Monday, December 26, 2011

Digging In with Word Work

Word Work is one of my students' favorite components of the Daily 5.  Word Work allows students the opportunity to practice their wall words and/or spelling words.  Word Work is a very important literacy component, and your students will take it seriously if you provide clear expectations.  When launching Word Work, it's important to create an anchor chart with your students.  The anchor chart details the expectations for demonstrating independence during Word Work.  There are several different choices that students can select from during Word Work.  The options that my students choose from are as follows:
Visit my classroom blog for a list of the websites my students frequently use for Word Work.

Modeling is another key factor for a successful launch of Word Work.  It's important for students to see the correct way and the incorrect way to participate in Word Work.  It's also important to model how to put away materials at the end of the Daily 5 round.  In The Daily 5, the authors stress that the incorrect model is shown first, and it's followed by the correct model.  I think it's crucial to leave students with the correct model in their minds.

It's important to reinforce that the materials used for Word Work are tools and not toys.  I can't begin to tell you how many times I've repeated the refrain, "Markers are tools and not toys."  However, it sticks with them, and they really learn to use the materials correctly.  My students use individual white boards for Word Work probably more that any of the other materials.  Some teachers use old sock as erasers.  I buy felt squares which I cut in half.  They make perfect erasers.  Besides, I can't stand the thought of having old socks lying around my classroom.  I'm just a bit picky that way.  The felt squares are durable and washable, and best of all, cheap.  I haven't had to replace these for several years now.  They can be purchased at most craft and fabric stores, and they come in many different colors.

Rainbow Paper is another engaging alternative.  My students rewrite their Wall Words in rainbow colors.  Each letter of the word is a different color.  When students are using the rainbow paper for Word Work, they are not only working with words, they are also practicing their handwriting.

Once Word Work has been introduced, it's important to maintain consistency.  Keep the materials the same and don't worry that your students are getting board with them.  You want to keep them  focused on their word work and not on new items which may become distracting.

What are the go-to tools and websites used for Word Work in your classroom? 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Examining Relationships and Learning

It's hard to believe that we are approaching the end of another year.  For some it's the end of another school year too.  As I think about the calendar year coming to a close, I'm reminded of where I began.  My thoughts drift back to September and the beginning of the school year.  Just three months ago I was preparing for a new school year.  I was putting all of my energy into buying and unpacking supplies, arranging my classroom, planning lessons, copying materials, organizing the classroom library, and the list goes on and on.  However, in addition to all of those things, my deepest thoughts were centered around the new group of students I was anxiously waiting to teach.  What would they be like?  Who were these little people I was expecting to meet?  Would we become a community of learners?  Could we become a classroom family?  For me, teaching is not just lesson plans and activities but so much more.  It's also about making connections and building relationships with my students.

As I reflect on the last few months, I can now answer all of those questions.  My students are amazing.  Each one has their own individually unique personality.  Some more challenging than others to embrace, but each providing me with opportunities to learn from and grow as a teacher.  We are more than a classroom community, we are a family.  We know how to push buttons and how to allow our friends time to decompress.  We share likes and dislikes.  "I love our reading time."  "I don't like it when you call me names, please don't do that."  We know how to complement and how to encourage.  If you visit both our classroom blog and our Kidblogs you will see evidence of all of these things.  Things that we have in common, and things that are uniquely different.  You will see evidence of how we support and encourage each other, and how much we love learning.  Most importantly, you will see that we are a classroom family.

You may be thinking, so what!  What does this have to do with learning.  I happen to think it has everything to do with learning.  My students and I have spent a lot of time creating a safe learning environment, where everyone feels respected and valued.  We teach each other, and we share in what others have accomplished so far this year.  Students who struggled with reading at the beginning of the school year, are now reading at grade level.  My students love doing the Daily 5,  developing ideas during our writing block, and enjoy participating in rotations for math workshop. They are excited learners who not only learn but teach me a thing or two each and every day.  I'm so fortunate to be their teacher.  I'm looking forward to sharing and learning a lot more in the New Year!