January 18, 2018

The CENTER of the Literacy Block

The CENTER of the literacy block should be Centers! The key is consistency, routine, and respect!

Part of the Kindergarten Team

I love being part of the kindergarten team at my school.  Having been in kindergarten the majority of my 25 years in teaching, deciding it was time to move into a Reading Specialist position was hard.  Thankfully, the kindergarten teachers at my school have allowed me to be a part of their team.  Each week we plan lessons to be taught, reviewed, assessed and remediated.  We also plan an hour for Guided Reading and Literacy Centers.  Students are expected to complete 10 Literacy Centers a week...with 5 additional centers being open ended.  Some centers might be ABC, 123, Science/Social Studies, Listening, Art, Writing, Sorting, Word Wall Words, 4 Square, Rhyming, Poetry, Pocket Chart, Squiggles, Fab 5, First-Then-Last, and many more.  The key is maintaining your sanity, while building their independence.  It can be done!

The CENTER of the literacy block should be Centers! The key is consistency, routine, and respect!

WHOLE-crazy with HALF-day Kindergarten

My school system has half-day kindergarten for non-Title 1 schools.  We have 3 hours to provide instruction each day.  3 days a week there is a 30 minute resource during that time AND we have snack and recess for 20 minutes each day.  All skills are integrated; therefore, math, science, and social studies skills are woven into our centers.  A shared reading poem each week is introduced, recited, read, and reviewed.  (I think that’s another whole post.)  The shared reading is sent home the following week for homework AND it is in the Art Center and the Poetry Center the following week, as well.  Regardless, the literacy block, guided reading and literacy centers, is 1 hour every day.  NO EXCEPTIONS!  It’s non-negotiable.

The CENTER of the literacy block should be Centers! The key is consistency, routine, and respect!

Take a Peek

Here is a picture of centers plans from 2 of our teachers.  Students move independently through 3 centers a day.  During this time, they are also called for guided reading with the teacher and intervention/enrichment from the teacher assistant.  I am a huge proponent of TEACH THE PROCESS…CHANGE THE PRODUCT!  The process for Listening Center, Poetry Center, Squiggle Center (which doesn’t start until Week 10) and Sort Center, never changes.  The writing requirement might be increased each nine weeks, but the process is the same.  Some centers may repeat the process for several weeks, before the center is changed.  At the beginning of the year, when trying to establish routines, the Math Center is the same for 3 weeks.  The first week, students sort a mixed bag of shapes by shape.  The next week, students sort the same bag by color.  Finally, the students sort the same bag by size.  This establishes independence and encourages success.

The CENTER of the literacy block should be Centers! The key is consistency, routine, and respect!
Believe it or not, it only takes about 20 minutes to plan for centers each week.  When centers are consistent, strategic and meaningful, planning isn't hard.  The ABC Center will house Read It, Write It for a few weeks...then it will become it's own center and replace the rhyming center.  Read it, Write it is custom-made each week to include the word wall word introduced the previous week.  The math, science, and social studies centers are the only centers that might change each week...because it is based on the math lesson from the week before.  I have detailed directions for the listening center in an earlier post.  Squiggles is added the 2nd 9 weeks and continues throughout the year.
The CENTER of the literacy block should be Centers! The key is consistency, routine, and respect!

If you would like the a sample of the centers, CLICK HERE.

The key to centers is consistency, routine, and respect (what your student needs and what they can do.).

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The CENTER of the literacy block should be Centers! The key is consistency, routine, and respect!

January 15, 2018

Easy Biographies: Special People in Black History

"Give them tools, not excuses." 4 Square Writing for Special People in Black History. These mats can help students write early biographies with independence.
If you know me, you know my mantra: "Give them tools, not excuses!" We can't give them excuses, they have enough of those. We need to give them tools. One of my favorite tools for writing is 4 square. Kindergarten students can easily write 4 sentences on a topic with the use of 4 square. The basic 4 square contains a topic sentence in the middle, surrounded by 4 supporting details. When we pair 4 square with biographies, we can teach students to write about a person in history. I used this idea to make a 4 square set about "Special People in Black History."

Writing Essays

"Give them tools, not excuses." 4 Square Writing for Special People in Black History. These mats can help students write early biographies with independence.This set includes a 4 square and writing paper for 22 special people in history. Students can a write quick biography by completing a predictable sentence:
Barack Obama
He was born in Hawaii.
He was a senator form Illinois.
He was a president.
He won a Nobel Peace Prize.
Students can elaborate by adding a topic sentence, adding details they know, and/or having a closing sentence.

