We are WORD COLLECTORS!

Whew!  This week was crazy!  Besides it being World Read Aloud Day on Friday, we had TWO “it’s-too-cold-to-go-outside-today” days off of school!  It was a nice refreshing mid-week break, but definitely made for a week where NO ONE knew what day it was. LOL

So…remember how last week I mentioned a super project that was sparked from another Peter H. Reynolds book we read?  Well, I finally have enough of it up and photographed that I can share it!

Last week as one of our read aloud we enjoyed hearing The Word Collector.   Basically, in the story, Jerome collects words that he hears and likes–short words, long words, funny words, nice words, you get the idea.  Eventually he ends up have a GINORMOUS bag of words on little slips of paper that he drops and they get all spread around, then being shared with the rest of the world!

We decided that as super readers and word-lovers ourselves, we could also collect words!  It really only took a quick mention of the idea for first grade readers and writers to be IN and start finding great words all over the place!  We “officially” worked on it for one reading/writing time, but I know they literally could have done it all. day. long.  I love how Sam and Jaxon, who were working together, said they collected pages and pages of words for 20 or 30 minutes but said, “I think we could do this for 20 or 30 more HOURS!”

Now, when something like this happens, I can’t ever decide if the best part is what happens in our room, or what happens when someone decides we should share the idea with other kids.  In this case, it may have been both.

I went ahead and covered the door in blue paper, which was supposed to look like the cover of the book. See?

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Then as a class (well our class and Ms. Turken’s kiddos, too), we decided what we might do to share our work with our school on our doors.  We agreed that we should have a picture of Jerome, telling our Robinson friends about our inspiration and the word collecting we began to do.

We decided rock-paper-scissors would be the best way to decide who would create Jerome, and so after many, many games, Makhi, Wyatt and Isaac became our illustrators.     They made a most-handsome version of Jerome, and also a word bubble that we added words to together.

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Beckett helped add some words to our speech bubble, using interactive writing and his best first grade letters!

One of the best things that happened as we talked about what our speech bubble should say, was when Hailey suggested we invite other Robinson friends to collect words WITH US!?  I usually have an idea of what I think the words could say, but it’s generally up to kiddos to decide what they will say. Hailey had the great idea that we should invite the rest of Robinson to collect words WITH US, which I had not even considered.

On Friday we finally had time to get our lists and lists of collected words onto our slips and finish our Jerome and words.  We still have to add the pocket that will house the slips, tape, and sharpie for other people to use, but it’s up and it’s FABULOUS!  Don’t you agree?  I LOVE LOVE LOVE that these kiddos are already learning to pay attention to how words sound and think about the power they have!

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What words would you add to our display?  Please leave your suggestions in the comments and we’ll put them up for you!  Can’t wait to hear what you say and from how far away our words will come!  So in addition to your words, please tell us where you live!

Word Wall 2017

I am a teacher who works with first graders, so we do LOTS with words.  Reading words, writing words, learning about how to say words, discussing meaning of words.  Words. Words. Words.

So…in the beginning when I was putting the room together, lots of thought and consideration was given to how we’d use our word wall and where it would go in the room.  Ms. Turken and I also had many conversations about how we could use our walls in tandem (as our kids would be going back-and-forth between our rooms often and would be utilizing both versions).  Last year, I also had a rebirth of the word wall, and abandoned the whole “traditional” layout (with letters and sight words) and we put words in categories rather than by alphabetical order.  Kids in Rm. 202 used that version of the wall SO MUCH MORE because it was theirs.  They had ownership over how it was organized and therefore were much more purposeful in how it helped them.

As I said, we’ve had a “word wall” since day one.   It looked like this:

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And next to it, to the right, is another wall, that has been predominately “blank”, as well, except for names (which some kiddos just noticed last week. LOL).  This set up is almost identical in Rm. 112–on the same wall, even–just with different colors.

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Today, for many reasons, became the day to tackle the word wall discussion.  For one, kids have had some time to “live” in our room, as well as in first grade generally, and so have more of an understanding of what more they might need as far as resources.  We’ve also just officially started word work as a Daily 5 rotation, so they are more aware of how this aspect of reading and writing in first grade.  We’ve been reading for almost a whole quarter now, and have been working out words, and are far enough now for an “official” lesson about what to do with unknown words in Writer’s Workshop.  It’s to the point now that we have to address where to go when you don’t know. 🙂

We gathered in front of the blank word wall today and had a discussion about what it might be for.  Many pointed to the fact that we’ve been utilizing it to help us write our letters when we forget what they look like, or what order they go in.  Many were happy to leave that silly wall just as it is!  I pushed, however, and talked about how I’d overheard several kiddos talking about how they needed help with how to write (spell) specific words today, and suggested that maybe we could use the spaces (between the letters!) for words.  They seemed keen on this idea, and many suddenly remembered that they had a wall like that in kindergarten! (I tell, ya, those kindergarten teachers think of the BEST ideas! hee hee)  We discussed what kinds of words we should put on our wall and many threw out words they’d been trying to use today, and someone suggested we  add sight words to our wall.  The thing I loved about their thinking (unlike many years, and in comparison to the way I’ve used word walls previously) is that they agreed that we should put up words they DO NOT know how to read and spell yet, rather than ones they ALREADY know how to use correctly.  This is the part of the typical Word Wall that always had me confused anyway: I used it as a wall of “have-tos” and held kids accountable for words they already knew, rather than effectively helping them work towards ones they didn’t have control over yet.

