Saturday, June 24, 2017

Building Your Classroom Library on a Budget


Hey everyone! Here's an oldie that I'd thought I'd bring out that was shared on my friend Denise's Blog. 

Classroom Library


I don't know about y'all but my classroom library is always growing! My classroom library is like a hobby for me. In my free time, I love going out and searching for nice books! The trick is, finding a deal and using the resources that you already have! 


 I love using different kinds of text in the classroom so the children are exposed to anything and everything. I like for my students to be able to recognize text in the real world and WANT to read it.  

There are several ways to do this. I have started making Printable Books to use in the classroom. These are books I can use as interactive read alouds to introduce or review a subject.

My  printable Graphs book was a huge hit this year in my classroom. Before we started our Graphs unit, I used this book as a read aloud. Then I put in my math book bin! 

Here are a few more pictures of my Printable Math Books





 One of my printable Science Books






 I have a large collection of magazines, brochures and menus as well in my classroom. These offer students the exposure to real world text. I received a lot of my magazines by going around to different libraries and asking to look through their discard pile. They usually throw out magazines after a few years!! 



Another trick is that I always save the books that come from kids meals! These are a great addition to the classroom library! This helps me with my diet as well! I always order kids meals if I am forced to eat at a fast food place. The toys go straight into the treasure box and the books into my library! 




One thing that I do is purchase high text coloring books. I usually find them at the dollar store.  I do this especially for those students who we are trying to get  to WANT to read, read ANYTHING. They do often ask to color them, but if you set the routine from the beginning and discuss that we do not color in these, you  should be fine. My first year of doing this it was hard, but I didn't set the routine. Now that my routines are in place, it's fine.  Some teachers let them color in them as a reward. I am thinking about trying that this year. It does actually work and you can get the students engaged in the reading process through high text coloring books. 






Another tip, I  check out our local Goodwill. They typically have books  3 for a $1.00! I only purchase books that are in great condition and am always finding great deals at Goodwill! My husband laughs at me for this..until I tell him I *could* go by them brand new for $8.00 a pop ;) That gets him every time haha!








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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Guided Reading 101 Part 1




Hey friends!

A few of my friends have asked me about Guided Reading and why I think it is a necessity to any ELEMENTARY Classroom. Yes, I just said Elementary. That means Kindergarten through Fifth Grade. In first grade, students progress through so many levels, it's important to keep track of their development. Throughout the primary grades, foundation of a students literacy development is set. In the upper grades, students are making the switch from learning to read to reading to learn. The students will dive into deeper texts with more complex concepts.Students in the upper grades still need the teachers support to understand and break down these difficult texts. Guided reading gives teachers the chance to do that. Piggy backing off my post from yesterday on  fostering a love of reading, giving students the chance to read REAL books through guided reading will help with that process.





The first step to Guided Reading is Assessment. 

I'm a huge fan of Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment . This kit is very targeted to be able to show you specific patterns the students make while reading.  To begin, you need to determine a starting level.  Use the last known independent reading level and start there. You can also use other forms of a benchmark assessment of course, F&P is just my favorite. The program is through and follows the literacy continuum. 

Running Records Assessment

Once you have determined where to start, begin to take a running record on your students. You can grab a free running record here. To do this, you need a running record calculator. I found an app called "Running Record Calculator". This is very helpful because it automatically calculates the time and errors for you as you enter the information.  

What is the purpose of a running record?

Well, there are several. We are trying to determine the students independent reading level, keep a record of errors over a period of time, and make instructional decisions about each student in order to guide their instruction. Oral Running Records are how teachers can plan their instruction. 
 Running records should be 100 words at least for a true assessment. In the upper grades, I'd recommend using a text with 250 words.  Depending on the students reading level, depends on how often you should assess them. You can read more about that here.


Steps to take a running record

*Record the number of words you are assessing.
*Remind the student they will not read the entire book orally.
*Make a notation if the student has read the book before.
*As the student reads, place a check mark over the words he/she reads correctly.
*If a word is missed, record the word the student says above the word. Pay attention to the readers behavior when making errors.
*Try to intervene as little as possible, the goal is to see how much the student can do on their own.
*Analyze the running record or the point of it is useless 



What is the difference between an error and a self correction?

