Sunday, October 30, 2016

Differentiation Made Easy

Happy Sunday friends!! I hope you are having a restful weekend...especially since tomorrow is Monday AND Halloween. Yikes!

I wanted to pop on today and share with you about differentiation and how I achieve it in my classroom. Differentiation is extremely important and especially for me this year since I am teaching a first and second grade combination class. However, differentiation is something that can be tricky to achieve. It's no secret...we are BUSY and differentiation can take a lot of specific planning and prep. It can be overwhelming and sometimes, it can be something we just push to the back burner or try to add on the fly. Does that sound familiar??? Well...fear not!! I have a solution for you!

I am going to share with you how I differentiate for my students while teaching spiders. However, you can do the same thing with ANY content that you are teaching!

First off, we start with our general instruction...inputing the content for students to learn.

Our spider unit starts off with a pictorial. As we are going through this pictorial, I draw it as I talk about each part, the students are taking notes. They can draw and label or write words and sentences. Whatever strategy is developmentally appropriate of them is what they use. We do a lot of turning and talking and sharing out about what they just heard.

On another day, we follow the same process only about different types of spiders and where you will find them. Just by changing the way students are keeping track of the information, whether writing or drawing and labeling, is differentiating for their needs. They are learning the content and keeping track of it in a way that will help them internalize the information.

Now comes the easy part...are you ready?!?!?


Now, I don't mean just ANY leveled can find a lot of passages that say leveled. Usually, they don't actually correspond with a level. They are usually just a low, medium and high. This is great, but doesn't work for me. I know what level my kids are reading and when I am trying to get them to learn the content and support their understanding, I need them to be working at their INDEPENDENT level. And, quite frankly, I don't want to have to take the time to read through the low, medium and high passages to figure out who is where. TOO MUCH WORK!

The leveled passages we have are actually LEVELED to Fountas and Pinnell levels. They are the EXACT SAME CONTENT. That means, I can have students working together and learning about spiders together, even if they are working at different levels.

These are both second graders. One is reading at H/I and one is reading at C. They are reading together, yes the words vary because the levels are different, but they are reading the same content. I often have them take turns reading their passages to each other. That way they hear the information twice.

Once they have read their passage, they can work together to answer the text dependent questions. The question page is the SAME for each level and the students can answer all the questions, no matter what level they are reading.

Then, to take it even further, I add leveled quick reads to my comprehension center! Boom! More spider content, in a different form, that students can read and learn about at their independent level.

Once again, students can work in partners to learn about spiders. They are getting so much information and they are able to access it easily. It's high interest and helps them to be and feel successful because they can work independently on work that is exactly the same! They don't feel different from each other. There is no worry about the high kids having one task, while the on grade level students have a different task, and the below grade level students have a task different from the other two levels.

Differentiation is extremely important for all students. It helps all students to be successful and feel proud of themselves. Friends, it doesn't have to be scary and hard! If you haven't yet, you should give leveled passages a try. Click HERE to find many different topics of leveled passages. You can also try leveled quick reads. They are great for centers and independent work but they have so many other uses as well. Click HERE to check them out.

I hope this helps you to take a load off your plate when differentiating for your learners!! It sure has helped me out a TON!!

Have a great week:)

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Five For Friday

Hello Friday!  It's good to see you again!  That's what is so great about keep coming back! Such a faithful friend you are, Friday!  And hello to you, teacher friends!  Here's a little Five For Friday post for your entertainment.  Thank you Doodle Bugs Teaching for hosting!

This week's theme: Don't you just love the fall?

Don't you just love the fall?  We do because it means racing season is over and the hubs is home every weekend.  Lindsey, our daughter and the other half of 2 Literacy Teachers, was allowed to drive the race car out of the trailer and into the garage for the winter, because her father just had shoulder surgery and can't do it.  (It is a sore point for her that her brother actually is allowed to the race the ding dang thing, but she is only allowed to drive it in and out of the trailer. Harrumph! We believe in girl power, but evidently her father worries about his little girl.  Let's see if that holds when the granddaughter is old enough to drive.  Anywho...the annual "putting the race car away" unceremony, means that fall is here!

Don't you just love the fall?  It's great because we get to take part in our democracy!  For this person who LOVES her country, that is a privilege I wholeheartedly embrace! And what better way to fill in your ballot than to use your extra special Teachers Pay Teachers pen?  So go vote...and be sure to use your fave pen!

Don't you just love the fall?  I do because I get to teach reading intervention groups using our pumpkin passages with my ELL kiddles.  This is one of my favorites because these little kiddles are going to the pumpkin patch TODAY!  And for most of them, it is their first time ever doing it.  Boy oh boy are they excited, and even though I don't get to go with them, I was blessed to enjoy their excitement and enthusiasm all week while we read about pumpkins and the pumpkin patch!  So fun!

