Friday, March 27, 2015

Five Reasons to Be a Part of a Collaborative Blog


I am so excited to announce that I am a new contributor to not one, but two new blogs. I have thoroughly enjoyed being a part of my first collaborative blog, Adventures in Literacy Land, and recently, I was invited to become part of the iTeachSecond team and Classroom Tested Resources too. I thought today would be a great reason to write about what I've gained from these experiences.  
         iTeach Second

Reason #1-Blogging with a team provides a virtual PLC.
If I am teaching something and need quick help with a plan or idea, in a moments notice, I am able to contact a crew to help me with the issue. This gives participating teachers a wide variety of ideas from many parts of the world.  

Reason #2-Blogging on a collaborative blog encourages teamwork.
When kicking off the blog, it takes many hands to make work light for sure!  Of course you need a strong leader, but each of the participants has helped pull the blog together to make it helpful to the readers.  Teachers follow bloggers from many different social medias, and no one is an expert at them all.  By dividing up the duties, we can build on each other's strengths.  Adventures in Literacy Land specializes in sharing literacy tips, research, and resources. iTeachSecond specializes in sharing materials and ideas for the primary grades (second grade in particular), and Classroom Tested Resources will be sharing ideas on common themes across a variety of grade levels and content area.  All three blogs will provide me with a different network of teachers.

Reason #3-You can become great friends!
I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know all these great teachers.  We all support each other's endeavors and have become virtual penpals. Last week, I got to meet up with these great gals, and do you know we sat in our booth for almost *6* hours!  I am not kidding.  I have not laughed that hard in a long time, and we can not wait to meet up again. I am looking forward to meeting my bloggy buddies from other regions of the US and world in Vegas in July, and if you're going to be there and read my post...comment, okay!

Reason#4-Collaborative blogs support and reach a broader group of teachers
I love that I can gain a broader perspective on what's happening in grades below what I teach as well as in the middle school and high school.  There are lots of times when I have questions related to my own children's education or am looking for help for a parent.  It is wonderful to be able to find someone I can quickly talk to. Likewise, readers are able to feel confident that the group will be able to help them regardless of their needs. 

Reason #5-Collaborative blogs offer great giveaway opportunities. 
That is a lame reason I know, but for today, I needed to add this reason because I do not want my readers to miss out on these amazing Swag Bags.  Look at the great goodies that will be delivered to *three* lucky winners.  You can enter jump over to Classroom Tested Resources for our kick off celebration by clicking the image below..
Well, I believe that wraps it up for me today.  I am ready for some ZZZZZ's because tomorrow will be an exciting day!  Good luck to those who enter the giveaway, and come back to soon for more teaching tips, ideas, and materials. Happy Friday!
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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Thematic Thursday Goes from Caterpillar to Butterfly

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 From Caterpillars to Butterflies", and bloggers are asked to share their favorite books and activities with a Caterpillar/Butterfly theme  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 them of the week.  
This Pinterest board has been formed to collect our planning sheets as well as other themed resources. Feel free to follow it or pin to your own collection.
        Follow Comprehension's board Caterpillars and Butterflies Oh My! on Pinterest.    
Book Suggestions for the study of 
Caterpillars and Butterflies

The Caterpillar That Ate All Week (Freebie Reader)Get ready for Spring with a mini book study on the Very HuThere are so many wonderful books to choose from with this unit.  I just love Eric Carle's books, so the top of my list is The Very Hungry Caterpillar. In fact, it was one of the first units I put together for my store, but I have since restructured it to be more of a thematic unit on butterflies. You can take a look at that later in this post if you wish.  As I was looking through materials that were available for butterflies, I did come across this adorable emergent reader that could be used in conjunction with this book as well as this simple graphic organizer that could be used with the book.

Butterfly Life Cycle Observation BookletButterfly House by Eve Bunting Guided Reading UnitAnother favorite of mine is The Butterfly House by Eve Bunting.  If you are hatching butterflies, this is a definite must read. It is about a young girl and her grandfather who grow butterflies, and it's so touching. You could use this freebie if you do. My unit is to the left.

Another beautiful book is The Butterfly by Patricia Polacco.  Unfortunately, that is one unit I have not put together.  Even so, she is one of my favorite authors, so if there is a book remotely related by her, you can bet I will talk about it. It is more about World War II and Nazi Germany than butterflies really, but for older readers, it is a great book to share and reflect on.

This last book I used with second grade to help them with life cycle studies. It was perfect for their level and easy to understand. It had wonderful photos and diagrams that explained concepts well.




