### The Attraction is Obvious!

We were very fortunate to receive some sample products from Dowling Magnets.  Our wheels are already turning and we’ve come up with some great uses for these resources in our classrooms in upcoming school year.

Kids LOVE the Make a Face Magnet Set pictured above. This 47 piece set is great for creative play, free time, and cooperative play.  I’ve been using this during summer tutoring as a break time choice between lesson activities.  I also plan to bring it along on our road trip to Utah and Colorado next week!

I’m super excited about the following magnetic math resources that I’ll get to use in the fall:

This Magnetic Demonstration Number Line will be a perfect fit for use with our math strategy animal Hailey the Hopping Hare.  Number lines are perfect for students to use place value, number sense and skip counting to add or subtract numbers. Students first start with the bigger number in the problem; this number is the starting point for hopping. Then they decompose or break apart the second number by place value (into 10’s and 1’s). Depending on the problem, students will either add or subtract, hopping first by 10’s and then by 1’s.  I plan to print out and laminate a small Hailey the Hopping Hare hands-on tool so students can use her to hop along the number line and keep their place.

Using the Ten Frames Magnet Set will be perfect for students in my math intervention group to master counting, addition basic facts, place value, odd and even numbers within the context of ten.  What I like the most about these is the hands-on component.  The magnets are perfect for concrete learners and I love that they will stay in place rather than falling all over the desks and ground. Our math strategy animal Max the Modeling Mouse, will helping introduce this tool as he helps students use manipulatives, counters or drawings to model, or represent the mathematics of the story problem.

Another great resource is the Magnetic Coins. I anticipate that these will be very motivating for students to use along with the Magnetic Dry-Erase Boards.  Many students in the primary grades struggle to master money concepts.  I love using realistic coins rather than boring old worksheets to help students practice this critical life skill.

### Make Morning Meetings More Meaningful

The Morning Meeting should be the most meaningful 10 minutes of your day. Morning Meetings are at their best when they are the perfect blend of social, emotional, and academic activities. It is a time to reflect on yesterday’s success, set goals and focus for the day, and build classroom community all while practicing vital ELA skills. Despite the many benefits, the Morning Meeting is often the first item cut when teachers are crunched for time. Here are some tips to implement a meaningful Morning Meeting all year long:

1. Gather students in a large circle in your central meeting area. This is a skill that must be taught and practiced many times before students are expected to do it independently. Here are my students at Morning Meeting making a Friendship Web.

Check out our Back to School Toolbox: Routines, Transitions, and Procedures unit for strategies to teach students how to gather at a meeting place.
2. Select a student facilitator. Selecting a student facilitator in the Morning Meeting engages the students in the process and builds ownership. This duty improves each student’s public speaking skills and confidence by allowing him/her to take charge of the group. It also promotes a sense of pride and accomplishment. A rotation for the student facilitator ensures that all the students get the opportunity to lead the group.The teacher must model these procedures several times (at least 2 weeks) before selecting a student facilitator. The teacher then serves as a coach, scaffolding support using sentence stems and cues until students are adept facilitators.
3. Include behavioral and learning reflection. Use specific sentence stems to help students determine Glows (success) and Grows (areas of improvement).
Use a learning scale to help students rate and assess their progress towards a specific behavior or learning goal. Students can use a scale such as this and point to the corresponding box that represents their rating or use a finger cue to show their rating.
4. Greet each other. Teach students a variety of greetings or songs to promote classroom community. We love using Dr. Jean’s songs and chants for this purpose; they are ideal for K-3 students.
5. Unpack and start your day. After students have set goals and a purpose for the day, they are ready to unpack and start their learning.Have a great Morning Meeting routine? We’d love to hear from you! Looking for additional strategies and tips to teach vital Back to School routines and procedures? Download our Back to School Toolbox: Routines, Procedures, and Transitions unit for tried-and-true suggestions from veteran teachers.

### How Animals Can Help Children Learn

Animal characters are present in children’s lives from the very beginning on toys, books, and cartoons. Children soon learn to associate animals with comfort, play, and safety. When animals are personified, children readily understand and apply the lessons and messages from the animals. Our extensive research in animal assisted therapy along with our classroom experiences were the inspiration to creating our magical world of Astute Hoot filled with endearing animal characters to help children learn critical reading, writing and math characters.

At the start of each school year, I dress up as Hazel Hoot and read our introductory books to our students:  Hazel Meets the Reading Strategy Friends, Hazel Meets the Math Strategy Friends, Hazel Meets the Writing Strategy Friends. Students are instantly hooked and can’t wait to meet each strategy animal in upcoming lessons.  They get really into the read aloud and ask me questions about my roost and my animal friends such as “Who is your favorite animal friend?”, “How far did you fly from your roost?” and “Can you take letters from our class to the forest to give to the animals?”.

My students’ favorite activities are using  Sally Sounding-Out Snake and Charlie Chunking Chipmunk during our word study. Using these tools not only add much needed visual support, but also dramatically increase motivation and engagement. This is so important when using systematic phonics intervention programs as they can easily become monotonous.

Just recently I was doing a fact assessment. I always remind students to double-check their answers, but they rarely do. I got out my Fiona Fact Fluency Fox puppet and had Fiona remind the kids about double-checking and what do you know, they all double-checked their answers. They listen to Fiona’s reminders more readily than mine!

As you can see, our strategy animals anchor the classroom. Our students LOVE meeting each new character and consistently use their strategies in whole group, small group and even independent work!  Many parents even report learning about the strategy animals from their children at home too!

Meet all of our strategy animals here!  Bring the magical world of Astute Hoot to your classroom too by downloading our comprehensive strategy units from our TPT store or directly from our website: Reading, Math, Writing.

Download these strategy posters here. See how our very own students interact with our strategy animals in this cute video!

As you can see, our animals are a hit with our students!  Do you use animals in your classroom?  We’d love to hear about it!  Please comment below.

Animals Helping Children with Special Needs
Pets in the Classroom

### End of the Year Survival Guide

Let’s face it, at this time of year, we all feel like the owl on the right. Keeping students engaged at the end of the year is like running a three-ring circus, leaving teachers tired and exasperated. Use these 8 tips to survive (and enjoy) the end of year countdown:

1. Create portfolios: Showcase students’ finest work samples with student-made portfolios. Make durable portfolios by folding pieces of poster board and stapling along the sides. Students can draw a detailed picture with crayon and then add water color to make a beautiful crayon resist effect. While the class is working, help students individually determine which pieces to include in their portfolios. Be sure to include rubrics and learning scales that accompany each piece.

My students used this owl template as a table of contents for portfolio contents. They colored and added craft feathers to owl and glued onto the dried portfolio after completion.

Students wrote Author’s Notes on the back of portfolios that provide a short biography and current picture. We studied several examples from our favorite authors first. Students were so proud to have their very own version just like many authors they studied throughout the year.

