Saturday, April 25, 2015

If I won a gift card, I'd buy...books! (Giveaway)

Oh boy! Do I have great news for you!  Today starts a big $100 giveaway over at I Teach Second! My bloggy buddies and I want to treat four lucky readers with a shopping spree to buy more of their favorite things. In fact, there are actually three giveaways going on simultaneously if you include I Teach Kinder and I Teach First, so actually there will be four twelve winner!  That's even better, right?  So what will you do with your gift card when you win? I know as a reading specialist exactly what I would buy.  Books!  What books are on my list you ask?  (humor me okay...)  Well, I will be glad to tell you all about them.  With $25.00 from Amazon, I would buy the following titles (with a little of my own money thrown in).

An A from Miss Keller, Patricia's newest book.  Thank You Mr. Falker and Junkyard Wonders are two books I can not read without tearing up, and I'm a sucker for those touching stories. Here is what Amazon had to say about this book. 
A perfect companion to the classic Thank You, Mr. FalkerThe Art of Miss Chew, and Mr. Wayne’s Masterpiece, this book celebrates a teacher who inspired a young Patricia Polacco to become the writer and storyteller she is today.

Trisha is nervous about being chosen for Miss Keller’s writing class. “Killer Keller” demands that her students dazzle her with their writing, and rumor has it that she has never given an A. The rumors turn out to be all too true—there’s just no pleasing Miss Keller. Then an unexpected loss leaves Trisha heartbroken. Thoughts of teachers and grades forgotten, she pours out her soul in a personal narrative. And when Miss Keller reads it, she tells Trisha, “You’ve given your words wings.”
Who wouldn't want this book?  It's Trisha's continuation through life, and I just have to have that book. End of discussion.

While I'm at it, I think I'll add in Mr. Wayne's Masterpiece and The Art of Miss Chew. I have to have the full story, so these two must go in my shopping cart too.  Mr. Wayne helps Trisha overcome her fear of public speaking with his drama class.  He selects her to help in designing the sets for the school play, and interestingly, she memorizes all the lines. (Does that surprise you?  Not me.  With her talent, I bet she had them down in a week!). Here's what Amazon says about Mr. Wayne's Masterpiece
Speaking in front of an audience terrifies Trisha. Ending up in Mr. Wayne’s drama class is the last thing she wants! But Mr. Wayne gives her a backstage role painting scenery for the winter play. As she paints, she listens to the cast rehearse, memorizing their lines without even realizing it. Then, days before opening night, the lead actress suddenly moves away, and Trisha is the only other person who knows her part. Will the play have to be canceled? It won’t be an easy road—when Trisha tries to recite the lines in front of the cast, nothing comes out! But Mr. Wayne won’t let her give up, and with his coaching, Trisha is able to become one of his true masterpieces.
Speaking of talent, it was her talent that got her into Miss Chew's art class and which led to her amazing illustrations today.  This book actually was published first out of these three options, and I think you'd want to read them in order. Each hits a critical point in the development of who Patricia Polacco is and why she is totally my inspiration. I see Trisha in so many of the little faces I teach, and because of these wonderful books, we have a role model and example of overcoming extreme challenges to achieve your dreams and goals.  Here's the Amazon description.
After spending the summer with her artist grandmother, Trisha knows she wants to be an artist, too. She's thrilled when her sketches get her into Miss Chew's special art class at the high school. A substitute teacher tells her she's wasting time on art when she should be studying - but fortunately, this is one battle that Miss Chew and Trisha are up for! 
While I'm talking books, I think there is one more I will put in my shopping cart. I know I'm over the limit here, but I can't help myself. I'm terrible about having to have the! I love survival stories and books where the main character shows strength and determination. These types of books are such an inspiration to kids. I also gravitate to books that truly paint a vivid description with word choice and sentence fluency.  Patricia MacLachlan's book, All the Places I Love is a favorite of mine because of the beautiful descriptions she shares of a grandfather's love for his grandchild, and this story has the language of it with the character development of Brave Irene.  Here is the Amazon description.
This is a story about one brave girl who saves her family from losing everything. In a starred review, Publishers Weekly calls this lyrical tale “melodic, poetic, and enchanting.”
Everyone in Lucy’s family sings. Opera. Rap. Lullabies. Everyone, except Lucy. Lucy can’t sing; her voice won’t come out.