Fun Activities to Explore
Caterpillars and Butterflies
If you're looking for activities to use with the theme, here are a few fun freebies that accompany this week's theme and book options.
Reading Street, I'm a Caterpillar, Centers and Printables  Butterfly Life Cycle Free   Interactive Butterfly Lifecycle Craft and Poem! 
Life Cycle of a Butterfly FREEBIE Emergent Reader & Printables Butterfly Life Cycle Anchor Posters   Spring Fever Butterflies


Caterpillar and Butterfly Resources from 
Comprehension Connection

Hungry Caterpillar Guided Reading Unit  Butterfly House by Eve Bunting Guided Reading Unit

Video Resources for Butterflies

Amazing Life Cycle of the Monarch Butterfly


Magic School Bus-Butterfly and the Bog Beast

Have a great weekend, and be sure to link up your favorite butterfly resources. post signature

Introducing Vocabulary Ideas to Whoooot About

One of the most complex reading standards for upper elementary in the Virginia SOLS deals with word analysis.  It includes a long list of skills including context clues, synonyms and antonyms, prefixes and suffixes, compound words, multiple meaning words, dictionary skills, and reading vocabulary. In the coming weeks, I will be running a series of posts called Vocabulary Ideas to Whoooot About. Today, we will be focusing on context clues.

At the VSRA conference last week, I was very happy that I attended the Word Analysis workshop presented by Beth Estill, a fellow reading specialist  and literacy coach from Virginia Beach.  She shared her division's plan for attacking this standard, and what she'd put together for the teachers in her division. I just loved her presentation, and it's gotten me thinking about this standard and how I can better weave word analysis into our daily routine.  I think with focused effort, I will see growth in other reading domains as well. So, let's break down this standard and get to the meat of this post.

How Can We Best Teach Context Clues?
There are many different ways to present the skill of context clues, but one important teaching technique that is essential with context clues and many others is Think Aloud. Struggling students often do not see connections, so as we model, talking through our thinking helps these kids better understand. Following the I Do, We Do, You Do (with support), You Do approach leads to better application.
An anaphora is a word relationships where one word replaces another word within multiple sentences. These word relationships are used often in "stretch texts" and specific parts of speech are used to make the anaphora. Teachers should practice pronoun and noun replacement, verb replacement, and clause replacement. In order to be successful with anaphoric relationships, students need to infer and see the thread of comprehension that connects one sentence to another sentence, and the goal with studying anaphoras is to build awareness of these relationships between words because they are intentional.

Pronoun substitution
One way to introduce anaphoras is with pronoun substitutions.  You can model the challenge that comes with using only nouns.  Have student volunteers hold a word poster of each word in the following sentence:
Sarah and John drove to the mall. _____ bought presents for their sister.
Have the students holding the words, Sarah and John run from the front of the sentence to the beginning of the next sentence.  Read faster and faster to show that it's a lot of work to use the same words when Sarah and John can be replaced with the word, They. (I do)

Once students understand what an anaphora is, then they're ready to practice (We do). Examples like this one work well for group discussion.


As students begin to understand the pronoun usage, then teachers can move on to noun replacements. It takes special attention, so additional practice may be needed with it. 

Noun substitutions
To introduce noun substitutions, teachers model with slides like this one below. Notice the words in italics...second prize/the honor.


Where is the replacement word for prize?? (honor) What other word could be used?  This author is making you work by using honor.  Why does the author choose the word, honor?   

Example #2

How do the ideas connect?  What is the process?  Who is the subject? What did the class love? How can you tell that the process was hard?

For additional practice, using released passages with analysis level questioning will help students look for these connections and context clues. Teaching students to.highlight and draw arrows to show relationships may be helpful since online testing provides these tools. Madlibs are a great way to practice and assess understanding of this skill.
Another great way to address context clues is with quality literature. Students need to work on Tier 2 vocabulary, meaning high utility words that are just beyond what the student know.  I think of Tier 2 words as the juicy words we want students to use in their writing. Sharing vocabulary rich books as mentor texts is one great way to expose children to new authors and to model with think aloud how we should tackle new words.  Key questions you can ask are:
  • What do you think this word means?  
  • How can you figure it out?
  • How is it used? (part of speech)
  • How else might we use it?
  • Can you find examples or non-examples within the text?
Authors I love for vocabulary rich stories include Patricia Polacco, William Steig, Patricia MacLachlan,and Chris VanAllsburg.  For younger grades, Karma Wilson's Bear Books, Eve Bunting, and Cynthia Rylant are great go-to authors.  Prior to reading the book, preselect the words you plan to discuss.

