Sunday, May 18, 2014

Writer's Tea

Three of our 1st grade classrooms hosted our first ever Writer's Tea on Friday and I can tell you that it will definitely be an annual tradition for my classroom!!! 

We started by sending an invite home to parents about a month in advance and planned our celebration for the last hour of the day on a Friday in hopes that parents could make arrangements to get off of work or leave a little early. Grandparents were also invited as we wanted every student to have at least one person to come and celebrate with them. 
We served punch and cookies to make the event all the more special.

In the grand scheme of things, this was a relatively easy event to get ready for. I saved my kiddos' writing all year long... every single piece of writing! Let me tell you, it is eye opening how much writing we do in the course of a year when you have to find a place to store it all!  A few days before the event, I began passing back all of my kiddos' writing. It was fun to listen to them as they got certain pieces back and they would say things like, "I forgot about this one" or "Oh my gosh, I can't even read this" The latter comment was the best as they really were able to appreciate how far they have come as authors!

After getting our pieces back, we needed something large enough to hold all of our pieces as some of them were larger craftivites. I wanted something that would make it easier for them to tote their writing to a place in the room and that would also hopefully serve as a "one-stop storage spot" that would have special memories for them and their parents. I am hoping that parents won't just throw all of their child's hard work away. My solution was to fold a piece of tagboard in half and to glue students' 1st day of school pictures and a matching end of the year picture to this folder. (It was amazing to see how much some of them have changed over the course of the year!) Students then decorated their portfolio however they wished. They weren't overly fancy, but each student's was unique and they had a lot of fun designing them. It also gave them even more ownership of this event.

Finally, students filled out an About the Author paper to share with their visitors. This ended up being the very first piece in our portfolios that student's shared with their visitors. You can click the link above to download a free copy for yourself if you're interested. 

When the big day finally came, my kiddos were beyond excited! They asked all day long when the Writer's Tea was starting. It was fantastic to see how excited they were and to feel the energy in the room. Every student in my class, except one had at least one adult in attendance. Knowing ahead of time that this student, and a few others from the other 2 classes didn't have a visitor, we made arrangements with other staff members in our building (Assistant principal, reading specialist, LMS, etc) to come and be a special visitors for them so nobody was left out.

I have to say, the event was fantastic and went off without a hitch. The students were in charge and I was able to mull around the room, take pictures, chat with our visitors and sit back and watch as students were the teachers. Throughout the course of the hour, they shared all of the writing in their portfolios, shared the stories they had done digitally on their iPads, enjoyed a cookie and punch, and also shared a few projects in the hall, including our Global Art Project. I was shocked when we were 3 minutes from the dismissal bell ringing and I still had 3/4 of my class and their visitors in my room!! I told them all to enjoy and not be in a rush and many stayed even longer. All together, most of my students spent about 45 minutes to an hour with their visitors.

As I said above, this will definitely become an annual tradition for me. The only change I think I may need to make is to plan for a full hour next year. Three days later, I am still smiling about how well it went and the sheer joy that my students experienced getting to share all of their hard work!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Word Clouds

Have you tried the new app by ABCya called Word Clouds? It is currently free and is phenomenally easy to use! If you are not familiar with word clouds the idea is that you get a graphical representation of your text. Words that are used in higher frequency are represented larger. 
This app is phenomenally easy to use. My kiddos learned how to use it in about 5 minutes. The next day, they taught another first grade class how to use the app. If a first grader can teach someone how to use it, you know it's easy!
We used this app to create a word cloud for our moms as part of their Mother's Day gift. We did a bit of brainstorming together on chart paper to get the ideas flowing. Students were then asked to write the name they call their mom at the top of their paper (mom, momma, mommy, etc). They then numbered their paper from 1-10 and thought of 10 (or more if they could) words that would describe their mom.
When putting their words into the app, each student typed the word "mom" four times so that it would appear larger than the others and then proceeded to type in their other words. When they were done they were able to choose the font, color and directionality of their words.
These turned out wonderful and were a nice addition to our Mother's Day gifts.