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Language Motivation Reading Writing

Word Collectors

March 15, 2018

Cornett’s Book Corner

“Some people collect stamps.

Some people collect coins.

Some people collect art.

And Jerome?

Jerome collected words . . .”

Teach your students to be word collectors through the introduction of this inspiring new text.  Words, like works of art, are meant to be collected!  It is fun to understand new words and procure them for your own use.   Single syllable nuanced words or longer multisyllabic words that sound sophisticated when they roll off your tongue can be collected in a variety of ways.  Peter H. Reynolds, the author of The Dot, weaves together an interesting tale about Jerome’s word collecting journey and what happens one day when his collection accidentally gets spilled out everywhere.  This is also a great tale to inspire a writer’s workshop lesson or poetry unit.

Teachers have learned the importance of letting students have a choice when it comes to the books they read.  We have discussed this topic on Tenspire before, and research backs the claim that students certainly have increased buy in to read more if they have some control over the literature they are reading.  Have we applied this idea to vocabulary, though?  I for one can admit that I have dropped the ball when it comes to letting students find and choose new vocabulary words to study on their own.  If self-selection is vital to successful student reading practices, why have educators been negligent in having students have some input about the new words they study?  Maybe we just have not thought of it before now.  Nevertheless, when we know better, we do better.  Think of the impact you can have on a student’s life if they are encouraged to “hunt” down new words wherever they go?!  A great starting place would be for students to create a mini journal to record their personal collection of words.  There are even free templates online. Now is the time to start letting students have a say about the vocabulary they acquire.  I encourage you to begin raising a classroom full of word collectors today without delay!

Language Reading Writing

V is for Vocabulary

December 19, 2017

Learning New Words

What individual component of reading instruction is most highly correlated to comprehension?  Vocabulary! The more words you know, the more knowledge you possess.  For every word that you can access the meaning to, you can apply that word to your background knowledge and even your speaking or writing.  Give your students the gift of gab this holiday season and by working towards building up their vocabulary!

The top researchers argue about the number of exposures to a word it takes to truly know the word.  There is a discrepancy in the research is since the amount of practice needed with a new word varies greatly among individuals.  Since there is no conclusive evidence on this matter, teachers should think about what vocabulary instruction will best meet your students’ needs.

Even though we are not certain how many times a student needs to practice with a new word to fully “own it,” you might have guessed that a one-time worksheet exposure to the word is simply not going to cut it.  Students need multiple exposures to a word in text and in real life contexts.  I always go for a goal of about 20 exposure to a new vocabulary word with my students.  Yes, some needed more time and some needed less- but 20 exposures is always a good starting point.  Besides introducing the words and having the students use the words in sentences, think of some other ways students will be held accountable for using their newly acquired vocabulary words.  I had students keep a “word bank” of weekly words in their desks that they cut out during small group time on Mondays.  Each day we used the words in some way. Some days I gave a definition and they had to see how quickly they could pick up the word I was describing.  Sometimes we put the words in alphabetical order.  Other days we looked at lexical features such as the number of syllables or phonemes a word had.  Websites like Wordle or WordItOut create word art or word clouds for your viewing enjoyment, too.  A vocabulary journal works well for students to illustrate new words and refer back to ones they have learned over the school year.

If your students already know a meaningful part of the word, or morpheme, they will be able to better pick up on the new word’s meaning.  Therefore, we teach affixes such as prefixes or suffixes.  Students can study roots, too.  The English language is made up of many Greek and Latin roots, so having a base knowledge of the more common roots will help your students immensely.  Refer to this chart to help you out and good luck with your lexicon learning!

Back to School Classroom Community Language Morale Reading Technology Writing

Cornett’s Book Corner

November 1, 2017

“Wonder”ful New Book Recommendation  

Welcome to November! Fall is in full swing and it is an awesome time of year to curl up with a good book! I hope you are modeling great reading practices for your students and perhaps even your own children. Keeping up the classroom reading is important, too. Here is this month’s review.

