Email Me:

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Good Readers Pay Attention to Patterns of Behavior

As the year winds down I am reflecting on the teaching I've done this year. There are many parts that I am proud of, however, sometimes I tend to dwell on the things that I could have done better.  I am writing this post to lay my thoughts to rest once and for all about this particular comprehension piece of instruction.

We were teaching our kids that good readers pay attention to patterns of behavior in stories.  I was reading Cynthia Rylant's book Pinky and Rex and the Bully.  With the help of my fabulous literacy facilitator, I created this anchor chart.  I had never taught student to look for the pattern in a character's actions so deeply and I was very excited to see how far I could go with the students in such close reading.

It wasn't just noticing the pattern of the actions.  The students had to evaluate the main character's response to the bully and then look for a pattern in his response-something first graders would probably not do on their own.  We noticed that Pinky was always insecure about himself and that he always was allowing someone else to solve his problems. After realizing this, we had rich discussions about why Pinky does what he does throughout the story: He wants to stop being called Pinky (his favorite color) and decides to give his beloved stuffed animals away to his sister.  Instead of being confident and standing up to the bully who is teasing him, he decides to change who he is. 

So far so good, right?  Kind of.  We had an awesome discussion, and many students fell in love with this book.  I could tell, because they constantly wanted to write about it in their Reader's Workshop Notebook. 

But then reading assessments came at the end of the year. It really didn't effect the kids who were at grade level, but it mattered to a student who was above grade level.  You know the student who will learn and remember everything?  All you have to do is teach it right the first time and he/she will remember and apply everything.  The sponge.  During a reading assessment, she noticed the pattern of the main character's actions.  I was so proud.

And that is when I realized I had failed to emphasize one important detail.  As I looked at the assessment rubric, I realized her answer was not sufficient.  What she was not able to do was to explain how the character's action at the end (when the pattern changed) effected the story.

So I added the green words on the bottom of the anchor chart. We revisited Pinky and Rex and I asked her the questions.  We had a wonderful conversation and I think she would have been able to do it had I just taken it one step further. What a wonderful growing experience.  For me.

17 more days until summer.  I hope you all had a wonderful year.


Saturday, March 22, 2014

Free Rhyming Cut and Paste

It has been a while since I created something new, but I felt like I needed a resource that only involved listening.  Rhyming is such an important skill.  When I was a literacy facilitator, an enormous amount of students who had difficulty reading, also had difficulty rhyming.  This experience really drove home the value of phonological and phonemic awareness.  So here is my latest creation, a book dedicated solely to rhyming. 

Click here for the Free Rhyming Cut and Paste Worksheet

If you are interested in the whole book, you can find it here:   

Happy Spring!  


Freebie Fridays

Friday, February 28, 2014

Free Listen and Write Long Vowel Patterns Worksheet

I have been an awful blogger as of late, not attending to my blog, but this year has been a year of change.  I wonder how many of you out there feel the same way.  There have not been enough hours in the day to keep up with it all.  However, necessity is the mother of invention, and I have some kiddos who needed some extra beginning long vowel practice, so something had to be invented.

These students have completed the Cut, Paste, and Spell picture sorts, and while that has helped them a lot, they need a little more help practicing noticing the difference between long and short vowels.  Here is a chart that I am using to help them take charge of their learning by encouraging them to "discover" long vowel pattern rules like, if you hear the long o sound at the end of a word, use the ow pattern.  There are lots of discoveries kids can make.  I spent the first few years teaching word study and pointing things out, thinking that kids would remember.  I said things like, "look!  If you hear a long vowel use ch (like in peach) and if you hear a short vowel use tch (like in catch).  I would hear "ooohhhh" like everything was clear as a bell but many still would forget the rule.  Now I do everything I can to have students discover their own rules.  I won't give it to them ever.  It doesn't help.  If they discover it, they own it.  You will sometimes see me pulling my hair asking kids what they hear and what they know about sounds and how are the sounds the same and how are they different and any question I can think of without telling them a rule.

