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Text Time

September 15, 2018

Regarding the “Time in Text” Concept

This school year one of the big catch phrases regarding literacy instruction is “time in text.”  This concept is one of our district’s main focuses. We are finding in our observation data that students are not getting enough time during the day to encounter text and they are not being held responsible for wrestling with the features and ideas presented in the literature. These findings correlate with data gathered from around our state. With the latest NAEP data revealing that reading scores have remained relatively flat across our nation once again, students not spending enough quality time with quality text has been one of the hypothesized culprits.  My guess is the same could be true of literacy instruction in your district and even your own classroom, too. How do we approach time in text?

I still believe it comes down to integration of all literacy skills within worthwhile texts used in class. The more time students spend in books, the better readers they become. No, I’m not talking about kiddos becoming readers through osmosis! Students will not become better readers through simply holding books. However, making books an exciting part of your classroom is a great start. The texts you teach your concepts from need to be selected carefully and build knowledge sequentially. Don’t just think of a comprehension skill you need to teach and then find a book that will work. Look for quality literature and see what comprehension skills naturally lend themselves to be taught through the pages in the story. Graphic organizers can help students collect their thoughts, but don’t let filling out a graphic be the whole point of the literacy instruction. Graphic organizers are more about getting the students talking about the text constructively. Time in text does not mean just adding silent sustained reading times to your classroom schedule. It includes time for discussion and application of what was learned.

Yes! But…

Yes, I’m a huge supporter of all things foundational skills. However, more and more of these skills can be reinforced through the text. Yes, you should have decodable text at times in early literacy instruction, but you should not live there. Any application activities, such as incorporating grammar though writing, should explicitly tie back to the text used in class. Spend less time in the I DO part of the lesson and more time with students in the YOU DO part of the lesson. Yes, it is necessary to meet students where they are instructionally and find books on their level. When you are able, though, give students a say in what they are reading. Students will need to spend time in texts above their level, too, to help push them along. Ask authentic questions about the texts they are reading and give students time to really talk through what they are reading and thinking. A key word there is TIME. It won’t happen overnight, but giving students plenty of time in text is a worthwhile cause and not just a silly catchphrase in education that should quickly fade away. Time in text may be a simple concept, but when implemented properly, both teacher and students will surely reap the benefits!

Assessments and Data Integration Language Reading Writing

Goodbye is Only the Beginning

July 19, 2017

The Final Step in the Text Set Process

If you have been following Tenspire’s Text Set building tips since the beginning, you may be a little sad to learn that we have finally come to the end of our journey. This post marks the last step in building your own text set that will inspire your students to build vocabulary and knowledge about their world. But, good news awaits you after all! Goodbye is only the beginning. Let me explain.

You have labored over meticulously putting together a set of books, short passages, poems, digital media, and/or songs, etc. You know the anchor text you will use, the vocabulary you will explicitly teach, and the follow up assessment activities you will have students complete. The text set process, however, is an on-going one. Nothing is set in stone. You will always be refining what your text set looks like during classroom implementation. Here are some ideas to help tweak your text set to perfection.

  • Have a colleague at your school check it out. Let them give you some ideas. These folks are easily accessible and familiar with your school’s population of students.
  • Have a colleague from another school critique your text set. Perhaps they can offer insight that is beyond your school colleague’s expertise.
  • Post your text set online. Internet folks are always willing to weigh in. Just remember some comments may be more helpful than others, so try not to take negative comments personally.
  • Lastly, the best thing you can do is implement the text set with your students. This will give you the best gauge of if it is right for your crew or what modifications can be made here and there to make it even better next time.

Building text sets is an organic process. Just take it one step at a time and enjoy the journey!

Thematic Text Set Guide


Art Creativity Integration Uncategorized

Famous Art Projects around JPE!

May 23, 2017


The last few post here on Tenspire have focused on some of my “go-to’s”. I have written about go-to sub plans, go to artist when lesson planning, and go to resources that help me develop new ideas. What about go- to lessons? Are there any activities that you feel that you must incorporate into your lessons each year because the students seem to love and learn from it? There definitely are some projects for me that I do each year because not only do I enjoy teaching it but I admire how hard the students work and how much care they put into these projects. No matter what I try to change up and present in a new way I have to teach these lessons because the students look forward to entering a new grade and getting the chance to make the artwork they’ve seen hanging in the hallways from previous school years.

POW! 4th grade Onomatopoeia’s!

Each year with my fourth grade students we create onomatopoeia collages inspired by the artist Roy Lichtenstein and various comic book series. The students LOVE this lesson, and so do I! I mean, who doesn’t love looking at comic books with their students? The students create a background and chooses an onomatopoeia to create with paper using primary and secondary colors. I wrap up the lesson by giving the students blank comic book panels, allowing them to create their own comic book story with multiple onomatopoeia’s. The students love sharing their original comic book stories with their class. This lesson also hits on a few of the fourth grade standards due to the use of the onomatopoeia and the writing component during the comic book panel section. Every school year I hang these in the hallways and love the reactions I get from students, parents, and fellow staff members. Check out the pictures below!


