Phonological Awareness with Tara from Looney's Literacy

We are pleased to have another guest blogger with us today!  Tara from Looney's Literacy Blog is here to help us all with some phonological awareness activities!

Hello, Adventures in Literacy Land friends! My name is Tara Looney from Looney's Literacy Blog and I'm pleased to be a guest blogger here where I can meet new literacy lovin' bloggy buddies!
I'm here today to share a little bit about phonological awareness and the part it plays in literacy learning. Since the National Reading Panel's research on the six basic components of literacy learning and my own personal experience with my child with developmental delays in speech and language and  proprioceptive sensory disorder, I've made it my mission to discover the literacy learning process and share it with others so that we can reach as many kiddos as possible. 

By the time our kiddos reach us in Kindergarten, especially if they've not had pre-school, it is important to teach explicit phonological skills to those who seem to have not mastered them yet. 
Phonological skills are closely related to  language and listening skills (All strong indicators of future literacy learning success).  A quick check at the beginning of the year is simple  and  can be done  within any normal "getting accustomed to school" routines. 

As an intervention teacher, I spend the first 2-3 weeks observing whole group instruction and independent activities. I try to keep record of observations that raise the red flag of possible learning difficulties. Language, listening and phonological awareness are  among the top five "literacy look fors" at the beginning of the year.

What Do We Look For When Checking for Phonological Awareness?

I like to look at phonological awareness as an umbrella. The solid upper portion containing the "developmental" foundation for listening and language. Research states that rhyming awareness occurs around 3-4 yrs of age  and syllable awareness around 5-6 years. One of the first things I focus on is language and listening, which is going to tie into phonological awareness. Kids come to us at the age of five at varying levels of literacy learning. Listening to them them talk is a strong indicator of where to begin their literacy learning with you.

Easy Checklist:

1. Do they speak in complete sentences?
3. Do they hear rhymes?  Teacher says,"Do cat and sat rhyme?"
4. Can they produce rhymes? Teacher says, "Tell me a word that rhymes with car."
5. Can they hear syllables? (In words with 1-4 syllables - 1 syllable words are sometimes the hardest because they want to break the word into phonemes)

How do we address phonological awareness with the whole class and students who still need practice?

Addressing phonological awareness activities with the whole class can be done by choosing books that have a rhyming pattern for class read alouds, including rhyming activities to work on independently during word work time, and discussing how many parts are in a word during shared writing time. This can and should happen throughout all content subjects. For kiddos who need additional, more explicit teaching I extend their learning opportunities into small group time. As an intervention teacher, I've created some extension activities that are based off of classroom read alouds. Just recently, one of our Kindergarten classroom was studying Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse when they were learning about the letter P. So I took that story and created a fun syllable activity to go with it.
Click image to see my post on "Literacy Look Fors" 
It's kind of hard to see but when you close the flaps it makes Lily's purple plastic purse.

*Disclaimer: Remember not to stay on any one literacy component for too long, you can always "spiral," or loop skills back into learning as needed.*

I want to again, thank all you friends over at Adventures in Literacy Land for your generosity by allowing me to share some of my knowledge.  If you would like to hear more from me click on my blog button at the top and you'll be directed to my blog. 


Vibrant Vocabulary--Royal Ways to Help Your Students Become Word Nerds

A big warm welcome to Jennifer from Stories and Songs in Second who is guest blogging today with some fun ways to help your students with:
Hear Ye!  Hear Ye!
Calling all teachers from far and wide, to and fro, hither and yon!
Are you tired of  using the same old worksheets and four-corner graphic organizers to teach your students word meaning?  Are you looking for ways to transform your daily vocabulary lessons into one of the most engaging, productive, and interactive parts of your instructional day?
Then kindly join me for today's royal edition of Adventures in Literacy Land, and listen well, my friends!  It is I, Jennifer from Stories and Songs in Second, here to share some royal and 
"oh so fancy" ideas gleaned from a resource that has rejuvenated my own instructional practice!
Know that I was absolutely thrilled when my request to guest blog here was accepted, and thank Andrea from Reading Toward the Stars profusely for guiding me through the process!  I just celebrated my one-year "blogiversary" in mid-November, and am both grateful for and humbled by the kindness and generosity this community has shown me.  Their friendship and inspiration have made me a better educator and a better person.
It is with great honor and respect now that I invite you to step inside the castle 
with me now to enjoy.....
Reading, spelling, writing, and vocabulary work were always my favorite subjects in elementary and high school.  The rhythm, rhyme, figurative language, descriptive phrases, and the ability to paint pictures with words always fascinated and enchanted me.  My nose was often in a book, or my pen was always being put to paper--writing in my journal, drafting a short story, or composing a poem.  My love of all things literacy-related continues today in my classroom, and I am always looking for new methods, strategies, activities, or techniques to capture the attention and interest of my young students.

