Monday, April 24, 2017

50 Best Books for Ages 5-12 (via Brightly)

Thought I'd pass along this link accessing titles of the 50 Best Books for each age group, which comes to the total of 200 books. It's like hitting the jackpot of titles! Either click HERE to check out Brightly, or click on an image below for the age group that interests you. 
Happy Reading!

Friday, April 21, 2017

Quick Tip for Engaging Readers in Conversations About Books

A few years back, I wrote a blog post dedicated to Donalyn Miller's Reading In the Wild: The Book Whisperer's Keys to Cultivating Life Long Reading Habits. In the post, I composed the following paragraph: 
If we truly want to influence students to be lifelong readers, we must find the time to become wild readers ourselves. We must model the habits of wild readers and share our reading excitement and experiences with students. Most teachers ask students to read at home on a daily basis, but don't read themselves, or share their own excitement about books with students. If you have excuses for why you don't read, so will students. The point being, we must *practice what we preach* to our students.
It makes sense, right? Being a wild reader means you make time for reading because it's a source of pleasure. As a Reading Specialist, sharing my fondness of reading with my students is a must. If you've read either of Miller's books in the image below, you're familiar with what Miller calls *reading in the edges of your day*. It's taking advantage of small moments in your day to read. These are the moments I crave knowing I rarely get large blocks of time for reading. No matter the obligations, reading minutes can be found throughout the day, only if you are dedicated to finding time. So that's what I do. That way, I have lots of books to recommend to or discuss with students!
Here is a simple but effective idea you can start implementing in your classroom straightaway. Share what you are reading with your students. Easy enough, right? Talk about the reasons you chose a particular book, parts you enjoyed or things you noticed. To do this, I've attached a sign in the entryway of my classroom with an image of a book next to the words, What is Mrs. Noffsinger reading? This helps to spark conversations about what I'm reading, in hopes students will share what they are reading or interested in reading. 
As a result of my book addiction, consistently having new titles in hand to share with the kids is commonplace. I score great deals via Amazon Prime and while hunting for titles at book fairs, garage sales and thrift stores. Of course, there's always the library where everything is FREE. Making sure to have the actual copy of the book on hand is essential, so students see it's not just an image being placed on the sign. It's a book that's actually being read AND enjoyed!  
It's also of value to vary the books being placed on the sign. Similar to a *book tasting*, I want students to have opportunities to view new titles, hear about them, as well as read some of them. I have a wide range of readers, so sometimes I share a picture book, while other times novels. The novels range from elementary level all the way to adult level. I also make sure to read a variety of genres, just as students should. 

Not all of the books on the sign are for students because that's not my reading life, which I'm trying to convey. I doubt my students would want to read Who's Doing the Work? by Burkins and Yaris, but I loved it. This idea possesses other disguised motives, as you can see. Nonetheless, my child-appropriate books can be checked out to the kids when requested. Bonus Tip: Encourage any and all self-motivated reading behaviors! Below are a few examples of books I've placed on the doorway.
J.K. Rowling has said, "Wherever I am, if I've got a book with me, I have a place I can go and be happy." I see eye to eye with her on this one. Reading takes me far from the little stresses that can surface throughout a day's happenings. It allows me time to unwind and offers opportunities to explore new worlds I have yet to experience. I am always seeking new adventures from fictional books or knowledge from informational books. I am known as a motivated readerIf we want our students to be motivated readers, teachers must get excited about reading. Start the trend by sharing the excitement of your reading life! 
How do you engage your readers? 

Happy Friday!

Friday, March 31, 2017

Sight Word Entry Codes for Practicing Sight Words

Sight Word Entry Codes. Ever heard of them? I learned of this idea back in October of 2016 at the Illinois Reading Conference, but figured it's better late than never when sharing an idea, especially when I'm seeing my students' instant sight word recognition sky-rocket and hearing visitors to my school positively comment on it. I've already shared the idea on my microblogging accounts back in October (Twitter and Instagram), but am now just sharing it with my blogging PLN. #whoops

If you already follow me, you are aware I'm a Reading Specialist working with struggling readers, mostly in the younger grades. Many times, the lack of a solid sight word bank is what prevents my students from reading fluently. Of course, there are other factors, but practicing sight words is tremendously helpful. 

