Jul 18, 2019

Reading Revealed...A Book Giveaway!

We hope all of you have been having a tremendous summer!  We hope you are feeling refreshed, rejuvenated, and ready to start thinking.... SCHOOL!

This summer we were given the opportunity to read Reading Revealed by Diane Stephens, Jerome C. Harste, and Jean Anne Clyde.

 If you're  a new teacher in need of ideas for reading OR if you're looking for a book to refresh your reading instruction, this the one for you.  This book is jam packed with lessons and ideas to get to know your readers intimately.

When reading this book, you will start with a refresher on knowing reading. It's important to know reading so you can know your reader. Once you know your readers, and what they are and are not paying attention to, you can customize your instruction based on student strengths and needs. Also, this book shares links and reproducibles that you can use in your classroom!  BONUS!

In Part 1, Tim O'Keefe gets into what teaching reading requires.  As a writing teacher, I'm thankful for my colleagues and what they do to teach our young firsties about how to read and reading.  As a reading teacher you have to do a lot to know your readers. O'Keefe begins by talking about Kidwatching. Noticing and recording what you see helps you to pay attention to what is important and relevant to your students.   Next, O'Keefe discusses conferences, written conversations, independent reading, reading logs, and responsive teaching. All of these sections highlighted his depth of knowledge for reading.  I was intrigued by the written conversations and wonder if this is something that could be done with first graders.  I could definitely see its use in older grades as the students are more confident as writers. He also shares his Responsive Teaching Cycle.  It's definitely something I can see myself using in my classroom.

Next, in Part 2, many authors contributed to lessons on Knowing Readers. These lessons start with an activity called Shoebox Autobiographies by Jean Anne Clyde.  This lesson helps you to really get to know your students. You can include anything in these boxes, but Jean Anne says it should contain one literacy-related item, personal artifacts, and maybe a sketch.  The sketch is so students who can't bring a picture, know they can always draw it! :)
The chapter goes on to give many other ideas for lessons, again all aimed at getting to know your readers.  There are lessons on Running Records, Formal Miscue Analysis, and a Hypothesis-Test Process.

And then there is Part 3...Engaging Readers.  As I started this section, I was reminded of a quote from Steven Layne's book, Igniting a Passion For Reading:
 I think there are different opinions on this.  What comes first, the skill of reading or the desire and will to read?  As a teacher of younger students, I am certainly working on both but my goal is always to leave my students with a desire to want more books!  My hope is that as they transition from learning to read into reading to learn...they want to utilize this skill!

25 different strategies to engage readers are described within this section.  Each author gives you potential language to use when introducing the strategy to students.  This can be particularly helpful when trying out something new, as the facilitator.  Videos of a classroom in action are even included.

So what stood out to me?  Toy Stories.  With this strategy, students use dolls or action figures to tell stories.  This supports oral language, story telling, character development, and details.  All of this can then transfer into writing.  This is a strategy we have been discussing over the past couple of years because we watched these skill develop in our own children through role playing.  Legos, mud and flowers, figures, stuffed animals...stories can be built in many ways!
The last section of Reading Revealed is about the language we use with students.  One of the most powerful things we can do with our readers (in my personal opinion) is to TALK to them!  Discussing books, being interested in their opinions about books, and respecting their book choices requires us to pay attention to the language we use as educators.  Reading mini lessons and instructional conversations are the two strategies that the author focuses on in this section.

Diane Stephens opens the introduction of this book with one powerful sentence.
This book is based on the premise that no matter how long we have been teaching, no matter how good we are as teachers, we can always do a better job tomorrow than we did today.
Out of every book we read, we can find a nugget (or many) that helps us to support our students.  If you need some new "nuggets" or you know a new teacher that could use some guidance in reading, then enter the GIVEAWAY below to win your own copy of this book.

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Jun 24, 2019

Let's Talk, Writing Talks

Now that I've taken some time "off" and by off I mean..... getting up at 620 everyday and heading to the pool, staying there for 4 hours(oldest daughter practices at 7, middle 730, youngest 845, and I coach at 10), heading to swim meets and softball games. Then YES, I've been off.  :)  It's been a beautiful, busy life and I've enjoyed every.single.minute. (minus the feet of rain we've gotten in the month of June in Cincinnati) But now I'm ready to share something that's been in the works for a few years.

A little more than 2 years ago I sat in a professional development  put on by my colleague about Number Talks.  Have you heard of this book?

While I was listening to her explain Number Talks I started to think...... how could I make this work in writing? I quickly asked Em if I could borrow her book and read it over the summer.  I didn't need to read much for all the ideas to start storming my head. Then, I got to work.  For the past two years I have been testing Writing Talks out on my firsties.  I couldn't be more pleased with the results.

