Adventures in Literacy Land: Comprehension Connection

Showing posts with label Comprehension Connection. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Comprehension Connection. Show all posts

Why Thematic Teaching Just Makes Sense

Thematic teaching deepens understanding, increases interest, and improves retention of content. Check out this post for more information

No matter what stage you are in your teaching life, you probably would agree that making connections across your learning improves retention of content. Children, especially struggling students, need extra exposure to the challenging content presented in science and social studies, and when students are reading about, writing about, working with, and creating about the content topics, most keep the information long term. 

Last year, I was given the flexibility to select the materials I used with my students, and I decided that I'd focus on the content areas as I planned my lessons (like the old days). The difference between the "old days" and the present though was in how I worked with the content. I used a variety of materials including informational articles, reader's theater, picture books, chapter books, and poetry...all on the similar topics to build a theme, and with all of these, we used interactive notebooks, close reading, anchor charts, written responses, and graphic organizers. Teaching students to think deeply is the core to each and every part of the ELA block, and since I taught just the ELA block, it was really important to know the standards taught during the remainder of the day in order to keep with the theme.

So...what are the advantages?

I did a little digging, and after reading a few articles, this is a cumulative list from the reading. 

With thematic teaching we get these positive results...

  • Connected learning...It helps students understand connections and how to connect
  • Focuses the class on a deeper understanding of the content.
  • Extends topics beyond surface learning.
  • Allows more variety with teaching methods
  • Helps students experience many different ways of learning.
  • Keeps students engaged through making learning activities fun/variety
  • Teacher is able to be creative, authentic, and original (as well as the students)
  • Allows the teacher multiple ways to assess learning
  • Teachers can integrate all subjects and use literacy within those subjects which increases the amount of reading students complete.
  • Utilizes collaborative and cooperative learning and works well with Project Based Learning and Genius Hour
  • Students share the same learning goals and all are given the feeling of importance.
  • Creates a community of learners
  • Technology in the classroom is very important to dig deeply into the theme.
  • Compacts the curriculum
  • Time savers- teaching multiple subjects at one time
  • Students apply their learning in real world experiences.

With that long list, are there disadvantages?

Although the list of advantages is long, there are a few disadvantages to consider. After all, we must look at the needs of each and every child in our classroom and recognize that not everyone learns exactly the same way. Differentiating our teaching is required within the thematic framework if it isn't working for some of your students.
For some, interest in the topic may not be a match, and when it's not a match, motivation will dwindle.
  • Students could become bored with one theme
  • Students might show low motivation or a lack of interest interest
With the curriculum, one of the most important reasons to teach thematically is for students to make connections across the curriculum, but if they are absent, they might struggle with making those connections. Other curriculum issues includes...
  • Finding appropriate resources and enough resources to prepare students appropriately can be an issue, especially if other teachers are teaching the same content.
  • Also, some standards may not work into the themes chosen causing missed content.
  • Teacher planning and prep time may be increased due to gathering materials and creating materials to fill curriculum gaps.

Interested in trying a theme?

Each week on my blog, Comprehension Connection, I host a link up called Thematic Thursday where I pull together resources on a specific topic. Some may work well for your standards and some may not, but even if you do not teach with a full theme across all subjects, you might enjoy using a collection of themed resources to accompany your school's curriculum, a basal story, or just to increase motivation with a topic your students love. This week, the theme is...Wild West. I hope you'll stop by, check out the resources I've pulled together, and maybe link up some of your favorites (free only please) or even websites you've enjoyed.

Thematic teaching deepens understanding, increases interest, and improves retention of content. Check out this post for more information

Thanks so much for dropping in today. If you have suggestions for themes I should add to the schedule, by all means, let me know in the comments, and until next month...happy reading!

Top 10 Literacy Tips for Teens

For many teens, reading is something done in elementary school. Why?  This post explores where we've gone wrong and what we can do to encourage reading in middle school and high school.

If you have lived with a teen recently or are beginning your career in middle or high school, then chances are these kids look familiar to you. Perhaps you've noticed that teens are very tech savvy often listening to music while they're working on a paper for English, sending messages to friends through Snapchat, and checking the latest game scores on ESPN.  Yes, our teens are multi-taskers to the extreme, and if you are teaching them, then chances are you've become pretty tech savvy yourself and observed these and many other teen behaviors. 


