Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Parent's Guide to Learning to Read

Hi everyone! I hope you are all enjoying your summers. This summer I'm taking two online classes and one of the assignments is to plan a family literacy night. Although I've been wanting to do this for quite some time, I haven't. So, I'm glad that I'm getting that push to do it! One thing I have always wanted to create for a family literacy night is a beginning reading guide for parents. Keep in mind I work at a school with a lot of parent involvement. I get asked a lot what they can do at home. I'm so lucky and so are their children! I find that, while giving ideas about what to do at home, I feel the need to give background knowledge about reading. It's hard to give tips and ideas when parents do not have any general information about the process of learning to read. I have handed out separate resources before, but I never put it all together in one nice, neat packet. Until now!

I thought about the main things that went into learning to read and tried to break it down. If you've followed me for a while, you know I love anything with tabs. Ha! Keep in mind that I made this one pretty with colored bright paper, but you wouldn't have to! I also made a version without tabs so you just print and staple or bind. That one is a little more convenience. ;) 

Here is a little peak inside:

The colored pages are the tab pages. They have basic information for parents about that area of reading. After each tab page, there is a page with ideas for parents to use at home.

You can find resources and information about teaching the alphabet HERE.

Please note: The ideas in the phonemic awareness section come from my Phonemic Awareness Take-home kit.   You can find a TON of information about phonemic awareness in these old posts HERE and HERE.

 I added in a link to a phonetic word list! I wish I would've made that one years ago!

You can find an old post about sight words HERE.

You can find an old, but very detailed blog post about reading strategies HERE.

You can find a huge post about comprehension HERE.

This resource is perfect for pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, and first grade teachers. I will be using it as a resource for my intervention students' families. 

This is all based on years of experience and research. I realize there are many differing philosophies and beliefs about what is best when teaching children to read. This is what works for me and is based on a lot of research. Much of the research for the alphabet, phonemic awareness, and phonics is summarized HERE in this report from the National Reading Panel. I acknowledge and respect different views and beliefs and by no means discredit other ways of teaching. If these ideas do not reflect your teaching practices and beliefs, then this probably isn't for you. ;)  

So there you have it! You can find this resource HERE.


Friday, June 30, 2017

Sound Boxes

Hi everyone! Can you tell my kids are at their grandparent's house these past couple days based on the fact that I'm actually blogging? Ha! I have an actual folder called "to finish soon." It is quite full and some files have been there for years. Well, today I finally finished one that I'm really excited about. I've blogged about sound boxes before (here and here) and I have them included in several of my phonics packs, but I wanted to make a big pack with all of them together.

Sound boxes can be used with or without letters. When I'm working on phonemic awareness with my students, I just focus on the sounds and not the letters. As my students begin phonics and learning to read and spell, I add in the corresponding letters. Sound boxes can strengthen both phonemic awareness skills and phonics skills. 

Here is how you use them:

There are three formatting options. Two of them are in color. You can print out the color and keep it full page, like in the picture below. Then, stick it in a plastic sleeve and use a dry erase marker to write and then wipe off to use again. If you use this option, you could put them together in a binder or a three-pronged folder so they are all ready to use. 


Another option is print the same page as above, but then cut each box individually and laminate to use as individual sound boxes. In the picture below, I also cut out the little visual helper as well. I also added a ring to it so I could keep all of that phonics skill together. You can use these as just an oral segmenting activity with manipulatives or you could also use a dry erase marker to write the corresponding letters. 

 The third option is a printable black-and-white page. This can be used as individual worksheets or can be bound into a workbook.
This pack includes 60 pages, each page with 6 sound boxes, totally over 300 sound boxes! The phonics skills included are:

You can find this pack HERE.

Vowel Helpers

Hi everyone! Today I have a little resource to share with you that I use on a daily basis. It was previously found in my Printable Intervention packs and Hands-on Short Vowel packs, but I decided I needed to share it all on its own. That's how much I use it!