Making Books

"Give them tools, not excuses." 4 Square Writing for Special People in Black History. These mats can help students write early biographies with independence.You can also use the writing papers as a book cover. On the sample in the picture above, I cut the picture and a few lines of the writing paper to make the cover. Each page can be about one square on the 4 square mat. Likewise, students can write essays about several special people and make a book.
"Give them tools, not excuses." 4 Square Writing for Special People in Black History. These mats can help students write early biographies with independence.

Special People in Black History

I tried to highlight some historical and contemporary special people in this set. The set also comes with an explanation of each 4 square, so the intent is clear. 4 Square mats include: Barack Obama, Benjamin Banneker, Bessie Coleman, Booker T Washington, Charles Drew, Daniel Hale Williams, Frederick Douglass, Garrett Morgan, George Washington Carver, Harriet Tubman (2 versions), Henry “Box” Brown, Jackie Robinson, Jesse Owens, Lyda Newman, Madame CJ Walker, Martin Luther King, Jr, Mary McCleod Bethune, Rosa Parks, Ruby Bridges, Sojourner Truth, Thurgood Marshall, and Tuskegee Airmen.
"Give them tools, not excuses." 4 Square Writing for Special People in Black History. These mats can help students write early biographies with independence.

If you would like to get a 4 Square Special People in Black History sample of the set, click the link or the picture below.
"Give them tools, not excuses." 4 Square Writing for Special People in Black History. These mats can help students write early biographies with independence.
If you would like the 4 Square Special People in Black History full set, it is available in my TPT store. I'd love to see copies of your student's writing, if you'd be willing to share.

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January 11, 2018

3 Steps for helping Struggling Readers

3 Steps for helping Struggling Readers - Using notes from a workshop with Jan Richardson and my experiences, this is a plan for helping students.
A little while ago I was fortunate enough to hear Jan Richardson speak about helping readers...AGAIN. It is such a pleasure to listen to someone so passionate and knowledgable about reading. I find myself scribbling notes as quickly as I can. This particular day she laid out a plan for helping struggling readers and who doesn't want ideas for that? Here is her outline with ideas from both of us.

Analyze the Student

3 Steps for helping Struggling Readers - Using notes from a workshop with Jan Richardson and my experiences, this is a plan for helping students.
Sounds easy, but it's complex. We know reading is problem, but what is the problem with reading? What are their particular errors? What is specifically holding them back? We have to use our assessments to pinpoint the area of concern. If we don't know EXACTLY what the problem is, we can't fix it. If you take your car in for repairs, you don't just say, "Something's wrong. Please fix it." You need to tell the mechanic what's going on. Is it the tires? Is it making noises? Is a light on? We have to be the mechanic. We have to look for the specifics. If the problem is accuracy, what types of errors are they making? We have to analyze the running records for meaning, structure or visual (M, S, V). If the problem is comprehension, can we determine what type of questions are causing difficulties? If the problem is fluency, we need to determine what aspect of fluency? We also need to look at all aspects of reading: reading, writing, and word study. What are common threads?

Analyze YOUR Teaching

3 Steps for helping Struggling Readers - Using notes from a workshop with Jan Richardson and my experiences, this is a plan for helping students.
Yep, what are you doing? What are you not doing? We have to provide the students with reliable assessments. If you are using running records, you need to make sure you are doing them correctly. Many teachers have created a routine for running records that decreases the validity of the assessment. I have had more than one discussion with teachers who use running records on a multiple read text, don't analyze the errors, or only use cold reads for running records. All of these examples create results that are, honestly, useless. We need to make sure we are using appropriate texts. Just because we've used this specific book for the last 10 years, is there a better book to represent that level? Is there a book we can use to help with specific problems? Is there a book we can use that is high interest for the learners? Are we planning lessons to help with their errors? Although we can plan lessons a week ahead of time, we need to ready to make necessary adjustments to the lessons as the problems reveal themselves. Too many times I have had teachers tell me their students can't move on to a level because comprehension isn't successful at a higher level, but lessons for the student contains practice with accuracy or within the text comprehension. We must address what the student needs in our lessons.

