Adventures in Literacy Land: Reading

Showing posts with label Reading. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Reading. Show all posts

Bringing Books to Life

November is a fun month because many of us help our students peer into the lives of people long ago.  And for our really little guys, this can be quite a challenge.  Time is so abstract.  I remember a day when everything that happened in my girls' lives was "yesterday."  Understanding the actual difference between a day, week, month, and year is challenging.  And then we start talking about 100 or more years ago. Phew!  That is hard thing for them to imagine.

Last year my teammate and I made the decision to use the Laura Ingalls Wilder books (My First Little House series) to support our informational writing unit.  Honestly, we were not sure how it would go.  Would they enjoy books that revolve around a family that lived in the late 1800s-early 1900s?  Would the boys connect to main characters that are primarily girls (but there are a few books that focus on Almanzo)?

What we found was that...YES...all our first graders absolutely loved the books.  They were able to pull information from these texts to learn about living long ago and used that learning to write informational pieces.  And we have found the same thing this year.  Students want to check these books out to take home and share with their families. 

Although the students were enjoying the texts, the objects and time period were still so abstract for them.  We wanted to help bring these books to life.  By doing so we felt that our students would have a deeper understanding for the text and a solid foundation to begin writing their informational pieces.

To bring the late 1800s to life, we needed some help.  I knew just the person.

My mom.

She has always had a "thing" for this particular time period.  I was raised in a house filled with objects from the late 1800s.  The sound of the "Little House on Prairie" tv show is burned into my memory.  So we packed up some of her things and headed to school.

There was such a buzz in the room when they saw all the objects.  As we discussed, explained, showed off each item, we connected it to what is used today.  My teammate and I also tied in the Laura Ingalls Wilder books.  Here were a few of the connections that we were able to make:

Throughout this presentation, so many great conversations occurred!  The kids learned new things, I learned new things, my teammates learned new things.  There was truly excitement in the air.

Books do that.  They make us curious.  They make us want to learn more.  They bring electricity into the air.  But for some kids, they do not do that naturally.  Bringing our books to "life" (when we can) can be helpful for some, especially when the concept is abstract to begin with.

This is just one way that we tried to bring long ago to today.  Video clips, songs, Little House Cookbook, making of paper dolls, are just some of the other ideas that we have for our students this year.  If you want to use this free powerpoint to bring long ago into your classroom, please try it out!!

How do you bring books to life in your classroom?


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!


Guiding Reading: 3 Things I Did Wrong

Summer is in full force for me but the lines between summer vacation and school are very blurred.  Anyone else find this to be true?  My brain is filled with reflection, summer reading, and preparations for the upcoming year.  I am currently reading Creating Cultures of Thinking, Reading Reflex, Summer Reading, and Small Group Reading Instruction (by Beverly Tyner).   All of these books are bringing about some new learning for me and helping me to reflect on old and current practices.
As I read Beverly Tyner's book on a differentiated teaching model for small group, I started thinking how different my current reading groups are to the ones I conducted when I first started teaching.  This reflection led me to realize that there were quite a number of things I did THEN that I would not do NOW.

1. Timing
I remember my small group phonics lessons lasted FOREVER! The efficient, quick, systematic lesson would be all planned out.  Materials would be ready.  And the kids just did not master the skill to the level I thought they should.  So what would I do?  Spend more time on it.  And where did this time come?  It would get stolen from the actual reading of book.  This was not time well spent.  They needed to be reading.
My solution: I started setting a timer for myself.  The phonics lesson would end when the timer went off and we would just revisit the skill the next day.

2. Book levels
There have been a few years in my career where I was very unclear about the books that I needed to use in my guided reading groups.  We have had some basal reader books and I have had some intervention program books.  But looking back, I know these books did not always match the reading level of the student. I now know that these are tools within my toolbox but the need of my student must come before the resources in front of me. 
My solution: I search for the instructional level text that will continue to push that group of learners.  Sometimes this is a book from the leveled book room, a basal guided reading book, a decodable reader, a passage, or a poem.

3. Sight Words
The districts that I have worked in have never had a set group of sight words that need to be mastered by each grade level; therefore, I used the words from the basal program or intervention program that were recommended.  This did not work out well for me.  The gaps were clear and students were at such varying levels of sight word mastery.
My solution:  My building created a document combining many sight words lists.  We can pre-assess our students and support them on a more individual basis.  No more gaps (hopefully).

