Category: Reading Tips

Superhero Strategies

IMG_4473Every year I try to have a “theme” in my room and as you saw in my earlier post this year is Super Hero: Super Reader!

I decided to re-vamp my strategy bookmarks and anchors in my room.  I’m big into super heroes and I’m hoping the change will be something my students enjoy.

IMG_4477My students will get the book mark (on the left) to take back with them to the classroom or to put in their book bags/book boxes and then the photo on the right are the larger ones hanging on my wall as a reference.

As always, if you ever want copies of any of what I use please let me know.  I’m always willing to share.  Cheers to all of you kicking off your new school year.  Here’s to a SUPER 2014-2015 school year.

IMG_2061One of the things I have struggled to be better at is teaching my kids to find readable chunks so they are able to initiate multiple problem solving strategies at points of difficulty.  My other 2 teammates seem to do a much better job at teaching their students word parts when exiting kids out of Reading Recovery.

IMG_2064This past semester I decided to have my 4 Reading Recovery kiddos make word part books.  I got the idea from my coworker who has her older kids put word parts in file folders.  We put in different 2 and 3 letter blends and digraphs.  As we came upon these word parts in the books we read, I would have the student add it to their word part book.

It was amazing that when we were specifically keeping our eye out for these word parts how often we would find them.  Often times we would find so many that I wIMG_2063ould need to start writing them in just so we could keep moving.  This also made for good book selection options for my students.  If I knew he was having difficulties with a certain word part then I could find a book that provided many opportunities to come across that part.

The kiddos got to take their word part books home with them once Reading Recovery was over and it’s been really neat to see them using the book in class to help themself with reading and writing.  When I walk in I have several of them who tell me about a new word they added into their book or show me their writing where they used the word part book for help. While I still am no genius at word parts, I will say this helped my kids tremendously. They were able to problem solve much more efficiently and quickly. But I’m curious what are some other strategies/techniques/cool ideas people use to help kids with word parts?

Assessment Week!

This week Lowell kicks off our Iowa Assessments testing.

If you are a teacher here is a link to creative assessment treats, posters, strategies, etc. you can use with your students.  I am supervising/helping with test directions in a 5th grade classroom this week and I will be making the Smarty Pants (Smarties candies), Blow This Test Away (Blow pops), and Kiss those test jitters away (Hershey Kisses) for the classroom I am in tonight so they are ready for the kiddos tomorrow. Link:

If you are a parent with students taking the Iowa Assessments just remember to:

  • have your child get to bed early each night as a good night’s rest is super important.
  • If your child isn’t eating at school in the morning make sure your child has a nice big breakfast to get their body/brain jumpstarted.
  • Also, make sure your child gets to school ON TIME!!!  Testing is from 9-10:30 Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday.  We won’t allow students into the classroom after 9am so there are no disruptions during the testing.  Students will need to wait in the office until testing is finish.
  • Use positive language with your child: “I know you are going to rock that test!” “I believe in you.” “You are able to work so make sure you try your best on the test so we all can see all your hard work.”  “Don’t be nervous.  Just try your best with each question.”


Fluent Readers

We had some students who were making great progress in their reading levels, but were struggling with fluency.  I had a teacher within the building ask me for what she could do and I thought maybe a short little video might help?  I’m a visual learner and so I had my son make a video with me.  He thought I should put it on my blog because he wants a million hits (Ha! Love him!)   I’ve had lots of students come up to me since seeing the video telling me they are reading more fluently.  Enjoy our silly fluency video!

A Reader’s Tool Box

IMG_8390My 2nd graders have needed some additional reminders/practice on strategies to help ourselves when we read.  I had been noticing some inefficient or no strategies going on while reading.  Looking at the picture doesn’t always help.  Sounding it out doesn’t always help either.  We needed to brush up on other strategies we can use so we have a tool box full of IMG_8388strategies ready at our disposal.

I started the day out with the ‘Warning! Hard hat area!’ sign on my door.  I stood in front of my door with a hammer and my “hard hat” on (AKA surgical mask put on my head…don’t judge.  I’m a teacher who is trying to be resourceful!)  I was extremely serious and told the kids the room was under construction and we all needed to put our hard hats on before we could enter.  They all laughed and told me I looked silly, but they all put their “hard hats” on quickly so they could see what was happening in the classroom.

They came in and I pulled out my tool box and told them how as a reader I can’t use the same tool over and over again.  I need different tools for different jobs–just like a hammer can’t always do the job of a wrench or a screwdriver, a reader can’t rely on the same strategy.

I pulled out my different tools….

  • Saw: Look at the first letters
  • Tape measure: Does that make sense? Sound right? Look right?
  • Wrench: Reread the sentence
  • Pliers: Look at the picture
  • Hammer: Sound it out
  • Screwdriver: Get your mouth ready, look for a chunk you know

IMG_8389After we went over the different tools, I told the students I wanted them to pick a strategy they don’t use a lot and try to use it once during their reading for the day.

