At the beginning of every year, I have the unrealistic lofty goal of documenting everything that happens inside the walls of Rm. 111 ( and often Rm. 112), and then fail miserably, realizing that there is just not time to do that. There’s just TOO much that happens at the beginning of the school year that I want to tell you about! It’s all new and so it all seems important. :).
This time I am resigning my self to the fact that telling you something, even if it’s not everything is better than nothing! So, I’m going to be ok with not telling you about everything that has gone on in the last 16 days, and will roll on, focusing on what is happening now, and maybe finding time to add in some fun from our first days. 🙂
As we’ve been learning through these first few weeks, I’ve been thinking about how many things we seem to pack into one school day! It’s made me want to write a blog series ( that I’m starting with this post!) to highlight what we really do all day. I mean I can share the schedule, or your kiddo could tell you they had Reading Workshop, but unless you’re there, it’s really hard to fully understand what that looks like for a first grader.
That being said, I’m starting by showing something we do every day (usually right after lunch, at 11:45, just to be precise 🙂 ), where we work on listening to sounds and hearing parts of words and using those parts to make new words. Officially we use a program called Phonemic Awareness: The Skills That They Need to Help Them Succeed! By Michael Heggerty. On our schedule, it’s simply called Heggerty, or more often we refer to this time as “the yellow book,” because I usually hold the ginormous yellow book on my lap while we go through the lesson. :). Regardless of what we call it, at least everyone knows what to expect!
In short, phonemic awareness is the understanding that spoken word is made up of individual sounds, called phonemes. During our lessons–which are done totally through the auditory mode (no words, text or visuals), we practice isolating sounds, manipulating sounds, blending and segmenting them, as well as deleting sounds to figure out what is left. We talk about letters, analyze rhymes and identify how many words are in a sentence. It’s focused, intentional and quick, and they’ve picked up on the routines of these lessons pretty quickly. There are movements that go along with most parts of our lesson, and kids especially love when we use our “choppers” to break apart words into syllables.
With the help of my instructional coach, Amy, we recorded a lesson to help you see what happens. We went back and forth about which angle to use to help you best see what’s going on (as you can hear the whole lesson either way), but eventually thought it would be best for you to see what the KIDS are doing during a lesson, rather than just what I am doing from my teacher chair. Who wants to see the teacher for 10 minutes when you can see the kids doing super smart work with words? 🙂
So, in answer to that question about what we do all day, one thing is we work on Phonemic Awareness, which will help us as both readers and writers. Here’s a peek into this word work time in our classroom!
In case you missed it, in just those 10 short minutes we increased language awareness, worked on rhyming, identified onsets (beginning sounds), blended syllables, identified final phonemes (ending sounds), segmented words, substituted phonemes, added phonemes, deleted phonemes and worked on letter names and sounds. Whew! Action packed for sure!
After we finished, Sam said, “Let’s watch our video!” Without knowing so, he was reading my mind, and that was my plan for our next steps anyway! I asked him why he thought we should, and he just said he wanted to know how it went (and what kid doesn’t like to see themselves on the big screen?!), but I also wanted to have a discussion about what went well and how we could improve for next time. I prepped them to choose to just focus on themselves, to focus on the whole class, or to even choose to watch what I did and think about what went well (which we call pluses), and what we might change for our next try (which we mark as deltas).
As we talked, we recorded our noticings, being sure to share names when we were highlighting pluses and making sure to just say “I saw someone…” when we were mentioning things we could change. When we were finished, our chart looked like this:
This reflective protocol is something that we do often, and it is very helpful in kids’ recognizing their role in making our classroom a safe, kind place to learn, and to make sure they are putting their best foot forward. I’m excited to see what happens when we review our chart before Heggerty on Monday and focus on changing some of those things we listed on the right side of the chart. Using this reflective protocol over the next weeks and months, in various situations is also an idea that is brewing with my teammates as a way to help grow kiddos’ capacity to reflect on their engagement and ultimately take responsibility for their learning. I’m so excited (and will be sure to share more as it comes!!)!
As you think about phonemic awareness in the first grade classroom, what do you wonder? What do you notice? If you’re a parent, ask your kiddo what they like most about doing Heggerty in our classroom. Ask them to tell you about how this helps them in other parts of our day. Ask them to tell you what they would change about learning about letters and sounds. If you’re a teacher, how to you address phonemic awareness in your classroom? How do you see it affecting your students are readers and writers? What is your go-to resource or what other things do you use to support kiddos in this learning?
As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I’d love to hear from you! The conversation makes this whole thing even better! 🙂