Tag Archive: conference


1st Grade Hybrid

IMG_8056My 1st graders have been doing an Interactive Writing/Guided Reading Plus hybrid.    They aren’t quite ready to transition fully into Guided Reading Plus, but they don’t solely need Interactive Writing…so we’ve been doing both!  We’ve been reading a new book every three days.  We do a lot of building words, word work, etc. to build our reading and writing vocabulary to give the needed boost.

On the 2nd day we write a group message based on the story we read the previous day.  Each student gets to pick a sentence they want added to the group message.  This is the exact same process that Kindergarten does, except we write about the book instead of a labeled picture.  We don’t label a picture in 1st grade.

On the 3rd day we do something that looks a little bit different.  I have 4 students so I have 4 rotations.  The full 30 minutes just proved to be too much time for them all to write so I switched it up since we have multiple needs.  (I wish I had pictures of this, but I am SO busy during this 30 minutes I don’t have time to take any pictures!)

Rotation 1: write an individual message about the story we read.  The student tells me their message before they start so I can write it down. When they are finished writing (about 7 minutes per rotation) I conference with that student about their writing.

Rotation 2:  Rereading the story while Ms. Acuff takes a running record.  This allows me to track individual reading progress and collect data weekly on each student to make sure I’m providing the correct level of instruction.  I also get to talk to students about strategies they are using and provide positive feedback for growth.

Rotation 3: ipad!!  Woo hoo we love the ipad!  We play a word building and writing game on the ipad that incorporates high frequency words they need to know!

Rotation 4: ipad!!  Woo hoo!  We love getting to use the ipad AGAIN!  This time we play a sound sorting game of some kind.  This could either be vowel sounds, rhyming sounds, beginning sounds, or ending sounds. This game changes each time, but sounds are important so we continue to work on them!

My 1st graders are HARD WORKERS and they keep me VERY busy during our 30 minute session.

Superhero Writers

IMG_5188I spent Tuesday and Wednesday this week at UNI’s Jacobsen Center for Comprehensive Literacy’s Reading Recovery Conference and I have come back thoroughly inspired.  I went to a seminar called Engaging the Disengaged Writer by Christopher Lehman, a New York Times Best Selling author and took away so much from it.  I went to it because I think I’m pretty good at teaching reading, but I don’t feel as strong in the way that I teach writing.  I would say that I definitely have disengaged writers in my room.  One of the things he talked about was putting the joy and passion back into it.  Another teacher had already done what I had done with the superhero strategies, but with Star Wars.  She also included a rubric of sorts on what level of expertise you were.  I thought this would be a better (and more positive) way to teach writing with my kiddos.  Even today, as I was modeling some writing to my 3rd graders I didn’t notice I forgot a letter in one of my words (I wrote animal instead of animals).  One of my kiddos said, “Ms. Acuff, you don’t want to be a Sidekick writer.  You have to reread what you write.” and it was then I noticed my error.  It was a good teaching point to the kids on how even I make mistakes and how there are little things we can do as writers to take us from Crime Fighters to a Sidekick and then all the way up to a Superhero.  Also, I left room at the bottom of each page so we could add more descriptions of what would fall into a category as we come upon things and so the kids can take some ownership of the rubric as well.  I want them to make this their own.  I have had a TON of requests for my Superhero Strategies so if you think this is something that would benefit your room as well I’d be happy to share this with you as well OR if you have ideas on how I can make mine better I would love to hear from you!

IMG_8299Woo!  It feels good to be back at school.  I was at the UNI Jacobson Center for Comprehensive Literacy Reading Recovery conference these last 2 days, but with the weekend, I feel like I’ve been away from school for a week.

The conference was GREAT!  I got to meet Linda Dorn (pictured above), who is the author of many books, some of which we are implementing at Lowell.  You know how I talk about Interventions That Work and Guided Reading Plus, Interactive Writing, IMG_8298Writing Aloud, and Comprehension Focus Groups??  Those are all from her.  She talked a little more in depth about adding in some Teaching for Deep Comprehension (also by Dorn and Carla Soffos, who I also got to hear at the conference)  I took away a lot of great things that will help improve my teaching with groups.  I have heard Dorn speak several times, but this is the first time I have actually gone up and talked with her and the first time I’ve seen her since Lowell started implementing Interventions That Work.

I also am a HUGE fan of Dr. Barbara Schubert (pictured on the right), who spoke on Reading Recovery.  I got to hear her speak at the National Reading Recovery Conference in Ohio 3 years ago and it was a treat.  She is an expert in Reading Recovery and brain based teaching and I always take away so much from her after her seminars.

IMG_8302Author Lester Lamanick spoke to the whole group and emphasized the importance of reading aloud to our children.  With everything they want us to pack into our day this often gets put on the back burner.  It was inspiring to hear him talk about his positive and negative experiences in education as a child and how that shaped him into the person he is today.  It just reminded me of how I am in the business of loving and caring for our kiddos and need to do all I can to make them all feel smart and important.

Lastly, I was really surprised when a reading teacher from another school showed me that I am in one of the photos in the Jacobson Center for Comprehensive Literacy brochure!!!! (Photo on the left)  I was really excited to be a part of the promotion to help other teachers learn more about what Waterloo is implementing and how they can help their struggling readers and writers, too.

