Reading Instruction

Catching Up Students Who Have Unfinished Learning

  • by Kelly Harmon
  • April 15, 2021, 11:31 a.m.

I was talking with four 2nd grade teachers last week who are very worried about how they are going to send their students to 3rd grade reading and writing "on level." Given that during first grade, the students went into lockdown for the entire fourth quarter of the year and then with the challenges of keeping kids safe this year, these teachers were feeling very defeated. They wanted to know what I thought is possible for their students with the forty days left in the year.

First, we accept what we can't control and then, with laser-like intention, we focus on strategies that have the best chance for impacting student literacy growth.

Here are 4 strategies for helping students accelerate literacy growth during the last weeks of school.

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5-3-1 Rating System

  • by Kelly Harmon
  • Nov. 11, 2020, 11:25 a.m.

I like to use a rating system with students. I explain that a rating of 5 means you are an expert and you could teach someone else. A rating of a 3 means you are an apprentice. You need more coaching and/or practice to clear up misconceptions or misunderstandings. A rating of 1 means you are a novice. You are just beginning to learn the learning target. There may be vocabulary in the learning target that you don't recognize or understand. At the 1 or 3 level, you can set personal learning goals. This might sound like "I'm a novice and I need to know what character motivations are and how you would describe them."

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Using Padlet to Create Discussion Groups

  • by Kelly Harmon
  • Nov. 11, 2020, 9:40 a.m.

The tech tool Padlet might be a great fit for silent discussions. Padlet is an online bulletin board that can be used in many different ways. It is free to sign up; however, you can only make three Padlets before you need to upgrade to a monthly or yearly subscription. Teachers can get a 30-day free trial before upgrading to the monthly or annual plan.I definitely think it's worth the monthly subscription. I use it to streamline communications with learners.

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Teaching Empathy

  • by Kelly Harmon
  • Aug. 7, 2020, 8:17 a.m.

Teaching Empathy

Empathy is defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Taking time to talk about empathy through read alouds, role playing, and discussions will help students be mindful of others. When we teach kids to have gratitude, we are in turn teaching them to be empathetic. 

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ELAR Resources for Elementary Teachers

  • by Kelly Harmon
  • March 17, 2020, 6:11 a.m.

Looking for texts for elementary-age readers?  Check out these free (or almost free) websites for engaging, content-rich texts.  There's no reason to read boring texts!

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ELAR Resources for Secondary Teachers

  • by Kelly Harmon
  • March 17, 2020, 5:56 a.m.

As you create learning experiences for your students, here is a list of reading and writing resources to use for ELAR learning in the secondary classroom. 

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March Madness in the Classroom

  • by Randi Anderson
  • March 9, 2020, 10:05 a.m.

Written by Randi Anderson

I've always been a sucker for a good theme. Every March, there is always buzz around the men's NCAA basketball tournament. Educators can tap into that buzz and use it in the classroom to get students motivated.

Ideas for Using March Madness in Your Classroom:

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Reading Assessment Practice Ideas

  • by Randi Anderson
  • Feb. 10, 2020, 1:49 p.m.

By Randi Anderson

Assessment season is right around the corner and we know you are working tirelessly, preparing lessons that pack lots of punch (instruction wise). It is important to remember that we must model the types of thinking processes that are essential for proficient reading and writing, as well as provide time for students to repeatedly practice those thinking processes for the majority of our classroom time. Here are few ideas to use in your classrooms.

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Black History Month Read Alouds

  • by Kelly Harmon
  • Feb. 4, 2020, 2:51 p.m.

February is Black History month. During this month, we celebrate the achievements of African American men and women. Here are some read aloud texts for your students!

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Storytime for Feb. 1, 2020

  • by Kelly Harmon
  • Feb. 1, 2020, 9:28 a.m.

The theme this week is "You are unique!" This week we are learning about the parts of the body.  Each book, song, and rhyme is thematically linked.  The questions we are exploring is "How are we the same? How are we different?"  Here is a google slide deck with book and song suggestions.

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Writing During Reading

  • by Randi Anderson
  • Jan. 10, 2020, 12:31 p.m.

By Randi Anderson

Integration is key for being able to fit all the things in that we have to teach! Here are some ways to get students talking and writing during your reading block.

  • Interactive Reading Responses

After reading a selection, pose an open-ended question about the text to the students. Have students STOP (think time) and TALK (discussion with peers) about their responses to the question about the text. Allow students time to share (in a small group setting) their answers and reasons to the question. Then, have students STOP (revise their thinking) and WRITE to answer the text question. Make this writing time no longer than 5 minutes.

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When One Teaches, Two Learn

  • Nov. 22, 2019, 7:35 a.m.

My 5 year old recently came home from school raving about his new favorite center, the "School" center. I asked him what exactly that entailed and he told me it's where he becomes the teacher and teaches other students a concept they have been learning about. He then tells me that he taught a lesson on alliteration and that he got to use a "real" teacher pointer! 

