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October 15, 2018

Shared Reading and Interactive Read Aloud Resources

Hello, literacy pals! I sure hope this blog post finds you off to a great start to your school year! What do all teachers love? The word FREE!!! Right?! Well, I have some good news for you. If your school district is anything like mine, we are really hitting shared reading (SR) and interactive read alouds (IRA) hard and heavy in our schools. In fact, focusing on these two reading instructional strategies has been a bit of trend across many areas of the United States.  More and more states are adding to the body of knowledge about SR and IRA. You may remember that I wrote an IRA module for my state’s initial statewide training phase a couple years ago. Tennessee has since added many resources and updated some of its tools. Check them out here.

Today I stumbled upon this gold mine of FREE resources from Georgia. It definitely goes beyond SR and IRA as far as literacy resources go. I love that this site offers everything FREE and even includes some great videos of quality instruction in action. Always nice to see exactly how to implement a teaching strategy if it is new to you, or to learn a few new tips if it is a strategy you have been implementing for a while. Level up!

Last but not least, hopefully you have not forgotten about Louisiana’s FREE resources. They have been a favorite of mine over the years! Achieve the Core has all the best FREE teaching goodies, too. I mean, surely you know about some of these FREE resources by now- but it never hurts to be reminded to take a second to revisit these great sites you may have forgotten about.

So, there you go. A plethora of FREE literacy resources. Hopefully these will help teachers to have more of their other favorite word: FREETIME!

Back to School Integration Phonics Reading Writing

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!

Language Phonics Reading Writing

Catching Up with ILA

May 15, 2018

Resources from the International Literacy Association

If you are looking for a wonderful conference to attend this summer, I recommend the International Literacy Association’s (ILA’s) annual conference.  It is not just wonderful, it is the best! This summer the conference will take place in Austin, TX and is reasonably priced as far as conferences go.  Bonus points if you can attend with your fellow teacher friends as a mini getaway or if you have your school fund this fantastic PD opportunity for you.  Even if the price tag of attending is coming out of your own pocketbook, being allowed into the vendors area with all the free giveaways is worth it alone!  Last year I left the conference with over $500 in free books and resources for my classroom. On a related note- pack an extra suitcase for hauling all your literacy loot back home.  If you are an ILA member you will receive discounts, and, if you are a preservice educator- you can attend for FREE! I wish I had taken advantage of this offer before I began teaching.

Speaking about the ILA, each year they put out a survey to their members about what topics concerning literacy education are HOT.  For the second year in a row, the topic of early literacy took the number one spot on the survey.  Why wouldn’t it?  After all, a great foundation in early literacy paves the way for almost all future literacy success in students.  Check out this cheat sheet for a summary of the other major takeaways from the 2018 What’s Hot in Literacy? report.

I found the ILA’s new resource for explaining phonics to parents to be a nice document to have access to as well.  Phonics can be a mind-boggling topic for many, especially if one was not taught to read with phonics instruction themselves.  Last but certainly not least, I need to mention that the website ReadWriteThink.org is one of ILA’s greatest all around resources for educators.  Lesson plans, ideas, PD, encouragement and inspiration- it has it all!  Just when I assume everyone knows about this incredible literacy resource, I meet a teacher who does not know about its wonders.  So, there you go. You are welcome! Even if you did already know about ReadWriteThink, you may have forgotten about it.  I encourage you to take another peek at this website today!  ILA and its resources will always steer you in the direction of the best literacy practices, so be sure to keep up with what they are offering frequently.  You will not regret it!

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!

Featured Writing

Cashing In – Writing Grants For Your Classroom

November 20, 2017

Grants: How to Get One for Your Classroom

As an educator, it seems you can never have enough classroom funds! The money goes quickly when you are trying to fund a large project or obtain new instructional materials to help make learning come alive! I have even been able to use grant funding to attend an expensive week-long literacy training. Here are some tips for getting a grant no matter your desired need. I will make this information literacy oriented, of course, but there are plenty of aspects to grant writing in this post that apply to all subject areas.

