Monday, April 14, 2014

Q&A from the Hello Literacy Inbox: "Am I Doing My Literacy Block Right?"

I get a lot of emails from teachers asking me general and specific questions about literacy instruction...99% of the time, I answer them and if I don't, it's because they get lost in the email abyss that happens between my iPhone and my real Inbox...and to the 1% that did not get a reply from me, I'm truly sorry.  I do, however, think that others might find value in others' questions as well as my response.  Therefore, from time to time, I will publish the questions of others and my email reply.  So here goes, an email I received today from Amy (first names only).

Hi Jen!

I'm a follower of your blog.  I have been teaching First Grade at ABC Elementary for six years.   

After reading many of your blog posts, I was wondering if you could shed some more insight.  I really like your CC ELA Comprehension Sheets.  After looking at those, it made me question my "Daily Cafe" block.  I've had an internal struggle for the past year that it doesn't look "correct" in my classroom.  We adopted Letterland [phonics program] this year, so one of my mini-lessons goes to that.  My other mini-lesson is usually a reading strategy of sorts.  I guess my biggest struggle is TIME! How do you get a good mini lesson in and get to more than 2 Daily 5 rotations!?  

Before adopting Daily Cafe last year, I was used to having "Shared Reading" where I used the basal or another picture book and then we usually practiced with a comprehension activity (pencil/paper/whiteboard/smartboard).  Since the Daily 5 adoption, I've tried to incorporate some of those activities, but it feels like they are too lengthy and cut into the "rotation/small group" time.  

I know I'm probably being repetitive, but I would appreciate any insight you can provide!!  

Thanks so much!

Hi Amy!

At Lake Myra, we don't do The Daily 5 structure.  Although the Common Core does not prescribe this structure or that to accomplish the teaching and learning of the standards, we do not feel that the structure of The Daily 5 best meets the needs of the students at our school, where our vision is, Preparing All Learners For Their Future. We do not do a pure Readers Workshop either, nor do we use a basal reading series. I would call our model a marriage of Guided Reading/Reading Workshop/Independent Literacy Centers.  (See my earlier post on my definition of "Independent", what it is and what it isn't.)  We do follow the CCSS pacing guides created by our county, which is "THE WHAT" students need to know, but at Lake Myra, we purposely collaborate, plan and craft "THE HOW" students will be taught it and hopefully, learn it. We select the appropriate text for the objective, either from books or magazines from our guided reading book room, our media center or the internet, we plan if they will do it for Guided Reading (with teacher support) and/or a literacy center (with peer support, without teacher support), we plan if they will read it in a small group, in a partnership or individually, we plan if it will be read it via book, paper, or digital device, and we plan some differentiated options for the product, project or result that best suits the teaching and learning of that objective or objectives.

When one observes my literacy block, which is 60 minutes with 24 3rd graders, of which they got a 15 minute reading mini-lesson with their teacher and a 15 minute word work mini-lesson from their teacher as well, and a 30-40 minute writing workshop block outside the reading block, too....the 60 minutes in my room are spent in 2 - 30 minute blocks...that's what works best for kids when you are trying to increase rigor, discussion, stamina of effort and perseverance and critical thinking...(it's very difficult to have a meaty text based discussion in under 15 minutes)...besides if students get 4 doses of a group at 15 minutes each per week that is the same as getting 2 doses of a group at 30 minutes each per week...why are letting the sun and moon determine what's best for students? 

So, 6 students come to me for guided reading and the rest are in cooperative, speaking & listening based groups doing higher level literacy activities, like Shades of Meaning, Picture of the Day, Analogies of the Day, Fluency & Word Work Center or a Research Center. They build their independent reading stamina outside my time with them in a sort of DEAR time outside the literacy block, which helps build the love and joy of reading because there are no instructional strings, extrinsic rewards or expectations attached to this is purely about THEM, the books THEY want to read, THEIR reading interests, developing THEIR reading identities and what THEM getting what THEY want to get out of reading. Sadly, too many students don't love reading and this time is an attempt to counteract or prevent that...if you are looking for a research base for this, it's called the affective domain of learning, one of the three domains labeled by Bloom in the 1950's...the cognitive, the affective and the psycho-motor. The teacher is not correcting papers or busy on her computer. The teacher is READING STUDENTS CLOSELY, learning more about them as readers, researching her/his students, learning all the intricate details about them in order to know them well. 

As far as keeping the mini-lesson mini, that is KEY! Too many teachers, including myself are guilty of talking TOO long and teaching TOO much and turning a mini-lesson into a maxi-lesson...and 50 minutes later, you are still talking/teaching and they are wriggling around on the carpet in front of you and you can't figure out why. Teaching a literacy skill or strategy through a mini-lesson takes practice...both creating one and delivering one.  They key is not teaching too much but showing students how that skill or strategy helps deepen their understanding of text when they are reading it 10 minutes.  To do this, you will create your mini-lessons in the template I provided in this blog post. Then, you will get a timer! You will set it for 10 minutes and begin your mini-lesson, with it sitting on your lap if you have to. Stick to the time frames. This forces you to be concise and purposeful and stay on time and most of all, gives students enough time to work on it independently.   

So then, for the most part, students are doing, creating, discussing, researching on their own (but never alone...together collaboratively with their group) and reading and writing with me at guided reading.  I was recently observed by the IRT at a nearby school and after the hour was over, she said, "Wow, your literacy block is like the anti-sisters." She said, "At our school [a Daily 5 school], when students are doing Reading to Self, they are silent, when students are doing Reading with Someone, we also want them to do it quietly, when students are Listening to Reading, they are silent, when students are doing Word Work, we also want them to do it quietly, but nothing about what I heard or saw today was quiet.  There was a buzz of learning, interacting, cooperating, agreeing and disagreeing, students were talking and exchanging ideas, sharing ideas and forming new ones through the literacy centers I saw and heard in here today."

