Thursday, July 24, 2014

Word Study Assessment

This week, I'm linking up with Miss V's Busy Bees and Mrs. D's Corner for their Back to School fun! Each week, our bloggy friends are sharing useful experiences and ideas specific to a back to school topic.

On the agenda this week: assessment!

As we all know, there are a million and one (or so it seems) assessment pieces throughout our weeks in the classroom. For this post, I chose to write about word study assessment.

One of my very least favorite things about elementary school is spelling. Now, don't get me wrong. I am totally in favor of children learning how to spell, and for those of you who know my grammar freak tendencies, that's not a surprise to you!

In our classroom, we don't have your good ol' fashioned spelling list each week. Instead, we have a phonics pattern (short a, long u, etc.), like most classrooms. But, rather than students "studying" a list of these words at home each night, we work with these words throughout our week in our classroom. We list these words together (and then students are encouraged to add more that they think of throughout the week), we play games with these words during Daily 5 word work, we read poems with these words during class time and at least once a week, we complete a homework piece that deals with this phonics pattern. Students have exposure to these words throughout the week, and these experiences are more meaningful in the long run than studying a list.

Then, on Friday, I administer a word study assessment. This probably looks a lot like most teachers' spelling tests. However, the words are a surprise each week. I always choose words that we've brainstormed as a class that week, so I know that they've had ample opportunities to explore these words in various ways. I love this assessment so much more than when I did traditional spelling lists. I'm able to see which little friends are able to APPLY their phonics knowledge, which is so crucial to their reading and writing success.

I can also DIFFERENTIATE this assessment seamlessly! The tenth word is always a free choice word — the students may choose any word that fits the pattern. So, with Long I, some students might choose to write bike, a word that we've probably talked a lot about that week. OR, some higher-level friends might decide to write decide. That is instant differentiation. And, with the dictation sentence, students are able to create their own if they choose — I always give a fairly simple dictation sentence. I always encourage "stretching your brain," though!

I've found that my students perform better when we're able to apply our knowledge, rather than just memorize a list.

Check out the pictures below for a deeper look at what I do for this assessment!

How do YOU do spelling in your classroom?

Don't forget to follow on Blog Lovin'! — I'm in need of some good teacher lovin' over there!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Daily 5 & Behavior Management

I am absolutely loving the Back to School Weekly Linky from Miss V's Busy Bees and Mrs. D's Corner! I think that the idea is brilliant! Lots of teachers sharing ideas about specific components of our classroom. Perfect!

I decided to jump in this week with a post regarding behavior during Daily 5. Now, you may be thinking, "But, wait! Daily 5 is all about students engaged and on task. They will never, ever, ever, ever, ever misbehave during Daily 5. You are absolutely able to work with small groups without worrying about the others in the room."

Okay…if you're thinking that, and you've never had a problem with behavior during Daily 5, then you deserve a gold medal!

No matter what we try, our little friends sometimes just can't get along with their group mates, or they can't find that perfect "Level 2" partner work voice. Or, they have an issue with truly staying on task, no matter how much time YOU put into ensuring each activity's meaningful and engaging nature.

So…I thought I'd pipe in this week's linky to share a couple of ideas that I have found super useful during Daily 5.

The first one: CLASS DOJO!
A lot of teachers use this as a whole class management tool. This year, I utilized it during Daily 5. Rather than each individual student having his or her own characters, each Daily 5 group had its own. In our classroom, we have numbers as Daily 5 groups - groups 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 (don't panic - this year, I plan to spice things up a bit).

Anyway, during Daily 5, the above image was projected on our screen. While I worked with a small group at the back table, I had my trusty wireless mouse next to me. If a group was on task or off task, I was able to click a group, indicate positive or negative behaviors, and the computer took care of alerting the class for me. There's a nifty little sound for positive and negative, and the kids quickly learn which is which. Based on our T-charts that we make during our introduction of Daily 5, I preload the behaviors, and the groups can see specifics of what made them gain or lose points. The best part of this is — I don't have to break away from my small group AT ALL. So many times, teachers are pulled away from their small group because they're yelling across the room or snapping their fingers to redirect students. And, that's not fair to your friends at the back table OR the other students in the room.

Once a group reaches five points, they get to "kick of their shoes" during Daily 5 the next day! Talk about a simple incentive! And, powerful, too. We make a big show of it, of course - the group gets to stand at the front of the room and literally KICK off their shoes! Then, we reset that group's points, and they restart their journey to shoeless Daily 5 glory.

My first graders this year LOVED this. They were very quick to remind me to pull up the "monsters." I'm positive that they started to think of these little furry guys as part of the family! 

The second idea I've used is pretty similar, but isn't dependent upon technology. 
It's super simple: 

On the main whiteboard in my room, I list each group's name (or number, if you're lame like I was this past year). Then, at the end of Daily 5 for the day (we have three rounds each day in my classroom), I choose my STAR groups. Then, I place a…you guessed it…STAR next to that group's name. Multiple groups may earn a star, or no groups may earn one! When a group earns three stars, that group gets to KICK off their shoes! Yay! 

As a side note: I'm all about self-reflection, and my students have the opportunity to do this at the end of each round, as we wait for all of the groups to clean up. Students sit on their desks (yes, this is super exciting for them) and give a quick "self-check." This is three fingers, two fingers or one finger, depending on how they feel that they did during that round of Daily 5. If we have time, I ask for volunteers to share a "proud moment" (something that they feel they did great during that round), a "wish for next time" (a goal for the next round) or a "star for someone else" (if they noticed a classmate making excellent choices). This is just a great way to include a little self-assessment and community building during our Daily 5 rounds! 

So, those are my quick and easy ideas for Daily 5 behavior management. What do you do for Daily 5 behavior? Or, are you one of those who deserve a gold medal? 

Friday, July 11, 2014


Hi, friends!

I am so excited because I finally found the courage to upload a non-free product to TpT. Yikes!

This year is our first year in the adoption of National Geographic's Reach for Reading series, so I've spent a great deal of time this summer creating resources to match the material in this new program. One of the staples in my classroom is our high frequency word flash cards. In my classroom, we call these BANG! words. As I tell my first graders, we call them BANG! words because when we come to  these words in our reading, we should know them BANG! BANG! BANG! quick.

Each of my students has his or her own BANG! bag (yes, that's what we call it!) in his or her desk. I copy the pages on card stock to give them more of a flash card-y feel, and so that they stand up to first grade love. Each week, students receive the new words for that week. They cut their own cards (Lord knows they don't have the chance to cut anymore, so some of my friends really struggle with cutting—this is a sad state of affairs). I also have them label the back of each card because we all know that cards WILL end up on the floor, and we'll never know who lost their has or mother or too or have.

Their BANG! cards are ALWAYS an option during word work or during an "I'm done, now what do I do?" situation. Selfishly, they also make a fantastic option for a quick time-filler before lunch or with a substitute. It's so quick to ask them to find their BANG! bags and then perform various tasks with these words:

  • find three nouns
  • choose four words and put them in ABC order
  • find two words that rhyme
  • choose two words and write a sentence that uses both
The possibilities are endless! But, it's such a great way to keep exposure for these words constant and varied throughout the day.

Click on the picture to check out my Reach for Reading BANG! cards on TpT!

How do YOU use high frequency words in your classroom?