Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Literacy and Numeracy Rotations

I have launched into literacy and numeracy rotations for an hour a day. I do Literacy for an hour three times a week and Maths for an hour on the other two days. Obviously there are plenty of other whole class lessons, games and activities, but this is the time for direct instruction and ongoing assessment. I was going to wait until I had a bit more response from parent volunteers but I thought since I have such a variety of learners that I may as well get the routines ironed out as soon as possible.
I have only had the rotations for two days so far, but I am really pleased with this way of teaching and I feel much more effective than when I try to lock-step the whole class through a learning episode.
I read this scholastic site on Math Workshops a few weeks ago and I have implemented some of these ideas, particularly the order in which I see the students. I am really pleased with the logic behind the rotations and I think it is working.
Basically, the class is split into three main groups. (When I get more help I will try to increase the number of groups so they are smaller and they are getting through more work). I work with the lowest group first and basically go through the workbook activity, giving a bit more instruction and teaching explanation along the way. It is a good chance to work with hands on materials and really see that these students are understanding the concepts. During this time the middle group is working on a game or using the iPads on a related activity and the top group are doing the workbook independently. In the second rotation, I work with the middle group and do some small group teaching and a basic introduction to the workbook activity to get them started. The lowest group go straight on to completing the workbook activity that they started with me, and the top group play a game to consolidate the skill they just practised in the workbook.
In the final rotation I check the work done by the top group to ensure they understand it and then do a challenge or extension lesson with them. The lowest group are ready to play the game and the middle group get a chance to finish the workbook activity.

So far it is working well (after two whole days). I would love to differentiate the games a little more and make sure that the independent groups are working effectively but I'm sure this will come as we get used to the routine.

I am keeping the same groups for this week to make it simpler for me (and the kids of course) but once I learn more about the Daily 5 and CAFE system I would like to make the groups more flexible.

How do you manage rotations?

Friday, 27 January 2012

Reading - The Daily 5

After reading yesterday's post on Introducing Read to Self by Kylie at Down Under Teacher, I was inspired to give it a go myself.
A teaching colleague had sent me a link to the Daily Cafe website about a week ago and I have been seeing these terms, CAFE, Daily 5, Read to Self, I -Charts, all over the place so I thought I should at least do a little bit of reading into it.

I must say that the program seems to have many fans and it looks like it is something that could benefit my students so I am ordering the books and then going to implement the ideas into my own room and let you know how I go.

Today I followed the lesson as described by Kylie. Her kids managed about a minute and a half of sustained reading before someone broke the silence. My kids managed 10 seconds on their first attempt (silence broken by an avid reader who just had to share) and built all the way up to 50 seconds by their third attempt! (The "non-readers" keep wanting to look up and see if I am watching them - how do I get them reading? I hope this program holds the answer to that and many other questions...)

Have you tried this system? Any advice on how to implement it and what has worked well would be appreciated.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

First Days

Well, the first day came and went and I was still excited about going back the second day. That's got to be good news!
I am blessed to have such a lovely bunch of "curious cats" in my class.

I think I did the lion's share of the learning in the first two days - having to learn all of their names and then begin to work out some personality and learning traits. At least they had some fun while I did some learning. When we return to school tomorrow it will be their turn to start some serious learning!
I tried a simple Mathematics Investigation to see if they had an understanding of place value, and also to see how they were able to work with a partner. Each pair was given a fistful of matchsticks and were challenged to work out how many matchsticks there were altogether.
As they tried to solve the problem I noted some of the strategies they used, and then stopped them after a while to discuss these strategies.

All of the children realised that moving the matchsticks as they counted in some sort of systematic way made the task much easier. Some students split the group into two so each partner had a turn to count, but funnily enough, none of them counted the separate groups first then added to find the total. They waited for one partner to finish counting, then the second started. Even the pair of boys who counted simultaneously and could tell me that one of them had 53 and the other had 58 still counted on from 53 in ones to get to the total. When I write "58 + 53" on the board, they could tell me the total, but it hadn't occurred to them that they could add.
Not one group used grouping to help them count, which surprised me, so I stopped them and we looked at a hundreds board and saw how it was in rows of ten and that made it faster to count to 100 because we could count in tens. After this guidance (and a bit more hinting) the students tried to count their matchsticks again, this time, grouping them into bunches of ten. THis was much easier for them!
On Friday I am going to keep working on place value ideas and then I will assess them next week to see how they are going.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Math Mats

A few years ago when I first taught Year 1 my sister put me on to the idea of using placemats for the students. This year I have adapted the template further to suit my Year 2s and to help them to meet the standards in Mathematics in the Australian Curriculum.

