Rhyming Made Easy

“Reggie the Rhyming Raccoon is my name.
Learning to rhyme is my game!
When words rhyme, they have the same ending sound–
You can hear this in the words ground and found.
I’ll teach you to hear and find the rhyme.
With my help, you’ll rhyme on your own in no time!” Read more

How to Boost Reading Fluency during Remote Learning

Like many other educators, I’ve been missing my students greatly and have been trying to wrap my head around providing quality specialized intervention instruction during distance learning and remote instruction.

 

Most of my students have goals in the area of reading fluency. During the school year we used a variety of strategies to increase their fluency. One of our most effective strategies was Repeated Reading. In the Repeated Reading strategy, students read the same short passage of text several times, improving with each time they read. Repeated Reading has been shown to improve decoding automaticity, phrasing, comprehension, rate and confidence.

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Best of Back to School Activities & Lessons

**Visit our Astute Hoot TPT store on August 20 for a bonus sale of 25% off using the code BTSBONUS19.

Planning back to school lessons is similar to cooking a gourmet meal—you need several elaborate ingredients, thorough instructions, specific materials and a great deal of time. Despite my best intentions, my back to school lessons, much like my gourmet meals, always seem to fall short of my expectations.

After 11 years of teaching, I finally cooked up the perfect recipe in The Best of Back to School Lessons and Activities.  It’s a well-balanced combination of community building activities, procedures practice, behavior basics, assessment time along with a heaping dose of fun. This unit includes:
–Comprehensive first week lesson plans
–50+ interactive, engaging activities with objectives & detailed instructions
–Homework ideas with accompanying parent instructions
–Daily math lessons
–Quality Back to School literature
–Cooking and art projects
–Photos of completed projects

Get cooking with our Gourmet Week at http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Best-of-Back-to-School-Lesson-Plans-Activities-735456

Mother’s Day Mother of the Year Writing & Art Project

Mother’s Day is right around the corner and what better way to celebrate Mom than with her own Mother of the Year magazine cover and article. Inspired by Time Magazine’s Woman of the Year issue, this persuasive writing and art unit teaches students how to systematically write a five-paragraph essay all about Mom. In honor of mothers everywhere,  this unit is FREE until Sunday! Click here to download now. Read more

Boost Intervention and Tutoring Success in 3 Easy Steps

As I’m wrapping up this school year, I’ve had the opportunity to reflect on what went well and what I could have done better in my intervention groups. One thing that I would have liked to have done better was to send more frequent and detailed newsletters to parents. Last year I was amazing at that, but unfortunately this year, the newsletters were few and far between. That is definitely something I will work on for next year.

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Happy 100! Celebrating the 100th Day of School

I can’t believe we’ve already been in school for 100 days! Where does time go? To celebrate this momentous occasion, my class participated in several 100 Day activities. Here are a few highlights from our special day:

1. If I Had $100 Writing Activity: I purchased this $100 bill pad from Really Good Stuff and printed pictures of students’ faces in black and white. I trimmed the pictures and glued each one onto a $100. Read more

Holiday Survival Guide for Teachers

Our school recently kicked off the holiday season with a Winter Wonderland celebration this past week.  In Arizona, that means delivering 12 tons of snow to school grounds!  The kids are super excited for all of the wonders of this magical season.  It can be difficult to fall into the trap of filling December up with a variety of holiday fluff activities.  Don’t let yourselves make that mistake and waste weeks of instructional time.  Holiday activities and lessons can be both rigorous AND fun!!!  We’ve created CCSS aligned integrated literature units that use anchor texts to support a variety of standards in engaging and interactive ways.  Check out these great tools to help you survive the craziness of the holiday season…

Christmas Essentials: An Integrated Common Core Unit 

http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Christmas-Essentials-An-Integrated-K-3-Common-Core-Unit-995239

Hanukkah Essentials: An Integrated Common Core Unit

http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Hanukkah-Essentials-An-Integrated-K-3-Common-Core-Unit-972943

Holiday Fun FREEBIES

http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Holiday-Fun-Freebies-995333

Winter Break Phonics Packet

http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Winter-Break-Packet-Phonics-Decoding-2-Syllable-Words-990704

In addition, to keep students motivated and working hard, download our Reindeer in the Room: Holiday Behavior System.  We completely understand that these next few weeks can seem like pure torture as students seem to get wilder by the minute.

