Math Preschool Style

Preschooler, experiencing the world through play as they explore and learn with great enthusiasm. Giving preschoolers a solid foundation in early math literacy is critical to their future academic success, not to mention how important it is to their day-to-day functioning.

How preschoolers learn the many aspects of math

Most preschoolers, even without guidance from adults, are naturally interested in math as it exists in the world around them. They learn math best by engaging in dynamic, hands-on games and projects. Preschoolers love to ask questions and play games that involve the many aspects of math. The table below lists the key aspects of preschool math, along with simple games and activities you can use to help your child learn them.

Math Games and Activities

  • Count food items at snack time (e.g., 5 crackers, 20 raisins, 10 baby carrots)
  • Use a calendar to count down the days to a birthday or special holiday. Help your child see the connection between a numeral like "5," the word "five," and five days on the calendar.
  • Practice simple addition and subtraction using small toys and blocks.
  • Play simple board games where your child moves a game piece from one position to the next.
  • Have your child name the shapes of cookie cutters or blocks.
  • Arrange cookie cutters in patterns on a cookie sheet or placemat. A simple pattern might be: star-circle-star-circle.
  • Let your child help you measure ingredients for a simple recipe - preferably a favorite!
  • Measure your child's height every month or so, showing how you use a yardstick or tape measure. Mark his or her height on a "growth chart" or a mark on a door frame. Do the same with any siblings. Help your child compare his or her own height to previous months and also to their siblings' heights.
  • Talk through games and daily activities that involve math concepts.
  • Have your child name numbers and shapes.
  • Help them understand and express comparisons like more than/less than, bigger/smaller, and near/far.
  • Play games where you direct your child to jump forward and back, to run far from you or stay nearby.
  • Use songs with corresponding movements to teach concepts like in and out, up and down, and round and round.


Website Ideas

The Early Math Learning website (www. earlymathlearning.com) includes free downloads of PDF files of this Early Learning Math at Home booklet as well as individual chapters. Additional articles and resources for families will be added regularly.

The California Mathematics Council maintains a For Families section at its website (www.cmc-math.org/family/main.html). Here you will find articles on mathematics education issues of interest to parents, hands-on activities to do at home and information on how to host your own Family Math event at your preschool or education center.

The Math Forum (www.mathforum.org) is a web portal to everything “mathematics.” Here you can ask Dr. Math questions and get answers! You will also find weekly and monthly math challenges, Internet math hunts, and math resources organized by grade level.

Head Start–Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center (www.eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/hslc) is linked to the federal Head Start Program. Here you will find information about government programs for early learning, including resources that are available to families.

Thinkfinity (www.thinkfinity.org) is a project of the Verizon Foundation. This website has more than 55,000 resources—including many that focus on math—that have been screened by educators to ensure that content is accurate, up-to-date, unbiased, and appropriate for students. The resources on this website are grouped by grade level and subject area.

PBS Parents, the early education website of the Public Broadcasting Service (www.pbs.org/parents/education/math/activities), offers numerous resources, including the stages of mathematics learning listed for babies through second grade children. It is also a rich source of math activities to do at home

Math at Play (www.mathatplay.org) offers multimedia resources for anyone who works with children from birth to age five. Here you can explore early mathematical development and the important ways that caregivers nurture children’s understanding of math concepts through social-emotional relationships, language, everyday play experiences, materials, and teaching.

Let’s Read Math (www.letsreadmath.com/math-and-childrens-literature/ preschool/) wants to make parents and families aware of the growing body of children’s literature with themes related to mathematics. Here you will find a long annotated list of live links to preschool children’s books with math themes, listed by title, author, and mathematics topic.


Tier 2 Interventions: Take RTI to the Next Level

Response to Intervention-Tier 2 Interventions are classroom based and a challenge to do consistently. I have depending on my case load, helped with Tier 2 interventions. Students who join me are either those the RTI team is wanting to move forward with formal testing and need more data or they are students who only need a quick push to get back to core instruction. But it all moves around the data and how classroom-based interventions are pulled together. This is not easy!

As a classroom teacher, you are using a variety of differentiated instructional and assessment strategies. Universal screening and progress monitoring tools are in place. You are using the resulting data to guide your instruction and to determine which students need Tier 2 interventions. You know that in order to be effective, those interventions must not be “more of the same,” since the strategies you used in your Tier 1 classroom did not work for these students. Your challenge is to meet the needs of each Tier 2 student while maintaining the instructional integrity of your general education classroom.

