Tag Archive: Linda Dorn

IMG_8586With all the snow we’ve been getting here in Waterloo, I thought it would be so fun to do the From Milk to Ice Cream book with my 3rd graders and make snow ice cream.  Everyone has been doing it on Facebook and they were even talking about it on the radio.

IMG_8587I bagged up all the ingredients and got a ziplock baggy full of the best snow I could find at my house.  I hyped the kids up about it and we started our creation….and it failed.  Apparently, from what we’ve learned, you REALLY need the just fallen fluffy perfect snow.  My snow had ice chunks/crystals in it and it was more like as if I had just blended up ice instead of fluffy fresh fallen snow.  Our ice cream failed.  The kids agreed it was like a root beer float.  No worries–they still loved it, but it was far from our vision of this wonderful snow ice cream.

This still gave us the chance to write down the procedural steps using Linda Dorn’s graphic organizer.  The kids, as a group, filled out the graphic organizer on how we made snow ice cream.  This set them up to make their own graphic organizer on something they knew how to do or make and wanted to share with the rest of the group.

We took the next couple of days filling out our own graphic organizers and writing, using connecting words, different procedural steps on how to do something.  The 3rd IMG_0367graders were then able to share their writing with the group.

Since then the kids have been asking me daily if we can remake the snow ice cream with better snow, which I promised them we could do the next time we get fresh snow.  This of course happened last Wednesday…school let out early…and then 2 days for conferences…2 days off…yeah, the snow wasn’t fresh anymore.  Ok, so we don’t need A LOT of snow, but if we could get one more LIGHT snow where I can bring in fluffy snow for my kiddos that would be greaaaaat!

2nd Grade Procedures

IMG_5181My other 2nd grade group just finished a set of books on procedural steps.  I had started out by reading Monster Sandwich which went over the procedures to which a girl makes a sandwich.  I then used the graphic organizer from Interventions that Work (and our district has blown them up IMG_0003and laminated them so we can use them whole group).  I was going to model, but the kids started shouting out ideas and kind of took over for me.  It was a guided experience, but I was impressed how they really took ownership for what was supposed to be me modeling.  I still had to talk them through the steps as they wanted to jump straight from get out your ingredients to “make taco” and then eat.  We talked about how there is much more to making a taco than just ingredients and eating.  We also noticed how everyone in the group makes their tacos in different ways, which was interesting and brought out the point that just because you think you “know how to do something” that someone else might be able to show you a different way to do it.

Afterwards we did some work on The Fun Club Goes To A Dairy Farm where we talked about how there is a specific process that happens at the dairy farm and then the kids made their own procedural graphic organizers on something they knew how to do or make.

IMG_0005After they completed their graphic organizer, I had writing conferences with each of the kiddos and then went on to model how to transfer the information from the graphic organizer into sentence form.  The kids have already been working on connecting words so they easily put those into their stories (nice job 2nd grade teachers!!)

We are still working on the writing process and how editing can make our writing better.  We are a work in progress, but the students did a fabulous job of procedural steps.

IMG_9568I am now the proud “mama bear” to 4 fabulous Kindergarten friends as we are working on an intervention from Linda Dorn’s Interventions that Work called Interactive Writing.

We have a lot of foundational skills we’ve been working on such as letter identification, 1-to-1 word matching, writing our names correctly, writing and reading in the correct direction, and correct path of movement letter formation.

IMG_9291We’ve been listening to Ms. Acuff read poetry and have watched her point to each word to make sure what she says matches what the author wrote.  We’ve also been making group stories.  Students help Ms. Acuff make a story and they help add words they know how to write.

We’ve been having a lot of fun locating known letters in our reading and writing to help us know all of our letters as quickly as possible so we are reading to become strong readers!

In the photo at the top you can see we chose a sentence from a story we wrote as a group.  Ms. Acuff wrote the chosen sentence on a sentence strip for each student and we read the sentence as she cut up the sentence.  From there, Ms. Acuff lined the words up vertically and students had to scan the words left to right to put the sentence back together.  Then they had to read the sentence  while pointing, making sure we were correctly matching what we said to what was written.  This was a little tricky, but the more practice we had with it the better we got.  We then glued our sentence to our paper.  This was good practice for spacing and that when we get to the end of the paper we can’t glue down the side of the paper, but have to return sweep back to the left and start there.

Keep watching as we grow, grow, grow in our knowledge.  We are working VERY hard and Ms. Acuff couldn’t be more proud of us!


