Friday, May 24, 2013

Five for Friday 5/24/13

It's Friday!

For me, it's already the weekend, since we have a 5 day break for Memorial Day.  This is what makes me happy to not use snow days.  We really needed the break this weekend because the kiddos have been zany!  They are ready to be done.  Actually, we all are.  However, we have to push through until June 25.

Despite the Spring/Summer Fever, I had a really good week.  Here's my Five for Friday to show you the highlights of my week.

DRA Progress

Before I share anything else, I have to celebrate how well my students are reading!  They have made SO much progress!  Some of them have progressed steadily throughout the year, but others finally had their big "I can read" leap just in the last few months.

As I was doing the DRA this week, I kept getting more and more excited as my strugglers showed off their much-improved decoding skills (thanks to the OG intervention program) and their comprehension.  For many of my students, comprehension has been difficult because they have been expending so much energy on figuring out the words.  Now that decoding is finally clicking, they are actually enjoying reading and are able to talk about and understand stories.  It's so exciting!

I just want to quickly share a few kid's amazing progress.  One girl started the year on a DRA level 2 (GRL B) and is now reading on a 14-H.  She moved from being 2 levels below grade level to ending the year, instructionally on grade level (16-I).  Another girl was a 3-C when she started the year and was still a 3-C in March because her comprehension had still not caught up to her decoding.  Well, I did a major happy dance when she reached a 14-H this week!  Although she is still independently one level below grade level and instructionally on grade level, I am AMAZED by how far she jumped in just a few short months.  Things finally clicked for her.

Admittedly, I still have some sweeties who are several levels behind, which is too bad.  However, I have worked all year to get them the support they need and will still fight until the end to make sure they are set for next year as much as possible.  Even though they are still below grade level, I have seen them progress and am very proud of them.

Seeing kids learn to read is by far the best thing about teaching first grade.  It is so miraculous and exciting!


This week, I introduced my students to a new fun math game called Lightning.  I found this idea on Jivey's blog, but was not sure it was appropriate for first grade.  However, when I found out some of my colleagues were using it with their kids, I decided to give it a try.  The result kids LOVED it and had a blast playing it all week.  I loved it too because it fit perfectly in our mental math unit since the kids have to add and/or subtract (students in higher grades can multiply or divide) mentally to find the target number.  Also, the game self-differentiates since higher level math students can use more complex number combinations and strugglers can just use their basic facts.  I have felt badly this year for not taking enough time to think of enriching activities for my high-fliers in math as much as I should.  Seeing them come up with some crazy addition and subtraction combinations for Lightning made me glad because I could see their brains working hard and could tell they were enjoying the challenge.

You can get the game directions free from Jivey by clicking HERE.

Tomie dePaola Author Study

After getting to know Tomie dePaola last week by reading a short biography and talking about his life, it was time to dive deep into his books.  This week, I started off the week by focusing on some of his characters, since the kid's still had characters on the brain from our character study unit.

Based on a conversation I had at a Language Arts training day, I decided to be sure to use Tomie's books as examples of bigger concepts that students can recognize and apply more globally.  For example, this week, we talked about the character Big Anthony.  First we talked about his character traits as we read Big Anthony.  One of my students impressed me by comparing him to Amelia Bedelia because he doesn't pay attention or do things the right way.  What a great text-to-text connection!

Throughout the rest of the week, I read several Strega Nona books to show the kids that Tomie included Big Anthony in other books.  We had a great discussion about how Big Anthony has the same traits in every book.

To make this more global, I asked the kids to think of other authors who do this and their characters who stay same in different books.  They came up with so many examples:

  • David in the No David! books by David Shannon
  • Lilly in various books by Kevin Henkes
  • Elephant and Piggy, Trixie, and Pigeon all from Mo Willems
  • Froggy in all the Froggy books by Jonathon London
  • Etc.
Since we are writing realistic fiction, I want to start transitioning into looking at Tomie's character Tommy and how he is the same in different books.  Also, we are going to discuss how author's write from their own life experience and create characters based on themselves and people they know.  To solidify this I am going to read Tomie's autobiography 26 Fairmount Ave. throughout the rest of the unit, so that the kids can connect the picture book stories to Tomie's real-life experiences.  