Additionally, many suggested that we routinely COME BACK to review the words on the word wall to siphon out words we had learned (and didn’t need anymore), adding new ones that kids needed to rely on.  BOOM!  Not rocket science, but this was the very first time I’ve ever had a learner attend to the “living” nature of the word wall.  It’s the first time I had done that, too.  WOW! so thankful that happened.

In past years, I have decided on what words we would learn and add, based on a list or suggestion from someone or somewhere…sometimes relying on my kids to lead me (I’d say I did more of this student-led work last year more than ever), but often just at random.  Waa waa.  Super teaching strategy, right?  It didn’t hurt anyone, and kids eventually learned how to read, write and use those words, but of course there was a better way of doing it than just so haphazardly.

Since Rm. 111 kids would decide which words to add, we originally had a plan for each kiddo to tackle a “letterful” of words, leaving the remaining ones for me to choose.  Campbell suggested that we determine 5 or so words for each letter that we wanted.  The time of today when we could work on this didn’t allow us much time, so I tweaked the idea a little and we worked with our learning partners.  In the end, I think this worked out better anyway, as kids had to more deeply think about and defend their choices than would have been required if they just chose on their own.  As they finished with their first letter, pairs tackled others and we got almost finished with our choices today (up to the letter R, I believe…).  When our work time was over, we had a tableful of possibilities.

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It was really interesting to see what they had come up with, and made me think about how I’d chosen focus words before.  I am pretty sure I never had contractions up there so early, and the wall was full of 2-letter words for months.  As I reviewed the words they decided upon, I saw MANY MORE connections between words than I’d allowed for previously, and noticed many ways that words could be used to spell other words that I hadn’t ever considered.  First graders are so smart!!  I mean, really–so often they know what they need much better than me! 🙂

I did end up revising their lists a little, taking out words that could be figured out with longer words.  For example, I left CAN’T but took away CAN, as we could use the latter to spell the shorter one.  Same with most of those contractions, as well as the word BE, since BECAUSE and BEFORE were also there.  Also, some of their word choices were colors and numbers, which will go into category boxes (much like last year’s wall) on that black board on the right side.  We’ll discuss this and how to use it a little later.

I didn’t get quite done today, but am already really excited to see all the words that are hanging there now, and am happily anticipating how the wall will be used by my Rm. 111 (and 112!) learners.  I am excited for the newly gained confidence that I will see emerging as kids can add another layer of  independence to their literacy work.

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Oh, and by the way, when I asked them what we should call this wall of words, they suggested we put the title WORD WALL on it. 🙂  hee hee (and see–there’s even a lesson in that title: I did not leave CALL or ALL on the list because they are inside of WALL). 🙂

All I can say is I LOVE FIRST GRADERS!!  Please stay tuned for more on how we use this amazing thinking to help us with FUTURE amazing thinking. 🙂

Blowing Up Our Word Wall!

Yesterday I was sitting with my friend, Ms. Turken, as we worked on a geometry assessment, figuring out a new schedule and just musing about some first grade topics in general.  I had some ideas to throw at her related to my class library, my classroom layout and most importantly the way our Word Wall is being used–or really NOT being used.

We talked about the purpose of a word wall as we understood it, which is to be words that kiddos are accountable to know how to spell.  Yeah–it’s full of words that most kids know how to spell and read already.  It’s not words that most kids need support with so its use is minimal.  That’s where we were in Rm. 202.

I sat down with my class today (in front of the Word Wall, naturally), and asked them what they were thinking. I asked what a Word Wall is for, and I got two decidedly different answers (which was not very surprising, actually).  I had one friend tell me it was for sight words that we know, and someone else said, no, it’s for words that we need help with.  We talked about how we needed to be clear–and agree upon–what we wanted the wall to be for us.  I asked many kiddos if they personally ever use the wall to help them spell.  Nope. No. Not really.  Yes, but only for names.  We agreed that having words like it, is, it, get, and, am, etc., is not helpful.   I talked with them about what other kinds of things they might want to have on there, and also went to my word wall word stash to make a few suggestions if they needed help.  The word BECAUSE came up (as it has several times in multiple conversations of the last week) as a word that most of us need to reference, and so we agreed it would go up there.  Someone suggested color words, then we also talked about number words and other categories.  This led to the idea that we could organize the words by type, rather than by alphabet.

