Reading Homework Routine

Good Day, Literacy Land Followers!  I'm Deniece from This Little Piggy Reads.  Today's topic is a HOT one!
Did you cringe or smile?  Teachers have definite opinions on homework - some assign homework every night and some see it as a chore.  So, here are my 2 cents.

Personally, I'm not a fan of homework.  I prefer to spend my evenings not grading.  All that said, at my school it is an expectation to send homework (no more than 30 mins. per subject per night).  I prefer to send a homework packet on Monday that is due on Friday.  Here is what I put inside my packet.
Cover Page - spelling words, homework schedule, notes at the bottom. 

On the inside, I include my Spelling Homework Choice Boards. 

I also include a Reading Log

I also include a differentiated fluency passage from our state adoption.  There is usually a short vocabulary worksheet.  If it's testing season, I include a testing style passage that students must use their strategies on. 

My packets are due on Friday.  During bell work, my students put their packets on the corner of their desk, I stamp and collect the packet.  If their spelling choice board is complete, I put a ticket on their desk.  Then, right before our spelling test, I draw 1 ticket out of the hat and that person gets an automatic 100!  The winner goes to my classroom library and reads while I'm giving the test.  I go through and quickly call the parents of students who didn't turn in their homework packets.  This is an expectation from our administration.  Then, I grade while students are testing and return their packets the same day they turned them in.  

How do you do homework in your classroom?


Keep Kids Active and Engaged While Learning Reading Skills!

Hi everyone! It's  Bex from Reading and Writing Redhead. Before my school vacation started, I had been thinking a lot about movement. In New England we had a VERY long winter in which we rarely went outside for recess. I had come up with new ways to get my kids moving and new brain breaks, but I had been thinking of ways to get movement involved during the academic blocks. Why save it just for breaks?

Today I have compiled a resource of some activities that will get your kiddos moving while they are working on their reading skills. Sometimes it is just a little movement, but if you want to really go all out, some of them require you actually going outside to the playground! Most of the ideas are not mine - many have been around for years, so I have no idea who came up with the ideas originally. Some I found recently so I will share with you where and give you a link and a few I thought up myself, although I am sure the idea came from somewhere - someone did something similar or with the same material but I am using it in a different way. You also may have your own great ideas or ones that are not here so please comment and let us know!

Phonemic Awareness and Phonics

Catch it! For this, students stand in a circle (or sit) and the teacher says a one syllable word. She tosses a bean bag or small soft ball to a student, who catches it and says the initial sound, tosses it to another student who says the medial sound, and tosses it to another student who says the final sound. The whole group says the whole word again as the bag gets tossed back to the teacher and she picks a new word to try.

Dribble the Sound or Syllable: Dribble a ball (and say each phoneme in a word or each syllable in a word.
Dribble ball, switch from left to right hand, as say phonemes in a word or syllables in a word for extra challenge and brain work, switch hands as you say each sound or syllable).

I'm Going on a Camping Trip: You know the song! Sit in a circle and clap with a steady beat. Go around the circle and everyone repeats the sentence - "I am going on a camping trip and I am going to bring (fill in blank)". At each student's turn, he says the word of what he is bringing. Each student could think of a word with the same initial, medial or final sound as a word you are working on, or a rhyming word.

Twister with Blends: I have found phonics and other reading games for Twister all around the web, but this is a new "twist" (haha!) on it. Head over to  Apples 4 Bookworms to get the simple and easy (and really fun) directions!

Walk this Way: The teacher says a simple sentence like"The lion roars".  Students repeat it and take one step forward for each word in the sentence. Then, students say how many words or steps there are in the sentence. It might  help for students to hold up a finger for each word to help them count the number of steps/words. A variation is that students can also walk backwards or  sideways for this activity.

Sight Words

Move, Groove, and read: This game is from the blog Mom to 2 Posh Lil' Divas. She has some terrific, creative ideas for learning games.  Head over to her blog for details but it involves target words, music, and lots of moving. I want to play this one!

Word Family Slam: This one was spotted over at the blog Toddler Approved, but I think kids well into elementary school would enjoy it. You could even do it indoors with a free wall and a soft ball. Head over to get the info.

Twister Sight Words: A variation on the Twister game I mentioned that would work well for phonics skills. You use sight words instead. I am not claiming this idea either - A Year as a Reading Teacher has a great post on it. Head over to her blog to read it.

