Parent Reading Volunteers

It's Jen from An Adventure in Literacy here to share an easy, no hassle way to incorporate parent reading volunteers in your classroom.

Last year in my class I had "Read with Me" volunteers. These volunteers would come weekly on scheduled days/times to listen to students read. Once I set up the initial schedule the program ran flawlessly for the rest of the year. The parents and students loved the program and it took very little work on my end. Here are some tips to incorporate this in your classroom.

1. Enlist Volunteers
At back to school night I shared this program and put up a sign-up sheet for interested parents to sign up. I listed times that I knew would be ok for students to be out of the classroom for a few minutes (literacy centers and intervention time). I also put a blurb about this in my newsletter for parents that didn't attend back to school night.

You can download a no frills editable copy here.

2. Make a Schedule
After signups I made a schedule and contacted parents. 

3. Train Volunteers
Many classrooms in our school were using parent reading volunteers so our reading specialist had a brief training for volunteers that shared tips for reading with children and helpful prompts to use.

4. Set up a Routine
I put the reading log sheets and a pen on a clipboard hung by my door. When volunteers arrived they took the clipboard, grabbed two chairs to put in the hall, and selected the first reader. After the first reader finished they told them who to send out next. Students brought their independent book boxes with them so they had familiar books to read. The students and parents knew what to do so it minimized distractions and I could continue teaching.

5. Be Flexible
I let the volunteers decide how they wanted to run their session with the child. Some would read a few books while others would focus on just one but have discussions after. Each volunteer seemed to add their own spin which was great because my students were getting different opportunities to work on different skills. I also let the volunteers know that if something came up and they were unable to attend it was not a big deal.

The read with me program was a huge success in my room and I was so amazed at how easy it was. If you're interested in starting something similar you can download a free copy of my student book chart and directions here.


Picture Books for Math


It's Pixie Anne here from Growing Little Learners here today to share my top 5 favourite picture books to use when teaching math! There are so many great books out there for introducing different mathematical concepts, especially to younger children but I have noticed they are being used less and less in favour of online games and videos. 

These do a brilliant job too but I think I'm going to make a conscious effort to dust off some of these favourites and, whether I share them in math lessons or just as end of the day readers, just share them!

1. How Big is a Million? By Anna Milbourne

One new friend, one hundred fish, one thousand snowflakes and one million stars! A beautiful book following a little penguin on his journey to discover how big one million really is. A perfect opportunity for getting the class asking their own big questions about the world and for a deeper understanding of place value.

 2. One Odd Day by Doris Fisher

The rhyme makes this a great book for reading out loud. My class loved the crazy scenarios (no even numbers on the alarm clock, 5 legs on his dog, only one sock to wear and a shirt with 3 sleeves!) and this made the book all the more memorable. We had great fun discussing other 'odd' things that could be seen or that could happen that day and told our own funny stories to fix the learning in our heads!

3. A Remainder of One By Elinor J Pinczes

Poor old Joe seems to be always left out of the 25th Army Corps when they line up for parade until at last he finds his place! I'm particularly fond of this one as I used it in an interview for a promotion and got the job! It is excellent for a first introduction to remainders when dividing and a perfect way to ensure the whole class can access this concept. There are also great opportunities for discussing how it feels to be left out and to act this out in PE lessons.

4. Sir Cumference and the First Round Table

Sir Cumference and his family (Lady Di of Ameter and his son Radius) are on a mission to solve the problem of the king's table and their carpenter, Geo of Metry, makes several tables before the perfect one is found! The story is engaging and the pictures really help explain the mathematical concepts. A really creative tale which makes learning math vocabulary easy (and there are other books in the series too!).

5. The Rabbit Problem by Emily Gravett

I'm a big fan of Emily Gravett books and Matilda's Cat and Dogs have been used a number of times!
The Rabbit Problem explores multiplication and the Fibonacci sequence in a cleverly illustrated and funny way. I wouldn't use this book with the whole class as the images are busy but with a small group it is great to explore and discuss together.
I know there are so many more amazing picture books out there for exploring mathematical concepts with children that I haven't even heard of yet so please leave a comment below sharing your favourites so my wish list can grow!
Thanks for stopping by today! 


