Martin’s Big Words: A MLK Character Analysis Collage

My class is currently learning how to analyze character traits using textual evidence. Since Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is around the corner, I decided to use Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Doreen Rappaport to create character analysis collages with my students.
Martins big words

In this pictorial biography, Rappaport provides an age-appropriate portrayal of this influential leader, adding key quotes from King’s writing and speeches. These quotes are in bold, colorful print to capture students’ attention and help them understand King’s character. Before the lesson, I typed several quotes from the text, making each a different color, for students to use in their collages.

Martin's big words example

I read Martin’s Big Words aloud to my students, stopping to discuss quotes, describe feelings and make connections. The students were so engaged with the text!  Afterwards, I gave each student a piece of 11×18 white construction paper to draw MLK. First, they lightly sketched with pencil, then they outlined with Sharpie and finally colored with different shades of crayon.

MLK drawing

MLK drawing 2

After recess, I read the book again, this time giving each student a Post-It to record key character traits during read-aloud. Students then selected two to three quotes that supported the character traits they recorded on their Post-Its.

Martin's Big Words Character Analysis Collage quotes

Students glued their quotes and traits on their MLK drawings, creating these adorable character analysis collages.

MLK collage example 1

MLK example 2

MLK example 3

I hope you students will enjoy making these collages as much as mine did!

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5 No-Prep Thanksgiving Activities

Looking for ready-to-use Thanksgiving activities that keep students engaged in learning? You’ll be thankful for these 5 easy activities:

1. Create A Classroom Market: Murphy Market is a center I created in which students purchase items, add totals and learn to make change. To create this center, I purchased several inexpensive Thanksgiving canned food items and priced according to my students’ academic needs. Since we are working on counting quarters, I priced most items in increments of 25.

Murphy Market 3 I scoured my local Dollar Store for market supplies and found these adorable shopping baskets, play food, price stickers and receipt books. I posted weekly grocery specials (be sure to avoid alcohol and other inappropriate items) along with specific directions for the center.

Murphy Market 4

At Murphy Market, students shop for 2-4 Thanksgiving items. I scaffold the number of purchases based on instructional needs; my proficient mathematicians shop for 4 items while my developing mathematicians shop for 2 items.

Murphy Market 2

Murphy Market 5

After selection, students come over to my whiteboard table and we take turns adding up totals. Each shopper takes a turn to show items and name prices while all students play cashier, adding up totals. This keeps students engaged and provides multiple opportunities for mathematical practice. We compare strategies and answers and then move to the next shopper.

Murphy Market 6

Murphy Market 7

I change pricing and weekly specials regularly and rotate items seasonally. After Thanksgiving, I will set up a holiday boutique full of Dollar Store holiday gifts.

2. Record Thankful Thoughts: Generate excitement about Thanksgiving and help students realize all of the things they are thankful for with this fun craft. Read and discuss one of the books below.

Thanksgiving books

Then students assemble the turkey and write what they are thankful for on the turkey feathers. Download this FREE craft here. Check out our Thanksgiving Writing With Icons and Sentence Frames for additional Thanksgiving writing activities.

Thankful Thoughts

3. Make Turkey Cupcakes: Students love classroom cooking projects and this Turkey Cupcake recipe is one of their favorites!

turkey cupcake 1

You need plain, chocolate cupcakes, chocolate bells (found at Dollar Store), candy corn, chocolate frosting and Wilton candy eyes (found at Target’s baking aisle near the sprinkles). Students will gather ingredients, read the recipe (functional text) and eat and enjoy them. Download complete recipe here.

Turkey cupcake 2

4. Pose for Turkey Portraits: I found these adorable turkey hats in the dollar section of my local Target. I let students pick their hat of choice and then use them to make Thanksgiving cards. You can also use them for turkey acrostic poems, descriptive writing or Thanksgiving recipes.

Turkey hat 1

turkey hat 2

5. Create Turkey Bags: These cute turkey bags organize and house all of students’ Thanksgiving projects. Simply pick up a class set of brown grocery bags and have students make a turkey on the front. You can use our free downloadable turkey graphic or any other turkey pattern. My students add a red balloon for the gobbler and large googly eyes to add character to each turkey.

Turkey bag

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Guided Reading Survival Guide Part 3

In part 1 and part 2 of my Guided Reading Survival Guide blog series, I explained how teachers must go beyond the basal and provide authentic, high-quality supplemental texts ranging in genre and teach research-based reading strategies using our cast of animal characters.guided

Guided Reading Survival Guide: Using Hands-On Tools

It’s time to put the strategies we discussed in the previous blog into students’ hands–literally. Hands-on tools motivate and engage students and make practice fun. Each of our strategy animals has an accompanying hands-on tool. Students associate animals with comfort, safety, and play and when animals are personified, students readily understand and apply the lessons and messages from the animals. Just yesterday, I was doing a fact assessment. I always remind students to double-check their answers, but they often need several reminders to do so. Yesterday I got out my Fiona Fact Fluency Fox puppet and had Fiona remind the kids about double-checking. What do you know? They all double-checked their answers.