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Using Poems to Get Students Analyzing

  • by Kelly Harmon
  • Nov. 11, 2019, 8:20 a.m.

A great way to get students thinking at the analysis level is by using a song or poem of the week! Each day students will read and dive into thinking about the text through a different lens than before. Each time they reread, they grab another piece of new thinking and learning to add to their schema.

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Ideas to Get Students Thinking About Their Thinking

  • by Randi Anderson
  • Oct. 11, 2019, 11:08 a.m.

As an educator, one of our universal goals is to teach our students to have metacognitive strategies. Here are some ideas to get kids thinking about their thinking.

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Two Truths & a Lie

  • by Kelly Harmon
  • Sept. 9, 2019, 10:47 a.m.

A fact is anything that can be proven or disproven. It's the readers' responsibility to distinguish fact and fiction.

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What's Your Weekly Theme Song?

  • by Kelly Harmon
  • Aug. 13, 2019, 8:52 a.m.

Have you heard the song High Hopes by Panic at the Disco? This is 5 year old Whitten's favorite song right now. He begs for it to play on repeat. I am so glad he did, because after listening to it, it became my theme song to kick off the year! The message is ageless and the vocabulary is amazing. Students will be surprised when their teacher plays this song the first week of school!

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Great Reads for the 1st Weeks of School

  • by Kelly Harmon
  • Aug. 13, 2019, 8:35 a.m.

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Using a Graffiti Wall

  • by Kelly Harmon
  • Aug. 13, 2019, 8:28 a.m.

Graffiti walls are simple to do, but can illustrate complex thinking. I ran across an article entitled "20 Ways to Teach With Graffiti Walls" on Twitter. The ideas in the blog go so well with my goal of making learning visible! Using words and/or graphics, student can share thinking and see their classmates' perspectives. This could be in a station, a center, or to start or finish class.

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Building a Learning Community

  • by Kelly Harmon
  • Aug. 12, 2019, 1:04 p.m.

Building a community atmosphere at the beginning of the school year is so important for the emotional and academic well-being of your students. Here are a few tips to building a successful community of learning this year.

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Summer Reader's Theatre Club

  • by Kelly Harmon
  • May 6, 2019, 2:18 p.m.

Looking for a FUN summer reading opportunity to keep your students reading all summer long? Try hosting a Reader's Theater group with your school or community. Invite students from kindergarten through twelfth grade to join in on the fun!

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Summer Writing Ideas

  • by Kelly Harmon
  • May 6, 2019, 2:15 p.m.

Want to keep your students writing all summer long? Here are some summer writing ideas for your school.

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Student Experts

  • by Kelly Harmon
  • April 23, 2019, 10:58 a.m.

Spring is a great time of year to have students dive into interesting topics and share their knowledge and expertise. Ask students to identify topics they know a lot about and have them write down any questions they might have about the topic. You can use these questions (and their answers!) to create shared "expert journals" in your classroom. In one second grade class, we brainstormed the topics using an alphaboxes chart and created expert journals from there.

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Information Circles

  • by Kelly Harmon
  • March 13, 2019, 1:59 p.m.

Students need to constantly build schema, or background knowledge, that will help them connect to new topics and ideas about the world. Reading nonfiction is one of the best ways to help students do this. It is important to note however, that informational texts can often be one of the most difficult genres for students to comprehend. Because of this young readers need to spend a lot of time processing informational texts. One way to immerse students in nonfiction texts is to invite them to participate in information circles.

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What do you Predict? Helping Students Develop Strategic Reading Habits

  • by Kelly Harmon
  • Feb. 22, 2019, 9:44 a.m.

Interactive Read Alouds Using Semantic Impressions: 

Good readers start making inferences about a text before they even open the cover or read the first line. Illustrations, words, and schema are all contributors to helping a student build conceptual knowledge before they dive into the actual text.

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Why Read?

  • by Kelly Harmon
  • Feb. 22, 2019, 9:43 a.m.

Many struggling readers can't answer this question. They think reading is hard or boring or simply done because "you have to do it". What we can help them understand is that we read to change our heads and our hearts. We read to add to our schema and understand the human condition, and we read to help ourselves make decisions.

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New Year, New Goals!

  • by Kelly Harmon
  • Jan. 11, 2019, 2 p.m.

What is Your Goal?

In 2019, I'm all about being intentional in my instruction. Since we never have enough time, my goal is to only spend time on what is most likely going to move readers, writers, and mathematicians forward. I am going to audit every minute of class time to make sure we don't spend time on things that aren't likely to make much difference. Unfortunately, basals and textbooks are full of this kind of fluff.

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Do Your Students See You as a Reader & a Writer?

  • by Kelly Harmon
  • Jan. 11, 2019, 1:49 p.m.