To do this, consider the following two questions:

*How can I design effective Tier 2 interventions?
*How can I differentiate targeted interventions to meet the needs of each of my Tier 2 students?

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 know what your students' needs are. Consistent data collection is key for both moving on to Tier 3 and Special Education and moving students back to the core curriculum. (If you have not checked out my Plug & Play Data Collection Spreadsheets--you can here). 

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.

Tier 2 Intervention Example

In my school, one 4th grade teacher during a unit in the core reading program devoted to poetry had students learning how to write haikus, something not included in the core reading program but clearly aligned to the reading standards for that grade. Another 2nd grade teacher chose to use reader's theater, a well-known intervention program in which students "rehearse" the presentation of reading material to their classmates in a play or dialogue format, to increase the development of fluency.

By dividing the entire grade into tiered instruction, the model provides to students who are already achieving at benchmark levels opportunities for enrichment that go beyond the core instructional program. Our school schedule built in a time each week to collect the progress-monitoring data would be collected on students in Tiers 2 and 3.

Suggested Timeline for RTI Implementation

Phase 1            
  • Establish a Professional Learning Community
  • Differentiate instruction in Tier 1
  • Conduct professional development on RTI
  • Begin an Action Plan
  • Set up RTI teams
  • Select an RTI model
  • Choose or design universal screening and begin using
 Phase 2
  • Hold discussions on decision rules, fidelity of implementation, and documentation procedures
  • In Tier 1, regularly use data from assessments to make instructional decisions
  • Make decisions about when and how Tiers 2 & 3 interventions will be conducted
  • Choose or design progress monitoring and begin using
  • Begin differentiating interventions in Tiers 2 and 3
  • Finish Action Plan
Phase 3
  • In all tiers, use data to make most instruction and intervention decisions
  • Differentiate instruction and interventions consistently
  • Evaluate practicality and usefulness of  universal screening and progress monitoring

Give a shoutout--What are your favorite Tier 2 classroom based interventions? Specialists, how do you support classroom teachers with their Tier 2 interventions? I'd love to hear!

April: Show & Tell Linky

Happy Tuesday. Today I'm linking up with Stephanie from "Forever in 5th Grade" for this months peek into my Resource Room.  This month I have been helping with PARCC testing. It's also the time of year when I start reflecting back on the past 9 months and beginning thinking about next year.


I know for me this year, striking a balance between the art and science of teaching was not as balanced as I would have liked. I think I bent more towards the art and a little less than the science. Using data binders students kept track of their goals and data. This helped move them more than a year. These are a must for next year.
I have things I want to trash to like rotations. But I want to add more co-teaching and student driven embedded data collection--students collecting their own IEP data and taking more ownership of their growth.



If you have not tried Seesaw--I would.  I came across Seesaw and was impressed with the idea that it is student and time friendly. I only have my groups for about 30 minutes. This means I either need to do it when I have 2 minutes or they need to do the uploading and creating within that 30 minutes. I love the app options that can be uploaded into the platform. My hope is this is REALLY student friendly and will become a place students can create and show off their app-smashing.

Students are proficient in using Seesaw as part of their workflow and it has been a great and easy place for them to put their work to share, self-assess, and track their own progress. A must for next year. Seesaw makes data collection in Special Education and RTI easy to do. (Which we all need. Right?)

CHAMPS: bulletin board set to help implement the CHAMPS program into your classroom
CHAMPS. A behavior management system I added this year. I love this as I set a visual expectation for each task like "Group Instruction" or "Test." Students are aware of what the expectations are before I start talking. A must keep!



Student created rubric with pictures to show them what is expected to score a 3
I love putting things in pictures. Pictures move faster to the brain than words. This one has become our Problem Solving Rubric which shows not tells students what is needed to score a 3 on the rubric. Problem Solving is one skill I want students' to take back to the classroom. When I do rubrics I do them with each group's input. The picture helps remind them what it needs to look like. I need to add more like this--not sure for what but this needs to happen.


If you remember I had a couple of groups early in the year almost to grade level and started reading rotations with them. Well with 30 minutes, this was not successful. As they were 2nd and 3rd graders, they didn't have tons of independence to maintain work on their own part of this idea. I ended up moving them back to guided reading and changing their schedule to have them spend more time in the classroom. 

This year has been filled up ups and downs. Ideas I want to keep and ideas that need to be trashed. I need to find more ways to embed data collection of IEP goals and RTI needs. What do you want to trash? What do you want to keep? Share them.


Shut the Front Door!!