Develop a Plan

3 Steps for helping Struggling Readers - Using notes from a workshop with Jan Richardson and my experiences, this is a plan for helping students.
Once we have looked at the student and at ourselves, we need to make a plan. The plan needs to be crafted for that student. Consulting with colleagues can provide new opportunities or ideas for lessons. We should make a goal for the student and monitor that goal. Finally, we need to make sure what we are missing from the student is provided in lessons and practice.

Jan's new book, The Next Step Forward in Guided Reading is amazing. She provides details for levels, student lessons, and plans. She also has videos available with the purchase. I love videos, because I think we learn so much was watching instead of just talking. I highly recommend this book (and I'm not getting an affiliate fee for saying it). I hope this post gives you a plan for developing lessons that are targeted and in the best interest for the student.


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3 Steps for helping Struggling Readers - Using notes from a workshop with Jan Richardson and my experiences, this is a plan for helping students.

January 7, 2018

Let's Summarize with Polar Bears Past Bedtime

I am in coastal Virginia and we don't do snow often, but as the weather gods would have it we got 9 inches of snow dumped on us Wednesday night. Needless to say, we've been out of school since then. Even though today is Saturday, I don't have much hope for going to school Monday. The weather should be freezing until Monday afternoon and we don't have access to the proper equipment to plow secondary or neighborhood roads. Ironically, it should be in the fifties from Tuesday on. We often try and tell students what snow is all about, but this year they'll get to experience it.

One of my favorite books for the winter is Polar Bear Past Bedtime, #12 in the Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne. As a matter of fact, we always read Magic Tree House books, but there are rules.

Rules

In my opinion, Magic Tree House books are the best series to read to students. Students get to travel the world, learn about cultures old and new, and dig deep into the Jack and Annie characters. All in the last 10 minutes of the school day. As a matter of fact, they have to be packed up and ready to go before I can start reading. (This tends to get them to pack up quickly.)

  1. Each book takes 12 days. One day at the beginning for introduction and vocabulary, one day per chapter, then one day for a book wrap-up and extension activity.
  2. Read the first four Magic Tree House books IN ORDER. This sets up the characters and the series.
  3. By then, it's November. Read #27 Thanksgiving on Thursday. It's perfect for the season and get ready for squeals when Jack and Annie have to use their toes digging for clams and find eels.
  4. Then go back to the correct sequence. Until we hit the middle of winter. Make sure Polar Bears Past Bedtime in the winter. 

Procedure

Of course, I have a procedure for reading these chapter books.
  1. Before you start reading each day, review the day before quickly and review the predictions for the chapter at hand.
  2. Read the chapter using interactive read aloud techniques, checking for understanding, but allowing for excitement.
  3. At the end of the chapter each day, ask for a summary. Using the SWBSA, technique we practice making summaries daily. At first, I give the key words and they fill in the summary. Eventually, they do it on their own with a SWBSA visual or bookmark. 
  4. Then, read the title fo the chapter for tomorrow. Students should give you a prediction about tomorrow's chapter using the title as a hint. They must use the phrasing, "I predict...because..."

Summarize


Summarizing can be an easy task for early learners when they use a step-by-step routine and an interesting book. SWBSA is just that routine and Polar Bears Past Bedtime is just that book.
For today's blog, let's focus on the summary comprehension strategy. My favorite was of the teaching summary to K-1 readers is SWBSA. The Somebody, Wanted, But, So, And is an easy format for making a summary. I don't have kindergartners write the summary. They can say so much more than they can write at this point. It can get exciting when students tell you two different summaries from the same chapter, depending on the "Somebody" at the beginning of the summary. Let's look at Chapter 4.  The title is "Snow House,' so students had predicted Jack and Annie would see an igloo because an igloo is a snow house. After reading the chapter a student might say: 
"Jack and Annie wanted to learn about igloos and 
polar bears but Annie had to help the seal hunter 
feed the dogs so she went outside and Jack stayed 
inside and he heard the dogs growl.