Seeing is believing and that certainly rings true when teaching your students reading and writing. One day several years ago, I had an epiphany about the reason my students weren't exhibiting reading and writing behaviors. I needed to share MY reading and writing life with my students. This included ME reading and writing for the same purposes and using the same skills I was asking my students to use. I immediately changed my lesson plans to include a daily sharing of my own reading and writing life as part of my focus lesson. When I planned a writing prompt or reading response, I wrote mine before I ever asked students to do the task. This helped me think about the mental processes students needed in order to do the task. It also helped me to determine what I needed to demonstrate for my students. This simple change of making time to read and write (model) in front of my students each day transformed my room to be more of a community of learners.

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Acting Out Your Fluency

  • Jan. 11, 2019, 1:43 p.m.

Fluency is so much more than simply how fast you call words. Fluent readers read with expression, phrasing, and accuracy, demonstrating comprehension. Further, proficient readers adjust their reading rate to match the author's purpose. Fluency research tells us that how we read aloud is an indicator of how we read silently.

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Word Clouds

  • Dec. 10, 2018, 8:54 a.m.

A word cloud is an image composed of words or phrases. Individually or as a team, students create an image in which the size of each word or phrase indicates its importance to the overall meaning of the topic or text. Word clouds can be created for concepts, characters, events, and themes across content areas.

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Adding Descriptions to Student's Writing

  • Dec. 6, 2018, 3:38 p.m.

Sometimes when we review our students' writing we might feel like it's lacking the "pizazz" needed to make it interesting for the audience. Here is a quick idea to get students adding meaningful adjectives to their writing.

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Making Inferencing Fun!

  • Dec. 6, 2018, 3:33 p.m.

Teaching students to infer is essential to becoming a proficient reader. When we really dig deep into the strategy of inferring, we notice that it is a skill students (and adults) are already doing each and every moment of the day. Making an inference is making a decision or claim about something using the evidence we are seeing or hearing. Whether we are deciding which food you want off the menu (based on what sounds appealing), or deciding if someone is a good friend (based on their actions and words), we are making inferences all the time! Here are some fun activities to engage students in making inferences throughout the school day.

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What is Literary Nonfiction Exactly?

  • Nov. 6, 2018, 10:03 a.m.

Literary nonfiction, also known as narrative nonfiction, is one of the best genres for getting students to engage in large quantities of reading. But what exactly is literary nonfiction? We hear the word nonfiction and instantly think informational, which is only partly true. The word literary means "narrative" and nonfiction means "accurate". So literary nonfiction is essentially a true story. And who doesn't like a really good true story?

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What Are You Wondering?

  • Nov. 6, 2018, 9:59 a.m. is a phenomenal website for students to use to build schema and vocabulary about a wide range of topics. Be sure to sign up for the daily email to get the daily wondering. Just 5 minutes of "wondering" will provide your students with new knowledge and get them interested in new topics for study. Be sure to check out Wonder Ground to get lesson plans and ideas for fostering curiosity.

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Micro-Interventions: Are We Taking Action Quickly?

  • Oct. 8, 2018, 8:56 a.m.

Using the success criteria, teachers can closely monitor learning and provide timely feedback about each students' progress or lack there of. The goal is to watch for students to demonstrate the success criteria. If they aren't able to demonstrate the daily learning target, then we must think about what is keeping them from doing so and take action quickly. Is there a gap or misconception that needs to be addressed in order to move students forward?

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Karaoke in the Classroom

  • Oct. 4, 2018, 9:44 a.m.

One of my favorite strategies for building fluency is using karaoke in the classroom! Youtube offers all the karaoke songs you could want for FREE!

When students participate in karaoke they are practicing reading from left to right, seeing sight words in addition to higher level vocabulary, and improving their rate. All while having a blast.

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Book Talks Matter

  • Aug. 7, 2018, 9:49 a.m.

Books talks are a great tool to get kids excited about reading this school year! Start the year off with some of your favorite titles that they won't be able to resist.

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Scaffolding Up!

  • May 4, 2018, 2:54 p.m.

Tier one classroom instruction is always about learning grade level standards. But what about the kids that aren't quite there yet? How do we scaffold them up to achieve those standards? Here are a few ways to make accommodations that get kids where they need to be.

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End-of-Year Reading & Writing Activities

  • May 4, 2018, 2:46 p.m.

The end of the year is upon us. Just in case you are running out of steam, here are some ideas for May/June to keep students engaged in reading and writing.

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April: Poetry Month

  • April 10, 2018, 11:45 a.m.

Let's celebrate this month by reading a poem-a-day to our students. Hearing the rich language and imagining the vivid images described in poems develops schema and extends vocabulary. Here are a few ways to enjoy poems this month.

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Using Passages to Get Kids Thinking

  • March 1, 2018, 10:43 a.m.

As state assessment time approaches, I see lots of test practice passages being utilized in classrooms. While I'm not a fan of these passages, I do understand the need for students to read short texts and practice reading strategies needed for success on the test. Here are some ideas for using passages in authentic ways.

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Preparing Students for Success in Kindergarten

  • Feb. 28, 2018, 10:41 a.m.

As a member of several mom groups, I get questions about what to do to get students ready for kindergarten. We all want to prepare our kiddos for success and send them into their education career well prepared (or ahead). Here are some ideas for what to do to prepare the brains of your little learner.

