August 31, 2010

My first day with small groups

Posted in The first few weeks at 4:44 pm by svalter

Today was my first day meeting with small differentiated groups, and my first reaction is this: It WILL get better! 

I have broken my class into four groups total (one middle within word pattern, one early syllables and affixes, one late syllables and affixes, and one early derivational relations).  I do have a couple of “outlying” kids this year who just didn’t seem to fit well into any group, but I placed them with the closest group possible and keep reminding myself of this: I will be able to differentiate enough within the group to hopefully provide appropriate instruction AND just knowing this child’s developmental level and trying to teach him there is light years ahead of where I was in providing instruction a few years ago.  Bottom line?  He will undoubtedly continue growing where I have placed him AND he will be a huge asset in helping the other learners in the group become aware of things as we go along.

Today I simply introduced my power point that explains where each group goes the current day (the 30 seconds it takes to go over this at the beginning of each class saves precious minutes during my actual teaching time).  I had my very lowest group meet with me first to cut and sort while my second group cut and got ready to meet with me.  My third group also cut their words out and stored them today, and the fourth group continued working with last week’s names and will cut out their words tomorrow while I meet with the third group.  (And I’ll be honest, because I gave the highest group the Upper Level inventory, I didn’t send their sort off to copy center in time . . .)

At the table, there was A LOT going on today with both the kids and what I was observing.  I made sure that for each group I had a set of words cut out that matched theirs (I have my own envelopes labeled “Group 1”, “Group 2” and so on).  As we started, I had the kids lay out their words in a “word cloud” (my terminology) and just scatter the words in a small area so that they could see all of them face-up.  I used the words “word cloud” because when I didn’t they started lining things up and trying to make columns, which took WAY TOO MUCH TIME!  I then introduced what we would be working on (i.e. This week we will be looking at words with long and short a sounds.  What does short a sound like?  Long a?)  I then gave them enough scaffolding to get to “How does short a look in a word?”  When they identified this, I had them pull out the category card (CVC) and start a column.  I then asked them to find a bold anchor word with short a and we put it right under the column heading.  We repeated this with both of the long a categories (CVCe and CVVC).  THEN I had the kids sort independently to see what they could do.  Whoa.  Lesson to us all: No matter how “just right” we think a sort is, it can be absolutely shocking to watch the kids actually sort the words (and miss half of them!).  Sometimes I intervened to make a kid question where they placed a word, but the strategy I found to be much more effective was to wait until they had placed all of the cards and ask them to read down the list of words to check that they look and sound like they belong.  They were able to self-correct some of their errors, but not all, and the oddballs completely confused them.  Then we went over all of the words as a group and put them in their correct spots and had a discussion about the meanings and the placements.  Then I switched groups and asked the first group to sort again at their seats.

Overall, here is what I got out of the first day:

  • The power point made it very clear what the kids were supposed to do.  No “What do I do?” questions were asked!
  • The resource books throw in a lot of homophones, which can be very tricky.  This might be something to think about as we go along.  I know I’ve written pair and pear in my writing before, but never have I used the word “pare!”
  • 20 minutes just didn’t work today, and I don’t think it will be happening for at least a few weeks.  It was more like 30-35 today, but I keep telling myself I’d rather keep the pacing appropriate and teach all the routines and skills they need NOW instead of being sorry I missed something later.  I know by the second cycle that I will be able to get it down to the appropriate amount of time.
  • I now know specifically who I need to keep a very close watch on as we go through the sort and who is very strong within the group! 

If you’ve already started your instruction and have ideas to share or “first real day” concerns, please share as a comment!

August 25, 2010

WTW on Facebook

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:46 am by svalter

Wow, thanks to Tammy R. and some other friends who found this on Facebook . . . Words Their Way has their own page!  It’s full of podcasts, some videos, notes, and questions to get teachers sharing how they use WTW in their classrooms.  It’s supported by the publishers of the books, and seems to have a lot of great info! 

If you’re on Facebook and want to check it out, click here!

August 14, 2010

Word Study Contracts

Posted in Materials, Uncategorized at 5:51 pm by svalter

Here are the word study contracts I assign to my students:

Spelling Contract first quarter

Spelling Contract second quarter

Spelling Contract

For students who need more support (or for younger students), I have taken some of these activities and converted them into a “tic-tac-toe” board so there are fewer choices.

August 12, 2010

Spring PD Power Point

Posted in Getting Ready, Uncategorized at 2:23 pm by svalter

Here is a copy of the power point Jennifer and I shared on the May PD day: Words Their Way.

PD Presentation

Posted in Getting Ready, The first few weeks at 1:15 pm by svalter

Here is a copy of the power point presentation shared at today’s PD session:  Words Their Way Aug 2010.