It's that time of year when I'm going crazy! Yes, you know that time of year--where you have IEPs, parent/teacher conferences, transition meetings, PLUS all you own end of the year teacher evaluation stuff you HAVE to do.  This is the second year I have had to do SLO (Student Learning Objectives). Yeah!! I can use my IEP data--no hoop jumping here. But even without having to do this, I would have kept track to show myself and the world (if they cared) my students made a year's growth.

The key--the DATA!. I know you have been told this all the time but it's true--if you look at it and DO something about it then you get something for your hard work.

One if my favorite things is to make pictures with the numbers to show off to parents at IEP meetings or teachers when I meet with them. This makes it so much easier to talk about what the student is and is not doing and make it REAL. When you put numbers to student performance and have a picture to go with it--conversations change. Teachers jump on board. Parents see what you're talking about.

I'm going to share my secret weapon with you (& it's FREE). It's a Plug & Play 20 Excel for Class Progress Monitoring. Yes, you heard me right. Just put in your data and goal line and the graph is created for you.




Like all data graphs, you might need to change the Y-axis depending on the data and add a trendline (if that's your thing). But that is all you need to do.

These graphs are perfect for RTI Intervention Monitoring, easy for anyone to put the data in, and great for SLO!

Oh--did I mention it was free.  You can find the 20 Progress Monitoring Graphs in my Free Resource Library. If you have not signed up yet, you can here.

I'd love to hear what your favorite ways are to show off student data and keep track for your SLO data.

Have a great Early Spring Weekend!
Until next Time-




POW: DRA Comprehension Rubric

 This is the time of year where my team is working thought DRA's for their SLO (Student Learning Objectives) and figuring out what they are going to do when we come back from Spring Break.

A question teachers have been asking is what to do with the DRA rubric after they are scored. How do you use the information to plan instruction and next steps? (I always tell teachers to use the data they have to collect or they have created first before trying to figure out else they may need.)

When you look at a DRA rubric it is broken into two parts: oral reading (decoding and fluency and comprehension.) If you missed the first post in this series click here to get caught up.

This week, I'll talk about how and why I create targeted instruction around the comprehension part if the rubric.

I look at where the student scored on the rubric--taking note or strengths and weakness.

The Comprehension rubric is broken in 3 different skills--book knowledge, retell or summary, and higher order thinking questions.
In this case, a strength the student has is his book knowledge. With this book, it includes using the non-fiction text features as well. He struggled with retelling and the higher order thinking questions. (This would be a great jumping off put to collaborate with SLP to provide extra language support.)

When I start planning where I want to start, I make sure I have the students' previous small group work. I will use them to decide what the next steps need to be. 

This student's guided reading data shows he has been struggling with retells and I also have to provide several prompts. When I think about Bloom's Question Stems, I know retells are easier than reflection questions. (Bloom's Questions Stems: remembering vs evaluating).  This will be the first place I start.

When talking with his Speech/Language provider, she lets me know she sees the same struggles with retelling but she'd been playing with picture supports and was seeing more success. (This is both an accommodation but also a great skill for students to have. Going back and using the text as a resource. Think state testing or STAR assessment--students CAN go back to the text.) 

This made me think about my instruction and the types of books he was reading. He is currently in Fountas and Pinnell G's and H's. Since these books as still mostly pictures, copying the pictures and drawing pictures would be a good place to start. This would also support his language needs. 

To start with, I copied a couple pictures from the book. This would be used to model going back into the book to use it as a resource as I modeled retelling the story. These pictures than could become a graphic organizer like Thinking Maps (Flow Map). This could be paired with a Retelling Rubric below. Here the I'm only scoring the retell. I took it right from the rubric. During my modeled lesson, I will demonstrate a 4. I also model using the pictures from the books. Student's have to be taught to do this skill. In my planning, I will make a point of doing both before moving to drawing the pictures.



As I'm planning out the Retelling Skill Lessons, I keep in mind grade level expectations--no book but then I think about what skills the student(s) needs to get there. I also keep in mind, when teaching comprehension skills I may need to get easier books to work with. I scaffold out the list of lessons so I can see what I'm thinking:
1) Modeled: without resource making sure to reference back to the rubric (at least a couple of days over a couple of different books)
2) Modeled: with pictures from the resource to create a Flow Map (at least of couple of days over a couple of different books)
3)Shared: with pictures (if you are doing most of the thinking then go back to a modeled lesson)
4) Shared: with pictures (moving them to independent thinking)
5) Independent with support using the book or resource to retell.

