Beginning Writing Skills in Preschoolers

It’s easy to keep track of your preschooler’s growth in height and weight. But how can you measure your child’s development in other areas? For instance, can you tell if there is learning and mastering age-appropriate writing skills? The questions and tips that follow will help you understand what type of early writing skills your 3- and 4-year-old child should be developing and how you can support her budding writing skills.

What are age-appropriate writing skills for Preschool?

The most important thing for parents to remember is that writing during the preschool years is, well, messy! The goal is to help children understand how writing works, that it connects in meaningful ways to reading, and that it communicates information, through words and symbols. Do they:

  • Express ideas and stories through pictures she draws?
  • Use pencils, crayons, and markers for drawing and writing?
  • Copy and draw lines and circles, and symbols like “X” and “+”?
  • Attempt (with some success) to write some of the letters in her first name?
  • Show an understanding of how writing and drawing help us communicate and function in everyday life?

What to do at home?

Now that you understand some of the beginning writing skills your child should have, you can reinforce those skills and help her make further progress. It’s easy to practice writing with your child throughout the day. Here are some activities to try:

  • Let your child use writing tools such as pencils, washable markers, chalk, and crayons. Gather and organize these materials, along with some paper, in a box that your child can decorate and have access to.
  • Encourage your child to use drawing to express ideas and tell stories.
  • Show your child that written words are a part of daily life. From grocery lists and email messages to billboards and signs in stores, writing is everywhere!
  • Teach your child to print her first name. (Be patient, as this will take practice.) This is very empowering for a preschooler!
  • Label your child’s belongings with her name. And, let your child label some of her own things (such as a notebook or crayon box).
  • Let your child mold clay letters for hands-on practice shaping letters of the alphabet.
  • Help your child create a pretend menu using pictures of food from newspapers and magazines

Promoting early writing skills at preschool

There is a growing emphasis on structured learning in today’s preschools and while there is still plenty of play time, time in school tends to follow a more rigorous curriculum than in the past. To keep track of how well your young child is learning to write, you’ll want to:

  • Ask your child’s teacher how writing is being taught and practiced – and whether your child is doing well or struggling.
  • Find out what specific early writing skills your child will need to master in order to have a successful start in kindergarten.
  • Collect samples of your child’s writing in the work and projects she brings home, display them at home, and discuss them together.
  • Encourage your child to talk about school and learning, and try to gauge how she feels about writing.

Cause for concern? 

If you’re worried that your child’s writing skills are below-average for her age group, rest assured that not all preschoolers learn to write at the same pace. However, you may want to seek help if your child:

  • Dislikes and avoids writing and copying.
  • Is late in learning to copy and write.
  • Has trouble remembering the shapes of letters and numbers.
  • Frequently reverses or otherwise incorrectly draws letters, numbers, and symbols.

December Pinterest Pick 3

One of the corner stones for learning to read is mastering Phonemic Awareness. It's a skill that can impede readers from keeping up with peers. I spend time reteaching this skill to many of my students through the year. In some cases more than the students I teach phonics to.

I love anything that uses manipulatives. In this case legos-they are the best thing ever. But moving tokens, blocks, or legos gets students involved, wanting to the activity. These free cards are a great way to get "play" there way to mastering phonemic awareness.

 I'm always looking for Phonemic Awareness activities. Things that take only a couple of minutes to do and something that I can see ten minutes later when they are reading a text. This list has that--ideas and suggestions that take only a couple minutes and easy to pass on to classroom teachers to do as well. This list has broken down phonemic awareness into other skill sub-skills which is even better.

I have never thought to use legos as a way to help students see sounds. I should have since I use them for math. This idea can be done with either large or small legos represented a sound within a word. I need to try this since my students love jumping each sound. I can see this being a big hit with them.

Have a great week.

RTI Activities for Your Math Class & Giveaway

I’m always asked what are simple things that teachers can do in their rooms to support RTI in math. These four are easy to do and don’t require tons of up-front work and meet the learning needs of all the learners in your room. 

1) Math Journaling
Implementing a math journal allows your students to "think about their thinking" (metacognition) and record it in a way that makes sense to them. This journaling process gives you a window into each student's mind to determine where he or she needs help or enrichment.

Encourage students to draw, write and calculate in a math journal to solve problems, work through processes, and explain their actions. Assign math journals once a day, once a week or even once a month to create an invaluable, ongoing formative assessment.

In respect to RTI, you can differentiate journal assignments for Tier 1 students by providing open-ended questions, like "How would you quickly count all of the toes in this classroom?" Differentiate further for Tier 2 and Tier 3 students by asking more concrete questions, based on the concepts they are currently working on.