 

Each of the hands-on tools is displayed in the classroom; most are in clear, inexpensive glass jars with the animal label glued to the front. They make a cute display and are easily accessible.

hands-on-tool-collageIn my classroom: Since students used Quinn the Questioning Quail to use textual evidence to answer questions, I created a set of Quinn’s Quills. I purchased fuchsia highlighters from Amazon (to match Quinn’s color), printed, laminated, and cut out a set of Quinn’s heads, available in the Quinn Questioning Quail unit. I glued the heads to the highlighters. The head looks like it’s upside down when the marker is closed, but this protects the head and the topnotch.

highlighter-open

Before the lesson, I enlarged and laminated my copy of  “What Lives in This Hole?”, my guided reading text from Reading A-Z. The larger format allows all students to easily see the text and the lamination allows me to reuse it each year.

text-dependent-questions

During the lesson, I modeled how to answer each question in the I Do section, thinking aloud as I went. I demonstrated how to use Quinn’s question mark topnotch to first point to the answer, then highlight it and write the question number next to it. We then practiced the strategy together by answering the questions in the We Do section. Students pointed to the answer with Quinn’s topnotch. Before we highlighted, we discussed each student’s response to ensure that everyone was on track. Finally, we highlighted the answer.

quinn-pointerquinn-highlighter

Students absolutely LOVED Quinn’s Quills and asked to use them during whole group reading time as well. Unfortunately, our basals can’t be highlighted, but this is another benefit of using Reading A-Z printable books.

quinn-in-use

Check out the full line of reading and math hands-on tools. You students will LOVE them, too!

hands-on-toolsCheck out tomorrow’s blog to learn how to integrate multiple strategies during guided reading time.

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Guided Reading Survival Guide Part 2

Yesterday in part 1 of my blog series, Guided Reading Survival Guide, I explained how teachers must go beyond the basal to provide several authentic, high-quality supplemental texts ranging in complexity and genre to promote a deeper understanding of content. In part 2 of the series, I will explain how to select research-based strategies for guided reading groups.

guided

Guided Reading Survival Guide Part 2: Selecting Strategies

Now that I have broken the bond with the basal, let’s talk strategy. My students used to struggle with transferring and applying learned strategies across settings, curricula, and various genres of authentic text. I partnered with Jennifer Zoglman, a veteran special educator, and her sister, Tina Rataj-Berard, an award-winning graphic designer, to create a unique cast of strategy animals that make learning safe and fun while teaching critical strategies in an engaging way. Each animal teachers a research-based strategy using a short, rhymed poem and child-friendly language.

Reading Strategies Poster_web

Animals were specifically chosen because animal characters are present in children’s lives from the very beginning in toys, books, and cartoons. Children learn to associate animals with comfort, safety, and play. When animals are personified, children readily understand and apply the lessons and messages from the animals. Brain research shows that when material is presented in a novel way, it ignites curiosity and interest in learning new topics and leads children to readily grasp and internalize the information.

Students first meet the strategy animals in the read-aloud, “Hazel Meets the Reading Strategy Animals.”  Hazel Hoot, an adorable green screech owl, is a struggling learner as she lacks the strategies needed to help her succeed. Hazel stumbles upon a magical tree in the forest. Out of the tree appear 10 colorful woodland animals that each introduce a reading strategy. These animals guide Hazel to become a proficient reader.

reading book banner

Students in all academic settings make an immediate connection with the animals and love to practice new strategies using the animals’ special tools. Read more about how animals help children learn here. Meet our complete line of strategy animals here. Watch this short video to see our strategy animals in action.

In my classroom: I select one comprehension strategy animal to use for both whole group and small group instruction. This strategy animal is introduced and modeled as we read the basal during whole group time. I use the same strategy animal during guided reading groups where students can practice and apply the strategy within leveled text.

In the Journeys basal text, “Animals Building Homes” the strategy was to answer questions in the text. I selected Quinn the Questioning Quail as the focus strategy animal. I read through the text and wrote a list of text-dependent questions, separating them into 3 categories: I Do, We Do, You Do.

quinn-poem

I did the same thing for my guided reading text, “What Lives in This Hole?”, a multi-level book from Reading A-Z. Since this was the first lesson on this strategy, I created only text-dependent questions where the specific answer was clearly stated in the text. As students become proficient with answering specific text-dependent questions, I will incorporate questions that require students to use inference skills as well.

text-dependent-questions

I use puppets to introduce the strategy animals. The students always greet the animal and then I read the poem which explains the strategy in a child-friendly way. Many students actually believe that the animals are real and often go home and tell their parents all about them. Tying the animals to strategies makes learning more concrete and helps students effectively apply and transfer across settings.puppets

Read tomorrow’s blog, Guided Reading Survival Guide Part 3: Incorporating Hands-On Tools to see how students practice the strategies in a motivating, engaging way. Be sure to read part 1 of the Guided Reading Survival Guide: Going Beyond the Basal.