I'm sure you could tweak what it is you are having your students do while you call it Listening to Reading. For example, students could watch a YouTube video that is complex, like Michael Jordan's Nike Failure commercial, (remember that videos are media which is informational text) but would also be required to analyze and evaluate it.  They *could* do this by themselves, but it would be hard to agree and disagree with yourself. Now, I feel like I'm always thinking and asking myself, "How can I incorporate the Speaking and Listening strand into everything the students do?"...because as Jim Argent, principal at Lake Myra, has always said, "The person doing the talking, is the the person that's doing the learning."  When students are Reading to Someone, they are speaking and listening with one another, but to what level of fidelity of they truly agreeing and disagreeing with each other.  I feel like my Shades of Meaning Center accomplishes this.  Are they reading continuous, connected text with a partner? No. Are they reading words and discussing different contextual meanings of words with a group of students? Yes. Are they practicing the skills of 21st century learning...communication, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking? Yes. 

I guess the best way to answer your question is with a question.  To what degree of practice, fidelity and accountability are the students in your Daily 5 stations practicing communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking?  If the degree, fidelity and accountability level is something you can live with, then keep doing what you're doing.  If it is not, then change something.

Anyway, I hope I've addressed some of your concerns and questions and that my response has helped you in some way. Thank you for reading my blog and I'm glad it's helpful, too.

Take care,

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Reading Conference Recap

I apologize for the pause in getting my series posts out. I was at the North Carolina Reading Conference last week, and I had some time-sensitive products that needed to be posted before the first of April.  First, let me say, I had a ball presenting both of my sessions at the state reading conference.  In fact, my last post was right before I presented on Sunday.  That was fun, I always enjoy reliving 50 Shades of the Common Core for teachers, there are so many fresh and easy ways to implement critical thinking in your classroom and that is what my presentation is all about.  

I also presented a Text Complexity session on Monday, which was also very exciting, my room was packed, so it made it slightly nerve wracking when I opened the session with this non-example video of what Close Reading is NOT...and the buffering spiral wouldn't quit.  

Close reading is not repeating the same thing over and over.
Close reading is not talking louder.
Close reading is not moving closer.
Closer reading is not telling the answer.

However, you know how videos "buffer" and it stops and you get the never-ending spiral?? Yeah, well, that happened. But I was calm, and the longest 20 seconds later, the started and everything was fine, thank goodness.  The wireless mic was broken so I had to stand at the podium [I hate that] but folks wanted me to use it, I guess they wanted to hear.  And a shout-out to those of you that tweeted about my session, that was awesome! Here's a Twitter snapshot:

Also, if you're intested in seeing my slides for this presentation, you can view and/or download them here:

Standard 10: The Thinking Standard - Stretching All Readers with Complex Text from Jennifer Jones

Now, that actually wasn't the highlight of the conference. It was @iChrisLehman. WHAT.A.DOLL! Which sounds way cheesy, but honestly, there is something soft and authentic that comes out of the folks from TCRWP. He's real and smart and knows his stuff.  Yes, he knows the Common Core, what's in them and what's not, but he also knows teaching reading and teaching writing, but most importantly is studies kids closely! He knows kids!  That's awesome.  I did not take paper/pencil notes this year, I'm converting to a more transparent form of note-taking--tweeting.  I really think these tweets during Chris Lehman's sessions are huge little literacy Twitter using hashtag #ira14.  

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Hello North Carolina State Reading Conference!

I'm excited to present today and tomorrow at our state reading conference! It's at the downtown Raleigh Convention Center.  Whether you're attending my 50 Shades of the Common Core presentation today or just following along in can follow along with my slides below. I will add a link to my handouts after the session.   I will create another post for my Text Complexity session slides and handouts tomorrow.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

So What's the Big Deal? Getting to the Main Idea & Key Details - (Standard 2)

Today's post is Part 2 in a 10 part series of closely reading and understanding the Reading Informational Standards of the Common Core for grades 3-6.  I "explained" Standard 1 in this post.  I have also released a large bundle of graphic organizers to help students show (and teachers teach) the thinking behind comprehending informational content.  The reading response sheets are open-ended, and leave lots of room for students to practice their written comprehension.  The bundle can be found by clicking on the image below.  (It's actually on sale right now, too.)   

But, this post is dedicated to the student demands of Informational Text Standard 2.  A lot of people might hyper-summarize standard 2 as Main Idea or Main Ideas, which is a fair hyper-summary. However, I like to say it's all about the Big Idea or Big Ideas.  

Standard 2 still falls under the structural umbrella of Key Ideas and Details, so this standard is still asking students to really know "WHAT it is the article is about" or "WHAT the article is saying."  You'll recall the same structure of this standard in Reading Literature is all about the message, lesson and theme of the as far as we can find the message, lesson and theme in informational text, we will, and instead of calling it the "message, lesson and/or theme"...we'll call it the main idea(s), central idea(s) and/or big idea(s) in the text. 

For third graders, this means they are expected to determine the main idea and key details AND explain how those details support the main idea.   Several things about these expectations stand out to me vs. what kids used to be expected to know and show about informational text.  One, they actually have to be able to articulate A main idea, a gist, in their own words.  To me, key details have never been a problem for kids, in fact, that's usually all kids would find and for the most part, that's all teachers would expect.  Think of key details of the past as FACTS about the topic in the article.  Most students could and can read an article about say, Earth Day, for example, and tell you a lot of details or facts included in the article. In fact, I think kids thought/think that the more they include, AND the more detailed the facts are, AND the neater and shinier the piece of paper looks, that that's good enough, that they've met the expectations of the assignment...and if a student or a teacher really wanted to (think they were) going above and beyond, they would even do a Report or a Presentation or Display Board about that topic...but only falling short if only including facts, or a list of details, and pictures without a main idea or big idea statement.

For fourth graders, this also means determining the main idea of the text and explaining how it is supported by the key details.  In addition, fourth graders must summarize the text in their own words.  Organizational structure of a text article (Standard 5) is going to be key in helping students determine main idea and supporting details. I have found that many students confuse main idea and supporting details, calling supporting details main ideas and main ideas supporting when teaching this standard to students, I find it helpful to ask students to determine the key supporting details first, and then when the two, three, or four of the them are identified in a a paragraph (start small), to ask students, "What do all these details have in common?" and answer to that question will be the main idea of the paragraph.   It is important that third graders are expected to EXPLAIN how the key details support the main idea, because this skill is the foundation of the summary they are now expected to write in 4th grade. 

Fifth graders are expected to do everything that fourth graders are expected to do and are asked to determine if a text may have two or more main ideas on the topic, not just one. But they will also need to be able to EXPLAIN how the main ideas are supported by the key details and be able to write a summary of the text. 

