Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Pattern Book Celebration

Students have been hard at work on their pattern books. Last week each student chose one of the pattern books that they have written to get ready for our celebration of pattern books this week. Editing points this time included being sure that there is space between words, that word wall words are spelled conventionally, and that sentences have punctuation at the end. Once the books were ready, we made covers. Yesterday we had our celebration. Each student had a choice of reading the whole book or reading a selection from it. After the books were shared, we “toasted” our efforts with cookies.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Routine Work

I learned long ago both as a parent and a teacher that while establishing routines with kids can be a lot of effort, in the long run it pays off. I see that in Writing Workshop, where the time we spent early in the year going over and practicing routines pays dividends in that the children move smoothly and efficiently into their writing work after our mini-lesson each day. Now that we are in our fourth week of Word Study 5 Ways, word study time is beginning to flow more smoothly, with the students spending less time asking questions and figuring out what to do and more time focused on their task.

I have begun using a Monday Checklist with my students. On the checklist are items such as “Check my Reading Folder. Remove books I am through with. Be sure I have some just right books in it.” Another item has them check their Word Study folders for the Word Study 5 Ways sheet for that week, looking over it to be sure they know what the words are and beginning to plan out getting the practice done over the course of the week. These kind of beginning of the week routines help our week go smoothly.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Invested Writers

I told my group today how impressed I am with them as writers. All of them settle down each day after our mini-lesson to write. I don't hear anyone say, "I don't know what to write about." They are full of good ideas. If they ever are unsure which idea to use, they have learned to ask a fellow writer for an opinion. Writing workshop is full of the buzz of writers at work, not only writing but asking for help, talking over strategies, and sharing ideas. Since one of our first units was on where writers get ideas, we are working on freely sharing our ideas. We talk about how it is okay to get an idea from another writer's book. We just need to be sure we make it our own by expanding it with our ideas. Today we shared some of the pattern books we have been working on. Students were great about complimenting their fellow writers.

Word Study 5 Ways

In Language Group we work on studying how words are put together. We cover common spelling patterns. And we practice reading and writing frequently used words. The goal is that these words become part of the children's reading and writing vocabularies, part of the words that the children can read and write without having to break them down.

I have used various approaches to studying frequently used words over the years. Last year I found an idea in About the Author: Writing Workshop with our Youngest Writers by Katie Ray Wood with Lisa B. Cleaveland. Each student is given a sheet each week that has a checklist of ways to practice five frequently used words from our word wall. Students are to choose 5 ways to practice from the checklist. Choosing how to practice the words adds to the students' investment. The list includes everything from rainbow words (writing the words using different colors) to play dough words to back writing to spelling with Unifix letter cubes. The students so far enjoy exploring the different ways, and each is developing favorites. This week we added a new way: Wikki Words, in which students form the words with Wikki Sticks.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Pattern Books

We recently celebrated our first efforts this year in Writing Workshop. Now we are focusing on pattern books. In this unit I use ideas from First Grade Writers by Stephanie Parsons. We have been reading a variety of pattern books. After we read each book, we talk about what the writer is doing in the book and how that affects us as readers. We work to come up with a name for the pattern. We have come up with names such as Making a List, Opposites, Rhythm Pattern, When ... Then, See-saw, and Pat-a-Pat Pat (for a repeated refrain-the students wanted to use the repeated refrain from a favorite book, Wet Dog by Elise Broach, to name the pattern.) We are making a chart of these observations.

Students are now trying their hands at writing pattern books. Several have finished a first pattern book and are exploring what pattern they want to do for their next book. As students try different patterns, we will add to a part of our chart that asks "Have any of us tried this?"