Sunday, December 3, 2017

Teacher Testimony

Whoaaa, it's been a while since I've opened this poor ole blog. I have MISSED this collaboration we share through this blog. Even though I still talk with everyone on Facebook,  this blog has been such a fun little outlet for me over the last several years!! 

One thing that I've always mentioned is that  we all know education can be rough. I've always been the type that instead of looking for everything that's WRONG, I've tried to identify what's right. I spend a lot of time in prayer about this and reflecting on the why.

I've come back to something that I've always said: remember why you are doing this. You became a teacher for a reason. You are in education for a REASON. 

I know I've shared my heart with you all with the Crusade for Safety, and that one single event has shaped me into the person I am today. It's the reason I became an educator. It's the reason I am so passionate about what I do. I'm sure we can all look back and pinpoint certain events, happy or sad, that helped shape us into the people we are today.  All of our reasons are different, but we should have the same common goal: to see students succeed and do whats best for our students.

So this is a shorter post, but I wanted to give us that reminder and share that we are in this together! Keep on trucking, because those little ones depend on you! It can be a challenging world in education, between the politics, little pay and personal challenges, education can be difficult. With all of that said, there's nothing else I would want to do with my life than help children be successful.

Share your teacher testimony with use by using hashtag #Teachertestimony

I can't wait to read you all have to share!

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Saturday, August 26, 2017


Hey Friends!post signatureUsually around this time of year I post my Crusade for Safety posts to remind us how important safe driving can be. This year, I want to share a different part of that story and how it relates to education. Safe driving is still a very important topic, and I encourage you to read my past posts on my Crusade for Safety campaign I do every August.

As we roll into the end of August, the pressure is on. The paperwork is starting. We are assessing our students, and noticing where we have a lot of work to do. How does this relate to the Crusade for Safety you might ask? Well, the Crusade for Safety is why I started teaching in the first place. You see, when I was in that horrible place in my life, several wonderful teachers went above and beyond to make sure I was successful in school. I was really struggling. My memory was shot, and I wasn't really learning anything. I begin to hate school and started to make excuses of why I couldn't go. Math wasn't my strong point and I had this sweet math teacher that essentially didn't give me the option for it NOT to be my strong point. This was a really crucial time in my life because I was in high school and making decisions about what I wanted to do. Through all of the car accident stuff, my father was also diagnosed with the nasty C word-Cancer. Without the support of the wonderful staff of Auburndale High School (GO BLOODHOUNDS), I'm not sure where I would have ended up. The kind of difference they made me in ME is one I wanted to make in others.


The other day I was starting to feel overwhelmed and then I remembered the date. Dates are always big to me. I remember the dates of everything, the good, the bad and the sad. I knew the anniversary was coming up of our car accident. I didn't think it was a coincidence that I was feeling overwhelmed and realized the time of year at that very moment. I knew it was God. I knew it was God reminding me, Ashley, Why are you doing this? What are you trying to accomplish? What are your goals? Who do you want to help. How do you want to make a difference?

So this is a shorter post then others I've done, but I wanted to basically say, if you are feeling overwhelmed, my advice to you is this: stop and reflect. Why are you teaching? What are you trying to accomplish? You don't have to be religious, and we don't have to have the same beliefs to understand that reflection is a healthy life habit. Education is tough, but so are you. So as we roll into another year of this "Crusade for Safety", I want you to think about two things: Be safe while driving AND remember why you became a teacher.

Y'all, you can do it. We are in this together.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Reading Intervention In the Upper Grades

 Hey Friends! This last year, I switched to fourth grade. My group of students were on a variety of reading abilities. How I did ran my reading intervention  groups literally made all of the difference in my students progress. My schedule was so jammed tight just like all of you. I knew I had to fit in intervention and had no IDEA how. My schedule felt so blocked and I was determined to figure out a way to have a separate intervention time. This is the BEST I could come up with. For me, the BEST intervention happens at a separate time than our regular reading block. I believe that intervention does not replace the guided reading instruction and they should be done cohesively. 