Don't you just love the fall?  Fall means I get to teach some reading intervention groups about rocks, because they are studying them in their classrooms in science!  We love rocks!  They are just lumps of dirt to some, but to others....they are amazing treasure!  Just love the wonder in the kiddles' eyes as they explore them!

Don't you just love the fall?  We do because it means our annual Fall drive over the mountains to the beautiful Bavarian town of Leavenworth.  The drive over is amazing with all of the trees along the river in full color, and the little town never disappoints!  Good food, Bavarian atmosphere, oompah music, fun shopping, more oompah music, live billy goats, more oompah music...almost makes you want to break into a polka...I said almost..., and great family time.....ahhhh! Our favorite.

Happy Fall everyone!  I'm off to bake some fall cookies.  Yum!


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Closing the Gap - Using Interventions Effectively - #1

Closing the Gap - Using Interventions Effectively - # 1

Through The Eyes of a Struggling Reader
Teacher, help me…
I don’t know that word.
I don’t know what sound that says.
I don’t know what that word means.
I don’t know what the story said.
I don’t know how the character feels.
I don’t know what the story means.
I don’t know what I’m thinking….or how to tell you.
I don’t know how to be a good reader.
Teacher, help me.  I am counting on you.

Hey teacher friends!  Doesn’t this poem just tug at your heart?  That’s why you are such an amazing teacher.  You care and you do whatever you can to make sure that every child is successful and feels good about him or herself.  And you do it Every. Single. Day! 

This blogpost series aims to help you in that endeavor by getting you started using interventions, or to refresh what you already know about them.  We will give you some tips and some ideas about how to provide effective interventions appropriate to your students’ needs, and what you can do for different areas of need.  

In this first post, we will talk about the basics and share ideas for what you can do in your core instruction and in the classroom setting.  You, dear teacher, are the first line of intervention defense and we want to help you with that.  Let’s get started!

Before you can begin to target instruction, you’ll need to assess students with something that will give you essential information.  At our school, all students are screened with the STAR Reading Assessment.  This is a good start for us, but because of the way the assessment is designed, (too complicated to describe here), it is not sufficient for our teaching needs.  The students are also given the DRA - Developmental Reading Assessment, to help us get the information we need to target instruction.  If you don’t have an assessment like the DRA or the Fountas and Pinnell BAS, running records on leveled texts can do the trick.  You might also want to do a phonics and sight word check as well.  Even if your students are intermediate students, if they are really struggling, then a phonics and sight word check will tell you if that is the problem.  (Here is a free phonics assessment if you need it.)  

After assessing all of your students, you will want to divide them into tiers based on their assessments.  We group our students by level first, then by need in phonics, sight words, and/or comprehension. Students on or above grade level are your tier one students.  Students up to one year below grade level are your tier two students.  Students one or more years below grade level are your tier three students.  (You can read more about tiering here.)  Why does it matter?  It matters because your interventions are based on student needs, but the intensity of intervention is determined by how far below grade level your students are.

Here are some general things to keep in mind as you provide interventions to students in each of the tiers.

Tier 1
Students in tier one are performing well with your differentiated core instruction, and rarely need interventions.
If needed, typical interventions include:
  •          Extra practice
  •          A second session of strategy modeling or explanation of concept.
  •          Conferring with students once a week, if you are using the conferring model.

Tier 2           
Tier two interventions can be a little tricky, because the students that are closer to the top of this tier, (closer to grade level), need something different than those students who are performing closer to the bottom of this level.  However, all interventions in tier two are in addition to the core curriculum or teaching.

Typical interventions include:
  • Additional small group teaching and coached practice of a specific needed skill or strategy, and…
  • Additional conferences each week if you use a conferring model  (Conferring alone is not enough for tier two students)
  • Careful, consistent progress monitoring and documentation of student progress (Every two weeks)
  • Increased minutes reading "just right," high-success texts
Special notes:  For higher tier two students, groups can meet as little as 3 days per week and can include up to 5 students per group.  For lower tier two students, groups should meet a minimum of 4 days per week and include no more than 4 students per group.

Tier 3
Tier 3 interventions are far more intense in their focus and include even more time for practice. They are also in addition to core instruction. Typical interventions include:
  • Focus on no more than three skills (Example: words with one phonetic element/sound or feature such as -ay words, cvc words, -ed endings, etc., up to 5 sight words to practice, and one comprehension focus such as retell or finding main idea) in a small group setting at least 4 days per week and including no more than 3 students per group
  • Focus strategies, skills and/or words are sent home to parents each week for practice at home
  • Student conferences at least every other day if you are also using the conferring model
  •  Additional one on one practice if a paraeducator, tutor or parent volunteer is available  (older students can do this too, with direction)
  • Even more minutes of reading "just right," high-success texts
  •  Careful, consistent progress monitoring and documentation of student progress (Every week)
Special notes:  Tier 3 students are often being watched closely to determine if further evaluation may be needed by the special education team.  It is very important to document all interventions and the student’s progress with them.