IMG_9557My 2nd graders have been working on Into the Sea–a book about Emma L. Hickerson by Stephanie Herbek.  I chose this book 1. because it’s a fabulous book, and 2. these students were working on an ocean book in their small group within the classroom and I always love opportunities when I can connect with what they are doing in the classroom.  Students have been working on text features and note taking (using a T chart) within the classroom.

IMG_9558We started out by locating text features within the book and also using the book they had been using in the classroom as well.  We used their book from the classroom as somewhat of a “mentor text” as Linda Dorn’s new thinking in Guided Reading Plus is to add a “Preparing for the Phases” portion where you really build background knowledge the first portion to help the students become more successful in the reading of their new book.

I had the kids write down important vocabulary words that would help them in their reading and writing based off of a vocabulary graphic organizer I created myself using the one from Linda Dorn and then one I received from a colleague of mine.  If you would like a copy of what I used please let me know–I’d be happy to share that with you.

IMG_9560Students then read through Into the Sea with a partner and then were asked to create a T chart with their partner locating the equipment Emma needed for her job and the use for each piece of equipment.  Students were to sticky note the pages each time they found a piece of equipment for easy reference.

We started out as a group listing pieces of equipment and the use Emma had for each and then students broke up into partners to continue finding equipment.  We came back as a large group and shared all of the pieces of equipment and uses.  I started to write all of them on the board as they shared so if they didn’t have the same things other students had they would have a complete list.  They did such a good job of finding things that I ran out of room on my white board.  I was proud with how thorough they were with their findings.

IMG_9559The 2nd graders did a really great job of working collaboratively with each other and taking notes.  You can see in the photo to the left and then at the very top how students took notes on the table whiteboards as they read for quick reference in their book and then put their notes from their white board into the chart in their writing journals.

We’ve really been working on finding the important parts of the information we are given and summing up things in a more efficient and effective way.

IMG_8551When I was at the UNI Jacobsen Center for Comprehensive Literacy Reading Conference, Linda Dorn and Carla Soffos stressed the importance of building vocabulary with our students instead of making comments about how difficult books can be for our students who have no background knowledge on a topic.  She make it clear that it is our job to build the bridge to these new vocabulary words and be the scaffold for our students.

And while using vocabulary words wasn’t new to me, the thought of being more explicit was somewhat new to me.  I have been picking relevant vocabulary words from 2nd and 3rd grade’s non-fiction books and printing off pictures to go with them.  (There is a post below where you can see 2nd grade and the process they went through to label their pictures)

This has been a VERY good thing in my classroom.  Students are much more successful when it comes to the 1st read and then when I listen to them again the 2nd time for a running record.  Students are also more successful when it comes to writing as they have important words already hanging up that they can reference.  It’s a nice reminder of important parts of the book and it also gives them the word to aid in spelling.  Students are more eager and willing to write when they’ve been set up for success.

After we are finished with the book, the vocabulary words go under the white board where they remain as our word wall words.  Students can reference these at any time during the writing process while making connections, having an unstructured writing session while I conference with other students, or if they come across the same or similar word in a new book.  I’ve been so happy with how many times students have reference the words since we’ve been using them.

Once we have finished then students are able to take home the extra pictures.  It was fun hearing at conferences how students were talking about the pictures and vocabulary words with their parents.  What a great way to make a connection from my classroom to their homeroom classrooms to their home.  I even had one student who had taped his picture to his desk.  His classroom teacher said it wasn’t a distraction, but he was very proud of the work he’s been doing so wanted it displayed.  Yay!


IMG_8345One of the things I took away from the JCCL Reading Conference earlier this week was how we need to be better about building background knowledge and vocabulary with my kiddos.  It’s not that I don’t do vocabulary things with my IMG_8346students, but they weren’t remembering the words we went over when it came time to read them.  We’d build them with magnetic letters and we’d locate the words in the book, but then there would be several students who still didn’t know the word.  Linda Dorn showed a picture of how she gave her kids sticky notes to label the different seasons.  I was anxious to try this myself when I got back to school.

Yesterday, I introduced the book All About Sharks and hung up different pictures of sharks.  I went over the important vocabulary words with the kids and then gave them each 2 post-it notes to put in the appropriate places on the shark picture.  The 2nd graders were super excited about this part (picture at top.)  I was planning on leaving the labels where they were and then having the kids double check for accuracy after reading, but they were all correct. (Photo to the right)  And I was really excited when it came time for the kids to independently read the book because they were accurately reading all of the vocabulary words we had gone over.  In fact, I saw some of the kids look up at the board to cross-check information and then go back to reading.  It was a wonderful use of using your strategies and using your resources.

