Sunday, September 30, 2012

Friday, September 28, 2012

Words Their Way- Day 5 (Game Freebies!)

Welcome to Words Their Way Week!

 Happy Friday- GAME DAY!

After about 5-7 sorting/ gluing/ making words days, we have a game day featuring the sorts and concepts that we have been practicing.  This is a great way to practice for an assessment and another opportunity to talk about the patterns with a partner.  

Most of the games that I use are adapted from the main WTW book.  I have also made/ adapted some others for more variety.  Generally, there are about 5-6 game formats that I use.  I just change the words/ pictures to match the sort.  I try to repeat the games, so the child is focused on the pattern rather than learning to play a game.

I have some of my games for short vowel families on TPT for FREE- just click on my store to download them.  Here are a few other games that I put together:
(adapted from Second Story Window)
Be sure to check out past posts:

I've been getting some questions emailed to me this week that I'd like to answer.  Check back next week to see some FAQ's and additional tips!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Words Their Way- Day 4

Welcome to Words Their Way Week!

One thing that has bothered me about gluing down the sorts (after numerous sorts) was that they basically got recycled once the paper got home.  Sure, we all love a good cut & paste, but the students have seen these sorts many times and it's certainly not a "culmination" activity that shows their learning.  This year, I'm trying something different.... Working With Words Books! 
Instead of gluing the completed sorts to paper, we are keeping them all in one book.  This will serve as another support tool for their writing, just like one of those little paper dictionaries that I've seen in stores (My Favorite Words, etc.). 

I LOVE composition books.  I don't know why, exactly, but it's probably the durability and cute marbled covers.

After all of the different sorting activities, I have the students create columns in their books.  Groups may or may not need the same amount.  This week I had 3 out of the 4 groups needing three columns.  I just try to pay attention so I can remind them.  Once they have the columns, they add on the spelling/ sort "rule" headers.

From there, the students continue adding the pictures/ words to the columns, properly sorted. 

  • Take time to show students how much room to leave for the columns.
  • One thing you may notice from the photos today is that the students have their pieces safely in their bags. This was COMPLETELY intentional. When they are working at tables (opposed to the floor for sorting), they run the risk of infringing on another person's work area... mixing up the sort pieces. 
  • Use glue sticks- it dries faster.  You will also want to remind them not to put the glue on the notebook, but rather the small piece.  Nothing is worse than a long line of glue with 3 pieces attached.
  • If the pages are too glue-y, leave it open for an extra 5 minutes before putting the books away.
  • put composition books on wish lists or on back to school supply lists.  I have also bought them at Target when they are trying to clear out the fall selection and are on sale.
Come back tomorrow for more tips and tricks for words study!
Friday: Game Day!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Words Their Way- Day 3 & Give-away!

Welcome to Words Their Way Week!
Although my students do some form of reading/ writing skills practice during literacy stations every day, I set aside a separate time 8 out of the 10 days in a 2-week period for Words Their Way or a connected word study activity.  After the open sort and a closed sort with teaching, I will integrate in some other activities to extend the practice and cement the spelling/ sound pattern into their brains.  Here are some of my favorites:
  • Have students pick 5 words that fit the pattern (I usually give them a list to help) and they write a sentence for each.  This helps them apply the vocabulary side of the program. Other grades/ higher levels have more vocabulary work in WTW.
  • Students can do speed sorts with a buddy (like a race) or by them selves with a timer going for the whole class to use.
  • Write the room, looking for their group's spelling pattern.
  • Word hunt in magazines, cutting out the words and gluing them to a paper which is labeled with the pattern.
  • Word hunt in poetry (I find a good poem or nursery rhyme).  Students can highlight the pattern words.
  • Students can build words with letter tiles, then write on a dry erase board.  Again, I will often provide some words to get them going with the spelling.
  • I also love the "Making Words" activities.  I created a making words, with paper, activity for each of the sorts in the Letter-Name Alphabetic Spellers and in the Within Word Pattern Spellers stages.  I may not do all of them, but it's always ready as another option.
In celebration of Words Their Way and this chilly Michigan morning..... I'm giving away BOTH of my Working With Words packets that I have listed on Teachers Pay Teachers!
TPT link for more info
TPT link for more info

Be sure to enter by Friday at midnight.
One lucky reader will get both emailed to him/her on Saturday. 
a Rafflecopter giveaway
This is my FIRST giveaway, so I hope this works... it seems too easy :)
Come back every day for more tips and tricks for words study!
Thursday: Word Work books
Friday: Game Day!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Words Their Way- Day 2

Welcome to Words Their Way Week!
The central part of WTW is the sorts and repeated practice of finding patterns in words.  There are two main sorts that we do (as well as a bunch of game-like sorts, which I'll talk about another day!).  Before I give the students their new papers to cut, I take off the headers that tell the spelling/ sound rule.  This way, they can explore the words/ pictures, trying to see the patterns for themselves.  This is referred to as an open sort.  There are no rules, just that they must provide an explaination of their sorting choices.
The closed sort is done with me in a small group for the first time.  This is when I am teaching them the rule to the sort.  I take the lesson right out of the supplimental sort books.
Product Details  Product Details  
Product Details  Product Details