http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Reindeer-in-the-Room-Holiday-Behavior-System-445306

Reindeer in the Room is the perfect solution for maintaining a calm, productive classroom during the holiday season. A special reindeer, only used by teachers, is sent to watch over the classroom and this reindeer reports nightly to Santa. Each day the reindeer watches the classroom and he/she picks one student who demonstrates outstanding behavior; this student gets an antler award. The students who did not make good behavior choices (i.e. shouting out incomplete homework, etc.) will get a big hoof, telling them to stomp out misbehavior. The reindeer moves each morning after he gets back from the North Pole.

home-995239-1 home-972943-1Reindeer Cover

The Ugly Truth About Halloween

Halloween is just around the corner and kids are focused on costumes, candy and creepy creatures–it’s enough to make you batty before Halloween even arrives! It’s tempting to use Halloween coloring pages and other fluffy activities to keep students calm and help maintain your sanity, but don’t succumb to the pressure. Here are 5 secrets for creating engaging, academic Halloween activities:
1. Select an interesting topic: Most students love bats so I created Going Batty: A Stellaluna and Nonfiction Bat Unit. This comprehensive book study centers around our reading and writing strategy animals. It engages all learners while teaching research-based, standards-aligned decoding, comprehension and writing strategies within the context of authentic text. Students retell, compare and contrast characters, determine cause and effect, use text evidence to analyze character traits, make text connections, ask and answer questions using text and participate in shared bat research2. Decorate classroom: I turned Hazel’s Reading Roost, my guided reading area, into Hazel’s Reading Roost Visits the Bat Cave. I added a large bat from Party City and spider webbing for a creepy effect.

I added magnets to these 3-D bats, Beware, and Stay Out signs, all inexpensive treasures from Target’s Dollar section. I also found this adorable bat doormat at Target.

3. Incorporate dramatic play: Act out key vocabulary terms and the important events in the story to build comprehension and increase active engagement. Here are my students acting out a few Stellaluna vocabulary terms included in the book study.vocabulary 1

Bat Vocabulary

4. Integrate art: During our bat research, students ask questions, and use text features to find answers and record answers on this adorable bat foldable.  After they finish writing, they color, cut and fold bats and I hang them up in our Bat Cave. In this unit, students also create foldable KWL bats and write reports on a large bat template. Students also decorate and cut out both and I hang them from the ceiling with fishing wire, giving the bats a flying effect.

ask and answer questions

Bat question

5. Add food: Bring in food items or make a theme-based snack. Stellaluna eats mangoes, so I brought in one for students to touch and smell. I passed out small pieces for students to try; many had never tasted a mango before.

Mango

During the unit, I randomly hand out these chocolate eyeballs for on-task behavior, organized desks or any other positive behavior that I spot.

I've Got My Eye On You

At the end of the bat unit, students read a recipe and follow directions to make Bat Snacks, one of their absolute favorite activities.

Bat snack_600_2

Love these ideas? Download our complete Going Batty Unit, our FREE Bat KWL foldable and FREE Bat Name Tags, all guaranteed to keep students actively engaged in learning during the Halloween season.

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Guided Reading Survival Guide Part 4

Guided reading challenging, even to veteran teachers because there are so many factors to consider. In my 4 part blog series, Guided Reading Survival Guide, I explain how to go beyond the basal and provide engaging, authentic supplemental texts; teach research-based strategies using our unique cast of strategy animals; and incorporate hands-on tools to motivate and engage students. In this last blog, I will explain how to integrate multiple strategies within the context of authentic text.

guided

Guided Reading Survival Guide Part 4: Integrating Strategies

Skills and strategies should be taught within the context of high-quality text rather than isolated splinter skills. Explicitly teach each strategy and provide ample practice for students to apply the strategy using authentic text during guided reading lessons and independent practice. As students demonstrate mastery, introduce additional strategies. The goal is for students to integrate and apply multiple strategies to develop deeper meaning of the text.

In my classroom: During whole group instruction, the class and I read the text at least 3 different times on 3 different days, each with a different strategy and purpose. For the first read, I focus on overall comprehension and retell of the literary elements or main ideas. During the second read, I focus on a specific skill such as character analysis or cause and effect. After the third read, I prompt students to make inferences, determine author’s purpose, and make connections. I practice the same strategies during small group instruction using leveled text.

