Comprehension: Point of View

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

Point of View seems to be a difficult skill for children to master. I have noticed it is high up on most schools’ lists of standards that need retaught and reviewed. So this made me wonder, “What is it about this skill that is being misunderstood?”

Here are my thoughts:

  • Part of it may be trying to determine “Which points of view are my students supposed to know?” In Oklahoma, the standards are fairly clear for grades 2-4 which emphasizes the ability to identify the first and third person points of view. But 5th grade isn’t as specific so many teachers are left wondering, “Do I include the 2nd person point of view? The Omniscient? . . .” (See a list below of the Pt. of View Stds. for each grade level. It appears they have clarified the 5th grade position since last year.)
  • Some of the confusion may be that students are mostly armed with the keywords regarding various points of view (1st = I, me, my; 2nd = you, your; 3rd = him, her, them, they). I have literally seen students counting pronouns and then declare the point of view based on which pronouns they saw the most of. This means they were not really focused on the overall jist of the story and/or were ignoring the fact that a quote using the word “I” doesn’t necessarily make the selection a first person point of view. This is where too much reliance on beautiful anchor charts on Pinterest can perhaps harm your students.  So be cautious!
  • Some of it may be that students confuse all of those words: Purpose, Point of View, Perspective.  Here is a good, short video from Smekenseducation.com which easily explains the difference. Click here to watch: Purpose, Point of View, and Perspective Video
  • Stay tuned for some cool FREE activities (end of post).

Continue reading

Comprehension Strategies (2nd-5th and above)

by C. Elkins – OK Math and Reading Lady

I have been doing some research about the difference between reading skills and reading strategies.  There seems to be a variance of opinions, but basically a reading skill is described as a path to answering certain kinds of questions (cause-effect, compare-contrast, sequence, etc.), while a strategy involves a higher meta-cognitive process which leads to deeper thinking about a text (visualize, question, summarize).  Another way to put it is this:  When reading, I need a strategy to help me understand when and where to apply the skills I have learned.

It probably can be illustrated more clearly using mathematics:  A skill might be adding two double-digit numbers, while different strategies might be these:  using base ten manipulatives, using an open number line, or the partial sums method.  Or soccer:  A skill would be the dribbling the ball (how to position the foot, how close/far to keep it to the player), while a strategy would be how to keep dribbling while keeping it away from the opposing team.

There are also varying opinions about which reading practices are considered strategies.  I like to think of strategies as those that can be applied to any reading text such as: summarize, visualize, question, make connections, predict, infer, author’s purpose & point of view. I need a strategy to help me understand when and where to apply the skills I have learned. Keep reading for more ideas and FREE resources.

Skills seem to be more dependent on the text structure (meaning they only apply to certain texts) such as sequence, compare/contrast, cause/effect, main idea / detail, problem-solution, identify story elements, etc. 

  • To help me visualize (strategy), I might use skills about character analysis such as paying attention to their words and actions to help me “see” what is really going on. Another example:  I might use skills about noting details while reading a passage to make the details “come alive” as I try to picture them in my mind. (See link to strategy posters at the end of this post.)

To help me summarize (strategy) an article, I need to analyze the text structure (skill) and then use that information to help me summarize. 

  • Is it in sequence? Then my summary will use words such as first, then, next, last.
  • Is it comparing and contrasting something? Then my summary will need to use words such as alike or different.
  • Is it informational? Then my summary will list facts or details.
  • Is it fictional? Then my summary will tell the characters, setting, and events.

Continue reading

Student Engagement

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

Student engagement is a huge concern among most (if not all) educators. This means students are actively involved in the learning process. Research definitely supports the notion that higher incidents of engagement result in increased achievement (Marzano, etc.).  Attached is my guide to student engagement strategies for reading / ELA lessons.  Many of these strategies also will apply to math, social studies, or science lessons.

Click here to get my guide:  Student Engagement – Whole Class Reading

Reading Fix-it Strategies: Part 4 (Decoding)

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

Here are 12 decoding strategies you might like. These show various ways to help students break apart, analyze, and relate to known words. I only recommend sounding out words letter-by-letter in a few limited situations. Beginning readers do this to apply newly learned letter-sound knowledge. It is a successful method for cvc words and other small words which follow the phonics rules. However, if this is the child’s main method of reading, it begins to become unproductive and impede fluency. In addition to prompting students for meaning or use of structure (see Fix-it Strategies parts 1 and 2), try some of these strategies to help children decode words.