In sixth grade, the words "main idea" turn to "central idea" and 6th graders are expected to determine the central idea of the text and how that idea is communicated through the details. A sixth grade summary of the text will be different from the student's opinion or attitudes about the topic, it will be objective.  

I believe that in order to set kids up for success with this standard that we must teach them to identify and determine four things when reading informational text: 

1. The Topic
2. The Main Idea
3. The Key Details
4. The Big Deal

For many, many articles, especially ones in newspapers, magazines, online, at timeforkids and scholasticnews, the topic and main idea are right in front of us (see image below). I teach students that the title will tell you the topic, and the subtitle will tell you the main idea...most of the time. The key details are in the text but are organized in a way to support the main idea, and the big deal is the big idea, the SO WHAT. I realize that none of the 3rd-5th wording for standard 2 expects kids to answer the question SO WHAT? or SO, WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL ABOUT THIS ARTICLE? But, other standards do (Standard 8), so it's a question I habitually ask students now.  Again, I always like to bring the awareness of the WHY students should be learning this back to them, back to real-world relevance...not necessarily asking, what does this article have to do with me? But, what can I do to make a difference in this topic in the real world?  

(Do you like this sheet? Do you want it? If so, click HERE.)

My dear friends, the Polar Bears.  (I apologize to everyone that has already heard this, it's my token anecdote for determining BiG IdeA, and I tell this "story" when presenting.)  

Take this article about the polar bears. (Web version or Print version.)  If you were to give this article to 3rd - 6th graders in the past and maybe some or most now, kids would read it and be able to tell you many key details (facts) about polar bears, like...

"Polar bears have thick fur."
"Polar bears have huge paws."
"Polar bears live in the Artic Sea."
"Some polar bears live in zoo."
"Polar bears hunt and eat seals."
"Polar bears need sea ice to sneak up on seals."
"Polar bears do not eat when on land."
"Polar bears cubs get food from their mother."

But would students be able to tell you the main idea about ice, the impact of ice on a polar bear's survival and what the threat of less ice may cause for polar bears in the future?   And it isn't until the last paragraph that readers learn what they can do to protect the environment and save polar bears.  

This is a great anchor article for this standard has a topic, main idea, key details and a big deal...and they are not too difficult to identify.  In addition, this article uses three, and at certain spots, four, of the informational text structures from Standard 5. But more on that in the Standard 5 post.  

In my packet, I have included several organizers for students to show how they know main idea and key details.  Here are a few:

And a few more:

In addition, I've included some (of what I think kids will think is fun, at least when I showed them to my own daughter, she said, "Mom, that is so cool, none of my teachers every asked me to show what I knew about famous people [biographies] like that!") sheets using tools from social media.  Here's my rationale:  if you are going to complete a Facebook (Fakebook) page about someone famous, you first have to know key details about their life...and not just the facts. You also need to know what they believed and valued.  In order to complete the "What's in George Washington's Inbox?" sheet, students need to know the key people in George's life. Who would you expect him to be receiving emails from? And what would the subject line be?   If you know a person well, you know what they believe in and what they stand up for, or won't stand up for, like Rosa Parks. If cell phones existed in the days of Rosa Parks, what would her text home be, that famous day she refused to move to the back of the bus?  If iPods existed in the days of George Washington, what songs would be on his iPod? In order to complete these Main Idea and Key Details with Social Media Sheets, you have to really know and "get" this person, you have to look and find common patterns and trends in their behaviors and beliefs, before you can complete these social media sheets.

 Here is a snapshot of how I used social media tools to practice main idea and key details in Standard 2:

These sheets, along with all the others are available HERE

Next post, Standard 3! 
Are you enjoying this so far?


Also, wanted to let everyone know that my Planet Earth Fluency Fact Cards is up in my store. Plan ahead for Earth Day, April 22.  These cards are perfect companion to your Geography, Landforms, Ecosystems, and Environmental Literacy studies.  On a related but side note, these cards are also good for any of your struggling readers as short text passages.  They deliver the content in bite-size pieces.  

Planet Earth Fluency Fact Cards available HERE.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Closely Reading and Understanding the Common Core Informational Standards for Grades 3-6: Beginning with RIT.1-Textual Evidence

This post begins a 10 part series about the Common Core Reading Informational Text Standards for grades 3-6.  It is also not a coincidence that I just finished my Common Core Reading Informational Text Reading Comprehension Response Sheets for 3-6 either...the informational counterpart to the Reading Literature set I published in the fall.

(Click on the image for more details)

Rather than throw it up here and tell you it's available and on sale this month (which it is), I have decided to dedicate 10 posts to the 10 RIT standards for grades 3-6...diving into each standard one post at a time to help better understand what the standard is asking students to know and show, and what it isn't.   I have spent the last three years teaching the common core informational standards to students, and wrote an extensive blog post last year about how the implementation of it was going in my classroom.  I have also spent the last two years providing professional development and common core training at my own school to teachers, other schools in Wake County, other schools in North Carolina, and even schools in Arkansas {shout-out to Sonora Elementary School in the Springdale School District,woot-woot!!}, Indiana {shout-out to all the elementary teachers & literacy coaches in the Monticello School Corporation, woot-woot!!}, and Georgia {shout-out to Barnwell Elementary, Dolvin Elementary and Metlock Bridge Elementary in the Fulton County Schools, woot-woot!!}! I will be traveling this spring, summer and fall to Kansas, Texas and Tennessee, and back to Georgia.   Needless to say, I know the common core standards by my math facts. I just know 'em and I cannot stress enough how "just knowing them [fluently]" has made my life so much easier, and how much just knowing them will make your teaching life easier, too. [Side note: memorizing math facts may not be a common core standard, but it makes my life easier just knowing it...think about that.]  Call it Standards Fluency or Standards Awareness, I don't care, knowing and understanding each one is me, these standards, are KEY DETAILS for my livelihood.  So, one by one, I will try to break each one down, beginning today with Standard One, the evidence standard.   

