Tag Archive: reading

Opinion Books

IMG_0425My first graders spent the last 2 months working on persuasive/opinion writing in their classroom.  I thought it would be a great partnership between my classroom and their classroom to merge our writing to reflect what they’ve been doing.

I strategically selected books from Reading A to Z that had similar stories, but different enough to form opinions on which book they preferred.  Some books we read to write about were:

  • Shoes Men Wear and Shoes Women Wear
  • Going To The Dentist and Going To The Doctor
  • Bonk’s Camping Trip and Bonk’s Big Splash
  • All About Farms and All About Factories
  • City Animals and Country Animals
  • Rude Robot and Penny the Rude Penguin

IMG_0428We read more than just those books above, but that gives you a general idea of some of the ways we partnered books up to be roughly the same topic but different enough for students to form opinions.  We started by reading both books and then following the OREO format (Opinion, Reasons, Examples, Opinion restated) students picked their favorite book and then had to write about why it was their favorite book.  Each week we would read a new set of books and then write an opinion on one of the books.   We started with their favorite book and then moved to favorite part, then favorite IMG_0431character, then student choice.  Students could also choose to write about their least favorite book, part, or character as well for student choice.

Once we finished our 6 opinion papers, students compiled them into a book order, made a table of contents, and cover page, then we sent the books out to be spiral bound into real books.

The 1st graders then were able to share their books with all the other kids in the classroom before being able to take their books home.  They were so proud of the finished product after 7 weeks of hard work.


We are cruising along in Kindergarten.  At the beginning of March we transitioned into READING BOOKS!  This is such a big deal.  Learning to read is such a monumental life experience when you think about just everything you need to do at once to be able to read.  For the last several months we’ve been “practicing” getting ready to read by labeling, word by word matching, learning letters and sounds, putting sounds together, learning word parts, building simple words, and finishing sentence starters.  We’re reading basic patterned books and still working on those word by word matching skills, but we’re getting there.

IMG_0413One thing we’ve had to work on is keeping our eyes on the text unless we need to check the picture for help with a word.  Many friends memorize the pattern and only look at the picture, but when a page changes the pattern of the text then students have difficulties.  We’ve had to really work on even if we think we know the pattern making sure we are correct by looking carefully at words.

IMG_0417We’ve even transitioned from finishing a sentence Ms. Acuff has written to students actively participating in the Interactive Writing and writing the stories themselves.  They practice words on their white boards while another student adds the word to our chart.  I help with more difficult words I know they don’t know.

We still do the cut up sentence portion of the lesson, but instead of students copying the cut up sentence, they then write their OWN sentence about the story we wrote together.  Most of the kids are doing a great job of using parts they know (ee, ou, ow, oa) and applying them into their writing.  Some IMG_0416students still need a little more support and structure with the writing as this is very new for us.

I’m starting to notice students writing in capital letters as they are more comfortable with those than lower case letters and we’ve had to work on when we use capital letters and also working on letter reversals.  These are common and we just keep practicing the correct way to write them.  We’re also working on different punctuation–periods, exclamation points, IMG_0415and question marks–when do we use them and how do we make them?

We are seeing lots of great things in Kindergarten and are overjoyed with how well students are applying their phonics knowledge every day.


img_0371I came across this awesome ipad app called Whack-A-Word and thought it was the cutest thing ever.  I don’t have ipad for all of my kiddos so I tweaked what I saw on the app and created my own using sheets for ABCs, blends and digraphs, and Jolly Phonics.  (If you want any of my materials, let me know!)  My teammate also found some stuff on Teachers Pay Teachers, but we created our own to match with what we wanted.

I took a pool noodle and cut them into about 2 inch wide slices and inserted jumbo craft sticks into a slit I made with scissors.  img_0372

The kids LOVED THIS!!! “Ms. Acuff, why haven’t we played this before?  This game is AWESOME!”  The way it works is you tell them something to find and they have to locate it and “whack the word” or in this case–the sound.  “Whack the sound that says ch-ch-ch.”  This has been a great way to reinforce letter identification and word parts for the Kindergarten kiddos who have needed some extra practice without it being so “skill and drill” with them.img_0373

AWESOME BOOK: Forest Friends

IMG_0096I have to give a big shout-out to a book our Kindergarten team used they found on Teachers Pay Teachers from Ashley Watson called Forest Friends Go To School.  If you are a teacher then you have at some point had at least one book destroyed at home by one of your kiddos.  It’s frustrating and expensive and the kids always feel bad, but at the end of the day, it still is one more book you need to replace.