You may now be wondering... what is a Writing Talk? Well friends grab something to drink, maybe a snack or two, and get comfy. f

I had always been a big believer in the "Daily Fix-It".  I mean kids need to see mistakes and be able to fix them, right? I had kids who could find those missing capital letters and punctuation, BUT what I wasn't seeing was the transfer into their everyday writing.  Then, I read this blog post from Michelle at Big Time Literacy.  It was game changing for me and my students. Now instead of my students seeing sentences written incorrectly, they see them written correctly. You may be thinking, "Really? You saw that much transfer?" The answer is, yes.  I was told by our Title 1 team that the transfer was happening in their small groups.  I was seeing the transfer happen in my own classroom.  Now, I can't tell you that every single student was making the transfer because if I'm being real about this, I teach kiddos who are 6 and 7.  Knowing this means that sometimes firsties don't remember capital letters and punctuation but sometimes, they do! :)  My job is to give them repeated practice so that in the future, this becomes like breathing. I wrote these "talks" for first graders, but you can totally use these writing talks for kindergarten, first, or second grade.

This is what it looks like. I put up a sentence on the board. At first, they are easy and mostly include short vowels. As the year progresses, we hit long vowels, vowel teams, adjectives, verbs, etc. This gives us talking points for our Writing Talk.
                                      (beginning of the year)

First I ask the students what they notice about the sentence that's on the board. I accept the answers students give that are relevant. Capital letters, meatball spaces between words, small, tall and fall letters, punctuation, sight words, short vowel words, etc. 

It may sound something like this:
T: What do you notice about this sentence?
St: I see a capital letter at the start of the sentence.
T: Yes, that's right. All sentences start with a capital letter. Mirror (or whatever you do for repeating)
Sts.: Mirror
T: All sentences start with a capital letter (I motion both my arms up).
Sts: All sentences start with a capital letter (doing the motion as well).

We do this for each thing that is noticed. Then, I have the students write the sentence correctly after I model how to write it. When I'm writing I would say, "We will start with the word "the" the 't' is a capital letter because all sentences start with a capital letter. Then I have a tall 'h' and a small 'e'.  After that we need a "meatball space". Then I write the word ball.  It's a tall, small, tall, and tall. We need a meatball space. "  
I go through this for each word in the sentence. 

When we're finished I remind the students to check each word to be sure it looks like my sentence. Then, I go around to each student once they are finished and check their work.  If a letter isn't formed correctly or something is missing, I write it in highlighter and the students have to trace over it.  Below you'll see a picture of the paper the students would get.

 If you're interested in this product, I will give it away to the first 6 friends to leave a comment.   If you'd like to take a peek at it, click the picture above!  OR right here. :) 

Feb 28, 2019

Using Dialogue to Inspire Writers

Our young readers and writers in first grade have many "tools" in their toolbox by this time of year.  It can rewarding to the student (and teacher) to see them trying out some of their new skills through writing.  Just last month, one of my striving readers started to really notice quotation marks in the books from her intervention group and tried to utilize this observation in her writing.

Now...by observing her writing, there is a lot we can work on here.  But the excitement to add this new learning into writing is there.  And we will run with that!  Let's look at where to begin.

First up...introducing dialogue with a mentor text.  The possibilities of books with dialogue are endless.  Truly.  But one that I wanted to introduce to you (or remind you of) is Iris and Walter.  If you are a fan of Henry and Mudge, Annie and Snowball, Mr. Putter, or Frog and Toad, then this is another series to add to your library.

Iris and Walter are new friends.  Each book features a moment in the life of a kid: field trips, friendship, substitute teachers, and new babies.  The dialogue between them is very true to how you would imagine two friends talking.  This is why I like to use it when taking a closer look at dialogue in writing.  Here is an example of when Iris and Walter first meet each other.

After reading the mentor text and pointing out the dialogue, it is time for students to create some dialogue of their own.   I constructed a Powerpoint that provides the opportunity for you to scaffold your instruction into an "I do, we do, you do" model.

It begins with an introduction to dialogue with a definition, why it is used, and an example of two girls speaking.

It goes on to explain the parts of dialogue.

Then the students have the opportunity to construct two examples of dialogue with you.

Finally, it is time to set them free!  Let them try it out for themselves!

 Don't let me fool you.  This lesson does not guarantee that students will be experts at using dialogue in their writing.  But they may feel a bit more comfortable to give it a try.  Or they may begin to see the value in giving their characters a voice.

