Friday, September 30, 2011


If I had to sum up my frustrations from the past week into one word, it would be, "computers."

I haven't had a chance to post anything in a while because I don't have much time to type something up during the week and I had fully planned on blogging last weekend--and then my computer decided it didn't want to turn on any more. Turns out the hard drive is kaput and my options were to spend money getting a new hard drive on a computer I had been wanting to replace for a while or just bite the bullet and get the Mac I've been wanting. So I got a Mac (yay!) but I had to wait a few days for it to come in the mail and all that jazz so I am now up and running again.

Another computer-related frustration--right now, my school is working to introduce an online program called Study Island more into second grade and most of the teachers don't know anything about it. Thankfully, the school I student-taught at pushed it a lot so I have a general understanding of it. I won't go into the gory details about my frustrations behind all of the Study Island related things but I wanted to add another thing to my computer list.

Also, my printer at school has no ink and our grade level printer is also out of ink.

Don't you just love everything technology?

Anyway, the point of this entry is that I am searching for ideas. My students' writing portfolios have to have a "digital copy of a piece" in them by the end of the year and they have zero computer skills. Meaning my students don't know to click the "X" to get out of a screen, much less how to type up a document.  My plan is to practice creating things on the computer throughout the year so that, by the end of the year, they will be able to produce something really great to go into their portfolio. I have signed up to have the class set of laptops for two days the week after next and I need something simple for them to create. I want it to involve a little bit of typing but not so much that they get frustrated. They will be working on imaginative narratives and will already have the product completely written and edited and they will need to create a digital copy of it. Any ideas on what they could create? My only idea is to maybe type up a sentence or two for their beginning, middle, and end and then illustrate it in paint. I need help! :)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Figuring Out My Reading Groups

I have finally finished my Read 3D assessments on all of my kids but one who has been absent. Since I now have their reading levels, I am able to group them according to ability. We are required to have four reading groups and, luckily, my kids all fit into four very even groups... all but two. My top group is all at a level K, while I have a student at an M and another at an N. Now what do I do?

During my student teaching, the students in my top group weren't all on the same level but their levels were definitely a little more similar than this group. A K to an M may not seem like much of a difference but there really is a huge jump between those levels. So how do I teach these two students on their levels without having five reading groups? I owe it to my students to teach them on their level--I don't think that they would make much growth by reading way below their levels.

The only idea I have at the moment is to put them in their own partly-independent group. Since they are reading on such a high level , they can read the text independently (for the most part) and then we will meet for about 10-15 minutes in the morning while other students are completing their morning work, and then they will spend the time that they would normally be meeting with a reading group doing an independent assignment on their text. These assignments will use higher-order thinking skills and will show their comprehension and their understanding of key vocabulary.

I am going to do more research to see if there is a better way to do this, but this is what I am currently planning to do! If you have any advice, let me know!

Thursday, September 8, 2011


I love reading groups. I think that guided instruction is really the only completely effective way to differentiate. However, during my student teaching I always wanted to do author studies and other themed reading units that you can't necessarily do using the leveled readers and guided reading format. In order to get around that, I have created a 30 minute read aloud time slot to fill the time that we normally would go to recess but do not use on the two days a week we have PE.

My first unit is PIRATES. My classroom theme is pirates so I figured it would be fun to start out the year with it since the kids love my decor so much! We are reading any and every (appropriate) book about pirates. So far we have read "If I Were a Pirate" (a short story that is part of a SMART Board unit), Roger the Jolly Pirate, and Tough Boris. Tomorrow we will be reading How I Became a Pirate, which I am very excited about! We will also be reading Night Pirates and Pirates Past Noon (oooh a chapter book).

With our read alouds, I am having the students practice some reading response activities that they would normally do at a center during reading group time. Each month the students will get a menu of different activities that will show their comprehension on a more creative way than answering lower-level questions. Some activities that they are currently choosing from include making a comic strip of the important events in the story, making a Venn diagram comparing the main character of two different stories, creating an advertisement for the book, and writing a letter to the author to tell him or her what they liked or did not like about the book.

So far my students have really enjoyed all of the stories and they are excited about being able to choose the assignment that they do on each story. I haven't told them yet that I will be reading a chapter book but I am willing to bet that they are going to think it is the coolest thing in the world that they have "read" a chapter book!

I am currently laying out the whole year's worth of read aloud units--there will be about 1-2 per month. If I finish the pirate unit early, I may start an apple unit (idea stolen from my classroom neighbor, Kristina :) and then, of course, a pumpkin/Halloween unit in October.

I am definitely looking for cute themes that would work for other times in the year as well as more reading response activities to add to my menu!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Planning Math Groups

I've been looking at some different options for my math groups. I haven't done them before but I saw them done by a first grade teacher during my student teaching and was intrigued. With my own students last year I struggled to find a way to differentiate and to intervene with struggling students while teaching the whole class. I am excited about using math groups as a way to help with this!

I found a great blog that is all about doing math groups and gives a tons of ideas and it really helped me out. It's called Guided Math: After looking at the blog and using observations I've done as a resource, I think I have decided how I'm going to set up my math block!

For the first 10-15 minutes, we will go over the previous night's homework and do a minilesson on the topic we are covering that day. Our textbook program, Envisions, has a great little video that goes with each topic--we'll probably start with a discussion about these videos each day.

Students will be set up in 3 different groups (high, medium, and low) and rotate through stations--teacher, seat work, and center. When groups come to the "teacher" station, I will review the topic we are going over and see how much help each group needs. I will do a little reteaching and practice with the students. When groups are at their "seat work" station, they will have an assignment to do-typically an assignment provided by Envisions. For centers, each student will go to a different center each day (so there will usually only be 1-2 students at each center). Centers include file folder/shoe box games, activity sheets (color by numbers, etc.), math task cards, and computer games. Each rotation will last about 10-15 minutes.

Now that I've got the rotation planned, I'm going to spend this week planning the actual activities that will go at all of the centers and the topics I will be going over with the students. Wish me luck!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Organizing Chaos!

The school year has started! Although we have only had five school days so far because of the hurricane, my classroom has already started to look like an unorganized disaster zone. There are papers everywhere and I haven't even tried to do any work at my desk--instead I've been using the guided reading table since it's so big and clear. I had better clean it up soon since I will be starting math groups next week (which I am a little nervous about since I didn't ever do them during my student teaching).

Some things I am struggling with are:
Where do I put materials that are topic-specific but won't fit in a file folder?
What is the best way to organize my classroom library?
How do I maximize my wall space so that I can have up decorative items, educational posters, and student work?

My goal this week is to make sure that EVERYTHING has a place. Every day I will close my classroom door, set a timer for 10 minutes, and organize. Once the timer goes off, I have to move on to planning and such.