Math journals are a great way for students to show critical thinking and their problem solving skills.
Looking for good examples of a math journal?

Check out: Pinterest user Susan Cardin's "Math Journal" board.

2) Manipulatives
Consider a kindergarten classroom. It's likely stocked with colorful bins full of plastic toys, connecting cubes, blocks and three-dimensional shapes. Now, somewhere along the way to middle school those toys got left behind, but the cubes, blocks, and three-dimensional shapes still serve as valuable manipulative materials.

Manipulatives help students of all ages learn and understand math concepts, from counting to multiplication and division. Break out these manipulatives -- foregoing toys in an effort to respect the maturity of eighth graders -- to introduce more complex math concepts in a way students can see and touch (and talk about).

These manipulatives do not necessarily have to be concrete either! Recent educational technology developments even allow students to use virtual manipulatives on a touchscreen or laptop.
Your students will benefit from "seeing" math concepts in a new way. As they progress, some Tier 1 students will likely leave the tactile manipulatives behind as they "get it." Tier 2 and 3 students can continue to refer back to the objects (virtual and/or physical) for to help form better understandings and reinforce prior knowledge.

Check out: Megan Campbell's "Math Lessons,Manipulatives, & Ideas" board showcases a nice variety of manipulative ideas for math students of all ages and ranges.

3) Introduce and Review Math Vocabulary
As you know, math is its own language. Beginning in the early grades, your students learned terms like "sum", "difference", or "addend". These words (hopefully) became part of their everyday vocabulary. However, these mathematics terms often require revisiting and scaffolding, regardless of the student's current learning level and goals.

Post a running list of math vocabulary in the classroom and review it often. Going back to strategy one, ask students to journal about specific terms and real world application. It will be interesting to see how each student uniquely describes the term "factor" or "exponent." Allow students to draw, diagram or provide examples of terms rather than memorizing a textbook definition. 

Learning the vocabulary will help all students become more familiar with math concepts. In respect to your RTI model, you can stratify the complexity of the terms and the method of reviews between the tiers. For example, Tier 1 students might be best suited to learn more complex terms, as necessary, while Tier 2 and 3 students can continue to revisit learned terms via differentiated modalities as they develop needed comprehension. Plus, most state assessments use math vocabulary changing it or watering it down will cause confusion later on.

Check out: "Math Vocabulary Builders" Pinterest Board from Carol Camp for great math vocab activities and ideas!

4) Think Aloud
When teaching, or re-teaching, math concepts, using a "Think Aloud" activity is a great method for students to understand, hear, and see what's going on in your head as you solve the problem or work through a mathematical process.

Walk students through several examples by thinking aloud each step of the way. Encourage struggling students to model the "think aloud" process by asking them to explain each step as they go. This can be done in a whole-class, small group, or partner setting.

While Tier 1 students often "get it" without further explanation, thinking aloud helps break complex processes down into manageable steps for Tier 2 and 3 students. Also, by hearing and seeing explanations from their peers, students often have "light bulb" moments that may not have clicked during your teacher-led instruction. I use Think Alouds several times a week-I even work to get my students to lead them!

I hope you find something to take back to your class. Be sure to fill out the Rafflecopter to get a Broncos Magnet and a 25 dollar gift certificate to Teachers pay Teachers--just in time for Cyber Monday. Don't forget everything on my site will also be on sale!!

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What is Balanced Assessment?

What is Balanced Assessment?

A 21st Century Assessment System must include both Formative and Summative Assessment
The 21st century will usher in a new era for how teachers utilize assessment systems. The new model will include both summative and formative assessment. In contrast to summative assessment, formative assessment is more focused on collaboration in the classroom and identifying learning gaps that can be addressed before the end-of-year assessments.

A comprehensive balanced assessment system includes classroom assessments, interim/benchmark assessments, and statewide assessments that are aligned to state standards. Each component is important and should be valued for what it contributes.

Formative Assessment

A process used by teachers and students during instruction that provides feedback to adjust ongoing teaching and learning to help students improve their achievement of intended instructional outcomes.
Formative Assessment includes:

  • Questioning
  • Discussions
  • Learning Activities
  • Feedback
  • Conferences
  • Interviews
  • Student Reflections

Formative assessment is found at the classroom level and happens minute-to-minute or in short cycles. Formative assessment is not graded or used in accountability systems. The feedback involved in formative assessment is descriptive in nature so that students know what they need to do next to improve learning.

Summative Assessment

A measure of achievement to provide evidence of student competence or program effectiveness.
Summative Assessment includes:

  • Selected Response Items
  • Multiple-Choice
  • True/False
  • Matching
  • Short Answer
  • Fill in the Blank
  • 1-2 Sentence Response
  • Extended Written Response

Performance Assessment

Summative assessments are found at the classroom, district and state level and can be graded and used in accountability systems. The information gathered from summative assessments is evaluative and is used to categorize students so performance among students can be compared.

