
- I can draw the pictures.
- I can write the words.
- I can add details (who, what, and where to pictures and words).
Students have learned how to stretch words out slowly like bubble gum to hear all of the sounds. They have also learned that stories consist of a beginning, middle, and an end. I have modeled how personal narratives can be told through the use of sequence words (first, next, then, last, finally, etc.).
In addition, students are learning how to decide if their story is done. A story needs to include who, what, and where on each of their pages and needs to have a beginning, a middle, and an end. They are also learning that the cover of their book needs to include a title, the name of the author, and a picture of what the book is about. One more thing students are learning is that their pictures and words need to match and that a writer must stay on topic throughout the whole story.
I know it probably seems like a lot, but my students are picking up these amazing writing skills. I am really proud of the work they are producing. At this rate, my students' writing will soon look more like first grade writing!
Not only has our classroom begun to take shape, but we have been learning about shapes as well. In math, students have been learning all about 2 and 3-d shapes. They have learned the attributes of each shape. The main shapes we are focusing on are: square, rectangle, circle, triangle, hexagon (2-d shapes) and cone, cylinder, cube, and sphere (3-d shapes). Students have had opportunities to make these shapes out of play-do, which was really interesting. This activity, alone, forced students to really notice the difference between 2 and 3-d shapes, or as we've dubbed them, "flat and fat" shapes. Students have learned that shapes are all around us and that our world is made up of shapes. To continue working on recognizing these shapes, have your child try to point out various shapes in the world around them. As you're riding in the car, ask your child, "Do you see any cylinders?" (or any shape, really).
In addition to learning about shapes, students have continued to work on counting efficiently and accurately. One of the ways I have been teaching students to count faster is through a game called Dot Card Flash. I have dot cards that I show my students for only 3 seconds. Students are forced to see numbers in groups. For example, on one card, there is a group of 5 dots (similar to what it looks like on a dice) and two more dots off to the side. When shown the card quickly, students are taught to see numbers in groups and then count on. I have taught them, if you see this group of 5 dots, you should think 5 in your head, and count on two more (5, 6, 7). Students are beginning to understand what a group of 3, 4, and 5 dots looks like. This game also helps students to develop early addition skills. For example, the card with 5 dots in the middle and two dots off to the side, students can see 5 and can count on two more.
Speaking of addition, students are also beginning to learn how to solve story problems. This next week, students will begin to work with me in small groups to solve various story problems. At first, these will be addition story problems, but throughout the year, students will be asked to solve subtraction problems as well. All of these random counting, problem solving, and subitizing (recognizing dots quickly), activities will help students develop a deep understanding of numbers.
Students are still working on sorting in science. Students have played the game, guess my sorting rule many times. This game is played by someone sorting a group of objects, and then other students trying to guess the sorting rule. A sorting rule is simply the way objects are sorted. Students have truly become critical thinkers through our practice with sorting. I have noticed that their sorting rules have become more sophisticated. Many of my students are beyond sorting by color, shape, and size. Rather, students are sorting by material, texture, use, etc. I have been extremely impressed by the critical thinking skills students are developing.
Students are learning how we are all alike and different. They are also learning how we have changed and how we will continue to change over time. We have examined how we all look different and how our names are different too. We will look at pictures of Ms. Benson and she has changed over time. Eventually, students will examine pictures of themselves as babies and toddlers and see how they have changed as well.