Thursday, July 24, 2014

Guided Math: Chapter 9

It’s hard to believe that we have made it to the end of our book study. This book has quickly become one my favourite resources.


I think the timing of this book study was perfect. It allowed me to reflect and plan over the summer and introduce the Guided Math Framework for my new group of kids starting in September.

There are two main things that I am going to implement this year. The first is the idea of starting with the math warm up. I love this idea! I plan to get at least the first two months of warm ups planned so I can see how it goes and I’m prepared. I think that the big issue with the Guided Math Framework is the amount of planning it takes. But, at the same time once the planning is done I’m sure next year won’t require nearly as much planning. Along with the Math Warm up I want to rethink my calendar routine. I find that it becomes so automatic that we tend to just go through the motions. I really want to add some life (math) into my calendar routine. I want to mix it up and make it interesting. Not just something we have to do every day.

Obviously, the big thing I want to implement is the idea of Guided Math, i.e. moving beyond the occasional conference with my students; to really get into what my students need to progress and to move them forward.
The one thing that I want to improve on is my tracking and recording of assessment. I need to force myself to document more than I am doing now.

I am super lucky to teach in a school with over 750 kids, which means that we have 4 grade one classes. We are an amazing team! I feel lucky every day that I get to work these great ladies. My teaching partner decided to read this book over the summer as well, so during our common planning times we can discuss how things are working in our classrooms.

I also have an amazing online resource! My blogging book study friends are there and I know that I can ask them anything!


Don't forget to enter the giveaway!

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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Falling in Love...Chapter 3

I'm linking up with my friend Dianna from Sassy, Savvy, Simple Teaching to bring you chapter 3 of the "Falling in Love with Close Reading" Book Study.



 I was super excited this week because my copy of the book finally arrived. One of the joys of shipping a book into Canada from the United States is that it can take a while (please note the sarcasm. Especially when there are holidays. Almost two weeks later I finally have my book! YEAH!!!!!


So chapter 3, is called a "A Way with Words: A Study of Word Choice". 

Before I started reading this chapter, I thought this chapter would about students figuring out what words mean. Once I got into the chapter it made much more sense, and I started to get excited about the chapter. This chapter is all about teaching Students to look closely at the words the author chose to get a deeper understanding of the author's purpose and to help them understand text.

I thought this was an interesting quote, "Our students read words all day long, but often times they (and perhaps we) use them mostly as tools for understanding" page 34. I think this is so true! Especially in the younger grades. I find that I am so focused on teaching them to read and understand  the words that they are reading that we don't really stop to think about why the author chose the words that he/she did. 

I think its important to teach young students to look at the authors word choice and how it creates a mood or a feel to the story.

 I can see how this could be carried through into their own writing. I don't know how many times I've read, "It was fun." I feel that this will help them think about the words that they chose themselves.

Don't forget to enter our giveaway for your chance to win your own copy of the book.



Make sure you stop by to see what my bloggy buddies thought of Chapter 3.
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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Guided Math: Chapter 8


I'm linking up with Amanda from "The Primary Gal" to bring you Chapter 8 of the "Guided Math" Book Study.


I really like this quote and I feel that it really sums up my thoughts on assessment, “The more the teacher knows about the students' learning during instruction, the more accurately instruction can be tailored to meet them.” It makes total sense to me. Math can’t be taught as one size fits all. I think that’s why people believe that they are ‘no good’ at math, or  they are not a math person, myself included. Differentiated math instruction is a lot more work for the teacher to plan, but it reaches the needs of all of the students. In order to differentiate the teacher really needs to know what the students know to create next steps.

According to Laney and others, assessment:
  •   Informs teaching decisions;
  • Assesses students strengths and knowledge;
  • Finds out what students can do independently and with teacher support;
  • Documents progress;
  • Summarizes achievement.


I think it’s important that students know what their learning goal is,and what they need to do to be successful (i.e. success criteria).

I personally use Learning Goals and Success Criteria in language, but I don’t use them as much in mathematics. Which obviously doesn’t make sense, since they are so successfully used in language. Why am I not using them in math more often?  
There are a variety of ways to record assessment data with check lists, rubrics, anecdotal comments, sticky notes.


Recording assessment is the area in which I need the most improvement. I find that I get so busy during the math block that I’ll realize at the end of the day I haven’t written anything down!

This is how I record on a checklist. Instead of “Met” or “Not Met”. I write the goal or success criteria at the top of the checklist and then I use the following symbols.

If they really get it I will colour in the triangle. I find that recording what I’m seeing this way makes it very clear what my next steps are, without having write a lot of notes.

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Sunday, July 13, 2014

Falling in Love...Chapter 2


Here comes Chapter to of the Falling in Love With Close Reading Book Study, hosted by Dianna from Sassy, Savvy, Simple Teaching's.



