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What's In The Bag??

Questioning the Text activity

Questions, questions, questions!  Aren't our student just full of them all of the time?  I know mine are, but they sometimes need to be taught what kind of questions to ask and to how to ask questions that lead them to the important information.  

This past week, my class got to do a questioning activity to help them hone this skill.  As students walked into class I had this pretty gift bag sitting out for them to see.  Immediately, the questions start flying!

Questioning the Text activity and anchor chart

What is that?  Who is that for?  Where did that come from?  As the students were firing questions at me, I started writing down the question words to make an anchor chart.  As we went along, I answered the questions (except for what is it, of course).  The students got better at their questions and we learned to start using the information form our answers to guide our next questions.

Questioning the Text activity

Some of the students even guessed what was in the bag- A Crown from when one of my sons was a homecoming king in high school.  The students were engaged and motivated to be learning- just what I want from all students and just what I really desire from my strugglers!

Questioning the Text activity and interactive read aloud

That quick little engaging activity led into the next one- my read aloud.  Students were given white boards and markers and when they saw the text- SPIDER- they immediately had LOTS of questions.  But they need a bit of scaffolding still at this point to ask questions, not tell me something.  So I required them to write a question word from our anchor chart on their board that they would be using to ask their question.  Without that little piece, we would have gone off the questioning into stories and statements.  Students were given the choice of sketching their question or writing their question.  Then we shared our thoughts.  This one is "where do spiders make their webs". I had several stopping places in my book for the students to sketch or jot down their questions.

Questioning the Text activity

The next day, one of my groups was introduced to the book, Sea Horses.  I couldn't hardly get the materials out to them fast enough because questions were being though of so quickly!  The students had a miniature anchor chart for their Interactive Reader's Notebook to scaffold them on how to begin their questions.  They also received Post It notes on which to write the questions they had about sea horses.  These were placed on our Readers Ask Questions graphic organizer.

Questioning the Text activity

By now, my students couldn't wait to dive in to their books!  I just love their enthusiasm for reading!!  

Questioning the Text activity

As students were reading, if they found the answer to one of their questions, they could lift the Post It note up and jot the answer to the question right under it.  

If you could use this miniature anchor chart and Readers Ask Questions graphic organizer, you can grab it here.  

Using Google Drive for RTI

Using Google Drive for RTI

Our RTI first cycle has been completed, graphs have been turned in, and data is being compiled.  Our RTI committee meets as a group with the classroom teacher when all of this is done.  We meet as a committee to discuss the progress each student individually has made in RTI, with the graphs and other pages as documents to prove this and we look at whether the progress has transferred into the classroom.  The classroom teacher, along with the committee, then votes on each student- whether the student moves in the RTI tiers and what the next step should be.

Using Google Drive for RTI graphs

Teachers like to keep their graphs, documentations, and parent notifications in binders.  Then they turn in their documents to me at the end of the cycle.

Using Google Drive for RTI Graphs and Documents

In the past, I have had all those graphs scanned and we viewed the documents on my Smartboard during the meeting.  This scanning took a lot of time!  I had help with the scanning and I have to say it always made me nervous to turn over my RTI files to someone else.  They would have to go through each student's folder and handle each graph.  I am a bit of a control freak, I guess.  It was always a worry that my graphs would end up in the wrong order or pages all mixed up from the way I had them.  

Not this year!  I am using Google Drive for my documents this year and what a difference!!  It has been a huge time saver and I don't have to turn over my graphs to anyone or ask anyone to take time to help me scan.  Yay!!!

Using Google Drive for RTI graphs

For each document that I want to include in our meeting, I am just snapping a picture of it with an iPad.  I go through each graph to check them anyway so I can just quickly snap a picture when I am done checking it.  Then in Google Drive, I created a file and labeled it RTI Graphs. 

Using Google Drive for RTI graphs

I created folders for each teacher with a student in RTI within my RTI Graphs folder.  Each picture that I took of graphs or documents I want included is then placed into the correct folders and renamed with student name.  I will share the link with my RTI committee members.  On our meeting day, they will sign in and open the RTI Graphs folder and have access to all the documents!  Super easy, saves me lots of time, and all the information is in one place.  