What is Formative Assessment?

Formative Assessment is a vital part of successful teaching, and should be practiced continually throughout the learning process. This type of assessment is key in helping students to achieve their highest potential in the classroom.

Formative assessment is different from a summative assessment- some form of a test at the end of a unit or lesson; an assessment that is given a grade to determine how well the student learned the material after the content has been completely taught. Instead of occurring at the end of all instruction, formative assessment takes place during teaching, and continues throughout the entire learning process. Traditionally, these assessments aren't given a grade; they are instead used by teachers so they are more aware of how to approach future instruction with students on the subject.

Benefits of Formative Assessments

  • Gives the teacher insight on student needs, and provides the opportunity to adapt their teaching in order to best meet the unique needs of the students
  • Allows the chance for reteaching throughout the learning process 
  • Gives the teacher a concept of where every student stands with their current knowledge (and of what each student still needs to know during the unit or lesson)
  • Allows the teacher (and students) to determine a set goal for learning and decide how to best reach that goal
  • Helps the teacher to know what level of instruction to begin with the next time the material is presented to the students
  • Gives teacher the opportunity to make necessary changes and differentiate instruction appropriately for the students to be successful
  • Provides students with multiple opportunities to demonstrate their knowledge as they learn new things 
  • Provides the teacher with insight on how to appropriately group students for cooperative learning activities
  • Allows the teacher to adjust instruction in order to effectively provide for different student needs

By utilizing formative assessments in your teaching, you are enhancing both instruction and student learning. These assessments aren't solely for the use of the educator or the student. They provide vital information and feedback to everyone involved in the learning process and greatly improve the atmosphere of the classroom and the overall student achievement.

Types of Formative Assessment

Formative assessment does not (and should not) take the same form every time. It is beneficial to both the teacher and the students to use a variety of types of assessments
throughout teaching and learning. There are many ways that formative assessment can be implemented in order to give the teacher the most information possible, and to give students the greatest number of opportunities to demonstrate their knowledge.

  • Use individual, partner, small group and whole group activities in order to assess students (this will provide and overall concept of how the class is doing, as well as an individual look at student progress)
  • Students can discuss and share their thinking with others in the class in order to form a deeper understanding of concepts taught (such as a think-pair-share)
  • Students should summarize main ideas within the unit or lesson, and reflect upon learning (in order to best make sense of what they know)
  • Use writing assignments in order to cover specific questions or topics (allow students to use pictures along with words)
  • Provide vocabulary and main concepts on a topic both before and after the teaching and learning occurs (to determine how much learning has taken place, and how much still needs to be improved on)
  • Conference with students on an individual basis to discuss progress and establish future goals for learning
  • Have students use lists, charts or diagrams to organize the information that they know
  • Use cooperative learning activities so that students have the opportunity to work with other students and build an even further understanding of concepts

In the first grade classroom...

Formative assessment should be used in every grade level to enhance the teaching and learning that takes place in the classroom. Even in first grade, formative assessment can be used in many different ways to benefit the teacher and students. At an age where so much rapid growth and change can occur, formative assessment can be key in keeping up with the ever-changing abilities of students. In first grade classrooms many students are beginning to have a stronger concept of literacy and are rapidly growing into readers. Individualized formative assessments (such as a reading conference between the student and the teacher) should be used in order to determine the individual reading abilities of each student. If the teacher regularly holds reading conferences with students, they will be able to keep up with the unique needs of every learner, and set goals for reading throughout the year. This will make the teacher more aware of which types of materials to use with their students for lessons and assignments.

Although first grade students are young, it is still extremely important to utilize cooperative learning and small group assignments within the classroom.  If the teacher uses information gathered from other formative assessments to properly group students into cooperative learning groups, students will not only learn how to work with others early on, but they will be able to support each other’s learning.

In the first grade classroom, you can also have students reflect on their learning by writing a small summary of what they have learned or somehow relating the information to themselves. This accomplishes several important goals at once- gives the teacher an idea of what information has been learned, teaches the student to summarize and reflect on their own learning, and helps to develop early writing skills.

Formative assessment is a valuable tool in the classroom. It is an ongoing process that will help to guide the learning process and future instruction.

November Pinterest Pick 3

 I can't believe the year is almost over. Between planning for Christmas and working through the 4 C's, things have been crazy. You ask what the 4 C's are? Well, in many places the 4 C's are used in STEM, STREAM, or GT thinking but is some districts in the States its becoming a way of planning. In many ways to takes Common Core outcomes and challenges teachers to think about education as what it takes to work for company's like Google or  Instagram. The big thing: Backwards Planning to cover the standards and IEP goals.

