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My Literacy Story!

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Love is in the air!  A love for books and literacy that is!  I am joining in with some reading specialists, literacy coaches, and teacher bloggers to share our love of reading, love for books and a love of teaching literacy.  Each blogger will also be sharing materials to go with a favorite book!

I am not sure I can remember a time that I did not love, love books!  I was always the car, at my grandparents house, every night at bedtime.  

I got interested in different book series as a kid.  I remember loving all the Laura Ingalls Wilder books.  My aunt and uncle bought that set for me and I read and cherished every single one.  

My favorite book series has to be the Nancy Drew books!  I could not get enough of them.  I would read late into the night and then sometimes get scared thinking that the scary things happening in the story might be happening at my house!   Like dynamite being put under our house- okay, I had an active imagination!  But reading these books helped me develop my love of reading and my habit of reading every. single. night. at bedtime.  I still keep that ritual today.  I MUST read at bedtime.  It just doesn't feel right if I don't.  

There are so many books that I use and love in my room.  It is hard to just choose one!  But one that is especially loved is Go Away Big Green Monster!  

Part of teaching reading is instilling a love of books in children.  To do this, we need fun, engaging books that children will love and this is definitely one of them!

Go Away Big Green Monster can be a great way to teach some color words, easy sight words, and is a fun book to write about- what kids don't love monsters??

This fun I Have Who Has Beginning Sight Words game has a fun monster theme like Go Away Big Green Monster.  My kinder students are working so hard right now on learning some easy sight words and this would be a great motivator to keep them going!  If you can use this game, click on the picture above and you can download it free!

ABCs & Path of Movement

ABC activities

Do you have students that have trouble with letter reversals when they write or in their reading?  I have a few that have just really struggled with reversals, especially b and d, this year.  

I really believe if students could learn the correct path of movement for these letters early on it would help them so much not to develop this reversal.  The letters have different paths of movement- the b starts with the stick and the d starts with the circle.  


Lacey from Wild About Teaching has this great freebie to help remind students how to tell the difference between b and d!  I used this method to help a couple of my RtI students this year who were really struggling with b and d.  I would have them write the stick first as they say bat, write the ball as they say ball, then say b:  bat, ball, b.  They did this over and over.  It did seem to help them too.  Click the picture to grab her freebie!

But I don't want to have to get to the point that I am correcting reversals.  I am all about prevention and students learning how to write their letters correctly from the get-go.  So we get out the path of movement tracing cards and anytime I introduce a letter, we go over the correct movements and where to start.

abc activities

Another good strategy for students to learn their letters is for them to create an ABC book.  They get to choose what pictures they associate with the sounds- choice is a big motivator for everyone!

ABC book

Student ABC books can be read together as a class or in centers or during morning work time.  All kinds of possibilities.  Reading, writing and saying the letters every day is great to help struggling students to remember them.  

ABC activities

Most of my kinders have learned all of their letters and sounds by now.  There are a few that are missing a letter (Q, U, and Y seem to be harder), but most know them!!  Yay!  Some students came not knowing but one or two letters total! This letter match up helps students to learn to match capitals with their lower case match.  There are picture clues on each set of letters that students can use to to check the puzzle pieces and see if they made the correct match.

ABC activities

For those students that do not need the scaffolding of the picture clues, these puzzle pieces all have the same picture on them.  This way I can differentiate and give some groups or students the extra support they need and the other students can practice at their level.

ABC activities

Another fun way for students to practice capitals and lower case match ups is with a quick game of I Have Who Has!  My students love these games!

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How do you help students with letter reversals?  Let's share some ideas!

Focus Wall and Comprehension

Cover comprehension skills by using a focus wall

Are you using a focus wall?  There are focus walls for reading, math, writing... probably for just about any subject you can think of.  I was wanting to be a bit more intentional with my reading and comprehension this year.  This is what it looked like at the beginning of the year before we began using it.

Cover comprehension skills by using a focus wall

I like to focus on these four basic areas of comprehension.  My goal is to try to cover these each week with the book we are reading.  Once we get into the routine of identifying these areas, it becomes easier to do and we get quicker at it.  This picture shows using the focus wall for one book.

Cover comprehension skills by using a focus wall

I needed a change from the other focus wall because I wanted to include more than one grade on my focus wall.  So second grade gets yellow Post Its and third grade gets the purple.  This will help me manage the skills I want to teach every week and use the wall for more than one group.

Cover comprehension skills by using a focus wall

For the comprehension skill that I want to cover, I have posters that cover those skills.  I hang them up and trade them out each time we change skills.  

As we learn a skill, we can glue inserts into notebooks that cover the comprehension skill.  We then can use that comprehension skill to write about the text.  