IMG_8349Today we reviewed the vocabulary words and I had the students make their own shark fact booklets.  They had to have 5 shark facts they learned from yesterday’s reading.   The students got right to work and it was incredible because there was very little asking of help from them.  They were using the board as their “word wall” and IMG_8348writing sentences with the important vocabulary words we went over the previous day.

I got to go around and conference with each student on the sentences they wanted to write.  Some of the students I had to go back and help them with writing complete sentences instead of just writing down a vocabulary word.  I was really impressed because out of the corner of my eye I saw one of my students re-reading for accuracy and then changing part of the sentence to make sense.

When I see the kiddos again on Monday we’ll be able to finish the books and fix some of the spelling errors on the papers and also to make sure our sentences make sense.  IMG_8347I’m really excited with how the vocabulary labeling seemed to really help with the reading.  I’ll be interested to see how this works with other books that we read.


IMG_8299Woo!  It feels good to be back at school.  I was at the UNI Jacobson Center for Comprehensive Literacy Reading Recovery conference these last 2 days, but with the weekend, I feel like I’ve been away from school for a week.

The conference was GREAT!  I got to meet Linda Dorn (pictured above), who is the author of many books, some of which we are implementing at Lowell.  You know how I talk about Interventions That Work and Guided Reading Plus, Interactive Writing, IMG_8298Writing Aloud, and Comprehension Focus Groups??  Those are all from her.  She talked a little more in depth about adding in some Teaching for Deep Comprehension (also by Dorn and Carla Soffos, who I also got to hear at the conference)  I took away a lot of great things that will help improve my teaching with groups.  I have heard Dorn speak several times, but this is the first time I have actually gone up and talked with her and the first time I’ve seen her since Lowell started implementing Interventions That Work.

I also am a HUGE fan of Dr. Barbara Schubert (pictured on the right), who spoke on Reading Recovery.  I got to hear her speak at the National Reading Recovery Conference in Ohio 3 years ago and it was a treat.  She is an expert in Reading Recovery and brain based teaching and I always take away so much from her after her seminars.

IMG_8302Author Lester Lamanick spoke to the whole group and emphasized the importance of reading aloud to our children.  With everything they want us to pack into our day this often gets put on the back burner.  It was inspiring to hear him talk about his positive and negative experiences in education as a child and how that shaped him into the person he is today.  It just reminded me of how I am in the business of loving and caring for our kiddos and need to do all I can to make them all feel smart and important.

Lastly, I was really surprised when a reading teacher from another school showed me that I am in one of the photos in the Jacobson Center for Comprehensive Literacy brochure!!!! (Photo on the left)  I was really excited to be a part of the promotion to help other teachers learn more about what Waterloo is implementing and how they can help their struggling readers and writers, too.

OK, my planning time is about up, so I will sign off and go get my Reading Recovery kiddos! 🙂

4th Grade: Comprehension Focus Group

photo4th grade started reading Invisible Stanley by Jeff Brown this week and this is the first chapter book for them.  This is an exciting new venture as instead of having a Guided Reading Plus group they have moved to a Comprehension Focus Group.  This is exciting as they aren’t needing as many foundation skills as they were needing previously.  They are approaching proficiency and need some extra work in comprehension and fluency to really take their reading to the next level.

IMG_5485Day 1 we did some work work and I read the prologue as the students wrote predictions in their composition notebooks.  Then I had them each ready chapters 1 and 2 individually.  This became a time where I could sit down with each student individually, listen to them read orally, and then conference with them.  What a great opportunity for me to listen and talk about the story with students.  I have missed this!!  After everyone finished reading, we got back together for a conversation about the book.   This does not come naturally for most students.  It’s uncomfortable and awkward, so dialogue was rather scarce.  This will be a goal of ours to really be thinking about the book, what is the author saying to you, and then being able to speak your opinion, which may or may not be what someone else in the group believes.

photo (3)Day 2 we got back together and I did oral accuracy checks on the kiddos.  While I did this, they were rereading chapters 1 and 2 silently and then summarizing the chapters in their comp notebooks.  We regrouped and started a graphic organizer together.  They paired up and worked on the who, what, when, where component and then went out to work on event #1 together.  They got 5 minutes for both categories and then we came back as a whole group and put our answers collaboratively on the master graphic organizer.

photo (2)Working together was also a bit of a struggle–not because they couldn’t handle it, but because I don’t think they are used to working together collaboratively.  It was very quiet as they worked and I had to encourage them to talk to their partner about what each of them was thinking and how they could take both of their ideas and put it into one.  This, too, will be something we work on.  Teamwork makes the dream work!!

