Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Bear Stays Up for Christmas by Karma Wilson ~ Early Literacy

Bear Stays Up for Christmas by Karma Wilson is my new favorite Christmas story about friendship, teamwork and the gift of giving.  Bear is generous, kindhearted and is surrounded by good friends who support him.  Santa comes into play when he recognizes Bear's kindness and leaves him a special gift for Christmas.  This is a lovable book that will please every child.

I was so delighted with this book that I made a 38 page upload for Teachers Pay Teachers that focuses on best practices in early literacy~tuning into new words, shades of meaning, character thoughts, feelings, want, needs and actions, CVC word segmenting and blending and story sequencing.  If you are interested in this unit, click {HERE}.

A little preview of goodness is below.

Happy Reading!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Words Their Way ~ Starting Out

Our school district has adopted Words Their Way for grades K-7. Teachers have been fabulously implementing this program.  It takes a load of work, so I am uploading the basics to get you started.

  1. Here are a few tips: Purchase the teacher's guide.  It is filled with oodles of correlation charts and activities to keep you on track.
  2. Purchase the individual sort books.  At the beginning of each section, the explanation of directions is written out so that you can teach each sort properly.  This is ESPECIALLY important as you get into roots and absorbed prefixes.  
  3. Place your sorting cycles into eight week differentiated groups.  This allows your students to internalize patterns before retesting and being regrouped.
  4. Make games.  We are ALL making Connect 4 games for our first eight week cycle, Bam! games our second cycle, Dominoes for the third  cycle and shaker jars for our fourth cycle.
  5. MAKE sure to use the concordance chart.  If your student's reading level is higher than the WTW level, start your student at the lower WTW level.  If the WTW level is higher than the student's reading level, go back to the WTW sort at the reading level.  If you do not use the concordance chart with students whose reading and spelling do not line up, you will miss teaching important skills.  This  document has a concordance chart that you could reference. 
  6. Do not administer weekly spelling tests. They are antiquated and do not allow students to internalize skills long-term.  Use the quick checks at the end of each word sort section and reteach accordingly.  
I have uploaded a few of the slides that I presented to teachers getting started with this program.  Allow students the FULL 8 weeks to internalize these patterns, please.  You will find success.  More importantly, your students will demonstrate transfer of skills.

The next few slides are a brief overview of Words Their Way and the stages of writing development.

Next is a quick overview of how to administer the lists and group your students.  Teachers tend to make this WAY harder than it is their first try. Here's my friend Michelle's trick.  Hilight where the student makes a mistake.  Start the student on the first group of sorts where two or more words are incorrect in the same column.  MUCH easier than the traditional way!

There are so many ways to sort.  I have listed the sorts and the pages you can find extended activities and description of these sorts.  Numbers 1-4 are crucial.  Stick with the same one or two extra sorts each week.  Follow the same cycle for the full eight week cycle.

Below is our fourth grade team's cycle of Words Their Way for the first eight weeks this year. Check our Michelle's Blog at A New Day of Learning!

Because my own kids get the same goodness at home...
My Gavin is starting with the understanding that short vowels and long vowels follow patterns.  This is a basic sort.  Short vowels and long vowels are marked with the appropriate cues.  Consonants and Vowels are also marked with C and V for visual patterning.

Games are super important to keep your students engaged.  More than one game per week will drive you crazy, though.  We started with Connect 4.  I made a simple connect 4 game board with the long and short a headers along with an oddball square.  I retyped the list of words (Yellow book sort 7) and then printed the list with two differently colored fonts.  Gavin and I mixed up our own piles, turned over our cards and tried to get four words in a row first.  We played this game four times and Gavin won every time.  Do you think he internalized this skill.  Absolutely!

I did not give Gavin a spelling test, but I did pick seven words for a quick check and you can tell that he was ready for the next sort.  No stress, no long drawn-out studying at night.  Yep~completely internalized this concept.

 I have made this game a Freebie to get you started.  I welcome your comments on starting with Words Their Way!  Send me any GREAT game ideas that you use.  

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Annotating Rubrics ~Middle School

This school year has started with creating interactive reading journals grades 5-7, and I have had a blast working with these amazing teachers!