2. Reflect on learning: In the beginning of the year, my students completed reading and math attitude surveys, giving me vital information about their background knowledge, strategy application, and confidence level. I was surprised at how many lacked strategies and self-help skills. I gave the same surveys at the end of the year and the growth was tremendous. Students could easily explain strategies they used and all were very confident. I included a picture of one of my favorites. When asked what students do when they need help with reading, the student responded, “I use my strategies, obviously!”.

Students can also track their own assessment data on bar graphs, creating a meaningful visual of growth throughout the year. My students graph their DIBELS fluency scores, monthly Morrison McCall Spalding spelling tests, and Saxon fact assessment scores. Tracking growth helps students take ownership in their learning and is a great way to celebrate success.

3. Create end of year journals: Use This Year Was A Hoot! to reflect and record key highlights from the year. This customizable journal includes A Note From The Wise Old Owl (write a special note to your class), OWL-Stars (place for class photos), Branching Out (students record what they learned, became, who they met and how they felt), HOO-Ray! (students write top 10 events of the school year) and much more. My students loved OWL of these activities! Parents enjoy seeing the end of school year journals too.

4. Review with sidewalk chalk: Review and practice important concepts using sidewalk chalk. Give students a story problem to solve or a reading response question and allow them to use sidewalk chalk to complete it. Chalk is perfect for spelling and fact practice as well. Plus, it washes off easily with soap and water.

5. Hold an awards ceremony: Celebrate accomplishments with a classroom awards ceremony. I purchased these inexpensive plastic trophies from Party City and used address labels to make these customized awards. I award trophies for top reader, most improved reader, good citizenship, perfect attendance and much more. Students LOVE them and some actually think they are real gold.

6. Plan cooking projects: Find recipes for a theme-based snack or a craft project to use as a culminating activity. Students love these and they provide an opportunity to read functional text. We just finished Charlotte’s Web so my students read a recipe to create these cute pig cupcakes.

7. Make review bags: Create review bags that include worksheets, games, and text at students’ instructional levels. Encourage students to read and review for at least 30 minutes daily. During the first week of school, I provide a reunion breakfast for students who completed the summer review bag. This is a great incentive to review throughout the summer, plus it provides a wonderful opportunity to catch up with former students. I use a Bashas’ brown bag to hold materials because the sturdy handles allow for easy transportation.

8. Provide an end of the year gift: Books make the best gifts and there are always great deals through book orders. This year I made these adorable owl gift bags and added our decoding and comprehension bookmark from Really Good Stuff and an owl lollipop. I can’t wait for them to open them!

Have a great end of the year survival tip? Please share below. Enjoy your last few days with students–we can make it!

### You Deserve a Discount!

By popular demand, we’ve bundled all of our strategy resources into 2 different Site License options to give you the best possible deal! The Astute Hoot Reading Site License contains over 20 complete decoding and comprehension units and the Astute Hoot Math Site License contains 12 complete problem-solving strategy units. Both options include THOUSANDS of pages the following components:

• Suggestions for use

• Detailed lesson plans using the gradual release of responsibility method

• Built-in assessments and learning scales

• Graphic organizers and reproducibles

• Anchor charts and posters

• Templates for hands-on tools

• I Can statements

• Game boards

• Flash cards

• Customizable problem-solving or reading comprehension journals

• Discussion prompts

• Hazel Meets the Strategy Animals book

• Bulletin Board Set

• And much more!

Using these resources and tools, the most reluctant students blossom into motivated, enthusiastic learners; make solid connections to the strategies, and most importantly, become proficient readers and mathematicians. Used in classrooms around the world, these innovative tools awaken the joy of learning and spark enthusiasm in all students while providing research and standards based resources for students in grades K-3.

### Guiding Students to Use Context Clues Independently

“Hello, Ramona the Rereading Raccoon is my name.
Using context clues is my favorite game.
Does it look right, does it sound right, and does it make sense?
I guarantee my strategy will make you less tense!”

is one our decoding strategy animals in Hazel’s Reading Roost. Ramona motivates students to use context clues independently. Read more about Ramona’s strategy below…

WHAT is rereading? Rereading along with using context clues can be used a word identification strategy. The context is the words, sentences, and ideas that come before and after a word or phrase. Context clues are words or phrases that hint at what the unknown word means. This helps readers build meaning to increase comprehension.

WHY is rereading important? Rereading using context clues is an essential decoding strategy that promotes independence in beginning readers. It also builds vocabulary, strengthens comprehension and can be used to build fluency.

HOW do I teach rereading? Explain that Ramona helps readers use clues from words and sentences surrounding an unknown word in order to decode it and make meaning. Provide explicit instruction in recognizing context clues and using them while reading authentic text. Incorporate think-alouds that focus on using each specific type of clue to decode and determine meaning (e.g., synonym, antonym, example, definition, inference). Model rereading the sentence and answering Ramona’s question prompts to determine if a word or meaning is correct.

Watch this video to see how to teach context clues in three easy steps:

WHEN should I use rereading? Explicit reading strategy instruction should be included in a balanced literacy program. Ramona the Rereading Raccoon can be incorporated into various components of literacy lessons. Here are some specific examples of when to use Ramona:

• Ramona’s Re-Readers: Divide students into pairs or work in a small reading group and distribute Ramona’s Re-Readers to each pair or student in the small group, keeping one to use. Read Ramona the Rereading Raccoon Poem to introduce the strategy of using context clues to decode words and make meaning. Select targeted unfamiliar words from text to model using Ramona’s Re-Readers by placing her “tail” beneath the sentence with the unknown word. Demonstrate reading around the word (i.e., read text before and after the word). Make a prediction about what the word could be or its possible meaning. Reread the entire sentence using the predicted word and ask the following questions to confirm accuracy, “Does it look right? Does it sound right? Does it make sense?”. Explain that if the answer is “yes” to all three questions, then the word is correct.
• Guided Reading: Review the strategy by reading the Ramona Rereading Raccoon Poem. Read aloud your selected guided reading text and model using Ramona’s Re-Readers. Distribute text and Ramona’s Re-Readers to each student. Call on individual students to use the Ramona’s Re-Readers as they read aloud if they get stuck on decoding a word or are unsure of a meaning. Prompt students to use the questions listed on the Ramona’s Re-Readers as they reread to self-assess and monitor understanding. Discuss the context clues students used to help them determine unfamiliar words and meanings. Encourage students to use Ramona the Rereading Raccoon’s strategy when they are reading independently as well.
• Ramona’s Task Cards: For additional context clue practice, use Ramona’s Context Clue Task Cards during partner or independent work.  Students read sentences selected from authentic literature and use Ramona’s strategy to decode and make meaning of the underlined word.
• Rereading Raccoon Center: Create a portable reading center: Place a Ramona’s Re-Reader and a book or text at students’ reading level in a large manila envelope with a copy of the Ramona Rereading Raccoon Poem glued onto the front. Instruct students that during center time they are to take an envelope to their desks and use the Ramona’s Re-Reader to use context clues and self-assess understanding while reading. Create several portable Rereading Raccoon centers using a variety of leveled texts.
• Independent Practice: Have Ramona’s Re-Readers available for student use during independent reading time. This promotes transfer of reading strategies and self-correction techniques while helping students stay focused on the text.

