Work on Writing: Using Drawings, Food, and Our Five Senses to Add Details to Our Writing

One of the first things I taught my firsties to do as we set up our work on writing notebooks is start with an illustration. 
Think of something you want to write about.
 Make a mental picture.
 Do a quick pencil drawing on a square of white paper. 
It's a form of brainstorming.

At the very beginning of the year, most of my class writes one sentence and considers themselves done.
I beg to differ. 

This is where the drawing comes in handy. We compare/contrast the drawing with our writing. Here's a typical conversation from the first week or two of school. 
"Please read me your sentence."
"I have a dog."
"That's an awesome sentence. I see you remembered to start it with a capital letter. Let me look at your drawing. I notice in your drawing your dog has spots."
"Oh ya, my dog is white with lots of black spots."
"That is a detail you can add to your writing. Try adding a sentence about your dog's spots. I love when students add details to their writing." 

Over and over we talk about if our drawing matches our writing and vice versa. We use the drawing to add details to our writing. And, if we think of a detail to add that is not already in the drawing, we write it and then we add it to our drawing. 
This is how we wrote while launching Daily 5: Work on Writing.

I know. I know. It sounds like a lot for the very beginning of the year, but I'm a jump "write" in and try it kinda teacher. 

Currently we are in our fourth week of school. Last week in science (or was it the week before?) we learned about our five senses in science, so I decided to incorporate that into our writing lesson when we learned about adding labels to our drawings. 

The five senses make me think of food. So Monday I did a quick drawing of a cupcake. The drawing is in black and white. It always starts that way. Then I made a mental image and went about adding labels to the cupcake as the kiddos reviewed for me our five senses. 

Looks like: pink icing, colorful sprinkles, cherry on top, blue wrapper
Feels like: soft, warm fluffy cake with sticky, squishy icing
Smells like: sweet, sugary, strawberry
Tastes like: sweet, sugary, strawberry, strawberry filling in the middle, delicious
Sounds like: My class decided cupcakes do not make noise, so we skipped it. You could label what you sound like when you eat it :-)

Then the kiddos hurried to their desks to make their own mental images about food. One student drew pizza. A few drew donuts. There was a pie and a few cakes too. One little guy drew an ice cream cone. And some friends drew a cupcake very similar to mine. We added our labels and saved our work for the next day. 

Tuesday I demonstrated how I used my labels to help me add details to my writing. You may notice I color coded each label with where that detail is in my writing. I did this for demonstration purposes, but it couldn't hurt for the kids to try it a few times as it provides a visual connection between the drawing and the writing. 

We always go back and color our drawings at the very end. 

Today we did some interactive work on writing. We used real mini cupcakes!

My firsties had so much fun completing this writing activity!

Word Work...This is How We Do It

Daily Five: Word Work

This is how we do it
It's Friday night, and I feel all right
The party is here on the West side

Remember that Montell Jordan song? It's stuck in my head. That's how it made into the title of this blog post. I can't remember any lyrics past "...West side..." so these three lines are on repeat. 

Ok, nevermind...let's move on :-)

It's only week 3, but in room 301 we are well on our way to implementing all the components of the Daily Five. We've launched Read to Self and almost all of us can focus for 15 minutes. There's just those two or three stragglers. We've also launched Word Work, Work on Writing, and Read to Someone. 

Word Work is serious business in first grade. This is how we do it.

My district uses the Words Their Way program. On Monday I introduce the sort. I always stress that the words should be sorted by word family and READ OUT LOUD. Sort and READ 3 TIMES (I repeat, and repeat...). I want the kiddos to learn the spelling pattern and be so familiar with the words that they can read them quickly. So, we sort them together and I tape them on the whiteboard. Next, I use a pointer and we read them all together. First, we read each list three times up and down. Then, I tell my class I'm going to try to trick them and I point to the words randomly. They love when I fail to trick them. 

Now the students go to their seats with a half sheet of sorting cards. 

TIP: Have students color the back of the sheet before cutting out the words. If each student at a group/table colors the back a different color, then when one is found on the floor you can figure out who it belongs to. My partner gets credit for this trick. 

Color the back, cut them out, sort and read three times. Put the words inside of the baggie taped to the front of your notebook.

Now I get out the Big Book of Poems that comes with the Words Their Way program. We read the poem that goes with the word sort and use highlighter tape to find the words that have the same spelling pattern as our word sort words. Then, I give the students a mini version of the poem. I just type it up myself. Students add the poem to their poetry notebook and highlight the words we found. They also list the words beside the poem and illustrate the poem. 

It sounds like a lot, but once you've practiced the process a few times it doesn't take that long to get all this accomplished.

On Tuesday, we read the words that are still taped on the board three times as a whole group. I try to trick them again ;-)

Then, students go to their desk where they sort and read their words three times before rainbow writing the words in their word work notebook. First, we list the words using a pencil. Then, we trace the words using three different crayons. Ultimately, each words gets written four times.

Now it's the middle of the week. Again, we read the words taped to the board and I try to trick the class again, but I almost never do by this point. 

