Friday, July 31, 2015

Digging Deeper…Our NEW Word Wall

So, today I got the chance to take a quick peek inside of my classroom! Now, my creative wheels are in overdrive and I’m growing more excited by the minute! As much as I’ve enjoyed having a little down time, I’m ready to start prepping our learning space.

One of the first things that will be going up in the room this year is our word wall. The best thing about taking a look into the room is seeing the blank slate. It’s a new chance, a new opportunity to do something great…to work with a new batch of kiddos…to grow and change and become better!

Our word wall is going to be one of those things that changes for the better this year!

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At the beginning of last year, our word wall looked like this. Each week, the class and I added 5 new words (given that I remembered to print them) to the word wall. To facilitate a little visual “pop” and to help me stay organized…I used neon Astrobrights to run copies of our sight words. I love ROY G. BIV order! I love it so much, I use it to organize things in sequential order by grading periods. Our year is divided into 6 of them. During the 1st 6 weeks, the words were added on pink, then orange in the 2nd 6 weeks, then yellow in the 3rd 6 weeks and so on. This helped me to ‘at a glance’ be able to keep track of when words were introduced throughout the year.

We’ll be using neon again this year, but instead of the focus being on classroom organization…the focus will be on student learning!

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Word wall headers have been prepped and the Astrobrights are on deck and ready! Our word wall is growing up! It’s maturing and being organized to focus on phonics! You might say….well, duh! But….wait! Let me tell you HOW!

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There will be 3 categories of words on our word wall. The first category will be sight words that can be used to generate other words. These words will be copied onto neon cardstock. For instance….take the word drink. You can use the rime to rhyme and create other words like….link, mink, brink, pink, sink, wink, blink, or think. With before…you can use the rime of the second syllable to rhyme and create…chore, score, shore, snore, core, or bore. Get it? Of course you do…YOU rock!

Because these words will be on brightly colored paper, students can use the color, the rime, or the shape of the word to help recall them, use them, or spell them by analogy to create new words.

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The second category of words will be those that are the outlaws. The naughty ones….the words that don’t always follow the [phonics] rules and can not be used to generate other words. They will be copied onto white paper. White….like glue, to help them stick in students’ memories! These words will have to be memorized by sight! After copying each of these words and cutting them from white paper, they will also be framed in black.
 
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The last category of words, will be vocabulary words. These are the words that may be required in our curriculum’s specificity or words that are important to students but are not a part of traditional sight word lists. They will be copied onto tan/manila paper and cut to the shape of a rectangle…another visual reminder/distinction.

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Our word wall will continue to be interactive in the sense that we will USE it! We’ll hang the words together, we’ll play word games, apply movement to our spelling activities…and when that age old question arises… “HOW DO I SPELL…?” We’ll make reference to words that can be manipulated to guide the spelling of others.

One other additional BIG detail…the background of the word wall will be black. LOVE! Black and white is our running class theme, so our word wall will fit right in!

The alphabet line will be hung in ABC order from A………..allllll the waaaaaaaaaay to Z, in ONE single line…so it will quite literally be a word WALL, lol! After hanging the alphabet line close to eye level, sight words will be placed in a vertical line above each letter…about 5 per week…WITH KIDS. Vocabulary will be hung below the letter and changed out according to need throughout the year.

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Cutting the words to their shape will be another visual tool to help students remember them. The black background really creates a clean look. I love the way the neon pops! Even the outlaws stand out in their little black leather jackets!

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I’ve had word wall on the brain all week and will be excited to get my hands on those golden keys on Monday morning to begin prepping it in the classroom!
 
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This is a small shot of what our much bigger word wall will look like and I have to say, I think it’s going to change the way our kids use the word wall in a great way!

You know, one of the reasons I found this opportunity to dig deeper during word wall time so exciting is because our trainer presented it with the enthusiasm of a kid with a brand new toy! I can only hope to have a fraction of her energy and excitement once we're back at school. If you had never used a word wall before in your life…attending her training would make you want to run out and hang one up as fast as you could!

