Sunday, December 4, 2016

Common Core in December: Gingerbread

December is always so much fun at school, but unfortunately, also crazy busy! When I taught first grade, there were always SO many themes I wanted to integrate into the curriculum. There's gingerbread, Polar Express, reindeer, Christmas around the world... The list goes on. For the next week I will share some of my favorite activities for December. First up... GINGERBREAD! :) Check back for two more posts coming very soon!

Gingerbread Reading Literature 
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.1.9 Compare and contrast the adventures and experiences of characters in stories
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.1.3 Describe characters, settings, and major events in a story, using key details.

I know it's not the prettiest gingerbread house around, but the kids ate. it. up. (ha! Get it?) I wanted to make it easy, so I just tore white paper and glued it on for frosting. Then I colored circles on the frosting. The squares are supposed to be windows. As we read different versions of the Gingerbread Man, we filled in the squares. Since then, there has been a boom of even more amazing gingerbread stories. There are SO many out there, you could have a lot of fun with them. 

Some things to get talk about to get your kids thinking:
  • How does the setting affect the story?
  • How does the setting change the characters from story to story?
  • Evaluate the ending of each story. Which ending did you like best and why? 
  • Were there any endings you didn't like? Why? 
  • What characteristics describe the gingerbread chargers? (Provide text evidence) Do they all have these same qualities?
  • How are these stories different? the same?
  • Were all the stories' events similar? Was there a pattern to all the books?
  • Who is telling the story?  (Most have a 3rd person narrator, but The Gingerbread Man Loose in School is from the perspective of the gingerbread.)

(This is from a 2011 post you can find here.)

Just to give you an idea of all the options...

(I'll be adding this updated chart to my gingerbread unit- see bottom of post)

Gingerbread Writing (freebie)
A follow-up activity that I loved was to write our own gingerbread stories. First, I told them to choose a setting for their story. Next, think of characters that would likely be found in a story with that setting. Then, use the same pattern of events to make the story.  Finally, decide how you want your gingerbread story to end. 

This version is for beginning writers:

And this is for more experienced writers: 

This more advanced version is perfect for 2nd/3rd grade but definitely doable for advanced first graders. There are so many great mini-lessons you could do for this!

Use a combination of drawing, dictating, and writing to narrate a single event or several loosely linked events, tell about the events in the order in which they occurred, and provide a reaction to what happened.

Write narratives in which they recount two or more appropriately sequenced events, include some details regarding what happened, use temporal words to signal event order, and provide some sense of closure.

Write narratives in which they recount a well-elaborated event or short sequence of events, include details to describe actions, thoughts, and feelings, use temporal words to signal event order, and provide a sense of closure.

Last year, I posted this idea for classroom management. 
We are always looking for ways to motivate our students, keep learning interesting and fun, but also manage the craziness. The holidays can get crazy. It's so fun and I always look forward to it, but let's face it, the kids can get a little too excited sometimes. :) Here's an idea to reward good classroom behavior:

Have your class work together to retell a story by having good behavior. Set out the parts of your favorite story. Here, I used Whimsy Workshop's adorable clipart, but you could also just have your students draw these cards. (That way you could do for any story.) When you want to reward the class for great (or "sweet") behavior, add a story card to the story board. Call on a student to choose which card goes next. This way, you are reinforcing sequencing. When you fill up the chart, you could give the class some sort of reward. Now, mind you a reward can be as simple as an extra recess. It could be a small gingerbread cookie. You could even be a youtube Gingerbread "movie". If you search "Gingerbread" on youtube, a bunch comes up. Mostly there are people reading the book but for some reason this feels more special, right? Sort of a movie? The reward can be as big or tiny as you want. The point is to get them working together to build the story.

Download this idea with the template here. 
Note: The clip art does not come with this. You can buy the gingerbread clip art here. Like I said earlier, you could also draw it though. :)

For more gingerbread activities, check out my Gingerbread Unit:
Click HERE to get to my TPT store.

  •  My own adaptation of The Gingerbread Man. This has been kid-tested and it passed the test. I printed it out for my son and he asks me to read it over and over. We love our gingerbread books, so it was fun to add one to our collection. :)

This story has some great comprehension questions. This is perfect for a close reading lesson!

  • 3 Reading passages, each with about 3 reading levels (so it could work for 1st and 2nd with varying ability levels). There are also comprehension question and some close reading prompts.
  • 2 read, think Match pages
  • 2 Read, Visualize, Draw (one with two levels)
  • 2 Read and Sequence (one is from my December literacy packet. I had to include it since it's gingerbread related. But there is a second one that is new)

I wrote a gingerbread man poem. This will be a lot of fun to do with my firsties! There is a student sheet and pocket chart strips so you could do some rebuilding.  I also made a much simpler one that I will use with my kinders and one of my first grader groups.

