Browsing Category


Reading Writing

Free Stuff! Come and Get It!

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!

Back to School Reading

Reading for a Deeper Cause

August 15, 2018

Self-Care and Reading

I recently came across an article pertaining to readers and self-care.  “When a reader adopts reading as a form of self-care, he or she accepts reading as a means to improve himself or herself.”  When I consider the new school year and different goals I plan to set for myself as a teacher of literacy, I think exposing my students to reading for self-care is a great idea.

Adults understand this concept better than children of course.  I know when I have had too much drama in real life and simply need to read a comedic book.  I know when I crave inspiration through an autobiography or escapism through reading a selection from the genre of fantasy.  There are always new things I can challenge myself to learn more about and I gravitate towards nonfiction sometimes, too.  Students need to be taught about this idea of self-care through literature.

We are always trying to get students to read more on their own.  What better way for them to get excited about reading than by having them choose what they are reading?  Just like many have done with Writer’s Workshop, student can begin with a list that they generate.  Instead of listing topics to write about, students can list things they want to read about.  The list can be broad at first by listing genres.  The students may do an internet search for a more detailed search of books in their realm of interests.  Work with the online card catalog from your school’s library, too, to pin down specific books students can check out from the school.  Lastly, students could recommend books to friends.  These lists are intended to be living, growing documents throughout the year.  It will be fun for students to see what they have read and what literature paths they have taken throughout the year.  Have fun guiding students on their own self-care reading journey!


Reading Is Not What It Used to Be

July 15, 2018

How are Interactive Read Alouds Different?

It has been a while since I have gotten the chance to discuss interactive read alouds (IRA) on Tenspire. Certainly you can refer to the previous posts including details for developing a text set unit around an anchor text. The anchor text is a book you would use for an interactive read aloud.

I thought it would be timely to bring up some reminders and updates about best practices when considering IRAs. This is because my district is FINALLY moving towards a required reading block that makes a specific space (not just a suggested space) for IRAs in whole group literacy instruction. In fact, the entire whole group lesson in elementary grades K-5 is structured around a quality read aloud- as research and practice is mounting to show that this is an excellent way to effectively teach your students the needed methods to think deeply about texts.

What It Is NOT

Grabbing any book off the shelf
Rocking chair reading
One and done
Broken record reading
Thinking up some questions at the end


What It IS

Carefully planned, systematic text selection
Engaged, dialogic, interactive, analytical
Meaningful repeated reads
Reading for different purposes each time
Includes pre-planned aligned tasks

Overall, I would not throw the baby out with the bathwater when it comes to reading books aloud in your classroom. IRA time is dedicated to a specific text, time, and structure. There will be clear objectives you are trying to teach though reading the text you or your team selects. The practices encouraged by the IRA methodology simply seek to increase your effectiveness as an educator and amp up your teaching methods to the next level. I leave you with some further guidance for your IRA planning from the Tennessee Department of Education. Have fun!


Mind Movies

June 15, 2018

Using Visualization to Promote Comprehension

One way to expand upon students’ budding comprehension skills is to promote visualization of what is being read.  Students may blindly decode word after word on the page, but never really fully engulf themselves in the action of the story.  Visualization is a fun way to help move students forward in their literacy learning!

When teaching visualization, I ask my students to name their favorite movie.  I then remind them that all movies start out as written work, whether in a book or a script or both.  We then talk about applying the movie making strategy to reading by thinking about what was read while reading.  One third grade teacher made a YouTube video highlighting the idea that students should use visualization practices while reading.   Read aloud to students and have them close their eyes for “movie making time.”  This idea works for books without photos or even when reading a picture book without showing the illustrations.

A program I have used as an interventionist suggests using motions to symbolize different aspects of comprehension.  Teachers make the motion during reading aloud to signal when one could employ various comprehension strategies.  I’m sure your class could easily create its own symbol for visualization.  The teacher should model when to use the visualization strategy based on what the author has written.  After practicing together, the students can chime in, too.  Students will be reminded to use the visualization strategy on their own as well.

There is even a recent article in Literacy Today that gives more details on a similar idea and it is titled “The Power of the Picture.”  The author suggests, “Empowering students to paint a clear picture in their minds of what they are reading can bring the story to life and allow them to connect with the text in a meaningful way.”  She encourages students draw what they are visualizing about the stories read in class.  This way teachers can see more into what the students are thinking and they can better correct any “fuzzy” pictures, or trouble with comprehension that the students may be experiencing.

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 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!

Motherhood Reading

Books from Birth

April 22, 2018

Exploring Reading Options for the Very Young

One can gain inspiration from the world around them. Right now my world is all about babies, since I am about to have my first child.  Having a degree in early childhood makes one think all the things when you finally have a child of your own.  One of the major things the upcoming birth of my son makes me think about is his education.  Yes, I should be thinking about the birth or his health, etc., but a teacher tends to think about education first and foremost!  We cannot help it.  Being a literacy gal, I have been thinking mostly about how excited I am to read to him and help him establish an early bond to books from the beginning of his life.

