12 Things Kids Want From Teachers

11 Dec

12 Things Kids Want From Teachers

A good reminder and worth a share…


Continuing the Common Core Conversations with the help of Burkins & Yaris

11 Sep

All credit for today’s post goes to Burkins & Yaris. Sign up for their daily blog posts pertaining to Common Core conversations here

As we transition further into the school year, consider the following:

1. Relevance of Teaching
Why does what I am choosing to teach matter? Will it support my larger goals for my students’ thinking and learning? How will this information build their knowledge?

2. Levels of Engagement
How will I plan my instruction to optimize student interest in learning, increasing the odds that students will understand and retain the information in a learning experience?

3. Quality of Thinking
Is this work cognitively challenging for all, most, some, or a few of my students?  How does this work inspire thinking and new ideas among my students?

4. Richness of Conversation
How does this lesson encourage students to collaborate with others who can extend their thinking about the topic? Does conversation lend something valuable to the thinking and learning process in this lesson?

5. Degrees of Connection
To what ideas can students connect this learning? How does this learning make learning something else easier or deeper?

It can be hard to let go of the things we teach “just because.” In teaching, time is our nemesis. With each lesson we plan, we can ask ourselves: Why am I doing this? If you don’t have an answer that offers valuable insights into the questions above, you probably need to serve your students something else.

The Major Literacy Changes in the Common Core

30 Aug

Earlier in August, I posted the article:  9 ways the Common Core will change classroom practices but in looking for ways to support my teachers’ understanding from a literacy standpoint, I’d like to share this list of major literacy changes in the Common Core as we jump into the new school year. This list is based off of the Six Shifts from the people at Engage NY and compiled by Wake County Public Schools Literacy Department and friends.

1. Balancing informational and literary texts with students reading an equal amount-50%- from each.

2. Grades 6-12-Building knowledge in the disciplines. While primarily a 6-12 shift, elementary teachers should consider how students are taught to read and comprehend in all the core content areas.

3. Staircase of Complexity – This is a big shift for elementary teachers because they are going to have to balance the need to move students to read grade level texts while also providing opportunities for students to read independently in appropriate level texts. Teachers must model using the complex texts and support students in gaining access to these texts. However, they must not shift to just grade level texts because if we want to build lifelong readers, students must have opportunities in to read in texts at their level.

4. Text-based answers – This shift focuses on drawing the student’s attention to the text read to support the answers to their questions. It is about thinking more deeply about text and using the text to affirm their answers.

5.Writing from sources – While narrative writing is still present in the standards, there is a shift to more informational/explanatory and opinion writing. Based on the work expectations in college and career, students need to be able to write based on sources such as texts, research, and presentations. Beginning in Kindergarten, students will write about their opinions (a favorite book, friend, or toy) as well as create informational or how-to texts.

6. Academic vocabulary – Since the standards span grades K-12, the introduction of academic vocabulary is critical to student success. Students need to learn the vocabulary of the content area so that they can build their skills in each subject. Teachers must teach and use the correct terms, such as main idea, theme, plot, noun, or verb, to support their students in this work.

What will the new State assessment measure in reading?

The distribution of questions across the standards is below:


Grade 3

Grade 4

Grade 5

Reading for Literature




Reading for Information




Reading Foundational Skills








Speaking and Listening












Keep in mind, the Language Strand is new in the Common Core and the expectation is that questions for this strand will focus on vocabulary and conventions usage in authentic text. For example, a question may be, Why did the author choose this “word” in paragraph 4?, or what is the best meaning for the “word” in paragraph 5? DPI is expected to release some sample items after the field testing of the new text, to help schools move forward.

