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Popplet and Pizza

breaking words apart

So how does a pizza and attacking multi-syllabic words go together you are wondering?  You don't eat a whole pizza at once, in one bite and if you don't know a long word (multi-syllabic word) you don't try to read the whole thing at once.  You break it down (slice it up like a pizza) and read it (eat it) bite by bite!  It's gotta be in kid language so they get it!  :)

breaking words apart into syllables

My groups in grades 1-3 need a lot of practice with breaking words into syllables to try to read them.  First response for most of them is to just guess and keep reading.  But they need  to be taught strategies and they need to apply those strategies.  And guessing isn't one of them!  We have been using this app, Popplet, to help us break our words (slice them up like a pizza).  It is great!

breaking words into syllables

The kids are interested in anything done on the iPads, of course.  So they really liked doing these activities.  They did need a little time to explore and play with the app.  But then they had it and were doing really well breaking their words and reading them.

breaking words apart into syllables

With this app, you can create as many Popplets, or boxes, as you need.  And you can resize them to what you want.


beginning middle end activity

My first grade groups needed to go back and do some more work on story events.  So we used the Popplet app to do that.  We used 3 boxes after reading the story, The Snowstorm.  The first box was for the beginning, then second was middle of the story, and the last one was for the end.  

beginning middle and end activities

Students did a quick sketch in each box to represent what they would write about on their B-M-E page.  It helps them to organize their thoughts before writing and to remind them what it was they wanted to put on paper.  This worked really well for that.  

I can see we will be using Popplet a lot!  There are many other ways to use it.  What are some that you are using it for or could see using it if you were to download it- it's free?  Let's share some ideas!


RtI: Phonemic Awareness

phonemic awareness and phonics

We finally got in a full 5 day week at my school!  Is it too much to hope for that all the snow days are over?  

On Monday, we will finish up our baseline assessment for this cycle of RtI.  Then RtI begins the very next day.  I will have a group of kindergartners who will be working on phonemic awareness and pre-primer sight words.  The group of third graders will be working on phonics skills and improving their fluency.  Fluency for struggling readers can be a difficult skill to improve.

phonemic awareness and phonics

If you click on the pictures, you can download them so you have the links to the resources that I will be using this week.

rubberband hands

One way we work with blending and segmenting sounds and hearing phonemes is what I call rubber band hands.  We get our hands ready, like in the picture above, and then stretch the word out like we are holding a rubber band to hear the sounds.  Another great way to segment the sounds is using your arm to segment the sounds.  

For the fluency, one way to improve it is a method by Timothy Rasinski.  He suggests you model a short passage for the student so they hear what a good read should sound like.  Then they go and practice this passage out loud at least 3 times trying to sound like you.  Then they come back and you listen to them read and try to sound like you in your fluency.  It truly does work if time is spent on it and you do other activities along with it to improve word recognition.  

Is your school beginning RtI now or does it run continuously all year?  


Be sure to link up your plans with Mrs. Wills!


Hope you all have a blessed Sunday!

Vocabulary in Context


One of the skills my students need to learn and practice is vocabulary in context of the story.  It may seem so easy for some students to be able to  pick up vocabulary and their meaning when the meaning is right there in the story.  But for a lot of students they have to be taught how the author may give them clues to the word meanings right within the text.

Have you seen these Bella and Harry books?  They are super cute and the kids love them!  And one thing I found was they are great for teaching vocabulary and meaning.  


This Bella and Harry book would be great for March.  These two cute dogs travel to different countries and teach us about the customs, history and landmarks.  This picture is from Let's Visit Dublin!  On the first read, students love the pictures and learning the history of Ireland.  But besides being an engaging story, I can use it to teach students how to figure out the meaning of new vocabulary.  Some students need it pointed out to them how authors might use cues in their writing for word meaning.  For example, the use of the word "or" after the word ferries.  Some students wouldn't know the word after "or"  tells them what a ferry is.  Same thing for using the parenthesis after the word charge.  It's these little cues we need to spend some time teaching that can help students comprehend the text.


My students really loved the pictures in this book too- the use of all the green and the funny leprechaun and fairy showing up.  One little first grader told me he really liked this book because he liked learning the history!  I loved hearing that, especially from a first grader!!  They learned about whether there are snakes in Ireland and castles too.  



This is a page from my Reader's Notebook for students to write the new vocabulary word and then use clues from the text to figure out the word meaning using the brace map.  


If you think your students would like these cute Bella and Harry stories click the first picture of the books or click here to be taken to their website.  They have been awarded the Mom's Choice Award.  Their website has games and lesson plans besides all the Bella and Harry books!  Your students will love them!!

Context Clues Task Cards

Context Clues Task Cards

These Context Clues Task Cards are a fun way to have students practice this skill too!  They can be used in two ways.  First, students can record what they think the new word means.  Then on another recording sheet, they can record the words they used as clues to determine the meaning on the new word.  For some students that is a bit more difficult!  Click here or on the pictures to check them out!

RtI: Here We Go Again

Baseline Assessments for RtI

Have you had school this week or have you been off for snow/ice days?  We FINALLY got back to school!  We have had a total of 18 snow days so far this winter!