• Create a class set of Ramona’s Re-Readers. Print Ramona’s Re-Readers onto cardstock and laminate. Distribute to class and model how to use during reading. These can help keep students actively engaged during choral reading, independent reading and small group. Sturdy, pre-made Re-Readers can be purchased from Really Good Stuff here.
• Display an anchor chart of types of context clues. Print and post Types of Context Clues located in this folder or create your own anchor chart that includes the various types of context clues along with examples and visual cues. Display near your guided reading center for easy reference during reading time.

Ramona’s unit is perfect for general education, special education, RTI and reading intervention.  Download the complete unit here.

### Teach Central Message & Theme with Dr. Seuss

Students love Dr. Seuss books because of their engaging, rhymed text, memorable characters, and whimsical illustrations. But, Dr. Seuss books are so much more. They are the ideal tool for teaching central message because each one focuses on a specific theme or life lesson. Plus, the majority of students have had multiple exposures with these books; they are familiar with characters and sequence of events. This background knowledge and literal level of understanding makes it easier to determine the central message, a higher-level comprehension skill.

During our Dr. Seuss study, I preselected books which have the strongest themes and central messages. Students had the opportunity to read many books during guided reading group and independent reading time. I used Sharon the Summarizing Squirrel to teach central message and theme (read more about Sharon’s strategy here). We discussed these messages and themes during reading group time and students cited textual evidence that supported these themes. Students used Sharon’s Central Message Anchor Chart to help them summarize each message or theme.
I found Dr. Seuss quote posters in Target’s Dollar Section and purchased 4 as a central message culmination activity. I posted the posters around the room and students took a Quote Walk, silently reading each quote to determine Dr. Seuss’ message. They recorded their central messages and themes in their Reading Response Journals. They colored in the strategy animals used during each reading response entry. Sharon the Summarizing Squirrel helped students summarize each central message and theme while Vern the Visualizing Vulture helped them visualize each quote. Check out the quote posters and students’ central message jourmal responses:

Looking for additional Dr. Seuss activities? Download our FREE Cat in the Hat Snack recipe and read our latest blog, Celebrate Dr. Seuss In Style.  Happy Read Across America week!

### Create President Reports in 3 Easy Steps

Since it was President’s Day on Monday and we are reading and writing biographies, my class studied the life of Barack Obama this week. They loved learning about his childhood, interests, schooling and more. This study prompted them to ask questions about other presidents, so we completed these cute, easy presidential reports. Download this FREE project here.

Follow these 3 easy steps to create the presidential reports:

1. Select appropriate presidential research. I found the presidential fact card deck in the Target dollar section, but also used a variety of leveled text as sources for research to differentiate for all learners. Pre-select the cards, picking presidents that students would find most interesting (cool nicknames, facts, etc.). Remove cards that would be difficult to read and understand. (Remove Nixon as his nickname is “Tricky Dick”.)
2. Complete president report. Model how to use information from the fact card or leveled text and think aloud as you go. Then have students complete the research; this is a perfect activity to complete in small groups. Differentiate the report according to students’ needs. Partner students or have students work individually to complete the report.
3. Draw presidential portrait. Give students white paper and have them draw a pencil sketch of selected president. Trace with Sharpie and then color with crayon. Cut out and glue on top of report. You can glue on black construction paper (to look like a suit) and add arms and legs if you desire.
Be sure to share reports with class. Possible discussions include similarities (most were lawyers), differences, occupations, facts and achievements. Your students will love learning more about the presidents!

### Strengthen Mathematical Understanding in 4 Easy Steps

Mathematical understanding means that students understand the story problem and follow the problem-solving steps. Understanding story problems can be very challenging because it requires multi-step, higher-level thinking processes. Students are required to process several pieces of information before starting any mathematical operations. If students do not understand the problem, they will solve it incorrectly, even if they have a strong repertoire of strategies.  Strengthen your students’ mathematical understanding with these 4 easy steps:

1. Scaffold instruction: Mathematical understanding includes many steps: identify question; identify key information; get rid of erroneous information; determine the operation; solve using an appropriate, efficient strategy. Since mathematical understanding involves so many steps, teachers should teach each step explicitly and introduce the next step after proficiency is demonstrated. This allows the teacher to isolate individual steps first and then gradually integrate the steps together.

2. Incorporate multi-sensory activities: Allow students to act out the problem and use manipulatives to help students build understanding. In my classroom, students use Upton Understanding Fish to help them complete the problem-solving steps. I purchased a inexpensive, yellow Webkinz fish from Ebay to use as our classroom Upton.

During direct instruction, I model each of the problem-solving steps, thinking aloud as I go. I hold Upton right beside me and will often talk to him during my think-alouds. The students think it is funny, but it keeps them engaged. During guided practice, I toss Upton to different students, asking them to help me complete one of the problem-solving steps. Students also take turns using Upton to assist during independent problem-solving time.

The stuffed Upton fish has become a pivotal piece of my problem-solving instruction because it helps kids feel safe to take risks and discuss problem-solving steps. In fact, a few of my students have even asked their parents for their own Upton as a birthday or Christmas gift.

3. Use discussion questions and prompts:Students are more successful at solving math problems when they monitor and reflect upon their thinking and problem-solving steps as they work through problems. We often assume that students know how to thoroughly discuss their mathematical thinking and problem-solving steps, but like an other concept or skill, this must be taught in depth. Teachers must model the self-questioning process and provide multiple opportunities and support for students to practice it until they can use the questioning strategies independently.

I use Upton’s self-reflection questions and peer discussion prompts to facilitate mathematical discussion. I introduce one prompt or question at a time and add additional prompts in subsequent lessons.

During lunch (before our problem-solving time), I leave the new prompt or question right by Upton as if he is presenting it to the class. When I pick the kids up for lunch, I tell them that Upton left us something and they get so excited to read his new question or prompt.

4. Provide anchor charts: Post the problem-solving steps in a prominent place in classroom. I add a visual cue for each step to promote understanding. As you teach problem-solving, refer to these posted steps and encourage students to do so when solving independently as well.

Download our Upton Understanding Fish problem-solving unit and accompanying self-reflection and peer discussion questions and prompts to help build mathematical understanding in your classroom.

### 5 Tips to Survive Science Fair

The Science Fair usually brings a mix of emotions. Students love the hands-on learning but for teachers, the Science Fair can be nightmare. What project(s) should the class do? How can I organize students’ work samples? How do I involve parents?  Use these 5 tried-and-true tips to survive the Science Fair.

1. Select experiment: Since my students are required to learn the life cycle process, I bought caterpillar and tadpoles for them to study. I also picked a variety of leveled text on butterflies and frogs to use during my guided reading groups to make it a cross-curricular project.  It may to tempting to choose an experiment that just seems fun and interesting, but always be sure that it aligns to your grade level standards and curriculum.  This helps to extend learning and create a richer learning experience.

