Sunday, December 4, 2016


Image result for fluency

Fountas and Pinnell tell us that there are three components to reading fluency:
1. Accuracy (also known as automaticity, the person’s ability to read words correctly in a text)
2. Rate (the speed a person reads)
3. Stress, intonation, and pauses

(Fountas & Pinnell, 2009)

To gain a deeper understanding of fluency and how it supports or hinders reading, I recommend the work of Timothy Rasinski.
 "It may be helpful to think of reading fluency as a bridge between the two major components of reading – word decoding and comprehension. At one end of this bridge, fluency connects to accuracy and automaticity in decoding. At the other end, fluency connects to comprehension through prosody, or expressive interpretation." 
Rasinski has a multidimensional fluency rubric that breaks down the different components of fluency. I like to use it along with a running record. You are looking for expression and volume, phrasing, smoothness, and pace.

Visit Tim Rasinski's website and find a wonderful list of resources!

In her article, Shared Reading: Listening Leads to Fluency And Understanding, Janet Allen discusses the importance of Shared Reading in building fluency. Please take the time to read this article. Shared reading is appropriate for any grade! She mentions some of the advantages of using shared reading:

  • Students were more motivated to read.
  • Attendance improved when students didn't want to miss what the class was reading.
  • Students' speaking and writing vocabularies were changing to reflect the texts they read.
  • Students were reading more on their own -- in school, in detention, at home and even in jail. (Allen received several letters from former students who were there, asking her to send books similar to those she had read with them.)
  • The class was more like a community and less a collection of individuals who happened to be in the same place.
  • Students' writing improved.
  • Students began to see themselves as readers.   (Allen, 2002)

Building fluency involves decoding and comprehension!  Some of my favorite resources for helping students with fluency are listed below:

Fry Phrases by Rasinski- These can be on cards or you can find power points that have them on each slide. Students can practice them in pairs or it could be part of a guided reading lesson. They are based on sight words. I have found that the phrases work so much better than just one word.

Readers Theater- This is a great resource. There are many links!

Poetry- This is a lesson with resources. Any fun poem will do!

Songs- I love the idea of using popular songs!

I hope that this sparks your interest in building fluency in fun ways!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Informational Text

Most children like to read informational text. If they are interested in the topic, students can engage in this genre with excitement. There is no disagreement that children will need to be fluent readers of informational texts as they move forward in their learning. So, what do our students need to know about informational text?

Google or Pinterest the topic and you will see that the main focus of instruction is text features. I call these the "tricky parts" of reading informational text. While they are important, there is so much more to teach. 

Out goal is to create readers, writers, and researchers. Students must be able to comprehend informational texts and use them in authentic ways. This requires the teacher to model the reading of informational texts and teach reading strategies that will promote reading comprehension. Explicit teaching of comprehension strategies can foster comprehension (Duke & Pearson, 2002). Here is a book that will help you understand the importance of comprehension strategies!

Teachers must differentiate instruction within the classroom. Selecting books on different levels will help teachers meet the needs of their students.   Here is an exceptional article with videos that will encourage you to support all students. Don't forget to refer to the Continuum of Literacy Learning to see what the text demands are at each level. 

Mentor texts are a vital part of informational text reading and writing.  Lynne Dorfman and Rose Cappelli in their book NonFiction Mentor Texts, offer a wide range of mentor texts and show how these models illustrate the key features of good writing. This is a great resource!

I encourage you to think beyond the "tricky parts" and go for the development of the genre. We want our students to comprehend and enjoy a wide variety of informational texts. To authentically read and write about topics of interest. 

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Background Knowledge

A person's background knowledge, often called prior knowledge, is a collection of "abstracted residue" (Schallert, 2002, p. 557) that has been formed from life experiences. 
In the context of schools, background knowledge can be defined as the knowledge students have learned both formally in the classroom as well as informally through life experiences. Previous studies (Alexander, Kulikowich, & Schulze, 1994; Shapiro, 2004) have shown that background knowledge plays an enormous role in reading comprehension (Hirsch, 2003).

So, how do we build background knowledge?

In this article by  Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey, & Diane Lapp, you will find ideas that will work with students of all ages. It is written for middle school, but the ideas will work with elementary.

"The first step in addressing background knowledge is to determine what core background knowledge (as opposed to incidental knowledge) students will need to understand the new information to be learned. We must ask several questions:

1. Representation: Is the information foundational or essential to understanding the main concept (core), or is it merely interesting but peripheral (incidental)?
2. Transmission: Does the information require multiple exposures and experiences (core), or can it be easily explained or defined using a label, fact, or detail (incidental)?
3. Transferability: Will the information be required to understand future concepts (core), or is the information specific to one topic and not likely to be used in the near future (incidental)?
4. Endurance: Will the information be remembered after the details are forgotten (core), or will it likely not be recalled in the future (incidental)?"

The next step in the process of building background knowledge is to determine the extent to which students possess relevant core background knowledge. They offer several different ways to assess students. I like the idea of asking students to write captions for illustrations or photos. They discuss the importance of vocabulary and how to model new vocabulary for students.

