Thursday, February 13, 2014

Writer's Workshop in Kindergarten :)

During Writer's Workshop, I have many high expectations for my students.  I am very strict on using quiet voices, staying in your area (unless accessing the word wall or other resources around the room), listening to piano lullabies (on pandora) and simply writing.  It is never acceptable to not have work done on your paper.  I also understand that my kids are at all different educational levels and what looks like "hard work" is different depending on each kid.  My writing time is very individualized and I each kid is working on a different goal, depending on what they are ready for.  But no matter what, everyone writes!  Some might have a 6-10 story and another kid might have scribbles and it is my job to take those kids at their level they are at and push them to the next. 

Before Christmas we start talking about the "Writing Process".  During my writing time, the kids come up with their own topics and own writing pieces.  I never give them a prompt unless it is some sort of a school assessment.  So they are all in different places throughout the writing process. We start with the planning stage.  We discuss quick sketching so we are able to remember what we want to write on each line.  Then we move to rough draft - which is simply writing a first draft of your personal narrative.   In January, we introduce the FAMOUS red pens...and we add editing to our writing process.  It is important for me to explain IN GREAT DETAIL my expectations for each step of the writing process and model and have them practice over and over again until it is exactly the way I want it.  Soon after editing, (usually towards the end of January) I add in Conferencing with Mrs. Bowder.  Before this step, I sit at a different table each day and watch them work and make observations.  I also take that time to discuss with them what they are writing, what they can do better and what they are doing GREAT!  Motivation and praise is huge because writing can be VERY SCARY!  I jot notes down under each kids initials on a sheet that I created so I can refer to it at other times.  When conferencing is introduced, we kind of change the way we do things!  I just introduced conferencing this week (2nd week of Feb) and so far they have transitioned well.  Instead of sitting at a different table each day, I now sit at MY guided reading/math/writing table and when the students have reached the "Conferencing" part of the writing process, they have to move their magnet so I can see they need to conference with them.  Sometimes, I have 2 people ready to conference and sometimes I have 10...just depends on where they are.  If they are waiting to conference with me, they can read a book, work in the "save" folder (work that needs to be finished) OR they can start a new writing piece.  Now, I will say that recently my kids have been a bit too chatty so I am considering changing the rules a bit and having the only option be to start a new piece.  We will see if their behaviors improve or not.  Usually, I can cycle through 5-7 kids during a writing time.  I make a note of when I conference with kids so I can tell how quickly they cycle through the writing process.  If I have not conferenced with a kids ALL week...then something needs to change.  Maybe that child needs extra assistance from me?  Or maybe a behavior is getting in the way and so he/she can have a personal writing date with me during another time during the day.  It just depends on the situation.  I am so very proud of the independent writers that develop throughout the year in Kindergarten.  It is so much fun to see their excitement during Writing time.

This is our writing paper for this time of year.  TS means Topic Sentence.  They are to write four sentences AND a topic sentence.  We will also be getting into conclusion statements before too long.  :) 

This is our "writing wall" (cabinet).  This is where they can reference different things we discuss during mini lessons.  They are also responsible for moving their names through the writing process.

Later on in the year, students will pick their OWN goals to focus on during writing time.
Towards the end of February, beginning of March, I will introduce our final step to the Writing Process which is, Publish.  Now, not all kids will be ready for this step.  I will say the majority of my kids will be (with practice) but there might be 4 or 5 kids that I will just be happy with if they complete a rough draft successfully.  They will need to copy their writing onto a separate piece of paper where they can draw a detailed picture.  Usually my kids that I conference with get to spend the last 5 minutes of writing time sharing their pieces with classmates on the carpet. 
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WOW words in Kindergarten :)

During Writer's Workshop time in Kindergarten, I encourage my students to get rid of the boring words.  We even (towards the beginning of the year) flush our boring words "like" and "love" down the toilet and say goodbye to them!  (I got the idea from Mrs. Meacham's website )  So early on, we make "power flowers" during a mini lesson and then students use that anchor chart during their independent writing time.  I have been so impressed with how many of my kids NEVER use like and if they do use like we made a rule that you have to write BECAUSE with it.  That is the only time it is okay to write "I like...".  Here are some seasonal "power flowers" we have used during our writing time.  I had a very talented para make them when she was in my room a few years ago...because I am NOT that artistic!  The kids are always looking at our WOW Word Wall and it's fun to see them exercising strong word choice while they write.

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Saturday, February 1, 2014

Tally Marks - to the rescue!!

Do you feel like you are always pulling tricks out of your bag to try and get your kids to focus and stay on-task during whole group times?  Anytime before I require my students to sit for a whole group time, we always get our wiggles out by dancing or doing some yoga.  This, for the most part, helps 85% of them sit and focus.  There are always a few, no matter what, that struggle to focus and learn.  So, one easy way that I eliminate this is my handy-dandy competition!  This….works….every….single…time.  The "format" of the game might be different depending on my students' needs that day.  Different "teams" include:  boys vs girls (Mrs. Bowder included) :),  superhero(s) (…keep reading…) vs Mrs. Bowder, and individual students vs Mrs. Bowder.  Different scenarios call for different game setups.  I have to know and observe my students to know which type of game will help them to be the most successful.  If I notice a few boys (yes…this year it is boys…but it can be girls, too) that are really struggling to focus, then I put their names up on the board and they earn points for the whole entire class.

Other days, I just pick "super-heros" to play against me.  I don't tell them WHO the superhero(s) are and so all of them put forth their best hoping to beat me.  Anytime the students who are earning points for the entire class are on-task and focused they get points.  Anytime they are not, I get points.  I very rarely EVER win but I have once or twice when we were really struggling.  Sometimes, when a player is PERFECT and I get zero points, I ask them if I could just have ONE point….for my beauty of course.  And that usually makes everyone erupt in laughter.

We have lots of fun trying to stay on-task. This is one of my tricks in my educational bag.  What are yours?
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