Sunday, September 7, 2014

Setting Up Writer's Workshop

Hey bloggers!

It has been a crazy 3 weeks back at school for me & my 24 firsties. Hopefully you are all settling in! Today I'm bringing you a post about how I set up writer's workshop.

A few years ago, my district purchased the Lucy Calkins Units of Study...and I love it. Many people think that it's too much for little kids, but like anything else, you have to buy in. You have to fully give it a chance. I strictly followed the books my first few years, and now I'm comfortable enough that I can check out the session name, and teach it on my own.

The Units of Study really guide the kids in their writing. It's great because the students can work at their own pace. Everyone hears the same mini-lesson, but you can really differentiate and teach to each student's needs during conferences. You really get a lot of information about your students during conferences!

I start writer's workshop on day 1 of school. That may sound a little crazy, but they can do it! Their writing can start very basic-it can be a simple one page story about something they did that summer or even the day before. What's really important is that they get used to writing and the expectations.

The first few days are basically introducing them to the paper, pens, and where supplies are kept.
All of our writer's workshop paper is located in the same area. In the beginning, they only have one paper choice in one drawer. Eventually they will have many paper choices depending on the type of writing we are focusing on.

My students all have a writer's workshop folder. I give them labels on the first day that say "Not Done" and "Done." The "Not Done" label has a green dot on it and the "Done" label has a red dot on it. If they have a story they are still working on, it goes on the "Not Done" side and if they finish a story it can go on the "Done" side. My qualifications for a "Done" story at this point in the year are that a story has to have a picture & words that match on every page (coloring is optional). The green and red dots just help the kids that can't read the words-green means keep going, red means stop. The first few days, I expect them to be able to write for about 10 minutes. The kindergarten teachers at my shcool also follow the Units of Study, so the students have some writing background. I slowly stretch this out over the first few weeks of school and eventually they write for about 25-30 minutes independently. The students keep their writing folders in a special writing drawer that each group of desks has next to it. They also keep their pens in this drawer. This keeps students from losing things in their messy not organized to my standards desks.

I also model writing stories during the mini-lessons on the first few days (& throughout the year).

The second week we really start discussing the expectations during writer's workshop. We create our "Writer's Workshop Contract" and all of the kids sign it. We discuss what a contract is and what it means when you sign it. I refer to this MANY times the first few weeks, and a few times later in the year when needed :) In my classroom, writer's workshop is a QUIET time. It's one of the few times during the day that I do not let them talk. The only noises you will hear during this time in my room are me conferencing with students and students quietly stretching out their words to spell as best as they can. 

At the beginning of the year, we are writing personal narratives. I love starting out this way because the students are writing true stories about themselves. Writing these types of stories is much easier for them than writing fiction or procedural. It is much easier for them to come up with true stories about themselves!...which brings me to another key concept at the beginning of writer's workshop-How to Write a Story.

I teach them a few different ways to plan:
(1) Plan across your fingers.
(2) Touch the paper and say your story before writing.
(3) Plan with a partner.

After independent work time, we have a share time. This differs day to day:
(1) teacher share
(2) partner share
(3) group share
Sometimes I choose a few stories to share on the document camera from students that were doing their best first grade work. Sometimes I have the students share in partners. Sometimes I have the students share in groups. With everything, there is a lot of modeling that is done for each.

For partner sharing:
-You have to have a done story.
-You sit side by side with your partner and take turns sharing & listening.

For group sharing:
-You have to have a done story.
-One person sits facing the rest of the group.
-The only person talking is the person who is sharing.
-Your story goes behind your body when it is not your turn to share.

The Units of Study cover many topics and types of writing throughout the year. In first grade we cover:
-personal narratives
-how to writing
-all about writing (non fiction)
-poetry
-persuasive
-letter writing

After each unit (usually about 4 weeks), we have a writing celebration. We use this time to celebrate the hard work they have done and to recognize what great writer's they are becoming. The celebrations vary each time. Sometimes we share as a whole class, and everyone gets a chance to share on the document camera. Sometimes the students share in groups. Sometimes we partner up with the other first grade class and share our stories with them. There is usually some kind of treat as well-just something small like a cookie or something. They love it. After celebrating, their new published story goes on our bulletin board in the hallway. When we publish a story, I have them choose their favorite story in their folder, re-write it neatly, and color the pictures (crayon or colored pencil only).

If your school has some extra money, I definitely recommend the Units of Study (I do not get any compensation for promoting them). They make teaching writing SO much easier and will make you and the students more confident in writing!

We just finished our 3rd week of school...and my students are already writing for 20 minutes independently! They are awesome :)


Monday, September 1, 2014

Currently & Giveaway Winner!

Hey bloggers!

It's time to announce the giveaway winner for the Pencil Sharpener from Classroom Friendly Supplies! Thank you to EVERYONE that entered! :)


Jessica, I will be emailing you soon!

And now it's time for Currently September with Farley!

Where did the time go?? My baby is already 10 months old! He has a sports photo shoot this weekend...and then his one year pictures in a few months! Ahhhh!

Picking 3 trips was tricky! I have been to a lot of places...France, Spain, England, Bahamas, Hawaii, Costa Rica, Vegas...but I finally came up with a list!

I have been fighting a nasty cold-ALREADY! My first full week of school I had to take a sick day because I lost my voice from the cold. Fortunately, I have a student teacher this year that helped out this week, otherwise I would have had to take more than one sick day. Ugh, back to school sickness!

