3 Star Candy Crush Class

The end of the school year is like the end of a Candy Crush level. Will I get enough points to beat my Aunt Mildred? Will I get three stars? This can be compared to: Did I move enough of my kids to be on level?

One star: A couple of my kids moved. Pat myself on the back

Two stars:  Some of my kids moved. Give myself a hip-hip-hooray.

Three stars: A lot of my kids moved. Get up out of my seat and jump around! Jump around! Jump around!

School Year 2015-2016

I’ve been working in the inner city, which comes with its challenges. Needless to say, one year I had 3 kids enter my classroom on grade level for reading fluency , and I ended the year with 3 kids on level. Every year and class comes with its challenges. The achievement of a class is not necessarily a reflection of the teacher, but whatever I was doing wasn’t working. I needed to work smarter, not hard2015-09-03 10.30.03 (2)er.

If you’ve been following my blog, you know I dedicated this year to The Daily 5. W
ith strict scheduling requirements, I couldn’t incorporate all elements, but focused on Read to Self and Word Work. We had Listening to Reading for a little while, but our old blue back mac computers plus unfamiliarity with a mouse, made for a tricky situation in my classroom.

Can I tell you something? The Daily 5 made my classroom a 3 star Candy Crush class! While some my class still struggled with reading fluency, they scored sky high on our reading and comprehension assessment.

We give the DRA (Diagnostic Reading Assessment) in our district. The kindergarten teachers give it at the end of the year. I had 8 out of 23 students come in reading on level. At the end of the year, I had 18 out of 25 reading on level! From 8 to 18! I think that makes this a 3 star year!

I’ve taught first grade for 5 years, and this past year I did man
y things the same. What I
changed was implementing The Daily 5. The Daily 5 had my students in books at their level for 20 minutes a day. It had them practicing sight words, and it allowed me to pull reading groups with minimal distractions.

All in all, The Daily 5 works people! If I could do an infomercial for it I would. Are you considering implementing The Daily 5 into your classroom next school year? Do it! You may just get your highest Candy Crush score yet!

How I Give Reading Tests Without Screaming

I had a magical moment before break. Those don’t tend to happen with Candy Cane juice and Rudolph brain filling my students’ heads.

The time to retest students on their reading levels had come. Usually this moment catches up to me and I’m scrabbling to read with each of my 26 students. This time I decided to be proactive and start a little early.

Gingerbread men and Santa may be putting my students into a never-ending holiday fixation, but I could get something done. I could be productive.

I pull students to test them during guided reading time. This is the first year my students are not doing centers during guided reading. Instead, Read to Self and Word Work utilize that time.

My testing experience before The Daily 5:

Me: Joey, please look at the pictures in the book and tell me what you see.

Joey: First, the dog is at the pet store.

Me: Turn the page.

Joey: Then, a boy comes . . .

Me: Wilma, put that down! Sorry Joey, keep going please.

Joey: A boy comes into the . . .

Me: I don’t see you working Darrin! I’m sorry Joey, go ahead.

Joey: He comes into the store and sees . . .

Me: Lacey! Do I need to come over there?

My testing experience with Daily 5:

Me: Joey, please look at the pictures in the book and tell me what you see.

Joey: Reads the whole book.

Ok, that’s a bit of a dramatization, but you get the point. It’s still far from perfect. Kids still need to go to the bathroom and make the occasional book fort, but I actually get the reading tests done!

Daily 5In The Daily 5 you make a chart of the expectations of the students and of the teacher. My class has been working so hard on the student side. . . get started right away, sit in one spot, read the whole time, etc. My side only has “read with students.”

I’ve been focusing on how great it is for the students to be getting daily reading and word practice. Doing the reading tests with minimal interruptions reminded of how great The Daily 5 is for not only the whole class but also whichever small group or child is working with me.

My class worked hard in 2015 on building stamina. Now in 2016, I can work hard with my small groups. Don’t you love something that is beneficial for the students and the teacher?

Reaching 20 Minutes!

I almost cried. I just couldn’t believe it. Our class read to self for 20 minutes! 20 minutes! That’s like an episode of Full House if you take out all the commercials. For as long as you can watch John Stamos walk around with a mullet in a pink bunny room, you could also watch my kids read.

