Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Tuesday's Teaching Tip - A Fun Idea to Practice Inferring

Spring is here!  Birds are singing, the sun is shining.........and.....the kids are going crazy, we are stressed about testing and there are still too many weeks until the end of the year!  So it is the PERFECT time to bring on some fun ways to practice what we've already taught.  

By this time of year, most classes from kinder on up, have learned to infer.  We infer what the characters are feeling in kinder, and what the protagonist's motivation was in middle school and beyond, and many other kinds of inferences in between. But because we all need a break from the stress that is inevitable this time of year, why not practice inferring in a fun way for a few minutes each day?  Why not practice inferring with......jokes and riddles?  Jokes and riddles require a lot of inferring and thinking, and provide some fun at the same time.

Here are some ideas for ways to use them:

1. Use a joke or riddle for your morning meeting.  The littles can practice their reading, find phonics and sight words to circle, and can practice inferring while they think through the joke or riddle together.

2. Use a joke or riddle as an entry task for intermediate students.  They can think and infer together as partners or in groups to solve it, then each can write the solution or punch line that they inferred, and add why they think it makes sense. Each group can share their solution or punch line with the class. Great opportunity for cooperative work and speaking practice!

3. Have students look for jokes or riddles at home and bring them in to share.  One or two students can share theirs each day.  Just don't let them tell the solution or punch line until the rest of the class has had enough time to work on inferring the answer first.

4. Have intermediate students write their own riddles to exchange with a partner.  The partner has to infer the solution to the riddle.

Here are a few jokes and riddles to get you started:

  • I'm full of keys, but can't open any door.  What am I?   A piano.
  • I will always come, but never arrive today.  What am I?  Tomorrow.
  • I don't have wings, but I can fly.  I don't have eyes but I can cry.  What am I?  A cloud.
  • What Spring flowers can by found on people's faces?   Tulips!  (Two-lips)
  • What did the big flower say to the little one?  "You're really growing, bud!"
  • What do you call a rabbit with the sniffles?   A runny bunny!
  • How does a rabbit throw a tantrum?  He get's hopping mad!
  • What stories do bunnies like best?  The ones with hoppy endings!
  • Why was the Easter Bunny so upset?  He was having a bad hare day!
  • Why did the Easter Bunny hide?  Because he was a little chicken!
  • How does Easter end?  With an R.
So there you go.  A way to practice what you have already taught AND add fun to class at the same time! Happy Teaching!


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Tuesday's Teaching Tip - Re-focusing Amidst Spring Fever

Has Spring Fever hit your students?  Are they tuning out more often than you'd like?  Not paying attention?   How about you?  Has your attention...and energy level...wandered off? Has the gray and rainy...or white and snowy...weather got everyone down at your school? It happens every year in every school across our country.  Sometimes it even starts as early as February!  It has hit our school particularly hard this year....including the staff! You know how it goes...just when things really heat up....test prep.....testing... progress reports....conferences....Professional Development...and on and on. Wham-o!  It hits and hits hard.  Well today's Teaching Tip is more of a reminder of an oldie but goodie, and is giving you permission to take a refocusing break as often as you need to.  This week we are telling you to "take a hike!"  Literally! 

Go ahead!  Get out with your students and go for a 10 minute walk around your school to refocus.  (If you read our blog regularly, you know we say that for a lot of things. But there's a reason we were all sent outside by our mothers to play! It's GOOD for you in oh-so-many ways!) 

Don't just walk though....tell students to PAY ATTENTION to as many things as they can outside. What did you hear, see and feel?  Then, when you come back in, have them write down (or draw, for the youngers) as many things as they can that they noticed outside.  Count 'em up and have them write down the number of things that they noticed. Then, next time you all need to refocus, (like tomorrow :-), do it again.  Were they able to pay better attention and list more things this time?  Did they "beat their own score?" Each subsequent time that you go for a hike around school, have them check their own score and see how they did.  This is so great for rebuilding their stamina for paying attention to things.  And if you might be thinking this is only for the littles....nope!  The olders LOVE the challenge and actually need it just as much or more than the littles.  After all, they have state testing in the spring to boot! 