[Side note: I include 6th grade in my work because in many schools across the country, 6th grade is still a part of elementary school, still on the elementary campus...the campus you are on for 6th grade shouldn't matter...but I want my elementary 6th teacher friends to know...I would never leave you out! :-) ]

Back-up: The organizational structure of the standards is sweet.  For both Reading Literature and Reading Informational Text, standards 1, 2 and 3 are housed under the structural umbrella of "Key Ideas and Details" Lucy Calkins says in her book, Pathways to the Common Core, "standards 1, 2, and 3 are all about *what* the text is saying."  

**Also, whenever I use the initials TBE, I mean Text Based Evidence**

To hyper-summarize standard 1 into one word or phrase, Standard 1 is all about Textual Evidence (and Analysis).  What is Textual Evidence? Textual Evidence is support lifted directly from the text that is the basis for an answer, inference, claim or a question. When "doing" this standard, students must reference the text. 

 For third graders, this means that now when you ask the 5W1H questions, they must also provide evidence from the text that supports their answers, instead of the old days, where just their response or answer only, was good enough.  

For fourth graders, this standard means that in addition to providing answers to questions, they too must provide evidence from the text that supports their answer, even when the evidence is not explicitly stated by the author.  Fourth grade evidence, may be in the form of explicit evidence, where the text support is a "right there text" or inferential evidence, where the author does not come right out and spell it out for the reader. Anything that the author does not type out in the form of exact words put on the page, but conveys through other words, is an example of an inference. 

 [Short side note: when teaching this to students, ask them to remember what it's like to be a writer, like in Writing Workshop, when we ask students to "show not tell"...writers who write the words and readers who read the words use the same strategy...writers ask, "what words can I use to show how I felt/acted, etc.?"...readers ask, "what words did the writer use to show how the character felt/acted, etc.?"...the answer to that question is the text evidence for how you think the character felt or acted.] (see Michelle Obama passage example below)

For fifth graders, they will do exactly the same thing as fourth graders, but they should be able quote the passage, section or sentence when they are making their inference.  

To demonstrate this standard, let's take an excerpt from an informational article about First Lady, Michelle Obama, titled Meet Michelle Obama, A Special Lady

"Michelle Obama grew up in Chicago in a small apartment. Her mother and father worked hard for Michelle and her brother. They taught Michelle and her brother to work hard at everything they tried.  Michelle was very smart. She skipped the second grade!  She was on the honor roll in high school. There she graduated second in her class.  For college, Michelle went to Princeton. She studied social studies, or how communities of people live together. She tried her best at everything.  After Princeton, Michelle went to Harvard University to study law. She joined protests at Harvard. The protestors wanted to get more people of color hired as professors. Michelle wanted to make Harvard fair for all people."

I will use the same two guiding questions I use when teaching students the difference between explicit and inferential evidence when I teach this skill through Picture of the Day.  To teach explicit evidence, I ask, "What do you see?" (these are the observations)...for text, I say, "What do you read? What is actually said or stated?" To teach inferences, I ask, "What do you think?" and to teach inferential evidence, I ask, "What from the picture/text makes you say that?"  

So, if asked (students) the question, what kind of person was Michelle Obama? explicit answers would be:

"She was very smart." ...the text says that
TBE: "She skipped second grade." "She was on the honor roll." "She went to Princeton & Harvard." inferential answer would be:

She was motivated and driven. ....the text does not say those words, it does however say...
TBE: "She was on the honor roll." "She graduated second in her class." "She graduated with honors and tried her best at everything she did." 

She fought for unjust things that she believed in.  ...again, the text does not those words, it does say...
TBE: "She joined protests at Harvard." "She wanted to get more people of color hired as professors." "She wanted to make Harvard fair for all people."   

In my CCSS RIT 3-6 packet, I have provided a variety of ways for students to know and show text based evidence with explicit and inferential evidence.  Here are a few sample pages from RIT. 1. (And for those of you that are just stumbling across my blog, in all three of the K-2 RL,  K-2 RIT, and 3-6 RL packets, each common core standard is indicated in the top right corner of each page, so you and students can know which standard you are working on. In addition, not only can these reading response sheets be used for daily opportunities and practice for writing about reading (HUGE! in the common core) but they can also be used as quick assessments for each of the standards as well.   The following standards are addressed for a total of 418 pages.  I really tried to cut it down, but the 3-6 informational standards are meaty and this packet is comprehensive to include all the meat and demand. 

In addition, my Text Based Evidence Graph is a highly motivating tool that helps students begin their text-based evidence journey.  

CCSS RIT 3-6 Writing about Reading, Comprehension Response Sheets HERE.

Important: Standard 1 is not just about students being able to answer a quiz or general recall. The standard also calls for students to note the textual evidence that triggered a question they have while  reading. A sincere, thought provoking, wondering-type question. This is a very building block skill for self-monitoring.  If students are aware that their brains are turned on and thinking about what they are reading, while they are reading, then questions will naturally pop-up out of curiousity, wonderment, sincerity or confusion...which are all GOOD! We want to encourage this real form of questioning, and not misunderstand Standard 1. 

Inferring is a life skill. We do it everyday.  When we go outside and see big black clouds in the sky, we infer a storm is coming.  When we walk in on somebody crying, we infer they are sad or upset about something....we don't know all the pieces of the puzzle, but we can use what we see, what we think will happen based on what happened last time and make a decision about what we think will happen or why something happened.   Helping students see the real-world connection with Standard 1 will help many students see the relevance and importance of the standard.   

I found this great questioning matrix hidden inside the book, Rigor is Not A 4-Letter Word, and I have recreated for you.  It's a really neat and handy way to help students begin to ask constructed response questions.  

Download it HERE. 

Next post: RIT Standard 2. 
Also, wanted to let everyone know that I finished my latest set of Fluency Fact Cards. Last month, the fluency facts were about the Winter Olympics and this set is about St. Patrick's Day & Ireland. You can get more details HERE

2 sets of 18 fluency fact cards for a total of 36 cards.

2 interactive comprehension assessments included, one per set of 18 cards.

Until next time!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Embracing Tier 2 [in the RTI process] and all the mCLASS Sweeties with Yellow Dots - "ORF Me!"

I've been working with a local-ish elementary school in a neighboring county, Chatham County, who hired me last year to present my 50 Shades of the Common Core know, the one about all the high yield, turn-key strategies for Common Core instruction?  This school asked me to come back and work with them on a more differentiated basis.  I actually only worked out there for a total of 1.5 days but it came out to 3 half days with all the snow and crazy make-up schedules.