In addition to sharing favorite read alouds from my beloved collection of picture books, I also like to incorporate music into much of my teaching and am not one to sit down at my desk too often.  I am known to dance, chant, move, and groove as needed to keep my class focused and engaged.  I also have a cupboard full of creative props, puppets, and costumes that I bring out and use as needed. In order to do justice to the content of this post and make this thematic study of BIG words and their IMPORTANT MEANINGS come alive for my second graders, I had to dig deep into my royal treasure box!  
A regal tiara, silver scepter, movie star sunglasses, megaphone, microphone, and cheerleader pom-poms are just a few of the royal tools and tricks of the trade I rounded up!  Alas though, I did not come up with velvet cape or a horse-drawn carriage.....or a dashing prince.  But I digress.....
What follows now is a pictorial description of how the planning for and the actual teaching of  vocabulary lessons in the Royal Kingdom of Room #2 this year has unfolded....
This book and the simple, effective, and easy-to-implement ideas inside of it has been a "game-changer" for me.   After two years of rotating between the same Daily 5 Working with Words activities in Kindergarten and first grade, my second graders were in desperate need of something different this fall.  When I stumbled upon Word Nerds by Brenda J. Overturf, Leslie H. Montgomery, and Margot Holmes Smith at my local bookstore, I was at first taken in by the happy, gesturing children on the front cover.  The second thing that intrigued me was the rhymed title, and the fact that it described me.  I am a WORD NERD through and through!  I LOVE VOCABULARY! Whenever one of my students uses a huge "ten dollar word," either in conversation or in their writing, I "kiss their brain."  I am also forever spouting a list of alternatives for words we encounter in our daily reading.  Needless to say, I scooped it up off the shelf, bought it, and sat down to read it right when I got home.  
One hundred and forty-seven pages later, I might have even kissed the cover, and then cried a little bit.  I was hooked.  I had found my kindred spirits.  The three teacher-authors, who work at a school with a low socioeconomic population and a high percentage of at-risk children just like I mine, had found a way to reach and teach them the magic and power found in words.They had found a way to foster confidence in children who didn't have any.  They still used the tried-and-true methods of close readings and four-corner graphic organizers, but they also introduced an activity called Crystal Ball Words where students look deeply into the prefix, suffix, and root of a word to predict its meaning. They use "themed cycles" of words, instead of lists generated by a basal series, that are based on either a non-fiction text they are reading for a subject area like Science or Social Studies, or a picture book they are studying for Language Arts.
Synonym and antonym charts for each of the words listed in the "themed cycle" are created by the students, written on index cards and put in plastic lanyards.  A weekly "Block Party" is  held, where the teacher calls out the vocabulary word and the child wearing that word on his lanyard needs to invite the children wearing his or her related synonyms or antonyms to the party. Test reviews are called celebrations, and often take the form of a game show like Jeopardy, Deal or No Deal, with students writing the questions and each vocabulary word for the teacher to ask. Sometimes students write a song about their word and sing it American Idol style into a microphone. Sometimes students do the limbo while answering vocabulary questions and then enjoy Hawaiian Punch at a class Luau Party afterwards.  Often times, students will act out their words in a Charades-style game. While these activities are just a few of the ideas shared in this resource, Chapter 5 is entitled "Active Vocabulary Practice and is full of innovative, creative, and kinesthetic ways to help children develop the "velcro" they need to understand words and get their meaning to "stick to their brain."  
Word Nerds also includes a wealth of different formative and summative assessment ideas, planning charts, rubrics, and trade books that can be easily adapted and used in the elementary classroom. Working smarter not harder is something I have learned slowly over my 23-year-career, and I appreciate being able to just pull what I need from the appendix and adapt it as needed.  As I started to map out my own implementation plan, I decided to use Fancy Nancy picture, easy reader, and chapter books as my mentor texts because of their rich, royal, and "tres tres chic" supply of synonyms and antonyms.  I also appreciate the glossary that is included at the back of each story!  They make it easy to create both word and definition cards to use as a before-reading reference in my pocket chart, or to use as a matching review game at a literacy station.
Despite her love for all things pink, feathery, sequined, and "girly," the boys in my group adore Fancy Nancy's  humor, frequent clumsiness, and her long, arduous laments about how the rest of her family is just so "plain" instead of "extraordinary."  My entire group also loves the Razzle Dazzle candies I pass out before we meet the new words in every story!  I use them to remind my students how the language we use to express ourselves when we speak, read, and write should be just like the sweet treats in their mouths--fizzy, juicy, flavorful, fabulous, and fun!

