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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Cafe: Chapter 4- Conferring with Children

Sorry for the late post today- I have a sick kiddo who is now down for a nap! :)

First of all, Laura is blogging over at We Read, We Blog, We Teach and has some amazing freebies for this chapter.

I think that this chapter is really fundamental in using the Cafe method effectively. There are small group and individual conferences that are used to teach the strategies so, naturally, the individual conferences are so important. You confer with individual students to work toward their own goals.

The main "schedule" of an individual session is:

  • Observe and listen to the student reading aloud. Any book will do. Jot down the title of the book while thinking about the focus of the conference.
  • Teach/reinforce the strategy they are working on. Record two things to work on (usually a comprehension strategy plus one from another area).
  • Let them practice.
  • Make a plan for the next step and encourage the student to keep up the good work! Write down what you will focus on next time and write the new appointment in the calendar section.
There are special forms from The Daily Cafe site and The Cafe Book that you can use for individual conferences. You can get them with or without icon prompts. I haven't been using the ones with the icons but I just might now that I saw Laura's freebie

The Sisters include a script for "Coaching Toward a Target." They show about 5 minutes for a conference but mine go a bit longer. :) They also stress that those times aren't set in stone- they take longer sometimes. And the will occasionally meet with a child twice in one day if needed.

There is a fabulous appendix and CD that show you step-by-step how to teach each of the strategies on the Cafe Menu. That alone is worth the $20 for the book! They are also available on The Daily Cafe website if you are a member.

It's time to move to a new strategy once the student has shown mastery of the strategy they are working on a few times. The Sisters use a check mark when they feel that a student is using the strategy successfully. They also say you could use "Touchpoints" (a rating scale from 1-4). My team uses +, v, - because that is part of our grading scale. A "+" is proficient, a "v" is working towards mastery, and a "-" is needs improvement.

I really like that they realize that some kids need more conferring than others but caution teachers not to overlook their "Tiger Woods" kids- even he needs a coach!

I usually have three Daily 5 rounds each day and can meet with 2-3 small groups (all in one round if possible) and then have 1-2 round of individual conferences. Sometimes I have a small group and then meet with individuals in every round. 

The next chapter offers a sneak peek into their conferences.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Cafe: Chapter 3- Cafe Step-by-Step

In Chapter 3 of The Cafe Book, we finally get down to the nitty gritty. What do you teach those first days of school? This chapter has a fantastic book list for first week read-alouds and scripted commentary from The Sisters on how they would teach the first important mini-lessons.

Before school starts, teachers should set up their Cafe bulletin board. I've had mine on a whiteboard at the side of my room (see photo below), on a brick wall, on a small bulletin board...and this year I'm toying with having it on my back cupboards. It can go anywhere and take up any amount of space.

The headings at the top are CAFE: Comprehension "I understand what I read," Accuracy "I can read the words," Fluency "I can read accurately, with expression, and understand what I read," and Expand Vocabulary "I know, find, and use interesting words." You can see mine in a photo from two years ago.

I have heard that some teachers switch up the letters and talk about the "FACE" of a reader instead of the "CAFE." There are two reasons why I personally use Cafe. First, I think comprehension is the most important so I like having that one first. Second, our cafeteria is called "The Lake Cafe" so my kids understand what a cafe is and how it can relate to a menu, etc.

In the book, you can read all about how The Sisters use read-alouds beginning on the first days of school to introduce important strategies. They usually teach Check for Understanding, Cross Checking, Tune In to Interesting Words, and Back Up and Reread for the first few days and constantly revisit them while they are reading to the class.

When you introduce a strategy, The Sisters suggest you have a student write the strategy on a sentence strip and add it to the Cafe menu. There are about a million adorable printables that you can find to print out the strategies if you'd like, but I love having the kids write them. It gives them a sense of ownership.

I'm not sure if you can get to this page on The Daily Cafe site if you aren't a member but there is an interactive Cafe Menu with lots of helpful links/ideas for each strategy.