Trust me!  Going for a "hike" works to re-develop everyone's attention skills long term, AND the fresh air and movement will help them to be far more productive in the short term. And for you?  Well....it's a great break for you, too!  After all...teachers need a break this time of year just as often as the students, right?  Truth!

So even though it is easy to say..."I don't have time for that!"  As Nike says...Just Do IT!  It will make you and your students pay better attention to the tasks at hand, and make you all more productive than trying to slog through with fuzzy, inattentive brains.  Not to mention it will alleviate some of that springtime stress.  Good luck with Spring Fever this year!


Thursday, March 9, 2017

Five for Friday

Hey there and hello teacher friends!  It is Fri-Yay!  How about some Five For Friday action?  Thank you Doodle Bugs Teaching, for hosting this fun linky party each week!  Here's what's been going on in our little corner of the world.
I'm a reading specialist.  We have a teacher shortage.  That translates to a sub shortage.  And that's where we specialists come in. We often get pulled at THE. LAST. MOMENT! to sub for a sick teacher.  While I'm not a fan of the very last moment call...I do like being able to see my students in their own classrooms.  It's always fun to ask them to get their very favorite book to read to me during independent reading.  In my teacher dreamland, I imagine that they will bring me some high quality literature and we will spend some great time reading and deeply discussing said high quality literature. NOPE! Wrongo bongo! Lovely mental image shattered!  THIS is what third grade boys like to read to me. Then they giggle. This book seems to be in EVERY intermediate classroom.  It's everywhere, I tell ya! Do you know how many times that this has been their choice?  Ack!  Well, maybe some day my "high quality literature" dream will come true.

In my first grade groups, we have been working on those pesky d's and b's.  Those crazy letters are always tricky, and they seem to love to get mixed up in the littles' brains.  What do I use?  I LOVE this d and b set from An Adventure in Literacy.  It's so cute and the best thing I've come across for helping with those pesky reversals.  It has b/d sorts, and lots of other activities so that when you have finished with them, the students are well on their way to reading without b/d reversals!  You can check it out on Teachers Pay Teachers.

Don't you love it when the Amazon box arrives?  This week it brought this new book.  I'm an idea junky and am always looking for new things to use to get those all important breakthroughs happening for my intervention group students.  I can't wait to dive into this one.  It is from Tim Rasinski so it has to be good.  Have you read it?

Lookie!  Lookie!  This week, my sweet daughter surprised me with my very first Rae Dunn pottery. Isn't it cool?  I love the message, too!  It's a great reminder. Have you got on the Rae Dunn bandwagon yet?  I'm hooked now!

This week we had a rally for education at a local high school.  Our state has been sued for not fully funding education, which is the highest mandate in our state constitution.  So it's been a battle as you can imagine, and it has been going on for ten years now.  It is all coming to the end though, so our rally was held to keep the pressure on the legislature to do the right thing.  They sometimes try to sidestep the issue.  I know...you are probably not surprised at all  shocked to hear that.  We brought these two cuties, (my grandbabies) to help sway the legislators that attended.  They really got into waving their signs!  I'm sure their cuteness alone swayed those legislators our way. Don't you agree?

That's what's been happening in our little world.  I'm going to go check out some more Five For Friday posts now to see what everyone else has been up to.  Happy weekend everybody!


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Tuesday's Teaching Tip - 5 Minute Vocabulary

Would you like an idea for teaching vocabulary in 5 minutes and practicing in less than 1 minute?  We've got it for you today.  On Tuesday’s Teaching Tips, we’ve been sharing ideas for teaching vocabulary for the past few weeks.  We shared an easy way to teach vocabulary through your readaloud, here, and some ideas for learning vocabulary through Naming Walks, here.  Both ideas were from Patricia Cunningham’s book What Really Works for Vocabulary

Today we are sharing a strategy that our school uses.  It is considered to be a G.L.A.D. language strategy, but it has been around for a long time under various names.  The strategy is called “The Signal Word” strategy and you can use it to teach vocabulary in 5 minutes, and to practice in 1 minute.  