My picks this month are to help provide a way for me to connect more dots as I plan the next 8 weeks for my instruction.

Thinking for working with the STEM or STEAM world when planning to meet IEP goals pushes you to thinking. Wrapping one of these into daily instruction and planning to do it with purpose as with Backwards Planning is not as easy as one thinks. I have decided to met the current IEP goals communication is key for where they are in their DRA reading goals. My district then wants me to create a communication rubric with my students. I'm not worried--they have done one with me already and several with their teachers. The nice thing, I will not have to assess this 4 C every week just as an interim and/or a summative assessment. 
 This website has tons of great ideas that they use in real classrooms. Finding real examples of Project Based Learning with videos talking about what worked and how students grew from the projects is well worth a visit. I don't have the time to do projects for the sake of a project they have to have a real impact and provide real growth on those IEP goals.

I have messed with creating a whole PBL experience for my groups but I'm not sure how to do it. This list of questions will help me create PBL over Christmas Break. I have added pits and pieces to their groups like presenting their retells like reporters and putting together a sentence in their notebooks that will make a short story in eight weeks. But these are little pieces--I would really like to try taking the cake.

Have a great week!

Should I RTI?

My life has been crazy this month. I bought a new town home and moving in the school year has been challenging.  All my stuff is hiding in the garage and I have no clue where anything is. It's tons of fun. Though since the beginning of the month, my Special Education team has been working on referrals from Tier 2 interventions. We have been working with a group of fabulous Reading Recovery teachers who provide many of the Tier 2 interventions. Its been a learning process for everyone.

Why should I do it:

  • RTI is an academic based intervention addressing primarily academics rather than behavior
  • Many kids act out and exhibit emotional and coping problems in school due to being behind academically and not understanding the work and concepts
  • RTI addresses these academic deficits that lead to acting out
  • Reduces behavior problems and increases coping skills
  • Improves grades and achievement
  • Boosts student confidence, work completion, and willingness to work
  • Improves student’s self concept
  • Increases student’s independent working and responsibility
  • When should I do it:
  • When student’s act out due to being unable to do the work
  • When it appears a student is avoiding work
  • When a student seems to act out or behave as the class clown in correlation to having to begin and work on academic tasks
  • When a student displays work refusal, withdraws from group and pairs work, and seems to make excuses for not doing academic tasks and it is known the student has low scores or low ability in the academic area or an area related to the ability to do the task

How do I do it:

In a nutshell, RTI is a 3 tiered system where each tier of intervention targets more specific academic deficits and more individual students, such that tier 1 interventions target a whole class, tier 2 small groups or pairs, and tier 3 individual students

The basic idea is:

  • Determine the academic deficit areas
  • Test these areas to get a baseline
  • Implement an academic intervention targeting the specific academic deficit area
  • Test the student again after delivering the intervention
  • If there is progress, continue this intervention
  • If there is not progress, try the intervention again or a different one and then test
  • If you try the same intervention again and it does not work, try a different one and then test
  • Continue this process until you find an intervention the student responds to;.
  • How can I design effective Tier 2 interventions?

Tier 2 evidence-based interventions use systematic, explicit methods to change student performance and/or behavior. In systematic methods, skills and concepts begin with the most simple, moving to the most complex. Student objectives are clear, concise, and driven by ongoing assessment results.
Additionally, students are provided with appropriate practice opportunities which directly reflect systematic instruction. Explicit methods typically include teacher modeling, student guided practice, and student independent practice, sometimes referred to as “I do, We do, You do.”

Tier 2 Intervention Design Example:

I do
1.Teacher models and explains

We do
2.Students practice (with teacher’s guidance) what the teacher modeled
3.Teacher provides prompts/feedback
4.Students apply skill as teacher scaffolds instruction

You do
5.Students practice independently (either in-class or as homework)
6.Teacher provides feedback

As you design interventions that are systematic and explicit, make sure you spend plenty of time on the “We do” stage. That is your best opportunity to catch mistakes and clarify misconceptions.
How can I differentiate targeted interventions to meet the needs of each of my Tier 2 students?
To design effective differentiated interventions, you must understand your students’ learning modalities and multiple intelligences. As you no doubt remember from your college classes, the modalities are how we take information into the brain.

Are your students visual, auditory, or tactile/kinesthetic? Many Tier 2 learners are primarily visual and tactile/kinesthetic. They need concrete examples such as pictures and graphic organizers, as well as hands-on experiences.

Students who are poor readers typically exhibit strengths in the visual/spatial intelligence. They “think in pictures” rather than in words. Because these students are often able to put details into their pictures that others may not discern, encourage them to sketch what they are reading or hearing. Next, guide them as they first explain and then write about their pictures.