I. After reading the lessons in this chapter, what are your thoughts about teaching close reading?

My first thought about close reading, is that I don't close read. I'm a skimmer, I skim through books and will sometimes get to the end of the page and have no idea what I have read, which is so annoying that I have to go back and read it again. Descriptive paragraphs in novels! AHHHHH! I read the first couple of sentence and then skip to the next paragraph. Same thing, I find myself having to go back and reread because I will have missed something important or things won't make sense. But it's so boring to read every single word! Is anyone else like that or is it just me? 

So knowing that about myself, I think I have to work extra hard to teach close reading to my class.  I really have to look at the book or story that I'm reading and have a purpose, or decide on a lens.

What really stood out for me about this chapter was when they talked about they way or the reasons that we gather evidence.

I hate to say it but I'm kind of stuck with the old way. The student has an idea, and then they find the evidence in the text that supports the idea.

This year my focus will be to switch to the approach the authors suggest: first we gather the evidence, then develop the idea. Which really does make more sense. We shouldn't be forcing the evidence to fit into the mold or the idea that we already have.


2. What do you notice about the amount of student talk during the lessons? 

There is a lot of student talk. Lots of times to share their ideas and thoughts with their elbow partners. I really like how the authors suggest listening to what the students are saying and picking two or three ideas from them. I think it's a much nicer flow, then having everyone share their ideas.

I also noticed in the lesson that there was a strong sense of the readers voice in the students' writing. You could actually see their thought process as they gathered evidence and then created or changed their idea.

I'm really enjoying this book. It's making me think about my own practice. It's forcing me to "close read" it, since skimming an educational text will not work always work. Especially for this book. 

I love that they have included all kinds of examples. I would love to see more primary grade samples. I'm trying to envision what close reading would look like at the beginning of first grade. I think I will use a lot of rich text, read alouds and do a lot of modelling. I will also pull small groups for some of my higher readers.

Don't forget to enter the giveaway!


Check out what my bloggy buddies think about chapter 2.


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Saturday, July 12, 2014

You Oughta Know

I'm linking up today with Jasmine from Buzzing with Mrs. McClain. I love this blog hop! It's one of my favourites.

So what do I think "You Oughta Know?" You Oughta Know how I store all of my anchor charts. I don't know about you but I'm always finding myself short on wall space to hang my anchor charts, especially when we are done using them but I want them to be handy in case we need a refresher.


First, I laminate a lot of my charts so that I can use them from year to year. Especially poems and charts with learning goals and success criteria on them. Once they are laminated the students can write on them. A little bit of rubbing alcohol takes it all off.


 I attach a plastic clothes hanger to the back of the charts with packing tape and then I hang them. It makes it super easy and fast to find the chart I'm looking for. 


The hanger is an easy way to hang them in the classroom. You don't have to worry about the little holes on the paper ripping.

Some of the charts that I make with the students that I want to be able to have on hand, I make into a book.


Start by folding the chart paper in half length wise and then half again. 


Take a piece of Bristol board and fold it in half. I trim it down to 18"x24". 


Glue the top left quarter of the folded chart to the right side of the Bristol board. 



Close the bristol board and right the name of the chart on the front. 

Store in an easy to find place.

This is how I store my charts when I don't need them.

Don't forget to stop by and see what my bloggy friends think "You Oughta Know".




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Diggin' into Writing Instruction

I’m happy to be back this week linking up with Laura from Where the Magic Happens. I took a couple weeks off to get through the last week of school and to enjoy my first week of summer holidays. Now that I’m in to the swing of holidays I can get down to work. I’m also sitting at my parent’s cottage watching my little girls sleep and listening to the sounds of water hitting the shore, so I have some time to think and reflect.


Today I’m digging into writing instruction. It always amazes me how fast firsties progress in writing. Many students come into grade 1 writing random letters or even scibble writing and leave at the end of the year able to write their own story with a beginning, middle and an end, a research report, letters and personal recounts. I think it's part of the reason why I love teaching first grade, they are little sponges and just soak it all up!



I have been super fortunate to work with a fantastic group of teachers for the last four years. Our focus for the past couple of years have been on writing instruction. 

We begin every year with Personal Recount. This unit works really well with Lucy Calkins, although it is not specifically designed to be used with it.

We then move into letter writing. We have so much fun with letter writing. This year we had a visitor in our classroom named Flakey (think Elf of a Shelf) Each night Flakey would get into some kind of trouble but he would also write us a letter and we would write back. Sometimes it was shared experience other times it was interactive writing. The students had lot of practice writing letters, to friends, family members, friends in the school and even our pen pals from another school.





