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.

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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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Fool-Proof Tips for Teaching Procedures & Routines

You know that feeling of excitement you feel when you spot a cute new idea on Pinterest? Those all-too-familiar thoughts run through your mind. “It looks so easy, there aren’t that many materials, how hard could it be?” Yet despite your best intentions (and a few hours of your life you’ll never get back), you experience that dreaded Pinterest fail.

Just like that cute Pinterest project, we all start the new school year with the best intentions and high expectations.  However, the beginning of the year can evoke that same dreaded Pinterest fail feeling. I remember thinking, “Why aren’t students listening to me? Why can’t they unpack quietly? Can’t they just sit at the carpet? I’m telling them to do these things, but they aren’t.” What I failed to realize is that I wasn’t teaching students how to perform these routines and procedures and I was setting myself up for failure.

Those wonky Pinterest cupcakes can easily be thrown in the garbage and remade, but those first few days are the most valuable time in the whole school year. This precious time shapes expectations, behaviors, and routines for the rest of the year. Invest up front with practicing key procedures during the first few weeks of school and this investment will be returned to you tenfold throughout the year. Students will clearly understand expectations, behavior problems will be eliminated, and instructional time will be maximized. Nail those first few days using 3 of our tried-and-true, fool-proof tips for teaching key procedures and routines.Fool-Proof Tips for Teaching Procedures & Routines

1. Teach Active Listening: Listening, like any other concept or skill, must be explained, modeled, practiced and reinforced, especially the first few weeks of school.  Students must know what listening looks like, sounds like and feels like. First, create a common definition of active listening. To do this, I give each student 3 colored Post-Its. On the first Post-It, I ask them to write down what active listening looks like. I call students up to the board and each student shares while I sort and label students’ responses. After all have shared, we come up with a consensus and repeat the process for the sounds like and feels like indicators. I record these on my Good Listening Poster. Next, we practice active listening indicators.  I share my Alert Listening Position (ALP) poem that teaches specific active listening behaviors and we practice these behaviors several times. Students are actively engaged in learning as they chant the second line of each stanza and model the listening behaviors with their bodies.  We also practice non-ALP behaviors such as slumping in seat, head on desk, no eye contact so students can understand non-examples.  While we are practicing, I rove the room and take pictures of excellent ALP examples and post to my ALP poem to use as visual reminders of expected behaviors. Students also get a copy of the ALP poem and add visual cues to help them remember active listening expectations.Teach active listening collage

2. Perfect (Un)Packing Procedures: Unpacking and packing up can be a laborious, timely chore that can lead to a huge waste of instructional time. Students who have trouble staying focused often forget items or get lost during this time because they may struggle keeping track of this multi-step procedure. To teach this critical procedure, I select an unpacking/packing up song that I play every day the entire year. Students become familiar with the timing and lyrics and can use this to gauge how much time they have left to complete this procedure. I use Pharrell’s “Happy” as our unpacking song and it is a hit with the kids.I also create a visual checklist of all of the items needed to unpack and pack up. I use this visual checklist to model each specific step, one step at a time. I show the students how to do it and then start the music and let them do it. Have students freeze when done with that specific step. Then, refer to the visual checklist for the next. Be sure to set expectations for completion. Explain what students should do when they finish unpacking or packing up or else they will wander, talk, or dig in their desk. I tell my students to sit at their desks with an ALP and always praise those who unpack or pack up efficiently and redirect those who need a little extra help. Students will need a lot of modeling, practice, and reinforcement as they learn these new procedures. During the first week, I have students unpack and pack up with me, step by step. I gradually reduce the assistance, reviewing the visual checklist, and watching the students as they unpack/pack up. I stand in high traffic areas, reminding them to stay in a line or wait until person is done before putting water bottle away. I pick a couple of role models who demonstrate excellent unpacking skills and have these students model the specific behavior(s) to the class. By the end of the second week or start of the third week, students should be able to unpack/pack up independently using the visual checklist and music to assist as needed.Perfect Unpacking Procedures

3. Gather at the Carpet Area: Assign each student a seat on the carpet area. I measure the space needed for each student and then add a self-adhesive label with child’s name on the carpet. Be sure to put students who have vision issues or behavior issues up front as a support. Model how to stand up, push in the chair, and walk quickly and quietly over to the carpet area. Name students in the first row in order, and have them walk over to the row and sit down in criss-cross position.  Repeat for the rest of the rows, giving praise for specific behaviors. Model returning to desks and then call rows one at a time back to desks. Practice this procedure several times over the first few weeks. When students are proficient with this, remove the labels. Gather at the carpet area collage

Are you overwhelmed with the thought of all of the routines, procedures and transitions you need to teach your students at the beginning of the year? Our Back to School Teacher Toolbox has everything you need to create an efficient classroom. This Toolbox contains engaging, colorful resources and activities that explain how to model, practice and reinforce important routines such as moving in the classroom, gathering materials, cleaning up, freezing at teacher’s signal, lining up, and tightening transitions.PREVIEW Routines and Procdures_Page_1

Work smarter, not harder with our ready-to-use back to school lessons and activities.  Happy New Year!

