Teachers as Reader Role Models

Friday was my last day of school for this year and I am already thinking about plans for next year.  This school year I started a new role in a new school as a math coach and in an effort to learn more about the math content, I have left many of my reading coach thoughts behind.  However, next year I want to do my part in creating a community of readers in my school.  One of my favorite ways to show students that I was a reader was to show them exactly what I was reading.  I didn't take pictures of how I did this :(  However, I did find pictures of what my fabulous high school teacher/academic coach friend did, and I can't wait to share with you her display.  Her display put mine to shame.

Let's take a look at each part of her display in detail.  At the time, Mrs. Stone taught ninth grade English for two periods to a group of students she had been teaching since the sixth grade.  Each year she looped up with her students.  They had formed a very special bond with her.  She spent the rest of her day being a master teacher (academic coach) to the other teachers in the high school.

She, like myself, was always reading more than one book at a time.  In order to keep up with what was current and be able to recommend books to her students, she read a lot of young adult fiction.  Not mention that we both LOVE reading young adult fiction books!  I love how she printed miniature versions of the book covers to use instead of just listing a title.  Book covers are works of art themselves and I love showcasing them.  They are first impression students have of the book.

Using book covers again, she listed the books that were in her TBR (to be read) pile.  Her students had lists in their notebooks of books they were interested in next and hers was just a visual representation of that list.  The students liked to see what she would be picking from next and the list also encouraged the students to check out the books themselves.

Once she finished reading a book, she moved the book cover from "is reading" to "has read."  She would then give book talks on the books and the line would begin of students wanting to check that book out.

At the beginning of each quarter, Mrs. Stone had a conference with each student and helped them set a personal reading goal.  The goals were set in terms of number of pages read, not number of books.  Students kept this tracking form in their notebooks.  Students were not competing against each other; they were working on meeting their own individual goal.  The student completed the title and page number section.  Mrs. Stone would then initial the completed column after they showed her in some fashion that they comprehend what they read.  I really liked the progress bar at the bottom.  Once a goal was set (hers was 3000 pages), the students divided the goal by four (750 for her) and set smaller goals on the way to completion of the major goal.  As students neared the completion of their goal, they colored in the progress bar so they would have a visual of how far they had come.

This post is dedicated to Mrs. Stone.  She is still working at my last school and I miss working with her on a daily basis.  She is a true inspiration.  She cares deeply for her students and inspires them to take their reading to new heights.

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Literacy Framework to Support RtI

This year we were Formally introduced to the RtI process.  We learned about interventions versus strategies and the RtI process versus the IAT process.  But we quickly discovered that we did not have the right structures in place to make the RtI process or interventions successful; leaving us feeling frustrated and that we were doing things all wrong.

I've been contemplating how to write up this blog post for a few weeks now.  Going through change can be hard but it is also the nature of our profession.  We learn. We grow.  We change.   Many times it can be hard to be brutally honest with ourselves and others.  But I wanted to share with you (honestly) the struggles that my school has gone through this year because your school may be feeling something similar.

My little school is comprised of four Kindergarten, three first grade, and three second grade classes.  They are departmentalized and the Title I teachers push into the classrooms.  Everyone meets vertically twice a week to discuss successes, struggles, and ways that we can help each other out.  All the teachers are working hard to do the best for their students.

After some data analysis and conversations, we discovered that the first thing we actually needed to do was examine our Core instruction to determine our strengths and gaps.  We could not really build the structures for a successful RtI process in our school until we had solid, strong, and consistent Core instruction, as a building.  We started immediately.

The first step we took: Analyze the Instruction

I wrote down every literacy standard and broke up the chart paper into K, 1st, 2nd.  The teachers then wrote down the strategies, materials, and time spent to teach that standard.  This was completed over a matter of a about two weeks during our vertical meetings or planning bells.

The next step:  Find gaps

The intervention specialist, me (a Title I teacher), SLP, and an RtI specialist from our county started to meet weekly to analyze our Core instruction.  We were looking for gaps in our instruction, strengths as a building, and the research to support it all.  Specifically we examined how much time was being spent on some standards versus others and the research to support the strategies being used.

This took quite a bit of time. Some heated discussions were had, but a lot of learning took place surrounding  best practices and the research to support them.