Why I don't teach kids to sound it out

One of the most common phrases you hear in a classroom, or at the dinner table during homework time, is "sound it out."  I have used this phrase many times myself, but then I learned better!

I  no longer tell my kids to sound it out when reading of spelling and here is why:

1. First of all, very few kids are ever actually taught how to sound something out. As adults, we move through the sounds so quickly that it doesn't give their little brains time to process how we got there. And so often, we as adults will get frustrated with the process and end up just telling them the word, without really giving them the chance to do it themselves.  The only thing we are teaching them this way is to wait long enough and she will give me the word!

Kid: What's this word?
Mom: Sound it out
Kid: /p/.../e/...I mean /u/....
Mom: /pump/, now what's the rest?
Kid: /pump/.../k/..../e/
Mom: No /i/
Kid: /i/..../n/
Mom: Good, now what's the word.
Kid : I don't know.
Mom: Pumpkin, the word is pumpkin!
Sound familiar? 

2. Even if we did teach a child to sound out words correctly, what happens when they come across a long word like pumpkin? That word has 7 different sounds. Do you think that a child will be able to remember the sound they started with by the time they get to the end? Not likely. These long words are very difficult to blend.

3. Not every sound that we read can be "sounded out".  The English language is such a backwards and tricky language.  Some words, you just can't sound out. Most of us call these sight words. That's okay, but what happens when we come across a word that you can't sound out, but it is not a sight word either? A word like mirage or or even one as simple as school?

4. A child that is learning to read will not know all of the many sounds of the written language before he/she starts picking up books. They will come across long vowels, vowel digraphs, diphthongs, y as a vowel, past/present endings and more. Just because the child hasn't learned these sounds, doesn't mean that we can't give them books to read. And we cannot only be giving decodable books either!  They have to be given regular books and strategies for reading those books!  If they don't know the sound, then they can't sound it out!

So what do I do instead? 

In my class, rather than sounding out words, we stretch and chunk.

Shorter words get stretched. We stretch the word in our mouths like a rubber band so that we don't lose any sounds along the way.  So if we are stretching the word "stomp" then we start with the first letter.  We add the second letter to the first letter and blend those two.  Then we add another letter and blend it with the first chunk that we already created.  We continue adding each letter until we have stretched out the entire word.

Why does this work?  Because the kids don't forget what sound they started with by the time they get to the end of the word.  A great way for students to practice this is by covering up the word except for the first letter.  Uncover one letter at a time, each time, blending it all together.  Try out my Stretchy the Snake freebie to see how it works!

 Stretchy Snake Decoding Strategy - FREE SAMPLE

I will even have students use hand motions to show that they are stretching their words.  We start with our hands together, fingers pinched, like we are holding a rubber band.  With each sound we add, we pull our hands further apart (stretching our rubber band).  When we get to the last sound, we let go of our "rubber band" and say our word! 

For larger words, we chunk.  We chunk the words into smaller parts so that we can then stretch each of those small parts.  For pumpkin, we chunk and then stretch.

In order to use this strategy, students have to be able to "see" the chunks.  This can be difficult for some students.  The best way to get students seeing the chunks is by exposing them to chunks of sound.  Have you noticed that pump and kin are both small words?  You could even take words and look for the small nonsense words inside of them!  Or put nonsense words together to see if they make big words. 

We know these as syllables and students can hear syllables when given a word orally, but don't always see them in the written words that they are reading.  You can make it easier by putting a dot in between your two syllables.  This helps them to see the chunks until they start seeing them for themselves.

Of course, these 2 strategies are not the only ones that you will need to teach your students.  Not every word can be "chunked" or "stretched."  You can teach them about skipping, flipping, and using pictures, but that is for another day! 

Thanks for hanging with me!


An Apple-icious Circle Story

Hello Friends!

I hope you find this post I've refurbished and resurrected from the Adventures in Literacy Land archives useful!  It features a delightful picture book and companion FREEBIE all about fall's favorite fruit! Enjoy!

Circle stories are a great way to help reinforce vocabulary, sequencing, and grammar skills with primary grade readers!








This list of adjectives could go on and on and round and round to describe apples--the signature fruit
that defines the taste of autumn for many of us!

