Free Valentines!

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Every year, Pioneer Valley Books offers valentines as free downloads to teachers and parents. This year our eight adorable designs feature Bella and Rosie, Sally the Cow, Rusty the Robot, and more! Click here to visit the Pioneer Valley Books website and download your free valentines!

Teaching Tip: Learning to Apply What You Have Learned

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Phonics has been in the news a lot lately. It’s very important that we teach phonics. I don’t think any teacher disputes this! But phonics is not a goal in and of itself. We teach students phonics—or how words work—so they will learn how to decode unknown words while reading and how to encode unknown words while writing.

I learned so much about phonics and the importance of teaching students decoding skills when I was a Reading Recovery Teacher Leader. I also learned how important it is to be able to teach students how to apply these new decoding skills to authentic reading and writing situations. This intervention program has results unmatched by any other. In a Reading Recovery lesson, students read several books, write a story, and are given a brief, highly targeted “phonics” lesson. Throughout their lesson, students are instructed how to immediately apply the phonics skills they have been taught to real-life situations.

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January Office Hours Webinar

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Please join Jan Richardson and I next Tuesday, January 14, at 4:00pm EST, when we’ll be holding our free Office Hours webinar. Our topic will be Guiding Writers: Teaching with Intention and Intensity.

Including guided writing as part of your guided reading lesson extends comprehension and improves students’ writing skills. We will begin January’s Office Hours by sharing a short presentation on how to enhance students’ understanding of character traits, motivations, and feelings through writing. After the presentation, Jan and I will be available for a Q&A session on guided writing.

Visit the Pioneer Valley Books website for more information on this free webinar series, and click here to register for the January webinar!

Teaching Tip: More about Word Study

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Word study is an important but very brief part of a guided reading lesson.

In November, Jan Richardson and I hosted our first webinar, where we attempted to answer a range of questions about word study. It has been posted here if you haven’t had a chance to watch it!

We had many questions we couldn’t get to, so I’ve picked a few to answer here.

Erin’s question:
I have a kindergartener who speaks Chinese in the home. She has mastered her letter names when tracing but is struggling with picking up sounds. Any recommendations on how to support her in this learning?

Children beginning to learn English as a second language may experience more challenges with the word study part of the lesson. As you know, Chinese is a very different system from our English system. Can your student hear the sound but not identify which letter it is? Doing more lessons with picture sorting will help. Also, students can get confused if in the classroom the teacher uses an ABC chart with one set of pictures and then in an intervention setting uses a chart with a different set of pictures. Pick one and stick to it: A-apple or A-alligator, but not both!

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Michèle and Jan’s Office Hours Webinar

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I’m pleased to announce that Jan Richardson and I will be holding office hours for 30 minutes once a month to talk about how the amazing tools from Pioneer Valley Books help you teach literacy in your classrooms, and to answer your questions about how to improve your own use of these tools. The free series launches next Wednesday, November 20, at 4:00pm, and focuses on Word Study.

Visit the Pioneer Valley Books website for more information on this exciting new webinar series, and click here to register for its debut!

Teaching Tip: What Are the Other Kids Doing?

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One of the biggest things that gets in the way of implementing guided reading is keeping the other students appropriately occupied so guided reading lessons can be taught without interruption.

I had an opportunity recently to listen to Debbie Diller, a guru on this topic, at the International Literacy Association (ILA). She has some great ideas for how to make this work. I suggest reading her book Literacy Work Stations: Making Centers WorkView Debbie Diller’s Simply Stations series.

Debbie says teachers are spending too much time creating activities for centers. We focus too much on the “stuff” and instead need to focus on what we want students to learn. She sets up what she calls SIMPLE literacy stations that run all year and provide students with opportunities to explore and practice what they are learning. Students read, write, listen, speak, or work with words. Materials are changed to reflect students’ new reading levels, strategies being taught, and topics being studied.

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Teaching Tip: Teaching Test-Taking

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Fantasy, mystery, biography, poetry, and informational are some of the genres we use during guided reading. Often forgotten, or maybe not considered, is reading for test-taking. This genre demands different cognitive skills that need to be taught for both reading the passage and answering the questions.

To introduce this genre to your students, first download and print copies of the Test-Taking Strategies cards from Next Step in Guided Reading author Jan Richardson’s website. These cards outline the steps for reading the passage and answering the questions. Print the cards back-to-back so each student has a card to use in the lesson.