A final type of activity that works well are task cards with sentence level clues and paragraph level clues. With these, nonsense words focus students on the clues that help them. Students should be taught where to find clues and what type are used. Here are a few types of clues we see often:

  • Synonym clues
  • Antonym clues
  • Definition or renaming
  • Explanation or Example

Here are examples of each type.
For vocabulary, we can write a sentence or two with nonsense words and have students team up and discuss the clues they find to determine a substitute word.  Student talk helps students show their thinking and apply their learning. Task cards can also be used for games such as Scoot, Jeopardy, and even Connect Four.

There are many ways to teach context clues, and these three will hopefully help you find what works for your students. I will come back in a few days to share another vocabulary building skill to continue my series of posts.  Have a great day, and come back soon.
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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Thematic Thursday Flips for Frogs and Toads

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 "Flipping for Frogs and Toads", and bloggers are asked to share their favorite books and activities with a Frog/Toad theme  Please grab the image to the above to use as your post header above, write up your post sharing your ideas, resources, and anything that fits the theme, and link up your blog name and intended grade level for the resources and ideas you share.  (Example-Comprehension Connection-fourth grade) You may use the planner below (if you like). At this time, I am allowing direct links of free products that fit the them of the week.  If you'd like to include a paid product, that is fine too, but please do not link up paid products to your store.  Rather, include them in your post. The image to the below can be used to plan out your posts and once completed, works beautifully for pinning. 
This Pinterest board has been formed to collect our planning sheets as well as other themed resources. Feel free to follow it or pin to your own collection.
Follow Comprehension's board Frogs and Toads on Pinterest.
Book Suggestions for the study of Frogs

There are so many wonderful nonfiction frog books available. I have two favorites, Frogs! by Elizabeth Carney and Frogs by Nic Bishop.  The photographs in both are just phenomenal. In Frogs!, my favorite is one of the Goliath frog. My students were in shock when they read that it is the size of a rabbit. Nic Bishop is a nonfiction author and photographer. [His website] is one to check out to learn about how he has captured such great photos of the animals he writes about.

Pairing fiction with nonfiction pulls in other genres and gives teachers the opportunity to read some of those classic books that all children need to experience. You probably noticed that the Frog and Toad series take up four of the eight titles I included for fiction. Arnold Lobel is a first/second grade author that must be on all teacher's lists for author studies. Lobel has a long list of published works to choose from.

In addition to fiction and nonfiction book options, including poetry and reader's theater are great options too.  Here are a few options you might include (depending on your grade level)
Reader's Theater, Ranita The Frog Princess  Five Green and Speckled Frogs Mini-Books  Frogs: Leap Back Home to Me Writing and Craftivity  
Fun Activities to Explore Frogs and Toads
If you're looking for activities to use with the theme, here are a few fun freebies that accompany this week's theme and book options.
Frog Craft Frog and Toad Craft Project  Frogs Life Cycle FREE Interactive Notebooks Life Sciences
FREE Frogs Resource Unit and Notebooking Pages *Over 140 Pages*  Frog and Toad Life Cycle PowerPoint Presentation (Amphibians)  Fiction and Nonfiction Paired Text: Frogs  (RL.3.1 and RI.
Frog and Toad Resources from 
Comprehension Connection
I am a fan of the Frog and Toad series by Arnold Lobel, so this week, I will be discounting the bundle to $6.00 ($1.50 per unit).  The set includes Frog and Toad Are Friends, Frog and Toad Together, Frog and Toad All Year, and Days with Frog and Toad.  Each chapter of each book is done in a before/during/after style, so it is definitely a Print and Go unit that you can use with guided reading groups or partner work. A variety of activities are included to address many different comprehension, vocabulary, and writing skills.  Here is a preview of the four units, and you can access the link by clicking [here] or on the image to the right.


Finally, I thought I'd share a few video clips I found.  The first one is only 3 minutes, but the footage is incredible. It teaches the life cycle of the frog.
Life Cycle of a Frog


The Frog Prince



Have a great weekend, and be sure to link up your favorite frog/toad resources. post signature

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

What can we learn from "The Wimpy Kid"?


I had the most amazing weekend, and I thought I'd share a few highlights.  First of all, I got the opportunity to present with a few of my blogging buddies.  Yep, me...little... ol'...me. I had presented locally two other times at our division's Best Practices Conference, but not at the Virginia State Reading Association conference.  I am pleased to say that the presentation went well, and we plan to give it a whirl next year too.  I felt so honored that we were chosen, and I think we all expected to see 5-6 people in the audience.  Instead, we had about 35 who truly were interested in the topic we'd chosen, Blogging in the Classroom and for the Classroom.  Here are a few pictures from our experience, and if you're interested in learning more about blogging, you can visit Adventures in Literacy Land to check out the presentation we put together as well as the handout provided.


