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Are Your Students More Than A Reading Level?

Students don't need to know their reading level.


Reading levels....and students knowing their reading levels has been on my mind a lot lately.  Have you read Jill Backman's article on Fountas and Pinnell's  Literacy blog:  A Level Is A Teacher's Tool, Not A Child's Label ?  If you have not, you can check it out here.  Jackman writes that levels are for teachers and not for students.  Students need to enjoy books, not levels.  We need to teach students how to find "just right"books for themselves.  If they always look for a level label how will they be able to do this in libraries and books stores or even in their own homes when there are no color coded levels to guide them?

I teach struggling readers and they have not always developed or matured their reading decision making yet.  Let's face it...some simply do not make wise choices when choosing books on their own.  But isn't this a perfect teaching situation?  Do they need to know the book level as they choose books?  Can we teach them instead how to make these choices and how to do it wisely?


How to Introduce Read to Self


If I could chose 2 teaching verbs that are extremely important to me one would be modeling.  Model...model...model with your students.  Not once, but lots of times.  And if you notice some students slipping in their choices, pull them together on the carpet and model it again.  


So how do I model without using labels?  We gather together and talk about just right fits for books.  I have a conversation with them about how my husband likes horses and reads all about them and how to train horses.  Books and magazines about horses would be just right for him.  But not for me!  I tell the students how I would be BORED with those kinds of books.  Then I show my kind of books and we discuss why I like those.  Would my husband like my kind of books- no!  We all like different kinds of books and that is okay.


How to introduce Read to Self


After this demonstration, we talk about how to choose a just right book.  I want them to look the book over, inside and out.  Not just grab any ole book.  Think about why you are going to read it.  Are you wanting to learn something about tigers or do you want a good story?  We also talk about interest in the book.  Which goes back to the horse discussion we just had.  Then we talk about can you read it and can you understand it?  I spend a good amount of time on can you read it and understand it.  Students learn to open the book and read a page or two before choosing it.  Did they know most of the words?  Can they understand what the author is telling them?  And next we shop for books!

This is the hard part for me.  I like a bit of control.  :)  But I make myself stand back and let them shop.  Just like anyone else, students WILL get better as time goes by and the more practice they get at it.  But this first time can be a bit rough, especially for readers who struggle or are less mature.  Students get their baggies and spend time choosing their books.  I let them make their choices, no matter what books they choose and we settle in to Read to Self.  


How to introduce Read to Self


My second important teaching verb would be conferencing.  And this is a super important step not to skip.  Start meeting with your students and listening to them read the books they chose.  You can read my post about how to keep conferencing and anecdotal records here.

Will some of them have made poor choices?  YES.  
Will they realize this when you conference with them?  YES.  
Will they learn to make better choices for themselves?  YES, YES, YES!


How to introduce Read to Self


This is one of my first grader's baggy and the type of books he chose the first time.  Can he read these books? No.  Are there even enough pictures in them to keep his interest in the book?  No.  But stay with me.  

I moved around the room conferencing with other students:  Show me what you chose.  Oh, that book looks good!  Read a bit of it with me.  What do you think of this book?  Do you think it is a good fit for you?  They make the decisions.  If they decide that they didn't make the best of decisions, I send them right then to go make better selections.  

I did not make it that first day to this little guy who selected the Magic Tree House books.  BUT he was listening to me conference with others.  When our time was up and I had to send them back to class, he came to me to tell me these were not good fits for him!!  WOW!  On his own, he is figuring this out by hearing me conference with others and he just happens to be one of my least mature students.  


How to Introduce Read to Self


This was this little guy's book baggy after making better choices!  He can read these books and is interested in them.  HE picked them out, not me.  Choice is extremely important to everyone and he got to make his own choices which creates buy-in to what we are doing.  Now, I am not saying that this little guy is good to go now and will not ever make poor choices again.  More than likely, I am going to be having more of these conversations with him again.  And I always like to go back and model after extended breaks at school- like Christmas vacation.

I do discuss with the students that sometimes we like to have books that we may not be able to read all of it.  Picture books that teachers have read to them or books they enjoy looking at the pictures.  It's okay to have that in our baggies as long as we also have just right books.  