It’s still a little rocky for us, but we have to keep going over how we can be better at decoding new and unknown words in reading.  When you are reading with your child ask him or her some of the tools from their tool box and see if he or she is using a variety of strategies when coming to difficult words.

And for your viewing pleasure, I have attached the photo of me wearing my “hard hat”.  Once I took a picture of the kids they told me I needed to be in a picture because I look so silly.  Touche, my 2nd graders, that I do!  The things I do to get learning to stick. 🙂


IMG_0104I started a lesson a couple of weeks ago with my 3rd graders asking them to take a post-it note pad and sticky note text features in the book we would be reading for that day.  I had a student immediately say, “What is a text feature?”  Two thoughts came through my mind.  1. I was so happy he was willing to say he was unsure.  2. This is something they study extensively in 2nd grade.  Why was this still unknown?

So in the world of teaching adjusting your plans will happen often.  I had to adjust and we began to talk about text features briefly.  I knew we’d need to come back to this.

Fast forward to last week where I brought it up again.  It was a little more well known, but students didn’t know how they helped them in the books they were reading.  We went over how the features are helpful (as are the 3rd grade classroom teachers)

IMG_0108Today we went through magazines to find the different text features and then wrote about how they could help us as readers.  We made a large chart together (We still have a couple of features to finish writing about).

This ended up being an excellent learning day.  Students were cutting out random things and shouting, “I FOUND ONE!”  I would reply back with, “Well, which one did you find?”  Once they had to really think about it, then they realized it wasn’t really a text feature.

I have to say I was quite impressed with the team work that went into putting this chart together.  My motto is “team work makes the dream work” and students today rose to that quote.  If one student wasn’t sure how it helped, another was there to assist.  They were asking each other for their opinion on what kind of text feature they found and if it fit the criteria we were looking for.  Wow!  Real discussions about literature topics.

Next week I’ll be starting a 3 book non-fiction series with my 3rd graders.  I’m hoping this extra time we took to go over how text features help us will aid in our readings for the next 2 weeks.


IMG_0089My 3rd graders are working on inferences within the classroom.  I like to try and tap into what the classroom teacher is doing as well to give additional support.  I noticed my kids were lacking in thinking deeper and using that powerful brain of their to make more meaningful connections and inferences.

I found an Inference Riddle Game site online and it looked like something I could do as a quick little warm up with my kids to get them going.  I did end up typing up the riddles on my own and then getting them laminated and put on a ring.  So if you are wanting to use this you’ll either need to type up your own or let me know and I’ll shoot you a copy.  Let me tell you, today may have been the most fun I had in group with this little game.  We were only going to do one, but we ended up having so much fun that we did two.

IMG_0081I started by asking them what it mean to infer or to make an inference.  No one could answer me.  So we did a little mini review on inferring.  I told them that I would be giving one clue at a time and with each clue they would need to think about what they already know and make a guess on what I was.  They were to write their answer on the whiteboard and hold it up.

IMG_0085They thought they had it in the bag when I gave the first clue: I hang out in schools.  They all wrote students or teacher.  They were pretty frustrated when I told them it was a good guess, but not correct.  “YES IT IS!!!!!” a lot of them shouted at me.  I continued on…I sleep with my eyes open.  I had to crack up because one of my students put me down as their answer.  LOVE IT!

I continued on…my favorite game is Name That Tuna…IMG_0087

….I have fins.

BAM!  The light bulb came on and they all got it.  A FISH!

You wouldn’t believe the grins they had once they put all the clues together and figured it out.

We had so much fun that we just HAD to do one more.  This one was more challenging for the students.  It was a penny.  The clues started as….

  • I have a head and a tail (all gave me an animal answer)
  • My favorite number is one (they all wrote 100)
  • I am made of copper (I got a lot of robot answers)
  • A president’s face is on me (They all wrote Obama…and then one wrote a robot Obama!  Had to “LOL” at that!)
  • I am lucky if you pick me up.

IMG_0086IMG_0088BAM!  It made sense to them.  We talked about how as readers we make predictions all the time when we first begin to read and as we read. Sometimes we find out that we were correct and sometimes we find out we were incorrect, but with each passing thing we read more and more is added to our schema and the light bulb comes on to make a connection.

They wanted to keep going, but we had other things to accomplish in the lesson.  Today was fun.  It’s fun to push them to be risk takers–that it’s ok to make mistakes as long as our thinking continues to bend and change as more information is presented.

Woo-hoo!  Isn’t learning fun??


I have several inspirational quotes hanging on the wall above my desk and one of them says, “Am I better today than I was yesterday?”  As an Instructional Strategist for reading I’m always asking myself this.  One of the things I realized I wasn’t becoming better at was my level of questioning for students.  I noticed I was doing a lot of “right there”/find it in the book/surface level questions that didn’t require much thinking.  And I want to be better than that.  My students deserve more from their teacher.  So I started a quest on how I could “be better today than I was yesterday” for my kids.