Share:  Does your school have a meeting day where RTI data is shared and discussed so that decisions can be made on how to move students in the tiers?

Build Fluency with Multisyllabic Word Study

Multisyllabic word activities
Sorting multisyllabic words activities

Improving fluency is something we are always looking to do.  I have the students do a number of activities with connected text to achieve this.  But most of the time, students need some background skills to really get the fluency going.  Learning to chunk and break words is a big piece of what students need to be able to do to read with more fluency.

For my students, word study with multisyllabic words is something they need a lot of extra practice in doing.  They sometimes get hung up on wanting to "stretch it out" or "sound it out" for every word they have difficulty with reading.  I explicitly teach my students that stretching out a word works for those cvc words and other short words, but I don't want them using that strategy for longer words or words that don't follow the rules.  

Chunky Monkey Reading Strategy

To build fluency, students need to be efficient at solving unknown words.  And be able to do it fast.  Chunky Monkey is a great way to do this!  Students need to figure out how to chunk words:  on-set & rime, root word and endings, multisyllabic words, etc...

So as soon as my little readers are ready, I like them to learn to problem solve in chunks rather than sound by sound.

Chunk Its-chunking sounds in words by onset and rime

We practice with cvc words, cvce words, consonant blends and digraphs.  Chunking is much quicker and efficient than sound by sound.  

Open Syllable Multisyllabic Word Activities

Here is where several of my groups are now.  Putting into practice what they learned at the lower levels now when reading longer, multisyllabic words.  We practice word sorting, like in the first picture at the top of the page.  They need to be able to tell what kind of word it is and practice breaking it.  These are open syllable word puzzles for practicing.

Open Syllable Multisyllabic Word Activities

But I don't want students only practicing breaking words in isolation.  They need/have to be able to do it in connected text.  Short task cards help them get in some quick practice doing that.  With all that practice the students can apply Chunky Monkey to longer pieces of text and practice doing it quickly so their fluency improves.

Closed Syllable Multisyllabic Word Activities

My younger groups practice with closed syllables.  If they need a bit of guidance with the syllables, coding them by copying on different colored paper is a good scaffold.

Closed Syllable Multisyllabic Word Activities

As they get better at this, the colored paper isn't needed as much.

Closed Syllable Multisyllabic Word Activities

Sorting words in pocket charts, practicing where to divide or chunk words, working with word puzzles, etc...all these activities give students the practice they need to become more efficient at seeing and reading the chunks in words in text.  Being able to break and read longer words will help your readers to be more fluent as they read, which leaves more brain power for comprehension.  


Interactive Read Aloud Tips

Activities for Interactive Read Alouds

Just like most students, my students love a great read aloud.  And I love reading great books to them.  I also feel the pull of packing in all that I can into every moment I have with them.  I use my read aloud to foster a love a reading with my students and to introduce comprehension strategies to them at the same time.  I also want them to be interactive- I want the students to be the ones doing and practicing the thinking- not me just modeling it for them.

One tips is to to tab the spots in the book where I want students to interact with the story or with each other.  This makes my time more purposeful and ensures I don't forget what I had planned.  I also see several grade levels, so I code my notes according to what I want each grade to be doing.

Activities for Interactive Read Alouds

There are a lot of things you can have students do during a read aloud to make it interactive and purposeful.  One that I really like to use is wipe off boards.  The students can each have one right on the floor with their marker and eraser.  When I come to a stopping point, students do a quick sketch right then of their thinking.  Quick sketches work well with my students.  They don't have to worry about writing and spelling in sentences and it is much faster.  I use a timer to be sure it doesn't go over.  When timer goes off, marker lids go on even if you didn't finish.  Then we do a quick share of our visual thinking.  

Activities for Interactive Read Alouds

Last week, I read Snowmen at Night and students interacted at different stopping points on their marker boards.  One stopping point was for the students to infer why the snowmen mothers gave the snowmen ice cold cocoa instead of hot cocoa.  They would melt of course!