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Bedtime Math! How many guinea pigs fit on a plane?

  • Feb. 28, 2018, 10:38 a.m.

Have you shared a Bedtime Math story lately? We love and you should too!

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Using Yelp as an Instructional Tool

  • Feb. 6, 2018, 1:28 p.m.

As an educator, I'm always looking for ways to make my teaching relevant and interesting to my students. I want to always be using apps and topics that catch their attention! Yelp does just that!

Yelp is a multinational corporation that hosts crowd-sourced reviews and information on businesses. Yelp is a great mentor texts resource! Yes, mentor texts! Reviews for restaurants, shopping, and gas stations are great expository and persuasive short texts.

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Accountable Talk Matters

  • Feb. 6, 2018, 10:10 a.m.

"Please , don't stop talking!" This is a phrase I thought I would never say in my first few years of teaching, but, as my philosophy of learning has evolved, I've revised my thinking on just how much students need to be talking.

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Expository Text List

  • Dec. 7, 2017, 3:12 p.m.

Expository Text List Categorized by Text Structure

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3 Ways to Spice Up Your Book Talks

  • Dec. 7, 2017, 3:11 p.m.

Book Talks are a great way to create excitement and motivate your students to read! Educators can create even more excitement when they too create a book talk. Here are 3 ways to perform book talks for your students to get them excited about reading.

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Genre Focus: Literary Nonfiction

  • Nov. 8, 2017, 3:09 p.m.

November is great month to shift your genre focus to literary nonfiction! Literary nonfiction, also known as narrative nonfiction, is simply true stories. Biographies, autobiographies, sports writings, personal narratives, and interviews are all examples of literary nonfiction.

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Recommended Reads-Using Literature to Engage Problem Solving

  • Sept. 14, 2017, 4:02 p.m.

Children’s books can be effective vehicles for motivating children to think and reason mathematically. (Burns, 2004) A children’s book is a great way to launch or assess mathematical learning.

For every math unit, select 2-4 children’s books that contain situations related to the concepts and that allow students to use new skills and strategies. Be sure to choose wisely!

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Using Literature for Problem Solving- Steps to Experiencing the Literature

  • Sept. 14, 2017, 4:01 p.m.

Reading aloud helps students expand their vocabulary and connect mathematical thinking to real life situations. Stories help students organize, store, and retrieve conceptual information related to the skills, strategies, and processes needed to think mathematically.

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How to use Literature to Engage Students in Problem Solving

  • Sept. 13, 2017, 4:01 p.m.

Children’s books provide a perfect starting point for engaging students in authentic problem solving. Students need time to hypothesize and experiment with strategies in real world situations. Stories provide a context that helps students construct conceptual understanding of math ideas.

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Teaching Children Executive Skills

  • Sept. 10, 2017, 3:59 p.m.

While at the International Literacy Association Conference this summer, I attended a session that focused on helping struggling readers develop executive skills for academic success. Kelly Cartwright, author of Executive Skills and Reading Comprehension, A Guide for Educators, made a research-based case that many students are not experiencing success because of underlying issues. These executive function issues are not evident of the surface, but can easily be identified and addressed. Her research has found that executive skills begin to develop early and are a good predictor of proficient reading in grades two and beyond.


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Read Alouds Are For All Ages

  • Aug. 2, 2017, 3:58 p.m.

Do you remember teachers reading aloud to you in school? I was blessed with teachers who read aloud in elementary and secondary school.

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No More Leveled Classroom Libraries

  • July 28, 2017, 3:54 p.m.

We've talked to several first year teachers this weekend who asked for ideas for setting up a classroom library. Here are some pictures of libraries I've seen in some outstanding literacy-based classrooms. The classroom library should be a focal point of the room. Notice in the pictures that texts are arranged so that students will be drawn to them.The books are not in leveled baskets; They are sorted by genre, topic, or authors. Leveled texts are for the teacher to use during guided reading. Students develop an understanding of how to choose just right books during the first few weeks of school through class discussion and conferring with the teacher.

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Setting up a Summer Read Box

  • June 4, 2017, 3:51 p.m.

Summer is a great time to set up a Read Box for your classroom. Make it a goal to record a couple of books (or chapters) each week. Here is how to make a recording with the a QR code.

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Preparing for Next Year During the Summer

  • June 3, 2017, 3:51 p.m.

Summer is a great time to throw out the old. My rule is, if you haven't used it in a year, throw it out! Education is constantly changing and that means that you are constantly collecting new teaching tools.

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5 Ways to Prevent Reading Loss

  • June 3, 2017, 3:50 p.m.

Summer is a much needed break for both teachers and students, but it can be a time of academic loss, too. Just like athletes who take an extended break from using muscles and skills, students who do not read over the summer will regress in fluency, comprehension, and vocabulary. Here are 5 ways teachers and parents can prevent reading loss.

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Celebrate Poetry Month!

  • May 17, 2017, 3:49 p.m.

