Kids Teach Kids: Rm. 202 Takes Over–Part 2

I know…Kids Teach Kids usually means students have researched something they are interested in and are sharing their new knowledge with their class–and we will definitely do that version of KTK later on this year–but for now it has to do with some great things we learned from Mrs. Mark’s class last week when we went for a little visit.  Let me explain. 🙂

Last week on Friday (the day after we had tackled our first step of ICEL and put kids in charge of our schedule), I was again looking for ways to enhance engagement and help kiddos dig in a little deeper into things in our class.  I was still considering the problem-solving protocol of ICEL and was contemplating both I and C…

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…and hoped that I could challenge my writers in a different way by having them see what other first graders were doing with their nonfiction book writing.  I asked my neighbor and friend Mrs. Marks (remember her double dog dare from last time?) if she would allow us to come learn from her kiddos, as I had seen some CRAZY great stuff in there on a recent pop in to chat about something else.  She was more than happy to oblige and we went over for a lesson from her kiddos.  My students had a mental list of look-fors and were also directed to ask questions about what they saw during our visit.

We saw some pretty great writing in Rm. 204!  They had added all of the “smart” things we’d been learning about that non-fiction writers put in their books to make their readers understand.  We saw headings, diagrams, pictures, bold words, table of contents, glossaries and labels.  And we saw really excited writers with whole folders full of books!  Needless to say, this was inspiring to my kiddos!  I would have to say, one of the biggest things we walked away with, too, was all of the different sizes of books that were made in Rm. 204; our books are all just regular paper-sized books on 8 X 11 in. paper.

As we left Rm. 204, Mrs. Marks invited my writers to take a little book from her pile to try. We were so excited about the teeny-tiny ones she had!

Of course our next step was to return to our room and get to writing, yes?  Well, almost.  Ms. Turken (our Rm. 203 neighbor) needed our room for a messy project with her class (because we have a sink!), so we were working in her classroom for the morning.  So…our next step was to return to HER room and get to writing.  I didn’t even stop to give directions or even talk about what they had seen from Mrs. Marks’ class–I wanted them to get busy and SHOW me what they learned by using their new knowledge. And boy did they do just that!

See all those tiny books?

One thing we noticed about Mrs. Marks’ books that was different than our work was that they were using mentor texts to help them with their own writing.  Kiddos got ideas as well as examples for text features from the books they were reading, and then made their own texts based on those texts.  We had been just using what we were experts at and what we have personal knowledge of.  This mentor text idea was very helpful to many of my kiddos, and was the support that many of them needed to get moving on their writing.  Oh, and Ms. Turken’s room has markers, which was also a great addition (ours have been put away for a while because we couldn’t take care of them….). 🙂

We have not quite finished this writing cycle, but will do so by Tuesday, so I will share what our final products looked like.  Thanks Mrs. Marks’ friends for adding some spice and excitement to our Writers’ Workshop!  We love to learn from our friends and when kids teach kids great things can happen!

Our First Writing Celebration!

We have been working on getting our Writers’ Workshop set up, as well as learning about and writing Small Moments.

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We used the analogy of a watermelon and its seeds to help kiddos think about a BIG idea and the SMALL parts of that larger story.  This picture was really helpful for kids to have a concrete idea of what I was talking about.  After I drew my initial picture, writers tried their own watermelons. 🙂

Wednesday was the day we were finally ready to share our finished writing pieces.  This was our first for the year, and so we did have to start with a few instructions on how it would go.  I also tried something new this time (which, by the way, I SHOULD NOT have done on our first try at a writing celebration…oh well, lessons learned), and had kiddos do writing compliments on their iPads using eBackpack and the MarkIt tool.  Writers circulated and read their friend’s stories, leaving kind words about what they noticed and what they liked.

Great job on your first celebration, Rm. 202 writers, and great job on your first stories!  Way to start the year as writers! 🙂

#FDOFG: ABCs…

The alphabet is a important feature in any first grade class.  And with every primary class I’ve taught, I’ve had some version of the alphabet hanging in our room, ranging from kid-created with paper, kid-created with markers on card stock, and even back to my first year when I proudly hung the brand spanking new one I bought from Bradburns.  There is also usually a smaller alphabet chart for use at tables when kids are writing on their own; this is usually also just a preprinted sheet that I got years ago from our reading teacher or that I found online.

