Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Shared Writing ... follow-up

I'm really starting to see a big difference in my students since spending more time on their phonics and writing rather than all our time on reading. Not only are most writing independently now - but their reading is also bumping up!

Parents are also excited and on board. Recently, a parent of a Senior Kindergarten student in my class sent me this article: https://www.parent.co/sight-words-are-so-2016-new-study-finds-the-real-key-to-early-literacy/. It's worth a read and gives plenty of research about why invented writing using existing knowledge is a very important skill.

In my phonetic knowledge teaching quest, I also learned about Teach Your Monster to Read. It's a free program on the computer (also available as an app - which is sometimes available for free as a promotion) which explicitly teaches letters and their sounds. I really like that it goes back and reviews prior learning and also sprinkles in some sight words and application of reading and spelling. Students love the different games - which are all laid out in developmental order (consonants first, short vowels - all the way up to r-controlled vowels and dipthongs).

As for shared writing, some colleagues and I have started using pieces of art (visual art, dance, music, etc.) for students to view, discuss, and write about. It's cross-curricular! Grab the freebie observation checklist at https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Student-Observation-Checklist-for-Shared-Writing-Ontario-Grade-1-Visual-Art-3151638.

To read my in-depth blog post about phonics and shared writing, go to: http://misslaidlaw.blogspot.ca/2017/02/shared-writing-for-early-writers.html.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Shared Writing for Early Writers

I teach a group of Senior Kindergarten and Grade 1 students. When it comes to writing, my students mainly struggle with:
- sound segmentation ("sounding it out")
- encoding (assigning letters to the sounds they hear)
- writing full ideas (complete sentences)
- writing more than one sentence on a topic.

They were writing one sentence - often incomplete, and usually repetitive and simple ("I love Mom. I love Dad.").

So, enter shared writing! Usually used with upper grades with focuses on ideas, grammar, and higher-level skills, my SK/1 focus is on our needs (which were common "next steps" on our 1st Term report cards).

We do it every morning before our Daily 5 choice time (we have Gym in-between on some days - but we have to work around those schedules, right?). The reasoning behind this is so they have constant reminders to use the segmentation skills and phonics knowledge when writing independently. The oral language piece is very important too - and ties into an inquiry our Student Support Teacher is doing concerning the importance and development of oral language and conversation skills. My students crave it and ask for it; it's become part of our routine.

We use the "Let's Talk About It!" picture boards. They've been collecting dust in our teacher workroom. You could easily use pieces of art, newspaper pictures, or pictures from Google Images. Students choose a picture at the beginning of our day to be used during our shared writing session.

We start by looking at the picture. Students talk with a partner or small groups. This is excellent for building oral communication skills, gathering and building ideas, and Learning Skills (especially "Collaboration"). 

As you can see, talking with their groups can get quite animated!
After, we share our ideas as a class. I do this organically - no hands. They instinctually take turns - politely interrupt and add and ask questions. If you prefer, you can collect and share ideas with traditional raising hands and taking turns as appointed by the teacher. This is an excellent time to also accept, analyse, and choose between conflicting ideas. For example, some students thought the tiger was growling - until one student said it was yawning. They looked at its body language (and it was laying under a tree) and decided it was yawning.

Students decided the tiger was yawning - not growling.
I take the pen (well, smelly marker!). I do the writing during shared writing for a variety of reasons - including time management. I need to maintain our learning focuses: sound segmentation, encoding, and writing more than one sentence on a topic.

"Where do we begin? What's a good idea or sentence to introduce what's happening here?" I remind students to stay away from vague pronouns such as it. "What if our reader couldn't see the picture? Would they know what it is?"

Then, word by word, we segment. Students tell me which letter to write down. Some students might know it's on our word wall and run to get the word (this happened when we needed "bear") and some might already know the spelling of a sight word ("out" and "to" are common ones in our writing). It's important to note that PROPER SPELLING DOESN'T MATTER! These are beginning writers - and many SK/1 students are at the Short Vowel Stage in Words Their Way, so it's unfair to expect them to know long vowel patterns, r-controlled vowels, and dipthongs.

Why are words spelled wrong? Because students are applying the code they know. Therefore, this is developmentally-appropriate. It doesn't discourage them by correcting and "teaching" all the nuances of the English language and its spellings.

I constantly reread what I've written to see where I am in the sentence and to make sure everything is on the same topic. Students tell me which ideas to write next.

Here's our first Shared Writing with this focus. It's quite simple - but includes a few inferences. The sentences are very simple.

Here is our most recent shared writing. Within a month, students have added details (names), made more inferences, and explored a variety of punctuation (quotations) and grammar rules.
I've definitely noticed a big impact on my students' independent writing!

Grade 1 writing - with some help segmenting. The student encoded independently.
Students can write about whatever they want. To save them from wasting time thinking of an idea, we have an "idea box" - a brightly-coloured box on our shelf next to their journals. In it are cut-outs from a variety of magazines (travel, outdoors, home, wedding, teaching, construction union, parenting, fashion, etc.). I am conscious of including diversities - such as special needs found in sections of educational supplies catalogues, people of colour, religious and cultural clothing and regalia, et cetera.

It's no longer junk mail! Cut pictures from magazines to add to your "idea box" to inspire student writing!

