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 12, 2010

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.

July 26, 2010

Fun Idea to Get Started

Posted in The first few weeks at 10:12 pm by svalter

I was struck by some random inspiration as I started planning things today, and I’ve decided to try something a bit different while I set up my word study routines this year.  I’ve decided that for the first few weeks of school I am going to have my students do a “name” study of both their own name and their classmates’ names. 

Prior to getting started with my kids, I’m going to make a set of word sort cards with each child’s name and copy it onto cardstock for each student.  I can then teach the routines of cutting out and storing the words.  I will also work with the kids to create an anchor chart of different ways to sort words that we can post in the classroom (beginning sound, syllables, vowel sound, ending, syllable breaks, etc.).  After that, my kids can spend a couple of days seeing how many different ways they can sort the name cards.  This will give me some good informal assessment data and it will allow me to pull back those kids who need additional testing (higher or lower).  While the kids are working with names I can also teach them how to use the word study contract, how to set up their notebooks, and go over all the procedures they will need while working independently throughout the rest of the year.  It will also help them learn how to spell all of their classmates’ names correctly!

I also want them to do some work with their own name to embed some important concepts.  During the first couple of weeks (before we really kick off Word Study), I would like to have my kids research their own names to find out where their name came from and the meaning and origin of their name.  I heard a speaker share this idea about a year ago, and I just love the thought of giving each child an opportunity to put meaning behind his/her name at the beginning of the school year, and I think this is a great way emphasize to my students that each word they work with has a meaning and an origin.

Does anyone else have an idea of something they are planning to do in their classroom this year to kick off Word Study?  If so, please share!