Saturday, March 10, 2018

How to Teach Sight Words Tips for Parents and Teachers

Teaching sight words is different for every student. Sight words are words that students need to know without having to decode or sound out the words. Sight words are in approximately
50% to 65% of the words students will encounter in text. Sight words instruction is imperative to any student who is learning to read. In this post, we will talk about different methods to ensure your students or child learns their sight words. As parents, it's difficult to know exactly how our children's teacher is spending time on sight words. However, with these ideas, you can implement your own sight word plan at home!

Be specific and Purposeful with Teaching Sight Words

When teaching sight words, it's important to be very specific. Depending on the students age, depends on how many words students should work on each week. In Kindergarten, students should only start off practice two to three words a week. As the year progresses, students can gradually work up to 6-8 words per week. I like to do this slowly. Starting with two to three words a week gives students a chance to start the year off with confidence once they master the words.

In first grade, starting with 6-7 words in the beginning would be ideal.  For second graders, they should be able to handle 8-9 to start with. Every class and student is different, so use your judgement. If students are not mastering words, dial it back a bit. By third grade, students should be able to handle 10-12 words a week.

Look at your year long plan for teaching sight words. Every few weeks, add a week of spiral review in. Students should continuously practice words they've learned. If you are a parent, feel free to do this as well. Spiral review is one of the most effective ways to make sure students have really learned the content. 

Building Sight Words

One of the best ways to have students learn their sight words, is for students to build their sight words. Using tactile methods, students can develop a deeper connection to the words. 

I love using all kinds of different things for students to practice building words.  In PreK-1st Grade, one of my favorite tools to use this are Melissa and Doug's ABC Blocks. They are durable, colorful, inexpensive and last forever!

Another student favorite is magnetic letters.  Students love building words with them and placing them on cookie sheets or magnetic boards. The more colorful, the better! 

Students love these sight word builder cards and teachers love them too! Let me tell you why. Students get to practice building the word and then immediately apply it to text. 

Use seasonal items to practice sight words. Right now, our students are having. so much fun with these sight word building puzzles. Anything the kids can move, is a win-win!! 

Turn Learning into a Game

This looks large, it's really not. We would take this outside for recess though and place the sight words the kids have already mastered on the Lego Duplos . I even added a little math by having them keep score.

Sight Word Pyramids are also a great way to review words and maybe introduce a few more. The best part about this is. that both of these games can be done at school or home. Parents, the cup pyramids make for a GREAT rainy day activity! 

Be Consistent

Students need to consistently be practicing words. Sometimes, you will see students practicing one set of words with the teacher, and another set of words with the home. It's important to present the words differently with each encounter the children have with the words. For example, on Monday, you might write the words. On Tuesday, you might build the words using on the the methods above. On Wednesday, the students might read the words in a list or buddy read the words using flash cards. For Thursday, students might read the words in a sentence while building them. By Friday, students can read the words in a passage.  The big picture is that students need to practice words a different way each day. They need the opportunity to apply what they've been taught, so give them the chance to read the words on their own. 

*This post contains affiliate links.

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Sunday, March 4, 2018

How to Prepare Your Students for Standardized Testing

This is one of those posts that I hope that it can be something we try to look at the positive side of things.  I'm with you, I am not a fan of standardized testing. I understand why we have it, but how to we approach the culture of it? It's a necessary component to our jobs, to have a system to evaluate student's growth and the effectiveness. If it does that, that's another Oprah show. Ha! But for real, we can't change it, so why let it consume you? I want to discuss how to prepare your students for standardized testing without teaching the test. There is a difference. 

Use Standards Based Instruction

Back in the day, when someone would ask "What are you teaching?" I'd often respond with something like "Character traits". That was indeed the skill I was teaching, however, I didn't always spend a lot of time reflecting on how the standard was assessed or addressed in other places than the way our curriculum presented it. This was a crucial mistake on my part, because I didn't exactly understand what my students were being asked to do. I thought "I've adequately taught this skill, so they are good". And most of them were. But how do we guarantee all students are able to correctly master the standard? By teaching the specific standard using the correct academic vocabulary.  I want to be sure that each question I ask is purposeful using the correct academic terms. For example, while teaching character traits, I want to be sure my questioning sounds something like "how did you interpret the character's actions?".  Question stems are one easy way to incorporate the language of the common core standards into the questions you ask your students at your small group table. Through my guided reading groups, I'm able to take each standard and apply it to the level of text that each group needs. 

