Having a GREAT 1st Day

first-day-of-school-frugal-coupon-living-1024x682Today was the first day of school…YAY!  It is so great to have students back in our building.

Here are some tips for a great 1st day:

Morning Meeting: Have you heard of morning meetings?  It is a great routine that helps grow a classroom community.  A complete morning meeting lasts about 20 minutes and contains 4 parts: (1) Greeting, (2) Sharing, (3) Activity, and (4) News and Announcements.

Establishing the Routine:  Great questions to ask after you have gathered students to your meeting area on the first day are:

  • Have any of you been to a meeting?
  • What kinds of meetings do you know about?
  • What happens at a meeting?
  • What do you think might happen in our meetings?
  • In order to make our meeting run well what might we have to do?

Great 1st day greeting:

  • SAY YOUR NAME – This greeting is great because everyone gets a chance to say everyone’s name and it does not include body contact which might make some students feel uncomfortable on the first day…All you do is chant:  “Say your name and when you do we will say it back to you!”
  • Great 1st Day Sharing
    • Display the following poster:IMG_1076
    • Walk around the circle and give each student a few M&Ms.  Students choose a color they would like to answer and eat any extras.  Then go around the circle and have students share their color and answer.
  • Great 1st Day Activity
    • Pass the Mask as found in the book Energizers!
    • IMG_1078Start with a discussion:
      • Who has wore a mask before?
      • What was the mask?  When did you wear it?
      • On the first day of school we can have a lot of emotions.  Some students could be scared, happy, sad…(have students show faces for each feeling)
    • Pick a face to show to the person next you and then they turn to their neighbor show them the expression you modeled…this expression then travels around the circle.  When it as returned to you then ask the students to report what emotion the face expressed?

Read Aloud:   What is a good book to read aloud on the first day?  YOUR FAVORITE!  Show that you are a reader and that reading is important by reading your favorite book to the class.  Take time to explain what makes the book special to you.  Then for homework ask students to write down the title or bring in a copy of their favorite book to share on day 2.

Turn and Talk:  Talking is such an important component to understanding.  Teaching the procedure of turn and talk is a great first day activity!  Here is a quick video I found online in case you haven’t seen this method:

Classroom Library:  In 3rd grade teachers were eager to get books in the hands of their readers.  They introduced the class library, how to choose books, how to return them, and gave students 10 minutes of independent reading.  As teachers we carefully observed student behaviors and stamina during this time and took notes (Who was reading aloud?  Who was pointing?  Who was looking around and how long were they engaged before this happened?  Who kept reading after time was called?)

Reader’s Notebooks:  Today in 5th grade we introduce our Reader’s Notebooks and idea that Reading is Thinking as modeled here.  We modeled this by randomly pulling a book out of the class library and reading the first page (our reading voice).  When the page was finished a student just automatically made a comment about the text (his thinking voice).  We wrote his and several others thoughts down on the board to demonstrate the variety of thoughts that can be had.  We also talked about the distracting voice.  Students then glued this completed Reading is Thinking graphic in the front of their notebooks:





In There Own Words

School is out for summer!  It is time to sleep in, re-energize, travel, read, and dust off this Blog site.

Today’s jot comes from the Collaborative Center for Literacy Development where they have posted videos of literacy researchers answering these questions:


  1.  Will you share something about your literacy journey?
  2. Can you tell us something you are currently working on?
  3. What is that burning topic that keeps you awake at night that is not being addressed in the world of literacy?


Above is my favorite of the videos.  Here are some great quotes from Jeff Wilhelm:

  • “One of my worries whenever there is a reform is that it will get dumb downed…teachers will be told what to do instead of being helped to be designers of curriculum and teacher researchers who learn from their kids how to teach them.”
  • Choice reading was found to produce 5 kinds of pleasure:
    • Immersive Play – Enjoyment from living through the book
    • Social Pleasure – Relating to characters, authors, other kids, and identifying themselves as a type of reader and person
    • Intellectual Pleasure – In figuring things out
    • Work Pleasure – Develop the capacity to apply what they learned in a functional way
    • Inner work – Rehearsing the kind of person they wanted to be
  • “I have already told my wife if we revert back to this imformation transmition teaching (which has dominated American education for over a hundred years) I am going to retire!”