And guess what? There will be no more having to remember to prep my words for the week because I’ve typed my entire list for the year! No lamination...just print, cut and hang! That’s one little thing that makes a big difference checked off of my list for the entire school year! Check out this little diddy in my TPT store to check it off of your list too!

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First grade friends, you can click HERE to grab your list. =) What BIG change are YOU looking forward to this year?

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

TPT Challenge Accepted! {Makeover Madness}

Just give a product a facelift they said. Add a little something new. Update it! It’ll be easy! Well, one product deleted and completely recreated later…..it was fun and so much more than just a little facelift! =)

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I’m so glad I jumped into the TPT Seller Challenge that started this week! At first, I wasn’t sure which product I wanted to tackle first….BUT then, I went to a two day training. In the midst of the training, my creative wheels started turning and I knew EXACTLY what I needed to change…..and quickly! The training was over writer’s workshop with a word wall component. Not just any old run of the mill word wall though…..a new {to our area} word wall system!

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Like most of you, my word wall was set up like this at the beginning of the year….in two neat rows, divided between M and N. Well, once upon a time ago….in a PreK training we were advised to hang our word walls horizontally in ONE long alphabetical row from A to Z. Some of us did, space allowing….BUT most of us continued to utilize our word wall in the formation above. It’s worked…it’s been updated to be manipulative. It’s become interactive. NOW….it’s being revolutionized! Which leads me to the product that I made over! Stay with me….I promise we’re going somewhere with this.

Next year, when I go in to set up my word wall…that writing goals chart will have to find a new home because letters WILL be arranged horizontally from A-Z. In addition to adopting the new structure, the background will be black. High frequency words will be posted above the alphabet strip and vocabulary words will be added below the alphabet strip. Different right? There’s more…

With there being two types of high frequency words, differentiation will [visually] come into play. Decodable sight words will be printed on neon paper and cut to the shape of the word. Phonetically irregular words will be printed on white paper and framed in black to the shape of the word. Vocabulary words will be added onto rectangular cut manila paper…below the letter. My classroom “theme” is black and white with pops of color soooo, hearing this started my heart to leaping and gave an educational reason to the color students will be seeing on the word wall.

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…and it inspired my makeover item! A couple years ago, I created the little book above as a resource for our writer’s workshop folders. The old one is on the left. The NEW and IMPROVED one is on the right!

Instead of it being sized to fit into one of the side pockets of the folder, its now been edited for hole punching to fit onto the prongs running down the middle of the folder…to use as a resource to record and find spellings of frequently used words.

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Notice the difference on the inside?!!! HUGE! THIS will also be how our word wall will look…..so, the book students will use to record new words will be a reflection of the wall we post them on! Lines will help with organization and they will have the alphabet with accompanying symbols to assist as a formation reference. Mind blown! If you can’t tell….I’m a little excited about the upcoming change! We’ve only been out of school for a week and my head is spinning with ideas to begin preparing for the new year!

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Sometimes, friends' names can be a little hard to spell. There’s a space for those names and subject specific words at the end of the book.

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Makeover…..done!

I just uploaded this cutie to my TPT store and because I’m so excited about how it turned out, I listed it as a forever FREEbie! Click HERE to grab it! Stay tuned…inspiration is flowing. More is in the works to accompany this….

See ya next week, when we continue the challenge by daring to dream……..BIG!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Desks or Tables?

Hey, Friends! How are ya? The hustle and bustle of ending the year have come and gone. Now, that I’ve had a quick second to catch my breath, I thought I’d stop by to answer a question I seem to keep getting asked over and over …….and over again! =) You know, as teachers, we celebrate ending one year while simultaneously preparing to begin the next one. One of the things I love to do is reflect on my room arrangement and how it affected our learning over the course of the year….then plan for how I’d like to change it to begin the following year.

Oh…the question I keep getting asked? Which do I prefer…desks or tables?

If I were asked this question a few years ago, I would definitely have answered desks…BUT a lot has changed from a few years ago. Beliefs have made a shift. Kids are definitely different. My space is different. My teaching style has evolved.  Kiddo learning styles have been better incorporated. I’ve embraced change.

