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.  

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Cool Find for 1:1 correspondence in K&1

If you have taught emergent readers you are familiar with the difficulty in (tracking) keeping the child's 1:1 correspondence between the print and spoken word.   I believe this is a developmental issue that cannot be taught.  It can however be reinforced.  I found a great new 'toy' for reinforcing it this week while shopping at what I call the 'crap' store in Kansas City.  The store is actually US Toy and they stock aisles and aisles of useless party favors, decorations and other 'crap'.  My find, however, proved to be quite useful this week in my small emergent reading groups.  I found a dozen creepy hairy fingers that my emergent readers can put on their own fingers and use as pointers.  They proved to be quite a hit with my emergent readers.  I'll post pictures of them being used later this week.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Before implementing the Comprehensive Literacy Model, I strongly recommend reading Apprenticeship in Literacy.  It is the first in a series of books on the subject.  It is research based, easy to read and it gives detailed information on how to approach the literacy model.   There are several more books in the series, I'll review them in later posts.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

I'd like to open a dialogue on whether or not a child should learn to read very young (ages 3-5).  I was of the old school of thought that this was too early.  However my thoughts are changing after teaching Kindergarteners to read.  I have also been reading Thomas Friedman's books and have been thinking about what it will take for us as a nation to become leaders again.  If we get the task of reading out of the way early, we can then focus on technology and science instruction and get our schools back on track!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Where We Were When We Started in Fall '08

When we started our literacy program in the fall of 2008, our Kindergarten teachers described their new kids as a bit more developmentally delayed and lacked the readiness of the kids they had experienced the year before.   This is not unusual as Kindergarten classes go.  Sometimes a group is exceptional (like the Kindergarten class of SY '07-'08  class, but more on that later) sometimes a group is average and other times we have a group that makes you wonder what was in the water supply the year they were conceived. 

Our First Graders (the Kindergarteners of SY '07-'08)  as I stated above were quite an exceptional group of kids.  They were physically coordinated, emotionally stable, and developmentally and academically 'in their zone'. 

Just to back up a little, my school is considered a poverty school.  I beg to differ.  We do live in an area of the country that has a lower than average cost of living, so therefore, our average household income is less than the national average.  Due to this, it is easy to qualify as a 'poverty' school.  Our makeup of kids is, however very diverse.  We do have some extreme poverty, but we also have a very strong middle class representation.  Our parents are involved, of course, as a teacher, I would love to see more involvement, but I really can't complain.

Our teachers are among the most professional people I have ever had the privilege with which to work.  I have worked in both public and private schools in my 15 year career as a teacher.  (The least professional group of teachers I worked with, were in a private school setting.)  I have never had the pleasure to work with a more dedicated group of professionals than I do now.   I truly believe that this is one of the reasons for the results we are getting with our literacy model.

The Partnership in Comprehensive Literacy is the inspiration for the literacy program we use at my school in grades K & 1.  

I am creating this blog for fellow teachers of literacy in grades K-1.  I am a literacy support specialist who supports those grades.  I have begun implementing the Partnership in Comprehensive Literacy which was developed by the University of Arkansas - Little Rock, Center for Literacy. While I have no ties with this organization, I have learned much from attending their workshops and training sessions.  I will share my school's successes using this model on my page.  I hope to get a dialogue started with others who are also using this model for literacy in the early grades.  I will also share our successes using the Guided Reading Plus model for students who lag behind in reading.  Please share with me your successes and concerns in the area of early literacy.