Every day as a teacher is busy. While we usually have a long range plan and know the general trajectory of our teaching, the day-to-day planning can definitely be overwhelming. In terms of early literacy development in Grade 1, it can be easy to jump around the phonics landscape and choose random resources. This can lead to random spurts of improvement rather than building skills in a more targeted way.
One of the ways that we can address this planning overload and the trap of just grabbing random resources is to create systems that make it easy to differentiate and need minimal preparation. Obviously, this isn't possible in every aspect of our teaching day, but having some part of your day that is predictable for both the teacher and the students makes the learning easier and more specific.
I like to use a weekly routine where each day has a target learning goal (e.g., sound/letter of the week, guided writing, open writing, oral communication, etc.). I find my students really benefit from knowing what's coming each day. I often have students come in and say "C'est mardi, so we have 'tablettes et chausettes'!" (ie. chalk and sock). This predictability helps reduce student anxiety and lets them focus more on the learning because they already know the expectations!
Here is a quick overview of my weekly literacy routine. For clarity's sake, my board requires 600 minutes of French language instruction in Grade 1 French immersion, so this routine composes over half of that required time. If you'd like to see more about my routine during the first 30 minutes of the day, check out my previous blog post on Morning Routines.
Mondays: Open Writing
On Mondays, I work on writing that is not following any specific model. In the first half of the year, I usually ask my students to write about what they did during the weekend. This gives them a bit of guidance, but I don't give any specific sentence starters or vocabulary. Students are welcome to use the classroom resources like the word wall or their personal dictionaries that include For French Immersion's mini dictionaries that you can get as a freebie. Otherwise, I ask students to sound out words by stretching the word out and writing down the sounds that they hear.
The biggest challenge early in the year is that students don't have a very extensive French vocabulary and find writing challenging as a result. I have them use the resources in the room and they can ask friends or the teacher "Comment dit-on ________?" for words they're not sure of in French. Early in the year, I look for only one or two simple sentences. As the year goes on, I ask for 3 sentences that explain what they did in more detail.
In the second half of the year, I switch from writing about the weekend to story writing. Students can write about anything they want! All I give them is the criteria of 3-5 sentences. At this point, they have developed the skills to use classroom resources independently and sound out words as best they can!
Tuesdays: Sound of the Week
On Tuesdays, we do some focused work on the sound of the week. Up until December, I do letter sounds and then switch to 'les sons composés' in January. I start with chalk and sock, except I use whiteboards and markers. I base my chalk and sock program on the Lire en criant ciseaux program. I start with easier words and tell students how many letters are in the word. I then tell the students the word and draw the sounds out slowly. I tell students to write the sounds they hear and remind them that getting the sounds right is more important than spelling the word perfectly at this point. I will also tell them if there's "une lettre fantôme" (i.e. a silent letter) at the end of a word. I then ask the students to tell me what they wrote letter by letter. At the end, I give them a 'méga-défi' without telling them how many letters are in the word. This word usually has multiple sons composés, like in the example in the picture above - araignée.
After we finish up chalk and sock, I move to 'calligraphie' or our printing. I do a quick mini lesson by using examples and non-examples of the proper printing for les lettres majuscules et miniscules. I show the proper printing and then do one where I make a mistake. I have the students tell me what I did wrong. This is a great opportunity for them to practice answering predictable questions in French (e.g., Madame, tu as commencé en bas, la lettre est trop petite, etc.).
To finish up our Tuesday literacy block, I have a little booklet that I give students with each page being a different noun with the sound of the week. Students write a sentence using the word with a repeated sentence structure (e.g., Je vois un ananas jaune, Je vois un avion bleu).
Wednesdays and Thursdays: Literacy Centres
Earlier in the week, outside of our regular literacy routine, I try to do a quick lesson on a target skill for the week. For example, two weeks ago, we did a quick review lesson on initial sounds and how we can use this as a reading strategy. During our literacy centres, I try to incorporate some centres that practice that specific skill. These Initial Sound Mats were one of our practice centres for le son initial.
While I have no hard and fast centres that I use every week, I do rotate in the traditional Daily 5 work centres. However, I find that in developing a new language and in Grade 1 as a whole, students benefit from more interactive and hands-on games. I spend about 15 minutes per centre and usually do 6 centres a week. Since I want to keep my centre groups small, I've switched to 7 centres each week.
Here are a few centres that I use regularly:
1) Lecture à soi
2) Étude de mots - I switch up the way we do word work each week - sometimes it's on paper (rainbow words, staircase), sometimes with different hands on materials (e.g., stamps, magnetic letters)
3) Travaille avec Mme - I used to just pull small groups from the centres, but since I can only have groups of 2 at my guided reading table anyways, I just made it a full centre. At this point in the year, I'm working on syllable recognition and emergent reader skills (e.g., finger pointing, breaking up a word into smaller pieces).
4) Oral communication games - I think these are a fundamental part of a second language program! I have my students work on using practiced vocabulary (e.g., C'est mon tour!, J'ai gagné, J'ai choisi un(e) ______) while playing games together.
5) Target Skill games - Any game or task that is based on our current target school. I'm currently focusing on helping my students work on blending sounds and syllables together, so I've been using L'écureuil affamé game (seen above), as well as Fusionner les pommes.
6) Writing - To encourage independent writing early in the year during centres, I most often use Les phrases fantastiques by Mme Andrea.
7) Centre d'écoute - I've been trying to use iPads more this year for this centre so that students can do it in a more physically distanced way than I normally would at a traditional listening centre.
Fridays - Picture Inspired Writing
Silly pictures are one of the best ways to get those reluctant writers writing! My students LOVE pictures of animals doing silly things, so I try to incorporate that into our Friday writing block. I put up a silly picture on the screen and then go over the criteria as a class. Students are writing at least 2 sentences to start with one being Je vois (I see) and the next being Je pense que (I think that). We talk about how the Je vois sentence should be very descriptive, so that someone who hasn't seen the picture would know exactly what the picture was. The only vocab I explicitly give them are the sentence starters and they either use classroom resources or sound out the words they need to complete their ideas.
My focus during writing is not really to have students copy words or spell everything perfectly. The goal is for students to be able to write independently and sound words out. If they don't develop these skills, not only will writing be less enjoyable for them, but they will also have no idea what to do when the words they need are not on the word wall or given to them.
Later on in the year (usually around December or January), I add a third sentence Je me demande (I wonder) to challenge students to think more critically about what they're seeing. I will also have students add 'parce que' to their Je pense que sentence in the second half of the year.
In giving students a picture to write about, it helps them remember what they're writing about and prompts ideas and vocabulary. I do have a version of these Invitations à écrire on my TPT store that I used during distance learning in the spring, but it's only five weeks worth and they do have visual dictionaries because students were not in the classroom when doing these activities. I usually just find a funny picture on Google images and then pop it onto a Google Doc.
To sum it up...
Well that's about it! This is how I run my literacy block on a weekly basis. It creates a predictable routine for the students and allows for a lot of minimal prep differentiation to meet students where they're at right now. Depending on your board, you may not have ass much dedicated literacy time, so this may not work for you exactly as it was presented. Like I said earlier, I have other literacy time throughout the week where I do our morning routine and targeted lessons or big writing projects with more specific criteria.
In the next few weeks, I'll be posting about outdoor gym games that are physically distanced and require minimal equipment.
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