Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Plural Noun Practice

We are reviewing nouns this week.  I have noticed that a lot of my friends are adding an apostrophe and the letter s  to words to make them plural, so I decided it was time for a review on how to make a plural noun.  Since I was going to have to do some reteaching anyway, I decided to go ahead and do a thorough study of plural nouns, discussing adding -es, changing y to i and irregular plurals.  Then we will move on to possessive nouns.  Most of these skills are not specifically addressed in our district objectives, but the kids' writing is showing they were ready.
On Monday, I used my morning message to re-introduce plural nouns.  Almost everybody could tell me that the underlined words meant more than one, and most even remembered the term plural.  But I could tell by their comments that they didn't realize that -es had been added to sandwich to make the plural.

Tuesday I had a list of nouns on the easel, and I ask the kids to tell me the plural.  I included words  like sandwich,  kiss, brush, bus and witch. As we said the plural, we clapped the syllables so that they could hear that the plural had an additional syllable.  I then explained that since every syllable has a vowel, we had to add -es to some words.  Then I introduced the rule for adding -es.
We will continue to review throughout the week by forming plurals on the pocket chart, writing sentences using plurals and completing word work activities during Daily 5.  Next week we will talk about possessives and move on changing y to i and irregular plurals after spring break (less than 2 weeks away- Hallelujah!)
I've created some workstation activities to help my friends practice plurals and have decided to test the waters of Teachers Pay Teachers.  I still want to share the things I create, but I thought that maybe by selling a bit I can justify my new clipart obsession!  (I made 3 different purchases just on Sunday afternoon!)  Here's a link to my first product- it's a freebie!
Click to download

I hope to have some more plural activities completed in the next few days.  I don't know if it was the full moon or the front that moved in, but my kids have been CRAZY the past 2 days, and I'm exhausted!  10 day 'til Spring Break and the great outdoors!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

5 for Friday...OK, Saturday!

I'm linking up for the first time with Doodle Bugs Teaching for 5 for Friday, even though it's Saturday morning!
1.  I love technology!  I enjoyed our staff development day on Monday because I got a chance to share some of the things I have learned recently with my team.  I was so flattered when a couple of my teammates started using my Smart board calendar. (Disclaimer: It's not totally "my" calendar.  I adapted it from a couple that others have shared online.)
2.  I started using Twitter for professional growth this week.  It's almost overwhelming!  Check out Donna's post here:  Math Coach's Corner.
3.  It still amazes me how much I am enjoying teaching math since I returned to the classroom after years of immersing myself in literacy.  I love how my kids have started saying "I solved it a different way"  before I even ask!
4.  But I may need to revisit my literacy roots and do some reteaching.  One of my little girls raised her hand yesterday to tell me she found one of our "values" in a story.  A bit puzzled, I asked her to repeat her comment.  She said, "I found one of  our values; you know 'or' in horn."  You know the values, right?  A, E, I, O and U!  (The vowel-r combination "or" was our word study focus a couple of weeks ago.)
5. Spring break fever has hit early this year!  I am so ready for a break.  Hubby and I made reservations to go camping this year.  It will be kind of strange as this will be our first solo camping trip without kids.  But he'll fish, I'll read and sew, and we will both just enjoy being together in the great outdoors!

Since it's Saturday, I'll do random thought number 6 to make this Six for Saturday!  My husband and joke about not being able to get rid of our oldest 2 kids who both still live at home.  But our youngest seems determined to make up for it.  Not only did she choose to attend college in Colorado instead of here in Texas, she called yesterday to see if she could apply for a summer program in Belize!
I could handle Belize right about now!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Getting Ready for the Doctor!

We started planning our Read Across America Day this week.  My first grade team will start our celebration on March 1 and continue with a week-long author study the following week.  Although we are still finalizing plans, we hope to end our study with a "Read-In" on Thursday, March 7.  Last year we invited the children to bring blankets and pillows, a healthy snack and their favorite Dr.Seuss books.  We spent the afternoon comfortably reading and watching a Dr. Seuss video.  This year we will be adding crazy hats to honor the theme of this year's celebration- "Hats Off to Reading"- chosen to recognize the anniversary of the book 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins.


I'm going to try something new this year for Dr. Seuss week. I've been wanting to try some differentiation menus with my class, so I have created a choice board for activities to complete based on Dr. Seuss books.  I based my menu on some ideas I found in this book:

I'm going to use a power point to introduce the menu and each activity to the class.  I've included a link to a PDF of the slides so check it out!  If you have used menus, tic-tac-toe boards or other differentiation tools with your class, I'd love to hear about it!

Dr. Seuss Menu

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Get Connected!