OK, my planning time is about up, so I will sign off and go get my Reading Recovery kiddos! 🙂

4th Grade: Comprehension Focus Group

photo4th grade started reading Invisible Stanley by Jeff Brown this week and this is the first chapter book for them.  This is an exciting new venture as instead of having a Guided Reading Plus group they have moved to a Comprehension Focus Group.  This is exciting as they aren’t needing as many foundation skills as they were needing previously.  They are approaching proficiency and need some extra work in comprehension and fluency to really take their reading to the next level.

IMG_5485Day 1 we did some work work and I read the prologue as the students wrote predictions in their composition notebooks.  Then I had them each ready chapters 1 and 2 individually.  This became a time where I could sit down with each student individually, listen to them read orally, and then conference with them.  What a great opportunity for me to listen and talk about the story with students.  I have missed this!!  After everyone finished reading, we got back together for a conversation about the book.   This does not come naturally for most students.  It’s uncomfortable and awkward, so dialogue was rather scarce.  This will be a goal of ours to really be thinking about the book, what is the author saying to you, and then being able to speak your opinion, which may or may not be what someone else in the group believes.

photo (3)Day 2 we got back together and I did oral accuracy checks on the kiddos.  While I did this, they were rereading chapters 1 and 2 silently and then summarizing the chapters in their comp notebooks.  We regrouped and started a graphic organizer together.  They paired up and worked on the who, what, when, where component and then went out to work on event #1 together.  They got 5 minutes for both categories and then we came back as a whole group and put our answers collaboratively on the master graphic organizer.

photo (2)Working together was also a bit of a struggle–not because they couldn’t handle it, but because I don’t think they are used to working together collaboratively.  It was very quiet as they worked and I had to encourage them to talk to their partner about what each of them was thinking and how they could take both of their ideas and put it into one.  This, too, will be something we work on.  Teamwork makes the dream work!!

We’ll continue our way through the next 5 chapters over these next couple of weeks and will get a chance for more dialogue and more collaboration with a partner.  Stay tuned!

1st grade writing rubricIn a previous post you saw my writing conference sheets I use with my 2nd and 3rd graders to help them focus on some goals they need to pick for their writing.  This wasn’t appropriate for my 1st graders, but I felt I needed to establish something that would have them making reflections on their writing as well.  I found a Kindergarten writing rubric online (which you can download here for free) and thought it fit well with where my 1st graders are developmentally as well. (Photo of the rubric to the right.)

Currently I am not having my 1st graders fill out the entire form.  I have them focus on the top 3, which are my biggest priorities right now–handwriting, appropriate capitals, and spacing.  Typically I let my 1st graders draw a picture to go with their writing for the last 2 minutes of group and they like to fill out the drawing portion of the rubric as well.

IMG_5604It was a big overwhelming to try and take on everything on that sheet.  Plus, there just isn’t enough time.  I would eventually like to be able to focus on the bottom half, which talks about mastering sight words and moving away from invented spelling.  Right now we need a starting place and then seemed like a small enough chunk for my 1st graders to bite off.

But honesty is a really hard thing to deal with when you are still so small.  I let my kids circle what they think first, while I’m working with other kids.  Then I conference with them and we talk about what they IMG_5603circled.  We had to have a group conversation that this does not mean you are a bad writer, but that this gives us a goal on how to be better.

After that conversation I started to see some more honest reflections on their writing.  Students we recognizing when they had capitals in the wrong places and whether their handwriting could be better.  I was proud of them for looking at their writing and evaluating things that could be improved upon and celebrating things that are going well–such as our spacing!  Woo hoo!  We are finally getting to a place where MOST of the time we have spaces between words.  We’ve been working on Spaghetti and Meatball spacing–I’ll tell you more about that in another post!

IMG_0068Part of the Comprehensive Intervention Model (CIM) Guided Reading Plus intervention is to have reading and writing conferences with your students.  I conference with my students regularly, but I was beginning to feel like what we conferenced about wasn’t sticking with the kids.  And to be honest, it wasn’t really sticking with me either.  I often times couldn’t (and can’t) always remember what I’ve told the kids we should work on.  Then I started to feel bad because 1. I couldn’t remember giving them praise on anything particular they were doing well, and 2. I don’t think I was showing value in the conferences if neither of us could really remember what we had talked about.

So I had seen plenty of guided reading conference sheets online, but I wasn’t finding any writing ones.  I decided to develop my own.  I thought about all the things I was harping on the kids to do and typed them up.  It’s a half sheet and we ended up conferencing today by looking through each of the journal entries and decided what they were doing well and what things we could continue to work on.  I highlighted what they were doing well and what they needed to work on.  To make sure I didn’t lose them we glued them to the back of their journals right by where they glued in the synonym rolls.  Now before they write I can ask them to check their writing sheet to see what they need to focus on for the day.  This is a good reminder for me so I can check it before I conference with them.  Then as they start to make those goals into strengths we can check them off the list.

The students seemed pretty excited about the sheets.  I hoping this helps make our time a lot more productive and meaningful.  If you would like a copy of this please shoot me an email or leave a comment on this post so I can get it to you.