I will need to make sure the student's score 4s before starting the process over with student created drawings.

Why spend the time teaching retelling a story using student created drawings? Because it is a more appropriate grade level skill plus students will come across books with fewer and fewer pictures as they move to harder text. Student created drawings can be used across all curriculum areas and move the student to take control of what they need to access the curriculum--self-determination at its finest.

The last step is to start teaching the skill. I will plan on reassessing the comprehension part of the whole DRA rubric using the blank DRA forms in four weeks to see if the student has made growth. If so than I would teach, how to answer the Higher Order Thinking questions at the bottom of the comprehension rubric or I will plan on reteaching retelling/summaries again. I love using the Reading Comprehension Stems I've shared below. It's a great jumping off point when I work on comprehension skills. I use them for progress monitoring both in writing and in conversation. If you're have not signed up for my Free Resource Library, click here. (Its super easy and besides did I mention it was free to join. Who doesn't love free!)

I'd love to hear about your favorite reading comprehension teaching strategies. Pictures and my bad draws always seem to make students laugh and grow as a reader.

Until next time,















21 Ideas to Improve Student Motivation

When Spring Break is over, I'll have 6 maybe 7 weeks of solid instruction time left before Summer Break. Sometimes I think its hard to teach after Spring Break than between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The hard part keeping them motivated to keep moving forward. I have compiled a short list of ideas that I use to keep students motivated when the going gets tough.

Motivation, both intrinsic and extrinsic, is a key factor in the success. For the students I work with I play a key role in providing and encouraging that motivation in their students. Easier said than done, as all students are motivated differently and it takes time and a lot of effort to learn to get a classroom full of kids enthusiastic about learning, working hard, and pushing themselves to excel.

1. Give students a sense of control
While guidance from a teacher is important to keeping kids on task and motivated, allowing students to have some choice and control over what happens in the classroom is actually one of the best ways to keep them engaged. For example, allowing students to choose the type of assignment they do or which problems to work on can give them a sense of control that may just motivate them to do more.

2. Define the objectives
It can be very frustrating for students to complete an assignment or even to behave in class if there aren’t clearly defined objectives. Students want and need to know what is expected of them in order to stay motivated to work. At the beginning of the year, lay out clear objectives, rules, and expectations of students so that there is no confusion and students have goals to work towards. Student binders mean they keep everything—even the items they don’t finish. They know where to find it the next day.

3. Create a threat-free environment
While students do need to understand that there are consequences to their actions, far more motivating for students than threats are positive reinforcements. We have to create a safe, supportive environment for students, affirming their belief in a student’s abilities rather than laying out the consequences of not doing things, students are much more likely to get and stay motivated to do their work. At the end of the day, students will fulfill the expectations that the adults around them communicate, so focus on can, not can’t.

4. Change your scenery
A classroom is a great place for learning, but sitting at a desk day in and day out can make school start to seem a bit dull for some students. To renew interest in the subject matter or just in learning in general, give your students a chance to get out of the classroom. Take field trips, bring in speakers, or even just head to the library for some research. The brain loves novelty and a new setting can be just what some students need to stay motivated to learn. I don’t do field trips but I love taking the groups outside.

5. Offer varied experiences
Not all students will respond to lessons in the same way. For some, hands-on experiences may be the best. Others may love to read books quietly or to work in groups. In order to keep all students motivated, mix up your lessons so that students with different preferences will each get time focused on the things they like best. Doing so will help students stay engaged and pay attention. It’s hard changing things up because we all know consistency is what our guys need but I like to vary how they get tasks done.

6. Use positive competition
Competition in the classroom isn’t always a bad thing, and in some cases can motivate students to try harder and work to excel. Work to foster a friendly spirit of competition in your classroom, perhaps through group games related to the material or other opportunities for students to show off their knowledge.

7. Offer rewards
This is for those who have your own classrooms everyone likes getting rewards, and offering your students the chance to earn them is an excellent source of motivation. Things like pizza parties, watching movies, or even something as simple as a sticker on a paper can make students work harder and really aim to achieve. Consider the personalities and needs of your students to determine appropriate rewards for your class.  I do things like game day and extra computer time.

8. Give students responsibility
Assigning students classroom jobs is a great way to build a community and to give students a sense of motivation. Most students will see classroom jobs as a privilege rather than a burden and will work hard to ensure that they, and other students, are meeting expectations. It can also be useful to allow students to take turns leading activities or helping out so that each feels important and valued.