I quickly stumbled upon my good, close, personal friend Benjamin Bloom (I wish)!  Oh Bloom’s Taxonomy.  How could I forget about Bloom’s Taxonomy?  (To learn more about Bloom’s Taxonomy take a quick visit HERE).  I have been on a “mission card” kick lately and thought, “By golly, Sarah, get some Bloom’s Taxonomy mission cards!”  And so I did.  (You can, too, by clicking HERE!)

I’m really trying to get my older students ready for the DRA2 assessment at the end of the month by trying to ask more challenging, deeper questions.  I’ve found myself using the teal (synthesis) and green (application) cards the most.  I would say we are still in an area where evaluation (purple) is a little too challenging for us, but I’m going to be working that way so students are able to make more connections quickly and be reading in a way that has them thinking about the story instead of just reading to get through it.

I didn’t use these with the “Top Secret” envelopes last time and my kids about fell off their chairs.  They love the secret envelopes so I’ll make sure I’m bringing those more regularly.

I use these for not only the reading/discussion portion of the lesson, but also the writing portion occasionally.  This is another great way that I can differentiate and prompt at the different levels students are in the group.  Yesterday my students had to answer questions such as:

  • What events in the story could not happen in real life?
  • What changes would you make to the story?
  • Combine two characters in the story in order to invent a new character, and write a short story with this new character as the main character in your story.
  • Create a new ending for the story.  Share this new ending with your classmates.

This has been a fun and more challenging way to get my students to think deeper, as we prepare for the DRA2 assessment and as we transition into a literature circle group where discussions and deep thinking are going to be essential to reading growth.

IMG_0065Reading with expression continues to be something I need to work more on with my students.  Now that I am teaching Guided Reading Plus, I think I focus less on expression than I used to.  I have to remind myself every now and then that this is still an important part of fluency and the reading process.

IMG_0066My 2nd and 3rd graders (specifically 2nd grade) need some work with expression.  I found some phonics chant cards online, which you can download for free HERE, and have been trying them out with my 2nd and 3rd graders.  There are 16 different cards ranging from reading in a baby voice, clapping each syllable as you read, reading like a pirate, being a volcano and starting in a whisper voice and then getting louder until you get to the end of the row, to even reading in a monster voice or a squeaky mouse voice.  Not all of them are appropriate for every situation so I let the kids pick from 2 or 3 cards I’ve selected for them.

IMG_0067My goal is to have some fun reading in different voices to get them use to actively reading  with some sort of expression–even if that means reading like a mouse or a monster.  From there we are going to work our way to reading naturally with expression.  It’s a work in progress to become phrased, fluent, and have expression, but you have to start somewhere.  This is something I have the kids work on while I am checking for accuracy through a running record.  They can do it with a partner or individually, but it’s something different than what they normally do.  I had the cards laminated and then punch a hole in the card so I could keep them on a ring.  If you’re looking for a way to boost expression with your kids, consider giving this a try.  It’s a new and creative way to get kids thinking about the way they read out loud.

My 1st graders have really been struggling with contractions when we come to them in books.  If the word is can’t they say can not.  If the word is can not they say can’t.  The same with I am and I’m.  I was looking for a way I could really help my 1st graders remember contraction.

I had briefly read online about contraction surgery.  There wasn’t any information or details so I kind of just had to run with it.  I work part time for an orthodontist and I was able to get some surgical masks and exam gloves for each of the kids in my group.  The day before this activity we worked on turning I am into I’m, do not into don’t, and can not into can’t.

Today I played it up like we were all doctors.  I greeted each student as Dr. (first name).  I asked them to suit up for surgery and they all got super excited.  It was a lot of fun seeing the kids put on their gloves and their masks.  Some jumped up and down and some clapped.  From there I handed them their “doctor tools” and asked them to prepared for surgery.  They were each given “scalpel scissors”, “scar markers” and glue (I didn’t have a clever name for that.)

We started with the easiest work I am.  Students had to cut in between I and am.  I asked them what letter they would need to surgically remove to make I’m.  Once they had gotten rid of the ‘a’ we then had to glue ‘I’ and ‘m’ together.  We used our “scar marker” to give the new word a little “scar mark” or apostrophe where we put it back together.  They were then supposed to write the 2 words we used to make the contraction.  We did this for can not and do not.

This was so much fun.  Students were clapping after each “successful surgery” and saying, “Good job, Dr. (first name)” to each other.  It was absolutely adorable.  Some students struggled with different portions of the contraction surgery, but they really came together as a team to help each other figure out the parts.  I’m hoping after 3 successful surgeries the students will read these a lot more accurately when they come to them in group.