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Fluency Matters

My friend, Tammy, over at Forever in First has a great post on first graders and fluency. Fluency is such an important part of good reading. It is something that some readers continue to struggle with. Students need be able to read quickly with meaning, but not so fast that they are just spitting out the words as fast as they can go. Reading needs to be about comprehension. We teach our young readers to read to sound like talking. The younger readers are usually all for using expression and making the reading sound more interesting. I love hearing them practice reading with expression- they put all their effort into making it sound just like the character is talking through them. Tammy calls it using your storytelling voice. :)

But when students get older, their fluency, or lack there of, may keep them from being able to get through the material. The older, struggling reader is less likely to feel comfortable using expression when they read. They (the struggling reader) tend to rush through the material with the end goal of just get it read and done. 

 Timothy Rasinski has a lot of ideas for students who need to work on fluency. One tried and true method for me that I learned from him is the repeated readings. I model a small passage to the students so they can hear a fluent reading. They they go to different areas of the room and practice trying to sound like me as they read. After they practice at least 3 times, they can come back to me and read for me to see how they do. The key seems to be hearing a fluent read first and then practicing out loud so they can hear how they sound. Tying fluency with the purpose that it improves our comprehension of the story is important too, so they understand it isn't just about the speed. 

What ideas do you use to help fluency in either the young reader or the older reader?  I would love to hear about them!

Author Study~Folk Tales

          Folk tales bring back such special memories for me.  When I was a little girl, I loved spending the night with my grandma.   At night  before we would go to sleep, she would always tell me stories.  The Three Little Pigs was one of my favorites along with Goldilocks and the Three Bears, and Little Red Riding Hood.  She never seemed to tire of telling those old stories to me over and over!  Now I get to pass on these fun stories to my students and they get to enjoy them too.  We talk about how the one we are reading might be different than the version they have heard or read before. 
          This week we have begun an author study on James Marshall.  He has retold the Three Little Pigs and that is the one we began this week.   We talk about the genre and how to prove that a book is that genre.  We also story map the book after reading.  Next week when we begin the next story, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, we will begin charting the books to compare how the story lines might be different or alike.  You will get to see that post later on.  On our story map, I LOVE the thinking from one group of students when they came up with the theme of "if you go around tricking others, it just may happen to you"!!  :)

Little Things Can Make a Big Difference

          The quote "How little things can make a big difference" by Malcolm Gladwell in his book The Tipping Point was brought to my attention yesterday.   I have done a lot of thinking on this little nugget of wisdom.   We know it is true that little things do add up and make a difference.  But in a week full of meetings (this is only Monday and I have already had 2, with two more coming), endless amounts of data to sift through, and lesson plans to be constantly adjusted to meet my students' needs, it would be easy to let it all overwhelm a person.  We, as teachers, have to remember to take a step back and remind ourselves that all the small changes that we can make in a day do add up to big differences with our students.   We should take a moment to reflect on all the little things we can change in our classrooms and how these are just as important as "drilling down in the data", writing common assessments, and documenting how our team used collaborative time.  Here are a few small things that I think could have made a difference today for my students.  What were your small changes that could make a big difference??  Can't wait to hear from you!

1.  Use walk time in the hall for review (I only get to have my students for 30 minutes per day= not nearly enough time to get everything accomplished!  Reviewing letters, rhymes, sight words, etc...)
2.  Using my wipe off tables for practicing sight words instead of paper saves trees and time not having to get out all of the magnetic letters!
3.  Using exit passes as students line up to leave the room, gives me a quick peek at how well they learned the material that day.  I do the exit pass orally instead of on paper to save time and paper.

Are-Can-Have From Pinterest


 Do you Pinterest?  I am sure you do...everyone is getting into this addictive, but wonderful site.  That is where I learned about ARE-CAN-HAVE charts.  These charts are a wonderful comprehension tool for all grades.  They are fun for the students and really help them to organize the information that they learned from their reading.  Here are a couple of examples from my third grade reading class that we did after having read an informational text on wolves.  These are written by the students, so they are not as neat and fancy as when an adult writes them, but I like to see real student writing.  And I love how on the one chart they drew a wolf howling at the moon!  lol! 

Snowmen at Night

Snowmen at Night

          No snow in our area to be able to make snowmen, so we did the next best thing!  We read Snowmen at Night and made our own snowmen.  Kindergarteners just love anything to do with snowmen!  I did a read aloud and we discussed what the snowmen might do at night.  One popular discussion was drinking the ice cold cocoa rather than hot cocoa and what the hot cocoa might do to the poor snowmen! 

          After our read aloud, we next did a predictable chart on what our snowmen could do at night.  The students already knew how to write and read my and at.  I wrote snowman and night and they helped me stretch out the word they each chose that their snowman did.  Then we practiced reading our predictable chart.  The next day we cut up our sentences and practiced rebuilding them.  I just love when they read back their sentence and they see that they have a word in the wrong place and can instantly tell that is not right!  You can just almost see the wheels turning in their little brains!