I used this book with my Reading Recovery kids before I sent a bag of books home with the kids.  The book goes over different “bad scenarios” of things that happen to the book–coloring on the pages, stickers on the pages, dirt/mud on the pages, juice and chocolate on the pages, ripped pages, and pencil on the pages.  And then has the kids think about how we should take care of books while they are using them.

My 1st graders were really upset that this book was ruined (BONUS: you get to be the one to ruin the book.  Mwahaha!) and came up with a lot of good ideas on how to care for the books.

Do I think I won’t have anymore lost or destroyed books?  No, I’m not naïve, but I certainly hope this book comes to mind of the kiddos when they go to read my books at home and take a little better care of them.

You can get the book for only $3.00 from Ashley!  Go buy it, it’s definitely worth the $3.00 plus you are supporting another teacher.


Happy Halloween

IMG_5620Happy Halloween from the Lowell Reading Teachers!  What else would we be for Halloween than a Word Wall??

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! 🙂


I haven’t gotten a chance to talk about my 2nd graders yet this year so I thought they would be my blog for today.   I was lucky enough to have a few of my 1st graders from last year be in my 2nd grade group this year.  One of the things we are working on is trying to problem solve on your own first.  Many of them come to an unknown word in reading or writing and while I’m working with a student I’ll hear, “MISS ACUFF!  WHAT’S THIS WORD?” or “MISS ACUFF! HOW DO YOU SPELL ______?”

IMG_8219(Quick side bar: Before I could say, “Try one of your strategies first and I’ll be there in a few seconds.” another student from the group said, “You know your job.  Do something….like sound it out.”  I had to smile.  I might have another little teacher in training.)

Last year they were my babies and had them next to me the entire time.  Now, in the way Interventions That Work want us to do it, the kids meet with me as the whole group briefly for letter work and directions/book orientation and then they go off to begin their work.  This gives me an opportunity to come around to each student while they are working and conference with them on their reading or writing.

Every group session it gets easier for them.  They are learning to use the strategies they have been taught–look for parts you know, what makes sense, what do you see in the picture?  In their writing they are getting better at using their writing skills–try it on your practice page, do you know a word that sounds like that word or is similar?, using your word dictionary, using your book for help, trying the word and circling it for me to check when we conference.

IMG_0068I was really proud of the kids today.  They all were doing a great job during IMG_8220writing of going to their strategies first and trying it.  They all know more than they give themselves credit for.  I went over writing strength and goal sheets with the kids and we were making sure they were monitoring their writing and going back to check.  (An example of the sheet I use it to the left)  I try to have my 2nd graders focus on 2-3 things they can work on.  For a lot of them it’s spacing, capital letters, and using the line spacing appropriately.

So we’ll keep chugging along!  I tell my kids the important thing to ask yourself is, “Am I better today than I was yesterday?”  We take it one step at a time and just have to keep making sure that the work we do today is better than the work we did yesterday.

It’s a great day to be a Lowell Cougar…am I right??

4th & 5th: Focus Group Jobs

IMG_82024th and 5th are well on their way using the Kindles.  Last week I shared with you how I was doing Comprehension Focus Groups with my older kiddos.  I found I was doing almost all of the heavy lifting academically.   I was doing all the prompting IMG_8203and all the locating of tricky words and even making thoughtful connections.  Fabulous.  Great job, Miss Acuff…right?  Sure, I am able to do all these things, but it’s now my job to make sure I’m teaching the older kids how to do this for themselves and how to share their learning with the others in the group so they all grow independently and collaboratively.  This hasn’t been easy by any means.  This has taken some practice and we are still choppy.