An error is a word that is read incorrectly, omitted, or inserted. A self correction is a word that is first read incorrectly, but immediately corrected. Self Corrections do not count as errors.

What does count as an error?
If a student reads the word incorrect, it counts as an error. If the student omits or skips a word, that would could as an error as well. When a student inserts a word that is not in the text, that counts as an error.  If the student repeats the a word, that does not count as an error. You can use the guide below to help keep on track. Click here to download the file. 




Error Rate:
Error Rate is shown as a ratio. Use the formula below to find the error rate.
Total words / Total errors = Error rate 

Accuracy Rate:
Accuracy rate is shown as a percentage. You can calculate the accuracy rate using this formula:
(Total words read
Total errors) / Total words read x 100 = Accuracy rate 


To identify the miscues, we use  Meaning (M), Structure (S), and Visual (V).


Running Record Analysis





One  purpose of the running record is to see a pattern in the students errors. Are they pausing before they get to certain vowel patterns? Do they re-read when they get to words with inflectional endings? Do they understand vocabulary words? One of the most common types of errors comes when students do not self monitor. Students should recognize when something doesn't sound right or that they've made an error.



I always taught my students to go back and reread a sentence and ask themselves "Does this sound right or make sense?".  This self monitoring strategy will pay off in the long run. I've taught the little kids all the way to the big kids about self monitoring. If students do not understand or recognize that they made an error or mistake, they are not thinking while reading.

I use these posters to help aide in my instruction with self monitoring.
Students who are self monitoring should have a self correction rate of 1:4 or less. That means that the student is correcting one out of every four words they are reading.



Word Work Strategies for Guided Reading


Word work is an important part of guided reading. Students need to practice reading, spelling and the meaning of the words they come across in different text that they will encounter.  Through word sorts, the teacher can show students how to sort the words by the sounds they make. We can also teach students what the words mean and ask students to identify synonyms and antonyms.  Students can also practice spelling these words. That way, we are not teaching phonics, spelling or vocabulary in isolation. Through word work, we are teaching all of these skills in one strike. Research suggest that students need 12 authentic experiences with a word before they truly understand it. Through word work in guided reading, you are providing your students with authentic experiences every single day.


Word Sorts for Upper Grades are pictured below


Word Sorts for Primary Grades


Stay tuned for the next part of our series on Guided Reading. I will focus on grouping, text selection, and scheduling on the next post!


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Monday, June 19, 2017

How to Make Your Students Fall In Love With Reading




Hey Friends! Sometimes in the crazy chaos life world of the classroom we forget the purpose of why we are there. Is it to make our students have the most AR points in the school? Is it to get the best prize in the school? No. The reason the students are there is to develop a love of learning and master the standards set by the state that you live in.  So how do you do both? How do you make sure that students make the progress on the districts program that they've purchased, master the standards AND love to read?



Create A Warm and Desirable Space


Creating a classroom library can be challenging. Research suggests that we should focus on creating a space that is inviting to the students and comfortable. For my library, I used a teal shag rug. It's lasted for nearly four years! The space was open so that I could always see the students and monitor what they were doing. The library was colorful so the students were engaged with the browsing process. You can read more about how I manage my classroom library here.









 Let Children Decide What To Read


I have my books organized by theme. I do this for a very specific reason. Fountas and Pinnell ( as well as many other reading researchers) suggest that in order to create a classroom library that fosters a love of reading, we should sort our books by theme rather than level. This allows students to "explore" books by their interest.  Children can then explore books that are appealing to them. Books that they desire to read and not books that they have to read or feel like they have to read because of a certain level.