Enjoy your 3 day weekend! :)

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Back to School Giveaway!

Hey bloggers!

Sorry for my absence! It has been a crazy few weeks! I had a few days of Professional Development about Common Core Math with Math Solutions and then I had meetings regarding my student teacher this year! Then I obvious spent quite a bit of time setting up my classroom, in back to school meetings, and getting ready for Meet the Teacher!

*This is a huge post...but there is a giveaway at the end! :)

I'm super bummed that I missed out on "Teacher Week" so I'm just going to do an all in one abbreviated version :)

Monday-Who:
I am in my fifth year of teaching first grade! I love it. I have 24 little lovelies this year :)

This is my first year of going back to school and having a baby! It has added to the chaos. Haha. My little guy is almost 10 months old and he just started crawling a few weeks ago! He's a pretty cool kid.

We spent a lot of time this summer at Hub's baseball games! And they finished in second place in the league-so that was exciting.

Tuesday-Where
My Classroom! The theme in my room? Well, I guess it's mostly rainbow...rainbow polka dots, rainbow chevron...yep! The school theme this year is Space so I incorporated that in the hallway.
Top Left: My small group table. I use this during math workshop for guided math groups, during writer's workshop for writing conferences, and during reader's workshop for guided reading. The chevron is contact paper and the pink is duct tape!
Top Right: My paint sample calendar. This is a calendar that will only have activities/dates that pertain to the students (so it will not be filled with all of my meetings!).
Bottom Left: Our "how we go home" chart! Quick & simple and by the door.
Bottom Right: Our "where did you go" chart. I have kids in and out of the room constantly (bathroom, reading recovery, special ed, speech, OT, PT, etc) so it is helpful to quickly see who is where! (I showed the magnets in a Monday Made It this summer here)
Top Left: Student mailboxes. Any papers/projects that need to go home can be found in their mailboxes!
Top & Bottom Right: Our classroom library! The bookboxes are on top of the book shelves.The green, yellow, & red tubs are leveled by difficulty. The blue tubs and fiction and nonfiction books organized by topic. There is a puzzle mat on the floor that I got from amazon and a rug I got from Ross Dress for Less on top of it. It's super comfy for reading time! :)
Bottom Left: This is our computer area and word wall in the back of the room! (More detail about the word wall on a post from last year here)
This is my back to school hallway bulletin board. As I said previously, our school has a space theme this year! I made the rocket ship out of construction paper and the flames from tissue paper. The kids loved it! We didn't have large black paper at school so I used wrapping paper for the background!

Wednesday-Why
I have definitely become more organized over the last year. My goal last year was to organize because I knew I would be taking my maternity leave and wanted my sub to be able to easily find things when she needed them. I have continued organizing because I have a student teacher this year! I want her to be able to find & put things away easily as well. Here are some of my organizational tips...

Meet the Teacher Organization:
I had stations set up for meet the teacher night. Our school does an open house format for meet the teacher. I got the picture frame holders on sale at Michaels! I love them.
This was how the students showed me that they had attended Meet the Teacher...it also allowed the parents to see the smartboard in action!

Here is a close up in the library. I made the labels myself and got the bins at Deals.

Close up behind my small group table. I got the white cubes at Target, and the cube bins at Big Lots. The rainbow carts are also from Big Lots. The cart drawers are labeled as well. The clear containers with blue lids are from walmart, I use them for my guided reading groups-books and notebooks go in them for each group.

Close up of my guided reading books. I love these magazine holders to organize them!!

Close up of the listening station. We use this during reader's workshop. The tables are from walmart. The green stools are from ikea and the soccer stools are from Hobby Lobby.

Close up of student supply organization at their desks. Each group of desks has 3 plastic drawers. The top drawer holds math manipulatives (cubes, place value cubes, ten frames, etc). The second drawer holds their writer's workshop folders and pens. The bottom drawer holds their extra school supplies.

At the end of each year, I ask the students to donate any crayons they don't want to take home. These are used as extras for the incoming students in case they don't have any or lose some throughout the year. This is where extra crayons, scissors, and glue sticks are kept.

Close up behind my desk...it's not the most organized but I try! The teacher toolbox holds paperclips, pencils, staples, rubberbands, brads, etc (more about it here). The square bulletin boards are for pictures and reminder notes (more about those here). On the left, I have a drawer for each day of the week to hold papers or books that are needed for each day. The "iHelp" is our job chart.

Thursday: When
Our Daily Schedule

Our Math Schedule

Our Reader's Workshop Schedule

Friday: What
What do I like to teach? Well, math was always my favorite when I was in school so I feel like teaching math comes easiest to me. I actually really like writer's workshop as well though. I love that the kids can all work at their own pace and I LOVE seeing the progress they make from the beginning of the year to the end! It's amazing.

I have an item posted that is all about the Writing Helpers that I use throughout the year (personal narratives, poetry, how to books, all about books, realistic fiction, & persuasive writing)! It has pictures of anchor charts that we make, writing paper templates, ABC & Blend charts, & more!


WHEW! That was a huge post. Thanks for sticking with me! And because you stuck with me for that whole thing, I'd like to give you a chance to win a pencil sharpener from Classroom Friendly Supplies!
Here is a quick video about the pencil sharpeners:
You can enter using the Rafflecopter below! One winner will get a pencil sharpener mailed to them from Classroom Friendly Supplies (color of your choice!). 

Good Luck!

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