Clay projects! 

Clay time is the messiest but most productive time during the school year! As an art teacher it’s one of the most tiring months because of all the preparation but it’s worth it once I see how excited the students are when creating their projects. I do clay projects with every grade level and each grade level does different project. The most famous projects I do with clay are the second grade clay pendants and third grade clay monsters. No matter what grade they are in the entire school loves seeing the students wearing the clay pendants or carrying their clay monsters home every year! Check out the pictures below!


Integration Reading Writing

The Plot Thickens

May 15, 2017

Selecting Companion Texts for a Text Set

You cannot have a text set to build your students’ knowledge about the world unless you have multiple books and media resources. The next step in creating a text set is the one that most excites me! On previous posts we have covered defining a text set, how to select an anchor text, using the standards to guide your planning, and selecting a theme or topic. Now we are ready to pick out companion books, poems, music, and other media resources.

With your anchor text and theme already in place, the heavy lifting of building out your text set has already been completed. Now you need to consider what additional texts will build upon your topic and foster complete understanding for your students. You will be able to compare and contrast texts in the unit and have students conduct some great writing analysis if they have powerful supporting texts. Be creative and think about incorporating a few video clips, songs, or various genres of shorter text into your set. Typically, these supporting choices will not be texts that you are conducting multiple close reads with like you may be doing with your anchor text.

Some of these supporting texts may be ones students will read independently. Visualize sprinkling in books or passages that build upon the theme or topic. Sometimes you will be conducting an author study, but for the basis of most text sets I would be sure to use a variety of authors. Aim for gathering about 10 additional resources for your knowledge building unit. This number can fluctuate or decrease depending on the length of time you have allocated. Always preview your media and actually read the texts! Never judge a book by its cover.

Online Resources

Remember if you don’t want to do all that thinking and planning of books for a text set on your own, there are online resources readily available to get you started. I recommend at least looking at some of the sites to get ideas about how others have compiled their media to give you some starting guidance. You can find these sources on Tenspire’s first post about text set building. Remember, if you use some additional books/resources this year that you ended up not being a fan of or you find some great texts before you implement the unit again- you can always adapt and change your picks. It’s your unit, after all. Have fun building out your text set!

Art Integration Uncategorized

Arts Integration Resources

May 2, 2017

In my previous post I mentioned that I have numerous resources available to me in my art room but only some are used consistently. As a new teacher one of the hardest things for me was deciphering what resources showed validity, what resources had enough appropriate information for elementary students, and what to start teaching. The Getting to Know the Artist books and dvd’s have helped me tremendously in my room with art lessons, but that isn’t the only thing that helps me when it comes to lesson planning. An effective and engaging lesson plan derives from more than one resource. From previous post that I have made here on Tenspire I have shared the importance of art integration and a few lesson plans and projects that I teach to my students. With arts integration, I use various resources with for each lesson. There are two things I consistently check each time that I make a new lesson plan.

Collaboration is Key

The first thing I check and read thoroughly are the grade level standards for the topics I choose to cover. Whether the art lesson incorporates writing, reading, science, or social studies, I go to those standards, read every line, and figure out how I can put that into my art lesson. With arts integration, collaboration is key. My first year teaching, the thought of collaboration with grade level teachers or even asking them a question about their standards frightened me. I took it upon myself to look online at the standards but did not have an understanding of what some of these standards meant, how it is now being taught, and the academic vocabulary I needed to use in the art room so students could make a connection. My second year at this school I had built up the confidence to ask teachers for paper copies of their standards and what ideas they had for me and the art room and they were willing to share ideas and teaching methods with me. I will randomly ask teachers what they are doing in their rooms or they will let me know on their own.  Having paper copies of grade level standards seems silly since I can access these online, but paper copies allows me to highlight, jot down notes, and organize them in the order I would teach them in my art room. Grade level standards are something I look at weekly in my classroom.


Another resource I use consistently in my art room when creating lesson plans is a book that I purchased at the beginning of the school year titled, Arts Integration by Deborah Holland. This book is amazing! It’s geared more towards elementary level, in my opinion, but these lessons could be changed to accommodate a secondary level if needed. This book has more than 20 of art teacher Deborah Holland’s best lesson plans. These lessons integrate art with math, science, social studies, and language arts. I love that each of these lessons are new for me or provides me a new way to teach something I have taught in the past. These projects also include every art medium such as clay, paint, watercolors, pastels, and more. The book gives me step by step procedures, materials needed, and resources that I may want to use when teaching.

There are many more resources I use when focusing on arts integration but these two are the first things I pull out of my file cabinet each time and they’ve proven to be successful each time!

Integration Reading

What’s It All About?

April 28, 2017

Selecting a Theme for Your Text Set

Alright, where were we in the process of building a text set? Now that you have completed the task of picking out an anchor text, it is time to select the theme or concept that your entire unit will be built around.