Teachers should teach students how to pick a "just right book". First, students should look for a book that looks appealing to them or sparks their interest. Students should look for a book that they WANT to read. Next students should read the first page of the book and determine if the book is too difficult or too easy for them. If the student has a hard time reading more than five words, the student should pick a different book. In the primary grades, I would let me students browse through harder books. I would tell them "Browse for a bit, then find a keeper". This way, they are still exploring the books they WANT and then moving onto a just right book at the end.

  Independent reading shouldn't be something students have to do, it should be something they want to do. We do this by fostering a love of reading and peaking a students interests. If a student is very interested in sharks, find books about sharks. No matter the age .  For example, this book is for older readers.




I have an extensive classroom library and while it drives my husband crazy every time we (he) packs it up,  the students love it. The purpose for this is that we never know what books our students will like. When parents tell me "Johnny doesn't like to read", I try to respond with, "He hasn't found the right book yet".  When kids find the "right" book, it makes all the difference! For example, as a mom, I didn't particularly want my kids reading books like "Captain Underpants" and stuff like that, however, a child that "doesn't like to read", was READING. So I had to learn, to let go, and let it be. 

By building relationships with your students and discovering their interests,  you will  be able to determine what kind of books are right for that particular student. Creating a large classroom library is an important key to making this all work because you just never know what interest your  students will have. 
 I know this can be expensive. We are thrift store junkies! My family loves to hunt for books for the classroom with me. We hit up garage sales, thrift stores, Goodwill, and teachers who are leaving the profession for books. I have a list of common high interest books here





These library labels are easy to manage and ink friendly.




I do keep a separate guided reading section of my library. This is mostly for me and instructional purposes.  This allows students to read on their instructional level during guided reading time.







Display Books Around The Classroom

Displaying books around the classroom will peak students interest in what the books are about. I change these books out often and specifically use books at at different in culture and theme. This way, students are naturally curious about the topic before they ever start to read it! It's a win- win!



Read Aloud to Students



As a first grade and second grade teacher, I read to my students all the time!  When I moved to fourth grade, I wasn't sure if they would "like" to be read to, but, I wanted to make them like it. HA! It worked! The older kids STILL want to be read to. They loved it just as much as the younger kids. I was able to pick more complex text and with advance story lines. Through read aloud, you have the opportunity to model for students how to read while thinking AND get students excited about the text.  Select texts on purpose that purposely relate to the skill or standard you are teaching. Read them with enthusiasm, you are on a stage! Be careful not just to read a book to read a book, remember to always set a purpose for the reading.  One skill that is typically apparent in every book we read is making connections. The students like hearing about our real life experiences and getting to know us outside of the classroom. Through connections in read alouds, students are able to see a different side of their teacher. This is a very powerful teachable moment.
The important idea is that elementary students K-5 still need to be read to. The idea that this strategy for just K-2 is just not supported by research.



By peaking students interest, finding the right books, modeling how fun reading can be and creating an inviting space for students to read in, you will have readers who WANT to read in no time!





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Monday, May 1, 2017

Teacher Tips for Student Engagement

Student engagement is one of the buzz words that teachers hear more and more of every single day, as we should. If our students are not engaged in the learning process, can we be sure they are learning the material we are trying to teach them? Student engagement doesn't have to always be big, flashy lessons. Engagement just means you are trying something different than you've done before and that the students are enjoying the way you are delivering the material. Novel idea, right?


One easy way that just about EVERY teacher can increase student engagement is to create props around their classroom. Our fourth graders recently finished a unit on measurement. We created a map around the classroom with trees and "pit stops" that students had to stop and measure different items. This was super easy to do and was very cost efficient. 



I used butcher paper from the teacher supply room the create a tree and a road map. The road map went around the classroom and I moved the students desks in the middle of the room. This was super easy to do! The students were shocked to walk in and see the room "transformed" into a road trip adventure! The magic of butcher paper and the movement of desks! We had another station where the students measured suit cases. 

That brings me to my next tip! One of the stations was to measure the sleeping bags. The students had to convert the measurement to both inches and feet. 