  1. Help the child think of a word that makes sense which also begins with that letter(s).alligator
  2. Use the picture and the first letter to help predict the word. Example: The alligator is green. I know it’s not crocodile because the word begins with the letter a.
  3. On a word which can be predicted using the meaning and structure of the story, show a student how to cover up the end of the word (with their finger) to “force” the student to focus on the beginning letter or blend. Or use a post-it note over everything except the first letter or blend. The cloze procedure works well here. For example: “The first time I got on an airplane I was feeling sc_____.” A student probably doesn’t need to even see the rest of the word to predict it says “scared.”
  4. Limit “sounding out” to highly predictable words. Use Elkonin sound boxes for students to “push” sounds of words and then blend them together. Click on this link to see a video of this process: Elkonin Sound Boxes When ready, replace chips with letter tiles.
  5. Use “continuous blending.”  The reader slowly blends the sounds together instead of segmenting one at a time.  Example with cat:  Instead of /k/ + /a/ + /t/ it might sound like /kaaat/.
  6. Show the student how to cover up parts of words to isolate known syllables, base words, or word parts.
    • Candy: look for known word part –and (or can)
    • Jumping: look for base word jump
    • Herself: look for compound words
  7. Help student relate the tricky word to another that is similar (word analogy). If a child is struggling with a word, it is often helpful to write a simple known word (on a handy small whiteboard) to see if they can relate the known to the new.
    • For week: You know we so this word is . . .
    • For star: You know are so this word is . . .
    • For chat: You know cat so this word is . . .
    • For dress: You know yes so this word is . . .
    • For perfect: You know her so this word is . . .
    • For wreck: You know write so this word is . . .
  8. Sometimes a student gets a word on one page and not another. Help them notice when this happens. “You read this word correctly on page 2. What did it say on page 2? Try it here on page 5.”
  9. Teach children to look for chunks and break the word apart. Example: For standing break into /st/ + /and/ + /ing/. Children will learn more of these “chunks” through spelling instruction. Or, make new words using word families so they can see similar chunks, such as: -ame, -ell, – ick, -oat, -ug
  10. Tell the child to “flip the vowel.” This means if they try one sound and it doesn’t make sense, to try the other sound the vowel makes. This is a quick prompt without the teacher going into a mini-lesson on vowel rules. As a visual reminder, I flip the palm of my hand from one side to the other.
  11. For single or multi-syllabic words, practice these generalizations:
    • Closed syllable:  If a single vowel is “closed in” with consonants on each side, the vowel sound is usually short (tub, flat, bas-ket, lim-it, in-spect). This generalization often applies to vc syllables in which the consonant ends the syllable.
    • Open syllable: If a vowel ends the word or syllable, it is considered “open.” In this case, the vowel usually makes the long sound (be, go, be-gin, o-pen, ta-ble, cho-sen)
    • Two vowels in a syllable? Most often the vowel will produce the long sound (this includes vowel digraphs and the vce pattern such as coat, cone, treat-ing).
  12. Practice word sorting, so children can visually discriminate between words /patterns.

For those of you who use Journeys (Houghton Mifflin), you can access word study/spelling cards for sorting only through Think Central. Go to teacher resources, then choose the “Literacy and Language Guide.” Click on the word study link to find them.

As I mentioned in other posts, when the child is reading text let them complete the sentence before prompting for uncorrected errors. This is because the child’s use of the meaning and structural systems are huge. The visual aspect of a word is meant to help them confirm – not drive their system of reading. See previous posts (Fix-it Strategies parts 1-3 and freebies) for more information.

Have a great week!  Cindy

Reading Fix-it Strategies: Part 3 “Does it look right?”

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

Welcome back to part 3! In this post we will look at some strategies and prompts regarding the visual cueing system. When a student’s main strategy is to use the letters they see to sound out words, they are attempting to make the word(s) look right. This method is often helpful, especially with cvc words or words which are phonetic. We do want kids to know how to segment the sounds and blend them together to pronounce the word. But we don’t want them to overuse it and neglect the other 2 cueing systems. A good reader uses all 3 at the same time to cross check their reading.

If we want children to use the visual cueing system, there are several “sounding out” strategies. Children often need guidance about which of these works best. So try not to just say, “Sound it out.” This  guide emphasizes many of these strategies. Get it here FREE:  Strategy Chart full size.

