Reading Strategies that Work with Young Students

During the year I will share a glimpse inside classrooms on my campus.  Today I'm happy to share Reading Strategies inside Mrs. Yantis' second grade classroom.  Mrs. Yantis was using Rainbow Comprehension in small groups to teach students how to look for important information when reading. Keep in mind this is day 26 of school and we are wasting no time getting down to business. Let's take a look at how Rainbow Comprehension works...
 Rainbow Comprehension is designed for young students.  Students as young as kindergarten, first and second grade can be taught how to find answers using text evidence.  The questions in the packet are "right there" type questions.  This means students will  not have to infer to determine the answer.  We are building how to locate evidence in text and not necessarily inferencing skills.
The teacher reads the passage to the students and together they will locate the answers to the questions using color pencils.  This is color coding and referred to as Rainbow Comprehension.  Just print and go.  All you need to get started is the packet and 4 color pencils (blue, green yellow and red).

Take a look at The Fox passage found in Rainbow Comprehension.  The teacher read the passage to or with the students.  They previewed the passage and discussed prior knowledge of a fox.  The students looked back into the story finding the answers and color coded the sentence with the correct color.  

Students are even learning what a paragraph is in this passage.  They write the paragraph number by each question.  It just doesn't get any better as a principal when you see teachers use strategies with young students.  

The explicit teaching of reading strategies at an early age helps student to become increasingly skillful at interpreting, understanding and analyzing text.  As new strategies are introduced, they should be taught through modeling, guided practice and then move to working independently.  

Any instructional time left in the station rotation was spent looking at real life pictures of foxes on the iPad.  

If you would like to begin Rainbow Comprehension in your classroom, I have several themes to get you started.

or get the Bundle of 6 Themes

What do you do in your classrooms to help young students to become purposeful, active readers?  Would love feedback.

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Into The Wild: Fall Literacy Centers

I can't believe I haven't blogged since Wednesday.  I guess life was just busy.  I do have something fabulous to share with you today.  I have been working on a fall packet filled with some pretty awesome literacy center fun!  It's called Into the Wild: Fall Literacy Centers for second and third grade.
Into the Wild Fall Literacy Centers really helps get you in the mood for Fall and Autumn activities with the camping, fishing and hunting theme.  The boys in the class will be so thankful that these centers are not all pink and chevron!  The girls will love it too.
Center 1 Skill: Compound Words at The Backwoods Overlook
Each center comes with a recording sheet.  Teachers, you just need to print and go.  No mess and no fuss needed.

Center 2 Skill: Contractions Deer Camp

Center 3 Skill: Idiom Camp
Center 4: Synonym Pond

Center 5: A Woodland Spooky Story- Students fill in the blank and then finish off their own spooky story.  I can just imagine going camping and everyone telling spooky stories around the campfire.

Center 6: How to Make a Smore and Adjectives of Smores
This is probably my favorite center of them all.  Students put all the items together to make a smore in the classroom and then glue the pieces in order on their paper.  

Are you ready to get started with these fall centers?  Download here.


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Wordless Wednesday

 It's wordless Wednesday with Miss Decarbo! Miss DeCarbo is Christina from Sugar and Spice.  I love this girl.  She is a fabulous teacher and has such great ideas.  
Before you panic, I was not arrested!  I make home visits often.  This is a picture of me in the back seat of the police car.  I don't normally ride in the back seat-I make my assistant ride there.  (Laughing out Loud)  We always take our officer with us not necessarily because we need law enforcement but because she knows all the roads to take.  Our district has its own police department and chief of police.  Every campus has an officer.  My superintendent is a big advocate for student safety and works hard to take care of the staff and students. 
We probably make at least one or two home visits a week for various reasons.  They are highly effective in getting results.  
Question: Do you make home visits?


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Who wants to WIN?

Happy Tuesday.  I hope everyone is enjoying the Fall weather.  Just wanted you to see the final copy of these new items I made for some teachers.  

