Sunday, September 30, 2012

Daily 5...

What is it? And why do I use it?

I have been using the Daily 5 model to teach reading for around 5 years. When I first started (after being fortunate enough to attend a day long workshop with the two sisters, Gail Boushey and Joan Moser, who created it) I followed it to the letter. Bought the book. Joined the website. Joined Yahoo groups just for Daily 5. Wore the t-shirt. Used the pompoms. You get the idea. 

But, as the years have passed, I have kept what I loved, thrown out the rest and added in a bunch of my own methods and techniques for teaching reading. I was already using teaching methods that were successful for teaching reading. I didn't want to throw out the baby with the bathwater, so to speak. It works for me and it has worked with the classes I have taught.

The aspect from the Daily 5 that I have loved from the very start is the way that they train the kids to be independent and build stamina. I have talked a bit about this before (remember my "teaching routines can be mind numbingly boring " post?) and, just like every other routine, getting the kids to meet expectations and criteria in Daily 5 is a slow but oh, so necessary step in the learning process.

We start by creating an anchor chart with expectations and criteria for Read to Self. The one below is one I found on pinterest (there are A LOT of teachers out there using Daily 5!!) and is pretty much what ours looks like (just prettier!)

Pinned Image

Then we practice meeting the criteria. I have a student come up and demonstrate doing meeting all of the criteria correctly. Then (and this is key) I pick a student to come up and show us doing it wrong. Well, you can bet I have a lot of volunteers for this one! They all want the chance to not do what I want them to do!!!!

The Sisters say to pick the child in the class that you expect to have the hardest time following the criteria. I call that student up and they read to self all wrong - books are upside down, they wiggle around, they talk to everyone, they stand up, etc etc etc. THEN I immediately ask the same student to show the class meeting the criteria correctly. And, whamo!, just like that each and every child in the class (including the one demonstrating) knows that this child (who usually has trouble during group activities - talks, distracts others etc) CAN read to self properly. Everyone can do it. This is very powerful stuff.

Then all the kids go off to practice read to self and build their reading muscles! I make sure that everyone has chosen a good spot where they can be successful and then the timer starts. On day 1 this year we got to 30 seconds before someone in the room did not meet the criteria. This means that they either talked to someone, stood up and moved, stopped reading etc.

The second (and I mean the very second) that someone stops following the criteria I stop the entire class. We put our book boxes away, come back to the carpet and start all over again. Review the criteria. Have someone demo it properly. Have someone else demo doing it wrong and then properly. Choosing our spots again. Starting the timer. Stopping again the second someone stops meeting the criteria. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

We have been working on this for a week and a half or so and have now gotten to 5 minutes of independent, on task reading to self. I mentioned it in my Friday Favourites this past Friday. If you read that you might not have realized how much of an accomplishment getting to 5 minutes was! We had to practice read to self for about 3 hours to get to that 5 minutes!

This week I am hopeful that we will get to 10 minutes. I might be expecting too much but I am getting so impatient! I really want to be able to start working with individual children so that I can begin doing reading assessments and helping them to grow as readers. But I know, know that I have to keep it slow and steady and we will get there. Eventually.

Of course, once we are at 10 minutes with read to self, we will then continue to build time until we get to 20 minutes. And, then we will start practicing word work or partner reading the same way we started read to self. Model, model, model, try, model again, try again ad nauseum until it becomes second nature.

This goes on for each of the Daily 5 areas (I actually don't do all five - I like to do writing as a separate lesson) that we learn. I am thinking I need to come up with some other name for what I do than Daily 5 since, with the exception of the method of training kids to be independent workers, I am really not up to date on what the Sisters are doing in Daily 5 these days. I will have to think of a new acronym for my reading program. Any ideas?

Ms. Hughes

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Last Friday Favourites of September

It is hard to believe that it is Friday again already. How did that happen?

Overall it was a good week.  It is always a good thing when the good outweighs the bad. Don't you think? It was a little less bumpy behavior wise but a whole lot chattier!!! So, without further ado, here are my favourite things about this week.

1. That I got an iPhone in June so I am able to start this post while waiting for the non-existent Dunbar bus!!! Most days I don't mind the bus but today after watching 4 (count 'em, 4!!!) "Sorry Not In Service" buses pass me by, I am heartily sick of transit. Especially since it is almost 6 o'clock and I am ready to be home!