Sometimes it's difficult because the standards have a very high level of vocabulary, so we have to scaffold our instruction to work up to the level of vocabulary the students are ready for. When we first start teaching the skill, we do not have to necessarily start with the academic vocabulary, it just depends on your students. 

Use Spiral Review Weekly

Sometimes our pacing guides do not allow for much spiral review. We are pretty pressed for time just to get ALL the standards covered, let alone time to go back and reteach something. One way to combat this is to use a spiral review center in your literacy rotations daily. I like to start this week three or so of my rotations, so that I can go back two or three skills, not necessarily the one I JUST taught. This allows students to continuously practice the skills throughout the year, not for just two weeks or so at a time. Plus, it helps with your preparation. If I've used a task card or center in small groups while teaching a skill, three to four weeks later, that activity can be in my skill based center for students to practice independently. 

Use Standards Based Assessment

I'm not sure how your district or school requires you to assess your students, but we have the ability to chose the assessments our grade levels want to use. This can be challenging. How do you pick an assessment that is standards based and on the appropriate reading level? Some say it helps to pick assessments that are above grade level expectations to prepare them for the testing season. Here's my opinion on that: We are teaching elementary students who will have to be assessed on above grade level content at the end of the year. However, I do not see the benefit to selecting a text above grade level for the entire year. That will not close achievement gaps. Students should be instructed on their instructional level and tested on grade level (not above) expectations. So by using a standards based, grade level assessment, you are essentially providing SOME students with above level assessments. How far to we want to go? If you use something higher than grade level, the students who are below grade level will not be able to master it or experience so much difficulty they will become frustrated. Let's expose students to above grade level text, I absolutely believe they need that exposure. However, do that with your instructional materials, not your assessments. Students are going to eventually become so frustrated that they can't master something, thus killing their confidence. 

Reduce Students Stress

Students feel the stress we feel as educators. If we look at the test like just another assessment, the students will too. A few years ago, my happy go lucky son, woke up the morning of his standardized test. He is such a little ray of sunshine! He's always super happy and loves school. He was crying nonstop and I couldn't get him to stop. He kept saying "Mom, mom, if I fail this test, I'm going to fail third grade." Wait- WHAT? That is our state requirement, but he's an honor roll student. Why was he told this? I get students need to take it seriously, but we don't have to use scare tactics to get them to focus.  I  say things like "This is just a test to show us how smart you are!". By reducing our stress (I know this is hard) we will reduce the stress of our students. 

Use the End of the Day

The last fifteen minutes of the day can be very helpful. I like to use a variety of ways to practice the skills I've taught. Quizizz is a great interactive tool to use to review. During this time, I try to pick a skill I taught several weeks ago. Unless my students are struggling with the current skill of course.  I also like to use a variety of task cards. One of my favorites for the upper grades are from Jamie Sears from Not So Wimpy Teacher. These task cards are amazing! I also use the end of the day to pull another intervention group. Through my intervention binders, I'm able to hit additional reading skills that my students struggle with.

Read Aloud to Students Daily

I know you probably get sick of hearing me say this, but it's so powerful. When we read to our students with purpose, they gain so much. We can read text that is above their level (like their standardized test will be....haha) and work through how to understand the difficult text TOGETHER. Through read alouds, you can model for students how readers think and respond to the text.  Read alouds help students because they can hear fluent reading AND see how the reader THINKS while reading! 

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Thursday, March 1, 2018

Reading Literacy Centers in the Primary Grades

Hey friends!  I wanted to chat with you a little bit about how I ran centers in my primary grade classroom. 

