Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Quick Reading Response Form

For the past few years I haven't been able to settle on a way to have students respond to reading in a meaningful way. This year I am trying something my co-worker, Katy has done in the past with 3rd graders (I had to modify it a little). Here's what it looks like:

See it in google docs here

I know my name is on the pdf...but I'd be more than happy to email a copy in a regular word document  - I don't know how to make google docs editable!

This form will be in my students' reading folder, which houses all daily 5 and cafe handouts/assignments. In the three prongs down the middle I have a bunch of lined paper that is meant for responding to reading. I don't know how I plan on keeping up with reading these responses, but hopefully I'll figure that out! Any suggestions?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Versatile Blogger!

I was so touched this morning when I found out I was awarded the Versatile Blogger Award from Jill at Marvelous Multiagers! How sweet of her! Be sure to check out her blog!

So according to the rules, I need to tell you 7 things about myself:

1. I love this time of year! Football, football, and more football! I also love taffy apples, sweaters, and leather jackets :)

2. I am getting my masters in reading from National Louis University, and will finish the program in March. 

3. I just got back from my cousin's wedding in Denver - she was the most beautiful bride!

4. I love sushi. So much. I have to tell myself that I'm not allowed to have it more than once a week, otherwise I'd probably order it every night. When I call the place down the street - they not only know me, but know what I order :) 

5. I am thinking about getting my phd in reading. Seems like a huge undertaking so that's why I'm still "thinking" about it. If anyone has done it already, I'd love to hear your experiences!

6. I have two addictions...maybe three. 1. Shoes 2. Children's books 3. Sweet Mandy B's cupcakes. Anyone who knows me knows I can't be trusted to enter a shoe store and not come out with a pair or two of shoes. The Amazon free shipping "trick" (if you spend $25, you qualify for free shipping) gets me every time. I figure, as long as I'm buying $10 worth of books, I might as well spend $25 and save on shipping! Logical, right?! And, if you live in Chicago and haven't been to Sweet Many B's yet, DON' will become addicted like me! Their cupcakes and cakes and cookies are the best I've ever tasted :)

7. Last, I still dress up for Halloween...not alone - my friends do too :) This year, I am considering being Princess Jasmine. I have blonde hair - can I pull it off? I'm not so sure!

And now...the best part...I get to award 15 other blogs with the Versatile Blogger Award. Be sure to check out their blogs, as these women have all been incredible resources, encouragement, and inspiration to me!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Reading Level Chart for Parents

I just made this chart to give to parents at Open House this week. I am hoping to fill this out with each student twice a quarter (every 5 weeks) and send it home with progress reports and report cards. I am hoping if parents have a visual for where their child "should" be reading and what level their child is reading, they will be more motivated to read with their kids at home! Let me know if you like it or can use it! Get it here... Reading Chart

Friday, September 16, 2011

Cafe Questions

This is my third year trying to implement the Cafe model of guided reading, and although I love many aspects of it, I still have some questions. I used to teach guided reading using Fountas and Pinnell's model, which I know works based on research, but also feel like I want to keep evolving with the valid trends. I am hoping other people may have had the same questions and can give me a little help/clarity.  I think my favorite thing about cafe is that it organizes my strategy instruction, gives a nice classroom visual for our reading strategies, and develops self-awareness in students in terms of who they are as readers. I love doing strategy mini-lessons (especially comprehension) and I love focusing my small group time around strategy instruction. I also really like the opportunity to meet with students in individual conferences as needed. I appreciate the time to check in with students and their self-selected books. It seems more authentic than a typical guided reading group where I have chosen the book and have planned out the lesson very carefully. That said, I have a few unanswered questions:

1. Has anyone successfully implemented strategy groups in their classroom? I have tried, but either I don't seem to be able to wrap my mind around it or it just hasn't come up in my room - where I have students from a variety of levels needing the same strategy at the same time.

2. Are all your mini-lessons strategy lessons? Does anyone ever do a grammar lesson or a shared reading/interactive writing lesson instead?

3. For my lower students (I have 11 out of 30 students in 2nd grade reading at independent level C and below) I am thinking the more traditional Fountas and Pinnell guided reading lesson will be more effective. They are still so emergent and need that structured lesson plan that will give them explicit phonics/word study instruction, sight word practice, as well as accuracy (or decoding) strategies. Am I missing something, or do strategy groups Cafe style not look like this?

4. For people who do writer's workshop in addition to a literacy block, do you ever do writing mini-lessons (I'm thinking for students to practice during work on writing) during the literacy block?

As of now, I do three mini-lessons (comprehension, phonics dance, and then a rotation between accuracy, fluency, and expand vocabulary).

Anyway, I'd love to hear your philosophies on guided reading and what works in your classrooms! Your comments and opinions are so appreciated!

