Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The DOs and DO NOTs of Formative Assessments

I'm linking up with Miss DeCarbo over at Sugar and Spice for another Wordless Wednesday linky party.  This edition includes the DOs and DO NOTs of Formative Assessments.  Take a peek at the picture below.  Thoughts?  Do you use Formative Assessments in your classroom?
To read more, click HERE.

Don't forget to link up your Wordless Wednesday!

Enjoy your day!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Five for Friday with RtI Activities

I'm linking up with Doodle Bugs for another edition of Five for Friday, but I'll be adding a bonus at the end!  Here are some things my students and I have been up to in the past week.  Many more pictures about the happenings in my RtI intervention groups are posted in Instagram, so feel free to take a peek! :)

I created a "Guess Who Loves to Read?" board of the staff members reading their favorite books, but their faces are semi-hidden.  Some teachers decided to wear disguises, which sparked even more student interest! :)  I attached QR Codes to each picture, so the students are able to check if their guesses are correct.  We're a 1:1 school, so every classroom has access to iPads.  I've seen some classes taking *field trips* to the board! 

 I use the Fountas and Pinnell Leveled Literacy Intervention kit with my RtI students.  Some of the writing lessons require dictated sentences.  To make those sentences and our writing a tad more entertaining, I gave my students Halloween-themed erasers to represent words in dictated sentences.  We also used the erasers to represent sounds in words containing digraphs and vowel diphthongs. 

One of my RtI groups worked on root words and suffixes this week.  We used paint color strips I picked up from Home Depot (FREE of charge!!).  I laminated the strips, so they can be used throughout the year with dry erase markers.  It's funny how little laminated strips can be so motivating for students!

I've been using a program called Rime Magic with my students.  I learned about it at the Illinois Reading Conference.  I purchased and began implementing the program immediately and have been seeing great results.  It's a program to teach students decoding skills and how to start from the center of a word and work outwards.   It only takes up 5 minutes of the day, too.   To see videos of the students working with the program, see my Instagram account. Love it!

We've been working hard locating text evidence to support thoughts on our reading.  After the students were asked questions about the reading, they had to provide reasons for their thoughts and support within the text.  "Prove it with evidence!" was our saying for the week.  They did an amazing job!  In addition, the F&P LLI kits include series of books.  Moosling is a book series and a character the students interact with often.  I photocopied the cover of a Moosling book (because I am NOT an artist) and then brainstormed Moosling's character traits with the students.   They were then required to go back into the text to find evidence to support the traits.  So far, so great!

Last but not least, Literacy Loving Gals was nominated for the Liebster Award!  So thrilling!  Click HERE to read more about it.  :) :) :)

Well, there's a peek into the week of a Reading Specialist.  Don't forget to link up with Doodle Bugs for your Five.  Feel free to follow LLG on Instagram, Twitter, Bloglovin'Pinterest, and Facebook, or link up on the Blog with Us tab!

Enjoy your weekend!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Liebster Award Nomination!

A big thank you to Allie Bond over at The Positive Teacher for nominating me for this award!  When I saw Allie's nominations include "Colleen from Literacy Loving Gals", my heart smiled.  The Liebster Award is for bloggers who have less than 200 followers but have great content and potential! :)

1. Why and how long ago did you start blogging?  During the summer I attended a Blogging PD on July 1, 2014.  The PD was available in my school district to encourage teachers to share their teaching successes through the blogging platform.  Michelle Brezek over at BigTime Literacy was our blogging presenter.  If you aren't familiar with her, she's fabulous!  On that warm, sunny day in July, I became a blogger.  Starting on that day, I began (and was able to complete) a 31-day Blogging Challenge hosted by BigTime Literacy and became hooked.  After reading numerous blogs over the past few years to gain insight from others, I decided perhaps I have ideas to contribute as well.  I'm glad to pay it forward to those in the blogging world.  I love collaborating with others and have become very close with my school's reading team, but why not expand my horizons and meet fabulous teachers all over the world through blogging? :) 

