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! :)

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Tuesday's Teaching Tip - Do You Share?

Do You Share?

Hey teachers!  Do you do sharing in your class?  No, not show and tell sharing, but literacy sharing after independent reading practice?  It’s the frosting on the cake….the bow in the ponytail….or the grand finale to the lesson! In other words….it’s important! There are so many benefits and it only takes 5 to 10 minutes each day.  When the students are sharing, they are using metacognition and being reflective about their own reading.  That really helps their learning to “stick” in their brains.  By listening to others share, their own strategy use is reinforced, and they hear about new strategies to try, too. And you benefit too, because you are able to see how and to whom to give extra support, and you are able to gain information that will help you plan for future teaching.  Are you convinced yet?
Here is a compilation of ideas from some great literacy teachers and some of our faves - Debbie Miller, Kathy Collins and Leah Mermelstein!

Ways to Share
  • Whole Class
  • Small Group
  • Partners

Kinds of Shares
  • Strategy and Process Shares - These are shares that reinforce the strategy or processes that you have been working on in class...that have come from your mini-lessons. 

Debbie Miller’s example:  While sending them off to independent reading practice, “Everyone….I’d like you to pay attention to the process of synthesizing.  Ask yourself these questions:  How do I synthesize?  How does this strategy work with other strategies I know about and use?  What do I understand after synthesizing the story that I didn’t understand before?  …In about forty minutes we’ll come back together and have a bigger conversation about what we learned about ourselves as readers and synthesizers today.”  Reading With Intention  pg. 111

  • Content Shares - These are shares about what the students are reading, and what they are thinking, about their choices of reading material. 

Readers, today while you are reading I’d like you to think about the texts you have chosen to read.  I’d like you to think about why you chose it, what you are thinking about it now that you have started reading it, and what you have learned about yourself as a reader from the choice you have made. You might also share an excerpt of a really great part of your text with us. We will share out our thinking at the end of reading practice time.

  • Progress Shares - These shares are most often done in partners or small groups.  During the share, students share about their progress as readers. 

“Before, I didn’t ever get my brain ready to read.  Now, I do it every time I read.  It really helps me to remember what I read!”

When to share

·         Every day after independent reading practice time for 5 to 10 minutes.
·         It might look like this:


Strategy -Process 




or Progress Share

Other things to consider
  • Teach your sharing manners and routines
  • Provide “conversation prompts” on an anchor chart
  • Have your own note pad ready to write down all of the great things you notice

So there you go….another great idea from some amazing literacy experts!  If you’d like to read more about literacy share outs, check out these books:

Reading with Intention by Debbie Miller
Growing Readers by Kathy Collins
Don’t Forget to Share by Leah Mermelstein

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Five for Friday

Happy Friday friends! It's a teacher work day for us today! Woohoo! Let's kick this weekend off with Five for Friday, hosted by Doodle Bugs Teaching!

So last week I wrote my plans. Then at the beginning of this week, I thought "Oh wait! It's Groundhog's Day this week." Then, of course, I totally forgot about it! In I walk on Thursday morning and "Oh shoot!" Totally forgot. So, I ran to the copy machine and printed off our Groundhog's Day passage set. Phew! We didn't get any cute crafts done but we did learn about it and watched the groundhog video. Boom!

These past few weeks, we have been working hard on asking and answering questions with literature. We have come a long way! I use the anchor above as a way to organize our thinking. We build it together and then refer to it for our entire unit. This week, we started working with question webs. I really like to use a web because it requires some deeper thinking then just a straight question and answer page. It helps me to get an insight on if they are using their schema and if they are inferring. They are required to come up with possible answers to their question before deciding on their final answer. This strategy comes from Debbie Miller's Reading with Meaning

We started Black History Month early, because really it should be taught all year. I have my students use our Black History Quick Reads as an independent center during our reading workshop time. Here, this kiddo is reading about Abraham Lincoln and slavery. He is writing facts from the text. These are really great as independent tasks and they are leveled so all students can access them.

This week, we also posted our brand new expansion pack to our Freedom's Hero pack! These are levels J-M and are a continuation of our A-I pack. These are fantastic for guided reading but you can easily use them whole group, which is what I did with the Groundhog's Day passages :)

Each week we do a STEM challenge. This week, we completed Brook Brown's House of Cards activity from her February STEM pack. This was a huge hit! I love doing these STEM activities each week. The kiddos are getting so creative and they are using all that they learn with each task and building upon it for each new activity. I love seeing them so engaged and interested in a task. Their conversations are so interesting and I love the way they work together! If you are looking for some STEM activities, I highly recommend this one!

I hope that you all have a wonderful weekend!!