Saturday, July 26, 2014

Building Fluency: Tips, Strategies, Activities, and Freebies

Fluency is one of the important big ideas of reading. What research tells us is that students can become fluent by:
  • Explicit instruction, guidance, and feedback
  • Practicing reading with appropriate texts
The best way to build fluency is through Repeated Readings. Here is a great video of 1 Repeated Reading Method I have seen used. I used a different one where after the 1st reading I have my students go back and practice reading it a few times before timing them again. Students love graphing their progress! 



You can download a Research Report on Fluency by clicking HEREFor many beginning and struggling students fluency begins with words,  phrases, and sentences before they are ready to read texts.

Paired Unison Reading is another strategy where teachers or other adult readers can practice reading in unison with the struggling reader until the struggling reader feels ready to read alone. If the struggling reader makes an error the teacher or adult reader corrects the word, then practices that sentence in unison with the struggling reader and then the struggling reader continues alone. Research by Topping and Whitley (1987, 1990) found that this method of paired reading can significantly improve reading fluency.

Parents can be very instrumental in helping students build fluency. At home parents can read a poem or passage to their child followed by reading in unison and then having the child read the poem or passage to the parent.

Choral reading is another great strategy for building fluency. It engages 100% of your students with lots of reading opportunity. It is highly recommended as part of your fluency building instruction.

Another great strategy I have used a lot with my ESL and Struggling Readers is Echo reading. This is a strategy where the teacher reads a sentence or paragraph and the student listens and follows. After the teacher stops, the student echos back the same sentence or paragraph following with their finger to make sure they haven't memorized what you have read.

I have created a new "Back to School" Fluency Activities Packet  that helps students build fluency with words, phrases, sentences, texts, poems, and readers theater all related to the theme of "Back to School." Using themes to build fluency gives students more time to see, say, read, and write the targeted vocabulary which not only helps build fluency but makes them feel more successful. You can use all of the strategies above with the texts, poems, and readers theater in this packet.

The Word Fluency Activities include Picture/Word Cards, Word Cards for Fluency Match Games, "Point and Say" Fluency Activities, a fun Card Game "Roll the Die and Read the Word" Game and Word Reading Assessments.
There are several activities at the Phrase and Sentence level of fluency and assessments as you can see below.
Finally there are Sentence Building Fluency Cards, Reading Texts that are differentiated at the 1st and 2nd grade reading levels, Poems, and a Readers Theater script as well as Reading Texts for Assessment with Student Progress Reading Charts.
You can download the Preview file to see all the materials and activities in this packet and get a free activity by clicking on the image below.
I have put together a free "Back to School" Fluency Activities Packet which includes Fluency Building Cards and a Readers Theater Script that are all new and would be a great addition to the complete packet above.
You can download the Free packet by clicking on the image below.
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Thanks for all you do to make a difference for your students. Enjoy the rest of your summer vacation!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Back to School Tips for Getting Started with Writing Using Sentence Frames and Free Activities

For many of you, you will be heading back to school within the next few weeks. Then you will be spending the first few weeks with getting to know you activities, class behavior expectations, practicing routines, and assessing students in reading and writing. For those of you who teach 1st and 2nd grade you will be reviewing the writing process. You may find many students who struggle to write a complete sentence. Students need to have lots of words and ideas to write about. I love using themes to help students with writing. Using themes gives students multiple exposures to rich and robust words and content vocabulary through:

  • read alouds
  • talking about the words and ideas during read alouds
  • reading texts about a specific topic
Once students have lots of words in their word bank related to a specific theme or topic, they need to start writing about the topic. I always start with whole class Teacher- Directed activities with lots of guided practice and informal assessments before adding Student-Centered independent practice during literacy center time. Last year I created my 1st writing packet, "Fall Edition of Making Sentences with Sentence Frames" and wrote a blog post about writing which you can access by clicking HERE. I had such nice feedback on the packet that I made other thematic writing units. So, I decided to create a "Back to School Edition of Writing Sentences with Sentence Frames"  to help teachers get started with writing during the 1st month of school. 