The next part of the chapter is about assessing individual students.  You can use whatever reading assessments your school uses to read with students. Then you discuss your findings with that students after hearing them read. One of the most important things that you should say to students is "Tell me about yourself as a reader." They even had us star that at the Daily 5/Cafe workshop. When the child looks at you like you are crazy (or they might offer an answer- bonus!) then you can tell them the strengths that you discovered while they were reading. With the student, you choose a goal and strategy for them to work on. Start with one or two things. They write their name on a sticky note and put it up on the Cafe board. You can see my kiddos' goals on the stars in the photo. While they are putting their sticky notes up, you can fill out the Individual Reading Conference Form in the child's tab and begin a list of students who should be in a group together on the Strategy Groups form at the beginning of your binder. I keep a running list as I assess students so I don't forget which students should be in the same group. When the student comes back, ask them to remind you what their goal is so they can remember, too! 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Freebie Friday

I wanted to start something new on Fridays...

I have found great resources through the blogosphere and Teachers Pay Teachers, etc. and I want to share those with you! Here are some of my recent favorite freebies:

Since I've been blogging about the book study over at We Read, We Blog, We Teach,

Sandy at Soaring Through Second has been sharing freebies for each day of her vacation!

One of my favorite blogs, Clutter Free Classroom, has flash freebies in the summer. 

And one of my TPT favorites is from Page & Christy- a free lesson for Popcorn and Movie Day!
Of course those movie days are educational!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Cafe: Chapter 2- The Cafe Notebook and Record-Keeping Forms

I'm following along with the Cafe book study over at We Read, We Blog, We Teach. Today I'm sharing my thoughts on Chapter 2, which just happens to be my very favorite part because it's all about organizing and office supplies. ;)

There were a few discussion questions that Katie posted about Chapter 2 that I will try my best to answer.

Discussion Question: How have you previously tracked students and kept track of data during your reading/writing workshop time? If you currently are doing something to the Sisters, what did you do before that?

I used to have file folders for each student. They were a place I kept everything I needed for conferences and assessments. They had first grade assessments (ones we used to check the students' skills coming into first grade), running records, trimester assessments, pretests, etc. They also had test scores from the NWEA MAP test we take. It was hard to keep them organized since it was easiest to throw the papers in the file. It was also easy to never look at them again, which wasn't very conducive to guiding my teaching.

Enter my Conferring Notebook/Brain/Pensieve that you can read about in this post.

As I was reading about how The Sisters select their notebooks one major thing jumped out- they search for the most beautiful notebook they could find. I love beautiful notebooks! :) When they are working with teachers, they often have Notebook Parties. We have those at our school, too! Before a meeting, the primary team meets and makes a big mess of scrapbook paper and stickers. You can see what I made last year in this post here. I'd definitely recommend it- we had a blast and we love hauling our notebooks and plan books around because they have been beauti-fied.

Back to the Conferring Notebook- Section 1 of The Sisters notebook holds Teacher Notes. A calendar and keeping track form are first. A tip from The Sisters: when you make copies of these, hole punch the calendar on the right side of the paper and the keeping track form on the left side or vice-versa. That way they are facing each other to make it more user-friendly. The calendar is used to write down "appointments" you make with small groups or individuals. The keeping track form is to keep an at-a-glance list of the dates you met with individual students.

You can read more about The Pensieve at The Daily Cafe website that The Sisters have created.

Discussion Question: What are your must have notes that you like to keep on your groups and individual students? Have you ever done something similar to the calendar to keep track of appointments with your students?

I used to write in my plan book which small group I was going to work with each time. It ended up to be meeting with each student in a small group two days a week but it was consistent and I wasn't meeting the needs of kids that should have been meeting with me more than twice a week.

Section 2 of the notebook holds individual tabs for each kiddo. In each tab, there is a Cafe Menu (to highlight the skills that students have mastered) and two conferring forms- one for reading and one for writing. I don't use the writing conferring form since I have a separate writer's workshop time.

Discussion Question: How do you plan on setting up your binders, or what do you plan on doing if you will not be using the notebook approach to monitor progress?

I will be using the same binder I have been using. I love that I have everything at my fingertips- assessments, notes, etc. I keep it with me all.the.time.

Do you have a particular type of binder or dividers that you use? Where do you tend to get them from?