2. Provide scientific tools: Use a variety of hands-on tools and materials. Allow students to use magnifying glasses and rulers and they observe their specimens. I bought a few men’s white button-down dress shirts and called them “lab coats’ which the students absolutely loved. They felt like real scientists!

3. Teach journaling skills: The Science Fair is the perfect opportunity to teach vital journaling skills. My students learned how to tell time to the nearest minute, write a detailed observation in complete sentences, and draw a scientific diagram. They also highlighted new vocabulary terms which they compiled into a glossary. Plus, I used their observations as writing grades. Download this journal here

.

4. Showcase students’ work: Dedicate a bulletin board or showcase table to display students’ learning and scientific work samples. Creating a portfolio of their work is another great option.

My students made these “Meet the Scientists” for our Science Fair night. They were a huge hit!

5. Invite families: Have students create a formal invitation inviting families to the Science Fair. This is a great opportunity for students to share their new learning; parents are always so proud and impressed. You may also want to consider providing probing questions for parents to ask their children and an activity for children to showcase their skills. Be sure to provide refreshments (I bought inexpensive cookies from Target).

I’d love to hear your great Science Fair ideas!

### Create Write-On, Wipe-Off Problem-Solving Journals

Problem-solving plays an important role in my daily math instruction. Students use pre-made journals to help them complete the problem-solving steps, solve the problem in 2 ways, explain their thinking and rate themselves on a learning scale. These journals track students’ progress with mathematical understanding, strategy selection and application. They also serve as an effective assessment tool. I decided to make a write-on, wipe-off version for students to use during math centers. Follow these 4 easy steps to make them for your classroom, too!

1. Gather materials: You will need a class set of manila folders, problem-solving journal templates, glue sticks, a laminator and dry erase markers.

2. Prepare folders: Glue on the front cover, problem-solving pages on the inside, and the discussion prompts on the back. Laminate and cut out (a perfect job for a parent volunteer).

3. Select appropriate story problems: I use differentiated story problems during math instruction and color code to keep them organized. An extensive story problem bank is included in our Problem-Solving Essentials Bundle.

4. Model procedures and provide practice: Explain how to use the write-on, wipe-off problem-solving journals. Model how to use a dry erase marker to complete the journal. Select a partner to use the discussion prompts, thinking aloud as you go. Practice using the journals during whole group instruction, roving to monitor student understanding. As students demonstrate understanding, incorporate these journals into math center time, either at an adult-led center or an independent math center.

Download our Math Intervention Problem-Solving Essentials Bundle for over 200 pages of lessons, activities, worksheets, printables, everything you need for comprehensive problem-solving instruction during math intervention, special education and general education.

### Creative Ways to Teach Character Analysis

Authors use many different types of characters to tell a story.  Characters help us feel like we are a part of the story and give us an opportunity to see into their hearts and examine their motivations. Since characters play such an essential role in literature, character analysis is critical in developing a deeper understanding of the text. While the author may explicitly include character traits, often readers are required to make an inference about these traits, using textual evidence and background knowledge. Clearly using textual evidence to analyze and describe character traits is an important comprehension skill, but often a difficult one to teach. Try one of these four creative ways in your classroom:

1. Model through read-alouds: Young students don’t have a lot of experience with character traits and this needs to be built through read-alouds that include strong, memorable characters. Select a read-aloud with a character that students can easily relate to such as Alexander from Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst. As you read each of Alexander’s bad experiences, describe how you think he feels by pointing out specific textual evidence. After modeling, encourage students to participate in the conversation. Provide think time by incorporating a Stop and Jot or Think-Pair-Share before discussing with the class.

2. Use a Trait Tree: Young students have a limited vocabulary and often need support to select an appropriate character trait. Use Sharon the Summarizing Squirrel’s Trait Tree as a word bank scaffold. Pre-made and customizable versions are available allowing you to differentiate to meet the needs of your students. My students have this in their reading folders and binders and reference it often.

3. Incorporate written response: It is so important for students to respond to text through writing and Sharon the Summarizing Squirrel’s Character Analysis Graphic Organizers allow students to record their thinking and textual evidence. These are perfect to use during guided reading groups, centers, and homework.

4. Embed art: Written responses don’t have to be limited to reports, they can include murals, posters, poems, or dioramas. During our Charlotte’s Web study, my students used our Trait Tree to analyze Wilbur’s personality, citing textual evidence for support. Afterwards, they made these adorable crayon-resist Wilbur portraits. I hung them up on our “Some Pig” bulletin board. My principal came in as we were creating these and was so impressed with students’ character analysis and loved the integration of art. These were a hit!

I recently completed a similar project after reading Click, Clack, Moo Cows That Type from our second-grade basal, students analyzed the cows’ character traits and cited textual evidence. On Friday, they made cows to hang up with their traits.

Love these ideas? Download Sharon Summarizing Squirrel’s Character Analysis unit to help your students master character analysis within authentic text! This Character Analysis Unit is a sub-skill unit which is also part of our Sharon Summarizing Squirrel Bundle including the following sub-skills: Cause & Effect, Central Message & Lesson, Character Analysis, Compare & Contrast, Main Idea & Key Details, Retell, and Sequencing.

### Making Meaningful Text Connections

“I’m Chloe the Connecting Coyote, and I make connections.
These text connections are guaranteed to get you hooked.”

Chloe the Connecting Coyote is one our comprehension strategy animals in Hazel’s Reading Roost. Chloe encourages students to make meaningful connections while reading.  Read more about Chloe’s strategy below…

WHAT are text connections? Efficient readers comprehend text through making strong connections to the story by using prior knowledge and linking it to something in their own lives, another text, or current events in their community or the world around them.

WHY are text connections important? Making text connections helps students strategically monitor their thinking as they draw on previous experiences and background knowledge. Text connections engage students, increasing comprehension and motivation.

HOW do I teach text connections? Direct modeling of the active thought process is the first step in teaching the text connection strategy. Begin with an engaging passage or story to which students can easily relate. It is best to introduce and practice one type of connection at a time and then build upon each other. Teach text-to-self connections first as they are fairly easy for students to make. Once students are proficient, teach text-to-text connections, requiring that students make a text-to-self and a text-to-text connection.

Introduce Chloe and read accompanying poem. Set the purpose for reading by telling students that while listening to the story, they are to think of a connection or a similar experience in their own lives.

Read Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by J. Viorst. As you read, stop to model specific text-to-self connections. Be specific and detailed to avoid surface text connections.

Strong text-to-self example: “I can connect to Alexander because I am short and so I always get stuck in the middle seat, which is so stuffy and claustrophobic.”

Surface text-to-self example: “I can connect to Alexander because I always get stuck in the middle seat.”

Use these sentence stems to help frame the think-aloud:

 I can connect…… ________________ reminds me of …….. ________________helps me understand…… A text-to-self connection I have is …….. A text-to-world connection I have is ……. A text-to-text connection I have is ……..

After you model, allow students to try the making connections strategy. Read the rest of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by J. Viorst. Remind students to stay alert and listen for text-to-self connections. After reading aloud, prompt students to Think-Pair-Share to discuss their connections with partner.