As I have come to understand reading, learning to read, and the little young brains that I work with, my practices have changed and evolved.  I like the routine that I have right now.  But Ron Ritchhart explains that, "...some might argue that understanding can never be fully complete and absolute."  I know for certain that my routine and practices will change as my understanding continues to grow.


Trying Something New with RTI Tier 1 Groups

Hi everyone! It's Bex here from Reading and Writing Redhead. I thought it would be a good time, since it is about 6 weeks from the end of the year (for me), to let you know that I have been trying something new with my RTI tier 1 groups.

For the last few years, I have felt that spelling has been a weakness for many of my students.  Despite the amazing help the reading specialists offer with the Tier 2 and Tier 3 students, and attempting to obtain support for the students from the Student Success Team, students' spelling skills seem to only see a  minimal improvement. As the classroom teacher, I am ultimately responsible for the progress for all students, who meet with meet during Language Arts Tier 1 groups.

 Our spelling program is the one that comes with the McMillan McGraw Hill Treasures program, circa about 2006 or so. All of the classroom teachers use the on level spelling lists included in the program and then to differentiate, we have created more challenging lists and lists with fewer spelling variations.

My school doesn't use Wilson or Fundations but I have been to introductory Wilson Training and to Fundations level 1 and 2 training.  I decide to incorporate a modified version of Fundations level 2 with my RTI tier 1 groups this year and track spelling progress.

The Fundations program is from the Wilson Language Institute. You can learn more about it from my blog post here.  I meet with small groups for 20-30 minutes a day up to four times a week. At the beginning of the year all groups learned the Fundations drill sounds, used the magnetic letter board to work on sounds and spelling, learned syllable types, worked on decoding in a journal, and practiced grammar too.  Around December I added in connected text reading once or twice a week. The students also rotated through learning centers every day that addressed comprehension skills, vocabulary , fluency, phonics, grammar and writing. If I felt a certain group of students needed some extra help with a topic or concept, I also addressed it in small groups in lieu of Fundations from time to time. So I would call my Fundations work with my RTI Tier 1 groups a very loose adaptation of the program, but the best I could do with the number of reading groups I had to meet with on a regular basis (4), in the time I had (about 100 minutes, including mini lessons, center directions, wrap ups, etc.) and being the only teacher in the room.

At the beginning of the year I gave my students the Primary Spelling Inventory. I looked at the possible points for all the different phonics sounds in the inventory and came up with a goal for the % encoded correctly that I wanted most students to reach. My goal was to have 80% of my students score 80% or more by the end of the year. In September 44% scored above 80%. So I hoped to double that by June, keeping in mind the spelling inventory was only one  measure of success and I hoped to see improvement especially in my student's spelling in their writing. Around February 1st, I gave the spelling inventory again to assess progress so far and I was thrilled. Already 94% of my students had a score above 80%- well above my end of the year goal and only at the beginning of February. At that time 72% of the class was also scoring 90% or higher. Nice! Now, we still have 6 weeks left of the school year, so I haven't given the inventory for the final time yet but I am confident the students will do amazing. Additionally, looking at some writing samples I saved from the fall, and the first part of their writing journals, students definitely have come a long way in their spelling.

I definitely plan to continue using Fundations with my Tier 1 group next year. I know this year was a small sample of students, and every class is different, but I hope to see similar improvements in my students' decoding skills again at the end of next year.

What have you tried that is new this year? How did you feel it has gone? How about next year- plan to try something new? Comment below and let us know!



Favorite Book Series

We hope that you are having a fantastic Teacher Appreciation Week.  Join us as we share some our favorite book series that help us teach reading comprehension and research strategies.  Share in the comments what series your students find the most interesting. 

First up is Emily from Curious Firsties.
As I reflect on this year, I think my favorite book series that I have used is Otis by Loren Long.

I really believe that the list of lessons you could create using these books is endless.  Loren Long has created a character that you immediately fall in love with because he is kind-hearted, brave, and caring.

After I read the first book, I knew my students would really enjoy the story.  So I bought Otis and Otis and the Tornado.  This did not satisfy us...we needed them ALL!  My first graders made so many thoughtful and deep connections between and within the texts (some that I did not even make).  The books really allowed us to work on our metacognition skills; however, lessons could evolve around inferring, characteristics, or retelling.

If you have not had the opportunity to read these books....I highly recommend them!