ClickHandlerHave you heard the news?  IES (Institute of Education Sciences) has published their report on Rti (Response to Intervention) and the results are…not good.  Here is a link to the complete report.

Here is what people are saying:

  • Assignment to Tier 2 or Tier 3 intervention services in impact sample schools had a negative effect on performance on a comprehensive reading measure for first-graders just below the Tier 1 cut point on a screening test. The estimated effects on reading outcomes in Grades 2 and 3 are not statistically significant. (IES Report)
  • Each state’s Department of Education has provided a “blueprint” regarding implementation of RTI in their state as a guide, but there seems to be no real guidance as to who, what, when, where, how often, etc.  In addition, many schools are only purchasing one-size-fits-all “research-based” programs that do not individualize instruction to the needs of their specific students and/or demographics.  Also, many teachers are not receiving professional development, appropriate resources, or support throughout implementation.  Lastly, many of these intervention classes are not run by “highly qualified” educators and in fact have parents, paraprofessionals, and instructional assistants delivering instruction with the only training encompassing how to operate the chosen program.  (Rachelle Savitz)
  • Learning is not a Response to Instruction…Effective Instruction is a Response to Learning (Ken Goodman)
  • It isn’t a wonder that things are not working as well as planned when teachers are not allowed to use their own expertise and are told to simply follow a script, regardless of their students’ needs. (Rachelle Savitz)
  • Yes, the term has never sat well with me. As if kids are broken. Addicts get interventions. Foreign conflicts get interventions. Kids get taught.  In reality what I see for tier two instruction is just another book leveling gone wrong or a different phonics worksheet.  Tier three is usually a hot mess with too many adults coming in contact with a child during the day and walking in and interrupting the class.  Instead of trying to customize reading instruction based solely on discreet skills why not try to find our what kind of stuff kids like to know.  Maybe learners will have a better response to passion than intervention. (Greg Mcverry)
  • Instead of giving kids a plethora of IQ and reading tests, seeking a discrepancy, now we find struggling readers, send them down the hall for part of their instructional day, and test the hell out of them with tests that can’t possibly identify whether growth/learning is taking place and moving them lockstep through “research-based” instructional programs. (Timothy Shanahan)
  • The tests are often not administered according to the standardized instructions (telling kids to read as fast as possible on a fluency test is stupid). (Timothy Shanahan)
  • it is a good idea to use programs that have worked elsewhere (“research based”). But that doesn’t mean the program will work for you.  Research-based doesn’t mean that it will work automatically; you have to make such programs work. (Timothy Shanahan)

Responding to Misbehavior

7a40072d-0ec3-4e21-97ba-2008543a5820There are three PD experiences that have shaped the way I teach more than any others:

  1. Reading Recovery Training
  2. Responsive Classroom Training
  3. Teachers College Reading and Writing Project Institutes

Today’s jot inspiration comes from this month’s Responsive Classroom newsletter and deals with reasons for misbehavior.  If you can identify the student’s behavior goal you are more apt to respond appropriately.  I love this quick chart that helps me remember the 4 goals behind misbehavior!  I hope it can help you as well.

Are you OK?

I found the above book trailer on this post today.

The video states:

“I like to try a lot of different things.  I am not great at all of them…”

Sometimes this is how life goes…especially in teaching.

When we are brave we try new things with our students.  Some things go well…and some go just OK.  We need to celebrate our OK tries and reflect upon them.  Is the idea worth trying again?  What could be changed to make it go better?

Too often I get discouraged and frustrated with my OK tries.  I see students do the same.  This video might be nice to share with these students.  It could open up a nice dialogue about learning and goal setting.

Being a BRAVE Teacher

braveI shouldn’t have been surprised when I typed in the word BRAVE and found all the images referenced the Disney movie.  I kind of like Merida’s stance in the picture above.  She seems ready to fight and protect what she cares about most.

If you have not read Mrs. Knott’s post about being a brave teacher please do so!  Every word is worth thinking about.

Here are a few gems I found:

  • It’s hard to go against the grain.
  • Using worksheets is easy.  
  • Going back to what we did last year doesn’t take as much time. But is it best for kids?
  • So even if you’re scared, be a bit braver.  Be brave for students.

So, what will you be brave about this year for your students?  Here are my top three things:

  • Providing time to read.
  • Providing time to talk.
  • Providing choice.

If you are brave…list your thoughts below.