Friday, March 30, 2012

Perfect Attendance

How do you encourage your students to come to school every day? What we've been doing at my school is posting a sign that reads: Perfect Attendance in bubble-letters. When there is 100% attendance we color in one letter. Once all of the letters are colored in our principal treats the class to a popsicle party during lunch. The students look forward to coloring in a letter and filling up the whole sheet. Some years I'll fill out 3 sheets in a year, some years it takes a year to fill out one.

Our counselors track students with poor attendance and then teachers make a positive phone call home. For students who need more encouragement we send letters from the principal, and eventually from the superintendent. Our school is "tops" in our district for good attendance rates.

What does your school do to encourage attendance?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

No Drugs! No Way!

This week I've been teaching my kiddos a Health Unit from The Great Body Shop (our adopted health curriculum). Here's a poster we made. We're learning about how drugs can change the way your brain works and can make children sick.  Students have been SUPER engaged in this unit learning about how drugs can make people sick. I think the gross-factor is huge. Any time that you can tell students that something can rot your teeth or hurt your body (see the lungs pic). They get super curious.  Also, with drugs - it hits close to home for many students. It was important to discuss how grown ups can make decisions for themselves because some drugs are legal. There was a parent-letter that went home encouraging families to talk about drugs and personal use (of alcohol or tobacco). I'd never want my parents to think I'm judging them! My students signed a pledge saying that they will say No Drugs! No Way! They were so cute. Here's hoping that this will truly sink in and keep them drug free. By the way - I know I spelled Nicotine wrong - oops. :-) I'm no expert on that..haha!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Amazing Kids

Sometimes my students shock me with what they are able to retain! Today I got a reminder of how important it is to teach to the ceiling my friends. There is always someone in class taking it in. I've been trying to teach my top readers in class different vowel patterns/rules, and I've been talking to them about letter digraphs. as students were independently writing to tell how they sorted pictures of sea creatures, I overhead one of my sweeties ask my teacher's aide, "Does shark start with a digraph?" He kind of looked clueless, but OMG! She had it spelled "shork" on her paper! I stepped up and praised her and taught her a little about about the r-controlled vowels (as in shark). This is Kindergarten folks - 91% free and reduced lunch, over 80% ELL - and we're talking about digraphs.

Amazing! Amazing! I had to share.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Common Core Curriculum for Reading and Language Arts

Many teachers are searching for ways to make the Common Core Reading and Language Arts standards accessible to their kindergarten students. I've been pooling my resources and have linked up many ideas here. I hope you find it helpful. I've pared down the full wording of the standards. There are many ways to teach reading, so I have posted how it works for me in my room. I am not an expert by any means, but I know what works for my student population.

Key Ideas and Details:
RL.K.1 (asking and answering questions about text) I read aloud many stories and encourage talk before, during and after the story. Sometimes my students fill out worksheets to tell about their stories. 
RL.K.2 (retelling) I read stories aloud and use pictures to let students act out the story/retell it in their own words. 
RL.K.3 (identify characters, setting, events) After reading students use a story map that is very basic to retell stories and map out story details. Sometimes we'll use a chart-sized story map (this blown up poster size) and we'll work on the story together. 

Craft and Structure:
RL.K.4 (ask and answer questions about unknown words) I usually just talk and gesture as I read. I let students interrupt and ask to clarify for meaning. Debbie Miller, a retired teacher talks about this in her amazing book: Reading with Meaning. There is a lot in her book about how to teach students to monitor for understanding. 
RL.K.5 (recognize kinds of texts) We read a variety of texts including poems, books, and songs. 
RL.K.6 (author/illustrator). I made the Parts of Book anchor chart. We reviewed it during library and also worked on book handling. The chart comes from A Teacher's Touch.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas
RL.K.7 (text-illustration relationship) Before reading a text I usually picture walk through a book. This is something I do in just about every lesson. Then as I read aloud to students (or they read in small groups) we discuss how the text tells about what is in a picture. Good books to read for this specific purpose are: Feast for 10, I Went Walking, or any Jan Brett book.
RL.K.9 (compare & contrast characters) You can do this by doing a mini-author's study. Choose an author like Jan Brett and read several stories like Trouble with the Trolls, Gingerbread Baby, or Gingerbread Friends. Then talk about the difference between the characters. You could use the old-stand-by "venn diagram" to highlight similarities and differences.

