Sunday, November 29, 2015

Retell and Repeat...Practice Makes Perfect!

Happy Sunday friends! Lindsey here. I hope you all had a wonderful holiday and a great break!

Today, I wanted to share with you what we have been working on in class over the last couple weeks. We have been busy!! We started working on retelling the beginning, middle and end, as well as identifying the problem and solution, of a story. Now, when I say we started working on retell I don't mean this is the first time that we have talked about BUT it is the first time we have really began to dig into it.

Over the years, I have found that retelling a story is difficult for so many of our kiddos. They just really struggle on including those important details. So each year we REALLY dig deep and practice.


These are the great stories I chose this year for my anchor texts. These stories are super high interest and the kiddos LOVE them. They are also pretty simple to retell and have a great problem and solution. We do a lot of whole group retells. We use the anchor below to structure what we include in the beginning, middle and end.

The expectation for the kiddos is that by the end of second grade they are reading independently at a DRA level 28. To pass this level, they need to be able to write a retell. So it is important to include those signal words on my anchor. This also helps them to make sure the events that they are including are put into the right order. 

I am a really big fan of not making a ton of copies. It is just so much easier to have the kiddos write in their reading response journals. Plus, they keep all their work together. I always put a large version of the graphic organizer on an anchor and the kiddos write their response in the same format. This picture shows one of the kiddos writing a retell for The Black Rabbit in there reading response journal following the same format we will use for our assessment.

This is the format for our assessment. Usually, we use passages for their texts but the anthologies work well too! We don't use our reading curriculum because it is so out of date and not aligned, but the anthologies do have some good stories. 

Our retell also carries over into guided reading as well. This is a great way for me to scaffold the retell into what every level needs. This particular group is working on retelling in order, which is why they are using the index cards.

There are so many more activities that we did, but these few give you an insight into what we are working on. This week, we are moving onto our gingerbread studies and we will be using our Gingerbread Passages set for continued retell practice. For a peek at that, click the picture.

I'm off to catch up on my feedback so that I am ready for the big sale tomorrow! Gotta love those credits!  I LOVE cyber Monday:)

I hope you all have a great week!!!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Object Lessons - Helping Your Students to Really Get What You Teach!

Match those socks!!!!.....or.....Using Object Lessons to help kiddos remember what they learn!

Don't you love it when you get to teach a really fun, engaging and memorable lesson to your students that turns on their light bulbs?  Me too!  That's what makes teaching so much fun!  That's why I love object lessons so much!  They always give kids a great, real "visual" for remembering the lesson.  My favorite book for object lessons is Tanny McGregor's book "Comprehension Connections - Bridges to Strategic Reading."  It really should be titled "Awesome, Fun, Amazing Lessons for Helping Students to Learn and Remember Your Lessons!"  I always try to use as many of her lessons and ideas in reading intervention groups as possible.  Last week, the fifth graders were working on Determining Importance.  Out came Tanny's book when I was planning and away we went with the spaghetti and colander lesson! Yep, that's pour spaghetti and water into a colander to show them'll just have to get the book and read it!  It is fabulous!  And let me tell you...those fifth graders now can explain what determining importance means and why it's important!

This week I needed an object lesson for helping the kiddles really understand that evidence from the text must actually match what they are finding the evidence for.  It can't kinda sorta maybe has to match exactly!  So, inspired by Tanny's teaching and after some brainstorming, the idea I came up with for this week's lesson uses socks!  I just could not get some of my kiddos to find evidence that matched the question being asked.  They always beat around the bush, but never found evidence that exactly matched the question,  So several socks found their way into my book bag.  The socks were spread out on the table and the students were asked if they matched.  "No!" They all said loudly.  "Well why not?" I asked.  "After all...these two match because they are both black!"  "No, Mrs. Denning....they don't match because one is for a man and one is for a lady!" "Aha!  Exactly!" I said.  They sorta match, but not really...not exactly!   We then had a wonderful discussion, using examples from the book they were reading, of text evidence that directly matched the questions being asked and evidence that only kinda sorta but not really...matched.  Just like the black socks.  Boy did they dig in to finding evidence after that.  Sometimes it just takes a great visual lesson to help the kiddles "see" what you are saying, right?  And being part of seeing your kiddles' light bulbs go on...well that is just the best!  So Do Not Pass Go - Do Not Collect $200!  Rush to the bookstore or go online and get Tanny's book!  You will love how object lessons liven up your teaching and your kiddles will love it too!