I also developed this List of Top Ten Royal Vocabulary Rules based on important precepts outlined in Word Nerds to launch or introduce my unit.    Please humor my use of alliteration.  It just spills out of me, and I cannot help myself.  I also decided to emphasize how exploring new words and understanding their meaning is just like unwrapping a present by packaging the words from our first story, Fancy Nancy Sees Stars, as well as the Royal Vocabulary Rules in gift bags.  This task of removing the tissue paper and ribbon to "dig deep" inside the bag to  unearth the word cards really helped my group grasp how there are often lots of layers or multiple meanings to words that have to be discovered or unearthed!

Each morning,  my class gathers in our group time area to review these 10 V's OF VOCABULARY and go over directions for their partner or small group work choices.  I keep these definition cards on 
a large ring near our "Thinking Chart," and call student volunteers to come up and read them to their peers.  After each rule is read, the entire group shouts out, "Let's make our words fancy!  Just like Nancy!"

Once we've gone through our rule review and warm-up, student pairs or cooperative groups break off to enjoy a variety of practice activities that are easy for me to prep, and designed to expand and extend their knowledge of the words we are studying.  I use little gift bags tied with tags to designate the work areas around our classroom, designate royal helpers to distribute the materials needed for each one from my supply shelves (clipboards, highlighters, Crayola markers, finger trackers, Post-It notes, fun Flair pens, sentence strips, chart paper),  assign children to their Word Nerd Work Stations for the day, and then sit back on my royal throne to eat bon bons! I don't actually eat bon bons or sit on a throne during this time, but I do maintain a "I am just going to walk around our royal kingdom in my tiara and watch, listen, wave royally, help if needed, and shower children with praise and compliments" demeanor!

Each station has lists of our current vocabulary words and definitions that I've copied and laminated, as well as all of the supplies the students will need to be successful Word Nerds.  A short description of each one follows.  Please note that it took a LOT of whole-group modeling and practice for each of these activities before my crew was able to work independently during a 20-30 minute time frame.  My students take their three-ring binder that is pre-loaded with Handwriting Without Tears paper to their daily station, and then use it as a lap desk if they choose to sit on the floor and work.

Worn Out Words--Students generate alternatives for words that are overused in their writing and use chart paper or dry erase boards to generate lists of new ones.  For example, a pair of my students came up with this short list of words to use in place of "big"--huge, mammoth, gigantic. 

Fancy Schmancy Words--Students choose books of interest to them, either non-fiction or fiction, from our classroom library, and use finger flashlights to scan the pages to find interesting or new words inside of them!  They then write their favorite words on Post-Its and add them to our Wall of Words to share with the entire class later.  Dictionaries are also available at this station for students to look up word meanings.

Snazzy Jazzy Synonyms--Students wear star-shaped sunglasses and use bright flourescent-color
sentence strips to write synonyms for our featured words of the week.

Awesome Antonyms--Students sit across from each other knee-to-knee, and gently toss a small Koosh ball or bean bag back-and-forth while calling out an antonym for each word of the week.  For example, the first child says "Alfresco means outside."   The second child then responds "The antonym for alfresco is inside!"

Picture Perfect Words--Students choose a word or two from our list to illustrate for our
Art Gallery of Great Words display!  This then serves as a reference place for the whole class to have a visual clue for each word.  I usually cut white construction paper in half for this station, and the students use their own art supply boxes.  You could also have your students work collaborative to create a colorful Picture Perfect mural on large chart paper!

Picture Perfect Words--Students choose a word or two from our list to illustrate for our
Art Gallery of Great Words display!  This then serves as a reference place for the whole class to have a visual clue for each word.  I usually cut white construction paper in half for this station, and the students use their own art supply boxes.  You could also have your students work collaboratively to create a colorful Picture Perfect mural on large chart paper!  Imagine the possibilities, and encourage them to use the brightest crayons in their boxes!