Reading Strategies Poster_web

During whole group instruction, my students read, “Animals Building Homes” from our Journey basal and the Reading A-Z leveled text, “What Lives in This Hole?” during guided reading time. Each day, we practiced a different strategy.

supplemental-collage

Here are some samples of the graphic organizers that students completed to practice and apply strategies:

quinn-answer-questionsquinn-vocabularysharonvern

Word work should also be incorporated during reading instruction. I use Sally the Sounding-Out-Snake and Charlie the Chunking Chipmunk to incorporate word work from both the basal and guided reading texts. Students also use the Sounding-Out and Syllable Slates during spelling center to practice their weekly words or word work from the selected text.

sallycharliespelling-scaffolds

Reading Response Logs also help students synthesize strategies while they respond to text in written form. I first provide opportunities for discussion for students to formulate their thoughts. This can be difficult for young students, especially with students with language issues so I like to provide scaffolds and supports to help them be successful. I use Reading Response Sentence Stems (specific to each strategy) to help students respond to text.reading-response-log

While the Guided Reading Survival Guide blog series aimed to help teachers go beyond the basal, use research-based strategies, motivate and engage, and integrate multiple strategies, guided reading looks different on each campus. Check out our FREE Ultimate Guided Reading Templates to help streamline planning and instruction. Plus they are completely customizable! Each strategy unit can be purchased separately and all include detailed lesson plans, I Can posters, graphic organizers, printable hands-on tools, assessment options and much more! Check out our bundle options and our new hands-on tools as well.

I’d love to hear your experiences, successes, and questions about guided reading. Please comment below or email me at Jessica@astutehoot.com

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Celebrate Earth Day with The Lorax

Earth Day is fast approaching and with spring fever in full force, our engaging, comprehensive Lorax literature study is the perfect solution!

Our Lorax literature study integrates elements from our Guided Reading Strategies Bundle which teaches critical reading strategies in a child-friendly way. In our charming book, students meet Hazel the owl, a struggling reader, who stumbles upon a magical tree in the forest. Out of the tree appear 10 colorful woodland animals that each introduce a research-based CCSS reading strategy. These delightful animals and rhymed text motivate the most reluctant readers.

Bring the Lorax alive in your classroom in 4 easy steps:

 

1. Prepare Reading Response Journals.

Print Hazel Meets the Reading Strategy Animals and accompanying Reading Strategies Poster to introduce students to the each strategy animal. To create the journals, I printed the cover, Reading Strategies Poster, Sentence Stems, and Trait Tree in color and the Reading Response journal pages in black and white. I laminated the front and back cover and bound them for durability.

While there are pre-made reading response questions, select the amount of questions and the content of questions that are appropriate for your class. There is a blank journal page included for you to create your own reading response question(s) for differentiation purposes.

2. Create a Lorax bulletin board.


I projected a picture of the Lorax from Google Images and traced on orange and yellow poster board. I purchased yellow pool noodles from the Dollar Store and Truffula tufts from Hobby Lobby. Later in the week, students each made their own Lorax using the templates included in the unit and I added them to the bulletin board.

3. Make Truffula Tree pencils.


I purchased inexpensive glitter pom-poms from Amazon and glued them to the tops of pencils. Students used them to complete their journal entries and they were a huge hit!

4. Include supplemental activities.

 

At the end of the study, I had students make their own Lorax cover. First, they made a hand-print Lorax with orange paint, let it dry, and cut it out. Next, they used Sharpies and crayons to draw the background. Finally, they glued the Lorax on the cover.

During a reading center with a parent volunteer, students also read and followed directions to make a Truffula Tree snack using simple ingredients.

On the last day of our study, I brought in these adorable Lorax cookies made from Nutter Butters, yellow frosting, and Wilton candy eyes.

Do you have other Lorax ideas or fun Earth Day projects? Please share below.

Using Rubrics to Assess Progress Towards IEP Goals

Rubrics have been essential for my resource program this year. Rubrics are efficient tools to assess authentic student learning and growth. Instead of measuring a skill as correct/incorrect or simply generating a percentage score, rubrics allow us to assess holistically and offer a chance to incorporate quantitative and qualitative data.