I like to start with an activity to find out what school-related words my students already know. I like to do "Shout Outs" and write all the words on a big piece of poster or butcher paper with the word School in a big oval in the center. I try to keep it up all during the unit and have students add more words to it. Then I do activities to build background for them. I introduce the Word Wall Words to see which ones they know and go over the new words. I like to have them act out the verbs like "carrying, eating, writing, reading, listening etc. to assess their understanding. I also use picture word cards for matching in different ways. One fun activity is to give out one picture or word card to each student. Then they would find their partner with the matching word or picture. Then each student would have to use the word in a sentence. This can be repeated for several days and then added as a picture/word matching center activity to give students more practice with the target vocabulary.

Then I would start each day with a Read Aloud of a "Back to School" themed book and give questions for students to discuss related to the book. There are so many great books for the theme of "Back to School."
Now it's time to start teaching about writing sentences. Most important of all is to teach what a sentence is. 
Then I would write phrases and sentences on sentence strips. I'd hold up each strip and have them give a "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" to assess their understanding of a sentence. I make a set of the 3 sentence parts, laminate them, and give a set to each student. I have a larger set in my pocket chart.
Here are samples of the sentence frames from my packet to hold up one at a time. After holding up a part, students will hold up the sentence part card. When you hold "is sitting" students should hold up the "is doing or did" train part. Then put that part in the pocket chart under the "is doing or did" train part.
For a 4 part sentence you would use the one below.
It is also important to talk about Capitalization and Punctuation. After making sure your students under the parts of a sentence they can practice making sentences with sentence frames in a literacy center. Students will make sentences from cut up sentence parts and then write them on their writing sheet. Here is a sample from my packet below.

It's important to begin each new lesson by reviewing previous learning. This is especially important for your ESL and low performing students. Each of the activities in this unit builds on the previous ones. Next students match picture/sentence cards to assess their comprehension and then unscramble sentences, write the sentence, and draw a picture. Here is a sample below.
Finally students are assessed with a group of words that they can use to write sentences. This is 1 sample of the word list. Each group of words is differentiated for 1st and 2nd grade.
To check out this packet, you can click on the image below and download the Preview file. There is a free activity with the Preview.
I also have a Free Writing Packet for all my wonderful followers and viewers. It includes 2 Label the pictures and Write Sentences activities, and 2 Photos with word banks to write sentences about. Just click on the image below to download your freebie.
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Saturday, July 19, 2014

Bright Ideas: Behavior Management Ideas for the Beginning of School

It's hard to believe that it's July and that many of you will be heading back at the end of this month for training and in- services before the start of the new school year. Whether you had a great group of students last year or a difficult group to manage, you will soon be faced with a whole new group of shiny faces for the new school year. Class management is critical during the first 2 weeks of school to ensure that the greatest amount of time during the day will be spent on teaching and learning! I'm so excited to be part of July's Bright Ideas Blog Hop. I've put together some Bright Ideas about Behavior Management to think about over the next several weeks. 

Tip #1: Decide what your behavior expectations are and how to manage your students during  class time, moving to different activities, lining up, walking in the hall, bathroom, etc. 
  • Read alouds are fun for primary grades- I love David Goes to School  by David Shannon for establishing class rules. I  actually have used this with older students, too.
  • Let students be a part of the rule setting.
  • Keep rules simple and easy to understand.
  • Phrase rules in a positive way.
  • Establish different rules for different activities.
  • Chants and songs work well for changing activities for primary grades.
  • Behavior raps and chants work well with older students. Here's a sample of one I wrote.