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Guided Reading Survival Guide Part 1

Guided reading can be daunting, especially with the new instructional shifts and standards. Teachers are asking themselves such questions as: “What texts do I use?” “What strategies do I teach?” “How do I motivate and engage?” “How do I integrate multiple strategies?”

As educators with a combined total of almost 30 years spend in early childhood and special education, Jennifer and I have cultivated four instructional practices that incorporate our effective animal-based curriculum to maximize guided reading time. Read our four part blog series that outlines these practices and show how students enthusiastically embrace them.

guided

Guided Reading Survival Guide Part 1: Going Beyond the Basal

Most teachers are required to use district-prescribed curricula, which often includes a basal and a series of leveled readers, many of which are dry and designed to fit the weekly basal skills. The basal can be used as an anchor text, but it should not stand alone. Provide several authentic, high-quality supplemental texts ranging in complexity and genre to promote a deeper understanding of content.

Reading A-Z is the ideal resource because its vast library of more than 2,500 downloadable books allows teachers to search by strategy, skill, or topic, making differentiation much easier. Several titles are part of a multi-level series, making quality content available to all readers. Plus, the printable books allow students to practice test-taking strategies, such as highlighting answers in the text, while using authentic text rather than mundane practice tests or contrived passages.

reading-a-z-books

In my classroom: I select Reading A-Z books that complement the weekly basal story, complement the current science unit, or focus on a specific reading strategy that I am teaching. In a recent unit, I chose, “What Lives in This Hole?” because it aligned to our Journeys basal story, “Animals Building Homes.” This was a great supplement to deepen student understanding, apply learned strategies, and build academic vocabulary.

supplemental-collage

Tomorrow check out part 2 of our Guided Reading Survival Guide blog series to see how I incorporate various reading strategies across multiple texts.

Astute Hoot's Reading Strategy Animals

 

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Use this dry erase table to promote active engagement during small group instruction.

Increase Student Engagement in 2 Easy Steps!

Create an amazing interactive whiteboard table for guided reading groups and math groups in two easy steps!  Purchase a roll of self-adhesive dry-erase paper.

1. Measure Table.  Use a yardstick or measuring tape to determine dimensions of table. Roll out dry-erase paper and cut large sections to fit measurements. It is easier to do the sides first and then the middle.  Working in three smaller pieces will prevent bubbling and wrinkling.

Use this dry erase table to promote active engagement during small group instruction. 2.  Trim to Fit:  Use an Exacto knife to trim around the edges.  Colorful duct tape can be used to seal the edge of the table to prevent peeling.

Use this dry erase table to promote active engagement during small group instruction.

Use this dry erase table to promote active engagement during small group instruction.

My students LOVE using this table to share their learning and engage throughout the lesson in a novel way.  In guided reading, we use the dry-erase table to create Thinking Maps, cite evidence, ask and answer questions, and note connections.  Students also write down key vocabulary words and illustrate the story elements.

Guided reading

Use this dry erase table to promote active engagement during small group instruction.

During math groups, we use the table to demonstrate thinking and solve problems.  Students draw mathematical pictures, tallies, number lines, and number sentences as they work through problems.  Students are encouraged to explain their work using their drawings.

Use this dry erase table to promote active engagement during small group instruction.

The whiteboard table can also be used as a behavioral incentive.  Stars or points can be awarded to each student in a little square or circle near their workspace on the table to encourage on-task behavior and work completion.

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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?”.

AH Slider_library_jenny

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.

How Animals Can Help Children Learn Collage

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!

Hazel's Reading Roost_rs

Problem-Solving Pond_rs

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.
Reading Strategies Poster_web

Math Strategies Poster_web

Writing Strategies Poster_web

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.

Josh Testimonial

To learn more about animal assisted therapy, check out these links:
Animals Helping Children with Special Needs
Pets in the Classroom
Reading to Dogs Helps Children Learn to Read

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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.

Get an early start on Back to School season by downloading the Site License options from our website or from our store on TeachersPayTeachers. Each Site License download includes so many great files and resources that the zip file you will be downloading is close to 300MB. Thank you!

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Guiding Students to Use Context Clues Independently

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

ramona
Ramona the Rereading Raccoon
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.
Ramona Rereader RGS website
  • 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.
Guided reading
  • 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.
    Ramona task card sample
  • 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.
Ramona center

Helpful hints:

  • 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.
Context clues poster

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

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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.

Model with read-alouds

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.

Use a Trait Tree

Trait Tree 1

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.

Character map Character analysis

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!

Collage 4

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.

Cow trait 1.5 Cow traits 2.5

Character traits spotted

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.