Wonder by R. J. Palacio

     I have seen this novel utilized in so many fantastic ways with upper elementary and middle school students, and now there is a younger student version, too. In today’s day and age of selfie photo perfection and judging all that is “different” as wrong or bad, this book is a needed read for discussion of these issues with your students. The main character Auggie Pullman is about to begin 5th grade in a public school after being homeschooled for years. He has a significant facial deformity that causes others to look away in fear. Even though he looks different on the outside, he feels the same as everyone else on the inside. As one book reviewer from Kirkus Reviews put it, “Auggie may be finding his place in the world, but that world must find a way to make room for him, too. A memorable story of kindness, courage and wonder.” For instructional purposes, I love that it is written from various viewpoints! There are many digital resources available to accompany your study of this novel with your students. Check out the publisher’s website to see all of the related texts. This website has many downloadable Wonder teaching resources, too. The author’s page shares some helpful classroom discussion questions, too. There is even a Wonder app! Many teachers use this book at the beginning of the year to foster a classroom as a community environment and have their students take the #choosekind pledge. This month, on November 17, there is even a movie of the book coming out starring Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson. It will be all the buzz, I’m sure, so get a head start and read this novel with your students. If I were you and you were me- remember to keep the tissues nearby when reading this book aloud to your class. Just so you know, this book is based on a child with an actual rare genetic condition called treacher collins syndrome. I leave you with this quote: “You can’t blend in when you were born to stand out.” I’m not crying- you’re crying! 

 

 

Language

Nouns Stations

October 11, 2017

We all know that there are some skills that can never be practiced too much. In my opinion, one of those skills is working with nouns. We worked on them in 1st grade, and then again when I taught 4th. They are just one of those skills that gets built on year after year. So, the earlier they’re mastered the better!

What’s Included?

If you’ve spent any time in my TPT store, you probably know that I LOVE stations! I used them like crazy in my own classroom and have so much fun creating them! Some of the hardest things for me to find when I taught 1st grade were Grammar stations that were at an appropriate skill level for my little ones. So, I created these! Included are…

– 2 versions of “Scoot” – one with pictures and words only, one with nouns used in sentences

– picture and word puzzles

– picture and word sorts

– mystery nouns

All stations focus on identifying nouns as people, places or things!

How Can I Use This?

My favorite way to start off with stations is to use them in whole or small group. This gave my kiddos a chance to use them once before using them on their own. Each day, we completed the activities as a group at the beginning of our Grammar time. Our favorite activities to do were the “Scoot” activities! They’re such a great way to get kids moving and working with their classmates! Then, they easily transition to stations!

If you’d like to check out these stations and more, click on the picture below!

Language Phonics Reading Writing

Shedding Light on Literacy Notebooks

August 25, 2017

Uses for Student Notebooks

It is the start of a new school year and there are plenty of new notebooks just waiting to be filled by eager students. Their parents purchased three spiral bound notebooks (per the supply list) and a local organization donated some extras to your classroom, too. Let’s see- you have your writer’s notebook, your math talk journal, and your science inquiry diary. Are there new ways you can use notebooks or journals in meaningful ways to teach literacy in your classroom? You bet!

Writer’s Notebook

A writer’s notebook, as referenced above, is a great place to begin. I am not talking about a writing notebook filled with answers to prompts, but rather one filled with writing driven by student interests. What do students want to write about? Let them! You may read the students work or you may not. It can be up to the students to share or “publish” their work, too. Just like students may have some free reading time built into the day, why not let them have free writing time, too? Inspire the love of writing and cut down on all the rigid requirements when you can.

Vocabulary Notebook

Next- consider a vocabulary notebook. You can begin with the basics and have students record new words they discover and their definitions. Students can create drawings that represent newly introduced words, too. However, if you really are looking to have students dig deep into the investigation of new words then you may have them do a word study notebook. You could use these journals in daily “word talks,” like math talks, but for new or complex vocabulary words. You can have students talk about the meaningful parts of words, known as morphemes. This can begin with something as simple as discussing the meaning changing when adding a prefix to a word in the early grades to discussing Latin roots in the older grades. Some educators turn to word work/spelling/phonics journals here as well. That is acceptable, too!