Here’s what my classroom looked like way back in August…

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Was making the switch easy? Not initially.

I had read an article online about a teacher’s success without desks and wanted to give it a try. I whole heartedly believe that student choice-driven classroom environments inspire engagement and learning. Having a variation of seating so that students could work where they were most comfortable was high on my priority list for set-up last year.

Even so, I was nervous about letting go of the desks completely. That’s why you see a small group of them. Keep in mind, this picture was snapped as I was preparing for kids. Wanna guess what happened when the kids showed up? The room got completely switched around! It’s a funny thing how we try to anticipate the flow, their needs, what they’ll like and often times we’re very successful….BUT no one can tell you what they’ll like better than the little people who’ll actually be using the space!

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By the end of the year, our furniture arrangement looked a little more like this! See? No desks! How’d it go? Did I like it? Were my kids able to control themselves? Awesome! We LOVED it! Absolutely!

Looking at this picture, the classroom looks pretty big. I promise you, it is NOT. Our classrooms are pretty cozy {real estate synonym for small}. Without the desks, our classroom looked and felt bigger. We had much more room for movement activities, to work on the floor and for bringing in different types of seating. ANNNND guess what? Our classroom was cleaner! There was no place for long lost papers from Christmas past to go and hide. Everything in our classroom had a place. If we didn’t need it, it was out of there! We used our space wisely and were forced to be efficient.

Every student had a space at the table available to them. Including the guided reading table, 3 round tables and 1 rectangle table…there were exactly 22 seats, when needed. You’ll also notice that I did not have a teacher desk. Hate them! They just become a spot to throw stuff on and when exactly would I have time to sit at it anyway?

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One of our alternative seating choices was the blue trampoline chairs. EVERYONE on my campus stopped in just to bounce their bottoms out of these at some time or another. They were great for kids that needed to work and wiggle.

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Not every kid feels comfortable sitting in a hard plastic chair. The carpet was another area made available for students to work. Wanna lay on your tummy and work…wanna sit crisscross applesauce….need space to spread out? Then the carpet is a good spot! There was also a carpet “capacity limit”. 1 kid could sit in each corner and one in the middle…that way, the WHOLE class couldn’t try sitting at the carpet to work.

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See my little computer stand? Not a whole teacher desk and I loved it because it provided the perfect amount of open storage with no room for me to pile anything on it. I shared this space with the kids too which allowed for an additional computer space, when needed. We kinda shared everything!

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The red chair was used for sharing at the carpet and doubled as another seating option for independent work time. There was also an upholstered ottoman on top of the chevron carpet. It served as seating and storage in our classroom library.

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No mess. No mystery papers floating around. No place to hide things. A clear view throughout the room. Lots of floor space for work, fun and games. Lots and lots of opportunity for collaboration because the arrangement is not focused on the teacher but on kids. When we all needed to meet, it was generally done at the carpet to mimic the closeness of  “lap reading”. Our classroom felt more like a comfy lounge, a collaborative setting...where kids were in control of their learning.

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A few things that helped to make working with tables instead of desks successful was the use of clipboards and lap desks. If students chose to sit in a comfy chair, they knew where these were stored in the classroom and were free to grab one. This picture to the top left is the ottoman that was in our classroom library. We used it to store reading books and dictionaries. See the little silver spots on the floor? Smallest chair ever, right? Ha! Those little circles were placed on the floor around the room to designate spots for seating.

So….long story, short...We LOVED having tables over desks. Using tables along with different choices for comfortable seating allowed for my students to choose the setting that best suited their learning style. We rolled with choice.... a LOT. I gave my students the opportunity to make choices with the understanding that the choice also comes with responsibility. They were free to choose as long as they showed me they were capable of handling the choice….ONLY.

I loved using tables so much….I’m taking them with me to SECOND GRADE next year! That’s right peeps…A+ Firsties just got promoted!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on using tables or desks…chime in with a comment below! 

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