Students can also record their connections on the Connecting Coyote Reproducible. Allow students to walk around the room and share connections with other classmates. Come back together as a class to discuss.

If students create connections that do not make sense, prompt them to explain their connection and help them adjust accordingly. If students are still having difficulty, try another short read-aloud section.

As students grasp the making connections strategy, incorporate into daily reading activities. Making connections teaches students to become active readers and critical thinkers.

WHEN should I use text connections? Explicit reading strategy instruction should be included in a balanced literacy program. Chloe the Connecting Coyote can be incorporated into various components of literacy lessons. Here are some specific examples of when to use Chloe:

• Guided Reading: Review the strategy by reading the Chloe Connecting Coyote Poem. Read a selected passage from your guided reading text. Model recording your connection(s) on the Connecting Coyote Reproducible. As you describe your connections to students, be sure to incorporate textual evidence. Distribute Connecting Coyote Reproducibles and copies of the guided reading text. Prompt students to read and create connection(s), recording on the Connecting Coyote Reproducible. After students are finished, discuss connections and encourage them to refer to the textual evidence used.

• Connecting Coyote Center: Create a portable reading center: Place Connecting Coyote Reproducibles and a book or text at students’ reading level in a large manila envelope with a copy of the Connecting Coyote Poem glued onto the front. Instruct students that during center time they are to take an envelope to their desks and use the Connecting Coyote Reproducible to record connection(s) created while reading the text.
• Reading Response Journal: Use the Reading Response Journals to make independent reading accountable in school and at home. Instruct students to log independent reading information and respond to the text using one or more of comprehension strategy animal prompts. To reinforce the predicting strategy, encourage students to use Chloe the Connecting Coyote’s sentence stems in their responses.

• Create Reading Response Journal. Print the Reading Response Journals to create individual journals for each student. Print cover page on cardstock and laminate. Use a blank piece of laminated cardstock for the back cover. Print several copies of the Reading Response Log page and staple or bind together to form a journal. These journals can be used in class during independent reading time or sent home to record reading time for homework. The Reading Response Journal sets a purpose for independent reading and promotes student ownership and accountability. Journal responses allow teachers and parents to easily assess understanding and engagement.
• Purchase Quality Reading Response Journals.  Use these Astute Hoot Reading Comprehension Journals from Really Good Stuff to practice the questioning strategy along with other comprehension strategies. Hazel and friends guide students through a variety of comprehension strategies in this helpful journal that can be used with authentic literature or basal readers.

• Display Connecting Coyote Anchor Chart. Print and post Connecting Coyote Anchor Chart located in the unit. Display near your guided reading center for easy reference. Encourage students to use the sentence stems during discussions and in their written response.

Chloe’s unit is perfect for general education, special education, RTI and reading intervention.  Download the complete unit here.

### Use Picture Clues to Support Decoding & Comprehension

“My name is Dexter the Detecting Deer.
Now let me tell you why I’m here.
So you don’t get the reading blues.
Look at the pictures to figure out
What the words are all about!”

Dexter the Detecting Deer is one our decoding strategy animals in Hazel’s Reading Roost. Dexter helps students to practice critical early decoding skills. Read more about Dexter’s strategy below…

WHAT is detecting? Detecting is using picture clues from text to help students read unknown words and make meaning.

WHY is detecting important? Detecting, or using picture clues, is a key strategy for beginning readers. Pictorial clues can serve as a bridge to decoding strategies such as sounding out and blending and also compensate for weak decoding skills in struggling readers. Pictures can also increase comprehension by providing elaboration for a text explanation and improve recollection and retention. Teaching students to use the detecting strategy will help support other reading strategies as they learn how to read fluently and accurately.

HOW do I teach detecting? Explain that Dexter helps readers use picture clues from the text to read unknown words. While modeling using Dexter’s strategy, show students how pictures can be used alongside other clues to figure out unknown words such as initial sounds, blending, chunking and context clues.

WHEN should I use detecting? Explicit reading strategy instruction should be included in a balanced literacy program. Dexter the Detecting Deer can be incorporated into various components of literacy lessons. Here are some specific examples of when to use Dexter:

• Detecting Practice: Divide students into pairs or work in a small reading group and distribute Picture Clue Windows and Dexter’s Picture Clue Practice Pages to each pair or group, keeping one to use. Read Dexter Detecting Deer Poem to introduce the strategy of using picture clues from the story to help students read unknown words and make meaning. Model using the Picture Clue Window to locate pictures that could help students read the blocked out words on the Picture Clue Practice Pages. Using a think-aloud, demonstrate how picture clues are used alongside other reading strategies to confirm or deny guesses at unknown words. Discuss how the pictures can give several ideas about what a word can be and initial sounds help you determine which word matches the letters.

• Guided Reading: Introduce or review the strategy by reading the Dexter Detecting Deer Poem. Read aloud your selected guided reading text and model using the Picture Clue Window to read unknown words in context and/or determine meaning. Distribute text and Picture Clue Windows to each student. Call on individual students to use the Picture Clue Window with additional words. Activate engagement using a turn and talk to allow students to discuss how they use Dexter and compare their selected picture clues.

As an extension, have students use the Picture Clue Windows to identify key story elements in the pictures to make connections between text and illustrations. In addition, Picture Clue Windows can be used as an introduction to citing evidence when answering text-dependent questions. Students can use the Picture Clue Windows to show the illustrations that help them answer the questions. Encourage students to use Dexter Detecting Deer’s strategy when they are reading independently as well.

• Detecting Deer Reading Center: Create a portable reading center: Place a Picture Clue Window, a book with engaging pictures with key words covered up with small Post-Its, and a pencil in a large manila envelope with a copy of the Dexter Detecting Deer Poem glued onto the front. Instruct students that during center time they are to take an envelope to their desks and use the Picture Clue Window to practice using picture clues to read unknown words. Create several portable Detecting Deer reading centers using a variety of illustrated, leveled texts.
• Independent Practice: Have the Picture Clue Windows available for student use during independent reading time. This promotes transfer of reading strategies and self-correction techniques.

• Create a class set of Dexter Detecting Deer’s Picture Clue Windows. Print Picture Clue Windows onto cardstock and laminate. Distribute to class and model how to use during reading. These Picture Clue Windows can keep students actively engaged during choral reading, independent reading and small group.  Sturdy, pre-made Picture Clue Windows are available from Really Good Stuff here.

Dexter’s unit is perfect for general education, special education, RTI and reading intervention.  Download the complete unit here.

### Making Purposeful Predictions

“Welcome, I’m Peter the Predicting Possum.
Making guesses while you read is…oh…so awesome!
Use picture and word clues to guess what will happen next.
Then read on to find the outcome in the text.”

Peter the Predicting Possum is one our comprehension strategy animals in Hazel’s Reading Roost. Peter teaches students to make purposeful predictions. Read more about Peter’s strategy below…

WHAT is predicting? Predicting involves thinking ahead before and during reading to anticipate information and events in the text. Predictions are created using pictures, titles, headings, and text, as well as background knowledge. After making predictions, students can read through the text to refine, revise, or verify their predictions.