Lights! Camera! Action! Words--Students act out, sing, chant, rap, cheer, or dance to their words.
They can clap, tap, or snap the syllables as they say each word out loud.  They can make up a jingle to help them remember the word meanings  like "I am a constellation!  I am a shiny sky sensation!"
They can play a game of Charades, where they act out each word for their partner or group to guess and state the meaning.  Because this particular set of activities can get L-O-U-D, I recommend that you play it as a whole group in order to maintain decorum and avoid chaos in your royal kingdom!

Razzle Dazzle Related Words--Students work together to brainstorm a list of other words that relate to the topic or theme of the word study.
Wonder Words--Students "read the room" with a partner--book titles, anchor charts, our Word Wall, labels, etc.-- and write down four favorite words.  They then either "turn and talk" to their neighbor about their words, and state the reason they like each one.  After that, they must "show what they know" by writing "superhero sentences" for each word.

What are "superhero sentences" you ask?  Why, they are sentences that are NOT full of  plain, unassuming, everyday, run-of-the-mill newspaper reporter Clark Kent words!  They are sentences full of vivid, visual, voracious, vast, very fun, vocal, vibrant, vivacious, and effervescent can-leap-tall-buildings-in-a-single-bound Superman words!  They are sentences that include great detail and infused with figurative language that leaps off of the page and literally sparkles!  They are sentences that are full of....

If you'd like to take your students for a magical ride in my royal vocabulary carriage, I will have this FREE starter kit uploaded to my store very soon! It will include the word power cards, anchor charts, and posters described in this post.

or on the picture below to grab your copy!

In closing, I'd like to share one more piece of information that is connected to my personal vs. professional life.  It served as the thematic inspiration for this post, and is "tres tres" good news that I just simply must share!  Thank you in advance for indulging me!

Beginning in late January 2015, my daughter will be performing 
onstage at the 
Emerald City Theater in ......

Know that I cannot wait to applaud her performance as she helps bring skits, songs, and dances about one of my favorite books characters to life!  It honestly makes my teacher and Drama Mama heart swell with pride!  
As I have always told her, I will remind you of the same advice now.  Reach for the stars.  Do what is best for yourself and your students.  Trust your instincts.  Teach them creatively.  Feed their imagination.  Celebrate their shining moments, and .....


Thankful For Reading Resources


Hi everyone! Who's Thanksgiving break has started? I was polling my page fans on The Reading Tutor/OG yesterday, and couldn't believe how many of you get the whole week off! Lucky! I always got Thursday and Friday off and that was it. However many days you get, I'm sure it is well deserved.

I have another question. Who loves finding online teacher resources? Here's a round up of five great resources to bookmark or share with a work colleague. I have to thank my fellow teacher bloggers for helping me with this one. It was so funny how they came up with the same ones I was thinking of when I polled them for ideas. You may not have seen some of these, so you'll definitely want to give them a try while you're on Thanksgiving break. Unless you're one of those people shopping on Black Friday, Yikes! Those crowds can be pretty fierce for some holiday deals.

  1. Newsela-This site is a collection of high interest non-fiction articles for grades 3-12. This can be one of your go-to sites if you're searching for close reading passages. You can create an account, and assign articles to your students to read. One nice feature is you can change the reading level to suit the needs of your students. Then assign questions on the article to monitor their comprehension. This is one of the best online reading tools for differentiating your reading instruction.
  2. Read To Me-LV- This site is a lot like Storyline. Famous actors and actresses read picture books aloud for your students or child to follow along. Any opportunity a child has to hear more a proficient reader other than their own teacher or parent read to them is a good thing.
  3. Into The Book- I love this site when I introduce comprehension strategies. The videos show real students trying the strategy out and modeling it for your class. Into The Book supports you and your students. You can print out mini-posters and lesson plans for each comprehension strategy.
  4. FCRR- The Florida Center For Reading Research has a search engine for all areas of literacy. Once you enter what you're looking for by skill, strategy and grade level, you'll find incredibly useful lesson plans and ready to print student materials. I always recommend this one to teachers, who really don't have a lot of money to spend on classroom materials, but need quality lessons.
  5. Starfall- For all you early childhood educators out there, Starfall is a goldmine. Do you have your families use it? I find to be a nice alternative if you can't afford the subscription at home. You'll find plenty of early childhood literacy skills and much of it is narrated or has audio components. The cheerful graphics always appeal to younger readers.
Now you have 5 resources that truly span grades Pre-K to 12! Are there any you'd like to add? Please comment below. I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving. See you back here in December!