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As this year has started, though, it seems that I’ve been rethinking many of the things I’m choosing to do as I return to 1st grade again (after a year in 2nd with my looping class last year!).  I am trying to be very mindful of the ways this class is different than my first graders even two years ago, tweaking things to work best for them as learners (instead of doing the same things in the same way as previous years).  The alphabet is included in those things.

I know that there has been a connection to ABC books, or to how writers use letters/sounds or come conversations about the word wall (which also has letters on it), but for some reason I’ve never written about that part of our community building, nor do I remember specifically how I’ve presented it.  Weird, right?  Guess it wasn’t very meaningful or exciting to my kiddos, either.  LOL

Well, luckily, since I was thinking about it differently (and perhaps more deeply), I remember what we did this year (ok, and it helps that we just did this the other day. HA!).

We started with a conversation around our Word Wall, which at this point just has our names on it as the only words.  We met on the blue rug in front of the WW, and discussed the letters, the words they noticed, how they might use the word wall to help them with reading/writing, and then enjoyed some ABC books together:

Both of these texts are poems, and are funny and fun to read.  Doreen Cronin is a favorite author of most kiddos, and Lisa Campbell Ernst is a favorite of mine. 🙂  Our classroom library has author boxes featuring both of these writers, as well, so the choices were meant to lead them to other books they might enjoy, too.

After we read, I explained that our work next would include them getting a letter, and then drawing any corresponding picture that starts with that letter on the bottom.  Differently than usually, I allowed kiddos to check out the books we had read or any other ABC books in our room, as well, if they need inspiration.  I’m not sure whey I’ve never provided that scaffold before; guess something about it seemed like I was stealing a struggle or giving them the answers.  Actually, I think it allowed everyone an entry point into the activity, even those with a less developed knowledge of letters and sounds.

With all of the other changes/tweaks I’ve made this year, it made sense to me that our alphabet ended up being a little bit different than in previous years.  Some of our letters had “traditional” sound/symbol match ups (like apple for A and ball for B), but some of them are completely unique to our Rm. 202 2016 alphabet, and that is super cool.

Did you check out the Q and Z?  These are Star Wars related letters, because of a special ABC book we have in our box:

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so Q and Z may not be something you’ve heard of before.  Let me show you their inspiration pages:

Those made me laugh at first, and I even considered having them rethink them, because of how obscure the references were, but then I realized that this would be a great opportunity to embrace something that could be truly “ours.”  Betcha there isn’t another first grade class around that has Queen Amidala and Zam on their alphabet!!

Then, this time I decided to take this whole “the-alphabet-is-special-to-us” idea one step further–I created our own table-top alphabet chart based on our wall version!  It just made sense that the sound/symbol matches could be consistent and (at least in the beginning) take away confusion some kiddos might have as they try to use the system.  I’m really excited at how it turned out!

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I don’t know yet how this will work with kiddos (I just finished making it!), but I’m excited to see how it goes, and to compare the usefulness of this tool with versions we’ve had in the past.  Crossing my fingers that it works as well for Rm. 202 friends as I hope it will!

Second Grade Writing Warm-Ups: Week of April 25-29, 2016

I think I mentioned last week (and probably the week before when we started them), but I am SO happy with how these warm-ups are really giving us a bang for our buck, and helping me get the thinking started BEFORE we sit down for our Writer’s Workshop mini-lesson.  It seems like they have more time for writing and I talk less!–or maybe it’s just at a different time, but still…:)

Here are last week’s warm-ups, a little late:

Monday

We are working on publishing now.  Can you tell?
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Tuesday

I know, this is totally lame, and didn’t really require them to do much thinking, it was just a quick check-in since they were supposed to be finished publishing their stories and I wanted to see how it was going.  Guess I figured that if they had a title, they probably had a story….yeah, not so much.  It was also just a great enticement for them to finish because we heard many intriguing titles and want to read them!!

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Wednesday

We are just between two writing units and this was a preview of the next one.  It was not the first time I’d asked this question, but it was great to see the additional things they could tell me, and even the domain-specific words they could use to talk about it!

Thursday

Ok, so this is not technically a writing warm-up, but it was timely for us and was something we needed to discuss.  You know, sometimes you change the plan. 🙂 And I should mention, they had some great answers and thoughts on what to do next time!

Friday

We have a FABULOUS thing at our school on half-days called Robinson University, which means that my kiddos are not in my room for much of the morning, and so didn’t have time to talk about a writing warm-up.  We just did a math warm-up instead. 🙂

 

Second Grade Writing Warm-Ups: Week of April 18-21, 2016

This was our second week of second grade writing warm ups, and they have been just as successful as they were when I first started them in 5th grade (remind me of this for next year when I forget that again, ok? LOL).

We’re in the drafting/revising/editing part of the writing cycle, so that is reflected in the warm-ups I had them try this week.  Check ’em out!  We’d love to know what you have to say about them, too, so leave a comment when you’re done! 🙂

Monday

This warm-up goes with the one we did last Friday, as we added details to our fiction with adjectives.  And yes, I quickly realized there were WAY TOO MANY WORDS on this chart, when someone’s first response was “Wow–that’s a lot….”  Oops.  I think they got it, for the most part, though.  Since this day we’ve been recognizing them everywhere and talking about how they help the reader.  Many have added some to their drafts.   I’ll revise for next time.  🙂

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Tuesday

This question is obviously very general, mainly because I knew that our focus in Writers’ Workshop this day would be to finish up (hopefully!) what we’d been working on for the last few days (rather than something new).  We had a design challenge planned for pretty much the whole morning and so our time would be cut a little short for writing, as well.  It also helped me get a better gauge on where everyone was with their drafts.  There are a couple of post-its that say “I haven’t revised yet.”  These friends obviously needed more time!

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Wednesday

I tweeted this picture after we did on it, because I was so impressed by the work they had done on it!  The endings they chose to post were really thoughtful ones, and then our synthesis of what makes a “good” ending was also great thinking!

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I had them finish this stem “A good ending…” and this is what we decided upon:

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We had a great conversation about how a “good” ending is not any one thing, and that it depends on the story you’re writing, as well as your goals for how you want your reader to respond to your text.  Notice the adverb that someone pointed out from our conversation on Monday. 🙂

Thursday

I’m not even sure where I learned that phrase, but long ago I was taught that about the idea of editing being a “courtesy to the reader.”  We touched on it at least a little last year in first grade, but I wanted to get their thoughts on it now, as we began editing our pieces for publishing next week.  And since I knew they might need help (or at least a reminder) with what courtesy means, I added it to the question.  They had great suggestions about how it helps the reader understand your message, as well as making it so they know what to read and how to read it, but we had to really focus our conversation in on HOW to do that.  Many 2nd grade writers still talk a good editing game, but don’t always show that knowledge in their actual final drafts.  We’ll continue to work on that next week as we finalize our published texts.

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What did you work on as a writer this week?  What do you think of our warm-ups?  How would you have answered them?

Culture–Final Drafts!

We worked for much of last quarter on culture, based on many versions of Little Red Riding Hood.  Here are our final drafts of the books we published about the cultures of the various regions and countries we studied (not all kiddos wanted me to share, by the way–since I know now that I should ask!).

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Khalani B.–THE MIDWEST

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Charlie B.–THE WEST

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EmilyM.–GHANA

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Evan R.–THE WEST

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Ja’MiaM.–CAJUN

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MillieR.–GERMANY

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Baron E.–CHINA

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Nate R.–CHINA

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Sara R.–SPAIN

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EllaMarieG.–GERMANY

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Makayla M.–SPAIN

Thank you for reading!  We worked so hard and would love your feedback! 🙂

Writing Warm-Ups: Second Grade Debut

A couple of years ago, I tried writing warm-ups in 5th grade.  The idea was the same as our math warm-ups, and would give kiddos a way of getting their thinking ready for whatever my writing lesson was going to be for the day.  For some crazy reason I stopped doing these, and totally forgot about them.  Until this week.  And then I forgot again between Monday and Wednesday and finally remembered to try one on Thursday.  So this 2nd grade debut of Writing Warm-Ups only has two examples.  But hopefully they’re really great and that will make up for it. 🙂

Thursday

We are in the middle of a fiction cycle, and were to going to begin revising.  Our lesson on this day was about adding details into your draft and making the story more interesting for your reader.  This got them thinking about that before we started, and so when we read our mentor text and got into our conversation, they were ready.

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Friday

Can you tell what today’s revision lesson was about?  Yep–leads! And since I knew I’d want them to collect some good examples for us to use in our discussion, I had them do that as their warm-up.  Again, a win/win because it got them thinking, and saved time during our Writer’s Workshop since had already done that work.  They did a great job of paying attention to how the intros sounded and were able to make connections to how writers need to make their leads hook the reader so they’ll want more.  🙂

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It’s only been two days, but I can already tell these are going to give us a really big bang for our buck.  Stay tuned–I’ll have more to share next week. 🙂