Vowels can be so hard to remember, especially since some really sound similar. For our beginning readers and struggling readers, it can be especially difficult to distinguish between and remember these sounds. From the beginning, I introduce this visual and I model how to use it. I learned this from a dyslexia specialist and it is SO helpful.

When we are beginning to sound out words, I tell my students to first determine the vowel sound by singing a little chant that matches the picture. For example, for a short a word, I'll say, "apple, apple, /a/ /a/ /a/."  Then, I'll sound out the word. If students get in the habit of doing this early on, they are more likely to read the words accurately and master their vowel sounds. As they progress and begin reading sentences, we obviously don't do that for every word. However, they still do that chant when they are stuck on a word or if they don't remember the vowel sound. I also have them "check their vowel" when I hear them read a word using the incorrect vowel sound. Here is a video of my son using this bookmark in action.

If this video isn't working, you can also click HERE to view it. 

I also made one for long vowels. 

You can download these FREE Vowel Bookmarks HERE.

Another resource I use is this set of flashcards for vowel pairs and diphthongs.

I put them on a ring and slowly add new cards on as I introduce the vowel skills. As a warm-up, my students flip through making the sounds. You can also use them as a resource while spelling words. Students can flip through to find the correct vowel pair. You can find this HERE

I hope you enjoy these resources! :)


Monday, June 26, 2017

Managing Centers

Hi everyone! Happy summer! I know I've been a pretty absent blogger this school year, but I hope to get some good posts in this summer. I've been taking classes to finally finish my reading endorsement and, at the same time, I'm trying to get my dyslexia certification. Soooo.... there goes most of my blogging time!

My friend Jen Ross over at Teacher by the Beach is having a link-up every Monday and today the topic is Managing Centers. I thought this would be a good way to step back into blogging since my center management is maybe the best thing I ever figured out as a first grade teacher. (For those of you who have been following me for a long time, you've probably seen these already.) When I started teaching first grade, there was no TPT and very few bloggers (at least I didn't follow any at this time,) so I was sort of drowning during my reading workshop time. I was constantly looking for new centers and changing them out and I felt like all of my time was spent on centers. I knew I needed to figure something else out that would work for me. So sometime in the middle of my first year, I started making these monthly literacy menus. I felt more organized and they provided me with a little direction. Now in the beginning, I had little access to clip art and fonts, so they were not cute at all! Ha! Over the last decade, I've updated, tweaked, added, modified, "cute-sified," you name it. These centers have definitely evolved, but the format has stayed the same and it's the format and easy management that saved me as a first grade teacher. Here is how they work...

  • Students keep track of centers completed with this menu.
  • Menu sets up organizational system for the monthly centers. 
  • Categories are consistent from month to month so students are familiar.
  • A variety Common Core standards are hit with these centers. Standards are ON the menu, too. 
  • Spend the first month teaching routines and expectations, then enjoy the next 8 months!

My first criteria: SPACE! I had a tiny classroom so I needed something that would fit in a small space. Those four "folder holders" fit my entire month's worth of centers! 

Each center fits in the folder. Students take their folder to a place in the room. Keep contents of center together in the folder. Easy clean-up!

Forgive my old photo. This may be a decade old. ;) I've figured out a thing or two since then (like to use matching folders- ha!) 
The entire year of centers fit into my closet on one shelf! 

Want to learn more?

THIS older posts goes into a little more detail if you're interested. 

In THIS post, you can find a video explanation, too. 

Want to see the centers themselves?

I have these centers for kindergarten, first, and second grade!

One last thing! This freebie is in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. I use it to grade my centers. This rubric could work with any centers, not just mine. Enjoy! Click HERE to get these.

Click HERE to check out the other posts about managing centers. 


Monday, May 15, 2017

Teaching Comprehension Strategies and Skills

This post has been a LONG time coming! I just keep adding to it, reorganizing it, and adding some more. I'm happy to finally push Publish on this one!