Depending on the number of students, I typically have five reading groups. I want to make sure that my reading groups have no more than 4 students in them. If you've followed me long enough, you know that I'm a big believer in research based strategies. Keeping our guided reading groups low, helps with providing more targeted instruction. I'm also a firm believer that the higher and average students need just as much of targeting instruction as the lower groups. We have to prevent our higher and average groups from slipping. Ideally, your guided reading block should be 70-90 minutes long. I understand that may not be the case for some of you though.

As a primary teacher, I want EVERYTHING to be visual and labeled for my students. I  want to create an environment that is rich in print, so I label EVERYTHING. 

In our five centers we had: Listening Center, Skill Based Center, Word Work, Library and Computers.

Our computer center was easy. The kiddos just logged in (once they learned haha) and began to work on the desired website for the day. Our district used iReady, so they spent a lot of time on that. I also used ABCYA, Epic, Tumble books, PBS Kids, ABC Mouse and more.

For our listening center, I changed out the response each day. The students might listen to one story a week or two. It just depends on the particular book, and the response I am looking for.  Creating and using listening center responses, is a great way to keep the kids engaged while listening to reading. I would have "Listening Center Scavenger Hunts". On their directions, I would provide specific words for the students to listen for. When they found the word, they would place flagging tape on that page. After they listened to the story, they go back to the page they found the word. I teach my kids how to use accountability talk and discuss the meaning of the words. The recording sheet might ask specific questions or give the chance for students to apply using context clues. My kids LOVED getting their folders and looking to see what they would "look" for in the book on that day.  Click HERE to get your free scavenger hunt file. 

So this is a real life teacher picture, it's not perfect, but it's what my listening center has looked like!

Word Work Centers

Our word work center consisted of the focus skill of the week. I used either a phonetic skill or the vocabulary words. I change this out to prevent boredom. I try to use my phonics skill to match the vocabulary words, but that can be difficult to do depending on your curriculum. 

Library Center

So I am going to go out on a limb and say this- I still let my kids read to self. Research says that independent reading is one of the best strategies to foster a love of reading and cultivate great readers. I understand the controversy with it though. This can be a difficult stage to manage. How do you make sure your students are really reading while you are teaching with another group of students? Those are all challenges I've faced at some point or another. My best answer to you is this: If your classroom creates and enhances a love of reading, you shouldn't have any issues by using this as a "center". Even my most difficult students, did well at this center. Why might you ask? I believe it's because I provided them with materials they wanted to read. It was fun for them. For 15-20 minutes a day, they had complete power over their choice of text and purpose. They set their own purpose. I teach my students each and every time you pick up a book, there is a purpose. Even in the primary grades. Your kindergarten babies should know this. Even before I had built up my classroom library, I used the school library, the public library and other libraries in our district. I enjoy getting to know students to find out their interests and use that to help them become better readers.

For my skill based center, I use the previously taught comprehension or vocabulary skill. I use a different skill than what I am teaching during my guided reading instruction on purpose I want my students to have a continuous spiral review of the reading skills that we've taught.  These are skills the students have an understanding of but still need to apply it to the text. 
I always include a mini anchor chart at this center of the skill we are practicing to remind students what they've learned. I usually pull the anchor charts from my intervention binders to make it simple.

In order to do this without completely boring my students, I use a variety of resources.  

High interest topics help make the students engaged in the skill we are trying to teach them. This year, I have a group of boys that could literally care less about reading when they started coming. I had to really work hard to get to know them and figure out what they liked. I couldn't find reading material that was skill based on those topics, so I just started making them! Oh My Word, they LOVED it

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Saturday, January 27, 2018

Reading Strategies for Kindergarten through Third Grade

Reading Strategies For Grades K-3

Many of us don’t recall what it was like learning how to read. However, our current reading skills may be traceable to those early primary grades and the way we were taught how to read. Struggling readers require assistance but how exactly can you provide reading intervention and still keep all students on track? We all learn at different speeds, don’t we? Well, here are some suggestions that involve proven techniques that can help not just K-3 students. These methods are also effective when used with other students.