Step One: Decide what you need. Seems obvious, but you need to wrap your head around what supplies you are needing or what project you would like to complete with your students first. Once you have a clear vision, you will help your donors or the grant committee understand the purpose of your requests. As tempting as it may be, you cannot just say “give us all the things.” You may have many items you would like to purchase for your classroom, but remember to streamline your needs into a cohesive, attainable project. Bonus points if the materials are reusable or the project can be sustained for consecutive years and/or with multiple classrooms.

Step Two: Find the right funding source. You will never be awarded a grant or extra classroom funding if you do not do your research and apply to the correct foundation, etc. Grants usually have specific guidelines about what types of materials they will fund and what they will not. For example, if I am wanting to purchase some more books for my classroom library, I probably do not need to apply for a STEAM based grant. Unless, of course, I am wanting to purchase STEAM related literature. There are loopholes like that in some grants, but I encourage you to read the fine print so you do not waste your or the foundation’s time in applying. For literacy grants I like to look locally, such as my local library system, my county’s reading coalition, or local businesses that support literacy. I highly recommend the Dollar General Foundation’s literacy grants for obtaining literacy based help for your school. Through funding Dollar General gave our state I helped a school win a $12,000 grant for a summer reading program. I also recently received $3000 for my own classroom to put towards intervention instruction. Ca-CHING! Thanks, Dollar General! My students and I are SO excited!

Step Three: Professionally submit your requests. No text talk here! Spend some time looking over the specifications of your grant application. Have others double check it to make sure your vision and story are clear. The better others understand the use of the materials you are requesting, the better your chances are of receiving a grant. Answer all questions fully and look for examples of winning requests. Remember, originality and creative ideas are a must to stand out from the crowd! Check with your school bookkeeper to learn if there are any stipulations on the school’s end for receiving grant funding. I know some school systems have phased out Donor’s Choose applications due to issues with final ownership over the teaching materials should the educator change schools. Also, by all means, if you are awarded a grant, be certain to thank the donors and to follow up with any necessary evidence or paperwork in a timely manner. You can bet you will not be selected again in the future if you fail to submit the proper documentation.

Step Four: Don’t give up. I can tell you that I have certainly written more grants than I have received. As disappointing as it is to put so much time into something and not receive anything from it, trying and failing is still an important step in the learning process. Maybe you can revise the grant and use it again next year? Try proposing the same idea with a different donor. Work on a team to write the grant. Did a deadline slip up on you? It happens all the time. Make a note far in advance to try for that grant next year. Usually, the first time I learn about a grant it is too late to apply for that year. I just put that grant down several months before it is due on my next year’s calendar and I think about ways to tackle the application in the meantime. I hope some grant funding falls your way in the future. It is so exciting to receive that “Congratulations” email or letter. However, this can never happen if you do not apply. I encourage you to take the first step today!

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! 

 

 

Organization Writing

Little Red Writing Folders

October 21, 2017

Organizing Your Students’ Writing

I needed to make writing a bigger priority in my classroom. There are as many ways to approach writing instruction as there are types of writing utensils! So, I started simply. I got myself and my students organized first. This began with red, plastic, pronged folders. Since writing was going into these folders, I naturally had to name them “Little Red Writing Folders.” Just like that, it stuck.

First, I numbered the folders on the outside with a permanent marker. Since they were plastic they usually lasted a few years and could be reused without student names written all over them.

Now, what goes into a little red writing folder?

Whatever you want, really. Of course, this does depend a bit on the grade level you are teaching. I think the only rule here is to not put TOO much into the folder. It is a “little” red writing folder after all. My folder for the first graders consisted of a few basics. First, you need writing paper in the folder. I placed this on the left-hand side of the folder. If your students are too messy with supplies, you may only distribute one page of writing paper at a time or have a designated tray in the classroom for fresh writing paper. On the right side of the folder, there was room for unfinished pieces or pieces ready for “publication.” I have seen writing workshop folders labeled “in progress” on the left and “finished” on the right side pocket, but again this depends on if you want to store fresh writing paper in their folders or not.

The center prongs of the folders are where I like to have resource pages. There are plenty of options here. I definitely recommend page protectors to keep those resource pages in place longer, and also to ease the transition of different pages over time. Place one or two page protectors in the folders and fill them with: writing prompt ideas the students generated, writing reminders/rules/checklists, sight words/vocabulary words, sequencing words (first, then next, last), model writing samples, or writing style ideas. The possibilities really depend on your writing focus and where your students might need some independent guidance. Here is the checklist I liked to use with my first graders. Since it was in a page protector, students could literally check off this list with their dry erase markers.