So now what?
We decided that one way we could support each other, our students, and our Core instruction was to create a literacy framework.  After looking at many different samples, we decided our framework would include:

* an outline of the components of literacy that should be found in each classroom (here is one example):

 * Guidelines of best practices for the literacy components (here is one sample):

* Description of what students and teachers are doing (another sample):

* Pages of resources for each component of the ELA block:
* Glossary of terms
* Definition of teacher roles
* Common vocabulary to use as a building

* Common materials needed.  We included the sight word lists that we would use as a building and some common vocabulary assessments that could be used.

After a couples months of work, we finally had a completed product.

What we discovered:
* As a building, we had a great foundation to start this framework.
* Many best practices were already in place.
* Teachers had a strong knowledge base about research based strategies.

We also realized:
* We needed to "tighten" our times spent on different literacy components in order to "free" up time for Tier II interventions. 
* We were not hitting vocabulary to the degree that we would have liked; therefore, we came up with a plan and a weekly assessment to integrate more vocabulary instruction.
* Common usage of terms would be beneficial to our students.

Analyzing the Core instruction at your school is similar to any assessment that is given to our students.  There are strengths and weaknesses.  As I reflected with the RtI specialist, she expressed that each time she goes through this process with a school different results are produced.  Each school comes to the table with a different set of needs.  The framework that works for one school may not work for another.  But  the conversations between staff members, the honesty, the tears, the letting go, the holding on, the learning, the growing, and the changing all help to create one strong framework and school.

With the literacy framework complete, we can now focus on our next chapter, "Tier II interventions."


Planning A Summer Literacy Intervention Program: The Comprehension Component

Hello Friends! Tara here from Looney's Literacy. I'm so excited to share my Summer Intervention Program: The Comprehension Component with you all today.

 In a nutshell,  I designed the comprehension part of my program in four simple steps. This program is based off of my study of Wiggins and McTighe's Understanding by Design.
I established what my big ideas & goals were. As an interventionist I have a limited number of children. (This type of planning could be adapted to a whole class by applying the same principles and not so focused on one child's needs.) So each child has their own plan. I'm going to run you through one child's comprehension plan for week one. My overall goals for this particular student is to read at a third grade level with appropriate accuracy and comprehension, have a basic understanding of the different types of texts and their purposes, and asking questions to help understand text.

With goals established,  I determined the  assessment plan. I used end of the year summative assessments to give me a starting point. This information gave me a grade level and helped me focus on the level of standards each student would be able to accomplish in  three weeks.

Each child's assessment plan is designed to fit their needs and is *formative in nature. It may be as simple as a running record. Of course, with assessment  comes data collection. This year I'm going to try The *CCPensieve. This is a tool used for conferring during daily five time.

(This particular tool is a separate cost then basic membership to the 2 sisters Daily CAFE  if you're interested.)

*There will be one beginning and end summative benchmark to show total growth. 

This is week one's plan. 
Time  to focus on the "essential questions".  This plan is geared towards a 4th grade student who is at a 2nd grade level. The essential questions I've chosen for this student are:
Why do authors write?, How does story structure effect understanding of the text?,  and What's the big idea?

Steps three and four depend upon each other. In step three,  I decided which performance tasks that I will use in a formative fashion to determine understanding. The additional activities in step four aid in the learning/teaching process.

I paired each "question" to some essential standards that helped to further refine the performance tasks to check for understanding. Which is step three. Determine the performance tasks.  After reading Madonna's Mr. Peabody's Apples in week one, one performance task will include making a list of character traits for two of the main characters and using Tagul to make some character trait word clouds. Another performance task will be a journal entry about spreading rumors.

The learning plan is the actions that lead to  your big idea & goals from step one.  The difference between your performance tasks and your learning plan is the performance tasks goal is to get formative information. The rest of the learning plan list is used to learn the desired skills to meet the ultimate goal.

Thanks for taking the time to check this out! If you're interested, I'm working on putting together the whole program for grades 1-4. For each grade level "the whole program" consists of: 3 components- Reading, Word Work, and Writing, In each component you will find weekly ideas for both individual and small group activities, general formative assessments, teacher weekly planner w/ tasks and to-do list included, and more! I will be doing a series on my blog, as well, that will walk you through each component for one grade level.  So keep in touch! 

*The CCPensieve & 2 Sisters CAFE is not an affiliate link.  I just really like this tool and this site is a great resources if you implement the Daily Five and CAFE


Teaching Phonics


It's Pixie Anne from Growing Little Learners here today to share a suggested lesson outline for teaching phonics with you.

The first 8 years of my teaching career were with the older primary children (10-11 years) and daily phonics teaching was not something I had to do. This meant that when I asked to be moved to teach the younger ones (6-7 years), phonics was something completely alien to me and I was completely out of my depth and comfort zone! 

