Working to Get More Books in Their Little Hands

Happy (almost) summer everyone!  Our year is coming to a close this week.  As I analyzed our assessments, reflected on this year, started looking ahead to next year, I was pleased with the progress my students made this year.  They worked hard.  I worked hard.  My team worked hard.  And we all know that some of that hard work "sails" away during the fun of summer. Each year I remind them to read, send home information about the library programs, inform families of other local reading programs, give them all reading logs, and try to provide incentives if they bring the sheets back.  But I felt like I needed to do more this year.

Let me explain...just a little.

Last month I wrote a post all about books that you could access for free online.  I loved this post because it is a great tool for me to use in my classroom and with my own little ones at home.  But most of my students are not read to at home (especially not in the digital form).  Many do not have books.  And it is sad.  Really sad.  But something that I cannot control.  So I have to, first, motivate them to want to read to themselves, a sibling, or a stuffed animal.  And, second, make sure they have books in their hands.

Here are some things I do to accomplish these goals.

Reading A-Z
I have some students that have made a tremendous amount of growth but need to continue that journey throughout summer.  So I made them HUGE stacks of books to take home.  They are leveled by their need and month of summer.  Each of their parents have been called to explain the importance of their child reading the leveled books over the summer.  I put each set in a cute bag for them to carry around.  My students have been asking for their sets of books each day.  Nope!  They have to wait until the last week of school :)

Books for All
We called a local organization called, Crayons to Computers, and asked if they would be able to donate books to our school.  They agreed (THANK YOU!!)  On the last day of school, each student will get to "fish" for a good book!

Reading Packs
Most of my students come to school not knowing their nursery rhymes.  And they love reading them with us, especially the "silly" versions by Bruce Lansky.  Each of our first graders will get all of the rhymes that we have read in a bright, yellow folder.  They are super excited to have them all in one place to read!  I have made one book of nursery rhymes.  It is in the pack below.  This pack will be FREE today, in case you want it for your students.

Winning Books
This week when the students in my building find a hot air balloon they can win a book!  We picked out the best looking books we had and displayed them in one of our glass cases.  When they find a balloon, they get to go to the glass case and pick out a brand new book to take home.  Super motivating!

Take Your Pick
 This is a bulletin board (original idea from Lesson Plan SOS) for each grade level in my building.  Students earn tickets each week.  They vote on the book they would like to win.  Then I choose 15 winners a week.  That is about 540 books I give away in one school year.

Motivation to read during the summer can be a bit trickier.  One thing that my building decided to do this year was throw a celebration during the last week of school.  Since we missed our typical Dr. Seuss celebration (due to testing), we decided to call it "Sail into a Seusstastic Summer."  The entire hallway is decorated with book covers, hot air balloons, and Dr. Seuss characters.  Each day students will do activities to motivate them to want to read this summer:

*Discussing WHY they need to read this summer
*Making lists (on a hat) of the different places they can sit and read this summer
*Encouraging them to read together this summer and share books (like a little book club)
*Writing summer "bucket lists" together that include reading

For more ideas about the reading over the summer:

Emily wrote about that "summer slide" a few weeks ago with ideas on how to slow it down.
Lori from Conversations in Literacy wrote a great post about mailing books to her students (oh! how I wish I could do this).
I love this post about a summer book swap.  This would be a great idea to host at the school one day over the summer.
This post at From the Mrs. includes a summer bingo game to motivate kids to read in different places.

What do you do to keep your kids reading over the summer?


What's In The OG Instructor's Bag?

Hi everyone! I'm here today to talk about what I carry in my ENORMOUS bag when I travel to service students for Orton Gillingham instruction. Last Fall, I posted a picture of this amazing tote I purchased from a dear teacher friend of mine. I filled it with all my travel supplies for tutoring and snapped a picture. Then I posted the pic on my Facebook page. Well, it took off like wildfire! Tons of people were itching to find out what was inside. I had no idea there would be such an interest. Personally, I was just showing off my pretty new tote! So, I decided to write a blog post about it and I'm finally sharing it with all of you.

