Blog With Us!

Have you dreamed of blogging in Literacy Land?  I am sure you have but don't know how!  Now is your chance!

We are looking for a few literacy loving bloggers who would like to guest blog or even join our team!

A few things to consider when choosing to guest blog with us.

1.  If you would like to become a part our our team, this is your application.  If you just want to guest post, great!

2.  You don't have to be a reading specialist to join ~ you just have to have a passion for teaching reading!

3. The post must be about something literacy related.

4.  No product posts!  Freebies are fine, but we don't want to advertise products and want to have good quality posts for our readers.

If you have any questions, please email Andrea at!  She will get back to you as soon as possible!

Click {here} or on the image above to fill out the form to join us.  It is also on the sidebar.

We look forward to working with you!


November Book Ideas

This is Wendy from Ms. D's Literacy Lab and I am here today to share with you a few books about gratitude during Thanksgiving. For me, each and every day is a moment to be thankful for what we have and on this note, I hope to read a few of these to my students in the coming days.

 Fly Away Home by Eve Bunting shows the life of a father and son as they move from terminal to terminal in the airport. The airport is their home. When the boy discovers a small bird trapped inside the terminal one day, he notices many things about his own life. This text will bring about a lively discussion among students especially if you have a student body with students living in hotels, shelters, in a room with siblings or multiple generations of families. I love the sensitive way that Bunting captures this topic.

 A Day's Work by Eve Bunting shows us the importance of pride and work even in the most simplest of tasks. The grandfather longs to be helpful and his grandson takes him and helps him gets a job as a gardener. The reviews show this is a book created and illustrated as though it took place in Maine. I love the softness of Ronald Himler's illustrations and the way that Bunting touches on the understandings between a grandson and grandfather.  

 The setting is the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington D.C. for The Wall by Eve Bunting.  If your community includes families in the armed forces, you may want to include this in your Thanksgiving pile. It tells a tale of a father and son who go to Washington, D.C. to locate his father's/grandfather's name on the wall. While there, they see many other families visiting the wall and their loved ones as well.

 Rivka having immigrated from Poland tries to convince her family and her rabbi that Thanksgiving is for all Americans,  whether they are Jewish or not Jewish. This touching story was brought to my attention when I was literacy coaching with a 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Gately. It is still one of my favorites---Rivka's First Thanksgiving by the author, Elsa Rael. ! 

These two books highlight the work of Greg Mortenson and his organization in Afghanistan to create schools where children can learn and grow. The Three Cups of Tea version at the top is perfect for upper elementary and early middle school while Listen to the Wind is a book for the younger elementary set. Reading one of these may open your students eyes as to how fortunate we are in this country to receive education and become literate at a young age.

The Wednesday Surprise by Eve Bunting fits in with Mortenson's theme of literacy. It tells a tale of a young granddaughter teaching her grandmother how to read as a surprise for her father's birthday. As to be expected, Bunting weaves this story with a masterful pen.  

These last two books are on my list to read. I was so grateful to hear John Wood talk about his vision for Room to Read last year at Northeastern University. His vision for literacy around the world is remarkable and the way his organization trains teachers within their homelands is amazing. I Am Malala is a new and notable book by one of this year's Nobel Prize Winners. I am putting it on my Christmas wish list. 

What is one of your favorite books to read to your students about thankfulness and gratitude ? Please comment below  !


Tips for Title I Night

Hello Literacy Land readers!  This is Wendy from Read With Me ABC.  For many of you October is the month for pumpkins, scarecrows, and trick-or-treating.  However, if you're a reading specialist, you may be thinking more about hosting your annual Title I Reading Night.

Today's post was written to offer you a few ideas for hosting a successful Title I night.

Pick the (Perfect) Night

Plan your event to coincide with another school event.  Many successful Title I nights are scheduled to occur right before another school event. This helps to ensure that the event is well attended.  For example, if the PTO is hosting Bingo in the gym at 7:00, then schedule your event for 6:00 or 6:30 in the library on the same night.  More parents are likely to attend if they are already planning to come to school that evening.

Promote it!

  • Ask for your event to be published on the school calendar.
  • Post the event in your school's monthly newsletter.
  • Send out "save the date" cards well in advance.
  • Be sure to include an RSVP on the actual invitation. This is helpful for two reasons: it asks parents to make a commitment, and it gives you a headcount for planning.
  • Send home a reminder on the day of the event.  Consider printing reminders on sheets of adhesive labels.  Affixing the labels to students' shirts is quick and effective.
  • If your school has the capability, send an automated telephone alert.

Provide Babysitting or Invite Students

Parents may have difficulty finding or paying for a baby sitter.  Many schools offer complimentary babysitting during the event.

Another option is to invite the whole family and make the evening a family literacy night.

Provide Dinner

Who doesn't like having dinner prepared for them?  By removing the stress of planning dinner, parents are more likely to attend.  Keep it simple.  Offer pizza and a beverage.