Also, 20 minutes was our goal! It took us two months to get there, but we still have 7 to go and if we read 20 minutes a day for 7 months, it’s got to make some impact right?

It’s a beautiful thing to watch kids read. Some are propped up on blue IKEA stools while others are sprawled across the rug with their books up in the air, but they’re reading and enjoying stories and learning and growing and let’s face it, setting the literary fundamentals of their lives.

If you would have told me back in August, when we were reading for 30 seconds that we would make it to this point, I probably would have cried then too because I would have had proof that it was possible. See Pulling Hair and Crying with Daily 5. Getting to 20 minutes was HARD! Anchor chart reading, daily modeling, recess practicing HARD!

But here we are, and we did it! I’m so proud of my little ones, my 29 little ones. I know I’m not scot-free. There will still be anchor chart reading, modeling, recess practicing days, and a couple of my friends still struggle with their stamina but for now I’m choosing to relish in the read to self goodness that is occurring in my classroom.

What good are you celebrating in your classroom today?

Word Work Works!

There were a couple things about word work that terrified me. The possible mess. Stamps, magnet letters, an array of writing utensils…the possibilities of these things littering the floor like the Coca Puffs they used to give us for breakfast was terrifying.

It’s been over a month, and I can count the number of times I’ve found these things laying on the floor on one hand, and can’t begin to count the number of kids that wanted to find their homes. I love seeing kids become responsible!

With the help of our “How to Clean Up” anchor chart, we manage to clean up 28 kids with endless materials in a couple minutes with minimal magnet letter or letter stamp causalities. The kids like using those things and in turn take care of them.

The other word work monster that was hovering on my shoulder was Mr. Choice. They get to choose what they use? Not everyone gets their first choice! I could see the word work water works now. Also, they choose where they get to sit. What madness this could create!

But you know what? They love it! After clearly demonstrating what it would look like to throw a first grade work word tantrum, I’ve only seen it from one kid. 1 out of 28 isn’t bad. That’s only like once a month in February.

My kids take their choice like champs. They’re at tables and desks, sitting and laying on the floor, and best of all, they’re building sight words!

At the end of quarter one, our sight word class average was 77%, and there were only 8 kids reading less than 76% of our sight words. I know this isn’t all due to word work, but it does allow them to practice their words in fun ways.

Is it perfect? No. But it’s not chaos. It’s not scary, and it’s fun to see kids having fun. Do you do word work in your class? If not, you should try it. The low amount of chaos might just surprise you.

word work

Going all in…the trash

Going all in can be scary. Like if you say you’re going to lay off the sweets, and then you pass the Halloween Oreos on an endcap in Fry’s. The middle is an unnatural bright orange, and they have pumpkins and bats on them. Can you really say no to that?

I told myself I was going to go all in with The Daily 5, and I have been pursuing a Daily 5 classroom, but there was something I was holding back on. Center Materials!

You know all those precisely cut papers you downloaded from FCCR, and then printed on cardstock, and then laminated, and then had to cut again. Those ones. I have cubbies in my room, and those centers, those well planned and thought out centers have remained in those cubbies collecting dust.

This past week was our fall break, and I got the luxury of spending an entire morning cleaning! Well, I decided I needed to tackle those dusty centers, and if I was going all in with Daily 5 they needed to go!

I pulled out the first one which included pictures a friend had beautifully colored for me. I opened the lid, and looked at those beautifully colored pictures, and I decided I couldn’t do it.

So I’ll admit I let myself keep one box, but the others took a trip to the trashIMG_0244 (2) my friends. I spilt the second box in, the lamination on the silent e words reflecting off the flourscent lights…well, actually I didn’t take time to pay attention to that because I was too excited!

With my country cleaning music at my side, the next boxes came easy. Goodbye Styrofoam cup making words center. Goodbye TPT baseball ball –ing center. (I did save the Ziplock quart size bags. Can’t let those go to waste.) Goodbye file folders of center ideas I never even looked at it.

Can I tell you it felt great after a while? I could feel myself moving on from a time of trying to plan and organize a bunch of materials that never even worked for me in the first place. Now I’m moving on to something that is going to make readers out of my kids…with less stuff.

