Saturday, March 29, 2014

Making Inferences: Scaffolding the Strategy Whole-Class and Small Group *Freebie!

Making inferences is tough! It's is one of the more difficult things we ask kids to do. We model, model, model, but making an inference requires more than following some steps. It requires some sense of what is logical and how we use evidence and background knowledge. It's tricky! Especially for our struggling readers, making inferences requires multiple exposures with lots of scaffolding. 
To help kids make inferences that are logical, I try to keep them very closely tied to the text. This doesn't mean that I don't value their background knowledge - background knowledge is so important to reading deeply! It just means that sometimes, students don't use background knowledge to understand text evidence; they use background knowledge to replace text evidence. And that's not good reading.
So I teach kids to use background knowledge to understand the evidence the text has provided. This means we have to start with the evidence! 
 Whole-Class Scaffolding

 This is a lesson we did with our second grade students. We were focusing on making inferences about a character. Specifically, we were working with A Bad Case of Stripes.

There is a lot of evidence about Camilla Cream's character in A Bad Case of Stripes. We wanted our kids to learn how to focus on searching for evidence to support their inferences. 

First, we started with introducing the strategy and what our purpose for reading was. The questions were charted on the left side of the chart before the teacher began reading the book. The teacher read the first question before starting the book to help focus the kids' thinking.

As the teacher read the book aloud, the kids listened for evidence that would help them specifically respond to the question. As they found evidence to respond to the question, it was charted on the right side. They used the specific details to make an inference and respond to the question. The answer was charted under the question on the left. 

Once the first question was answered, the teacher charted the second question to set a purpose for reading the next piece of text. The process continued throughout the book to help kids think about Camilla's character at different points in the story.

Small Group Scaffolding

 Sometimes what we do for the whole group doesn't "click" with some kids. They try to understand, but the learning is elusive. Small groups are a great time to differentiate your instruction and provide some scaffolding for students to learn a concept in a more structured way.

This is a tool I've used with small groups to help scaffold their inference-making skills. I chose a text very carefully that had several opportunities for students to make inferences. This can be challenging when you're working with a group of struggling readers. It's tough to find a text they can navigate at an instructional level and still have opportunities to "read between the lines" because the text is often so straightforward. Maybe this is easier for others than it is for me, but to ensure that my lesson is as accurate as possible, I really have to do some thinking! 

I chose a leveled reader from our supplemental materials after several re-reads. I found a few places in the text where I could make an inference. I made a two-columned table and and recorded the text evidence in order on the left side, in the order it appeared in the text. On a separate page, I made a blank some blank boxes and typed in the inferences I was able to make using the evidence. These I typed up out of order.

As students read the text, we hunted for the text evidence. Once they found it in the text, we read around it and thought about what we could "tell" from the evidence. Then we looked at the answer choices - the four inference statements that I typed up on the cards - and decided which one accurately matched the evidence. I had students circle a few words that helped them understand the inference was supported by the evidence. 

These are the questions I asked to guide their thinking:
What does the evidence mean?
From the evidence, which inference can we say is true? 
Which inference is supported by the piece of evidence?
Do the inference and evidence have similar meanings?

These questions helped focus the kids' thinking and made sure they were being logical in their evidence-inference connection.

Supporting inferences with evidence

I did a similar activity to work on the reverse of the evidence-inference process. I provided the inferences on the table, and the kids had to match the text evidence to explain which sentence from the text best supported the evidence. We read the article first and discussed important ideas. Then we read the evidence on the cards and sequenced them to locate the context of the evidence in the text. 

Then we read our inferences on the right side of the column and tried to logically connect the evidence to the inferences on the chart, making decisions about which piece of evidence helped us prove the inference true.

It was more challenging than moving from evidence to inferences, and required more time the first time I taught the lesson. But these scaffolding strategies helped our kids become more deliberate in their inference-making and inference-justifying. I used them with kids in grades three and four; special education students and general education students, too! 

What do you do to support kids' inference-making?

 Here's a handy dandy FREEBIE to help you scaffold your inference instruction!

And get all my Reading Strategy MiniPacks in the BIG BUNDLE!

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Sunday, March 9, 2014

Bright Ideas Blog Hop: Personal Editing Checklists

How many times have you found yourself reading over an assignment, especially a writing assignment and asking the student the following questions:

Did you reread this?
Where are the capitals?
Do you have a problem with punctuation?

I got a little tired of saying these things (and others) and I finally realized that students were waiting for me to tell them what they should do as writers (and assignment-doers) and so the responsibility was all mine. I had to find a way for them to help themselves for two reasons: one, it is important for their development as students, and two, I didn't want to do it anymore.

