August 28, 2013

Wacky Wednesday

            Many people would call it Wacky Wednesday, but in our house, we do the Geico commercial.  We now call it the “family” commercial-Julie, Mike, Mike, Mike…Do you know what day it is???  It’s…….The start of my week!  Yes, that’s why it’s Wacky Wednesday.  Let me tell you why I start my week on Wednesday (or even what I mean by starting my week!) 
            Years ago, when Balance Literacy hit the scene, I actually read Guided Readers and Writers by Fountas and Pinnell.  That is the book that got me started on actually reading professional texts.  It is a shame that many of us don’t read professional texts.  There is just too much out there to know now not to read them.  Anyways, off the soapbox.  When I was reading it, I came across the section on scheduling.  In that section, they suggested “starting” your week on a Wednesday.  New spelling words and new word work (notice I didn’t say story).  Remember, this was, and still is, best practice NOT to use a textbook.  Real literature matters and kids need real literature in their hand-not excerpts and especially NOT in intermediate!  I found this idea of a “new” start on Wednesday particularly appealing due to the fact that it had to do with SPELLING.  By starting a new list on Wednesday, you actually give the kids MORE time to learn the words-a true week!  So I tried it out-and loved it!  I’ve been doing this ever since (even when I did use a textbook.  Then I started my story on Wednesday too!).  Through time I discovered something else-the kids and parents liked it BETTER!  It takes a little while for them to adjust, but it does a lot for families.  I know from doing the Thursday night stress studying that this puts a lot of strain on families.  When the majority of review is done on Monday night, families are fresh, minds are not tired, and they really come in prepared.  To me, that says WIN WIN!  Today was the start of our new week!
            What did this look like?  Here’s how it went. 
All my wacky Words Their Way materials!

Last week, I gave the intermediate Words Their Way spelling inventory.  I know that there are a lot of Words Their Way leveled books running around.  For the inventories, you need the original, full text version of the book.  These inventories are great because you can target the specific needs of students by using the inventory page to assess skill level.  Once I got the groups, I then ran the sorts from the leveled books.  The sorts from the leveled books work better because they are organized in a way that makes for easy use.  I then took these and organized them into expand-a-folders.  This will make it easy to pass out each week. 

Eventually I'll add tabs to these.

The kids then received a copy of their sort.  First, they had to write their words in their agenda and have me check them.  This list will still act as a traditional way for kids to practice their words. Parents need this because it stays with tradition.  Teachers need this because it gives extra practice to build skills.  Our grade book needs it so we can keep track of progress through spelling assessments.  Originally, the writers frowned upon this theory.  I was actually glad when the leveled books came out and they had changed their stance.  The weekly homework assignment that I give them is called a Spelling Rubric. I found this YEARS ago online, so I have NO IDEA who even developed it.  Today we spent a good chunk of time just going over the assignments for that.  I assign it on Wednesday and it is due the day of the test, Tuesday.  The one thing I’ve found when using the rubric is that kids love the choice.  I rarely have to “assign” something to kids.  Some vary the rubric, and some do the same thing every week.  There is nothing wrong with either! 
            Once we completed that, the kids cut out their sort and stored it in a ziplock.  This will be saved in their desk each day for use.  Today we couldn’t get to teacher lead sorts.  There just wasn’t time, since this was our first go around.  Tomorrow, I will meet with each team and go through the sort by using the teacher-modeled sort.  I will say the words and show them where the words belong and why.   How I will fit this in, I currently don’t know.  That’s just plain honesty.  I do, however, have an idea.  If it works, I will share it in a post.  So I’m keeping it under wraps for now!  Then, each day, they will repeat their sort in a variety of ways.  On Thursday they will partner sort.  Fridays will be write their sort and explain what the rule or pattern is they are working on.  On Monday they will resort and then glue it to a paper for turning in.  I will probably have them do random sorts at different times of the day as well. 

            One thing to know about sorting and memory:  During our Quantum Learning training, we learned something called 10/24/7.  Sorting is a perfect example of how this theory works. When the teacher sort is finished, they will copy it on their own.  That’s the 10-within 10 minutes of learning something, they should do it again.  The 24 is in hours.  Within 24 hours, they should learn it again.  And the 7-that’s 7 days of time.  Within seven days they should be doing it again for full transfer to long-term memory to work.  That’s what makes sorts key to learning how the sounds and patterns in language work.  It’s hard work doing a program like Words Their Way, but the benefits for kids, both in written language and reading, pay off!  

So, think about Wacky Wednesday for your classroom.  If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comment section! 

Julie :O)

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