Happy Week 7 and High Five For Friday! I had a great week, and I hope you did, too!
1. Sonday – I spent 2 days this week being trained in the Sonday System. I am so glad that we have decided to adopt this system at our school. We currently run two interventions for reading skills and strategies – Leveled Literacy Instruction and Read180 – but we needed a program that would address gaps in foundational reading skills like decoding and fluency. You wouldn’t expect to have students at the middle school level who don’t know all of the sight words or who are unable to decode words, but our need for this program has been growing over the years. I love the touch-spell approach, and I knew I was hooked when the instructor showed us the ‘b’ and ‘d’ cards. In the Sonday system, students are taught for the letter ‘b’ that “the bat comes before the ball.” Notice the number one starts at the top, making a bat (stick), and then a ball (circle)? Now compare this to the ‘d.’ Students are taught “c comes before d,” just as the letters appear in the alphabet. See how the ‘d’ starts by making a ‘c’ first, then the stick? This is brilliant! For our students who confuse these letters, such as students with dyslexia, this is a perfect way to differentiate between the sounds and to cement them into muscle memory. As with all elements of the Sonday system, everything has a visual component (look at the letter), kinesthetic component (trace the bumpy letter with two fingers), and an auditory component (“bat before ball” or “c before d”) to encourage multi-sensory learning. I am very excited that we have adopted this system and I just know it is going to be a major game-changer for so many students!
2. The Shot Heard ‘Round the World – In Social Studies, we are wrapping up our unit on Colonial America in preparation for learning about the American Revolution. We rounded out the chapter by studying the Battles of Lexington & Concord, then watching the famous Schoolhouse Rock video to review for the exam tomorrow. Doesn’t it just blow your mind that students are still watching, enjoying, and learning from these videos after so many decades? I just love Schoolhouse Rock!
3. Tachistoscope – Do you use highlighting strips in your classroom? I have a handful of middle schoolers who really benefit from using these. They use them as bookmarks, then turn them on their side to help them stay on track when reading their book. This helps with focus and eye-tracking. I learned this week that the technical name for these highlight strips is ‘tachistoscope.’ So there – enjoy that million-dollar word! I purchased these on Amazon, link here.
4. Pumpkin Farm – I took my niece and nephew to the pumpkin farm last weekend. Such fun! My ambitious nephew first picked out a pumpkin that weighed about 30-40 pounds. It was huge and lovely, and he wanted it so bad! I told him he could have it if he could carry it to the car. He opted for the one in his lap instead 🙂 And my little niece, how sweet is she? I absolutely adore these children.
5.Food! – I tried to keep things simple this week. I made some zoodles with my spiralizer, which I topped with tomato sauce (sugar and additive free) and shrimp for lunches. For breakfast, we had Egg Muffins, and for dessert, I slightly modified the Chocolate Hazelnut Energy Bars from foodie teen (I eliminated the maple syrup and chocolate, and I reduced the amount of coconut oil to 1/4 cup. Then I rolled the mixture into balls instead of bars for quick/easy snacking). I also got a great idea from a friend to put quick oatmeal, a pinch of salt, and freeze-dried fruits in a mason jar. All I have to do is add a cup of hot water and let it sit for a few minutes and voila – oatmeal to go! I know oatmeal is not strict paleo, but I have no problems with it and have chosen to incorporate it back into my diet now after a year off of it.
I hope you have had a wonderful week and that you are getting ready for a fun and spooooky Halloween soon! I’ll be making costumes this week and next to get ready. I’d love to hear about your week in the comments below!
It’s been a while since I’ve given an update on my reading intervention crew. I work with a group of seven 8th graders on a weekly basis who can benefit from an extra reading boost.
We first began with Newsela, which is such a wonderful FREE tool. I’ve been able to track their progress and meet with them to discuss strategies. We read one article and completed the quiz together so that my students could see just how much effort it is to find the correct answer. You have to a) read carefully b) monitor your own comprehension, then c) make sure you understand the question d) [and this is SO important] actually go BACK into the text to find the answer e) use process of elimination to check your answer (make sure the others don’t make sense).