After they try it with me once, they will go off and practice independently.  Here are a few of my sweeties doing sorts:

  • Print the sorts for each group in a different color (that matches their group name).  This will help them keep their sort cards together when working close to another student (I ask that they don't work next to the same color).
  • Be very specific about directions and take time to teach the procedures that you want in place.  It takes up time at the start, but is worth it when there is a guest teacher in the room or you are working with a student and cannot give reminders.
  • Model cutting the sort pieces into strips, then across.  This will save the students time on the cutting side (it would take all day for them to cut out each square individually- trust me!).
  • Reinforce the idea that open sorts are an exploritory time.  This may be new to some students, as they "want to be right".
  • Have a system in place for storage and show students where to put their sort bags when complete.  I use zip top bags with the students' names on them.  If they get mangled, it's easy to replace.  My friend across the hall purchased zip pouches for her students to use.  These will last for many years to come.  It just depends on your budget for items.
  • Make sure that students are either spread out around the room on the floor or abiding by the lines on their desk as a boundary.  It's a pain to reassemble complete sets of sorts once they are mixed up.  One of our kinder teachers used a ruler as a space divider on the floor between students.
Come back every day for more tips and tricks for words study!
Wednesday: Additional Activities & Practice Opportunities
Thursday: Word Work books
Friday: Game Day!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Words Their Way- Day 1

 Welcome to Words Their Way Week!

My personal word study journey started in grad school when I purchased Words Their Way for a class (about 4 editions ago!).  Although I was able to do the testing and such, my practical experience didn't begin until I had my own classroom (kindergarten 5 years ago).  Now that I am with firsties, I have been able to fully dive into all that word study has to offer.  I also became one of our districts trainer-teachers for WTW.  This was a huge opportunity for me to refine my practice and really research the methods and see the awesome outcomes in my students.  This week, I will be sharing an overview, tips, tricks and real world challenges that student-focused/targeted instruction can present.
What is Words Their Way?
Words Their Way (WTW) is a developmental word study program, developed by Invernizzi, Johnston, Bear, and Templeton. WTW is an approach to spelling and word knowledge that is based on extensive research on how children spell and read. Students benefit from differentiated instruction in phonics, spelling and vocabulary.To accomplish this goal, students are taught how to examine words to learn the regularities that exist in the English Language. They are also taught some irregularities. The process of sorting words into categories is the basis of the Words Their Way. When students sort words, they are engaged in the active process of searching, comparing, contrasting, and analyzing. Word sorts help students organize what they know about words and to form generalizations that they can then apply to new words they encounter in their reading. As they demonstrate mastery, they move through developmental stages. The main resource for information about the program is this book:
Words Their Way: Word Study for Phonics, Vocabulary, and Spelling Instruction (5th Edition) (Words Their Way Series)
Amazon LINK
There is so much research and information, that I urge you to get the book if you plan to use this program.  It is much clearer after REALLY reading it and digesting the process of learning. 
Scoring & Making Groups
The first step in WTW is giving students the spelling assessment.  In first grade, we use the Primary Spelling Inventory.  Based on the students' understanding of spelling pattern (and where they begin to make mistakes), you will be able to place them into a group/ stage for study.  I'm a visual person, so usually review all of the scores (highlighting a stage) and then spread them out on the floor in order to make my groups.

Last year, my students fell into three group.  At this point, I have four groups.  It is important to remember that these are FLEXIBLE groups.  Please do not confuse this targeted instruction method with "tracking".  Students learn at all different rates.  It's important to do informal assessments (through writing, etc.) and the check points that are in the sort books in order to monitor student progress.  If students are cruisin' through, they should be switched to a more challenging group.  I do the formal spelling inventory each quarter to monitor progress and update parents on the report card.
Organization will be key in this program.  I give each group a color and then keep their materials in that basket (sorts, games, etc.) during the week/s.  This helps the students be more independent in retrieving materials and I avoid gray hair.
As you create games/ activities for the sorts, you will want a system in place.  (I will talk more about games later in the week.)  Everyone is different, so you may need to test a few methods.  Teachers have used totes, bags, pouches and files.  I also CAREFULLY label everything I make for word study so I can find it when I'm frantically planning.  Right now, it's all in a file cabinet (I need to expand into another drawer!).
What do I do now?
Once my groups are set, I follow this basic format over a 2-week period:

Click HERE to download this schedule.
I will be touching on each of these activities throughout this week right here!
Come back every day for more tips and tricks for words study!
Tuesday: Open and Closed Sorts
Wednesday: Additional Activities & Practice Opportunities
Thursday: Word Work books
Friday: Game Day!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Whoa! Things to come...