Rang of Reading and Level of Text Complexity
RL.K.10. As I understand it - this standard is for students to engage with text (follow rules from the teacher, sit facing forward, ask questions/answer questions during reading). I use teacher observation for this standard.

Print Concepts
RF.K.1 Features of Print (Left-Right, top to bottom, page-page, words/letters/spaces)
To work on words, letters, spaces and left to right flow I used "Lines of Practice". These come from the University of Oregon. Basically, you write decodable or sight words (about 5 to a line) and kids read them on cue. If they make an error you give them quick feedback. We use this as a quick warm-up before reading little books. You can write words on sentence strips or use the template to program your own word-strips. Jo Robinson is a fan of this kind of explicit reading instruction. The page-turning and top to bottom skills are things we work on during whole group reading using "big books."

Demonstrate understand of spoken words, syllables, and sounds
RF.K.2 (rhyme, blend, segment rimes or phonemes, substitute phonemes)
Ok, there are a lot of skills in this one standard. I'll tell you how I teach blending and segmenting. First, I take 3 unifix cubes and stack them (green, yellow, red). I put them in that order (green is go, red is stop). Then I put it on my pointer finger as I face students and (backwards to me, correctly to students) I tell them we're going to play a mystery word game. They'll listen as I say 3 sounds (as I say each phoneme I tap one cube) then I slide my finger over the cubes fluidly as they shout out the word. I do this quickly to practice CVC words with 3 phonemes. This helps with blending. To segment, I tell students to tell me the sounds in a CVC word such as mop, wig, fan, etc. As they call out the 3 sounds I tap the cubes one at a time. It's visual and easy! When I practice onset/rimes I do the same kind of tap and slide thing except with a marker. I use the cap as the onset, and the rest of the marker with the rime. We do the phoneme substitution the same way, I'll just say change the /p/ in pig to a /w/. What word? Students call out the new word. Remember phonemic awareness is without writing any letters down, so everything is oral and visual using sounds. Rhyming is something that I like to teach more phonetically so students can see the visual ending that is the same. I have a set of word family posters kind of like these ones. When we go through one word ending such as -ig, we'll write a bunch of ig words on the pig-shaped poster. We also notice rhyming during read alouds.

Phonics and Word Recognition
RF.K.3 Apply phonics to decode words (sounds, long and short vowels, high frequency words)
At my school we introduce one new letter a week. I've blogged about using the alphafriends in this older post. There is a song and picture card to go with each letter. 
To practice sounds I write up a chart pad full of letters  like this (or fill the white board with about 4 lines of 4-5 letters per row). Then we practice saying the sounds chorally. If a student makes a mistake, I'll correctly model saying the sound. Then, we back up 2 letters so it is out of memory, and start again. Sometimes students will practice their word reading fluency using these pages of high frequency words from Santa Maria Bonita School District. As much as I resisted the professional development on this "drill and kill" kind of teaching - I have found it to be one the single most helpful ways of teaching and reviewing letters, sounds and words. Many of my students come directly from refugee camps in Somalia, Pakistan, or war-torn regions of Burma. They are able to pick up learning letters and sounds from this kind of explicit instruction ala Anita Archer. We also sing the Word on the Bus, found originally found on this blog. I printed a clipart school bus and laminated it. Using an expo marker I write on our sight word of the week. It hangs near my literacy area.

RF.K.4 Read emergent-reader texts with purpose and understanding 
To teach this, I usually pre-teach sight words using many of the methods to teach high frequency words and phonics. Usually this makes students successful when reading books on their own.