Happy Teaching Everyone!


Thursday, November 19, 2015

Five For Friday!!

Happy Friday friends!!! Lindsey here and I am so excited to link up with Kacey from Doodle Bugs Teaching for my favorite linky:)

STOP THE PRESSES!!!!! Candy cane kisses are back!! These are my very favorite and I love them and I may have three bags at my house. My hubs and the kiddos love them too:) If you haven't had them you do not know what you are missing!!!!

We had a pretty big storm up here in the PNW on Tuesday. knocked out power all over the place including most of the schools in my district. SOOOO....bonus day off in the middle of the week for us! Now, what did I do with all this free time???? Well...I went to Target and their dollar spot was on POINT! So many cute things but I was with my husband who told me "If you have to think about how you would use it then you don't need it." I think I will go back when he's not with me:) Look at these super cute pencils and erasers I snagged to go with the books I got my students. 

Yes... I got so many they couldn't all fit in the picture...gotta get them when you see them:)

Also on Wednesday, I got my 6th Stitch Fix. Now, I haven't had a whole lot of luck with Stitch Fix. I think that the most I've ever kept from my box was two things. THEN I got this box!! Let me tell you, it was like this stylist was in my head! I kept the whole box including this super cute top and vest!! I think I will try to keep this fabulous stylist:)

These books can only mean one thing...GINGERBREAD IS COMING!!!! I love our gingerbread unit! The kiddos really get into it and they get really excited when I read a new version. We end the unit with the kiddos writing their own version and they always turn out so cute! I just love this time of year:)

JUST POSTED!! We just finished our Rocks and Minerals Leveled Passages set. We had a request for this set as well as a solids, liquids and gases set, which we are working on. If you teach rocks and minerals or the rocks FOSS kit, these passages are a great way to tie your science into your reading block. There are 6 levels for each passage which allows for you to differentiate for all the kiddos in your class! Click HERE or the picture to read more about them.

I hope you have a fabulous, restful weekend!! And hey, you only have a couple days next week! We can do it!!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Get 'em Unstuck! - c-a-t-

Do you have students who, in spite of your fabulous teaching, still make crazy errors while decoding? We do too!  Most errors are easily corrected with a few sessions of very small group work, followed by lots of practice.  However, there is one error that seems so difficult to correct.  Students who make the error while decoding, sound like this:  "/c/a/t/"  Or the classic..... "/m/o/p/.....elephant?" Every year, there seems to be one or two of our young readers that have this type of difficulty.  It always surprises me that we don't have more students that do this. After all, knowing and recalling the sounds, then holding them in memory and blending them as a word, is quite difficult! In these cases, the thing we often jump to is more decoding.  Out come the lists of vc or cvc words for more practice. Usually, that doesn't work for this type of error though.  Most students who decode with this type of error haven't fully developed an understanding of how sounds blend into words.  They often need more practice with some basics first. If you have a student who is "decoding" like this, try these steps:
  1. Make sure the child knows the letter sounds with automaticity. 
  2. Go back and spend some time having the student orally segment and blend until he or she is better able to hear when the sounds make a word.
  3. Then, model explicitly how to blend the sounds they see in words. If the child has difficulty blending c-a-t, teach them to cover the last sound, blend the first two, then add back the last sound.  Ca -t, cat. This often does the trick for those who have trouble blending sound by sound. 
  4. Now, go to your word lists, word ladders and other activities for more practice.  
Usually the steps above, if given enough time at each step, will get a child "unstuck" from their decoding errors.  So if you have a young reader making silly decoding errors, give these steps a try.  I think you'll find that they work well. 