Here are the top 5 benefits to using rubrics:

  • Evaluate performance:  Rubrics are used to evaluate student work by measuring it against set scoring criteria.  Using the scoring criteria allows teachers to objectively complete an error analysis, look for skill gaps, and determine the level of support or cues needed to complete a task or assignment. I use rubrics to assess progress towards IEP goals throughout the quarter.  In addition, I use rubrics to analyze work samples as part of initial evaluations and 3 year reevaluations to supplement the standardized testing data and generate baseline data for IEP goals.

 

  • Provide hierarchy of skill development: Rubrics include a task analysis and standards-aligned progression of skills required for mastery. This is helpful not only in showing student growth, but also helpful in designing instruction to address the specific skill gaps students may have.

 

  • Communicate with parents: Using the actual rubric itself or language from the rubric indicators on progress updates, provides parents with detailed information about how their child is progressing. It communicates specific information about skills and growth rather than just a score on an assessment. This year I added the criteria category of “Level of Support” with the indicators of “Independent,” “Minimal Support,” “Moderate Support,” and “Did not attempt.”  This has been extremely helpful when communicating progress.

 

  1. Define performance expectations: Teachers can use rubrics to set expectations for performance with students prior to starting an assignment.  I use the rubric to assess work completed during the modeling phase of instruction with the class. For example, after I model how to create a written response to text, I have the students check my work using the rubric to see if I included the essential components.  Students can also use the rubrics to self-assess and self-correct their work before turning in assignments.

 

  • Measure progress across time and settings:  Rubrics can be used with specifically designed tasks or assignments for progress monitoring, or with authentic curriculum-based work samples.  I attach the scoring rubrics to student work samples and save them in individualized portfolio binders. Students are able to see their growth throughout the school year, reflect on the progress, and set specific goals for improvement.

 

Rubrics could be using in general education, special education, for all subject areas, as well as for behavioral and social goals. Click on the links below to see sample rubrics I’ve individualized for students in my resource program. The rubrics should be modified and customized to meet the needs of students in your classroom based on grade level standards, IEP goals and specific learning needs.

Download our fully editable rubrics here!  The following rubrics for IEP goal progress monitoring are included:

  • Foundational Reading Skills
  • Reading Comprehension: Informational Text
  • Reading Comprehension: Narrative
  • Expository Writing
  • Narrative Writing
  • Written Response to Text
  • Math Problem Solving
  • Behavior and Social Skills

Considerations for IEP Goals:  When developing new IEP goals, write goals measured by the rubric’s criteria where appropriate.  For example, “Given a writing prompt based on a reading passage, the student will generate a written response to text using textual evidence, elaboration and correct conventions as measured by a score of at least #% on writing samples scored with a ‘Written Response to Text Rubric’ at least 3 times per quarter.” When updating progress on goals at the end of each quarter, I report the overall percentage on the scored rubric, along with details in the comment section to elaborate on the student’s progress.  Using indicators directly from the rubric helps to make the comments specific and informative. Furthermore, it is useful to attach the rubric to a student’s IEP. This helps parents understand how you will be measuring the skill and stays with the student if the student moves to another school.

Overall, I have found that rubrics have strengthened my ability to provide consistent, accurate progress data for students in an efficient manner. Rubrics can easily show growth over time and illustrate clear information about specific skills and progress towards standards. For more special education tips and tools, check out this blog.

 

Celebrate Dr. Seuss in Style

Read Across America is around the corner–celebrate Dr. Seuss’ birthday with these fun, no-prep activities:

1. Cat in the Hat Kabob: Download this FREE recipe to make these adorable Cat in the Hat kabobs, a perfect activity to incorporate during your Read Across America celebration. You only need 3 ingredients–large marshmallows, red Swedish fish, and kabob sticks to make this snack. (Use strawberries and bananas to make a healthier kabob.) This activity includes Common Core State Standards as students are reading functional text and answering text-dependent questions.

Dr. Seuss snackdr.-seuss-kabob-1-800x5292. Cat in the Hat Pointillism Portraits: I found this cute, FREE template from just4teachers@blogspot.com. You simply need red, white, and blue paint along with Q-tips (or students can use their fingers). My students LOVED this activity!

Materials 1Pointillism 1Completed painting 13. Seussical Photo Booth: I borrowed the librarian’s giant Cat in the Hat and added lettering to create this Seussical photo booth. I took a picture of each of my students which will the cover of our Dr. Seuss books (compiled at the end of the week). Replicate this with any type of Dr. Seuss-themed props.

