February 28, 2017

Should We Avoid Independent Reading for Struggling Readers?

Should we avoid independent reading for struggling readers? The Reading Roundup

Facebook groups can be an amazing way to collaborate and connect with other educators across the state, country, and even the world! While it can be a place to gain amazing new ideas from other educators, it is also a place where we encounter educational beliefs that differ from our own. There is one comment I came across that really bothered me: 

"Avoid silent reading time if they are struggling."

Really?! This goes against everything I believe about helping our struggling readers. In this teacher's defense, I did not engage her in conversation to find out more about her statement as it was off topic from the original subject of the thread. Had I done so, I may have better understood her rationale for making that statement.  

Struggling readers need even more time to read independently than other students but unfortunately that does not always happen. Quite often, these students receive small group instruction within the classroom and are also pulled throughout the day to receive additional instruction from an interventionist. With all this instruction, these students are not given enough opportunities to implement the skills they are learning and practice reading in an authentic manner!

"...poor readers get more work on skills in isolation,
whereas good readers get assigned more reading activity."
~ Richard Allington

Let's use this mindset with the example of athletes, specifically volleyball players.  If the coach only has them do drills to learn proper technique for passing, serving, spiking, and blocking, then the players are likely to become strong with these specific skills but not successful volleyball players in a game. Athletes need to practice incorporating all of these skills together and independently identify which skills to use within an authentic game situation. Are there benefits to practicing skills in isolation? Of course, but it's pointless if it doesn't carry over into an authentic situation.

authentic reading vs. isolated skills practice - The Reading Roundup

The same holds true for our students. If they only do activities to learn reading skills in isolation, will they be able to implement these skills independently during authentic reading?  Ultimately, isn't our goal to encourage students to become readers and not just capable of implementing reading strategies during small group instruction?

Richard Allington constantly stresses the importance of independent reading practice for struggling readers. 

"We fill struggling readers' days with tasks 
that require little reading."  ~ Richard Allington

Allington What Really Matters for Struggling Readers

I am NOT saying that we should let students practice reading independently without any support. Instead we should confer with students during independent reading to scaffold their reading. We can use that time to provide tips for picking "just right books," help students monitor their comprehension, and reinforce reading strategies taught during small group instruction. 

Here's a great resource to get you started with conferring during independent reading time:

With all of the research stating the importance of giving students more time to practice reading, I've began creating more opportunities for my students to read independently.  The results have been astounding on standardized test scores, but that is not our ultimate goal. The most rewarding result has been seeing struggling readers become empowered, confident, and engaged readers who WANT to read!  

Do you provide opportunities for independent reading?  How do you manage to find enough time to allow students to practice reading?

February 25, 2017

TPT Gift Card Giveaway

Do you want a chance to win a TpT gift card?! Of course you do! We are celebrating Nikki's (Teaching Autism) birthday! There will be 4 winners who receive a $100 TpT Gift Card.  Want a chance to be one of the lucky winners?  Be sure to enter each of the four rafflecopters to increase your chances. Remember to complete all of the actions on the rafflecopters to gain your entries.

February 21, 2017

Opportunity VS Obligation

Opportunity vs. Obligation Blog Post by The Reading Roundup

   Every day we come to school we have the incredible privilege of impacting our students' lives. We can inspire them to overcome challenges they previously thought impossible. We can cheer them up from a difficult morning at home. We can help them reach their fullest potential. And we can create an environment that makes them LOVE coming to school!  

   We all know that there are plenty of things we are obligated to to as teachers... parent communication, staff meetings, grading papers, and so on. The reality of standards-based assessments also exists, but it does not have to define our teaching. 

Opportunity vs. Obligation Blog Post by The Reading Roundup

   Changing my mindset to focus on making the most engaging opportunities for my students rather than being dragged down by my obligations has re-sparked my love for teaching! Each day I strive to create fun and interesting learning activities for my students. Opportunities to expand their thinking and help them grow as readers. And most importantly, opportunities to allow my students to feel success every day. 

   Some of the ways I've created these opportunities is by bringing back the FUN. It makes it more enjoyable for me and the students!

coding, BeeBots, word work, osmos, technology, hands-on learning

  I've made an effort to incorporate more hands-on learning and more technology to provide opportunities to engage students. These opportunities may also be creating special moments for students such as getting to read by the "fireplace" while listening to Christmas music. I strive every day to find these opportunities for students rather than only focusing on my obligations.

   Not only do I feel the positive impact of my new mindset, the students feel it also. They actually look forward to coming to our remediation group, when before it felt like an obligation to them. In fact, other students see the activities we do and want to be a part of our group! But the most rewarding change has been the tremendous increase in students' motivation and their confidence in themselves as readers! Now my only "obligation" is to keep creating more of these opportunities to further inspire my students.

What opportunities can create for your students? I'd love to hear your ideas!

October 10, 2016

Biblionasium - Reading Social Network for Kids

social network for kids, reading logs, book reviews, educational websites for kids

As an avid reader and list maker, I fell in love with GoodReads! It was a great way to keep track of books I've read and ones that I want to read. Users can review books and get new book recommendations. The best part is connecting with my friends and sharing our love of books!