1 – Get A Little More Graphic

Who doesn’t like pictures? With the age of the young struggling readers considered, what better way to help classify concepts than with some visual aids? We’re not just talking pretty pictures here, either. Maps, graphs and charts can all become teaching aids and although the amount of text is reduced, these tools can have a huge impact on learning.

2 – The Text Monitor

This is sort of verification in favor of using pictures and other graphics. One way to truly see what level of comprehension it being achieved (or maintained) is through regular monitoring of what a student is reading and how much of it is being absorbed. One way to look at it is to put yourself in the reading situation. But instead of you reading about flowers and friends and happy stories, you are reading a legal document written by a lawyer with an extremely high IQ. You are going to find the pages upon pages of text dry and hard to figure out. The same principle applies to your young readers. What some of them are reading they just don’t fully understand. This is why you need to make adjustments along the way. These adjustments can include re-reading a section,  sentence or paragraph, breaking the text down, providing instructional level materials, scaffolded reading support or changing the reading speed so that each word and sentence is fully understood.

3 – Provide Clear Answers

How do you gain extra knowledge about something? You probably ask questions. This also works well as a form of elementary reading intervention. The questions from reading students can also be valuable gauges to you on what they understand about the text they are reading. By providing time to answer their question before, during and after reading you will not only help in reinforcing what is being read, you will be able to help clear up small misunderstandings of more than just the students who spoke up with the questions.

4 – Ask And You Shall Receive

You had to see this coming. If you are going to answer questions to help struggling readers, why not ask them some question as well? Your questioning can take place before, during and after reading and can be directed primarily at the text being read. What do you think this means? What did they mean by saying that? If you engage your students in regular participation with their reading activities they will be more likely to open up and give you indication of where their reading skills need help.

5 – Painting The Bigger Picture

Every story contains a plot. Every plot contains characters and activities. Showing students the basics of story structure (plots, characters, etc.) it assists them in putting together the reasoning behind a chain of events and why certain things happen. Even if all they are doing is reading a story. Jack and Jill went up the hill for a purpose. They weren’t just floating around with no real reason. When young readers grasp the mechanics behind story structure it not only gets them excited about reading, it helps to fuel their individual imaginations. They soon begin telling their own stories with improved structural construction. But before any of this can happen, they need to understand that there is a much grander scheme at work in the text they are reading.

6 – What Did You Learn Today?

The final step in elementary reading intervention is a review. After reading activities have completed and questions have been answered, the best way to solidify the understanding of the text that was read is through a review. A summary of the key points will help to put together the dots in some of the minds of struggling readers. We know Jack and Jill were in need of water. They knew where the well was and they both went to it together. A mishap occurred and well, you get the picture. When you are able to summarize the key points the storyline, with plot points, is revealed. Even if the students don’t completely connect the actions as plot elements, they will understand that they are an important part of the storyline.

And If These Tips Don’t Work…

Not every student will reach the same reading level at the same time but by implementation of these six tips, you stand a better chance at catching the struggling readers early. In fact, early reading intervention results in greater success. However, there are going to be a few readers who will require additional assistance. This means one-on-one instruction. One on one instruction may sound intimidating, but the right tools make it SO much easier. It may also involve constant one-on-one instruction away from the classroom as well. This means getting parents and older siblings involved where possible. Screening assessments carried out in individual school districts will provide verifiable proof of where some students will require additional reading support. It is with this data that one-on-one instruction should focus on as an effort to correct reading difficulties. Reading in a group with students learning and sharing together is also another valuable teaching tool in the classroom. By grade 3, students should be able to read fluently with comprehension of what they are reading. This marks the completion of the learning to read phase of their schooling. In grade 4 the shift is to reading to learn. Thanks to several proven reading intervention techniques, struggling readers have the support they need to bring their reading skills up to that of their peers. Using a intention reading intervention plan will aide you with ensuring that your students make progress! 

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Friday, January 26, 2018

Tips to Increase Fluency Progress

Hey friends! We know that Fluency is the ability to read a text correctly, quickly, and with expression. Fluency is imperative because it provides a bridge between word recognition and comprehension.We also know that good readers do not have to concentrate on decoding the words, they can think more about on what the text means.

