Cornett’s Book Corner
The Creativity Project: An Awesometastic Story Collection would be a great text to use with students in upper elementary and middle school. Its goal is to inspire collaboration, reading, creativity and writing. The editor, Colby Sharp, is the cofounder of the Nerdy Book Club and is currently a 5th grade teacher. You’ll definitely want to check out the Nerdy Book Club’s blog for more great book recommendation ideas, too!
The Creativity Project originated as a way to recognize the excitement around taking ideas and molding them into stories. Colby challenged more than 40 popular authors and illustrators to develop 2 different story prompts. Next, each participant selected another person’s prompt to complete. As you can imagine, the results are very interesting! There are a variety of stories, poems, comics, and illustrations in this text. Additionally, The Creativity Project contains a set of incomplete prompts that students can build their writing off of as well.
Just think of the possibilities. First reading and enjoying the stories in this book as a class could occur. Next, perhaps working whole group to model completing a prompt together would be fun. Then have students select prompts to finish from the story to then edit and share aloud. These could be bound into a classroom book and shared in a classroom library, especially if you see multiple classes of students a day. Lastly, why not start the same project from scratch with your own students originating their own prompts and then completing someone else’s? I’m thinking students could even vote on top submissions and give awards for different categories. I personally like the idea of prompts being anonymous and therefore students would not know who they are connecting with creatively until the end of the project. I also like that students can work at their level or interest area- focusing more on words and art or comics and poetry, too.
Standardized writing prompts seem to sometimes suck the life out of student writing. This project would hit ALL the standards in my book, and in a fun way! The Creativity Project has a five star rating on Amazon– what more could you ask for? GO! Write now!
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!
Cornett’s Book Corner
“Some people collect stamps.
Some people collect coins.
Some people collect art.
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!
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!
“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!
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!
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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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
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!