Monday, December 29, 2014

New Year, New Goals 2015

Goodbye 2014 and hello 2015!  I must say, 2014 has been a wonderful year for me for many reasons.  In any case, I'm looking forward to the new year and it's possibilities for personal and professional growth.  Lately, I've been having a bit of trouble finding time for blogging.  As a result, the opportunity to link up with Mrs. D's Corner for my New Year, New Goals has passed me by at the speed of light.  Ah, it is what it is, right?  That's okay because I'm still going to participate in this fun linky, without actually linking up. 

Personal: My life is filled with various roles.  I'm finding them a little tricky to balance, so I'll definitely be striving for better balance in 2015.  Sometimes it's as if I'm a professional juggler.  All of my roles get tossed up in the air, and then I anxiously struggle to keep each one swirling in a smooth circular motion.  I don't succeed as often as I'd like and find myself flailing in every direction to keep up with life.  
I get up at 5 A.M. to get myself ready for work before my toddler twins get up at 5:45-6:00 A.M., which begins the role of mama.  I then get them ready and off to preschool, drive to work and begin my day as a teacher and mentor.  When work ends, I find myself juggling the mama (again), wife, and boxer-in-training roles.  I need boxing to keep level-headed and my stress to a minimum.  Fortunately, my husband is also a teacher and is home with the kids, too, so I get to train 3 to 4 days per week.  (Thank you, Drew!) Anyway, the little "free time" I have usually gets dedicated to laundry, organization of our household and SLEEP, not necessarily blogging and product-creating for my TPT store.  Hmmmm, if only I had more arms I bet I'd have a huge grin on my face like in the picture, too.  ;)

Professional: Michelle over at BigTime Literacy and I will be presenting at our district's iEngage Conference in May and the Illinois Reading Conference in October of 2015.  We'll be presenting on the benefits of blogging and social media as the new era of professional development for teachers.  More information to come at a later date! ;)
Planning: I may need to put "blogging" on my calendar to actually schedule time for writing blog posts.  Having large chunks of time to dedicate to blogging are few and far between, which is why I love Instagram so much!  It's micro-blogging at it's best.  Is anyone else finding it hard to upkeep their blogs? 

When it comes to creating TPT products, I was able to make time for my newly opened TPT store over the summer because the kids were busily playing outside at the lake house with an abundance of extended family members around to help.  I was actually able to begin my blogging journey and keep up with BigTime Literacy's 31-day Blogging Challenge!  Of course, now, in the winter, it's a different story.  I'm "on" to provide meaningful, fun and engaging activities for the kids to do indoors.  I have less "me time" in the winter, to say the least.  I haven't created much for my store since the summer.  However, I have HOPE to make that scenario change in 2015.  By the way, I recently took a fun quiz to find out which (friendly) 4-letter word described me.  It was HOPE.  I'm hopeful and optimistic 2015 will be a great year!  (What's your 4-letter word?)

Organization: I know I'm being redundant, so I'll keep this one short.  To be honest, most often I don't know exactly what I want to blog about, since I'm using the F&P Intervention Kits with my RtI students.  
My students have been successfully progressing with the kit, so why stray from it? Although, I did blog about the little extras I include with the kit in THIS POST, if you're interested.  

Students: The students coming to me for small guided groups are struggling readers usually a minimum of one year below grade-level.  Because reading is difficult for them, they often dislike it and have very little motivation, which is understandable.  However, I have hope for them and encourage them on a daily basis.  As I praise each of their efforts for practicing their reading, using strategies and becoming more fluent readers, I see their confidence build.  Inspiring them to have a love for reading and to enjoy a variety of genres is my goal.  Oftentimes, my students shut down when they make an error, so I tell them, "Mistakes help us learn" and not to worry if they make them.  I make sure they feel safe in my room and promote students supporting one another.  They like coming to see me, which is always a bonus.  I've seen much progress and more interest in reading since the start of the year and have high hopes for them in 2015!  
Motto: "PMA, everyday!  That's the way!"  PMA stands for Positive Mental Attitude.  My parents used to say it to my sister and me almost when we were kids.  When I got into high school, the eye-rolling began, but that was just because I was a teenager, I'm assuming.  In college and my adult years, I'm thankful for my family motto.  Saying and truly believing this motto has been life-changing for me.  I always look at the positive in all situations.  Every situation is a learning opportunity.  Even though this is my favorite motto, I have not tattooed it on myself (nor will I), but other people have, so it must be a good one. ;)
Images from Google!
Happy 2015 everyone!  It will be a year filled with great things for all of us as long as we stay positive! 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Peek into the F&P Leveled Literacy Intervention Kit

Hello all! I've been on a little break from blogging for the past few weeks, since I have been Winter Benchmark assessing Kindergarten through 5th grade students in my school with the assistance of the Reading team.  There's not much time to contribute to blogging when you're waist-deep in assessment.  However, I would like to share with you a little peek into Fountas' and Pinnell's Blue Leveled Literacy Intervention (LLI) Kit, since I use it most often to support my struggling RtI students compared to the other colored kits. 

