Kindergarten Coaching Cycle

We’re continuing our cycle in the kindergarten classrooms.  We’ve begun administering the assessment and we’re starting to look at the strategies and skills that our students demonstrate.  The teachers and I created these two worksheets for ourselves.

Level B Characteristics Sheet

(okay, I’m having technical difficulties posting the two documents — they look like this:)

Level A Characteristics Sheet

We’ll be using these to create grids of students and skills/strategies.  That will guide our work in forming skill/strategy groups rather than simply grouping the students by the level of book they are “on”.

New Year's Resolution: Quickie Organizing Your Classroom

One of the things I love about being in public education is that we get TWO New Years every year.  We start in September with a fresh, clean slate.  Happy New School Year!!  And then, half way through the school year, along comes the New Year that everyone else celebrates.  We get a second chance.  All we have to do is seize the moment, tell the kids its a New Year’s resolution and make the changes we need to make to our classrooms.  Happy New New Year!!

I was interested in what one of my favorite bloggers Organizing Junkie offered for the New Year about organizing our homes.  I’ve taken her article and made some tweaks to offer a path for the New New Year’s resolution to better organize my classroom. (maybe yours too)

1.  Don’t discount what can be done in 5 minutes

This one is HUGE for teachers.  We NEVER have enough time to do anything.  I feel as though I’m always chasing my tail, trying frantically to meet the demands of the district.  Taking time to actually organize my space, clean up my act, and live like a human being doesn’t generally make my to-to list.  But 5 minutes?  Yeah, if I’m honest, I can generally find 5 minutes.  I just don’t always use them productively.  And there are the 5 minutes that I’m responsible for something that requires my presence, but not my real attention or work.  Lke the 5 minutes when we’re waiting for the bus.  I have to be there.  I have to be available for the students if something were ever to go wrong.  But I could use that 5 minutes to straighten up, organize something, or tackle a pile of stuff.  In  5 minutes you can gather 5 things to return to the Media Center or simply discard, in 5 minutes you can check for upcoming meetings and add them to your calendar, in 5 minutes you can organize your professional books on the shelf, lysol wipe your tables, etc.   Over time those few minutes and tasks will add up!

2.  Never leave your classroom emptyhanded.

Okay, this one is a new one for me.  But I trust Laura at OrgJunkie (she’s awesome) and she says this one really works at the house.  If every time I leave my classroom, I take something that needs to go somewhere else — I’d get rid of all of the “stuff” that is in my classroom awaiting its return to its rightful home.  I’m going to give this one a go.  I’m thinking I might even put a basket by the doorway for things that need to leave — then all I have to do is grab and go.

3.  Do a 10 minute tidy each afternoon before leaving.

At the end of each day take a few minutes to walk around and organize yourself for the next day.  This involves just taking 10 minutes to ensure items tomorrow’s lessons are in your teaching stations, items to leave the classroom are in the basket by the door, a list of administrivia that needs to be done is made,  calls that need to be made, resources that need to be located.  It’s all about giving yourself the next day advantage.  You may think you’ll have time to do all those things in the morning but without fail something comes up to sabotage your good intentions and you spend the rest of the day scrambling and out of sorts. (that’s a direct quote from Laura — I told you she was good)

4.  Use visual cues to eliminate clutter

This is a huge one for me as a teacher.  I have resources and books that have been around for as long as I’ve been teaching (not telling, don’t ask!)  I always think I use these, but in reality, I probably don’t.  Laura had a great idea for knowing what you actually use and what you really could get rid of.  I’m thinking of trying it with my collection of professional books and read-aloud books. Place colored sticker dots on the items in question (my books).  Mark the date on the calendar.  When you use the item, remove the dot.  At the end of the year you’ll know exactly what you’ve used and haven’t used.  If it hasn’t been used you know it’s time for it to go! I’m betting this will cull my personal collection rather dramatically.

5. Create “stations” in your classroom.

Stations are a life saver in the teaching profession.  But I’m always amazed at how we seem to perceive them as something for the kids, not for ourselves.  Whether we’re talking about organizing kindergarteners or teachers, clustering activities in one place works!  Make a station for your assessment materials, another for your read-alouds and another for your correcting and grading materials (make sure to have your coffee cup or tea mug handy in this one)

So — don’t you love Org Junkie now???

Persuasive Writing Study: Grade 5

Our reading/writing calendar from our district calls for a study of persuasive writing right now in Grade 5.  The problem is that we’ve just done a study of exposition and our students are still having difficulty with choosing their supporting details — and they’ll be required to write expository text on the state test next month.  (I know, the dreaded state testing).  So their teachers and I got creative.

We’re beginning a serious study of persuasive writing — but we’re honing in on 2 specific craft skills:  selecting strong arguments to support your position (hopefully that will carry over into the exposition work) and careful word choice to make your case.

We’re starting our work with the focus on word choice by using this billboard:


We’re guiding the students through a discussion on word choice.  Why did the creators of this billboard choose the word “murdered”.  We’ve drawn a list of possible terms from the thesaurus

X-out, annihilateasphyxiate,  assassinate, crucify,  dispatch,  do away with,  do in,  drowndump,  electrocute,  eradicate,  erase*,  execute, exterminate,  extirpate,  finish,  garrote,  get*, guillotine,  hang,  hit*,  immolate,  liquidate,  lynch, massacre,  murder,  neutralize,  obliterate,  off*, poison,  polish off,  put away,  put to death,  rubout,  sacrifice,  slaughter,  slay,  smother,  snuff, strangle,  suffocate,  waste*,  wipe out,  zap

Why this word?? What were the reasons for rejecting some of the other words?? Word choice is what makes this billboard (whether you agree with the billboard or not).  The billboard has been drawing lots of fire, lots of commentary, and lots of buzz around the community where it appeared.  Check out this article here to see what I mean.

We’re asking the students to generate topics about which they are passionate — whether they are large issues like drunk driving or global warming or smaller localized issues like cafeteria rules or snow day policies.  Then we’re playing around with word choice in our writers’ notebooks.  What are the trigger words? Which choices will make the most impact?? Which words are too much?? How do you choose?

It should be an interesting bit of work in our writing workshop.

Starting a Kindergarten Coaching Cycle

Our kindergarten teachers are being required to switch over from the DRA as an assessment of reading to the Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System. While I don’t find them all that terribly different at that reading level — the change is challenging for the teachers.
We’re also facing a challenge this year to improve our end-of-year performance on the district reading assessment. We’re a high performing school and the district leadership wants our early readers to be challenged and performing. Since our kindergarten staff is deeply committed to developmentally appropriate instruction, this too, is challenging for us all.
With that as my impetus, I’m beginning a 6 week coaching cycle with my kindergarten teachers. We’ll be using the CAFE book by Joan Moser and Gail Boushey, and Small Groups by Debbie Diller as professional resource materials, along with the assessment guide book from the Fountas and Pinnell benchmark assessment kit that the district issued to each teacher.
Here’s what I’ve set for our work together:

o Week 1 (1/3- 1/7) Goal — begin administration of the F&P assessment
o Week 2 (1/10 – 1/14) Goal: analyzing assessment information to create initial goals for students in reading
o Week 3 (1/18 – 1/21) Goal: using assessment data to form small groups for instruction
o Week 4 )1/24 – 1/28) Goal: instruction in small groups
o Week 5 (1/31 – 2/4) Goal: reinforcement and progress monitoring in conferences
o Week 6 (2/7 – 2/11) Goal: solidifying routines for continuing small group instruction