8 word work centers:
  • Rhyme match
  • Cookie Jar Sort: Sounds of Y
  • Syllable match: Matching up two-syllable words
  • Frost the cookies: TWO versions: matching consonant blends with word endings OR matching word to a suffix
  • Ginger Sound Count: Counting phonemes
  • Baking Words: This looks similar to something in my kinder menu. I loved it so much and wanted to have something like this for my firsties and 2nd graders. So I made the word options harder so it works for them. They can build words with oo, ai, or short i. 
  • Gumdrop Sort: Sorting long and short vowels (again, it looks like a kinder center, but it's different. I just loved the clip art so I tweaked it for older kids.)
  • Blend the Batter: Matching onset and rime

  • 4 Sentence Scramblers
  • Super Sentence Gingerbread story: two options (the harder one includes adjectives and adverbs. The easier one only has adjectives, when and where)

  • Sentence Enders
  • Fill a Sentence: prepositional words

  • Gingerbread Opinion writing: 3 prompts
  • Reader Response: retell with planning page
  • Sticker story
  • Describe a Cookie


Saturday, November 26, 2016

Alphabet Intervention

Intervention. We all use this word and hear it on a daily basis. As teachers, when we hear "intervention resources" our ears perk up a little. That's because we all stay up at night thinking about those students who struggle to master certain concepts or skills. I'm obviously a believer in intervention. I've seen what can happen when a student receives good intervention that works. It's amazing to watch a child reach their goals and make real progress. This is my fourth year as a Reading Resource teacher for students in kindergarten through 3rd grade. I love my job. Yes, it can be heartbreaking to watch kids work SO hard but make slow progress. That's the nature of my job, but I remind myself that slow progress is progress. Goals met and reached should be celebrated, no matter how small. Many of our students reach benchmarks easily or with a little extra nudge. Still, there are some that need intensive intervention to reach those benchmarks. Over the years, I've slowly added to my alphabet "toolbox." The following activities can be used with any student learning their alphabet, but they are designed for your students who are struggling to master these letters and their corresponding sounds.  

When teaching the alphabet, we want to think about how to help our students really learn these letters and sounds. We don't just want them to know how to sing the alphabet song.  First, we introduce the letter. We show them the grapheme (visual representation) and tell them the name and sound associated. There is debate about the order of when to introduce each letter as well as upper case or letter case first, and sound or name first. I have no research to back me up- just my own experience. I teach upper and lower case together. I don't believe there is a sequence that necessarily works better than another. I just try to introduce in a way that doesn't have too many of the same looking letters together (so b and d are not learned at the same time.) I am also very systematic and explicit about how and when I teach them. Get a sequence that works for you and stick with it. It's always good to have them learn the letters in their name first, but in a small group, I use a pre-deterined sequence. I introduce 4 at a time, upper and lower case. We do several activities with these letters, then I introduce another set. I always review the previously learned letters. Every. single. day.

What usually comes next is your student can recognize the letter among other letters. This takes both memory and visual discrimination. Visual discrimination is the ability to identify differences in any visual image. In this case, we need students to see the differences between each letter. Many of these differences are so minor. At first, the letters of the alphabet look like random squiggles, curves, and lines. Kids must first identify the random shapes that make up a letter and the placement of these lines and curves (p, b, and d all have the same shapes but in different places.) Then they have to remember this imprint in their minds and remember the name and sound that matches that imprint. When students struggle to recognize letters, we need to determine if it is a memory issue (in my experience this is most common) or a visual discrimination issue. 

After kids can recognize the letter, we want them to retrieve it from their memory. This is slightly harder because they have make their own visual picture of the letter shape in their minds and remember the letter sound and name. 

Finally, we want our students to be able to write the letters, forming the shapes correctly. 

I put together some resources that I use with my students. This is the first set of activities that I will be posting on TPT. The next set will be printable activities and games. These are mainly visual aides. 

Having a visual picture to go along with graphemes really helps your students remember them! All of the visuals are the same throughout this pack. 

I use these picture cards to help students master the sound/symbol correspondence. With these and the grapheme cards, you could do sorting activities and play Memory. More ideas of how to use these are included. Here are a few ideas below:

I love using these cards when I introduce a letter. I slowly add the letters to the ring. Each student has their own ring. These have tiny letters, showing them where to start tracing. I keep these out when we are doing our handwriting too. I have them trace the letter card before writing, which reminds them how to form them correctly. 

This is packed with ideas for parents.  You could put it all together for a little take-home kit!