In The Apple Pie That Papa Baked, author Lauren Thompson and illustrator Jonathon Bean capture a sensory sequence of sights, tastes, sounds, and events that ends with a tasty and surprising twist!  The language used is rich and descriptive, which makes the book a perfect mentor text for any fall lesson on adjectives!

Circle stories are a great way to help reinforce vocabulary, sequencing, and grammar skills with primary grade readers!

Circle stories are a great way to help reinforce vocabulary, sequencing, and grammar skills with primary grade readers!

Circle stories are a great way to help reinforce vocabulary, sequencing, and grammar skills with primary grade readers!

I was introduced to this book while listening to illustrator Jonathan Bean describe his detailed, three-layered illustration process this summer at the Mazza Museum Summer Institute.  It is a delightful circle story that takes the reader on a day's journey through an apple orchard with a farmer and his daughter.  Thompson's use of repetitive phrases compliments Bean's parade of whimsical pen-and-ink characters drawn in red, yellow, and black, and makes this story an ideal one to help young readers develop sequencing skills, practice fluency, and build vocabulary.  The book won the Ezra Jack Keats Award in 2008, and you can read reviews {HERE}.

I cannot wait to share The Apple Pie That Papa Baked with my second graders as we celebrate Johnny Appleseed's birthday this month!  I've created this FREE 15-page pack of literacy activities to use along with your book study, and hope that you'll enjoy incorporating them into your lessons as well!

Circle stories are a great way to help reinforce vocabulary, sequencing, and grammar skills with primary grade readers!

Circle stories are a great way to help reinforce vocabulary, sequencing, and grammar skills with primary grade readers!

I tried to make word and picture cards so that you could use them in a variety of ways, and hope that you will find them helpful as you plan your thematic lessons for the coming weeks!

Use a tri-fold board and velcro dots to help students retell the story 
in sequential order!

Circle stories are a great way to help reinforce vocabulary, sequencing, and grammar skills with primary grade readers!

Use the picture cards and craft sticks to create puppets for a Reader's Theater performance
of the story!

Circle stories are a great way to help reinforce vocabulary, sequencing, and grammar skills with primary grade readers!

Sort the nouns, verbs, adjectives, and pronouns in the story to 
help students practice categorizing the descriptive language and parts of speech
found in the story!

Circle stories are a great way to help reinforce vocabulary, sequencing, and grammar skills with primary grade readers!

Create verb, adjective, noun, and pronoun anchor charts to recall
words used in the story or generate new words related to the topic!

Circle stories are a great way to help reinforce vocabulary, sequencing, and grammar skills with primary grade readers!

Click {HERE} to download the file! 

 May the autumn days ahead be full cinnamon, spice, and apples all sliced!

Be sure to check out more thematic resources for Fall in my TpT store {HERE}!

Follow me on Pinterest for more creative classroom ideas and activities!

Know that I wish you delightful and delicious
reading and writing adventures!


 Stories and Songs in Second


Preparing for Your Guiding Reading Routine

Assessments have been completed, daily routines have been established, and positive classroom environment encouraged.  Our reading groups are ready to begin.

You've assessed your students and know what they need. Now what? This post helps you establish your guided reading routine.

Each year that I have sat down to prepare for my guided reading groups, my routine changes a bit.  Maybe I have a new component that I want to add.  Or I have read a professional book that has helped me to grow in my learning.  Possibly my schedule has changed and the time that I have for guided reading is different.  Perhaps my students just need something a little different that what I have offered in the past.  Really...the reasons that our routines change is endless.

But to prepare for a guided reading routine, some things remain the same.  The first thing that I have to think about is time.

Time plays a huge part into the routine that I will establish.  A group that is 20 minutes long looks very different than one of my 30 minute guided reading groups.  And there have been years when my groups were only 10-15 minutes long.

Once my time period is determined, then I can analyze what my students need and compare it to the amount of time that I have.

The components that I include depends on their reading level, phonics skills, phonological awareness skills, and the sight words that they have mastered.

As a school building this year, we decided that more emphasis needed to placed on vocabulary.  My teammate and I chose to hit this skill through nursery rhymes in our guided reading groups.  This changed my routine because now I have to think about how to creatively use my time to hit vocab and phonological awareness at the same time.

