#easydaysies in the Summer!

A few months ago, I was introduced to Easy Daysies. Easy Daysies is a really cool magnetic schedule for kids. I used the Classroom Version at school the last month or so, & I've been using the Home version for the last couple months. I thrilled to meet Elaine Tan Comeau at EdExpo this spring and learn more about Easy Daysies. I knew right away that this was a tool that would help in my classroom! Easy Daysies is a magnetic schedule...there is a magnet for each task. As kiddos complete the task, they get to move it over to the DONE! side. As Elaine explained, kiddos get the same satisfaction moving that we do as adults crossing that item off on our to-do lists! Now that's satisfaction, folks! 
I had a child with autism in my class last year, and he was all about notes. Notes and reminders on post-its, plastered all over the side of my file cabinet. His 'remember wall', he called it. I knew Easy Daysies could take him a step further-- organize all of those notes on the 'remember wall' into a more organized system. I loved that the magnets could be moved from one side to the other: from 'coming up' to 'DONE!' 
We also used the Classroom Set for the whole class. I love that they're on nice, sturdy magnets. To be honest, I've actually made similar cards before and placed magnets on the back...but these are so much nicer than an individual can make, & so much sturdier. I like that I'm able to write the time of each activity beside the magnet...it let me make little tweaks to the schedule as needed (you know what they say....'the best laid plans'). 
Posting the schedule helps kiddos have a smoother day
They have both PreK-K & 1 & Up Editions
...it functions like a cueing system. I love that there are visual representations on each card, too. Children become more cooperative, independent, and feel less anxious knowing what the day will look like and what is happening next. It is GREAT for kiddos with special needs! Does that sound like a win-win to you? It sure did to me! To further cement my excitement about how well Easy Daysies was going to work.....it is recommended by child psychologists and occupational therapists! Awesome!

I was also intrigued by the Home Version. I happen to live with a strong-willed, stubborn...ahem...independent-minded child. Can anyone out there relate? Here's the Top 5 features for families:

  • Helps families feel in control of their hectic days
  • Eliminates nagging and helps you get out the door faster
  • Lessens anxiety for both parents & children
  • Helps children be more cooperative, independent, & confident
  • Teaches an essential life skill: There are things to be done in a day & getting them done is the reward
They're right on the money when they say that kiddos enjoy using their magnetic schedule. We're all out of our regular schedules now with summer here and that sometimes can throw kiddos for a loop. Schedules are all off...we're doing activities and going places we don't normally do...and the routine changes day-to-day (in fact, at my house, I'm not sure we could say we even have a routine in the summer! HAHA).

And with the add-on packs, you can customize it to your family. Start with the Every Day Starter Pack, which has magnetized board & the every day general task magnets. Then, depending on your family's needs, you can add on the Get Dressed & Bathroom Routine Pack, the Chores & Special Times Pack, or the Family & Extra-Curricular Activities Pack. I encourage you to check them out....using Easy Daysies really has made for a happier home. Piper (who is 4), just loves taking care of her 'checklist' as she calls it...& it has met her need to be fully in charge! HA! Raise your hand if you have one of those at your house!

Busy Week!

Whew! What a busy week so far! Ciera (Adventures of Room 129) & I took our show on the road so to speak, & traveled down to New Orleans for the SDE Reading, Writing, & More Conference.

Super excited! Check it out....we look all official & everything! What a blast it's been meeting so many people & getting to chat with others about how instruction looks in their school & compare notes. Ciera Harris (Adventures of Room 129), me, Amanda Nickerson (One Extra Degree), & Jen Sloane (4mula Fun) got to chat a bit during one of the breaks. Love 'talking shop'!

Then this happened....went out to dinner & got caught in a torrential downpour on the way back to the hotel. I am not kidding....DEEP puddles! Wet flip flops can be slippery! But we rocked the bright orange ponchos!

100 Minutes - AWARD Time!

I'm so excited about this book...it's really answering some of my big questions when it comes to my instruction....

  • How can I get the biggest bang for my buck when it comes to time?
  • How can I meet with small groups & address instruction at their readiness level & still keep the other 20+ kiddos involved in meaningful work?
  • What are the other kids doing while I'm meeting with the small group? (Perhaps THE biggest question I've had!).
  • How can I find time to meet with every student (even the 'high' ones)?
It also addresses one of my own personal needs. Most of you probably know that I am teaching a 1st, 2nd, & 3rd grade Multi-age, & I team-teach. So--- think 54 kids - 2 teachers. As we're planning for next year, my teamie tells me she wants to move all to stations next year: Mini-lesson, then all the kids move out to different stations.....reading, writing, using non-fiction to practice skills.... 
Now, she's the big-picture person, & I'm the detail person.....so my little brain is flipping through all of its files trying to find something that will help me 'see' what this will look like in action. 

AWARD = Applying Reading And Writing Daily

Lo & behold, sitting there by the pool....I find the answer right here in the pages of 100 Minutes! Perfect! Here's how Lisa Donohue describes AWARD time...."Students take time to work on reading responses directly following guided reading; this allows them time to immediately apply and practice the lessons they just learned". EXACTLY what my teamie was describing to me! So here's how it would look (all graphic organizer style).
So, what happens is a gradual release of responsibility. Day 1, kiddos are working with the teacher, then move off to work on a reading response using the material they've worked with in small group. Day 2, they do the same thing, but independently with new text. When kiddos come back to you, you'll have their work from two work sessions by which to gauge their mastery. 