Happy Friday!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Class Pics

Well it's almost Friday and I can't believe how tired I am. I am sitting here in my workout clothes doing just about everything to avoid going to the gym. So I thought I'd share a few pics I took this week! Overall, it's been a great first three days - I have 20 girls and 8 boys - so we'll see what dynamic that might bring. I'm thinking some drama is in my future :) They are all really sweet though!

This is our word study board. The pockets are where students keep their spelling lists.

Here is a view of the front of the room - I LOVE the alphabet and vowels from Amy Lemons!

This is our class promise. The faces on the plates above the door are signed by each student meaning they agree to keep the promise.

This is our outside bulletin board. The kids wrote how they are going to be responsible in 2nd grade on the little strips of paper. 

This is the list we made when I introduced Bucket Filling yesterday. I think we will add to the list as we get going. 

I introduced read to someone today - and I have to say my kids did such a great job! Here are two girls reading together  - so cute to see!

Ok...I guess I have to go to the gym now...

Monday, September 5, 2011

Daily 5 Posters Freebie

School starts tomorrow!! I am so excited and a little anxious to meet my kids and get the year going! This will be my third year using Daily 5 as a management tool for literacy stations and CAFE as a guided reading and mini-lesson structure/philosophy for lack of a better word :) I made these posters to hang as I introduce each station and I plan to put "I can" statements next to or underneath each one. I thought I would share them with is the link Daily 5 Posters (email me if they link doesn't work, and I'd be happy to send them to you!).

Here's an example of what they look like:

Please feel free to grab them if they'll work for you! I just ask that you become a follower if you download them :) 

I'll let you know how introducing read to self and hopefully a few others goes this week! I have loved reading about how D5 is going in other bloggers' rooms!!

Thursday, September 1, 2011


I have been neglecting my blog world for way too long. That's not to say I haven't been blog-stalking though! I have been getting some great last minute tips from so many amazing teacher-bloggers! I feel like I must be one of the last people to go back to school - we don't start until after Labor Day. Needless to say, I am very anxious to meet my new batch of kids!!! Before the new year begins for me I wanted to share with you all how I teach spelling. I've gotten a few questions about it from teachers at my school, so I thought I would share with everyone :)

For starters, I am not a fan of our basal series...or any basal series for that matter. Soooooo I have adopted the Fountas and Pinnell Word Study program in my class. 

The main philosophy behind it is that we want our students to take ownership of their learning and apply spelling strategies to their writing. Sounds good, right? 

At the beginning of the year (so on Tuesday) I will give my students the Words Their Way primary spelling assessment. Based on this assessment I will pair my students up to create "Spelling Buddies." These pairings will probably only change once or twice over the course of the year (unless there is a bad match here or there). I also use this assessment to help me plan which word sorts to place at the Word Work station during Daily 5 for different groups of students.

Here's what it looks like in my room:

Monday: I introduce the spelling pattern for the week (will correlate to the Phonics Dance this year). Then the kids brainstorm a very large list sometimes upwards of 30 words that have the same spelling pattern(s). Finally, each student chooses the 10 words he/she wants to learn for the week, which means if I have 28 students like I do right now, then there could be 28 different spelling lists. I have my students write their words on two index cards - one to take home to study and one to keep at school in their spelling pocket for the week.

Over the three years I have used this "program" I have found that the trick to having individual spelling lists is modeling how to trouble-shoot. For example, What happens when your buddy can't read one of your spelling words? (a common problem in my room) 

Tuesday: The spelling activity for Tuesday is called Look, Say, Cover, Write, Check. The directions are exactly that: Look at the word, Say the word (and spell it out loud), Cover your list, Write the word, Check the word. If you get it right, move on. If you get it wrong, try again. If after three attempts you still did not get it right, copy the word correctly and circle the part of the word that was tricky. This is done in their word study notebooks.

Wednesday: Buddy Check. My students love this. They sit with their spelling buddy, trade cards, and take turns quizzing each other. They key here is modeling how to check their buddy's answers and talk about tricky parts of words. 

Thursday: The activity on Thursday is called "Making Connections." I tried and didn't love the "looks like/sounds like" sheet reccommended by Fountas and Pinnell, so I decided to change this day a little. I usually do a "making and breaking" words activity with individual white boards ("Write rain. Now erase one letter to make main) or a word sort...something to get their minds making connections between words.

Friday: Buddy Test! This looks just like Buddy Check, only this time buddies get to use cool red pens to grade their buddy's spelling test. I actually take the scores as a grade (of course I glance down the list to make sure the scores are accurate)!

Here is a picture of the word study board in our classroom:

Ok, this pic isn't great - I'll take a better one tomorrow. But for now, the word study board is all the way to the left. The pockets are where students keep their spelling lists. The thin red poster has clothes pins on each side that designate the spelling buddies, and the other red poster is a Monday-Friday reminder of the spelling activities I explained above.

Ok that's it for now. One more day of PD, then to the airport to meet the fam for a trip to Boston, and then the first day of school!!! I'd love to hear how you all teach spelling in your rooms!