Is there something you are holding back on going all in on today? What’s holding you back? It can be scary to go all in on something new and leave behind the known.  The known can be good, but sometimes the new is better.

A Galoshes and Wool Socks Class

There are many kinds of rainstorms, maybe not in Phoenix, but I promise you there’s a wide range. From the worst windy ice cold downpour to a pleasant barely there sun shower, they have in one in common. Water. Like these different types of rainstorms, classrooms always have something in common too. Children.

Every type of rainstorm requires different gear. A light rain only needs gym shoes and a hooded sweatshirt, but a monsoon needs galoshes and an umbrella you don’t care about because it will be turned inside out anyways.

While the past couple years I’ve only needed my cute umbrella and rainboots, I currently have a galoshes and wool socks class.

I’ll be honest. I never thought we were going to read for more than 3 minutes. My other classes had made it to 15 minutes…with only a light sweatshirt. Reading for 15 minutes in the current downpour only seemed like a dream, a quiet reading dream.barometer

I knew I needed some help so I went back to The Daily 5 book and read what Gail and Joan had to say about barometer children.  I’m so glad the two sisters acknowledge there is such a thing and give us an umbrella when the drizzles starts to thicken.

They include three levels of intervention. The first is reflection. In this level, the teacher makes sure she has put into place the proper procedures so the students can be successful. One of those procedures is modeling appropriate and inappropriate behaviors.

I attached modeling first. I watched for behaviors I was seeing, showing  friends pictures in their books, blowing in the book bags, etc. Then, I gave the students these inappropriate behaviors to model, and I even modeled a couple times if it was something specific I was seeing.

I also utilized our new ipads and took a couple videos of the class reading to self. I showed the videos and we talked about appropriate and inappropriate behaviors they saw. Most of the time, they just thought it was funny, but I think it worked for at least a couple kids.

The second level is extra support. In the extra support stage, the students practice reading during recess. Gail and Joan recommend documenting when you have to speak with a student individually about their read to self behaviors. I did this, and when I noticed I had to talk to the student several times they moved to the second level.

I probably have had about 10 students have to practice at recess. The two sisters recommend they practice 2-3 minutes for 3-5 days. I did keep the 2-3 minute mark. They note that usually the barometer children are the ones that need recess the most and I agree, but I did fall short on holding them accountable for 3-5 days.

I’ll be transparent and say, I usually forget. As teachers, we have so much going through our heads that I’m usually focused on the current day. I do still have several students that struggle maintain stamina during read to self, so this is the step I need to commit to fully. If the same students still have trouble, I’ll need to move to level 3 which is in-class modifications.

I’m hoping full commitment to level 2 will help my barometer students, but if not, I will continue to move forward to have them build stamina. Every kid deserves to be a successful reader. I can’t control the weather, but I can control the tools I have to embrace it.

Troubleshooting with Barometer Children

Pulling Hair and Crying with Daily 5

We’ve been working on Daily 5 for about a month now, and there have been moments I want to pull my hair out and moments I want to cry I’m so happy.

Building stamina has not been easy. In their book, Gail Boushey and Joan Moser say to stop practicing read to self if one student breaks stamina. If they only make it 30 seconds then stop after 30 seconds. We were more like 10 seconds.

To be honest, I was worried, really worried. After rereading The Daily 5 and reading on Barometer students, we slowly made progress. Every class is different, and this class needed excessive modeling. After staying stagnant around 3 minutes, our stamina chart began to rise.

What took Gail and Joan two weeks to accomplish has taken us five, but it needs to be done right or I know it will crumble. I pray for the patience to follow through because I do feel it will be worth it.

I’ve already seen an excitement for my students to read. I usually hear a cheer when I announce it’s read to self time compared to the groan I hear with other subjects. I knew I was getting somewhere when a student caught me on a day we hadn’t done Daily 5 and said, “Ms. Carlson, we didn’t read to self today.”

Read to self

Sometimes I look around the room around the 10 minutes mark and still can’t believe we’ve made it that far. This class might be taking longer than my others to build their stamina, but I know the pulling hair moments are worth it for the happy crying moments.