Now, we’ve also added a vocabulary element to our sessions. I started by locating a list of the Top 100 6th grade ‘need to know’ words. Since my 8th graders are each about 2 years behind in reading abilities, this seemed an appropriate place to start. First, I had them simply read the words out loud to me. I marked any they miscued – those would certainly become vocabulary flash cards. Later, I also had them go through the list again and prioritize a list of an additional 10 words they want to learn about.
As it turns out, each of my students had 4 miscues in common: notorious, ominous, melancholy, and unconscious. These 4 words would become our ‘group words’ that we would all study together. Beyond that, their lists became personalized based on individual needs.
I had my group all download the app StudyBlue, a free app for creating flashcards, review, and quizzes.
Next, I gave them a handout with each of the 4 group study words, a kid-friendly definition (retrieved from http://www.wordsmyth.com – set the side bar to ‘Intermediate’ or ‘Beginner’), and a list of synonyms. The lists looked like this on their iPads:
Next, the students had time to use the Flash Card feature on the right. The app gives you a choice of either term or definition. You tell the app if you recalled the term correctly or not, and the app tracks your progress.
Once the students are done studying the flash cards, it’s time for a quiz. There is an option for multiple choice:
…and True / False:
Obviously this will become more challenging as we add more words to our set.
I love that this app tracks your progress as well.
Once the students master the 6th grade words, we will move on to 7th grade words. We will also continue with Newsela, and I have plans to do some word study as well (such as this Word Tower Greek and Latin roots/prefixes/suffixes activity).
Things seem to be going very well with my group. This is due in large part to the fact that they are great kids and all very motivated to improve. It also doesn’t hurt that I maaaaaaybe bribe them with candy. Hey – it’s a teacher’s best kept secret! I will continue to monitor their progress and find new ways to challenge them and help them boost their confidence and soar in the classroom!
Hellooooooo, Winter Break! Oh how much I’ve looked forward to seeing you! Here are the highlights from week 16:
1. Chair Bungees for Restless Students: I discovered a really great, inexpensive, QUIET, unobtrusive fidget tool for the classroom – chair bungees. There’s not much to it, you just wrap a bungee cord or some kind of sturdy, elastic material around 2 chair legs. This gives students something to lightly bounce their legs against during class. Hopefully, this won’t disturb their neighbors or make any noise, but will provide sensory feedback for the student and a mindless outlet for fidgety behavior. I like that it occupies their legs instead of their hands, which we need for work!
2. Ready for January! I am all set to come back for break, which is a great feeling. I don’t have any correcting or lesson planning to do over my winter break, which means I can focus my energy on my family and on my dissertation. My calendar and assignment board are all set!
3. Phonics Spelling App – I found a great new app for our students struggling with phoneme-grapheme mapping, sight words, and basic foundational skills. Of course this is only one component of our multi-faceted reading intervention program for students who are reading 2 or more levels below grade level. The Simplex Phonics Spelling App costs $5, so I am working on locating the funds to purchase this app for our small-but-growing list of identified students. My hope is that I can introduce them to the app at school, but they will practice the app at home and with their parents. I installed and interacted with the app for a while, and I liked that it offered lots of support and that it didn’t seem too ‘babyish’ for our 6th through 8th graders. Here’s hoping this is a winner for our students!
4. Spirit Week! Leading up to winter break, we have had a ‘Spirit’ or ‘Dress-up’ day each day this week. Monday = Pajama Day / Tuesday = Twin Day / Wednesday = Blue Day to honor our custodian with cancer / Thursday = Nerd Day / Friday = Red Day. I love dressing up with a theme, so of course I was on Cloud 9 all week!
5. Like a Rock Star: I made the front page of TpT! I was so excited to see this!
So how was your week? I hope you are already (or thinking about) enjoying your Winter Break!!! See you in January 😉
Yesterday morning, I was asked to give a presentation to the staff at our monthly Morning Staff Meeting on Reading in the Content Areas (Science, Math, and Social Studies). Though I am a Language Arts teacher for 3 classes a day, I am also the part-time Reading Specialist for our school, so Professional Development is one of my honors and duties in that role.
