Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Writing Rubric - An "Oh I Get It!" Guide to Good Wriing


We have just finished completing our Narrative Writing Rubric. It has taken a little over a week of mini lessons to get it together, but it was well worth the time. Each day, several examples in literature were used to explain certain aspects of their writing narrative. For instance, when teaching "great beginnings," several examples (Mem Fox)and non examples (Level A, B readers) were used to explain the meaning of a "great beginning." Actual student writing was also used to teach specific rubric elements. Students learned that a "great beginning" should have a time and place to help the reader with his/her mental image of the story. When this was understood, the process of getting the information on a chart was the next step. First students discussed what pictures should represent the writing at varying levels. They decided on the stages of a kangaroo. The approaching standard "great beginning" is represented by the kangaroo with a joey in the pouch #1; the standard writing is a picture of young kangaroo hopping out for the first time #2; and the above standard piece is a picture of a kangaroo off on his own #3. The beginning can range from a #1 - "I went"; #2 - "I went to a party"; or #3 - "It was a hot, sunny day and I was invited to a pool party."
After many examples, through numerous read alouds and writers sharing their writing, these concepts are finally understood. Like what happened one Writer's Workshop a few days ago, a student shouted out, "Oh, I get it...now I understand what the rubric does..." with a big smile on his face. (Then covered his mouth for calling out without raising his hand...but who could get upset at that!!)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Mem Fox: Author Celebration Day


Our Mem Fox Author Celebration Day was full of learning, fun and activities. Children listened to books about Australian animals, completed word searches, and had plenty of arts and crafts projects to make the day a success. Taste testing the lamington was a big hit (for all those who don't mind coconut). Students made didgeridoos, boomerang pins, Aussie hats, and platypus puppets. We also read books that our celebrated author wrote that we hadn't visited in our author study. Mem Fox will surely be remembered as a favorite author of our class and one of Australia's finest story tellers. We salute and thank you Mem for writing books that children all around the world enjoy and love!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Reader's Theater Presents: "Hattie and the Fox"


In Reader's Workshop today, students practiced a retelling of "Hattie and the Fox" by Mem Fox. The children put on a Reader's Theater play in which they had the opportunity to play a part in the story. This is a rhythmic book which is bouncy and repetitive. It is based on the traditional hen-and-fox tale. The animals on the farm do not heed Hattie's warning of seeing a strange creature in the bushes. When warned the animals chant: "Good grief," said the goose; "Well, well," said the pig; "Who cares," said the sheep; "So what," said the horse; "What next?" said the cow. This refrain is repeated several times during the story until the animals scramble when Hattie screams, "It's a fox...it's a fox!!" This was a wonderful book to read during this last week of our author study because it was so different from the other stories we have read by her. Tomorrow will be our Author Celebration Day! We are planning lots of fun activities to compliment our new favorite author, Mem Fox!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Math Investigations - It's My Choice


After several math lessons, students have the opportunity to revisit what was learned through practice in what is called "Math Choice Time." Today was a "Choice Day." Students were invited to choose an activity that has been taught in the past week and work with a partner on this math activity. These Math "games" included: Counters in a Cup, Combinations of 10, Off/On, and Double Compare. All of these "games" are used to teach while having some fun with a partner. Students have the opportunity to play the game, discuss their strategies, and share their findings with the class.
In the game "Counters in a Cup" partners are given ten chips, a plastic cup and a sheet to log information. One student hides some of the 10 chips under a cup. The other student counts the chips that he/she sees and the figures out how many are under the cup. The data is entered on the sheet. In Combinations of Ten, students had the opportunity to make up their own word problems and figure out the answer. For instance, Carson's problem read, "I have 10 suns and moons. How many of each could I have?" In this way, many of the combinations of ten are discovered. The game On/Off is similar to Counters in a Cup. Ten chips are given to each partner group. They take turns tossing some counters on the paper and some fall off the paper. They add the number that is on and off the paper and log it on the sheet. Finally, the game of "Double Compare." Each partner group is given a about 20 number cards, they flip two over at the same time. The person who has more (or less depending on the game) says, "Me".
Math Choice Centers are a way that students have the opportunity to choose an activity, get lots of hands on practice, and have fun with a friend. A whole new world of numbers is being explored.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Venn Diagrams Help Organize Our Thinking


Do you remember using Venn diagrams in school? It is a great graphic organizer and one that students of all ages like to use. After using them in Kindergarten, via Reader's Workshop by comparing Eric Carle books, Venn diagrams were utilized again, using two Mem Fox books. The students compared the books "Possum Magic" and "Koala Lou." They were asked to work in table groups. Each was given a drawn Venn Diagram and invited to write the titles of the books on each circle. Then reminded to write what is different about each book under the titles and in the middle, what the two books shared. Post it notes and copies of each book were supplied to each table so that each child could write their thoughts and place it in the corresponding circle. To hear and see the conversations about each book, the accountable talk, and the ability to work as a small group was amazing. What helped this activity run so smoothly was the student's familiarity and understanding of each book. They have heard them read several times either by us or online. They have written responses to these books and have acted them out. In all of these ways, students have internalized the stories and when it came time to list similarities and differences between them, it came very naturally. Afterwards, each group was called to the front and they eagerly shared their diagram with the class.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Writer's Workshop: Planning Details




Today during Writer's Workshop, student's were busy finishing up their pieces from this week. As some students were finishing, others were ready to start a new piece of writing. One child (video) asked if I would listen to his "planning of the story" that he is going to write. The lesson on "Planning Details" was a mini lesson about a week ago and how happy we are that it is now internalized. This student is looking at blank pages and telling what he is going to write on each page. This lesson was meant to encourage children to plan detailed stories before writing them. We have found that when students learn how to plan their writing, step by step and page by page, it helps them focus on the act of writing. As evidenced in the video, A. is busy planning the details that he is excited to write about. Planning - the key to a great Writer's Workshop. (FYI - the video will buffer the first time.)

