Feb 26, 2017

The Power of One Word

 Thank you to Tammy from Forever in First for introducing me to the book Moo!  It led to a lot of learning, excitement, and a search for similar books.  You can head over to Adventures in Lit Land to read all about it!


Feb 16, 2017

A Win

 Today we headed to the Taft Theater for a play.  Not just any play, The Wizard of Oz!!!!  There were a few stars in my eyes this morning.  I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this musical, probably not as much as our teaching partner, but it is one of my favs. Anyhoo.... we were on our way to the play when we were stopped at a traffic light.  One little firstie who I was sharing a seat with, looked to the right and said, "Hey, that has an i consonant e like our words." I said, "Yes, yes it does." She didn't read the word out loud and I was a little thankful because that word was "Wine" from the Wine and Spirits shop we stopped in front of. :) I'll take that as a win any day! :)

Here's to reading wherever we are! :)

Feb 12, 2017

What Students Need

What do students really need from me? 

This is not a new question.  We ask it every.single.day.  We ask this as we listen to them read.  We ask this as we conference with them about their writing.  We ask this as we look over a math assessment.  What does this student need from me?  How can I help them grow?

This weekend I read a post from Ruth Ayres Writes titled "Kids Don't Need Teachers for Learning Information." (Please check out the post!) It stuck with me and I kept thinking about it, going back to it, and rereading it.  I love posts like that because they challenge me, change me, and help me to grow.  In her post, Ruth Ayres points out the amount of information that is at the fingertips of our students but that we need to work to cultivate their curiosity and critical thinking.

And she is so right...my students come to me with needs. They need me to give them love.  Everyday.  They need a safe environment to make mistakes, take challenges, and be themselves.  They need to be challenged.  And they need to learn to read.

As a K-2 teacher of intervention, my job is to help my students become independent readers so that they can access all that information.  So that they can use that information to make judgements, think critically, form opinions.  And become leaders.

And so I will continue to ask this question with every lesson that I teach:
 what do my students really need from me?

Because it is my job to fight for them...
 push them...
 and support their reading so that they can become critical consumers of information.


Feb 1, 2017

Handwriting Intervention and Tools

This has proven to be a rather productive year when it comes to intervention.  We saw gaps in our RtI process and we worked hard to fill them.  Is it a perfect system?  No.  It never will be because we are working with changing, growing little humans.  But we are meeting their needs on a more individual basis better than any other year I can remember.  And that is progress, for sure.

Earlier this school year, I shared what we did to change our RtI process.  One important change that we made has to do more with our philosophy that resulted in action.  We really believe that one blanket intervention is not the answer.  And I will admit that before I knew better, this is exactly what I did.

"Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better." -Maya Angelou


I had access to one program and that is what I used to intervene with all my Tier 2 students.  I truly believe that we need to analyze and determine what each student really NEEDS to move them forward.

So this is exactly what we did this year.  We assessed, analyzed, and determined what intervention would best meet the needs of each and every student in our K-2 building.  Some of them needed a handwriting intervention.

I have never provided handwriting interventions before.  Over and over again it has been mentioned that students are moving grade to grade and their writing is not legible.  So we decided to do something about it.  And what we found is that it was a very quick intervention.  For most students it took less than 5 minutes a day and lasted only a couple of weeks.

Once I analyzed some baseline data, I was able to determine the students that needed additional assistance on letter or number formation.  Then I made a list of the exact letters or numbers that were in need.

Handwriting Without Tears has a sequence that they feel is best when teaching upper case and lower case letters. By using this sequence, I was able to make connections between letters that are formed in a similar way. I used their sequence, plus the assessment data to determine the letters that I would focus on each day.  Here is an example:

Then I began working with each student. We would review previous letters learned.  Then I would show them how to form two new letters.  First they would trace the letter with sandpaper.  Then we would draw the letter in the air with our arm and on the table with our index finger.  These movements would transfer onto paper.  I would model the letter formation with a highlighter on lined paper.  The student would trace my letter and form their own letter next to mine.