I gave them a few minutes to work with a friend (or on their own) to suggest categories or specific words that we might want to put up on our wall.  While they worked, I started to take down the letters.

Kids had great ideas for categories of words, like colors, numbers, names (which were already on our Word Wall but that are now in a square together instead of by first letter separately), school words, seasonal words (like Halloween, fall, parade, etc.), and just sight words or other “regular” words that might be tricky.

After school I was able to make a start at putting it back together.  It already looks great, and I am SUPER excited with how the kiddos like it and how they begin to use it differently.  After all, it is THEIR word wall and should be organized and created in a way that makes sense to THEM.  Otherwise it’s just letters that no one pays any attention to.

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A fresh start…

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Color words and the beginning of “school” words

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Number words (yes, I know there’s no eighteen. Somehow I lost it. I’ll fix that. 🙂

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Names. I will add girl once it gets printed.

Can’t wait to share more soon!  Please tell us what you think! 🙂

 

Name Game (and a Couple of New Books!)

We have been working on names in Rm. 202, both as a way to build community as well as to use a resources for our reading and writing.  We have read lots of books, built our names with Legos and inch tiles, as well as learned about the stories of our names and painted based on that inspiration.

And then we played games.

I moved our word wall this year, making it more accessible to kiddos and groups, and hopefully allowing us a place to gather to talk about words and how they work.  The first thing we learned to do with our word wall is play a guessing game based on our names.  A kiddo sat on the stool, and I gave 3 clues to a name, and they had to guess which one it was.

The first one had these three clues:

  • It’s a short name.
  • It has double letters.
  • The last letter doesn’t sound how you’d expect it to sound.

Kiddos guessed that it could be these options:

Pretty good guesses, right?  We had a great conversation about how the “ie” in Allie and Robbie work together to make the long e sound, and they agreed that that fit the “doesn’t sound like you’d expect it to sound” clue.  Peter’s name was suggested because it has double e in it, so I made sure they understood that the double letters had to be together.  That left ELLA as the chosen name, and we found lots of other words that also fit that rule, including the A that sounds like a U.  This will be a feature we’ll come back to many times as we read and write together this year.

Our second name had these clues:

  • It has 5 letters.
  • The vowel sound is a LONG one.
  • There is a silent letter.

The guesses this time were:

 

Pretty great thinking again, huh?  Two of those names were ones I hadn’t even considered.  Yeah, I know–pay attention, Mrs. Bearden!  The one I was thinking of was CHASE, and we talked about silent e and long vowels.

This game was a great first start with our word wall, and it will become a game kiddos play again on their own, during word work in our Daily 5 or even as a part of our word work in guided reading or just for fun at choice time!  Great work, Rm. 202 kiddos!

Oh, and I promised in the title I’d share a new book!  Mrs. Meihaus has a habit of reading to our class when we come to the library for our checkout each week, and this last week she did not let us down.

She shared :        screenshot-2016-09-01-12-46-51

which included several little surprises inside:

img_3720img_3721img_3722 Can you see how the pages get smaller and smaller in there?  It goes all the way down to a teeny tiny red book and then all the way back out again as you read through to the end.  Who had ever seen such an amazing text like that before?  WE LOVED IT!

Ok, one more.  We heard the sweet, friendly story of:

screenshot-2016-09-01-12-46-11 Heartfelt and wonderful.  Must read it again. 🙂

And learn to play the piano. 🙂

Appletters

Ok, so first of all, before Sunday, I didn’t even know this game existed.  Did you?

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I mean, I know about Bananagrams, and we had a TON of fun playing a variation of it last year at the beginning of the year.  So really, Appletters is just another version of Bananagrams (and there’s even Pairs of Pears, too)–really it’s just a fruit-shaped bag filled with letters.  But this one was cheaper. 🙂

So like with last year’s Bananagrams, we started by giving everyone a letter.  Then they had to find other friends and make words.  The first time around there are no rules (outside of the one that says you have to make words, hee hee), and we came up with these:

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So for the second round I added the guideline that the words had to be at least 4 letters:

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I wasn’t sure this one was actually a word, but then was informed that it’s a character from iCarly. I think next time we’ll change the rule about names.

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I like the story behind this one. It started as “bands” until we noticed that there were two friends with I and T who needed a group. Voila! BANDITS!

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I am hoping that this is a game we can come back to again and again this year.  I am excited to see how the words we make grow and change as we work with words and vocabulary throughout the year.  I’m thinking I might make it an option during Reader’s Workshop, too, as a word game.

Have you ever played Appletters?  What about Bananagrams?  How do you use them in your classroom? What other games do you play with words or vocabulary?