I also created some worksheets that are not cut and paste, but I still wanted the students to look at the pictures and practice listening to themselves say the words and write the words looking for patterns.  In addition, other students are finishing their morning work more quickly these days and I needed something that provided some more practice but was quicker than the cutting and pasting.  I created phonics worksheets that was similar to sorting, but also made them choose whether they heard a short or long sound first, so that I could train them to ask themselves that question first.  Until it is automatic, it will delay them noticing patterns related to sound.

Here is how it turned out:
You can grab this freebie here: Free Listen and Write Long O Worksheet

If you are interested in the full books, I have created 4 of them to correspond to the pictures in the 4 Cut, Paste and Spell books.  They are available as individuals or as a set.  Each book has at least 30 pages.

Listen and Write Books, Set of 4

Listen and Write Word Families
Listen and Write CVC Words
Listen and Write Blends and Digraphs
Listen and Write Long Vowel Patterns

Thanks for stopping by!  If any of these are useful, please let me know in the comments section.  I have had almost 30,000 visitors, and I would love to hear from some of you!

Happy Teaching!


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Blind Sort Mini-Lesson

Welcome! I know it has been a little while since my last blog post, but I am sure everyone can relate to the amount of work we all have in the beginning of the school year. I am especially busy this year because our school is in transition from Imagine IT to a balanced literacy model.  

Lucy Caulkin's Reading and Writing Workshop
Our school has been following Lucy Caulkin's Reading and Writing Workshop, as we move toward balanced literacy. In this format, word study does not look the same as I have taught it in the past. I used to meet with each group during literacy centers and have students sort words at a small table while we discussed the features of that group's words. It was taught in a more isolated fashion, with students of different levels having different mini-lessons. Although I still meet with students and target their developmental levels, there is a big push in this new design for a common word study mini-lesson each day. Instead of pulling groups during a designated word study time, I pull students during different times of the day based on their needs. For example, the other day I pulled 3 kids for a quick picture sort comparing short i and short e.  Although I have 5 kids in my Letter-Name group, only 3 were struggling with this skill. In addition, I created a short vowel anchor chart with all of the short vowel patterns and make the kids refer to it during writing and morning work (individualized Cut, Paste & Spell). So even though I am not rotating through word study groups, I am still using targeted word study, it just looks a little different and is more integrated.  I like that.  I can already see how this will be a more efficient model because I am able to have a larger writing block. 

Whole Group Mini-Lesson
In order to move toward this model, I have returned to introducing the words from all of the groups as a whole group lesson on day 1. This is especially important for the students in the lower levels to be exposed to words in the higher levels. However, I wanted a routine for the whole group lesson, so I am working on what that looks like. I needed a way to work in the blind sort, so I began to do it whole group and I love it! I led the class in a blind sort with short o, long o spelled o_e, oa, and ow. I wanted to make sure all the kids were on task, so I gave them all an index card and had them write the categories and columns. This could also be done by folding it into 4 sections and having students write a pattern in each of the four squares, which I have done before (it all depends on how small a child can write). Next, I had the patterns printed on chart paper and as I called out the words, students pointed at the category on their index card where they thought I should write it. After their prediction, I wrote it on the chart and told them to think about whether they got it correct. I then modeled blending the word by underlining the pattern as we repeated the word as a class and continued to the next word. I hope someone can use this. I am known for talking too much, so if this blog post is too long, here is a graphic that may help you put it all into perspective. I am definitely a big picture person and need something like this!

You can download a copy of these directions here: Blind Sort Mini-Lesson Directions

Have a great Thanksgiving!


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

How Many Am I Hiding Practice Recording Sheet

For a change of pace, I thought I would share my "How Many Am I Hiding?" recording sheet.  Although this blog is not math focused, I have always loved math.  

If you are not familiar with "How Many Am I Hiding," one child is working on memorizing all the combinations of a certain number by using cubes, and another child hides some of the cubes.  The first student must say how many are being hidden.  If they have to "count up" to figure it out, they need to stay on that number until they "just know."  Kids in my class know the number for which they are working on remembering all of the combinations.  We practice the game about 3 times a week, and they can practice the number they are working on and one number above (just to vary it a little).  I like how they are in charge of keeping track of their practice, and thus more active in their learning. 