Another easy tip to raise engagement is to use a different type of materials for reading. For the same lesson, we used brochures that were free from the local travel station. I did a text feature station and added laser pointers that were a Dollar Tree find! The students had to find the text feature with the laser pointer. Some might thing, Ashley, that sounds like a classroom management nightmare! One might think, however, set your expectations and clearly state how the laser pointers are used. I did this with two classes and only took one laser pointer away. So if a student is using it incorrectly and you lay out the expectations, take it away if they break the rules. 







Another great way to increase student engagement is to put the worksheets a way and have students work out real world math problems on their desk using expo markers and counting chips.The colored chips really bring math to life for the students. Students are able to make connections and develop a deeper understanding for more difficult concepts such as multiplication and division.   In this activity, students had to practice dividing and determining if there was a remainder. While I was monitoring the students thinking, I was asking questions like "What if the problem was dividing people or a car, can you cut those in half?". I wanted my student to practice the basic skill of division, however, I wanted them to begin to think about interpreting the remainder and what it means. Even though I wasn't using a "workbook" to teach it, they still had to have a paper- pencil based assessment and these are the type of word problems we would eventually get to. I didn't want them to waste any time and wanted to have my students to start to think about these steps as soon as they started working with remainders. 







Once we moved past division, later in the year we moved into decimals, I used my handy expo markers AGAIN! In a different format though. This time, I used coins to show the students how they already used decimals in their everyday life. I wanted my students to connect to the fact that they could already apply this skill prior to the teaching, this is known as activating prior knowledge. Again, my students pulled out their expo markers and because I was using different manipulatives and in a different way, the students were still engaged in the process. Changing the way you teach in just the simplest manner can and will increase your students engagement! 


Fractions are such a difficult concept for students to grasp. Moving to a different area that students are not normally at, adding the white board, fraction bars,  and expo markers gives this student another chance to practice this skill. Students who are used to a workbook based model of instruction do well with this at the beginning of the year. This is an easy step to increase engagement at the beginning of the year. 




The last tip to increase student engagement is to transform your old board games! Students LOVE using these! In the photo below, I used a Jenga game for math facts. Another way I've used Jenga is for sight words! Students love the twist to the game and the game is so inexpensive. All you need is a label marker or dot labels and a sharpie!


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Click HERE to get your FREE FILE!




I am joining some of my friends with a WE LOVE SUPPLIES Giveaway.  
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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Math Intervention in the Upper Grades

Hey friends!






Since switching to the upper grades, I wanted to take my Math Intervention for Primary grades  and bring the same concept with me.



For small groups,  our plan looks like this:  We start with a Review skill. This is a skill we've previously taught in the weeks before.  Next, we do a preview skill. This is a skill that we will teach in the next few months or so. This gives the students the chance to be exposed to the skill prior full instruction. Then, we dive into our current skill. We use our Math Intervention Binder for Fourth Grade to review, preview and teach our current skill. We just use a different section of it. There are 14 sections to this binder and it's always growing as my students needs are always changing! The teacher  pulls and sees every student. We have a para for 30 minutes and she pulls our bubble students. She uses the intervention binder as well and does a spiral review of the previous week skill. I will often have the para go back to place value, multiplication or division because those are foundational skills that students need to grasp in order to do just about anything else. Also, that's another reason why I'm constantly updating these binders because as I find new strategies that work for my students, I add them to see if they will help with your students as well! 


In this section, the students work on number sense. 
Students have multiple ways to practice "building numbers". This takes the boredom out of math. Students are engaged and ENJOY it. They look forward to this activity every day and ASK for it. WIN WIN!

We spend a lot of time practicing and reviewing place value nearly all year long! It's a big and important skill. Students have to grasp this skill in order to move into harder skills like decimals later in the year. To do this, expanded form is important. Start with the basics, and move into the larger numbers. The intervention binder is put together in building blocks. It starts smaller and works into larger numbers to allow the students to gain confidence and a strong foundation. 






In the geometry section, we work with symmetry, angles, lines, rays, points and more!




Division can be such a hassle in fourth grade. The kids get practice with partial products, the box method, traditional method, long division, base ten strategy, and more. 






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