Thursday, July 23, 2015

Teaching the Core One Read Aloud at a Time

Do you love reading aloud to your students? We do too! It is one of our favorite times of the day. It is a time when we come together as a class and escape into a fantasy world for a short period. Our students instantly become mesmerized by the stories.
  • We love watching their faces change as the plot thickens. 
  • We love making them wait as we slowly turn the page during intense moments.
  • We love listening to their laughter during the silly parts. 
  • Most of all, we love modeling a love for reading.  It is a time for us to show students that reading is fun and magical.

After the Common Core was adopted, we started teaching more rigorously in our classrooms.  We  started to let our read aloud time diminish. We found we were skipping our read-aloud time too often. We started noticing our students were losing their motivation to read during independent reading time. They weren't racing to the bookshelf to pull out class favorites or fighting over the most recent book we read as a class. There simply weren't enough class favorites to choose from. We realized we needed to make read-aloud time a priority again and set aside that sacred few minutes every day.     

Tatum, Emily, and I (TheCoreCoaches) discussed this problem and together. We decided we could solve our issue of limited time by infusing core standards into our read-alouds. We realized in order to read with a purpose, not on the fly, we would need to plan ahead and write mini-lessons. We brainstormed effective ways we could meet core standards during our read-alouds and decided the following:
  • Extend the read-aloud over a few days to allow time to dig deeper and cover multiple standards 
  • Read closely by revisiting the text with a different purpose each day
  • Ask text dependent questions that require kids to refer to the text to provide evidence for their answers
  • Include a graphic organizer that reinforces the purpose
  • Incorposrate a writing component 
  • Integrate art
By incorporating these components we will be able to conquer all 8 Reading Literature Standards. This brainstorming session evolved into a year-long project...
We came up with a year's plan of teaching to the core one read-aloud at a time by using free books from our Scholastic book orders. 

We are so excited to share our read aloud activities that meet the core standards with you. 

We are teaching the Core One Read Aloud at a Time! 

Click Here to visit our TPT store to check out over 40 individual read-alouds packs, 9 monthly packs, and 1 year long bundle. 

- The Core Coaches 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Grow, Pollinate, and Harvest Seeds in Your Classroom!

We planted seeds, pollinated them, and then harvested new seeds in my classroom this year. My students were thrilled when they saw the new baby seeds in the bean pods! This is project based learning that students will never forget!

We started each lesson by 'digging' into our text for close reading and note taking. The students were so engaged with the close read because it was meaningful to them since we had just planted our seeds. They wanted to learn how to make sure their seeds would grow. We started reading about germination and roots. Then, the students did a fun science project with Lima beans. 

Next we 'dug' into learning about the stem, and leaves with another close read. Students loved this close read because they got to work in partners to code the text and find new plant vocabulary words. After students independently close read about the flower, they got to dissect one in class. They enjoyed finding the pistil and the stamen.

Once our flowers bloomed in class we pollinated them using our bee sticks. 

The students' couldn't believe it when we opened our bean pods, days later, and found the new baby seeds inside. 

Once the plant life cycle was complete my students used their notes from each close read and wrote a nonfiction flip up book about the parts of the plant. Their writing was simply amazing! Their learning was authentic and meaningful and it really showed in their writing. They were so excited to be able to share their new knowledge about plants. 

Want to know how we did it? Check out our Life Cycle of a Plant Unit on TPT. It includes detailed instructions on how to grow, pollinate, and harvest seeds in your classroom. It also comes with leveled text for your students to close read and detailed lessons on how to get them to close read independently.  

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

What is Close Reading?

You may have heard a lot about close reading over the last few years as the Common Core State Standards have been implemented throughout much of the country. Or, the idea of close reading may still be new to you.  Through trial and error in our own classrooms, we have come to an understanding of what close reading is, and what components should be included, especially for our youngest learners. So, keep reading to find out what "close reading" means to us!

Close reading is essentially rereading a text for a specific purpose.  For a close read to be successful teachers must plan, orchestrate, and conduct the lesson purposefully so that each subsequent reading helps students gain a deeper understanding of the details, structure, and meaning of the text.  Close reading is not a new concept for many secondary teachers.  But for some, especially early elementary teachers, the idea of close reading may seem foreign.