If you would like to try out this Powerpoint (for free!) just click on the image below.  If you would like your copy of THREE Iris and Walter books, please enter the giveaway below.
using dialogue to inspire writers
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I would love to hear about how you teach your young writers to use dialogue!  If you try this lesson out, let me know how it goes!  And be sure to check out all the other mentor texts that can build up the writers in your classroom in the list below!

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Jan 12, 2019


 Every since I learned about "one little word," I have actually found more success with my goals for a new year.  Resolutions never stuck for me and the guilt set in that I was failing #perfectionistproblems.
Over the past few years I have chosen one word to help me shape or guide my year.  Last year, I chose create.  It ended up being a great word for me and meant more than I had even intended.  In the end, I felt like I had created more space for me enjoy hands on activities for me and my family.

This year my word is connect.

Although, my blog has not received as much love as it did a few years ago...and although, my TPT store could (for sure) be worked on more...what is actually bringing more joy to my life are the connections with people in my life.

Yes, family.  Our routines seem to keep changing as we all grow.  Connecting to these growing girls through books, playing games, or crafting is proving to be necessary and so important to our relationship.

Yes, friends.  To nourish my soul with adult conversation is just as important as time being a mom or time spent on my career.  I need to connect with people.  Talk through things, laugh, play games, hike, etc.  Allowing myself this time has brought me so much joy.

Yes, myself.  I am a master at avoiding this.  A 30 day yoga challenge has been one way that I have worked on connecting to myself.  It takes everything in me to allow myself this small amount of time to just breathe, connect, and open up to this flow.  It was something I didn't realize I needed to do more of.

So, although, I am doing some of the things listed above, I want to make it a point to continue.  I don't want the relationships that I have built with friends afar to slip.  I don't want to forget to connect with my girls in more ways than homework or chores.   Joy is what I am looking for this year and I know I can accomplish that through connections with others.

 What do you hope work towards this year?

Jan 2, 2019

Game Changer... GIVEAWAY!

 Are you ready to up your game?  Not just in your classroom, but as a school? Are you in need of a change?  Then the book, Game Changer! Book Access for ALL Kids is the book for you!

This book is jam packed with LOTS of ideas to challenge you to think outside the box in order to get books into the hands of children. There are very simple ideas for changes that can be made in the walls of your classroom. But, Donalyn Miller and Colby Sharp also include ideas that are big.  These are ideas that show you are willing to make a statement that reading is a priority in your school community.

After attending Nerd Camp in Michigan, which is hosted by Donalyn and Colby, I (Em) implemented some of these ideas into our school.  As they state in this book, "this gap in book access perpetuates inequities between low-income students and their middle-income peers."  To act on this, 15 books are given away each week, students take home about 10 books each for the summer, and have a daily opportunity to borrow books from the "readbox" each day.  But even with these things occurring, this book opened my eyes to ways that I could make these rituals even stronger.

From the beginning of this book you will be challenged to take a look at your reading.  You will be challenged to take a look at your classroom library.  You will be challenged to take a look at your school library.  You will also be challenged to put books in the hands of children. While reading, I (Maria) found myself reflecting on my classroom.  There are things I need to change. There are things I need to add.  I need to be a "Game Changer".

In this book you will also find many, many suggestions to get started, solutions to book deserts, how to build the power of ownership, increasing volume and the power of cultural representation.  There are also little snippets for "Change in Action".  These ideas come from teachers, literacy coaches, etc. My favorite, favorite suggestion in this book, comes in Chapter 8.  Kristen Ziemke shares how and why to teach sneaky reading.  I LOVE this idea!  I have a few readers in my family who were sneaky readers and in the classroom, I didn't think about ever teaching this to children.  You'll have to check out her suggestions!

We want you to ring in your New Year with some New Ideas!!  You can win a copy of this book and begin your journey to "up your game!"

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Dec 6, 2018

Putting It All Together: A Winter Giveaway

Can you believe winter is almost here and 2018 is wrapping up.  It amazes me each year how quickly it goes.  I love the end of the year because it is a time to reflect and grow. 
One reflection you may make at this time of year, is the gaps that are closing or growing between some of your students. Where do you need to push forward and where do you need to back up a bit?

Currently, I have students that are well on their way to becoming more fluent readers, while others are continuing to struggle with letters and sounds.  It is time to push forward for some and pause for more explicit teaching for others.

Some students do not quite know the difference between a letter, word, and sentence (this is true for many of our kindergartners).  This Powerpoint visually shows students a letter.  How the letters make up words and the words make up sentences.   I made is a short video to show you a small part of the powerpoint. Click on the slide image to purchase (Free on 12/8/18-12/9/18 only).