  • Sound out letter by letter:  To pronounce had = /h/+/a/+/d/
  • Get the word started with the right sound.
  • Stretch out the sounds slowly (also referred to as continuous blending).
  • Use common chunks (sometimes referred to as rimes, phonograms, word families): spent = /sp/ + /ent/
  • Look for little words within bigger words: stand = /st/ + /and/
  • Flip the vowel:  If a student tried the word time, but pronounced it /t/+/i/+/m/ with the short i sound, tell the child to flip the vowel (meaning they should try the other sound that vowel makes to determine if it makes sense). This is a GREAT strategy to use without having to go into a mini lesson about vowel pairs, silent e, and other phonics rules concerning vowels.  Just say, “Flip the vowel.”
  • Think of another known word which has a similar spelling: If the child is trying to read the word were think of the word her. Trying to read the word tree? Think of the word see.

Continue reading

Reading Fix-it Strategies: Part 2 “Does it sound right?”

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

In part 2, I will focus on some more fix-it strategies for students who are neglecting structure/syntax when reading. Last week were fix-it strategies regarding meaning. Next week will feature strategies for visual errors.

Let’s say this is the text:  She looked in her desk to find a pencil.

Let’s say this is how he/she read it (and did not fix it):  She look in her desk to find a pencil.

This child is making a structural / syntax error. Most of these types of errors occur with verbs in which children use the wrong tense or leave off/add endings. This should cause the child to stop and fix it because it doesn’t sound quite right. But that doesn’t always happen.  Why?

  1. The child is so focused on the base or root word, they don’t notice that endings have been added.
  2. The child is not listening to them self.
  3. The child can not always distinguish between proper and improper speech – perhaps because they don’t hear correct English at home, or they may be an English language learner and haven’t had a lot of exposure to correct grammar.
  4. The child is making generalizations regarding verb tense and doesn’t know all of the variations. The child doesn’t honestly know to make something “sound right.”
    • For example: Most often the child knows to add -ed when speaking about a past time event (jump / jumped). But what about run or write?  It’s not runned or writed.
    • Or while they might see the -ed ending, they don’t always know which is the correct pronunciation (is it /ed/, /t/, or /d/??).
    • The child does not yet know all of the grammar rules regarding participles and irregular verbs – perhaps due to developmental level or hearing incorrect language use among peers or family.

No matter the cause, it is our job as the teacher to try to help a child self-monitor and fix these types of errors. So there are prompts that are often effective to help a child recognize and correct their reading when it doesn’t sound right. Continue reading

Reading Fix-it Strategies: Part 1 “Does it make sense?”

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

What strategies do your students use to fix their reading? As teachers, we want our students to recognize when something doesn’t look right, sound right, or make sense — and FIX IT! But, do they use the same strategy over and over again — or worse — not even try to fix a mistake? This post will begin a series about good fix-it strategies (for any age reader) and prompts teachers can use to encourage students to use them. Keep reading for a FREE prompting guide, poster, and bookmark to use in your classroom.

The fix-it strategies I will share are based on the three cueing systems in reading: Meaning, Structure, and Visual. When students make errors in their reading, the errors fall into one of these 3 categories. 

In this post, I will focus on the MEANING system, which in my opinion is the most important one. After all, the ultimate goal in reading is to comprehend or make meaning. When a reader comes to a hard word, is he/she only trying to sound it out? Or are they thinking about what makes sense and sounds right? Hopefully, a little of each. A good reader looks at the letters, combined with the structure and meaning of the story to decide what that tricky word could be.

I’m sure you are familiar with this scenario.  A child sees this text:  She went to the store to get some milk. But, the child reads it as:  She went to the story to get some milk. And the child keeps on reading, oblivious to their mistake. After all, the word does look like story.

Which one of these prompts do you think will help the child fix their reading most efficiently? Continue reading

Back to school books and activities

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

As part of building a classroom community, you likely will have many discussions about diversity, friendship, and showing respect in various ways.  Here are some great resources for literature that might emphasize the point you are trying to make.

Weareteachers.com 14 books with great follow-up ideas.

  • This site is one of the best because it doesn’t just give a summary of the story, but it provides very practical follow up ideas include a get-to-know-you bingo, anchor charts, self-portrait, writing, posters, brainstorming, drawing, etc.
  • For the above book, “Dear Teacher,” she suggests writing a postcard to a friend or family member telling them about the first week of school.
  • For the book, “Name Jar,” the article suggests brainstorming and creating a poster showing different ways to greet a new student.  