2. What one word sums up the heart of your blog and why? Enlightenment.  I am constantly being enlightened when collaborating with teachers and reading various blog posts written by teachers.  There are some amazing bloggers out in the world sharing their knowledge for FREE!  Why not soak up as much knowledge as you can?  Bloglovin', Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook accounts held by teachers are my daily go-to places for enlightenment. 
     3. Is there something you learned late in your blogging journey you wished you knew before? Well, so far so good, I guess.  I don't know what I don't know, if you catch my drift.  So far, I feel everything is running smoothly.  The road on my blogging journey has been bump-free, thanks to Michelle Brezek over at BigTime Literacy and THE READING CREW group I belong to on Facebook.  They're all so talented and helpful.  They support me and answer my blogging questions whenever needed.  Thanks, Ladies! ;)

4. What is your favorite past time other than blogging?  Besides spending time with my family and friends, I enjoy exercising.  My favorite form of exercise is boxing.  It really gets my heart rate up and my stress-level down.  Keep in mind, I box purely for endorphins and don't hit any person, just a bag.  :)

5. How many hours per week do you dedicate to your blog?  I dedicate about three or four hours (give or take) to my blog each week.  Even if I haven't written and published a post in a week, I'm constantly updating my Instagram, Twitter and Facebook accounts with happenings in my classroom, as well as researching ideas to share on my blog. :)

6. What category of blog posts do you enjoy the most? Organization!  I love when things are organized, so I'm all about tips on organization for school, home and life, in general.   

7. Where does your blog inspiration come from? My inspiration comes from my own teaching experiences over the past 19 years and from teachers I've met personally, as well as virtually through Twitter, Instagram, Blogs, Pinterest and Facebook.

8. Which post that you've written are you most proud of? Well, it's not necessarily one post, but I must say completing the 31-Day Blogging Challenge was a proud moment for me.  I managed to  post every single day and even stuck to the topics on the calendar.  Please remember, I was not in the routine of writing anything down on a daily basis!  It was quite challenging for me to come up with thoughts on most of the prompts.  However, what I loved most about the challenge was the opportunity it provided to become more reflective on my teaching practices and it started me on the road to becoming a blogger. :) 
9. Is there any post you have been planning to do, but have postponing it for a while now?
Yes!  I have been planning (only in my head so far) a post about using challenging texts during guided reading.  I learned much about it during my IRC 2014 experience while listening to Dr. Timothy Shanahan from Shanahan on Literacy.

10. What is your favorite aspect of blogging?  Blogging fosters self-reflection which supports my professional growth. 

11. Which recipe, project, or idea on my blog would you be most likely to try yourself? I recently joined Allie's Twitter account and have learned much from her already in regards to Readers Workshop and the writing process.  I'm quite sure I'll be putting her wonderful anchor charts to good use with my students. :)     

So here are my nominations for the Liebster Award:
1. Princess Netherly from Teaching, Love and Cupcakes
2. Pixie Ann from Growing Little Learners
3. Alyce Bartel from Mrs. Bartel's School Family
4. Adriana Caballero from Ventandeando: Bilingual Window
5. Jennie Bless from Jennie B Blog
6. Alison Mondrach from Science in Heels
7. Rachel Belkov from Social Justice Super Heroes
8. Carrie Horn from Education in Ms. Horn's World
9.  Kristin from Chalk & Apples
10. Brynn Allison from Brynn Allison's Blog
11. Mel and Gerdy from Getting Nerdy with Mel and Gerdy

To those who have been nominated, feel free to link up with Literacy Loving Gals on our Blog with Us tab, if you're not already linked up!  

Okay, onto the "official" rules for accepting:

1. In your post, link back to the blogger who nominated you as a thank you and "shout out."

2. Answer the 11 questions given to you (the ones I answered above).

3. Nominate 11 blogs of your choice that each have less than 200 followers.  Provide them with 11 questions to answer or have them answer the questions above.

4. Let your nominees know that they've been nominated and provide them with a link to your post so that they can accept.

5. Send your nominator a link to your post so that s/he can learn more about you as well! (You can just put your post link in the comments below!)

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sunday Scoop Link Up

I'm linking up with Teaching Trio for another edition of Sunday Scoop
For weeks, I've had laminated products patiently waiting to be cut, whispering to me on a daily basis, "Don't forget about us!" They've been in my bag trudging back and forth...and back and forth...and back and forth, once again, from school to home.  They never end up seeing the light of day.  