          After having practiced our cut up sentences, we then wrote our sentences.  Like I said, they already know my and at so they wrote those on their own and  they had support on their verb when they did the predictable chart.  I let them have that word, plus snowman and night to look at.  When we aren't doing predictable charts, we stretch out all the words.  Here are a few examples of how their writing turned out and their cute snowmen!  Maybe their cute artwork will bring us some snow!

RtI: Tier I

           Does your school participate in Response to Intervention?  My school does and tomorrow is our school's big Rti meeting!  We try to make this long day as pleasant as we can.  Our principal provides snacks (chips, salsa, Chex Mix, candies, drinks -think pop, water, coffee!).  We also have a fabulous cook who also just happens to be a teacher.  She makes homemade cookies, brownies, or whatever we ask for.  Last year, I asked for cheesecake and sure enough, we had a couple different ones for our meeting!  She is fabulous (did I already say that?)!!  I cannot wait to see what she brings for us to munch on tomorrow.  The teachers even bring down their comfy chairs to sit in since we will be at it literally all day long.  We will be making a lot of important decisions for our students so we try to make it as pleasant of a day as possible.
           Today I thought I would talk a little about Tier I of the RtI pyramid.  Tier I is where most of your school's students should be at (80%).  This tier is usually taught in the classroom with classroom teachers.  Your school's core curriculum goes in this tier.  If you are finding that too many of your school population is not making it in Tier I, your curriculum committee may need to take a second look at your core curriculum and how it is being taught.  Differentiated instruction should be happening in the classroom to further help the students.  A lot of RtI is what classroom teachers are already doing.  Sometimes the terms have been changed a little or things have been put into a new graphic, but good teaching is still good teaching!

Alpha Boxes-They're Not Just For Kinders!

          I teach reading to students kindergarten through fifth grade.  And to be sure, I use a lot of ABC activities with my younger students.  But alpha boxes can be used with the older students.  Each student can have his/her own alpha box paper or you can do it whole group on a chart.  Because I teach small groups, I like to use the alpha boxes on a chart.  This past week my fifth graders were reading a non-fiction book on sharks- what student doesn't love reading about sharks?  Not sure why these creatures captivate us all so much, but they do!  After having read their books, students were to come up with words to fit into the alpha boxes.  But here is the important part...I don't want students just looking through the book for all the words that begin with "b" that they can find.  To be able to add a word to our chart, the student must be able to explain to me what this word has to do with sharks.  For example, the student might bring me the word attached.  They would have to be able to explain to me that attached was important because it described how remora fish get on the sharks.  Attached without the explanation doesn't work.  Alpha boxes is a fun activity that teaches vocabulary and comprehension of the text.  Have you ever used alpha boxes? 

Kindergarten Letter Sorts

          One of the activities my kindergarten kids like to do is letter sorting.  A few of them were having some confusion on some of their letters (maybe too much time off at Christmas break??). One way that I have found to address this that the kids really enjoy is to do a letter sort.  It really makes the kids focus on the shapes and forms of the different letters and it is fun for them too!  We practiced on the magnetic whiteboard together to get the hang of it.  Then each child had the chance to practice on their own Venn diagram with letters that they specifically needed to spend a little more time on- differentiated learning for each child.  This was a quick and easy way to learn those letters! 

What's Eating You?

          Ms. T, over at Journey of a Substitute Teacher has started a fun topic and linky party on "What's in Your Lunch Bag?".  My lunch bag is not all that exciting....usually half a turkey and cheese sandwich, carrots and a banana.  It seems like most days I am rushed to eat and end up skipping on the banana.  So the banana may make the trip back and forth from home to school several times until it is too ripe to eat and must be thrown away!  :0  I always like to see what goodies the other teachers bring in their lunch boxes.  So, what's in your's??

39 Clues~ Student Book Club Reviews

          Children, reading books, and talking about the books...What can be better than that?  Mandy from Cooperative Learning 365 and I began the first book club for students at our school this year.  And I must say it has been a hit!  The kids are having such a fun time meeting each week to discuss the chosen book.  I had decided that I wanted to host a book club to keep my skills sharp.  I teach struggling readers and felt like if I got in more time with good readers, I could bring in some of their skills to my readers who are having a difficult time.  But beyond sharpening my skills, we are having just a great time talking about characters and doing activities to go with the book!
         After students finished reading 39 Clues The Maze of Bones, they got the opportunity to write reviews of the book.  I just love that because the kids were so honest in them.  We first took a look at book reviews on line.  They needed to see what made a good review and what made a not so good one.  Then they tried their hand at it.  They even colored in the number of books for what they wanted to rate it as.  One student gave the book 3/4 a book.  He said it just really wasn't his type of book!  :)  What really impressed me was the fact that some didn't really enjoy the book all that much, but stuck with it anyway!  Take a look at what their bulletin board looked like when their reviews were all written up!

QR Codes for the Classroom

          Mrs. K over at The Teacher Garden has posted a FABULOUS list of ways to use QR codes!  42 different ways in fact!  I am so impressed.  I have not used this new (or at least new to me!)  technology in the classroom yet, but am very interested in this idea.  I can only imagine how much fun the students would have with this and how it will take our activities to the next level.  Please check out Mrs. K's list and see what you might be able to use with your students!