Remember that in today’s modern text sets educators should strive to take things up a notch from the book units of the past. A theme of “fish” should not include reading Rainbow Fish and something on SpongeBob Squarepants (‘cause the kids love him), concluding with making fishy art collages and eating goldfish crackers. The whole point of building a text set is to enrich your students’ knowledge about the world. A good text set will increase students’ vocabulary. The theme or concept you study should also help guide students on a journey through complex text so they will know how to navigate this territory on their own in the future. You could certainly develop a text set built around aquatic creatures, you would just need to make sure your unit was appropriately challenging for your little learners.

I had the opportunity to observe a team of first-grade teachers in the process of working together to build a text set. The theme was based upon their social studies standards and was titled, “Democracy.” That’s right, I said first grade was studying democracy and doing a wonderful job understanding it with the texts and tasks that the teachers had selected for their unit. Another great concept I have seen that revolved around a literacy text set for 4th graders was all about the importance of “storytelling and reading for making connections and learning.”

The Justice Project suggests reading and examining the anchor text to “identify an essential question that will be relevant and meaningful to your students. Identify the themes in the text related to the essential question.” It’s a good idea to think back to that anchor text and/or the standards that you are intending to teach with this unit when you pick out your theme that will reach out across multiple texts. The same books can always be used for different concepts you want to teach. Think about the big picture of your unit, pick your theme or concept, and GO! Next up: building your set of texts and media around the theme.

Art Integration Math Uncategorized

Math + Art = 1 Nervous Art Teacher

April 7, 2017

My recent posts here on Tenspire have shared my love for arts integration and the challenges it brings.  Incorporating content standards into my art room has been very successful in all grade levels and that’s what keeps me motivated to try new things.

Let’s talk about one academic area I may not be as confident with!

Has there ever been one thing you were terrified of trying in your classroom? One thing you knew you could never be comfortable teaching no matter how much you’ve studied and prepared? As a new teacher, I am still learning and I am still afraid to try new techniques and procedures with the students every day! But my one thing I am afraid of incorporating in my room is MATH! Yes, math. My nemesis in my past life as a student. Math was always my weakest subject because it just didn’t make sense to me. Looking at all of the word problems, numbers, fractions, decimals, equations with letters, and graphs before trying to solve the problem automatically made me feel defeated. Once I finished my last math class in college, I thought I would never be faced with mathematical challenges again except for the math we all do on a daily basis. Once I became a teacher and saw the strong push for academics into the special area classrooms my stomach dropped when thinking about possibly looking at a math lesson. I know there are students in my school who feel the exact same ways I felt as a student and even now as an adult.

At my school, we are assigned teaching partners, a teacher that we must observe during the school year. We are assigned this partner based off of strengths and weaknesses we have in the classroom and with our teaching. The day I observed my teaching partner, she was teaching…just wait for it… MATH. That was the moment I realized it is time to venture into the math world to see what I could do. I truly felt more confident after her amazing observation than I ever did sitting at my computer and failing when creating a math/art lesson. I knew I would have to build up my confidence and begin learning fun ways to incorporate math in my art room for students and for myself.

What topics do you feel uncomfortable teaching? What have you done to make your weakness a strength?

Art Creativity Culture Integration

Putting the “A” in STEAM

February 18, 2017

Wait, you can integrate art and core subjects?

In just a few years, art education has gone from the easiest thing to cut in a school budget to the most popular teaching technique. Art education can help increase student engagement and deepen understanding in both the art room and the classroom. The arts are being weaved into many core subjects and surprisingly the boost in academic achievement has risen tremendously! Academic achievement, creativity, and school pride increases when special area and classroom teachers are collaborating.

Collaborating with Classroom Teachers

Throughout college, I focused so much on the art lesson and the creative process itself that sometimes I would completely forget to incorporate the core subjects into the lesson. I was so used to being in my “art bubble” with other art education majors that I never thought about collaborating with grade level teachers. Honestly, the idea scared me and seemed overwhelming, but it has now turned into one of my favorite things to do! I enjoy asking teachers what’s going on in their classrooms and finding a way to incorporate the standards into my art lessons.

Bridging the Gap

Art integration bridges the gap of understanding for those students who need a creative approach. This allows the students to display their knowledge on a particular topic in a unique way.  For example, I’m sure many of us began the school year incorporating the 2016 Olympic games into many different areas in our classrooms. I began teaching my students in grades 3-6 about the history of the Olympics. We were able to explore geography, cultures of Greece and Brazil, artwork for a specific time period and much more. Students were able to express their learning in the form of art making, writing, reading, videos, and kinesthetic learning. Often times allowing the students to explore the standards creatively sparks the light bulb, creating the “AHA” moment.

A goal of mine is to make learning more meaningful through art

I enjoy walking through our school’s halls and seeing plant and animal cell paintings, Greek Olympic vases, onomatopoeia pop art, fantasy stories using particular writing techniques, and many more projects that I teach during the school year. Not only are these pieces aesthetically pleasing to the eye, but deep down I know that I am teaching my students skills and standards they need to know in their homeroom as well.

I love the challenge that art integration brings because it not only makes me a stronger art teacher but a well-rounded educator.