One of my favorite resources. I use this daily with students. We use it to learn how to write new letters as well as review other letters. I'll introduce a letter as a groundhog letter that goes underground, a shorter letter that is the same size as squirrel, and a tall letter like a deer. This visual has really helped my students with letter formation using lines. 

I also use this activity daily. I use the letters that I've introduced so far. I call out a name or sound. My students pull down the grapheme that represents that sound. This is good for practicing letter recognition. Students also like to take turns calling out the letter names and sounds for their classmates to find. That way, they are practicing retrieval. At the end, each student points to the letters and says their sounds. Once I am confident that the group has mastered a certain letter, I "retire" that letter and put in a new one. (I never retire vowels though.) When I start this activity, I just start with four letters. In the picture above, students had been working on b, s, m, t and a for a while. Then I introduced p, r, f, and c. After that, I introduced h and n. In order to add in another letter, I need to retire some letters. My students are now all solid with s, b, and m, so I will probably put those aside and add in one new one at a time. 

I also practice blending sounds with this. In the picture above, the students have learned only the letters shown. That is plenty of letters to make words with though! I start with two-phoneme words or word parts. I explain that "ap" is a part of a word like cap, map, and tap. We practice sounding out these words and word parts (blending sounds) and we practice building the words and word parts (segmenting. ) For example, I'll say "Pull down the letters that make ap." We'll stretch that word part with our invisible slinkies, then finger spell the word. Finally, they grab the letters that make those sounds. 

You can get all of these activities HERE.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Alphabet Activities for Halloween

Super late with this post, but I've been using these activities with my kinder groups, so decided to post them as a mini-pack. My goal is for students to gain automaticity with letter-sound correspondence. These activities are all used with a small group, but are great for literacy centers, partner activities and RTI.

This first activity can be done several time with your small group. After all letters are covered, give them a magnetic wand to "pick up" the letters one by one. They repeat the sounds as they pick up the circles for even more practice.

 Click HERE for a short video demonstrating how this works.

You can find these activities HERE for only $2.00 today!

Monday, September 5, 2016

All about Dyslexia

Hello again! I meant to get this post up right after my previous post but life happened. ;) My last post was all about what happens in the brain while we read. Make sure you read that post first before continuing on to this one. This one will make more sense if you read that one first. After reading this post, you should also check out an older post about myths and misconceptions surrounding dyslexia. Knowing what dyslexia is NOT will help you understand what it IS. I am not an expert by any means. This has just become a passion of mine to learn more and spread any knowledge and understanding that I do have. I encourage you to do some more reading and, if possible, take a class or seminar by someone who is an expert so that you can learn more! The research about dyslexia is there and there is a lot of it. We just need to get it out there so it is common knowledge for all educators. Okay, I'll hop off my soapbox now and get to the good stuff. :)

I made this visual to quickly get out a few things that are important to know about dyslexia. Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. (IDA)

1. First, it is neurobiological. It is NOT from lack of effort or intelligence. There is a difference in the brain that develops before any formal instruction ever takes place. You will see below more about this.

2. It is a language based disability. It is not a problem with vision. (See my post on myths and misconceptions.) People with dyslexia have difficulty with language skills, including reading, spelling, writing, and even pronouncing words. 

3. Dyslexia is passed through families. When a child is struggling with reading, this is one of the first things I look for- family history. Many parents/grandparents might not know they have dyslexia but they will say they "had a hard time in school" or "don't like reading" or "aren't great readers." 
From "About 40% of the siblings of a person with dyslexia may have similar reading issues. Scientists have also located several genes associated with reading and language processing issues."

4. Dyslexia is more common than you realize. About 1 in 5 students have dyslexia. That means you most likely DO have a dyslexic student in your class. There is a wide spectrum of abilities and symptoms, so it is not always an obvious case. The more I learn about dyslexia, the more I see it. Think about it: If you have a class of 20, that means statistically, you have 4 kids who are struggling with this disability on some level. That's pretty significant!

Definition from International Dyslexia Association

As I mentioned above, there is a pretty wide spectrum when it comes to the severity of symptoms. I started studying dyslexia when I had a student who was/is profoundly dyslexic. It couldn't be ignored, even if I didn't know what I was dealing with. By studying his severe symptoms of dyslexia, I started to see the same symptoms in students who weren't struggling as much as he was. 

For more information about phonological awareness, click here.

This is the first thing I look for. When a student is struggling with phonemic awareness in kindergarten/early 1st grade, that is a red flag for you. I start working with kids in kindergarten who are struggling with phonemic awareness. Some of them turn out to be totally normal readers. Others, improve with intervention, but are identified later with dyslexia. The early intervention is significant for students with and without dyslexia because phonemic awareness is one of the main indicators of reading success. (See my post on phonemic awareness.

