Sunday, March 15, 2015

Organizing Words Their Way Materials

Keeping track of Words Their Way materials will either make or break a teacher. If you have a solid organizational system in place it can become one of your easiest subjects to teach and plan. If not, the program will win and you will end up frustrated. I'm going to share a few organizational tips to hopefully help you make your word study life a little easier. 

A few disclaimers before I begin...

Disclaimer #1 I am an organizational hot mess. I love organization and strive to have a place for everything and everything in its place. Unfortunately, my mind and body are always going in 50 different directions which results in half attempted organizational chaos. I also keep changing grades and rooms. However, I have three things in my classroom that I am organizationally obsessive about-books, digital files, and word study.

Disclaimer #2 This is not "pretty" organization. There are no cute binder covers, labels, signs, etc. This is just true, practical organization. Feel free to beautify it.

Disclaimer #3 I am no Words Their Way expert. I've been using it for about 2 years and this is what works for me after some trial and error. Take it, adapt it, change it-hopefully you'll find something that works for you.

Teacher Sorts
In first grade I am mainly working with Letter Name Alphabetic and Within Word Spellers (red and yellow books) so I have my materials divided by red and yellow. For each sort I have a teacher sort that I use with my small groups. To create my teacher sorts I ran one copy of each sort on colored cardstock, laminated it, cut the cards and clipped the sort together with a micro binder clip (5/32"). This is a great project to pass on to parent volunteers if you are lucky enough to have them! Originally I wrote the number with a silver sharpie but it began to wear off. I ended up cutting a colored circle label in half, wrote the sort number, and stuck it to the clip. Not super fancy, but it serves the purpose.  I use a 24 slot tackle box to hold the sorts. Each slot fits two sorts diagonally. I have one box for my LNA sorts and one box for my WW sorts. Each week I just grab the sorts I need and return the sorts from the previous week.

Teacher Materials
Keeping with the red and yellow theme I have one binder for each stage. I divide the binders into the following sections: teacher materials (background info, additional materials), sorts (master copy of each sort), assessments. Since the sorts are numbered I just keep the materials in numerical order within each section.

Student Materials- Sort Copies
The best organizational purchase I made was an 8 pocket folder to store the weekly sorts in (thanks Target!). I currently have four word study groups so it works perfectly. I labeled the pockets with group numbers and placed a little sticker with the number of students in each group since my groups are flexible and change. Each week I grab the sort masters from my notebook, make copies, and place them in the pockets for each group. I also copy the weekly assessment and place it in the back pocket for each group.

You can copy multiple weeks at a time to store in the pockets if you are one of those people that is really ahead of the game. I usually don't run more than two weeks because I don't want to "basalize" the program. I look at how the groups are doing and decide whether to use the next sort, provide additional practice, or skip ahead.

When I copy the sorts I always run one set at 100% to send home for homework and one set at 85% for the students to use throughout the week. The 85% fits better when they glue it in their word study notebook.

Student Sort Cards
On Monday mornings I place the 85% sort on each student's desk. They are to color the back of their sort and cut it out for morning work. Each student at the table picks a different color to minimize lost word cards on the floor. {FYI-there are still word cards on the floor that no one claims, but it does lessen the number}. Each student has a little container to store their word cards for the week. I found these at the Dollar Tree 10 for $1 and they work great. I've seen other teachers use ziplocs, baby food containers, pencil boxes, etc. Each student also has a word study notebook to use for word study activities.

Student Centers and Games
I prefer to use centers and games that are generic and can be used with any sort rather than sort specific games. Students bring their own sorts to play the games. This allows for differentiation and is also super easy to organize and prepare. I did a post on easy prep word study games at Adventures in Literacy Land. I also like to use dry erase word study games (you can read a post on those here). I usually change my games monthly to keep them fresh. In the "off season" I store the dry erase games in a binder in plastic sleeves in month order. Bigger games and manipulatives are just stored in my monthly teaching boxes. I have a 10 drawer cart that I put the games in for my students to use (but that's another post for another day!).

Those are a few of my Words Their Way storage and organization tips. I hope you found an idea or two to use or adapt. Do you have a favorite WtW organization tip? Leave a comment- I'd love to read it because one day I am going to be one of those uber organized teachers.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Virginia is for Book Lovers Blog Hop

 I am thrilled to be joining my fellow Virginia bloggers for a blog hop that embraces our love of reading! Each of us is happy to share a book and resource that we LOVE to use in the classroom for this very special hop. Not only that, but you'll find a book giveaway on each page of the hop, with a super huge giveaway at the end.

Read alouds are my favorite part of the day. I have so many "favorite" books. I really should start to tally how many times I say "This is my absolute favorite book about..." in a week! There is no doubt I pass on my reading enthusiasm to my students because they love to relax with a good friend and good book. It just warms my reading heart.