First of all, traveling to homes I've learned one thing: BE ORGANIZED! You must have an organizational system in place for your supplies or you'll waste precious time searching for something while you should be teaching. I work with several students on Wednesdays back to back at three different homes. Time is of the essence here!

Secondly, this bag has gotten to be quite heavy. I may convert to something on wheels, because I can't downsize the supplies inside. But for now, I do love this bag.

Thirdly, what I'm about to share for my bag's contents are the essentials. Everyone has a personal preference when they teach OG for specific supplies they like to use. This is what works for me. If I had a classroom specifically for OG instruction, believe me, I'd have A LOT more! (all organized, of course :))

1. Magnetic letters and an alphabetic storage container: I like a specific kind of magnetic letter. They're the foam magnetic letters from Really Good Stuff. But you NEED the alphabetized tray or else you're constantly searching for letters.

2. A sand tray that closes well: I've been through several, and have had a few accidents. I finally found one I like from a Montessori catalog. It's wooden with a lid and came with sparkly black sand, which my students LOVE. It sort of gives a chalkboard effect, but with a much nicer contrast. You need different multi-sensory tools for OG lessons, and this one is must.

3. A two or three-inch binder with multi-colored folders. I keep one for each child with general sheets  for lessons, their individualized lessons plans, two magnetic white boards, game boards, stickers, blank sorting sheets, my SOS multisensory spelling cards, and stories for fluency and comprehension practice. I've used stories from The ABC's of OG, Bonnie Kline, and SPIRE. That way I can reproduce them. My students each keep a binder with a collection of stories to practice.

4. Several pencil boxes: one for twistable colored pencils (no need to sharpen ever), one for dry erase markers, scissors, and glue sticks, pencils and a pencil sharpener.
5. A large coffee can container that I covered with decorative paper for easy access to pencils, markers, and highlighters, and sharpies.
6. A 3 hole punch (sometimes)
7. A wooden stand for a magnetic dry erase board

8. A clear plastic bin containing different sized sticky notes and flags, my OG phonogram cards (in its own little plastic container, a baggie of game board pieces, dice, a travel tic-tac-toe game, highlighted place markers, plenty of index cards, a box of colored tongue depressors, (These can be used for numerous games, or even a quick place marker when reading.)

9. A large Ziploc bag will filled finger paint for multisensory writing. Students trace on the bag with their finger. I don't take the paint out. :)
10. A small lined wipe-off travel board for manuscript or cursive practice
11. My iPad mini (I have a few apps on there that I use from time to time such as: Doodle Buddy, Sight Word Flip It, and OG Cards.) There really isn't a lot of time to use these apps when you're doing all 7 parts of the lesson plan, but they're great to have for review or just building in a little excitement. I tend to stick to every aspect of the lesson plan very closely.

That's just about it! You'll see everything I pack has to have its own space and really have frequent use. If you have any questions about things I take along, please feel free to comment. Thank you for visiting Literacy Land today! :))


Revitalizing a Classroom Library !

Hi! This is Wendy D. from Ms. D's Literacy Lab, and I am joining you to start a discussion on classroom libraries.  


 With less than 20 days of school left,  I am looking at my personal library books! Although it is organized and the books are well-loved, I am thinking it is time that it gets a little TLC over the summer. After all, the books have been read to dogs, stuffed in book bags, and well-loved over the last year or two---they are ready for a check-up!

If you work in a Title 1 school like I do, please consider getting a set of bilingual books for your students that experience a two language household daily. Spanish books can be purchased from Scholastic through Club Leo and many other books can be purchased through major publishers. Reading A-Z does translate many of its printable books into Spanish and French languages as well.


First step: Weed out torn, worn, books!

  • Books that have torn pages
  • Books that looked like a dog used it as a chew toy
  • Books that have been waterlogged from reading in the bathtub or a wet backpack
  • Books that have been read when eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches!
  • Books that have been "read" or "illustrated" by a younger sibling

Second step: Weed out unused books!

  • Series that are no longer popular....
  • Books that are outdated...a good example--countries, view on race/cultural diversity, solar system (new research)
  • Layouts that do not grab a reader's attention... I am not advocating all graphic novels... but perhaps younger readers may enjoy the Fly Guy series versus Little Bear.
  • Ask yourself "Which ones have not moved at all this year?" If so, they are headed to other organizations who need books!  