Beach Ball Sight Words: You probably have seen or heard of this idea before, but grab a beach ball, a permanent marker, and write your target words. Toss the ball and read whichever word your finger (or thumb - choose one in advance)  lands on!

Hopscotch: Have hopscotch on the playground? Why not use chalk and on each spot, write a sight word, then toss a pebble, read the word it lands on, and hop away, skipping that space.

Bean Bag Toss: If you have bean bags and one of those bean bag toss goals with the holes in it, try labeling each hole (with a taped on sticky or index card) with a target word and kids have to read the word they are aiming for and then read the word (it might be a different one!) that they actually toss the bag into. What else could you use if you don't have something with holes in it already? I bet someone has a creative and easy idea - let us know!

Sight Word Bowling - use dry erase markers to write sight words on an indoor bowling set, and after knocking pins down, students read the words on the pins they have to stand back up for the next player.


Jump Roping Rhymes: With your group, create a jump rope rhyme with antonyms, synonyms, homophones etc. (or words from a word family you are working on), then go outside and try it. Kids can teach their classmates at recess, too!

Step Forward/Back: Group could line up and students could suggest antonym pairs (students would take one step forward and one step back for each word in the pair) or synonyms (2 steps forward)


Sound Marching: Teacher says, "We are going to say some words that have more than one syllable. We will march as we say each part of the word." Model by saying the whole word, such as "doorknob" , marching first with your right foot as you say "door" and then with your left foot as you say "knob." Practice together and then try some words with students. After each ask them "How many marching steps did you take for the word? That is the number of syllables."

Raise Up: Teacher says a two (or more) syllable word. Students repeat the word as they raise both their arms above their heads. Students drop one arm as they say each syllable.

Vocabulary and Comprehension

Students move like the animals in the story they are reading

Teaching prepositions using movement

Using body language to show how characters are feeling in the story

Playing charades to review main ideas

Role play or pantomime to retell important story parts

Letter Recognition

Alphabet Hunt on the Go: With clipboards, pencils and papers walk around the school looking for examples of each letter of the alphabet. Kids could write the letters as they see them or you could provide them with a checklist.

Also, any of the Read the Room and Write the Room activities you see all over the web, at TPT and so on are great for getting students up and moving.

Here are a few other resources I found with some terrific ideas:
RMC Health - great post on the importance of exercise and movement based learning opportunities in schools - useing movement andmusic to improve  insttuction - resources on movement and learning - lesson plan resources that involve movement
Dr. Martha Eddy's resources for incorporating movement in the classroom

Please comment and let us know how you use movement in your language arts lessons. The more ideas we have, the better our instruction can be!


Informational Text Feature Walk

Hello Everyone!  It's Colleen and Stacy from The Rungs of Reading.  Today we are going to share a nonfiction strategy that Stacy loves to use in the Reading Room called the Text Feature Walk! 
Most primary-aged students learn how to do a "Picture Walk" before reading a story.  While previewing text, students activate prior knowledge, make predictions, and set a purpose for reading the book.  Effective reading instruction includes this important strategy yet this supportive practice is not as common when using informational text. 

When entering intermediate grades, students may experience difficulty reading textbooks and informational text due to high-level vocabulary and unfamiliar concepts.  In addition to these complexities, students encounter numerous text features throughout the text that often get overlooked even though they have been taught their importance.  The Text Feature Walk is a technique that explicitly teaches the purpose and importance of text features which enables students to navigate any informational text more effectively. 

First, students learn how text features support informational text.  Familiarizing your students with the purpose of each text feature is key to the lesson's success.  Additionally, it is important to model an interactive discussion about text so that students will be prepared to do it on their own.

Once students are familiar with text features and are able to hold a focused discussion about text, you can easily introduce the steps of a Text Feature Walk.  Through explicit modeling and thinking aloud, demonstrate the steps to follow while taking a Text Feature Walk using a short nonfiction article.  The steps outlined on our Student Cue Cards include identifying the text feature, making a prediction, making a connection, asking questions, and predicting the main idea.

Part 2 of the lesson focuses on guided practice with the teacher providing support as needed.  Within small groups, students use the cue cards to preview and discuss each text feature in order to activate prior knowledge, make connections, and set a purpose prior to reading the information text.