Making the placemats was fiddly and time consuming. My teaching partner tried to convince me that it would be easier to make one and photocopy it rather than make individual ones for 24 students (plus a spare just in case - and as a teacher model). I was afraid the colours wouldn't be as bright so insisted we make them by hand. After making 25 placemats each (printing, cutting, gluing, laminating) our fingers were tired and our minds were numb. She might just be able to convince me to make one and photocopy next time!

But don't they look lovely????

The front side has a handwriting model sticker (purchased from Young Ideas), left/right hand stickers (also purchased), a name plate (created using a table in MS Word with text box overlays), and a list of "No Excuses Words" which are a combination of a few high frequency word lists and a few other words that I wanted my students to spell well - including my name. ;-)

You can purchase placemats from various places that are similar to these but I like to be able to personalise them and include the bits and pieces I feel are important.

The back side has a hundreds chart which is sized to fit counters, a tens frame which also fits counters, some shapes and their names, the poem about the months (important for Year 2), the days of the week, a number line and some other maths things.

We found these great little containers (that are Decor brand - supposed to be for salad dressing) that fit 20 counters in neatly so each child will have their own set of counters and a hundreds chart at their fingertips for daily number awareness and games!

The placemats were great in Year 1 a few years ago. I am hoping they will get lots of use again this year.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

5 Senses Unit

We are doing Lifecycles this term in Science but if you are doing "The Five Senses" you ought to check out Little Miss Hypothesis' 5 Senses unit.
In fact, go on over and check out her whole blog. She has lots of ideas for all sorts of science, including keeping pets in the classroom.
Little Miss Hypothesis

A Classroom Tour

With two more sleeps to go, I am not feeling completely ready but I know that I have done most of the big things now and it's the final touches and tidying that will get done or don't really matter too much.
I also need to start thinking about planning the first week so I have something to do with my lovelies in my new space.

This year we are "2C" so I decided to be "Cool Cats". Surprisingly there are no "cat" themed packs that I could get my hands on. Frogs, bees and ladybeetles seem to be more popular than cats. I made the door decoration using clipart by Trina Clark. I used a paint program and MS Word to individualise the paw prints. People keep telling me they look like dog prints but I don't know the difference and I hope my Year 2s are non the wiser as well. ;-)

Here is my room. I have 24 students but until a few days ago I was expecting 25 so I have 5 groups of 4 and one of 5. I'm not quite game to repurpose the spare desk just yet in case someone turns up on the first day. Six groups of 4 would be very neat though. I usually start the year with students facing forward as much as possible because it is easier to gain attention at first but I figure since they are younger grades, I will put them on the floor for whole group focus stuff and the desks will be for activity in groups or individually. I am using pencil caddies, not pencil cases, so they need to be in groups. Secretly, I would have preferred tables to desks but they are fairly new, especially compared to what I have been used to for the past few years so I won't complain.

I made these placemats for my students desks. I use them as easy reference for high frequency words, maths activities and also to mark where I would like the students to sit for particular activities.

This is one of the pencil caddies. I have enough pencils, scissors, crayons and glue sticks for each child, as well as a set of 20 counters each. I have only put two erasers on each table because I don't really want them to be erasing all the time and they tend to just use them to stab, chew on, draw on and crumble, so hopefully if they have to share them they will pay more respect to the group property. (It's a theory - I'll let you know how it goes.)

This is the front of the room. There is a large blackboard which is half covered with a white board and then I covered the rest with paper to use as a display space. I found a great picture of a lifecycle of a frog craft activity and display that will look great on the board. I have an interactive whiteboard on another wall so I will use it most of the time. I'm not sure what I will put on the whiteboard yet. Maybe messages.
The piles of stuff on the ledge are the books that go into children's desks. They should be gone by Tuesday morning.

This is my gathering space. I wanted it to be in front of the IWB so that we can do morning message and calendar and use the board interactively. I have put the carpet under the desks because the floor is vinyl and we are directly above another classroom and it gets very noisy when children are putting their chairs in and out. This means I don't have a carpet to sit on. I don't know whether to go for cushions or a rug or what just yet. Mum's a great quilter, maybe she will come and help us to make an alphabet rug. (That's a hint, Mum, if you read this.)

This is my prayer space. I still need to make a sign and find a candle and bible. I have cut out the letters for the sign but haven't worked out how to put them up. I have plans for the tree.

This is another view of the space on the floor. I have a sound muncher and some boxes with toys for free play and also maths equipment - MAB and unifix.

My empty word wall, ready for the students to add their names and to keep adding to as the year goes on.