Here’s how it works:

1. Choose the word you want your students to know.

2. Teach students the word and what it means. Then teach them an action for it that represents the word's meaning.  Students do the action while saying the word and its meaning. The first time you teach the word, have students say the word and do the action, several times.  (We also post the words that are currently being taught in class.) 
Here are examples of two words we use:

Main Idea – “The big idea of a text.”  Action:  Open hands to show big, then point to brain for idea, then point to left open palm for text.

Evidence – “Proof from the text.”   Action:  Show open book with two open, flat palms.  Then use right index finger and thumb to “pull out” the evidence from the center of the left palm.

3. Throughout the day, randomly say the word in "call and response" fashion.  Students respond by saying its meaning and doing the action for it.  You can also flip it by saying the meaning to them, and they respond by saying the word. It is called “The Signal Word” because we also use this as a signal word to set students off to do something.  For example, “On the signal word, line up.”  Then you say the meaning and the students say the word while doing the action.  As soon as they are done saying it, they move to line up.  Using the new word as a signal word throughout the day is a great way to get it to stick in students’ minds, and using previously taught words is a great way to review.  Quick and easy! 

Our school has compiled a list of Key Literacy Vocabulary to be taught by each grade level.  It has the action listed for each word so that teachers of all grades can teach/review the word the same way.  

There you go!  Another easy, and research proven strategy to really teach and get vocabulary to stick....all in 5 minutes!

Happy Teaching!  

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Five for Friday!

Happy Friday friends! Can you believe it's March already? This year is flying by and before we know it the year will be over! Let's kick this weekend off with a little Five for Friday thanks to Doodle Bugs Teaching


We were so lucky to have our Donor's Choose project funded! We got these amazing coding mice. The kiddos can build a maze and then they have to program the mouse to get through the maze to get to the cheese. They love it! It's so awesome to see them working together to get the mouse through. They are talking with each other and giving suggestions on how they can program it. It's awesome!

We've been working on double digit subtraction. This is one of my favorite lessons to do! The kiddos get to make their own bookstore. Then, they have to go to each others bookstores and "buy" books. Finally, they have to figure out how much change they should get. These second graders LOVE to play store!

One thing that stinks about working in a different district than your kiddos is your breaks don't match up. We only had one day during our mid-winter break this year. We made the most of it by heading to the Seattle Aquarium! They LOVE to look at the fish and it's a great thing to do on a rainy Seattle day!

My daughter has a class read-in this week for Dr. Seuss day. Here she is trying to pick out the books she would like to take. Boy, it's a tough choice! Can you tell what her favorite kind of book is???

            Click here for :  A - I       J - M                                   Click here for: A - I     J - M

We are so excited to share two of these great resources that we just finished! We have made extension passages for St. Patrick's Day and Life Cycles! Now your kiddos can read the same information at THEIR independent reading level, levels A all the way through M! These are great for guided reading, partner reading and whole group.

Here are my kiddos working on some passages together. No matter what level they are, they can still work through the text dependent questions together because the content is ALL THE SAME! Only the levels change!

We hope that you all have a wonderful weekend!!!

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Tuesday's Teaching Tip - Fun & Easy Idea to Increase Student Vocabulary

Would you teach more vocabulary if you had some fun and easy ideas to use?  We all know that vocabulary is so important for our students' success.  After all, the students with the largest vocabulary are the ones who comprehend and learn much more.  They are also the ones who have the most success in school and life. But teaching vocabulary can sometimes go by the wayside.  In this blogpost series, we hope to share some easy ideas for teaching vocabulary.  Last time, (here), we shared an easy 4-Step method for teaching vocabulary through your readaloud.  Pat Cunningham first shared this idea in her book, What Really Matters in Vocabulary: Research-Based Practices Across the Curriculum.