Read about how I keep track of my assessments (like the one provided above) in my binder at http://misslaidlaw.blogspot.ca/2017/02/assessment-and-tracking.html.

Math Routine

We have a class set of individual whiteboards and a variety of dry-erase markers. The whiteboards are stored in a milk crate in our classroom.

On one side of the board, I've used packing tape to add a number line from 0-10. You could easily add number lines to 20 or higher - depending on what your students are working on and your focus. I added 0-10 because my SK/1s focused on adding and subtracting to 10 using a number line for Term One - now we are beginning to move on to 20 (the Ontario Grade 1 curriculum).

We do 4 skills at a time. Every 4-6 weeks, we change up our routine to learn and review other skills. Our skills have included:

1. Rekenrek

This is great for subitizing, addition, subtraction, and even multiplication (when using more than one rack). We use the iPad app "Number Racks." There are several YouTube videos showing the versatility of rekenreks. I tell students to write the numeral to show how many beads there are - and extra bonus points if you can write a number sentence to show it!

2. Find the Missing Number

Count forward, backward, and skip-count. I learned a nice trick when at a JUMP MATH conference in Ottawa in November 2016: write your number list vertically to help students see the patterns when skip-counting! This involves Patterning and Algebra and Number Sense and Numeration skills. We use the iPad app called Doodle Buddy.

3. Translate, Extend, and/or Identify the Core of a Pattern

We also use Doodle Buddy for this. You can draw shapes, use different colours, or use the stamps (which make sounds!) to create patterns. Students copy the patterns to the whiteboard (a great time to discuss translating patterns using symbols - or naming them with letters or numbers), extend them, and circle the repeating core.

4. Adding and Subtracting 

We also use Doodle Buddy for this. Students are encouraged to use the number line. I drill into their minds: "Where do we start? Look at the symbol - is our answer getting bigger or smaller? How many bumps? Where did we land?".

5. Representing Numbers using Base 10 Blocks

We use the iPad app Number Blocks. We use this app two different ways:

- Teacher writes a numeral and the students draw it. This is great for introducing place value. "How many long tens? How many little ones?" We represent the numeral then count - which also practices skip counting (by 10s) and counting on (by 1s).

- Teacher uses the blocks to show a quantity. Students write the numeral. We use the questions "How many long tens? How many little ones?" to help students understand place value and what it really means.

See how I track my observations in this blog post!

Assessment and Tracking

Assessment and tracking in an SK/1 can be hectic. Balancing play-based learning, inquiry, and scaffolded instruction - while differentiation for your spectrum of learners can be mind-boggling at times. Post-It Notes with your observations are easily lost in the mess.

I've figured out what works for me.

1. Assessment Tracking Binder

Each student has a section (I use hold-punched file folders.). In their section is a curriculum checklist for their grade level, copies of diagnostic assessments (Sound Skills, DRAs and PMs, Phonics and Letter Screeners, Sight Words, etc.), their IEP, and samples of notable student work (especially work of concern for an Occupational Therapist or Educational Psychologist and other paraprofessionals).

When I observe a student demonstrating an understanding of curriculum expectations (through play, inquiry, conversation, or completion of an assignment), I make a note in their section on my curriculum checklists. I use green for "understands it," yellow for "with support," and red for "not yet" or "with extreme difficulty."

Here is an example of the new Ontario Kindergarten curriculum.
The curriculum repeats several expectations throughout itself.
Here, I've quickly jotted down observations.

As you can see, I do the same for Learning Skills.

Here is an example of a Learning Skills page.
This was useful when completing the Learning Skills section of the report card.
It is also useful when communicating with parents, pediatricians, and educational supports.

After the 1st term, I take these out and create new copies for the 2nd term. I found that if I kept the papers for the 1st term in the binder, it gets too full and heavy.

2. Routines, Skill Checks, and Checklists

We always start our math time with a routine. Students and I come up with 4 things we will practice - for about 4-6 weeks until we change it up. I give the questions on our iPad and SmartBoard and every student answers it using individual whiteboards. I can easily check off who gets it, who's almost there, and who doesn't get it. These are stored at the front of my assessment and tracking binder - which I have open with me while we are doing our routine.

For the students who are not quite independent yet - those are the students I bring over for more 1-on-1 or small-group conferencing for additional revision of these knowledge and skills.

The checklist was created using a table in Microsoft Word. For the headers, I just merged cells.

Student names are listed vertically along the left-hand side. When we began in September, I colour-coded my Grade 1s with one colour and my SKs with another colour. Along the top are the 4 skills of our routine. I can easily check or X and make notes when students show me their whiteboard answers. I can also easily see who hasn't completed any answers, been absent, or I haven't observed for some reason yet - those are the students who I look for next time and/or bring over for individual conferencing to see if they have these skills and knowledge.

I also use these checklists when I use my Skills Check. These are completed during individual conferencing - usually during Daily 5 time or blocks of play-based learning time.


3. Expectation-Grouped Checklists

I usually used these when teaching Grades 1/2 - but I have used them for my Grade 1 students in my SK/1 room. Usually used with Math, I pull expectations from across the 5 strands that relate to the unit we are on. Then, through assignments, play-based learning, conferencing, conversations, observations, et cetera, I make notes on student achievement. These are stored at the front of my assessment and tracking binder.

How do you keep track of student learning in your room?