Familiar Read Books

Some of my students love to reread and reread our  familiar read books.  So I let them take those too.  The levels aren't marked for the students to see which allows them to just enjoy reading.  And isn't that what we want?  Students enjoying books!

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Word Work- Long and Short Vowels

Short Vowel activities for word work

Our groups are working hard on learning vowel sounds!  Young readers that do not achieve a firm foundation in vowel sounds struggle with reading.  And for some students vowel sounds are just HARD!  Short vowel sounds seem to trip up some of my students. 

Having vowel posters with pictures to link to sounds really help students to learn those sounds.  And of course, if they can move to chunking the word- even better!

Short Vowel word work ideas

I also like for students to get in some practice reading those words and noticing chunks.  Struggling readers need a lot of practice with this.  They also need to practice these sounds in context and not just in isolation.  I like to keep a notebook with posters and students can practice reading the chunks during word work for guided reading or during RTI intervention groups.


Long vowel posters help with those silent, sneaky, super e words too!  

Long Vowel Posters and activities

Sometimes just adding in a fun pointer helps with engagement as students practice reading in their notebook.  It is important to take it to the next step too.  When students are reading in their books point out that they will be reading silent e words and see which ones they notice.  That application part is essential to getting a solid foundation with their vowel sounds!


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Informational Text Response Booklet-Free

Informational Text Response Booklet

Students love to read informational text.  I think they especially enjoy real photographs and all the cool facts that they learn!  But for some students informational text can be a bit tougher to navigate through than fiction text.

Informational Text Response Booklet

I have quite a few of these National Geographic informational books.  I like to give the students a choice of which one they are interested in reading.  Choice is huge!

Informational Text Response Booklet

An easy way for students to organize their learning is by using an informational text response booklet.  Students can fill it out as they read and learn or after reading the entire book.  It is fun and engaging with open-ended questioning that gives them more choice in what they enjoyed learning.

Informational Text Response Booklet

After completing the booklet, students can share the new information learned with each other or the booklets can be hung for a display. 

Informational Text Response Booklet

You can find this Informational Text Response Booklet here or by clicking any of the pictures!



Blessings for YOU!



We have blessings to share with you!



I am so thankful for many things this year...my family, a job that I love, and friends who care.  Truly I am very blessed!

I am joining in with some friends to share our blessing with YOU!  Each one of us will be blessing you with a free resource on Sunday, November 20 and Monday, November 21.  PLUS, we are each giving away a $25 TpT gift card!!  How fun!


Be sure to come back on Sunday or Monday to be able to receive my Holiday ELA Task Cards for free only those two days!


Enter the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win my $25 gift card.  Be sure to do this at every stop along the way on the hop!

Don't forget to return this Sunday and Monday to collect all your free resources!



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Guided Reading: ABCs & Linking Charts

Guided Reading:  ABCs and Linking Charts

Do you use linking charts during guided reading?  We use them all the time and in so many different ways!  

The Next Step in Guided Reading

If you use Jan Richardson's The Next Step in Guided Reading you know she has several ways for students to practice identifying letters.  I use a lot of her letter ideas and this is a good supplement to your guided reading if you haven't checked it out yet.  

Guided Reading:  ABCs and Linking Charts

One way I have my kindergartners that are significantly behind in identifying letters is to do an ABC Tracing Book.  Richard Allington says kindergartners need to be able to identify their letters by Halloween.  I take that as a challenge and work to be sure my kids are there.  The tracing book has a lot to do with getting the kids to meet Allington's benchmark.  

It is best if the pictures in your traceable book match the ones on your ABC linking chart.  You can do full size pages or small books like this one.  The student traces the capital A and says the letter name-A.  Then traces the lower case letter and says the letter name- a.  Last the student touches the picture and says it's name- alligator.  This must be done every day and it is best if it is done one on one.  Also, be sure the student is using the correct path of movement as they trace with their finger.  