My exception to this includes books such as Good Night Moon or Bread and Jam for Frances.

Third Step : Pull out multiple copies of a title!

  • Lots of copies....becomes a guided reading set
  • Extras may go home with students for summer reading or get donated
  • Swap books with another teacher with similar reading levels
  • Donate to your school's end of the year book swap

Fourth Step: Sort into themes, guided reading levels, or a combination of the two.

  • For younger students, I divide books into guided reading levels. If they choose a take home book at a much higher reading level, I call it... "a read with Mom and Dad book!"
  • I have a 3 tier cart from Really Good Stuff for my classroom library with Guided Reading buckets at the top with early chapter books (Levels J-N at the bottom)
  • I have not had a space for older students this year, so as I am purging I am going to clear off two shelves from a bookcase to feature their books to borrow.

Fifth Step: When sorting, you may want to label them using these goodies!

  • Sharpie Markers-- I prefer the thick black ones!
  • Avery Colored Labels--circles or another simple shape
My library is labeled with a different colored label on each guided reading book.
One color for each alphabet letter.In this way, even your Fabulous Firsties and Kindergarteners can be independent in selecting books.  Just a quick orientation at the beginning of the year and you are ready to go!

Sixth Step: Wipe off the shelves or bookcase--you're almost there!

  • Using paper towel or a handi-wipe and non toxic cleaner with little scent, I wipe down the whole cart and get the dust out-- approx. time-- 15 min max.

Seventh Step: Arrange your books!

Have fun placing them in baskets, a cart, or a small tote in the way you love! Then, cover the area with garbage bags and label so it is ready to go in the fall!

Where to Donate: Gently Worn Books

  • Goodwill
  • Big Brothers and Big Sisters
  • Used Bookstores
  • Hospitals
  • Doctor's Offices
  • Garage Sales
  • And More !

Freebies: Classroom Library checklist ---------Click Here

It is also the newest freebie in my store:

Clipart by Krista Wallden, Creative Clips on TpT


Using Music to Teach Reading Skills

Hi everyone! It's Bex here from Reading and Writing Redhead. You probably know by now but I love finding creative ways to teach reading and I love bringing other types of learning into the classroom beyond the basics that I have to teach. Today I have some ideas to share with you about using music to teach reading skills.

Ask yourself, how many children know the alphabet at a young age- age two  for example? Probably most of them know it because someone thought to set the alphabet to the song "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star". The tune, the rhythm, even the rhyme, helps ingrain the letters in kids' brains.

Music can be used to help students learn the alphabet,  the sounds of letters, develop phonemic awareness, build phonics skills and vocabulary and more! There are many songs to teach grammar skills and folks have used nursery rhymes as songs to teach basic spelling patterns and print conventions. Fountas and Pinnell once wrote that our students should "sing songs of such delight that the lyrics remain in the memory forever". What songs do you still remember from school (Hello Conjunction Junction!)?

Besides listening to songs, singing songs, and watching music videos, some teachers have their students rewrite familiar songs as a lesson to learn sounds or rhymes.

I found a great website that is an amazing resource of songs for teachers. It's called Songs for Teaching: Using Music to Reinforce Learning. It is a treasure trove of songs and song lyrics (click on any title to hop over and see the song).  There are songs that teach the alphabet letters such as Fran Avni's Dinosaurs to Dinner.  There are songs specifically for vowels and consonants such as  Get Your Own Goat by Avni and Vowel Sound Hound Dogs 1.  A song I plan to use this week is one for R controlled vowels called Rock and Roll Star by Fun Phonics Songs.

With all the technology out there, maybe you are able to show videos to your class. Here are just a very few on what seems like millions of videos, new and old, that use music to teach reading skills.

Want a new twist on the alphabet? Try Usher's Alphabet Song! (by the way, does Elmo's voice scare anyone else's dog?)

Phonics Songs with 2 Words

Electric Company-  Silent e - I bet you remember this:  "Who can turn a can into a can, who can turn a pan into a pane?"