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.


The Pros and Cons of Computerized Reading Programs

Many school systems use computerized testing as part of reading incentives and comprehension monitoring. Today, I thought I'd share with you some of the pros and cons of using Accelerated Reader and other computerized testing programs for evaluating the comprehension of independent reading material. Certainly, this has been a topic of debate as many reading researchers look at it's effectiveness and like any program, it has been used positively by some and misused by some. 

Why I Will NOT Pick My Students' Books For Them Anymore

Summer Reading: Closing the Rich/Poor Reading Achievement Gap will provide you with ideas you can use to prevent summer slide.

Yes, I am guilty, and I bet I'm not the only one. I confess that I am a teacher who has selected books for my students' independent reading. Not as a general practice, really, but in a pinch when a child needed a book and didn't have time to pick or when he/she picked one that was too easy or too difficult to read. In fact, I've probably done it multiple times. Ironically, this was a discussion I had with a few teacher friends and our librarian at the beginning of the summer *before* I read this book. We talked about whether students should be "locked into their level" or allowed to pick freely, even when a book is beyond them. So, where would you fall in this discussion? Do you allow students to take books that are too hard, or do you limit them to books in their range, or do you give them one of each? In chapter four of Summer Reading, we learn there are reasons why we need to allow students to make book choices for themselves, but guiding their decision making is perfectly fine, especially if the child isn't aware of book levels.

Think about this quote for a minute and reflect back to your experiences as a child. Hopefully you remember how exciting it was to go to the library to pick just what you wanted to read. Perhaps you have children of your own and can relate to this quote too.  Choosing what you want to read has power, and completing those books creates pride.

Summer Reading: Closing the Rich/Poor Reading Achievement Gap will provide you with ideas you can use to prevent summer slide.

At the beginning of chapter four, Dr. Allington discusses how important it is that we as teachers learn about our students' interests and about books that match them in order to help guide students to make good choices. We can learn about our students' preferences through interest inventories, group discussions, and from watching what they choose during library visits. Talking with your students while they're reading the book also helps the teacher know whether the genre or topic is a good fit too.  

So what does the research show?  Dr. Allington shared a study of 300 Black students in a urban school with a high percentage of low income students. The students were allowed to "shop" for books at a book fair that they were allowed to take home for summer reading (and keep).  Each was allowed to pick fifteen books, and during the "shopping" experiene, the student conversations were recorded. The students were very excited, and interestingly, the most popular titles selected by the students were about pop artists, cartoon superheroes, about places they were familiar with, the Captain Underpants series, and believe it or not, nonfiction which is atypical from other studies. They chose books that "reflected media and mass marketing interests". 

Once the students had made their selections, they were interviewed about how choices were made. In the interviews, one young lady shared that she thought Hilary Duff was "cool and liked how she dressed."  She shared the reason she chose the book was that she wanted to learn more about her. Superheroes were also popular because a few had seen movies about Incredible Hulk and Spiderman, so they picked Captain Underpants and How to Draw Spiderman. Luckily, teachers will be glad to know that some students shared that they chose based on read alouds their teachers had read to them or books they'd talked about in class, books the teacher recommended, or because a friend or relative had read the title.

So how have you established a reading culture in your classroom?  Please share your teacher tested ideas for others to consider, and be sure to return tomorrow for chapter five.  Andrea will talk to you about "Taking to the Streets!"  Sounds like a chapter you won't want to miss!



Five Reasons Poor Children Suffer More from Summer Learning Loss

Summer Reading: Closing the Rich/Poor Reading Achievement Gap will provide you with ideas you can use to prevent summer slide.

Did you notice the title of this post?  Well, it is probably no surprise to any of us that summer learning loss hurts poor children more than any others. In fact, we've had data for a very long time proving it, but why is it that we continue to have our poor children falling further and further behind when we know the reason why? We have remediation programs in place during the school year, and we offer many children summer school. We may even send home summer work for them. Even so, why can't we seem to get to the root cause of the issue and fix it? 