Guided Reading:  ABCs and Linking Charts

You can take those same ABC cards that you used in the traceable book and use them as quick review cards or exit slips.  Laminate them or print them on cardstock, cut them into two pieces for matching capitals to lower case letters in centers.  


Guided Reading:  ABCs and Linking Charts

Read your ABC Chart every day.  At first, we read it going forwards.  Then the letters we knew plus a new one or two added in, we would match to the correct box.  We would speed read the letters after matching them to try to build automaticity.  Once their brains got good at going across the rows, I switch things up to make their brains learn new ways- going backwards across the rows and then backwards from bottom up.  We read the chart all kinds of ways.  

Guided Reading:  ABCs and Linking Charts

Same concept with my other charts...read them in different directions to build new paths in the brain and to keep it engaging.  Individual students read different rows.  You can have them mark the boxes with Bingo chips that have the same chunks as the words you call out.  They can write words in the boxes if the chart is in a plastic sleeve.  I have the students keep their charts in their reader's notebooks.  Several times a week, this is one of the first things we work on in our group.  

Guided Reading:  ABCs and Linking Charts

Different groups will be working on different skills and need the chart they are ready for.  So having a lot of different charts makes it easy to differentiate for each group.  Use charts with pictures only to see if they can still identify the letters.

Guided Reading:  ABCs and Linking Charts

Having black and white charts are nice for notebooks too if you don't want to use colored all the time.  Colored are nice for practice in centers or for the teacher's copy too.  

Guided Reading:  ABCs and Linking Charts

Practicing quick and smooth reading of the charts several times a day during guided reading or RTI intervention groups really seems to help build that automaticity in letters and in chunks.  Use charts with chunks only and have students write words with those chunks or you call out a word with that chunk for them to write in the correct box.

You can click on any of the pictures or here to see the linking charts.  It has made a big difference for my students.  

Family Literacy Night Pirate Fun!

Family Literacy Night Pirate Theme

I just love this time of year!  Fall, new activities, parent teacher conferences, literacy night, book fair....  It gets crazy busy!  But it can be so fun to see the families come out and have a good time in our school.  


The theme for this  year's Family Literacy & Math Night was pirates!  It went along with the book fair that our librarian was having.  And what kid doesn't like pirates?  We decorated our doors to the gym as pirates as well as inside.  In the top photo you can see some of the table decoration that we used to make the tables where the families eat look inviting and fun.  

At my school we serve families a free supper on Family Literacy and Math Night.  It is a great way to get families in and to serve them.  Our menu also had the fun pirate theme:  potato chowder, seafood or chicken salad slider, treasured treat and pink lemonade.  

Family Literacy Night Pirate Theme

After families are served and enjoy their meal, they can move around the gym and play the activities.  We had a couple of Walk the Plank games, pirate ring toss and pin the eye patch on the pirate.  I set out a table full of all kinds of books.  After students played my game, they got a book.  This night for me is about getting books into students' hands that they can take home and keep.  

Family Literacy Night Pirate Theme

My game was pirate ring toss.  My husband got me some plywood planks and I spray painted them black.  Then we attached pirate hooks and bent horse shoes for students to toss the rings onto.  They loved the game.  It was something preschool through grade five could all play.


Family Literacy Night Pirate Theme

The pirate hooks were really cute!

Family Literacy Night Pirate Theme

Kids also had fun at the Pirate Name station.  My pirate name was Bucko Iron Hook!

Family Literacy Night Pirate Theme

I like to have a few stations where families can move through them without extra help.  This was one of those.  We do have high school students that come to help clean tables and hand out goody bags.  They also work our photo booth and drawing table.  That is huge to be able to get a few extra helping hands!


Phonics Word Work Intervention Binders for RtI intervention groups or guided reading groups

Can't believe we are about half way through our RtI already for this first cycle!  Students are working so hard and showing so much progress.  If you have students needing extra word work help, check out these binders.  They are available individually or as a bundle.  It is a great way to move from individual sounds to chunking sounds to applying the sounds to connected text!



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Guided Reading: Sharing the Learning!