In our close reading experiences in K-3 classrooms we have observed that a quality close reading lesson starts with a complex text which is often read aloud to young students. The rereading happens in structured, shorter sessions and includes opportunities for asking and answering text dependent questions, coding of the text, note taking, and (we believe this is critical) talking about the text with others.  We have also found that once students have a deep understanding of the text, they are more readily able to participate in a meaningful culminating writing task where they can synthesize ideas and information gathered from looking at the text closely.

We know the components mentioned above work together to provide a solid close reading lesson for young students because we've tested it over and over again in our own classrooms.  But we also believe these same components should be present as students of any age read closely.

We are finally ready to reveal our secret formula just for K-2 teachers...
Introducing the 5 Step Lesson Planning Guide for Close Reading & Writing about Text.

Leave a comment and tell us how close reading is structured in your classroom!

Also, be sure to visit our TPT store for a variety of helpful close reading resources.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Don’t forget about spelling!

It's that time of year again when teachers are looking for new ideas to bring to their classrooms.  As the new school year approaches, I find myself thinking about our spelling program (among a million other things)!

Research has shown that integrated approaches to spelling instruction will benefit students more than just rote memorization.  At my school, spelling instruction includes a variety of integrated approaches such as:

  • explicit instruction of irregular words
  • study of word/syllable patterns
  • word sorts
  • application of spelling rules
  • phonemic instruction
  • instruction on prefix/suffix & root words
  • spelling instruction connected with reading instruction
 If you would like to find out more about best practices in spelling instruction click here for a great resource called "Why Teach Spelling?"

Moving to a new grade has given me a chance to consider how I can further support my students in their spelling acquisition. I have decided to implement weekly spelling contracts with my fourth graders this year as a way to solidify and extend the spelling instruction they receive. I chose to create spelling contracts which: 
  • are appropriate for independent practice
  • hold students accountable
  • provide differentiated activities
  • allow for student choice 
Consider using differentiated spelling contracts that promote student choice!
Teachers also know that students like novelty, so I decided to create several different contracts which I can rotate through during the year.  I am hoping this will help students steer clear of the mundane repetition that may occur when the same contract is used all year long.

What approaches do you implement in your spelling program and how are you motivating your students to study spelling independently? 
I would love to hear from you!

If you are interested in my spelling contracts you may follow this link to TPT.

Font Credit; Burst My Bubble, KG Fonts

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Why I have students create our ABC posters instead of buying them commercially...

It's that time of year again when we are all looking for classroom decor. There are so many options it is hard to choose just one theme. I don't think I am going to change my beach theme this year, mostly because I love sitting in my beach chair as I teach! I went into my classroom for this first time this week since school has been out and this is what I walked into...

I didn't know where to start. There is so much to do and so much to change before school starts. As I looked around my room there was one thing that caught my attention right away, and that was my ABC posters from last year. I had my students draw the pictures for the posters the first week of school.

I know this isn't typical and it doesn't match my beach theme in my room, but somehow the posters fit perfectly. We had a lot of fun making them. We talked about beginning sounds before each student picked what picture they would draw. This also gave me a chance to talk with the class about trying their best and not giving up. I printed each letter off more than once just in case mistakes were made. Most students chose to start over more than once because they new the importance of their work, and wanted to help make our room look great. This project really brought us together as a class that first week of school. It helped build our classroom community as the students helped each other decide what they could do to their picture to make it look better. 
Once everyone was done, each student held his or her letter in hand and we worked together to get them in ABC order for the wall. 

They were so proud of their work and so excited about the ABC wall. If I would have bought the beach themed ABC posters, my first graders would probably have never truly noticed them. This is something I will do every year. Letting go of my room perfectly matching was hard, but after seeing each student's satisfaction over his or her poster made it easy. I can't wait to do it again this year and see what pictures my new first graders come up with. I will leave our letters from last year up so the new firsties can see a good example. 

I uploaded my ABC posters on our TPT store if you want to try it out this year with your new class. They are simple. There is nothing fancy about them. Let your students make them meaningful!