Saturday, August 16, 2014

Bright Ideas in August


Today I'm sharing with you how I arrange, organize, and implement my take-home library! My students fill out a reading log each night and I send home books at their reading level for them to read.  I did this for 4 of the years I taught in Oregon (in kinder, 1st, and 3rd), didn't do it when I taught 2nd grade on Lanai, and am implementing again in 1st grade on Maui.  I didn't do it on Lanai because I didn't have enough extra books for it.  And you know what? I noticed a huge drop in my students who filled out their reading log and read at home.  When I send books home each night for my students to read, they don't have the excuse that they "don't have anything to read" at home! 

First up, collecting books!
When I taught in Oregon, I was lucky enough to have an educational foundation in my school district that gave out grants to teachers.  I won a grant for a take home library my second year there.  I bought collections of books from Scholastic that were appropriate for grades K-2. At the time, I taught kindergarten and found that I needed to supplement for the lowest levels.  Luckily, I had worked with a Title I teacher a few years prior who had boxes upon boxes of books and she gave some to me! Many of them were old leveled readers, but that meant that there were the lowest levels available.  

Here is a basket of old leveled readers at my new school that I'm going to use for take-home books.

Next up, leveling them! 

Every school I've worked in (until now) used the Developmental Reading Assessment, so I leveled my books with DRA levels 1-38.  In DRA, 1-3 is kindergarten, 4-16 is 1st grade, 18-28 is 2nd grade, and 30-38 is 3rd grade.  The levels are kinda funky.  There is 1, 2, and 3.  Then 4, 6/8, 10, 12, 14, and 16.  Then 18, 20, 24, and 28.  Then 30, 34, and 38.  I like the DRA assessment because it gives a lot of good information on who each student is as a reader and also gives suggestions for what to practice to help them move forward.  By using this assessment, you can group students by level or even by strategy that they need to work on.  It does take awhile because you have to read with each student, but I appreciate it because I get to know my students so much more.  

But my new school doesn't use DRA.  We do STAR testing 3 times a year.  It's an online reading test.  That means I don't read with my students until they are in groups.  I'm nervous, but I've heard it's pretty accurate.  The STAR test gives students a grade level rating, which is different than the DRA.  My students rated at a 0.5 (middle of kindergarten) to 1.7 (7th month of first grade).  So now I need to re-level my books to reflect the grade level rating.

There are many other leveling systems you can use and conversion charts are an easy google search away.  You can level your books by Fountas & Pinnell's Guided Reading Level, Reading A-Z, Lexile, or even Reading Recovery (if your school is so privileged to still have that awesome program).  I recommend deciding on one leveling system and sticking with it. 

To find all the levels, I first started with Scholastic's Book Wizard.  Then I would google search the title in parenthesis, the author in parenthesis, and the words "reading level" in parenthesis.  I would most likely find a website that has the information.  


On my older books that are labeled with DRA levels, I had made address label stickers with the level number on them.  I cut the labels in half before putting the sticker on the top right corner of the book cover.

The old leveled reader books in my new classroom already have circle stickers on them.  I think just writing the level on the sticker with a Sharpie would be a great option.  

Since my new school uses the STAR test, I'm going to change all the levels on my books to the grade level equivalent.  I'll probably use address labels and have to peel the old labels off my books. 

So after all my books are labeled and I know my student levels, they can start taking them home.  I keep my books in these Sterilite drawers.  I have 4 sets of them and label each drawer with one level.  Kids pick a book from their level and put it in their homework binder.  If they don't bring it back the next day, they don't get to bring a new book.  So the rule is: if they forget the book at home, they'll have to read it more than once.  Which is not a terrible idea. Students become better readers by reading text that is familiar.

I don't use a check-out system or keep track of who has which book.  If they bring it back the next day, they can get a new one.  If they don't, they'll have to read the book at home twice.  I'm sure I lose a few books each year doing this, but I feel that not having to deal with the hassle of keeping track outweighs that risk! 

Make sure to check out all the other Bright ideas link up!  You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Dollar Saving Teachers

I teamed up with Teacher Created Resources to bring you some fun projects that you can make with their accents and inexpensive items from places like the Dollar Tree.


Unfortunately, we don't have a dollar store on Maui, so I went to the next best place: Walmart! I ended up making 4 different items and have plans for one more.

TCR sent me 3 different items to play around with.  I requested aqua chevron straight border trim, sassy circle letters, and chevrons and dots library pockets.


First I made little containers for my classroom.  I started with Better Homes and Garden brand kitchen canisters for about $5.  I taped in a piece of border and slid in the labels.  I made one for Starbursts to give kids when they level up on our Super Improvers Wall (read about mine here).  I also made one for those little pencil cap erasers. 

I actually made them in the car as we drove to Lahaina to eat dinner at Kobe Steakhouse, a cute little Teppanyaki place that my kids and hubby just LOVE! 

Here are my supplies on my lap: canisters, border, tape, and labels.