So I made these!

Personal Editing Checklists!

Personal Editing Checklists are a handy tool glued on to a tent card. As you can see, I used nothing but the best materials to make my tent cards...I cut up an old cereal box.

I flipped the blank cardboard side out and made a little tent. 

I only made personal editing checklists for my students who needed them, i.e., those students who have significant issues with conventions of writing. So I thought of those individual kids and decided what each student had to do in order for their writing to make sense. I wanted each step to be a specific direction, or action (not a question or single word like "capitals", because I wanted kids to be able to use them independently).

This is the checklist I made for Chris, who struggled with the basics: capitalizing, using periods, leaving words out, and spelling.

I taught the kids how to use them in a small group setting so they knew what was expected. After that, when a student brought an assignment to me and said, "I'm done," I had him or her plop down at my table with the personal editing checklist and review/improve their writing before I ever even see it.

And that improves their writing habits....and my life as well.

I hope you found something helpful here today! The best thing about this post is that it's part of a Blog Hop! If you're here, you've probably found tons of Bright Ideas by now and you're in store for so many more!
The next blogger on the hop is Laura Martin at Peace, Love, and First Grade. Click to visit her blog and learn all about her bright idea: Keeping track of money! If you're like me, collecting money from children is the bane of your existence, so click through for some great tips!
Peace, Love, & First Grade
Or if you're ready for some more bright ideas? Check out the Bright Ideas below by clicking on a button. Hope you collect tons of bright ideas today!
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Thursday, March 6, 2014

Igniting a Passion for Reading: Chapters three and four of our book study!

This is the second posting about our professional book study: Igniting a Passion for Reading! 

"If we can't make kids read (and we can't), then shouldn't we be concerned about monitoring how often we're providing experiences with text that are enjoyable so they might consider reading on their own?" (Layne, 2009)

This book has provided my teachers and I with so much quotable inspiration that I have to share some of it with you!

Chapter Three
Igniting a Passion Through Book Chats

In this chapter, Layne shares his number one surefire strategy to be able to pair books with readers: 

"Read books written for the age group you teach and then tell the kids about the books."
 I love to read books written for adults (like me), and I read a smattering of children's books, but it's really not enough to keep up with all of the new stuff! If we become voracious readers of children's books and have a large collection of books we can recommend and pair up with readers, our reading instruction becomes far better. 

The way Stephen Layne actually "tells" kids about the books is Book Chats. Book Chats are 5-7 minutes long (I could see you getting away with 3-4 minutes in elementary school) and are basically carefully planned commercials that include a few of the following pieces:

1. A Hook - just like we teach in writing, a good hook creates excitement and interest in the book. Some ways Layne shares to create a great hook are to
- Ask a thought-provoking question related to the theme/topic of the book.
- Dress up/use a simple prop
- Possibly read an excerpt (choose carefully!)
- Use an accent related to the book

2. Share a few reasons this book is a great read, or share your reaction to the book

One of our teachers dresses up to share Fancy Nancy!

My favorite quote from this section:

"If I walk into an elementary school classroom wearing a plastic tiara and announce that my name is Nancy (to introduce Jane O'Connor's Fancy Nancy), believe me, I have everyone's attention." 

Keep in mind, the author speaking is Stephen Layne lol.

Chapter Four
Igniting a Passion Through Effectively Reading Aloud

As my teachers and I were discussing this chapter, we talked a lot about where our love of reading came from. Many of us had positive reading experiences in the home, with a parent or older sibling. Unfortunately, many of our students don't have those experiences. By effectively reading aloud (and yes, I have seen this done INeffectively), we can create a positive reading experience for our kids!

To quote Stephen Layne, "To reach these kids, we're going to have to impact the way they think about books and the way they feel about books." 

Throughout the chapter, Layne gives several reasons to read aloud to kids. I've never had a principal who didn't believe in the value of reading aloud to children, but in case you do, this chapter provides some good reasons and quotable moments to share with them!

Reason Number One: It's fun! "A good book read well will do more for the woes of the disenfranchised readers than all the leveled books our publishers can crank out." 

Reason Number Two: It exposes them to a variety of genres. "The conscious choice of reading aloud from a wide range of genres is certain to broaden the interests of our students because many of them have failed to explore multiple genres."

Reason Number Three: It can improve children's listening skills. "In the elementary and middle grades, it is important for us to capitalize on the difference between a child's listening level and the silent reading level of the same child because, in most cases, there is about a two-year difference in these levels." 

Reason Number Four: Reading aloud provides an opportunity to authentically model and practice targeted reading skills. "To underestimate the value of the teachable moment... could be a serious mistake; through the read-aloud I may be reaching kids who need the most skill reinforcement."