Now that you have assessed and tiered your students, and have thought about how to provide interventions in addition to your core instruction, let’s think about what you can do within your core instruction every day in your classroom. Here are some of the most effective things you can do.
  • Keep all kids engaged during all lessons - Don’t let their attention drift away or allow them to be “invisible.”
  • Keep learning active and engaging - Call on all students.  Turn and talk.  Chant and sing new learning.  Get up and move. (Think Ron Clark Academy and Go Noodle types of learning.)
  • Make sure ALL posted materials are able to be read by ALL levels of readers in your classroom, especially those at the lowest level, because they need the most practice - Anchor Charts.  Songs and Chants.  Poems.  Directions.  Schedules.  EVERYTHING! The more things you have that ALL students can read, the more minutes of practice they will have and the more their reading will improve!

                      Chart credit:  Aliya Raintree

  •  Differentiate, Differentiate, Differentiate! - Provide multiple levels of text for all reading tasks, for response sheets, reading center activities, and everything else that you can think of (even math problems).  It takes a little extra time to prepare the first time around, but you will have them for the future and best of all you will be rewarded by improvement in your students’ achievement. (Divide and conquer by creating them with a buddy teacher.)  We have lots and lots of leveled passage sets available for you here, if you need some. 

  • Put differentiated and individualized learning cards on student’s desks for them to practice at every spare moment, then between every lesson or at every transition time, have them take a minute to practice their learning cards by reading/explaining to their neighbor - Sight word cards.  Phonics word cards. Vocabulary word cards.  Concept cards.  Math formulas.

  • Talk, Talk, Talk!  Having students talk about what they are learning, increases their retention and understanding!  So allow purposeful talk at all possible moments!

We hope this blogpost gave you some new information about interventions or sparked an idea or two that you can use.

In our next post, we will give more specific ideas for when and what to do in your tier 2 interventions, and we will share with you how we do it at our school. 

Happy Reading!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Teaching About Bats in a Combo Class

Hey friends! This year I am teaching a first and second grade combination class. This is my first time teaching anything but second grade so it's definitely a learning year for me. I have a 10/12 split with the 12 being second graders. So, I am teaching most of my second grade curriculum. Now, obviously first graders need first grade instruction, so, I am doing a lot if differentiating to make sure that my firsties are learning and supported in my classroom. I wanted to give you a peek on how I am doing this with bats.

We started off our whole bats unit by turning our pod into a cave. much of a cave as we could. We wanted to hook the kiddos in and get them excited about bats!

The first thing that we did was to talk about our bats knowledge. I like to find out the kiddos misconceptions of bats. Mainly, that they are scary and suck your blood. Last year, I wrote what the kiddos said on post-its to save time. This year I wanted more engagement, so I had students write what they know on a post-it themselves. For the firsties, they could use pictures and/or words. For second graders, they needed to use a sentence, but could add pictures if they wanted to. Then, we added them to our KWL bat. This is a picture of last years KWL...I forgot to take one this year:(

(This KWL idea came from Jodi Southard's October Passages Set).

We then moved on to our input lesson. I like to use a pictorial like this...

I have the bat pre-drawn and then I add the words with the students. (This is a GLAD strategy and this fabulous poster idea came from a wonderful GLAD instructor that worked at our school). This can be a long process. Depending on your kiddos, you may want to split this poster over two days. My kiddos are pretty good listeners, so we made it through in one day. As I am adding words to the poster, I have my students take "notes." I tell them they are going to be like high schoolers and take notes and boy, do they get excited about that! I usually have a couple kiddos talk about how their older brother and sister take in! Both first and second graders completed a can, have, are page as their notes. The first graders had empty boxes with can, have and are at the top. They had to draw and label information, because labeling is what I am working on with them right now. The second graders had the same paper but theirs had lines. We do lots of turn and talking and sharing our learning to keep them engaged.

Next, we moved onto my favorite way to differentiate, that's with leveled quick reads and passages.

The students worked together to read these quick reads and write facts about bats. I have a good mix of first and second graders. I have some second graders reading at a first grade level and some first graders reading at a second grade level. This works out perfectly for mixing together to make a cohesive classroom. When we do things such as these quick reads, there can be a nice mix of partners.

