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Little Red Hen and Predictions

The Little Red Hen, a favorite of all youngsters.  My students were of no exception.  This version was a little different than some- the Little Red Hen made muffins instead of bread.  We took a picture walk through the book and the kids really picked up on how hard she was working without any help.  I was proud of how well they were empathizing.  They truly felt sorry for her!  :)

Before we got to the last page, we predicted what we thought Little Red Hen would do.  Here are a few of their predictions:

not share the muffins.

  maybe will share the muffins with the babies.

not share with the animals.
Most of the kids predicted that Little Red Hen would not share and they felt like she shouldn't share.  One little one was just sure she would share with the other animals and was almost crushed when he got to the end of the story and found out she didn't!  I loved hearing their voices as they individually read the books and got to the last page to see if they were right.  Lots of "I was right!!" was going on.  
On the next day, we took it a step farther and talked about how the animals might have made Little Red Hen feel by their actions.  After rereading the story, we wrote about what we would have done if we had been Little Red Hen.  The last one that I will share with you shows to what level that they got it and understood the character's feelings.  So cute!
share the muffins with the animals.
 eat the muffins myself.
give them a crumb.
 I just love that this girl decided she would give the animals a CRUMB of the muffin and not just eat it all herself!  She's letting us know she really gets it!
If you read The Little Red Hen, maybe you could use these reading response sheets too.  Feel free to grab them if you like them!

Saturday Sayings

Wow!  Our month of Saturday Sayings is almost over....this is our last installment.  I hope that you have enjoyed this partnership with Tammy from Forever in 1st, Julie from Lighting a Fire in Third, and Sandi from Literacy Minute as much as I have.  Please be sure to go read their reflective posts today after reading mine.  :)  And, I have a surprise announcement at the end of my post today!

 We just finished up a long season of testing at our school this week.  The talk in the halls and workroom from teachers is that they are stressed out and the kids are stressed out.  Everyone is feeling the pressure put upon them by the all important "test".  Anyone else feeling that way in your school?  Our school takes the MAP for grades 3-5 and Standford for grades 1-2.  The pressure seems to be tremendous on both students and teachers.  I know administrators feel it too.  They are always looking for ways to raise those scores. But for me, the answer is not in a program.  Anyone who knows me as a teacher knows that I am not a fan of programs.  Too much of a one size fits all to fit me and my students.  What I am a fan of is good, solid teaching methods with real and authentic reading and writing.  I like being able to adjust to my students needs at that moment that they need it.  This does take a lot of reading of professional books to find out what works, learning from professional and mentor teachers, and a lot of reflecting of myself on what I am doing and how to improve it for the next time.  I do have to take a lot of time for planning and analyzing of my students too. But this is something that I truly believe in and what works for me.  What is working for you in your school?  I would love to hear about it!

And now for my announcement... I am so excited to share this news with you!  Tammy was awarded Teacher of the Year at her school!!!  They made the right choice when they chose her for this honor.  Now that you have read my post (and hopefully left me a comment), go on over and congratulate her for all her hard work!!

Sharks & Dinos: Superb Writers Blogathon

I have been invited to participate in Grammarly's Superb Writers Blogathon!  That is so cool and since my students enjoy writing so much, I decided to participate in this fun event.  This blogathon is hosted by Grammarly grammar checker.  

The pen is much mightier than the sword. 

The Superb Writers' Blogathon, hosted by Grammarly grammar checker, hopes to help aspiring writers gain confidence in wielding the weapon of the written word. 

