Thursday, July 16, 2009

Talk to me about full year school.  I see the benefits, but would like to hear from people who have opinions one way or another.  Also I would like to hear from those with direct experience in full year school.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Great Dinosaur Extinction of 1981

My first graders have evolved from emergent to early readers in the course of the last 2 months.   It has been an amazing transformation for them.  It's like a switch being turned on in their heads and now they no longer read 'one word at a time' but they read the text for information and meaning.  

With their newfound skills, comes a responsibility.  


I have been introducing them to the elements of fiction.  I also have them outlining the fictional stories with graphic organizers in order to use later for book reviews. 

One of my graphic organizers asks the following questions:

What is the setting of the story?
Who are the characters?
What is the problem in the story?
What is the solution?

Most of the time they aren't able to answer the first question completely since the setting involves time and place, so we usually have a long discussion on this question.

The story we read last week was about a big dinosaur chasing a little dinosaur through the jungle.  All of my students got the 'jungle' part of the setting right. 

Then I asked them about the time of the story.  "Was it present day or a long time ago?" 
On of my brightest piped up and said, "It must have been a long time ago."  
After more prompting on my part he added "because the dinosaurs went extinct in, I think it was, 1981."

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Overwhelming Time of the Year

This is the most overwhelming time of the year for someone in a job like mine.   We are winding down our guided reading plus groups.  My first graders should be at DRA2 level 16 in order to be considered 'meeting expectations' in reading.   My Kindergarteners should be reading at a level 3 in order to be considered 'meeting expectations' in reading.   So far 100% of my Kindergarteners have met or exceeded that goal.  First grade on the other hand is still struggling with only 68% meeting expectations.   We will continue Guided Reading Plus groups in First grade as long as possible.  My data must be complete by May 19th.   The DRA2 will be administered the 2nd week of May - I hope to see a significant gain in 'meeting expectations' by then.  (most of the first graders at the 'below expectations' are on the bubble - at a DRA2 level 15)   I worry that the reading levels.. for my first graders will not have enough padding in them to last over the summer.  Most educators understand that children regress over the summer.  (What are your thoughts on full year school?)  

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Can Your Child Skip? If So, Your Child Can Probably Read!

Research has shown that reading readiness/ability goes hand-in-hand with a child being able to skip.   But skipping isn't the only thing that will help.   If your child can cross the mid-line (an imaginary line running vertically through your body) he/she will have a much easier time reading. 

Here are some links to many mid-line and brain stimulating activities for children. 

Brain Gym

Reading involves many cross mid-line activities, such as tracking words from left to right with their fingers (see below post involving creepy hairy fingers) and return sweeping (from right back to left again) to the next line of text.  

I have found that many of my girls have an easier time with these tasks simply due to the fact that (whether we like it or not) girls tend to involve more skipping in their play than boys do.   In your household and at your school, the stigma of skipping as being a "girlie" thing to do should be removed and replaced with it being a "smart" thing to do!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Success in Kindergarten Literacy

While we still have aobut 8 weeks left of school, our Kindergarten classes have already met thier literacy goals for the end of the year! (Which is no small feat, considering what they were like at the begining of the year!)

Ultimately, at the end of the year we would like to see Kindergarteners reading at a
DRA level 4 for Exceeding Expectations
Levels 2&3 for Meeting Expectations
Level 1 for Approaching Expectations
Less than level 1 for Below expectations.

The Goals We set at the beginning of the year are as follows:
80% Meeting and/or Exceeding
15% Approaching
5% Below

Here are the results of our last assessment:

Exceeding Expectations ------------6%
Meeting Expectations --------------78%
Approaching Expectations -------14%
Below Expectations ------------------2%

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Literacy Assessment Wall

The data on our assessment wall are used for monitoring our program's effectiveness.  Our students are formally assessed 3 times per year with the DRA2 (Developmental Reading Assessment).  Our teachers also administer running records as an informal assessment at least once per month on each child.  Using the results of these assessments, we post a card for each child on our Assessment Wall.  The cards are moved each time an assessment warrants a move to the next level.  Our goals move each quarter (9 weeks).  Student cards are placed in the appropriate range (Below, Approaching, Meeting, or Exceeding) of expectations. Ultimately, our goal at the end of the school year is to have no more than 15% of our students in the 'approaching' range and no more than 5% in the 'below' range.  (In the picture above, the first 2 rows of cards represent our Kindergarten classes, the second 2 rows represent our First Grade classes and the third 2 rows, represent our 2nd grade classes.  The green letters represent the Guided Reading levels at which the children are reading.) 

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Framing Words and Parts of Words - Emergent Readers

Learning to frame words is a useful technique for emergent readers to block out the distractions when reading text.  Either a whole word or a part of the word can be framed to block out the distractors and allow the reader to concentrate on decoding.  I have used several techniques with my emergent readers to frame words.  I found a great tool for framing this week.  It is a set of beginner chopsticks (as pictured).  The students can frame a consonant blend or a whole word and are able to concentrate on the word or word chunk.  My students are enjoying using this new tool.