The gist of this idea is that students are assessed on their sight words, then given daily practice of three to six words they struggle with by using *entry codes*. Students must tap and accurately read the words in any order on their entry codes before they are allowed to enter the room. (Support is allowed, when needed!) Once the students master the sight words on the entry codes and in their reading, the codes are updated to a new list. I've even had students master all of their sight words, so their entry "requirement" is to give me a fist bump for a job well done. It's a simple way to strengthen their sight word foundation. 

I realize this idea may be a tad overwhelming for a classroom teacher of 28 students, since I mostly pull groups of 3-5 students at a time. Yes, having so few students reading their words before entry to the classroom is definitely more manageable. However, if you are a classroom teacher, an idea is to switch up the name of these codes (Starter Codes?) and place them on a table top flip chart. When pulling small groups of students, have them read the words before starting their rereading of familiar texts. If you are a Kindergarten teacher, entry codes of letter naming and sounds are also an option. Just some thoughts. :)

Since I began implementing this idea back in October, I've altered the format of the codes. At first, I had a full sheet of paper with 6 sight words on a themed-image for each month. For example, I've used clipart images of pumpkins, turkeys, pine trees, snowballs, hearts, shamrocks and now bunnies. I have since downsized the codes to a half sheet of paper, as well as added the students' faces using fun FREE apps that go along with either the holiday or season. You'll see the progression of the entry codes in the images below. 
Some of my *fist bump* kiddos!
So, there you have it...another simple idea to help support your students with sight words.

Happy Reading!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Do You Use F&P's LLI Kits? Check Out #FPAskMeli!

I am fortunate enough to be in a school district that has purchased Foutnas' and Pinnell's Leveled Literacy Intervention Kits for Reading Specialists to use with RtI students. Are you familiar with these literacy resources? The kits are amazing and certainly engage my readers.

I have access to all of the kits ranging from Orange (Kindergarten) through Purple (5th grade), but mostly work with the Green and Blue kits geared toward 1st and 2nd graders. These kits have some lovable characters we get to revisit over and over again through new adventures, since the books are part of a series. The students enjoy reading about Moosling, The Fun Club, and, of course, our favorite, Meli the West Highland Terrier.

Anyway, if you are on Twitter, there is a new hashtag-#FPAskMeli- moderated by Fountas' and Pinnell's Twitter account where students can brainstorm questions for Irene Fountas' dog, Meli. Meli is actually her dog and, from what I've heard, Meli's owner "Ron" is Irene's hubby! Fun trivia facts, eh? Well, after learning about this hashtag, I had a group of 2nd grade girls brainstorm questions they wanted to ask Meli. These girls "Awwww!" every time I pull out another book with Meli as the headliner, so I figured they'd be the perfect group to test out the hashtag.

After pulling out the familiar Meli books, the students revisited the texts thinking about questions they have for Meli. The questions were recorded on TodaysMeet, which allowed me access to their questions as they were typing them. While they were brainstorming, I was writing them on chart paper. 

Once the questions were added to the chart, we tweeted out the image below. the girls asked if Meli responded. It took a bit of waiting, but when Meli responded, the girls' faces were priceless! Well worth the wait, for sure.
The chart paper of questions, a picture of the girls and the tweeted responses from Meli hang on my classroom door for now. The girls pat Meli each time they enter my room. ;)
If you test out the hashtag, keep me posted!

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Standing Word Work

Quick Tip: To combat the fidgets in your most active students, get them up and moving during word work, if your classroom space allows for it. I have sets of magnetic letters on cookie trays for those who would rather sit at the table or on the carpet, but also offer an area for students to stand while working. When students are given choice, it works like a charm.


Saturday, February 4, 2017

Using Today's Meet, Padlet Walls and QR Codes for Reading Engagement

This post is dedicated to one of my very talented and dedicated teacher friends, Kelly, who is also a motivating workout partner, as well as a few of my awesomely accomplished #PLN pals on Instagram: Sarah from Snippets by Sarah, Lori from Conversations in Literacy and Christiana from Lasting LiteracyThey inquired about the use of the QR code in the picture above, and instead of explaining it on Instagram, I decided I'd write a little "tech post", since it's been a while. 