Next month, April, is National Poetry Month. National Poetry Month officially started back in 1996 by the Academy of National Poets. The month is dedicated to celebrating, reading, and writing poetry of all forms. Here are some ways to celebrate poets and their poetry in your school or classroom!

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Literature Circles Fundamentals

  • May 8, 2017, 3:48 p.m.

Literature circles are meant to be a student-led way of practicing ALL essential reading skills, fluency and comprehension. Students get together to discuss the meaning of a text that they have read independently.

Here are 4 big ideas that will lead to successful literature Circles.


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Fluency Techniques

  • May 7, 2017, 3:48 p.m.

Each day, fluent reading is being practiced. Here are some fluency techniques to help your students read with prosody and for meaning during your shared reading time.

Echo Reading

Echo reading is "I read you, then you repeat read". This is an easy reading confidence builder.

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Shared Reading in the Balanced Literacy Classroom

  • May 7, 2017, 3:46 p.m.

Shared reading is a dynamic practicing strategy for all students learning how to understand the meanings of texts. Using short texts that can be read in five to ten minute practice sessions, teachers can read with students to scaffold practice in thinking within, beyond, and about a text.

This guided practice technique helps readers understand and apply good reader thinking and fluent, meaning-making reading. The teacher's role is to model and closely monitor student thinking and oral reading. Teachers should gradually release the thinking to students as they practice the mental processes for efficient reading. Texts should be read several times for specific purposes.

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The Power of Readers' Theater

  • April 10, 2017, 3:45 p.m.

Readers' Theater is a great tool to use year round, but ESPECIALLY this time of year! Students are in the midst of reviewing and practicing for end of year assessments. They may need ways to boost their fluency and comprehension. Reader's theater is an instructional strategy that does both!

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RTI Reading: Techniques for Processing Learning

  • April 10, 2017, 3:43 p.m.

Meeting the needs of every student can be rewarding yet exhausting at the same time! Here are some fresh instructional ideas for helping students to process their learning.

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Habit of the Mind: Creating, Imagining, Innovating

  • April 9, 2017, 3:38 p.m.

It is important for children to be creative as they engage in projects and new ways to solve problems in the classroom. This is intrinsically motivating. Modeling and discussing what it looks like to imagine, create and innovate is the best way to promote this habit of the mind. Here are some texts and a video to help spark the discussion in your school or classroom.


This short video is a great way to illustrate Creating, Imagining, and innovating. The video includes some historical features about how people have been innovative and changed the way we have done tasks. It also uses uses the habit of the mind specifically in improving writing!

Click here to watch and use!


This is a great text to show students how your imagination can take you on great journeys and help you problem solve. Walk along with Harold as he draws his story! Habits of the mind: Creating, Imagining, Innovating, Responding with Wonderment and Awe, Gathering Data Through all Senses.

Watch the video story here!



Max's brothers have great collections that they do not let him touch or be apart of. Max decides to start his own collection of words! Max's collection just needs a little imagination to make a story! Habits of the mind: Creating, Imagining, Innovating, Thinking Flexibly.

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Literature Circles Tip

  • March 15, 2017, 3:37 p.m.


One important component of literature circles or book clubs is student choice! Having students choose or vote on the circle or club they would like to join is a strategy that will motivate and engage your readers.

Voting Day

One way that I incorporated student choice in to literature circles was by hosting a "Voting Day" to kick off a new round of circles. I would have 4-5 texts that I had pre-selected for circles. I would introduce each text with either a book trailer from Youtube or a quick book talk. My goal was to create excitement about the books or texts. Students would cast their vote for their top two text picks. All of the voting was confidential.

The next day when they returned to school, I announced who was in each circle. I tried to grant students their first text choice, but sometimes their second choice was a better fit. This was always an exciting day in our classroom!


For more tips or information on literature circles of book clubs, attend one of our literature circles seminars this May! Click Here for more information!

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Countdown to Assessment Strategies

  • March 15, 2017, 3:36 p.m.

With state assessments fast approaching, many educators are "teaching with their hair on fire!" We are all trying to get as much review and practice in as possible and make sure to revisit all the tested standards. Sound familiar?

Here are 3 strategies to consider when planning!

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Habits of the Mind: Questioning & Problem Posing

  • March 14, 2017, 3:35 p.m.

Questioning and problem posing is a strategy of a wise individual. Children naturally question everything around them with "What is that? Why? Where?" All of this is an attempt to construct meaning of the world around them.

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Ideas Are All Around

  • Feb. 15, 2017, 10:16 a.m.

I got the chance to attend "What's New In Children's Literature" presented by Judy Freeman. She shared so many books and ideas for helping students read and write just for the love of it!!

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Super Bowl Commercials in the Classroom

  • Feb. 14, 2017, 10:15 a.m.

Super Bowl commercials are not only one of the best parts of the Super Bowl, they are great to use in the classroom! I love to use commercials in the same way that I would use a text during a lesson. Commercials are great catalyst to teaching and practicing metacognitive processes, such as summarizing, inferring, and making connections. Here are some funny commercials to use with your students this month!