In this post, we'd like to share another of her great ideas, and an alternate version.  Pat Cunningham talks about how she used to teach the vocabulary for everything in her classroom.....even hinges!!! Then she would put up word cards to label things.  You have probably seen primary classrooms with labels all over the room, too.  Maybe you even have these in your room.  They are fantastic for your ELL students for learning the words, and of course they help all students to spell the words correctly.  But...do you actually teach the words or do you just label things?  That is the key...you have to actually teach the words.  But, you say, hinges??  Really??  Well, think about it.  Every year my fourth grade groups read a mystery that says something like...."The hinges creaked loudly as she tried to sneak in the room."  That's a pretty common thing in intermediate mystery stories, and even in primary picture books...."The hinges on the treasure chest were stuck!"  Just think, if you don't know what a hinge is, you're left guessing when it comes to understanding that sentence.  And the experts in teaching vocabulary tell us that we should use realia as much as possible.  What better realia than that in your classroom. So, should primary be the only grades doing this?  Nope! Everyone needs vocabulary.  

How does she actually teach these words?  She names it for them, then has them say the word and describe it or use it in a sentence, to a partner. She explains that actually using the word orally, is what helps it to really stick. Easy right?

Another thing that Pat Cunningham did, was to take her kids to other places in the school to teach vocabulary.  She called these Naming Walks.  She taught all of the vocabulary of the library, the office, the lunch room, the playground....everywhere. (Great example....we have squirrels scampering in and around the trees by our playground.  So many children's books include squirrels...think Scaredy Squirrel.  ELL students and younger students often don't know exactly what a squirrel is.  That's realia right there, I tell you! ) Just think, if you did this, your students would easily be on their way to learning the 1000 - 3000 new words that experts say students need to learn each year! Bonus...this method helps it really stick in the students' brains, too. 

How about an alternate version?  You can do the same thing and call it a Vocabulary Hunt. Just give the students this freebie and a clipboard or hard surface to write on, and have them record "new to them" words on the sheet.  They can find new words in the books they read or anywhere!  It's also a fantastic thing to have kids do when they go on a field trip. Just think what they could learn at the zoo or science museum!  "Kids...how many new words can you learn that you didn't know before?"  Give them that challenge and it now becomes a fun and easy game, that is great for both primary AND intermediate students!  Then do a share out with the class, so each student gets a chance to share their new, cool words with a partner.  Then some of them can share out with the whole class. Each time they share, they are using those words another time, which really helps to cement it in their brains!

So there you go!  A couple of fun, easy and super effective ways for teaching vocabulary. Why not give them a try?

Happy Teaching!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Tuesday's Teaching Tip - Vocabulary Ideas Pat Cunningham Style

Vocabulary....such an important thing to teach, but so easy to let it slide, isn't it?  Why is it so important though?  Vocabulary is essential to understanding and deep thinking! Bottom line is this - students with a high level of vocabulary understand life, comprehend what they read, and learn during lessons far more than students with low levels of vocabulary.  The rich get richer and the poor get poorer, as they say, when it comes to vocabulary.  But it's easy to think of vocabulary teaching as one more thing added to the plate, and to let it slide when the schedule gets packed.  How about some ideas for teaching it effectively within your already packed schedule?  

Pat Cunningham's book, What Really Matters in Vocabulary: Research-Based Practices across the Curriculum, is packed full of great, best practice ideas.  Here's just one of her great ideas she gives for teaching vocabulary well and easily through your readalouds.

1. Choose three "just right" Tier 2 words  from your story to teach, and write them on cards.
(They should be essential for comprehension of the story, likely to be encountered in other reading and lessons, and likely to be used in their lives.)