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Teaching Tip: Word Study Literacy Tip

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Utilize the Assess-Decide-Guide Framework to Ensure Effective Word Study Instruction: Meet Jacob!

As a nationwide staff developer focused on the implementation of customized guided reading, I am frequently asked how to best engage learners in effective word study. Jan Richardson and Michèle Dufresne have authored a timely publication intended to help us design and deliver developmentally appropriate word study and phonics instruction even more strategically. Let me offer steps to take based on the practices featured in The Next Step Forward in Word Study and Phonics (2019) and The Next Step Forward in Guided Reading (2016), as well as my long-term work with students, including Jacob (pseudonym).

I began to work intensively with Jacob at the close of his second-grade year. His data revealed a struggle with skills, including digraphs. As suggested by Jan and Michèle, I led Jacob through a series of word study activities during his guided reading lessons. Across his journey of learning, I monitored Jacob to confirm he was utilizing his newly acquired word study skills when reading and writing.

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Warm Up the Reading Muscles

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I took a month off from my BODYPUMP class this summer. When I got back, I found myself struggling with the weight I was used to lifting prior to my hiatus. I had to use smaller weights. And boy was I sore the next day! But after a few classes, I was quickly back to lifting my usual weight.

As you head back to school, you may find that many of your kids did not lift a book all summer—and their reading muscles need some warming up! If you assess these students right away, you may not get an accurate assessment of what they really can do. Instead, for the first few weeks, consider dropping them down a few text levels from where they were at the end of the previous school year. Warm up your students with these easier books, and see how quickly they get back into the reading groove!

What about a Spelling Program?

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Spelling is an integral part of word study. During word study, students will learn to spell words that will be useful to them in reading and writing text.

If you feel you need a spelling program that goes beyond what students are learning in the word study segment of guided reading lessons, we recommend the following:

  1. Reconsider using the same list of spelling words with all your students. If your students are reading at different levels of proficiency, they will be at different stages of spelling. You can differentiate your spelling by grouping students into small groups based on those high-frequency words that will be appropriate for learning and practice.
  1. Have students learn a few words that follow a phonics pattern used during word study. Here is an example of a spelling list for a group at Level D:

away
down
looked
sheep
ship
shut

This list includes three high-frequency words that often occur in Level D guided reading books, including one with the –ed ending. There are also three words that start with the digraph sh, which you might be using in word study activities. At Level D, we recommend teaching students digraphs; learning to spell a few words with the sh digraph will help students learn some useful words that include the sounds they are working on.

  1. Provide students many opportunities to practice their spelling words. This can be done during an independent center time. Have students make the words with magnetic letters, write the words on dry-erase boards, do rainbow writing, write on fun surfaces like sand trays, and write with finger paint. Have students write sentences with their words and draw pictures. Create some spelling games, such as word bingo and roll and write.
  1. Review words long after the spelling week. If you want students to retain their spelling words in their long-term memory, it is not enough to have them learn them and then never work on them again. Have students practice by dictating sentences that include the new words AND old words they have learned. Review the words during sight word review at the beginning of each guided reading lesson.

 

Spelling Activities

Tic-Tac-Toe

Materials needed:
Tic-tac-toe template, dry-erase boards and markers

Directions
Print out the tic-tac-toe template. Student 1 (o) reads a spelling word and Student 2 (x) writes it on a dry-erase board. If it is correct Student 2 can place an x on the board. First to get tic-tac-toe wins the game.

 

Spelling Word Race

Materials needed:
Paper and pencils

Directions:
Teacher or a student dictates the spelling words. Two players race to write each spelling word. The student who writes the word the fastest (and correctly!) gets a point. The student with the most points after writing all the words wins the race.

 

Roll and Write

Materials needed:
dice, paper, pencils

Directions:
Player take turns rolling the dice. Whichever player has the highest number gets to write one spelling word. Whoever writes all their words first wins the game.

 

Spelling Word Bingo

Materials needed:
Bingo cards with spelling words written on them, bingo chips

Directions:
Print out the bingo cards and write the spelling words on the board. Make sure the words are arranged in a different order on the bingo board. Someone calls out a spelling word or turns over a card with the spelling words. Players cover the word with a bingo chip. The first student to complete a diagonal line column or row cries out, “bingo,” and wins the game.