Talk Derby To Me!

For those of you who don't live in Louisville or the surrounding areas, you don't understand what a huge deal the Kentucky Derby is.  I lived in Northern Kentucky (basically south of Cincinnati for those of you not in the know) from the time I was 9 until I went to college, and it meant absolutely nothing to me or anybody I knew.  When I moved to Louisville, I didn't get it.  Why do the kids have Oaks Day off?  Why does everybody behave as if Derby is some massively huge undertaking, with events happening pretty much daily for the 2 weeks before the actual race?  A race that is only 2 minutes long?

Basically, Derby is a pretty big, important holiday around here.  The people around here make a HUGE DEAL about Derby.  I get it now, and I take the time to make it a HUGE DEAL in my classroom.  So for the 4 school days before the Kentucky Derby (and Oaks Day, which is the Friday before), we celebrate the Derby with all kinds of fun activities.  This year, though, I went all out, more than I have in the last 4 years.

I used the activities from my Kentucky Derby unit, "Talk Derby to Me!"  The kids and I had an absolute ton of fun, and I can't wait to do it all again next year!

I am going to apologize ahead of time:  this post is very image heavy!  Beware!

I even dressed up my sock monkey, Max, for the occasion.  He is wearing a jockey hat.  Next year, maybe I'll make him a silk!

I hung up 10 horses of different sizes all around the room.  We used them in math to measure.  Guess what non-standard unit of measurement we used to measure our horses?  Our hands!  Does anybody know why we used our hands?  We talked about how each kid would get a different answer because our hands are all different sizes.

The kids loved this activity!  They all wanted to do it!

Here are a few of them playing "The Great Balloon Race".  Two of the Derby Festival events are the Balloon Glow and the Balloon Race. 

Two students are playing "Post Time", also from my Derby packet. 

And these students are playing Run for the Roses.

Here, the students are wearing their Derby hats and working on naming their Derby horses!

We also followed the recipe to make a "Fancy Derby Drink"- aka, my version of a kid-friendly mint julep.  It was SO GOOD.  Only one little girl didn't like it- the rest wanted more!  I actually had to make more.  Then I came home and made some for myself.  Seriously, it is that good.

I served the "Fancy Derby Drinks" in silver cups, so they would be more like the silver Derby cups that mint juleps are sometimes served in.  I couldn't afford the real cups! :-)  Even plastic versions!

Each student also got to make a Derby hat.  I let the kids have more control over their hats this year, with some boundaries of course, but they all turned out really cute!

All this hat making is a huge process!  The hats sitting on the table belong to 4 students who didn't quite finish on Wednesday, so we finished them as soon as we came in Thursday and wore them all day.  My poor table was unrecognizable!  It was covered in plastic horses, buttons, feathers, stickers, and fake flowers.  I asked parents for donations, and I had a few parents send in some red roses (which I specifically requested) and some horse stickers and stuff.  Thanks to all my awesome parents! 

The (almost) very last activity of the week was our Derby parade!  The kids were all asked to create a Derby float for our parade.  Each year, there is a parade as a part of the Derby Festival.  Every single kid in my class did their float, and they were all AWESOME.  Seriously, some of these kids and parents went all out!  I was the only class where every single kid turned in a float.  Then we invited the parents to come and watch as we paraded them around the school.  The other teachers also let their kids come out in the hallway and watch our kids parade around with their floats.

My book nook was completely taken over by floats the week of Derby!  They were everywhere!

Here we are, parading around the school!  We had UofL Cardinal floats, wrestling floats... 
 stuffed animal floats...
Derby floats, Thunder over Louisville floats, horse floats...  
"Run for the Roses" floats... 
and even floats with balloons!

The kids loved parading around the school with their floats!  It was so much fun!
Here are a few more of our floats.  We had one student who passed out candy, a student who used the balloon from his mother's 1st grade Derby float, and 2 who had awesome Thunder Over Louisville floats complete with fake fireworks!

Check this one out!  For the record, this was meant to be a Family project, not just a student project, so of course some of these look like the kids didn't do them on their own, and that is ok!

And for the record, my school is a Title 1 school with a high free/reduced lunch percentage and low parent involvement.  However, this just proves that, if you ask them to, the parents can and will step up and do whatever their kids need!  The Principal, the Reading Coach, and I discussed this, and I told them that all of my students did their projects.  They were impressed.  I am so thankful I had such a great class!