Thinking through these challenges take a lot of time.  But I know that once I figure out what I need to hit in each guided reading group, my year is going to run more smoothly.

Once I have the time and skills determined, it is time to devise a plan.  And I mean a lesson plan format.

There are so many plans out there.  And good ones!  I have tried time and time again to use a pre-made format.  But when it comes down to it, my guided reading lesson plan format has to fit the routine that I have established and my teaching style.

One example of this: My guided reading groups occur in the same room as my teammate.  We co-teach for parts of the day.  Our guided reading routine is sooooo similar.  It was not necessarily on purpose but we have taught together for so many years.  I hear things that I really like and they become part of my group and the same occurs with her.  Anyways...I have offered my lesson plan format to her.  But it does not work for her style and mind.

Here is an example of how my formats have changed based on my new learning, time, and needs.

You've assessed your students and know what they need. Now what? This post helps you establish your guided reading routine.
This format was very simple but it had the different components that I wanted to hit at this particular point in my career.  But I had to do a lot of writing when I planned.

You've assessed your students and know what they need. Now what? This post helps you establish your guided reading routine.


This one was created after I read Jan Richardson's book, Next Step In Guided Reading.  But I had to make some changes to her format to meet the needs of my students.  
You've assessed your students and know what they need. Now what? This post helps you establish your guided reading routine.
This is my current format for the year.  It is very similar to the one above.  But we made some changes to our vocabulary instruction and sight word instruction.  We also decided to add a component from the Reading Reflex book that we read over the summer.  I also created some "Putting it Together" sheets that we want to incorporate into our phonics instruction.

All of these changes impact my lesson plan format.  There is a lot on this template when you compare it to my first one!  This allows me to circle, highlight, and fill in blanks.  My routine stays the same throughout the year.  I may delete or add some components along the way.   But as first graders, I have found that this consistent routine helps them and me.  We can expand our learning through complexity of skill and level.

Now that my time is planned, the needs are analyzed, and the template is created, I am ready to begin gathering and organizing my materials for the week.  But that would be another whole post :)

It is amazing the amount of time it takes to plan a 15, 20, or 30 minute part of your day!  I love it!


A Website Primary Teachers Will Love

Hello Literacy Land Readers! I'm popping in today to share a website that I just stumbled upon and L.O.V.E.  

The Unite for Literacy website hosts a collection of original, nonfiction picture books for beginning readers of all ages.

If you are a primary teacher, teacher of language learners or the deaf, reading specialist, or parent of a beginning reader, this website is for you!

The books feature familiar topics, colorful pictures, and audio support in many languages including sign language.

It's Easy to Use!

Students select a book by clicking on the picture of it. They turn the pages by clicking on the arrows. The left-hand page features a crisp, clear photograph or illustration. The right-hand page features text in an easy-to-read font. Audio support is provided by clicking on the speaker icon beneath the page. You can pre-select the language options.


  • nonfiction (hard to find at the emergent level)
  • relevant topics
  • attractive photographs and illustrations
  • cultural diversity
  • predictable, rhythmic language
  • text that ranges from one word up to a few sentences 
  • audio support (narrated in a real human voice)
  • narrated in English, many foreign languages, and sign language
  • new titles added every Tuesday
  • always free
  • no registration or logins required

Implications for the Classroom

Unite for Literacy is a valuable resource in the classroom and at home. I envision teachers using this to website to support their emergent readers and language learners during independent reading time or literacy centers. I plan to use it with my intervention students and share it with their parents and classroom teachers.

How would you use this website?  


How to Make Your Kinders and Firsties Reading Rockstars with RTI

Do the very letters R-T-I have you freaking out?  Do your palms feel sweaty and is your heart racing? Well, you are probably not alone if this is the case, but I am hoping that your life in kindergarten and first grade will become just a little easier after I lay out a few RTI ideas for you. 

RTI can be a little overwhelming to navigate, but this post explains how to make it work for you and your students without losing your mind.