I love, love, love my personalized binder from Zazzle. I'd recommend signing up for their e-mails, they have some really great deals! There is also a coupon code on The Daily Cafe website.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Tell Me More!

I'm linking up with the fabulous Amy Lemons at Step into 2nd Grade for her "Tell Me More!" linky party!

Here are some interesting tidbits and quirks that I have...don't judge! ;)

1. I am married to my semi-high school sweetheart. We met when I was a senior and he was a junior.

We are celebrating our 9th wedding anniversary in August. And yes, my two boys inherited Daddy's dimples. :)

2. I have never lived in a house with more than one bathroom. Ugh.

3. I am a big Minnesota Twins baseball fan (even though we're going through another "rebuilding year"). I get it from my mom. My husband and boys don't mind, though! We have a season ticket package that we split with some family members. Our youngest went to his first game at Target field when he was about 5 months old. He's now been to 3 games and he's about 8 months- his 4th is on Saturday. :)

(Our oldest isn't pictured here- he was already inside with Grandma!)

4. I've decided painting my nails is going to be my girly thing in a house full of boys.

5. I love wearing funky socks- especially in winter with my tall boots. Then no one knows!

6. I eat my M&Ms after sorting them by color. 

7. I had one day off of school when I was little for a snow day (technically it was because the temp here in MN was too low and the governor cancelled all schools). Since I've been teaching, every year I've had either a late start/early release or a full snow day. Last year I thought we'd break that trend but we had an ice storm on Leap Day! Crazy! This photo is from that day- sheer ice under that snow. 

8. I'm a reality TV junkie. I don't even remember what scripted television is like. ;)
I am so glad season 10 of this started:

And I still watch this in the summer:

And I'm looking forward to this:

9. I grew up with cats. Lots of them. We had three cats that all had kittens at the same time to make a total of 21 cats at once. We gave them away for free. I now have one dog. Just one.

10. I am a cheap date. I don't drink fancy coffees and I don't get my hair done in a fancy salon. I don't like seafood and I don't drink alcohol. Order me a Coke with a cheeseburger and fries and I'm all good.

But make sure it's Coke, not Pepsi. And definitely not diet.

I'll be back tomorrow with my thoughts on Chapter 2 of Cafe!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Cafe: Chapter 1- Introduction

I'm following along with the Cafe book study over at We Read, We Blog, We Teach.
Stephanie blogged about her thoughts from Chapter 1 here and I thought I would share mine.

One of the first things that The Sisters talk about in the chapter is the fact that their basal that they had to teach from wasn't meeting the needs of their students. Do you have a basal? We use Storytown by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. We've had it for a few years now but we did realize that it was fine for those average readers but our kids who were above or below grade level needed more.

At our school we do two reading blocks. One is "flex reading" where kids are put into groups by ability level. The other is a homeroom block where we have a heterogeneous group. We originally used this homeroom block for our basal and then supplemented materials for our shorter "flex" groups. After a few years of this, the first and second grade teachers got together because we knew there had to be a better way. I had been using some of the Daily 5 and Cafe strategies in my flex group because I was working on a project for my Master's Degree. We looked further into The Sisters' plans and decided that this is what kids needed, but it would mean a fundamental shift in the way we had been doing things. 

The first and second grade teachers proposed that we begin teaching basal in our flex groups so that we could use it for the main curriculum in the grade level groups but that we could also tailor it to meet the needs of our above and below grade level readers. We formulated a plan and brought it to our principal. I'm so glad she made us really work out how we were going to use our reading time because we all were on board and took ownership of how we were going to teach reading from now on.

Now we teach our basal in flex groups. The higher readers read the story maybe once or twice in the week and then use the skills and strategies that are taught in the basal in other literature. The below grade level groups read the story with guidance and work on the skills and strategies in texts at their levels. We aligned the Cafe strategies to correlate with our basal strategies and use those to teach our whole group Daily 5 lessons before the kiddos break into their choices. We work with small groups in our homerooms to focus on those strategies and others. We know our kids inside and out. They are getting their needs met in any class they are in. We feel better about what we are doing and why we are doing it. 

Phew! That's a long story but I'm so glad that we changed what we were doing. We really feel we are putting kids first now, instead of the scripted one-size-fits-all basal. 