A Seussical 2nd GraderCheck out tomorrow’s Read Across America blog where I will show you how to use Dr. Seuss supplies (from Target’s Dollar Section) to teach character trait analysis and central message.

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Taking Intervention to the Next Level with Authentic Text

As a special education resource teacher, one of the biggest challenges I’ve seen students struggle with is transferring strategies they learn during intervention lessons to authentic text. Often times students can use their decoding skills in controlled text in the resource room, but fall apart when presented with literature, informational text and articles in the general education classroom.  Using a research-based, systematic phonics intervention is the foundation of a strong reading intervention program, but students also need opportunities to practice and apply skills with a variety text genres and complexity levels.  

In my resource room, I incorporate authentic text as a supplement to the Wilson Reading System.  Wilson is implemented with fidelity 3 days per week and on the remaining 2 days, students participate in a book study.  Currently, we are working on informational text using a variety of National Geographic Kids Readers.  Next quarter we plan to read a variety of popular literature. My students look forward to our book study days each week and are so motivated to read “real books.”  I love having the opportunity to provide scaffolded support and guidance while they read complex text.  I can coach them to apply strategies, provide immediate error correction, and build independence in safe, supportive environment.

Using a variety of authentic texts allows my lessons to be standards-based and IEP goal based, rather than limited by a particular boxed curriculum, basal reader or worksheet. Each day, I select several words from the text for students to apply their decoding skills using the Word Study printable.  I typically choose words that align with what students are learning in Wilson.  For example, if our Wilson lesson focuses on the -ing and -ed suffixes, I would choose words from the text which have -ing and -ed endings. It is great for students to make the connection between our phonics lessons and authentic text.

In addition, I choose one comprehension activity in which students can demonstrate their ability to read and understand text. The first time each activity is presented, I model the expectations and skills required. Using the printables from the Book Study Unit consistently helps students become familiar, successful and independent with each task.

 

 

We’ve created  ready-to-use book study units for a variety of books including: Henry and Mudge, Frog and Toad, Charlotte’s Web, Stellaluna, Black Lagoon, The Lorax, Miss Nelson is Missing, Last Day Blues and several National Geographic Kids Readers.  More titles coming soon!

In addition, we’ve assembled book study unit templates for informational text and literature so these strategies and resources could be customized to ANY book you’d like to use in your classroom. These activities build essential literacy skills, provide easy differentiation opportunities, and promote active engagement with our guided reading strategy animals. These book studies can be used in grades 1-3 with in a variety of settings: general education, special education, intervention, tutoring and ELL. It is recommended to use these templates with a variety of texts to help students master the skills, transfer and apply their strategies in meaningful ways.

These comprehensive book studies include:

  • Suggestions for Use
  • Lesson Activities
    o I Can Posters
    o Word Study Activities
    o Vocabulary Activities
    o Comprehension Activities
    o Fluency Activities
    o Response to Text
  • Assessments
  • Instructional Resources
  • Book Study Unit Plan Organizer

Download the Informational Text Book Study Templates, Literature Book Study Templates, and Ready-to-Use Book Studies today!  Comment below if you have a request for a specific book study unit.

The Imposter Syndrome: Life as a Special Education Teacher

NEWLY REVISED ULTIMATE SPECIAL EDUCATION SURVIVAL KIT!

Today I had a rare moment: some peace and quiet at home and an opportunity to sit down and read a book.  As I was diving into Lean In, by Sheryl Sandberg I read about the “imposter syndrome”- the phenomenon of capable people being plagued by self-doubt.  It perfectly described how I felt as a special education teacher during my first few years in the classroom.  Even though I graduated with honors, received exemplary reviews from my principal, and made significant academic and behavioral gains with my students, I still sometimes felt as if I was a fraud and didn’t belong the classroom.  Eventually those feelings faded as I continued my education and experience, but I wished that I had some resources at the beginning of my career that would have helped me feel more confident and be more effective in my role. Although sometimes I felt as if I was using trial and error to best reach my students, I know that that I always gave them 110% and feel so blessed to have been a part of their lives.