My first graders know the difference between letters, words, and sentences, but may still have trouble seeing how they are interconnected. I wanted needed my students to really SEE the connections.  Out of that need...this was created.  It helps students to "put it all together."

This particular version is a review sheet of short vowels.  Students have the opportunity to read words with short vowel sounds, while also engaging in a short winter story.

When looking at this sheet.  You can see that it begins with letter sounds.  Students read each letter sound. 

The second part illustrates that the letters from the first part make up words.  Blend the words with students.

These words can then be found in phrases.  (This is a great time to talk about why we read in phrases and how it can help us to sound like fluent readers).

Finally, these phrases (which include words,  that are made from sounds) form sentences, paragraphs, and stories.

Every letter, word, and phrase connects to the winter story.

There are many different ways to use this sheet.   One way to use this sheet may be to take one colored marker and highlight all the letters for one particular word (for example: "hats").  Then highlight the word "hats" in the second part.  Highlight the phrase that "hats" is found in.  Finally, find the sentence with the word "hats" and highlight it.  This illustrates to the students the connection of the letters all the way down to the story.

This particular student illustrates another way to "put it all together."  She was working on short vowel sounds in words.  She highlighted the short vowels and looked at how the short vowel phrases could be found in the story.

While each student has their own individual needs, this sheet may be used differently in your classroom; however, the ultimate goal is for them to see how sounds, words, phrases, and sentences all build off of each other.

I hope that you can use these with your students.  You can grab a free copy by clicking on the winter edition image below.  If you are looking for more "focused" sheets, you can click on the second image.  This pack has a different phonics skill per sheet.  It is a great way to explicitly teach specific skills.

FREEBIE Putting it Together: letters, words, and sentencesPutting it all together: letters, words, and sentences

Not ready to use this?  Just pin it for later!

 Thanks for checking out these products.  Although this is just a stepping stone, our ultimate goal is to always get books into the hands of our students.  I love to support any local bookstores that I can, whether it be in my hometown or a city I'm visiting.  Please enter the giveaway below for your chance to win $25 to Half Price Books (www.hpb.com).

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For a chance at more $25 giftcards and free resources, check out the sites below!

Nov 25, 2018

Striving to Thriving Writers... GIVEAWAY!

Do you have writers?  Do you have writers who are thriving?  Do you have writers who are striving?  Do you have writers everywhere in between?  We do.

Our writers have come to us in all different shapes, sizes, and most importantly abilities.  In a dreamy world, all our writers would come in confident and writing pages upon pages, BUT.... writing is H.A.R.D.!!!  Our firstie writers have to do a LOT of work to get their words down on the page.  We need them to become authors. We strive for them to become authors. The odds for them to become a professional author is .04%.  Not good. But we're not looking for them to do this as a profession, we're looking for them to view themselves as authors for their lives.

In our never ending crusade to get better at our craft, we were asked to read and blog about From Striving to Thriving Writers by Sara Holbrook and Michael Salinger.

We dug right in.  The authors begin with a quick introduction that dives into the importance of writing purpose, audience, and interest, which can be achieved many times through content area writing.  They go on to explain what their writing frameworks are and the process to implement them.

There are 27 different writing frameworks that are ready to be implemented. These frameworks help every writer in your classroom.  Each framework includes the time, materials (can be found online), focus skills, the grade band (this is an important feature, to us), and the lesson to be used in the classroom.  Even the mentor texts are included and ready for use.  Samples of student writing are also found throughout the frameworks, which really helped us to visualize the student expectations.

As we read through the frameworks, it became clear that we could not just write about this teaching resource, we had to put it into action.  So that is just what we did.

November means change.  Summer has turned to fall and fall is slowly (or quickly) turning into winter.  We use this time to examine the changes that have taken place between our lives now and the lives of people long ago.  Framework 12 is titled "Then and Now: Charting Change" and it seemed like a perfect fit for us.

Starting with the mentor text from Holbrook and Salinger, the students examine the back and forth nature of then and now.

Then we took a look at how people lived long ago: how they looked, what they ate, where they lived, and how they moved.

Sara Holbrook and Michael Salinger include (what they call) GO sheets to help the students organize their thinking.  Since we were marrying this framework with our current work, we added to the GO sheet.  This helped our firsties look at the specific parts of the informative piece they were writing.  We even differentiated it for some of our writers that needed to focus on fewer facts about long ago.

From Striving to Thriving Writers helped us to have some good, hard conversations about what we are currently doing, what we could be doing, and how to integrate those.  We will share with you the frameworks that we continue to try out and implement.

This book is a great resource to help you take a closer look at your writing instruction.  Grab your own FREE copy of this book by entering in the giveaway below (U.S. residents only, please).

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