Tag Archives: reading

April Showers bring May Flowers


If you’re like me – you’re wrapping up your Spring Break.  Or maybe, you’re just about to begin.  Or, maybe, you’re like some of my Georgia friends and Spring Break was week ago – before Spring had even started.  No matter your finishing point on the break scale, you may be searching for new and fun ideas to keep your students engaged these last few weeks of the year.  Testing is about to begin for upper grades.  Class schedules will be altered.  Recess plans may have to move from outdoors to indoors because of noise.  I’ve been using Google, Pinterest, and blogs to find creative ways to enhance our last nine weeks of school.




I also blogged about other fun experiments a couple of years ago: https://withliteracyinmind.wordpress.com/2013/05/22/snippets-2/

If you have them – iPAD PROJECTS






This one is pretty self explanatory – create a schedule and fill some time blocks with Show and Tell.  The kids have been sneaking toys to school anyway! (Well, mine have!)

(featured below, my hubby)


Again, create a schedule for parents, community members, or even other teachers.  My kids love being read to and when someone else comes in – it is extra special. You can easily create a google doc that can be emailed out for sign up.


I automatically save tissue boxes, shoe boxes, and toilet paper rolls.  Let’s put these items to great use!  The Pinterest board below has so many great ideas.


Aren’t sure what a maker space is?





We have a green way near our school as well as plenty of trees.  If you have the beauty of nature around you – and the parental permission necessary – take your kiddos for a hike.  Document your walk with iPads or other hand-helds, pictures, or science journals.


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It’s FREE, engaging, and FUN!



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Filed under iPads, Literacy, Read Alouds, Science, Technology

The Power of Three

always tattoo


In Harry Potter, the Deathly Hallows are three super powerful magical objects believed to give the owner invincibility.  How awesome would it be if we armed our students with 3 magically powerful skills that enabled them to be “invincible” when it comes to reading?  Research on the Generative Theory has shown that there ARE 3 powerful things that create successful readers. Without these three things, readers are unable to self monitor and try strategies to help them succeed. Reading becomes a chore rather than something that comes as natural as breathing.

The Generative Theory of reading is born of the research of Diane Stephens on what matters when helping students become successful readers and writers.  Her “What Matters” framework places heavy emphasis on meeting students where they are and using assessment as a way to know more about how students learn and shape lessons accordingly.


According to Stephens’ theory, if the following 3 things are in place, the reader will automatically self monitor.  They will stop themselves when something does not make sense and will apply a strategy to help.

  1. The reader understands that reading should make sense. Does the reader understand that reading is about more than just getting the words right?
  2. The reader believes in his/her ability to make sense of text. Does the reader see reading as an attainable goal everyone can achieve rather than an ability a person is born with?
  3. The reader sees reading as an enjoyable event.  Does the reader see reading as fun?


As teachers, we need to look for and at times create situations for the students to show these 3 things.  To start, here are some activities for helping students understand that reading should make sense.

  • Use easy to read books that are fun and enjoyable and have high interest for students
  • Have students look at a picture and ask them to tell you what is happening in the picture.  If the student is just pointing to objects in the picture and naming them (labeling) rather than crafting a scenario for the picture, he/she does not understand that reading should make sense
  • Tea Party Strategy:
    • Show the students the front/back cover of a book and jot down words they think the author may use in the story.
    • Talk about why the author may use those words.
    • Categorize them.
    • OR Show students various pictures (some actually from book, others not) and have them sort the pictures into 2 groups – Pictures they think will be in the book or will not be in the book.  Discuss reasoning behind the categorizing.
  • Use wordless picture books  to practice telling stories
  • Use 3 pictures, tell a story, and write the story together
  • Teacher talk – think aloud as you read a story to model how a reader self monitors and the meaning making process
  • Oral storytelling
  • Interactive read alouds
  • Performance Literacy:
    • Student draws favorite animal
    • Teacher writes the name of the animal
    • Ask the child if the animal has a name
    • Write 2-3 words that could form the problem of the story (ex: lonely, hungry, or lost)
    • Ask questions: What problem do you want your animal to have? When the lion was hungry what did he do? Where did it go? What did it eat?
    • Write down the student responses to the questions
    • Tell the story back to the child filling in details when necessary.  Use plenty of sounds and movement.
    • Ask the child to tell the story back to you.