Just like singing, helping Aunt Frankie prepare for flooding season is a family tradition—even if Frankie doesn’t want the help. And this year, when the flood arrives and danger finds its way into the heart of Lucy’s family, Lucy will need to find her voice to save her brother.
So what books would you purchase with an Amazon card?  Please share your thoughts with me.  I LOVE adding new books to my list.  

If you'd like to enter our giveaway, please click the images below which are linked to each giveaway we're hosting.  To enter my giveaway here at Comprehension Connection, [click here] to read the Stop, Swap, and Roll Post containing the Rafflecopter. Good luck!!
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Stop, Swap, and Roll with Nonfiction Text Features

Hello Readers!  Happy weekend to you!  I am excited to join in with a group of bloggers for Stop, Swap, and Roll hosted by Melissa at Jungle Learners.

I was matched up with Gina from Beach, Sand, and Lesson Plans.  For the record...I hope this means I get to meet up with her. Just the words, Beach and Sand, has me hooked, but I know you'll be hooked by the great product I'm going to be sharing. We had lots of fun with it.

The product I'm reviewing for you today is Gina's Text Feature Pack, and I feel so lucky. It is jam-packed with everything you need to teach nonfiction text features thoroughly. Just look at all the pages. The product includes detailed anchor charts that can be projected, mounted for display, or used as visuals for small group lessons. Gina included every... single... feature possible, and they are *very* detailed.

Here is a close-up of one.  My copy was black and white, however, Gina has them in color.

Gina included arrow shaped bookmarks for students to use with nonfiction texts to mark where they found the feature and what the feature explains.  I loved using these with my students as so often they can find the feature, but the explanation part falls flat.  Students need to utilize text features to improve their understanding, so it worked out well for them to explain the feature on the back of the arrow during the lesson.

The product is very user friendly and thorough. My students loved doing the feature scavenger hunt which we completed in pairs. This is one student's paper from the activity. He chose a book about space.  Luckily, it had most of the features.  Some nonfiction books come up short though. One tip I would pass on is for the teacher to preselect the nonfiction books just to make sure many features are included. I had previewed the options, so we avoided that issue.  I have students who hate to lose (sound familiar??), so I sure didn't want frustration with faulty books.

Another activity my students enjoyed was the I Have, Who Has game.  We used it in teams during our guided reading lesson.  This activity works well for reinforcing those tricky definitions.  So many children confuse terminology, so multiple sessions are a must for mastery.  If you look closely, you can see what nice definitions Gina included as well as the formatting.

The final piece to the set was a Text Features Bingo game.  The teacher places all the terms in a bucket and calls them one by one.  Students have to locate the feature in their book before they can cross them off.  The students set the board up themselves, so they are able to look ahead through their book to make sure the feature is included.  We had a great time with this activity, and in fact, my kids have begged me to play again. I expect this will be one to pull out again in the coming weeks after testing.

As you can see, this product will not disappoint. Gina has it in her store for $6.25, but this weekend, it is 20% off, so it's right at $5.00.  If you are interested in it, you can hop on over to her store by clicking the product collage to the left or you can enter the Rafflecopter to win a free copy (and come back to purchase if you don't).

Thanks so much Gina for sharing your great ideas and hard work with me. If my readers would like to see what Gina's reviewing of mine, you can hop over by clicking her blog button below.
To check out the other Stop, Swap, and Roll posts, you can check out the post listings below.  Enjoy your day, and I hope you'll come back soon!
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Friday, April 24, 2015

Five Funnies for Friday

This is going to be a quick five minute post while our dinner is baking.  I just caught a Friday funny over at I Teach Third, so I thought I'd share a few I've been saving on my Pinterest board.  Here you go...