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Making Meaningful Text Connections

“I’m Chloe the Connecting Coyote, and I make connections.
Connections help you understand your reading selections.
Link the story to your life or what you’ve read in a book.
These text connections are guaranteed to get you hooked.”

Chloe with text

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.

Connecting Coyote 2

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.

Chloe I Can Poster

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.

alexander-terrible-day-cover

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.

Connecting Coyote 3

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.

Chloe graphic organizer

  • 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.

Chloe journal sample

Helpful Hints:

  • 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.

Journal

Chloe RGS sample 2

  • 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 Connecting Coyote Anchor Chart

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

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Use Picture Clues to Support Decoding & Comprehension

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

Detecting Deer_with text

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.

Dexter I Can

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.

Dexter materials 3

  • 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.

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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.

Helpful hint:

  • 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.

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Making Purposeful Predictions

Making Purposeful Predictions 2

“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 Predicting Possum Poem

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.

I Can Poster 3

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.

Making predictions with Peter

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.

Cover text with Post-ItsRemove Post-It to reveal answer

Record predictions on graphic organizer

Helpful Hints:

  • 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.

ReadingResponseLogandJournal-2

  • 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.

Journal

  • 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.

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Teaching Visualization to Increase Comprehension

“I’m Vern the Visualizing Vulture; use me like a TV.
Events, characters, and settings are what I help you see.
If you picture these in your mind like your favorite movie,
Then understanding what you read will be so groovy!”

Visualizing Vulture_with text

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:

Visualizing I Can Chart

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.

The cutest dog visualization

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.

Visualization Venture 3

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.

Vern-Vulture-visual-3

  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.

Visualizing Vulture 2
To reinforce the predicting strategy, encourage students to use Vern the Visualizing Vulture’s sentence stems in their responses.

Vern Visualizing Vulture Anchor Chart

Helpful Hints:

  • 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.

Journal

  • 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.

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Strengthening One-to-One Correspondence in Beginning Readers

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

paco

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.

Helpful hint:

  • 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.

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

Microsoft Word - Paco Preview.doc

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.

RGS box

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!

Opening RGS box

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!

Hazel Learns to Read

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!

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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!

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Mastering Multisyllabic Words

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I’m Charlie the Chunking Chipmunk. What’s new?
I break words into small chunks and you can, too.
Look for little words or sounds that you already know,
Join these sounds together to be the star of the show!”

Chunking Chipmunk_with textCharlie the Chunking Chipmunk is one our decoding strategy animals in Hazel’s Reading Roost. Charlie motivates students to use strategies to decode multisyllabic words. Read more about Charlie’s strategy below…

Mastering Multisyllabic Words

WHAT is chunking? Chunking means breaking multisyllabic words into small units such as onsets and rimes, phonograms or letter combinations, syllables or morphemes.

WHY is chunking important? As students begin reading multisyllabic words, it is important for them to know how to break words into units larger than individual sounds. Identifying individual syllables is important because it helps students determine the correct vowel sound. By following syllabication rules, students can learn how to properly divide or chunk a word into syllables, which improves decoding and spelling.

HOW do I teach chunking? Explain that Charlie helps readers decode larger, unknown words by breaking the word into smaller chunks. Teach specific syllable types to show students how to chunk words. Decide which syllable types to teach based on your students’ instructional levels.

  • Closed syllable: A syllable with one short vowel ending in one or more consonants (e.g., sunset, dishpan, lunchbox)
  • Open syllable: A syllable that ends with a long vowel sound, spelled with a single vowel letter (e.g., open, myself, redo)
  • Vowel consonant –e: A syllable with a long vowel, spelled with one vowel and one consonant and a silent e (e.g., shipmate, athlete)
  • Consonant –le: An unaccented final syllable that contains a consonant before /l/, followed by a silent e (e.g., apple, little)
  • Vowel team: A syllable with long or short vowel spellings that use two to four letters to spell the vowel (e.g., toaster, season)
  • Vowel –r: A syllable with er, ir, or, ar, or ur in which vowel pronunciation often changes before /r/ (e.g., return, perfect)

Rather than teaching syllabication rules and types in isolation, integrate direct instruction with time for application of the skill in authentic literature. Practice many examples of each syllable rule and type to achieve mastery of that pattern before moving on to the next. In addition to using strategies such as dictation, marking words and flashcards, push students to find words with targeted syllable types in literature and use those words in their writing.

We recommend using our Charlie Chunking Chipmunk resources as a supplement to a research-based, multi-sensory phonic program that includes structured, explicit, systematic, cumulative instruction. Although we do not endorse a specific program, our students have demonstrated great success using the Wilson Language System and the Spalding Method. Read reviews of specific literary programs at What Works Clearinghouse.