Have a great week!

What are the Six Syllable Types?

I do running records at least every other day and get to at least two students. I use the running records as a formative assessment. I'm wanting to know if my work attack lessons are sticking with my readers. One of the most powerful thing I teach my readers is the 6 syllable types and which ones I target depend on the needs of my readers. 

Why teach syllables?

Without a strategy for chunking longer words into manageable parts, students may look at a longer word and simply resort to guessing what it is — or altogether skipping it. Familiarity with syllable-spelling conventions helps readers know whether a vowel is long, short, a diphthong, r-controlled, or whether endings have been added. Familiarity with syllable patterns helps students to read longer words accurately and fluently and to solve spelling problems — although knowledge of syllables alone is not sufficient for being a good speller
Spoken syllables are organized around a vowel sound. Each word above has two syllables. The jaw drops open when a vowel in a syllable is spoken. 

Closed syllables

The closed syllable is the most common spelling unit in English; it accounts for just under 50 percent of the syllables in running text. When the vowel of a syllable is short, the syllable will be closed off by one or more consonants. Therefore, if a closed syllable is connected to another syllable that begins with a consonant, two consonant letters will come between the syllables (com-mon, but-ter).
Two or more consonant letters often follow short vowels in closed syllables (dodge, stretch, back, stuff, doll, mess, jazz). This is a spelling convention; the extra letters do not represent extra sounds. Each of these example words has only one consonant phoneme at the end of the word. 

Vowel-Consonant-e (VCe) syllables

Also known as "magic e" syllable patterns, VCe syllables contain long vowels spelled with a single letter, followed by a single consonant, and a silent e. Examples of VCe syllables are found in wake, whale, while, yoke, yore, rude, and hare. Every long vowel can be spelled with a VCe pattern, although spelling "long e" with VCe is unusual.

Open syllables

If a syllable is open, it will end with a long vowel sound spelled with one vowel letter; there will be no consonant to close it and protect the vowel (to-tal, ri-val, bi-ble, mo-tor). Therefore, when syllables are combined, there will be no doubled consonant between an open syllable and one that follows.

Vowel team syllables

A vowel team may be two, three, or four letters; thus, the term vowel digraph is not used. A vowel team can represent a long, short, or diphthong vowel sound. Vowel teams occur most often in old Anglo-Saxon words whose pronunciations have changed over hundreds of years. They must be learned gradually through word sorting and systematic practice. Examples of vowel teams are found in thief, boil, hay, suit, boat, and straw.

Sometimes, consonant letters are used in vowel teams. The letter y is found in ey, ay, oy, and uy, and the letter w is found in ew, aw, and ow. It is not accurate to say that "w can be a vowel," because the letter is working as part of a vowel team to represent a single vowel sound. Other vowel teams that use consonant letters are -augh, -ough, -igh, and the silent -al spelling for /aw/, as in walk.

Vowel-r syllables

We have chosen the term "vowel-r" over "r-controlled" because the sequence of letters in this type of syllable is a vowel followed by r (er, ir, ur, ar, or). Vowel-r syllables are numerous, variable, and difficult for students to master; they require continuous review. The /r/ phoneme is elusive for students whose phonological awareness is underdeveloped. Examples of vowel-r syllables are found in perform, ardor, mirror, further, worth, and wart.

Consonant-le (C-le) syllables

Also known as the stable final syllable, C-le combinations are found only at the ends of words. If a C-le syllable is combined with an open syllable — as in cable, bugle, or title — there is no doubled consonant. If one is combined with a closed syllable — as in dabble, topple, or little — a double consonant results.

Have a gerat week!

October Pinterest Linky Party

The last couple of months have been crazy. One thing that teachers have been hitting me up for is Sound and Letter Identification ideas. A couple of activities that my small group students love are below.

This is great for large groups. I love to open with this song before working on sound and letter cards.   I have used this song two different way using the first letter in names and using an order that matches my reading problem. Either way they learn the letter names.  

This one is designed for fall but in my world seasons don't really mater if the task matches the needs of my students. This be expanded beyond letters in a name to match a reading program or even targeted to specific letter name needs.

I love this pin because she thinks outside the box and has ideas that are not used every day in a classroom. This is great for a teacher that has tried everything and needs new ideas.

Have a great weekend!

What is Phonemic Awareness?

Phonemic awareness is the ability to notice, think about, and work with the individual sounds in words. We know that a student's skill in phonemic awareness is a good predictor of later reading success or difficulty. Find out what parents and teachers can do to help children develop this critical literacy skill.

Before children learn to read print, they need to become aware of how the sounds in words work. They must understand that words are made up of speech sounds, or phonemes.

An important pre-reading skill is phonemic awareness. Children become aware that words are made up of sounds which can be assembled in different ways to make different words. Children build these pre-reading skills by practicing nursery rhymes and playing sound and word games such as learning to hear and recognize rhymed words. Tutoring, workbooks, games, or structured computer programs can help teach or reinforce these skills. Parents help in this process by providing high-quality educational materials, establishing a pattern of daily reading, creating a rich language environment, discussing your child's progress with teachers, and following up on their recommendations.

As this phonemic awareness is developed, children should become interested in how words are portrayed in print. Daily reading sessions with the children following along should help develop their understanding of print concept and feed this curiosity. This interest in decoding the words is the fuel for children learning the alphabet and phonics decoding skills.  For more information on teaching phonemic awareness, read the Put Reading First report on Phonemic awareness instruction. 
The "What Works?" Report found that the five key areas in learning to read are phonemic awareness, phonics, comprehension, vocabulary, and fluency.
Phonemes are the smallest parts of sound in a spoken word that make a difference in the word's meaning. For example, changing the first phoneme in the word hat from /h/ to /p/ changes the word from hat to pat, and so changes the meaning. (A letter between slash marks shows the phoneme, or sound, that the letter represents, and not the name of the letter. For example, the letter h represents the sound /h/.) Children can show us that they have phonemic awareness in several ways, including:
  • recognizing which words in a set of words begin with the same sound ("Bell, bike, and boy all have /b/ at the beginning.")
  • isolating and saying the first or last sound in a word ("The beginning sound of dog is /d/." "The ending sound of sit is /t/.")
  • blending the separate sounds in a word to say the word ("/m/, /a/, /p/ – map.")
  • segmenting a word into its separate sounds ("up – /u/, /p/.")

The phonological processor usually works unconsciously when we listen and speak. It is designed to extract the meaning of what is said, not to notice the speech sounds in the words. It is designed to do its job automatically in the service of efficient communication. 

On the other hand, phonological skill is not strongly related to intelligence. Some very intelligent people have limitations of linguistic awareness, especially at the phonological level. Take heart. If you find phonological tasks challenging, you are competent in many other ways!

This fact is well proven: Phonological awareness is critical for learning to read any alphabetic writing system. Phonological awareness is even important for reading other kinds of writing systems, such as Chinese and Japanese. There are several well-established lines of argument for the importance of phonological skills to reading and spelling.

Phoneme awareness predicts later outcomes in reading and spelling.

Phoneme awareness facilitates growth in printed word recognition. Even before a student learns to read, we can predict with a high level of accuracy whether that student will be a good reader or a poor reader by the end of third grade and beyond. Prediction is possible with simple tests that measure awareness of speech sounds in words, knowledge of letter names, knowledge of sound-symbol correspondence, and vocabulary.

The majority of poor readers have relative difficulty with phoneme awareness and other phonological skills.

Instruction in phoneme awareness is beneficial for novice readers and spellers. Instruction in speech-sound awareness reduces and alleviates reading and spelling difficulties. Teaching speech sounds explicitly and directly also accelerates learning of the alphabetic code. Therefore, classroom instruction for beginning readers should include phoneme awareness activities. Phonological awareness interacts with and facilitates the development of vocabulary and word consciousness. This argument is made much less commonly than the first four points. Phonological awareness and memory are involved in these activities of word learning:
  • Attending to unfamiliar words and comparing them with known words
  • Repeating and pronouncing words correctly
  • Remembering (encoding) words accurately so that they can be retrieved and used
  • Differentiating words that sound similar so their meanings can be contrasted
Learning to read has a sequence. If a student is forced to try to learn skills that he or she does not yet have the foundation for, he or she might become frustrated and lose confidence.  Parents should get a sense of what the right sequence is so that they do not inadvertently frustrate their child. Prior to learning to decode words with phonics, there are a few important pre-reading skills.

Happy Teaching-Have a great week!

What is Guided Reading?

As a special education teacher, I spend most of my small group reading time doing guided reading. Those students who need comprehension work over phonics, this the best way to get students to read at grade level. It does take planning and thinking about where students are going. One thing that has become a great help in planning is my Fountas & Pinnell Guided Reading Questions and Checklist (click on the picture). It has the reading levels A-Z. I use them when I'm planning groups and looking forward to where they are headed. I use it for daily targets and cross them off when students have mastered a skill. Click on the picture to go to my store.

Guided reading is a procedure that enables the teacher to observe, teach and support a small group of children as they develop an understanding of the reading processes and put into practice their literacy skills. The group reads a book which has been carefully selected based on students' strengths and needs. The teacher facilitates discussion and guides and directs the readers. Groups are formed according to children’s needs and the purpose of the session.

