I mentioned yesterday that my laptop died and had to be taken in for repairs or replacement. (I haven’t heard anything yet.) Today we had more technological glitches.
I had planned on using our tablets to launch reading with partners. I discovered Wonderopolis last year and have loved using it in my classroom. My students, also, have loved it.
Alas, it was not to be today. Even though I had charged all of my tablets last week and thought I had turned them off, I must not have. When I went to take them out this morning, they were all dead!
I started charging them, but they weren’t ready in time for our literacy work. So I had the students partner up and just read good ol’ books together! We reviewed expectations and then I set them free to read together. I was pleasantly surprised to see that they were able to do so for fifteen minutes without any interruptions!
I’m looking forward to doing it again on Tuesday with the tablets!
My students got to meet our new student teacher for the semester today! Ms. Schultz, who has given me permission to use her name in the blog, visited my classroom for the first time last year, where were talked about some of the goals for this year and I was able to introduce her to some of the teachers in the building. After a busy summer, she came in this morning ready to get to know my class and integrate herself into the classroom!
She started the day supporting me with my morning supervision assignment, where I greet students as they exit cars and join other students near the building. Then she came in and watched as the students got settled, made lunch choices, and started working on their journal assignments. During our morning meeting, I asked her to introduce herself to the class. Surprisingly, several students had not even noticed she was there! After sharing where she grew up and what she is doing at the University of Illinois, she made an effort to get to know the class.
Throughout the day, Ms. Schultz watched what we were doing in the room, learned students’ names, and assisted in different classroom activities. Even though today was her first day and she is mostly going to observe the next two weeks, she even helped students with their math work this afternoon!
I’m excited to have a student teacher working with my class every Tuesday and Wednesday for the first semester. It is always wonderful to have another adult in the room and it is great having a student teacher who helps me constantly reflect on my professional practices and think about what I am doing and why I am doing it!
Anyone who has been reading my blog for more than a year may recall past posts about the Daily Five and CAFE. I have been working on implementing these literacy instruction frameworks over the past several years, but one big change this school year is that the entire building has adopted the Daily Five framework. Additionally, our reading interventionist teachers will be spending a part of each morning in the different classrooms, assisting with reading groups, whole class instruction, and mini-lessons. With today being the first Monday of the school year and still fairly early on, all things considered, I decided it was time to start launching the Daily CAFE in my room.
I had all of the students come to the carpet and we took some time to discuss the components of the CAFE: Comprehension, Accuracy, Fluency, and Expanding Vocabulary. Each day, students will be expected to engage in independent tasks that will help them develop these fundamental literacy skills. The tasks are known as the Daily Five: Read to Self, Read to Someone, Listen to Reading, Write, and Word Work. In my classroom, we tend to compress these down to three tasks: Read to Self, Read to Someone, and Writing. Students will do Word Work as a part of their writing instead of as an entirely separate component, and they will listen to reading every day during our after-lunch read alouds.
After discussion the components and reviewing expectations, we started with one of the independent tasks: Read to Self. I had the students share what they should be doing during this time (stay in one spot, read quietly, give other people space, focus on actually reading) and what I should be doing during this time (work with small groups, conference with individual students). Then I modeled some ways that students could choose to read, showing good examples and what we like to call non-examples. For the good examples, I did exactly what expected: I chose a book, I found a spot to read, I stayed where I was, and I read to myself without distracting others. For the non-examples, I did things like holding the book upside-down, falling asleep, staring at the wall while holding the book open, flipping through the pages and, with the permission of a student helper, leaning up against another person or reclining against him, reading his book and getting in his way.
All of the students agreed that the good examples were much more desirable. Then I gave them just five minutes to read to themselves so they could see what it looked like, sounded like, and felt like. Tomorrow we will review these expectations and work on building our stamina. The goal is for students to be able to read to themselves for anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes without needing redirection from a teacher or even a classmate. Then I and the reading interventionist can do our jobs of conferencing and working with small groups. Before reading tomorrow, I will have some students model examples and non-examples (making sure that they always show an example last) so that everyone can remember what they should be doing. We will spend quite a bit of time building these routines before introducing other components so that students can ultimately do any of the independent tasks on their own without any interference. Then we will have our Daily CAFE fully implemented and literacy instruction will be able to just take off this year!
I asked my students an interesting series of questions today:
- What are letters and punctuation marks?
- What is a word?
- What is a sentence?
- What is a paragraph?
These may not seem like interesting questions; after all, students start learning about the letters of the alphabet when they are in kindergarten or even in pre-school! They learn sight words in first and second grade, along with punctuation, writing sentences, and writing paragraphs. These are fundamental skills in writing, and they all know how to do that!
But my question wasn’t, “How do you write or create these?” It was, “What are these?” Here is what we determined today:
A letter is a character used to represent a sound or, in some cases, multiple sounds. Some sounds, though, require multiple letters. Similarly, punctuation marks are single characters that are used in writing to express the tone of a sentence or a word.
A word is a collection of letters that create a specific series of sounds that represent a specific concept. While the Oxford English Dictionary currently lists over 250,000 words, there are many words that are not found in that dictionary. Specific scientific, medical, or technical terms may not be listed. Derivations of words may not be counted. Do words with multiple meanings deserve to be considered separate words? According to the definition my students came up with, I would argue the answer is yes. The editors of the OED even recognise this dilemma. We even discussed how easy it is to make up new words. For example, in every yearbook I signed last year, I wrote the same message: “Have a fantabulasticaliciously awesomesauce summer!” Even though two of those were completely made up words, everyone knows what the sentence means because they recognise the bits and pieces of other familiar words, such as fantabulous, fantastic, and delicious.
A sentence is several words put together with subject and a predicate that focus on one unified topic. Sentences start with capital letters, end with a punctuation mark, and often have other punctuation marks, such as commas or semicolons, in the middle. The subject, which tells us who or what is doing something, does not have to be at the start of a sentence, although it often is. The predicate, which always follows the subject, tells us what is being done. Sentences do not have to be long. For example, “I am.” On the other hand, having several words with a single topic do not necessarily make that collection of words a sentence. For example, “two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, and a sesame seed bun” is a just a list of words.
A paragraph is several sentences all joined by a common theme. Most paragraphs will have at least three sentences, but this is not required. This was the focus of our writing for today. Building on our writing task from Wednesday, the class began writing a paragraph about themselves. Specifically, they were given the assignment to write one paragraph to answer this question: “What has been the best day of your life?” (Some students wanted to know if they could write about a future or made-up event and I gave them permission to do so.) I reminded them that they should not focus on mechanics or conventions at this stage of the writing process because they were still focusing on getting ideas out of their heads and onto their papers. Some students started their paragraphs by brainstorming a list of ideas. Others were ready to start a first draft. Some wrote one or two sentences. Others wrote several. All were writing in their writing journals and all were thinking about the topic at hand. We will continue to work on these paragraphs in the coming week, with ultimate goal of typing them and sharing them on a hallway bulletin board.