Of course, I had to get a picture of each of them in their beautiful Derby hats!  I gave them their photo on the last day of school, because I forgot to use them for Mothers Day!

A class photo!   

Of course, it isn't Derby without placing a "bet" on your favorite Derby horse!  I actually had a student who won this year for the first time, so I brought her a special prize for choosing the winning Derby horse!  Go Orb!

Overall, this was a GREAT week!  We had an absolute blast!  Thanks for joining us for our Derby fun!

Who's afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?

First of all, I would like to apologize for being MIA for the past month or so.  I posted one post about my Graduate Research project, but otherwise... nada.  I have been SO BUSY with that project (and the paper, which took me several days to write!) and my Practicum binder and project, plus the end of the school year, that I have barely had time to do anything else.  Seriously.  I think my grass is up to my knees right now.  (I'm sure that has something to do with the rain we've been getting, and I'm just going to blame it on that!)

So anyway, now that I am on my summer break, I'd like to fill you in on some of the fun activities we did in my classroom in the last month and a half.  I have a post about some writing we did, our Derby activities, and some other end-of-year fun stuff.  If I really have some time, I might fill you in on some stuff we did throughout the year that I never got to write about.  Whew!  Plus, I have some other great stuff planned to do this summer!

The first thing I want to tell you about is a fun, week long reading activity we did with our shared reading.

If your school uses the Rigby Literacy Program (and Literacy By Design, I believe), then you might be familiar with this book:

In this story, the Wolf tells side of the story and tries to prove his innocence.  However, his "witnesses" are such shady characters as the Evil Queen from Snow White, Pinocchio, and the Troll who keeps the Billy Goats from crossing the bridge.  So last year, I thought it would be fun to read this story and have the kids decide if the wolf was guilty or not.  Of course, there was a slight problem with this:  the students were unfamiliar with some of the stories!  You'd think they would know Snow White or Pinocchio, but they didn't!  They really had a hard time thinking about those characters and making a decision on whether or not the wolf was guilty or innocent.  So this year, I came up with a plan to get the students to think about the other characters and decide if the wolf was as innocent as he said he was.

Enter:  The Evidence Files.

In order to get the students to really think about these unsavory characters, I created a packet that each student could use to write down their observations about each character and make judgments about that character based on their actions.  We wrote down 3 actions of each character, determined some character traits for each character, and decided on which character trait we thought best described each character.  At the end of the week, we decided if the wolf was guilty or innocent, and wrote our opinion and reasons why before voting as a class.

The kids LOVED IT.

I put up some signs around the room to build up some anticipation.  They were very intrigued to find out why all these things were hanging around the room.  But I wouldn't tell them until it was time for reading!

They were so excited when I explained that we were going to help solve a horrible crime.  I handed each of them their packets and we began by reading The Wolf's Story.  Then we read original Three Little Pigs story and collected evidence about the pigs.  The kids were surprised to read about some of the "bad" things the pigs did.  Then, each day, we read a different book about each character in the book, and collected our "evidence".  We also chose character traits for the character and listed them on a chart.  The kids also added some new words to our chart, but they had to be able to tell why the character demonstrated that character trait.  We started out with a few words I wrote down to get started, and doubled the words on the chart by the end of the unit!  So cool!

 Here they are, collecting their evidence.   (I had a few Kinder friends in here this day, so they didn't have a packet.  They just followed along.)  I love how each of my first graders was engaged in their work!  

Here is an example of a few of the sheets from the book.  There were 2 pages for each character.  They could write down 3 things about each character on the first page, and then list some descriptions for that character and choose 1 major character trait for that character on the second page.  I wanted them to really think about the characters before deciding on their verdict.

On the last day, we took one last look at our "evidence", which I hung on my word wall board.  

And then the students decided if the wolf was guilty or innocent. 

After we wrote our verdict, we voted.

So... was the wolf guilty?


This was SUCH a fun activity.  The kids had a great time, and so did I.  I can't wait to do it again next year.  I have some great ideas to make it even more fun. :-)

Does anybody else teach Rigby or Literacy by Design and absolutely love this book?  I think it is such a fun way to get kids to think about characters, and I really love fractured fairy tales anyway, so it's perfect for me!  