WHEN should I use chunking?
Explicit reading strategy instruction should be included in a balanced literacy program. Charlie Chunking Chipmunk can be incorporated into various components of literacy lessons. Here are some specific examples of when to use Charlie:

  • Phonics Fun: Choose several two- or three-syllable words from a weekly spelling list or phonics word study list. Choose a multi-sensory strategy (see below) to count syllables. Guide students through syllabication of each word on laminated Charlie’s Syllable Slates (see below). First students write each syllable in one of Charlie’s acorns and then write the whole word on the line below. Discuss syllable types and rules as applicable.

Syllable Slate

  • Guided Reading: Introduce or review the chunking strategy by reading the Charlie Chunking Chipmunk Poem. Read aloud your selected guided reading text and model using Charlie’s Syllable Slate to read multisyllabic words in context. Call on individual students to practice using Charlie’s Slate with additional words. Encourage students to use Charlie Chunking Chipmunk’s strategy when they are reading independently as well.
  • Chunking Chipmunk Reading Center: Create a portable reading center. Place Charlie’s Syllable Slate or a laminated copy of the Two-Syllable Chunking Chipmunk Reproducible and/or Three-Syllable Chunking Chipmunk Reproducible, dry erase marker, eraser, and 10 to 20 targeted multisyllabic words written on index cards or preprinted on flashcards in a large manila envelope with a copy of the Charlie Chunking Chipmunk Poem glued onto the front. Instruct students that during center time they are to take an envelope to their desks and apply Charlie’s strategy to practice reading the words and then practice spelling by using the dry erase marker to write the words on the laminated reproducible or slate.

Vowel Consonant e Syllable Unit

Helpful hints:

  • Create a class set of Charlie Chunking Chipmunk Syllable Slates. Print slates onto cardstock using color printer and laminate. Distribute to class and explain specific procedures for using the slate (e.g., write one syllable in each acorn; no doodling, etc.). Use the slates to provide opportunities for strategy practice and application. They are perfect for spelling words, targeted phonics patterns or syllabication practice in a whole group, small group or one-on-one setting. These slates keep students actively engaged and serve as an informal assessment.

Syllable Slates

  • Incorporate multi-sensory components. Introduce a variety of ways to determine the number of syllables in words.
    • Visual: Using Charlie’s Syllable Slate, have students draw a scoop under each acorn, reading the syllable aloud as they draw.
    • Auditory: Prompt students to clap each part of the word to determine the number of syllables as they say the word aloud.
    • Tactile: Instruct students to put their hands under their chins and say the word. Tell them the number of times your hands move down is the number of syllables in the word.
    • Kinesthetic: Break apart the word and jump each part. Demonstrate how the number of jumps is equal to the number of syllables. Practice different syllable types using the Charlie Chunking Chipmunk game board.

Charlie Chunking Chipmunk Syllable Gameboard

  • Use Chunking Chipmunk Slide and Learns.  With these fun hands-on slider tools, Charlie the Chunking Chipmunk makes breaking words into chunks easy. Just slide the acorn along the window to reveal one syllable at a time.  Available for purchase at Really Good Stuff.

Charlie Chunking Chipmunk Slider

  • Display Syllable Word Wall. Print out Charlie’s Nutty About Syllables Word Wall and display in a prominent location near the guided reading table. Post each syllable type as it is introduced to students; use color-coded acorns to add examples of words used in instruction. Model referencing the Word Wall during reading and writing lessons.

Nutty for Syllables Word Wall

Nutty for Syllables Example

Charlie’s unit is perfect for general education, special education, RTI and reading intervention.  Download the complete unit here.  Check out our complete line of supplemental hands-on resources at Really Good Stuff.

Charlie Sylla_Divide twins

Charlie Chunking Chipmunk PREVIeW

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Literature Studies Made Easy

Wondering how to integrate multiple strategies within context of authentic literature? Are you overwhelmed at thought of planning a comprehensive literature study? At last, the secret to successful literature studies is revealed in 5 simple steps.  Sound too good to be true?  It’s not!

Read our guest blog at Really Good Stuff to learn how to expertly plan and implement effective, engaging literature studies.

The Life-Changing Moment of My Teaching Career

Before Spring Break, I announced to the class that there would be a big surprise when they returned. Some guessed it would be different seats, others said new name tags, but I had a much grander revelation in store. After a year of collaboration and production, all of our Really Good Stuff tools and products finally arrived and I couldn’t wait to share them with the class. Our reading and math strategy animals are an integral part of my classroom as they support and enhance the district prescribed curriculum. Students have such a connection with the animals; some even believe the animals are real so I knew they would be delighted to see the accompanying hands-on tools. I decided to host a Premiere Party to share the exciting news.

First, I added the new decoding and comprehension banners to the Reading Roost (my guided reading area) along with the problem-solving strategy banners at Problem-Solving Pond.

Reading Roost center

To enhance the surprise, I added these special reveal curtains using plastic tablecloths and a winking Hazel as a special clue.

Reveal curtains

Next, I planned special centers in which students would be able to explore all of the new hands-on products and tools.

Math ToolsFinally, I made these adorable owl cupcakes and  wrote a special note on the door as a hint to the big surprise.

