Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Groundhog's Day and Division

Groundhog's Day always seems to sneak up on me. We are super busy this time of year. The midyear assessments are in and the realization of how far we still need to get in half a year is sinking in. It is pedal to the metal-full steam ahead; so who has time to stop and acknowledge Groundhog's Day??  It is tempting to ignore it all together but third graders are still kids and they still get into these little holidays.  So here I am trying to  work it into what we are currently learning about.

Here are two books I have used as read alouds before.  They contain good tier two vocabulary words and are great to use to review the use of organizational patterns like cause-effect and sequencing flow maps. 

I've also worked the groundhog into math.  We've introduced divsion recently.  Students are learning how the four operations are related and connected.  We made this bridge map to organize this new knowledge.

Now I'm always on the lookout for activities for my third graders to use during the "By Myself" or "Partner Practice " guided math times. 
Here is a math activity centered around groundhogs and division.
Here students are exploring the idea that division is really repeated subtraction.  Students cut out the little groundhogs and place groups of them into a certain number of burrows. 

They show the repeated subtraction and then relate it to division by writing the division equation.

Let me know if you are interested in this one.  I'll send it your way.

Here's to hoping the groundhog doesn't see his shadow.  I am ready for spring!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Sunday's Words for the Week

We left at the crack of dawn on Saturday to go to the mountains (my happy place)
for some skiing.
The mountains were beautiful all covered in snow.


What a masterpiece HE has made.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Reading for Meaning Success!

How true.  
Have you ever said this to your students?  I know I have!
Never did work.
The real question though is this: Should we really want and need our students to be quiet? 
Sure. there is a time and place for silence and for talk.
 But talk can be purposeful. In fact, this is what I have discovered:  
kids + meaningful conversation =  tons of learning

So now I am back to share more about the reading for meaning lesson plan format and if you are a teacher who loves and needs a quiet classroom then this plan is NOT for you.  
It relies heavily on "kid talk". 

What I love most about this plan is its simplicity.  No kit, no cards, no bells and whistles. This is just a well crafted lesson plan that focuses on student engagement and student thinking.
It takes the National Reading Council's recommended strategies for teaching text comprehension and works them into a five step approach.

I ran these five steps for three different lessons with three different pieces of text last week.  I was happy with the result each time.  Kids were reading and thinking thorughout! 

This plan is for geared toward nonfiction reading and is done in a whole group situation.  For the first week they suggest that the teacher do the reading with the whole group. The teacher also serves as the scribe for the students during the writing of the main idea chart and summary during the first week.  From there they suggest having the students work in partners and then for the third week move toward independence. My students sat with a "discussion partner".  This allowed them to discuss points along the way with someone.  I always listen in to these conversations and then we share some thinking with the whole group.  My readers sat close to this partner during the lesson each with their own book.
You do need to set yourself up to be successful with this plan.  That means you can't just "wing it".  Take the time to provision for it and you will be happier with your result.  You first need a piece of appropriately leveled nonfiction text.  We read pages  from our social studies and science text books since that was I needed to teach anyway. Read through the lesson plan steps to see what else needs to be looked at ahead of time. 
So here are the five steps to this lesson plan:

This is my favorite part of the process to prepare.  You need to come up with a way to "hook" students into the reading.  The intervention teacher from the study suggests using jokes, riddles, pictures or photographs.  Since trying this lesson format I have used objects too with great success.  
I used this photograph for one of my hooks.  We were getting ready to read a page in our social studies book about the people of Ancient Mali and how they were salt miners.
Here was my procedure:  I displayed this photograph on my smartboard and told my students that the big blocks shown here were actually slabs of salt. I told them that although this was a photograph taken in present day,  salt was very important to the people of ancient Mali as well and  that today they were going to read to find out more. 

The question step is super important because it is the way we activate our students' background knowledge and how students develop a purpose for reading. It is important to note that we are not building background for the students in this lesson prior to the reading.  The idea is that they will build background for themselves through the reading and understanding of the text. So you are not telling them anything here.  You are asking.
We use question leads A LOT when we read and also write.  We have question words posted on our wall and refer them them often. We formed some questions prior to our reading using these leads. 

Some of the questions I asked prior to reading and wrote on the board were:
Why do you think salt was important?
Where did they get the salt from?
How do you think they used the salt? 