When I was working with pre-service and first year teachers, I wanted to impart my knowledge and experience to not only them, but to all teachers working with students with special needs.   After 19 years of teaching special education, I’ve gathered my top resources and bundled them together for the “Ultimate Special Education Survival Kit.” Now, that I’m back in the classroom, I recently revised and updated several resources and forms to be even more effective. The following resources are in a zip file, with a total of 165+ pages, including a ton of new FULLY EDITABLE resources for easy customization:

-Beginning of the Year Checklist for Special Education
-Beginning of the Year Welcome Letter from Special Education Teacher
-Co-Teaching Guide
-Co-Teaching Weekly Collaboration Agenda
-IEP at a Glance
-IEP Goal Bank
-IEP Goal Tracking for Small Groups
-IEP Progress Monitoring Calendar
-IEP Goal Tracking for Caseload
-General Academic Interventions
-Behavioral Interventions
-Reading Interventions
-Writing Interventions
-Math Interventions
-Lesson Plan Differentiation Checklist
-Lesson Plan for Specialized Instruction
-Paraprofessional Roles and Responsibilities
-Parent Input Form
-Progress Monitoring Data Trackers
-Special Education Caseload Organizer
-Special Education Due Date Tracker
-Special Education Master Schedule
-Teacher Input Form
-Time on Task Observation
-Reading Foundational Skills Rubric
-Reading Comprehension: Literature Rubric
-Reaching Comprehension: Informational Rubric
-Narrative Writing Rubric
-Expository Writing Rubric
-Written Response to Text Rubric
-Math Problem Rubric

Work smarter not harder! Don’t be stressed out…LOVE your special education career with these ready-to-use tools, assessments, and templates that will make your life so much easier.

http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Ultimate-Special-Education-Survival-Kit-744321

*Reposted and updated from original post in 2013*

Don’t Teach Another Phonics Lesson Until You Read This…

As a resource teacher, I use specialized instruction in my intervention groups to help my students meet their IEP goals as well as make progress towards grade level standards. While implementing the district prescribed intervention curriculum, Wilson Reading System, I discovered a few key things about the way students learn:

1.Systematic, direct and explicit phonics instruction is essential in helping students with learning disabilities master the alphabetic code-breaking skills needed for foundational reading proficiency.

2.Students need a thorough understanding of a range of effective strategies, as well as knowing when and why to apply them within a variety of texts (e.g., controlled decodable text, authentic literature, meaningful non-fiction texts).

3.Motivation and engagement during reading instruction is a critical ingredient to student success.

Integrating all 3 components can be a challenge at times, but I’ve found great success with supplementing Wilson with our Astute Hoot reading strategy animals. Not only do my students consistently meet their IEP goals and make significant progress on district reading assessments, they LOVE coming to reading intervention and they are engaged throughout the entire lesson! (Let’s face it…sometimes direct instruction phonics programs can get boring for students and teachers).

Our strategy animals and accompanying resources have also been used to supplement and enhance other reading programs such as Fundations, Harcourt, Journeys, Spalding, Sonday and Reading A-Z. In addition, they are perfect for book studies and units using authentic literature and expository text.  Each lesson incorporates the following; Hands-on tools to make the strategies concrete and memorable;  Animal strategy friends to motivate and engage students; A variety of texts to promote transfer and application of skills.

Here’s how I teach reading in my K-4 resource room:

  • At the start of the year, I introduce the reading strategy animals to the students by reading Hazel Meets the Reading Strategy Animals and showing students our introductory video below to get them excited. Hazel Hoot, an adorable green screech owl, is a struggling learner as she lacks the strategies needed to help her succeed. In our charming book, Hazel stumbles upon a magical tree in the forest. Out of the tree appear 10 colorful woodland animals that each introduce a research-based, standards-aligned reading strategy. These animals guide Hazel to become a proficient reader.

  • I break down the 10 step Wilson Lesson by practicing the procedures and routines for one block at a time per session.  I use the reading strategy animals to help teach each part. Once students students understand the routine for each block, we combine multiple blocks in our lessons.

  • Authentic text is selected to incorporate into our weekly lessons to provide students the opportunity to apply their strategies in meaningful and relevant ways.  Currently, I’m using a variety of books from National Geographic Kids to boost their skills in reading informational text.

Check out our reading strategy animals in action!

I laminated our Sally Sounding-Out Snake and Charlie Chunking Chipmunk graphic organizers and use them as part of Warm-Up Work at the start of each session. I just post 3 words on the board and students segment (one-syllable words) or syllabicate (multi-syllable words) and mark them as appropriate. I love that this is pretty much NO PREP and it is a perfect time to review concepts with which students struggled in the previous lesson or preview concepts for the upcoming lesson.