Young students have lots to say and lots to say about everything!  They are eager to get a hold of that pencil and start writing down their thoughts.  Especially after a good book!  We love to write about our books and characters in my room.  And we even like to change things up a bit when we write and get a little silly with it.  Like writing about swimming with sharks or inviting a dinosaur to our birthday party!  But we will get to that in a moment.  :)

One group of first graders read Sharks! In this informational text, the students wrote on Post-It notes interesting information that they learned about sharks.  Did you know there is one kind of shark that has eyes that glow?  They thought that was a very interesting fact!  Students also learned that sharks can come in different sizes (as big as a school bus or as small as a pencil) and colors (there is one that is pink!).  After learning all that we could about sharks and having conversations about them with our partners, we decided it was time to do some writing.  But we didn't want to do just any old writing; we were going to do some writing that was new to these students.  They were going to learn to be persuasive writers!  What?  Huh?  What does that mean?  Put persuasion into context and they got it right away.  Have you ever tried to convince your parents to let you spend the night at someone's house?  Well, of course they had background knowledge for that!  So we decided to take a preposterous idea- swimming with the sharks and write a letter to persuade our parents why this would be an okay idea.  They were all for this since they knew this was not really something we would ever do!  For the other group of students, they were going to try to convince their parents to let them invite the dinosaur to their birthday party just like Danny did in the story.  

Before we could begin writing, we needed a mentor text to help model for us how to get the job done.  I chose the book, I Wanna Iguana.  This sweet little boy writes letters to his mom explaining all of the creative reasons why he should be allowed to have a pet iguana.  His mom writes back with her reasons why he should NOT have one.  Fabulous book!

To start with, just like all superb writers do, we brainstormed a list of possible reasons why it would be good to swim with the sharks or invite a dinosaur to our party.  They came up with some pretty creative reasons for each one!

Now that we had some good ideas that might possibly convince our parents, it was time to start writing!  Yay!  They got right into it and began just like the boy in our mentor text by writing in the form of a letter.  We focus on getting our ideas down first so we circle words as we go that we think may be spelled incorrectly.  After all the creative juices have flowed through our pencils to the paper, then we can go back and clean things up a bit by revising, fixing spelling, grammar, and punctuation.  Here are a few of our first drafts or what some may call a sloppy copy. 

Now that they have worked their way through prewriting and writing the first draft, I helped them with the revising and editing parts.  I like to use 2 different colors when we do this so students can see that these are two different steps.  We use blue pencils to add interesting words and other revising to be done.  Then we move to using a red pencil to edit spelling, grammar and punctuation.  

Take a look at their finished letters!  They were proud (and rightly so) of their end products.  

Short Vowel Flip Books

I have a group of first grade readers that I am earning every penny of my salary.  :)  One of my favorite groups (okay, they all are my favorites), but boy do I have to work hard to show any progress with them.  It is a small group of 6 that just seems to struggle, struggle to keep sounds in their heads.  To ask them to apply these sounds and switch them out during reading has been difficult to say the least.  So I have tried several different ways to help them retain the sounds.  One way they enjoyed was the flip book.

I wanted to be sure they knew the different vowel names.  Then we not only practiced their sounds, but came up with a movement to go with each one.  Brain based research says that we can remember better if we have a visual and a movement to go with what we are learning.  So we did sign language for apple and egg.  I couldn't find any to go with igloo and ostrich so we made up our own that made sense to them. 



My kids also made their own short vowel books.  They got to come up with the words that had short vowel sounds in them that were meaningful to them.  To help them remember, I had to be sure they were connecting with words that had meaning to them.  A few needed me to spell Optimus Prime for them for the short o page.  I had no idea who that was!

My students have done all kinds of word sorts and making words with magnetic letters during word work too.  They are starting to apply the short vowels and long vowels that they have/are learning (I posted previously on this same group trying to learn their long vowel sounds-click here to read).  It is all about applying these skills in reading and not in isolation.  They still need prompting when reading about switching out the sounds, but we have moved from needing the teaching to the prompting.  That is a BIG step for this group in the right direction!

Saturday Sayings and Miracle-Gro

Already, it's time for installment number 3 with Tammy- Forever in First, Julie- Lighting a Fire in Third Grade, and Sandi- Literacy Minute.  Our month of Saturday Sayings are going fast!  Be sure to check out what they have to say today.

Growing writers is like growing a garden.  There is a lot of hard work involved.  You have to get down in the dirt and get messy.  There is a lot of tilling of the fertile soil to be done and planting the seeds.  After all that, then you have to tend to it and pull out those pesky weeds.  But in the end, you have this big pay off of beautiful flowers, all unique in their own way- individual and different, but all beautiful in their own way!