So when I found out about BiblioNasium I was thrilled!! It is essentially GoodReads for students. They can keep track of their books, write reviews, and make suggestions for their peers.

The Reading Roundup
Student's Individual Bookshelf

The Reading Roundup
Options for each book.

Students LOVED sending book recommendations to their friends!

The Reading Roundup

Teachers have many options for managing their students. As an interventionist, it is nice to be able to manage multiple groups. Teachers can assign or recommend specific books to students. Reports about the students' reading logs are also available, which show the minutes logged, number of pages logged, books read, and reading level.  

The Reading Roundup

Teachers can also set up reading challenges for their students, which just adds an extra element of fun.

The Reading Roundup

Last year was my first experience using BiblioNasium.  I started out small by only introducing it to one of my groups, but the students all really enjoyed using it! My goal this year is to use it with more of my small groups and encourage teachers to use it as well. It would have made a bigger impact if the students logged the books they read in class in addition to the ones we read together. I'm definitely optimistic about all that we can accomplish with BiblioNasium this year!

Do you think BiblioNasium is something your students would benefit from and enjoy? Let me know your thoughts!

August 29, 2016

Student-Created Alphabet Frieze

The Reading Roundup

As a 1st grade teacher, my classroom walls were always pretty bare at the beginning of the school year.  The reason for this was I wanted the students to take ownership of the classroom!  Why hang a premade poster when I could have the students create it themselves? By having students make the resources they were more likely to use them throughout the year.  

One resource I had students create was the Alphabet Frieze that I would hang above the board.  Each student selected the letter they wanted to illustrate.  By allowing student choice the student-created alphabet frieze was much more used by students than the premade one I had used in the past.  

The Reading Roundup

The Reading Roundup

Click here to download the FREE Alphabet Frieze template!

Below is an alphabet chart that you can use with your students as a reference when creating their Alphabet Frieze.  You can make it a poster for the classroom or add to students' writing folders.

The Reading Roundup
Click here to download the alphabet chart.

What types of classroom resources do you have students create? I'd love to hear your ideas!

August 22, 2016

Learning Vowel Sounds Through Song & Dance

Have Fun Teaching

I am so excited to share these vowel songs from Have Fun Teaching with you!  My primary students LOVE doing these dances!  The videos are a great way to distinguish between the long and short vowel sounds.  I use the SRA reading program with some groups, so the videos are especially helpful since they include the symbols to identify long or short vowels (ă or ā). The videos also give sample words for each vowel sound and prompt students to practice writing the letters.  So much instruction within these short videos!

The Reading Roundup  

The Reading Roundup

The BEST part of the videos is that they encourage students to get up and MoViNg!! That is especially important for the struggling readers who have short attention spans and need the kinesthetic aspect to help them retain the content. We add motions to correspond with each word.  We also throw our hands in the air from side to side for the long vowel sounds (think of the motions for "Hey... Oh..").  For the short vowel we do short up and down arm motions.  

Here are the vowel videos that you can use with your students:

I hope that your students enjoy these videos as much as mine!  Do you have any other fun dances you do to practice vowel sounds?

August 15, 2016

Beginning of the Year Goal Setting

As the school year gets ready to start back up, it is time to think about how to establish the classroom expectations for the year. The tone we set at the beginning of the year can be a good indicator of how successful the year will be.

Classroom teachers spend weeks establishing classroom expectations and a sense of community among students.  As a resource teacher, it can be challenging to set the tone due to our limited time with the students. My colleague and I have found that when students come to us they have no desire to talk about the rules since they have already been addressed so much in the classroom.  As a result, each year we strive to find new ways to have students help set expectations for our small group intervention so that we can make the most of every minute we have with them.

We hung posters for students to tell us their reading goals for the year.  Students wrote goals such as:  read fast, read chapter books, or read hard words.  By having students tell us what they want out of our group work, we let them know it was our goal to help them achieve their goals during our time together. 

Not only do we want students to know we value their goals for the year, we also want them to have input into our instruction.  We hung other posters to get more information about their hobbies, topics they want to learn about, and favorite books/genres/authors. Throughout the year, we incorporated as many of their interests as we could into the research-based reading program we were using. By making the effort to give students some input into our instruction, we found it led to a dramatic increase in motivation.

Instead of going over the rules for our small group intervention, we used our school's vision words (creative, fun, kind, safe, and hardworking).  Students brainstormed what these words look like in our small group intervention.  So even though we did not call them rules, this activity served the same purpose!

Previously our school used Baldrige tools to establish classroom rules and expectations (click here for additional information on Baldrige schools). Classroom teachers and students created Quality Student and Quality Teacher posters with words to describe the classroom expectations. Since students completed these with their classroom teachers, the resource teachers all used the same poster instead of making students do the activity multiple times. The poster provided a common language for all teachers (Supportive, Organized, Attentive, and Respectful).  

How do you set student goals and classroom expectations for the school year?   I am always looking for new ideas to try!