Friday, July 27, 2012

Five Big Ideas in Reading


1. PHONEMIC AWARENESS - Part of phonological awareness, phonemic awareness is the ability to hear and manipulate the individual sounds in words. For example, taking the spoken word "dog" and separating it into three distinct sounds, /d/ /o/ /g/ requires phonemic awareness skill.
Why is phonemic awareness important? Simple. Because of it's strong correlation to reading fluency. The research is clear; children who develop strong phonemic awareness skills at an early age are more likely to become fluent readers and better spellers than children who do not. Read that last sentence again! Kids need strong phonemic awareness skills to support literacy development! When teaching reading, we must include phonemic awareness.
Parent Tips - Parents, make sure you are building phonemic awareness skills at home! Check out the PHONEMIC AWARENESS ACTIVITIES PAGE for FREE Phonological Awareness Activites and Phonemic Awareness Activities that you can download! Also, make sure phonemic awareness is explicitly taught in your child's kindergarten and first grade classrooms!
Want to learn more? Visit the Phonemic Awareness Page for more information and to learn which phonological awareness resources we recommend for parents and educators.

2. ALPHABETIC PRINCIPLE - The understanding that letters are used to represent the speech sounds of our language. Children must demonstrate the ability to associate sounds with letters and use these sounds to form words.
We use the letters of the alphabet often alone (basic code), often in two's and in groups of three and four (advanced code) to represent the sounds in our language.

In a perfect world, our written language would consist of just basic code. Every sound in our language would have just one letter assigned to it. Our written language would be very simple to decode. Teaching reading would be easy and reading and spelling problems would be few and far between.
Unfortunately, our written alphabetic code contains advanced code. Quite frequently, sounds are represented by more than one letter and letters represent more than just one sound. The more advanced the code, the more difficult it is to crack that code. The more difficult it is to crack, the more difficult it is to read fluently. The better children understand the code the more automaticity they will develop.

Let us be very clear: Advanced code creates many of the reading and spelling problems our children experience. For dyslexics, the advanced code can be a nightmare. Here is the good news! When our code is taught properly, many of these literacy difficulties go away. So what is the key to our children learning to read? Effectively teaching them to break the code! This site is going to help you do this!
Parent Tips - Parents, be sure your children master the written code. Check out the READING ACTIVITIES I PAGE and the READING ACTIVITIES II PAGE!
Want to learn more about cracking the code? Visit the Reading Activities I Page and the Reading Activities II Page for free reading activities designed to help children develop great reading decoding and reading fluency skills.

3. READING FLUENCY - Reading Fluency is the ability to read a text accurately, quickly, and with appropriate expression. Fluent readers demonstrate an effortless and automatic ability to read words in connected text. They read as if they were speaking.
Ultimately, the purpose for reading is comprehension. There is no point to reading if not to gain information. While reading comprehension is the ultimate goal of reading, reading fluency is the key to achieving it! Without sufficient reading fluency, children will not have sufficient comprehension. Let me reiterate this fact! If we want our children to comprehend we must teach them to be fluent first! Too often, this is the neglected goal of reading instruction and our children have suffered because of it. Thankfully, research has provided us with widely recognized reading strategies that sufficiently teach reading fluency. Our charge is to implement these strategies when teaching reading and purposely teach our children to read fluently. provides you with simple methods to teach reading fluency!
Parent Tips - Have your children read aloud to you as much as possible. While silent reading serves a purpose, it is not a proven way to increase oral reading fluency!
Want proven strategies and teaching resources to promote reading fluency? Visit the
Reading Activities I Page, Reading Activities II Page, and the Reading Fluency Page

4. VOCABULARY - Vocabulary refers to the words we must know in order to communicate effectively. With relationship to reading, vocabulary plays an important role in two major ways.
  1. When learning to read, children have a much more difficult time learning to read words that are not already a part of their oral vocabulary.
  2. Vocabulary is very important to reading comprehension. Simply put, children cannot understand what they are reading without knowing what most of the words mean.
Children learn most of their vocabulary indirectly through everyday experiences but some vocabulary should be taught directly to support reading comprehension.

On the Reading Vocabulary page, we cover this broad topic in depth and highlight the type of vocabulary skills we find essential when teaching reading.
Parent Tips - Parents, read aloud to your children. This is a top strategy for building their vocabularies. Once they read fluently, encourage them to read extensively on their own. These are two of the best ways to expand vocabulary and oral expression skills.
Check out the
Reading Vocabulary Activities Page for information on the best vocabulary teaching tools we have used when teaching reading plus many other great vocabulary activities and resources!