I think asking three questions prior to reading was sufficient.  Students shared their answers with their discussion partners and I listened in.  We then had several groups report their answers with the whole group and I wrote responses down on the board beside the questions. 

The study suggests teaching two new words per text reading.  You should pick tier two words. I always look for one multiple meaning word (if possible) and then one other word that I think students will see again or can use when they write or speak. 

In the Mali text, the students came across the word "spring" as in the place where the people would find water in the desert.  I thought this was a PERFECT choice because of all its meanings.  
Before giving them the dictionary definition, I asked them to think of how they have heard the word spring used and we mapped out all the meanings on a web. The meanings in black represent what they already knew.

Then I displayed the following dictionary entry and we discovered two other definitions of "spring" and I added them to the web in red. The use of the web and the graphic organizers seem to be KEY to helping students with metacognition.

 I showed them the way it would be used in the text we were reading.  We figured out which meaning it was.  
Next, I told them they were going to find the word "preserve" in the text.  I quickly gave them the defintion and we filled out the five parts of this word box together on the board.

Before we started reading, I introduced these thinking codes.  I told students that readers are good thinkers and so to prove their thinking along the way, they were to whisper: YOW!  Yes, if they read a detail that they already knew, Oops, if they came across a detail that corrected their thinking and Wow, if they came across something they didn't know yet.  Students got this printed on small cards to remind themselves.
I must say I was a bit skeptical and I honestly didn't know if kids were going to buy into using these codes  and if they were going to use it correctly. I was thrilled to find out that they DID get how to use these and it really does increase their engagement with the text..  Now, this was week one so I led them through this.  I read aloud with them reading in their heads and then I would stop after a paragraph or two and we would share our "YOWs". Be sure to let your great thinkers share for the benefit of all.  I praised like crazy when they could find examples of YES, OOPS, and WOW and told them they were reading like "big kids".   We will have to wait to see how they handle this on a more independent level.  I imagine I will have to still scaffold this and work with small groups of students who may still need my guidance in reading the text and thinking about it. 

After the reading and thinking, we fill out this graphic organizer that identifies the main idea and details of the text.  I helped lead them through this and wrote it on a chart paper for the first day. After that they wrote it alongside me on their own graphic organizer.

After that, we numbered the main idea as number one, the first detail as 2 and the supporting details under that as 3 and 4.  The second detail was 5 with the supporting details under that as 6 and 7.  You continue numbering this way.  From here it is then easy to construct your summary.  Start with the main idea sentence and go through the numbered details.  You end up with the perfect summary.  I loved teaching summary writing this way!

So all in all, it was successful and I will definitely continue to utilize this plan on a consistent basis.  The intervention group in the study only spent thirty minutes of time on this each day.  I will warn you that it  took me double that for this introduction week.  I used my writing time since I was teaching and demonstrating "summary writing".  It is important not to let the hook, vocabulary or discussion times get off topic or take over.  I would keep an eye to the clock to make sure one step is not taking too long.  Also be careful of the passage you start don't want it to be too long or too involved when you first start.
Would love to hear from anyone who tries it!  Let me know if you have any questions!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Teaching Prefixes: The Word Transformers

Students who understand how words are formed by combining prefixes, suffixes, and roots tend to have larger vocabularies and better reading comprehension than peers without such knowledge and skills (Prince, 2009).  

No shocker there, but then Nagy suggests that by focusing on this particular skill with our students who struggle can make a big difference.   Nagy (2007) proposed that the teaching morphological awareness and decoding in school may be the way to narrow the achievement gap for children whose families differ in education and income levels, and ethnic or racial backgrounds. A deep and full knowledge and understanding of vocabulary will improve outcomes for students who struggle.

OK, Virginia teachers, hitting a little bit closer to home is this statement:

An examination of the Virginia Standards of Learning reveals a vertical alignment of standards from kindergarten through eighth grade focusing on decoding and vocabulary development, more specifically, on morphology. The results of the Virginia high-stakes assessment indicate a weakness in vocabulary development for all Virginia students, thus suggesting a need to provide more intense vocabulary instruction with direct instruction in morphology.

Morphology relates to the segmenting of words into affixes (prefixes and suffixes) and roots or base words. So what does this type of teaching and learning look like in your classroom?  