Choose a Fun Theme

Make your event sound too fun to resist.  ;)  Some ideas include a Literacy Luau, a Book Swap, and a Night of Family Literacy (NFL football theme).

Keep It Short 

Make sure your presentation is meaningful, relevant, and succinct.  This is especially important if children are invited.  Consider adding hands-on stations where more information can be provided.  At our most recent literacy night, we held a short presentation followed by three stations that parents and children could visit: make-and-take, literacy games (Boggle, Bananagrams, etc.), and technology (laptops and iPads).

Plan a Make-and-Take Station

Parents will appreciate bringing home activities that they can use with their children.  Students will enjoy the chance to be creative.  Some items you may wish to include: a ring with comprehension questions on it, sight word or vocabulary games, a non-fiction question cube, and a fluency jar.

Involve Parents

Ask a few parents to help with the night.  For example, you might consider asking them to oversee a Make-and-Take station.

Include Classroom Teachers

Ask classroom teachers for ideas for the Make-and-Take portion of the night.  There may be specific items they would like parents/students to have at home.  Invite teachers to attend and help with a station.

Offer Attendance Incentives  

Offer free tickets to an upcoming school event.  For example, give tickets for a free game at Fall Fair or a certificate for a free book at the Book Fair.

Purchase door prizes and hold a raffle for those in attendance.

Give favors for every Title I student present.  At my school each student who attended this year's event received a book basket, a clip-on book light, and the choice of a new book.

Best of luck with planning your literacy night.  I hope it's an overwhelming success!

Do you have a really great idea for hosting a Title I Night?  We'd love to hear from you!  Please share  your thoughts in the comments below.


Attending to Punctuation

Hi everyone!  I am stopping by today to share some ideas about punctuation.  Last week, I was lucky enough to attend a Smekens Education professional development on small group reading instruction. I shared some of my take-aways from the PD at Curious Firsties, but today I wanted to dig deeper into the great punctuation tips that I learned.

In order to explicitly illustrate the power of punctuation, books need to be chosen with intention.  As I was thinking about this, I realized that some books just lend themselves to teaching punctuation naturally.  One example is the Elephant and Piggie series by Mo Willems.

The text within these books is simple enough that students can focus on the punctuation and the meaning behind what Mo Willems is saying.  Here are two examples from "There Is a Bird on Your Head."  The sentences are the same but the punctuation changes the meaning.

What a great opportunity Mo Willems has created for us, the teachers!  Thank you!!  It helps us to focus on that meaning of punctuation, which supports the fluency we are aiming towards.

Smekens Education recommends two other books because they also have simple text with a variety of punctuation.

Are there other texts that you feel lend themselves well to punctuation exposure, experience, and instruction?

These books work well to teach punctuation because the text is simple and allows the focus to be on the punctuation.  An activity was suggested that supports these texts.  Smekens suggests that students read just alphabet letters with punctuation.  This allows them to not worry about decoding, using reading strategies, or getting "stuck."  They can just read the names of the letters and focus their energy on the punctuation.

A C R !

F G Y ?

I found a FREEBIE that they created if you want to try this activity.

As they explained this activity, I thought you could also do it with easy sight words your students know. (It would sneak in some of that sight word practice).  Students could pick out three sight words from a pool of words that they know.  They could add a punctuation mark and read the "sentence" aloud to the group.  Then they could change the punctuation mark and reread the "sentence."  I picture this taking place in a small group or at a center, where I record them reading the "sentences" aloud.

What are some ways that you explicitly work on the power of punctuation?


Counting Words in Sentences

Hello, everyone!  It's Andrea from Reading Toward the Stars here with a a fun and easy to do activity to help with

I am so glad that all of our beginning of the year literacy assessments are complete!  That means I can actually enjoy working with students, my favorite part of my job!

One of our reading program's biggest weaknesses is helping students gain concept of word, an essential skill for learning to read.  {Check our Carla's post on COW by clicking here.}  With kindergarten, I start with that during week 1 because these students really need it!

So many times the students I work with have never been read to until they enter school.  Some, surprisingly, have never been exposed to words!  This baffles me as I spend my days and nights immersing my own children in reading.  It seems like a simple concept, but some families find it hard.  As a reading specialist, it is my job to close the gap!

One of the things I start with to help students understand that sentences are made of words is a simple activity ~ Counting Words in Sentences.  To do this the teacher reads aloud a sentence to the students.  The students use cubes or counters and slide them up for each word they hear in the sentence.  It is all done orally by the teacher, and the students listen.

Here it is in action in my classroom!
We start out with our counters on our boards.
We move the tiles up for each word in the sentence.
This sentence has 3 words in it!

I always start off with three word sentences and work my way up to sentences with up to 10 words.  This is a great way to help students understand that what we say is made up of separate words, so what we read is made up of words as well.  It builds a connection between the spoken word and the written word.

To try this out with your students, you can grab a copy of my Counting Words Boards freebie by clicking {here} or on the picture below.

