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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Bucket Fillers

This post doesn't have any new tips or tricks and it doesn't have any pictures but I just needed to share a sweet school story.  Students at my school eat lunch in the classroom and I monitor their 30 minute lunchtime.  Usually students are finished eating sooner than lunch is over and so they are allowed to write "bucket filling notes" to their classmates when they are done eating.  They have a bucket filler slip and when they have written one they put it in their friend's bucket to check later.  I also have a bucket and I can get some very sweet and often hilarious notes in there.  Today I got one that I have never received before...this student filled my bucket by saying "Dear Ms. B, you are the CUTEST teacher EVER!!!!"  How sweet- I have never been called cute by a 7 year old before!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

An update on joy

I am finding it!!  I want to sing from the rooftops!!  Believe me, teaching phonics and struggling readers is not easy, and there are days when I want to pull my hair out BUT each day has gotten a little bit better.  One of the things I wanted to share with you all is my reading schedule for each day.  For my lower level readers I need STRUCTURE and I am finding that their attention span is so short that if I just keep us moving along, things go much easier.  I have a 90 minute reading block each day.  I try to keep those 90 minutes packed full!
9:00-9:15 whole group phonics lesson
9:15-9:30 centers/daily 5-rotation 1
9:30-9:45 rotation 2
9:45-10:00 rotation 3 or second whole group lesson depending on the need/the day
10:00-10:15 rotation 4
10:15-10:30 read aloud

For my first whole group lesson I have been using phonic poems, rhymes and songs (thank you Kaitlyn) that I have found on the internet as a class warm-up.  We have used wikki-stix to identify words with short a and long a sounds.

During rotations or centers students have the choice or read to self from books that are just right for them, listen to a story, word work (continuing our phonics practice) or a computer program called Imagine Learning- it's awesome.  While the students are working on one of those things, I have a group with me and we are working on decodable books.

My optional 2nd lesson is usually a vocabulary or sight word lesson
For my read a loud I am trying to follow along with our basil but jazz it up a little bit.  This week second graders are reading The Mixed Up Chameleon so we have been looking at a variety of Eric Carle books. 

Now that I have a structure in place I feel like a much more effective teacher.  I still have days where my expectations are too high but I am getting somewhere.  In my short time with this group I have already seen some progress and that is so uplifting!

So my question to you is, what is the structure of your reading block?  Do you have a group of struggling readers, what do you do with them?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Finding My Joy...A Call to Help!

Hi blogging friends!  I am happy to be back "talking" with you after what feels like a long time!  Please let me explain my absence...school started and WHOA!

I am hoping that I can recruit you to help me out with teaching struggling second grade readers.  Do you have any books you suggest that I read or lessons or tips that I should try?  I am teaching the struggling reading group this year and I am not finding the joy---YET!  We all have those things about teaching that truly bring us joy- something that you can cling on to even when the rest of the day doesn't go as planned.  For me, this has always been helping children discover that they LOVE reading.  It might be guiding a student to a book that they can't put down, or helping a student find an author that they love so much they go out and read every book that that author has ever written.  I have never found that same joy in helping students identify letters, letter sounds or rhyme and that is where my group is at right now.  I am so anxious to get them to the next step that I don't feel like I am giving my best instruction.  So- please, point me in the right direction, help me find that joy in these struggling readers!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Library Organization

I am into my second week in second grade!  I survived- and I must admit that after the first day, I wasn't sure if I would!  All you second grade teachers out there, this third grade teacher wants to send you a big THANK YOU!  I never realized all the social skills that beginning of the year second graders are lacking- and beginning of they year third graders are not...

I am posting today however, to say that I have found a book check-out system that works for me and my classroom library!  This process has been 4 years in the making and I am so happy that it works.  My first year teaching  I started out with no check-out system and I "lost" so many books that I knew I needed to try something.  I moved to a paper/pencil/card system- way too complicated!  I tried the technology route- but the kiddos had a hard time logging in to the program I used and looking up the book to check it out.  Then I noticed my school librarian use paint sticks during book "shopping."  The kiddos grab their numbered stick and use it to hold the place of the book that they are looking at- if they decide not to check it out, they know right where to put it back.  I thought I might be on to something if I tried a system like this and then...what do you know but I saw an example of what I was thinking online (I would love to link up to the blog post/pin that I saw but I can't find it)!

Book sticks in the bins

So here is what I did: 
I went to Home Depot and grabbed the smaller size free paint sticks and some spray paint. I came home and spray painted them on both sides.  You'll need to use a bit of spray paint to cover up the Home Depot logo.  Then I made some plain numbered labels and I laminated them and hot glued them to the sticks.  Voila!  Each student grabs their number, and then holds it while they browse for books.  When they pick a book, the book goes to their desk with them and the stick stays in the book bin that their book came from.  When it is time to return the book and pick a new one, they remember where the book goes and they put it away before grabbing their stick and picking out a new book.  We have only been using this for a short while but the second graders caught on to the procedure quickly and have done a great job of using it while browsing for books.  If you are thinking of developing some sort of book check-out system or are just frustrated with students who don't return their books to the right place, you might find that this cheap system works for you too!

The book sticks in use