I have 30 Interactive Engagement Activities placed on a metal ring.  Just flip through the activity you want to use in your classroom.  The student response cards are included.  Another principal from another state asked me if I would help her with student engagement.  I said...Absolutely.  So this is how this packet was born.  Do you need help with ideas for student engagement?  If so, get a copy of this set today.

How Time Flies: Elapsed Time was created just for fun to help my students on campus.  I tweaked it this afternoon and the final copy is ready for grabs.  This set includes task cards, a time number line, instructional posters and student recording sheet.

How about a chance to get a copy of these for free?  Just let me know which one you want and I will pick a winner by tomorrow.  


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Elapsed Time: How Time Flies

Students struggle with elapsed time.  It can be difficult for some students.  Just telling time can be a challenge for students.  As soon as we think they can do it we throw them a curve and tell them to determine how much time elapsed.  Teaching students about elapsed time can be practiced, reinforced and mastered.  My How Time Flies packet can get you started on this difficult skill.

for grades 2-5
Elapsed time can be measured using clocks or a calendar.  I included three instructional posters for you to use in small groups, whole groups or for you to place in the centers as reference.
Also included are 24 task cards that vary in difficulty.  The task cards included clocks and problem solving with word problems.  

 I love this next piece.  I included a large elapsed time number line for teachers to laminate and use during instruction.  Place it in the station/center and let the students use it to complete the task cards.

Students record their answers on the student recording sheet.  Answer key provided to help make this an easy process.
I hope you find this new packet helpful.  If you download it for your classroom, please leave feedback.  I love hearing from you.  Download How Time Flies today!

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30 Interactive Student Engagement Activities

What really motivates students to learn?  That is a hard question to answer and may vary from student to student.  However, studies show that student engagement is the key piece for motivating students to learn.  Student engagement is defined as the degree of attention, curiosity, interest, optimism and passion that students show when they are learning or being taught.  Do all of your students exhibit these characteristics?  Probably not all, but here are a few ways to help motivate your students to learn and keep students actively engaged in the classroom.

Activity speaks louder than words.  I'm a visual learner.  I learn by watching someone do it.  An environment that requires just listening skills is not the best classroom for me to learn.  Let's make the learning stick by providing interactive student engagement activities in the classroom.  If we want the learning to stick, we must have the students do the "learning and the doing" and less teacher driven "stand and deliver" lessons.  

Strategy Strips

Check out this SCOOT activity by the second grade teachers.  I have 10 second grade classrooms.  Each classroom studied one or two of the 13 colonies during social studies this week.  The information was studied in class and posted outside the classroom.  The other classrooms "scooted" through the halls to learn more about the other 13 colonies.  At the end of the week, each student left with a 13 colonies fact book.

Student engagement sounds hard and time consuming.  However, it can be as time consuming as you make it.  I have included 30 easy ways to increase student participation.  It requires little prep and can be implemented with ease.  The bottom line is that students learn more when they are actively involved in the lesson and have opportunities to think about and apply what they have learned.  

My new motto:  Prevention vs. Intervention
As educators, let's prevent our students from needing intervention by adding techniques in the classroom to help students retain the information and take ownership of their learning.

It's not difficult to engage students and it doesn't take much work.  It may require the teacher to put more structure in place and plan lessons in a different way.  Just think if all teachers all over the world implemented just one activity to engage their students our schools would be dynamic.  However, consistent use of interactive engagement activities could reduce dropouts and the failure rate of students.  Now that is powerful!


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Fall Poster-Freebie!

I love Fall.  Actually, I love any season except Winter.  I loathe the cold.  The Texas weather is becoming enjoyable right now.  Football season has kicked off (not that I follow but I can hear it from the other room).  The smells of Fall are exciting.  Pumpkins, cinnamon, and apple pies, yummy in my tummy. I put my thoughts into words on this poster for you to enjoy over the next few months.
I'm looking forward to printing this Fall Poster and displaying on my mantel.  I hope you enjoy some time with your family and build a fire, roast marshmallows, drink some hot chocolate, and go on many hay rides.

