Friday, June 28, 2013

The Next Step in Guided Reading Chapter 2: Assessment and Grouping

This week our book study went further into our guided reading book with a chapter over assessment and student grouping. This chapter offered so much to think about. Assessment is such an important part of our career. How can we effectively teach our kiddos if we dont know what they know? As a second and third grade teacher, so often I just wanted to be left along so I could teach not test. There is such a fine line in what makes a good assessment. But, good sound assessment plays such an important part. It allows a teacher to deliver great instruction to her students that best meets their needs. This chapter really helped me evaluate the assessments I have used in the past and determine if they are effective in guiding my instruction. 

·      What do you use for your assessments:  Letter Identification? Sight Words? Dictated Sentences? Writing Sample? Running Records?
My knowledge is coming from upper elementary (2nd/3rd) but I am also looking at how these assessments will help me next year in kindergarten. Our school uses a series of assessments for both reading and math that I feel are so effective. We use DIBELS as a fluency assessment. I love that this simple test gives such an accurate assessment of fluency. Three times a year, our CAMP (specials) teachers deliver the assessment to our entire school. In my individual classroom, I also use the DIBELS progress monitoring to determine student fluency. I personally enjoy administering the assessment because so much goes into a fluency assessment. Fluency is NOT just how many words per minute a child reads. It also includes their prosody and their intonation.

Our school also uses the STAR reading and STAR math assessment. This computer administered test gives teachers a picture of reading levels. My STAR reading reports help me find perfect fit books for students for both the instructional and independent text levels. Our library staff has labels every book in our library with a reading level so students can find perfect fit books easily (They are amazing!). When I send students to the library, I send their target card that states their reading level. This helps our library staff make sure that a students reading on a first grade level isnt walking out of the library with Harry Potter.

This year, our school also uses the Saxon Phonics program for K-2. Each week, I assessed students with dictated sentences, phonics, sight word/high frequency words, and reading comprehension using this program.
·      When you finish your assessments, how will you use that information to group your students?
This past year, I would use my data from my assessments to form my strategy groups. If I noticed that a student or group of students was struggling in fluency, I formed a group to help these students. If a few students struggled on our weekly assessments (for example my assessment on cause and effect), I would form a strategy group to help these students and then retest when I felt students had mastered the skill. I loved being able to show students how I was remediating students through my documentation. I also met with individual students to instruct. Each day, my goal was to meet with two strategy groups and 6-8 individual students. I completed this during my Daily 5 times.

·      Will you use comprehension interviews? If not, then how will you check for understanding?
I havent used these in the past, but am very interested to learn more. How have other kindergarten teachers used these in their classrooms?

Effective assessment is paramount to being an effective educator. I would love to work with other educators to develop assessments that can be an effective evaluation tool to guide instruction.

So, its back to vacation. Today I took my kiddos to Dollywood! Tomorrow, I my son is dying for us to go to the aquarium. He loves fish! 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Blog Lovin' Blog Hop

As I am sure you are aware, Google Reader is going away. So, how can you follow all of your favorite teacher blogs? Blog Lovin' is the answer. I have followed so many blogs over the past few months using my Blog Lovin' app on my iPhone and love it. I check it once a day and can easily read all the new posts by my favorite bloggers. 

To celebrate the new change and to find new blogs to follow, I am participating in the Blog Lovin' Blog Hop. Simply click the button to link over the the hop. So far 166 bloggers have linked up. I can't wait to find new blogs to follow. Have fun Blog Hopping!!!

Talking, Drawing, Writing: Chapter 4-The Craft of Drawing

We are in week four of our summer linky book study over Talking, Drawing, Writing. Thus far it has been an excellent book on how to introduce writing to our very youngest learners. Coming from upper grades experiences, it has been very insightful on the best practices in the teaching of reading.

Chapter four consisted of several lesson plans that help students use more detail in their drawings. As the book stated, effective writers use specific detail to inform their audiences. This detail may be in the form of detailed drawings with our younger learners and in the form of words for our older storytellers.

