Wednesday, January 30, 2013

An Independent Moment

Since September I have consistently had 6 students who are not confident enough to write without having some one-to-one support.

As you can imagine, this is pretty difficult to do as there is only one of me! And six of them!!!!!

Since the beginning of this month, I have been pushing the whole class to focus on improving their writing as we move towards the half way mark in our school year. We've reviewed expectations: Letter size. Spacing. Punctuation. Neatness. etc. etc. etc.

We've looked at examples of good writing. A couple of us who showed marked improvement shared our writing with other teachers (who gave out stickers and certificates for great progress.)And we've tried to write as often as possible. Non-fiction writing. Poetry. Fiction. Writing. Writing. Writing.

We have been talking about publishing some of our best pieces before the end of the year. Our school librarian has agreed to barcode and shelve any book we write. How cool is that?!?!

After many, many, many conversations, I have been pleasantly surprised to see some of the students really get into their writing this week and rise to the challenge of producing a better product than before.

But, my consistent 6 students, have stayed consistent. Not writing much without one-to-one support. Some not writing anything at all!

Then, this week...a break through!

One of the students who has never, ever, ever written anything without adult support in sounding out wrote this. All. By. Himself. (Yep, you heard me. All by himself):

Dear Mom and Dad. It is almost Pajama Day. I am going to wear my spider pajamas.
Yay! (insert visual of me doing my happy dance!!!!!)

Two times this week, this little one wrote on his own. (Today he needed a bit of help. But, really, how often does one write the word router (as in the electronic kind) in daily grade 1 activities?) I am over the moon!!!

Does it meet expectations for this time of year? Not quite.

Is it awesome anyways? You bet!!!!!

Now to use this writing as an example for the other reluctant writers to see and, maybe, just maybe, it will give them the confidence to do something similar on their own.

Fingers are crossed!

WWR January 30

from positive inking

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Some Thoughts on a Saturday Evening

This past week was a very, very long one.

I have never quite figured it out but short weeks always seem twice as long as regular weeks.


You would think that they would fly by.

I mean, they are only 4 days long.

But, no.

Sadly not.

Picture lots of excess energy. Boys jumping on each other (regardless of being told not to). Girls crying. Friendship issues. Computer issues. 3 meetings (I hate, hate, hate meetings!!!! Especially when they are during class time and I have to be away from my class.) And, me, feeling sad all week because (for some unknown reason) I kept thinking of my dad and how much I wish he was still around so I could talk to him.

So, all in all, a week I am happy to forget.

Not much more that I can say about the week (except how glad I was when it ended) but I do want to share a couple of things.

We opened our Arts & Crafts centre this week and look what a few of the girls created on Friday!

How cute is that! A wee little house for the wee little raccoon! I love how kids can look at a pile of what adults would consider garbage or clutter and create such awesome things. Now I just wish that they would learn to clean up all the bits and bobs when they are done!!!!

And, I can't log off without sharing this wonderful Friday letter with you. It gave me the best laugh I had all week.

Just a little background...our new school has toilets and no urinals. Apparently some boys are having trouble aiming and, as a result, are making a big mess in the bathrooms. (Funny. I bet they know how to aim in their home toilets. Or, maybe not?) We had a school assembly regarding school rules etc and the boys had to stay behind to have a special "boys only" bathroom etiquette assembly with our male VP. Of course, kids being kids, the girls quickly found out what the "boys only" assembly was about. And this is what one of mine had to say about it to her parents yesterday!

Dear Mom and Dad, This week the boys learned how to pee at school!! I'm guessing because they don't know how. I hope you had fun at work. Love, ______

OMG! Too cute for words. Wish I could have been a fly on the wall in that house on Friday night when her parents read the Friday Letter!
I am working on a post about writing expectations for this time of year. Believe it or not, I am only about 4 weeks away from starting report cards again! (Didn't I just do those?!?!?) So, stay tuned for some writing samples and info on grade 1 writing!
Ms. Hughes

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Never underestimate the power of...

a tally mark!!!!!

Last week, I decided that a little behaviour modification was in order with the whole class. They were loud, chatty, off task, you get the picture. There may have even been some rolling around on the floor at one point. Back to school in January has been a crazy, crazy time.

I will be the first to admit that I am not a huge proponent of rewards based systems. They tend not to work for long and they don't always work with all kids. But, that said, I have seen them be very successful in changing specific behaviours and I know that they have their time and place.