Owl cupcake

Reveal sign

When the class walked in, they were silent, staring at awe at the new room arrangement, balloons and cupcakes. I announced that we were having a Premiere Party to reveal a huge surprise. I explained that Really Good Stuff, a company that produces and sells teaching products, found our strategy animals online and loved them so much, they turned them into hands-on tools. I showed them the Really Good Stuff website with all of our products and they oohed and aahed.  As I scrolled through the products, I explained that they would get to explore each one in special Astute Hoot centers and they squealed in delight.

Reveal

Briana watching video

As students rotated through each Astute Hoot center, I was so moved by their excitement and enthusiasm. They were truly captivated by these new tools and demanded to know when we were going to use them “for real”. Their comments were so touching. “I’m so proud of you, Mrs. Murphy! You are amazing!” and “Mrs. Murphy, I am so lucky that you are my teacher.” My favorite was, “I know you are going to be famous so I better get your autograph.”

Rereading racoon

Reading Hazel books

Hazel Books

Modeling Mouse CountersMath mats

Problem-Solving Poster

Paco Pointer

Problem-Solving Journals

A few students even asked to write reviews and testimonials of the products. They are truly our biggest fans!

Erika Testimonial

Connor TestimonialBrody Testimonial

Briana Testimonial

Josh Testimonial

These pictures don’t fully convey the true joy of learning I saw as students explored all of the new materials. This was definitely the most monumental moment in my teaching career and one that will stay with me forever. Not only are my students getting to use these new, innovative tools to help them learn, but they witnessed that with drive, determination, and dedication, dreams do come true.

Check back each week to see these exclusive Really Good Stuff hands-on in action. Download See What The Hoot’s About, a comprehensive sample file that contains a glimpse into the magical world of Astute Hoot, guaranteed to spark enthusiasm in your classroom.

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How to Use Elkonin Boxes and Sounding-Out Slates

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I’m Sally the Sounding-Out Snake.
S-s-say, have you heard?
Stretch out all the sounds that you see in a word.
Blend sounds together, it’s really quite nice.
S-s-smooth out the words. That’s my advice.”

Sounding Out Snake.blog

Sally the Sounding-Out Snake is one our decoding strategy animals in Hazel’s Reading Roost. Sally motivates students to practice critical early decoding skills. Read more about Sally’s strategy below…

WHAT is sounding-out? Sounding-out, or decoding, is the process of translating print into speech by rapidly matching a letter or combination of letters (graphemes) to their sounds (phonemes).

WHY is sounding-out important? Sounding-out, or decoding, is important because it is the foundation on which all other reading instruction builds. Proficient readers need to be able to segment words and hear individual phonemes in words. If students cannot decode words their reading will lack fluency, their vocabulary will be limited and they will struggle with reading comprehension.

HOW do I teach sounding-out? Explain that Sally helps readers decode unknown words by stretching the words out by sound and putting the sounds together to make a new word. Teach specific patterns to help students decode efficiently.

  • CVC: Words with the consonant-vowel-consonant pattern (e.g., run, sad, beg, fit)
  • Double consonants: Words with the double consonants f, l, s, or z pattern (e.g., puff, bell, kiss, fuzz)
  • Vowel consonant –e: Words with a long vowel sound, spelled with one vowel and one consonant and a final silent e (e.g., date, bike, cone, rule)
  • Blends: Words with a group of consonants whose sounds blend together (e.g., slim, flag, grip, crib)
  • Digraphs: Words with a pair of letters representing a single speech sound such as sh, ch, th, wh (e.g., shed, chin, math, whip)
  • Vowel –r: Words with the er, ir, or, ar, or ur pattern in which vowel pronunciation changes before /r/ (e.g., park, term, dirt, hurt)

Rather than teaching phonics patterns solely in isolation, integrate direct instruction with time for application of the skill in authentic literature. Practice many examples of each pattern to achieve mastery of that pattern before moving on to the next. In addition to using strategies such as dictation, marking words and flashcards, push students to find words with targeted patterns in literature and use those words in their writing.

We recommend using our Sally Sounding-Out Snake resources as a supplement to a research-based, multisensory phonic program that includes structured, explicit, systematic, cumulative instruction. Although we do not endorse a specific program, our students have demonstrated great success using the Wilson Language System and the Spalding Method. Read reviews of specific literary programs at What Works Clearinghouse.

WHEN should I use sounding out?
Explicit reading strategy instruction should be included in a balanced literacy program. Sally Sounding-Out Snake can be incorporated into various components of literacy lessons. Here are some specific examples of when to use Sally:

  • Guided Reading: Introduce or review the sounding-out strategy by reading the Sally Sounding-Out Poem. Read aloud your selected guided reading text and model using a Sally Sounding-Out Slates to decode unknown words in context. Call on individual students to practice using Sally’s Slate with additional words. Encourage students to use Sally Sounding-Out Snake’s strategy when they are reading independently as well.

Sally Sounding Out Snake Puppet

  • Phonics Fun: Choose several one-syllable words from a weekly spelling list or phonics word study list. Guide students through verbally segmenting, or stretching out, the sounds of the word. Then have students write each individual sound (phoneme), in one of Sally’s scales on laminated Sally Sounding-Out Slates (see below). Last, students write the entire word on the line and blend the sounds together to read the entire word.

Guided Reading.blog

  • Independent Practice: This unit contains a set of reproducibles for each phonics patterns, including sounding-out worksheets, flashcards and sentence writing practice. Copy and distribute appropriate materials for independent practice or homework activities. As an extension activity, direct students to find words with a specific pattern in authentic literature or leveled texts and record them on the Sounding-Out Snake reproducibles.

Helpful hints:

  • Create a class set of Sally Sounding-Out Slates. Print slates onto cardstock using color printer and laminate. Distribute to class and explain specific procedures for using the slate (e.g., write one sound in each scale; no doodling, etc.). Use the slates to provide opportunities for strategy practice and application. They are perfect for spelling words, targeted phonics patterns or syllabication practice in a whole group, small group or one-on-one setting. These slates keep students actively engaged and serve as an informal assessment.
  • Use the Sally Sounding-Out Slates as Elkonin Boxes. Elkonin boxes are an instructional method used in the early elementary grades to build phonological awareness by segmenting words into individual sounds. Each box represents one sound or phoneme of a word. On the Sally Sounding-Out Slate, each scale is a box. To use Elkonin boxes, a student listens to a word and moves a token into a box for each sound or phoneme. In some cases different colored tokens may be used for consonants and vowels or just for each phoneme in the word.

Elkonin Box.blog

  • Incorporate multisensory components. Introduce a variety of ways to segment or sound-out words.
    • Visual: Using the Sally Sounding-Out Slate, have students draw a scoop under each scale, reading the sound (phoneme) aloud as they draw.
    • Auditory: Prompt students to clap each part of the word to segment the phonemes as they say the word aloud.
    • Tactile: Refer to the Elkonin box strategy listed above.
    • Kinesthetic: Break apart the word and jump each sound or phoneme. Demonstrate how the number of jumps is equal to the number of sounds.

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

Microsoft Word - Sally Sounding Out Snake.Preview.doc

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Create Your Own Magical Guided Reading Strategies Roost

Do you love our reading strategies animals but aren’t sure how to incorporate into your classroom theme? It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3! You don’t need to have an owl or woodland theme at all.  Create your own personalized Guided Reading Roost in 3 easy steps:

Hazel's Reading Roost collage 2

1. Determine Reading Roost location: Display reading strategy animals in a prominent location near the guided reading table, carpet area, or on a large, central bulletin board.

Determine location

2. Create the magical tree: There are many ways to create the magical tree in the reading roost. Purchase a silk tree from local craft store or garage sale to use as the focus of the Reading Roost.

Create a magical tree

Lightly dust with gold glitter spray paint and cut out glitter foam leaves for a magical look.

Magical effects

Hazel's Reading Roost 2

Use a pre-made tree like this one from Really Good Stuff. Simply purchase and assembly; add extra leaves as desired.

Pre-made tree before

Premade tree after

Make your own tree by crinkling brown butcher block paper to make a large, textured trunk and branches.  Add green butcher block paper leaves or purchase fabric leaves from local craft store to complete the look.

Homemade tree BEFORE Home-made tree AFTER

3. Print strategy animals: Use a color printer to print reading strategy animals on thick, durable cardstock and laminate for durability.

Print strategy animals

Place self-adhesive Velcro to the back of each animal and accompanying place where each animal lives (i.e., leaf or branch of Reading Roost tree). This allows you to pull appropriate strategy animal(s) to greet the students and teach the lesson.

Add velcro

Here are a few helpful tips to make our reading strategy animals fit into any “habitat” or classroom theme:

1. Pick a tree that works with your classroom: My classroom has a woodland theme, so the silk tree with the large, green leaves works perfectly. However, if you have a jungle, pirate, nautical, or tropical theme, a palm tree would be best for your roost. Trees are an integral part of most habitats and locations so it is natural to see one in any type of setting.

2. Add your own touch: Add minimal, themed items to enhance your tree. For this pirate themed, classroom, I found a variety of fun decorations at Hobby Lobby and added them to give it a personal touch.

Pirate accents

Hazel’s eye patch is my favorite feature! This pirate-themed Reading Roost is just one of the many possibilities.

Pirate Hazel

Other suggestions to incorporate into popular classroom themes include:
Ocean – Make a tropical palm tree and add shells and beach decor around base of tree with the saying, “A Sea of Strategies”
Bees – Add a bee hive to tree and hang a few buzzing bees around the tree with the saying, “We Are Buzzing With New Strategies!”
Sports -Add a few balls or sports-themed items around the tree with the saying, “Strategies Are A Ball!”