For this Professional Development session on Reading, I decided to focus on Close Reading and Text-Based Reading Strategies, which I have been studying as part of my Reading Specialist coursework as well as my PhD in Language and Literacy. I created a 10-age handout on the top strategies that a classroom teacher can implement to modify a text for struggling readers.
I designed this handout by first selecting a short, 1-page text that might be used in a 6th through 8th grade classroom. Then, I described each of the strategies/modifications as well as modeled how I would use that strategy with the model text. This way, teachers will have plenty of examples right at their fingertips. I also offered to help teachers select, create, and implement these strategies in their classroom. The strategies include:
The great news was that my colleagues had heard of or had experience with each of these strategies at some point, but they were glad to have a resource that modeled how to use them as a refresher. It’s also a helpful idea to have this list of ideas in case you just need a reminder of another strategy to try.
If you would like to purchase this handout on Close Reading and Text-Based Reading, you can access it at my Teachers Pay Teachers Store by clicking the link or picture above. Thank you!
Adios, week 10! It was a difficult and LONG week, especially with WKCE State Testing, but there are always the highlights to celebrate.
1. Share Responsibly – I love seeing this Technology Poster hanging outside my room and throughout my school. I think it is wonderful that adults are realizing the role we play in modeling and guiding students to make good decisions online. How will students ever learn these skills otherwise? Well, besides the few students who have crashed, burned, and learned the hard way. We need to be proactive and provide lessons in respectful and responsible digital citizenship. Man, I never had to worry about any of this as a kid – it’s tough being a teen today!
2. Sunny Mornings – The end of Daylight Savings is actually a really sad event for me. I try very hard to shirk my season depression each year, but it is a real challenge. Right now in Wisconsin, we only get about 8-9 hours of sunlight each day. And it’s only going to get worse. I MISS SUMMER!!! Even taking the dog for a walk after I get home from work is difficult as the sunlight begins to fade. The one highlight I have (since that is what High Five For Friday is all about) is that I am enjoying seeing the sun a bit more on my way to work in the morning. This was the gorgeous view on Tuesday.
3. Letter Tiles and Highlight Strips – I’ve ordered some new materials for my reading interventions. I tell you, as an 8th grade middle school teacher, these are just not items that we normally expect to see and use in a middle school classroom, so this took some investigating to specifically pinpoint student needs. I have purchased letter tiles and highlight strips. I plan to do some phoneme-grapheme mapping with my struggling readers to help get them up to speed with phonics. I will also use the highlight strips with several students to help them focus on one line of text at a time – attention is a real issue for several students, and I think this will help (while also being somewhat private and not making the student feel ‘stupid.’). I will introduce these tools to my group next week and we will attach these foundational skills head on!!! They will catch up to speed with their peers!!
4. The Looooooong Hallway – Okay this is just silly, I know. When the students are at their Specials/Applieds classes, this is my prep time. I spend it working feverishly and running around with my head cut off, of course. But the hallways are so… empty. And long! I get a lot of walking in. My Fitbit says I walk around 5 miles a day at work. So one thing I do – I guess just to feel alive – is I close my eyes while I walk down the long hallway. I challenge myself to see how many steps I can get before opening my eyes. I’m at 15, in case you were going to ask.
5. The Dogs – While my sister is out of town interviewing for dental school residency positions, I have been dog-sitting. My dog Rocket (black and white, left side) and her dog Tyger (white, right side) get along fantastically. As you can guess, they get into a heap of trouble, too! They constantly play fight, which is awesome. It tires them both out, and they love it. In this picture, though, they are both sitting on the back of the couch, a no-no, looking so innocent. “What? We’re just chilling, watching the street for potential people/dogs/leaves/cars/etc. to bark at. Nothing to see here.” Stinkers! I love them <3