So I must warn you: This is like a three year photo dump. This post is a collection of pictures and activities that I've used with my 1st-3rd grade reading groups. I wish I took more pictures though!

I've been working hard to beef up my comprehension instruction. If you stick with this post and scroll down to the resources section, I break it down a little more for you. This might be one of those posts where you need a big cup of coffee! There is a freebie at the end for you, too!

I'll start with a very quick explanation. Then, you can scroll further down to see more examples and visuals to go with it. 

For every text, I choose a comprehension strategy and skill to focus on. 
  • The STRATEGIES are used while we read. I introduce those first. 
    • I explain the strategy and model how the strategy is used. 
    • I explain why that strategy is helpful. 
    • I tell them that we are going to practice this strategy with the text. 
    • After the usual book introduction, students read on their own a few pages (or however far I ask them to go. I try to chunk up the text in meaningful ways. For example, if the characters, setting and some background are introduced in the first two pages, I'll have them read that first then stop. Then they will read the next few pages to find the problem or conflict. 
      • Before each set of pages, I set a purpose. "Read to find out..." 
      • After each set of pages, I model how I used that strategy. As the text continues, I ask the students to share how they used it. If they are unable to do so, I will find a passage from the text that lends itself to that strategy and we will practice it together. 
      • Continue this throughout the entire book. Sometimes I provide sticky notes or a graphic organizer in a sheet protector for that strategy. 
      • After we have learned a few strategies, I give them a comprehension strategy bookmark so they can always remember and refer to the strategies we've learned so far.
  • Next, I introduce the SKILL. Before reading, I do tell my students what skill we will be working on and will show them the visual for it with a quick explanation. Then I remind them that they will learn more about the skill as we read or after we read. 
    • I may wait until after reading to explain it, if we are going to go back for the second read to practice the skill. 
    • In some cases though, I will introduce it somewhere during reading. For example, if the skill is cause-and-effect and there is a clear example of it in the middle of the book, I will point it out then. 
    • I always want to provide some kind of visual, like a graphic organizer or a group anchor chart. I usually "hold the pen" for this simply for time reasons. 
    • When they have already been introduced to the skill once and have seen me model how to use it, then they will "hold the pen" with a shared anchor chart or a graphic organizer for their notebooks.  
    • Usually it involves going back to the text and rereading. For example, I might ask them to reread page 10 and share an example of cause and effect. OR I will name the effect and they have to search for the cause. They have to show me where in the text they found the cause. This is so important. My students are always going back to the text.  I will often say "prove it" with a  smile. They use language like "I think _____ because the text says..." Providing sentence stems is so helpful! (More about that below.)

Here is what my lesson plans look like now:
PS. They may look like this week one but then they are pencil chicken scratch as the year goes on. ;) I'm sharing this as a freebie at the end of this post. 

I'll start with my photo dump. 

Part 1: Classroom Anchor Charts
Warning #2! You are about to see some NONPinterest-friendly, unartistic anchor charts. However, they are effective, give the job done, AND smell super yummy (because I always use smelly markers.) 

Before I introduce specific strategies, I show my students how I am always thinking as I read. It can be an "aha moment," a question, an exclamation, or just a random thought. An anchor chart like this is always a good place to start. Then you can do another where the kids all share their thoughts. 

This is a favorite! I put some of the same types of thoughts as I mentioned above. Then I place little stickies in the book where I had those thoughts. After students have read a section, we go back and reread the parts of the text that I marked. They choose which sticky note fits with that part of the text. 

This picture is from a 3rd grade group, but I do this with my first graders as well. Give kids the opportunity to write their thoughts as they read. The first time you do it, you should pick parts in the text that lend themselves to an "aha moment," an exclamation, a questions, an ""I think..." moment, etc. Then have the group write their thoughts on stickies. The next time you do it, you can have them choose places in the text. 

