My students absolutely LOVE to read. Some of the skills they have learned have been using the pictures to help them read the words, pointing to each word as they read, and saying the first sound of a word when coming to an unknown word. These skills have helped my students further develop their understanding of how to read.
It helps that they have received several books at their level from "The Book Fairy". I have found over the years that if students continually get new books to read, their interest in reading grows. My students have loved receiving new books that are "just right" for them.
During my students' independent reading time, I have been assessing various students, testing them on various reading skills. One of my main jobs as a teacher is to find exactly what each student already knows and what he/she needs to work on. This isn't just the case in reading, but rather, in each subject area. This is especially important in the area of reading because if students are reading books that are too easy for them, they aren't being challenged. And if students are reading books that are too challenging, they can become frustrated. It's my job to find a reading level that is "just right" for each child. My students shared an example of these "just right" levels with you at conferences. These are also the books they have brought home.
Another aspect of the Readers' Workshop that I have been able to implement is Guided Reading, which is when I am able to meet with small groups of students on reading . These groups typically comprise of students who are reading at the same level or are working on the same strategic reading behaviors.
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 beginning of next month, 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. Hopefully, you too have witnessed the amazing growth that has transpired.
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.
Eventually, some of my groups will working on comprehension. These students will learn 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 to move them forward in their reading. In addition, 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 through the use of pictures and words and are learning how to retell stories.
Writing has quickly become one of my students' favorite things to do at school. All of my students love to write and draw true stories from their lives, and they have enjoyed learning new writing skills to help them accomplish this task. Much of my teaching these past few weeks has dealt with adding details to their pictures and their words to help tell the story. The details we have focused on have included: who, what, and where. Every story must tell who the story is about, what happened in that story, and where the story took place. My students have also continued learning how to stretch out words like bubble gum to help hear all of the sounds. My students are getting better at this already. It's amazing to be able to read their writing without them having to "read" it (or decode it) to me.
A very exciting writing tool will be introduced to the whole class later this week: spacemen! These are simply small wooden clothespins that are painted to look like a spaceman. This tool is placed after each word to help students leave spaces between words. This tool will also make it easier to read my students' writing.
- I can draw the pictures.
- I can write the words.
- I can add details (who, what, and where to pictures and words).
A couple more things students are learning is that their pictures and words need to match and that a writer must stay on topic throughout the whole story.
Coming up in the next few weeks, they will learn that stories consist of a beginning, middle, and end. I will model how personal narratives can be told through the use of sequence words (first, next, then, last, finally, etc.). In addition, students will learn 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 will also learn 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.
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!
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. Students have also learned how to quickly identify how many dots are on a ten-frame (a math tool we use to help us count efficiently). These ten-frames will be used throughout the course of the year in various ways.
Speaking of addition, students are also beginning to solve various addition and subtraction story problems. Students have also learned there are various ways to solve problems. Two strategies we have focused on have been:
1. I can draw a picture.
2. I can act it out.
At first, these problems will be mainly addition story problems, but throughout the year, students will be asked to solve more subtraction problems. All of these random counting, problem solving, and subitizing (recognizing dots quickly) activities will help students develop a deep understanding of numbers.
Similar to reading, I am meeting with math groups during our Math With Someone time (where my students are now independent). I met with one group last week and will meet with my other groups this week. During these groups, I will focus my instruction on various skills those specific students need to improve upon. These groups are comprised of students with similar needs. As of now, I am only able to meet with one math group a day. My hope is to eventually meet with two groups every day.
In science, students are continuing to learn about how scientists think. They have observed many different things and recorded their findings in their science journals. We are also studying the properties of objects. Students are learning that objects can be categorized by size, shape, and color. Later this week, kids will have the opportunity to make homemade ice cream. We will how states of objects can change. This will be a fun and TASTY experiment!