Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Differentiated Spelling: Words Their Way

Have you ever thought that drill and kill was the complete wrong approach to teaching spelling?  Have you ever wondered why ineffective spelling instruction from 100 years ago is still present in the classroom today?

This post offers alternatives to traditional spelling instruction.
First, you need to check out Words Their Way Words Their Way: Word Study for Phonics, Vocabulary, and Spelling Instruction, 4th Edition (Book, CD & DVD) by Donald R. Bear.

Words Their Way focuses on teaching in the way that the brain naturally acquires knowledge.  Word sorting and pattern recognition is a huge part of this program.  

Now I want to stop and let you all know that my district uses Scott-Foresman's Reading Street, and the name of the game right now is FIDELITY (that's your favorite word, isn't it?).  So I'm not throwing out the bath with the bath.  I will still give my weekly required spelling tests.


Today I gave my students the Elementary Spelling Inventory (part of Words Their Way).  It's a list of 25 words that you ask the students to spell.  They write any sounds they hear, even if they don't know how to spell the entire word.  The results are AMAZING!!!!!!
The scoring guide breaks the results down into the students' individual developmental spelling stages.  Now you can group students together by ability and give them remedial practice or an extra boost. I use this data at conferences and talk with the parents about how their child is developing in relation to their peers. I try to forgo all the teacher jargon and break it down into layman's terms.
"You're child is still working on spelling short vowel words like cat and dog."
 "You're child is very advanced at this stage.  We will continue to push them by working on blends such as -sh, -ch, -th..."

Ok, I know what you're thinking.  That all sounds great.  Now how are you going to differentiate all that?!

Here's the best part.  They already did the work for you!
Words Their Way Letter and Picture Sorts for Emergent Spellers (2nd Edition)Words Their Way: Word Sorts for Letter Name: Alphabetic Spellers [WORDS THEIR WAY WORD SORTS-2/E]Words Their Way: Word Sorts for Within Word Pattern Spellers (2nd Edition)
In these books, it has weekly word sorts and activities for your kiddos.  Granted, this is a big initial investment.  If it were up to me I'd throw the reading street book out the window when it comes to spelling and just use this program!

I use The Daily 5, so my students will do word differentiated word sorts during rotations (word work).

What do you do for spelling/word work?  

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Library Organization: Book Bins & Baskets

Really Good Stuff Bins & Baskets on PhotoPeach

I've been wanting these for 3 years!!!!!  I'm so excited.  They came in today and I had to get my stuff set up.  It still has a ways to go, but it's definitely coming along!  The book bins & baskets are from Really Good Stuff- total was $150.  I will try to write more often soon!   We started two weeks ago, and I am swamped!!!!  We did Dibels testing and had a fire drill today.  Yuck.  I've been work 12 hour days everyday plus some weekends.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Zero the hero: Free Pictures!

Zero the Hero will be visiting our school tomorrow.  We are going to print off the pics and have a new one every tenth day to 100th day.  I'm also going to sprinkle blue glitter on all the desks and write a note from Zero to the kiddos.  Feel free to print these pics to use in your class!

Here are the pics:

Me and Zero!  :)  This one if for 100th day in my room.

Sorry I've been MIA lately.  I have literally been working 13 hour days lately.  Whew!  I got through Open House last night and it's been crazy busy!!!!  I will be back on here soon!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Prayer Request....

My stepmom, Barbra, has been battling cancer for 10 years.  Last week she was in the hospital with organ failure- thankfully, she made it through that but they have taken her off of chemo.  That's not a good sign.  My father works month long hitches in Africa and is currently on the other side of the world.
Please pray for her.
My father, me, and Barbra in June 2009

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The importance of a class website: first impressions with parents

Today we met our kiddos!  I'm very excited about my class.  As I was talking to the parents, I had comments like "We went to your website last night and saw your video!  We were hoping you would be her teacher!"

Parents check out the websites of the teachers before they ever find out who they are going to have that year.  How does your class website measure up?

Having an online presence doesn't mean posting the daily homework or some other high maintenance plan.  Just saying hello and letting parents peak inside the world of first grade is good enough.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

100,000+ hits :) And what do you think about these evaluations?

As I came home exhausted from a 12 hour workday getting ready to meet my new kiddos tomorrow (!!!!!), I was excited to see that this blog hit 100,000 hits today.
Thanks for the support.  Ya'll are great!

When I catch my breath I'm going to try to do a full post on registration day stuff... This week has been c-r-a-z-y!

Anybody else effected by this new evaluation* stuff this year?
*In Tennessee we bought into Obama's Race to the Top
I'll have to be evaluated SIX times this year, and two of those are unannounced full lessons (aka principal randomly pops in and stays for an hour).  All the nagging "what if's" keep popping into my head.  This also has my team a little concerned (there are SEVEN first grade teachers, btw!) so it looks like we'll be doing more meeting and sharing next year, which is fantastic in my book.  I guess some good things do come out of evals.  :)

I'm excited about meeting my new students tomorrow.  I'm looking forward to this year with the full support of all you amazing bloggers collaborating and sharing wonderful ideas!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Writer's Workshop

Who else uses Lucy Calkins' Units of for Primary Writing: A Yearlong Curriculum?
I haven't had any training on it and I'm the only one at my school doing it.  I could use an online support group!   I purchased the program last year but struggled with implementing it.  I started out strong and kind of fizzled out.

So if you have any tips, ideas, or anything to help let me know!  :)

Monday, August 1, 2011

Teaching Blog Addict: Are you connected?

Ranked by Alexa as the #1 teaching blog on the web, Teaching Blog Addict (TBA) is an amazing resource.  With over 80 amazing authors, TBA is your one stop for all your blogging needs.  Many followers still aren't taking advantage of all the ways to stay on top of the latest news:

I have been using TBA to get ideas for back to school lately.  I purchased a new printer to handle to load.  I may have laminated about 37 feet today... which I brought home to cut out tonight while watching a movie with my husband.  TBA makes my life easier!
Get connected today!