Friday, July 27, 2012

R2L: Difficulties in remembering what was read

My students can’t seem to remember what they’ve read. How can I help them?
 Sometimes our students who struggle the post are not able to recall facts about what they are reading. Here is a fun extension you can use in a small group to help students with short term memory issues or difficulties in recalling what they have read.

Objectives: 1). Students will be able to remember more of the details from the non-fiction texts they read. 

Materials: Each student given a passage to read that is 1-2 paragraphs. With time, you can increase in the complexity and length of the passages.

1) Chorally read the passage together.
2) Read sentence 1 out loud again. You can either call on a student or read it out loud yourself.
3) MODEL: Model covering up the sentence and then remembering one detail from the sentence. As you state the detail out loud, count on your fingers. (Showing the number 1) Encourage your students to mirror your motions.
4) WE DO: With a partner, have the students reread the sentence again, cover it up, and tell their partner one detail.
    a) Read, Cover, Count
5) Repeat steps 3 and 4 with the next sentence.
6) After you complete steps 3 and 4 with the whole paragraph, MODEL covering up the paragraph and retelling as many details as you can remember. Have the students count on their hands as you tell the details.
7) YOU DO: Partners reread the paragraph and then count details out loud, trying to remember between 5-8 details per paragraph.
8) Repeat this process with the next paragraph. 

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Friday, July 20, 2012

R2L: Helping students expand their vocabularies

My students are struggling with vocabulary. What should I do for them?
Here are some optional lesson extensions. Once students learned the process, I started doing vocabulary flooding every day before reading the passage. I’ll give you some background on vocabulary flooding and explain the whole process. This is a great way to challenge both your TAG students while at the same time supporting your ESL and SpEd. students!

Vocabulary extensions - Vocabulary Flooding

Background on Vocabulary Flooding:

    1. “Vocabulary learning takes place when students are immersed in words. Just as teachers have begun to use the phrase ‘flood of books’ to talk about situations where students have many and varied opportunities to read, (Anderson, Wilson, & Fielding, 1988), so the phrase ‘flood of words’ is an important issue for general vocabulary development. Reading to children has been shown to extend not only their recognition of new words but also their ability to use these words in their own retellings,” (Eller, Pappas, & Brown, 1988; Elley, 1988).
    2. An average of 2 minutes per reading lessons is spent on explicit vocabulary instruction (Roser and Juel, 1982).
    3. As students are exposed to more complex non-fiction text, vocabulary has a greater impact on passage comprehension than decoding skills (Biemiller 1999).

  1. PREPARATION - Before reading the passage highlight one word that you think is a key academic word for students to know.
  2. Do a Google search for images to find a good image that relates to the key academic word.
  3. Use a thesaurus to choose 8-10 words related the the vocabulary word. I like to use or, but you can use any online or print thesaurus you prefer.
  4. TEACHING - Post a picture on the wall and link the new vocabulary word with a concept students already know. “A FAMINE is when people are very hungry and do not have enough to eat.”
  5. Write the word on the board. Then, have student say and spell word, and say word again.
  6. Add related words with a sentence for each word. “A PAUCITY of food means there is not enough food to go around.”
  7. Write the new word on the board. Then, have student say and spell word, and say word again.
  8. Follow these steps for the 8-10 vocabulary words.

After I do an image search, I place a sticky note on the word with the words that I am going to be teaching.

After teaching the words and the passage, I will allow a student to create a poster of the words that have been “flooded.” This is a great extension for your fast finishers or those who need a challenge. 

HOL online classes I offer:

FIRST DAYS OF SCHOOL: From Stress to Success
SAVE TIME: Time Management for Your Teaching & Your Life   

R2L: Frequently Asked Questions

R2L: Reading to Learn


Why should the students chorally read the passage first?
The rational for the choral reading is that weaker students who do not know how to pronounce the words are able to hear the passage one time through, supporting their reading fluency.

Is it really necessary to take this long to read just 3-4 paragraphs?
With time, you will be able to skip or shorten some of the steps. For your ESL and SpEd students, this protocol works extremely well. This protocol is also very effective for students on grade level, or students reading text that is above their current reading level.
I find that for some of my Gifted and Talented students they like having the option of doing the assignment with the whole class or on their own and then doing a challenge activity. Often, though, those students enjoy the conversations that are involved in the reading process.
Personally, at the beginning of the year another teacher explained a similar process to me. I honestly thought that it was too much work. Half way through the year, though, her students had made over a years worth of gains, where as my students were just on track to make regular gains. After seeing the results, I started talking with her and decided to her model in my classroom.
I adapted what she did to make sense for me, and it has been extremely powerful. I encourage you to adapt this so it works for you and your students. This new version is what I am sharing. Thank you Gaelle Harris for being willing to let me share this with other people and for everything that you do for your students!

Where can I find good reading passages?
On the next page is an example of a passage I have used with my students. You can find passages on the Internet, in your reading basal program if you have one, through Minute Readers. The most important thing is that the majority of the initial passages are non-fiction. As adults and college students between 60% and 80% of what our students read will be non-fiction. For this reason, I encourage you do to a similar ratio in R2L time.

Why do you particularly recommend non-fiction for students behind grade level?
You can have a very interesting text that is written at a 2nd grade level, if that is what a 6th grade student needs. The non-fiction passage will not appear “babyish” because it is on actual facts and information the student hopefully finds interesting. It is much more challenging to find fictional stories that are 3-4 paragraphs, but are not insulting to children who may be more than 2 years behind grade level.

How difficult should the reading passages be?
    The first times you teach the base lesson, choose reading passages that are either at the students independent reading level, or slightly below the independent reading level. The purpose for choosing easier passages is so that the effort is on the process, not the reading.
    Once students understand the process, I generally try to choose a passage that is 1-2 years above the current reading level of most people in the group. If anything, error on the side of a too challenging text. Because you are scaffolding the instruction and the reading, you can truly challenge your students.

Can you give me an example of what the finished paper looks like?
    On the next page is an example from one of my students. You can see where she writes her summary sentences and how she completed the independent portion of the exercise. 

HOL online classes I offer:

FIRST DAYS OF SCHOOL: From Stress to Success
SAVE TIME: Time Management for Your Teaching & Your Life   


Friday, July 13, 2012

Flipping the Classroom

I have been flipping my classroom this last year with some great results. Actually, here is an article that was written about flipping the classroom in low-income schools. (I was interviewed for part of the article!)

One of the amazing impacts flipping had on my students was really engaging them in the classroom. This, along with Whole Brain Teaching, have made a huge impact in student achievement in the areas of math and science!

From the report:

Promise of the ‘flipped classroom’ eludes poorer school districts

By Sarah Butrymowicz

When Portland, Ore., elementary school teacher Sacha Luria decided last fall to try out a new education strategy called “flipping the classroom,” she faced a big obstacle.

Flipped classrooms use technology—online video instruction, laptops, DVDs of lessons—to reverse what students have traditionally done in class and at home to learn. Listening to lectures becomes the homework assignment so teachers can provide more one-on-one attention in class and students can work at their own pace or with other students.

But Luria realized that none of her students had computers at home, and she had just one in the classroom. So she used her own money to buy a second computer and begged everyone she knew for donations, finally bringing the total to six for her 23 fourth-graders at Rigler School. In her classroom, students now alternate between working on the computers and working with her.
So far, the strategy is showing signs of success. She uses class time to tailor instruction to students who started the school year behind their classmates in reading and math, and she has seen rapid improvement. By the end of the school year, she said, her students have averaged two years’ worth of progress in math, for example.

“It’s powerful stuff,” she said, noting that this year was her most successful in a decade of teaching. “I’m really able to meet students where they are as opposed to where the curriculum says they should be.”

Other teachers in high-poverty schools like Rigler also report very strong results after flipping classrooms. Greg Green, principal of Clintondale High School in Clinton Township, Mich., thinks the flipped classroom—and the unprecedented amount of one-on-one time it provides students—could even be enough to close the achievement gap between low-income, minority students and their more affluent white peers. Clintondale has reduced the percentage of Fs given out from about 40 percent to around 10 percent.