Reading Discovery Notebook

Reading discovery journals are the third and final idea for trying something new in your classroom this fall. Students can copy anchor charts for their reference into the notebooks. They can map out plots or rewrite their own endings to stories read in class. Maybe your students can record characters and their traits in the notebooks as they read and make predictions. The sky is really the limit here. You can make this journal more comprehension based to round out your classroom’s literacy journals trifecta.

Don’t forget you can maximize your students’ journal usage by cutting notebooks in half or tabbing one notebook with different sections. Have fun using literacy notebooks in your classroom!

Back to School Language Phonics Reading Writing

New School Year, New Standards

August 7, 2017

Tennessee Academic Standards

I know that Tenspire’s followers are from all over the globe, but I wanted to take the chance to highlight something awesome in the world of academics happening in our home state of Tennessee. We have new K-12 teaching standards in English Language Arts, y’all! We have new standards in mathematics, too, but you know I am your literacy gal so I am just going to stick to what I know best. Getting to this point of the adoption process was no easy task. We are proud of what our stakeholders have put into place for our students! Teachers, community members, leaders in education- everyone had a chance to chime in to help create what is uniquely Tennessee’s own set of standards. Our state is calling these changes revisions to the previously adopted standards. Therefore, there is no reason to worry that everything we liked about the old standards were thrown away. The revised ELA standards have some subtle but important aspects that I am excited to highlight with you now.

Vertical Progression

In viewing the layout of the revised standards, you will most likely first realize changes have been made. The standards pages list the cornerstone standard (formerly known as anchor standard) at the top of the page and show how that standard is achieved as it moves from the top tasks in 12th grade all the way down to the foundational skills in Kindergarten. This layout was intentional to help educators see exactly where their grade level standards fall in the big picture of preparing students. Additionally, this layout helps one see where students might have gaps in their learning from previous grade levels.

Embedded Language Skills

Integration is a common goal for many educators. Research tells us that students learn best in context, not in isolated pockets. It is too difficult to piece together the numerous components of literacy without the chance to apply what you are learning in a cohesive manner. It is also difficult to teach each aspect of the reading process without combining elements- there are simply not enough hours in a day! Do not have a meltdown when you cannot locate the language skills for grades K-5 because now you know that these standards are embedded in the foundational standards as they should be.

Greater Emphasis on Writing in Early Grades

Guess what? There is a greater importance placed on foundational writing skills in the early grades. This is a concept that we can all rejoice about since we know writing can be the glue that binds all those tricky early literacy skills together. The sooner we get our students writing, the better. Maybe we have all known this for some time now, but at least our standards now help support this wonderful revelation.

Besides the main categories mentioned above, there were some other changes, too. There is new nomenclature (a.k.a. coding- see the graphic below) and the reading standards have a side by side layout so one can compare the literary/informational text components easier. There is a great reference in the speaking and listening standards to other literacy standards to guide you in integrated instruction. A new appendix with supporting documents was a must. You simply have to check out the revised standards yourself to see all the nuanced but necessary changes in clarity and continuity that were made to your grade level’s standards. I hope you enjoy your new school year- here’s to the best class ever to go with the best teaching standards we have ever had in Tennessee!

P.S. Also check out this Chalkbeat article about the standards!

 

 

 

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

 

Language Organization Phonics Reading Writing

Divide and Conquer

July 5, 2017

Taking Control of your Reading Instructional Materials

The dictionary defines divide and conquer as: the policy of maintaining control over one’s subordinates or subjects by encouraging dissent between them. This is not exactly what you need to do with all that reading STUFF you have accumulated in your classroom, but dividing it out is a good start. The beginning of the school year is an excellent time to get everything you will use to teach literacy organized and easily accessible.