Once groups are finished, have students come back together as a whole group to discuss what went well and what they learned from their discussions.  They are now ready to read and more fully comprehend the text!
We hope you enjoyed learning more about using the Text Feature Walk!  To get you started using this important cooperative learning technique, please download our LIMITED freebie that includes all of the cue cards you will need.  This freebie will be available until May 2nd at 9:00 EST.  
 Text Feature Walk download


Sharing Ideas For Preventing Summer Slide

Summer? Are we talking about that already?! Believe it or not, many schools have just a few short weeks left of this school year. I am already getting questions from fans on my own page, The Literacy Nest, for names of programs to use with struggling readers over the summer. Today, I'll share a few ideas and programs, but I want to open this post to you, the readers, in hopes that you'll share some of your own strategies. First, let's talk about summer slide.

We as teachers and parents are all too familiar with the effects of summer slide on our students. Having two months or longer off from school can be rejuvenating in many ways, but for struggling readers, it may cause regression.
An article from RIF: "Experts agree that children who read during the summer gain reading skills, while those who do not often slide backward. According to the authors of a report from the National Summer Learning Association: "A conservative estimate of lost instructional time is approximately two months or roughly 22 percent of the school year.... It's common for teachers to spend at least a month re-teaching material that students have forgotten over the summer. That month of re-teaching eliminates a month that could have been spent on teaching new information and skills."


Consider that loss of learning time for the struggling reader and you have some catching up to do when a new school year begins. It's a common cry for many educators out there. When the Fall returns, there's a great deal of reteaching going on in many classrooms.
There are several solutions to this problem, but some may be costly. Throughout my teaching career, I've taught in two very different socioeconomic backgrounds. I've worked with the students whose parents can afford a private tutor for the summer, and others who've been mandated to attended summer school. Certainly a private tutor is a wonderful way to help a child overcome summer slide, but it isn't always accessible or affordable.

We as educators can start looking now to see which children are going to need that little extra help and motivation to keep the learning going all summer long, but in a fun and engaging way.

Here are some ideas:

1. Most local libraries will host a summer reading challenge for city or town residents. Invite the local librarian into your classroom to do a special talk about summer reading and any special incentives going on for those participants. This worked well with my own students each year.

2. Some school hands out summer reading lists. Here's my twist:  If you were a student in my class, I sent you off with a list of book recommendations that we created together in class. Every child shared their recommendations. Then, I typed up a list of nearly 50 books and gave everyone a copy. The class summer reading list was always a big hit in my room because it came from peer suggested books, not adults. But I was sure to add in my own book suggestions too. :)

3. Another item I sent home with my kiddos on the last day was an envelope or blank postcard with the school address on it and a stamp for them to write to me over the summer. I would receive quite a few back and was always so pleased to receive them. If I couldn't be there with each child and see them keeping a summer journal, I was sure going to encourage it!

4. Send a special class newsletter to parents with educational websites and apps for children to use. Instead of just focusing on technology, include places for kids to read and enjoy a good book outside (on a front porch, in a beach chair, on a hammock, a park bench, in a tree house, resting against a tree.) Maybe create a class photo collage of kids posing in their favorite reading spots.

5. Summer reading incentives work for many families. I encourage offering constructive and reasonable ones. Several years ago, I actually found a summer reading list I had created at the age of seven . Don't ask me why I still have it! Anyway, when I finished reading a certain amount of books agreed upon, I was rewarded with a Barbie doll I had eyed in the toy store. So during the summer, it may be just the thing to offer a child a trip to the movies or local ice cream parlor for creating a summer reading goal and sticking with it.


 If you do have the funds to purchase a program to use with students or your own children this summer, and are looking for something more structured, here are four suggestions:

1. Raz Kids If you're familiar with Reading A-Z, you may have heard of Raz Kids. This interactive version has great mobile features and reading incentives. Teachers can track progress while students practice fluency and reading comprehension skills. This is suitable for students K-5.
2. Lexia Core 5 is a comprehensive program for the struggling reader. Addressing 6 areas of reading instruction, it encourages student led-learning by letting children work at their own pace.
3. Snap! Learning has a new online program that I reviewed and used with several students several months ago. The stories we read on my mobile device were high interest, had an audio feature, a fluency check-up and comprehension questions.  There are leveled readers and passages and lessons for close reading.
4. Headsprout This is a program that's new to me, but looks like another great online reading resource. There are fluency, phonics and reading comprehension programs for K-2 and 3-5

Now it's time to join the conversation! Please comment with your best tips, links and ideas for preventing summer slide. Let's keep the conversation going among our fellow educators and teacher bloggers too. You're invited to stop by my blog where I'll share more resources this summer. Good luck with the rest of your school year. I'm looking forward to hearing from you!

photo source:


Poet-Tree with Words, Wit, and Wonder

April is the perfect time to celebrate one of my favorite topics, poetry. I had the opportunity to observe my intervention students in their regular classroom this week.  In both reading and writing they are studying poetry.