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Main Idea Resources-Second Grade Level

On Friday, we had visitors on campus.  Another district called to come tour my campus and second grade classrooms.  It was a great day and I thought I would share a few pictures of our day.  Hope you enjoy seeing a glimpse inside my second grade classrooms.  The campus who visited us is a Kindergarten-Second grade neighboring school.  My campus is second grade-fourth grade.  We shared how lessons are planned, how intervention is scheduled and how we utilize data.

This last week second grade is working on main idea.  The teachers are working on modeling main idea strategies with the story for the week.  We use Texas Treasures as a curriculum resource.  Family Farm Then and Now was the story for the week.  The students and teachers created a main idea table on chart paper.
Small groups of students worked on main idea bags and completed a main idea graphic organizer.  The teacher modeled a main idea bag prior to completing this independently or placing the items in the stations.

Teaching main idea is definitely a Texas TEK but also a necessary part of reading comprehension.  You can find our campus wide strategy in our PLAYBOOK.  The Reading Strategies playbook is free and a work in progress.  The district visiting us left with a copy of our plan.  

What strategies do you use to teach main idea?  


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Reading Strategies Playbook-Free Download

A few weeks ago I shared with you a reading strategies training I did for my campus.  In all honesty, I just facilitated the training.  My teachers are so well versed in reading strategies that all I did is set up the training and watched it all take place.  I'm so impressed with my teachers and their ability to teach students strategies but I'm also impressed with the confidence my teachers have to get up in front of their peers and teach. We are a loving campus and we support each other.  That is such a great feeling.
I have a few new teachers to each grade level so it was best that we shared our strategies across the grade level and the campus.  Being aligned vertically is so important.  A reading strategies playbook was born through the training.  I'm in love with it.  It is a work in progress.  Throughout the school year we will continue to add to it as we discuss the different skills.

The playbook includes summary, vocabulary, main idea and inference strategies.  It shows teachers in detail what to do in the story/passage and what to do in the question.  We have strategies for both.
This is a teacher resource and never intended to be used independently at the beginning of the year.   Teachers model the skills weekly with direct and explicit instruction.  These strategies are taught as early as second grade.  Keep in mind when in second grade we model, model, and model again.  We talk students through a reading passage.  Third and fourth grade are guided too but as we get closer to the STAAR test students are doing these more independently.

If you are not from Texas, I do not know much about your state requirements for end of year testing.  Texas is all about accountability.  We may not agree with testing our students but it is what it is.  Until our state changes accountability requirements, we play the game.
Strategies are not just for STAAR.  We teach strategies in all subjects.  Math class, writing class, etc... all have strategies in some form or fashion.  It is not just about testing.  It is more about teaching students how to analyze text.  As students go from grade to grade the text becomes harder and the content is harder to comprehend.  A strategy is just another tool in a students toolkit to help them in each grade, each subject and throughout their educational career.  I find myself using strategies when trying to understand school laws or state guidelines. 


Remember to check back and download the newest version throughout the school year.  This packet is a work in progress as we continue with professional development this year.  I truly hope you find it helpful in your classroom.  Download Reading Strategies Playbook here.

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A Few Words of Advice to Teachers and other Administrators

Do you need a way to keep track of calls to or from parents?  I keep a log by my phone.  It is on a clipboard by my office phone.  Every time I make a call to a parent or a parent calls me, I make a log of it.  Just a good way to look back over the school year of my communication with parents.

My teachers also have a call log.  This call log is located in their teacher binder.  They create one for each student and then turn the class set in at the end of the school year. 

If I could give teachers and principals advice, it would be to keep good documentation and be organized with it.  One of the best things anyone could do is to keep good records.  Keep written correspondence to parents and staff on file so you can refer back to it at a later date. 


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