As I read through the chapter, I was so impressed with the quality of the drawings that these young authors were creating. There was so much attention to detail, much more than I ever saw from my second and third graders. Perhaps it was because at that age our main focus is the actual words, publishing with drawings is just the icing on the cake that often gets tossed aside when we run short of time. However, after reading this book, I feel like the students would have more to write about and more detailed paragraphs if they had been able to express their ideas in detailed illustrations.

One question that keeps running through my head as I read this book is the timeframe. How long/how many days are these teachers spending on teaching children to draw? Do they spend a week on actual drawing lessons and then reinforce the skill throughout the year? After participating in this book study, I definitely see such a need for students to learn the craft of drawing because it directly influences student writing in such a positive way.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


Like every other teacher out there, I cant wait for summer vacation. I have had such a good time snuggling with my littles! I have also loved having the time to read up on new resource books and blogs so I can be best prepared for next year. This week the Summer Linky party is about calendar, and I was so excited to participate to get some new ideas.

I love calendar time. I feel like it is such a fabulous teaching tool that often gets overlooked in the time crunch. However, so many of our standards can be taught simply by teaching calendar. I am loving this linky party to look at to plan for my kindergarten calendar block.

In second and third grade, my students completed Daily 5 centers for morning work. I loved the quiet calmness that this time provided as students came into the classroom. When I was ready to call my kiddos together to start our day, I simply rang our chime bells. I purchased these from amazon. (Click the picture for the link)

 My kids automatically started picking up their center, making their way to our calendar carpet. I started my calendar block with a story, either seasonal or one that followed our science and social studies themes. Some days I would finish the story, some days we would only read part of it. Once that was complete, I would talk about the date. We would write the date in many formats, working with abbreviations. Then, we would talk about days left and days used. I had two place value pocket charts. Each day, we would move a straw from days left into the days used pocket chart. We would also subtract the days (178 days total- days in school so far= days left). It was an easy way to review subtraction with regrouping daily. We would also graph our weather each day. 

During calendar, my class had a morning message each day. Before students arrived, I would compose a message for students. Many times this message contained information about our day. Then, during our calendar block we would find the nouns, verbs, or adjectives, talk about spacing, look for different phonics skills, etc. Each day we would find something different in our message. I would change it up based on our common core standards and our teaching points for the week.

The last part of our calendar block was our MIMAL map, which was my kiddos favorite part of our day. They would BEG me to tell them more. I use the MIMAL map (MIMAL is an elf who lives in the middle of the United States) to help students identify the states. Too many of our kids have NO CLUE where they live. They might know they live in Georgia, but when you ask them to point to Georgia you get the somewhere in the middle response.  For the past 4 years, each of my kids have left my room knowing the name and location of every state. That is such an important lesson that too many of our kids miss out on.

So What do you think is a MUST have for a kindergarten classroom calendar block?  <a href="">Follow my blog with Bloglovin</a>

Friday, June 21, 2013

Talking, Drawing, Writing: Chapter 3-Drawing

Chapter three focuses attention on helping children be detailed in their drawings. Modeling plays a HUGE role in helping students learn how to draw so that their drawings provide meaning for the reader. I couldn’t help but thing about the vocabulary building opportunities that were provided to the students in the example of Megan Sinclair’s kindergarten classroom. Instead of just learning the word eye, Mrs. Sinclair used the words iris and pupil, describing their purpose to the students during her modeling while drawing the eye. This vocabulary building activity will later have such a positive influence on student reading and writing.

Drawing is so important for young writers for so many reasons…
1.  Drawing is how young writers understand and give meaning.
2.  Drawing gives students an outlet to be heard. Even a struggling students would be able to draw what he knows. This would be so powerful to help our struggling students feel successful.
3.  Drawing gives students an opportunity to develop language.
4.  Drawing gives students a chance to go deeper into their stories. A young writer may only be able to write, “I went to the park”. However, in their drawings, the students could give so much more information.
5.  Drawing will help students learn the craft of writing. Drawing gives students a starting place for their writing.

I can’t wait to get back to school and let my new kinders show what they know through their drawings. I know this is going to be a great year!