Happy hunting for resource pages for your own Little Red Writing Folders. Even older students will get a kick out of the organization of your writing folders. Tootles!

Motivation Reading Technology Writing

Cornett’s Book Corner

October 4, 2017

Monthly Book Reviews

In the spirit of keeping up with a few new pieces of rich literature for read aloud or to add to your classroom library, I began featuring two new books for you to check out last month. This month we have two additional finds you may or may not have seen before, but I suggest considering them for your classroom needs.

TEK: The Modern Cave Boy by Patrick McDonnell

Is it a phone? Is it a tablet? Is it an iPod? No, look closer. It’s an actual book! This story’s illustrations make it look like one of your favorite handheld technological devices. Maybe this feature alone will draw in some of your reluctant readers during our technology driven times.

The beauty of this story is that it weaves the ideology that technology may not always be all that it’s cracked up to be. In fact, Tek’s obsession with high tech devices leads him to be very disconnected from reality. Think cave man life here. As a lady that still rocks a flip phone, I can really relate to this story’s message. We need to make sure that our students understand both the advantages and disadvantages to being “plugged in” all the time. Use this fun story to help set the notion into motion that everything has it’s time and place, but moderation is key. Hmm. I’m sensing this would be a great text to use with author’s purpose and theme. To avoid irony, I hesitate to mention that this book does have a YouTube video, but it might be an option for your student’s viewing pleasure as well. Just promise me you won’t forgo all actual text for videos, ok?

 

10 Things I Can Do to Help my World by Melanie Walsh

Not a new book, but new to me. This book was introduced to me this summer as a selection one of the Read to be Ready summer camps had used in their programming. Being the tree hugger that I am- I LOVE it! I loved it so much that the teacher sharing the book with the group gave it to me to keep. One of the best features about this book are the pages- many of them have cut-outs, flaps, and creative ways of displaying the text. It is just an awesome book with an even more awesome message. I think it would be a wonderful option for building fluency since the students will hardly be able to put it down because it is simple in nature and they’ll want to play with the pages. It would also be a great text to use with a follow up writing prompt concerning other ideas students generate about helping our world. Help your world and help your classroom library by checking out this book!

 

Creativity Reading Writing

Book Corner

September 27, 2017

Cozy Up with New Literature Picks

A topic that we need to talk about more in our literacy blog is: BOOKS! What are you and your students reading? Any new favorites? Here are a couple I was recently introduced to that you may find a use for in your classroom, too.

Ordinary People Change the World Series by Brad Meltzer

We had the chance to hear from Brad Meltzer, the author of this amazing series, at Scholastic’s “My Favorite Teacher” Breakfast at the ILA conference in Orlando this summer. Brad is definitely an inspiring individual himself, but his books bring to life heroes from history in a kid friendly format. In fact, many teachers are already familiar with his work, but I had no clue how vast his series had grown. I read the Jane Goodall story and enjoyed the fact that it started describing her life as a child and showed the steps she took along the way to achieve her goals. What an awesome concept for students to see how they can become role models and great achievers, too. There are plenty of titles to choose from and the collection is expanding all the time. These would be great for read aloud in most classrooms (yes, even high school students like to be read aloud to!) and awesome additions to your classroom library as well.

 

They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel

Teacher preference showing here- I LOVE cats. Even if you are not crazy about the furry felines yourself, there are a lot of wonderful opportunities for using this book with your students. We were introduced to this text during Tennessee’s Read to Be Ready summer reading program because of its originality and implications for instruction. First- it is just a neat text. It features simplistic writing with repetition for our youngest learner’s engagement. I would not limit this book to early childhood, though. Each page’s beautiful illustrations (it is a Caldecott Honor recipient) show the cat from a different animal’s perspective. There are plenty of speaking and listening opportunities with this text if you discuss why each animal views the cat differently. There are art and science connections when you consider the illustrations or the scientific reasons a particular animal views the cat the way he does. Lastly, I think it would be a great model text to inspire creative student writing, too. Have your students think of another animal or object and then write about others’ perspectives of it. My cats give this book two paws up and I am sure your students will enjoy it, too!