How to work on strengthening our students fluency in an engaging way?

Read Aloud To Students Daily

The number one tip I have is that we should increase they amount we are reading to our students each and every day. By reading aloud, with expression and automaticity, we are modeling for our students what a good reader sounds like. Presenting reading in a way that is fun and meaningful, is a powerful tool. Students need to see reading how reading for pleasure looks like. I like to pick fun and engaging books that fit a natural teaching theme. I just want to be sure the book I pick is intentional to the skill or standard I am trying to teach! I try to read to my students before each subject I teach. I find some way to tie the text together with the content area I am teaching. This way, I am reading aloud to my students at least two to three times a day! I try to read aloud for each subject or content area each day. The more we model for our students what good readers sound like, think and remember, the more our students will gain the necessary skills they need in order to be successful.

Provide Shared Reading Experiences

In shared reading, EVERYONE has a copy of the same text. Text can also be displayed using document camera. The teacher models how the text should sound while reading while students read a long. This can be a very quick , daily practice that shouldn’t take too long. I would start with a poem or make a “shared reading notebook”. Students can glue their poem into the notebook and read along.

I Say, You Point

Students gain fluency in this skill because they are looking for patterns in the word while reading. They hear the word, find it and point/circle. Activities for this are in ALL grade level my intervention binders

Frontload Vocabulary

Before reading a text,  pick 2-3 words that students may not know or understand. Teach the words prior to reading the story so that when students come to the word in the text, they are not struggling with it in context. You do not want to front load EVERY word they do not know, just a few. This helps students from struggling with understand the words meaning while reading. 

Partner Reading

The student reads aloud in tandem with an accomplished reader. At a student signal, the helping reader stops reading, while the student continues on.

Listening Center

In elementary school, it is important students are exposed to a variety of texts. Through a listening center, we are able to address this. The teacher can pick engaging texts that spark student interest.  The added component is a great tool to model what a fluent reader sounds like.

Fluency Rubric 

Click HERE To get the fluency rubric 

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Sunday, January 7, 2018

Winter Reading Ideas

Hello sweet friends! Today, I'm going to chat a little bit about one of my favorite winter books EVER. It's probably yours too and it's a very popular book!!! The Mitten By Jan Brett is a classroom CLASSIC. We've read this book so many times I'm sure! I wanted to give you a few new ideas that I shared on my Facebook Page

This story naturally presents it's self to practice sequencing. The story has a perfect layout for sequencing ideas. Since I live in Florida, I like to use a different perspective for teaching it. Our students have rarely experienced cold weather. Like we flip out when it's 52 degrees around here. Students have very little real life connection to the attire one would wear in REALLY cold weather. Throughout this story, I am able to give students the opportunity to really visualize themselves in colder weather and how that would feel. We spend a lot of time talking about vocabulary as well. Someone once said to me "I've only used that book for sequencing". One thing that I love to do is to find multiple purposes for a book. For most of my students, vocabulary is something that can throw them off. They are used to using the same words to describe everything. In this story, I point out how we can say "sniffed" over "smell". I encourage my students to use these words in their everyday vocabulary. Students have to do more than just read a word and hear the meaning, they have to APPLY it. 

One way I do this is through my vocabulary freebie. I have done this a few different ways. I place the words inside of a mitten. In Kindergarten, I pull out the word and read it. We would discuss together what the word means and synonyms for the word. I would have students practice using the word. I would only do two words at a time. 

In first and second grade, they could do this with a partner. Students just take turns pulling a word out of the mitten. You don't need a recording sheet for accountability because you will walk around and monitor the students progress. Students love this activity because they are allowed to freely speak and sometimes as teachers we limit that.  I found these mittens at Wal Mart for $1.27 for THREE pair. So fairly cheap. I've also went to goodwill and just washed the mittens. The mittens are a cheap way to get the kiddos more engaged than just pulling it out of a bag. It's the little things that make a BIG difference. 

Thank you for stopping by! You can click HERE for your freebie! 

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