In closing, this line that Stephen Layne quoted from Mary Lee Hahn resonated with me and my teachers, and I wanted to share it with you:

"Read-aloud may look like an ordinary event in a typical classroom, but it feels extraordinary when the teacher who is reading is aware of the power of the book and the importance of his/her role..."

Beautifully put! Thanks for joining our second round of our book study! In a week or so, I'll publish what we noticed when we read chapters five and six!

If you want to go back and learn about chapters one and two, check out my previous post!

And for tips about reading aloud, check out my Reader's Workshop MiniSeries: Episode 3 Read Alouds!

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Monday, March 3, 2014

Read Across America Week: Celebrating Dr. Seuss with Style!

This past week, my school celebrated Read Across America with special dress-up opportunities each day. 

So on the morning of the first day of our Read Across America Week celebration, and at home, I remembered reading that it was crazy/mismatched socks day!  I grabbed a polka-dotted red sock and an argyle pink sock and I put them on. I put on my shoes and cuffed my khakis to really show off my crazy socks. 
I got out of the car and started walking toward the school building through the parking lot. It was at this point I started looking for other crazy socks - I checked the kids, I checked the teachers, I checked every pair of ankles for some crazy socks.
And I didn't see any! I started to get a little self-conscious about my socks. And I started to get a LOT self-conscious about my cuffed khakis.
And I started to wonder if today was crazy sock day at all!
I finally made it to my room and texted my librarian, "It IS crazy sock day, right?!"
No reply.
Now I started to feel pretty silly in my silly socks.
Until I saw the kindergartner. She had on silly socks and silly shoes - blue and green sock on one foot, and pink and orange sock on the other. Whew.
So I was celebrating crazy sock day on the right day. It's just that everybody else (except for me and the kindergartner) is lame.
I was feeling vindicated about my socks, and so I told my story to one of the special education teachers. He sheepishly said, " was it JUST crazy sock day? Because... I wore two different shoes." I looked at his feet and sure enough, he had on a black one and a brown one. "Don't worry," I said. "It's Crazy Sock & Shoe Day!" and he was relieved. I know the feeling.
Anyway, Monday was Crazy Sock & Shoe Day.
Tuesday was Wear Stripes!
So I had to really hunt in my closet for something with stripes - I tend to avoid horizontal stripes because I don't want to look like a watermelon. It's a fine line.
Wednesday was Pajama Day (YESSSSS!)
It was a little awkward, because we had a half-day, and I had to give a training in the afternoon. It's hard to train in slippers.

Don't you love the Lorax background? Our principal made it, entirely out of fabric! The puffs on top of the truffula trees are tulle!
Thursday was Crazy Hair or Hat Day!
This is as crazy as it gets.
And Friday is wear red - this is the day we have our guest readers. We don't want to have too much weird stuff going on or they might not come back.
But we were able to buy these adorable Dr. Seuss shirts to wear on this day! I LOVE my shirt!

  This was a fun week. I had a blast. And by Friday I was DEAD tired. 
For more Seusstastic ideas, check out the Primary Chalkboard Link-Up!

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Sunday, March 2, 2014

Read Across America Week: Celebrating Some Dr. Seusiness with...duh... Reading!

My librarian and I have had a blast planning our Read Across America schoolwide celebration! It seems like every time we talked about it, we added another fun element for the kids and for the teachers!
We celebrated our week o' reading early for reasons I do not know. But it gave me a jump on blogging and sharing these ideas with you, so you can use them this week! 
During PE on Monday, each student was brought to the library. We had been collecting books all year, in English and Spanish for all grade levels. The kids each got to choose one free book, a pencil, and a bookmark! What better way to create excitement about reading than by giving them books they can read?!

One great way to collect cheap-ish books to give away to students is First Book is a great program designed to give kids a chance by providing books at the cost of shipping only to schools who qualify by having Title I, etc. We've placed several orders with First Book this year with great results.

Later that day, thirty minutes before the end of the school day, we asked teachers to stop their instruction, get their most favorite picture book in the world, and go to another classroom to read to the class! Some teachers decided to dress up, and some brought props! 

One of our second grade teachers, Diciembre, dressed up as Fancy Nancy! She remained in character with a Fancy Nancy attitude as she went to the other second grade classrooms. What a great way to celebrate books with kids!
Many teachers even used their Special Delivery Book Bags  to create excitement about reading!
The teachers and kids loved it - they were so excited to share their favorite books, and the kids looooved having a different reader for a while!