The first time I was there, I was asked to visit and informally observe the literacy block in each of their Kindergarten classrooms, and give some formative feedback.  Sometimes, another set of eyes can just see things that others don't see even when it's right in front of you, you know what I mean?  I then met with the K teachers and gave them some feedback.  I will ask you the same questions I asked them?  (Rhetorical, of course.)

What are students doing and why are they doing it?  

Is there a sense of urgency about your teaching and the students' learning?

Do students know what it is they are supposed to be learning? And how and where have you communicated this?

What percentage of the day are you talking and what percentage of the day are students talking? 

How regularly are you providing feedback to students, written or oral? And how regularly are students providing you with feedback? (In his 2012 book, Visible Learning for Teachers, Hattie claims that"the most powerful single influence enhancing achievement is feedback." (or read a summary of the book HERE.)

What percentage of the day are you reading to students and what percentage of the day are students reading to themselves, to you, with each other or to each other? 

How many minutes a day do students spend actually reading? (like "eyes on print" time as Lucy would say)

Is the focus of your Guided Reading session aligned to the Teaching Point of your mini-lesson?

Is your mini-lesson about 10 minutes? Or are you not aware of time and your mini-lesson turns into a maxi-lesson?

Are students receiving solid, strategic, systematic, and explicit instruction in all of The Big 7 areas of ELA?  

Are students getting an opportunity outside the Active Engagement section of your mini-lesson, to practice and reinforce the skills and strategies taught in the mini-lesson? With peers? With technology? With discussion? (and independently doesn't have to mean alone, sitting and at a desk) Without being assessed on it yet or a grade taken for every practice run?

Do students know what to do to solve a problem while you are teaching Guided Reading?

How many students are you reaching in a Guided Reading session (complexity, leveled or strategy based groupings)? 1? 2? 4? 6? 8?  

Are students receiving an intervention in a literacy area they are deficient in?  Or are students receiving Progress Monitoring every 10 or 20 days because DPI said so without documentation of, or an actual intervention taking place? 

My husband, who is also in education, loves questions. One of the reasons he loves questions so much is that he says, "Questions get you thinking!" These questions definitely gave these teachers something to think about and I hope they give you something to ponder, too.  I received this feedback via my Hello Literacy Facebook page from one of the K teachers on the team.  Here's what she had to say:

A result of this day was the Kindergarten team along with the support of the principal, asked me if I would do a modeled Reading Workshop mini-lesson and Guided Reading lesson with a group of students, in one of the Kindergarten classrooms.  I gladly accepted the invitation and when I returned to their school, I did just that.  I didn't choose the focus of the mini-lesson necessarily, but kept with the pacing they had already had in place, which was the difference between fiction and non-fiction (K.RL.5, K. RIT.5) I did tweak the teaching point a bit to make the strategy teachable for the mini-lesson and reinforceable in the guided reading lesson.   You can read and download my mini-lesson and chart below. 
Download my mini-lesson HERE
 and the SWBS chart-makings HERE

If you like the workshop mini-lesson template, you can download it here in an editable version.  The template was shared with me by Lea Mercantini, my workshop trainer from TCRWP.  With her permission, I am sharing it with you.  Please respect her as the original copyright holder of the work. 

Download Lea's editable workshop template HERE

For my GR lesson, I was given a group of students reading at level A.  This was challenging by itself, but after looking through about 10 different Level A books on Reading A-Z, I finally found the perfect book, called What I Like.

I chose this book for several reasons...
and as Burkins & Yaris have said, "Text selection is Everything!":

1) It was the level of my group and lent well to discussion and engagement...K.RL.10
2) It was fiction...K.RL.5
2) It fit well into the Somebody, Wanted, But, So pattern...K.RL.2 & 3
3) It has lots of good spots for inferring and using higher level thinking....which of course, lends well to finding the Text Based Evidence (not so much in the words BUT in the illustrations. K.RL.1, K.RL.7

In my last visit to the school, they asked me to analyze their school's mCLASS data and give feedback and recommendations for next steps.   I prepared the following presentation.  Click on the image to view the presentation in Slideshare.  You are free to download it there. 

I say this again and we tell students, when an author repeats something it must be important...when a presenter repeats something it must be important...and when a blogger repeats something, it must be, I'll share it in a slide.

No longer can we say "The Big 5" Areas of the next time you hear someone say it, politely correct them and let them know that Writing and Speaking & Listening now share the stage with Reading ....even if that person is your principal, like I had to do.  Sometimes people in our position (literacy coaches, instructional support teachers, curriculum coaches) know more about the details of the Common Core than principals do and I believe it our job and responsibility to up-teach them so they are speaking accurately about what it truly is and not speaking inaccurately about what it isn't.  

Grab The Big 7 Posters HERE...
and you can read about how I introduced The Big 7 posters to students HERE

In addition to my free "If, Then" Reading Interventions Menu
Download this free resource HERE

Florida Center for Reading Research also has a wealth of instructional and intervention strategies available online for free.  Check it out.

Search HERE by ELA Area & Skill/Strategy
Search HERE by Grade Level & Common Core Standard


here are some other free mCLASS interventions you might check out:
FSF Interventions (First Sound Fluency)
LNF Interventions (Letter Naming Fluency)
PSF Interventions  (Phoneme Segmentation Fluency)
NWF Interventions (Nonsense Word Fluency)
ORF Interventions  (Oral Reading Fluency)

And now for your blog dessert...

If you are looking for a sweet professional treat...I invite you to read this post from a TCRWP teacher, Kristi Mraz, who is new to blogging, but not new to teaching or teacher training...and I'm so glad she decided to join the blogosphere! 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Rally for Rusty Fundraiser on Teachers Pay Teachers

Dear Friends...I want to carve out a special post in honor of a dear friend and former colleague of mine, Bonnie Wagstaff.  She was/is a truly gifted reading intervention teacher in Eastern Wake County, here in Raleigh, NC.  Last year, she retired from Wake County to spend more time with her husband, Rusty and two daughters, who at the time, were preparing for a wedding and a graduation from UNC's dental school. A truly kind person and amazing teacher with a heart of gold.  