If your materials are not well organized, let’s face it, you will not use them. Many times a new school year comes with new materials. We all know by now that no new textbook adoption comes with as many components to sort through as a brand new reading series. Pop open those new boxes (or old ones that you have hidden on a classroom shelf somewhere). Be honest with yourself about the materials you think you will use initially. Save the rest for later. Some items you overlook at first glance may come in handy in the future. Some items you may be able to recycle later, but save them for now! You can cull unused items after a year or when your district lets you know you can toss (maybe donate) materials you cannot use. I recently made some money taking old materials to a used bookstore. Then I spent double that amount of money on new materials at the same store. We are teachers. That is how we do it!

You may organize your reading materials by skills, units, what weeks you will teach them, etc. Literacy materials do get a huge chunk of space in my filing cabinet. I resist the urge to organize immediately. I have found that it is better to see how I actually use items and give some thought about how to best access them. Sure, your vocabulary cards look great in ABC order, but you will use them easier divided up in folders with weekly materials. You can organize everything at once or make week by week folders as the year progresses.

Finally, check your basal series teacher manual. What items are needed for implementation of whole and small group instruction? Have those items handy! No basal is perfect, either. Take some time to see where there may be gaps that your students need filled. Then use materials you already have or create new. There are so many supplemental resources online these days that you may not have to search as hard as you think. I now find myself needing less and less filing cabinet space and more and more hard drive space!

The D&C method worked for rulers and it works for teachers. Divide up what you will use and conquer the reading series materials before they conquer you!

Language New Teacher Phonics Reading Writing

Who Me? Yes, You!

April 18, 2017

Time To Start Planning

Spring is officially in the air, and teachers, it is time to start planning. Time to start planning for your summer PD. You didn’t think I was going to say it is time to start planning for your summer break, did you? All of us at Tenspire know teachers don’t really get a break. Sure we rest up, clean out, and gather new tools for the new school year, but we don’t exactly get all that time away from thinking about school. We do, however, get some nice options for attending professional development that we may be personally interested in outside of what our own school districts offer. I encourage you to step out and explore what the teaching world outside your own classroom walls has to offer!

Attending Your First Literacy Conference

If you have ever wanted to attend an international educator’s conference, I recommend you start with ILA’s annual conference in July. ILA stands for the International Literacy Association. Its name recently changed from IRA with the ‘R’ standing for reading. The association’s leaders thought that the word ‘literacy’ better embodied all that they covered in their research, presentations, and advocacy. This year the conference is in Orlando, FL. This is a perfect location for a teacher’s summer get away!

All About the International Literacy Association

Last year was my first time attending ILA’s conference. I went solo and had a blast! There is a “first-timers” meet-up so newbies can get all the good to know info about the conference. There is an app so you can schedule which sessions you want to attend. I was basically running for three days straight between sessions in order to get a glimpse at many popular authors and researchers: Hattie, Shannahan, Fisher and Frey, Rasinski, Caulkins, Fountas and Pinnell, Allington, Bear, Duke, Diller, Ganske, Harvey, Hiebert, Polacco, and Schickedanz (just to name a FEW of my personal favorites). I met new favorite authors and researchers, too. The conference is a wonderful place to network! The names on your textbooks are no longer just names. You can actually meet with and exchange contact info with your favorite “big” names in the field of literacy! Teacher nerd geeking out! You will, too!

One of the best features of the conference that I was not anticipating was the exhibit hall. SO. MANY. FREEBIES. So many. Yes, the teachers were going nuts! You know we all love us some freebies. All I can say is that I suggest bringing an extra bag or suitcase if you are going to take full advantage of the giveaways. Another bag would be needed if you wanted to make any purchases (Note: Bring P.O. if able!). Sometimes prices on materials are at a conference discount and no shipping costs, so, bring those extra bags, literacy ladies and gents!