What is your favorite thing to teach during shared reading?  This is probably up there as one of my favorite shared reading books, and I had so much fun.  Anything that gets my kids engaged is fun to me! :-)

Hope you all are having a great summer!

Retelling and Research

Some of you may already know this, but I have been working on finishing up my Masters Degree for some time now.  Almost 2 years being "some time".  I am ready to be finished, and thankfully, I almost am!  But I have been BUSY finishing up assignments for my classes, closing down my classroom for the summer, doing report cards, awards, and a whole plethora of other things that have kept me away from blogging and pretty much anything else that is fun.  I've been stressed out to the point that I have had this nagging stomachache for like 2 weeks now, and I know that's what it is from.  I also managed to hurt my wrist doing so much typing!  Crazy, huh?

One of the assignments for a class I was taking was to do some "action research" in my classroom.  Then I have to write a huge research paper on it.  Ugh.  However, doing the research itself was interesting and kind of fun.  :-)

I have a small group of students I have been working on with fluency, mostly because they were struggling with comprehension.  They were word callers- they didn't even pay attention to punctuation, they just read the words.  I knew this was an area I could help with.  So for another class, I did some lessons on fluency and presented those findings to my class.  But for this class, I wanted to switch gears and work on something else.  So I chose comprehension strategies.  Specifically, retelling.

I have been interested in using retelling gloves in my classroom for awhile.  Long enough that I stocked up on clearance winter gloves from Target last winter and stashed them in my closet.  :-)  So I dug them out and created a retelling glove.  On my retelling glove, I have the character, setting, problem, events and solution.  I found it kind of difficult to decide on a picture for the problem, events, and solution, but I was able to come up with something I think works.  The picture for the problem is a thundercloud, and the solution is a sun.  The events picture is a clock.  The kids didn't seem to pay any attention to my little pictures anyway.

Many of the retelling gloves I've seen also have something in the middle, like a heart for self to text connections.  You may notice that I didn't include this in my retelling glove.  This is because 1.  I wanted to focus on the retelling strategy, and 2.  I didn't want to mess up my gloves by drawing crooked hearts all over them.  I will most likely go back and add something to the middle of my gloves later.  Most likely when I make my class set.  

So now you may be wondering how I used these retelling gloves.  Well, first, I did a pre-test, to determine a baseline score for their retelling ability.  Then I modeled doing a retelling.  I read a book out loud to the students, then I modeled retelling using the glove.  I even showed them how I could go back and look in the book if I forgot something.  Then I let them try with the book I had read.  In the next few sessions, we just read books and practiced retelling.  I noticed improvement right away. By the third sessions, one of my students said, "The first event was..., The second event was..." when retelling his story!  I was so excited to hear him use that language and use the glove to help him!  One of my students was still really struggling, so I worked with her to remember to use the text when she needed to.  By the end of our sessions, even she had made some progress!

So then it was the moment of truth.  I had to assess their use of the retelling gloves.  I had them individually read a story, then they used the glove to retell the story.  And guess what?  They did GREAT!  Two of my students hit every part on the rubric.  Even the girl who was struggling made significant progress.  The last student in the group moved in the middle of the lessons, so I didn't get a specific measure of his progress, but  I know from my field notes that he made progress as well.  I gave one of my students a retelling glove to practice with over the summer- I hope that she will!

And the best part?  When I was doing a CRI on one of the students (my little struggling girl) after completing these lessons, there was a retelling piece.  I asked her to retell the story, and she started giving me this very vague retelling- until I told her "Remember the glove."  She immediately began telling me the basic story elements!  Though she required a little prompting to use this strategy outside of our lessons, when she was prompted, she began to use it!  

Now that I'm finished with these lessons, I think it would be important to help the students remember to use the glove outside of just our group.  For example, when doing a DRA assessment, the student has to retell the events of the story.  I would like to see them use what they learned during the DRA.  Or when they read a story on their own, they can practice retelling it to a friend using the glove.  Eventually, I would like for them to not need the glove anymore, of course!  But I will definitely be using these again next year, maybe even with my whole class!

Sorry this post was very text heavy!  I hope to be back sometime (probably next week) with more picture friendly posts of our Derby fun and a really fun activity we did with one of our big books.