And now comes the hard part, and I'm really not very good with words when it comes to stuff like this. But too make a very long and horrible story short, Bonnie's husband began to not feel well a week or so prior to Christmas...she thought he had the flu and he'd gotten a flu shot.  After days of laying in bed, he told Bonnie that he thought she should take him to the doctor.  She did.  The doctor immediately checked him into the hospital. The flu went septic and his body was fighting to stay alive.  The hospital put him into a medically induced coma to conserve energy on his organs.  The next day, the doctors told Bonnie that they needed to remove his feet and lower limbs, and possibly hands so the gangrene would not spread to the rest of his body.  Can you imagine waking up with no feet and hands??? I cannot, and this is exactly what happened.  The family was and is surrounded by an incredible support network of family, friends and church members.  They are very public about their story but as you can imagine, were never prepared for something like this...who is?  

You can read Rusty's Caring Bridge story HERE.

So, another former colleague of Bonnie's, Summer Pittman, the media/technology specialist at Knightdale Elementary, where Bonnie worked for most her career before transferring to Lake Myra Elementary, has organized a "Rally for Rusty" Fundraiser...with over $500 worth of products for $20...all proceeds from this product will go to the Wagstaff family.  So, I'm not going to beg, put ask you consider, if nothing else, making a $20 donation...and the products are a bonus.  Due to Rusty's condition, medical bills, and therapy, their life is changing and they need your help.

As of one hour ago, his daughter posted this on Facebook.

  Here is the link to the Rally for Rusty Fundraiser.  

36 Products
1000+ Pages of Resources
20 Dollars


Monday, February 10, 2014

Upcoming Conferences - Don't Forget To Register

The 2014 North Carolina Reading Conference is right around the corner...March 16-18, 2014.  If you haven't registered yet, you'll be sure and want to do that. There are some fantastic speakers lined up and I know you won't want to miss out.  I will presenting there again this year, both on Sunday and Monday. 
My Sunday session is a 3-hour institute session...50 Shades of the Common Core. The institutes are an additional fee paid directly to the conference, but the space is limited so be sure and complete the registration and make your selections early.  Here is the CONFERENCE LINK.   I presented this there last year and they asked me to present it again.  So, I'm excited to spread more Common Core sunshine.  My Monday session is a one-hour session on Text Complexity, which is an interactive session with hands-on activities. My session is at 2:30pm.  

I'm also excited to announce that the 1st annual Teachers Pay Teachers Conference will be held this summer in Las Vegas...for one day on Friday, July 11th.  Registration for this conference opens today, here is the link:
The price is $199 for the conference. It will be held at the Venetian where the special conference rate is $145/night.  I'm also happy to share that I'm thrilled to have been selected as one of the presenters, alongside some really famous teachers like Deanna Jump, Deedee Wills and Laura Candler...[who am I kidding...I'm stoked....and scared to death!!!] Seriously, it was be one STINKIN.FUN.DAY!!!  I hope you can all make it, especially if you are a Premium Seller on TpT.  If nothing else, it will be a great day of professional networking...for real...socializing!!  See you there!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Text Based Evidence Graph Gets Rave Reviews

Your feedback is pouring in and I couldn't be happier for you and your students.  A teacher is Wisconsin gave a TBE shout-out on the Hello Literacy Facebook wall this week and I wanted to share it with you all'll remember my last post about getting students to dive back into the text for their questions and answers....  (BTW, I post almost daily or twice daily on my Hello Literacy Facebook page, I really hope you consider joining me over there if you don't want to miss out on ANYTHING.  In fact, a lot of times, I will announce things there that I forget to announce on my come hang with us and feel free to join the conversation at

If you've already grabbed it, leave a comment below on how it's going or leave it over the Hello Literacy Facebook wall and use the hashtag #tbegraph

Happy Friday!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Game On...Sale Sunday!
click on image to go to my store or navigate your browser to
Up early this morning (California time) boiling eggs and preparing for a Super Bowl Party.  Since many folks expected a big Super Bowl Sale on TpT like last year, many sellers are putting their store on sale today anyway.  Today only, 20% off everything in my store, but the sale ends at midnight tonight.
Can you infer what I'm boiling eggs for?
Sale Flyer by Krista Lyn

Monday, January 27, 2014

Common Core Reading Standard 1 - Text Based Evidence & Motivating Generation Z To "Cite Specific Textual Evidence"

Common Core Reading Anchor Standard No.1, for Literature AND Informational Text, for Kindergarten AND 12th Grade AND every grade in between states the following:

"Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text." 

For the past year, or for some, the past two years, it seems that everyone has dissected the language of the Common Core Standards to figure out exactly what they mean, and what it is exactly kids (and teachers) are supposed to do to show they know competency in each of the standards.  There are lots of buzz words and buzz phrases popping up everywhere claiming to be "common core aligned" or "a close reading passage" -- which by the way, in my opinion, there is no such thing as a "close reading passage", I mean really, do you think the passage gets together and says, "hey, let's be close!", there is nothing inherently "close" about a passage or text by itself.  Sort of the like the analogy "letters make sounds" -- they don't, try it.  Write down all the letters of the alphabet on a piece of paper, put your pencil down, then lean down really close to the letters and you hear anything?  Of course not, but we incorrectly use this phrase with kids all the time.  The standard says "read closely..." which is an adverb done by the reader, it is a way (of frequency, duration and intensity) to read and re-read text.  

Reading Anchor Standard No.1 is closely linked to Reading Anchor Standard No.10 because Standard 10 determines what the text is that will be read -- or the level of the text.  It doesn't mean reading 8th grade text in 3rd grade or 4th grade text in 1st, etc.  It means analyzing the text (a text somewhere in your lexile band) and it's complexities.  There are at least 8 elements that make a text complex and I will devote another blog post to them at a later date.  I have a Text Complexity presentation (workshop, really) in which we dive into the elements of text complexity because when teachers know what elements of complexity are--and I guarantee that most teachers just glaze over them right now without even thinking, "this could be hard for kids"...or" kids might find this challenging"...but if we can teach teachers what to look for and the elements of text complexity than our ears are perked up to them when they pop up in books and articles, and we are better equipped to scaffold our teaching so all students can read it, discern it, understand it and "make fuller use of text."