Tomorrow Chapter 2 is due! Here is the calendar from We Read, We Blog, We Teach if you'd like to read along, too!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Winner and Cafe Book Study

The winner of last week's giveaway is...

Mrs. Jordan!

I will be e-mailing you shortly!

This week I'm following the Cafe Book Study over at We Read, We Blog, We Teach. If you aren't familiar with The Sisters, Daily 5, or Cafe, I definitely recommend checking out the blog or the links.

 I have been using Daily 5 for several years in my first and second grade classes. My team was lucky enough to get some professional development money to help us pay to see a two-day workshop by The Sisters a few years ago and we LOVED it. We were even talking about heading over to Chicago to see them again it was so good. 

The Daily 5 is a management tool to help you organize your class to allow you to use small group instruction to target different groups of readers. The Cafe, however, is the meat of the small group lessons. The Sisters have created four categories (Comprehension, Accuracy, Fluency, Expand Vocabulary) of traits that good readers possess. You use the lists under each category to create small groups of students who need to learn that specific trait. The Cafe book is awesome- it teaches you everything you need to help those kiddos!

I will be reading along with the book study and sharing my ideas here. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Must Have Picture Books

I'm linking up with The Teacher Wife today to share some must have picture books.

It's SO hard to decide on just five books! I keep all of my favorite read-aloud picture books at school in a special bucket. After I read them, they are put on a shelf of books that aren't allowed in book boxes but can be read during Daily 5 and returned.

Here are some that I like (and my kids enjoy, too!).  Click on the picture to find a copy.

A wonderful story about a student who thinks they can't draw and the inspiration a teacher gives.

This one is a fun story about a cat who takes over writing a book about himself. There are other Chester books, too!

A sweet story about a little girl who gets picked on and how she gets puts the bully in his place- in a nice way.

I remember reading this one with my younger sister when I was little. It's about a postman who delivers letters to fairy tale characters. I love this interactive book- you can open up the letters!

A cute story about friendship and my go-to book for teaching about safety!

Head over to The Teacher Wife and link up your own must-haves!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

School Shopping and the Giveaway

I've been collecting fun things for school and thought I'd share my recent purchases from Target.

Here are my Target goodies! My favorite finds are from the Dollar Spot- the top left corner! They had Dry-Erase Pockets that will be great for word work and math worksheets. You just slip in a piece of paper and the kids can write on the plastic with a dry erase marker. They only had 6 left so I bought them all. :) 
I also liked the rainbow speech bubble whiteboard!
There are some cute colorful labels that I will use for our class mailboxes.
The collection of 5 Minute Quick Quizzes come in a variety- word challenge, multiplication, addition, and puzzlers made it into my cart. I'm planning on using these for early finishers.
As I was walking around near home decor, I noticed these jumbo self-stick notes. They are 12x12 and awesome! I heard they were at Target last year but it may have been an urban legend. I found some online but they were $10. Target has them for less near the new college dorm stuff. 

Here's what I got for you!

If you would be ever so kind and answer some of my questions from my post on Monday, I will send you these pack of goodies: a speech bubble whiteboard, stamp, star cutouts, and the set of Quick Quizzes (addition, puzzlers, and word challenge). 

A winner will be chosen Friday morning.
Thank you!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Classroom Routine Tips for Day One

Christina Bainbridge from Bunting, Books, and Bainbridge is hosting a Google Doc-y Party for teachers to share their best management tips for the first day of school. Head on over there and add yours! I can't wait to read all of the great ideas!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Some questions for you and a giveaway!

Quick update: I think the Homegrown Doodle font link in this post works for downloading! Lauralee tried it after I sent her the link and it worked for her! Thanks for helping me figure that out Lauralee! Just right-click and click on "Open in new tab" or "Open in new window" and it should open up a blank tab but it will also download something. Hopefully! :)

As I was walking in to Target and saw the school supply banners hanging near the carts suddenly it was like summer was on fast forward. I feel like I have to plan, plan, plan!

I know I have a good chunk of summer left before I go back for teacher workshops at the end of August but I have been thinking about school a lot lately. Like at 4am. Ugh! I even had a dream that it was the first day of school and my principal came in and told me I was switching grade levels!