In between all the days off for snow, my school did manage to get in our RtI committee meeting.  This is an all day meeting where we meet with classroom teachers to discuss how each student in RtI progressed and how they did on their recent DRA assessment.  It is a long day full of  making decisions based on data and what we think will be the best for each student individually.  

After this meeting, I take those students who will continue to be in Tier II and III and add any new students that now qualify due to their DRA score being too far below grade level and make up new RtI groups.  That is what I worked on this past week.  I grouped students together based on like needs.  We are ready to begin this next week.  

At our school, the beginning of RtI looks like this:  we first take 3 days to do baseline assessments with each student and then average the 3 scores to plot on a graph.  I have already looked at the students' DRA and other assessments to analyze what areas they need interventions.  All the teachers have to do is come to my room to pick up those baseline assessments and give them.  There is no teaching during this time.  Only baseline assessing.  Then next week, we will begin teaching the interventions and do weekly progress monitoring to see if the interventions are working.  

One of the places I use for assessments is Reading A-Z.  This week I will be using their fluency passages for my Tier III third grade students.

Reading A-Z Fluency Passages for Rti

Reading A-Z fluency passages are easy to use with a copy for the teacher with the word count and a clean copy for the student.  One thing about trying to improve a student's reading fluency is that they must understand that it isn't about reading the words as fast as they can.  That is not the point.  Fluency is all about being able to comprehend what you are reading.  We do a variety of activities to help improve fluency and we discuss that it isn't about just trying to be speedy!

Be sure to link up your visual plans with Mrs. Wills!

Enjoy your day off tomorrow if you are lucky enough to have President's Day off.  Me...I will be in school making up one of those many days I already had off!


Choosing Mentor Texts


Mentor texts are writings or pieces of writings that a reader reads and uses to change or improve their own writing.  Reading and writing are reciprocal processes.  One feeds into the other.  Usually as one improves, so does the other.  

So as I carefully choose mentor texts for my reading, I should also be thinking how these pieces of writing or texts can influence my young readers and their writing.  I want them to look at the texts we use in reading, the words the author carefully chose, the style they use, the choice of punctuation and the meaning that it holds and encourage them to use these ideas in their own writing.  

mentor texts

You've probably seen this picture of my Guided Reading Teacher's Basket.  If not, click the picture or click here to read about it.  Someone had a question about mentor texts on Instagram and it got me to thinking about how to choose these texts.  

mentor texts

I like for what I am teaching in reading to smoothly roll into writing also.  I desire that my students read like a writer and write like a reader.  We aren't there yet.  We are still learning.  But it is a goal.  And Ralph Fletcher says it so well that students need to read powerful stuff to write powerfully.  And isn't that what we are striving for?  Like when students notice powerful words in their text and then use them or other powerful words in their writing?  That is what I want them moving towards.


This book, Wolf, was in my basket in the picture above.  It could be used for so many different reasons and that makes it a great mentor text just to keep on hand.  A mentor text that contains many examples is an overall good choice to just keep in your basket.  This one page shows examples of powerful word choice.  Just above the circle, if you are having a student who just can't seem to get in spacing which is not so much of a writing craft problem, but still needs to be addressed this book shows what that would look like if an author did it.  Or it could be used for fluency- reading too fast.

mentor texts

Recently we have been learning about realistic fiction and how it is different than just fiction.  They already know that Pete the Cat, Splat, Clifford, etc... cannot be real.  So we contrasted those kinds of texts (snowmen coming to life!)  to a story that could really happen.  We have had a lot of fun with this and the students have learned a lot about realistic fiction elements and what we noticed that authors did in those kinds of stories.  Then we applied this new knowledge to new stories we were reading and decided based on what other authors did if our new stories were fiction or realistic fiction.

Mentor texts can be used during reading and writing and should be.  There are so many ways to use them too.  Stick a few in your basket to use.  It helps us "show" our students what good writing is and not just "tell" them.

Here's hoping I go back to school tomorrow and not having another snow day!



A Snowy 5 For Friday


It's been a while since I've gotten to link up for Five for Friday.  Today I get to since I am home for a snow day!



We have had so many snow days this year that I have completely lost track of the number!  I mean seriously...we have missed A LOT since December.  I think we have been out more than we have attended school.  It's been bad, folks.  

This is what it looked like Tuesday when we called off school. Where's the snow??  The weatherman was calling for enough snow in the forecast that school districts were calling school off before we even saw a flake.  The snow did come though and with it freezing temperatures.  Not sure when it will melt.  



I have been trying to be productive while I have been enjoying these days off this week!  RtI is beginning to start up again soon and I have some small reading groups who need some extra work on their fluency with letters and short vowel sounds.  



Students can build letter fluency by rolling the monster dice and reading that row of letters.  These will work well in a center or for RtI intervention groups. There are lower case, capitals and mixed letters.  Add some fun pointers with the sheets and monster dice and the kids will love building their letter fluency!


Students can also track their progress with the data graphs.  As you all know, I keep lots and lots of RtI graphs!  This will be a great way for the students to take some ownership of their learning.