For our beginning readers (who are likely emergent at this point), there are several core skills to master, and here they are...
Letter Name Recognition 
(Upper and Lowercase)
Letter Sounds
Concept of Word
Sightword Recognition
Word Building with Short Vowels
You may be thinking, "Yeah, that's great, but what do we do to make sure they know these?" Well, we start with identifying what they know, what's in progress, and what's unknown. You may be required to use an assessment from your division or maybe you've created one of your own. If not, the assessment set below would work well for your beginners. Parts of it may not be useful at this time of the year, but you may be able to use pieces of it as a probe for your students as they learn the skills or as part of your progress monitoring. This assessments includes all but the sightword recognition part, but I am going to direct you to a great website that has all you need for sightwords. The School Bell has been around a long time (at least 10 years I think).  [Here] is the link to the [Dolch Kit] which presents the Dolch words from highest frequency of use to lowest, activities and games for the word lists, assessment materials, and more.  

Once you've screened your students, you'll want to rank the results and identify who is lagging with each of the skills and target them. By ranking, you'll be able to form your groups. You'll want to focus the greatest amount of your time on your bottom quartile kids. If you have assistants who work with you regularly or parent volunteers who are able to tutor, charge them with the task of addressing these specific needs with your struggling student(s).  If you set it up in a gamelike format, your little people will enjoy this special attention which will also help you move them along the reading continuum. Of course, you too will want to focus on these skills in your guided reading time too.

Lesson Time
With your targeted students, you'll want to spend about twenty minutes (in 5 minute increments) to address letter names and sounds, rhyming, Concept of Word, sightwords, and writing during their guided reading time daily (tier1). With quick moving lessons, you will be surprised how much you can get done in these short snippets of time.  Activities you use could included the following:
  • Letter Names/Sounds-Magnetic letters, Name puzzles, Matching letter and picture with beginning sound, sorting fonts, matching upper and lowercase letters, I Spy   
  • Rhyme-Sorting pictures, Matching pictures that rhyme, poems, I Have. Who has?, Rhyme bingo, and word family work.
  • Concept of Word (COW)-nursery rhymes and simple four line poems, cutting apart sentences and putting them back together, highlighting the space between words, placing touch points below words. and lots of modeling.
  • Writing-draw and label, copying tasks, name writing, and framed sentences
  • Sightwords-use the COW time to focus on sightwords in context.  
If you are in need of go-to materials, I have developed three sections of a growing RTI kit.  So far, I've completed the Letter Names and Sounds Section, Rhyme Time, and the Concept of Word Bundle. Here's a preview of each:
The letter/sound kit includes 70 pages of lesson directions and activities, and the rhyming kit includes 58 pages.  All of the activities are set up to be fun and interactive for tutoring sessions or small group.

Includes 40+ poems that will last all year long
RTI is a team approach including the regular classroom teacher, paraprofessionals, reading specialists and special educators. The classroom teacher is responsible for tier 1 instruction (your core instruction).  This includes both whole and small group lessons within the classroom.  Tier 2 instruction is typically provided by an interventionist in a "push-in" or "pull-out" format, and for those still not progressing, tier 3 instruction is offered in a very small group of 1-3 students per teacher. Tier 3 instruction is best when it's provided by a certified teacher or specialist, but if this is not available, the classroom teacher may be asked to provide tutoring time. Schedules are best determined by the individual schools where the "big picture" includes available personnel, the daily routine, and numbers of students needing assistance.  [This powerpoint] is very well done and explains the scheduling process well. It is so important that there is team planning. Those not needing tier 2 or tier 3 instruction should be involved in enrichment activities during the enrichment/remediation block.
Progress Monitoring
Once you've got your routine established, the final step is to make sure you monitor your students' progress.  With tier 2 students, you will need to assess with an assessment every other week and with tier 3 students, you'll assess weekly. Once mastery is demonstrated, regroup or move to the next lagging skill. 
For more information...
There are many great blog posts on this topic out, so if you're looking for information for older readers or more on beginners, you might check out the following blogs and posts.  These ladies are much more knowledgeable on this topic than I.   

Button  Button  

As I mentioned, I am still learning too.  I hope that this helps give you a few ideas to work with to help your beginning readers.  

If you have a successful RTI program in place, it would be wonderful to hear more from you.  Please take a moment and share your experiences.