WHY is predicting important? Predicting helps students activate prior knowledge and make meaning out of the text. Making predictions about the text before, during, and after reading, actively engages students and connects them to the text by asking them what they think might occur in the story based on what they already know and clues from the text.

HOW do I teach predicting? Explain that Peter helps readers use clues from the text to make predictions before and during reading to help them make meaning. Provide explicit instruction in making and confirming or revising predictions. Incorporate think-alouds that focus on using background knowledge in addition to text features and illustrations to make predictions.

WHEN should I use predicting? Explicit reading strategy instruction should be included in a balanced literacy program. Peter the Predicting Possum can be incorporated into various components of literacy lessons. Here are some specific examples of when to use Peter:

• Guided Reading: Review the strategy by reading the Peter Predicting Possum Poem. Using a think-aloud with your selected guided reading text, make predictions and then read on to confirm or revise predictions using textual evidence. Model recording your predictions on the Predicting Possum Reproducible. Distribute Predicting Possum Reproducibles and copies of the guided reading text in which you have pre-selected and marked stopping points with Post-It notes. It is also helpful to number the pages if the text does not have page numbers. This allows you to guide students to read to a specific stopping point. Prompt students to make and discuss predictions using textual evidence, illustrations and background knowledge. Have students write or draw their predictions on the Predicting Possum Reproducible At the pre-selected stopping points, have students confirm or revise their predictions and record on their Predicting Possum Reproducibles.

• Create Reading Response Journal. Print the Reading Response Journals to create individual journals for each student. Print cover page on cardstock and laminate. Use a blank piece of laminated cardstock for the back cover. Print several copies of the Reading Response Log page and staple or bind together to form a journal. These journals can be used in class during independent reading time or sent home to record reading time for homework. The Reading Response Journal sets a purpose for independent reading and promotes student ownership and accountability. Journal responses allow teachers and parents to easily assess understanding and engagement.

• Purchase Quality Reading Response Journals.  Use these Astute Hoot Reading Comprehension Journals from Really Good Stuff to practice the predicting strategy along with other comprehension strategies. Hazel and friends guide students through a variety of comprehension strategies in this helpful journal that can be used with authentic literature or basal readers.

• Display Predicting Possum Anchor Chart. Print and post Predicting Possum Anchor Chart located in this unit. Display near your guided reading center for easy reference. Encourage students to use the sentence stems during discussions and in their written responses.

Peter’s unit is perfect for general education, special education, RTI and reading intervention.  Download the complete unit here.

### Eliminate Math Anxiety {FREE BOOK}

Panic, paranoia, shutting down, frustration, and lack of confidence are all symptoms of math anxiety. Math anxiety has been defined as feelings of tension and anxiety that interfere with the manipulation of numbers and the solving of mathematical problems in a wide variety of ordinary life and academic situations Math anxiety can cause one to forget and lose one’s self-confidence (Tobias, S., 1993).

Unfortunately, math anxiety affects thousands of students everyday, but thankfully, there are things teachers and parents can do to help:

1. Provide multiple opportunities for success by starting with easier review problems.
2. Use multi-sensory strategies such as hands-on materials, manipulatives, visuals, and cooperative groups to allow students to explore mathematical concepts.
3. Incorporate games to practice math skills such as Battleship, Monopoly, Yahtzee, Tangrams, etc.
4. Include technology in your math lessons and centers for additional review and reinforcement.
5. Make math safe and fun by using friendly characters to teach strategies.

To combat these feelings of anxiety and help students approach math with confidence and success, we’ve created 10 math strategy animal characters, each with a specific job. In our FREE book, Hazel Meets the Math Strategy Friends, Hazel swoops down to catch her dinner at the local pond when she grabs Upton, an enchanted fish. Upton oversees Problem-Solving Pond and promises to introduce Hazel to his animal friends, all who teach a special problem-solving strategy. Using these strategies and Upton’s guidance, Hazel blossoms into an accomplished mathematician who is able to tackle problems with ease.

Astute Hoot’s unique cast of strategy animals make learning safe and fun while teaching critical strategies in a child-friendly way. Students make an immediate connection to the animals and relate to Hazel’s struggles. These delightful animals and rhymed text motivate the most reluctant students and alleviate math anxiety.

Teachers love using these resources too! “I am using the Astute Hoot math strategy animals and my kids LOVE them. They couldn’t name a single EngageNY strategy but one week into your material and they are all over it – “break apart badger! hopping hare!” THANK YOU SO MUCH. I used to dread teaching math and now it’s really fun.” ~Andrea, 2nd grade teacher

Download a FREE copy of Hazel Meets the Math Strategy Friends and check out the accompanying digital resources and hands-on tools to support and enhance your instruction.  This is perfect for special education, math intervention and general education classrooms.

Tobias, S. (1993). Overcoming math anxiety. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.

### Teaching Visualization to Increase Comprehension

“I’m Vern the Visualizing Vulture; use me like a TV.
Then understanding what you read will be so groovy!”

Vern the Visualizing Vulture is one our comprehension strategy animals in Hazel’s Reading Roost. Vern supports students in visualizing what they read.  Read more about Vern’s strategy below…

WHAT is visualizing? Efficient readers use all 5 senses to visualize or create images in their mind as they read. These images help readers draw conclusions, make predictions, interpret information and assist with overall comprehension.

WHY is visualizing important? Visualizing helps students develop a thorough understanding of the text as they consciously use words to create mental images. Visualizing also creates personal connections between the readers and text; readers who can picture events or characters are more actively engaged and invested in their reading.

HOW do I teach visualizing? Direct modeling of the active thought process is the first step in teaching the visualization strategy. Begin with an engaging passage with several examples of descriptive language appropriate for students’ listening level.

Watch this video to see how to teach visualizing in three easy steps:

Introduce Vern and read accompanying poem. Then tell students to close their eyes and listen carefully to the passage being read aloud and ask them to see if they can imagine the scene the words describe. Tell them to pretend they are making a movie—what would they see behind the camera?

Read the passage aloud. After reading passage, share your visualization with a detailed think-aloud as you draw it for students. Be as specific as possible with your think-aloud, citing specific descriptive words and phrases from the text. Make connections and predictions as you share your visualization. Use this sentence frame to structure the think-aloud:

 While reading, I visualized ______________________________________________ In my brain I can see ___________________________________________________ The author showed me _________________________________________________ I can taste/smell/feel/hear _____________________________________________

After you model, allow students to try the visualization strategy. Record a descriptive paragraph on the Visualization Reproducible and read aloud while students close their eyes and visualize. Remind students to stay alert and listen for what the characters smell, taste, feel, hear and think. After reading aloud, prompt students to draw their visualizations. Allow students to put up privacy folders while they are drawing so they aren’t tempted to look at others’ visualizations for inspiration.