Using Seesaw app to share student learning with parents

Guided reading groups are up and going!  Students are using strategies and making so much progress which makes me so happy.  And it makes parents happy too!  
Using Seesaw app to share student learning with parents
Seesaw Plus for Sharing Student Portfolios with Parents
Parents want to see what is happening with their child's learning and Seesaw is the easiest way I have found to make that happen!

Using Seesaw app to share student learning with parents
Using Canva app to write spider reports

Students make huge amounts of progress through out a school year and Seesaw  Plus is a great way to digitally document this progress.  

Parents want to see what is happening with their child's learning and Seesaw is the easiest way I have found to make that happen!

You can share pictures or videos, drawings, notes or links with parents.  In the picture above, I was letting parents see how we were using technology right along with reading.

Parents want to see what is happening with their child's learning and Seesaw is the easiest way I have found to make that happen!
Send a welcome letter to introduce parents to using Seesaw
Using Seesaw app to share student learning with parents
Welcome letter to introduce parents to Seesaw-free
I've had teachers ask for this welcome letter for Seesaw so if you click the picture or click here you can get this letter for your classroom!
Using Seesaw app to share student learning with parents
Mother's Day Photo Wall

I like to share celebrations too!  This was a a fun way to personalize Mother's Day.  Moms have the picture right there in the app and can show other people when she opens the Seesaw app.  This was also quick to do and didn't take up lots of our learning time!

Using Seesaw app to share student learning with parents
Sharing How Character Traits Change in Stories

There are so many ways to share student learning and involve parents with what is going on in your classroom!  I want to make it a goal this year to not only showcase what we are doing, but to have the students demonstrate the strategies they are learning in videos to their parents.  This will be a great way for parents to see how students break words into chunks to attack those tricky words.  Well meaning adults sometimes rely on "sound it out" as a strategy.  So I thought videoing the students chunking words in text would help parents carry that strategy over to their reading time at home.  

Using Seesaw app to share student learning with parents
Draw a sight word card, build it with letters, make it with Play Doh!

If you haven't heard about Seesaw Plus or used it yet, let me explain a bit.  It is kind of like a Facebook set up for students and parents.  You send home a QR code for the parent (and grandparents too if the parent chooses to share it).  Then the parents can see all that you tag them in.  The parents get notifications on their phone that new content has been added.  They can comment on the content or like it.  The teacher gets notified for who has seen the content and can comment back to the parents comments.  SO MUCH FUN!

Using Seesaw app to share student learning with parents
Flashlight Fridays Read to Self

I have had parents (and grandparents) tell me how much they LOVE using this.  One grandparent, who also happens to be a teacher, told me how excited she would get when she got the notifications that new pictures/videos had been put up of her grandson.  She sometimes presents about technology to other teachers and she is always singing Seesaw's praise to other teachers!

Using Seesaw app to share student learning with parents
Reading during Guided Reading group

The teacher can create folders to organize the material for each student.  You could create folders for each subject.  Parent teacher conferences are coming up.  This would be a great way to share what students are learning.  

Students can take pictures or videos and share their learning too which will save you some time of doing it.  

This year I am using Seesaw Plus.  It is everything the free Seesaw is plus so much more for the teacher!  
  • View Student Progress Towards Key Skills: Teachers using Seesaw for formative assessments can now tag student posts with their own set of skills or standards. Optionally, assign a simple 1-4 rating to student work and get a real-time understanding of how students are progressing towards key curriculum objectives.
  • Private Folder: Teachers can add student work to a private folder to keep assessments in one spot, without sharing everything with parents.
  • Private Notes: Teachers can take private notes (and even collaborate with other teachers and administrators) on student work.  Private notes are only visible to other teachers, not students or parents.
Using Seesaw app to share student learning with parents
Using Seesaw Plus for Formative Assessments

Using Seesaw Plus for formative assessments will really make checking in on student skills so much easier.  The information that you keep on the formative assessments will be private just for you.  It is not shared with parents or students on the app.  But you could easily sort by student name and show parents just their student's information during parent/teacher conferences.  Wouldn't that be easy?  Everything right there and ready to show parents without making copies!

You can find Seesaw and Seesaw Plus in the app store!




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