In this post, I will share some information to, hopefully, help you create a TodaysMeet chat room and Padlet wall, and will then go on to explain how students can access these online platforms without an account, login or password. In this case, I truly believe these online platforms are quite easier used than explained, but let's see how I do. ;)

To keep my students interested, engaged and accountable when responding to reading inside or outside of my RtI intervention room, I have them use a combination of tools: QR code scanner apps, such as QR Reader and Scanner or i-nigma Barcode Reader, QR codes from, TodaysMeet and Padletall which are FREE. That's the best part, for sure. 

I am blessed to work in a school district implementing 1:1 iPad technology. All students have access to their own iPad, and since my intervention time is so brief with the students, these tools can be used from their classroom, home, or even the library, as long as they have their book, a QR code and an iPad or other device loaded with a scanner app. 

Let's get underway. Since YouTube is my go-to resource for all how-to tutorials, I used this link HERE to learn  how to set up my chat room, so please take a moment to do the same before continuing. Multiple temporary chat rooms can be created and sorted, depending on your needs. Your chat rooms have an expiration date extending anywhere from one hour to one year. 
Once my students are in the chat room, I have them enter their initials in the Nickname area, hit Join, type their responses to my posed question(s) into the blue box and then hit Say. When the students strike the Say button, others in the group can view their peers' responses, similar to a working document in Google.
Student comments and responses can only be 140 characters, just like Twitter, however, they can respond multiple times. This allows students to extend on their thoughts, read and respond to others' comments, as well as pose their own questions they may have. It's a great way to get kids engaged in conversations with peers about their reading. Since responses are typed, there are no interruptions from others around them. This is definitely a pro, especially in a classroom with 28+ students. Having typed responses also gives a voice to shy students who my be hesitant to amplify their voice in an oral classroom discussion. Empowering, right? 

An example of a few responses from a 3rd grade group is below. Keep in mind, we are an intervention group, so student responses and ideas are always under construction, but ever evolving. ;)
Moving on to Padlet. Once again, I self-educate on YouTube, so click HERE for the teacher tutorial video that helped me create my own walls. Padlet is just as simple to set up as TodaysMeet and permits you to create unlimited walls, just as TodaysMeet enables you to create as many chat rooms as you wish. You have the ability to customize each wall with different backgrounds, in addition to wall names and descriptions.

Once you create a wall, students access it with a link you provide them. (The video tutorial explained one way to share the link, but at the end of this post, I will show you another way. Hang tight!) Students double click in an open area on the wall. The box below is what the students view once they have double clicked. The icons in the box allow students to add text, record their voices, add hyperlinks, photos and documents. Amazing customizable uses, especially for a free platform.
You can organize the students' response posts in 3 ways: Freeform, Stream and Grid. I usually choose Grid as shown in the picture below, so the most recent posts appear first. Both TodaysMeet and Padlet allow teachers to view the students responses while they're working, so you can keep track of their participation, or lack of participation in some cases.
If you prefer to keep your wall private from the public, there are options to do so. I prefer to keep my rooms Secret.
I recommend you playing around with Padlet a bit to get the hang of how to use it. There are plenty of links out there on the web to support you, but there's Padlet at a glance. If you would like to see a previous post I've written on using Padlet in the classroom alongside a makeshift *recording booth*, click HERE

Lastly, you may be asking yourself, how do my students access the TodaysMeet chat rooms or Padlet walls I create? Well, all you have to do go to qrstuff.comcopy and paste each URL from the chat rooms and Padlet walls you have created into where it says Website URL (see the blue arrow). Choose the color for your QR code, then download the customizable code that appears. 
I love how the codes can be created in different colors. My students have associated my blue codes, for example, with TodaysMeet and my black codes with Padlet, even though I print them out with headings. For example, the blue code has Team Noffsinger's TodaysMeet Access Code typed above it.

As a last step, I print out the codes, sticky tack them to my classroom walls in different areas, as well as send them home in the students' Take-Home book bags. They use their iPad or other device to pull up a scanner app, such as QR Reader and Scanner or i-Nigma Barcode Reader, to scan the code to access the chat room or wall. 

I hope this post was helpful to someone out there and that I haven't confused you. Please be willing to explore a bit. I think you'll be happily surprised. 

Have a great weekend!

UPDATE: #Yay :)

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