I mean, let's face it, employers use reward based systems when they offer bonuses. Insurance companies do it when they offer money off for good driving records or healthy test results or whatever.
Adults use reward based systems on themselves all the time. How many times have you told yourself that if you work hard you will get yourself ______? (a coffee, workout clothes, a glass of wine, whatever floats your boat!) And, I think that we use these systems the most in January when we are all fired up to make changes in our lives and make resolutions come true!

The trick with any behaviour system is to reward the positive behaviour choices and then, slowly, wean off the need for rewards. The idea is that eventually the behaviours become internalized and the rewards will be less necessary or unnecessary.

Now, with the overall chattiness and inattention that arrived with the new year, I knew that we needed something that would pull us together as a unit. Create reasons to work together. To cheer each other on. To want to be listening, working etc. To be working together and to be invested in having friends do well and make good choices.

So, I created table groups. We have five colours - red, orange, yellow, green and blue. Each table works together to earn Smiley points for working quietly, cleaning their tables, pushing in their chairs, being ready for work, remembering their planners etc. etc. etc.

On the white board I have pieces of construction paper to match their table groups. I try to catch them being good as often as possible. So far, it is working! Last week was the first week that there was actually quiet from pretty much everyone during writing time. It was like a miracle!

I put the tables together based on names that students put down as students they would like to get to know better. They will stay in this table group until the end of the month and then we will mix it up again. That way, everyone has to learn to work with everyone else.

Students who generally make poor behaviour choices are learning valuable life lessons. They are learning that their choices impact others and that by making good choices they can help out their team. The smile on the face of one student when I leaned over and told him that he had earned a point for his WHOLE table by working quietly was wonderful!

Students who generally make good behaviour choices are learning to be more patient with those other, more energetic students. They are learning that they can influence behaviour choices by being good role models. Catch them being good is the motto here!!!!

On Monday of the next week, we look to see which group had the most points. And, last week, we ended up with a tie! Two tables managed to get 20 points. (I must add that one of the added benefits of this system is that the students really, really want to learn to read tally marks so we are quickly improving on counting by 5's, 10's and adding on to 10 to figure out numbers quickly.)

This week it looks like it is going to be pretty darn close again, too! The weekly winners get to pull a ball from the Smiley Bucket.

In each ball is a different reward. I didn't want the rewards to all be object related (i.e. I don't want them to just get a toy for doing well) so many of the rewards involve time. Extra choosing time. Lunch with me in the classroom. Quiet Time Centres for 20 minutes. You get the idea.

Other rewards involve getting school type supplies. A new pencil. A fancy eraser. (Oh, my kingdom, for a full pencil hospital! I put out 24 new pencils last week and they are all gone this week. Yep! All. Gone. I swear they eat them when I am not looking!)

And one is for a trip to the Treasure Box (filled with notebooks, necklaces, little finger flashlights, stickers etc.) I made a special trip to Dollarama on the weekend. Love that place! They actually sell some items at dollar store prices that are not typical dollar store quality. Meaning...they aren't all junk!

So, that is how things have been going lately. Each day is a little bit better. The class has shown marked improvement in working as a large group and in smaller groups. I am spending less (wish it was none!) time having to redirect poor behaviour choices. Students are proud of themselves for remembering to clean up their tables, push in their chairs etc. They are being far more helpful with each other. I am hearing a lot less of "I didn't do it!" and "Not me!" and seeing more of students picking up things or helping others to do it.

Between the students all getting more mature and this system, each day is more pleasant than the last. It is one of my favourite times with grade 1's. They are showing much more maturity but are still as curious and filled with imagination as before. I can do more with them in class, get better quality out of them and, really, just enjoy them in a way that isn't always possible in first term. I am falling a little more in love with Division 15 each and every day. It doesn't really get better than that!

Ms. Hughes

WWR January 23

When one book closes..........
from my pinterest board (uploaded by another user)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Spelling Words Jan 22-25

Sorry for not posting the spelling words the last couple of weeks. I thought I had scheduled posts with the words but guess that was one of the blog posts I thought of while doing other things!!!!

So, we have gone up to 8 words per week plus one mystery word. Wowzer!!!!

This week's words are:


Ms. Hughes

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Long time, No write

As per usual, I have been composing blog posts on the bus, while walking the dog, during my workouts, in my sleep (you get the idea!) and never in front of the computer!

So, here goes...

I am so happy to be back at work and to have the parent/ student/teacher goal setting conferences behind me. To have two VERY long days in the first week back was very, very tiring! I was so pleased that, for the most part, the students have a good understanding of what they want to improve in both their academic performance and behavioural choices. And, I am glad, too, that the class is starting to work together more and help each other to work on turning their goals into reality.