  • Choose a quiet signal- and teach it to your students.
  • Post the rules so they are visible for students.
  • Review rules periodically.
  • Remind students of the rules when they misbehave.
  • If a rule isn't working, change it!
Tip #2: Practice behavior expectations.
  • Practice walking in the hall, moving to centers or changing activities. If you don't get this under control during the first few weeks of school it will be a long, difficult year. This is critical in Title I schools or those that have students with lots of discipline issues.  
  • Be prepared to spend a lot of time teaching and rehearsing the rules and procedures at the beginning of the year so that they become routine.
Tip #3: Be consistent with your behavior expectations and consequences!

Hope I've given you some Bright Ideas. If you have enjoyed these Bright Ideas I hope you will consider joining me on Pinterest, Facebook, or Bloglovin to see more Bright Ideas.

Thanks for all you do to make a difference for your students. For more Bright Ideas from more than 80 bloggers, browse through the link-up below to choose a topic/grade level that interests you. Thanks for visiting.

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Importance of Explicit Vocabulary Instruction: Introduction

How much time each day do you spend on explicit vocabulary instruction? Most teachers teach new content words that are specific to a subject, but what about those rich and robust words that students are unlikely to know, are most likely to be encountered across a  wide variety and domains, and are necessary for comprehension of the text that is being read?

Having worked in a Title I school for many years as an ESL Resource teacher I did a lot of research into vocabulary development. One of the best research studies came from Hart and Risley, 1995. "Children come to school with meaningful differences in vocabulary knowledge. According to their research what matters is a student's relative economic advantage. Children living in poverty hear one-third the number of words per minute than those of the working class. Not only was there a difference in numbers of words but also in quality. Students living in poverty aren't exposed to rich, robust words and by the time they enter school the vocabulary knowledge gap is even wider." Explicit Vocabulary Instruction is necessary to help bridge that gap for these students . "Vocabulary occupies an important position both in learning to read and in comprehending text: readers cannot understand text without knowing what most of the words mean (National Reading Panel 2000)." It goes on to say that to develop vocabulary students should be explicitly taught both specific words and word-learning strategies. Such instruction often doesn't begin with a definition  for giving a definition usually means that the student already knows what the word means. What rich and robust vocabulary instruction does is to go beyond knowing the definition of a word but to actively engage students in using and thinking  about word meanings and to create and make connections among words. For those who struggle to read or come to school deficient in rich and robust vocabulary acquisitions needs to be accelerated if there is any hope of these learners catching up with their peers.

What is vocabulary?  
  • It is the knowledge of words and their meanings.
Vocabulary instruction involves much more than looking the words up in the dictionary and using the words in a sentence. 

Four components of  an Effective Vocabulary Program 
  1. Extensive independent reading to help expand world knowledge
  2. Specific word instruction to help improve understanding of texts containing those words
  3. Instruction in independent word-learning strategies
  4. Word-consciousness and word-play activities to motivate and enrich learning
Today I would like to introduce Components 2-4 and what I will be writing about in my upcoming posts called "Vocabulary Matters: Strategies that Work" 


I will be referring to a book entitled  "Vocabulary Handbook" written by Linda Diamond and Linda Gutlohn. I was very fortunate to have taken several workshops from Linda Diamond and it truly changed the way I approached teaching vocabulary. I hope you will take this journey with me and find some great ideas and strategies to try with your students. Today is an introduction to what I will sharing with you in the coming weeks.  I hope to give you research-based knowledge, practical applications and sample activities to improve vocabulary instruction. It will include:
Word learning Strategies
  • Dictionary use
  • Morphemic analysis- figuring out a word's meaning by analyzing it's meaningful parts: morphemes (root words, prefixes, suffixes)
  • Contextual analysis- figuring out the meaning of an unknown word by looking closely at the text surrounding the word.
Along with word learning strategies there will be information to help:
  • Cultivate word consciousness- getting our students to become aware of and interested in words.
  • Give students multiple exposures to words in multiple contexts
  • Restructure strategies- making sure that students fully understand the instructional task.
  • Foster incidental vocabulary learning- through engagement in rich oral language experiences, listening to books during read alouds and reading widely on their own.

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How much time do you spend each day on vocabulary instruction?