There are a lot of ways to make your read aloud interactive.  Here are a few more:

Turn & Talk
Add music to fit the theme of the book
Stop & Jot
Chime In or Share the Reading (students read repetitive parts with you)
Predict
Infer

I love how interactive read alouds help develop  my students' oral language too.  This is an important skill some of them still need to improve.


We will be using this page for our inferencing this week along with our read aloud, The Snowy Day.  There are 3 different scaffoldings.  If you can use it, click here or on the picture above to download it.  

Winter Words Activities

Last week to go along with our winter and snowman theme, we did a read and write the room activity.  Some of my groups are working hard on being able to read and spell multisyllabic words.  The above picture is from my new It's Snow Fun unit.  You can use the vocabulary words to do a read and write the room activity!

Winter Snowman Activities

There is a snowman craft and  vocabulary and syllable sorting activities.

Winter Snowman Activities

I also included fluency activities that focus on improving comprehension and 2 writing booklets:  How To and an Informational writing.  Just click the pictures or click here to see it. 

Tips to Build Quick Letter Fluency

Letter Automaticity

Over break I have had a couple of my students on my mind and their lack of letter recognition.  They have learned some letters and sounds, but not all of them yet.  I have Richard Allington's guide in my head telling me that students should know their letters by October.  And I do not believe his guideline to be unreasonable.  But we all have one or two students that just don't learn at the rate the others do.  And these two kiddos have got to get going.  

Here are some ideas to build and strengthen letter recognition and sound identification too.

  Letter Strips

Ways to Build Quick Letter Recognition & Fluency

Plain and simple and easy to do.  Type out letters the student knows and have them practice pointing to them and saying the name.  The key here to building automaticity is starting with letters the student already knows.  Have them practice ready across quickly saying the letter names.  Then, I have them do it again and read the sounds each letter makes.  This is a quick way to get in some practice.  Only takes a couple of minutes to have them read it.

Activities to Build Quick Letter Recognition & Fluency

You can also make a game of it.  Students can roll a monster cube and read the line for that monster.  Again, strengthening their letter fluency to be more quick and automatic.  You can click here for this game.


Activities to Build Quick Letter Recognition & Fluency

Just adding fun glasses and pointers help make it new and novel.  Students will be more engaged and learn!

Letter Sorts

Activities to Build Quick Letter Recognition & Fluency

Letter Sorting is a wonderful way to get students to notice the features of the letters and how they are made.  The one above is sorting by straight line vs curves.  It forces the eye to take notice of how the letters are formed and how they look.

Activities to Build Quick Letter Recognition & Fluency

This letter sort is obviously by letter.  And again, to build letter fluency, students need to be able to do this quickly.

Other letter sorts besides by letter and by straight vs curves are:

  • sort letters by color
  • capitals vs lower case
  • capitals with matching lower case
  • consonants vs vowels
  • tails vs no tails
  • holes vs no holes
  • letters in my name and not in my name
  • short vs tall letters
Pull and Say

Activities to Build Quick Letter Recognition & Fluency

I call this one Pull and Say because I have the students pull down the S and say the name of the letter as they pull it to the bottom.  Then as they push it back up, they must make the letter sound.  You can do this with magnetic letters on your table or whiteboard or use the Magnetic ABC app.  It has lower case letters too. I just had the capitals pulled up at the time.  I can get the letters ready on this iPad app quickly before classes start so I tend to use the app for this activity.

ABC Letter Order & Letter/Picture Linking 


Activities to Build Quick Letter Recognition & Fluency

Build letter fluency by teaching ABC order and linking the letters to pictures.  Reading an ABC chart every day is important.  Put the chart in a plastic sleeve.  Have students find the M and write right on the sleeve the capital and lower case M.  Find the letter that comes before the Tt or that comes after the Kk.  Read the chart backwards or only the vowels.  Just have them read it over and over in different ways.  










5 Ways to Get Your Classroom Ready for the New Year


Are you ready to start thinking about getting back into your classroom for the new year?  Okay, maybe not quite ready yet...But we know it's coming and it is hard to shut a teacher's mind off!  So let's make the transition back into class smooth, organized, and easy!