I also made the same type of activity for short vowels and chunks.  My first graders this year had some struggles blending the sounds together in chunks.  This will help those who are finding that difficult and have a lot of fun while doing it!  You can click the pictures to check them out!


I passed my cake decorating class!  Well, okay...everyone passed.  A group of my teacher friends took the class together.  We had a blast!  But I will say it was a lot of work making cakes and cupcakes each week and making batches and batches of icing.  None of us are experts yet, but we are getting better.  I didn't get a picture of my final project.  It turned out okay- cake with white icing and yellow roses on top.  I brought it home and my boys immediately dove in!





Is this not the coolest treadmill??  My treadmill broke and it is wayyyyy too cold to be walking outside right now.  So I am looking for a new one.  I would love to have this one, but I am not willing to pay for that.  I have put a flat surface across the handle bars on my old one so my computer would sit there while I walked.  I seem to need to have something to do if I am on the treadmill and the tv sometimes just isn't enough!  


I've got a question for you all.  I have some funds that I need to do some shopping for at my school.  I want to allocate a chunk of these funds for the classroom teachers.  First and most importantly, I want to get them (or actually have THEM choose) sets of books for their classrooms.  They need new books!  With the push of more informational text, we are lacking enough good quality materials.  But besides the sets of books, what else for literacy would you ask for if you could get them?  Technology will not be covered with this money, I am being told, so it has to be something else besides iPads or computers.  Besides the books, I was thinking kid magazines like Time for Kids?


I have even thought of these Fountas and Pinnell intervention kits for the upper grades.  But I don't know enough about them.  Those of you that have them, are they scripted?  I don't like programs...is it materials with some direction on how to use them or is it a program to follow? 



Help me out if you would!  What would you like me to consider if I were spending some funds for your school?  Thank you for the help!!


Twitter, Tweets, & Graffiti- Bright Ideas


I had a conversation this past week with my third graders about Twitter.  They sort of knew about it; that it was something some of their parents did.  So I did a quick run through about what it was to use Twitter and to tweet.


My post today is part of a Bright Ideas blog hop.  Nothing but great, practical ideas from a whole bunch of fabulous bloggers!  Now back to Twitter....



We are currently learning about questioning the text.  Believe it when I tell you that some students do not realize that reading is thinking and understanding what they read.  Some just do not know that they should be thinking too & that it should be thinking about the text, not what they will be having for lunch that day!

Tabletop Twitter
I did a post a long time ago about using Tabletop Twitter (you can click here to read that original post).  It is such a fun and super engaging activity for students to do.  Students get to use some higher level thinking skills as they work through this.


The original way to use Tabletop Twitter is to take a passage from the text that students are reading and place it on the table in the middle of bulletin board paper.  The passage should ideally be something that is thought provoking or can be thought about from different perspectives.  I used more than one table.  You can have different passages or the same one.  Set a timer and students, without talking, move from table to table writing down their thoughts on the paper.  As they move around, they are reading other's thoughts and responding to them.  The teacher gets involved and participates too.  Students love when the teacher comments or "tweets" in response to their "tweet".  It is a great way to get in a lot of reading, writing and deeper thinking!


So...back to Questioning the Text!  This time we did Tabletop Twitter, I didn't give them a passage to "tweet" about.  We had been keeping our questions about each chapter in our Reader's Notebook.  But I like to mix it up to keep things interesting so we did questioning the text Tabletop Twitter style and they loved, loved it!  There was much more interaction, reading, and writing going on this way than just doing it on their own.  


We are reading this mystery, jotting down questions about the text as we go and keeping track of clues.  By doing the Tabletop Twitter the students were able to write their questions about what was happening and then they responded to each other which lead to new thinking and sometimes cleared up some confusions.


As you can see on this thread of "tweets" a question was asked and lots of responses were "tweeted"!  Real, authentic reading and writing going on.  Real world stuff.  


This is how we are keeping track of the clues to the crime and the suspect and our thoughts about it.  This is my students first mystery so I have to teach them how to be looking for those clues that the author throws out without announcing that they are important.  They are so excited about this book and leave not hardly being able to wait until the next day to see what will happen next.  And that is exactly what my goal is!!  Build up reading, writing and thinking skills and a love for books!  Yay!!!


This is called a Graffiti Table activity.  I have wipe off table so I can have students just write right on them.  They are the coolest things (expensive, but still very cool)!  If you do not have wipe off tables, just throw on some bulletin board paper just like for the Tabletop Twitter.  This is a great warm up activity or review activity before getting started.  This group had been reading and learning about sharks.  We had read some of the text the day before, so before we began on a new day, I wanted to revisit the text and what they had learned.  Set a timer and then let them just write graffiti style all over the table words or phrases that were important to their learning.  They are remembering what they learned plus reading what others learned so you have a great review time in quick style!!  

Now, you are going to want to hop on over to Amanda's blog to read about how to organize classroom games!  She has some great ideas for you that you do not want to miss out on.  Click her button below to get there.



I hope you get some bright ideas today that help you in your classroom! 











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