In chapter one of Summer Reading, Dr. Allington shares the data showing how and why the achievement gap between rich and poor widens every year children are in school.  So ponder this a second...

Summer Reading: Closing the Rich/Poor Reading Achievement Gap will provide you with ideas you can use to prevent summer slide.

What reasons popped into your mind?  Perhaps you thought that the parents just don't take the time for reading?  Maybe you thought that the kids are too busy swimming and playing, or were you thinking that teachers just don't take the time to tell parents how important it is?  Well, one of the real issues is the fact that many children lack access to appropriate reading materials, and each year children go without, the further behind they get. Here's a brief recap of Allington's research.
1. Poor children get most of their reading material from school or classroom library collections (Lamme 1976) and schools serving large numbers of poor children have smaller, older, and less diverse school and classroom library collections (Allington, Guice, Michelson, Baker, and Li 1996, Duke, 2000; Neuman, 2009).  This means poor children have a much more restricted selection of books. It was also found that they have fewer visits to the library, and more restrictions on what can be taken home.
2. Beyond the school setting, wealthier children had a greater number of bookstores available to them (3:1), but even worse are the differences in books available for purchase 16,000 compared to 55 books. On every measure, researchers found a "gaping difference." 
3. Family income has been shown to be a quite powerful predictor of the number of age-appropriate children's books and magazines that are available in the home
4. Access is not the only cause of summer learning loss.  Children's efficacy beliefs are linked to academic performance including their experiences as more or less successful readers.  A history of less success with reading produces a lower sense of self-efficacy than a history of successful reading experiences. Poor readers are more likely to be assigned texts that are too hard, texts they read with little fluency, limited accuracy, and without comprehension. Therefore, poor readers are less motivated to read voluntarily.
5. Creating classroom environments where successful reading is the norm for all children means that a one-size-fits-all curriculum plan (with everyone reading the same book) cannot produce a consistent pattern of successful reading.  Children need books they can read accurately, fluently, and with understanding. (McGill-Franzen 1993) to feel successful, and successful school reading leads to greater motivation to read voluntarily. 
Summer Reading: Closing the Rich/Poor Reading Achievement Gap will provide you with ideas you can use to prevent summer slide.

As we look for ways to get quality literature that matches student needs and interests into the children's hands and motivate the children to read them, we need to consider these key principles.  

Summer Reading: Closing the Rich/Poor Reading Achievement Gap will provide you with ideas you can use to prevent summer slide.
  • With your reading plans during the school year, ensure that all students are reading extensively during the school day.  
  • A focus on the volume of reading is different from a focus on time allocated for reading instruction.  The majority of the reading block should be spent reading.
  • Your reading plan should enhance students' desire to read voluntarily at night, on weekends, and during the summer.
Summer Reading: Closing the Rich/Poor Reading Achievement Gap will provide you with ideas you can use to prevent summer slide.
  • Program plans should make sure classroom book collections match the needs and interests of all students.
  • Classroom libraries should include hundreds of titles at the appropriate level of difficulty.
  • Programs should emphasize that students have books available for take home on weekends and throughout the summer.
  • Finally, programs should help teachers develop skills in matching children and books. 
At the close of chapter one, Allington leaves the reader with an important note keeping these two principles in mind.  He says, "All children need consistent access to rich and explicit demonstrations of the thinking that proficient readers do before, during, and after reading, or expert instruction." It is during the independent practice that students use these skills and strategies and come to own them. Without regular successful reading practice, reading proficiency seems more difficult to achieve.

So, readers, we have plans to make, don't we?  Can we idly sit back and allow children who are at such a disadvantage continue to fall further and further behind, or are we going to make reading plans?  

Come back tomorrow to read about and share intervention plans that increase children's access to reading materials and that improve reading proficiency.



Ways to Teach Phonemic Awarenss

Aloha from Hawaii Virginia, or should I say, "Howdy Partners?"  It is Carla from Comprehension Connection here again to get the Summer Blog Party Linky up and going on Lit Land. Since we had two topics basically this week, it seemed fitting to blog about one here and the other over on my blog.
If phonics fits your students' needs more, you can read all about Word Study tips [here] and if phonemic awareness hits your level of students, then let's get this round up rollin'.