9. Allow students to work together
While not all students will jump at the chance to work in groups, many will find it fun to try to solve problems, do experiments, and work on projects with other students. The social interaction can get them excited about things in the classroom and students can motivate one another to reach a goal. As much as I try to ensure that groups are balanced and fair, however, so that some students aren’t doing more work than others—most of the time I find whole group works way better!

10. Give praise when earned.
There is no other form of motivation that works quite as well as encouragement. Even as adults we crave recognition and praise, and students at any age are no exception. We as teachers give students a bounty of motivation by rewarding success publicly, giving praise for a job well done, and sharing exemplary work but it is every better when students give it to other students.

11. Encourage self-reflection
Most students want to succeed, they just need help figuring out what they need to do in order to get there. One way to motivate students is to get them to take a hard look at themselves and determine their own strengths and weaknesses. Students are often much more motivated by creating these kinds of critiques of themselves than by having a teacher do it for them, as it makes them feel in charge of creating their own objectives and goals. This is something I added to our data notebooks—more time then not we not so successful here but I walk students through self-reflection before their IEP meetings.

12. Be excited
One of the best ways to get students motivated is to share your own enthusiasm. When I’m excited about teaching, they’ll be much more excited about learning. It’s that simple. Think Ron Clark.

13. Know your students
Getting to know your students is about more than just memorizing their names. They need to know that you has a genuine interest in them and cares about them and their success. When students feel appreciated it creates a safe learning environment and motivates them to work harder, as they want to get praise and good feedback from someone they feel knows and respects them as individuals.
I do sharing circles just about every time I meet with a group. We share (if they want) about something in their life. I get to hear what is going on in their life and they get to know about mine. I have students asking randomly about my dogs and nephew.

14. Harness student interests
Knowing your students also has some other benefits, namely that it allows you to relate classroom material to things that students are interested in or have experienced. Teachers can use these interests to make things more interesting and relatable to students, keeping students motivated for longer.

15. Help students find intrinsic motivation
It can be great to help students get motivated, but at the end of the day they need to be able to generate their own motivation. Helping students find their own personal reasons for doing class work and working hard, whether because they find material interesting, want to go to college, or just love to learn, is one of the most powerful gifts you can give them.

16. Manage student anxiety
Some students find the prospect of not doing well so anxiety-inducing that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. For these students, teachers may find that they are most motivated by learning that struggling with a subject isn’t the end of the world. Students have to trust you to risk everything and to know no matter what the end result is and ensure that students don’t feel so overwhelmed by expectations that they just give up. This comes and some days is challenged beyond belief. It’s HARD to get them to see you won’t give up on them—no matter what.

17. Make goals high but attainable
I have a high bar for all my students. I set it through learning targets but this is something they can get to every day. Their faces light up when they hit the target of something they would have never dreamed of is huge for them.
If you’re not pushing your students to do more than the bare minimum, most won’t seek to push themselves on their own. Students like to be challenged and will work to achieve high expectations so long as they believe those goals to be within their reach, so don’t be afraid to push students to get more out of them.

18. Give feedback and offer chances to improve
Students who struggle with class work can sometimes feel frustrated and get down on themselves, draining motivation. In these situations it’s critical for teachers help students to learn exactly where they went wrong and how they can improve next time. Figuring out a method to get where students want to be can also help them to stay motivated to work hard.

19. Track progress
It can be hard for students to see just how far they’ve come, especially with subjects that are difficult for them. Tracking can come in handy in the classroom, not only can I see but also for students. For most of my students this works to motivate students. This year, I have student’s tracking their own growth. They even keep the data—it’s all about ownership.

20. Make things fun
Not all class work needs to be a game or a good time, but students who see school as a place where they can have fun will be more motivated to pay attention and do the work that’s required of them than those who regard it as a chore. Adding fun activities into the day can help students stay engaged and make the classroom a much more friendly place for all students.

21. Provide opportunities for success
Students, even the best ones, can become frustrated and demotivated when they feel like they’re struggling or not getting the recognition that other students are. Make sure that all students get a chance to play to their strengths and feel included and valued. It can make a world of difference in their motivation.

Some days motivating students feels like the only thing I get done and other days it works itself. What are you favorite ways to keep students motivated?

Problem of the Week: Deciphering DRA Decoding

This is the time of year were my team is working thought DRA's for their SLO (Student Learning Objectives) and figuring out what they are going to do when we come back from Spring Break.


A question teacher's have been asking is what to do with the DRA rubric after they are scored. How do you use the information to plan instruction and next steps? (I always tell teachers to use the data they have to collect or they have created first before trying to figure out else they may need.)


