Saturday, April 1, 2017

A Quick & Easy Way to Help Your Students Make Friends

This is about the time of year when we have our second round of Parent-Teacher Conferences.
During those conferences, I usually hear that parents aren't concerned about their child's academic needs, but their social needs. When I first heard this, I wasn't quite sure how to meet this need. So, I went and collaborated with my colleagues. One colleague told me to try something she had heard about from another teacher called "Mix it Up Monday."

Every Monday, she gave each of her student an assigned friend that they would eat lunch with, play at recess with, and do other activities throughout the day with. This gave the students an opportunity to make a new friend and meet someone new that they may not have chosen to play with on their own. This also eliminated the problem of anyone not having a friend to play with. My friend who told me about this idea, is very organized and has written up a schedule of who is playing with who each Monday. In my class, I am not as organized, so I use Class Dojo's random chooser and assign friends each Monday. Either way, it works!

Now, sometimes we don't have school on Monday, so my kiddos beg to have "Mix it Up Monday," another day. So, we've had "Twist it Up Tuesday," "Whirl it Around Wednesday," you get the idea! My kiddos really enjoy playing with someone different and getting to know someone new.

Now, I will warn you, that at first, my kids would complain about who their friend was. We had to have a discussion that this is hurtful. I tell my kids that we are all friends and we will treat each other as such. Since then, no complaints! At least not any that were verbalized. Try it in your classroom if you've experienced this problem, because since implementing it, I haven't had a single complaint about a student lacking friends.

Friday, January 6, 2017

How to Establish Successful Sight Word Practice for Every Reader

Do you ever feel like its a real struggle to differentiate sight word practice for your kiddos this time of year? About this time, every year, I am reminded that some students need additional sight word practice, others just need a review of some sight words, and a few (hopefully more than a few) have mastered all the sight words. So, how do I create a way for every student to get the practice they need? Well, with the help of my fellow first grade teachers, we have come up with ideas and ways to create meaningful, engaging sight word practice for every one of our kiddos.

We do this with what we call "Reading Groups." Our "Reading Groups" are basically a 45 minute time period set aside each day, to meet the reading needs of ALL our students. There are three of us that teach first grade at my school. We each take a level of readers based on the data that was collected at the beginning of the year. During this time, our students work on a variety of reading skills, one of those being sight words.

During our "Reading Groups," I get to work with those who need additional teaching of sight words.  I begin by introducing the word, iterating that the word is very important because knowing the word will help the student become a "better" reader. (This gives the students a purpose behind learning the words.) I then spell the word for the students and we spell the word together. Then, I put the word up on the board and have all my students stand up. (This is where I'm incorporating various learning styles!) We then spell the word with our bodies (For letters that touch the top line, we pretend to shoot a basket, for letters that touch the mid-line, we put our hands on our hips, and for those letters that have descenders, we touch our toes). We then write the word in the air. Then, I give each student a dry erase marker and have them write the word on the board a single time. (According to our OT this is excellent for handwriting practice.) Then, the students read the word they wrote and spell the word out loud another time. The students then write the word three more times. The last step with this is, I have the students take a seat, close their eyes, tell what word they wrote, and spell it out loud. We usually do about three new or review words a day.

When I feel that my students have mastered the sight words, or just need a brush up on a few words, I will do this same routine with them, but add in another piece. I will have the students begin finding the words in context as well as using the words in context. This way, they aren't strictly seeing a sight word, but they are making a connection to how it is used. When I do this, the students have a list of specific words they are looking for. They can use tally marks to count how many times the word is seen. The students will also take the words that we have worked on and create what I call "Seven Up Sentences" (sentences with seven words or more) using the word. This way to students learn how to use the words correctly and begin to realize they aren't just single words that we learn.

Now, for those students who have mastered all the sight words, I want them to continue to read the sight words, but in context, while building fluency and comprehension. So, we do this through passages that correlate with the sight words we have been teaching. The students read the passage, look for a designated set of sight words, and also answer comprehension questions about the passage they've read. This can be done with any passage, but if you're interested, I've written specific passages that we use just for this called "Sight Word Stories."

After doing our reading groups for a few years now, we have found amazing success having our students practice sight words this way. How do you help your students learn those all important sight words?