Essential Components of Guided Reading

1. Explicit small group instruction
2. Text matches student’s reading instructional levels and are selected by the teacher
3. Teacher introduces a new book
4. Each child reads the whole text and applies known strategies (the goal is for the student to eventually read the book silently and independently)
5. Teacher assists students in developing self-extending strategies (strategies that the student knows and continues to extend or improve on and apply in different situations)
6. Children are grouped and regrouped based on ongoing assessment of students reading level and strategy growth


• To teach reading strategies while engaging in meaningful reading and writing
• To model strategy use that will facilitate students becoming self-extending readers
• To teach letter/sound relationships within the context of a text as well as with alphabet drill
• To practice fluent reading
• To utilize daily running records as a monitor of student progress, data-driven acceleration within flexible groups, and cue and strategy use
• To scaffold strategy use by readers that allows for “cutting edge” growth
• To provide a supportive, successful reading time that allows students to perceive themselves as readers and writers

Traditional vs. Guided Reading Groups: What’s the Difference?
Traditional Guided Reading

o Groups remain stable in a composition; progress through the same phase at the same rate
o Groups are based on general ability
o One kind of grouping prevails
o Students progress through a fixed sequence of books and skills
o Introduction focuses on new vocabulary
o Selections are usually read once or twice
o Skills practice follows reading
o Focus is on the lesson, not the student
o Teachers follow prepared “script” from a teacher’s guide
o Questions are generally limited to factual recall
o Teacher verifies meaning
o Students take turns reading orally
o Students respond to story in workbooks or on prepared worksheets
o Readers are dependent on teacher direction and support
o Students are tested on skills and literal recall at the end of each story unit
o Evaluation based on progress through a set group of materials and tests
o Groups are dynamic, flexible and change on a regular basis
o Groups are based on strengths in the reading process and the appropriate level of text difficulty
o Groupings for other purposes are used
o Books are chosen at the appropriate level for each group; there is no prescribed sequence and books may overlap but generally are not the same for every group
o Difference in sequence of books is expected
o Introduction focuses on meaning with some attention to new and interesting vocabulary
o Many frequently used words but vocabulary is not artificially controlled
o Selections reread several times for fluency and problem solving
o Skills practice is embedded in shared reading skills; teaching directly related to text
o Questions develop higher order thinking skills and strategic reading
o Teacher and student interact with the text to construct meaning
o Students read entire text silently or with a partner
o Focus is on understanding meaning and the strategies used to construct it
o Students respond to story though personal and authentic activities
o Students read independently and confidently
o Assessment is ongoing and embedded in instruction
o Assessment is based on daily observation and systematic individual assessment

Guided Reading Lessons with Experimental Readers
Experimental Reader

Before Reading

Lesson focus: From ongoing assessment in previous lesson ask:
• What knowledge and understandings do students already have about reading?
• What strategies are students using to read?
• What attitudes do students have about reading?
• What do students need to know next?
• What reading behaviors need to be reinforced?

Select an appropriate book or text to match the purpose of the lesson. The purpose could be to introduce or develop further understanding of a story, a topic, a theme, an author, language patterns, or conventions, or a particular reading strategy.


• Set purpose for reading by discussing title and main idea
• Provide any essential knowledge that will assist their understanding of new concept or vocabulary
• Link prior knowledge and experience
• Talk through the story looking at pictures and asking students to make predictions
• Engage students by asking critical thinking questions as they “walk and talk” through the pictures
• Call attention to frequently used words of new vocabulary

During Reading

Read the Text

• Read the text together (e.g. choral, echo, or shadow reading)
• Model, prompt, and reinforce the use of reading strategies
• If appropriate, set a focus question and ask students to whisper read a section of the text (1-2 pages)
• Discuss the story by first answering the focus question
• Elicit further discussion by asking students to ask some of their own questions
• Continue this format to read the remainder of the text
• Revisit the text to confirm or revise predictions
• Talk about strategies used to gain understanding, e.g. how did you work that out?

After Reading


• Model and elicit a brief group retell to foster comprehension through prompts, use of text, and illustrations
Respond-- skills & strategy lesson
• Teach skill/ strategy lesson based on assessment and individual observation obtained from reading of text
• Confirm and adjust predictions as a group
• Engage student in self- assessment
• Practice and reinforce high frequency word in second reading
• Reinforce reading strategies
• Reread one or more times to promote fluency


• Elicit response in a variety of ways: discussion, question and answer, etc.
• Offer opportunities for students to respond through writing, drawing, painting, dramatizing, etc.