Since there are just way too many great books to fit in a day of instruction, I'm a big fan of integrating literature in content areas to squeeze in a few more. There are so many amazing non-fiction books out there. There are also incredible fiction books that can be used to teach content area (and a few comprehension skills too!).

This brings me to a dynamic fiction/non-fiction duo for teaching seasons... Frog and Toad All Year and A Tree for All Seasons. {Again, I have so many "favorites" I couldn't pick just one book to highlight!}

 Frog and Toad is a classic book with five short stories. Each story takes place during a different season. This book is perfect for making inferences. We also make a flip book that includes a story event for each season.

A Tree for All Seasons is a National Geographic book. The direct text and vivid photographs do an amazing job of capturing the changes in the seasons including trees, animals, activities, and clothing. It is perfect for Virginia's first grade weather/seasons SOL 1.7. After reading the book we do group projects on the characteristics of each season and combine them on a large chart.

We also draw and write about how a tree changes throughout the seasons.

Another favorite fictional season book is A Busy Year by Leo Lionni. Unfortunately, this book is currently out of print so you have to snag a used copy.

I'm sharing a freebie to accompany your readings of Frog and Toad All Year and A Tree for All Seasons from my Seasons Unit. Although I love both of these books, these activities will work with any book about seasons. This freebie includes the inference page, seasons chart, and a four season graphic organizer. 

In addition, I'm giving away a copy of both books in the Rafflecopter below.  

a Rafflecopter giveaway
To celebrate our love of reading, Virginia bloggers have also put together an additional mega-giveaway. One lucky winner will win ALL of the books (that's 19 wonderful books) in our hop! Each blogger will send you the book they've talked about. Imagine receiving 19 wonderful books for free on your doorstep and sharing them with your lovely students! Keep hopping along to learn more book favorites and your chance to win!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Read Across America Door

I hope everyone is having a super Read Across America week! This is one of my favorite times of year in the primary classroom. In the spirit of Dr. Seuss (and promoting being wacky individuals) I thought I'd share my Read Across America week door.

The teachers at my school have come up with some amazing doors for our door decorating contest. I work with a creative, outstanding bunch of folks. I wanted a design that wouldn't necessarily win, but would be our own and would be lots of fun for the kids. Our door combines two of our favorite things...reading and GoNoodle!

Each child colored a Kitty High Five (one of our favorite brain breaks) paw with one of their favorite books. It didn't have to be a Dr. Seuss book, but many chose his books because they're all about the Seuss this week!

The class signed up to work in design teams to design the Cat in the Hat: hat, head, body, bow tie, and arms/hands. I gave each group some paper, projected a picture of the Cat in the Hat on the board and let them go to town. The only suggestion I gave them was to check out the other groups to get the size proportions right. I told them they could use any materials and if they needed something special just come ask.

I was floored with their creative approaches in designing their part and how well everyone worked together. We pulled out lots of random craft materials and had a blast!

The Body
The Hat

The Head and Bow Tie
Since we were GoNoodle Indoor Recess Survivors we added a genuine Kitty High Five glove from our GoNoodle swag.

To complete the door I added a QR code with my kids rockin' out to Kitty High Five.

So there you have it...GoNoodle + Dr. Seuss = a random, crazy, fun door! The kids were so excited about the door because they had such huge ownership in the project. Our door may not be the best looking or the neatest, but we had (to quote the great Dr.) "lots of good fun that is funny"!

If you're interested in the paw print book you can grab a free copy here. Thanks to Creative Clips for the awesome clipart.

Enjoy the rest of Read Across America week! Be sure to stop back this weekend for a Virginia Bloggers Hop with a chance to score some great ideas, freebies, and giveaways!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

March Currently

March?!?! Say what?!?! February has been a crazy blur, so I'm excited to welcome a new month that will hopefully bring us closer to spring! I'm linking up with Farley's Currently to bring in the new month.

* Rain, snow, sleet, wintry mix...I'm over it all. This is crazy weather for eastern Virginia. Nothing compared to what you folks up North are getting, but crazy none the less.

*7 snow days in the last two weeks have allowed the hubby and I to get a jump on our summer road trip plans. For the last 3 summers we have taken cross country road trips during our summer breaks. We're headed ocean to ocean again, this time taking the southern route. 

* My Virginia blogging buddies and I have a fun hop planned for March 6-8. Head back to my blog Friday night to join in the fun!

*I've had enough fun filled snow days. Bring on the sunshine. I'm ready for spring!

*Next week I get a student teacher! I'm super excited but need to start getting things ready for her.

*My spring break isn't until the first week in April. We're headed to the sunny (hopefully) Florida panhandle. We've spent a lot of time in Florida, but this will be our first time in the panhandle region. Any suggestions?

Happy March! Be sure to check out the rest of the linky at Farley's Oh' Boy Fourth Grade.