by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady
So many teachers have asked for assistance with writing – so here is Part 1. Stay tuned for more parts devoted to helping students become better writers.
Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start with writing. Do you have these thoughts?
- What type of paper is best? Lined, unlined, wide rule, college rule, dotted lines?
- How much should I help them with spelling? Does it need to be spelled correctly?
- Should I use prompts or free choice journaling?
- How do I get students to space correctly?
- How do I get students to stay on a topic?
- How do I get students to use the conventions we have worked on (capitalization, punctuation, etc.)
- What do I do about handwriting issues?
- How can I connect it with reading, math, or other subjects?
At the root of all of these issues above, I believe the following are musts for any grade level:
- Students must be exposed to quality literature which highlights a variety of writing styles. This is accomplished through the books you use in guided reading, whole group reading, and especially your daily read aloud time. Through this rich exposure to literature students become familiar with various authors and their styles of writing, as well as how authors use their “voice” to relay their message. Voice is the ability to project the way you talk into print. (More info in later posts about books that really show different types of “voice.”)
- Students can’t be expected to write if they don’t see the teacher model writing. Through modeling, teachers can use dozens of “think alouds” to share the decisions they are making. In this way, the strategies a writer (the teacher) uses are being exposed. Then the students are more likely to emulate these strategies.
- Writing needs to be scaffolded in the same way as other lessons: I do – we do – you do. Students observe and watch the teacher as he/she models various writing strategies. With shared writing, the teacher and students work together to “share the pen.” Then we gradually release students through guided writing sessions before expecting independent writing. This is a year-long process.
- Sometimes your writing strategy lessons might best be accomplished through your small group literacy time. Students are probably grouped based on their reading needs, so they likely have similar writing needs. From my experience, it’s a lot easier to monitor 4-6 students’ writing than a whole class. In this case a goal could be to write once a week as part of your weekly routine. (Example: Monday and Tuesday are spent on the guided reading text for the week, Wednesday on word work, and Thursday for writing.)
Here is a resource I think early childhood educators will love. Click on the link and it will take you there. If you subscribe to this sight, you will have access to dozens of free activities. Looking for activities dealing with letter sounds, blends, digraphs, cvc words, sight words? This is where you will find them. They are perfect for small group instruction, individual, or centers. I will also add this link to my reading resources.
by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady
I was browsing through some research on reading and came across this article about instructional practices concerning alphabet letters and sounds. Click here for a pdf of this article: Enhancing alphabet knowledge instruction: Research implications and practical strategies for early childhood educators.
This article discusses the concept of letter-0f-the-week instruction vs. another researched method. I know many KG teachers who implement the letter-of-the-week method with great success. During most of my teaching career, I know this was a pretty common method – even my own children learned this way. However, as research became more prevalent and relied upon to make instructional decisions, this method of teaching one letter a week came under fire. I kept hearing this, but never read any research which supported it, refuted it (or advised what to do instead) until seeing this article. So please have an open mind KG and 1st grade teachers. I like this quote by Maya Angelou: “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
Here is a summary of the article:
- The letter-of-the week method is largely based on tradition rather than research.
- With a letter per week, it takes 26 weeks of school (often until March) to complete the cycle, which disadvantages at-risk students.
- Many students don’t need a whole week to learn a letter.
- With 26 weeks for one complete instructional cycle of the alphabet, this only leaves 10 weeks to review the letters, sounds, and symbols.
The research suggested the following 6 cycles of alphabet learning (meaning each cycle is completed in 26-30 days) and repeated with a different focus for up to 5 more times throughout the year. With each cycle, the order and reason in which letters are presented is varied. So students experience 6 different opportunities (instead of one) to focus on unique features of the letters to learn the letter name, sound, how to write it, and locate it in text.
1st 26 days: By frequency of initial letters in students’ names. Determine the letters used most often in your students’ names and start with those first. Example: You have several students whose name begins with M, L, and K. So begin with those letters with your daily instruction. This is very motivating for students and helps with name recognition. Continue reading
By Cindy Elkins – OK Math and Reading Lady
A child’s concepts about print (CAP) shows his/her understanding of how to orient text and their readiness to read. Click on the following link for a printable version of this CAP article. The last page of the article is an assessment which I found on MS Clip art (free). It was designed by Jen Jones @ www.helloliteracyblogspot.com. Click here for a free copy of the following 2 CAP posters (8.5 x 11″ each).
CAP Poster – page 1
CAP Poster – page 2
Concepts about Print include:
- Author and illustrator
- Front and back cover
- Where to start reading
- Directionality: left to right, top to bottom, return sweep
- One-to-one correspondence (voice-print-match)
- First and last part (of sentence or story)
- Difference between letter, word, and sentence
- Capitals / Upper case vs. lower case letters
- Punctuation (Please call them by their correct names – not “Mystery Mark” or “Happy Mark”)
- Pictures (which help determine meaning)
How to teach and practice CAP: Continue reading
by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady
The third cueing system is the use of visual cues (V) to decode words. This means the reader is mostly focused on how a word looks. A best-case scenario is when the student is cross-checking by using meaning, structure, and the visual aspects of the word to make a correct response. See previous posts regarding Part I (Meaning) and Part II (Structure).
If a child mainly relies on this visual cueing system, he/she may become slower and lose comprehension because he/she is so focused on the pronunciation and not the meaning.
In an earlier post from “Listening to Your Students Reading Part 1,” I referred to this sample sentence: Jack and Jill had a pail of water.
If the child said pill or pal instead of pail, then that child was primarily using visual cues because those words look very similar. Unfortunately, neither of those examples makes sense. Continue reading
By C. Elkins – OK Math and Reading Lady
See Part I – Meaning (posted Sept. 17th)
The second cueing system is the use of (S) Structure or Syntax of our English language. Much of a child’s knowledge about language structures comes as a result of speaking or listening to how language naturally sounds. A reader attempts to make it sound right. Here are 3 possible scenarios: Continue reading
By C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady – with adaptations from Marie Clay and Scholastic
As an undergraduate, I know I had coursework in reading related to Miscue Analysis. I remember having a whole book devoted to this study. However, I don’t remember really applying this knowledge until after having taught for 15 years. I attended a Reading Recovery workshop at that time, and heard from two teachers who described how to take a running record and then analyze the results to determine which strategies students were using or neglecting. That one workshop forever changed how I listened to my students read, and how I talked to parents about their child’s reading successes or difficulties. About 8 years after that I had formal training in Reading Recovery methods (after my kids were grown and I could go back to school) and completed a Masters in Reading all because of that workshop!
So, what is a running record?
- Written documentation of a child’s oral reading
- Identifies accuracy of reading (independent, instructional, or hard)
- Provides a record of strategies, errors, corrections, phrasing, fluency
- Helps teachers identify cueing systems the child is using / neglecting
- Documents progress over time