10 Ways to Motivate Your Readers

Do your students love book projects? Check out this post for 10 ideas you can use to spark reading motivation!

What do you think of when you hear the word, "Project"? Maybe art supplies (or the lack of them), creativity, or perhaps, "There goes my relaxation time!" Well, I have students who are incredibly excited to share their enthusiasm for reading whenever it's time to make a project, and today, we'll explore ways to motivate, celebrate, and increase reading with your students through projects and other motivational techniques.

Books On Parade

Recently, our fourth graders made Virginia "Floats" to show off what they'd learned about our state, and that got me thinking of variations of that idea for reading. I thought it might be fun to have a "Books on Parade" Night where students make their own float (only requirements...must use a box, must feature a book, and must include wheels). Here are a few pictures of some we had come in.

Literacy Book Fair

While we're on the topic of projects, this week, our school had open house for American Education Week. We have had lots of visitors come through, and as part of the festivities, we held our second annual Literacy Book Fair. With these projects, the requirements were for the students to choose their favorite book either from long ago or from recent reading. The children and their parents had the option of decorating a trifold display, a lapbook, creating a scrapbook layout, a cereal box project, or a diorama. It was so fun seeing the projects come in. The children shared them with their peers and quite a few children asked when we would do it again.

Book Recommendations

Speaking of sharing books, one of the best ways to build enthusiasm for reading is to let kids get book recommendations from their friends. When kids start to recommend books to each other, then you begin to see real readers. Reading becomes meaningful to them and is a way to connect with each other and the books they read. I love the idea of a book recommendation wall. Here are a two neat options from Pinterest.

Blogging With Kids

This year, I started blogging with the students at my school, and I think adding that dimension to classroom discussions allows freedom to explore and comment with each other. I shared several platform options a while back, and if you're interested in getting started, you might look back at {this post}. Our blog has been used more as a newsletter for school events, but you have lots of options with as simple or elaborate blog options as you like. The main purpose is to give your students an avenue to talk about books with their peers.

Book Buddies

Many schools have book buddy programs set up, but many use the term, "Book Buddies" differently. During my reading program, we explored using the "Book Buddy" program as a tutoring opportunity for students who were slightly below level as a way to fill in gaps and motivate reading through the personal connection between tutor and student. We had grown up mentors who had been trained to be book buddies. If you are familiar with Reading Recovery, the Book Buddy lessons are very similar in structure. Each session included repeated reading of familiar text, word study, introduction and reading of new material, and writing in response to reading. Students read A LOT of books with their tutors, and friendships are formed.

Pajamas, Teddy Bears, and Hot Cocoa...Oh My

Speaking of forming relationships with tutors and getting a warm fuzzy from reading together, how about a story time where kids and parents cozy up with a great book? Associating pleasurable things with reading helps kids who may not LOVE reading like we do see that it can be fun. This is not a new idea, but we as teachers can do this every day by making a cozy reading nook for kids to read in and creating opportunities where reading is pleasurable. Book choice is a huge help with this too. Here are a few book suggestions from Boy Mama Teacher Mama if you decide to do a Pajama day.

From Ginger Snaps

Know Your Students' Interests

Learn what your students are interested in and be ready to share books that tie into those interests. Interest surveys are a great way to learn about your kids. Once you know interests, you might check out websites like Good Reads.

Reading Challenge Punch CardTrack and Reward Reading with Punch Cards

Use personal incentive charts or punch cards to help your students keep track of the number of books they've read. Kids like to see how they are progressing. This reward punch card set can be used right now, but others are available for free on Teachers Pay Teachers. Just search the word, punch card to see what you can find.

Book Choice with Read Alouds

The books we choose to share may lead to further reading. Pick new authors and books with strong beginnings that hook your kids. Read part of a book and have multiple copies ready for shared reading once you reach the stopping point you decide. Once the kids are hooked, they will WANT shared reading time.

Choose "Just Right" Books

Help your students make the best match. At our school, books are color coded by level to make selection easier. Teachers provide students with the level that works best for them. This isn't necessarily a novel idea, but it is critical to reading achievement. Too many children try to push up in level before they are ready only to abandon the book before they finish.

Well, I am spent today, but I believe I reached my ten tip limit. I do hope your kids will be super motivated for the rest of the year. Please share motivational ideas below. We'd love to read them.

Pin for Later:

Do your students love book projects? Check out this post for 10 ideas you can use to spark reading motivation!