2. Read 1 - Read the text aloud and discuss it after for your teaching purposes, without referring to the words.

3. Read 2 - Show the words on cards and have students say the words aloud, but NOT define them, as it will spoil the thinking in the next part. Place the words so the students can see them. Read the text to them, but this time have them shout out stop, and say the word each time they hear you read it.  It might sound like this: "STOP! Predator!"   At that point, work together to use the pictures, context and word parts (root word, prefixes, suffixes) to explain the word.  Then have students turn and repeat to their neighbor what the word means. Each additional time the word is heard, stop and see if the students can add any new information to the understanding of the word.  Do this throughout the readaloud using all three words. 

4. When finished, have students turn to a partner and retell the story/text being sure to use the new words in their retell.  This can be done another day after a third read, if time is getting short during Read 2.
So there you go!  A super effective and easy way to teach vocabulary during your readaloud from the great reading mentor, Pat Cunningham.  Next time, we will look at another of her fabulous ideas.  

Happy Teaching!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Teaching with a Valentine's Day Theme- Differentiated and Leveled Instruction with a Freebie!

Happy Sunday Friends! Valentine's Day is just around the corner! This is a prime opportunity to recognize kindness and being a good friend. We've got some ideas to bring that content into your classroom while also differentiating it and layering it for your students. Make sure to read to the end so you can get the FREEBIE!

There are definitely some tried and true texts out there that support the ideas of kindness. Today, we've picked Somebody Loves you, Mr. Hatch by Eileen Spinelli and My Friends by Taro Gomi. These texts, in themselves, are geared towards different levels of learners. With them both, you can teach quite a few of the common cores.

Here are some cores that we will be focusing on:
My Friends
RL 2 - Retelling
RL 4 - Determining meaning of unknown words
RL 6- Point of view, or voice.

This texts also lends itself well to teaching about verbs.

Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch
RL 1- Asking and Answering Questions
RL 2 - Retell
RL 3- Story Elements, character response
RL 6- Character Voice

My Friends is a great story about a character who acknowledges all the things she has learned to do from her friends. She is thankful for what she has learned. It has a lot of great verbs in the story as well! This text would be geared more towards kindergarten and first grade. It has great picture support but also has an easier text that allows students to follow it easily.

Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch is a very detailed story that would be more appropriate for second grade and higher. If you have a class in first or kinder that has a high attention span, it would be great for them too! This is a great text for students to see what happens when they are kind to people. They can see how it can totally change the way someone is. This text is very detailed and paints a clear picture of how Mr. Hatch's behavior changed. This text is great for modeling questioning, how a character responds to events in a story and how the voice of the character will change.

While these texts don't scream Valentine's Day, they are both a great way to introduce the purpose of Valentine's day and how it is about loving and being kind to each other.

Next, let's move on to how you can differentiate and support this concept in small groups.

These two leveled passages are from our Valentine's Day Passages Set. They come leveled A - I. This is where you can differentiate the concept of Valentine's Day for your students. No matter their level, they are able to read and learn about the holiday. They can also take what they learn in their group and connect that to what they learned from the anchor texts. These passages also come with vocabulary and sight word practice that allows students to learn the words associated with the day. This supports the concepts that you are learning whole group, when it comes to kindness and love.

Finally, we have ways that your students can apply what they are learning in class about kindness in a way that will help improve the culture of your classroom. They can do this with compliment cards. Compliment cards are a way for students to thank someone or tell them that they are appreciated. They are anonymous and focus on the act of kindness. This goes will with Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch. The second way for students to apply what they are learning is to make the heart is full hats. With this activity, students are focusing on all the people in their lives that fill their hearts with love. They can write the names and add pictures. This activity goes well with My Friends. Click HERE to get these FREEBIES!!

By taking your content from whole group, to small group, to application, it allows students to hear the concept multiple times. It also allows for students to learn about the concept in different ways. Taking it to small group, really allows you to differentiate for all the levels in the classroom. Then when applying, higher students can write compliments, while the younger or lower level students can focus on writing single words and illustrating.

We hope that you all have a wonderful Valentine's Day! :)