After everyone is done, have students put down their privacy folders and take a Visualization Venture, a silent walk around the room while students study each others’ visualizations. Provide time to Think-Pair-Share to discuss similarities, differences and any other observations. Emphasize that everyone’s visualizations will differ somewhat because everyone has different background knowledge and experiences, but there should be some common elements based on evidence from the text.

If students create images that do not fit the words, help them question their image and adjust. If students are having difficulty, try another short read-aloud section.

As students grasp the visualization strategy, incorporate into daily reading activities through drawings and mental imagery. Be sure to use not only physical images but also characters’ feelings and ideas. Visualization teaches students to become active readers and critical thinkers.

The Visualizing Vulture Reproducible has 2 options to allow for differentiation:

1. You can write the descriptive paragraph or passage on the lines below Vern’s TV and make copies for class. Students will read this paragraph and highlight key words and phrases that helped them create visualization. Instruct students to draw their visualization inside Vern’s TV. This is ideal for introducing the visualization strategy.

1. As students become more proficient with the visualization strategy, prompt them to record the evidence used to create the visual, citing directly from the text.

WHEN should I use visualizing? Explicit reading strategy instruction should be included in a balanced literacy program. Vern the Visualizing Vulture can be incorporated into various components of literacy lessons. Here are some specific examples of when to use Vern:

• Guided Reading: Review the strategy by reading the Vern Visualizing Poem. Read a selected passage from your guided reading text. Model recording your visualizations on the Visualizing Reproducible. As you describe your visualization to students, be sure to incorporate textual evidence and make personal connections. Distribute Visualizing Vulture Reproducibles and copies of the guided reading text in which you have pre-selected passages. Any illustration should be covered with Post-Its. Prompt students to read and create visualization, recording in Visualizing Vulture Reproducible. After students are finished, discuss visualizations and encourage them to refer to the textual evidence used in the visualization.
• Visualizing Vulture Center: Create a portable reading center: Place Visualizing Vulture Reproducibles and a book or text at students’ reading level in a large manila envelope with a copy of the Vern the Visualizing Vulture Poem glued onto the front. Instruct students that during center time they are to take an envelope to their desks and use the Visualizing Vulture Reproducible to record a visualization created while reading the text.
• Reading Response Journal: Use the Reading Response Journals to make independent reading accountable in school and at home. Instruct students to log independent reading information and respond to the text using one or more of comprehension strategy animal prompts.

To reinforce the predicting strategy, encourage students to use Vern the Visualizing Vulture’s sentence stems in their responses.

• Create Reading Response Journal. Print the Reading Response Journals to create individual journals for each student. Print cover page on cardstock and laminate. Use a blank piece of laminated cardstock for the back cover. Print several copies of the Reading Response Log page and staple or bind together to form a journal. These journals can be used in class during independent reading time or sent home to record reading time for homework. The Reading Response Journal sets a purpose for independent reading and promotes student ownership and accountability. Journal responses allow teachers and parents to easily assess understanding and engagement.
• Purchase Quality Reading Response Journals.  Use these Astute Hoot Reading Comprehension Journals from Really Good Stuff to practice the questioning strategy along with other comprehension strategies. Hazel and friends guide students through a variety of comprehension strategies in this helpful journal that can be used with authentic literature or basal readers.

• Display Visualizing Vulture Anchor Chart. Print and post Visualizing Vulture Anchor Chart located in the unit. Display near your guided reading center for easy reference. Encourage students to use the sentence stems during discussions and in their written responses.

Vern’s unit is perfect for general education, special education, RTI and reading intervention.  Download the complete unit here.

### Flash FREEBIE Friday!!!!

Flash FREEBIE Friday:   Beginning of the School Year Ice Breakers and Community Building Activities

You know the horrible feeling when you walk into a room and you don’t recognize a single soul? Even worse, everyone else already knows each other, happily mingling together. Most adults shudder at the thought, yet as teachers, we fail to consider how these situations make our students feel. Many students come to school on the first day without knowing anyone, much less bathroom and cafeteria locations. We fill the first days with procedures, rules, and other endless explanations without taking any time to help students feel comfortable and safe, two basic conditions required for learning.

Here are my top 3 icebreaker activities:

• Student Scavenger Hunt: Make a Bingo board and write an interesting fact in each (e.g.,Went to Disneyland this summer). Students will hunt for a classmate who matches the fact and record his/her name in the box. This activity gets students moving and talking, both of which they are hesitant to do the first few days. It also allows time to practice important transitions and procedures such as freezing at teacher’s signal, cleaning up and active listening.

• Me Bags: Me Bags are a great way to build community. Send home a brown bag with a cute label asking students to bring 3-5 items that represent them. These items can be favorite toys, colors, pictures or special treasures. All items must fit in the bag. Set aside 10-15 minutes each day to share the Me Bags. The students will love learning about each other and discovering all the similarities they have! This is also a great activity to strengthen listening and speaking skills.
• Friendship Salad: Purchase 3 cans of fruit, bag of marshmallows, 1 large container of yogurt and an old, very rotten banana. Read a friendship book (Horace, Morris But Mostly Delores is a great choice) and stop right after friends get in a fight. Discuss possible strategies to solve the disagreement. Then make the Friendship Salad. Show the bowl and tell students this represents the classroom; it is empty and needs many things such as good friends, happy days and lots of learning. Pour in one can of fruit—these are kind kids in the room who help others (can elaborate). Pour in the second can of fruit—these are the hard workers in our room—they always give their best effort and complete their work. Pour in the third can—this represents students who share. Dump in the bag of marshmallows—these represent respectful, polite words used with each other. Add the yogurt—this is for smooth, happy days. Stir together and walk around to let the kids see and sniff. Then show, the secret ingredient—the rotten banana! Start to peel and put in and students will start to scream in disgust. Explain that it only takes one person with rotten behavior or a rotten attitude to ruin the whole classroom. Extend the explanation to the story (i.e., Horace and Morris were being rotten friends when they excluded Delores). The moral of the lesson—don’t be a rotten banana!

Like these ideas? Download our Beginning of the School Year Ice Breakers and Community Building Activities on Teachers Pay Teachers for 85 pages of engaging plans and exercises.  Please follow us on TPT!  We appreciate your ratings and feedback.  Thanks!!

for one day only: Friday, August 13, 2014Fr

Free for one day, August 13, 2015! Check out the rest of our store and use code owlk3 for 20% off of all digital files. Check out our accompanying hands-on tools at Really Good Stuff and use coupon code ten15 for 10% off!

We hope you have an amazing start to your school year!

### Build An Epic Classroom Culture

You know the horrible feeling when you walk into a room and you don’t recognize a single soul? Even worse, everyone else already knows each other, happily mingling together. Most adults shudder at the thought, yet as teachers, we fail to consider how these situations make our students feel. Many students come to school on the first day without knowing anyone. We fill the first days with procedures, rules, and other endless explanations without taking any time to help students feel comfortable and safe, two basic conditions required for learning. Getting to know each other is the first step in building an epic classroom culture.