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Parent Involvement Ideas for Spring 2017

  • Feb. 13, 2017, 3:52 p.m.

Read Across America Day is fast approaching! RAD is on March 2nd each year in celebration of Dr. Seuss' birthday! This year, invite parents to join in the fun!

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Great Reads for Math

  • Feb. 11, 2017, 4:39 p.m.

Browse through some of Kelly's personal favorites and professional recommendations for succesful Math instruction. 

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Parent Tip: Closed Caption

  • Jan. 4, 2017, 3:51 p.m.

One of the best ways to get your young children reading is to turn on the closed caption setting on your TV's.

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Genre Knowledge

  • Jan. 4, 2017, 3:50 p.m.

One of the most frequently asked questions that I get from educators is 'What is the best way to teach my students to read critically?' The answer is complex and deserves a full day, week, or year discussion. The best place to start with your students is to make sure your students use genre knowledge to process texts. Yes, genre knowledge is the foundation of comprehension!

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Habit of the Mind: Striving for Accuracy

  • Jan. 3, 2017, 3:50 p.m.

Striving for accuracy is the seeking or desiring exactness or something to be even better than before. When I think about accuracy I think about perfection. While it is impossible to be perfect, it's not impossible to strive to be better than you were before. I love this quote from William J.H. Boetcker, “Never mind what others do; do better than yourself, beat your own record from day to day, and you are a success.” Teach your students that striving to be better each day is more important than simply being perfect. This can be a great tie-in when you are goal setting and tracking student progress in the new year!

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Early Childhood: Questions and Answers

  • Jan. 2, 2017, 3:48 p.m.

Language comes before literacy. Young learners need to listen, look, talk and question. Try our Questions and Answers activity during your morning circle time to get students producing language with increasing ease and accuracy.

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Habits of the Mind: Thinking Flexibly

  • Nov. 6, 2016, 3:46 p.m.

The Art of Seeing Alternatives

The skill of a great thinker in to be able to think flexibly. When we think flexibly we see other prospectives, generate alternatives, and consider other options. It's easy to say, "That's impossible" or "That will never work" but, being able to look at the situation and try to solve it or think flexibly is the sign of a growth mindset!

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Text Suggestions for November

  • Nov. 6, 2016, 3:46 p.m.

When we choose texts for our students to read, we should choose texts that require students to use the metacognitive strategies in our learning targets to process the text and capture students' interests! Texts can and should be used more than once. Think of how many times you have watched your favorite movie. Each time, you discover or learn something new. It's a great time of the year to use texts that focus on our American traditions and history while having fun reading various types of texts.

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Spooky Reading & Writing Activities

  • Oct. 2, 2016, 4:43 p.m.

October is a month full of spook & treats! Incorporating student interests into your reading and writing block is a win-win for students and educators. Here are some fun ways to get students excited about reading and writing in October!

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Habits of the Mind: Listening With Empathy & Understanding

  • Oct. 1, 2016, 4:42 p.m.

The Art of Listening

Sometimes the most important thing you can do for someone is to simply listen. As easy as this sounds, it's actually not! Listening is a skill that takes both self control and compassion for others. When you stop and listen, you are putting aside yourself and focusing on others. Listening with empathy and understanding is one essential skill that students need to see modeled, authentically practiced, and discussed often.

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First Up: Help Students Develop & Use Genre Knowledge for Strategic Reading

  • Sept. 5, 2016, 4:41 p.m.

Why is Genre Knowledge Critical?

Start the year off building the students' knowledge of genre in order to think more critically about every text they encounter this year. Good readers use genre knowledge to get beyond surface-level comprehension. They orient themselves to each text and select comprehension strategies based upon the demands of the text. For example, you would think about character actions in a fiction text and key ideas in an expository text.

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Getting the Day Started: #daystarters

  • Sept. 4, 2016, 4:41 p.m.

The first five-to-eight minutes of class sets the stage for the learning. Students need (and want) to be engaged and thinking from the moment they walk into our classrooms. Sometimes this can become a daunting task with all the morning routines we must complete before the first lesson of the day can begin. Being organized and intentionally incorporating student interests and natural curiosity will wake up the brain, get dendrites excited, and synapses firing!

We have compiled a list of some ways to wake up the brain and get students in a learning ready state of mind.

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Habits of the Mind: How to Help Students Manage Impulsivity

  • Sept. 2, 2016, 4:40 p.m.

The purpose of school is to teach children strategies for becoming successful adults. Students need to learn academic skills and academic behaviors that will help them succeed in the classroom and in challenging life situations. Costa and Kallick have identified 16 habits of mind that help us respond intelligently when charting unfamiliar territories.

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Back-To-School Activities

  • Aug. 2, 2016, 4:39 p.m.

The beginning of the year is all about building RELATIONSHIPS and ROUTINES. As educators, we must build relationships with our students before they will trust our instruction and dive deep into learning. Here are several relationship building activities to do the first couple of weeks of school that will get your students reading, writing, and moving!

