I have several items to discuss today:
1) I am the worst blogger EVER! I can't keep a promise to myself about blogging, letting alone a promise to those of you in the blogiverse.
2) I have been thoroughly enjoying my Christmas break by doing a whole lot of nothing...
3)...and yet, this afternoon/evening, I found myself in total "school mode." I think it's because a) I have a meeting for a student the Tuesday I get back and b) I actually have the time to put enough thought into my lessons to make them excellent.
I have made so many changes in my classroom this fall (some of them alluded to in previous blog posts). I have been gifted a very diverse group of students this year. They could not be more different from each other. To best serve them, I have had to make some HUGE adjustments (and I mean HUGE!!!). Of course, I realized this about 3 weeks before Christmas break when everything was completely insane. My students needed change NOW and could not afford to wait for it. So, I was forced to jump in and develop our new instructional routines as we went. So what have I done/what am I doing?
1) I have made a significant shift toward math workshop. With the use of our student workbooks that come with our curriculum, resources from many of the fabulous teachers on TPT (most notably Amy Lemons), and various math games, manipulatives, and technology from my classroom), our math workshop is up and running. I can't wait to continue refining this system in my classroom, but here's essentially what it looks like. I split my class up into 3 groups. They all meet with me for one of the rotations and we work through problems in their workbook together. Another rotation has them working on an activity that is either a review or extra practice of a current skill. The activity has a recording sheet so that I can see what they do/don't understand. Finally, the third rotation has the students doing FasttMath on the computers as well as playing various math games I have shown them in my classroom. Not to make another empty bloggy promise, but I'd like to eventually get to writing another post specifically about Math Workshop. It's so new, I haven't had the time to take photos of it in action in my classroom. In general, my two inspirations/resources are:
Amanda Wilkie's posts about Math Workshop on her blog, Reaching for the Top!
Do any of you use Math Workshop in your classrooms? Do you do it every day? What does it look like? What tips do you have? Who are your professional gurus? Do you and your students love it as much as my students and I do?
2) Along the same lines, I have also begun to shift toward Reader's Workshop. My grade level already does Writing Workshop, and we do it fairly well (there's always room for improvement, right?). While my students are also on vastly different reading levels, reading time has not been nearly as painful as math time. This change is mostly motivated by my desire to provide relevant, meaningful instruction for all of my students. I have several ELLs who are really struggling with comprehension of whole group stories. I believe this is because the stories are so far above their level that even the whole group support I provide to the class as well as the extra time I spend with these students is proving to be inadequate. I realized that it was most important to me that the students master the specific reading skills instead of reading specific stories outlined by the school district. One way I am accommodating everyone is to move away from the basal stories (I still do them, but I just expose my students to them, rather than focus on them) and instead use the companion level readers that are part of our reading adoption. My goals for the spring include establishing reading response journals/interactive reading journals (not sure exactly what this will look like yet), and engaging my students in authentic literacy activities that they can complete with increasing independence, allowing me to meet more frequently with each of my students in small groups and individual reading conferences.
Finally, I have a terrifying step that I'm going to be taking on my blog today. As I change my reading instruction and tiptoe into reading response, I've been thinking ahead to the next story we have planned to teach from our basal. We use Harcourt Journeys in my district. :-) While I decide which direction to take with individual reading response and good fit books in my classroom, I know I cannot stop teaching reading strategies. I also know that I need to continue teaching my students how to respond in writing to what they read (they have had a small amount of instruction in this at this point). I also know that I have one week with my students when we return next week, before I am drowning in mid-year assessments, and I want my students to be engaged in meaningful work while I swim my way free of those assessments. With all that taken into account and the extra time I've had this week, I'm about to take a risk. I have been wanting to get into the creating portion of blogging for awhile (although I'll be honest, I was scared to DEATH when in a previous blog post discussing The Book Whisperer, a sweet follower asked if I had created something to address a need I expressed). I have done some searches and gained a small amount of tips for creating my own resources. With all that being said, I looked at the objectives related to our next story and created something small that I could use with my students to address those two objectives for our story, The Goat in the Rug as told to Charles L. Blood and Martin Link (Geraldine the Goat is given credit as the story's author).
The students are expected to summarize the story and draw conclusions about the characters. Anyway, please keep in mind that this is my very first attempt at creating ANYTHING for my own classroom use. I hope one of you out there in Blog Land can use it, and if not, I just wanted to share so I could be accountable to myself. Be gentle with your feedback. :-) I do welcome any tips you blog/TPT superstars might have for me as I continue down this path of creating resources for my classroom. Feel free to check out what I created below.
Anyway, for those of you still with me, thanks for reading. I'd love to hear any and all thoughts on the many topics I covered in today's ADHD-addled post. :-) Do you use math or reading workshop in your classrooms? What tips do you have? (If you do, leave me a comment-I'd love for you to be a guest blogger.) Do you create your own resources for your classroom? Tell me your best piece of advice.
That's all for now. See you next time I manage to blog. :-)