I would switch off between reading and math intervention, depending on my students needs. To start, I assess my students with running records to determine their instructional reading level. Once I determine their level and independent weaknesses, I determine which section the student would benefit the most from out of our intervention binder.  We had a variety of needs, like most of you. Some students needed to focus on word work and decoding strategies while others needed straight comprehension skills.

When students struggle with fluency, there are so many ways provided to practice. Through activities like "I Say, You Point" students practice difficult vocabulary/sight words in isolation. Fluency is so important because it helps students transition from just word recognition to comprehension. Once students can read the word accurately, with the correct expression and rate, they are able to cognitively begin to sink deeper into the meaning of the words within the text. Students have to be able to read words accurately, quickly and with expression in order to move on the next phase. That's why the Read It Right activities are so helpful. They give students the opportunity to practice similar words that they will come across in text.

One of the biggest struggles in fourth grade, was getting students to think while read and activate their self monitoring strategies.  This is why I firmly believe it is imperative that we teach self monitoring from the primary grades on up. 

We had to really dive deep into the comprehension strategies and take apart the standards. 

I essentially need to reteach my student how to THINK while reading. Through interactive read alouds, guided reading and intervention time, I focused on explicitly teaching my students how to reading was thinking. Students need to understand the difference between word calling and reading at this stage. Often, they think because they can read such large words, that they are successful readers. As teachers, we need to continue to explicitly teach them so that they can take their awesome word calling skills and dive so deep into the text that they get lost.

Comprehension Anchor Chart 

Visual aides are so helpful even in a small group setting. There are several  ways to use these anchor charts. You could display them while teaching or have students create a guided reading or intervention notebook. They could keep the anchor charts to refer back to. This way, they always have a reference point if they need to refresh their memory,

 So how do you get your students so deep into a text that they are LOST in it? How to you motivate those readers that are struggling? The key is your intervention time. You see, presenting the material in a different and engaging way is a #GAMECHANGER! 

The FIRST thing I teach my students is to always visualize themselves in the story as they are reading. How would YOU feel if this EVENT was happening to YOU? Has this ever happened to YOU? How did YOU feel? If students can make connections or thinking about how they can relate to the story, the comprehension will increase automatically. I taught my students how to fall in love with reading.  This encouraged the lower students to WANT to read and by wanting to read, their readability will increase.

    Here's a glance inside my guided reading plans I used during guided reading time. I wanted this time to be different than intervention so that my students aren't bored and look forward to coming to see me!

Now we will take a tour of the  fourth grade intervention binder

Each section has an anchor chart to review before teaching the skill.

We included passages levels N-P in this binder and are working on adding more!
Assessment is KEY to any instructional program, so we've included assessments for you to track your students progress.

 Teacher tips and instructional guides are included so that ANYONE can use these binders. We often have our paras or parent volunteers use the binders with one or two students.

I've included data sheets after each section so that you can track your students progress over time. 

Click below to see our Fourth Grade  Reading Intervention Binder 

It's currently discounted because we are adding over 65 pages before July 1st!

Here's a look inside our Fifth Grade Reading Intervention Binder

Click the image below to check out our Fifth Grade Reading Intervention

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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! 

One way I've grown an extensive library is using  Scholastic Book Clubs.  I use the online ordering system and parents can order books directly from the website. I tell my parents that it really helps our classroom when they purchase from Scholastic and typically it is less expensive than going to the big box stores.

Different Kinds of Print

 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
In this  interactive read aloud, students learn weather standards and how weather affects the way we live. 

 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! I also ask my family and neighbors to save these books. They also go great for the treasure box!

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. The purpose of this is to reach those students that have absolutely NO interest in reading.  These books make it fun for the students and they look forward to reading them (and let's be real-coloring them!). 

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! I also go to garage sales, look on FB sale group sites and watch for teachers who are leaving the classroom.

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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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