I think sometimes people think since I work at a private school, there must be no struggling readers. WRONG! Dyslexia doesn't care how much money your family has. It does not go away just because your family has read to you since birth. It is neurobiological, remember? Let me be clear though- being read to as a child is still incredibly important. It develops comprehension, vocabulary, language skills, and (hopefully) a love of literature and learning.  From what I understand, it won't prevent dyslexia though. 

I was also surprised to learn that dyslexia is equal among boys and girls. I do think girls tend to look for ways to compensate and please the teacher in the classroom, making it more difficult to spot sometimes. That's why assessments are so important. 

It's also important to remember that dyslexia has nothing to do with intelligence! In fact, dyslexics have average to above average intelligence. That's actually part of the definition. The best simple definition I heard was from PDX Reading Specialist. I don't know if she made this up or heard it somewhere else, but I'm giving her credit. This definition is simple and really sums it up.

Now that we've looked at what dyslexia is, we can look at some of the reasons why students struggle with this disability. Let's look at the brain! Disclaimer: I am not a brain scientist or an expert in any way. I'm simply taking information I've learned and sharing it with you all. First, let's review one slide from my last post. Make sure you read that one first. 

These are the three brain systems that are most active while reading. My previous post talked about the different roles each of these systems play.  

Remember that each system plays a part. They all work together to make reading a smooth process. 

Notice how they don't develop that left-side word form area, which leads to fluent reading.  This area is the place where word retrieval becomes automatic. 

To read a word, dyslexics take a longer path through the brain. They can get delayed in that slow, analytic frontal part of the brain.

New research has found that with appropriate instruction, we can begin to form new pathways for our dyslexic readers. That's why appropriate instruction is so important. (My next post will go into this more.)

Now let's look at the warning signs of dyslexia. When I see these symptoms, I'm not about to go diagnosing anything. (There are specialists for that.) I will, however, start giving them support they need. Early intervention is key! 

I don't work with preschoolers, but I do work with kindergartners. When a student is struggling to learn the alphabet and seems to forget a letter from one day to the next, I start intervention. When a student struggles with phonemic awareness, I start doing activities right away to develop that. Phonemic awareness activities should be fun! Every kindergarten classroom needs to have daily activities. These are simple and short activities. If a student isn't picking up these skills by mid-kinder, that's when I start intervention with them. It's still fun, simple activities though. I think the biggest warning sign for me is a student in mid-kinder who seems very bright and interested in learning, but struggles to remember their letters, days of the week, and other common things like that. If they are doing their little kinder journal and you see that they avoid sounding out words (instead they look around and only write words they can copy) or if they do try but it seems very difficult despite many opportunities to practice, I would look more into that. (Note: If kids come into your kinder class without literacy at home- no books, not read to, no instruction with letters prior- that is a different story usually. They need more exposure first before you can decide if it's a red flag. However, you would give them the same RTI at this point because you need to get them exposure.)

I can usually tell something is really wrong by mid/late first grade. If they are still really struggling with decoding or remembering sight words, that is a huge red flag. Poor spelling is still pretty common in first grade, but becomes a bigger red flag later. One of two of these symptoms alone are not red flags. Many kids have poor handwriting. Also, it's important to note that when kids are first learning to read, they will make frequent errors. I just look at all of these symptoms when I'm starting to wonder about a student. The biggest thing to look for is difficultly with phonics and/or learning sight words. I also look out for those kids who can memorize any sight word you put in front of them so they "word call" while they read. They can mask their disability. They sound like they are reading, but then you give them a word they don't know and their decoding skills are very poor. That is a red flag. They are memorizers, but are not actually reading. They must decode. These kids tend to have poor spelling because they can read those sight words well, but usually mix up letters when spelling those same words. I think the most common symptom is the problems with decoding. You'll get those kids who (by first grade) know their letters and the rules of phonics but they decode SO slowly. They sound out the same word on every page. They don't notice word families and other patterns that may help them. This is a red flag (after proper instruction and exposure.)

This is when spelling becomes a bigger red flag. Fluency is also a biggie. Comprehension problems are usually a result of the slow or inaccurate reading. These are kids that may have excellent comprehension during read-alouds but not when they read on their own. Third grade is usually the time where dyslexics hit a wall. If they were able to compensate with or hide their disability in the earlier grades, they usually can't anymore. That's because there are so many more words! They can't memorize every word anymore. Multi-syllable words become common. So many words look the same. Advanced decoding is necessary.

I hope this post was helpful! My information came from these resources.

Click on the picture to download these links.

To read more about dyslexia, click here and here or on the pictures below: