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Saturday, February 1

Helping Readers Read Carefully Across Words

Readers develop at different rates and in different ways BECAUSE they're all different. Regardless of where you stand on the Science of Reading, I'm guessing we can all agree that we need to do our due diligence with each individual child. This means lots of things...especially that we get to know each child's learning modes and adjust our instruction flexibly and accordingly. 

For some students, rote memorization of sight words works...but not for all students.

Some readers can easily see known word parts inside of unknown words and decode across the unknown word automatically...but not all.

For some, learning and applying knowledge about syllable types feels natural...but not all.

I could go on and on, but I think you get the point. As teachers, I strongly believe that we need to use a variety of techniques and strategies to reach our various learners. 

FYI: This post contains some Amazon affiliate links, for which I receive a small commission.
Self-Monitor reading by looking across words from beginning to end

7 Instructional Tips to help Readers Look Closely

In order to help readers build habits of looking closely across words from beginning to middle to end, here are some instructional strategies I try.

Tip 1

My copy of Patricia Cunningham's oldie but goodie Making Words is dog-eared because it's such a treasure trove of word work and when you use magnetic letters, it's terrific for building the understanding that the position of the letters or word parts within a word make a difference. I don't use paper letters, though...I always use magnetic letters because they are so much more interactive and handling the actual letter has a great impact than a piece of paper with the letter written on it.

With magnetic letters, I highly prefer using the red vowel & blue consonant type because it helps readers see the vowel more clearly and vowels can be so so tricky for young readers.

Tip 2

When doing any sort of word work, I strongly "enforce" an important habit: slide your finger under the word as your eyes look closely at each part at the same pace as your voice is saying those parts. I find this really important in "training" a readers eye to slow down a bit and notice the parts. I use this technique when students are writing sight words on white boards, when they're using their finger or thumb to slide across a word in a book and when they're working with magnetic letters on Making Words. I demonstrate and we practice this technique in whole group, small group and in one-on-one conferring, as well.

Tip 3

"Catch Me" is a student favorite! In whole group during shared reading with enlarged text using the document camera, pocket chart, whiteboard or Smartboard, I challenge the students to listen to me very closely and track their eyes across the text to figure out what I've read incorrectly and to whisper-shout "CAUGHT YOU" when I've made an error. We go one line at a time and I'll make an error or two each time, often substituting a word that uses similar letters at the beginning and end of the actual word. For example, the text might say, "She saw some blue candles." and I might read it as, "She was a blue candies." Or, if the text says, "He made apple juice from concentrate" I might say, "He made apple juice from concrete." In addition to the giggles and smiles these kinds of errors can create, it provides an opportunity to instruct how to look closely at all the word parts so they match. Then I model using the all important technique described in Tip 2 above. 

Tip 4

For readers who get stuck at the beginning of a word and aren't looking through the rest of it efficiently, I use a cut up piece of card stock or index card to cover the part they've read to nudge their eyes to move across the word.

Tip 5

Paper-pencil work can help parents know what kind of strategies you're working on at school. I love the kind of paper pencil work that slows a reader down enough that they have to look at all the parts of the word. There are many ways you can incorporate additional practice into small group, whole group, differentiated morning work, homework and one on one. This Self-Monitoring Reading bundle of bundles contains packs that have proven tremendously helpful with many of my readers. Click to see more details and easily get links to everything that's included.



Tip 6

Puzzles and memory games like concentration are a fun way to practice tracking skills.


Tip 7

My class is always crazy about it when I get out the laser pointer during shared reading, reciting sight words on our class word wall or counting on our number line. With the word wall and number line counting, I encourage them to be watching very carefully because I change directions...sometimes we count up and then count back or sometimes we'll read all the words under a letter top to bottom or sometimes one word from each of the letters going A to Z. 

Leave a comment below with your favorite tip for helping readers look closely across words!





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Saturday, February 24

God's Work In My Public School Classroom

Even though I teach at a public school, I feel that God is at work in my classroom every day.

Student and school shooting tragedies weigh heavily on us all.

On social media recently, I saw something that really didn't sit well in my mind and I've been wrestling with it quite a bit. You may have seen it (or something like it), too. It said:

Dear God,
Why do you allow so much violence in schools?
signed,
a concerned student

Dear Concerned Student,
I'm not allowed in schools.
God

Initially, I couldn't quite figure out why it was so unsettling. It's been in the back (and front) of my mind since then and when I finally had time to be alone with my thoughts a bit, I started understanding.

I disagree with the idea that God is not in (public) schools. We may not be talking about Him directly or actively praying with students in our public school classrooms, but I do believe that God IS at work in schools everywhere, including public schools. I believe my work is God's work. All work can be God's work.

I am privileged to work with students from diverse backgrounds and religions -- I learn from and admire them every day.

Even though I do not pray or talk about God's blessings with students, He is still at work in my classroom. How is God at work in my public school classroom?

The following faith-based principles are the foundation of my life and are woven into our academic days in authentic, natural, meaningful ways:

Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Everyone has gifts and talents and can learn from each other, even when we disagree.

We can disagree with each other and solve our problems using our words with respect and kindness. 
Seeing as they're six and seven years old, sometimes I'll help them with language support such as, "You might start talking about the problem by saying something like...I was ________ when you _______ because __________." I encourage them to look one another in the eyes or at least at each other's faces while having the conversation. I also encourage them to listen closely to one another, repeating back what the other person has said, trying language like, "It sounds like you feel ____ because _______."

Everyone makes mistakes. We take responsibility for our mistakes and forgive ourselves and each other.
Since I make LOTS of mistakes, my students get to see a LOT of my modeling here. Sometimes I assume I know the end of what a student is going to say and I interrupt them before they finish speaking. When I realize it, I'll say..."I wasn't doing a good job staying focused on your words. I'm sorry for that. My brain is ready to hear you better now. Can you please say that again?"

Other times I will get frustrated with what feels like the millionth interruption to instruction (there's a LOT of pressure to teach the curriculum with fidelity, and have all students performing at or above the benchmark, and for all students to make significant progress from wherever they're at academically). So, depending on the situation, if a student is requesting my attention to hear a story  that isn't related to the task at hand, I'm not always gracious when I respond to them. When I realize that, and the timing is better, I publicly acknowledge what I could have done better, saying something like, "You might have noticed I didn't give you a chance to share your story. My brain was thinking about the work we needed to get done. I'm sorry for being impatient. I should have told you that I wanted to hear what you had to say, but it wasn't a good time at that time and that I'd have more time after ____."

Everyone is the same amount of special. Knowing more about or being faster at something doesn't make you more special...it means you have a talent at it, you take your time to do a good job with it, or you've had a lot of practice. 

We are made the way we were supposed to be made. 
Six and seven year olds can feel sad sometimes when a peer has something happen to them that they wish were happening to themselves. I've often said things like, "Your teeth will fall out when they're ready to fall out, even if all your friends have lost a tooth and you haven't yet. You're body is made the way it's supposed to be made." Or, maybe they've been called a name by someone regarding their size...I'll say, "You're the height you are because you're supposed to be your exact height right now. We can't control height and you're made exactly the way you're supposed to be made."

We all face challenges. Challenges do not make us "bad" or "dumb" or "not good enough."

Our decisions and choices impact not just ourselves, but the people around us.

Time is limited, precious and valuable - thank you for your time spent reading this post.

In these "life in my classroom" posts about reducing back to school anxiety and tips for writing workshop implementation, I see God's work shining through, too.

Some of my favorite "anthem" songs are:
Shine (Newsboys)
Do Something (Matthew West)
Bleed the Same (Mandisa)

Best wishes to you - Lisa
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