Number 1-
Is this true of you too?  I swear... 
the blood stops flowing to my head.
Such a rule follower...sigh.
On relating more to students than people realize: | 19 Brutally Honest Teacher Confessions
Number 2-
This is so hilarious...must watch!

Number 3-
This is called survival, but I am so glad this guy 
loves my seating chart ideas.  
Who else rocks at separating the talkers?
He looks so much like my son, Logan! It's also funny because I stayed late at school making new seating charts with this in mind.
Number 4-
Can I use the bathroom?  Can I get a drink?  What are we doing today? Can I borrow a pencil?  Do you have paper? Sigh...
Oh geez, just figure out my last day activity..."When the teacher..." should keep them busy for a little while and should be entertaining for me too!  ;)
Number 5-
In light of the computer glow on my face right now, I think I need to publish this blog post.  Any night owls?  Do you feel the glow on your face?  
Hehe    - Re-pinned by @PediaStaff – Please Visit for all our pediatric therapy pins
Well, I'm shutting down the glow and publishing this post, but I'll be back this weekend with a few surprises.  Have a great weekend! 

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Thematic Thursday Features Fairy Tales

Thematic Thursday is a weekly teacher linky party focused on the sharing of ideas for a different theme each week. This week's theme is Fairy Tales and Fractured Fairy Tales, and bloggers are asked to share their favorite books and activities to teach and enjoy them. Feel free to link up your blog post and intended grade level for the resources and ideas you share. You may post links to your free products that fit the theme of the week.  

Fairy Tales Pinterest Board
Follow Comprehension's board Fairy Tales and Fractured Tales on Pinterest.
Book Suggestions for Fairy Tales

When teaching fairy tales, my favorite book options are the variations of common fairy tales such as Cinderella and the Three Little Pigs. The variations work well for comparing characters across texts. By using multiple versions, students learn the characteristics of a fairy tale quickly.  With Cinderella, I love The Rough Face Girl by Rafe Martin, Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe, and The Egyptian Cinderella by Shirley Climo.
Image result for Rough Faced Girl
For a little local flare, I try to include Appalachian versions if I can get a hold of them.  Our librarian has Sootface and Ashpet, and I just came across Smoky Mountain Rose, although I haven't used it yet.
Image result for appalachian cinderella    Image result for appalachian cinderella  
Along with variations of fairy tales, teachers and students also enjoy fractured fairy tales. [This list] from Read, Write, Think offers lots of options for teachers.  Seriously, what kid wouldn't want to read Bigfoot Cinderella or The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales? I discovered Colin McNaughton's books about a year, and I used them with a tutoring student. They are so much fun. Preston Pig is just bumbling along and becomes part of the fairy tale stories. My student enjoyed them so much that she'd end up laughing out loud. (I just love that. Don't you?)  If you are interested in the units I have for these books, just click the image below.

Fun Activities from TPT
Fairy Tale Unit to Teach the Common Core Standards - 25 AcThis unit by Jamie Rector is not a freebie, but it is thorough and minimally priced at $4.00. I love the variety of book options she's chosen and that is includes the writing component as well. It offers organizers customized to each book too.  

Fairy Tale Craftivities {FREEBIE}Is this adorable or what?? I just love craftivities, and this will surely be fun for your little people...and it's free!  

The Pigs and Wolf Have Different Points of View!
Teaching point of view will be easy with this cute set from Primary Graffitti. It includes four lessons for your little people.

Fractured Fairy Tale Graphic OrganizersFinally, I love having materials ready to print and go.  These fairy tale organizers can be used with any book.  Free from Nicole Walters.