5 Back to School Books for 3rd Grade (Pinterest from notsowimpyteacher.com):

  • There might be some new titles here that kids haven’t heard in previous years.

Back to school books for upper elementary (teachingtoinspire.com).

  • This teacher provides some printables to accompany the books she recommends. These deal with more advanced issues such as kindness, diversity, perseverance, homework and writing.
  • One of the books she features is “The Important Book” by Margaret Wise Brown. It’s been around for awhile (for a good reason). A perfect book for getting kids to write details around one topic. This can actually be used any time of year – not just the beginning. For the schools I visit, I have a set of these books you may borrow. Or send me a message and I will send you more information about this book and its link to writing possibilities! Or, of course, I can help you do a lesson using these any time of the year.

Don’t have the books mentioned? Your school library might be able to get it from another library. Or – check youtube.com.  Many books are shared this way!

Enjoy!  And please share some other titles and/or beginning of school activities you love.

Back to School

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

Here are a few links to some previous posts regarding literacy and math you might be interested in to help you start your journey this year.  And in case you didn’t see it, I now have an easy link to most of my own free resources. Creating this was one of my summer projects. Click here to get it now, but it is also available in the black bar above. See info at the end for another $25 subscriber / comment challenge!!  Have a great start to your year and Enjoy!!!

  1. Getting to know you literature connection and math activity
  2. Building a classroom community (includes link to great team building practices)
  3. Writing part 1
  4. Guided Reading Part 1: Getting Started
  5. Guided Reading Part 2: Routines and Procedures
  6. Meaningful Student Engagement: Whole Class Reading
  7. Daily Math Meeting Part 1: Building Number Sense
  8. Daily Math Meeting Part 2: Subitizing
  9. Addition and Subtraction Part 1: Numerical Fluency
  10. Addition and Subtraction Part 3: Facts Strategies
  11. Multiplication Strategies Part 1
  12. Fractions Part 1: The basics

 

Writing Part 8: Six Traits of Writing and Descriptive Model

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

This will be the final part of my writing series. The focus today is on the Six Traits of Writing. The six traits are a tool for teaching writing, leading to a quality product.  They are not an organizational model (such as Four Square).  This model was originally developed by the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory in Oregon. Here is a link to their website which includes more resources, definitions, and research:  http://educationnorthwest.org/traits/

I will refer to the six traits, although Education Northwest added a seventh trait (presentation) and titles it “Six + 1 Trait Writing.” Keep reading to find some FREE RESOURCES.

So what are the Six Traits that define quality writing?  See full definitions by clicking HERE:

  • Ideas:  This is the main message or topic.
    • The message is written clearly.
    • It is interesting and shows understanding of the topic.
  • Organization:  This is the structure of the piece. Connections are strong.
    • Everything written links to the message.
    • A good beginning and ending grab the reader.
    • Organization is evident. (Link to text structures of sequence, compare-contrast, description, problem-solution, and cause-effect.)
  • Sentence Fluency:  This is the flow and rhythm of the writing.
    • Varied sentence beginnings and lengths.
    • Does it sound smooth and interesting, showing good use of transitions?
    • Are some words emphasized for effect?
  • Voice:  This is the writer’s personal tone coming through.
    • The writing sounds like the author.
    • The author’s feelings and style come through the writing.
    • It shows sincerity, honesty, and conviction.
  • Word Choice:  This is the vocabulary the author chooses. 
    • Selects the best words to fit the author and the message.
    • Does not repeat words too many times.
    • Replaces overused words.  (Search for “Said is Dead” on Pinterest.)
    • Natural, but precise and vivid.
    • Might include well-placed figurative language.
  • Conventions:  This is the mechanical correctness – the rules of language. Expectations should be based on grade level lessons and standards.
    • Spelling
    • Grammar
    • Punctuation
    • Capitalization
  • Presentation (the +1 trait):  This is how the writing looks on the page – the overall appearance.
    • text or font
    • neatness / handwriting
    • graphics
    • spacing and borders

Continue reading

Writing Part 7: Four Square Writing Model

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

One of my favorite models for organizing writing is the Four Square Model.  I got the chance to attend a workshop conducted by the author of these books and I have been a fan ever since. This organizational model can be applied from KG to 5th grade (and beyond).