Friday, November 13, 2015

Five For Friday

Happy Friday teacher friends!  Wasn't it a wonderful week?  A day off in the middle?  Yessss please! It would be great to have that every week!  Howzabout a little Five For Friday thanks to Doodle Bugs Teaching!  Here are five random things that happened in our world this week.

Goodbye froggy!  This little guy has been showing up in the garden to say hello to me all of the spring and summer.  I thought for sure he was off hibernating these days with our colder weather,  but no...he decided to come say hello one more time this weekend.  I think he was saying goodbye, too, until the spring.  I think I've grown attached to the little guy and will miss him.

Thank Dog for our Veteran's!  Veteran's Day is such a great day to remember our veterans and those who currently serve our country.  Ginseng wanted to be sure we also remember all of the dogs who have served alongside our soldiers.  She gives them all a "high paw" and salute!

These little goodies came in the mail and I was fairly giddy!  Isn't that the sign of a true teacher?  We get all excited over new sticky notes and pencils!  THESE are princess pencils though.  Notice the crowns on top?  I'm sure that MUST mean I'm related to royalty somewhere, somehow, right? (Yeah...not so much! Keep dreamin' girl!)  Sigh!  I plan to use my new pencils to write out some notes of encouragement to my teacher friends on these little stationary goodies.

Lame!  I feel that since we are from the hometown neighborhood of Starbucks, we have a right to post about them a lot.  Normally, we are Starbucks' number one fans!  After all, we absolutely function daily due to our Starbucks.  Unfortunately though, we are QUITE disappointed in their red cups this year. Sheesh! They are P.L.A.I.N. red for heaven's sake!  Really Starbucks?  Couldn't you have at least thrown a snowflake or two on them?  Harrumph!  I think I'm going to have to pull out my little stickers and fix that problem!  QUITE disappointed I tell ya!

I suppose we really should throw in something going on at school, right?  Well, the truth is it was very peaceful and calm at school this week.  Not much going on....Ahhhh....that is very nice!  So all that happened was that I finally got around to getting my Level C Guided Reading pack ready to use. Eeek!  These are our one of new products that we L.O.V.E., so you would think I would have all the levels organized. good excuses, but I am ready now at least!  Can't wait to start using this level with one of my groups next week!

Hope you had a more eventful week!  I'm off to check your blogs now and see what all you have been up to this week!  Have a terrific weekend!


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Get 'em UNSTUCK! - Fluency

Do you have students who sometimes get stuck at something in reading and in spite of your best efforts and amazing teaching, they just don't get unstuck? We have students like that, too. Students who get amazingly great instruction in the classroom and who receive intervention help each day as well. But they still get stuck at things and just can't seem to get past them. After years of working with students with these issues, we have gathered ideas that work, and we'd like to share them with you. Maybe they will help your students, too!

Today we are talking about students who get stuck with fluency issues and what to do about it.  All parts of fluency....accuracy, prosody and rate... are so important to quality reading.  What do you do though when students get stuck?  Let's talk about rate.  From talking with teachers, the general idea is that rate is fairly easy to address.  Yes....and....NO!   That is the case for students who are making great progress and may need just a little extra boost to get their rate up. So we get out the fluency passages, the timers, the graphs, the repeated reading activities...and away those students go.  But, the students for whom these things don't work, need something different. In those cases, rate is arguably the most difficult thing to address. What do we do? We need to analyze all of the student's reading to pinpoint the cause of the issue and not just jump in with oral reading fluency passages and timings.  According to Heidi Anne E. Mesmer, Eric Mesmer, and Jennifer Jones in their book Reading Interventions in the Primary Grades,we need to look down the continuum of how fluency develops to find the problem for the student, then provide laser focused interventions for that need. If you have students that are stuck in fluency, check the following list of things to see where they fall out, then try some of the ideas listed.