Monday, September 15, 2008

Do You Do a Didgeridoo?


Today one of our read alouds was the book, "Do You Do A Didgeridoo?" by Nick Page. It was about a man who was looking for a didgeridoo in a music store. He begged, pleaded, and continually asked the owner, "Do You Do a Didgeridoo?" and the owner answered, "I didgeridon't!" At the end of the book, the owner found one in his store, and the man who once wanted it so badly, changed his mind. The children loved the sing/song rhythm of the book and of course, the topic of the didgeridoo. After the book was read, students learned that this instrument, used by the Aboriginal Australians, is made from tree branches that have been hollowed out by insects. There are no reliable sources stating the didgeridoo's exact age, though it is commonly claimed to be the world's oldest wind instrument.
The biggest surprise was yet to come. A student knew someone who had a didgeridoo and he brought it in to share with the class. It was a wonderful opportunity for everyone to see. hear, and feel this instrument up close. So, "Do You Do a Didgeridoo?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Writing for Readers



The children in our class have been writing since the first day of school and it is amazing to see the growth in just a few short weeks. They show an eagerness and confidence when asked to write a personal narrative and many of their stories span several pages. They are confident and happy writers and love sharing their "small moments" at the end of the workshop. By having the opportunity to write for forty minutes a day, students generate and produce stories that have great beginnings and lots of details. They are also learning how to reread and edit their work.
Today in Writer's Workshop, students had the opportunity to share their finished pieces with a friend. Each child had a partner and they took turns sharing their stories. They were encouraged to comment on their friend's writing, help to edit the piece, and compliment their partner's efforts. Afterwards, we came together and shared what our writer's have learned from this activity. "Writing for Readers" isn't that what it's all about?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Australia's Geography Is Our Topic Today


We were very fortunate to have a guest speaker today. Dr. B. is a professor at the University of North Florida's Department of Economics and Geography (and also one of our student's father.) Dr. B. came to talk to the class about Australia's geography. A globe was used to explain the northern and southern hemispheres. It was explained that when it is summer here, it is winter there. During the presentation, Dr. B. showed maps comparing Australia's land mass with the United States. He showed both countries from space where students were able to tell green and brown coloring (vegetation and desert areas.) Students were shown elevation zones and pointed out the mountains and plains between both countries. There were rainfall and temperature maps where children discovered the climate differences between the two countries. All during the presentation, students asked questions and offered their knowledge of Australia. It was a wonderful way for First Grade students to learn about the geography of the "Land Down Under."

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Reader's Workshop Welcomes Mem Fox - Our Author Study


For the next few weeks, we will be reading, studying and learning about the works of our author for our author study, Mem Fox. Mem was born in Melbourne, Australia in March 1946. Mem Fox declares herself first a teacher and then a writer. Her first book, Possum Magic, was rejected nine times over five years but went on to become (and continues to be, to this day) the best-selling children’s book in Australia, with over two million copies sold. Since Possum Magic, she has written 28 books for children.

The purpose of this author study is to guide and support student's comprehension and in-depth thinking as a response to literature. In this study, they will see how Mem Fox draws upon her everyday life to create her stories. Her themes include family love, birth and dying, and relationships between the old and young.

Today in Reader's Workshop, students were given baskets of Mem Fox books and invited to explore them. They noticed the characters: "Look how big his hands are!"; settings, "This looks like the Outback"; and Australian animals, "I've seen an emu before." Afterwards, we had a discussion about their explorations, wonderings and noticings about the books they scanned. Information was recorded on an "About Mem Fox" chart and students began to make connections and discoveries about the literature of Mem Fox. Our author study will continue through the month of September and already we can tell that we have made a good friend!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Writer's Sharing Writing Using Technology


One of the most important components to the Writer's Workshop is the "share time" at the end of a lesson. This is where the teacher gets the opportunity to see if the mini lesson was understood by the student. A tool we use to share the actual writing is called an "Elmo." The children are very familiar with this technology because it is used quite frequently in the classroom. A child or two is invited to share his/her paper with the class when he/she has implemented the lesson taught. Students have the opportunity to see their writing up on a big screen and read it to the class. Their classmates can read along with the student and see the writing that their peers are producing. Having this visual helps other students improve upon their own works. After the writer reads his/her piece, the children give meaningful compliments on their friend's stories. For instance, "I like how you "stayed in the moment" or "You did a great job on punctuation." Being able to see a student's work clearly on the "Elmo" gives us a chance to look at writing in a whole new way. Writer's love sharing their writing using this technology!