(Sorry for not posting this last night. The bus arrived right after I wrote number 1. FINALLY!!! I got home and then was out for the evening and exhausted when I got home at 9:30. How sad is that? In bed by 10 on a Friday night. And then, to add insult to injury, I wanted to sleep in today and woke up at 6:15. Wow! I slept in for a whole 50 minutes longer than normal!)

2. Holy Pattern Makers Batman!!! This group can ALL do patterns with 3 colours. Colour me impressed. I started teaching the patterning unit only to discover that my first lesson was beyond easy, peasy, lemon squeezy for this group. I gave them a quiz the next day and each and every one of them got 100%!!!! On to more challenging sorting and patterning lessons...

3. Getting to 5 minutes of independent, quiet (almost silent) reading!!! This may not seem like a big deal but it has taken us TWO weeks to get here. The first day we did not even get to 30 seconds before someone failed to meet expectations and we had to stop and go over the criteria again. We are building our reading stamina. Eventually, we will get to 20 minutes and I will be able to run small reading groups while the class is actively involved in reading and writing activities. (Also, this just goes to show that the students can control their talking. They are just choosing not to at carpet time!!!!)

4. I survived teaching gym! I enjoy going to the gym but do not really like teaching gym. And I have managed to not teach it for a number of years. I have traded off with other teachers and taught a subject for them in exchange for them teaching my gym. Unfortunately for me, schedules don't allow for that this year. But, apparently, it is like riding a bicycle. You don't really forget how to do it. And it was actually kind of fun. Who knew?

5. And probably my most favourite thing that happened this week is getting to go in and see the new school and our new learning community space. It was so exciting and I am so looking forward to setting up in the new space. It is going to be awesome. I love the space and I really enjoy working with my teaching team. The students are going to benefit so much from having the expertise of three enthusiastic teachers. How can it get better than that?

Have a happy weekend!

Ms. Hughes

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The days are long but the weeks are fast....

Teaching has many similarities to parenting in that what works with one child (or class) does not work AT ALL with the next child (or class!)

And...what works with one child (or class) one day is a complete and utter failure the next. So much for Plan A.

Moving on to Plan B, Plan C, Plan D...etc etcetera....

So much of last week (and this one if I am honest) has been about trying plan after plan.

It has quickly become apparent that a good portion of the class are not morning people. They come in and sit down looking like they are thinking about bed and more sleep. Energy is low. Definitely in the blue zone.

The other half of the class, of course, comes in ready to go with energy to spare! Green zone all the way with some heading towards red!

Getting these two groups to work together first thing in the day is a bit of a juggling act right now. 

So, doing spelling first thing is out. Having a morning meeting where we go around and tell our zone in the A.L.E.R.T. colours is in.

Sitting to listen for more than 5 minutes is out. Getting up to do dances and movement on a very frequent basis is in.

Pulling out my Conscious Discipline book is definitely in. I have been using products from CD for awhile. I have a couple of their
stress stars (which the kids fight over. Might have to get more of those really soon!!!!)
Stress Star
stress star
I also have the safe place mat in my room. More on that in a future post.

Safe Place Mat

But I have never done more than read the website and try a few ideas. This past summer I ordered the book because one of my favourite bloggers was doing a summer book study. Heather over at Heather's Heart is such an inspiration to me. She is so honest about the daily struggles of teaching young children and has helped me keep my sanity along the way. Plus she is beyond generous with her ideas and printables. In a word she is AWESOME!

So, on Wednesday of last week, I made myself a cup of tea (because, after all, as my husband says "Where there's tea, there's hope") and hunkered down with my book. I re-read chapter 1 which is titled "Composure - Being the Person You Want Others to Become" and deals with the power of perception. The key here being that as a teacher I must be self aware and maintain my self-control. I am responsible for modelling what I expect from the children. It really is true that the teacher sets the tone in the classroom.

And the best way to do that is to practice what I preach. Stop and take deep breaths. Rub the palm of my hands. Get a drink of water. Stretch. (All strategies to get back to green zone) Then repeat as often as necessary when I feel my volcano is about to blow! I have a solid feeling that this is probably going to be my biggest challenge this year. I have to keep calm as my triggers are pushed over and over and over again. So in the words of probably the most pinned phrase of 2012. I am going to...

Keep Calm and Carry On kimstlmommy

Wish me luck!

Ms. Hughes

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

New School Update

17 days until we are out of this building and into the new one! We had the chance to tour the new building (and, most importantly, our new community learning spaces) yesterday and all I can say is "WOW!" It really is a beautiful space.