When you look at a DRA rubric it is broken into two parts: oral reading (decoding and fluency and comprehension.) 

For this student, I co-planned with his classroom teacher and we decided to start with decoding. For this week's POW, I'll walk you through why we decided to spend our time there first. (Next, week I'll talk about the comprehension part of the rubric and our plans.)

This student student's DRA score is Decoding--Intervention and Instructional--Comprehension.  Ahhyy!  In this case, group the student down NOT up or with instructional leveled peers. This means something in their skill set as a decoder needs some more work which will be easier in an easier text where the student has the confidence to be.

I use highlighters to break down the student errors: decodable (aka:phonics) and sight words. This information helps me differentiate and target his specific reading needs.

In his case he needs to work on using his decoding strategies and build his sight word knowledge. I think n most cases pulling the student into the next lower reading group--in his case working with a group of instructional DRA H/14s will provide him with decoding practice skills he needs to move into 16s and be successful.

In my building, everyone uses the same sight words list. Data collection shows he knows the first 200 and is working on the next 100 but with this information he needs to add 400 and 500 he needs to become familiar with.

I do this in my lesson plans daily before writing. Each group spends two minutes running through vocabulary they struggle with. This includes sight words needed to access text, text specific vocabulary, and any universally missed words I heard while the group is reading. This stack is meant to just add to their word knowledge. Word mastery is at the beginning of the lesson.

I have included two freebies I use when working on phonics and make sure students are meeting expectations. If you need to sign-up to access my Free Resource Library click here.




Psst: The sight word list we use are in my store here and to support RTI here.





Tested--Now What?? Reading Comprehension

A quick note as I'm getting ready for Spring parent-teacher conferences this week. One of the assessments I'm helping my classroom teachers with is the DRA (Developmental Reading Assessment). Even though it has fallin' by the wayside, my teachers and I love having a solid number where students are reading at.

FYI the DRA can be given to students kindergarten to sixth grade. To determine a level students decoding (words on the page) and their comprehension (understanding) and with harder text reading fluency (speed) all of those factors most score at an independent level on the rubric to be at an independent level. The same is true for the Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark Assessment Systems.

How what am I going to do with the rest of my year?

Well..what about using the rubric to create skill groups to move students more before the end of the year benchmark get done. After spending the first part of the year teaching decoding with phonics and vocabulary instruction--it know time to really focus on comprehension. One of my favorite ways to work on comprehension is through games. This is one of their favorites, they are always asking for...be sure to get uses here.

More to come on using the DRA or BAS rubric to create goals and instruction. Have a great week.









6 Early Literacy Skills Predict Reading and Writing Success

Its that time of the year when I start planning and thinking how to support incoming preschoolers to kindergarten at the Big Building." These are the ideas I share with parents are they visit my program and get ready for next year.

Early literacy is everything children should know about reading and writing before they can actually read or write. Literacy skills begin developing in the first 5 years of life with a toddler holding and chewing on a book, to wanting a favorite book read over and over, to becoming a preschooler or kindergartner who loves to “read” a story to you from memory.

According to research performed by the National Reading Panel and other experts, young children entering school with specific early literacy skills have the greatest opportunity to become successful readers and writers. Early literacy skills include Vocabulary, Print Motivation, Print Awareness, Narrative Skills, Letter Knowledge, and Phonological Awareness. These important foundational skills are the building blocks for learning to read and write. Children having been exposed to, or having most of these skills, will benefit more from the reading instruction they receive when entering kindergarten than the child with fewer skills or no exposure at all.