To read more of the report, here is a link to the rest of the article:

Are you interested in learning about how to flip your own classroom? I'm working on a class through HOL on flipping the classroom.

HOL online classes I offer:

FIRST DAYS OF SCHOOL: From Stress to Success
SAVE TIME: Time Management for Your Teaching & Your Life   

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Green Marker / Red Marker

I wanted to share with you a writing system called Green Marker / Red Marker. You may find that watching the video at on the system will help you understand it better than this post! Consider this post a delicious appetizer before the main course!

If you are like me, you find that writing is very challenging to teach. Some kids barely write anything at all, while other kids have well developed skills. When writing an essay, 3 paragraphs or 5 paragraphs, students must correctly do a whole host of mini-skills that they may or may not possess.

In this last three sentences, I did the following:
  • spelled the words
  • capitalized
  • put in spaces
  • decided when and where to start and end the paragraph
  • decided how many words were in each sentence
  • thought about where to put commas
  • included an appositive phrase
That was just in three sentences! It is no wonder that writing is difficult to teach.

Here is where green marker / red marker becomes a life saver. You let students know that they are going to focus on one skill today. Maybe that skill is using spaces. Then, as students write for a set amount of time, like 10 minutes, you walk around the classroom marking their papers. You put a dot or line with a green marker when a student correctly uses spaces between words. Also, you put a dot or line, with a red marker when the student incorrectly uses spaces between words.

You just make two marks for the skill! After you make the line or dot, you teach the child to respond with an "OK" or "Thanks."

Here is an example:

Today I went berrypicking with my family. We ate more raspberies than we piked. I liked picing the berrys a lot i had fun.
I have marked this paragraph with one red mark and one green mark. The marks were focused on spacing. In the beginning, you would ignore the spelling, capitalization and other errors. With time, you would ask the student to focus on neatness, capitalization and spelling etc. But at first, the student would just start with mastering one skill!

I encourage you to continue the meal after this little appetizer! Do check out the free video on this writing method at!

Online classes I offer for teachers through

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Friday, July 6, 2012

R2L: Perfect Homework Template

I wanted to share a simpler homework template I use with my younger students. The perfect homework template is great for older students. If you teach in 2nd - 4th grade, you might like this template better.  (Similarly, you could use this template for older students who have weaker skills.)

First, lets review the research. (I know, maybe not the most thrilling reading in the world, but I'll make it short and sweet. And . . . while maybe not thrilling, it is so important to make sure that what we are doing with our precious time will bear the fruit of learning!)

The research is actually pretty clear. Students gain very little when they do homework. Actually, according to a meta study by Hattie (1992) that reviewed 110 experiments on homework, it only raised achievement by 1%.  So, there are better ways for you to be spending your time.

How much time do you spend making and grading homework? I suggest that you create a simple template that you can use over and over.

What does raise achievement?

  • Teaching students summarizing strategies and having them write summaries also raises achievement by 35%. 
  • Reinforcing effort raises achievement by 20%. 
  • (All of the statistics were taken from Classroom Instruction that Works.)
You will see that my template uses these results and focuses on what will make the biggest difference. Feel free to save a copy and edit it any way you want. If you use this template for your classroom, please share this website with 3 other teachers. Perfect Homework Template

For my readings, I recommend short non-fiction passages. There are many great books out there. One I really like are the Teacher Created Resources Daily Warm-Ups. Of course, you can use any resource you want. What I like about these books?
  1.  There is one reading for each day of the year.
  2. There is both a non-fiction and mixed non-fiction/fiction book.
  3. They have a reading level index at the back.
  4. The topics are all interesting! (according to me and my students that is)
  5. It is very little prep time for me, but gives high returns for my students.
HOL online classes I offer:

FIRST DAYS OF SCHOOL: From Stress to Success
SAVE TIME: Time Management for Your Teaching & Your Life