The multi-sensory materials used were key.  Here are some other options to provide a multi-sensory experience. 

This is just salt in a small tin that I bought at Dollar General for 25 cents.  Students use the eraser end of a pencil to form the letter.

This is an old place mat that I cut up.  I drew lines on it so that we could use our finger to write the letters.  I have also placed paper on top to provide a bumpy surface when they write.

I like to use a variety of writing tools for motivation, engagement, and to provide different sensory experiences.  Kwik Stix just came out with these Thin Stix.  It feels very smooth when you write with them.  For my students, these really "force" them to write with continuous motion.  If you do not, a gap will form in the letters (see image below).  For this reason, I have found these to be really helpful when I work on handwriting.

I found great success with the intervention because it was multi-sensory, one on one, explicit, and direct.  I was worried that the new learning would not transfer over into class work and writer's workshop.  For the students that I worked with, I did analyze their writing pieces with them.  We looked over their letter formation together.  Then practiced any letters that they still were not comfortable writing.  This little added analysis really made a difference with the transfer of knowledge.

Any handwriting tips?  I'll take them!

Jan 12, 2017

What Does Growth Really Mean?

This week has been all about benchmark testing.  For my district that means Aimsweb assessments in the K-2 grades.  We also use the DRA to determine their reading level and analyze reading behaviors.  It can be a daunting task to see all the names to be assessed and the stacks upon stacks of DRA folders.  But...oh...it feels so good to see it slowly decrease in size and you begin to have a clearer vision of where you are headed in the upcoming weeks.

It is a reflection time for me.  Using LLI this year, I really know my students as readers.  The reading records that are used every other day give me a lot of insight into my teaching points.  The DRA helps me to see how it is all coming together through a "cold" read.  I am able to really look at what reading behaviors I need to focus on more, or phonics skills, or comprehension strategies.  I can also discover what strategies students have become very successful at using.  This reflection allows me to try to fill some gaps and realize some of the good work that has been done so far.

This is the positive side of my brain.

Then there is the other side.  The side that is telling me that I have not done enough to help them grow as readers.  The side that analyzes each student and realizes that they just did not quite grow enough.  They just fell short of that benchmark or they are making gains that are just so small.  Should I be doing this job?  Am I qualified?  Why aren't they growing more!?!

But then I have to step away from that side of my brain (or I have to be nicely encouraged to step away by my teammates).  And I have to remember that growth has a different meaning for each child.  Yes, DRA states they should be reading at a level XYZ and Aimsweb says that the norm is for a student to be reading Xwords per minute.  But if they don't hit that prescribed benchmark, it doesn't mean they have not worked their tails off to get where they are at, or that I have not come in each day and tried to instill a love for books while embedding the teaching of reading behaviors, phonics patterns, sight words, and comprehension strategies.

I have.  And they have.

Growth is going to look different for each student and they have to move at a pace that is going to work for them and their needs. If I stunt that love for the learning and reading, then that growth is going to come to a staggering halt.  I just want to give my all.  And I want to inspire, engage, and encourage my students to do the same.  Through this effort...they will grow.

And I will grow.


Jan 5, 2017

OLW 2017

I get excited to think about my "one little word" for the year because it helps me to strive and improve; yet, not be too overwhelmed.  When I would make resolutions in the past, many times I would feel let down or confined to my choice.  The last two years I have focused on the word time. There were a few different reasons for this.
1. My girls are getting older.  This means no more nap time (which was my blogging/creating time).  So I had to really examine my time and how I wanted to spend it.  I didn't want them to remember me behind a computer screen.
2. Me.  I was leaving no time for me.  My laptop was open late into the night, I was pushing myself harder, and harder at work.  I needed to step back and look at what I really wanted to be doing with my time.  This reflection has left me with more time for puzzles, books, and conferences/PD to push me in the direction that I want to go professionally.
3. And then there is death.  I know...morbid, right.  But it happens and all I can do about it is make the most of the time that I have and with the people that matter to me.  So I focused my time on forming memories with the people around me.  This meant that I have spent more time roller skating, hiking, swimming, and cuddled on the couch watching the British Baking Show.