I took a gazillion photos and put together a visual tour for the students in our community to see. I want them to be a little familiar with the space before they step foot in it. They need to know that it is THEIR community. They were super excited to see it and really got the concept of one large common area with four classrooms off of it. Wish I could show you some of it here but admin has decided that the children are going to see their new learning space first and then parents will see it. Walking in on the first day is going to be a big deal!

I am so looking forward to being in the same working space as the other two divisions in our community. It is difficult to do things the way we want to with the distance between us right now. That said, I will totally miss my wonderful room in the old building. I have had the cream of the crop. Windows on the south and north side, huge floor space, bathrooms in my room, water fountain in my room and a view that makes me feel like I am in a tree house.

My new view will be of the front lawns of the houses across the street. At least until all of the landscaping goes in on the new site. From the bits and pieces I have heard about what the parent gardening committee is working on, the outside of our school is going to be as amazing as the inside! 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Friday Faves

Okay, there were quite a few things this week that are contenders for my favourite five happenings in our class this week.

Here goes:

1. Math: We did our first math quilt this week. I found a great lesson plan with black line masters on Teachers pay Teachers (TpT) and we did the September quilt. It looks wonderful and was a very successful lesson. Most of the kids could do it independently once I showed them the basic cuts. Yeah!

2. Meet the Creature Teacher Night: I was thrilled to see so many parents come out to find out about our class and 1/2 community. I will be posting the overview on the blog asap. I am really looking forward to doing all sorts of wonderful activities with our class/community parents. We are so lucky at this school to have such awesome families!

3. Meals: I was pleasantly surprised by the sushi dinner provided to us by our administration on Meet the Teacher night. Some of us were here for 11 hours by the time the evening was done and being fed was a treat!

4. Terry Fox Run: The biggest plus for me was surviving it. Walking 6 blocks away from school so early in the school year is CRAZY!!! No grade 1 class is cohesive enough or (let's just say it) trained enough in expectations to do the trek without a fuss/problems/issues arising. Thank goodness for the mums who stayed to walk with us. I quite literally would not have tried to walk this class over there without them. You rock Moms!!!!

5. The new school: We got the official move in date for our new school!!!! Yippeeeeeee! Our last day of teaching in this building (barring unseen problems arising) will be Thursday, October 18. I can hardly wait to be in the new building and working with our whole community. It kind of feels like being on a different continent at the moment with us at opposite ends of the building and on different floors. 

And that's that for another week. Enjoy the weekend!!!

Ms. Hughes

Sunday, September 16, 2012

As promised...

One of the girls created this earlier in the week and I promised her that I would post it on the blog. So, as promised...

Ms. Hughes

Saturday, September 15, 2012

A Quiz

Question: When are dominoes not really dominoes?

Answer: When they are in the hands of a grade 1 boy!!!!

Then they become kings defending their castles and battling it out with the knights from the opposing kingdom.

Question: When is a box not really a box?

Answer: When it is in the hands of a grade 1 girl!!!!

Then it becomes a close to life size friend to play with!

Question: When is an alphabet puzzle not really an alphabet puzzle?

Answer: When it is in the hands of TWO grade 1 girls!!!!

Then it becomes a house for the stuffie puppy dog.

Question: When is paper and ribbon not just paper and ribbon?

Answer: When it is in the hands of a child who sees potential in everything!

Then it becomes a lovely notebook to give to a friend.

Question: When are adults not really adults?

Answer: When they tap into the creativity and imagination of their childhood!

Ms. Hughes

Friday, September 14, 2012

Friday Favourites

There are some days when all I can think is, "I don't get paid nearly enough to do this job."

Today was one of them.

Activities that I had planned to take 20 minutes took close to double that because I had to keep stopping (a bad case of chatter boxes in our class today!) to wait for listening. And then wait some more and then some more. And then, well, you get the idea...

We did our spelling review and they all looked at me like they had no idea what words I was saying. And this after working on the words each and every day this week!!!!! At one point, my grumpy, frustrated, very annoyed and on the way to truly cross voice came out and I had to stop, count to ten in my head and then start again.

But, on the bright side, it was a great teaching moment. See? Even teachers go in the red zone sometimes!!!! What great role modeling! See kids? This is a strategy to use when you feel like your head is going to spin around in circles and blow off the top of your neck!!! Try it sometime! It really helps!

So, I think it is good that I am starting Friday Favourites this week because it will force me to stop paying attention to all the things that seemed to go wrong today and focus on the wonderful stuff that happened this week.

So, here goes. My five favourite things that happened in our classroom this week....