The other caveat I must state before moving into how we are going to get our students to actually "cite specific textual evidence...when writing and speaking" is to make sure everyone understands that Reading Anchor Standard No.1, whether it's with the Reading Literature (RL) or Reading Informational Text (RIT) standards, includes the reading comprehension strategies of Inferring, Predicting and Visualizing.   As I've stated in previous blog posts, making inferences is a form "filling in the blanks" from textual clues that are not explicitly stated, and predicting is also a form of inferring.  The main difference between inferring and predicting is that predictions can be checked, confirmed or revised but inferences can only be interpreted.  When teaching students the difference between inferences and predictions, I bring in a puzzle, show students all the pieces (not the box) and ask them, "What is this going to be?"...they predict. 

 We put it together and then ask, "Were we right?" And the answer is either yes or no. We can see after we put it together what the puzzlemaker wanted it to be....a puppy with a tennis ball in its mouth.  

Photo Credit
When teaching inference, I show students a piece of art, like Starry Night by Van Gogh, works well.

Photo Credit

The reason art works well to teach students the difference between inferring and predicting is, unlike a puzzle, we can never check if what we think it's going to be is right, we can only interpret what we think the artist meant, we can infer the setting, the tone, the mood, the main idea, etc.  That is why art and art appreciation is so subjective and nowhere in the painting does the artist say "this is what I mean."  And so is the case in books, authors do not come right and state the obvious, but the author leave clues and often a trail of evidence for students to make good inferences about what is going on in the text.   Also why I love to teach inferring using pictures...hence, my creation of Picture of the Day to teach this important skill. 

Click on the picture to download it. 

I also mentioned about that Visualizing, like Predicting, is in the Inferring family, because when a reader visualizes or makes mental images in their minds from information and details in the text, or NOT in the text, a reader must, in a way, fill in the details with pictures in their mind to better understand the text.  

Now, with all this said, (and I realize this could/should probably be another blog post since this one is already so long, but I have promised this post for two weeks, so I'm going to forge ahead with the second part of this post) are we going to get students to actually "cite specific textual evidence" of text. 

In fact, I created this "Are You A Text Talker?" cheat sheet last summer, which is a step the TBE direction, but it's not enough. 

Click on the image to download it.

So, my solution...the TBE Graph, because kids still weren't citing text.
So, the creation of the TBE Graph (or Grid, really) came from several places deep down in my literacy soul. Ok, that sounds corny, but I really, really, racked my brain and thought long and hard to find the answer to this vital reading behavior question..."What can *I* do, say or create to really get my students citing evidence from the text?"   

One of the places this came from was data.  Each quarter, 3rd, 4th and 5th grade students take a quarterly formative assessment (to measure proficiency in the reading standards). We (Wake County Public School System) use the assessments from Case 21.  When the results come back from these after a week or two, we can really get a big picture and itemized detailed report of where each class and student's strengths and weaknesses are in each of the ELA standards. If you follow Hello Literacy on TpT or Facebook, or have been following my blog for several years, you'll know that Lake Myra tackled teaching critical thinking (higher level thinking) several years ago...before Common Core was even published.  So, it was refreshing to get these results back to find that most students did well on the higher level questions on these assessments. What shocked us though, and I'm not trying to tattle on Lake Myra, just trying to share an anecdotal story so your students (and perhaps, teachers) don't make the same mistake....was that students, across the 3rd-5th grade board, did BETTER on the higher level questions than the lower level questions!  Really? Are you kidding? No. Perhaps over-thinking Right There Questions?  Maybe. But nonetheless, missing "gimme" questions where the answer is "RIGHT THERE" in the text.  As many of you may also find, unless trained to do so, most students DON'T go back into the text to find or double-check their answer. My theory on this is that they try to A) remember; B) don't know and guess; or C) mark an answer that sounds right in real life, but isn't stated by the author in the text.   Seems kids these days have a lot of background knowledge about stuff, and if there's any answer choice that remotely sounds "familiar", they mark it. 

In addition, the TBE Graph method really forces them to GO BACK INTO THE TEXT AND FIND THE ANSWER, WRITE IT AND CITE IT.  Here's how...the motivation to do these above things are built into the graph.  **Note: I say graph, but it's really a grid, students can mark off the squares in an order, color or formation they want. Examples below.**

I am going to explain this in four parts...the reader, the text, the task and the tools. First,  
 Creating this graph is about.... 

Although the generation AFTER the Millennial Generation (people whose birth years range from 1980 to 2000) has not officially been named, there is widespread consensus that they will be called the Digital Generation, Digital Natives or Generation Z (people whose birth years range from roughly 2000 to 2010)...these are the students sitting in your elementary classroom right now.  If you are a research nerd (like me) and want to read in-depth studies on the Digital Generation, you can "Google It!" [a trait of this generation] and find a wealth of research and statistics. Here's just one and another that talks about some of the traits and motivations you can expect from this generation. 

you can read my hyper-summary of what motivates the Digital Generation below:

I really have come to the conclusion that this generation of students are motivated by two things, Instant Gratification and Accumulation, and not necessarily material things...but intangible things.  

Instant Gratification is something we can all relate to, but this generation is motivated by things and events happening in real time, that is why technology, social media and video games are motivating to them.  And if I had a dime for every time a student said, "Google it!" I'd be a millionaire by now.  Students believe everything can be found on the internet, and while maybe this isn't true [and that's another standard and blog post], they are going to try and they want to look it up, RIGHT NOW. I get it.  How many of you have a conversation, about ANYTHING, and take out your phone to look something up related to an unknown in the conversation?? It happens in our house and car a lot.  Answers, to them, are only a click away.  

Accumulation as a motivator is no different.  Video games and apps are popular because video games provide both instant gratification and accumulation.  Why do you think Bejeweled and Candy Crush is so popular, with people of all ages?  You get to move up the levels, get more 'bananas or mushrooms, lives, or ammo or whatever' and you can see them on the screen right in front of you. When you use one up, they disappear, when you do better or move up, they reappear, instantly.  Social media like Instagram and Twitter is very popular with our students because they literally see how many Friends or Followers they have right away and how many Likes and Retweets they get, instantly...again, accumulation of Friends, Followers, Likes and Tweets.  They love it, and it motivates them.

Hence, in my brain I'm thinking, how can I use these motivators to work to in my (their) favor? 

The TBE Graph looks like this:

And here's what it looks like filled out (partially)...