Yes, babies can hear you from inside the womb, and yes, you can start reading to them when they are still in utero.  I cannot say that I have read nightly to my little one while he is still tucked inside my belly, but, hey, all of those classroom read alouds he was present for count, right?  When I am still at the hospital, however, I will take a major step towards increasing his personal library. I cannot WAIT to sign him up for Tennessee’s literacy initiative Books from Birth.  This will enable Isaac to receive a book in the mail for free once a month from birth to age 5.  Many hospitals now make it their mission to get all new babies registered for the program before they are discharged.

I used to be a spokesperson for our local chapter of Books from Birth.  It was first established by our state’s superstar sweetheart Dolly Parton in an effort to help more students in her home county graduate from high school.  Dolly used to give graduating seniors money upon their completion of high school until educators helped her realize that her money would be better spent with an investment on the front end of the students’ lives.  Over time this program launched statewide and now the governor and his wife are in charge of expanding it.  Make sure your own little ones are signed up and make sure the parents of students in your classroom know they can sign up their little ones at home to participate, too.  Think especially about those families who moved from out of state.

Even my first graders gravitated to books on my classroom library shelves in which they had a copy of thanks to the Imagination Library.  You can rack up whole class sets or at least small group sets of these books at used bookstores like McKay’s to use in your classroom, too (side note: I always get into trouble at McKay’s. When I say trouble, I mean I never leave without less than 50 or so books and sometimes educational board games, too.). It’s exciting when students realize that they can now read by themselves the texts they were given in the mail years ago and may still have at home.  I witnessed kids that were certainly motivated to practice these particular texts.  That’s all on the subject of books for the very young right now. I think my contractions are starting, so I better get to the hospital! Until next time!

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!

Culture Motivation Reading

Best Friend Books

February 15, 2018

The Beauty of Repeated Readings

I recently had the opportunity to hear one of my favorite literacy experts, Lester Laminack, speak on the topic of reading stories multiple times.  Repeated reading is a subject that I have touched upon previously during our discussion of interactive read alouds.  However, Dr. Laminack reminded us that repeated readings of books are so much more than just another instructional tool in our teacher toolboxes.

He stated that we have “best friend books.”  These books, like best friends, are the ones you turn to time and time again.  These books can bring us comfort in times of turmoil due to their dependability.  We feel confident reading them, because we already know the conclusion by heart.  Students naturally uncover the more complex themes and meanings in books they adore over time since they spend so many hours in these texts!

Lester made an interesting point during his speech.  He said that schools and teachers are perhaps doing “something” unknowingly to discourage the re-readings of books.  How do we know this?  Simple fact: Parents send us students who LOVE to hear the same stories over and over.  Schools send back students who do not like to reread.

Think of any toddler you have ever met.  If you have read to a young child, you know they request the same books to be reread over and over again, sometimes until you are blue in the face.  Something happens when kids enter schools, though, claims Laminack.  Kids are suddenly bored by the same old books, or they refuse to reread a book on their own.  Are we as educators discouraging repeated readings?  Do libraries let students renew the same book multiple times?  Do teachers encourage students to “pick a different book on their level” or choose a variety of books to take book tests over?  Do we bore students to death with repeated fluency probes?  Is the education system subliminally sending the message to our kids that rereading is bad?

This is all food for thought.  Make sure you encourage your students to read what they are interested in reading, and advertise Best Friend Books in your classroom, too!  You know we all need our BFFs!


Renewed Focus

January 22, 2018

Introducing Shared Reading

Happy New Year!  Ahead of us lies an entire year’s worth of learning potential, for both ourselves and our students.  However, we cannot forget about previous goals not yet achieved.  Tennessee’s Read to be Ready campaign launched a few years ago with the goal of improving the literacy skills of students across our state.  Specifically, the Read to be Ready campaign unites stakeholders across Tennessee in the pursuit of one common, critical goal – by 2025, 75% of Tennessee third graders will read on grade level.  The campaign is driven by five key beliefs: early literacy matters, but it’s never too late, reading is more than sounding out words, teachers are critical, and it takes a community.  Maybe your school or district has already been involved in this campaign in some form.  You can find out more by visiting the resources on the Read to be Ready page.

One of the strategies that Read to be Ready coaches have been trained in to bring back to their schools is the practice of shared reading.  Reading Rockets lists some of the benefits of employing a shared read in the classroom:

  • Allows students to enjoy materials that they may not be able to read on their own
  • Ensures that all students feel successful by providing support to the entire group
  • Students can act as though they are reading if they cannot yet
  • Helps novice readers learn about the relationship between oral language and printed language.\
  • Assists students in learning where to look and/or focus their attention
  • Supports students as they gain awareness of symbols and print conventions, while constructing meaning from text read
  • Assists students in making connections between background knowledge and new information
  • Focuses on and helps develop concepts about print and phonemic connections
  • Helps in teaching frequently used vocabulary
  • Encourages prediction in reading
  • Helps students develop a sense of story and increases comprehension

2018 has arrived, and this leaves Tennessee educators with just seven short years to boost our students’ reading proficiency statewide.  Is your classroom on the right track? This year we will continue to explore shared reading ideas to help boost your students’ literacy learning. See ya next post and cheers to the new year!