And after two years of working on this word, I feel better.  There is plenty of room to grow but I feel better about the priorities I have established in my life.

This year I have chosen the word kind.  It is certainly a word that we have all seen floating around social media these past few months.  It is no secret that we need more of it in the world.  But I need to put more of it in my life too. I ask my girls each day before I leave for work to please be kind at school.  What am I doing to model this?  So what does this word mean to me this year?

And so that is exactly what I am going to find out in 2017.


Jan 1, 2017

A Mentor Text to Warm Up Your Winter

Happy New Year!  2017 is here and what better way to kick it off then to try out some new mentor texts in your classroom!  Today you can click through and find some lessons to help you "warm up" those long winter days.  I am excited to share a new favorite book, Bunny Slopes, by Claudia Rudea.

 This text is perfect for the PreK-1st grade age range (although, my second grade daughter really enjoyed reading it, as well).  The main character is a bunny and he is eager to go skiing; however, in order to do so, he asks the reader for some help.  In order for the bunny to go skiing, the reader must shake, tilt, and turn the book.  In the end, the reader is going on an adventure right along with the bunny!  It is simple, sweet, and (the best part) interactive.

Students make an interactive verb book

For this text to work, students must actually interact with the book and the characters.  What better way to introduce verbs!  A verb is an action and to make this type of book work, students must preform an action.  The lesson outlined below will work for a variety of classrooms, depending on their level of need.  Some students may be ready to discuss the different shades of meaning with verbs, while other classrooms may just be learning what a verb is.

Honestly, I would jump right into this book without an introduction.  It is such a fun book and I want the students to just enjoy it the first time that it is read without looking for verbs or predicting what is going to happen.  Just let them enjoy it the first time around.  But after that initial read, then the teaching can begin with one question, "What did the bunny ask us to do?"  By asking this one question, we can begin to help the students define the what a verb is.  It may be helpful to write the definition and the words "shake, tilt, and turn" on chart paper.

Then it is time for the next read.  But this time students need to listen for verbs, or action words.  When the verbs are found during the second or third read, they can be added to the chart paper.  But the students can also continue to interact with the book.  This brings the verbs to life and helps them to understand that they are action words.

Only a few verbs are used within Bunny Slopes; however, after reading the book the students can be invited to come up with some of their own action words to add to the list.  Students can even act out these words.  I always like to provide some non-examples, as well, to help them really distinguish between what is and is not a verb.

To help students have a better understanding of how to use verbs, they can create their own book.  And the best part...the readers will interact with the book using the verbs that your students choose!  This book can be used in several different ways (depending on student need): shared writing, class book, or individual books.  Here's how it works as an individual book...
Each students receives a four page book, a title page, and a bunny.  They must complete each page by writing the word "bunny" and one verb to explain what the bunny is doing.

a mentor text lesson

Then the character must be cut out and the title page constructed.  To make the title page, students need to cut out the image, fold, and glue the sides down.  This creates a "pocket" for the bunny to fit into.

a mentor text lesson

Once the book is complete, the reader can use the bunny to "act out" the verbs in the text.  It becomes an interact book!

A mentor text lesson

When choosing the scenes for this book, I had "shades of meaning" in mind.  Students are going to come with varying vocabularies and this lends itself really well to creating lists of verbs that could be used on each page.  Take the image above.  The bunny ______ in the snow.  The student above decided on sniffed.  But there are so many verbs that would work: romped, stomped, played, hopped, hid, etc.  Each student book could turn out very different, which allows for more vocabulary development to occur, especially since the books must be "acted" out with the bunny.

If you would like to use this lesson in your classroom, please click on the image below!  Or you can pin for later!   Thanks for reading today! -Em

https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B3eyEJCd5J5kdmQzaFpRRGp0TjAInteractive verb book included

Don't forget to hop through and read about all the great mentor text lessons that can warm up your winter!  You can also enter the Rafflecopter and win ALL (yes...ALL)  of the mentor texts in this hop! My mystery word is SLOPES!

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