1. Decoding Errors and/or High Frequency Words -  Most students stuck at a slow rate have issues with decoding or HF word automaticity.  Sure they can probably decode and read many words, but the key here is automaticity.  If they cannot recognize and read words extremely quickly, their rate in text reading will be slow.   Do this:  focus on automaticity in decoding or HF word reading (make sure you pinpoint the specific words they are struggling with that also match their text level: vc, cvc, multi-syllabic, HF words etc.) and get them to master them with automaticity. Then move on to the next set of words. Provide an intervention that solely focuses on this one thing, and get them to really master it!  It takes time, but it is the most important thing to be able to do with automaticity and is the number one thing that causes rate issues.

2. Repeating Words - Several students we have worked with over the years repeat words many, many times while reading.  Their reading often looks like this.  "The his head... head, then pushed Mark over...over... the railing...railing."   Students often will repeat a word when they are trying to check for its correctness of course, but some students do it so many times within one sentence that their rate is highly impacted (and their comprehension, too.)  It is as if their brain is "stuttering" while they are reading.  Do this: Check to make sure it is not an automaticity issue with decoding or HF word reading. (If it is, then address that.)  If a child is unsure of words, they will do this.  But if it is not an automaticity issue, then make the student aware of it by gently explaining what the child is doing and how it impacts his or her reading.  You can model what they sound like and then model the correct way, or you can try recording them and playing it back for them.  We have had great success doing this with students over the years and once the habit of too much repeating is broken, the students soar.

3. Reading Word by Word: This is a normal thing to do when you are an early reader, but....not so good when you are reading at the middle of first grade level or beyond.  Students need to be reading in phrases!  This is nothing new and definitely an oldie but goodie, but maybe just a reminder of how we have to directly teach many students what a phrase is, and how to read them.  Do this: Use a passage that can be marked up and that is at the easier end of the student's reading level.  Teach what a phrase is and mark the phrases in the passage with pencil lines like this:  /Then Hare decidedto take a nap./ Then model and practice, model and practice.  Reading by phrases requires learning to hear when it sounds right and that takes lots of practice.  (A good healthy dose of listening to readalouds everyday helps, too!)

4.  Slow Talker and Slow Mover: Oh boy is this one difficult!  Some students just have a personality in which they speak slowly and move slowly.  We have had several students like this over the years, and they are the most difficult to help to increase rate, because they talk at a slow rate. What to try?   Do this: Find something that motivates the student, then find a reader's theater for it.   I am thinking of one student who particularly struggled with rate because he spoke slowly.  He did reader's theater in his 5th grade class and chose the part of Paul Revere. He was very interested in the this time in history, so his motivation to try went way up. After talking about why rate was important and how it affects everything he reads (and some modeling), he practiced his parts in class every day. After all, you have to say, "The British are coming, the British are coming!" with enthusiasm and urgency, right?   When he came to intervention groups we practiced again.  Some days, we walked around the school practicing his lines for anyone we could find...the Principal, the Dean, the Admin. Assistant....and all of that applause finally clicked with him.  Did he always read at a faster rate?  No, but he made great improvement in rate, understood the importance of it, that he was capable of doing it, and he felt good about himself.  Now he knows he can do it when it is needed the most.  That was the most challenging case of slow talkers/slow readers over the years, but there have been many more.  Moral of the story?  Try reader's theater on a topic that is motivating.  It has worked for ALL of our slow talkers/slow readers over the years. 

So there you go.  If you've got some students who are really stuck in fluency, give these things a try. Happy Reading! 


Sunday, November 8, 2015

Questioning...Teaching Students To Think Deeply

Hey friends! Lindsey here. I am taking a break from my house cleaning duties, which I'm so bummed about...she says sarcastically, to share with you our week of questioning work.

I love teaching questioning. I love to see the kiddos start to take their questions and really think about them. Getting them beyond the less thinking "who is the main character?" questions and into questions that cause them to really think.

I always start questioning with How Many Days to America? by Eve Bunting. We are specifically learning about how to question with informational text but I always start questioning with this book because it is SO GOOD! It really gets the kiddos asking questions. They have so many questions about what is happening and why.We focus on asking questions first which is why this book lends itself so well to this task.