(If you are interested in learning more about quick reads, click HERE to watch a short informational video. To check them out in our shop, click HERE).

Next, we took our facts and added them to bats we were going to use to decorate out bat cave. This idea came from Digital: Divide & Conquer. We are working on writing complete sentences. Both first and second graders need some help with this! We took one fact that we found from our quick reads and added them to the back of our bat. We checked to make sure they were COMPLETE sentences. Then we colored them and hung them up in our bat cave:)

Our main goal this week has been retelling a story. So we had to add some fiction into our reading block. Of course, I turned to Stellaluna. I love Stellaluna for multiple reasons. It's great to retell, great to compare bats to birds and great for finding a message. I used it for introductory for all three of those this week.

Again, first graders and second graders have different expectations. Though I have found that my first graders want to do what the second graders do, I don't require them to write out as much as the second graders. Firsties are working on drawing and labeling. With this retell, I also had them write one sentence for each section. However, many were able to write more than that.

Along with Stellaluna, I also used Bat's Big Game to compare and contrast bats and birds. It's fiction, so we were able to practice retelling it, but it also helped us to decide how bats and birds are different.

I like to use a t-chart to introduce compare and contrast because it's easier for the kiddos to understand. This t-chart was created using two different resources. The first one was Bat's Big Game. The second was our Bats Leveled Passages.

 These passages are leveled A-I, the same as our quick reads. They allow for students to work on the same content, at their independent level. Students worked together to highlight information about birds. We then added that information to the t-chart. Students also created a t-chart of their own in their reading notebooks. Another reason I love the t-chart is that they can easily draw it on their own and it saves some copies.

Students then worked to answer the questions that go along with each passage. Yet another skill I was able to add this week:)

Once we had a good handle on what makes a bat, a bat. We were ready to learn about different types of bats. This is another GLAD strategy put together by one of our fabulous GLAD instructors. This is called a narrative. On the back of each picture is a story about that particular type of bat. It's full of facts and great for students. They love learning about the different types. On this poster, there are six different types of bats.

This narrative took two days. We went through the whole thing on day one. Then on day two, the students added word cards to the different types of bats as a reinforcement.

We wrapped up the week with a writing assessment. The topic was "If I were a bat, I would..." I was looking for complete sentences but it also gave me a good look at what the students could pull from the week, such as types of bats and what they do. I was surprised at how much information both the first and second graders were able to pull! I am excited for writing this year!

(I wish I knew where this prompt came from. If it's you or you know who it is, please let me know so I can tag them!!)

We were able to do ALL of this in one week. It may seem like a lot, it was, but the engagement was so high that the kiddos were soaking it all up!!

I am learning to change the expectations from first to second, but I have noticed that the first graders are working really hard to meet the expectations I set for the second graders. I am really excited to see how this year goes because these kiddos are really motivated to work hard and set examples. So far, I'm loving it!

I hope that you all have a wonderful, batty week!!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Five for Friday!

Happy Friday friends! We are preparing for a stormy weekend around here...not even close to hurricane style like the East Coast...but a strong storm for the PNW. I'm NOT looking forward to it AT ALL. So let's take our mind off it with a little Doodle Bugs Teaching linky:)

You guys...the DRA is taking over my life and my classroom! I have a love/hate relationship with this assessment. I LOVE the information I get but I HATE the time and the huge mess it makes. I feel like everything halts until I get them finished. And, have you ever noticed when you have piles going then even more stuff gets piled on top, that is completely unrelated?!?!? I've got about 6 different things going in the DRA pile! As if the DRA wasn't enough!!

This year I have a first and second grade split. It's been a bit of an adjustment for me. I've been in second my whole teaching career, so wrapping my head around first grade has taken me some time. My math block has been the hardest for me. I have been grateful for Xtra Math and these iPads. They have helped me tremendously! These second graders are working on Xtra Math while I am working with my firsties. I also had to bust out a little extra engagement with these fun halloween erasers! Let the addiction begin! The kiddos love these!

Another big help to me while teaching this split has been our leveled quick reads. They are leveled from A to I. They allow me to have each kiddo working on the same theme but reading at their independent level. This week we have been focusing on bats and these cards have been a huge help. To see a video of these cards in action click the picture or HERE. If you would like to check out more quick reads, click HERE.

We have been working on retelling stories. We read the story It's Mine. Then we did a directed drawing of three frogs and wrote the retell. This kiddo is an amazing artist. She is one of my firsties and she amazes me with her talent! 

On the weekend, we went to the pumpkin patch. I LOVE going to the pumpkin patch!! I think when my kids are in high school we will still be going. It's my favorite part of fall!!

I'm off to find candles and flashlights! I hope that you all have a fantastic, and dry, weekend:)