Clear out the clutter!  Get all the paperwork and clutter put away.  And put it all away in the right places.  Take a few minutes to get every. single. thing put in its place.  Trust me, you will thank me later!  And while you are at it, have the students when they start back clean out those desks!  They need to start off in a clean and organized way too!






Take a few minutes and spruce up your supply baskets.  Replace the old and worn out with new pencils and erasers.  Clean the dry erase erasers, top off the glue bottles, etc...  Clean work areas and supplies feel like a fresh start to both you and the kids!




Take a few minutes and replenish all your copies that you use the most.  Copies for our Reader's Notebooks and my Anecdotal Records Notebook is what it would be for me.  Get all those copies made and filed so you are ready to go the minute students walk in the door.  



Students and parents love positive notes!  Make it easy on yourself by getting them ready ahead of time.  Write the kids' names on the notes ahead of time so that all you have to do is grab their note and personalize it.  It also helps you keep track of who has gotten one and who you have not sent one home to yet.  So easy!




This last one is for when the students come back.  Go over your classroom rules, just like at the beginning of school.  Make sure everyone is on the same page.  These classroom rules posters are a classic and clean design so that they will fit with any classroom decor.  You can grab them free if you like by clicking here or the posters above.  There are 10 different rules for you to choose from to post in your room. 

I hope these tips help you ease back into the classroom in January and get your year off to a great start!!


Styrofoam Snowman & RTI Binders

snowman from styrofoam cups

Christmas decorations are everywhere, students are excited and teachers are feeling frazzled!  But December is such a fun month!  The teachers have completed RTI tiers II and III and have turned in their RTI graphs.  We've been very busy decorating our doors and our school is looking very festive!

snowman from styrofoam cups

With a little help from a friend we got our snowman built from styrofoam cups made.  The snowman looks amazing and the kids have loved seeing him grow from the bottom up and each detail like the eyes and nose and hat being added. The snowman pieces were made by hot gluing the cups together to make a circle.  Then cups were added on top of that ring, continuing to add rings until it was filled in.  We used 3 different sizes of cups.  It took a lot of cups!

Christmas Tree from rolled paper

Then trees were added by rolling square construction paper into a bit of a funnel shape and hot glued to the door.  The students made snowflakes from coffee filters too.  

keeping RTI data on graphs with goal lines

Now, back to RTI.  At my school, teachers keep weekly graphs of each student's RTI data.  It is so important to test to check if the interventions are working and plot that out against a goal line.  If a student's data points are keeping up with the goal line, they are on track to reach their goal by the end of the RTI tier that they are in.  Teachers turn in these graphs, two per student, to me at the end of the RTI cycle.

RTI data graphs and binders

I also like to have each student keep their own graph of their progress.  After each weekly assessment, they color in their graph and I discuss with them how they are progressing.  

RTI Data Binders and Progress Monitoring Graphs

One of the easiest ways to stay organized with RTI and all the different graphs, rubrics, parent letters, etc...is to have an RTI Data Binder.  RTI papers are too valuable to take a chance on losing or miss placing them.  


Using ESGI software in RTI

Now that RTI is completed for the first cycle, I go in and do universal screenings on the students to check if all the interventions have helped improve their overall reading skills.  I use ESGI for a lot of my screenings.  This system has made my job 100% easier to manage.  The students are entered and then I assess them 1 on 1 in the areas needed.  For kindergarten, I assess on letter identification and sounds and phonemic awareness right now.  As students gain more skills, I assess on a whole range of phonics skills.  ESGI generates reports on all this information, creates flashcards for students to take home to practice and you can even print out parent letters!  


DRA and IRI for Universal Screenings in RTI

The other piece in our universal screenings is assessing with the DRA and IRI.  These assessments truly test if the students can apply what they have learned in  RTI interventions to reading.  After all the scores have been turned in, our RTI committee will meet on each student to look at the progress shown on each graph and their new universal screening scores to determine what action needs to be taken next to help each student find success!

Be sure to head over to my other blog- Spark of Inspiration- and enter to win some holiday classroom resources!  There is a giveaway each day for the 25 days of Christmas!!