Usually, when I get home, I take off the "Teacher" hat and replace it with the "Mama" hat.  I rarely have time to get school tasks accomplished at home, at least not during my children's waking hours.  Today, however, I'm determined to balance family and work!!  I've got to believe to achieve, right?  "Boo at the Zoo" with my family is approaching later this evening, so I'm telling myself it will be cut and organized before then, especially since it's in my plans to use with the students later this week. 

Okay, I'm off to cut my laminated literacy products!  Wish me luck and grant me lightning speed cutting skills while you're at it.  Those skills can be applied on the pumpkins as well.  ;)

Happy Sunday and have a productive week! 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Ten Proven Principles for Teaching Reading

I have the day off from school today, but still catch myself participating in work-related things, as usual. ;) If you follow my blog, you already know I recently attended the Illinois Reading Conference and learned a tremendous amount about teaching reading.  Ever since my IRC 2014 experience,  I've been on a *reading research hunt* to continue learning what's best for my struggling readers.  

During the hunt, I came across an article called Ten Proven Principles for Teaching Reading.  It clarifies the top ten principles for teaching reading, which by now I'm already familiar with, so nothing new there.  

However, the article also makes clear the progression of reading instructional practices over the last few decades.  It's quite amazing how far we've come.  I must say I was that teacher, way back when, purchasing workbooks to help my students become better readers.  Does that even make sense to anyone?  Of course, after teaching for 19 years now, I'm better informed.  Students must read books to become better readers.  Duh?  It's silly to think anyone could believe otherwise and that workbooks and basal readers were the "answer" to teaching students to read well.  We all know they weren't actually the answer because research proves differently.  

I got a laugh out of hearing Dr. Richard Allington speak at the IRC.  He was so blunt in expressing his feelings toward workbooks. According to him, workbooks are full of worksh*its and "if you want to keep kids stupid, do worksh*ts!"  Thoughts?

Below are the shifts regarding instructional practices in reading.  I'm certainly please we've changed over from providing little direct instruction for students to scaffolding them through the Gradual Release of Responsibility Model of instruction.   

Impressions or opinions on the topic you'd like to share?   I'd love to hear them.  Thanks for reading!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

*Sunday Letters* (Freebie included)

I'm a little late to the game, but here are my Sunday Letters! :)  I'm linking up with Michelle over at BigTime Literacy.  Remember, you can join her every other Sunday to write letters to people or inanimate objects for fun, but don't forget to link up! 

Genre Poster FREEBIE & Reading Log
Genre Poster FREEBIE & Reading Log Updated Version
**Please Rate Me if you download the FREEBIES! :)

Thanks for reading and I hope you're enjoying your Sunday evening! 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Illinois Reading Conference 2014- Recap!

Attending the Illinois Reading Conference for the first time was enlightening and inspiring.  I've been to plenty of reading conferences and professional development sessions in my lifetime, but never the IRC.  Perusing the book of available sessions to attend was exciting, but a tad overwhelming at the same time.  There was so much to choose from, and wanting to *soak it all in*, I decided to hit a few of the big-timers.

My first "big-timer" was Dr. Richard Allington.  He was fantastic, as expected.  He explained how early intervention is key in preventing difficulties from being magnified in the later grades.  He brought up the point that classroom teachers matter.  Of course they do, right?  Teachers must believe it is their job to teach every child to read, not only the reading staff.  Classroom teachers must effectively differentiate reading lessons in order to reach all of their students.  Strengthening Tier 1 reading instruction must be a priority to reach struggling readers early in the proverbial game.  It's also crucial to expand reading volume in the classroom and focus on metacognition and meaning while reading.  

Another big idea from Dr. Allington was intervention has to be ALL DAY LONG if kids are to significantly improve their reading abilities.  He mentioned "if you want to keep kids stupid, keep doing worksh*ts!" Yep, worksh*ts.  His main point being, kids need sufficient time reading books to become better readers, not a bunch of activity sheets.  Below are a few slides from his presentation. 

