Monday, October 20, 2014

Mystery Word of the Week ~ October Deal!

Y'all know I love my Mystery Word of the Week sets, right? It's not just me - my students *love* this, and we are linking unknown words to known words, using definitions, visual cues, synonyms, antonyms, and context clues. I have seen the effect this has on the vocabulary (and test scores!) of the struggling readers I have worked with in grades 2-6 over the years. Here's an opportunity to get 60 weeks at a deal!

The bundle was 40 weeks, and now it includes 60 weeks! And the price didn't go up... actually, it went down (for the rest of October.) I know it doesn't make much business sense for me to lower my price when I add more content, but hear me out.

I decided to add all 12 existing sets (including the science sets) of the Mystery Word of the Week to the 40 week bundle.Now includes all 12 Mystery Word of the Week sets!! That's 60 weeks of Mystery Words (a $48 value) for the SALE price of $20.00 through the month of October. The price will increase Nov. 1 to $35. At least 6 more sets will be added to this bundle during the 2014-2015 school year, and the price will rise as more content is added. Purchase the bundle in October to get all future Mystery Word of the Week sets for this super-low price, then come back and download the updated sets from your purchases.

Want to see more? Click on the picture below to view this bundle in my TPT store, and check out the *huge* preview to try the Mystery Word of the Week in your class tomorrow.

60 weeks for $20 - Ends 10/31/2014
Print, post, discuss.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Beyond Oral Reading Fluency ~ Dig Deep

The Reality of Oral Reading Fluency

Often, teachers are asked to give too much importance to a bit of data. The current trend is a focus on Fluency in struggling readers, particularly in grades 2-5. The Oral Reading Fluency score (ORF) is simply a look at how many words the student read correctly in a minute.  If it is below the magic number, the teacher needs to take a closer look.  The magic number varies, depending on the grade of the student, the time of year, and if you are using DIBELS, mClass, EasyCBM.com, etc.

Here comes the tricky part - looking past the oral reading fluency to why the student is struggling. Too many teachers are being asked to provide an intervention in fluency, when that might not be the issue at all. Teachers and parents spend tons of time reading (and timing their students!) with the goal of reading faster.

That's right. The goal is to read faster. They chart it, celebrate when the numbers rise, and fret when the numbers stay the same. All with one purpose: read faster.

As parent and a teacher, this is scary. Often, the problem isn't fluency. It's from gaps in phonics skills. Student, teacher, and parent - stressing over how fast the student reads, and it isn't the underlying cause. Worse, the underlying cause is never addressed, which leaves the student at risk for a long time.

Look Past the Numbers ~ Dig Deep

What's a teacher, administrator, and parent to do? Dig Deep by going beyond the fluency score.  It takes a bit more time, and that is important to consider.  No teacher has enough hours in the day, between returning phone calls, helping a sick student, attending meetings, and teaching.

Here's my answer: take the time to Dig Deep and find out what they need. This time is well spent. If you identify an area of deficit, like long vowels, simply provide your intervention on this one area. Need help? Click here for my blog series: Supporting Struggling Readers in Grades 3-5.

Observe Your Struggling Reader

Once you've Dug Deep to pinpoint their area of need, take the time to observe and listen to your struggling reader at least several times per week.  Extra points if you can do this daily. ;)  Do not underestimate the power of your anecdotal notes. Pull them out, look them over, and see what the group (or the student) needs.  Here are a few examples:
 My R5 Group: Rydell needs to work on chunking unfamiliar words and attending to endings of words.  Ellington uses the beginning of a word to identify an unknown word, and needs to work on "Does this make sense?"

 My 90210 Group: Brenda's pencil grip is really forceful - OT referral? Dylan is using visual cues (beginning of the word) to identify unknown words.  He needs to work on: "Does this make sense?" Brandon uses meaning cues, and needs to work on: "Does it look right?"

Molly Lou Mellon is in a different group, where I happen to use one page per student. {This helps me look for patterns in the students over time.} Molly Lou is working on attending to word endings, while asking herself: "Does it sound right?"

If you're having trouble analyzing the anecdotal notes to see what they need, here's a free Word Work Cheat Sheet for Struggling Readers in Grades 3-5.

As you work with students, remind yourself to dig deep, observe, and listen. Happy Teaching, Friends!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Supporting Struggling Readers ~ Upper Elem

Fall is here, everyone is back in school, and my intervention classes are going strong.  In chatting with teachers, I found that I was giving the same advice that I've been giving for years, either as a literacy coach, intervention specialist, or classroom teacher.  Thought I'd pass them along.  If you find them helpful, I appreciate your sharing my blog with your colleagues.  Thanks, y'all!!