 My third graders like "playing around" with words. We become the word transformers and morph our vocabulary words into new ones using prefixes and suffixes.  My more capable readers like to challenge themselves with how many transformations they can make.  My less capable readers are in  need of this kind of practice in breaking words and making words and benefit greatly from watching and hearing the more skilled transformers at work.   For example when teaching the science word: flexible, my student transformers morphed that word into: inflexible, flexibility, flex, flexes, flexing.  We talked about how adding these powerful prefixes and strong suffixes can change the meaning and part of speech.  But before they can become super skilled word transformers, they need to become familiar with common prefixes and suffixes and their meanings.

I usually teach prefixes by clusters; for example, I would teach the "nots"  together:  dis, in, non, un.  These all have the power to transform the word into meaning the opposite of the baseword.  I have posters of the prefixes we cover and what each means.

After the introduction of the prefix, we work on sorting basewords with appropriate prefixes.

 Using dictionaries make the student accountable for checking themselves for accuracy. 

At long last, I have finally gotten this set together and on Teacher Pay Teachers.  
Click the link below if you are interested in trying this set out with your students. 

Now I'd love to hear what plans and resources you use when teaching morphology!  
Please share!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Sunday's Words for the Week

I teach children's church on Sundays. We've spent the last few weeks studying Moses.   We are learning  how God gave Moses the power to do amazing things.  The kids and I were talking about how God gives ALL His people special gifts and talents and if we rely on His power  we can do amazing things with it too. We had a great discussion which made me think of these Sunday words:
and bless people with it.
Have a great, productive week!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Comprehension Lesson Plan

The response from teachers wanting to try out the reading lesson plan format mentioned in the previous post was tremendous.  I'm so excited that teachers from California to Florida are willing to try something new in an attempt to help those students struggling with comprehension! Since there is such a large number of us wanting to give this a go, I'm going to post further about the structure of lesson in my next post.  Please check back for more details.  Remember, the teacher in the study devoted 30 minutes daily to this reading exercise so you may want to think about where that will fit in your reading block.  I will be back with more specifics soon! 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Reading for Meaning: A Research Based Approach

Word's funny in this comic but the truth is it really can impact a reader's ability to
comprehend. Strong readers are flexible thinkers.  They are more tuned in to ambiguous language and are better able to handle multiple meaning words. They monitor their understanding and attend to reading words and processing meaning simultaneously.
There are many third graders who seem like they are strong readers. They can call the words but can't can't tell you what they have read.
I must admit Jill and I are feeling dazed and confused ourselves as we work through the research that is out there connected to the topic of reading comprehension. 
 However, we recently came across an article that caught and kept our attention.  It was entitled: Instruction of Metacognition Strategies Enhances Reading Comprehension and Vocabulary Development of Third Grade Students by Regina Boulware-Gooden, Suzanne Carreker, Ann Thornhill and R. Joshi.
This article reports on a study that provides further evidence to support metacognitive instruction. Students in the intervention group improved significantly over the comparison group in vocabulary and reading comprehension. This report shows the intervention group with a 40% difference in gains in vocabulary between the two groups and a 20% gain in comprehension in just a 5 week period. The basis of this five-week study was a report put out by the National Reading Panel that concluded that there are eight effective strategies to teach reading comprehension and that a multi-strategy approach is most effective.  
So what did the instruction in the intervention and comparison school look like and sound like?
The students in both schools received 30 minutes of reading comprehension a day for the 25 days using the same reading passages and vocabulary words.  Key differences were made in lesson delivery in regards to vocabulary and comprehension monitoring.  Summarizing using a graphic organizer to document main idea and details first was key. 
The intervention school students incorporated more metacognitive strategies during and after their reading.  Introductory activities like "the reading hook" and questioning helped students engage.

Students were encouraged to think out loud while they read, softly saying, "Yes, when their prereading thinking was correct, oops, when they had to correct their prereading thinking, or aha, when they learned something new through their reading process.  I'm having my students also use small post its to tag these while they read. 
The writing of the summary paragraph was another important metacognitive strategy in this instructional plan. 
A group of third grade teachers from various schools in my area will be running this lesson plan using the 5 components documented in the research report.  I will be back to report on our results!
Let me know if you want to give it a try with your students!
Email me

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Sunday's Words for the Week

Right!  I'm back to it tomorrow!
Here is one of my favorite work out tracks - TobyMac's Eye On It.

So what are you focused on in 2014?  Would love to hear!
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