I seriously feel like the last 2 weeks have been a complete world-wind, crazy, exhausting blur of activity.  I am absolutely in LOVE with my new batch of littles!  They are funny, smart and have such a caring spirit.  I dropped a book one morning (needed more coffee!) and one of my sweeties says to me, "It's okay Mrs. Smyth.  We all make mistakes.  It's just important to be more careful."  Very hard to keep a straight face as he was patting my back!

Although I've been absent from my blog since school officially started, I have been plotting and planning.... just in a notebook, rather than on line.  I mentioned before that I get struck with ideas at odd times (usually the shower or during monotonous activity).  My thoughts are definitely sketched out, now I just need to get them down for you to read!

Next week, I'm going to share my passion, tips and tricks for word study (by default- I'm a teacher trainer in our district) with a full week of Words Their Way.  I will include a bunch of pictures so you can witness the crazy that is first grade word study.

Here is my plan so far:

Monday: Scheduling and Planning
Tuesday:  Open and Closed Sorts
Wednesday: Additional Activities & Practice Opportunities
Thursday: Word Work books
Friday: Game Day!
I'm off to watch some mindless TV, while reading over some student writing.  Happy almost-weekend!


Friday, September 7, 2012

The Sharpest Pencil in the Box!

It's like I have a sickness.... I adore office/ school supplies.  I love the sweet smell of sharpened pencils in the morning!  Towards the end of last school year, my teacher partner and I began to fantasize over a little pencil sharpener that we have been seeing around the Internet.... best of all, it's been teacher endorsed and the company is run by a teacher.

Firehouse Red

If you haven't met this precious little thing... let me introduce you to another back-to-school must have! 

It arrived fast- like within the week!

I tested it out.... totally loved it.  However, the true test is whether a first grader can do it (thus leaving me alone to teach the rest of the class!)
We started school this week- I know, it's a Michigan thing.  Anyway, in preparation for the littles that seem to literally eat pencils each year, I asked a 5th grade helper (Alex- Nature Girl's son) to test it out.  Yes, I conned him into working for me in order to figure out the mechanics of it all (he's THAT kid- I'm sure he would have dissected it if I weren't there!).  Alex was amazed.  I was amazed at Alex's excitement.  Again, a teacher's kid!

We all know that the true test of all sharpeners is the colored pencils.  I'm happy to say that I sharpened about 3 dozen of those before I hit a snag.... cue sad music.  I panicked.  Oh, crap- I broke it!  I didn't really, just broke off a tip when I was watching True Blood PBS.  I easily took it apart and shook out the lead.
This week, I also had some firsties test it out.  They didn't know why (we had 50 sharpened on the other side of the room), but did it anyway.  They are 6 years old- they'll agree to just about any "helper" jobs, no matter how lame :)
There you have it!  A true test of a new favorite.  Now, to make sure my hallway teachers don't snag it from my desk.

Click HERE for more information or to purchase.

Hurray!  I made it through the first week back to school!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Volunteer Genius!

I LOVE to have parents volunteer in the classroom.  It is such a valuable tool for that home-school connection.  They also get to see the day to day activities, opposed to a celebration (where NOTHING goes as planned). Some years, I have a huge amount of volunteers and then they dwindle off by January.  Other years.... ghost town.  Many parents work throughout the day and are not able to come in- which I'm fine with (I'm that parent!).  You just never know.

I spend tons of time trying to coordinate schedules and balance the opportunities among the parents.  I make monthly schedules and try to rearrange things to accommodate pre-school pick ups and such.  On occasion, parents just don't show up.  It can get frustrating when I have a special activity/ craft planned for when I will have an extra set of hands.  This is taking away from my teaching.  (Check me out- I'm growing as a teacher and focusing on what I can control.)

This year, I'm trying something new for parent volunteers.  I'm letting them sign up for the days and times I outline.  Our fabulous PTO uses Sign-up Genius for most of their events.  It's been working out great!  I saw it on a blog the other day in the comments (forgive me, please, I can't remember where I was reading to give proper credit).  Amazing idea and it's FREE!  Why didn't I think of it?

So, I'm pulling out those volunteer form out of my parent night folders and adding this option to my power point.  Hurray for those smart teacher who share great ideas in bloggyland!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

TPT Sale & Pinterest Linky

I love me some Pinterest!  I'm still trying to figure out how to get SBU credits for the amount of time I spend.... almost as bad as my time trolling blogs!  I came across this today and had to join in the fun:

Now I can stalk even more people, in more ways :)  I've aready spent about 1/2 hour following people.  That's right... step away from the screen!
On a fun note, if you missed getting in on the sale at the beginning of August at Teachers Pay Teachers, I'm having another sale starting now through Monday.  Why "labor" if I have something already made for you? :)  Here is my new favorite item:
There are 22 different games (different clip art, colors, and shapes on each).  Each game is a "follow the path" style.  you just need dice and a place marker to get started.  That's less than 50 cents a game- Lakeshore Learning can't beat that :)  Just CLICK to get to my store.

Happy Labor Day!