Here they are on my kidney table.  I love how the came out!


My next project was little gifts for my team on the first day of school! I started with yellowy plastic plant holders that I picked up for 78 cents.  Then added heather plants for $2.50.  I also bought a small bag of potting soil.  I taped the border around the planter and taped the label onto it, too.   These labels are also included in the freebie set that I linked above.


You can also see my name poster that I made on the table.  My principal asked us to make posters to hold up on the first day so students can find us.  I used the sassy letters and a piece of tagboard.  I also printed out some sea creature clipart to glue to the chart.  Too bad I didn't get a better picture! 

I also used the sassy letters to create my first day frame.  I bought the biggest frame I could find.  This one was just under $20.  I put colored masking tape on the frame to add some color.  Then I taped on my letters.  I've always wanted to make one of these frames.  I'm so glad I finally did! Look at this little cutie!


My last project is actually for one of my teammates.  She saw my iHelp jobs chart and LOVED it! 
This is from my class last year :)

You just take a piece of black foam core board and a piece of white tagboard to create the large iPad.  Then glue on cute library pockets (like TCR's dots and chevron!) and attach the job cards with velcro dots so you can change them out when you want.  You put students names, numbers, or pictures on popsicle sticks and slide them in the pockets.  You can check out my jobs chart labels here.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Breezing Through BTS

Today I'm joining some of my favorite bloggers for a fun Back to School Blog Hop! 


I'm hear to tell you all about The Daily 5! 

The very first thing you should do is read the book! My first edition has dog ears and writing all over the margins.  It is a well loved book! This past year, those wonderful sisters came out with a second edition and it is all kinds of amazing! I still love the first book and think it's a great first read, but then you should read the second edition to learn how they have updated their thinking and also added in a Daily Math component. 


When I first started teaching, my team and I had students ability grouped for reading center time.  They stayed with their group and rotated through a series of paper pencil centers (sometimes there were manipulatives, too!) when I rang a bell every 12 minutes.  This worked well for me.  The students were compliant and working while my assistant and I read books with each group.  I saw every group for 12 minutes each day and did guided reading with leveled readers from our basal series while my assistant met with every group and worked on the weekly phonics skill with decodable Phonics Library books, also from our basal series.  

Then, I went back to college at night to earn my reading endorsement and I learned about Daily 5.  It incorporates choice, teaches independence, and students are engaged in activities that are actually helping them become better readers, not just quiet students.  

My first year doing D5, I kept my students in their ability groups and rotated them through Daily 5 centers.  I felt that this was a good transition for me.  I didn't change my whole structure, I just changed what my students were doing.  Then, as I read more, went to conferences, and talked with colleagues, I finally got rid of the rotations and recorded student choices on a clipboard.  

Then, I moved to Lanai and had a large class of 28 students.  These students were used to reading groups the old way I used to run them.  I tried to incorporate choice, but we had to stop D5 all the time because students were off task, talking, walking around the room.  No matter how many times I gathered them back to the carpet, went over our T-chart, and practiced the wrong vs. right way to do things, we just weren't building the stamina I needed in order to meet with groups.  So, I went back to the rotations.  

I made these cards so students knew what to do.  You can get them in my TpT store here.

Then last year, I had a much smaller class, only 17.  I decided to reintroduce choice.  I used Ladybug's Teacher Files freebie cards and made a new one for Respond to Reading.  You can grab those freebies from this blog post.

Students had a little piece of paper in their book boxes where they checked off which activity they chose.  They had to do them all throughout the week, so this helped for accountability.  I was also checking off their choices, so I knew if they were telling the truth about having done listening already :) 
Click the image to grab this FREEBIE!

This year, I've moved down to 1st grade and we've had a slow start.  We've already done our Read to Self t-chart and have 3 minutes of stamina built up.  We'll keep plugging along and then introduce Work on Writing next.  

So, my tip to you for starting with the Daily 5 - start small! Do what works for you! Don't feel like you have to change your entire reading instruction if you are not ready.  Change what your students are doing and get rid of all the worksheets that aren't helping them grow as readers.  Teach them how to independently read, write what they want to write, listen to fluent reading on audiobooks, and make words and work on spelling patterns.  These activities will teach them to be better readers.  When you are ready to add choice, do it! Students will learn to intrinsically work hard.  They will WANT to read! My students would tell me on a daily basis that reading was their favorite time of the day.  And by the end of the year, the novelty of the iPods had worn off and most of them just wanted to read their books.  It made my heart happy.

If you want to learn more about D5, a couple of summers ago I did a Daily 5 blog hop.  You can go to my TpT store to grab a bookmark with urls of all the blog posts and also pick up a stamina chart.  And I know the awesome bloggers at Freebielicious did a blog hop this summer for the second edition.  You can start at A Differentiated Kindergarten.

And now, head on over to Miss Squirrel's blog to find out her Back to School tip and how she sets up community supplies! 

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