Just Can't Live Without

          Traci, over at Dragonflies in First, is hosting a Linky Party for the top 3 classroom items that you couldn't possibly liveout.  Hop on over to her blog to see her top 3.
There are so many things in my room that I use all of the time, so it is hard to choose....Let's see I think these 3 items are pretty important:
1.  My timer:  I use my timer all of the time, everyday!  Some times it is for the kids to keep track of how much time they have before sharing.  A lot of the time it is for me!  I need it to keep me on track so I do not run over time.  My reading students stream in and out all day on a 30 minute rotation.  I have to really book it to get my lesson completed in that 30 minute time frame. :(
2.  Books:  That may be too obvious, but I MUST have lots of high quality and engaging literature in my room.  The students who come to me have not always had those wonderful moments with books.  So it is my job not only to teach them to read, but to also get them to love books!
3.  Smartboard:  Okay, maybe I could live without it (I didn't always have one), but I don't want to teach without it anymore!  Using the Smartboard is so interactive and fun.  Just makes your lessons come alive.  I am always learning new ways to teach using it and the students just think it is so cool!

RTI-Moving Thru the Tiers Without Moving You to Tears!

         Universal screening, progress monitoring, weekly interventions...Does this sound familiar to you or has it gotten you all confused?   Does your school have Response to Intervention implemented?  How is it working for you- do you see it as a beneficial process for your students or just one more thing that has been added to your already full plate as a teacher?  At my school, we have been working for some time on our RtI program.  The program for us is going really well now, but do not read into that that it has been an easy process!  We basically started from scratch, educated ourselves on the process, and try to improve on it every year.  So far we have implemented RtI for communication arts, with math hopefully coming soon.  As the head of this committee, I see so many good things come from RtI.  But at the same time, it has been trial and error for us (and a LOT of extra hours on my part) to finally hit our stride with the program.  I have worked on our graphs this afternoon to get us ready for our important meeting where we take a close look at each student in RtI and the progress they have or haven't made.  Then as a committee we make decisions on what the student should do next. Take a look at a couple of examples of what our graphs look like.

          I would love to hear how RtI is being implemented in your school and if it is working for you.  I plan on writing more posts on RtI over the coming weeks, so be sure and check back to see them!

My Go-To Book, A Linky Party

Do you have a professional book that you just can't live without?  Maybe more than one?  There really are some good professional books out there with some great ideas.  Stephanie from Teaching in Room 6 is hosting a linky party so we can all share what our favorite go-to book is!  On an earlier post, I showcased the book, When Readers Struggle.   I really like this book as I am a Reading Specialist who teaches struggling readers in Title 1 Reading.  Another book that I really like is Linda Hoyt's Revisit Reflect Retell.  It is just filled with great ideas for teaching comprehension to students.  It is geared for the classroom, not specifically for struggling readers.  It even comes with a cd with the reproducibles from the book and a dvd to show you how Linda Hoyt uses two of the comprehension strategies.  Love it!


Versatile Blogger Award- Twice!

     Wow!  Tanya from Ms. Salano's Kindergarten Class and Louanne from My Kindergarten Kids both awarded the Versatile Blogger Award to me.  That is so fun!  I haven't been blogging for very long (less than a month), but I am definitely hooked!  I love sharing ideas and connecting with other teachers to be able to encourage each other.  :)

The Versatile Blogger Award rules are:
1.  Thank the person who nominated you with a link back to them.  Thank you ladies for sharing the fun with me!
2.  Tell 7 things about yourself  (see below).  I LOVE reading these type of things about other people!
3.  Pass this award on to 15 other newly discovered blogs and let them know they received an award.

7 Things About Myself:
1.  Love to travel anywhere, anytime!  But I prefer to travel to warm places- think beautiful beaches!
2.  Always, always have something with me to read- usually more than one thing.  I like to have my Nook, a professional book, and magazines.
3.  This is my 22 year of teaching.  I still LOVE my job and I try to keep learning all that I can so I can reach my struggling readers.
4.  I have just recently gotten into blogging and I am enjoying connecting with so many people and exchanging ideas.
5.  I have 2 wonderful sons (19 and 16) and they are the best ( don't we all think that of our children and don't children deserve someone thinking that of them?)!
6.  I am married to my best friend who is also the most patient man I know.  :)
7.  New adventures are fun for me- cruises, snorkling, zip-lining, but not new foods!  I am a very picky eater!

15 Great Blogs That I Have Just Discovered

Most Supportive Bloggy Friend

Little Miss Kindergarten is hosting a linky party to thank our blog friends that have been the most supportive to us. 

I want to take this time to thank Mandy from Cooperative Learning 356.  Mandy has been so patient with all of my questions and teaching me how to navigate my way through this new adventure!  Without her, I would never have had the courage to start this exciting journey on my own.  Mandy is a fabulous teacher and has great ideas.  Check out her blog and you will see what I mean!

Cooperative Learning 365

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