  • Find out their interests, then help them find tons of cool books on that topic.  If the books are way too difficult a text, but have rich, engaging pictures, let them keep them in their reading box.  If the majority of their books are at their reading level, let them keep a few that are interest-based, even if they are far too easy or difficult.
  • Find out their needs, then help them find materials they can keep in their reading box.  If they can't tie their shoes, find a preschool book with the big, chunky laces, and let them quietly practice during reading time.  Yes, sometimes 4th graders don't know how to tie their shoes.  It gives them practice with a life skill, they'll be using the pictures as a diagram to follow the directions.  Win-Win!  Books about telling time, tying shoes, and counting money are some I have used in the past.  When you have a 9 year old 2nd grader who reads on a F&P level D (instead of J), you get creative.  
  • Find out what they are good at, and build their self-esteem.  Particularly in Upper Elementary classrooms, struggling readers *know* they are struggling.  They often feel frustrated at school because they are continually struggling, since they need to use their reading skills in math, social studies, science, health, etc.  One year, I had an 3rd grade student who was already pulled for three acronym classes: ESL, CCR, ALP.  When she qualified for speech, the class began during the last 5 minutes of our recess.  I fought to keep those 5 minutes, arguing that she needed the time with her classmates. Here's my secret: I wanted to keep her there for every moment of our recess because this was the time of day when she was able to outshine her peers. (She was - and still is - an amazing athlete)  Her joy at winning in kickball helped her stay engaged in our school community, and built her self-esteem.  Let them have time to show their talents.
  • Protect *uninterrupted* chunks of time to read independently.  This is so important, because this is when they can practice the decoding, accuracy, and fluency strategies we are growing.  Our struggling kiddos are having such a hard time transitioning from the Speech room to the English as a Second Language class to the Special Education class, and then back to the classroom.  Often, the biggest loss is in their focus - how can you stay focused on that book if you don't get much time to read it? (or reread it!)
  • Play games together.  Pick one game and play it a few times a week for 2 weeks.  Pick something quick, like Boggle (Click here for my classroom rules) or fun Word Games for Vowels.  Spend 5 minutes a day, 3 times/week for a couple of weeks, to encourage a joy of looking at words.  Tip: I often make sure we "run out of time" before we have a winner.  They ask, "Who won, Mrs. Sykes?" I answer, "It's a game where we have fun with words, not a game where we have to have a winner each time."  Then we move on...
  • Most importantly, love them, celebrate their successes, and help them to love learning.  It's why we choose to work with children, right?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Functionally Cute Classroom to Inspire...

Great news!  I finally finished my "Back to School" stuff.  :)  I've been back at work for 4 weeks now...  I've finished most of my beginning of the year assessments, analyzed my data, and am ready to dig deep into learning to fill the gaps of my struggling readers.  (If you want to read about how I do this each year, check out my series: Supporting Struggling Readers in Grades 3-5)

One of the most important things I needed to do was to make sure my classroom is inspiring, even though it is *not cute!*  I do have touches of cuteness, but it is always functionally cute, not just cute.  Here are a few examples of functionally cute from the Upper Elementary Literacy Room:

Common Core Rules for Discussion from Jen Jones @ Hello Literacy.  These are a fantastic resource for my students, and are posted in a spot that we refer to as needed to remember to make eye contact, respectfully agree or disagree, etc.

What's Your Graduation Year? Freebie from me @ Hello Mrs Sykes - To inspire my students to graduate high school on time!!  My kiddos are all at increased risk of dropping out since they are struggling readers in grades 3-5.  They love informing their parents when they will graduate high school, and it helps spark some thoughts about what to do after graduation!  Win-Win!

 Mystery Word of the Week - I love having this as a part of our routine, and my students are always excited to solve the Mystery Word.  Since I don't tell them until Friday if they are "right," this always leads to interesting discussions as the clues are revealed one day at a time...
An old pic of the Mystery Word of the Week in the Literacy Room

Academic Word Walls - Actually, these words get used a ton, and not just stuck on the wall like wallpaper!  We play games with them, practice our fluency with them, and post one daily as a word of the day.  We then try to remember to share the word with our families at dinner.  I love when students come in the next day telling me that their parents were impressed at their vocabulary!!!  :)


Guided Reading Cheat Sheet - This one is for me.  I'm a visual person, and I refer to this sheet when  redirecting students (reminding them what they are doing before/during/after reading.)  I lost the one I printed last year, so I need to laminate another one before returning to the Reading Room tomorrow!


The really easy notebook (free, since it's made with construction paper and notebook paper from the supply closet, and cute, since students decorate them using permanent markers!)

For an absolutely hysterical post about a non-cute classroom, check out this one from my buddy Casey @ Second Grade Math Maniac.  Have a wonderful week!!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Mystery Word Madness!

Omigoodness, y'all!  What a surprise this morning to see my Mystery Word of the Week in the TpT newsletter!  To celebrate this personal milestone, it's 20% off for the next 24 hours at my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  :)
Yep, I tried for 2 years to get this in the newsletter.  Got it today!!  :)
Happy Labor Day Weekend, everyone!!  :)

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