Summary Mountain

Summarizing can be an easy task for early learners when they use a step-by-step routine and an interesting book. SWBSA is just that routine and Polar Bears Past Bedtime is just that book.
Another summary technique is a summary mountain. This fun with especially with "Polar Bear Past Bedtime." This technique can discuss story elements: introduction, problem, climax, solution, and conclusion. Thankfully, this can be married with SWBSA, but the A changes to T (then). If you google summarizing techniques you'll see SWBSA, SWBST, SWBSAT and many other variations.
Look at Chapter 4 again, using the summary mountain, students might say:
Jack and Annie went into the igloo with the 
seal hunter and learned about the importance
of polar animals to the native people. Annie went
outside to help feed the dogs while Jack stayed
inside looking at the masks. All of the sudden, Jack
heard the dog's growl. He ran to the door of the
igloo with the masks still in his hand.
FREEBIE
I hope you enjoy the summary ideas, but I especially hope you enjoy sharing Magic Tree House books with your students. If you would like a FREEBIE for Polar Bears Past Bedtime, click the picture below or the link.
I also have a Polar Bear Past Bedtime full-set on TPT. It contains vocabulary words, 
Predict-o-Gram Polar Bears Before Bedtime, ABCs of Polar Bears Before Bedtime, ABC Order using Vocabulary Cards, Syllables using Vocabulary Cards, 3 Writing Papers, 1 Vocabulary Gradient Poster, 1 card, Compound Word Puzzles, -ub Word Family Cards (2 different formats), 
Master Librarian Collection Book, and a Master Librarian Card. The 31 page set is $3.00.


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Summarizing can be an easy task for early learners when they use a step-by-step routine and an interesting book. SWBSA is just that routine and Polar Bears Past Bedtime is just that book.

January 5, 2018

#oneword2018 - What is your One Word?

#oneword2018 What will your word be for 2018? My word will help me keep my focus and HONOR my life. What about you?
So, I am such a twitter novice. Want proof? I use twitter for 3 things: tweeting at conferences to share information, tweeting my blog posts, and following a few celebrities and friends. It's not my wheelhouse. I have had a friend say, choose one social media platform and be really good at it...that's not twitter for me. That being said, I found something on twitter this week that grabbed my attention.

#oneword2018

It is described as the "anti-new year's resolution." It peaked my interest. I have heard of it before and I'm not sure why it peaked my interest like it did, but it did. So I think it was time for me to hear it. Some of you may know about this...it goes along the lines of vision boards and intentional thoughts. I turned to the ever trusty YouTube to check out what I could find.  The first video was a TEDx Talks by Dr. Kevin Corcoran , Jr. It's a 14 minute video and I took notes in my journal. It was a great video with lots to think about, but it wasn't about "choosing" one word, it was about the one word that changed his life and the life of others: YES. Next I found the video I wanted. It's a 4 minute video by Jon Gordon, the author of One Word that will Change your Life
I took notes on this video, too.  Certain things spoke to me about both of these videos: "1 word, 1 behavior, 1 small action = infinite, unexpected, unimaginable opportunity" and If you can SEE it, you can create it."
#oneword2018 What will your word be for 2018? My word will help me keep my focus and HONOR my life. What about you?
I was also taken by the phrase in the yellow box: Distractions are the ENEMY of greatness. Wow, that wasn't just speaking to me...it was screaming at me. I allow myself to be too distracted sometimes by things that are time-wasters and time-fillers. So it made me really think about what would my ONE WORD be. I'm not going to lie, I did a twitter search on #oneword2018 to see what words other people chose. They made me think: purpose, consistency, respect, believe, and focus to name a few, but none of these words spoke to me. I listened to a third VLOG on YouTube and listened to Amy Schmittauer decide how she came up with her word. In her story, I found my word. Now, don't get worried, I didn't steal her word. I'm not sure where it came from, but it did.

HONOR

#oneword2018 What will your word be for 2018? My word will help me keep my focus and HONOR my life. What about you?
That's my word. Honor. Honor the things in my life I cherish and the things that define me. Honor my legacy, my passion, my opportunities, my abilities, my relationships, my job and my gifts. There is not an order to those...just a list. To truly honor those things I need to honor who I am. Take pride in who I am and what I can do. It also makes me think about those distractions and how they take me away from my word. I made the poster above to put on my bulletin board in my office.

My Home Workspace

Over the last few weeks, I've also been working on my home workspace. Yes, that's a big monitor for my office because my eyes are old. I want a place that is inviting and organized. I enjoy working at home on my passion projects: my blog, my TPT store, products for my teachers at school and more. I added my scrabble tiles to my table tonight. I want it front and center.  I am using Jon Gordon's philosophy: "If you SEE it, you can create it." I want to see my word each time I sit down to work.

So, I challenge you to spend a moment or two and think about your word. What will it be? Let's make our word our intention for 2018. Make a poster! It'll be your reminder.

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#oneword2018 What will your word be for 2018? My word will help me keep my focus and HONOR my life. What about you?