Developing phonemic awareness in preschool and kindergarten is important. Read this post for phonemic awareness activities you might try out.

Here at Literacy Land, we have had a few posts focused on phonemic awareness that are rootin' and tootin and ready for you. The first was [THIS POST] by Wendy at Read with Me ABC.  She explained what phonemic awareness was and how it differs from phonics. She explained how it's developed with children and shared a few resources that could be used. It was an excellent post.

Tara from Looney's Lit Blog wrote up a second to share how she addresses phonological awareness with her students who begin a little bit behind. You can check out her post [HERE] to see a few activity types in action.

Post number three came on Monday with Jennifer's Move! Groove! Read! post. If you missed it, be sure to head back and check it out. It brought back memories of childhood for me with all the little jingles she shared. Who knew that chants and jump rope jingles could lead to beginning reading skills. 

So what else can we do to make phonemic awareness learning fun? After all, it is our very youngest learners who need these lessons, so it should show them how all learning is fun. The answer...word play, music, poetry, and rhymes. Phonemic awareness includes rhyming, identifying orally beginning sounds, endings, and syllables, and blending/segmenting sounds.  Phonemic awareness activities often include pictures or other manipulatives.

Oh what fun, rhyming is, and there are many great ways to work on it. First of all, reading to your students is a great way to model rhyme and so many other skills for that matter.  Below, you'll find great books to use throughout the year.
In addition to these great books, you might also give these websites a try.

There are so many options for teaching ideas in the classroom too.  You might consider rhyming baskets with objects that rhyme (.plastic bats, cats, and mini hats say) that your students can sort. Matching pictures of rhyming words in a pocket chart or better yet, lay the pictures on the floor and have students play Twister with them (small # of students and controlled of course) or "Hop on the Word that Rhymes with ??" Children also love playing "Odd One Out" with pictures or orally.  

Young students need to recognize that sounds come together to form words, and the best way to help develop that recognition is with adding and subtracting sounds orally through word play. For blending, you might try the following.

Guess the Word

Place a poster of a playground slide in front of the students and run your finger down the slide as you stretch the sounds of words our orally. Have your students copy you, and then, have them say the word ssssstttttaaaaammmmppppp. Together:  Stamp!

Push and Say

I love push and say because the strategy can be used later with phonics when we add letters. For Push and Say, students use poker chips or counters as sounds are made to put them together and segment them. Teachers can use the idea above with the chips or have students place chips in Elkonin boxes for segmenting. With both, I emphasize what is happening in the mouth.  

Songs and Movement

Using common tunes such as Ring Around the Rosie or London Bridges makes phoneme blending light and fun. Here's an example to London Bridges...
Do you know the word I make?
Word I make?
Word I make?
Do you know the word I make?
Share it now.

Book Choices You Might Explore

Developing phonemic awareness in preschool and kindergarten is important. Read this post for phonemic awareness activities you might try out.

For more ideas on phonemic awareness development, check out all of the great PA posts from this week's linky, and come back next week to hear about new books to Fire Up Your Readers!  


Book Talks on the Menu

Are you looking for a way to get your students to read more? Book Talks are a great tool to use to build enthusiasm for reading. This post includes ideas you might enjoy trying.

Pause for a moment to consider what you do to get your students reading?  Maybe you help them find books that match their interests, or perhaps you use read alouds daily to show your students new authors. Do you talk with them about what they're reading? That sure can give you a window into their thinking and interests. Well, on today's menu is the topic of book talks. Today, I'd like to share with you some simple ways you can make this time purposeful, fun, and motivating.
Students need to talk to demonstrate their thinking.  If students are sharing about their reading, they will be more likely to pay attention to the important points of the text which provides accountability for them. By talking through their reading, we are able to observe comprehension skills/strategies, and by listening to students discuss their reading, students are exposed to new reading options they may select in the future. 
Book talks can be as simple or complex as you want to make them. Students can have a scheduled time for sharing and even have a limited time for their presentation, but teachers can also make an event out of the book talk day. Look at the image to the right.  Most kids would love the opportunity to dine in a "Paris Cafe" and have cookies and milk during their sharing time. Check out this image and post from Second Grade Smarty Arties.  This would be so much fun.