Get creative and think outside the box! Download our Guided Reading Strategies Bulletin Board Set to get started. Need suggestions or ideas to get started? Email me at jessica@astutehoot.com — I would love to help you bring the magical world of Astute Hoot to your students too!

Check out our complete reading strategy units here along with our hands-on resources and posters available from Really Good Stuff.

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Whooo’s Hazel?

Hazel Hoot, an adorable green screech owl, is a struggling learner as she lacks the strategies needed to help her succeed. In our charming book, Hazel Meets the Reading Strategy Friends, Hazel stumbles upon a magical tree in the forest.

Magic Tree

Out of the tree appear 10 colorful woodland animals that each introduce a research-based, standards-aligned reading strategy. These animals guide Hazel to become a proficient reader.

Astute Hoot's Reading Strategy Animals

In the sequel, Hazel Meets the Math Strategy Friends, Hazel swoops down to catch her dinner at the local pond when she grabs Upton, an enchanted fish.

Hazel's Problem-Solving Pond

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.

Problem-Solving Pond

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 readers and alleviate math anxiety.

Take a glimpse into the magical world of Astute Hoot by downloading See What The Hoot’s About, a comprehensive file with samples of our most popular resources and tools. Check out our store at www.astutehoot.com for complete units guaranteed to spark enthusiasm in your classroom.

See What The Hoot's About Preview

Guided Reading Strategies That Actually Work

 

 

 

Guiding reading can be daunting, especially with the new instructional shifts and standards. Teachers are asking themselves such questions as: “What text do I use?” “What strategies do I teach?” “How do I keep all students engaged?” “How do I foster rich literary discussions?”

Check out our guest blog at Really Good Stuff’s Teachers’ Lounge Blog to read about four essential instructional practices to maximize guided reading time.

Informational Text is a Hoot!

One of my New Year’s Resolutions is to incorporate additional informational text and shared research into my classroom so I created Owls Are A Hoot: An Informational Text Unit to meet these these needs in an engaging way. Before the unit, I gathered a variety of leveled informational text sources, purchased owl pellets from amazon.com and created these cute owl folders to hold student work. I set up a an owl research center as part of our daily reading rotations.

Owl research center

Leveled informational texts

Owl folders

Before starting the unit we brainstormed a list of questions and students completed a foldable KWL owl.

Owl foldable KWL

Owl KWL bulletin board

During reading time, I grouped students by instructional level. I provided a variety of owl informational text sources including brochures, books, poems and magazine articles. The sources provided were at a variety of levels–most were at students’ instructional level, but I also included more challenging text to increase stamina and push students to read complex text. I’ve found that when students read high-interest text, they are motivated to tackle difficult text, even if it is slightly above their level.

Owl research 1

Owl vocabulary

Students read to find answers to their owl questions, citing textual evidence with owl pointers. They recorded their information on the owl report template.

Owl pointers

Owl graphic organizer

Students edited and published their own owl report, adding craft feathers and googly eyes after completion.

Owl report 2

Owl report 3

Owl reports

During science time, students worked in groups of 2 to dissect an owl pellet. They formed hypotheses, discussed observations and recorded conclusions in their own Owl Pellet Investigation Book (included in the unit). I gave them ‘lab coats’ (a.k.a. men’s white button down dress shirts) to wear during the investigation which they absolutely loved!

Owl pellet predictions

Owl pellet observations

Owl pellet dissection 1

Owl pellet conclusions

After a thorough hand-washing session, I passed out these owl pellet snack bags using the owl treat bag topper included in the unit.

Owl pellet mix

As a culmination to the unit, students played an owl review board game. Students answered all questions on white boards, citing textual evidence to support answers.

Owl Game 1

Students had so much fun and learned so many new facts during our owl study. I wanted to display this in an engaging way so I created our O.W.L: Observe, Wonder, Learn door.

OWL door

I started with a large piece of white butcher block paper and sketched the owl using a projected image from my document camera. I used white paper because my classroom door is brown and I wanted a contrast between the two. I added large googly eyes (from Target dollar section) and colored craft feathers. I then cut brown flap feathers to hold and display our new facts. After completing the L from our KWL foldable owls, I had each student write his/her new fact(s) on a white square and glue inside one of the brown feather flaps. I then glued all of the brown feather flaps on the owl and used a glue gun to adhere the owl to our classroom door (don’t tell the janitor).

Owl Q&A door 2

Students, teachers, and parents have all stopped by and read our facts as they pass by our classroom. My students are so proud when they see someone stop to read our owl. This was a powerful closure activity, one that my students will always remember.

Download the complete unit to get your students to hoot and holler over informational text and shared research!

Owl Informational Unit

 

Check out some other great lessons linked up on the “Loved that Lesson” Linky!
http://www.theteacherstudio.com/2015/01/loved-that-lesson-january.html

 

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