I've been with the little ones for 2 years now and LOVE teaching phonics. It took a while to get to grips with it all and find a structure to the sessions that suited me (and still ticked the expected boxes!) but I finally have! I think my favourite thing about it is the pace - it has got to be quick, quick, quick and that keeps us all on our toes!

There are plenty of good schemes of work and websites (Phonics Play is my favourite) to help with planning and teaching ideas but today I thought I would share the basic outline of my daily phonics sessions with you:

Graphics: Creative Clips, Fonts: Kevin and AmandaComfortaa
This is something that works for me. Of course, I do change things up all the time to keep my class engaged and interested - please do not think I stick rigidly to this outline day in and day out! I am also always looking for new games and activities (so if you have any, please share in the comments below!) and for ways to improve my practice. 

I have shared this with newer teachers in my school and student teachers who have found it useful to have a simple outline to build their lessons around and I hope any teachers to be or anyone else who finds themselves switching year groups and facing phonics teaching finds this useful in some way too!

Thanks for stopping by today!


Setting up Routines During Writing Workshop?

Hi Everyone!  It's Jennie from JD's Rockin' Readers.  If you know me at all, you know that I have a passion for Guided Reading and meeting the needs of all students during Guided Reading in my classroom.  What you might not know is that as much as I love Guided Reading, Writing Workshop is actually my favorite part of the day... there are two big reasons why!
 1.      The kids LOVE writing workshop.
2.   Each student is working at their own level! 
Please know that what I write in this blog post is how I run my Writing Workshop.  I realize different things work for different people.  What I am going to write about works for me and my kiddos.  I hope that maybe I can give you some ideas to add to your writing workshop time…
Why do I choose to teach writing in a Writing Workshop format?
  • ALL students are working at their own level!
  • Students get to choose topics that interest them to write about.
  • The mini-lesson allows for Interactive Writing (share the pen).
  • Writing Workshop allows the teacher to conference with students individually or in small groups to focus on their needs.
How do I get started with Writing Workshop?
  • I start on DAY 1.  I encourage students to just write, write, write from the start.  Anything goes and no matter what they are writing about- it is AMAZING!
  • I get REALLY excited each day before we start writing.  I tell them how much I love writing workshop and how much they are going to love it too!  Positive energy about writing is really contagious!
  • The first days/weeks I really focus on the rules, routines, and organization of Writing Workshop.
If you were to walk into my room during Writing Workshop, what would it look like?
  • Writing Workshop lasts about 45-60 minutes every day.
  • First, we do a mini-lesson (usually on the SMART board).  I try to keep the mini-lesson between 10-15 minutes.  Many times we are writing together doing a shared interactive writing and writing stories together.
  • After the mini-lesson students will begin writing on their own.  I call table groups to get their writing folder as we watch how well everyone can get started quickly and quietly.
  • I have soft music playing.  I usually listen to a Pandora station.
  • Students will be spread around the room.  I switch off each day, BOYS will work on the floor one day while the GIRLS are at their seats and then visa-versa.
  • Students on the floor are sitting on mats in their own area (they get to choose).  I don’t allow students to go under desks though or else it turns into a fight of who gets to sit where.  They must not be able to hold their arms out and touch another student.
  • I meet with students (usually about 5 each day).  We discuss their writing and talk about where they are going with it.  I focus on WHAT they are writing and spend very little time worried about mechanics.
  • Students write for about 20-30 minutes and then come to the “story pit” to share. 
  • I have sharing/conferencing charts that I use.  Each group has about 5 students and I meet with those students that day and then they also share.  They share their stories no matter where they are in the writing process.  We focus by giving 2 compliments and an idea.

My newest product is structured the way that I run my Writing Workshop.  I did these lessons with my first graders and they are now writing up a storm!  I love to see how excited they are when writing time comes around every day. 

Also, here are some Editing Checklists (freebie) that the kids can use to help them edit their own writing.

Also, here is an EDITABLE letter (freebie) that can be sent home to parents that tells a little about our Writing Workshop!

There is so much more that I could write about but I didn't want this post to go on and on... if you have any specific questions about how I run my Writing Workshop or any questions about this product, I would love to hear them!


Fish In A Tree: A Book Review

Hi everyone! Happy Memorial Day weekend! I hope you're out enjoying this unofficial start to Summer with family and friends. Hopefully you have a chance to take a minute to thank the amazing work our armed forces have done past, present and future for our country's defense, including giving the ultimate sacrifice. We here at Adventures In Literacy Land are eternally grateful for their service.