Fairy Tale Teaching Ideas
There were so many adorable ideas for fairy tales on Pinterest, and I just have to highlight a few I love.  [This blog post] features a Fairy Tale Theme night for parental involvement.  Rooms were decorated by fairy tale and activities featuring that fairy tale were set up for kids and parents to complete (I'm assuming here from the pictures). How fun!!  I also loved the recycle castle project. With it being Earth Day today, wouldn't this be a great follow up? You could also tie in math with that project with the 3-dimensional shapes.  For other fun options, definitely check out the Pinterest board I have going above.
Video Resources about Fairy Tales

What are your favorite ways to teach fairy tales?  I'd love to hear your comments...any comments really. Of course, I'd also love you to link up this week too, so head on down below and let me know what you think. Now, I'm off to enjoy a little spring weather while I take our dog for a walk. Until next time...happy reading!
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Sunday, April 19, 2015

Vocabulary Ideas to Whooot About Part 2...Synonyms and Antonyms

Hello readers! It's a gorgeous morning in Virginia as I begin this post, and the birds are chirping away (along with a noisy woodpecker off in the distance).  A few weeks ago, I started a little series of posts about vocabulary.  The first post focused on using context clues, and today, I'm going to share a few ideas related to synonyms and antonyms. (Some of my fifth graders truly struggle to keep those straight. Reading terminology always seems to get muddied up for some kids, but we continue to plug on.)

So one way to work on expanding vocabulary in your students' writing is to explore degrees of meaning with synonyms. After all, there is a difference between the word eat and the word devour, right? Although they'd be considered synonyms, certainly the intensity is not the same. Students need to learn the importance of revising their work and that it's okay for writing to not be "perfect" with the first draft. I will never forget the first writing assignment I did with a struggling fifth grader new to my building who looked at me in confusion when I told her she was ready to revise. She had no idea what the word revise meant.  So often, kids Do you see that? By working in activities to expand vocabulary, we make student writing richer and help them to see the connections between words. Students need to work with words 12-15 times for words to become part of a student's vocabulary.  The freebie to the right I used with my students.  We followed up with the paint swatch activity to practice using the thesaurus. There are many neat variations on this concept.  Below are a few...


Synonyms ActivityThis freebie from Christina Cottongame may come in handy as an alternative to picking up paint swatches from your local Home Depot or Lowes. It would make an adorable bulletin board for reference all year long. I love that Christina included 2, 3, and 4 section swatches for additional challenge.  
Another options for expanding word knowledge for overused words is with games like Parking Lot. It is basically a matching game where the student tries to match up upper case/lower case letters, beginning sound with pictures, word with definition, or in this case, the overused words with replacement words. I used this game with my group in teams, but it would work well with a partner too.  This idea works well for antonyms too.  I will try to add those to this freebie soon since I'm out of time for this evening. If you download, try to remember to check back in the future.

Finally, the last suggestion requires absolutely no materials and is strictly oral.  The synonym/antonym game is all about mystery words. The teacher provides students with a dead word, and students work to figure out the replacement...synonym or antonym.  Higher level thinking...yep! Research...could be. Fun?   Definitely!

Now, I must sign off and get my plans together for this week. I hope you enjoy these activities and that your students do too.  In Virginia, this standard includes a LOT, so I will be back soon with a few more ways to address it.

Until then...stay calm and teach on!

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Friday, April 17, 2015

Organizing Your Room and Readers for Guided Reading Groups

Yesterday, I shared this post over at I Teach Second, but I felt it was very important to also include this post on my blog for those who may not follow I Teach Second...yet! Learning to read is one of the best gifts we can give our students, and in order to get the most out of a guided reading lesson, the teacher must be organized. I have five tips to for you to ponder (and a few freebies throughout). Consider what Michael Stutman says on Inspire My Kids for a minute first.

Tip #1-Organize your Students

All of our students come from differing levels of organization at home, and therefore, they need to be taught procedures and expectations in order to implement them on their own. If you have a schedule that is predictable and your room is set up for good flow, then students will be able to work in a more efficient manner. As you set up your room, consider the activity level of your students, how you plan for them to work (independently, pairs, or groups), how you will transition to/from groups and centers, and honestly, what you have for furniture. If you are a novice teacher, you get primo leftover furniture and a limited budget. Unless you have a very generous PTO, you will likely have to get creative on organizing your space. One way you might avoid the need for little work spaces is to put your centers into folders that kids can take to their seats or to the carpet. [This post] by Jessica at Hanging Out in First  explains how she organizes her students' reading work in folders as "I'm done. Now what?" fillers. This is very helpful to keep engaged and working on the skills they need.