Revisit: Encourage students to:

• Reread/practice familiar text
• Reread as a group or independently
• Reread independently at home to a parent


• Running records should be done weekly on seen text for which instruction was provided
Guided Reading Lessons with Early Readers and Transitional Readers

Early Readers Transitional Reader

Before Reading

Lesson focus: From ongoing assessment in previous lesson ask:
• What knowledge and understandings do students already have about reading?
• What strategies are students using to read?
• What attitudes do students have about reading?
• What do students need to know next?
• What reading behaviors need to be reinforced?
Select appropriate book or text to match the purpose of the lesson. The purpose could be to introduce or to develop further understanding of a story, a topic, a theme, an author, language patterns, or conventions, or a particular reading strategy.


• Set purpose for reading by having students read the title, author, look at illustrations and predict main idea
• Link prior knowledge and experience
• Provide any essential knowledge that will assist their understanding of new material concepts or vocabulary
• Engage students by asking critical thinking questions and guiding them to pose their own critical questions

During Reading

Read the text:

• set a focus question and ask students to whisper read or read silently a section of the text (gradually increase the length of the portion read)
• Elicit other questions from students
• Expect students to begin using reading strategies with less guidance
• Confirm or revise predictions
• Reread one or more times to promote fluency
• Talk about strategies used to gain understanding, e.g. how did you work that out?
• Encourage students to complete the reading of the text independently

After Reading


• Guide students to retell story including beginning, middle, end, characters, sequence of events, main idea, and supporting details without support of text or pictures
• Model summarization and making inferences using narrative and expository text
• Model summarizations, inference making, compare/contrast, cause effect, problem/solution using narrative and expository text


• Teach skill/strategy lesson based on assessment and individual need obtained from ongoing assessment. Check for understanding by asking students to support answers based on text
• Discuss reading strategies
• Engage in discussion and student in self-assessment
• Revisit prediction and critical thinking questions
• Discuss different student interpretations of text


• Elicit responses in a variety of ways: discussion, journal entry, illustration, diary, story maps, written summaries, plot profiles, literacy letters, reports writing, project work, drama
• Retelling, either from the original text or with variation (e.g., change the point of view, change the form, change a character, or change the ending)
• Lead the students in shared responses. Shared responses provide a real audience for responses and encourage a high standard of presentation.


• Provide students with multiple opportunities to read independently in school and or at home
• Monitor student comprehension and strategies weekly through miscue analysis, written responses, individual cloze activities, story maps, plot profiles, oral reports or student self-as.

LaberLess Giveaway--Work Smarter not Harder

Main Graphic LaborlessHello everyone!


It is Finally here!

Today I am linking with Laura from Where the Magic Happens, Krista from Teaching Momster, and Lisa from PAWsitively Teaching! I have joined forces once again with my bloggy friends to bring you the best, most amazing giveaway on this Labor Day weekend!

All of us have been thinking about  good ways in which to treat our readers and followers.   We thought hard, and I mean it! Really, really hard… and decided that  we can treat you to our best ideas to work smarter rather than harder… at school and home!

I know what it takes to be a great teacher, the stress, the time, the energy… I could go on and on! I also know that we crave time to ourselves and our families.

So here I go!


This year I'm at a new building in a new district. Everyone on the team is new as well-some of us have elementary experience. How to make a new special education team work smart???

Goggle--Google Docs, Google Spreadsheets, Google everything. The team uses it to communicate with each other because we are going in like 20 different directions at one time. No team has that problem! Our weekly business meeting have had a habit of becoming a two hour event-I don't have that kind of time. The previous team started with these things but we have made changes to them so we are more efficient-like a structured agenda with new and old business. Last week we were done in an hour and everyone knew what they needed to get done by next week.


After a year of looking I have found a place to move into. The downside is that I don't a huge outside space. I love to cook. I love this idea because I have windows having fresh herbs or flowers to cook with.  Fresh is always better than dried. Beside that mess good.


Many of my students have problems break apart a word and then blend it back together. To them I created these nonsense words practice cards to target two skills at once-saying the sounds and then blend it to say it. My students DIBELS scores have increased both their PSF (phoneme segmentation fluency) and NWF (nonsense word fluency). Click on the picture to go to my Teachers pay Teachers page.

Have a great week.

Top all these great tips and ideas  with these top-notch prizes!

A $100 gift card to Amazon

A $50 gift card to TpT


2 $25 gift cards to TpT

1 $10 gift card to TpT

Thank you for reading! And now don't be silly and get your hands all over this awesome giveaway!!

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About Me

Welcome to my all thing special education blog. I empower busy elementary special education teachers to use best practice strategies to achieve a data and evidence driven classroom community by sharing easy to use, engaging, unique approaches to small group reading and math. Thanks for Hopping By.

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