We’ll continue our way through the next 5 chapters over these next couple of weeks and will get a chance for more dialogue and more collaboration with a partner.  Stay tuned!

Thoughtful Journal Entries

If you’re anything like me, you find it difficult to constantly be coming up with purposeful and thoughtful writing responses.  I often times feel like we are writing just to write and then I kick myself when it comes around to testing and the students didn’t do as well as I wanted or expected.

In Linda Dorn’s Teaching for Deep Comprehension: A Reading Workshop Approach, she has a page of thoughtful journal entries that you can use with your students.  I am trying to incorporate these more into my writing day of my group.  I wrote the prompts on little cards (similar to my mission cards) and do put them in envelopes.  This way students are answering different questions and I can make it more appropriate to the different levels within the group.  I’ve found this to be a great way of mixing it up and differentiating what I’m asking of the students.  Plus, it keeps it interesting for me to read different answers and get different insight to what’s going on in their minds.

Respond personally to the text

  • How do you feel about the text and why?
  • How has the text changed your life in some way?
  • What is your favorite part of the book and why?

Respond to the theme and/or author’s purpose

  • What is the author trying to teach you?
  • What is the author’s purpose or message in the text?
  • Why do you think the author wrote this text?

Offer opinion of text

  • Do you like or dislike the text and why?
  • Who is your favorite or least favorite character and why?
  • Will you read this book again?  Why or why not?
  • Will you recommend this book to a friend?

Ask questions

  • What does the word/phrase _____ mean?
  • Why did the character act this way?
  • What did the author mean when….?
  • What is the author trying to teach you?

Make predictions/inferences

  • What do you think might happen and why?
  • I think ______ because ….

Respond to the writing style or author’s language

  • How does the author use language to create sensory images?
  • How does the author’s language deepen your understanding?

Respond to the traits and/or actions of the character(s)

  • Do you like, dislike, or admire the character(s) and why?
  • Would you act/react differently and why?

Share connections

  • Does any part of the book remind you of the world and what is occurring now or has happened in the past?
  • How have your own experiences deepened your understanding?
  • How is this text (characters or events) similar to another book (characters or events)?
  • Do you connect in any way with a character from the text?

Critique the text

  • Did the author do a good job organizing the text? crafting the text?
  • What are the resources the author used to provide you with accurate and current information?
  • Did the author use text features to help you understand the information?
  • Did the author follow the text structures for the genre?

Good luck as you begin to use some of these prompts with your kids.  When I first started using more thoughtful prompts you would have thought I was asking my students for their left arm.  Stick with it!  Getting them to think deeper and more reflective is good for them! 🙂  Happy teaching and happy writing!


My two 1st grade groups are currently working on an intervention called Interactive Writing.

What is Interactive Writing?

  • Interactive writing is a collaborative writing experience for beginning writers in which the teacher guides students in the group-writing of a large-print text. Students participate in the composition and construction of the text by sharing the pen, physically and figuratively, with the teacher. The composition is read and reread by the group to make the reading and writing connection.

With these two groups we spent 1 day learning and reading the poem Little Boy Blue.  We went over some trickier vocabulary and they listened to me read the poem with fluency.  This was a poem they had heard before in other settings so many of the students were able to follow along and read the poem with me.  We also used magnetic letters to help us with some word work so we can get better with sounds, letters, and words every day!

The second day we practiced reading the poem several times.  Each student was able to practice directionality by pointing word by word with the pointer and return sweep by coming back to the next line of text when you get to the end of the previous line.  From there we generate a message together as a group.  In this case we had to decide whether we would wake up Little Boy Blue or let  him sleep.  Group 1 (picture on the left) mostly decided they did not want to wake up Blue.  One little boy did want to wake him up.  The message the group decided on was “Elijiah, Kemari, and Omar tried to stop Brandon from waking up Little Boy Blue.”  Group 2 (picture on the right) decided they all wanted to be mean to Little Boy Blue.  They were going to put things on him to wake him upt.  Their group decided on the message “Owen put water on him.  Kennedie put salsa on him.  Deon put ketchup on him.  Alex put a taco on him.  Little Boy Blue cried!”  The students were able to write known words (such as their name, a, him, put, on, stop) on their white boards and a student would also write it on our chart paper.  I would write any unknown words.

This has been a VERY fun experience for both myself and the 1st graders who aren’t quite ready for a full on reading group.