Like I said, students can complete the squares in their own way.  

Next, is the text.  Any text will do, preferably one that you are already using during guided reading.  The structure for students actually using the TBE graph occurs "in real time" at the guided reading table.  However you normally select books for use during guided reading is what you will continue to do.  When there is not a set of books in the leveled book room to align to the content or standards I am teaching, I try to find books from or I photocopy 10% of a book from the library.  (Note: The Fair Use clause of the Copyright laws state that you can photocopy up to 10% of a book for educational purposes.)  In this case, I was using a book about the Olympics from Reading A-Z called Olympics: Past and Present.  My third grade reading group was studying a science unit about Properties of Matter, so talking about how water and ice is used in the Winter Olympics was my content connection.  [In the research center, students also researched the positive and negative effects of water and ice on our society]. Each day, when a group would come to my guided reading table, I would have the directions sitting there for them so they could get started without me, if necessary...I tell them to "Show me how you can be a Self-Starter". 

I have the reading directions written out already on a whiteboard that I prop up with a book end.

Because we read "closely" we take our time to dive into the text and interpret what the text is saying and how the author is saying it.   In addition, I often don't want to students to write IN the Reading A-Z books even though they are paper books, I use them for all the students that rotate through my group for a 3rd grade stretch level of guided reading. So, what I do is photocopy one two-page layout from the book that we can really sink our teeth into.  It is this photocopied page that students will mark up, highlight, and annotate. You can see one of the photocopied papers from the book below. 

You can see from the image above that we are identifying paragraphs with brackets, denoting line numbers, labeling text features, and highlighting were in the text is the "specific answer" for the question.  

Using the TBE Graph comes in "real time" right at the guided reading table, so students will not want to lose their graph.  They will use it every day until they begin to show improvement in citing evidence from the text in their speaking and writing....and hopefully, your students will show improvement and yield positive results on test scores, too. The entire use of the TBE Graph is really just a short-medium term scaffold that will eventually not be needed to do the same citations.  

After students read the text you have assigned them for the day, and after you've discussed what it says (Key Details and Ideas) and how the author is saying it (Craft and Structure) will pass out a whiteboard to each child.  A pair of students share a supply basket containing 2 whiteboard markers, 2 erasers and several crayons, like this below.

You will then begin by holding them responsible for shorter chunks of text (a paragraph) and stretching to longer pieces of text ( a page or section) after a couple of weeks.  To hold them responsible for the text, you will ask them questions from the text and, where answers will also come from the text...that's what "text-based" or "text-dependent" means.  Eventually, they will become the question askers, but to begin, you will model asking the questions.  

The lights are off in the classroom because we have several lamps around 
the room and another group is doing Picture of the Day.

At first, I only ask them RIGHT THERE questions, meaning questions where the answer is explicitly stated in the text.  For example, for the following page, here are several Right There questions you could ask and one Inferential question to compare:

I then pass out the TBE Graph, one to each student. It's theirs. I tell them the "object of the game" the number of squares they get to fill in depends on the completeness and accuracy of the answer and citation they provide on the whiteboard.    The checkbric provided at the bottom of the graph is their "key".  It tells them everything they need to do "answer-wise" to fill in a square on their graph.  So the more elements of the checkbric they provide, the more squares they get to fill in.  And because you are starting with Right There questions, I want them to learn to include the quotation marks around their answer that they are pulling directly from the text.  As you can see from the pictures below, they are very intent of finding the answer and double checking with the checkbric before putting their pen back in the green basket (that's the signal to me that you are done with your answer and can't go back and fix it after we review the answers and tally how many squares they get to fill in.) 

Here you can see how this student is making checkmarks on his whiteboard (a strategy he did all on his own) to ensure that he did not forget to include any answer elements to the question, "What does IOC stand for?" 

The answer elements from the Checkbric that students must include in order to color in the maximum number of squares per question/answer is the following:

1 = accurate answer
1 = quotation marks (or underline evidence)
1 = page citation
1 = paragraph citation

This reading behavior strategy is quite motivating for several reasons.  They can see immediately if they got the right answer, if they included all the answer elements (and I guarantee you that if they forgot to include something once, they'll never forget again....because they don't want to lose the opportunity to complete as many squares as they can).  

As first, the use of the TBE Graph is slow going, but that's ok, sometimes you have to go slow and front-load HOW to things, to build the capacity for learning the content and meaning of the text for the long haul.  So, don't worry if you only get through 3 or 4 questions and answer rounds in one 30 minute guided reading session.  I guarantee that on Day 2, the students will be asking you excitedly, "Are we going to use the whiteboards again, and color our TBE graph???"  

On a side but related note, not one single student asked me,
 "Mrs. Jones, what do we get if we fill up the sheet?"
and this shouldn't surprise you, because remember the two things that motivate this generation...

the prize box of the past doesn't motivate them much anymore...but instant words of affirmation, instant praise, instant feedback, and instant graphing DOES.  I'm telling you this really works!  Finally, on day 3 a student did ask, "what happens when we fill up this sheet?" and I replied, "Two things. One, you get another blank TBE Graph and you get to start on page 2, and Two, you get to be in the TBE Club." They then said, "What does it mean to be in the TBE Club?" I said, "That means you are TBE Leader!" and he smiled, said, "Cool!" and skipped away. 

When you are doing this, your guided reading table might look like a "good messy" like this:

And eventually students will ask and answer each other's questions, like this:

And eventually, you will put them in the teacher seat and let them facilitate.

To do this, you'll need the following:

1. A set of guided reading texts - books from the guided reading room, articles, magazines
2. A set of "Are You a Text Talker?" sheets (free download in my TeachersPayTeachers store)
3. A set of whiteboards  - if you don't have whiteboards, laminate 6 pieces of white cardstock)
4. A set of whiteboard pens and erasers (Walmart or Target)
5. Crayons
6. Highlighers
7. Pencils or pens (if you've heard me present, you know how I feel about pens...LET THEM USE PENS)
8. My TBE Graph - one per child

I also put together all the pictures to create a short slideshow and uploaded it to YouTube. 

Thanks so much for following my blog, and for letting me know, that is some small or large way, my blog is helping improve the quality of your instruction on a daily basis.  *YOU* are the reason I keep blogging.