Mar 28, 2017

Guided Reading Supports and Supplements

This year we made a lot of changes to our RtI process.  I shared many of them at the beginning of this school year.  And watching how they all played out has been amazing.  But that needs a whole other post.  Today, I want to focus on just one of those changes: LLI or Leveled Literacy Intervention by Fountas and Pinnell.

This has been an absolute game changer at my school, when it comes to intervening with students that are reading below grade level.  First of all, we call it "book club" in my building.  So, of course, every single student wants to be in LLI! We have been able to service many kids with the intervention this year and when a student "graduates" out, they are so sad!  Some of them have even decided to start their own book clubs at lunch.  This is a sign of a good program, to me.
Second, the power of having only three students in a reading!! I am able to evaluate, analyze, prompt, and teach much more effectively. 
And third, the books.  My students love LOVE the books from LLI.  There are characters that they literally cheer for when I pull out the book for the day.

But, like anything in education, one size will never (and should never) fit all.  I have some students that continue to struggle with knowing their letters and sounds; therefore, I have to infuse more instruction on letters/sounds into my daily lesson routine with them. And my analysis/reflection of my own teaching needed to be strengthened.

Here are some free resources to help you supplement letter/sound knowledge and guided reading notes.

(Note: this can be the case in any guided reading group, not just LLI, and that is why I titled this post "guided reading supports.")

Letter/Sound Correspondence
After introducing each letter over a period of time with multi-sensory techniques, my students just needed some repetitive practice that I could complete quickly each day.  Once we complete this quick review, we utilize the letter/sound knowledge through reading and writing everyday.

This format is something that I found on a blog years and years ago.  I have no idea from which blog though.  If you know who this came from, I would love for you to share that information!!  The format has worked well for me but I needed it to fit my LLI needs. So I changed the images to match my needs.  Here's how I use it...The students must touch the images and letters as we chorally recite the page together.  This works on one to one correspondence, directionality, and (not to mention) that they need to look at the letters in order to remember them.  For the letter b, this is what we would chorally say together, " bear, bear, /b/, /b/, b."  The last b is highlighted because we say the letter name instead of sound.

What I have found, is that the students utilize this chart information when I ask them to look for words with a certain beginning sound, when we are writing, and when they are trying to sound out a word.  Their letter/sound knowledge has also increased since I began using it each day.

 Reading Analysis/Notes

 It took me a few years (yes, I am sorry to admit it) to feel like I had running records under control in my guided reading groups.  Fitting everything in has always been a tricky thing.  LLI has the reading records embedded into your instructional time.  Whether it is an LLI group or my regular guided reading groups, I love listening to them one on one and learning what they can do independently and what they need to work on.  

LLI has three categories for a teacher's response when listening to a student read or write: teach, prompt, and reinforce.  "Teach" means that I am having to teach or reteach a skill to a student.  For example, they have not learned a particular vowel team; therefore, I am explaining and teaching that new vowel team to them so that they can decode the word that they are stuck on.  "Prompt" means that I am prompting a student to use a strategy that has been previously taught but that the student is not doing independently, yet.  "Reinforce" means I am providing positive feedback to a student that used a strategy correctly.

This is not necessarily new knowledge.  I think as teachers we just do those three things: teach, prompt, and reinforce.  But what I realized as the year has progressed is that I am not looking for patterns in my teaching and prompting of individual students.   If I wrote down my prompts, would I find patterns?  For example, am I prompting the same student over and over again for VCE words?  Do I actually need to be reteaching this skill, instead of prompting for it?

So I decided to write these things down to look for patterns.  As students are reading independently from their LLI book, I am quickly using code to write down what I teach, prompt, or reinforce.  Then I can use the information to look for patterns over a weeks time and guide my instruction for the following week or lesson.

The prompting guide from Fountas and Pinnell breaks the prompts into groups.  I used these groups to create my codes (which are at the bottom of the sheet).  The codes help me to take notes quickly.  Here is an example of a student.  I typed the notes in red for easier reading.

 When analyzing these notes, I can see that I need to continue to work with this student on vowel sounds.  He continues to struggles with this visual information when solving unknown words in his reading and writing.

When it comes to LLI and my guided reading groups, I always have room to grow.  These are two ways that I have supplemented my instruction but I will be continuing my quest for more ways to strengthen what I do.  If you would like to try these out, just click on the images below to grab them.


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  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 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. 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.