I found some Literature Discussion Group job cards online and I thought they were really neat.  I thought they could be a guide for our groups.  Instead of me single-handedly trying to facilitate ALL of the group roles, I let the students pick their own job, focus on that one job, and then share it with the group.  We discussed what would be a good time frame to keep the jobs and we decided that we would keep 1 job for a week before switching.  This doesn’t mean that they can’t keep being a role they really like, but the goal is to eventually get them to being masters of every job.  After I prompt with a few opening question and give them a purpose for reading for the day’s session, the kids are free to choose a spot in the room to read their selected chapters and complete their job.  Students take notes while they are reading so they can answer all aspects of their job.

I was surprised that there were no “fighting” over jobs.  Each kid wanted something different.  And while I thought I would be “stuck” with being the discussion leader or perhaps having to force someone into that role, in both groups that was the first job picked.  I still have notes in my lesson plans of good vocabulary words, setting, connections, and discussion prompts, but it’s inspiring to see what the kids have IMG_8200selected as being important.  They are fully taking on their learning while having me there to facilitate and guide the learning in the right direction.  I was shocked when one of the discussion questions was, “Why are they having to talk about a book when we are trying to read about the book they have to talk about?”  The question stopped all of us in our tracks and we really had to think about what had happened in the story, process what we had read and what she was asking, and then discuss.  It wasn’t a yes/no question, but one that took deep comprehension of what was happening in the story.

So the kids have been super enthusiastic to be reading on the Kindles.  I have to practically pry the Kindles out of their hands so we can have our discussions, which I LOVE!!!!  I have never had to practically beg students to STOP reading.  Wow, right?

IMG_8199Both groups picked a book as a group that they were interested and then I made the final decision after finding a book that was on their instructional reading level.

4th grade all wanted to read Franny K. Stein books and I found Franny K. Stein, Fantastic Voyage,was on their level and one none of them had read before.  They made my job super simple.

5th grade took over an hour for me to find a book.  They all had such different interests and I tried to find one that was their reading level and the whole group’s interest level.  After searching and searching I found one they all liked….only to discover that it isn’t released on Kindle until January!!!  So it was back to the drawing board and looking over their book interest survey.  The next highest rated book series was the Weird School series.  5th grade ended up with Miss Daisy is Crazy.

This is an exciting time for 4th and 5th grade.  Check back in with us soon to see how all of us are doing with our new Comprehension Focus Group jobs!

IMG_8145Doesn’t that picture at the top just say it all?  These faces shout joy and excitement!  One of my goals has always been to make reading more fun and to stir up some passion for reading.  I think these Kindles are going to make it a lot easier to stir up passion for reading.

IMG_8148I have to give a very big thank you to Jim and Jody Mueller who fully funded 5 Kindles for my classroom. 

My 4th and 5th graders (and hopefully 3rd grade by the end of the year) will be using these most of the time for our group book.  This was a huge blessing and an extremely generous donation for my students.

I gave each student a box and then on the count of 3 they all got to open the boxes up together.  Some had never seen or touched a Kindle before.  I gave them about 5 minutes just to explore on the Kindle and get the feel for an eReader.

Comments like, “I’ve never seen anything so cool before,” “I can’t wait to start reading,” and “Is this really happening?” were IMG_8146happening the entire group session.  It was a very cool moment to be a part of.  Some of my kids were so excited to start reading that they did.  And so I just let them read for about 15 minutes before we needed to end the session.

This is an extremely exciting time for all the kids in Ms. Acuff’s class.  I am so appreciative and I look forward to posting more pictures of us working with the Kindles and to seeing great progress with the kids.  I have never IMG_8149seen such enthusiasm and it’s really exciting to be a part of.

So again, thank you Jim and Jody Mueller for the extremely wonderful gift of Kindles and for lighting a passion for reading in each of my kids.  You have made a huge difference in the lives of several young people.

Choose Your Adventure

IMG_7907Welcome to the 2013-2014 school year!  I am really excited to be back at Lowell again this year for my 5th year!!!  It was SO wonderful to see so many of my students/former students and other Lowell kiddos at back to school night last night and then again this morning.

This year I really hope to get students fired up about reading (even more than I usually hope to get students fired up)  This year I want students to be able to choose their adventure destination with books!

Please contact me if you need any support in helping your child with reading, with book recommendations, or if you have any concerns about your child’s reading progress this year.  I am here for YOU and your CHILD!  Let’s have a great year and get our “read on”!!!