LETRS Training!!!

So I spent the last four days sitting in a high school chemistry room attending LETRS training, which is the new “latest greatest” that our district is requiring us to take. LETRS stands for Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling. Now that’s a mouthful, and a earful too if you have to sit through the four days of training.

The worst best part is that I only took the Foundations course and there are 12…yes, TWELVE…more modules!

So I sat and participated while we were instructed about the different phonemes, and graphemes, and morphemes, and brain studies, and all that until my head was hurting. I thought it was from all the “new” learning but then we found out that they were varnishing the floors in the building. Never mind all our important learning.

Of course, if you have been teaching elementary reading for as long as I have and you don’t know these things already…well, I want to know what school you teach at so I don’t accidentally send my kids there.

Anyhoo, I always try to find the silver lining so instead of being grumpy I brought my laptop and reviewed my language arts lessons that I already finished for weeks 1-4. Actually, I found some places where I could be more clear with my planning so the other 2nd grade teachers could do what I’m doing. (We do common planning and all that so I only plan for Language Arts and then share my plans.)

So for shared reading where I usually just put some little blurb about vocabulary…

…but then I was questioning whether my new teachers knew the strategies to teach this vocab?

What if they didn’t? What are they doing? Hmmm.

That got me thinking. There were a lot of great ideas in the LETRS training that I could implement in our regular routine. So I put together a trial of vocabulary stuff. We are lucky that our basal comes with some vocabulary cards that have the definition, an example and a discussion question on the back. But these really aren’t as useful as I wanted.

I usually make separate sentence strips for matching and the such but I haven’t ever included those in my plans. I thought it was just what I did and other people had their own way.

UPDATE: Pics for this unit found here!

I used the first story in our basal “David’s New Friends”, for those of you using Texas Treasures from MacMillian McGraw-Hill, and I set up a four activity set vocabulary instruction. I went with the LETRS format and did sets for Syllables, Definition, Discussion, and Examples. I also just wrote out the vocabulary words on cards.

Syllables has each word broken into syllables on cards for matching and blending.

Definitions has each word defined for matching.

Ask has smaller cards with discussion questions for oral language and word meaning.

Example is my favorite because it has picture cards with sentences but the sentence is made to be cut apart to work on word order (syntax).

You can find it in my TPT store here!

Sooooo NOW I have what my principal would call “transparent learning opportunities” for all the students in 2nd grade because blah, blah, we all have the same stuff, etc.

Great. Only 30+ more basal texts to go! Plus now I want to do this set up to cover the *ahem* Five Essential Components of Literacy Instruction.

You can look now. I stopped being all teacher-y.

I have a fairly decent phonics set-up, except it is mostly spelling based and student activities, not really instruction based. And Fluency is good. But I could really use a good way to translate what I am doing for reading comprehension into a “printable” format. Also I struggle with phoneme awareness in 2nd grade. I think I will work on some interesting things using phoneme-grapheme mapping.

I don’t know. See this is why I hate going to these things! Then my brain goes all teacher mode and I end up creating a ton of stuff and then my house gets messy.

Don’t ask how I just got from CPE to my poor housekeeping skills. Just don’t. Because I’m not sure.

There goes my afternoon! I’m off to tackle Reading Comprehension!


Math Workshop!!!

Math workshop is a slightly new concept for me to wrap my brain around, but it has been something I think I’ve been naturally falling toward for the last couple of years. About 5 years ago, our district was really trying to get teachers to use Math Stations. They even provided an awesome “make and take” workshop that helped you get everything ready. However, Math Stations had the same problems for me that Literacy Stations had…I was spending hours making and cleaning and setting up stations that the kids “played” with for 20 minutes. It just wasn’t working. Two years ago we started working with enVision Math Curriculum. It has a lot of peripheral material including centers, that are easily set up and differentiated. Still, I was having difficulty integrating this time into math. Maybe I was still irritated by the whole stations fiaso. Then last year, I went to yet another math training that involved, you guessed it, math “games” that integrate through stations. This one sealed the deal for me because I loved the activities. It was Kathy Richardson’s Developing Number Concepts. Never before have I felt that I truly understood how students were using math concepts developmentally, and I guess this new understanding drove me to try it again. So all year I gave it a go but the scheduling just wasn’t working. How do I fit it all in? There is Daily Problem Solving, Number of the Day activities, teaching the actual Math Lesson, student practice time, and of course my new center games that I wanted to use. What to do? Finally, one day while perusing Mrs. Newingham’s website I found her solution to Math Workshop and decided to give it a whirl.

I. love. it.

I spend the first 10 minutes covering what my kiddos call NOD/POD, which is Number of the Day and Problem of the Day. Then about 5 minutes reviewing yesterday’s learning and introducing briefly the topic of the day and maybe making connections in the learning. Then the workshop begins. There are 3 groups: Meet with Teacher, Independent Work, and Math Activity. Each group meets for 20 minutes and then switches. At the end of the workshop we gather together for 5 minutes to recap (this time may turn into math journaling eventually).

The beautiful part is that my groups are homogeneous, so I can differentiate my daily lesson to meet each group’s needs. Here is the group rotation:

  • High GroupIndependent Work first because they need little to no direction to complete this by themselves, then Math Activity to work with the game I have provided, the they¬†Meet with Teacher for usually extension or challenge math lessons.
  • Medium GroupMath Activity first because they have the reading skills to get started on the game independently, then Meet with Teacher so that I can give them their lesson, then to Independent Work to practice the skill I just taught them.
  • Low GroupMeet with Teacher first because they cannot get started on anything else until it has been explicitly taught, then Independent Work where they work as a team to finish their work pages, then Math Activity to reward a job well done and solidify the learning.

There are three basic rules for Math Workshop:

  1. Stay in one spot.
  2. Work quietly.
  3. Work the whole time.

These rules work surprisingly well at keeping the kids with their group and away from me while I am at the Meet with Teacher table. Another thing that helps is encouraging that their group is a team and that they work as a team to solve problems because that is what math is about. It’s cheesy but it works!

Also in my ongoing quest for a 21st century classroom (and to keep myself on schedule), I created a timed powerpoint slideshow for Math Workshop. It starts at the beginning of the Math Workshop and runs the whole time. No more switching group signs or running overtime. I even timed my teacher mini-lesson because if I expect my students to finish their work in a specific amount of time each day, then I have to hold myself to the same standard.

Math Workshop Slideshow (pptx) (BTW, thanks Mom for the idea!)

Overall, my students are really thriving in the Math Workshop environment. I feel that I am able to meet all of their needs instead of jumping all over the room during math, trying to answer everyone’s questions. I always felt haggard after math, now I feel refreshed and downright giddy because of all the supercharged learning happening in the room!