This sheet is simply to record their attempts at practicing.  I like to have them practice just saying how many are missing instead of writing the combinations down.  They do record them occasionally, but I wanted a way to have a quick, 5 minute practice, and more often than writing the numbers down would allow.  This way, they just record the date in the box above the number they practiced that day.  If they practiced two different numbers, then they write the date twice (once above each number).

So here is the sheet:

You can download it here:  How Many Am I Hiding? Practice Recording Sheet

Happy Hump Day!


Monday, September 16, 2013

Word Study Routines

I was sharing my word study routines with my colleagues today, so I thought I would share them here.  Part of my problem as a teacher, is that while it is easy for me to teach first graders and understand their background knowledge, it is very difficult to know how much my fellow teachers know.  I have difficulty knowing where to start explaining things about word study because I think some things are already known.  I was so excited to share my routines when someone asked today.  I get very excited when discussing word study and have to hold back my enthusiasm because not everyone wants to stay after school and talk about it like I do!  So here goes.  Here are the in-class routines each week:

Day 1: Cut words, Teacher Sort (I tell them how to sort it using the pre-printed guide words at the top of each list), Speed Sort.

Day 2: Student Sort.  "How else can you sort it?"  Students usually sort by first letter or last letter until they know the terms "L-blends", "R-Blends", digraphs, etc.

Day 3: Blind Sort (also called "no-peeking sort").  Students work with a partner in the same spelling group.  One student has all of the spelling words and lays down the "rules" or "guide words".  I call them rules but others call them guide words.  Anyway, the guide words are at the top, and the student with the words reads one while the other student listens and says which column the word should go in.  This helps the student that is not looking to picture the word/pattern in his/her mind and receive immediate feedback.  If student is correct the word is placed down under the rule.  If not, the caller shows the student the word and then places it on the bottom of the pile so that the student can have another chance to get it correct.

Day 4: Word Hunt:  Students find words that fit the rules they are working on in books.  This helps kids make the spelling-reading connection.  Many kids do not understand that something they learn in spelling will help them in their reading.  You want them to make this connection so that they will use the skills they learn in spelling during their reading. 

Another way to sort:

Concept Sort.  This is tricky.  It takes a lot of modeling.    I can't say that I have taught it it all year because it takes a lot of work to get kids to think of things.  It was easy with pictures, but with words you have to go through a routine to get them to come up with similarities between words.  Using the words in their lists, students sort their words into concepts like kitchen items, or things to do with water, things that remind me of my grandma, etc.  The key to getting kids to be successful is to hold up a word and ask them to tell you everything they know about the word.  Then repeat it with the other words until the students hear anything that can be seen as a similarity.  It takes practice, but I think it really helps practice abstract thinking and generalizing.  

If I can help anyone in any way, please email me or leave a comment below with any questions.  I have had 15,000 visitors to this site, but not a lot of people leave comments.  So I know you are out there!  

Happy Monday!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Vocabulary Posters for Common Class Times

Word Consciousness, an awareness of words and how they work, seems to be the gateway into developing a students' vocabularies.  Michael F. Graves, Susan Watts-Taffe in "For the Love of Words: Fostering Word Consciousness in Young Readers" (2008) promote a six part framework for Fostering Word Consciousness:

1. Create a word-rich environment
2. Recognize and promote adept diction
3. Promote wordplay
4. Foster word consciousness through writing
5. Involve students in original investigations
6. Teach students about words

In the beginning of the year, my focus is on #1, creating a word-rich environment.  To begin addressing vocabulary acquisition in my classroom, I try to use posters like the one below (there are five) during my daily routines in order to remind me to use "spicy" words during common class times or transitions.  I hang them up in non-prime location spots because they are just there for me to use orally so that students are exposed to rich vocabulary at all times of the day. 

You can download this file here:  Vocabulary for Common Class Times

I don't recall where I got this list, but a while ago, I typed it up and hung it in my classroom.  Please let me know if you have any other words to suggest and I will revise the file and repost.

I hope everyone has gotten off to a good start this year!

Happy Teaching!