Schoolhouse Rock - Lolly Lolly Lolly Get Your Adverbs Here 

Schoolhouse Rock - A Noun is a Person Place or Thing

Schoolhouse Rock Conjunction Junction- the sentimental favorite!

Electric Company's  N Apostrophe T: I personally played this several times this year and my students love it! Who needs fancy technology to enjoy music and a video (and learn while we're at it)?

Beans and Franks TV - Rhymes

Ocoee Middle School's Gotta Keep Reading: A fun, creative take on Black Eyed Peas' I Gotta Feeling which is really fun, catchy, and inspires kids to read (great to motivate them for the summer break) !

Finally here are a few music teachers' blogs. They are worth a look, even if you're not a music teacher. Teacher blogs are always full of treasures!

Amy Abbott's Music a la Abbot 
Tanya's Kodaly Inspired Blog 
Lindsay Jervis's Pursuit of Joyfulness
A collaborative music teacher blog: Kodaly Corner 
Mrs. Miracle's Music Room 
Allison's Music Blog

I hope  you have a few new ideas for how to incorporate music in your reading lessons. How do you use music in your teaching? Please comment below and let us know!


PicCollage and meaningful Technology Integration

This is Deniece from This Little Piggy Reads.  The end of my school year is right around the corner.  In fact, since I teach a pull-out class, my classes end this week (but I have to go to work 2 more weeks).  

I presented at a Digital Fluency Conference earlier this month.  I took a class that did an amazing activity and I immediately thought...that would be a great idea to share with my Literacy Land Ladies!

As we left, the presenter asked us to create a 4 or 5 picture collage that summarized our experience at the conference. I used the app, PicCollage.  There are other apps you could use, this is just the one I downloaded.  Do your students bring their own devices?  Mine do. It allows me to seamlessly integrate technology daily.  So, back to that great idea...For this particular assignment, we were supposed to tell our tale using a familiar kids book, story or song.  Since I was presenting, I was carrying 3 different bags!  Yes, 3.  I wasn't the only one.  Everywhere I looked, I saw a sea of bags.  There were bags inside of bags!  So, I did a play on "Do You Know the Muffin Man?" called "Do You Know the Bag Lady?"  Pretty clever huh? Yea, I won a $25 gift card.  We had to make the collage, tweet the collage with the conference's hashtag and e-mail it to our presenter.        

In my mind I saw this as the perfect exit ticket for any article, book or read aloud.  I thought this would be a great way to see if students not only comprehended what they read, but are also able to analyze and critically examine the theme, character relationships and text structure.  I also think it's a FABULOUS way to meaningfully integrate technology in a Reading Classroom. 

My students and I just finished the read aloud, So B. It by Sarah Weeks.  It is a wonderful book about a young girl in search of her own truth - where she came from, who her mom really is and how she ended up where she is.  My students identified with the book because many of them don't see one or both of their parents very often.  They loved that this book had a sense of mystery!   Below you'll find a story map made with PicCollage.

Can you think of any uses for PicCollage in your classroom??


Predictions Made Easy

Hello, everyone!  It's Andrea from Reading Toward the Stars to share an easy and fun way to help with comprehension at all grade levels!

Before I was a reading specialist, I spent 14 years teaching third and fourth graders.  I love teaching that age because they are really ready to learn and seem to soak it all in!  But, I know that many students struggle with reading comprehension.  Many times it is not an easy fix, but I spend all year with this one strategy to help my students.  And I still use it with my intervention groups.

Since I have worked with students in grades K-4 this year, I thought this would be great for my second and third grade students who really struggle with comprehension.  I used it with them with great success.  What is it?  Prediction!  I just teach the students to Stop, Think, Predict, which is a type of Directed Listening Thinking Activity (DLTA) or a Directed Reading Thinking Activity (DRTA)!  Here is how it works.

I chose a fun book to read that I hoped no one had read before.  The first book I read was a super easy and silly book Bark, George(Amazon affiliate link will take you to the books in this post.)