Miscue Analysis and Reading Behaviors

26 Aug

Patterns of Reading Behaviors and Where to go Next

A few weekends ago, I spent time organizing my old graduate school files and came across some great notes pertaining to miscue analysis; a piece of the reading assessment process that is often overlooked or omitted. Analyzing miscues after a running record can be intimidating but with practice, the process becomes second nature and can be very telling of a child’s reading deficiency.  Here are my notes:


Habits that may indicate a need for strategy lessons that focus on sampling, inferring, predicting and confirming syntactic cues:


1. Readers who are so insecure with the language of a written text that they will not predict.

2. Readers who predict a syntactic structure that is not acceptable within the rest of the sentence and fail to disconfirm and self-correct their prediction based on text that follows the miscue. These readers’ scores are seldom higher than 60% for syntactically acceptable structures.

3. Readers who are not confident reading a new genre.

4. Readers who overcorrect; they make syntactically and semantically acceptable miscues, but decide that it is necessary to correct anyway.


Habits indicating a need for strategy lessons integrating the use of sampling, inferring, predicting, and confirming by focusing on semantic/pragmatic cues:


  1. Readers who believe that the major reading strategy involves making use of graphophonic cues or who believe they always need to seek help from resources other than themselves and the text to construct meaning.
  2. Readers whoa re unable to retell the story or who select insignificant bits of information about the story to relate.
  3. Readers who omit entire phrases or lines of text without rereading even though the omission results in syntactically and semantically unacceptable sentences.
  4. Readers whose miscue analysis profile shows a major focus on graphophonic cues.
  5. Readers who make no attempt to self-correct miscues that disrupt meaning.
  6. Readers who do not use their background knowledge and other available information to help them predict text.


Keep in mind that “strategy group” might mean ‘guided reading focus’ or ‘conference focus’ depending on the structure of your literacy block. If you need a refresher on one or two of the technical terms, see this glossary from sedl. Lastly, for a brief collection of sample questions, instructional strategies and examples of MSV cues, click here.

48 Ultra-Cool Summer Sites for Kids and Teachers

19 Aug

Check out this great list of sites to use with your students. I created my blog heading word cloud using Tagzedo (number 6) a few weeks ago– which happens to be a poor example since you can’t see its shape. I did however, use the feature that enables you to input a website url (my blog link) and create a word cloud using all the words from that site. Think of it as a step up from Wordle. I personally am most excited about the PDF-Word site (number 14). All those times I thought I had come to a dead end when I found that a newly acquired resource I wanted to revamp was a .pdf…

Happy exploring!

Ed Tech Ideas

Cross-posted @ Edutopia

A good majority of northern hemisphere and international schools are winding down the 2011-2012 school year and doors will be closing as the students and teachers take off on their summer adventures. Here is a list of great sites for kids and teachers to keep you happily productive and learning this summer. These are in no way in any order of personal preference or coolness.

Happy summer!

1. Magic Tree House

If your students like The Magic Tree House Series (and let’s be honest, who doesn’t?), they’ll love The Magic Tree House Website. Students climb up the tree and enter the tree house to find some great puzzles, fun games and quizzes on any of the 45+ MTH books.

2. Toporopa

Can’t afford that summer vacation schlepping around Europe? No worries, just pull up Toporopa on your nearest browser and learn all about the geographical, political, historical and economical…

View original post 2,812 more words

Setting Up Your Classroom Library

14 Aug

Organizing and Maintaining your Classroom Library


Setting up (or in my case moving and re-organizing) your personal classroom library can be a daunting task, but once you put in the hard work, you are rewarded throughout the year with the ease of maintaining it. In my opinion, the best way to start is by investing in sturdy book baskets. These can be purchased at the dollar store or anywhere home organization items are sold. My white bins are from Walmart and were not as cheap as I had hoped. Use labels and adhesive pockets, found in office stores (see picture below) to divide books by category. Beth Newingham created fabulous labels ready to print.  To level my library, I used Scholastic’s Book Wizard. The task is a tedious one as not all books are found using this tool and depending on the number of books you have, it can take a very long time. Hence, it is a good summer project. Lastly, inventory your library using “Classroom Organizer”, an app by Booksource. Its online component allows you to keep a running list of all of your books and enables students and colleagues to ‘check out’ your books.