Four Square Writing:

Order HERE.  It is developmentally appropriate to start with pictures for the youngest and gradually add sentences to explain the topic. For those who can write sentences, this model can help students build from a single five sentence paragraph (first and second grades) to the 5 paragraph essay (3rd and up). This model is great for expository, persuasive, and descriptive types of writing. For intermediate students, this format helps them organize the main idea, subtopics, details, and transition words.

  1. Students become better at seeing the relationship between the main topic and sub-topics such as: Fruit — apple, grape, cherry. I believe if students can write about a topic and the supporting details, then they can more easily recognize these in text. Description is one of the five main text structures.
  2. KG students start with pictures. Then young students (first or second) create a topic, 3 supporting details, and a beginning or concluding sentence to create a single paragraph.
  3. See this precious video from a first grade class showing how to use the four square method First Grade 4-Square Writing (Mr. Alba’s Class)

Thank you to teachers in Lawton for sharing some of the the work students did when I worked with them on use of this model. Here are a few samples (first and fifth grades): Continue reading

Writing Part 6: Mini Lessons

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

Thanks for hanging in there regarding my Writing series.  Today I will focus on using writing mini-lessons. The mini-lesson is the teacher’s chance to show children how to do all of the different things writers do — a little bit at a time.

Writing Mini-Lessons:

  • Mini-Lessons are meant to be short  – maybe 10-15 minutes.
  • They are meant to address student needs – so your decisions shouldn’t necessarily come from a sequenced list, but based on what you see the students doing (or not doing).
  • Focus on one topic per mini-lesson. Then practice that one aspect of writing.
  • Decisions on mini-lessons can be based on any writing students are doing (journal, prompts, reading responses, and other curriculum writing assignments).
  • How often? I would try 1-2 mini-lessons per week. Alternate days with handwriting instruction and journal writing if you only have one block of time for writing.
  • Writing mini-lessons can also be done as a part of your guided reading weekly routine. This means you can differentiate your instruction based on the group of students with whom you are working.
  • Always model and use think alouds. Your writing mini-lessons will be more effective if you have already been utilizing shared writing methods. Use some of your own writing to introduce a mini-lesson.
  • Don’t forget to praise when you notice a student who has implemented some of your mini-lesson strategies.  Give specific info to a student directly. Specific praise (not just “Good job”) will result in more consistent use of what you praised them for. Example:  “I noticed you have ending punctuation on all of your sentences. Keep it up!” 

Mini-Lesson Ideas: These are not listed in any particular order because you should select ones based on what students need. However, I did put them in a somewhat developmentally appropriate order from younger to older students.

Get your free printed PDF copy of these ideas (enough for a whole year) by clicking HERE. Continue reading

Writing Part 5: Temporary Spelling and Word Wall

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

Can u reed wut i am riting? Can u tel frum my riting that i no most uv the mane sonds in werds? I no sum site werds, i no the sonds in order frum left to rite as i strech them out. I no sum vowl paterns. I can evn spel sum 2 silubul werds by trying 1 silubul at a time. After i am dun riting, the teecher helps me pik out 2 werds to lern. Then i practis them a fu timez and add them to my speshul werd book so i can find and uz them agen.

This is an example of temporary spelling appropriate for a late KG-2nd grade student. The “student” was able to focus on the content of their writing using spelling strategies mentioned in my previous posts:

  • Stretch out sounds or use sound boxes.
  • Clap to hear the distinct syllables and spell each syllable separately.
  • Think about spelling patterns from known or rhyming words.
  • Use words posted on the word wall and/or in the individual word book.
  • Try words different ways to see which one looks right.

For this student, I would have selected these 2 words (werd/word and frum/from) for further practice because they were used often, close to the correct spelling, and only need minor adjustments. I usually have them circle the words we chose. These words only need minor tweaking and they are likely to be words needed often for future writing. When the words are added to his/her word book, they are there for reference and are more likely to be used correctly in the future. Continue reading

Writing Part 4: How to get kids to stay on topic

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

I support you, OK teachers!!! I walked with you in 1990 and in 2007-2008. I feel your frustrations and have been contacting OK representatives and senators this past year on your behalf. Last in pay, overcrowded classes, lack of supplies, on and on – I experienced it myself and see it everyday when I visit classes. I am proud of you, your goals, and your actions to affect change.  I am with you all the way!!!