Then the kids independently sort and read the words three times (yep, we are broken records) and glue them on the back of the page that they rainbow wrote the words on the day before.  By Wednesday most of the kiddos can read the words three times at a record pace!

Worksheet time. I make the worksheets myself to supplement the Words Their Way word sorts. 
Find the worksheets I've created so far here and here and here and here

Thursday is free choice. Students who have finished rainbow writing, glued the words in their notebook, and completed the worksheet to my satisfaction can CHOOSE how they want to spend their word work time. 

Not finished with something? Gotta get it done before you can have free choice time. 

I plan to change my  choice options periodically. Right now students can:
1. Write the words on their desk using a dry erase marker. 
2. Build the words using plastic letters.
3. Use a golf tee to write the words in clay, or shape the words out of clay.
4. Play the game that comes with Words Their Way Program.

Test day. 

Thanks for hanging in there! Leave me a comment letting me know how you do word work. I might incorporate your suggestion into my week. 

Parent Communication

Today I would like to share with you all the ways that I communicate with the parents of students. Adequate communication, I think, is one of the keys to having a successful school year. Let's face it. Happy parents = happy students = happy teacher!

My parent communication motto is ... EVERY WAY POSSIBLE! And, I'm not going to lie, I do it as much to convey information as to cover my boo-tay, if you know what I mean. I cringe if I hear these words uttered ... "She didn't tell me."

At the beginning of every week I send a mass email to all of my students' parents. I include upcoming events, important dates, and an overview of what we are learning that week. This is a copy of the email I sent home on Monday. 

My email is like a weekly electronic newsletter, but I don't take the time to fancy it up with columns and clipart. Sometimes things come up during week, so I occassionally send other mass emails too. 

Regarding specific students, I try only to email positive notes. I try never to send any comments via email regarding innapropriate student behavior, unless I've tried multiple times to contact the parent by phone and I'm not getting a call back or other form of communication. You just never know if the way the email sounds in your head is how it's going to sound to the parent when he/she reads it. Emails leave room for too much interpretation.  

Have you heard of REMIND? It used to be called REMIND 101. The app allows you to send text messages to parents. Parents do not learn your actual cell phone number and they cannot reply to the message. You can text your whole class at once, or select a parent to contact. I keep these pretty generic. Like - 

"Tomorrow is Future Friday. Wear a college t-shirt."

"Don't forget to send you reservation for the K.I.S.S. luncheon to school by Friday." (Kids Invite Someone Special - we invite guests to lunch on Grandparent's Day.)

During pack and stack, kiddos color a dot on their calendar to indicate where they were on the clip chart at the end of the school day. Parents initial the dot. 

I created these calendars specifically for my class. 

My phone call policy is:
If I make a "bad" phone call I also have to make a "good" phone call for someone else. I like to keep things balanced. I don't make that many phone calls home about disruptive behavior (KNOCK ON WOOD), so on occassion I'll make 5 or 6 "Your student is having a super duper week" phone calls just for fun. It just makes a parent's day. I know it would make mine if I received such a phone call :-)

I won't go into much detail here, but all parents of elementary students in my district attend a parent-teacher conference to discuss progress and pick up their student's first report card of the school year. Our district accomodates elementary teachers in this endeavor by giving us two early release days in October when the first grading period ends. 

Beyond that parents receive report cards approximately every nine weeks. Parents of students who are not meeting benchmark also receive progress reports during the grading period. 

If I think of anything I'm forgetting, I'll update the post later. 

Teacher Tips Tuesday

You know how every year you tweak some things and think up some new tricks that will positively, definately, for sure help you stay better organized and make your life all kinds of easier??? 

Me too. I'm one of those people. Here's how I revamped a few things for this school year. It's only the beginning of week two...but, so far so good :-)

Day two I let my firsties choose a book box with a number on it. 

This became THEIR NUMBER. It's the number on their mailbox.

It's the number they will use to determine which math tub they get each day.

It's the number they write beside their name on the top of EVERY paper. 

So far this is working for me because:
1. I can reuse the book boxes without having to lable over a child's name.
2. I do not have to re-label the mailboxes every year. Those are the same stickers I put on there last year. Children can file their work easily. And, the numbers make it easy for any student to "file"  papers in student mailboxes if necessary.
3. For word work on Wednesdays we do a worksheet that supplements the Words Their Way program. I plan to place the worksheets in a drawer labled "Worksheets". Students take the worksheet with their number at the top. Yes, I have to take a minute to write the numbers at the top before I put them in the drawer, but this allows me to easily spot check for who still hasn't started their worksheet yet. Once Daily 5 is in full swing children do word work at different times during the day, so I think this system will be helpful. 

(Coming soon...a post that is all about word work and what we do each day of the week.) 
Here are the worksheets that go in the drawer. These packs come with three different worksheets per word sort. I only use one. But I like to have options. 

Okay, next new trick.

See the pencil on two anchor charts about writing and the stick figure with a book on the charts about independent reading??? I'm trying to link the charts. Related charts will all get the same doodle/symbol. This way if a child is referring to an anchor chart, he/she can follow the symbols to a related anchor chart. 

Are you still with me?
Check out these pics of a friend's kinder classroom. Love the circus theme! Isn't she sooo creative?