I love to teach writing and love to see the growth from my young writers.  But is hard work!  Children need the time to practice their writing daily to be able to get better at it.  We must also model for children how to write.  We won't get that good growth in our writing gardens if no modeling is being done.  Children need to see you write and hear your thoughts as you go through the process.  My motto has always been: model, model, model!  They will grow as writers given the daily time and the modeling.

I only have 30 minutes per day with my students, so I feel the crunch of time- big time!!  But when I've had to rush and then feel the frustration that my students didn't "grow" like I wanted that day, I have to be honest with myself and ask:  Did I model for them how to write? If not, I know I had better do a better job of tending to my garden next time so beautiful flowers and not weeds are growing there!

How is your garden growing???  Big and beautiful?  Or not enough growth and too many weeds?  Where is the Miracle-Gro when we need it???? 

I Love My White Shoes and 5 Star Blogger Challenge

Have you read the Pete the Cat books?  I know, who hasn't right?  They are so cute and simple and the kids adore them!  The kids learned the song quickly and I so enjoyed hearing them sing as I read them the book.  Too cute!  After reading the book, we chose words that we found interesting to put around our own Pete the Cat.

Such a cute book inspires great writing- bonus!  The kindergartners first wrote about Pete and what he stepped in.  Take a look!

 Pete stepped in strawberries.  Pete loves red shoes. 
Pete stepped in blueberries.  He loves his blue shoes.
 Pete has different colors of shoes.  His shoes are red.

After all that fun, we then talked about what if we put ourselves in Pete's shoes, so to speak.  Some got a little creative with their drawings of themselves, but their writing was so good!
I love my pink shoes.  I stepped in bubblegum.  My shoes are beautiful.

My shoes are blue.  I stepped in blue paint.

My shoes are light brown.  I stepped in mud.

I am so happy with how far some of these students have come.  The student who wrote about Pete stepping in strawberries and then herself stepping in bubblegum has a huge speech problem.  She came to us in preschool not being able to say the beginning or ending sounds of words when she spoke.  Flip flops would come out at iii ooos.   We can now understand her so much better and she can hear and stretch on her own so many more words and sounds!  Yay, yay, yay for her and the other students everywhere who have come so far!
Are you a 5 Star Blogger?  Charity, from The Organized Classroom Blog, has challenged teacher bloggers to hold to certain standards on their blogs.  I am happy to say that I meet her challenge.  Go to her blog and check out what it's all about!

What Level is Your Thinking??

Isn't that the cutest graphic?  Michelle, from The 3 am Teacher, made this for me and I just love it so much!!!!  I described to her in an email what I was visualizing and she was able to come up with it and make it look great!!  If you need any graphics, please go to Michelle.  She is great to work with and as you can see, she does great work! 

If you would like to have this poster, just click on it and you can grab it for free from my store in my reading posters collection.   I would love to have you follow my store too.  :) 

Now to explain what this poster is all about.  Krista, over at The Second Grade Superkids, sparked this idea for me.  I needed a way to teach deeper level thinking and to be visual about it so my kids could understand and remember it better.  I saw a post on this at Krista's blog.  

My kids hear me saying all the time, I want deeper thinking.  No surface level thinking.  They know this inside and out.  To demonstrate this, I took a glass of water and a plastic golf ball.  I dropped the ball into the water for effect and the students could see that it floats on top of the water.  We discussed how this was surface level thinking and that is NOT want Mrs. Vines wants from her students.  

Then we discuss how we should dive down deeper into our brains.  This we call deeper level thinking.  I use these two levels of thinking all of the time, but especially when I teach inferences.  You can see that post here.  To demonstrate deeper level thinking, I drop a real golf ball in a glass of water so they can see it dive to the bottom.