1. I got a good laugh when one of the students who had brought in a chocolate cake for his birthday (pre-sliced by his parents. Thank you very much!) told me that I had to try some because "my heart would blow into pieces it was so good!" I don't eat wheat and definitely did not want to deal with the stomach issues that would have resulted if I had eaten a whole piece but I did have a very small nibble and, he was right, it was delish! (And, trust me, I needed the laugh today!)

2. Watching a group of very physical boys being completely absorbed by a game of UNO for almost half an hour. Wow! Is there magic dust in UNO? I want to get me some of that!!!!!!

3. Getting snail mail (I love real mail, don't you? There is just something so exciting about opening up the letter or package that I don't get with email) from Amazon with new books to read to the class.

Show; Don't Tell!: Secrets of Writing
Great book for descriptive writing lessons

Tell Me A Story Mama
Wonderful book by Angela Johnson for teaching personal narrative writing

The Pencil
Used this book to introduce using a pencil to do all writing (no more writing with crayons!!!!) before I gave each of the students their personal pencil for their pencil cases.

4. The feeling I got when one of the students asked me out on the playground, "Ms. Hughes, when is the rest of our community coming out to play?" My heart did a little flutter at how easily the students are accepting the idea that we are not a stand alone class with one teacher but a community with three teachers and a lot of friends!

5. Getting the go ahead to order the math program our community wants to use this year (more on that coming soon!) Now we just have to order the books. Yeah!!!!!

Have a great weekend everyone!

Ms. Hughes

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Routines, routines, routines...

Today I sent home some work done this week in class. At first glance, it all looks pretty easy for grade 1. And, to be honest, it was all fairly simple for the students to complete. Some math...

And a lesson we did on handwashing...

However, completing the tasks was not what most of the lessons were about this week (though I was happy to see that all of the students know their numbers to 10 very well and that they all remembered the steps for handwashing!) The activities actually taught routines about cutting, using glue sticks properly, getting pencil cases, storing personal items in pencil cases, recycling, handing in work, noise level expectations, best effort expectations, following directions etc.

The whole week has pretty much been all about routines, routines, routines. And will continue to be about routines for at least another couple of weeks. Hopefully, by then the routines will be set in stone and I won't need to go over them so much.

I have a love/hate relationship with this time of year. On the love side, there are all the new students, new school supplies (I adore school supplies and practically have a cardiac arrest walking into Staples in August every summer!!!), the classroom is clean and tidy and the year is fresh with promise.

On the hate side, there are the meetings (two just today - one from 8 until after the first bell and the other for my ENTIRE lunch hour. Ugh!), the photocopying, the turning my brain back on to lesson planning after the summer break, the fatigue and, last but definitely not least, the endless repitition of our routines. It is mind numbing. Truly. Mind. Numbing. We do them over and over and over and over and over and over.

Well, you get the idea. Today it took us almost 15 minutes to get back from the library! We had to turn around and go back to try again three times before they met expectations for hallway behaviour. Sigh... And the mind numbing part of it is that we will most likely have to do that all over again tomorrow when we walk down the hall. Just like we will have to do the noise level expectations during seatwork and centres. And the behaviour expectations during carpet time and snack time and..... 

Here is an example of an anchor chart we made last week about behaviour expectations during different activities. Using the A.L.E.R.T. system (see the separate page on A.L.E.R.T.) we went over what green zone (ready to learn) looks like, sounds like and feels like for each activity. We read over this chart many, many times each day. Like I said, mind numbing.

However, for all of the tedium in going over these routines, I know from experience how much of a difference it will make for the rest of the year and our learning if the students have routines down pat. I will be able to spend my time teaching (amazing right?) and not spend teaching time putting out behaviour fires every few minutes. So, I keep on counting to ten and starting over and over again. And saying the occasional prayer for patience probably doesn't hurt either!

Ms. Hughes

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Get ready for a long post!!!!!

Well, we are two days into the week with our official class. I have grade 1's ( I love, love, love grade 1!!!!) and so far, so good. I am sure that we are still in the honeymoon period but I am hopeful it will last for awhile. They are really a lovely group of kids and I think that we will have a lot of fun together this year.

I was thinking to myself, "If I was a parent in my class, what would I want me to know?"  What would be information that needed to get out and could not wait until Meet The Creature Teacher Night?

So, here is the list of Can't Waits...

1. Send a pencil case to school with your child ASAP!!!!! They will each have a box of crayons, scissors, glue stick and pencil to keep in their case so make sure it is big enough to hold all of those things. Here are a couple that have already come in. You can see how roomy they are and how easy it is for the students to get at their supplies.