This is my birthday chart. On the first day, I want the students to place their name and birthdate (already printed, cut out and laminated) on the right charts and add a candle to the right cake to make a birthday graph. Then I will move them up higher to make a frieze.

So as I said, it's coming together! I am pleased with how it looks. I hope my kids love learning in this space.

Feedback Please!

I have created a blog for my class this year. I have picked pretty colours and created some pages but there is not much content there yet because I haven't started the year.
Please take a look at my class blog and let me know what else I might need or how to make it simpler for my students and parents to navigate.
This is the third time I have attempted this so I want it to be a success this year.
Constructive feedback very welcome...

The blog is called "A Year in Year 2".

Third time lucky

I have decided to try a class blog this year - again.
I have tried this before using different platforms but had little success.
The first time was in 2007 when I was teaching Year 1. It started off with good intentions but I ran into a few hiccups and it fell by the wayside. Looking back, one of my issues was a concern about student privacy which meant that I put so many restrictions on the posts and comments that it became hard work and not engaging for the students. We also had technical issues. We use Macs at school (and I do at home now) and at the time the kids could not post comments from a Mac for some reason. I had parents who would come in to assist me with helping the children to post and comment but most of the time we couldn't get the computers to even log on to the blog to read it. Very frustrating. This was coupled with a lack of access to digital cameras and no way of uploading the pictures simply. So it died a death. A good experiment, but it failed.
The second time I tried a blog was 2010. I used a blog site that was super protected - to the point that the blog had no audience. With no audience, it had no purpose. It fizzled quickly.
So now I am trying again. Third time lucky.
I think the real reason that my first two class blogs failed is becoming clearer. I can try to pass the blame on to lack of technology or restrictive use policies, but the real reason these blogs failed is because I didn't really understand why I wanted my students to blog.
I had heard of blogs and I knew other people were doing it but I didn't really get it.
I have spent some time reading about class blogs lately and I am certainly inspired.
I am part way through a series on Learning About Blogs FOR Your Students.
This lead me to discover this wonderful class blog by Linda Yollis. Linda Yollis also has a fantastic site which explains the whys and hows of class blogging. It is very inspiring.

So now with only a few days till school commences for the year, I feel excited about the journey that I am about to begin with my new class. It will be so much fun learning together!

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Counting Down

I have been holding off on posting because I had promised myself that my next post would be a tour of my classroom. Unfortunately I have been getting distracted and I still have some "finishing touches" to put in place before next Tuesday when I get to meet my new class for the first time.

I have spent quite a bit of time getting my room organised. Moving classrooms and changing grades is hard work!

I have a few photos to share and then Monday afternoon will be my d-day when I will have to have it all finished. Taking photos of my classroom turned out to be a great way to see what still needs to be done.

The back wall before. It has a small section of pinboard with old paint on it, but most of it cannot take tacks or staples.

The back wall after I covered it with "wonderwall" (with a bit of help from my friends). Now I can velcro to the entire back wall. And it looks so much neater! :-)

My very tidy desk. Maybe it will stay that way - we can only hope!

My Tree on the back wall. This is going to be the basis for my display of living creatures and minibeasts throughout the term, and a backdrop for the height graph.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

A Blog Award!

I have been nominated for a blogging award: The Versatile Blogger Award. Thank you very much to Chelsea from Diving in and Making a Splash for nominating me. Chelsea's blog is a chronicle of her first year of teaching. You can read her blog by following the link.

The rules for this award are as follows:
1. Thank the person that gave you the award and link back to them.
2. Tell 7 things about yourself.
3. Pass this on to 15 newly discovered blogs and let them know they received it.
So here are seven things you might not know about me:
1. I have a wonderful family. My husband is very supportive (he even came in and helped me in my classroom this afternoon - that is a rarity but I am very grateful). I have three wonderful children: Emily, Joel and Sam.
2. We moved onto acreage last year and even though we have been working hard and there is still loads to do, we are loving it.
3. We have the most wonderful friends and extended family. We always knew this but we put them to the test this time last year when our old house flooded and they all turned up to help us out. Amazing!
4. I love teaching. (You probably worked that out because otherwise I wouldn't bother blogging about it).
5. I organise my clothes by colour. (This backfired on me when we evacuated for the flood because I grabbed all of my red/coral tops and brown pants and then it looked like I was wearing the same clothes for about two weeks. Next time I will take more care to take a variety of colours if I ever have to evacuate again.)
6. I like adventures. I have tried skydiving and parasailing, abseiling, rockclimbing and more but I would never do bungee jumping - that seems way too scary.
7. I don't like peas. I hate peas. Always have. Always will. (Sorry Mum).