Tuesday - Thursday
Tuesday through Thursday, everybody in the school Dropped Everything And Read (Drop Everything And Read) for fifteen minutes each day. It's an easy way to excited kids about reading! 
Kids could read anything they wanted, and so could the teachers - although we did ask that they avoid Fifty Shades of Gray. We didn't want to create THAT kind of reading excitement.

On Friday, we had our guest readers - members of the community - come visit our school and read books aloud to the kids. This is always a special day full of interesting visitors and books. It's a challenge for our librarian to collect enough readers who can confirm that they'll be present, and the schedule is a bear, but it's worth it to see how much the kids enjoy their guest readers! 
A great guest reader from Border Patrol!

A therapist who came to read to our kids!
Our librarian decorated a room for the readers to lounge in and practice reading their books before they went to read in the classrooms. We created these cute centerpieces for the tables using the pots we made for our marshmallow pop treats for the teachers earlier in the week. Read about that here!
My librarian buddy set up a cute table full of books where the readers could choose a book to read to the classes they visited. There was a basket of great books in English, another basket in Spanish, and another full of Dr. Seuss books.

We decorated with the truffula trees I made last weekend! Read about that here!
I'd love to hear about how you celebrate Dr. Seuss! What do you do at your school?

For more Seusstastic ideas, check out the Primary Chalkboard Link-Up!

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Saturday, March 1, 2014

Read Across America Week: Celebrating Dr. Seussiness with Treats and Snacks!

My school decided to celebrate the week leading up to Dr. Seuss' birthday by spending the whole week with fun literacy activities and projects. We have had a blast thinking of activities and ways to celebrate reading!
Tomorrow I'm going to share about how we celebrated Dr. Seuss with reading activities. But for today, my post is all about the tasty part: food (and other treats)!

My librarian buddy and I decided to hunt around on pinterest for some adorable ideas to make for our teachers. She already had planned to give out cute Dr. Seuss bags with hat-shaped dry erase boards, and bookmarks & pencils another day, so they were going to get some cute teacher stuff (we love cute teacher stuff, don't we?). 
And then we thought, "What about.... food? Food is fun. Food is cute. Food is crafty and everyone loves it! So we searched and searched and settled on three cute snacks for our teachers. We gave them one item each day of the week to celebrate Read Across America all week long!

Marshmallow pops

First, we skewered the marshmallows on these adorable polka-dotted straws. My librarian found them at Party City, but I know Hobby Lobby has something similar.

 We dipped them into melted white chocolate (we used the Wilton brand chips) and let the excess chocolate drip off (this part took the longest!)

Then I scooped sprinkles over the top. We made several different kinds by using different sprinkles - red, blue sugar, red, white, and blue stars, and red and blue mixes. 

I stuck them into a few pots with styrofoam inside to help them stand up (and to look cute). We left them on the counter in the lounge with a little sign to let teachers know they could take one.

We decorated the table with the book The Lorax, our little signes that we printed, th epots of marshmallow pops, and this cute Dr. Seuss sign my librarian buddy had. We added the truffula trees I made this weekend (find the directions here, if you want to make your own!).

original pin idea for marshmallow pops here
We made 76 pops - it took two full bags of marshmallows, two bags of sprinkles, two bags of Wilton candy melts (light blue) and eight packages of paper straws.

Fish in a bowl
One fish, two fish, these are for you fish! 
These were the easiest treat. Scoop and pour, and you're done!
You can grab the printable labels here at Google Drive.

Ok, this isn't food. On this day, we had a half-day for training. And I was giving the training. So we kept it simple! My librarian had bought this adorable stuff for teachers! 

Each teacher got a bag and a cute dry-erase board shaped like the Cat in the Hat's hat!

I did get to celebrate Dr. Seuss with food today, though. The kindergarten teachers made green eggs & ham for their kids and I got a plate for myself!

It was waaay tastier than it looks.


Cat in the Hat Jell-o

Are these adorable or what?!

Our principal asked the cafeteria to make the red Jell-o for us, and the librarian and I supplied the cups, spoons, and Cool Whip. 

We scooped a little jello, and then a little cool whip, and then a little jello and then a little cool whip, until we had a cat-in-the-hat-ish sort of treat! 

We sprayed the top with whipped cream and added a spoon for a fun treat.

original pin idea here


Bookmark, Pencil, & eraser

I know Friday seems kind of anti-climactic, but this was the day when we had our guest readers and didn't have the time during the day to assemble a tasty snack!

Overall, it was a fun and sweet week, and I hope our kids and teachers got a kick out of our fun Seussiness! Check back tomorrow to read about how we celebrated Read Across America Week with ... gasp... READING!

Happy Teaching!
For more ideas about Everything Dr. Seuss, check out the Primary Chalkboard's Link-Up!

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