(The following post has affiliate links.)

Take a minute to read the quote below and reflect. When you read this quote by Albert Einstein, what do you think of? Do you think of a particular student, your own child, or even yourself?

We as teachers have all had students who struggle in our classes. We go home thinking about them at night. We think about them as we drive to work in the morning. How can we help them succeed?

Now think of the students who struggle and try to hide it. They act out. They don't participate. They refuse to do work. They've been called lazy, stupid, inattentive, careless, defiant.  How do we dig deep enough to find out what is REALLY going on? What is really at the heart of the problem? Are there adults in the lives in these children who truly care enough to look beyond all those negative behaviors to find out what that is and help them?

As you stop to think about those answers, I invite you to read Fish In A Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt this Summer.

It's a chapter book (intermediate fiction) about Ally, a young girl with dyslexia. Ally struggles to learn to read and write, but she also has amazing talents. Watch a book trailer here.

I started reading Fish In A Tree with an online group of Orton Gillingham teachers. We see and work with children regularly and can greatly identify with the main character, Ally. She is a child who has moved multiple times, struggles to maintain friendships, and sadly winds up in trouble for not complying with daily assignments which involve reading and writing. “I wish I had my Sketchbook of Impossible Things. It’s the only thing that makes me feel like I’m not a waste of space," Ally says.

Her dyslexia has largely gone unnoticed by her teachers, which makes reading the first few chapters uncomfortable to read. You know Ally struggles and you wish you could scream it out to every adult who misunderstands her. Then, Mr. Daniels, a long-term substitute teacher comes along. If any of you have read Thank you, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco, Mr. Daniels has a lot in common with him. You'll find a great deal of similarities in both characters.

Without spoiling this book for you, I invite you to pick up your own copy and even read it to your class. I'd recommend it for grades 4 and up. You'll begin to really feel what it is like to be dyslexic. Since dyslexia is still very misunderstood, this book offers a fresh perspective. As I read it, I began to think about the children I'd had in my classroom or have worked with 1:1. If we can begin to understand what it is like to be dyslexic, we will develop an empathetic heart and mind. Out of that, we begin to see the changes that need to take place to help struggling readers to succeed. Take this journey into Fish In A Tree this summer. You won't regret it!

Here are a few helpful posts and links:
  1. Fish In A Tree book discussion guide.
  2. Dyslexia Simulation (This is a post I wrote back in September.)
  3. Shedding Light On Dyslexia
  4. My Dyslexia Support Collaborative Pinterest board. (It's chock full of ideas. I'd love for you to follow me!)
*If you are an Orton-Gillingham trained teacher who'd like to join my private FB group, please email me at theliteracynest@gmail.com. I'd love to have you become a member!

Thank you for visiting Literacy Land today. Feel free to post any questions or comments below. 


End of the Year Memory Books

The end of the year is near...yahoo! It's Jen here from An Adventure in Literacy to share an easy, authentic, LOW PREP, idea for an end of the year memory book.

There are hundreds of options for end of the year memory books. Many teachers have a favorite memory book (I always do an end of theyear countdown book) but here is an idea you may want to do in addition to your "go to" book to provide an authentic writing experience for your students.

Like many other teachers, I stocked up on the Target Dollar Spot blank books earlier in the year. I chose the 16 page version that had 8 in a pack for $3. That's right...it will cost less than $10 for a class set of books. If you don't have blank books already, you can always just staple blank paper together.

This is an ongoing project for my students during the last few weeks of school. They work on their books for morning work or when they finish work early. I give each student a blank book and a sheet of printed subject labels. They choose the topics they are interested in and want to include in their memory book. I believe student choice is SO IMPORTANT, especially in something as personal as a memory book. One student may love word study while another may cringe at the thought of it, hence why it should or should not be included in their book!

Students simply stick the topic label to the top of the page, write about it, and illustrate. It is so sweet to read what they write and what they consider important. The open-endedness of this project really allows their writing to be authentic and focus on what is important in their school lives. I print a set of class pictures complete with our class name, year, and school to glue to the front of the book. Students can also get autographs from their classmates on the back inside cover.

To help with the prep of this project you can download the FREE labels

These are just a word document to be printed on standard address labels in comic sans (blahhhhh), but I figured you could edit the font to your favorite and change the topics as necessary. I used Hello Olive from Hello Literacy Fonts for mine. Wishing you and your students a great end of the school year. Summer is near which means lots of soaking up the sun while enjoying a great book!