Friday, June 26

Friendly Letter Writing

Even though many writing curricula no longer include a unit on writing friendly letters, I find that spending a couple weeks on a friendly letter unit is a fabulous way to build student understanding about author's purpose and to practice writing conventions like capitalization and punctuation. Plus, I also love that writing a letter is typically not intimidating to writers just beginning to develop their writing confidence.
Writers Workshop Unit

This unit is set up to run for about three weeks long. Based on the needs of your writers, you might go longer or shorter. Different groups of students have different needs, so the length of the unit could easily vary from year to year.

There are options for instruction in whole group and small group, as well as independent practice.

As a teacher, it's so important to scaffold our writers towards success. That's why I love to include helpful word banks, samples and anchor charts!

The mini-lessons outline is logical and easy to follow. 

Parents can be powerful partners, so I've made sure to include parent communication.

Something my firsties absolutely LOVED is writing letters to favorite book I've included a word bank with the character names.

There are three student writing paper options - single line, double line with dash in the middle and handwriting without tears style, as well.

These writing workshop tips can help you tweak your writing workshop.


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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