Monday, October 27, 2008

Word Study 5 Ways

I have for many years included some version of word study in my program. Word study is a time when we focus on the way words work, including phonics, frequently used words, chunks that are elements of a variety of words (sometimes referred to as word families), and spelling patterns. I have drawn on resources such as Pinnell and Fountas's Word Matters. Over the years I have tried a variety of formats.

This year I am trying an approach from a book I have been reading this fall, About the Author by Katie Ray Wood with Lisa B. Cleaveland. She includes a sheet that has a checklist of ways for students to practice a group of frequently used words to help them add those words to their spelling (and reading) vocabulary. Students are to choose 5 ways to practice from the checklist. The list includes techniques I have used before. What I like is that students can choose from the list which gives them more investment. The list includes everything from rainbow words (writing the words using different colors for each letter) to play dough words to back writing. The students so far seem to be enjoying exploring the different ways and each is developing favorites. Back writing is a general favorite though initially it gave some of them pause, as they asked, "What should we use to write on people's backs?"

Monday, October 13, 2008

Pattern Books

We began our Pattern Book unit last week. In this unit I use ideas from First Grade Writers by Stephanie Parsons. We began by reading several pattern books over several days: A Party and Our Granny by Joy Cowley, In the Sky by Peter and Sheryl Sloan, This Train by Paul Collicutt, and When I Was Young by Jamie Lee Curtis. After we read each book, we talked about what the writer was doing in the book and how that affected us as readers. Then we worked to come up with a name for the pattern. We came up with names such as Making a List, Pairs of Opposites, and 1-2-1-2 (or see-saw). We are making a chart of these observations.

After we had analyzed several pattern books, I did a mini-lesson on deciding on a pattern to try and starting a book based on it. Now the students are working on their own pattern books. Over time we will read more books, analyze them, and add them to our chart. We will also see which of us are trying the different patterns and techniques in our own writing.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Celebrate! Celebrate!

We had fun on Friday as the students shared the pieces they had chosen to "fancy up" for our celebration. Some had chosen a one page piece to share. Of those who chose a booklet, most wanted to read just one page, but one read his whole booklet. They were a supportive audience for their fellow writers. We will continue to work on our reading our work, as some voices were too soft to hear clearly. After all had shared, I poured out some juice and gave a toast to their work this past month.

Next week we will begin a focus on pattern books, drawing from First Grade Writers by Stephanie Parsons.

Some of the students who were in my language group last year had noticed our preparations for the celebration. They asked me to get out the books I kept that they wrote last year. (They took some of their books home.) I had had them on display in our book area last year, but had packed them away for the summer. I have put some out now to join the new ones from this year's group. (Our classroom is a mixed age group with students six to eight years old.)

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Celebration Excitement

This week each person has chosen one piece of writing from his/her writing folder to share on Friday, when we will have our first celebration of our writing. We have had mini-lessons on how to fix-up and fancy-up our writing (drawn in part from Launching the Writing Workshop), and everyone has been busy working on the piece that is chosen: seeing if all the words are there, and adding any missing ones; for some, working on being sure there are spaces between words; adding to the pictures and coloring the pictures; perhaps, choosing a couple of important words and getting those in dictionary spelling. Some are adding construction paper covers.

Our celebration will be simple since it is our first one. Still the young writers are getting excited. We will read our stories to each other and toast our efforts with juice.