If you are not familiar with the LLI kits, they are ideal resources to support below grade-level students who are struggling in reading and writing.  The kits are used in a small group setting with 3 to 4 students, depending on the grade-level of the students.  RtI students in Kindergarten through 3rd grade (Orange, Green & Blue Kits) require groups of 3 students for fidelity of the program, while the 4th grade and 5th grade levels (Red & Gold Kits) allow for 4 students per group.  

LLI is scientifically-based and designed to prevent literacy difficulties. The program (along with teacher guidance, of course) provides students opportunities to extend comprehension through discussions and writing, to learn and apply phonics and word solving skills, to increase vocabulary and processing strategies, as well as improve fluency and phrasing through rereading.  Since the groupings are so intimate in size, I'm easily able to model appropriate reading behaviors, in addition to prompt for and reinforce effective reading strategies.  Fidelity of the program definitely correlates to student success.  I have seen much growth in my students' reading abilities, since I began using LLI in the early Fall. 

The majority of the students I service are in grades 2nd and 3rd, which is why I use the Blue Kit most often.  It encompasses guided reading Levels C through N.  There are 120 lessons.  Each lesson has 4 colored copies to use while in group and 6 black and white copies of each book for students to take home for additional reading practice.  Canvas bags are available to keep the Take-Home books in good condition.  In addition, a Prompting Guide and the resource book When Readers Struggle: Teaching That Works are accessible in this kit.

The Prompting Guide supplies a variety of prompts for each targeted reading behavior.  A few prompting categories and examples are below. 
  • Early Reading Behaviors "Say it slowly and move your finger under the word.", "Show me____ (a high frequency word) on this page.", "Point to each word as you read."
  • Using Information "Can the picture help you think about this part of the story?", "You said____. Does that sound right?", "Are you thinking about what will happen next?"
  • Solving Words "Get your mouth ready for the first sound.", "Cover the last part of the word.", "Look at the middle of the word.", "Do you know a word that starts with those letters?"
  • Monitoring and Correcting "Why did you stop?", "Does the word you said look like the word on the page?", "It has to makes sense and go with the letters.", "Where is the tricky part?"
  • General Problem-Solving "That won't help you.  This will help you .", "Try that again.", "Try it another way.", "Think about what you know." "What can you do?"
  • Maintaining Fluency "Listen to me read.  Can you read it like that?", "Make a full stop at the period.", "Make your voice go up when you see a question mark.", "Take a short pause when you see a comma (or dash)."

The lessons are 30 minutes in length (45 minutes in length for the Red & Gold Kits).  There is a nice variety of fiction and nonfiction texts for the students to read.  For each set of 10 lessons, there are 5 instructional texts and 5 independent texts.  The routine for the lessons alternate depending on the lesson number.  Odd-numbered lessons consist of Rereading Books (5 mins), Phonics/Word Work (5 mins), introduction of New Book at the instructional level (15 mins) and additional Letter/Word Work (5 mins), if time permits.  Even-numbered lessons consist of Rereading Books and Assessment of the instructional text (5 mins), Phonics/Word Work (5 mins), Writing About Reading (15 mins) and introduction of New Book at the independent level (5 mins).  

Rereading Books and Assessment:

At the start of each group, students are required to reread the new instructional-level book and independent-level books from the previous lesson or lessons.  During this time, you *listen in* while the students softly read, which allows you to support them with any needed prompting.  This is when the prompting guide becomes very handy.  Keep in mind, there is absolutely NO "Round Robin" reading, as was common before research confirmed it as a very unproductive use of time.  Not all of the students in the small group need the same prompting, so students taking turns to read aloud while peers wait for a turn is an ineffective strategy. 
Moving on...Face it, most struggling readers are unmotivated to read, which is why they're struggling in the first place.  It's such a viscous cycle.  Don't you agree?  Well, for those slightly unmotivated students,  sometimes a little *magical touch* is needed to spark interest.  I  have trinkets available for my students to use when reading, including whisper phones, "eye-lighters", sock puppets, hand pointers, magnifying glasses and holiday-themed knickknacks.  In addition, I supply fix-up strategy book marks as a visual support for students.  

In regards to the Assessment portion of the lesson, only one or two students' reading is coded using running records on a particular day, so students being assessed must rotate throughout the week.  I take running records weekly for each of my students because they are well below grade level.  I then alter my teaching and prompting based on the students' running record miscues.  The instructional-level text from the previous day's lesson is used.  Fountas and Pinnell have a (paid-subscription) Literacy Online Resources site containing all of the lessons' materials, including running record forms for each instructional-level text.  I pull up the running record form for the lesson being assessed and code the students' reading behaviors on notebook paper using the Coding and Scoring form below.  Cute binders from Target keep my running records organized.  In order to help save beautiful trees, I do not print the copies of the running record forms.  