After letter writing, we start Procedural Writing which is my absolute favourite. It is soooooo much fun. Funny though it's the only unit that I haven't created yet. We write procedures for all kinds of things. The kids favourite is writing how to blow a bubble. They love breaking the no chewing gum in school rule.


We then start retelling stories. Which isn't really writing but a written retell has a lot of writing in it. We start Retell after Procedural Writing because the students have learned the sequence words (First, then, next...) and how to break things into steps. It makes writing a retell much easier.


We usually use fairy tales for our retell unit. When we are done we read a variety of fractured fairy tales, and then from there the students write their own fractured fairy tales. Some of the Gingerbread stories my students have written are hilarious.




We usually end the year with research and non fiction writing. This is another fun unit. Near Cambridge, Ontario we have an attraction called "African Lion Safari" which we go to at the end of the school year. So the students research African animals and then they create their own non fiction books.



Throughout the year the students also participate in free choice writing centres. Students can choose what centre or activities they want to complete. I found that my students were much more engaged and interested in writing when given the opportunity to choose.


Although I love how we have set up our writing instruction. we are going to try teaching to the traits next year instead of focusing on the forms. I'll let you know how it goes.

Don't forget to hop back over to Laura's page and continue on the blog hop.




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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Guided Math: Chapter 7

I'm linking up again with Amanda from The Primary Gal for Chapter 7 of the "Guided Math" book study! This chapter is all about conferring with students, which is something I feel that I need to improve on and do more often.


I have to admit that I used to be on the “old school” side of teaching, when I first started. I would determine my students’ mathematical thinking by looking at their final product. “Yep, he got it”….or “Oh no! He’s got no clue.”

Over the years my teaching style has changed a lot. I went from teaching straight from the textbook, to math centres, to problem based learning and now to guided math. I think that guided math, works well with the centre and problem solving approach to math. It’s the next stepping stone up.

So how do I discover my students’ mathematical thinking? I do it in two ways. I ask them during informal or formal conferences. I also check in with them.

I try to use questions like: “So what have you done so far?” or “What do you know about the problem/question?” Keeping the questions open allows the students to explain their thinking. When students are stuck, I will ask them if there is a strategy or a tool that they could use to help them solve the question/problem. I find sometimes they just need encouragement and to know that it’s okay to try.




Ideally, I like to confer with my students at least 3 times a week. Does it happen? Let’s be realistic, not often. More realistically we are looking at once maybe twice a week, depending on the student.

Here is why… there is a sense of learned helplessness in my classroom sometimes.  Even if, I’m wearing my stop sign students will still come up and ask for help, even though they know that they can’t interrupt.

 However, I sometimes feel that interrupting is better because if they don’t interrupt then they are off task and fooling around.

I sat down with my students last year and we brainstormed a list of stratgies that they can use when they are stuck. Since creating and posting this posters in my classroom, interruptions have decreased dramatically. If a student interrupts, I point to our strategy wall and they know what to do.

The strategies that I use are part of my Problem Solving Strategy Set.


Don't forget to enter this weeks giveaway!
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And check out what my blogging buddies have to say about this weeks chapter.



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Sunday, July 6, 2014

Falling in Love...Book Study



Today I'm linking up with Dianna from Sassy, Savvy, Simple Teaching to bring you a new book study.


I have to say, I'm pretty proud of myself. I usually only read one educational book a summer. This summer, I'm on to my third!! Which is insane for me! Book studies and sharing my thoughts with you is so motivating.


Dianna suggested that we read "Falling in Love with Close Reading" by Christopher Lehman and Kate Roberts.

 I'm embarrassed to admit that I had no idea what "close reading" was until I read the first chapter. Honestly, I think I was thinking cloze reading. I thought perhaps it was an American word for cloze. But obviously I was wrong. LOL.



So once I found out that "cloze reading" and "close reading" are two different things, this book makes a lot more sense. I also realized that I have been doing close reading...without realizing I was doing close reading and maybe just not well.

Although this books seems to focus on Common Core, I'm hoping that I will be able to take a lot out of it and use it in my own classroom in Ontario. 

So what is close reading? So far my understand is that close reading is looking closely at text. While rereading, the reader is using a lens to look at individual words, sentence fluency, meaning and syntax.

I personally have found when we have done our own version of close reading in my classroom that we lose the enjoyment in the text and that students are less engaged. 

However, Christopher and Kate believe that if it is done right student engagement and enjoyment is improved. 

I'm really looking forward to reading this book. I hope you stick with me throughout the summer.

Don't forget to enter the giveaway! You can win a copy of the book and a $10 TPT Gift Card.

Make sure you stop by my friend's blogs and see what they have to say about chapter 1.


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