Now, I loved the visual demonstration of the golf balls in the water, but I didn't like keeping the glasses of water around all of the time as visual aids.  My students needed the visual reminder, but I was afraid the glasses would get broken and they were in the way.  That is where Michelle came in.  Now, I have this beautiful poster to hang in my room and I don't have to have the real glasses hanging around all of the time.  I love the visual aid to help my students to dive deeper into their brains when analyzing reading!  Head over to Michelle's blog and tell her how much you love her graphics!

Saturday Sayings

Wow, already this is the second Saturday in April!  Which means this is the second installment of reflective posts that Tammy from Forever in First, Julie from Lighting a Fire in Third Grade, and Sandi from Literacy Minute and myself have gotten together to write.  We truly hope you enjoy them and that they spark some reflective thoughts.  After reading my reflective post, be sure to head over to each of their blogs and check out their thoughts too!  We do appreciate it so much!

By second or third grade, good readers are reading 10 times as many words each day as poor readers- Richard Allington

This quote comes from Richard Allington and Patricia Cunningham's book Classrooms That Work They Can ALL Read and Write.

This is a wonderful, wonderful book that leads schools in the direction of literacy in the classroom for all students.  It's a great read and what I would hope all schools would aspire to be.

Allington and Cunningham state that by second or third grade, struggling readers lose their I can do anything attitude in reading and writing and begin to avoid reading and writing situations.  In essence, they lose that spark that we see them having for these subjects in kindergarten and first grade.  The great thing about Allington and Cunningham is they don't just give you statistics on how bad it can be, they give you steps to overcome this.  They lead us to make the commitments of modeling for students, providing lots of materials, and providing amounts of time to help struggling students and really, all students not to lose their "spark."

Allington and Cunningham challenge us to use 4 types of material every day in our classrooms.

Four Steps:  (Don't you just love short, well laid out lists?)
1.  Read informational texts at different times of the day, every day.  Keep it short and fascinating.
2.  Read traditional read alouds.  Some should be a step above what the students can read on their own and read some easier books because they will want to read these books that you have "blessed."  Here is my blessed books basket- you may have seen this in a previous post.

3.  Read poetry every day.  Use the few empty minutes during your day to get this one in.  Students love poetry and the rhythm and rhyme.
4.  Read easy books to the students and let them read easy books.  Struggling readers have often missed this time at home of reading and rereading pleasure books.  How many of us choose a difficult book for our pleasurable reading at home?  We need to model reading and provide the time to read books for pleasure.

This is a tall order for us to fit in every day!  How do you fit it all in?  I know I love poetry, but am definitely falling short of reading a short poem or two every day to my students and will need to make an effort to do better.  I would love to know how you fit in all these steps in your already busy, busy day!

Wipeout the Test!

We just had our assembly to get ready for "the big test".  Our theme this year is Wipeout the MAP!  What fun the assembly was for everyone.  Teachers dressed up for action and competed in our own special wipeout obstacle course!  Students who had tested advanced in the previous year got to help out with the obstacle course.  
This teacher is getting ready to ride a scooter while student throw balls at her!  Then the teacher has to try to jump rope while being pummeled with pool noodles.  While there were a few more stops on the course, the hit of the day was when students got to try to throw a pie at the teacher as they ran by to a pool full of green jello!!  When their shaving cream pie hit the mark, the crowd went wild!  These teachers who participated were good sports and really got the school ready to wipeout the test!!

I don't like to cram right before the big test, instead choosing to try to prepare all year long.  But I do like to make sure my students are fluent with the words that are likely to be found on the test.  I want to be sure students can read the directions and questions quickly and fluently so they can use their brain power for answering questions and not trying to read them.  I only do these activities for about 5 minutes per time.  One activity that works well is test phrases.  I went through old test released items and chose phrases that would probably be on tests each year.  I typed these phrases onto flashcards and the students spend just a few minutes a couple times a week practicing reading them.

For another group of students, I took words that would probably be found on the test and we did a syllable sort with them.  This was just another way to build fluency using test vocabulary.  It's quick and an easy way for me to see what words they may still need to work on so the reading of the test is the least of what they have to stress over!  

 What do you and your school do to prep for the test?  I would love to hear about it!
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