2. We started our Spelling Program this week and more info will come on the parent evening but the gist of it is that your child gets 5 words a week (for now). They write these in their planners on Monday. They work in class on the words all week and then have a review on Friday. At home, you can have them practice the words by spelling them out loud, writing them down each day, finding the words in their reading, spelling the words with Alphabits (did you know that one bowl gives you 50% of your daily requirements of Vitamin B6? Me neither!!!!!), or whatever works for you.

3. Running shoes need to be worn to school EVERY day. We will be outside, in the gym etc. and students need to be safe during physical activity.

4. Send extra snack/lunch. Two days in a row I have had students who ate all their lunch at recess!!!! These young learners are Hungry with a capital H! Please send enough for lunch and TWO recess snacks. That way there is a little extra. Many afternoons we have a chance to eat another snack and, trust me, a lot of them are hungry again by 2:30.

5. Circle September 19 on your calendar. Make plans to come to Meet the Teacher night to find out more information about how things work in our classroom and in our larger grade 1/2 community.

And, last but definitely not least...

6) Become a follower of this blog or sign up to receive blog posts by email so that you never, ever, ever miss any of the great stuff we are doing in our community! For example, check out a couple of the fun things that the students have been doing during centre time so far.


p.s. If you are looking through the blog, please be aware that I need to update the A,B,C's page so the information may not be current. I will let you know when it is done (probably this weekend as there don't seem to be enough hours in the day right now on school days!)

Have a good one!

Ms. Hughes

Friday, September 7, 2012

Words Worth Remembering Wednesday (On a Friday!!!!)

This week has been as crazy busy as expected. Meeting and working with new staff. Meeting and getting to know 60+ students in our learning community. Finding and unpacking a gazillion supplies. Photocopying until well past 6 in the evening. Long days and early nights (I was in bed at 8:30 twice this week! How sad is it that I go to bed before my daughter?!?!) And, being so busy that I forgot to post onWednesday.

With the end of the first week back to school there is only one quote that I can possibly post. There are a lot of versions out there but this one just made me laugh out loud! Have a great weekend!

Pinned Image
from pinterest

Monday, September 3, 2012


It is once again time to link up with Oh' Boy 4th Grade for the new month's currently. Can you all believe it is already September? Where did the rest of the holidays go?!?! Hope it was a good one for everyone and that you are all ready to jump back into the hustle and bustle of the new school year.
I am as ready as I am going to be. The classroom is set up (mostly) and I went through all of my school clothes yesterday to make sure that a) I still liked it all and b) it still fit. Happy to say that nothing was too small but a couple of things were too big. Go me! Still have no clue as to what I am going to wear tomorrow (see thinking above) but will get it figured out I am sure.
Anywho, hop on over to Farley's site and check out this month's linky party!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Reading Area Done!

I have spent so many hours this past week setting up my classroom that it really feels like vacation ended early. Yesterday was a 6.5 hour day in the classroom. Can we say exhausted?

The first area I got done was the reading/library area of the classroom. I have my guided reading table in this area plus a couple of comfy chairs. Check it out...


And after....

The two tables together form my guided reading area. I can open the tables up and sit in the middle if necessary. I have it set up so that from my seat here I have a clear sight line to all the other work tables in the classroom.

I have most of my books packed up to move to the new school. In the first cupboard are a few tubs with books by Robert Munsch, Franklin books, non-fiction titles etc. (see photo below) I had nothing to put in the second cupboard so decided to use it for my pillows. These used to live in the turtle shaped wading pool that kids sat in to read but the pool is gone now as my turtle theme will not be moving with me to the new school.

I grabbed the blue chair from another teacher who was leaving the school. It is in good condition AND is a recliner! Score!!!!

These are my personal collection of levelled books plus some chapter books for those early readers. This will be what most of the students use for reading until we get into the new school in October. You can see some of the packing boxes on the left. I tried to dress them up with a poster but they still look like packing boxes to me!!!

My professional resources and guided reading supplies. The cupboard is very bare as most of my things are packed and ready to move. I just kept out the essentials to get going for the first 6 weeks or so of school before the big move.
The rest of the room is also done. I am as ready as I can be for Tuesday morning and a new bunch of students. I will post pictures of the rest of the room next week. I was so darn tired by the end of yesterday that I forgot to take photos. Not to mention, the custodian was literally shutting off the lights and kicking me out while I was still trying to finish off things!
Now I am off to enjoy my last few days of vacation. See you soon!