Tip #2-Organize your Materials

One of the best way to keep all on task is to have everything you need organized and ready right by your reading table. I could not teach without my reading table and "stuff".  I have bags of highlighters in six colors ready to distribute for close reading tasks, dry erase boards, markers, and erasers ready for word study, reading notebooks and guided reading books in baskets by group, and all of my other tools in baskets ready to pull as I need. My bloggy buddies Jennie at JD's Rockin Readers and Jessica at Hanging Out in First have done wonderful posts on organizing reader toolkits.  You might check out Jennie's Guided Reading Notebook freebie. She explains it in [this post] over at our collaborative blog, Adventures in Literacy Land. Jessica actually put together a thorough post on her toolkit in a post yesterday.  Here is the link to that post. Groups need to run like clockwork, and using time to gather supplies means downtime for kids.  Downtime equals more time pulling them back in, so keep those materials handy and ready to use. Here are a few pictures from Jennie and Jessica (used with permission of course). 

Tip #3-Organize your Groups

Assessments are the first step in forming reading groups, and being a kid watcher helps you know whether you've got a great match for level. When you see that your kids are reading seamlessly through books, push them up. Kids need a little challenge, but still...keep that oiled machine in mind. Too much will cause breakdown! In planning, use a routine to address all reading skills (phonics, fluency, comprehension, vocabulary, and writing about reading). The lesson plan to the right from The Bubbly Blonde is an example of streamlining the routine. [This post] from her blog walks through planning for the transitional reader. Depending on the reading stage, the time allotted to each skill various to the needs of the student. For struggling readers, more time is focused on word building and fluency, whereas, advanced readers would spend the majority of their time on reading comprehension, vocabulary development, and writing.

Reading Behaviors Checklist[This post] from The Teaching Thief explains well how to organize/track groups.  [My post] on analyzing reading behaviors may be helpful to our readers here too.  This freebie is a checklist of what to watch for and works well for parent conferences. The video below is from Jennie to help you see how to use your running record data and set up groups. You'll find this very helpful.

Tip #4-Organize your Library

Can you tell my library is important to me?  I have organized by books by theme and author, and my students borrow books any time they need to. I feel so happy having them curled up in my beanbag chairs losing themselves in a good book. I believe one of the best ways to inspire reading is to make if feel warm and fuzzy like a well worn blanky. Even my fourth and fifth grade kids snuggle up with my oversized bear.  I highly recommend yard sales...lots and lots of yard sales.  Then, talk to parents in your PTO or church to ask them to think of you when they're cleaning out bookshelves.  Many are willing to just pass books on to you. What you can't use, may work to send home as prizes.  

Tip #5-Organize your Walls

For my students, wall space is a huge help and support.  I post the anchor charts we use and make together and refer to them all...the...time!  As reading vocabulary is taught, I flag it, repeat it often, and send my kids to it to use.  My reading test vocabulary product is very helpful this time of year as I prepare my kids for state testing. You can check it out [here]. They are pictured in the top-right corner of the photo. The set on the left side is best for struggling spellers. These phoneme cards can be used as anchor charts, for reference during writing, or for word study lessons. I have several color schemes available.

Well, I hope these tips will help you with your reading routine. Differentiated guided reading time certainly is a must for reading growth, and if I can help you in any way, I am glad to do so. For more reading tips, you might stop by and visit Adventures in Literacy Land, the collaborative blog I contribute to with a team of reading specialists.  Of course for lots more tips, check back on Thursday for great tips in all subject areas.  Let's face are always great. Click the image to the left to check other great tips we've shared so far on I Teach Second

Now, it is your turn.  Share a few reading tips that have helped you!

Until next time, happy reading!

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