So there you have it - Seven (maybe interesting) things about me.

I am nominating some other blogs too.
I am nominating Good Morning, Mrs Rubie which is another Aussie teacher blog. Tina's has lots of great posts and some freebies too, so check it out.
I am also nominating my sister's blog, Claire Matilda. Even though it is not a teaching blog, Hannah is a teacher and her blog is a blog that (I think) every teacher should read. Hannah has a gorgeous baby daughter, Claire Matilda, who has a rare condition known as Cri du Chat Syndrome. Hannah writes (very well) about her experiences of a mum of a child with special needs. And the photos of Claire are super cute (although maybe I am biased ;-) ).

Monday, 9 January 2012

First Day of School Ideas and another freebie

The first day of school draws nearer and I feel as though I have so much to do to get myself (and my classroom) ready to welcome my 25 new students.
Having moved classrooms and changing grades has meant more work, but it is exciting also.
At our school on the first day the first students always seem to arrive very early. School starts at 8.30 am but I will be there by 7.30 am and I expect to see the first students arriving not long after. The students and parents dribble in over an hour or so, which is nice because it gives me a chance to meet and greet each student.
I plan to have a welcome message as my Morning Message displayed on the IWB which will welcome students and give them instructions as to what to do (in case they all arrive at once and I can't get to all of them to give instructions).
I am making placemats for each student to mark their desk. I first got the idea from my sister because she had used them with her Year 1s a few years ago but I have adapted what is on them to reflect the needs of my Year 2 students and the new Australian Curriculum.
One side will have their name, in precursive font, a handwriting model of the alphabet and my "no excuses words" that I want students to spell correctly all the time and develop good habits.
The reverse side has math resources - a 100 board sized for counters, a tens frame, spelling models for number names, days of the week, and a copy of the poem "30 days has September...". Oh, and a numberline and pictures of some basic 2D and 3D shapes that they need to know according to the new Mathematics curiculum.
It sounds busy but it looks good. Well, they will once I put them together. ;-)
I use the placemats to mark where I want students to sit. If we are doing activities and I want to move them around for a particular purpose, I can simply swap the placemats without having to move the entire desk. (We have desks, not tables. I would prefer tables because I like to be able to mix the students up for different activities and not have them "stuck" at one desk that they "own".)
We are using pencil caddies instead of pencil cases so these will be out on tables ready for them to do the "busy activity" on the first morning. I have made a worksheet called "All About Me" (available for free at my TPT store: The Learning Curve). It should be simple enough for them to complete themselves and there are pictures to colour if they finish quickly. I will collect these sheets after the end of the session as I hope they will give my a bit of insight into the students, their ability to read/ write/ follow directions, as well as their likes, interests and friends and family.
Once the bell goes and there are still parents in the room, I ring a bell and invite the students to come to the floor space. Usually most parents get the hint that we are starting and say goodbye quickly. Hopefully there will be no tears - fingers crossed.

How do you start on your first day of school?

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

My first Freebie! - Animal Match Cards

I spent all day making these Animal Matching Cards, after wasting about the same amount of time on Google trying to find some that someone else has made for me. No luck - so hopefully that means I have found a gap in the market and they will "sell like hotcakes". Given that they are being offered for free, that should help things along also! ;-)
I am going to use them to help build vocabulary and also for matching and sorting activities and card games.
Can you think of any other uses?
Please visit my TPT store and download them then let me know what you think.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Activities for Guess the Baby

I have made some activities to go with the “Guess the Baby” book. Since I plan to use this book in the same week that I will teach the ‘b’ sound, the first two activities are spelling or phonics focussed.

The third activity links to the Science unit we will be doing on growing and changing.

I have designed the activities to be multipurpose. This way they can be used as a quick activity or a longer one and the lesson can be adapted to meet the needs of the group.

The first activity is really a reading activity. The students drag hidden words onto the screen and read them. You could extend this activity by having students sounding out each word and then putting the sounds back together. The words could also be sorted into alphabetical order, or into groups such as according to the number of syllables.

The second activity focuses on the blends for ‘bl’ and ‘br’. A few of the questions could have more than one answer. This is an opportunity for discussion about having more than one right answer and also building vocabulary since some children may not know words such as “bloom” or “brow”.

The third activity is a sorting activity. There is opportunity for discussion about many of the points, eg: Are these statements true for everyone?

I can only attach the images at this stage since I haven’t set up a way of putting up the files yet. I am working on that next…

BTW... Do you like the pictures? I drew them myself using two different programs and going from one program to the other to get the right type of file. It was a pain but they are done and hopefully next time I will work out a few shortcuts so it won't be so fiddly.