How do you help your students make the connection between the spoken and written word?

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

Teaching English Language Learners: Assessments

Hi everyone! It's Bex from Reading and Writing Redhead. I'm stopping by to share some thoughts on working with English Language Learners. I shared some instructional strategies in my 2 previous posts (Tips for Teaching English Language Learners and More Tips for Teaching English Language Learners) and today I have some thoughts on assessment for these students.

There are a lot of possible ways to assess English Language Learners, and much of what you do will depend on who your students are and what they need which will be determined by their level of English proficiency. When assessing ELLs, I would recommend being proactive and meeting with your school's ELL specialist to plan appropriate assessments together so that you can set students up for success, rather than giving a traditional assessment with no scaffolds or modifications and having the student completely flounder.

Some bright ideas...

If you are looking for ideas on different ways to assess your ELLs,  here are some suggestions. Many of these could qualify as informal assessments, but discuss them with your ELL coordinator and administration and depending on the situation, they may take the place of more traditional assessments that native English speakers are taking.

  • Graphic organizers
  • Word banks
  • Bilingual dictionary
  • Extra time
  • Shorter responses are accepted
  • Manipulatives may be used
  • Visuals (both symbolic and authentic) are provided
  • "Open book" is allowed
  • Flexible setting - students may take an assessment in a separate room 

The scoring of assessments may also be differentiated. If an assessment is given to determine how well students understand a key concept, you are not going to need to focus on grammatical errors, spelling errors, or things like that. You may be able to accommodate ELL students' needs by grading them only on content that shows how well they understand key concepts, how accurate their responses are, and how well they demonstrate the process to come up with their responses (particularly applicable for math and science assessments).

Performance-based assessments are a great way to assess how ELL students are doing without having to worry about giving them a formal written test. Here are some suggestions of performance-based tasks that could be used for assessment purposes.
  • retelling stories
  • playing games
  • oral reports
  • reading with partners
  • checklists
  • brainstorming
  • using visual or written prompts to give descriptions or instructions
  • telling a story using sequence of pictures
  • cloze passages
  • self assessment
  • projects 
  • exhibits

ETS lays out some excellent guidelines for assessments which actually to me, apply to more than just ELLs. These make sense for all students. Their guidelines are:

Clear directions - Directions should be written and designed to eliminate confusion and emphasize clarity. Consider simplifying directions to ensure they are understood.

Defining Expectations - Do not assume students have had any experience with the type of assessment task  you are giving. Be explicit about what type of response is appropriate and what criteria you will  use to grade the response. 

Using Accessible Language - they explain that clear and easy to understand language in assessments is key but to be careful not to simplify content vocabulary that you are assessing. They suggest avoiding idioms, colloquialisms, complex sentence structure, use of constructions using the word "not" in questions and negatives,  and use simple context for fictional situations like word problems. School based fiction may be more accessible to ELLs than a home based context (particularly applicable to math word problems, for example).

Presentation - be aware and attentive to things like font size, illustrations, text, graphics placement and things of those sorts depending on the home language and literacy skills of your students.

Fairness and Sensitivity - and of course use neutral contexts and topics, avoid inflammatory topics, and consider school based contexts rather than home based for ELL students. 

To me, these all make sense as guidelines for all students, not just ELLs. What do you think?

What are some tips you have for assessing your English Language Learners? Let us know by commenting below.

ETS' Guidelines for the Assessment of English Language Learners
Color In Colorado English Language Learners Assessment Webcast
Sarasota County School's ESOL and Migrant Education Assessment Strategies
Teaching Strategies Blog
Stanford University's Performance Assessments for English Language Learners

And a thank you to Ashley Hughes for the beautiful frames and Dollar Photo Club!

Great Books for Boys (and Girls)

Hi, lovely readers! I'm always on the lookout for great new books, especially series, that will appeal to my boys. I feel like I'm pretty set on girl books because I can recommend what I used to read or the latest series on Scholastic. With my students, however, I'm overloaded with boys who hate reading with the exception for maybe Diary of a Wimpy  Kid. I'm not as familiar with graphic novels, although I'm slowly learning my way around.  I've discovered two series recently that are a step away from graphic novels but make a great transition to "regular" books while still showing a decent amount of pictures.

The Strange Case of the Origami Yoda is a fun series about a social outcast who walks around giving advice through his Origami Yoda that he carries around on his finger. This "Origami Yoda" eventually makes him more popular. Lots of humor (and not as "boy gross" as Captain Underpants)! These are written slightly higher, but they're perfect for my fifth grade readers and some of my fourth graders.

Time Warp Trio was a series that I had had a small amount of interaction with before but didn't really know about until this year. Some of these books are graphic novels, although not the whole series. Jon Scieszka is the author, though, and he's kind of the guru on boy books (check out, his website). In this series, a group of boys travel back in time to different important historical periods to help save history. And if you've ever read any of Scieszka's books before, you KNOW they're funny!

What books do you like for your boys?