Reading Comprehension Posters

I like that a focus wall helps me to be purposeful with my lessons, getting in those skills each week that I want to be sure and cover and at the same time switching out my comprehension skills to cover.  It also makes it more organized and predictable for my students!

Build A Culture of Reading & Conversations

We all try to set a certain tone in our classrooms.  I try to teach my students that books are exciting and that we can learn so much from reading. That conversations about books and reading are important to have with each other.  I have been thinking a lot about this lately and there are many, many ways to build this culture.  Lots of them are easy to implement too!

display books on chalkboard

One way to keep books fresh and in front of kids is to cycle some in and out each month.  I am sure all of you do this.  Just the simple act of displaying seasonal books or books that go with units you are teaching and placing them on the chalkboard tray brings new interest in books for the kids.  

build a love of reading and conversations about books

Bless your books!  When you do read alouds, talk about how special these books are and that they go in a special place in the room.  Keeping them in a special basket and displaying some standing up on a table builds interest in them.  Anything the teacher reads builds excitement and students can't wait to look at them too.  This very thing happened on Friday.  I read a book to the class and as soon as I was done talking, one of the students was asking for the book.  Couldn't wait to get his hands on it.  I LOVE that!

build a love of reading and conversations about books

Allow students to recommend books to each other.  This particular way of recommending books takes no precious class time at all.  As students finish a book that they like, they can put a Post It note on it and sign their name to it.  That lets other students know as they are looking through the book basket what books their friends read and recommend to others.  Isn't this what we do with our friends when we read a really good book?  We can't wait to tell others about it.  That is what I want to instill in my readers.  Three people have signed The Giving Tree making it a highly recommended book in my room this year!

build a love of reading and conversations about books

It's also powerful for you to sign the Post It note and recommend books too!  My kids like to put stars for how good the book is.  I mentioned 5 would be enough, but some want to put like 10 because the book is just sooooo good!

build a love of reading and conversations about books

This idea does take a bit more preparation.  But the kids really enjoyed it and it is real world writing to go along with their reading.  We looked at and discussed real book reviews.  We learned what book reviews included and how they were written.  It is important to me in my room that kids understand it is okay to not like a book.  As adults we like some genres more than others and some not at all.  I want students to feel safe enough to express their true opinion.  The thumbs up or thumbs down in the book review is a good way for them to practice that.

build a love of reading and conversations about books

At the bottom of the book review, the students colored book icons to rate the book.  They always enjoy rating things!

build a love of reading and conversations about books

Another easy way to promote books is in the way we display them on the shelves.  Think Barnes and Noble or a library!  Instead of having all your books lined up, spine out, or in a basket where you only see the top book, try strategically placing some books facing out.  Think about when you are in a bookstore and are looking at books.  What do you pick up first?  A lot of times it is the book they have placed facing toward you.  That is no accident!  This is one I have to work on in my room as my shelf is crammed with baskets and no room to face any out.  But that is one thing I would like to move towards doing!

build a love of reading and conversations about books

Another idea that I have known about for a while now, but unfortunately have not yet tried is wrapping a set of books like a gift for the class or reading group!  Now that would get their attention!  A good way to do this would be when your group is getting a new book to read, wrap the whole set and talk about how special the books are inside.  I would tell the students that it is books though, so no one gets disappointed thinking we were getting new toys!  But I like the idea of how wrapping the books and talking them up would physically show the kids how special books and reading are!

build a love of reading and conversations about books

One last idea to share is being sure you leave share time at the end of your independent reading time.  Because, again, we want to teach kids and let them practice what adults really do when they read a really good book- they TALK about it!  So set a timer and have share time.  Easy ways to manage this would be to have students share in shoulder partners, in small groups, or within their tables.  It only has to be for a few minutes so it can stay manageable.  

Question for you today:  How are you building a culture of reading and conversations about books in your room?

RtI Student Files- Little Black Boxes

how to organize and manage student data

January is a good month to be thinking about getting off to a clean and organized start to the year.  Teachers become experts at organization.  If they don't, the amount of paperwork that crosses our rooms would become a chaotic mess!

We have just finished up our first cycle of RtI.  It is time for me to gather the data, create graphs, and organize a full committee meeting.  I keep all the student data in RtI student files.

How to organize and manage Rti Files

These little black boxes are very important to my job of Keeper of the Files!  All current RtI students in tiers II and III have a file that I record what has happened during the student's RtI "career".  If their file is here in the black boxes then they are currently in RtI.

