Saturday, January 31, 2015

January Projects

How was January, friends? Here? It was crazy-busy. Like completely ridiculous. So much to do with my own kids: gymnastics meets, dentist appointments, cooking and school projects. So much to do with my students: celebrating the New Year, goal-setting, the Units of Study Informational Writing Unit, Martin Luther King, Jr. studies, papier mache, STEM Lab projects, cursive writing. So much to do at home: buying a new car, a weekend trip, laundry, dishes, cooking, and shopping.

My first big project of the year was a Professional Development session for primary teachers. I had intended to get organized, print materials, and plan the day during my winter break. Of course, those plans fell through when the drunk driver hit our car on December 20th. My "planning time" turned into many hours sitting by the fire with an aching head and neck, and a very unfocused brain. Rather than canceling (in retrospect, what I probably should have done), I forged ahead, though I did most of the work at the last minute. The presentation went on, and my audience was attentive, understanding, and motivated. It turned out to be an excellent day!

The focus of the presentation was phonics instruction, specifically the phonics routine I've developed over the last several years. In the past, I've had excellent results: my students have made lots of progress in short periods of time. There's nothing magical about my routine, except that it's focused, research-based, and engaging. Oh, and the fact that I pack a TON of action into our short, 30-45 minute intervention sessions.

The routine I presented includes student-made, patterned, phonics word books, which students love to make and read later! It also includes focused list-making, spelling practice on white boards, guided writing, dictation, oral practice, and making and breaking words. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to use *live* students for part of the presentation, and teachers had the opportunity to see the routine in action! I made everything as simple as possible and provided nearly all the resources teachers needed to get started. 

And the sweetest thing... one teacher keeps calling it "Melissa's Phonics." The truth is that the routine I've developed is based on the literacy work of some great educators, including Patricia Cunningham, Donald Bear, Irene Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell, and others. I added some engaging materials, modified a few things to fit my needs and the needs of my students, and organized the concepts and ideas so that they are user-friendly, coordinated, and sequential. The teachers I worked with really want to be effective phonics teachers, but several told me that they just didn't know what to do. Those teachers eagerly started organizing their own materials, began implementation, and they've started to see some results with their students! Success!

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