Scavenger Hunt / I Have, Who Has

The goal of this activity is for students to find out something special about each of their classmates. They will discover that they have many things in common and a few differences. This is a great opportunity for students to get up and move around the room too!

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The Walls of Your Classroom are Valuable Real Estate

  • Aug. 2, 2016, 4:38 p.m.

Here are some ideas for using your wall space to maximize learning.

Classroom Walls

The walls in your classroom should be thought of as great spaces to post critical information students will need to refer to as they learn new skills, strategies, and processes. You should designated areas for anchor charts and student work to be displayed. Here are some ideas for your designated areas.

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Teaching A Growth Mindset

  • July 31, 2016, 4:36 p.m.

The beginning of the year sets the tone for you and your students' entire school year. Educators have the task of creating a positive learning environment and setting the attitude and perception of their classroom. What are you doing to help your students establish or continue to have a growth mindset?

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Summer Ideas for Students, Parents, & Educators

  • May 4, 2016, 4:36 p.m.

Maximize summer learning time by capitalizing on curiosity and personal interests. Here are some great ideas for parents and educators to help students grow dendrites during June, July, and August. Enjoy!

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Questions Please!

  • March 30, 2016, 4:35 p.m.

Learners who are invested in the learning naturally question as they process new ideas or concepts.  They ask interpretive, literal, evaluative, and universal questions. 

Whoever asks the questions, does the learning. 

Here are some ways to scaffold your students’ thinking over time so they become more aware of the act of questioning to learn. 

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Spring Lesson: The Rigorous Bunny

  • March 6, 2016, 3:32 p.m.

Using Youtube in the classroom is a powerful tool for student engagement and authentic instruction. I love to use Youtube with adults and students to increase the complexity of thinking in a unique way. Here is an example to use in your classroom this spring!

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Strategy Focus: Close Reading

  • Feb. 10, 2016, 3:31 p.m.

Close reading is the act of careful and purposeful reading (and rereading) of a text. We reread texts several times to focus on comprehension, text structure, elements, rhetorical devices, and author's craft. The students' knowledge of genre is crucial for close reading. Texts must be brief because the amount of thinking and reading is heavy and their focus needs to be narrowed.

"Repeated reading improves comprehension." -Doug Fisher

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The Academy Awards of Reading

  • Feb. 10, 2016, 3:30 p.m.

It’s that time of year again! The Academy Awards are coming for the best books in your classroom library! Have your students nominate the best books, articles, poems, and authors they have read this year.

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Tween Tribune- A Great Online Reading Resource

  • Dec. 28, 2015, 3:26 p.m.

Tween Tribune, powered by The Smithsonian Institution, publishes an online collection of news articles for K-12th grade students and teachers.

Articles can be found on four sites:

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Instructional Crunch Time

  • Dec. 7, 2015, 3:26 p.m.

Recently I was asked my opinion about how much time should be spent on ELAR in the elementary classroom each day. I started thinking about how much instruction and practice it takes to reach our literacy goals. Students need hourly opportunities to use language and literacy skills if they are to continuously grow in their reading and writing skills. By the end of the year, not only should the student be at a higher reading level, but be able to explain and select strategies that they use to process a variety of complex texts.

Instructional time should be organized to ensure that students are listening, speaking, reading, and writing in all areas of the curriculum. If students are doing activities that do not deepen their understanding and help them process at deep levels of comprehension, we should discard the activity and use the time for more authentic and meaningful practice opportunities. Anything else is distraction that prevents the learning goals from being achieved as quickly as possible.

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Close Reading FYI

  • Oct. 20, 2015, 4:24 p.m.

Close Reading has certainly become a BUZZ word in the reading education world. Here are 3 essentials to know about Close Reading.

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Using Selfies to Build Positive Relationships

  • Aug. 6, 2015, 4:22 p.m.

Start the year with selfies! Have students create a self-portrait to post on a classroom “Wall of Fame.” You can use technology if it is available and printing is easy.

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Practice Matters!

  • Sept. 30, 2014, 4:16 p.m.

As I travel around to different districts and schools, I've noticed a difference in definition when it comes to shared, guided and independent practice. Having common verbiage and practice is crucial to students' success.

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Classroom Set-Up Must Haves

  • July 9, 2014, 5:38 p.m.

One of the best things about being a teacher is getting to set-up your classroom for the upcoming school year! (Especially your first year!) Sometimes getting a classroom ready can be an overwhelming task, what with bulletin boards, decor, student seating, storage, a library, and many curriculum subjects to think about.

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Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!

  • March 1, 2014, 4:37 p.m.

In honor of Dr. Seuss’ Birthday on March 2, have your class participate in Read Across America Day on March 3rd. Here are 6 ways you can get your students excited about reading.

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Getting Ready for Reader’s Workshop

  • Aug. 10, 2013, 5:37 p.m.