Today’s post will focus on moving children toward more independent writing. A strategy I love to use addresses the following writing points:

  1. Composing sentences
  2. Staying on the chosen topic
  3. Practicing temporary spelling strategies (sounding out, stretching sounds, clapping syllables, thinking of words that rhyme, using related known words)
  4. Applying conventions of print (spacing within and between words, left to right, return sweep, etc.)
  5. Using class word wall (or individual word book)
  6. Proofreading and fluency

I have used this strategy and have felt successful with it. After students have seen me model writing in various forms (example: class news or other shared writing experiences), I usually follow these steps: Continue reading

Writing Part 3: Modeling and Shared Writing

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

I will share several writing strategies via this series of posts on Writing. Part 1 was a focus on the continuum and word-writing strategies. Part 2 focused on the importance of letter formation and handwriting (printing) with a way to incorporate it with concepts of print, phonics, and composing sentences. In this part, I would like to focus on a modeling / shared writing strategy I call “Class News.” I utilized this strategy with KG-3rd grade classes and will share some pictures and ideas with you. I also wrote an article about this that appeared many years ago in the Oklahoma Reader, a publication by the OK Reading Association.

What is it?  I called students together each day for math talk time. After this, we held a class news session. Writing the date was part of the routine (but it doesn’t have to be). Students took turns sharing news of importance to them – and sometimes some other news about the day was added. For younger students it was a definite time to emphasize a variety of concepts of print:

  1. Directionality and return sweep (going to the next line from left to right)
  2. Spacing within and between words (see part 2 reference to “spaghetti and meatballs”)
  3. Letter formation – tall letters vs. short letters vs. below the line letters
  4. Use of capitals and punctuation
  5. Noticing the difference between letters, words, and sentences
  6. The opportunity to think aloud about letter sounds and sight words

After a sentence was orally agreed on, I wrote parts of it and solicited help from students for parts I felt they could be successful with. This often varied depending on what I wanted to emphasize. At first it was beginning letters or ending letters. Then I would try leaving out the vowels for students to work on. Gradually, different word parts or whole words were left for students to complete (usually with a different colored marker). All the while I was right next to them guiding them.

I also kept a few learning aids handy (alphabet chart with pictures, letter formation chart, vowel pairs chart, etc.) so we could reference them when needed. I have linked some FREE mini charts at the end of this post. Example:  A student is finishing the word “toad” and is thinking of the correct vowel pair, so I show my vowel pairs chart and point to the word “boat” and say, “Do you see a word / picture that has the same middle sound as the word toad?” . . . child finds boat to see the letters oa.  I also kept a small white board (or clip board) handy. For example, if the child came to write the sight word “have” on the chart, I might ask them to write it on the white board or clipboard first to check their thinking – that way all the kinks were worked out and the news chart stayed in a non-smudged condition. I also used the whiteboard to make sound boxes for a student to work out the sounds (like for a cvc word). Continue reading

Writing Part 2: Concepts of Print and Handwriting

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

I read an interesting blog post about checking children’s ability to distinguish between letters, words, and sentences. While I always considered that a reading skill related to “concepts of print,” it dawned on me that this relates strongly to a child’s successful writing experience too. This whole concept is what I will explore in today’s post – along with my opinions and ideas about teaching handwriting / penmanship.

Do you want to see if your students can distinguish between letter, word, and sentence? Try something like this from www.kindergartenchaos.com.

Here are some other links to help your children practice this.

  1.  Letter, Word and Sentence Sort (Free @ TPT)
  2. Kinderblossoms.blogspot lesson using poem to teach letter vs. word vs. sentence concepts
  3. Word, letter, or sentence cut-n-paste (free @ TPT)
  4. Pocket chart concepts of print (free @ TPT)

Using poems on a weekly basis (as with the spider poem in video from #2 above), make it easy to highlight these features (letter, word, sentence) as you continue to practice emphasizing the difference.

So when I want KG or 1st graders to write and I model how to write letters, and put space between these letters and words to write a sentence, they will hopefully have this concept under control. It seems to be pretty common that students aren’t always “seeing” this because they string everything together in one line with no differentiation in spacing between letters and words. Or they confuse letters with numbers.

