One of the MAJOR need to do words that has been in the classroom for YEARS is what we're discussing this month. How to you make learning meaningful for ALL of the students in your classroom? How do you make sure that the same activities will push, strengthen and be the just right fit for each student?
It's difficult isn't it? I've tried many many different ways to switch up the same activities in my classroom. I've decided there is no easy fix that works in all areas. However, I do love to differentiate. YEP. That's the word. Differentiation is one of those things that can literally drive you bonkers. However, this month you should have a few ideas to help you in many different areas in your teaching day. Here's mine...
I've taught kindergarten for most of my teaching career. This year, I've lucked up and landed in 1st grade. I love it! I still love kindergarten, but the fact that I now have READERS is amazing. It's a great joy to watch five year olds learn their sounds, their letters, their numbers and so on. BUT - a first grader learning to comprehend what they've read and learning actual phonics skills is another level of awesomeness.
The con is that there is SO much so fast for some of these babies that a few always seem to get left behind just as soon as we pick up steam. There are also those kiddos that seems to breeze through everything that is thrown their way. You also have those kiddos that are right there with you keeping up with everything you teach them. They're right on track. How is it that one skill can reach those different levels and they not notice? Well, here's what I do! I'm going to talk differentiating writing today!
Every morning, I try to make sure to incorporate writing in some way quickly. Some days we just don't have time for a dedicated writing lesson. So, I try to talk for about 5 minutes as a minilesson each day on our target writing goal for the week. Everyone pulls out their writing folders.
At the beginning of the year, we talk A LOT about what tools we have in our folder and how we need to use them to help us become better writers. We practice using our writing checklist when we're working on fixing sentences whole group. They open their folder to the checklist and we go down each one to make sure our sentence is correct. We skip the illustration when we're talking about one sentence only.
Their writing folder is actually two folders just taped together. We use the front pocket for anything that's in progress and the back folder is for finished writing that's ready to be published. Well, I'm sure you're asking how I differentiate it. Here's a little thing I added to our writing folders.
Each student has a page protector in the front folder. We insert our monthly words at the beginning of the month. This could include holidays, special occasions, family words or anything that they are interested in. On the front side is our monthly set that each child gets. On the backside, they can choose anything from a list to add that they'd like to write about. It has improved their want to write SO much and their writing has grown as well! Some of my kiddos wanted to keep their Christmas toy list in January so they had winter words as well as Christmas toys to reference.
But what if someone wants to write about A LOT of things? I've answered that as well. I printed our lists of words 3 times and placed them on about 10 different rings. They are just in a basket by our writing materials and they grab a ring (or two) and head back to their writing spot. This way, kids aren't limited to just one set of words.
Their writing options are also differentiated. I have various types of writing sheets out. They are all welcome to use any, but I do encourage a certain type of page for each of them. I wouldn't want to make them have a set type and one day they decided to write a very lengthy story and they only have three lines on their page.
I believe that the little sense of having a choice that is different from everyone else in the room makes a world of difference. For the kiddo that is still struggling to string together letters to form legible words, we practice labeling our pictures and then making a list instead of sentences. Why do I do that? They feel like their paper looks just like their neighbor's with words at the bottom. However, they are able to be successful at their level.
How do you differentiate your writing? These resources are from my I Can be a Writer, Too set.