Yesterday was a staff development day for my district.  Part of the day was spent doing the mandatory training for the upcoming STAAR tests, but the rest of the day was for technology.
Those of us on the technology committee for our campus spent an afternoon last week with one of the district's technology trainers, learning more about our Smart boards and the Smart notebook software.  I absolutely love my Smart board so I was thrilled to discover more of what I can do with it.  Then yesterday we shared with our teams.
I think our favorite tool was the magic pen.  The pen can be used to write, and then the text gradually disappears.  But the coolest tricks of the pen were using it to spotlight and magnify.  By drawing a circle around a spot on the screen, everything inside the circle is spotlighted and the rest of the screen darkens.  When you draw a square on a spot, the area inside is magnified.  We decided this would be a great tool to use to call our students attention to directions or key words on documents or assignments.

I love technology and feel pretty comfortable with most things.  But after reading a post by Donna at Math Coach's Corner, I decided to follow her lead and step outside of my own comfort zone and into Twitter.  I set up an account a long time ago, but I've done little with it except to follow Jon Stewart and The Daily Show!  I've heard what a great tool it can be for professional learning, but I'm just a little bit afraid of it!  But I'm trying to figure it out.  Right now I'm mainly just retweeting, but you can follow me @clmcnab.
Another tool I am playing with is Edmodo.  The tech specialist who trained our committee set up an Edmodo group for us- I managed to get myself set up and I "think" I shared some files this morning.  I have to confess...I think I have an inner geek!  This is so much fun!
I'd love to hear from those of you who use Twitter, Edmodo or any of the other wonderful technology tools out there!

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Worksheet Dilemma

During the years I was a language arts/reading coach, I spent a lot of time trying to convince fellow teachers that worksheets were not the best way to assess their students' reading and writing abilities.  I "preached" about the beauty of rubrics and guided reading notebooks.  I demonstrated taking and gathering information from running records.   I extolled the virtues of  reading and writing conferences and referenced Lucy Calkins or Fountas and Pinnell in almost every conversation.

But then I came back to the classroom to teach first grade!  Reality set in, and I found that giving up worksheets was harder than it sounded, and they sure made my life easier sometimes.  (Nothing like a couple of cut and paste worksheets on a day your head is throbbing and you just need the class to work quietly for awhile!)   I also know that school life beyond first grade will be filled with worksheets and tests like our Texas STAAR.  I want my students to have at least a little bit of familiarity with these types of activities.  But still, rubrics, running records and conferences are my main assessment tools in language arts, and I am quite comfortable using them and sharing the information with parents.

But I didn't have that same comfort level with math when I returned to the classroom.  I knew the importance of teaching with manipulatives and using the CRA model, but most of our practice and assessment opportunities came from worksheets.  As I begin to immerse myself in professional reading about math, I started to question the use of even this many worksheets. Another reminder to be careful with worksheets came from my experience at Confratute this summer.  During my session with Rachel McAnallen, she talked about "naked" worksheets- the type with just a page full of equations to solve.  She said that these number-only worksheets were overwhelming for some children and that by adding a noun to the problems, it enables them to "see" the problem.   For example, instead of just 3+4=?, add a word: 3 cats + 4 cats = ? cats.  I imagine that some of these worksheets just look like a page of squiggles to some first graders!
I can see why some kids hate math if this is all they ever see!

Worksheets and paper-pencil tests do make grading easier.  It's time consuming to individually assess 22+ students.  But I am starting to realize that the same techniques that allow me to assess language arts skills without a worksheet can work in math as well.  Rubrics are the perfect tool for assessing students' problem solving skills.  The Exemplars program that my district uses provides many different styles of rubrics that we can use not only for Exemplars work, but other problem solving as well.  As I start to do more teaching in guided math groups, I realize I could use my anecdotal records and checklists to assess and evaluate just like I do in reading and writing.  I can observe and conference with students as they complete workstation activities.  Visiting with a student and hearing how they worked through a problem solving exercise can tell me much more than any fill-in-the-answer worksheet!

The next few months of school will be a great time to explore alternative types of assessment.  Many of our upcoming skills like measurement and geometry lend themselves perfectly to performance task assessments.  Hopefully I will be able to develop some easy to use tasks and rubrics that will provide my teammates and I an opportunity to authentically assess our students!

How do you use rubrics or performance tasks in math?  I would love to hear about the ways you assess and grade your students in math!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Happy to Be Back!

I am so happy to get back to blogging! I took some time off during the holidays to spend more time with my family, but fully intended to start back once school started in January. But then my student teacher came.  Without getting into all the details, let's just say it was a long 5 weeks for both of us, and ended with the decision that maybe teaching wasn't her calling after all.
Now that my class is settled back into our normal routines, I can spend more time planning, creating and blogging!
My district started a new fact fluency program this year.  Each grading period we have focused on  2 strategies to develop fluency with addition and subtraction facts.  We have been using this book as our primary resource:

One of my teammates mentioned that her students needed more practice so I made an activity this weekend that will help our students practice doubles and making ten, the two strategies we are focusing on this grading period.  Click the label below the picture if you would like a copy.
Gnome Facts for Doubles and Making 10
Now I need to spend the rest of the weekend preparing to lead some staff development for my team on Monday.  I'm presenting some tips and techniques for using our Smartboards and other technology tools.  Technology in the classroom is something I am passionate about, and I love sharing with others, so it should be fun!