Another blog I was reading had a great visual that I started trying regarding ways to teach spacing within words and between words when writing. Call it “spaghetti and meatballs.” When writing words, the space between the letters (within the word) should be really close (so that a skinny piece of spaghetti will fit in between). When writing a sentence, the space between the words should be the size of a meatball. Placing an uncooked spaghetti strand is a great visual aid! Regarding the meatball, however — I would tell students, “We can’t lay a meatball on our paper, but one or two fingers might work because they are about the same size.” Or if possible, provide a popsicle stick to each student to use as their spacer. Continue reading

Writing Part 1: How to get students to write

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:

  1. 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.”)
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.)

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Building Reading Fluency

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

Now that everyone is back from your winter break, I am sending you a short article on ways to build reading fluency with your students as a way to say Happy New Year! Click here for a FREE copy of it:  Building Fluency Guide

 

 

Cindy Elkins, Educational Consultant, OK Math and Reading Lady

Six Small Group Literacy Center Organization Models

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

Teachers realize the great benefit of working with smaller intimate groups in reading. By doing this, the teacher is able to tailor reading instruction and text levels to the needs of the students. This is a valuable time for students as well as the teacher. However, organizing a schedule and the activities for students who are not meeting with the teacher is very difficult. Then, if there is a large class (which seems to be the norm now), how can 20 students realistically be properly engaged for 45 minutes while the teacher meets with 5 . . . and move from one station to the next orderly, clean up after themselves, and do this all rather quietly?

So I have developed 6 different options which will enable the teacher to conduct small group instruction, while the other students are occupied productively. Click here to get a full description of them all, with charts and illustrations to help visualize how they are organized.PDF Center Organization Ideas For more help, search for my previous posts on Guided Reading Literacy Stations. And if you have questions or suggestions, by all means — click the comment box!!

Option #1:  Traditional rotation method — students rotate every 15-20 minutes and visit each station every day (including the teacher table).

Option #2: This is a semi-flexible schedule. Students start off with a must-do desk assignment(s), followed by reading practice. Then they choose a work station. Each day is a different station. Continue reading

Meaningful Student Engagement – Whole Class Reading

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

Teachers often ask me for suggestions on ways to engage students more, especially during whole class reading lessons. Student engagement is vital, isn’t it? Robert Marzano is a well-known educator/speaker whose research shows that students in highly engaging classrooms outperform their peers by an average  of almost 30 percentile points.  Students today have a higher need for interaction or they check out. What does engagement look like? The student . . .

  • participates in discussion
  • stays on task
  • listens to others
  • shares ideas
  • is aware of what is going on / alert
  • follows directions
  • reflects on learning
  • helps others
  • does more work than the teacher
  • enjoys the process
  • committed
  • applies new strategies
  • and . . . learns!!

What does lack of engagement look like? The student . . .

  • looks bored, sleepy, uninterested
  • can’t keep up
  • talks to their neighbor
  • is apathetic
  • gets confused
  • lacks understanding
  • fiddles with items in their desk
  • has a wandering mind
  • misbehaves
  • has a tired, frustrated teacher (because he/she is doing most of the work)
  • misses important information
  • hears the teacher do all the talking
  • has to be reminded to pay attention / follow along

I read an interesting article titled The Eight C’s of Engagement: How Learning Styles and Instructional Design Increase Students’ Commitment to Learning by Harvey F. Silver & Matthew J. Perini (linked here:The Eight C’s of Engagement).  They are:  Competition, Challenge, Cooperation, Connections, Curiosity, Controversy, Choice and Creativity (pages 9-11).

Cindy’s Top 20 Reading Engagement Ideas / Activities: These are based on personal experience, observation, and research. Get your free pdf copy here: Student Engagement – Whole Class Reading

