Apr 21, 2017

Spring Mentor Text to Teach Reading

Spring!!! It is here!!  And with it comes flowers, sunshine, and growth.  As teachers, we are always searching for that growth and spring is just the place to find it.  I am excited to share with you a "new" book to me, procedural text to use in the classroom, and some growth that I have encountered this year.

Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain by Verna Aardema retells a tale originally uncovered by Sir Claud Hollis in 1909 during his stay in Kenya, Africa.  Verna has written this story to the rhythm an old nursery rhyme, "The House That Jack Built" (one of my absolute favorite stories, as a child).  In this story, the Kapiti Plain is dry and in desperate need of rain.  The main character, Ki-pat, solves this problem by shooting an arrow into the rain cloud.  He then shares this rain ritual with his own son and the tradition continues.

I have two goals with this lesson.  The first goal is to help students to articulate the importance that rain plays in our daily lives.  Students need to understand that rain is imperative for crop growth, drinking water, and for animals to thrive.  This fact has remained true throughout history; therefore, civilizations have relied on rain to survive and have created rituals to help with the production of rain.  Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain, an article from NASA, and the procedural text to make a rainstick will all be used within this lesson to teach this first goal.
My second goal is to provide an authentic reading opportunity through procedural text.  My students this year have craved "how to" texts during my guided reading groups.  They love when I use these books and allow them to follow the directions.  This has really pushed some of my more reluctant readers and we have spent a great deal of time discussing the importance of reading these types of texts throughout life (i.e. recipes, directions to build an object, or other manuals).

In order to accomplish the goals listed above, I begin this lesson by activating their schema on rain.  I ask the following questions: "What is the importance of rain?  Why do we need it? "What happens if it does not rain?  What problems can arise when it does not rain?"  Once the answers to these questions are discussed through a "turn and talk," small group, whole group, or a combination of all three methods, I explain that many cultures and groups of people have come up with different rituals to help make it rain.

While reading Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain, I  stop to quickly explain the following words: belated, drought, herd, slender, and pierced.  As mentioned above, this text is written to the rhythm "The House That Jack Built;" therefore, it repeats.  Students are invited to say the story with me as I read it.  Stopping throughout the book to get student predictions about how Ki-pat will solve the problem of drought is also a great discussion point!

 Once the story has been completed, I ask the students how Ki-pat solved his problem.  Then I explain that this is only one example of a rain ritual.  There are many others that have been documented throughout history.  NASA has an article that explains some of the other cultural traditions and rituals that take place to bring rain to the land.  You can find that article HERE.  You may want to read the whole article to your students or only parts of it, depending upon the age of your students.

My students have been so excited about reading procedural text this year.  And what a great reason to read!  So to connect this new learning to their reading, this procedural text explains how to make a rainstick.  The resource contains three versions of the directions.  Each version is a different difficulty level.  This allows you to differentiate the lesson based on the individual reading needs of your students.  The example below illustrates two of the leveled books. 

The directions are the same for each of the texts, but just written in a slightly different way.  When each student has followed the directions, they will end up with a rainstick like the one pictured below.

If your students are interested in continuing their study of rain rituals, there are several other texts that they can check out!
  • The Legend of the Bluebonnet by Tomie DePaola
  • Rain Dance by Cathy Applegate
  • Sing Down the Rain by Judi Moreillon
 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


Don't forget to hop through and read about all the great mentor text lessons that can help you to spring into spring!  You can also enter the Rafflecopter and win ALL (yes...ALL)  of the mentor texts in this hop! My mystery word is RAIN.

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Apr 6, 2017

RtI Meeting Preparation

Earlier this year, I explained the changes that we made to our interventions, schedules, and meetings for RtI.

One of our big challenges as a building has always been meetings.  We have a large amount of Tier II and Tier III students (which we hope to be turning around as we dive deeper into RtI).  Due to this large amount of students, meeting on ALL of them has been hard, frustrating, tricky...I don't know...just not happening the way that it should.  Our mission this year was to change that.

It was a bit of a scary endeavor.  In order to meet on all of these students in a consistent, efficient manner, it would take some "leg work" up front.  Previously, teachers would bring all of their data and then we would listen to the data on each student.  This was not a quick process and conversations could quickly stray off topic.

Although we had folders set up for each team member that included "decision rules" and intervention options, we really needed more than that.

What we needed was all the student data in a clean, clear format.  This would help us to move through each student efficiently. We needed something like this:

And so that is what we did.  First, we assessed each Tier II and Tier III student on the DRA (that is our reading assessment).  This assessment helped us to determine if their interventions were impacting the overall "picture" of their reading progress.  Second, we gathered all of the progress monitoring data.  This could have been LLI reading records, an Aimsweb assessment, or any other predetermined progress monitoring tool.  Finally, we imported all this information into the slide (like the one above) for each student. 
As an intervention team, we came up with a "rough draft" of the interventions that would change, stay the same, or be discontinued.

Then came the meeting day...

As an intervention team, we met with each grade level during their plan bells.  We flipped through the slides.  None of this data was unknown to the classroom teacher, of course, but having it all on one slide for us to look at collectively was extremely helpful.  It was a HUGE time saver in terms of our meeting.  Once we quickly went over the data, the intervention team provided their recommendation for an changes to the support the child needed and the classroom teacher would agree or disagree.  Then we moved on to the next student.  And this would continue on until all of the slides were complete or the plan bell time was up!

We met on each and every Tier II and Tier III student each 7 weeks.  This has never happened in this manner before and I will tell you...I think it made a HUGE impact on our interventions this year.  Yes...it took us a full week to assess, prepare the slides, and complete RtI paperwork...BUT...the payoff for this time commitment has been great.  We have seen more growth this year than I can ever remember observing in the past.
Now.  That could be for several reasons. 
We just started using LLI.
We added a Title I person to our team.
We were no longer tied to grade levels.
We were following a true RtI framework.
We had consistent meetings every 7 weeks based on current data.

All of these factors played a part in the success that we have seen this year.  But stopping to analyze, reflect, and make changes (no matter how small or how big) has been really important.  Each student received interventions tailored to their needs. 

And that is what it is all about, right?  Meeting them where they are and taking them to where we know that they can go!  While supporting and loving them the whole way.


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 group...wow!! 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 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!