This year, my students created Whooo Are You? owls as our first getting to know you activity. Before school started, I made this Whooo’s Mrs. Murphy poster by enlarging our owl template at Office Max. I laminated it and then put my perfectionist husband in charge of cutting the feathers into flaps.

I glued orange poster board on the back of the poster and added pictures and sentences to explain each flap. I posted Whooo’s Mrs. Murphy in a prominent, child-friendly location during Meet the Teacher. The students (and parents) loved lifting each flap and learning more about me.

During the first week, I had students complete a similar activity using our owl template. Students wrote favorite facts about themselves on the templates, colored, and then added craft feathers as a finishing touch. I displayed the owls on a WHOOO Are You? bulletin board and they were a hit!

Looking for other ways to build an epic classroom culture? Check back on Friday for our FLASH FRIDAY FREEBIE which features our best Back to School ice breakers and community building activities.

### Strengthening One-to-One Correspondence in Beginning Readers

“Hi, I’m Paco the Pointing Porcupine.
Point with me as you read each line.
And remind you that reading is not a race.”

Paco the Pointing Porcupine is one our decoding strategy animals in Hazel’s Reading Roost. Paco encourages beginning readers students to use one-to-one correspondence. Read more about Paco’s strategy below…

WHAT is pointing? Pointing is a strategy that promotes one-to-one-correspondence, which refers to the ability to match written word to spoken word while reading.

WHY is pointing important? Pointing, or one-to-one correspondence, helps beginning readers make text-to-word connections. This also helps students with directionality, visual tracking and keeping their place while reading.

HOW do I teach pointing? Explain that Paco helps readers point to individual words while reading aloud to help make text-to-word connections. Model both good examples and non-examples of this strategy. Encourage students to chorally read aloud as you point to each word using the Paco Pointing Porcupine Pointer. Practice this together until students understand how the pointers work.

Watch this video to see how to teach one-to-one correspondence and directionality.

WHEN should I use pointing?

Explicit reading strategy instruction should be included in a balanced literacy program. Paco the Pointing Porcupine can be incorporated into various components of literacy lessons. Here are some specific examples of when to use Paco:

• Pointing Practice: When first introducing the pointing strategy, use the Pointing Practice Pages, which include sentences pulled from books on CCSS Exemplar Text List. The sentences have visual cues beneath each word to guide students as they point to each word using the pointers or their fingers.
• Guided Reading: Introduce or review the strategy by reading the Paco Pointing Porcupine Poem. Read aloud your selected guided reading text and model using the Paco Pointing Porcupine Pointer to point to each word as it is read. Distribute text and pointers to each student. Call on individual students to use the pointers as they read aloud.

As an extension, have students use the pointers to identify key vocabulary or sight words. Paco’s Pointers can also be used to make connections between text and illustrations and to demonstrate understanding of the organization and basic features of print (e.g., first word, capitalization, ending punctuation). In addition, pointers can be used to cite textual evidence when answering text-dependent questions. Encourage students to use Paco the Pointing Porcupine’s strategy when they are reading independently as well.

• Pointing Porcupine Reading Center: Create a portable reading center: Place a pointer and a book or text at students’ independent reading level in a large manila envelope with a copy of the Paco Pointing Porcupine Poem glued onto the front. Instruct students that during center time they are to take an envelope to their desks and use the pointer to practice keeping their place while reading and making text to word connections. Create several portable Pointing Porcupine reading centers using a variety of leveled texts.
• Independent Practice: Have the pointers available for student use during independent reading time. This promotes transfer of reading strategies and self-correction techniques while helping students stay focused on the text.

• Create a class set of Paco Pointing Porcupine Pointers. Print pointers onto cardstock and laminate. Distribute to class and model how to point to words while reading aloud. These pointers can keep students actively engaged during choral reading, independent reading and small group.  Sturdy pre-made pointers are also available from Really Good Stuff here.

Paco’s unit is perfect for general education, special education, RTI and reading intervention.  Download the complete unit here.

### The Owl Has Landed…

‘OWL’ of our hard work has paid off! We are thrilled to announce the launch of our products at Really Good Stuff, a leading educational catalog company that sells high-quality, innovative teaching tools. Really Good Stuff discovered us and were impressed by our inspirational mission of awakening the joy of learning in all students. Driven by this mission, we created a unique line of hands-on, strategy-based resources. Sharing a common goal of making a difference in the lives of teachers and students, Really Good Stuff and Astute Hoot formed a partnership and got right to work.

Our journey took flight as we collaborated with the fantastic Really Good Stuff team to turn our digital resources into hands-on products. We’ve learned so much along the way about product development, manufacturing, merchandising, and distribution. One year later, the boxes of sample products finally arrived.

Opening the boxes was better than Christmas morning! It was such an amazing feeling to see how years of dedication, passion, and perseverance came together and turned out better than we could ever imagine! Our dream of bringing multi-sensory tools into the hands of students and teachers around the world has come true!

Our products support, enhance, and integrate well with any reading and math curriculum program. They help teachers effectively differentiate for all learners. Best of all, students love them!

We are delighted to help awaken the joy of learning and to contribute to the creation of proficient readers and mathematicians everywhere with these innovative products!

Meet our strategy animals and see how they come to life in our newest video. Check out our complete line of products at Really Good Stuff  along with our digital resources available on our website to bring some magic into your classroom!

### Teacher Appreciation Deals 2015

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week! To honor all of our fellow educators, we are having a 25% off sale off all of our digital downloads with coupon code 123teach. Get \$10 off of a \$50 purchase at Really Good Stuff, plus a summer coupon for back-to-school shopping with coupon code RW15T.

Check out these other fantastic deals to add a little sparkle to your week:

• Clothes: 30% off at  New York & Company for all teachers and nurses! Show any school I.D or pay stub and you can receive 30% off in stores through Wednesday, May 7. Redeem online with promo code 9818.
• Coffee: From 5 a.m.-8 p.m. on May 5, teachers can stop in at McDonald’s and show their school ID and buy a McCafe Beverage – in return, they will score a free small McCafe beverage keytag, valid for a free small McCafe Beverage daily through 12/31 – while supplies last. McCafe beverages include Iced or Hot Coffees, Premium Hot Chocolate, Iced Mocha drinks, Frappes, Latte’s, McCafe Shakes, and real Fruit Smoothies.
• Chick-fil-A: During the week of May 4-8, select Chick-fil-A stores are offering a free chicken sandwich with a valid school ID.
• Check out this complete list of 2015 freebies and deals from Capitally Frugal.

Thanks for OWL of your hard work and dedication! I hope you have a wonderful Teacher Appreciation Week!

### HOO-RAY for Administrative Professionals’ Day!

As teachers, administrative professionals are our lifeline.  They schedule field trips, order supplies, take care of our sick and injured students (and us), and basically keep the school afloat. Show OWL of your appreciation with these easy, adorable owl cards.

You can also glue all of the owls on a large piece of poster board to create one large card. My students created this one for our favorite administrative professional who just accepted a new position.