I encourage you to read the article and find ways to build background knowledge. It starts with what students know and leads to what they need to know!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Reflection 2016

Hi, all you lovely but weary educators! The race for this school year is almost over. You are heading to the finish line!
Now is the time to reflect on the previous year with all of its victories and struggles. Ask yourself some questions and jot down your thoughts.
What did you learn about this year that changed your teaching?
What worked?  Why?
What didn’t work? Why?
How can I use this experience to grow myself as a teacher or grow my students next year?
Knowing what I know now, what would I do differently next time?
What do I need to do to prepare myself to start next school year strong?
Find another educator to do this reflection with you. There is something powerful when you share your best and worst moments! I will meet with my small group next week to reflect and plan. I am stronger with others to surround me on the journey.
Have a restful summer surrounded by friends and family! Try something new and refresh your spirit! I am so thankful for all you do for children and for those who serve them!


Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Online Safety

Our students love to surf the internet at school and at home. We need to teach our students how to collaborate with others and remain safe online. I just finished an online safety course where I learned about Common Sense Media. This is such a great resource for educators and parents. I wanted to share a few of the excellent lessons for elementary students offered on the website. 

Going Places Safely (K-2)
This lesson teaches students to be safe by following rules when online. 
Students will be able to ...

  • discover that the Internet can be used to visit far-away places and learn new things.
  • compare how staying safe online is similar to staying safe in the real world.
  • explain rules for traveling safely on the Internet.

This lesson teaches students how to search for pictures online using the alphabet.
Students will be able to...
  • learn how to search online by using the alphabet.
  • understand how to search for a specified letter of the alphabet on a children’s directory site.
  • apply the results of their alphabet search to create a picture dictionary.

Keep It Private (K-2)
This lesson helps students to decide what information is private and what can be shared online.
Students will be able to ...

  • recognize the kind of information that is private.
  • understand that they should never give out private information on the Internet.
  • learn to create effective usernames that protect their private information.

One of my favorite parts of each lesson is that you can download a fact sheet to send home to parents. They are available in English and Spanish.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Growing Educators

“One reason, so few of us achieve what we truly want is that we never direct our focus; we never concentrate our power. Most people dabble their way through life, never deciding to master anything in particular.”

— Anthony Robbins

I spend a great deal of my work week talking about growing readers, writers, and researchers. Today, I want to talk about growing educators. Reflecting on my growth over the last ten years, I see a change in my belief system. The educator that I was and the educator I am now are almost like two different people. Something happened along the way that changed ME.

I realized that the only person who could change in my school culture was me. I had been waiting on others around me to "show me the way"! I began asking questions rather than blaming others. I wanted to know more about what children needed to become successful. I was determined to find answers and grow. I took ownership of my professional development. I realized that professional development should be a career-long endeavor, not just a once-a-year offering by my district.

I guess you could say that I moved from a "fixed mindset" to a "growth mindset." Mindset is a simple idea discovered by Stanford University psychologist, Carol Dweck. Teacher agency is another term I like!

"Teacher agency is typically viewed as a quality within educators, a matter of personal capacity to act (Priestly et al., 2012) usually in response to stimuli within their pedagogical environment. It describes an educator who has both the ability and opportunity to act upon a set of circumstances that presents itself within that individual’s leadership, curricular or instructional roles. The educator described would then draw from acquired knowledge and experience to intercede appropriately and effectively. Agency is increasingly rare in the educational world of prescriptive improvement, and the term is too “often utilized as a slogan to support school-based reform” (Priestley, Biesta & Robinson, 2012, p. 3). " Teacher Agency in America and Finland By Roger Wilson, GVSU Faculty

Notice it states that it is a rare quality. I know for a fact that it is very rare. So many educators are waiting for someone else to get busy fixing, finding, doing or creating things that will change school culture and student learning. While we are all waiting for someone else, nothing changes,

I became tired of waiting and developed a sense of urgency that is with me to this day. We have so little time to grow our learners! We must make each day count. I can't say that my change made everyone happy or that I was appreciated. It took courage and perseverance. It still takes courage today to step out and say what needs to be said. I spend a lot of time thinking about children and not about adults. What is best for children in the classroom?  How can I keep them engaged throughout the day? What will inspire them to be lifelong learners? The questions never stop!

The more time I devote to professional development and learning; the more passionate I become! It is a worthwhile and exciting journey. I want to leave a legacy of promoting change in education that greatly impacts children. I encourage you to journey with me! Together, we can make a difference.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Inquiry Based Learning

"We have a classroom system, where we could have a community system."

Do we run our schools as a factory system focused on control and order? 

It is time we shift our thinking and practice! 
It starts with teachers.

Where can teachers find information about inquiry?
I have read Harvey and Daniels revised book, Comprehension and Collaboration. It is a great "how to" book, and a great place to start.

Another approach is Genius Hour. A great way to find out more about implementing Genius Hour is to look on Twitter #geniushour! I have found many resources this way.