Before the first day of school, prepare your classroom for a great year of independent reading. Make a goal to keep a record of all the texts you read aloud to your class. Start by creating a poster for the Class Reading List. Record everything that you read aloud to your class. Begin on day one. How many books, articles, poems, etc. will you read aloud to your class this year?

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Let’s Review! Actively Engaging Your Students in Reviewing Content

  • Oct. 9, 2012, 5:36 p.m.

Here are a couple of ideas that take about 5 minutes of class time and get learners actively processing content from previous lessons.

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Designing Your Classroom Space

  • March 9, 2012, 4:32 p.m.

When teaching lessons to a large group of students, I prefer to gather them in a whole group meeting area. I find this eliminates the distractions

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10 Ways to Use Tumblebooks to Accelerate Literacy Skills

  • Aug. 15, 2011, 5:24 p.m.

TumbleBook Library is an online collection of animated, talking picture books which teach young children the joys of reading in a format they'll love.

Many public libraries have made the resource available on their website for library members. Schools may purchase a site license for a minimal fee.

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Reading Books During Math Time

  • April 4, 2011, 5:08 p.m.

Do your students love read aloud time? Can you see the wonder in their faces when you turn a good page or reveal an incredible illustration? Imagine extending such magic into the tasks you face in math... there is nothing like quality literature to unlock the secret behind a given concept, to extend the meaning of a term, or approach a topic from a new point of view. Authors have joined this effort and penned incredible covers spanning topics as simple as shapes and patterns to the more complex concept of circumference or probability. 

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Daily Café

  • Feb. 2, 2011, 4:04 p.m.

Are there crickets chirping in your classroom? Don’t know what I mean? Just ask a struggling reader to summarize that piece of nonfiction text, name the key point, or list the supporting details… most of the time, they are at such a loss for words that all your hear is crickets. So, what can you do to help that reader navigate through an extensive piece of nonfiction and sift through the facts to uncover what’s most important?

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Summarizing Nonfiction

  • Feb. 2, 2011, 4:03 p.m.

Are there crickets chirping in your classroom? Don’t know what I mean? Just ask a struggling reader to summarize that piece of nonfiction text, name the key point, or list the supporting details… most of the time, they are at such a loss for words that all your hear is crickets. So, what can you do to help that reader navigate through an extensive piece of nonfiction and sift through the facts to uncover what’s most important?

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Collect Critical Vocabulary with Alphaboxes

  • Nov. 22, 2010, 4 p.m.

Alphaboxes is a great strategy for collecting and using key vocabulary that your students can use with content vocabulary or with collections of character traits or rich words. Before reading have students brainstorm words related to the topic or concept. You can also give students a list of key words to look for in the text. During reading, have students add words that are unfamiliar or important to the topic. After reading a selection, give the students 3-5 minutes to work with a partner to compare words listed on the chart and fill in the alphaboxes with as many words from the reading as they deem important for understanding. The words can be stated or implied in the text. Remind students that only “important” or key words are added to the alphaboxes chart.

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Reading is Thinking!

  • Nov. 8, 2010, 4 p.m.

The most important skill students need to learn is how to think! If students can think about their own thinking and determine the strategy that he/she needs to use in any given situation, success in that situation can happen. As educators and parents, we must be explicit in teaching thinking by modeling our own processes out loud and then providing opportunities to use thinking strategies with various levels of scaffolding. We must take students from concrete situations to sensory-type situations that use different learning modalities to reading texts that require higher level thinking. In Tanny McGregor’s book Comprehension Connections (2007), she provides tangible examples that demonstrate effective practices for the classroom and home. I’ve created a quick chart that lists research-based meta-cognitive strategies, definitions, and activities that start at the concrete level and take students to the abstract use of the strategy.

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Summarization Strategies

  • Nov. 4, 2010, 4:58 p.m.

Asking students to summarize reading requires them to think at the level of analysis and synthesis. In order to become fluent summarizers, many students benefit from graphic organizers that scaffold or guide thinking about what is important in the text. Simply having a structure for organizing thinking can greatly increase student success.

For narrative texts in which characters have problems or conflicts, the most effective strategy for summarizing is the “Somebody-Wanted-But-So-Then” framework. Start with the graphic organizer on a poster board or white board and the discussion of a familiar movie or TV show episode. For example, using Shrek (the movie), I complete the chart by thinking aloud.

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What Should Students Do While the Teacher Works with a Small Group?

  • Oct. 1, 2010, 5:46 p.m.

Students need to read and write for authentic reasons in order to increase proficiency. The Daily 5 is a framework developed by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser for organizing independent-level activities that students can do for purposeful practice of strategies and skills.

To begin, teachers meet with students and develop anchor charts that explicitly describe what students and teachers are doing in each of the 5 choices areas. Students are guided to make choices for independent work time that will help them achieve learning goals. Students practice one of the 5 choices while the teacher observes and coaches appropriate independent behavior. After 4-5 weeks, teachers begin meeting with guided reading or do 1:1 conferences while the other children are engaged in one of the 5 choices.

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