Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Reading Workshop--Tuesday

Monday, January 30, 2012

Reading Workshop--Monday

Sunday, January 29, 2012

TumbleBooks: Week Three

There's a lot to think about when setting up new routines with a first grade class in the month of January in any given school year.  To that end, we have experimented in trying different ways to roll out the iPad read-alongs found on the TumbleBook page of the Portland Public Library site.

The first week, I chose two books that I wanted pairs of children to read.  I helped them to navigate the site so that we could find the books quickly.  Students worked in pairs and were able to manage the iPads in a rather independent way.  Whenever possible, they problem-solved challenges together if I was in the middle of testing or they went back to working independently in the room until I was available to help.  This was surprisingly easy to manage but in my mind it didn't seem exciting or playful enough...

Last week, I decided that I'd give the kids a chance to peruse the ABC lists of iPad titles which are stored on links on the TumbleBook Read-Along page.  Each child was able to practice clicking on an alphabet letter and then expected to choose a book by scrolling down through that letter's list of titles.  (For example, if they clicked on the B-C list of titles, they might choose to read Boomer Goes to School.)

This was fun but I realized early on that some of the books children chose were too long and some of the books were not as interesting as others.  At least two children were sort of disappointed because to them--their choices weren't what they had expected.  With this observation, I realized that for the time being, their searches needed to be a bit more guided.  In the near future, we will have time as a group to determine shared criteria as to what makes a book worthy of our time.  Then, as soon as testing is over, we'll create "feed back" sheets to share opinions about specific titles.

In the meantime, I'm calling the next two weeks, "Treasure Chest Books" weeks.  Each week, I will choose two snappy titles that I know from experience all first graders will enjoy.  The pairs of students will be expected to problem-solve their way into and within the site--calling on classroom experts for help when needed.  In theory, exposure to these books will help us to develop a list of criteria as to what makes a book worthy of being recommended to others.

Please try to check our blog throughout the week because I plan to post daily pictures of the children reading in our iPad Nook, as well as, reading around the room during Reading Workshop.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Have You Heard?

Have you heard that we've rearranged our classroom a bit?  It's true!  We now have an iPad Nook where our guided reading table used to be.  Plus, our library tub books have traded spots with our leveled reading books so there is more of a "library" feel around the iPad Nook.
To the left of the Nook is our new viewing station which sort of feels like a theater.  We've moved our screen, projector, apple tv, document camera and laptop to this spot so that we can project information at a moment's notice.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Play and Our New iPads

We are learning and teaching in a transitional time.  As we fine-tune our curriculum to meet the Common Core educational standards, I often find myself thinking and talking about the concept of play.  To that end, I'd like to share a bit about a short speech I bumped into on the website "Ted Talks" last summer.

The title of the talk was Why Play Is Vital--No Matter Your Age and the speaker was Stuart Brown.  Mr. Brown breaks play into categories.  He defines body play as "a spontaneous desire to get out of gravity", object play as "problem solving with our hands" and social play as "that which helps us learn to belong."  Brown goes on to share that nothing lights up the brain like play.

While listening, I couldn't help but connect with Jean Piaget's decades-old work on how children learn.  Piaget taught us that learning takes place when we physically act on (play with) new information AND when we mentally act on (play with) new information.

Combining the thoughts of Piaget and Brown in a most simplistic way, I believe that our iPads will give children a chance to mentally play with their learning in that they will get out of the "gravity" of our traditional routines while they "problem solve" with their hands.  The added bonus is that we are sharing the iPads which means that "social play" will be incorporated into many iPad lessons.

Last week, pairs of students started to use the TumbleBooks link that is part of the Portland Public Library website.  This week, they'll have a chance to take turns choosing titles to read from within the site.  It's not an app so it takes a bit of finagling to get in.  However, as you probably know--THAT is a playful challenge for a first grader!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Handwriting Without Tears

Lately I've been thinking about teeth and handwriting and that there might be a cool correlation between the two.  Here's how it goes:  First graders typically enter school with tooth-filled smiles because they still have most of their baby teeth.  Early in the year their printing is rather precise--all capital letters with spaces between the words and a period at the end of their one-sentence stories.

Then wham!  Teeth start to fall out and at about the same time we begin to introduce proper lowercase letter formation.  As their mouths morph from all tiny teeth to toothless grins to a mixture of baby teeth and adult teeth, handwriting seems to go through a similar journey.  Those tidy uppercase "sentences" become a mixture of uppercase and lowercase letters.  Periods disappear only to reappear in the oddest places.

This is a transitional time and your first grader's writing may not always look pretty.  Please remember that your children are not simply writing for neatness day in and day out--they are also learning to stick to a topic, to organize their writing and to think about word choice.  There's a lot going on as they learn to form lowercase letters in quick and efficient ways. 

To that end, please look for lowercase letters in your child's writing.  Compliment him or her on any attempts to "switch over" to using lowercase letters instead of uppercase.  This is a tricky time for many children.  It can be frustrating and sometimes overwhelming.  If you want to experience a little of what your child feels, try writing with your non-dominant hand.  And make sure you stay between the lines! 

If you click on the above picture of our Handwriting Without Tears workbook, you will hear the program's song that reminds early first graders to start to form their lowercase letters from the top.   The music starts out slow but hang in there because it speeds up and is a lot of fun.  I wonder if your first grader will remember it.  Probably!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Telling Time to the Quarter Hour

We are beginning to practice telling time to the quarter hour. Please practice this skill with your first grader by clicking on the above clock in order to log onto a website that I have found both useful and fun.

The name of the website is "Time for Time". Once there, please follow these instructions:

1. Ignore the "show digital" option for now.
2. Use either the + 1 minute or the - 1 minute button to line up a time to the hour such as 5:00.
3. Touch the green + button below 15 minutes to advance the time forward by 15 minutes.
4. Help your child to read the time (and note the position of the clock hands) using the
following terms: quarter-past 5 o'clock, half-past 5 o'clock, quarter-to 6 o'clock, 6 o'clock, and so on.

For the record:  This is my fourth year teaching Everyday Math and I can promise you that this is one of the two hardest skills for first graders to understand.  Your child will ABSOLUTELY benefit from your additional coaching!