I love this time of year. It is when I do book studies on winter and snow. (Even though the snow seems to have disappeared, thank goodness!!!!) We started our week making folders to store all of the work we will be doing. They turned out great!

They were based on a picture I found (where else?) on pinterest! The site that had the original is Artsonia.

We watched the video of the classic book The Snowman by Raymond Briggs and then wrote a reader's response about our favourite part.

I love this story. I love that it is a wordless book and makes the reader infer and make connections about the events happening. And, bonus, the beginning is introduced by a young David Bowie which gave me great memories of my childhood (His was the first concert I ever attended. It was also the very first concert at BC Place. If you know when that was, you have an idea of how old I am!)

Then we started studying Jan Brett's book The Mitten.
Product Details
We have read it and re-read it and re-read it some more. We did sequencing activities, retelling activities and learned some mitten poems as well.
This coming week we will read a different version of The Mitten and compare/contrast the two. (More on that to come...)
Then it will be on to Snowmen at Night and some art activities to go with it. This is one of my favourite stories and we will be doing some art kind of like this...
snowmen at night...looks so funny
from here
We will also start working on some non-fiction activities to compliment the science unit the class has started on whales with Mrs. V. I headed off to the library today to borrow a bunch of books because the non-fiction in our library is still packed! Wish those shelving units would get here already!!!!
Anywho, I promise to try to write these posts more often at the computer (and not everywhere else!)
Ms. Hughes

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


It is that time again. I'm linking up with Farley for this month's Currently. Go on over to check out what everyone else is currently up to!

Listening...I know that I should drink less coffee. Not so much for the amount of caffeine I consume daily but more for the amount of cream in each cup! I am willing to give up a lot of things but, thus far, cream (lots of it!!!) in my coffee isn't one of them!!!!

Loving....I had a craving for kale chips on New Year's Eve and went to buy 4 huge bunches. I also picked up some pink Himalayan rock salt. The two together with a bit of olive oil = yum, yum, yum! Our daughter wants the family to try being completely vegetarian/ vegan so I expect that kale chips are just the beginning of my culinary adventures in 2013!!!!

Thinking...that I wish I wasn't a night owl. Within two days of being on holiday, I was staying up past midnight and sleeping in past ten each morning. Sigh...In just a few more sleeps it will be back to going to bed at nine and up at 5:30. That is just soooo wrong!!!!!

Wanting...more vacation! It always seems to take a week (or two!!!) to come down from the stress of work and really start to enjoy my vacation. Of course, that is when I find myself heading back to work because vacation is over!!!

Needing... (but not wanting) to go in to school and set up for Monday. I have a new student starting and not even a notebook ready for her! So, I'll give up a few hours of vacation to go in and make sure that everything is ready to go Monday morning. It is a pain to do but preferable to walking in Monday morning and being all stressed out trying to get it all done quickly.

OLW or One Little Word...this is something that Ali Edwards does each year on her blog. Last year my word was cultivate. I worked with the word a lot for the first 8 months or so (even made a book to go with it and track my progress) before it fell by the wayside with school starting in September. No wonder with everything that has happened at school these past four months! I was lucky to cultivate my sanity what with the move and all!!!!!

This year my word is start. I am not sure what it will mean for me but it is the word that immediately came to my mind when I started thinking about OLW. On the bright side...if it falls by the wayside at any point, I can always just pick it up and start again! Geez, why didn't I think of having such a good word before?!?! I will have to wait and see what this word brings to me this year but I am open to anything it brings me.

So, what are you doing currently?

WWR January 2


from here

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

from here

Happy New Year!

I hope that everyone is enjoying a lovely holiday. Did you stay up late to ring in the New Year last night? I did but only because I was watching a movie. I had the house to myself and took the opportunity to watch old movies I haven't seen in a long time. And since I don't really consider January to be the start of my "year" I don't pay it much attention.
In my head (and my heart) the year starts when school starts after Labour Day. The new year is about notebooks, lesson plans, and new students. It is about staff meetings, organizing, and not being able to sleep in anymore! The year has started in September for me for close on 40 years. And I expect it to start in September for a good 20 years more!
Of course, the really weird thing is that my year is only ten months long. It "ends" in June and then there are these two months that just kind of float there. Two months of sleeping in and reading lots and lots of books. And two months of thinking about school, planning for school, getting ready for school...well, you get the idea!
As for resolutions...I don't make them. I really do think that they are pretty much what the cartoon says. I just intend to keep on keeping on, working on the activities I started before the "New Year" arrived today and, just generally, doing the best I can each day.
How about you?