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Summer Reading: Getting Books in Their Hands

In July of 2015 we did a book study of Richard Allington and Anne McGill-Frazen's "Summer Reading: Closing the Rich/Poor Reading Achievement Gap" .  It was really eye opening to me to look at the achievement gap in relation to the summer.  And my school took some actions to get more books into the hands of our students throughout the year.  A Readbox, stronger "take-home" program, and more listening stations are just some examples.

Being able to put a large amount of high interest books into the hands of each of your students can certainly be a challenge because it costs money!  At that is something that can be scarce for many of our schools.  This has certainly been the case for me the last two years.  As much as I wanted to provide a large volume of books to my students over the summer, I did not have the funds to make this happen.  I had to utilize the resources I did have available such as printing A-Z readers.  And while sending these books is a positive action, Allington suggests the books be of high interest to the students and that they receive choice.

This year, I was given the opportunity to make this happen!  A local company asked if they could donate books to my school.  Of course, I happily accepted the offer.  I was excited to receive a box or two to add to my Readbox or book giveaways.  But one or two boxes was not dropped off.  No.  Close to 1300 books were dropped off to my school!!

We knew what we needed to do!  All the books were organized by fiction, nonfiction, favorite characters, holiday, and chapter books.  Then laid out on tables.
Kindergarten and first grade students were invited to come "shopping" for summer books.  As each child walked into the room, they received a grocery bag.  Then they went searching for books that would interest them and motivate them to read over the summer.

The buzz in the room was exciting, energetic, and contagious.  I had tears in my eyes watching all of my little students get so excited about books.  They were eager to share what they found with anyone that would listen!!
When the shopping was complete, each student in Kindergarten and first grade in my building had 11 books to take home for the summer.  Some students also left with bags of A-Z books because there is a place for choice and there is also a place for some leveled books.

But I think the best part to this story is the day after this shopping extravaganza.  Students came in to the school next day so excited to share about what they had read in their new books.  One first grader even brought in her new book to show us the "hook."  She said, "Doesn't this hook just make you want to read more!?"

Yes it does.

One Game Board Plus Many Games Equals Stronger Students

Children love playing games,and it gives them a way to show what they know in a fun and exciting way.

As a reading specialist, I get to do things that other teachers may not get to do all the time. I use games to help my students with many of the various skills we focus on. As I wound down my year, I spent my final day with my students celebrating our successes with games. And I used the same board for every single game!

Support with Ice Cream

Support with Ice Cream

Ask a student to support their reasons for an answer can sometimes be as fun as dental surgery.  (No offense to all of you wonderful dental surgeons out there--it is an utter fear of mine!!)  Over the years, I have come to realize a few things.  Providing support for an answer can be difficult because it certainly requires a higher level of thinking, it requires language skills, and it may not be an inherent skill for many students.  Formulating an answer to that question..."Why?"...just isn't as easy as we would like it to be for so many; therefore, it may be important for us to provide a visual to help out.

A few years ago, as my daughters and I were playing "kitchen," I realized what a great tool I had right in front of me.

This ice cream cone is just a plastic play toy.  But it holds a lot of teaching power.  The ice cream pulls off the cone; therefore, it is easy to illustrate the support that the cone provides the ice cream.  Of course, you can also do this with real ice cream and allow it to melt in your hands when support is not provided.  Then you can eat it all up!!

I told the students that the best part of an ice cream cone is the ice cream.  We talked about how important the cone is because it SUPPORTS the ice cream.  If we did not have the cone, all the ice cream would just melt in our hands.  I related this concept to supporting or giving reasons of support either to an answer or to our opinion.
Honestly, I have been able to use this concept in many different situations in which students need to provide support:
  • the details that SUPPORT the main idea
  • reasons to SUPPORT that you like or dislike a book
  • providing SUPPORT for the best part or favorite part of the book 
  • providing EVIDENCE when answering a question
 I have used this simple graphic organizer to help students provide support for their opinions.  Please click on the graphic above, if you feel that this may benefit your students, as well! There are two versions within the FREEBIE.  If you have any great tips to help students explain their reasons of support, I would love to hear them!! 

support with ice cream

Sowing The Seeds Of Vocabulary (Part One)

Hi! This is Heather from Campfire Curriculum with Helpful Heather.  Research says children that struggle with comprehension also struggle with vocabulary.  Wouldn't you like to have quick and easy ways to expand your students' vocabulary and also strengthen their overall comprehension? Sowing The Seeds Of Vocabulary (the first in a series) will walk you through understanding and implementing vocabulary in your classroom.  Read this post and your students will thank you profusely. (See what I did there?)

Spring Books that Will Make You Flip

One of the most important requirements of us as teachers is to know kid books. You can not have conversations with your students about books they might like, know what books to use for your lessons, or know where to go for supplemental materials if you don't know what's out there. Plus, there are new authors publishing great stuff all...the...time, right? If you only know what you've used for the past ten years, you might be missing great books that your kids would love. Today, I'd like to explore with you titles that work well this time of year for skill modeling

Graphing Success: Preparing for Those State Assessments

Students will find success when they take ownership of their own learning. Proving their answers and graphing their successes make it real for them as they see what they can do!

It's that time of year again! Testing season is not far away, and we are all getting ready to help our students prepare for the standardized tests. My job as a reading specialist has shifted a little to help students as they work on those all important test taking strategies. This year, I am trying something different.

The Power of One Word

Earlier this year I was intrigued by a blog post from Tammy over at Forever in First.  She wrote about the book Moo!  After checking it out myself, reading it to my students, watching my students read it over and over, I witnessed the power that one single word (plus punctuation) can have!  And this only led to more books...
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