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Let's Talk About Levels . . . .


This post contains affiliate links which means Amazon tosses me some change whenever someone makes a purchase through one of these links and allows me feed my book habit!

I've shared on the blog and my Instagram feed before about my love for this book:


One of the reasons I love The Literacy Continuum so much is the demystifying of guided reading levels.  This takes the understanding of levels from more words/harder words to building an understanding of the actual reading process that happens for readers.  As a reading teacher, it helps me understanding why things start to fall apart so quickly for students as they get older when we have only had a more words/harder words focus.

How to use a deeper understanding of guided reading levels to support student growth without defining them by a level label.

I love this section.  I wish it was available separately because it would be so valuable to have next to you while planning lessons.  I *MIGHT* have even emailed Heinemann to see if it could be published as a stand alone resource.  

I love levels!  But there's a big asterisk on that love.


Using levels as a tool for helping us understand how to support readers is not the same as using them as a student's identity.

I saw this on Facebook one day from Kylene Beers and was immediately horrified.


I was so horrified because I did this.  I talked about kids this way.  I was not using levels as a way to understand reading development but to define readers.

If you see this in yourself, here are a few (super short) resources to help you think more deeply about it.

This is the original post from Kylene Beers connected to that image.

And here is a post from the Fountas and Pinnell Community Blog that sums it up beautifully.  It is titled, "A Level is Teacher's Tool, NOT a Child's Label"


Circling around to where we began with The Literacy Continuum, deeply understanding levels of progression for readers becomes even more important because it allows us to speak with parents, students, colleagues, and even ourselves about reading behaviors vs a label that has no meaning to those outside of the education profession.

This school year I challenge you to make a mental shift from thinking and talking about levels and transition to discussing reading behaviors of your students instead.


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July Desktop

Happy July to you!  The first of July is a little bittersweet.  Because we start school in mid August, I know once July is over we'll be back in the craziness that is the school year.  BUT for now, July is all ice cream and summertime and fun.


Grab this sweet background by clicking here or on the image below.  How cute is that ice cream background from Hello Talli???


Hope you have a wonderful July!


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June Desktop

Happy happy June to you! Schools out and I'm ready for sleeping late, relaxing, reading too late at night, and spending extra time with my family.


Grab this summery background by clicking here or on the image below.  How gorgeous is that pineapple graphic by Kenna Sato Designs???


Hope you have a wonderful June!


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May Desktop

Happy May to you! So many fun things to look forward to this month-my birthday and wrapping up the school year are just two of them.


Grab this fun background with graphics from Daria Miazhevich to brighten up your computer.  You can click here or on the image below to download the background.


Hope you have a wonderful May!


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Not This But That: Vocabulary Instruction


This post contains affiliate links which means Amazon tosses me some change whenever someone makes a purchase through one of these links and allows me feed my book habit!

Have you checked out any of the titles from Heinemann's Not This But That book series?  They're bite size literacy versions of awesome.  They're small and each book is under 100 pages from start to finish.  The books in this series are divided into three sections:

Not This: This section is an overview of a common instruction practice.

Why Not? What Works?: The second section of the book focuses on what we know about best practice for the topic.

But That: And the final section focuses on implementation of these ideas in our classrooms.

Here are a some of the titles available:
You can see a full list from Heinemann here and here's an Amazon list if you like getting books in 2 days.  #primespoiledmeforlife

This month I read No More "Look Up the List" Vocabulary Instruction.  It was a huge eye opener.
Know your vocabulary instruction is lacking but not sure how to make the change?  This book is a perfect (and fast) overview of what works in vocabulary instruction as well as what doesn't.

Vocabulary is the red headed step child of literacy instruction and one I don't feel I have a strong understanding of.  I loved this book and think it's amazing resource for getting a quick but deep understanding of the challenges of vocabulary instruction as well as strategies that work.

Why?

Because authentically teaching vocabuary is hard.  Why is it so hard to move beyond look up the list instruction?  "Yet we continue to teach this way.  Why? Like most of us, we default to teaching the way we were taught." Unlike guided reading, conferring, and book clubs, there just isn't a ton out there for teachers on how to teach vocabulary.

Aha Moment

I love this quote.  "You'll learn ways to help students realize that words are something they can acquire and that by learning the right strategies they can be successful, independent word learners."
Teaching kids to be independent words learners > trying to teaching students individual words.  Duh.  How did I never think of that????

I Wish

There was a greater awareness of thinking of teaching vocabulary as multi-faceted.  This book breaks it down into four components:

•Foster word consciousness
•Provide rich and varied language experiences
•Teach individual words (even this is broken into three levels)
•Teach word learning strategies

Reading about the multiple components of teaching vocabulary instruction only confirms even more so that looking up words in the dictionary or using vocabulary workbooks helps us check off the vocabulary box in our lesson plans but misses the mark with our students.

Surprise

The power of self-selection.  In a study on fourth grade students, researchers found that self-selection did not water down vocabulary.  Instead students chose words of greater difficulty, and they learned the words they selected.
Let's be honest, we can sometimes sell our students short.  However, "Choice has been identified as a powerful force that allows students to take ownership and responsibility for their learning.  Studies indicate that motivation increases when students have opportunities to make choices about what they learn and when they believe they have autonomy or control over their learning." (Gambrell, 2011)  It only makes sense that this would be true within vocabulary instruction.

Good For . . .

An language arts or content area teacher.  This book does a good job of addressing the varying vocabulary needs across the curriculum.  Whether you have a language arts focus or are a content area teacher, this book speaks to the vocabulary needs in your classroom.