Some think their child’s success in reading and writing depends on getting the “right” first grade teacher, but their success really depends on how much they learn at home about reading and writing before entering school. Early experiences with books and language are most critical for future success in literacy. Skills that should be promoted at home:
•             Print Motivation — is taking an interest in and enjoying books. A child with print motivation loves being read to, plays with books, and pretends to write. Trips to the library are fun, motivational, and FREE! Exchange books with other parents with children of your child’s age. Encourage print motivation in your child by making reading a special shared time with you. Make books accessible to your child. Let your child see you enjoying reading. Talk to your child about how we use reading and/or writing almost every minute of the day.
•             Vocabulary — (knowing the names of things) is the most important skill for children to have when learning to read. By the time your child enters school, he/she should know between 3,000-5,000 words. Help develop your child’s vocabulary by reading and rereading a variety of books (fiction and nonfiction) and teaching the names of all the objects in your child’s world.
•             Print Awareness — is a child’s ability to point to the words on the page of a book. It includes learning that writing (in English) follows rules: print moves top to bottom and left to right, and that the person reading is someone that knows what all the letters and words say. Point out and read words to your child everywhere you see them: on signs, advertisements, labels, stores, candies, products, etc.
•             Narrative Skills — help a child understand and tell a story and describe things, like what happened at a birthday party or about a trip to Grandma’s. Parents can help strengthen their child’s narrative skills by asking him/her to tell what is happening in a story or book, instead of always listening to you read. Ask your child to tell you about things he/she has done or will do that involve a regular sequence of steps: getting ready for school, what your family did/will do on vacation, how to play a particular game, etc.
•             Letter Knowledge — is the ability to recognize and name letters (upper and lower case) and produce the sounds they make. Develop your child’s letter knowledge by using lots of fun reading and/or writing activities: pointing out and naming letters in a book, on a sign or on a label; drawing letters in sand or shaving cream; painting letters on paper with brushes, etc. Talk about letters and how some are similar in shape (l, H, F, E, and T or W, M, N, V). Teach the child how to write the letters in his/her name (one letter at a time) when he/she begins using a crayon to draw or “write”. As your child learns each letter, have him/her practice producing the sound the letter makes.

•             Phonological Awareness — is an understanding of hearing and manipulating sounds in words. Phonological awareness includes the ability to hear and create rhymes (bat, cat, gnat, hat, mat, and sat), say words with sounds left out (bat without b is at), and put two word chunks together to make a word (fl + at = flat). Most often, children having difficulty with phonological awareness have trouble learning to read. An understanding of phonological awareness begins with a child’s exposure to and practice with the previous five steps. Phonological awareness is one of the final steps in preparing children for actual reading instruction that begins in kindergarten.

I hope you find these strategies helpful. I'd love to hear how you help parents understand the foundational skills needed to be successful.

February Show and Tell

 I'm doing the Long Weekend Happy Dance!! Who else has President's Day off? I so needed the extra day to do nothing.

I'm linking up with Forever in 5th Grade to give you peek into my special education resource room and what my students have been up to in the last month. And wow-have they been busy!



This is one group's comprehension work. I have four groups working through The Primary Comprehension Toolkit at Heinemann Publishing. It takes students' through all the comprehension strategies. I love they can move at their own pace. In my case, I have several the DRA reading levels in each group. The umbrella makeup of each group is the comprehension strategy and the reading material students use is at their DRA reading level.

This picture shows how the group is finishing a "Shared" lesson with a "shared" creation task. They decide HOW they were going to SHOW their meaning. My next step with this group will be to have them do the same lesson on their own. It's great to see HOW they go about SHOWING their meaning.




I have talked in the past about how my school district is very big on higher order thinking skills. Here you can see a different comprehension lesson, where you can see the Essential Question which they have to answer with either an Interim or Summative Assessment--but they do it through the World Class Outcome of "How did you create your meaning Strategically in reading and writing."

In my world, ALL students have to do this. This year my work around has been for students to app-smash their way to creating that meaning. This gets them through their hang-ups of writing or long drawn out projects I don't have time for. Plus, they love any excuse to use technology and I love using it for something other than plug and play. Be sure to follow me on Instagram for great special education resource ideas and more about our reading comprehension work.



So all comprehension groups means a new way to look at IEP goal progress--in the form of Google. This is a great way to be paperless. As students are reading quietly or reading to me I can fill out my notes. I go through everything my decoding and comprehension strategies to target and fluency work.


This is the working version of the summative assessment my comprehension groups will do around the time of Spring Break. I'm hoping by then student's have working with at least 4 different comprehension coding strategies. This will be their turn to show what they have learned and apply it.

Stay turned for next months peek into my special education resource room. I'd love to hear how you teach reading comprehension strategies in your guided reading groups.  Have a great week.

Ideas to Teach Comprehension Strategies


Reading Comprehension strategies are why harder to see student's use independently than decoding strategies. As a Special Education Teacher, I tend to spend the first part of my year working mostly with decoding strategies and then teaching comprehension strategies the second half. I have found we mat spend weeks on just one to ensure students are using it on their own as they are reading. But their on may bumps along the way.

I have added a couple of examples from my a few groups.  You can see how student's make use of their understanding of different comprehension strategies in their reading. These are from modeled and shared lessons. I think the hardest thing for them to understand is how to show hoe they created their meaning strategy and use the keyword #understand what I'm reading. This is what each strategy does in a different way.