I have a few things that I'd like to change in my classroom and I'd be ever so grateful if you would share your ideas with me. For a little incentive, I'll pick a random comment and send that person some teaching goodies from Target. How about it?

First- attendance. How do you do it? I've tried the Popsicle sticks in cups, a list of choices with velcro that the kids stick their names on (see photo)...what do you use? If it makes a difference, we usually have three lunch choices (home lunch, hot lunch, alternate lunch).

Next- helpers. In the past when I've looped first and second grades I usually have groups of helpers that change daily in first grade (we call these their color groups and there are usually about four kiddos in each group). Whenever something comes up during the day, I just ask that group of kids to help out. The following year I have a boy helper and girl helper each day. I put all the boys names on a ring and the girls names on a ring and just flip them daily. It usually ends up being a different combination of kids which is nice! How do you use helpers? How often do you rotate them?

Word Work boxes are also tricky for me. I use Daily 5 and have for many years. I find that the older the kids are the less they want to practice their spelling words with the boxes I have. I have tried play dough, Wikki Stix, stamps, whiteboards, scented markers, letter tiles, etc. I want the kiddos to be more accountable for working during their Word Work time. In the stamping box we have a sheet that has headings of "Stamp" and "Write." I think most of the time they just color or stamp people's names. Any ideas on how I can improve these boxes and accountability?

My biggest overhaul will be Writer's Workshop. It ALWAYS gets put on the back-burner for something else. I need to be more consistent and have a plan of action. Can you recommend any books that I should read before school starts? Or have any ideas? We've been asked to use 6+1 Traits and we do grade three writing prompted pieces based on the traits (one prompt per trimester). We also have a writing curriculum embedded in our basal but it is d.r.y. I want kids to love to write!

Okay-  think that those are my three questions for now. At least they were the ones that kept me up from 4-5am this morning. 

Thanks for your help! I will choose a random comment on Friday morning and send out some teacher goodies to that lucky duck! Be sure to leave your e-mail address for me so I can contact you! (A little tip- if you want to keep your e-mail safe and avoid any spammers that may be lurking about, just enter your e-mail address with spaces in between and "at" instead of @. For example "janedoe at gmail" or "teacher at hotmail dot com.")

Friday, July 13, 2012

More Free Fonts: Day 5- dafont

The last site I will share with you is dafont. This site offers a lot of free fonts, some for a fee, some for personal use and some for commercial use. Many are free for personal use and a donation is requested for commercial use. There are also trial versions of fonts that don't give you all of the characters. Most of the time the trial versions have the alphabet but not the numerals.

Remember: Click on the font to link to the download page!

This font also comes with a second file that is dotted letters so you could use them for kids to trace

This is a trial version which includes the upper and lowercase letters but no numerals

Just because I like this one!

I have had a lot of inquiries about the Homegrown Doodle Font I posted here. I think it's now for sale and no longer free. Here is the link Purple Onion.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

More Free Fonts: Day 4- Urban Fonts

The next site I have to share is Urban Fonts. This site offers free fonts and they do have some for sale. There are also pop-up ads when you visit the site (boo!) but the fonts are worth it. When you click on the download page, you can see a character map (what all the letters and symbols look like with the particular font) and you can also type sample text to see how it will look for specific words.

Remember: Click on the font to link to the download page!

I love this one for titles and nametags, too! The kids love coloring them. All of the letters are capital except the letter "i."

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

More Free Fonts: Day 3- 1001 Free Fonts

Today I have a selection of fonts for you from 1001 Free Fonts.

When choosing fonts, I often look for how the font prints an "a" since we all know that Comic Sans has the best "a" but that it gets a little boring! I also look to see if the letters are formed so that kids can read them clearly. Often a "g" or "q" can be tricky depending on the font. This site has a feature called "Custom Font Preview" (many other sites do, too!) that allows you to type a word so you can see how it looks. Depending on what words I am spelling or what I am using the font for I might not care! I might just choose it because it's pretty. ;)

Remember- click on the font to link to the download page!

Bad name but cute font!
This is another font that is different depending on if you use capital or lowercase letters. "Cheap" is written in all caps, "Sign" is written in lowercase.