Phonics/Word Work:
During this portion of the lesson, students are explicitly and systematically instructed on how language works.  The LLI kits provide an Alphabet and Consonant Cluster Linking Chart, poems, letter & word games, and lists of suggested words that can be documented on anchor charts with students.  Magnetic letters with cookie trays, beads with pipe cleaners, letter stamps with ink pads, flyswatters and paint strips of various colors are also available in my room to assist in our work work activities.  In addition, I often use iPad Apps to boost interest in recording the words being taught.  Some easy-to-use Apps include Screen Chomp, ABC Magnetic Letters, Doodle Buddy and ShowMe.  However, on occasion the students participate in QR Code activities focused on the phonics skill being practiced.  In that case, they use the SCAN App. :)  

New Book
When introducing the new instructional-level book, students are provided the gist of the story.  They are also given the opportunity to *walk~through* the text with guidance looking for tricky words, new vocabulary, language structures and important text features when necessary.  Previewing the text should only take about 3 or 4 minutes.  It's very similar to the routines of Jan Richardson's guided reading routines.  As mentioned in the Rereading Books section, teachers use the prompting guide while *listening in* on the students during this portion of the lesson, too.  (Remember, NO "Round Robin" reading!) Once the students have been given time to read the book in its entirety, a group discussion takes place referring the students back into the text to support their answers to questions asked.

LLI involves students extending their understanding of texts through writing in 3 forms: Interactive, Dictated and Independent.  They record their writing in My Writing Book. The writing books are available in yellow, purple and red.  There is no particular reason for the colors for the exception of allowing for some student choice.  Giving *choice* to students is always a good thing!  On a side note, in the Red and Gold kits dedicated to the upper grades, the writing books are different and provide a word study portion. 
Interactive Writing:
During interactive writing, students compose a text with the teacher.  I ask students to write words or parts of words on the board as I offer guidance and support.  The students LOVE participating in interactive writing! 
Dictated Writing
My little ones often have trouble with dictated writing because they miss some of the spoken words in their writing.  I generally use some sort of manipulative such as beads, holiday-themed erasers, buttons, etc. to support students in counting the number of spoken words needed in the dictated sentences.  It supports 1:1 correspondence of spoken and written words.  We count out the manipulative together as I dictate the sentence.  The students must then make sure to have as many words in their sentence as beads/erasers/buttons in front of them.  For instance, a student writing the sentence "The boy walked to the park with his friend." would need 9 counters in front of him or her.
Independent Writing
Independent writing may take several different forms depending on the students' needs.  Students may write lists, labels for pictures, sentences, paragraphs, etc.  On days the students are required to write independently, I often supply them with graphic organizers or response activities to guide them in responding to their texts.  Those organizers or responses are then placed into their writing books.  The writing books become a keep-sake for them and a place to document their growth throughout the year.  If you're interested in fiction and nonfiction guided writing ideas for Levels A-I and J+, click the poster below. :)

Well, there you have it...a little peek into the F&P Leveled Literacy Intervention Blue Kit.  Do you use the LLI kits with your students?  I'd love to hear your story, if you do!  If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below. 

P.S. Thank you to the following graphic artists for the backgrounds, clip art and fonts! :)


Monday, December 1, 2014

*Currently* December with a Cyber Monday (& Tuesday) TPT Sale!

Hello December and Cyber Monday sales!  Welcome.  Time to link up with Farley over at Oh' Boy Fourth Grade for another Currently! 
Listening: My little ones (3 years old) just saw The Polar Express movie for the first time.  It was #priceless #familyfun!  We popped some popcorn and turned out all of the lights to get the full *movie effect*! :)
Loving: I love this time of year.  Reflecting on the reason for the season is always a good thing.   
Thinking: I'm thinking how wonderful the idea is of giving the "Gift of Reading" as a way for my kiddos to countdown the days until Christmas.  I can't wait to watch them each unwrap a new book for us to read before bedtime...starting tonight! :)
50 books wrapped and ready to go!   
Wanting: I want so badly to check out the Cyber Sale over at TPT for some great RtI and literacy activities for my students, but haven't had time...just yet.  By tonight, my online cart will be filled!  Don't forget, my TPT store is also participating in the Cyber Sale and is up to 28% off today and tomorrow. 
Needing: After unpacking all of the Christmas boxes and decorating the house yesterday, we have a slight mess in the kitchen.  All of the empty boxes are now waiting to be placed back down on the shelves in the storage room.  My husband is having a little holiday party at our home on Tuesday night to celebrate his last class before he receives his Master's Degree next week (YAY!).  Needless to say, we need to get the house visitor ready!  
The garland looks like it needs a little adjustment. Lol 
Giving: Many times throughout the year, my husband and I assess what we own and what we truly need.  Once we had twins, our house began to burst at the seams with "stuff".  Boy, loads of things come with having twins! However, we are so very fortunate to be given hand-me-down clothing, toys and books from friends and family.  We are so grateful to them for giving, giving, giving.  So, in return, we give back and pay it forward to those who need it most.  We are starting a tradition with our little ones to donate our lightly used toys to those kids less fortunate.  Right now they are still in the stage of "I need that!".  My husband and I know it's going to be a process throughout the years.  Our greatest hope is to raise grateful and giving children, so they may pay it forward one day, not just during the holiday season.  

Our favorite donation store.

Head on over to Oh' Boy Fourth Grade to link up with Farley for your December Currently! 

Happy December!

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