It's been a while and I don't normally rant...

So, I know I haven't been great about posting lately, but I have been soooo overwhelmed and busy with school that I just haven't found the time. After sitting down with administration last week and expressing my concern and frustration with my high number of struggling readers, I have realized that I am not alone in getting these kids where they need to be. We, as a school, are all responsible for each and every child in our building. It was a relief to the say the least to feel the pressure lift a little. I plan on meeting with them next week to continue brainstorming what we can do to help them.

Of course, I still feel a tremendous amount of responsibility for them, but a colleague and I have come up with a plan. We don't know how this plan will turn out, but we have got to give it a try. I have a class of 15 3rd graders with 5 reading on a Kindergarten level, 4 reading on a 1st or 2nd grade level, 4 reading on grade level, and 2 reading above grade level. My colleague has a high class with the exception of a few. She suggested that we switch my 4 highest with her 4 lowest to make it easier to do groups during Guided Reading. That way, my high kids are getting challenged like they need to be able to grow and my low kids are getting the help they need to grow as readers.

I couldn't even believe she would offer to do such a thing for me. It is going to be very different in my room starting tomorrow. I will teaching basic decoding strategies and skills with texts on their lexile level. I purchased a 1 year membership to to help level texts to their level. I will be benchmarking all of the students tomorrow and Tuesday to see what level they should start out on in their groups.

I am very excited, yet nervous as to how the rest of the year will pan out and if this plan will work at all. If you have any ideas or suggestions for teaching these babies how to read, I'm all ears!!

P.S. I am digging, like for reals! If you haven't been there, CHECK IT OUT! It levels texts all the way the 5th grade and it has wonderful fiction and non-fiction texts for printing. It also comes with worksheets and activities for each and every book!

Also, a first grade teacher at my school suggested I read, "First Grade Readers," by Stephanie Parsons and it offered tremendous help in providing strategies for decoding and tackling tricky words. If you teach lower grades or have a class with low level readers, I recommend this book.

Explorers and Native Americans

We just recently began a new unit on Native and Americans and Explorers. We have had to integrate the unit with Guided Reading since our Guided Reading block has been consumed by RIT groups (leveled focus groups) based on the grade level MAP scores.

According to SC state standards, students are required to know and compare the culture, governance, and location of the three major Native American tribes in SC - The Cherokee, Catawba, and Yemassee. We read information about each tribe and highlighted information regarding the culture, governance, and location of each tribe and transferred it into a flipbook.

On the back of the flipbook, we made a map of SC and labeled the location of the three tribes. We came up with a symbol to represent and help us remember each one. The Cherokee invented their own written language, so many students drew letters. The Catawba were well known for making pottery, so several kids chose to draw pots. You get the idea...

This week, we have been focusing on reasons why explorers came to the new world. I came up with an acronym to help the kids remember the five major reasons why explorers came:



If you would like copies of the flipcharts I used for this unit, please click HERE!

We are learning about the 5 major explorers to come through SC, what country they came from, why they came, and what they did while they were here. We have been getting into reading groups to read the information sheet on each explorer. We highlight information that we are looking for and then transfer it to our Explorer Graphic Organizer.

If you would like any of the resources I have discussed today, please email me!

How do you teach explorers and Native Americans?

Strategies for Reading Unknown Words

After seriously reflecting on the reading levels of most of my students, I decided to spend a week doing reading strategies for "tricky" words. I was inspired by Sarah Cooley's blog post about things good readers do, which you can view here.

I am going to link to my wiki so you can browse all of the resources and use what you like. I have included the Reading Strategies Unit plans that I created, a reading strategies document, the flipchart that goes along with the entire unit, prefix/suffix passage, and context clues sheet.

We worked on chunking, context clues, and prefixes and suffixes this week. If you any other ideas you teach students for figuring out words, please share! I'll take all of the suggestions I can get.

A little ditty...

about properties of minerals to the tune of Row, Row, Row Your Boat written by yours truly:

Hardness, odor, color, taste,
Cleavage, luster, streak.
Identify a mineral
by its properties!

We just finished a unit on Earth's Materials (Rocks, Minerals, Fossils, and Soil) and we learned this little song to help us remember the properties for identifying minerals.

Other fun activities we did:

1) Made a fossil to learn the difference between casts, molds, and imprints. Give each child a piece of clay and sea shell. Have them put vaseline on the sea shell and press into the clay. Gently pull the shell out and discuss that they made an imprint. Then, have the class fill the imprint with glue. It will take a few days to dry. Once the glue is dry, have kids pull the hardened glue out and discuss that this is the cast and the space left in the "rock" or clay is called the mold.

2) Brought in rocks from our neighborhood and sorted them based on their properties. i.e. smooth, rough, dark, light, shiny, dull, etc...

3) Mined raisins from cookies to model how rocks and minerals are mined from Earth's crust.

4) Drew sketches of rocks and minerals we observed in our science notebooks.

5) Learned about the three types of rocks (igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic) and made tableau's (frozen pictures) to represent each one. We also modeled each type of rock using play doh. Have them form their playdough into the shape of three flatish rocks and place them on top of each other. Explain that over time, the weight of the layers of sediment causes the sediment to turn into hard sedimentary rock. Then, have student apply pressure with their hands to smash the rock. Explain that when you apply heat and pressure to a rock, it turns into a metamorphic rock. Finally, to demonstrate how igenous rock is formed, I ask kids what happens to play doh when it's left out over night. They always say it dries out and hardens. Explain that this is how igneous rock is formed. It is lava that has cooled off and hardened into a rock.

6) We made hand motions to help us remember the three types of fossils (cast, mold, and preserved part)

7) We observed the different types of soils and how tested how well they retained water.

What ideas or activities do you use to teach about Earth's Materials?

Properties of Addition and Math Games

Man, this past week was just crazy busy. I have been wanting to sit down and blog for several days, but I haven't even had time to scratch my head!

Anyway, last week we talked about properties of addition. I found a great flipchart on promethean planet (it's at the bottom of the link page) to introduce the properties and then Friday, we used dice to model the commutative and associative properties.

I had them draw a T chart with one side labeled commutative property and the other associative property. We spent about 10 minutes rolling two dice and writing the numbers two ways. Example: you roll a 5 and a 4. Students would then write 5 + 4 = 4 + 5 or you can have them write 5 + 4 = 9 and 4 +5 = 0.

After practicing the commutative property, we rolled three dice and worked on the associative property. Example: you roll 4, 3, and 1. Students would write (4 + 3) + 1 = 4 + (3 + 1) or they could write (4 + 3) + 1 = 8 and 4 + (3 + 1 ) = 8.

We didn't do much with the Indentity Property the second day everyone understood the idea that when you add 0 to a number, it stays the same.

Here is a link to some addition and subtraction games to help your students work on different skills. The only gameboard I don't have in the file is the Spin a Number board. I will try to scan it next week and post it for you kinder teachers.

These are some great Computer games for helping your kids practice addition and subtraction.