The next "big-timer" was Lucy Calkins.  I was excited to see the entrance ticket in my registration packet for her Friday breakfast presentation.  I got up  early in the morning in hopes to meet her before hearing her speak.  A wish come true!  She's amazing. :)

Lucy declared great teachers call students to emerge to show their unique selves through writing.  Each teacher needs to bring a few great *themes and truths* to their life's work.  Sharing those themes with students to show writing is more than just words on paper is important.  Lucy is not against the CCSS, but feels all teachers should add their own unique 10% to the CCSS.  I laughed when she stated "The art of teaching is not telling students (in a squeaky little voice), 'Make sure to provide little sentences of evidence in your writing!'"  She provided a poem for us to view and discuss.  We had to dig a little deeper into the poem and discuss it from different lenses because that's what the CCSS asks of students.  It was an enlightening activity to say the least.   

In addition, Lucy commented on how teachers must be explicit for students.  Kids need a crystal clear sense of goals, so we need to help them set those goals for reading and writing.  Giving sample pieces of grade-level writing to students and having them compare and contrast pieces will allow them the opportunity to view firsthand evidence of what it takes to make their writing stronger.  Guide them to *what's next* in a higher level of writing!

My last "big-timer" was Timothy Shanahan.  He goes against grain of popular beliefs in literacy, which is what I totally admire about him.  I've viewed his blog in the past, but after listening to him speak, I'm now a follower of Shanahan on Literacy.  If you want some eye-opening, research-based information regarding literacy, I suggest you take a peek.  His session was titled Teaching with Challenging Text.  I know the slide below is a little blurry but what it states is "Many studies show that- with scaffolding- students can read 'frustrational level' texts as if they had been placed in books at their 'instructional levels'".  In Shanahan's words "Learning from relatively harder texts is superior because teaching can facilitate/mediate students' interactions with text in ways that allows students to bridge the gap."  Whoa!  Right? Something to think about... Last but not least, Shanahan discussed the importance of expanding students' vocabulary.  Below is a slide of Shanahan's main points. 

Well, there you have it- a little insight into the sessions that impacted me most as a teacher.  I'm looking forward to attending next year in Peoria.  On my Someday list, I commented on wanting to attend the IRC at least once, but would love to attend annually.  My at least once has been accomplished and thanks to my supportive principal she smiled when I requested to attend annually.   I'm hoping that's a yes.  Maybe I should up the ante on my Someday list to being a presenter at the IRC instead of just attending it, eh?  Who knows?  It's being discussed amongst my colleagues.  We even picked up the  proposal paperwork.  ;)

Enjoy your weekend! 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

A "Harvest of Freebies" Literacy Blog Hop Has Begun

Welcome to Literacy Loving Gals and A Harvest of Freebies literacy blog hop.  A big thank you to Wendy over at Read with Me ABC and Andrea from Reading Toward the Stars for organizing and providing the graphics for the hop. If you follow the literacy path, at each stop you'll be able to grab a literacy freebie. It's a great way to begin the Fall season at school.

One of the biggest challenges teachers face nowadays is keeping students motivated to learn.  Games can be an engaging, interactive and effective way for students to reflect on their learning.  Participating in games allow students to demonstrate their knowledge of content in an enjoyable manner.  When students are simultaneously playing and learning, you can't go wrong! 

For that reason, the freebie I'm offering to you is my set of Story Spinner games that can be used with fictional and informational texts. The freebie includes 4 game boards- a simple and more detailed version used with fictional and informational texts. The Story Spinners meet a few strands of the CCSS requirements, are easy to assemble and can be placed in a literacy center.  In addition, they allow for some flexibility, grouping-wise.  Students can work independently (responding in a journal), with a partner or in a small group.  Click HERE to download your freebie.  

Just a heads up, this freebie will go back to being a paid item in my TPT store at 5pm on Sunday, October 5, 2014.  Grab it while you can, but please leave a rating, too.  I'd greatly appreciate it! ;) 
If you're interested, follow Literacy Loving Gals on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and/or Bloglovin' to stay updated on our literacy posts. Feel free to link up with us under our "Blog with Us" tab up above, too! :)

Now, continue on the literacy freebie path and head over to Mrs. Beers' Language Arts Class to meet Erin and see what she has to offer.  

Enjoy your weekend!

Colleen :)

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