5. COMPREHENSION - Comprehension is the only reason for reading. Successful readers are able to extract useful knowledge from text. It is important to teach children active strategies to help them become active, purposeful readers. Keep this fact in mind though:
The highest predictor of a child's reading comprehension level is their ability to decode text!
If one can understand the meaning of spoken language, they should be able to understand the meaning of written language. And the only way to be able to understand the meaning of written language is to be able to read it accurately and fluently.
Because reading comprehension is the ultimate goal of reading, we can place too much emphasis on its direct instruction. This usually happens at the expense of teaching phonemic awareness, alphabetic principal and oral reading fluency. A mistake we have witnessed repeatedly in education. While traditional comprehension activities are important when teaching reading, they will not have any impact on a child's comprehension unless the child is reading accurately and fluently. When teaching reading, focus on creating fluent decoding skills as they underpin everything that follows!
Parent Tips - Talk about everything you see and do with your children. Their background knowledge is key to your child's reading comprehension.
Plenty of our favorite reading comprehension strategies, resources and free reading comprehension worksheets can be found on the
Strategies for Reading Comprehension Page.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Thinking Bubble

Thinking Bubble 
Make a large thinking bubble and cut out the center circle, one student becomes the "thinker" as the other student reads the "text" out loud. The thinker is encouraged to "yell out" their thinking as the other student is reading the book.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Retelling Rope

Kelli from Castles and Crayons did a guest post for Teaching in High Heels last week. Her post was all about retelling. You can check out Kelli's post here and download her retelling rope freebie here.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Great Site for Anchor Charts

Here are some of my favorites I use ALL the TIME!

Our county is using Marzano's evaluation system and this is one I use. The students rate themselves on where they are at in their learning.

I have vocabulary notebooks and I use this anchor chart as a reminder anytime I am introducing new vocab and they are filling out a Frayer on a new word.

Here is another Marzano chart I use. This is different then the other one because they rate themselves on their effort on a given task.

My kiddos love this one. They rate themselves on the quality of their work in centers.

I think this is the most used anchor chart in our classroom :)

My kids were having a ROUGH time with written responses to a reading passage on a test. We went over it and over it and now they are fabulous. I even have one kiddo that highlights in the different colors to make sure that I see he wrote with all 4.

Great for our geometry unit. They each made their own using popsicle sticks.

I saw this on Pinterest and HAD to make it. This is such a great chart for those little reminders such as capitalization.

The good old Main Idea table way:
  • Watch Brain Pop Jr. Video on Main Idea and Details.
  • Then they filled out the "table" main idea graphic organizer from the Brain Pop Website.
  • And of course an anchor chart to accompany!

I recommend printing on cardstock :)
I learned this the hard way :(

It prints like a plus sign and then cut it out/ fold the sides down.

Here's how it turned out!

I Love this idea from First Grade Jungle!!
I can't wait to try this out.

Anchor Chart :)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Kagan Training

Summer Grove Teachers:  I guess you got your letter announcing that we will be participating in Kagan training this year.  I found this overview over at

Dr. Spencer Kagan's Thoughts on Cooperative Learning

Dr. Spencer Kagan proposed his model about cooperative learning in 1985 in his book 'Cooperative Learning Structures'. In his model, he mainly advocated two basic principles. He first stated that the world is pretty much competitive while in some fields it isn't that much. However, you have to be fully equipped with knowledge in the fields you are going to face. Coming to the second principle, he wanted to have a learning method which was a mixture between competitive and individualistic, with cooperative classroom organization so that it could help in preparing the students for complete sort of social situations.
According to Dr. Spencer Kagan, there are some advantages and disadvantages of cooperative learning. Starting with academic achievements has been increased among those who have used cooperative learning. Cooperative learning also builds an ethnic relation among students creating mutual understanding between them. Cooperative learning also increases one's self-esteem, social skills, and study skills. It teaches student empathy and builds social relationships. It not only makes a student like the school, class, lesson plans, the teacher but also teaches them to be more responsible, creating a sense in them that they do make a difference. Moreover, in working in groups students learn to work with and understand others who differ from themselves.
In addition to that, student also increases their higher level thinking skills. More to it, individual accountability will be credited, in which each student contribution will be held accountable, which result in equal participation from each student. There are students who raise hands while other sometimes or never raise hands to participate in the class, so through cooperative learning participation is also increased. Cooperative learning also introduces the sense of social orientation so that students find other students someone to work with rather than someone to beat. Lastly, the students learn the workplace skills which are a necessity in the twenty-first century as the students need to know how to work in groups.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Reading questions and anchor charts

Here’s a set of these questions for you that you could use during class discussions or put at a reading center to encourage your students’ thinking and aid in comprehension. Each one relates to a Common Core Standard, too :)


Saturday, July 7, 2012

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Teaching how to ask questions


Check out this anchor chart.  Teaching students how to ask questions is going to be an important part of the CCSS.