It should be fun!

Realistic Fiction Writing

As I mentioned above, we are starting our realistic fiction writing unit.  Although the students love the idea of writing fiction, they are a bit disappointed when they realize it has to be realistic.  They would much rather write about fairies and princesses, monsters and zombies, and talking animals.  However, by learning how to write realistic fiction first, they will be better prepared to write more creative fiction stories because they will understand story structure and other elements like characters.  To make the unit more fun and accessible, I am connecting it to our author study by having the students do what Tomie dePaoloa does: fictionalize stories from their own lives. 

This week, I dug out the kids small moment stories from the beginning of the year and had the students look through them to find the problems and solutions.  Then, we talked about how to choose the strongest problem by choosing the one that gave us the biggest feeling.  I asked the students which would make a better story: 

Getting a paper cut.  OR  Falling out of a tree and breaking a bone.

Of course they said breaking a bone.  I told them that is because the character's feelings would be bigger and the stakes would be higher.  After the kids planned some more ideas for problems, they brainstormed how one problem could get worse before it gets better.  

Finally, we started planning our characters.  Based on a suggestion from Heather, I decided to have kids think about the problem first because that is really the basis for the plot.  Characters are important, but if the kids get too caught up in describing their character, they won't have a strong story.  Now that we are beginning to plan our characters, I want the students to be very deliberate in choosing names, external characteristics, and internal characteristics.  I want them to begin to understand that different characters will react differently to the same problem just as different people react to the same problem.  Therefore, they need to make their characters have consistent traits most of the time.  

In case you are wondering, I found all of these FANTASTIC graphic organizers FREE from Happy Teacher Kids.  Click here to check them out.

ABC Countdown

My class ABC Countdown to the end of the year is in full swing!  This week, we had C-Colorful Day, D-Disco Day, E-Estimation Day, and F-Fruit Day.

Disco Dance Day

Estimation Day

Estimation Day was a BLAST!  Before school, I prepped containers of various manipulatives and some yummy candy.  I made a tub or bag of 10 for each object and then counted out a random number into another tub or bag.  The sets of 10 helped students visualize how much space 10 objects took up, so they could guess about how many 10's were in the other cup although I didn't put exact multiples of ten in each cup.  I actually even "tricked" the kids by making one cup have 9 counting bears in it, so they had to figure out that it looked less full than the cup of 10.  Hehe.
Most of the students did a great job estimating.  I gave out sticker prizes for the students who won the manipulative estimation activities and divided the candy up among with winners of those estimation activities.  If several students tied or guessed numbers equidistant from the exact total, I gave out multiple prizes.  Also, students could win more than one prize for their accurate estimates.  In fact, one girl won THREE different candy estimations.  She went home with a bag of Hershey Kisses, Starbursts, and Skittles.  Even cooler than having her win the candy was seeing her smile and hearing her say, "I usually never win anything!"  She really is one of those sweet, quiet girls who can get lost in the background of a more boisterous class, so I was so happy to give her a moment in the spotlight.
Fruit Day

So, that was my busy and fun week!  Now, I am super excited to go camping this weekend with Jessica and her husband, her parents, and my parents.  Bring on the campfire and the s'mores!

P.S. It's not too late to link up with this week's Tricks of the Trade Thursday: Field Trips.  Click the button below to check out some field trip ideas and freebies.


  1. Your estimation activities look fun...I might try and squeeze that in over the next 8 days! Have fun camping!
    Two Friends In First

  2. June 25th!! Wow! Your Countdown days look like so much fun!

    Kimberly Ann
    Live, Laugh, I LOVE Kindergarten

  3. I love the alphabet countdown. That is such a fun way to end the year. We go into June, but not quite as long as you! You must start school a lot later than us!
    Tamra and Sarah
    First Grade Buddies

  4. I was jealous of your 5 day weekend until I saw you went until June 25th...I think we are even then....

    Mrs. Harris
    Mrs. Harris Teaches Science!