Divide and categorize books to determine which labels you will need

These are the adhesive pockets I use. Ask around at your school to see if you have an account set up with Office Depot, etc to get them cheaper than on your own.

My library is still in the works but here are a few pictures of the progress:

Beth Newingham and self made labels, 3×5 adhesive sleeves (Office Depot purchased a few years ago)

Still in progress

I keep chapter books on separate shelves and are categorized similar to my picture books. I will add photos as that section of my library is complete. All of the links in this post can be found here under the Professional Links page at the top of the blog page.

The Reading Stages – a good refresher

13 Aug

Reading Stages

(adapted from the State College Area School District Language Arts Continuum)

Emergent Readers

  • Display curiosity about books and reading
  • Pretend read and write
  • Rely on pictures to tell the story but are beginning to focus on print
  • May know some letter names and sound associations

Developing Readers

  • Can read predictable books (The Very Hungry Caterpillar or  The teeny Tiny Woman)
  • Can identify letters by names and know most letter sounds
  • Begin to use spaces between words in writing but not consistently
  • Will recognize familiar words such as labels and names of classmates
  • Can participate in books discussions, will use personal experiences to make connections to literature

Beginning Readers

  • Begin to apply reading strategies (sentence structure, meaning, phonetic clues)
  • Rely on print more than illustrations to create meaning
  • Understand  basic punctuation such as periods, exclamations, and question marks
  • Read a range of early-reader series such as I Can Read, Little Bear, and Amelia Bedelia
  • Can retell the beginning, middle, and end of stories,
  • Participate in discussions about the story’s characters, setting, events, and problems

Expanding Readers

  • Use a variety of decoding strategies independently (sentence structure, meaning, phonetic clues)
  • Read known and predictable favorites while also stretching into a variety of new materials: may choose to read a range of beginning  chapter and picture books such as: Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, Amazing Grace, and The Boxcar Children  books
  • Silent read for a longer period of time, perhaps 20 minutes or more
  • Participate in guided literary discussions and are able to retell settings, characters, problems, major events, and solutions of the stories they read or hear
  • Also read non-fiction materials such as New True Books, or Ranger Rick

Bridging Readers

  • Strengthen their skills by reading longer books with little repetition of vocabulary
  • Integrate sentence structure, meaning and phonetic clues to identify words
  • Independently read medium-level chapter and picture books such as James and the Giant Peach, Charlotte’s Web, Bunnicula, Murfaro’s Beautiful Daughters, The Babysitter’s Club books, and American Girls books
  • Increased knowledge of literary elements and genres may allow them to describe character’s traits and growth over time, understand the importance of the setting and plot in a story, and compare and contrast books
  • Broaden their interests by choosing a wide variety of material such as World Magazine, Eyewitness or Explorer books.

Fluent Readers

  • Can deal with more complex issues and topics
  • May read preadolescent literature such as Fighting Ground, Old Yeller, Stuart Little, My Side of the Mountain, Number the Stars, and Words of stone
  • Select and finish a wide variety of materials and silent read for 30 or more minutes
  • Participate in teacher-guided or student-led literary discussions
  • Can analyze and debate the relationships among literary elements

Proficient Readers

  • Avid readers who can silent read for at least 30 minutes
  • Independently select challenging and complex pre-adolescent literature such as the trilogy by Tolkein, Monkey Island, Early Thunder, and  Maniac Magee
  • Move between genres with ease, although they may have strong preferences
  • Can become deeply involved in complex literary discussions through literature circles
  • Can plan appropriate strategies for conducting information searches as they integrate information from various resources of material

Independent Readers

  • Select, read, and understand materials of a sophisticated and complex nature, such as The Giver, Jacob Have I Loved, This Boy’s Life, Watership Down, Where the Red Fern Grows, and Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
  • Evaluate, interpret, and analyze literary elements in depth
  • Investigate related issues by generating ideas, questions and posing problems