Our sixth grade team is reading Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief.  Students are working on visualization, key vocabulary words and evidence from text to support their findings.  {Here} is my post on visualization.

Part of setting expectations for students is developing rubrics AND annotating these rubrics so students tune into key information.  We have developed the same rubric for peer evaluation, self-evaluation and teacher evaluation, scaffolding practice of writing and evaluating for exemplar standards. 

Below, you will see an annotated rubric and model exemplar sample for students. I hope this will help you kick-start your facilitation of metacognitive strategies!

For my full unit on visualization, click {here}.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Peak by Roland Smith ~ Lexile 780

This summer is the summer of middle school anchor texts and literature circle books!  Our Middle School, in grades 5-7, has selected anchor texts (everybody reads) from different genres.  After each anchor text has been completed, students will break out in literature circles (choice reading) to read a book of their choice related to the same genre.

I just finished reading Peak by Roland Smith, which is a seventh grade adventure anchor text.  This book was fabulous, engaging and told from the point of the Protagonist, Peak Marcello, who found himself in a spot of trouble after he climbed a skyscraper in New York.  His choice was to either go live with his Dad, who was a famous mountain climber who led expeditions to Mt. Everest, or spend the next three years in juvenile detention.

Excerpt from the back cover:

When fourteen-year-old Peak Marcello's long-lost father presents the opportunity for them to summit Everest together, Peak doesn't even consider saying no-even though he suspects there are a few strings attached.  And if he makes it to the top before his birthday, he'll  be the youngest person ever to stand above 29,000 feet.  It's not a bad turn of events for a guy who's been stuck in New York City with only skyscrapers to illegally scale.
Here, in Peak's own words, is the exhilarating, gut-wrenching story of what happened on that climb to the top of the wold-a climb that changed everything.  Welcome to Mount Everest. 

Peak learns about life.  He learns about friendship. He learns to understand motivations and actions of the people he loves.  Each step in this adventure kept me on the seat of my chair wondering if Peak would make it to the top, if his father would be a good guy or not so good, and the life lesson he learns...the very last line of the book...is priceless.

Read this book.  Buy it for your child.  I recommend this for grades 5 and up.

Top of the world is a well-written informational text with facts about Mount Everest, tools and equipment.  This is our companion text for the unit.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Pond Activities Post 2

The pond unit in our Kindergarten continues to be totally adorable!  Below are a few pictures of this unit being implemented.

The vocabulary focused on in the pond unit is so developmentally appropriate and demonstrate student understanding. Look at the pictures kids drew of vocabulary words.  I am super impressed with these kids!

One of our teachers created a crafty pond from crafts found on Pinterest.  I LOVE this because the crafts aren't all perfect and neat.  They were truly made by the hands of children!

 If you would like to see more great pictures and activities, check out these links and activities.

Activities for Down by the Cool of the Pool:

Pond lap book for K-2:

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Down by the Cool of the Pool by Tony Mitton ~ K-2

This is my second blog post about Down by the Cool of the Pool by Tony Mitton.  

Here is a snippet of Blog Post 1:
This story is written in an add-on format which helps early learners with sequencing of stories.  As the story adds animals that join frog at the party in the pool, each has his/her own action including dancing, flapping, wiggling and stamping!  There are many types of sentences for teachers to take apart and explore with students as well helping cue for expressive voices.

The illustrations in this book are superbly eye-catching and colorful.  The text is full of sight words and also rhyming words. There is repetition,

 "Down by the pool in the cool of the day, frog cried, 'Wheeeeee! Can you dance like me?"
I love the wonderful beat to this text!  Yeah Tony Mitton!
Tony Mitton's book page is at the following link:


As part of our Kindergarten Ecosystem unit, I made a few activities for our teachers including sequence cards, picture/word cards, a verb header for an anchor chart and the words that match each character such as "Wheeee!" that matches with the frog.

These turned out so well and are a developmentally appropriate way to introduce the nature of words.  I can't wait to hear how the kids acted out these words!

The song, Animal Action by Greg and Steve goes beautifully with this unit!

If you love the unit and want to take a further look at it, click the Pink picture above and it will take you to Teachers Pay Teachers. 

Happy Spring!