Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Summer To-Do List

There are 17 days of school left and so much to do! Next week we are going to the zoo. I have tons of habitat stuff to do before then, but all of my kids are so excited! I still need to make name tags, send in lunch counts,  and finish all of the things that go along with organizing a field trip. Thank goodness I have such a wonderful first grade team!
Today I started making a personal summer to-do list (mostly including going camping, going on bike rides, going on a picnic, and maybe doing some organizing) and it inspired me to make a school-related to do list. So, here it is:
  1. Think of some great projects so I can do art every Friday! I love art and think it is soooooooo soooooooo soooooooo important that kids get to do it every week. This year I have so many artistic girls and boys, they NEED to do art! 
  2. Go to some art classes that my aunt teaches so I can become a better artist (though I'm alright for first grade! :)) I don't think I could learn from a better teacher! Check out her work here! I'm such a lucky niece!
  3. Rearrange my classroom. Big task, but I have lots of ideas after this year...
  4. Plan weekly homework calendars. Or maybe monthly. I need to be better about consistent homework and practice. I feel like I can get a better grip on it next year after teaching first grade for a year now. I used Kelly's Kindergarten as a resource last year for homework calendars. She is brilliant!
  5. Sort out my student books! Should I level them and sort them by genre? Just level them? Just sort them by genre? Right now they are sorted by genre and there are lots of books in the book hospital that kids can't seem to put away in the right spot.
  6. Speaking of sorting: I need to get new book baskets. I got some last year when I taught kindergarten that worked well for moving around the room because they had handles, but I have so many more books now and I want book-friendly bins. These are amazing!
  7. Speaking of sorting again: I need to organize everything! It's amazing how much junk great stuff you can accumulate being a new teacher! (Especially when you think you can find a use for everything and have a mom that is a garage-sale-aholic!)
  8. Make kid-friendly seating options for read to self. I have some in my classroom already, but since I started using Daily 5 this year, I really want to get some more mobile seats like these!
  9. Reread the Daily 5 and finish reading the CAFE book. 
  10. Redo my word wall. Keep the words in a coupon folder. F is for First grade has a cool word wall idea here.
  11. Make a journal jar. Genius! This is such a wonderful way to differentiate, too! Ah, LOVE it!
  12. Do a monthly theme related to each unit of Treasures. Now that I understand the curriculum and have taught it all, I want to do more interdisciplinary teaching. 
  13.  Decide if I want to share supplies again or have kids use their own and replenish them as they run out. Sharing is good, except when some most kids don't bring what they are supposed to...
  14. Figure out how to best use my amazing new listening center! Love it, but can't quite figure out how to make it work best for the kiddos without a lot of teacher interaction. 
Oh boy, I've been so into this blog I've used up all my battery power! Let's see if I can get all of these things done over the summer! I also need to get some serious sunshine time in!!! Ciao for now! 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Drawing as storytelling

On Monday, I had the opportunity to attend a training with David Matteson. David's work focuses mostly on early literacy skills and his presentation made me really think about getting back to basics when it comes to teaching reading and writing. 

My AHA! moments were:
  • Reading comprehension and writing skills are rooted in oral storytelling
  • I need to model, model, model, model, and model some more. Then when I think I am done modeling, I should probably model again. I just don't model enough-even though I model all the time!
We watched a great example video of a pre-school writing lesson. Pre-school? Writing? Writing in pre-school? YES! It starts with drawing and telling a story. The teacher started telling a story about her birthday as though she was sitting around a campfire telling ghost stories:
  • "It started when the moon was still in the dark sky (draws moon). The dresser drawers had not yet been opened (draws house, dresser). The flowers had not been sniffed (draws flowers on dresser). I was snuggled deeply under the covers in my bed snoring away (draws bed, lumpy figure, starts making loud, exaggerated (?) snoring sounds)."
As she talked, the entire room full of adults was immersed in this simple story. Her storytelling technique was one to be envied, as were her artistic abilities. She went on to say that her husband walked in the room carrying a cake and woke her up singing her "Happy Birthday." The kids joined in as she sang the song and little giggles kept popping up as she finished narrating the morning's events. She drew speech bubbles and wrote a simple sentence below her drawing. Every day, she keeps the chart paper stories for kids to retell and "read" during center time.

AHA! moment: I must try this with my first graders!

I used the technique today to introduce a writing idea for their Daily 5 choice during reading. We're on unit 5, week 3 of Treasures, which is all about weather. First we brainstormed weather that would make us want to run for cover. Our list included floods, tsunamis, thunder and lightning, tornadoes, rain, hail, and other crazy weather. I decided to tell a story about a time when I was living in Spain and I went for a walk and suddenly the wind started blowing so fast that my umbrella turned inside out. I started by talking about the setting, then the characters, then the main event. Those elements are SO important in storytelling, reading,  and writing and this is such a great way to teach them! If kids go back and read or retell the stories later, they are getting practice with sequencing, too.

Well, they loved my silly little anecdote and when it came time to make their Daily 5 choices, I told them they could write about something that has happened to them with crazy weather. Over three-quarters of the class chose writing as their first choice (usually writing is the least popular)!  

It was so much fun to see their cute little stories! One boy told me he'd never been in crazy weather, but he has seen a rainstorm from his bedroom window while watching SpongeBob. He has a hard time with fine motor skills, so I (against my nature usually, but inspired by Monday's workshop) drew him a house to get him started. As he told me the story, we talked about what he could draw around the house. This was amazing! Just a little start and he drew himself in the window watching SpongeBob, and such a detailed storm outside! Usually it is like pulling teeth to get this guy to write or draw anything, but he really went for it this time. There were clouds, wavy lines showing wind blowing, and branches falling off of trees. I'm so proud!

My idea for next year is to do developmental journals. In September, I want to really get kids thinking and telling stories before I ask them to write and tell me the elements of a story. I do have high expectations for my students, but I don't want to miss these milestones of story telling. Mr. Matteson says that many of these milestones are met during pre-school, but very few of my students had even read a book before coming to school, and they certainly didn't get the benefit of pre-school. My duty is to catch them up and give them rich experiences. He also says that kids should start "above the line" (drawing) and work up to "below the line" (writing).

What better way to build language than to tell stories?