Poetry Mentor Text

Miss Reisinger launched the unit with the book, Words, Wit, and Wonder: Writing Your Own Poem

Author, Nancy Loewen
Words, Wit, and Wonder is recommended as a poetry mentor text by Lucy Calkins and The Reading and Writing Project.

  • In the first part of the book, rhythm, rhyme, alliteration, similes, metaphors, and onomatopoeia are explained in kid-friendly terms.
  • In the second half of the book, six poetry forms - acrostic, cinquain, concrete, free verse, haiku, and limericks - are introduced.
  • Each of the twelve tools presented is accompanied by an example poem.  

Writer's Workshop

As the unit progressed, students began writing their own poetry.  They referred to the mentor text during writer's workshop.

Words, Wit, and Wonder
Pictured here is Tool 7 - Acrostic Poems from the mentor text.  The explanation of an acrostic poem is given in the purple box on the left-hand side of the page; to the right is an example poem, "Spelling Test".

The student above is drafting his own acrostic poem, "Hobbits," while referring to the example from the text.

Words, Wit, and Wonder
Pictured here is Tool 9 - Concrete Poems.  

The student pictured above is drafting a concrete poem in his writer's notebook.

Publishing:  The Poet-Tree 

As students complete a published piece of poetry, it is added to a class book and hung on the Poet-Tree. 

A close-up view of the "concrete" branch of the tree.
A close-up view of the "couplet" branch of the tree.
Students are working on other types of poetry that will be added to the interactive bulletin board as they are published.  What a great way to celebrate National Poetry Month!

Today is Poem in Your Pocket Day.  If you would like to learn more about it, Lauren wrote a great post about it {here}.

Would you like to read more about poetry across the grade levels? Andrea has an awesome post {here}, freebies included!

Do you have a favorite book or activity you use when teaching poetry? Our readers would love to know.  Please share your ideas in the comments.  :)


Notice & Note: Strategies for Close Reading

I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter weekend!  I spent part of the long weekend reading Notice & Note: Strategies for Close Reading by Kylene Beers and Robert E. Probst. I have a ton of thoughts running through my head now that I am finished.  I thought I would share two of them with you today to help me better understand what I have read.

Common Core Standards require students to closely read a variety of texts.  What does that mean exactly?  I have seen the posters everywhere on Pinterest and in the blogisphere that breaks close reading down to what you do each time you read the text (reading the text two to four times).  Many of those say that students should be annotating as they read.  My question has always been:  How are students supposed to know what they should be writing in the margins that is actually helpful in deeply understanding a text?  It seems too simple to just have them write a question mark next to a part where they have a question or an exclamation point next to something that was surprising.  If they are closely reading, there should be a transaction between the reader and the text.  Students should be thinking deeper about the questions they are having or why he or she finds the part surprising.  Beers and Probst give you six signposts that you can teach your students to help them dig deeper into the text and create meaning by transacting with the text at a deeper level.  What do you do to help your students dig deeper into a text without leading them to the meaning you derived from the text?

Another term that has risen to the top of discussion since the implementation of Common Core is 'text dependent questions."  In Notice & Note, the authors write, "We worry that a focus on text-dependent questions may create a nation of teacher-dependent kids...Text dependent questions usually suggest that a teacher has crafted the questions and the order of them to lead students to a predetermined meaning of a particular passage" (p. 43).   The authors suggest that teachers work with students to create their own text dependent questions.  They even provide a structure to help teachers do this with their students. (Clicking on the picture will bring you to Google Docs so you can download your own copy.)
I don't want my students to become dependent on me.  I want them to be independent readers.  Questions they create on their own are more engaging and authentic than any question I could ever write.  Students are trained that there is 'a right answer' when the teacher asks a question.  If I am the only one creating the questions, they will never fully engage in the text.

One sentence really stood out to me and I came back to it over and over again.

I would love to know:  What book has changed you?

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