I think you will find the costs of the conference very affordable as conferences go, and you may even be able to ask your principal or district to cover the costs of attending. Regardless of who is footing the bill for your learning adventure, be sure to get pre-approval for PD hours. In our district, we just fill out a form for our principal and district curriculum leader to sign. Make sure to print out a certificate listing the sessions you attended to officially count your PD hours earned and turn it in to your district following the conference. Remember, not all sessions offer in-service credit.

Big News: If you are a preservice educator, you can go to ILA for FREE. That’s right. No charge. Wow! I only wish I would have known this before I graduated with my teaching degree. If it’s free then I don’t think you really have any excuse NOT to attend! Tell all your preservice teacher friends and make a fun field trip out of it!

That’s about all I can tell you in regards to attending an international conference in a blog post. You will have to see it to believe it. I am presenting a poster session with a group this year, so I’ll see you there! ILA. July. Orlando. Be there and be sure to stop by and say hello!

Assessments and Data Culture Language

Comprehension Knowledge

April 13, 2017

As a School Psychologist I spend a lot of my time administering standardized tests, writing up the results in a report, and explaining the results to others.  Often times there are just so many different processing areas to review that I have to briefly summarize them rather than going into more depth on each one.  My hope is to share a different processing area with you each month in an effort to increase your background knowledge and make psychoeducational evaluations more meaningful to you and your students.

Comprehension Knowledge

One of my favorite processing areas can be referred to as Comprehension Knowledge or Crystalized Intelligence.  This is basically the knowledge you get from your culture, life experiences, and what you have been exposed to in your life.  If you have been to museums, had your parents read a book to you, been exposed to vocabulary through conversations, or sat in a classroom, all of these experiences would be linked with your comprehension knowledge.

This knowledge differs from culture to culture because it is based on the information and skills that a particular culture values.  Thus, this knowledge is how well an individual has learned this content and mastered important skills.  Back to why it is one of my favorite processing areas is because you can actually increase this area!  This area grows over time as you are exposed to new life experiences and lessons in school.  As you will find out later, many cognitive processing areas cannot be taught or manipulated. They have to be accommodated for or a student has to learn a coping strategy.

 “This area grows over time as you are exposed to new life experiences and lessons in school.”

It’s important to think about your students and how much exposure or enriching experiences they may have had, especially for children with lower social-economic statuses.  If a student is worried about where their next meal may come from or they are being raised by a single parent working three jobs, they may not have the energy, time, or means to be exposed to culturally diverse learning environments.

Crystalized Intelligence

If a student has weak crystalized intelligence, it may negatively impact their ability to understand math word problems due to poor vocabulary.  They may also struggle to learn math processes due to difficulty listening and following sequential instructions.  In writing, their lack of vocabulary, background knowledge, and poor language development will hinder their ability to adequately express themselves.

A weakness in comprehension knowledge can harm a student’s ability to understand what they read independently.  Their lack of life experiences, poor background knowledge, and limited vocabulary make it difficult for them to gain meaning from written text.  This can even impact understanding directions.

How can you support students with weak comprehension knowledge?

These students will benefit from instruction semantics and vocabulary.  Using pictures and visuals paired with vocabulary words to make it more meaningful.  These students need concrete examples to build their knowledge base.  Strategically placing these students in the classroom so their comprehension can be closely monitored.  A peer tutor can also serve to support them.  If you are unsure if they understand the directions or task have them paraphrase the directions back to you to ensure understanding.  Help these students learn to advocate for themselves by asking for clarification if needed.  The student can have a glossary of pre-taught vocabulary and important terms to use as a reference.  A word bank can be used to help support written expression.  You can expand their vocabulary by restating their statement with a more sophisticated word or explanation; thus, you are modeling this skill for them.  Students can use a thesaurus to expand their spoken and written vocabulary.

These strategies are supported by research.  I want to hear from you as the experts in the classroom dealing with real life schedules, curriculum, standards, and students on what strategies you have found to be the most beneficial in working with the students who struggle in this area!