 

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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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Set Up Your Best Classroom Yet: Part 3

Yesterday as part of my blog series, Set Up Your Best Classroom Yet, I gave you a sneak peek into my second grade classroom with a focus on my math area. I use the district prescribed curricula along with our reading, writing, and math strategy animals to help my students learn, apply, and transfer critical strategies across settings. My classroom décor centers around Hazel Hoot, an adorable green screech owl, and her special strategy friends. See how I integrate the Writing in the Wild West along with our hands-on tools to support and enhance the required writing curricula.

Writing Journal_cover

Special Spaces

Writing in the Wild West

In our charming book, Hazel Meets the Writing Strategy Animals, students meet Hazel the owl, a struggling writer, who takes a vacation to the desert to visit Grandma Hoot.  Grandma suggests that Hazel take a hike for writing inspiration and along the way she meets 10 animals; 5 that teach the writing process and 5 that teach writing mechanics.

AstuteHoot_Writing_webposter

In order to recreate the desert scene for the Writing in the Wild West space, I covered a bulletin board with vinyl western background from Party City (similar items are available at most craft stores and on Amazon). I added faux cactus from Hobby Lobby to give it a 3D effect. I placed the Strategy Banners on the side of the bulletin board; I reference them throughout each lesson. I printed our Writing Bulletin Board Set added Velcro to the back of each strategy animal allowing me to detach to use during lessons.

Vinyl background.5Faux cactus .5Bulletin board 2

Wild West 5.5

I also made a space to display student work. I took pictures of my students faces, printed and cut them out, and then added these adorable cowboy hats to each one. Finally I glued each picture onto a clothespin and glued the clothespins to thick ribbon that I stapled to the board. I use these cowboy clips to easily change writing samples frequently.

Cowboy hats 3.5Cowboy hats 2.5As the other blogs in this series mentioned, I love to display our hands-on tools in cute, inexpensive jars with printable animal labels.  Students have easy access to Stella’s Spacers, Cal’s Capitalizers, and Preston’s Punctuation Prongs, all which they enjoy using during writing time.

Banner and tools

Preston with blogCal the capitalizing cardinal with blogHave a cute classroom décor idea? I’d love to hear it! Be sure to check back on Sunday to read our latest Back to School blog.

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Set Up Your Best Classroom Yet: Part 2

Yesterday as part of my blog series, Set Up Your Best Classroom Yet, I gave you a sneak peek into my second grade classroom with a focus on my guided reading area. I use the district prescribed curricula along with our reading, writing, and math strategy animals to help my students learn, apply, and transfer critical strategies across settings. My classroom décor centers around Hazel Hoot, an adorable green screech owl, and her special strategy friends. See how I integrate the Problem-Solving Pond along with our hands-on tools to support and enhance the required Saxon math curricula.

Astute Hoot Math Intervention Kit_RGB

Special Spaces

Problem Solving Pond

In our 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. 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.

Math book_CU

In order to recreate the Problem-Solving Pond, I covered a bulletin board with fadeless blue water paper and added green tulle and silk pond stems to border the pond. Upton’s Solving Word Problems Poster and Strategies Banners are prominent features of Problem-Solving Pond; I reference them throughout each lesson. I printed our Problem-Solving Pond Bulletin Board Set added Velcro to the back of each strategy animal allowing me to detach to use during lessons.

Bulletin board setpondI found this stuffed animal on Ebay that looks just like Upton and hung it with fishing wire and a plastic hook. During guided practice, I toss Upton to students and he helps us complete the problem-solving steps. Students LOVE solving problems with him!

Problem-Solving Pond Upton with studentI also found inexpensive jars at Hobby Lobby to hold our hands-on tools such as Max’s Counters, Brian’s Slide and Learns, and Fiona’s Fact-Fluency Pencils and added these adorable labels.

Hands-on toolsDuring center time, students solve their Saxon story problems using the strategy animals and our Problem-Solving Journals. They also use our hands-on tools such as Problem-Solving Mats, Brian’s Slide and Learns and Fiona’s Fact-Fluency Flashcards to reinforce learned strategies and concepts.

Math Journal_CUMath Mats_CU

Students enjoy using the Astute Hoot rug to discuss their journal samples. They stand on the strategy animal that they used to solve the story problem and then discuss the strategies, process, and thinking they used.

breaking_badger_matRead tomorrow’s blog to see my Writing in the Wild West classroom space and accompanying hands-on tools.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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For more information and other great magnetic resources, visit Dowling Magnets!

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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.
    Students sitting in circle
    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.Morning Meeting procedures
  3. Include behavioral and learning reflection. Use specific sentence stems to help students determine Glows (success) and Grows (areas of improvement). Behavior Self Reflection Sentence StemsLearning Self Reflection Sentence Stems
    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.Learning Scale_3 on pageFinger cues
  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.
    Dr. Jean and friends
  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.Jessica_blog_signature-SMALL

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?”.

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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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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.

Reading with 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.

Reading with Upton 2

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.

MathProblemSolvingSelfReflectionandPeerDiscussionQuestions.pdf-6 (2)

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.

Upton anchor chart

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.

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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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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

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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.

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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.
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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