Next up is Pixie Anne from Growing Little Learners.

Nature Storybooks (Walker Books)

While there are so many amazing collections of books out there, when I sat down to think of a collection that I use over and over and in so many ways, I realised that the Nature Storybooks are one of my favourites. I love the mixture of fiction and fact along with the beautiful illustrations and my children always do too!

I am sure many of you are aware of these great books and use then in your classrooms already. If you aren't then go hunt them out and introduce them to your class...Now!

They are perfect for reading aloud for the pure enjoyment of sharing an interesting and sweet story; for younger readers access information about animals; as a starting point for further research; discussion of fiction and facts and a stimulus for writing about animals (narrative or non fiction). 

I know The Emperor's Egg is a firm favourite with many teachers when teaching about penguins and polar regions:

I always use Growing Frogs when teaching life cycles in science:

And I plan to write riddles with my class next week after reading White Owl, Barn Owl:

Do look up this collection of books (there are so many more than I have had a chance to mention!).

If you haven't already seen them - you'll be glad you did! 

Happy Teacher's Appreciation Week!


A Lesson with Tanny McGregor

Throughout the life of our Literacy Land blog we have posted several times about the lessons within the Comprehension Connections book by Tanny McGregor.  Her lessons have proven to make comprehension strategies "come alive" for my students.

Several months ago Tanny asked to do a lesson with my students....ummmm....YES!!!!

Her lesson centered around theme and my students left with a strong foundation of the meaning and purpose behind theme.  I go into great detail about the lesson and everything that took place over at Curious Firsties.

Within the lesson, Tanny used three different texts.  She called them "text cousins."
They were text cousins because they were each different but share the same possible or similar theme (much like cousins).  She explained this visually with a triangle and a heart.  The three texts make up the triangle and the heart is the "deeper" piece that they share.

She started with the poem.  The students heard the poem, read the poem about 2-3 times.  Then they had a quick discussion about the theme.  When Tanny moved on to the second text, Each Kindness, she used only the illustrations.  And not even all the illustrations.  Just a few of them.  Then students had a discussion about theme.  The third text used was Red.  Tanny read this story aloud and stopped briefly at certain points to discuss what was happening.  Then there was a discussion about the theme.

Now, there was much, much more to the lesson than this.  But the WAY that she used the texts sent me a powerful message.  And it got me thinking...

The lesson was probably 45ish minutes long (I was not watching the clock). Tanny used three different types of texts in one lesson within that time frame.  Each piece of text was provided so much meaning and connected well to the lesson.

The poem by Jeff Moss was short but immediately the students understood that someone was being left out, someone was being picked on, and someone was being mean.

I have no idea about the actual story from, Each Kindness, but we gathered quite a bit of information from the illustrations.  A quick discussion and some "turn and talk" time was completely sufficient for the students to make connections between the poem and illustrations.

The third text was read in its entirety.  Red was a beautiful story about the strength that children can have and it served as an excellent way to bring all three texts together.  But Tanny did not have to stop on each page and have a discussion for these connections to be made.  The story was powerful and clear enough on its own.

As I reflected on the lesson, materials, and pacing, I realized that I would not have thought to use multiple texts in one sitting, in one lesson.  I tend to use multiple sources over a period of days.  And I would never look at only a few illustrations from a picture book.  No way!! I would read the whole story, of course.

This lesson opened my eyes.

When planning lessons, I need to think outside my comfort zone.  Look at how I can make these text to text connections stronger for students by using multiple sources of information.  My teammate, Karen, decided that she could pair some nonfiction texts with fiction texts by merely using certain aspects of books (such as photographs, maps, or diagrams).  I will be sitting on this new learning for a little while.  I have a good feeling that it will be changing the way I approach lessons.

What are your thoughts?  Do any book pairs come to mind right away?


Putting It All Together

Can you believe spring is here and the end of the school year (for me) is in sight?!  It amazes me each year how quickly it goes.  I love the end of the year because it is a time to look at all the growth that has been made. 

But along with analyzing all of the growth, spring is an important time for me to reflect on my teaching.  This is the time of year that I begin to start thinking and planning for the changes that I want to make for the following school year.  This is such an important part of job because we are learning right along with our students.  Our teaching changes with the new knowledge that we gain, the students that we work with, and with new challenges that arise.

Last March I wrote about how my teammate, Karen, and I make nonsense words "real" in our classroom.