How to organize and manage RtI files

Once a student has made enough progress for the committee to vote them out of Tier II or Tier III, the student's file moves to this file cabinet drawer.  I used to have the files in a crate.  Over the years, the files of students moving out of tier II and III have grown too much for that and have now taken over this drawer.  It is pretty full too.  Soon, I may need an entire cabinet for files.  

I keep the old files as a record as to what help and which interventions students have had.  It comes up numerous times in meetings with teacher or parents, what help has this child had, to what degree, and how successful were they.  The teachers in special education frequently ask too when teachers ask questions or parents request testing.  It is good information to have at your fingertips!

How to organize and manage student RtI files

In each student's RtI file there is a cover sheet recording when they entered RtI each time and what tier, the scores at the beginning and the end of the tier and the decision made from the committee.  I also include the graphs and assessments for each cycle and the parent notification letter.  

How to Organize and Manage RtI files

This is a better shot of the cover page to the student file.  When we began RtI, it required lots of paperwork for the teachers and for me- I am the one who keeps track of everything and coordinates it all.  Over the years, I have whittled that down as much as I possibly can.  Classroom teachers do not have time to fill out reams of paperwork just to get a child some help.  And I don't have the time to sort through it all either.  Helps us both out!

So my question to you today is what does your school keep in their student RtI files?  I am always interested in how other schools organize and manage their files and the whole RtI system.  

Book Leveling & Reading Correlation Charts

Do you ever have to look up the level of books?  Seems like I am always looking up book levels for my reading groups and for my classroom library.  

One popular way to level books is to use Scholastic Book Wizard.  You can search books in different ways like similar books or search the level of a specific book.  I also like that you can choose which book leveling system you want to use, like grade equivalent, guided reading, DRA, or even Lexile.  And now I see they even have a mobile app for looking up books.  That would be great for when you are in a bookstore and need to know the book level!

This is a great book for finding the level of books too.  I use it in class when I am not at my computer.  It's not cheap, but it is a good resource if you use Fountas and Pinnell leveling for your classroom books.

This is not the exact reading correlation chart that I use, but it is close.  I keep it taped up behind my desk to refer to as I plan lessons.  It is a well used list!

I have a question for you...Have you increased your reading levels you are requiring students to meet as you transition into common core?  I know a lot of schools are upping the levels.  Are you and what are your thoughts for the children on raising the bar?

Guided Reading Teacher Basket

what to keep in your guided reading basket

Do you keep a basket of all your "teacher" things for your small groups in guided reading?  We all have a variety of items in our basket that help our reading groups run a little smoother.  We just don't have time to be looking for this or that when we should be teaching.

what to keep in your guided reading teacher's basket

Here you see my Anecdotal Records Notebook.  I will explain how to use that in a minute.  Also, you can see rings of sight word cards and letter cards.  Those help me with my records in the notebook.  Then there are a couple of mentor texts.  

mentor texts for in your guided reading teacher's basket

When you choose mentor texts for your basket, you have many things you can consider for what you might choose.  I want students to apply what they are reading and noticing the author doing in books over into their writing.  So some things to think about would be not just choosing books that have the comprehension skills and sight words that your students have learned, but also other examples the students can transfer when they write.  My students for some unknown reason will forget and forget to use ending punctuation.  Demonstrating to them how the author uses different punctuation and when can be of help rather than just telling them to remember to use periods and question marks.  

I like to do quick check-ins with the students in between assessing them.  Keeping rings of letters and sight words helps me do this quickly.  I can just pull out the ring I need and mark off in my anecdotal notebook what each student has learned.  

When I take running records, there is a lot of information that I like to keep from them.  The information helps me to know each student's needs and to plan better to help them progress.  So I keep notes on each student for this.  

Behaviors of each reading stage is another good thing to keep track of to help you plan lessons to better reach your students.  Each time you observe a student using the different reading stage behaviors, make a tally mark for it.  After 5 or 6 tally marks, you may decide the student has that skill and can plan for others.  Keeping track of phonemic awareness and phonics skills mastered in the same way is an easy way to keep it all managed and organized in a way that makes it usable.

what to keep in your guided reading teacher basket

I have a variety of other items in my basket.  Doesn't every teacher have lots of Post It notes?  I like all kinds of sizes of them.  You can see the larger one and regular size.  The small ones aren't showing.  Also, keeping pointers is a good idea for some students.  

Here is how you can use the word card frame to frame a word for the student.  

That's it!  Lots of items in my basket...but some I didn't really even talk about.  

There is just so much to guided reading and lots of information on each student to keep track of.  Do you keep an anecdotal notebook?  I have kept different kinds and have finally come up with one that works for everything I need.  You can click on any of the pictures or click here to see this notebook.

I would love to hear about your anecdotal records or what is in your guided reading teacher basket!

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