A "strategy" is a plan developed by a student to assist in comprehending and thinking about texts, when reading the words alone does not give the reader a sense of the meaning of a text. Reading comprehension strategy instruction has come to the fore in reading instruction at all age and grade levels. By helping students understand how these flexible tools work, I help readers to tackle challenging texts with greater independence.

What They Are?



1. Activating background knowledge to make connections between new and known information. In many classrooms, this instruction is divided into three categories-- text-to-self, text-to-text, and text-to-world.

2. Questioning the text. Proficient readers are always asking questions while they read. Sticky notes (post-its) have become ubiquitous in classrooms in part because they are such a useful tool for teaching students to stop, mark text, and note questions as they read.

3. Drawing inferences. Proficient readers use their prior knowledge about a topic and the information they have gleaned in the text thus far to make predictions about what might happen next. When teachers demonstrate or model their reading processes for students through think-alouds, they often stop and predict what will happen next to show how inferring is essential for comprehending text.

4. Determining importance. In the sea of words that is any text, readers must continually sort through and prioritize information. Teachers often assist readers in analyzing everything from text features in nonfiction text like bullets and headings, to verbal cues in novels like strong verbs. Looking for these clues can help readers sift through the relative value of different bits of information in texts.

5. Creating mental images. Readers are constantly creating mind pictures as they read, visualizing action, characters, or themes. Teachers are using picture books with students of all ages, not necessarily because they are easy to read, but because the lush and sophisticated art in these books can be a great bridge for helping students see how words and images connect in meaning-making.



6. Repairing understanding when meaning breaks down. Proficient readers don't just plow ahead through text when it doesn't make sense -- they stop and use "fix-up" strategies to restore their understanding. One of the most important fix-up tools is rereading, with teachers demonstrating to students a variety of ways to reread text in order to repair meaning.

7. Synthesizing information. Synthesis is the most sophisticated of the comprehension strategies, combining elements of connecting, questioning, and inferring. With this strategy, students move from making meaning of the text, to integrating their new understanding into their lives and world view.



Ideas for Teaching

Modeling through think-alouds is the best way to teach all comprehension strategies. By thinking aloud, teachers show students what good readers do. Think-alouds can be used during read-alouds and shared reading. They can also be used during small-group reading to review or reteach a previously modeled strategy.

I use a think-aloud to:

  • Create a record of the strategic decision-making process of going through text
  • Report everything the reader notices, does, sees, feels, asks, and understands as she reads
  • Talk about the reading strategies being used within the content being read
  • There are many ways to conduct think-alouds:
  • The teacher models the think-aloud while she reads aloud, and the students listen.
  • The teacher thinks aloud during shared reading, and the students help out.
  • Students think aloud during shared reading, and the teacher and other students monitor and help.
  • The teacher or students think aloud during shared reading while writing on an overhead, on self-stick notes, or in a journal.
  • Students think aloud in small-group reading, and the teacher monitors and helps.
  • Students individually think aloud during independent reading using self-stick notes or a journal. Then students compare their thoughts with others.





I use a Model or Shared Lesson to:

  • Decide on a new strategy or reteach a strategy to model.
  • Other things I think about are:
    • Choose a short text or section of text.
    • Read the text ahead of time. Mark locations where you will stop and model the strategy.
    • State your purpose—name the strategy and explain the focus of your think-alouds.
    • Read the text aloud to students and think aloud at the designated points.
    • If you conduct a shared reading experience, have students highlight words and phrases that show evidence of your thinking by placing self-stick notes in the book.
    • Reinforce the think-alouds with follow-up lessons in the same text or with others.

As a Special Education Teacher, I spend at least one lesson a week during a Modeled or Shared Lesson. As a reading teacher, I have had to work not to be afraid of stopping in the middle of a lesson and redoing or doing a new modeled lesson. Teaching comprehension strategy work is HARD and I spend tons of time listening to and seeing what my students do as they practice independently. I take my time and work for skill mastery not accuracy mastery.  How do you teach your reading comprehension strategies? I'd love to hear what works for your students!




About Me

Welcome to my all thing special education blog. I'm Ms. Whiteley. I teach in the beautiful Mile High state--Colorado. This is my 13th year teaching in an rural K-6 Elementary school as a Exceptional Needs Teachers. As Exceptional Needs National Board Certified Teacher, I believe that ALL students can learn and be successful. When I'm not in school, I love to take my two Italian Greyhounds hiking 14ers and reaching for the stars. Thanks for Hopping By.
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