As I explore this topic more in my Literacy Beginnings class, I will share more with you!  In the meantime, check out this article:


Or Diane Stephens book:  Reading Assessment: Artful Teachers, Successful Students

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Filed under Literacy, Reading Workshop

The “Just Right” Double-Edged Sword


Initially, this post had the tone of a soap box rant, a sermon about reading levels.  I pushed the laptop away last night and didn’t hit publish.  I’m glad that I left this post a draft until now – because I really don’t want to sound preachy about this topic.  I want my message to come across as a sweet note found in the lunchbox of parents and teachers.


Would anyone ever tell Libby that she isn’t reading Pete the Cat correctly?  Or that Pete the Cat is too hard for her because she is only 3?  Of course not!  So let us keep this in mind when helping our students choose books at home, school, the library, and beyond.  Do I think knowing a child’s reading level is beneficial?  Of course!  Reading levels help teachers know what a student can read independently and can be used as a guide post for helping him/her grow as a reader.  At the same time, my students have free reign over the classroom library.  There are so many titles, I section it off for them at times, just to help with organization.  But – they can choose ANY book to read from the plethora.  I fight past the worry I may have for my struggling readers who could choose a book that contains text that is frustrating for them.  I watch them flip through pages, come to a conclusion, and either put the book back or settle in for the duration.  More often than not, the book is put back not because of difficulty, but because it does not interest them.  Studies have shown that readers who have an interest in what they are reading comprehend better – despite the level of the text.

And now I think I’m starting to get preachy… So I’ll end with this – Reading levels are a guide post for the “Just Right” book for your child.  “Just Right” meaning he or she can read it independently, not “Just Right” meaning the only books to read.  A level should not stifle, but scaffold.  Nurture your reader.  Give students voice and choice in their reading – and watch them grow. Watch them learn.  Watch them fall in love for the very first time…with books.

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Research about reading, interest, and comprehension:





Reading level resources for parents and teachers:





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Filed under Literacy

Straddling the line

It is always about this time of the year that I’m trying to remain in one world – the world of today, these last 20 days of school, with these students.

But – my mind always wanders to NEXT year… How can I do things better next year?  Change this arrangement?  Amp up this lesson?  Remember to do this!

I’ve agreed to tutor 2 students over the summer – so I’m also in that planning mode.  Pinterest has become my best friend.  It is always nice to find new ways of reviewing and remediation of the same subject matter.  I even created a separate board for tutoring.


I’ve also started doing some research for how to better help my struggling readers.  All of my teacher friends know that sometimes – no matter how many tricks we have up our sleeve – we can feel at a loss trying to reach a child where he or she is.  I’ve seen so much growth with my kids this year, and being intrinsically competitive,  I’d like to have more tricks (more growth) for next year.  So I bumped up my latest amazon order to free shipping with this book – I’ll let you know how it is.


We have moved into survival mode in my classroom and we are trying new things to keep us engaged and following classroom procedures.  We recently starting creating our own daily schedules.  She saw it in another teacher’s classroom and it is great to make this progress with personalized learning.
Check out my mentor’s blog about this:

choice checklist


I’m so glad we started it!  The students have so much ownership in their schedule and their work.  The students are practicing being first graders by working more independently, and having only one teacher available to help,  while I pull small groups to help or assess for the end of the year.

So if you’re like me -straddling the line between this year and next…
Between days like this

20130506-183105.jpgand days like this

20130506-183056.jpgFind some inspiration – from a colleague, Pinterest, or just taking Amazon’s recommendation.

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Filed under Lower Grades

Little Engines

I’ve been listening to my little ones read out loud for a week straight now so we can complete running records. I can probably regurgitate every word of some of the leveled texts. What I have loved most is hearing and witnessing all the growth of my readers! I wish I could take all of the credit – but luckily I have an amazing assistant, supportive parents, and amazing apps on the iPad to help me scaffold my guided reading instruction.

The saying of the Little Engine that Could kept popping up in my mind today while listening to them read. “I think I can! I think I can!” Many of my students are taking risks and pushing themselves because they think they can. Their intrinsic motivation is really paying off! With the leveled readers we have on the iPads, they can explore texts above their level by having it read to them. By listening repeatedly to the same story, they can become more fluent readers and then try these texts on their own.

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Our reading series offers an app with the leveled readers loaded on to them. Students can explore all of the kindergarten level texts. There are also a few higher level texts we have access to because they were samples. Using choice, they are able to select books for their own bookshelf – and again listen to books as a preview before reading. They love going to the library to select what interests them.

Using their voice, they are able to tell me when they feel ready to read a text aloud to me. They feel in charge and this has made a great difference! I use all of these observations to impact my guided reading groups and lessons.



More and more I am seeing how voice and choice empower even the youngest learners. We think we can! We know we can!

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Filed under Literacy, Lower Grades, Technology