So...I began this post with a quote from Jeff Kinney.  He was the feature author for the conference this year, and my students were just crazy about the fact that I was going to meet THE Jeff Kinney. One of my boys, KJ, was SO excited about it that he asked if I could take his book along to get Jeff Kinney's autograph.  I told Mr. Kinney about my guy, and this is what he wrote.  Can you believe it? It was just perfect, and I can honestly say that KJ was on cloud nine when I showed him.

Once we got past the starstruck feelings, it was time to actually take in the important lessons to learn from Jeff.

First of all, he was always a reader, but he was a reader of a variety of genres. That is important as we teach our students.  They may have their favorites, but they need to understand all genre types. His father loved comic books, and there was no shortage in his home.  He loved The Far Side, Bloom County, and Calvin and Hobbs.  His very favorite though was Donald Duck-Lost in the Andes  In fact, he commented that it was the basis of how he thought about the world.  I bet you have a child or two like this.

Another important lesson...share the classics if you want to build readers.  Look at the books that are recommended for your grade level and weave them into your program.  Our kids need to hear the classics and discover what's new too. Even though he loved comics, Jeff's mom, a teacher, shared with him many great books, Where the Wild Things Are (which he said gave him bad dreams.), Swimmy by Leo Lionni, The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein, and the "Fudge" stories by Judy Blume.

Jeff grew up in Ft. Washington, Virginia, and he remembered buying his very first book and the experience in the book store.  Crown Books gave him the feel of hardbacks, the smell of the paper, and the imagery of a great story. It was there that he found his first interest in books. He purchased his first book gift of Bloom County's "Loose Tails" for dad, but he went on to enjoy Tolkein and many others.  He discovered a book,, How to Draw and Sell Comics which got him interested in writing comics, and the lesson here is that books can help lead you to careers that will make you happy.

Several years later, Jeff began at the University of Maryland and it was there that he began to write. His first book, The Igdoof Bathroom Companion...got rejected, but he did not give up. That is important an important life lesson. Writing takes practice, so be persistent.

Once Jeff graduated, he was hired with a newspaper doing layouts (which we see as a skill in his Wimpy Kid books).  Then, he moved into medical software, and eventually, game designer. I never knew he was involved with Fun Brain? Do you use that website?  Cool huh?? He began working for Pearson, but still kept looking for the "right" job. He enjoyed workng on the Poptropica website. He loved the fact that this website requires no words to play. No identifying information and no words needed to play. Both Funbrain and Poptropica used his ability to draw cartoons. He worked on the illustrations for both.

A few years ago, Jeff read Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. It is a great book that looks at statistics and how the variables that impact them. The book gave him the encouragement to continue working on Wimpy Kid.  The lesson here is to choose positive.  Motivation in all aspects of life is important, and providing students with a purpose for reading pushes them to seek other books later.

It took eight years working on Diary of the Wimpy Kid, and three years of work trying to get it published.  When the publisher called, they decided to break it into a series of books, and the original included the events in book one through book five.  To this day, Jeff said that he truly treasures the feel of hardback book.  He said, "The physical book reaches senses that digital copies just can't." The experience of going to the bookstore, looking for just the right book, feeling it and the pride of carrying it out of the store is an important experience for children to have.

Jeff Kinney is still working since he "doesn't want to give up health insurance", but he is reaching another goal soon, opening up The Unlikely Story Bookstore where an old general store called Falks Market once stood. Below is the before and after, and if you're ever in Plainville, Massachusetts, you'll have to drop in. It sounded like an amazing place, and I think the lesson to learn from this is to follow your dreams and what is important to you.


Finally, Jeff had a few words about Wimpy kid becoming a movie.  He explained that he was quite nervous and felt very responsible for the final product even though the movie crew had the control. He recalled how he felt watching it for the first time.  He said, "It was gut wrenching really."  He likes being in control of the ink and pictures, but this time he had to give up control.  He was happy though to be involved with casting and on the set. 

Well, in the coming weeks, I'll try to share a few more things I learned from the conference. I believe it is time to grade a few papers.  Don't forget to enter this week's giveaway and to tell your friends. One of the prizes is a full year's subscription to Snap Learning.  That is a huge prize and offers 35 seats, so each child in the winner's classroom will get to use it.  

Have a great week!

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