During Reading: Comprehension STRATEGIES
This is not news to anyone, but I'm saying it anyway: Model, model, model. The more I model my thinking and create a visual to go with my thinking, the more I get out of my students.  

When I make predictions, it doesn't end there! We must read on to confirm and change our predictions. In this first chart, I modeled what it means to confirm predictions. Then in the next one, I modeled how to confirm or change a prediction. 

First, I teach them to choose what is important to the story before we work on actual summaries. In this first chart, we reread to find things that were important to the story and things that were just added details. Then, we practice writing the summary together. I also use the "______ wanted _______ but __________ so __________" frame often. The kids love when I project that on the white board so they can fill it in with markers.  

This is from an old post that you can find HERE.

I like to make simple charts that guide my students thinking.  The chart above shows how to evaluate a nonfiction text. The chart bellows shows my class' evaluation of a fiction text. They shared their thoughts, which I recorded on the chart, but they had to give me reasons from the text. 

Sticky notes are a constant theme...

Sometimes you just need to draw a puzzle on the fly. That's about as far as my artistic ability goes. ;)

This one involved a projector and a pre-made PowerPoint slideshow with a thinking bubble that grew. As we gained new ideas, we added our sticky note ideas to the growing bubble.

This is an activity I do quite often. I take a sentence, either made up or from a book, then I show student how many strategies we could use for a single sentence. For example, from this sentence you might wonder if she's on a business trip or if it is a vacation. You might wonder why there is bad traffic. You might infer that she's super frustrated. You might predict she will be late for something. Explain that when reading this sentence in a full book or reading passage, we would likely read on to find the answers or reread if it is something we need to clarify.

After Reading: Comprehension SKILLS
I often take a comprehension question, then I really break it down. After that I will provide a sentence stem and model how I would answer the question. Kids need lots of practice with both of these steps in the process. 

Here, I modeled for a second grade group how I would answer this question using text evidence. 

These are a few ways I have broken down my thought process while drawing conclusions. I especially like using the different colored sentence strips. 

I used this visual to explain how details support the main idea.

I used this with a third grade group to show the difference between theme and main idea. 

You can stop here and focus on character lesson or you could take it once step further and find the themes. 

And of course, I am all about sentence stems to get kids talking! 

This is shined up on the big white board using a projector. Then we wrote in our thoughts. The next time, students wrote their thoughts. 

Part 2: Resources

This year, one of my professional goals was to beef up my comprehension instruction. Specifically, I wanted to be more explicit with my teaching and find ways to organize and track the skills and strategies I was teaching. In years past, I taught strategies and skills but it felt more haphazard with how and when I delivered it. When we read books, I would always incorporate a strategy focus and I would follow up with a skill that worked with that book. I realized though, that I was using those two interchangeably. Honestly, some can be used interchangeably in my opinion, but once I took time to really separate them out and categorize them once and for, everything got easier and my teaching became more explicit. This was not a quick process. I looked at the resources that I've been using including books, some supplemental leveled readers from our basal program, and some random reading passages.  I reflected on the main strategies that I use first. These are the strategies that I want my kids actively using while they are reading. Then I sifted through the skills that I wanted them to have in order to complete activities after reading. 

Comprehension Strategies
First, I made this strategy bookmark.  It is a guide for my students, a reminder of strategies we've learned, and a sneak peak at strategies to come. It also keeps me on track.  It reminds me to model previously learned strategies and encouraged me to make sure I was getting to all the strategies. 

I made posters to go with the bookmark. I used these as anchor charts when I introduced a strategy and referred back to them when needed. Once I introduce a strategy, the big poster can go on the wall.  

(These come in brights, no color background, and classic colors)

I had already made graphic organizers for strategies but they were all scattered. I put them together, spiffed them up a bit, but tried to keep them simple and usable. I put them all into sheet protectors and stocked up on Ultra Fine Tip Expo markers. This way, students could use them over and over and I never had to worry about making more copies. 