In the book, George does everything but bark for his mother until she takes them to the vet.  The book is perfect for predicting because the students have to think about what might happen next.  It is quick and easy, but the kids loved it!  This will even be perfect for kindergarten students!

After talking about the book and how we used predicting, I showed them another book Soccer Mom from Outer Space. In the book, Lena's father tells her about how his mother dressed like a pickle to cheer on his team, the Atomic Pickles.  He told her that he was embarrassed, so she went to a game without her costume.  What happened next, I will let you find out!
We spent some time just looking at the cover and predicting together, all along talking about how the kids feel when playing sports.  Then I handed out a chart with four boxes for the students to stop at certain points to make predictions while I read the book.  I asked them to stop and make a prediction about what might happen next, not at the end of the book.  Here is an example.  {Ignore the misspellings from my wonderful struggling reader and speller.}
I loved hearing some of the predictions they made.  Some of them were really close too!  So fun!

I thought this would also be great for a literacy center.  I made some bookmarks that can be placed throughout a book for students to read and then write their predictions on the predictions chart.  I actually handed the bookmarks out to my students to use while they read to help them remember to Stop, Think, Predict! Click {here} or on the picture below to grab it for free!

I love using various read-alouds and then releasing it to the students through guided reading and then into independent reading, especially with struggling readers.  This helps to scaffold their learning, leading to independence in reading and predicting.  With that independence, they will become lifelong readers!

So, what do you do to help students with predicting while they read?

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

What Really Matters for Struggling Readers - Richard Allington

For the opening speaker at my district's big back-to-school kickoff, I was lucky enough to hear Dr. Richard Allington speak. If that wasn't enough, I was able to meet with him in a small group for discussion after the presentation! It was a very exciting and rewarding experience for me. I am a big fan of his work and really enjoyed speaking with him.

Dr. Allington is the author of several books, including his What Really Matters series. Some of his titles include:

As an intervention teacher, I find his work with struggling readers particularly inspiring. His presentation provided some important food for thought. Some of his major beliefs about working with struggling readers include:

1. Match readers with the appropriate text level and include choice

  • This might seem obvious. We are constantly running guided reading groups with leveled text, but he also means matching students to appropriate science, social studies, and math texts. This means doing away with the one textbook for the entire class. The struggling readers need to be able to access the information from another source. Students will also be more motivated to read if they are able to select among different texts.

2. 1-to-1 tutoring is ideal, but if that is not possible, groups of 3 or less

  • The smaller the group, the better! This can be difficult with school budgets, but the smaller the group, the more intensive the intervention.

3. Gradual Release of Responsibility Model

  • All lessons should gradually release independence towards the students. Lessons should begin with modeling by the teacher, move towards guided practice, and finish with independent practice. Many times we rush through the guided practice, or do not give students enough practice working with the skill independently.

4. Coordinate intervention with core curriculum

  • This can be especially difficult in large schools. The best interventions align with the core curriculum in the classroom. Students will get very confused if they are learning several different ways to write summaries. Teachers need to collaborate and teach consistently across the board.

5. MORE reading

  • It seems like common sense, but the more you read, the better you get! Dr. Allington compares reading to any other sport. You have to practice to get better. Unfortunately, he says many interventions or RTI centers focus too heavily on worksheets and paperwork. Dr. Allington says 2/3 of every day should be spent reading. This means that 2/3 of the intervention block should be spent reading, NOT doing worksheets.

6. Expert teachers

  • Dr. Allington truly believes in the power of the teacher. He believes schools should be investing in quality professional development for their teachers instead of purchasing packaged programs. He also believes that the most expert teachers should be working with the struggling readers. During his presentation he discussed how he is against the use of paraprofessionals to instruct the most struggling readers. 

7. Metacognition  and Meaning Making

  • Students should be taught to think about their own thinking when they are reading. They should be aware of the strategies they are using and what to do when they are struggling. Students should constantly be reflecting on their reading and pausing to make meaning. Dr. Allington believes the core of comprehension instruction is the teaching of strategies. 
Dr. Allington believes the key to RTI is the strengthening of Tier 1 classroom instruction.

How is RTI run in your school? What strengths do you see in your program? What weaknesses?