NOW - the beauty of this is how writing ALSO fits in this format. I love, love, love the direction she takes writing. First of all, writing run concurrently with reading. One group might start independent writing while you are meeting with a guided reading group. When the writing group joins you, they'll have some writing which can be used as the basis for conferencing, sharing, peer editing, & setting writing goals. Just imagine the rich conversations you'd be able to have in this format! Writing looks very similar to reading:

As Donohue explains, the power in this instructional sequence is that you are able to respond to individual needs & monitor each child's progress. I personally LOVE the way it facilitates kiddos being a more active part of their assessment process. AWARD time sets up opportunities for kiddos to be able to articulate their strengths & weaknesses and to set their own learning goals!
Writing CAN happen outside of the whole group format! Where I couldn't see how that could possibly work before, I absolutely love the way that Donohue has laid it out! I LOVE that it really would give me MORE time to conference with kiddos, & really give us the opportunity to have powerful conversations about their writing!
  • I admit...I still need to see it all mapped out. I still need to map it all out in an excel doc & see where all the kiddos are during the literacy block. 
  • How will the writing binders we already use work for us in this format?
  • I'd like to gather materials & resources for kiddos to use during their independent practice & have all of that ready to go before school starts (August 4th!! Wowzers!)
I'd love to hear your thoughts on Chapter 7.....or your thoughts about AWARD time & how it could work in your classroom! Link up with us, or leave a comment below!

Notice & Note - Text-dependent Questions?

We all know that making those connections when reading, whether they're text-to-text, text-to-world, or text-to-self is oh-so-important to meaningful comprehension. So what happens when those connections aren't fostered? Some say that Common Core Standards virtually eliminate text-to-self connections. If that's the case, how does that affect engagement and comprehension? When the questions don't ask for answers that require personal relationships (questions like "How do you think Sally Ann felt when she couldn't find her puppy?) and only require students to find the evidence in the text....how is engagement affected? Do text-dependent questions foster engagement?

My initial reaction was YES. Of course it affects engagement. Who wants to read a story/book without making those personal connections? The truth is EVERY text has different meaning depending upon the reader & the 'baggage' he or she brings to it. Ever sit in a high school lit class & listen to the teacher explain what a book is all about..while you were thinking it meant something else entirely? That's because the 'meaning' is something unique to each reader...dependent on the experiences, history, & knowledge that each has.

Being an avid reader myself, the thought of moving away from thinking of reading as a personal experience makes me sad. Some actually suggest teachers "only use questions that can be answered from within the "four corners" of the page".  Sad face!
I'm glad that Beers & Probst disagree! In fact, listen to this...."....a focus on text-dependent questions may may create a nation of teacher-dependent kids. Text dependent questions usually suggest that a teacher has crafted the questions & the order of them to lead students to a predetermined meaning of a particular passage. With this understanding of text-dependent questions, students come to rely on the teacher to ask the questions." This IS NOT what we want, folks! (By the way--- do these 'text-dependent' questions remind anyone else of AR?).

Of course, we have these standards we have to address & help students master...I love these suggestions the authors give!

  • Let students create text dependent questions! Fabulous idea!
    • Use a short text that may be challenging for your students.
    • Read aloud as students follow along.
    • As they're reading, have students mark places where they have a question or wonder about something.
    • Have kiddos reread the piece, this time stopping at each place they've marked to jot down the question they had, or to write about the confusion they felt at that place.
    • Pull the whole class together & collect the questions they've generated on chart paper.
    • In pairs or trios, have kiddos look at the questions they think are most interesting, talk about them & take notes about their thinking. 
    • Pull the class back together again, this time talking about the ideas produced by the pairs or trios. 
Here's what I think is cool about this procedure....

  • You've just had kiddos reread the text at least 3 times.
  • Kiddos are generating their own questions.
  • They have to collaborate & talk about their thinking.
  • As part of the process, each student is doing a personal summary of the text.
  • Everyone is writing about the text!
I thought this question at the end of this section was very powerful......
Can we be an intellectual community if the students are depending on the teacher to ask the questions?

I'd love to hear your thoughts....please leave them in the comments below!

Remind Me...

Oh my goodness...as a parent, I know exactly how it feels to find out information from school at the last minute, or even after the fact. Out of my four children, 50% were horrible at getting information home from school. I'm not sure if there was a black hole in there backpack (I suspect this was the case!)....but it certainly was a mystery! Let me share a couple of my "I didn't get the memo" experiences....

  • Once, while checking out at the grocery store, another parent asked me, "How's the Social Studies project coming?" My response? "Uhhhhhhh....WHAT Social Studies project? When is this project supposed to be turned in?" Turns out it was due the next day.....and it was a HUGE project. THE project for the 9 weeks. Yikes!
  • Teacher calls me at home: "You have not returned Billy Bob's (names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent) report card. School ends in six days, & I need it to record his grades". I.TORE.UP.THE.HOUSE looking for that report card. Finally, I determined it MUST be in Billy Bob's desk at school and accompanied him to school to investigate. Of course, there it was....along with a multitude of other notes that I had missed. There were notes in there from all the way back at HALLOWEEN! Did you catch the part where this was SIX DAYS before the end of school? Halloween was a LONG time ago, friends. It would have been nice to know about the Spring Picture Day...or the class party....or have had to opportunity to order the school yearbook! Ugh!
Last year, I tried out a whole new way to help parents out with notes and reminders. I posted all about it over on Class*y Collaboration. Come on over and read all about it. And share some of the ways you get information to families.....I'm always looking for more!