I've learned that ULTRA fine tip EXPO dry erase markers are the best! The picture on the far right is ultra fine tip. It makes a big difference. 

Comprehension Skills

This year, one thing that I tried to be better about was focusing my lessons around a skill. I'm not bound to a basal, so I'm able to do that.  I would pick a skill, like character analysis, and focus on it for two(ish) weeks.  In that time, we would read different texts that lend themselves to practicing that skill. As we read those texts, I would focus on a different strategy as well. For example, while focusing on the skill character analysis, I may read 3-4 texts, each with a different strategy focus. To help students distinguish between the two, I made these comprehension skill notebooks. I sort of made these on accident. I was using the notebooks to keep it all together, then realized I wanted them more organized. Years ago, I had made these writing notebook tabs and loved the organization, so I thought I'd do the same for these comprehension skills. It has been SO helpful! Kids can look back at different skills and different activities we've done. Win-win!

I made several graphic organizers to go behind each tab because different books may use a skill in different ways. For example, one book may be good for looking at how a character's actions affected another character. Another story might be better at simply analyzing the character and looking for text evidence. These each need a different graphic organizer.  I cut around the outer box and glued it right behind the tabs when needed. FYI: I have to keep it real here. This is a sample. The real kids' notebooks have graphic organizers that are not cut so straight and glued so perfectly. ;)

I spend a little more time thinking about my learning outcomes for each skill. 

Strategies and Skills on one poster:
Finally, I made these mini-posters to have right at my reading table. Once I introduced a strategy or skill and put the big poster on the wall, I found myself wanting another poster right at my fingertips to display at the reading table. Now I can't imagine not using it! It helps me to be more explicit with my teaching. It helps me to be accountable every time we are at that reading table. 

Part 3: Putting it all together

So just to recap:
  • Introduce strategies and use these strategies as you read. Model, model, model how to use these strategies. Use posters as a visual aide when you introduce. 
  • Depending on the strategy and story, provide a graphic organizer or sticky notes for students to use as they read. Read the text in smaller portions. I have my students whisper read or read in their heads. I will tell them to read to a certain point in the text. Then, when they finish, I model how I used that strategy for that text. Before reading the next set of pages, I remind students to try to use the strategy as they read. As they whisper read, I listen in to one student and I may encourage use of the strategy if applicable. After reading a few more pages, I invite students to share how they used the strategy.  If we are using a graphic organizer, I will model how to fill it out in a way that helps me stay engaged with the text. 
  • Make sure you practice each strategy with several different texts. It doesn't need to be all in a row though. Once I introduce a strategy, I always review it, but may wait a few weeks before focusing on it again.
  • After a couple strategies have been introduced, I bring out the strategy bookmarks. Then, we use these every time we read. We review the strategies we've learned. Even if we are focusing on a new strategy, I always invite kids to share any strategy they may have used. 
  • Keep your strategy graphic organizer in page protectors so you have easy access and can use them again.
  • I usually focus on comprehension skills after reading as a post activity. Those graphic organizers are usually put in the skill notebooks or just printed on paper
  • I use the mini-poster display to show students what skill and strategy we are using for a particular text. Before reading, I'll put up the strategy card using velcro. As we read or after (depending on the text) I will add on the skill. This helps me to be explicit with my teaching.  
I am a HUGE fan of Honestly if there is ONE thing you should spend your money on, it's that subscription. Endless books at ALL levels and they keep adding MORE! They have close reading packs as well! And I just discovered their shared reading books. I'm telling you, it's the best thing I ever did. I first subscribed in 2003 when I started out and didn't have any books and I haven't looked back. I don't blink an eye when renewal time comes up.

If you are interested in any of these resources, you can find them all HERE:

And since you've made it ALL the way to the bottom (cheers to that,) I am sharing a little freebie with you. This is what I use to plan my guided reading instruction. It reminds me to find a focus for strategies and skills. 

The one on the left if for first grade and early second. The one on the right is for later second and third grade. You can get this HERE.