We read the book together and as we are reading I model for the kiddos asking questions. Of course, they all start trying to answer my questions. Great! I love that! I know they are listening and thinking when they do that. BUT...we aren't ready for that yet. We read the text and ask all our questions.

That's it. That's all we do on day one. I doesn't seem like a lot BUT they all want to know the answers! It kills them!

"Can we read it again?"

"I think I know the answer!"

"Can I read it and try to answer the questions?"

Hello engagement! They are hooked!!!

Day two, we start thinking about why we ask questions.

Then we read through our questions and we sort them based on their key words, who, what, when, where, why and how.

We choose one question from our chart and work to find the answer. For How Many Days to America? that is exactly the question we picked. How long were they traveling? I always teach the kiddos that they have to read the book AT LEAST TWICE. The first time they ask the questions and the second time they work on finding the answers. As a class, we work on filling out a question web, see the picture below. It took us three reads to figure out how many days they traveled, but boy, were they excited when they found it!

Now we start focusing on how we answer questions. What are the tools we use? What do we do if we have no idea?

Now, we are ready to move onto an informational text. I love Deep Sea Creatures by Elizabeth Bennett because it is just fascinating to them. Plus, it also has submersibles in it and they always make a connection to the Magic Tree House book Dolphins at Daybreak. We follow the same process with the reading this text. This time the kiddos work together to complete our question web.

I was really proud of the way they dove into this question. They were talking about bath toys and the power poles and wires and all sorts of stuff to try and answer the question of how the robots can go under the water. This was a great question too because the answer wasn't in the book.  By the end of the week MOST, not all because some just aren't there yet, were asking some pretty deep questions.

We took our first questioning assessment on Friday but of course, I forget them at school so I haven't had a chance to look through them.

As we work our way through next week we will really be digging into asking "thick" questions and working more on our strategies to find answers when they aren't in the text.

I'm off to finish up my chores but the thought of having a day off mid-week for Veteran's Day sure is wrecking my motivation! Enter my creeping procrastination...I mean really if I don't get ALL the laundry done I can catch up on Wednesday...right?  :)

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Five for Friday!!

Happy Friday friends!! I am glad to know that we are THIS close to the weekend! I don't know about you, but the stress level at my school is high and I am looking forward to a laid back weekend! I'm linking up with Kacey from Doodle Bugs Teaching for one of my favorite linky parties! Let's get started!

Of course, I have to start with Halloween! Let me tell you...this year was a struggle to get a good pic of my kiddos in their costumes! Phew! This is the best I could get. We've got a peacock and a dragon. They both got so much candy we are fully stocked until next year!!

My daughter had her first homework project this week. We had to do the good ol' disguise the turkey. She decided on Elsa. I cut, she glued. It turned out pretty cute and she was really excited about it so I will take it as a win:)

We have carts of tablets at our school that we can check-out and use in our classrooms. The older kiddos use them for their testing, but this year we are trying to get the primary kiddos using them too so they are familiar with them. Our fabulous, amazing, super-awesome, brilliant technology teacher, who may also be reading this;) came into my room on Thursday to teach all the kiddos how to get logged on and get to the internet. Most of them were pretty good at getting to the internet but the whole log-in process was a little tricky for them! 

The timing of the tablet practice is perfect because we are knee-deep in research projects and we are going to be using the tablets to create power points. The kiddos love this project every year. They get to pick an animal and work with a partner to research it and create a presentation to share with the class. It takes a couple weeks to get through the whole thing but they always turn out great!

We are kicking off Veteran's Day with an assessment! Woohoo! Not really...but we have been working on questioning so the kiddos are going to use their Veteran's Day Scholastic News to show me how well they understand the concept. Then we will start studying the day by using the Scholastic News and our Veteran's Day Leveled Passages.

I'm off to enjoy the Chris Stapleton CD I had to buy because of his performance with JT on the CMA's. If you don't know what I'm talking about, you should YouTube're welcome!!

Have a great weekend!