    1. All students respond:
      • Thumbs up / down
      • Yes / No cards
      • Stand up / Sit down
      • Individual white boards (having specific procedures ensures productive use)
      • Multiple choice hand signals positioned in front of the student’s chest (1, 2, 3 or 4 fingers or finger-spelling sign language for a, b, c, d)
    2. Partner share: This takes modeling, observation, and practice to make it productive so students know quickly who their sharing partner is, what voice level to use, how to listen, how to take turns, how to summarize or recall what your partner said, how to help properly, etc.
    3. Sorting activities: Prepare cards which can be grouped according to your specs such as…
      • Sort the verbs (or adjectives) according to the character who exhibits these actions (or qualities).
      • Sort words to emphasize story elements: the characters, the setting, problems, actions, etc.
      • Sort words into a Venn diagram template while reading a compare / contrast article.
    4. Complete a graphic organizer together as you read and discuss the story. Notice that different text structures require a different way to organize the information.
    5. Fold it note taking: Students fold a blank sheet of paper into 4-8 sections to take notes, show examples, or illustrate desired elements. Teacher directs note-taking by modeling or telling what to put in each section.
    6. Technology – video – interactive Smartboard activities or tools
    7. Post-it-notes:  Students use post-it-notes to mark critical parts in the story. Focus on one objective at a time. Even more powerful — connect to a skill you are working on.
      • when new characters are introduced
      • on a confusing part or a question
      • to mark an “A-ha!” moment
      • on the part that shows a problem in the story, plus write what it is
      • to mark changes in time, indicating a sequential structure
      • to recall who and what periodically throughout the selection
      • to write an important detail, especially with a descriptive structure
    8. Teach students to ask thoughtful questions about the text instead of always waiting for the teacher to ask. Asking a question is much like having a conversation with yourself. Students can write questions on post its, a book mark, an index card, or on a piece of butcher paper hung in the classroom (for multiple questions).
      • Is there a word you don’t understand?
      • Are you confused or curious about something?
      • Do you have a question about the author’s purpose?
      • What is something you wonder about?
      • Do you need more background information?
      • Can you turn a heading or subheading into a question?
    9. Instead of questioning students after reading, give then a purpose to read a paragraph, page, or set of pages before reading. (Example:  Read ahead to find out ______).
    10. STOP ROUND ROBIN READING! What can be done instead?
      • Partner read: Teach how to do this properly. For example if partner A doesn’t know a word, how can partner B help without always just telling them the word? How much does each partner read? How to ask each other questions, or summarize as they read? How to stay engaged with your partner? How to share a book if needed?
      • Project the story on the screen.
      • For a story heavy with conversation, read the characters speaking parts. (I love the books Freckle Juice and Snot Stew for this!)
      • Read short specific excerpts. Example:  “Find the part which tells how _____.”
      • For poetry, find poems that can be read in two voices. Partner 1 reads 1st line, couplet, or stanza, Partner 2 reads next set. This is also great fluency practice!
      • In small group, students read silently while teacher “taps in” to listen to one read at a time.
      • If there is patterned text (ex: Gingerbread Man), choral read those parts.
    11. Provide more than one option for the assignment – – students are likely to be more engaged if they have a choice.
    12. Make a “scoot” activity in which students move around the room to answer posted questions.
    13. Matching:  Students each have a card and must walk around the room to find their matching partner. Switch cards with someone else and repeat. Connect to the story you are reading.
      • word – definition
      • synonym – antonym
      • sentence – missing verb
      • fact – opinion
      • character – quote
      • affix – root word
    14. Become a vocabulary expert (get free pdf attachment click here):Each student thoroughly researches one word from the vocabulary list (definition, synonym, antonym, use in sentence, pronunciation, part of speech, and illustration). They become the expert about that word and teach it to others.
    15. Cooperative groups – each person should have a role:
      • Summarize a page, set of pages, or chapter.
      • Give an opinion.
      • Sequence main events.
      • Illustrate the story elements of a fictional selection.
      • Search for a specific number of interesting details (they get a choice in what details to include, plus they must debate or rate how interesting the detail is). Let class vote on which detail was the most interesting.
    16. Prepare work stations (learning centers) to review, expand concepts in a game or interactive format.
    17. Four corners:  Pose an open-ended question with 4 possible scenarios. Post each in a different corner. Students go to the corner that matches their opinion and discuss with others who think the same way they do. Then meet with group with opposing opinion for a friendly debate.
    18. Connect phonics, spelling, or word work lessons to the story by searching for one of these categories of words:
      • nouns
      • verbs (you can even specify past tense, present tense, past participles, action, etc.)
      • contractions / compound words
      • by number of syllables
      • vowel sounds
      • opinion words
      • sequence words
      • words with embedded little words (ex: yesterday)
    19. Make a poster of text features to go along with a story or article that didn’t have any.
    20. For stories with very few illustrations, describe a mental picture of what could be going on. Compare and contrast those mental pictures (by illustration if needed).

    Graphics provided via Microsoft Office clipart (creative commons)

    See www.teachertrap.com for this engagement poster: