Adventures in Literacy Land: comprehension

Showing posts with label comprehension. Show all posts
Showing posts with label comprehension. Show all posts

Sowing The Seeds Of Vocabulary (Part Three)

Hi! This is Heather from Campfire Curriculum with Helpful Heather.  Research says children that struggle with comprehension also struggle with vocabulary.  This three-part series lends quick and easy ways to expand your students' vocabulary and also strengthen their overall comprehension. Revisit Sowing The Seeds Of Vocabulary (Part One) to help you understand and implement vocabulary in your classroom.  The second post (Part Two) will remind you how important it is to use Marzano's Vocabulary Process and Multiple Intelligence Theory to reach all students. This post (Part Three) will walk you through implementing vocabulary whole group and small group.  Enjoy engaging your students with vocabulary throughout this new school year and beyond!

Sowing The Seeds Of Vocabulary (Part Two)

Hi! This is Heather from Campfire Curriculum with Helpful Heather.  As we discussed in Part One research says children that struggle with comprehension also struggle with vocabulary.  This three part series lends quick and easy ways to expand your students' vocabulary and also strengthen their overall comprehension.  Please revisit Sowing The Seeds Of Vocabulary (Part One) to help you understand and implement vocabulary in your classroom.  This post (Part Two) will remind you how important it is to use Marzano's Vocabulary Process and Multiple Intelligence Theory to reach all students!

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?)


Exploring Software and Websites to Support Reading Comprehension

As teachers, we look for new ways to present information all...the...time, don't we? Pinterest, blog posts, Facebook, TPT, Instagram, and websites are all sources of help for teachers, and teachers are great at sharing lesson ideas they find. Today, I thought I'd do some sharing too. We have been exploring software and websites to support our kiddos with comprehension, so I'll share a review of what we've learned.

Using Fairy Tales to Enhance Comprehension Skills

Fairy tales aren't just for younger students! Students of all ages can benefit from these stories we all know and love!

When teaching a new comprehension skill, many times I use fairy tales since they are a familiar story to many children. We don't have to take the time to think about the plot of the story and can focus on that skill.


Theme with Text Cousins

Each year poses its own unique set of challenges, changes, and surprises.  This is one of the reasons I love teaching so much!  We get the opportunity to try again, change, and grow with each new year.
Last year I had the amazing opportunity to invite Tanny McGregor, author of Comprehension Connections, into my first grade classroom to model a lesson on theme. As we planned for this current year, my teammate and I were excited to add this lesson into our curriculum calendar.  And I wrote about what we planned to do for the Growing Readers and Writers Blog Hop. we all know too well...planning and actually teaching are two very different things.

One great way to use mentor texts is for comparison. Check out this post to see how "text cousins" can demonstrate theme.

Our goal was to teach our first graders how to uncover the theme across several texts.  We have devoted a lot of time this year to deep thinking, so we hoped that this would build off what they could already do.  We would use three texts each day throughout the week.  This would provide them with multiple opportunities for practice with theme or author's message.

We started off the week with the introduction of the word theme and a discussion about all the other words that can sometimes be used for the same concept: author's message, central message, main point, main idea, author's point, etc.  Then we dug right into what our students already knew.  And what they discovered is that they have been studying theme all year.

Throughout the year we read all the Otis books, Tacky books, and Tippy-Toe Chick Go.  So this is where we started: with texts that have already been read, examined, and discussed.  This proved to be a great decision because our time was not spent on the reading of the texts but on the bridging of three texts and their themes that had been previously discussed throughout the year.  We brought these three texts out again and asked our students to brainstorm what connections or possible themes that these three books have in common.

One great way to use mentor texts is for comparison. Check out this post to see how "text cousins" can demonstrate theme.

Wow!  We wrote down all their ideas.  This was one tip that Tanny was sure to model for us.  There does not have to be one correct theme but possible theme ideas.  And she was right!  They came up with some great ideas.

One great way to use mentor texts is for comparison. Check out this post to see how "text cousins" can demonstrate theme.

And so our lesson continued each day with three different texts: a poem, pictures from a story, and a book.

They used those three different texts to come up with possible common themes.

WOW!  What we found was that the lesson proved to have the right amount of challenge for them. At times they wanted to revert back to surface level.

For example, we used the texts This Way, Ruby, a poem The Secret Song, and Sidewalk Flowers.  One of our classes wanted to point out that there was a bird in all three texts or that there were flowers in all three.  These were connections that but they were not digging deeper into the theme or message of the text.

At the end of the week, my teammate took one of the themes for each set of text cousins and had it framed.  She explained that the theme or message is so important and special that it needs to be framed.  I LOVE this idea because it is another visual for our first graders to understand the importance of deep thinking when reading.

One great way to use mentor texts is for comparison. Check out this post to see how "text cousins" can demonstrate theme.One great way to use mentor texts is for comparison. Check out this post to see how "text cousins" can demonstrate theme.

I look forward to using these lesson again next year and seeing where it takes us.  What texts would you use to do this teach theme?


Author's Purpose That Makes Sense

It seems so easy ~ author's purpose! How can students NOT understand such a simple concept? We all wonder it as we think about how they can miss such important details to see why the author wrote something. But we can make it more engaging and fun.
Using book orders can help students better understand that tough skill of author's purpose!
This anchor chart is perfect for helping students see author's purpose.

Of course, the best way for students to really understand author's purpose, students should be reading and reading a lot. How do we do that? We encourage and motivate them to read widely and a LOT! What better way than with a Scholastic book order?
Using book orders can help students better understand that tough skill of author's purpose!

That's right, this catalog of books many of us send home each month are perfect for helping students get a grasp on what author's purpose is all about.

I used them with a group of 4th graders as we worked through this important skill.  We reviewed the reasons that authors write with the anchor chart above. A lot of times authors describe something within a passage, so the students decided that describe should go in the middle. Then I handed out the magical book orders. Guess what ~ those kids had fun looking at books and deciding what to read.
Using book orders can help students better understand that tough skill of author's purpose!

Then I had to get them to work. They read the information about the different books and decided why the author may have written the books. As they figured it out, they cut the pictures out and put them onto a tree map, sorting them into different categories.
Using book orders can help students better understand that tough skill of author's purpose!

Here is a finished product! 
Using book orders can help students better understand that tough skill of author's purpose!

By doing this activity, students had to analyze the simple summary and think about what the book was saying to decide where it fit in the tree map. AND, I motivated them to find books they would actually enjoy reading. Double whammy!

Of course, there is so much more that goes with author's purpose, but we can help students as they look at books and decide WHY the author wrote it.

What are some ways you help students understand author's purpose in your classroom?


Reading Between the Lines

Typically my teaching takes place in a small group format.  That is the life of a Title I teacher...and I love it!  But there are a couple weeks within the school year that my teammate, Karen and I, co-teach together.  This past week was one of them.

We LOVE Tanny McGregor's book, Comprehension Connections and many of the lessons that we co-teach begin with her ideas.  Tanny's chapter on inferring sparked the most recent lessons with our first graders.  She lays out some great ideas about bringing in trash and shoes to infer.  The anchor charts that are recommended are great visuals.  We found great success when we used these lessons last year.

To put these new inferring skills to work, we ended each lesson with a book.  Since we teach first graders, we wanted to choose books that would help them to feel successful with inferring.  Wordless books by Lita Judge, as well as, some alphabet books were both used this year.

My focus today is on the alphabet books because they can be a great place to start when inference, evidence, and schema are first being introduced.

reading between the lines

These four titles: A Is for Salad, Q is for Duck, Tomorrow's Alphabet, and A is for...? all encourage students to "read between the lines" in order to understand what the author is trying to say.  For each of these books the students need to use their schema and evidence from the letters/text or pictures to determine what the alphabet letter actually stands for.  Our questions for each page:
What can you infer?
What is your evidence to support that?
Our first graders would also include schema or background knowledge into their answers and we would point that out immediately as we referred to the evidence within the book.

Tomorrow's Alphabet by George Shannon

This text is really interesting because the students have to think about what the object will become in the future.  For students that do not have a lot of schema on that particular object, they have to rely heavily on the evidence within the pictures.  Here is an example:

I would show only the page that states "C is for milk--."  My question was, "What can you infer the author means by C is for milk?"  I loved this because some students wanted to immediately answer, "Cow-milk comes from a cow and cow starts with c."  Then I would remind them that the title is "Tomorrow's Alphabet" and that piece of evidence tells me that this milk will turn into something.  This prompted more inferences about cake, cookies, or cupcakes because the milk may be part of the batter.  

Yes! Yes!  The evidence is there and so is their schema!

But then I show them that the author actually decided upon the word cheese.

The book continues on in this manner.  Some answers require more thinking, schema, and evidence than others.  It is interesting to see what they come up with for some of the letters.

Q Is for Duck by Mary Elting and Michael Folsom

This text relies on the schema of students but there is evidence with the pictures to help them infer what the letter ACTUALLY stands for.

On this particular page, my classes inferred that the "F" actually stood for feathers, feed, fly, and flamingo.  Each of these inferences were backed up by evidence from this page and their schema on what they know about birds.

When we showed the next page, we covered up the answer just to see if they would change their inference based on the new evidence shown.

And the new evidence led them to infer that "F" actually stood for fly.  They were correct!

A is For Salad by Mike Lester

This text provides the evidence for what the author is inferring on one page, where the two books above use two pages.  For this reason, I believe this book is a bit easier and would be perfect to use with kindergarten students or beginning of the year first graders.

As you can see from this illustration, the author is not talking about pajamas.  We can infer that the E really stands of an elephant because we see an elephant in the illustration.

A is for ...? A Photographer's Alphabet of Animals by Henry Horenstein

This text has even less text for students to use as evidence.  They must use a lot of schema, the beginning letter, and the photograph to help them infer what the author is really trying to show them.

Students must look at the photograph (such as the one above) and try to figure out what animal it is.  That is it.  I have to admit...I fell in love with this book the moment I saw it.  The photos are beautiful.

Reading between the lines or inferring is a skill that students do everyday.  They do it when they see your "teacher look" or when they get dressed in the morning.  The tricky part for us as teachers is getting them to understand that they also do this when they read.  AND that they use evidence throughout the book to make those inferences.

My hope is that some of these alphabet books can help our youngest readers begin  to infer and provide evidence when reading.


Close Reading ~ What is it?

Hello everyone!

This  is Laura from Where the Magic Happens  and this is my first time blogging with this great crew! I have  been crazy busy at school and have had a million things going on!
Anyhow, I have been reading and reflecting A LOT about how to transform my literacy teaching  in this era of higher standards.  For about a year I have been a close reading groupie enthusiast.  There is so much literature out there and so many materials that, I did not know what to read or where to begin. I am so lucky to have my BFF Marie from The Literacy Spot… she always recommends the best reads.   My Amazon wish-list is about to pop!


So really what in the world is close reading?

According to Fisher and Frey, close reading is:

“an instructional routine in which students are guided in their understanding of complex texts.”  Basically, close reading is a component of dynamic reading instruction where students:
  • Read strategically
  • Interact with the text
  • Reread to uncover layers of meaning that lead to deeper understanding
  • Analyze multiple component of the text and illustrations
  • Focus on the author’s message
These are some of the most important things that I have learned about close reading:
  • Not all texts deserve a close reading
  • Close reading is also not necessary when the text is fairly accessible. In other words,  when choosing texts for close reading… you want to pick a text that do not give up their meaning easily or quickly.
  • Close reading is MORE than a worksheet!!! Our students need to interact with their peers and their teachers using academic language and  argumentation skills as they discuss the text.
  • Close reading is not one-and-done reading! Rather, it is purposeful, careful, and thoughtful.
And honestly, I could go on and on…


I really could give you a million reasons.

Close reading is not to be confused with guided reading. They are two extremely important instructional approaches that must be part of your balanced literacy.  Close reading  is not exclusively about eyes on print or reading accurately. In close reading we seek to explore the comprehension of ideas and structures more deeply. In other words, there will be times (especially during the first read) that my students will read, but some texts demand to be heard  and read aloud – poems are a good example.
These are some of the benefits of close reading:
  • It leads students on a cognitive path that begins with discovering the literal meaning of a text and ends with the exploration of deeper meaning and  a plan of what should occur as a result of the reading.
  • Close reading will help our students understand the mechanics of a text, especially vocabulary, text structure, and the author’s craft.
  • Close reading will require that all students cite textual evidence in their products. 
These are some of the differences between close reading in the primary and upper elementary grades:




If you are thinking that a close read is an easy task for the teacher… then you might be like Santa Claus in the month of August.
Close reads are divided into four different phases:
  • What does the text say? (general understanding and key details)
  • How does the text work? (vocabulary, structure, author’s craft)
  • What does the text mean? (author’s purpose)
  • What does the text inspire you to do? (extended thinking)
These four phases provide our students to explore, practice, review, and navigate through literary and informational text-dependent questions. {Hello again mCLASS!} Text-dependent questions drive close reading!

You go right ahead and download this evidence based terminology poster to use during your close reading time! {click on picture!!}

And just in case you are wondering, this is what Fisher & Frey recommend as the best think marks for close reading based on their research.


Don't forget to enter our huge birthday giveaway!  You don't want to miss it! Enter below using the Rafflecopter.
Until next time!


Happy 2nd Birthday, Literacy Land!

Can you believe that Literacy Land is officially 2 years old?

Me either!!  

This has been a fun ride, and I have made some good friends who have taught me so much about literacy and helping students learn.  I have really enjoyed sharing my passion for all things literacy with all of you, our readers.

In 2016, we plan to continue bringing you literacy ideas you can take straight to your classroom. 

So, join us all through January as we reacquaint you with our bloggers and introduce some new bloggers to Lit Land.  Make sure you stop by all month for tips, freebies, and a giveaway at the end!  You don't want to miss the fun!

Hello, everyone!  It's Andrea from Reading Toward the Stars.  

I love spending time working with my students to make it fun and engaging. Though I love all things literacy, my favorite aspect to work with is comprehension.  When I plan for comprehension activities, I like to find things that will make it concrete.  

Our school uses Thinking Maps to help students think about what they have read or will read.  This helps them to put their thoughts onto paper and make it all real.

Another way I make it concrete is by working through activities that make them move.  Students may put sticky notes on a chart and move them around.  They may make foldables to show what they are learning. 

 And we play games to make it real.  

More than anything, we have fun ~ tons of fun!  Students enjoy working with me and look forward to our time together.  The students don't even realize we are learning!  

Join us throughout 2016 as we bring you literacy tips, tricks, and timesavers!

Before you go, grab this freebie of summarizing templates that are perfect for making comprehension real!

And join us at the end of the month for a huge giveaway!  You won't want to miss it!


Getting a Head Start on Comprehension

Hello, everyone!  It's Andrea again from Reading Toward the Stars to give you some tips on helping your child become better at comprehension.

I have a spunky four-year-old who is full of life and wonder.  Many days she keeps me on my toes and reminds me so much of my 11-year-old son at the same age.  At that age, children are in awe of the world and are ready to learn so much.  They are sponges and take it all in!  So it is the perfect time to get them ready to read through background knowledge!

Here are three easy ways you can help build background knowledge early, so children will be ready to comprehend when reading.


As much as I get perturbed by answering the same questions sometimes, I know that my own children are learning from my answers.  My 4-year-old daughter is constantly asking me questions about the world around her.  Questions like "Where does the rainbow come from?" and "Are unicorns real?" make her think about what she wants to find out.  Though I could go into a lot of crazy thoughts for answers, I know that my answer just needs to be short and simple.  Otherwise, I lose her.  If I give her an answer to her question, I know that she will take that little tidbit of information and use it later in life.


What do cooking, playing a sport, visiting places, and creating art projects all have to do with reading?  They all give your child experiences they need to build background knowledge?  As children experience the world, they learn more and remember those experiences.  These help to build background knowledge by giving them a base to enhance comprehension when they begin to read.

Reading Aloud

I can't stress this enough!  Reading aloud to young children is the easiest and best way to build background knowledge!  We can't always have those experiences, but we can read about them. We can't always go to those faraway places, but we can read about them.  We can't always play sports, but we can read about them.  

We can always spend time together and read.

So, the bottom line is to find little ways to build background knowledge in even the youngest children!  They will thank you later!

And if you are interested in finding out how you can help little ones be ready for decoding, head over to this {blog post} on my blog to find out more!

And a huge shout out to the book, Raising Kids Who Read by Daniel T. Willingham, PhD, for the inspiration for this post!


LISTEN UP...I'll make Listening Center one of your Favorite Centers

Hi All.  This is Cathy from Cathy Collier's The W.I.S.E. Owl.  We are just finishing our first week of school and our teachers are jumping into planning centers or literacy stations.

I don't know about you, but LISTENING CENTER used to be the bane of my existence.  Every week finding a new book…making sure it wasn’t too long…making sure the tape worked…making sure I had multiple copies…ugh.  Then, I finally figured it out:

I was making too many changes.

Teach Process, Change Product

LISTENING CENTER is another center that once the process is taught…you’re golden. 

For classroom set up purposes...we hang a sign where the students will work.  Every classroom is a little bit different, so I've had the listening center set up different ways.  Sometimes I have the tape player on the table where they will work.  The table also has a bucket with their listening center booklets.  Sometimes, there isn't a plug I have the students lay on the floor and listen to the book, then go to the table with the booklets.  One year, I had my students keep their booklets with them in a file box they took to every center, every day.  Regardless, as long as you establish the place and keep it constant, it will be fine.

Setting a Purpose for Listening

The secret to loving the LISTENING CENTER?  I choose one book PER MONTH!  That’s right…just 1.  The students have 4 opportunities to hear the book, while the product for each week is different. Now, my LISTENING CENTER supports comprehension.  Each week we set a purpose for listening.

Week 1 – Students listen to the story.  Then, write the title and the author on the cover of their LISTENING CENTER booklet (2 pages of manila paper, folded, and stapled).  At the beginning of the year, I write the title and author on sentence strips for the students to reference at the table.  Once I got a SmartBoard, I wrote the title and author on the SmartBoard for student reference.  Towards the middle of the year, I teach them to write the title using the books.

Week 2 – Students listen to the story.  Students will write the main character names and either illustrate the characters or glue provided pictures from the story.  At the beginning of the year, we decide who the main characters are as a group and I write the names on sentence strips for reference at the center.  Later in the year, we discuss the characters orally, but they have to locate the names in the book.

Week 3 – Students listen to the story.  Students will write about the setting in the story and write a phrase.  At the beginning of the year, we decide what the main setting is as a group and I write it on a sentence strip.  Once again, as the year goes on they have to locate the information in the book.

Week 4 – Students listen to the story a final time and write a response to the story.  At the beginning of the year, I provide the sentence starter, “I like it when…”  As the year progresses they can choose, "I like it when..." or "I do not like it when..."  

Changing my LISTENING CENTER from a weekly book to a monthly book helped my students with reading comprehension.  My students could have book talks about the characters, setting, and events easily.

Cute illustrations

(Oops...Forgot a pic of the last week.)

CLICK HERE for a Listening Center FREEBIE.