Over the course of this school year, Karen and I have used this technique with our guided reading groups.  As we teach, I can hear her conversations with her students and she can hear mine.  Through this unintentional listening our teaching of nonsense words evolved a little.  I realized that we were doing everything that we could to break down a "big" word but then working just as hard to put it all back together.  We wanted needed our students to really SEE the connections that we were trying to make.  This was born...

When looking at this sheet, you can see that it starts with nonsense words.  Those nonsense words become larger, 2-sylalble words.  Those 2-syllable words are in phrases.  Those phrases are found in a paragraph.
We wanted to start small but show them how all these parts come together and can be found in a paragraph.

As soon as I made it, I tried it out.  Would they make the connection?

I gave them one colored marker and (as you can see above) we used that same color all the way down the page.  Then we did this process again with a different color.

My guided reading groups loved it and really did make the connections.  My goal will be to do these sheets earlier next year now that I can see the impact that they have.

I hope that you can use these with your students and that they will help students understand the importance of a nonsense word and how often we really do use them when we are reading "bigger" words.  You can grab a free copy of these below:

Are there any other ways that you help students to "put it all together?"


Creating Our Classroom Enviornment with Books

Summer has ended and for most of us, school has started.  All of our summer planning, relaxation, professional development ideas, and bloggy-inspiration are put to the test.  How are we going to create the classroom environment that we want?  How do we make the kids respect each other and all their differences?  How do I make them listen, trust me, respect me, and want to learn in my class this year?

Lucky us, there are so many great authors and illustrators that have created some amazing books to help us create the environment that we want.  Books that help us to illustrate good listening and respect for others.  I (Em from Curious Firsties) wanted to highlight a few of these books today.  You will have so many more to add to this list.  Please comment below and let us know what other books we can add to our "back to school toolbox."

Respecting Yourself and Others:

All of these books help our students to understand the importance of being yourself and being different from each other.  I always try to emphasize how boring our classroom would be if we were all the same.  And that I would never want to be in a classroom like that.

For "The Crayon Box That Talked" I ask the students to draw me a picture using all the different colors.  When they open the box of crayons that I hand them, they see that all the crayons are the same color.  They start shouting that they cannot make a picture with just one color.

But I make them do it anyway!  Then they get to color a picture with a regular box of crayons.  We discuss the importance of having many colors in our world, just like we need lots of differences in our classroom.

"Cat The Cat Who Is That?" may seem like an odd book to have on my list.  It is a very simple book.  But I read it right along with "I Like Me."  I want the students to think about why they like themselves.

 After they complete a self portrait, I ask them to mirror the language from "Cat The Cat."  They write "I am _________ the ________." (It is also a great book to begin introducing speech bubbles during that first week.)

"Arthur's Nose," "I'm The Best," and "Chrysanthemum" are all stories that do a great job of illustrating a character that does not feel comfortable with what sets them apart from others.  But as the book progresses, they learn to accept themselves and their differences.  What an important skill to hit over and over and over again.

Building Teamwork:

Teamwork....SO important.  I like to work on this skill throughout the whole year because I really believe that it is a life skill that our students need to survive in any job/career that they enter.  Here are a few books that can be used to help reinforce this skill:

I think all of these books help to set the tone for teamwork in a classroom environment, but it is the activities and discussions that you plan and implement with your students that make the most difference.  One example comes with "Rainbow Fish."  Teamwork is not the focus of this book.  It is more about sharing; however, I use it to teach teamwork by putting the kids into groups and asking them to make a fish together.  Once they work together to complete this task, they receive their "sparkle" fin.

This year I will use "Swimmy" to work on teamwork during our first full week of school.  My entire group of first graders will use their individual fish to create one large fish in the hallway!  I love this visual to help them understand the impact that teamwork can have.

Being a Good Listener:

I know that there are some really good books out there to help introduce good listening skills in the classroom but I want to focus on just one right now.

My firsties think this book is so funny!  They crack up as I read it because Rapunzel does not listen to the prince and throws many silly things out of her tower.  This book has some great vocabulary, includes rhyming, but really serves the purpose I need it to: listening.  Rapunzel is a terrible listener.  Once we complete the book, we discuss what a whole body listener would look like and we label those parts on a person.  The book is so engaging and funny that I can refer back to it and remind them to be a whole body listener.

What books do you use to create the classroom environment that you want?