Wise Words

Know your vocabulary instruction is lacking but not sure how to make the change?  This book is a perfect (and fast) overview of what works in vocabulary instruction as well as what doesn't.

Know your vocabulary instruction is lacking but not sure how to make the change?  This book is a perfect (and fast) overview of what works in vocabulary instruction as well as what doesn't.

Know your vocabulary instruction is lacking but not sure how to make the change?  This book is a perfect (and fast) overview of what works in vocabulary instruction as well as what doesn't.

Know your vocabulary instruction is lacking but not sure how to make the change?  This book is a perfect (and fast) overview of what works in vocabulary instruction as well as what doesn't.
I hope you'll dive deep into vocabulary instruction with No More "Look Up the List" Vocabulary Instruction.  I love the format of this series with and plan to read more.  Any other vocabulary must reads I need to add to my list?


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5 Tips for Guided Reading in Kindergarten

This post contains affiliate links which means Amazon tosses me some change whenever someone makes a purchase through one of these links and allows me feed my book habit!

I have spent the last month or so working with a guided reading group in kindergarten.  Joining these friends has been the highlight of my day.  They are darling and hysterical and so very fun.
Can't decide if #3 or #5 is my favorite.  5 tips for guided reading in kindergarten.


1. Plan ahead

Y'all.  This is no joke.  Kindergarteners come at you 90 miles an hour.  You need a game plan before the little people come to you.  I can wing it okay, but it's a lot harder in Kindergarten because a large chunk of my mental energy is spent keeping everyone on task.  If you're going to think big picture about your students' growth and where you want them to be, planning is not optional.
If  you're looking to learn more about the how, what, and why of guided reading, Jan Richardson's The Next Step Forward in Guided Reading is an excellent resource.  If you're looking to plan for groups more thoughtfully, I really love Debbie Diller's Making the Most of Small Groups.
The Next Step Forward in Guided Reading is a must!! If you're not sure how to teach guided reading, this book will get you there. Excellent resource for how to plan strategically for guided reading groups.


2. Be ready to change plans

Having said that planning is important, be ready to switch gears.  I had several things I'd planned to focus on with my group of kinder friends, but one thing became glaringly evident: they were not checking their picture based guesses to make sure they matched.  Not even a little bit.  Real conversation:

Me: That's a great guess!  That matches the picture.  Does it match the letters?
Kinder friend: Yes!
Me: You're not even looking at the page.  How do you know it matches the letters?
Kinder friend: I just know.

My lesson focus shifted away from what I had originally planned to work on self monitoring because I know that's a key skill and one that often makes it difficult for kiddos to transition from level 3 to level 4 on the DRA.


3. Become an expert

This is a big one.  And probably the most important one.  There is no guided reading resource you can purchase that will negate the need for you understanding what readers need at varying levels.  What we see on the surface of guided reading books is that gradually there are more words on the page and those words get harder.  There is so much more to know about the needs of readers at these levels.  This book is a must:
Awesome resource!! The description of each guided reading level is so thorough and detailed.
One of the most valuable resources you can own is The Literacy Continuum by Fountas and Pinnell.  And here's why:
Awesome resource!! The description of each guided reading level is so thorough and detailed.

Awesome resource!! The description of each guided reading level is so thorough and detailed.

Awesome resource!! The description of each guided reading level is so thorough and detailed.
Let's be honest-did you even think there was that much to know about a Level D book???  I was shocked about how much is possible with these simple texts.

This book is not cheap, so it's best if your school gets a copy.  If that's not in the cards, then my best suggestion is to watch it on Heinemann.  They run matching online codes when they offer one at a big conference.  My school was able to get 7 copies for 30% list price and free shipping because we purchased online while there was a big conference going on somewhere else.


4. Extend the pattern

Group books are the best! One of the books we read was On the Farm.  It was all about animals that live on the farm.  Each page followed a predictable pattern.
I made a super simple page on my computer, so we could make an In the Zoo book that followed the same pattern.  Each child made his/her own page.  I copied the pages, so each child had his own book.  It gave us a chance to practice listening to and recording sounds, more practice with sight words, and an extra special book to add to book boxes for rereading.

Extending the pattern can happen on the fly, too.  Here was a quick extension for A Hug is as Warm as:
Each child took a turn whispering the word in my ear.  I drew the picture (which gave them a chance to make a prediction) then wrote the word (allowing them a chance to confirm the prediction.)


5. Question Students When They're Right

We as teachers have gotten so good with reading strategies that we're ready to swoop in when kids have trouble.  Only asking does that look right/does that make sense when students are wrong trains them to not think about what they're reading.  They don't need to question it because we're ready and waiting to swoop in when they're wrong.
Instead of confirming a student's correct approximation, ask her if it makes sense, and then if it sounds right.
At first they'll tell you no because they're used to only being asked that when they're wrong.  Your kiddos will look super confused BECAUSE THAT'S NOT HOW THIS WORKS.  You'll probably need to intervene because they'll be busy trying to work out what else the word could possibly be.  The good news is kindergarteners are super flexible and will catch on quickly.


Bonus Tip! Target dollar spot makes it fun.

I cannot overstate how much more engaged kindergarten friends are when you involve a little novelty.  Whether it's little erasers, fun sunglasses with the lenses removed, finger pointers, or whatever nonsense you find at the Target dollar spot, a little engagement goes a long way.


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April Desktop

Hey there!  I'm so happy April is here.  It means summer is sneaking up, and that's always a good thing.

This little bunny is so cute sailing away in his hot air balloon.  I'm ready to sail away to spring and into summer with him!  These darling graphics are from PeaceArtShop on Etsy.  You can click here to download the calendar or click on the image below.


I hope you have a wonderful April!


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