Another great option that may be easier to do is a graffiti  wall.  You can give your students time to record important quotes or have them share a brief introduction. The key with whatever you choose as the book talk format is to allow time for conversation and make it a positive experience for the kids.  Book talks can also be brief and worked into the daily routine for much of the time.

With struggling readers, you might have a parent volunteer come in for a lunch bunch book club. Last year, we had an enthusiastic parent come, and all she did was chat with the kids about what they were reading and just daily routines. It really encouraged the group and made a huge difference for them (and they loved the lunchtime attention).
More important than anything else is to keep your kids enthusiastic and eager to read.  Help them to make plans for what they want to read next, and let them keep a stash of books on hand at all times. They can't stay motivated if a routine is not established.  If it helps for your students to keep a running list of books they've completed, then do it, but have them keep a list of book recommendations too. (ones their friends have enjoyed) When students get to recommend to each other, it also gives them something to talk about.  

If you're interested in seeing a few other ideas, you might check out these products to get started.
Book Talks - Presenting and Writing Book Talks   Book Talks
If you'd like a set of directions, rubric, and form for peer reviews, [this freebie] offers all three.

I hope you'll get this plan into practice and spark reading motivation this year.


DIY Ideas to Rejuvenate Your Classroom

During the summer, many of us enjoy DIY projects for our classroom, and this post includes a few ideas you might want to try.
Hello readers!  Carla from Comprehension Connection here to share fun DIY projects to spice up your guided reading block.  Here at the end of the year, your kids are probably test weary and ready for a bit of fun.  These simple ideas all come from readily available materials from your local Dollar Tree.  

During the summer, many of us enjoy DIY projects for our classroom, and this post includes a few ideas you might want to try.First up is this twist on soccer.  These little mini balls work perfectly for word work, but you could also write comprehension questions, vocabulary words from the book you're reading, overused words (and have kids brainstorm replacement words), or homonyms.  Just toss the ball and answer the question your right thumb lands on.  Games are lots of fun, and they can purposefully be used to review or teach new skills.
Sometimes a few fresh manipulatives can liven up lessons.  Dollar Tree has just put out their spring goodies, and in the stash, I found the bug kits. The magnifying glasses work really well for framing text evidence or for word hunts. For the little people, you can find all kinds of fancy pointers. Use these for I Spy, identifying details in a group article or poem, or for tracking print.  Even themed erasers can add to your inventory of teaching tools as game markers or score keepers.  I picked up these car themed erasers to use with my Parking Lot game.  I'll share that freebie at the end of this post, but you'll have to head over to Dollar Tree to pick up your own markers. :-) 

During the summer, many of us enjoy DIY projects for our classroom, and this post includes a few ideas you might want to try.
Cookie sheets can be used for so many different things. With a can of spray paint, you can make them bright and colorful for a gameboard background or turn them into a chalkboard. You can also use contact paper to dress them up. Add magnetic tape to any printable gameboard and game pieces for storage ease. Cookie sheets and pizza pans can also be made into reminder boards for missing homework, attendance, or memoes for the day.  Just search on Pinterest, and you'll find all sorts of ways to use them. 

During the summer, many of us enjoy DIY projects for our classroom, and this post includes a few ideas you might want to try.
Shower curtains and plastic tableclothes work well for DIY activities too. With a sharpie and a little bit of drawing talent, you can turn these items into Jeopardy boards, Boggle boards, Letter recognition boards, and Twister sightword boards. Add in bean bags, and you can work in a little movement too.  Here are a few pictures of what you might try.  Another way to use plastic table clothes is to create vocabulary graffiti or comprehension projects like the one to the left.

For other DIY reading or classroom ideas, check out my Pinterest board below. With a little bit of time and a few inexpensive supplies, you can streamline classroom storage, spice up teaching strategies and lessons, and spark creativity in your kids.

As I mentioned earlier, I have a freebie to share with you.  Remember you can find those cute transportation themed erasers at Dollar Tree.  How fun, right??  

Until next week, have a fabulous weekend! Be sure to come back Monday for all the great stuff we have in store for you!