Students love using Paco the Pointing Porcupine for Quick Drill and Quick Drill in Reverse to name letters and sounds!  The hands-on tools keeps them focused and on task. Paco also helps students with keeping their place during wordlist reading in the Wilson Student Readers.

Using the Sally Sounding-Out Snake and Charlie Chunking Chipmunk Slates on the magnet letter boards provides a great visual support to help students with segmenting and syllabication.  They always want to make Sally and Charlie proud of their awesome reading skills!

Ramona the Re-Reading Raccoon keeps students motivated when reading students to build fluency and accuracy.

Sharon the Summarizing Squirrel is a student favorite!  Students use her “Tell the Tale” tool to touch each story element when we retell the story verbally.  A non-fiction version which includes main idea and details is also available.

Vern the Visualizing Vulture helps students master key vocabulary words by prompting students to visualize the meaning of the word and drawing a picture of of their visualizations.

Lastly, I posted the strategy posters and “I Can” statements on a bulletin board for easy reference for students.  Our “I Can” statements are aligned to IEP goals and state standards, as well as to a specific reading strategy.

Read more about our strategy animals here! Astute Hoot’s unique cast of strategy animals make learning safe and fun while teaching critical strategies in a child-friendly way. Students make an immediate connection to the animals and relate to Hazel’s struggles. These delightful animals and rhymed text motivate the most reluctant readers.  Our books, posters and hands-on tools are available for purchase here via digital download including printable do-it-yourself options of our tools.  Ready made tools and posters are available as intervention kits here.

I’d love to hear how you make phonics fun and engaging!  Check out some other special education blogs here:

TpT Back to School Sale 2017

As veteran teachers, we know that the beginning of year often means countless meetings, endless hours of preparation and a great deal of stress. We are here to help! Our tried-and-true Back to School resources are guaranteed to help you work smarter, not harder. Plus, they’re all ON SALE! Visit our TeachersPayTeachers store and use code BTS2017 for 25% off the entire store! Check out a few of our top-rated, best-sellers below:

Best of Back to School Lesson Plans & Activities:  This unit focuses on establishing procedures, explaining expectations and building classroom community while creating an organized, efficient schedule with minimal preparation. Our comprehensive first week lesson plans  include 50+ interactive, engaging activities with objectives & detailed instructions, homework ideas, daily math lessons and art projects.

Golden Keys to Success Classroom Management Plan: Golden Keys to Success is an efficient behavior management program that builds character, promotes self-monitoring and ensures high behavioral expectations. This program has made a huge difference in my students’ behavior because it teaches them to be responsible for daily choices. Golden Keys to Success focuses on 5 important life skills and qualities that students need to become successful citizens. This 90 page unit includes 21 detailed lessons with essential questions and quality literature, 34 engaging activities and projects, a Weekly Responsibility Chart (for students) and a parent brochure with overview of program, consequences and helpful parent tips.

Math Intervention: Problem Solving Essentials Bundle:  Our Math Intervention Problem Solving Essentials Bundle provides an entire year’s worth of Common Core aligned, differentiated problem-solving activities to give students the strategies they need to solve word problems. Perfect for general education, special education, RTI and math intervention! Can be used with students in grades Kindergarten, first, second and third. This 200 page file has all of the lessons, activities, worksheets, printables you need for comprehensive problem-solving instruction during math intervention, special education and general education. This is a perfect math intervention supplement to any existing curriculum or can be used as a stand alone resource.

Writing Intervention Tools for RTI and Special Education: Do you have students who are struggling to write and get their ideas down on paper? These special education writing resources will help even the most reluctant writers experience success and increase their independence with the writing process. This is a great writing intervention tool for special education classrooms, ELL, RTI and/or for differentiation within the general education classroom. Resources can be used for various writing topics and assignments.

This unit systematically guides students through the writing process and teaches critical strategies in a child-friendly way. In our charming book, 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.

Reading Intervention Essentials Bundle: Looking for a complete reading K-3 reading intervention kit that includes fluency, comprehension, sight words, and phonics activities? Need engaging and motivating reading supplemental products to enhance your existing curriculum? With over 25 years combined experience in special education, general education, and reading intervention, we have bundled our top reading products to create a 515 page “Reading Intervention Essentials Bundle” for only $25. Purchased separately, these items would cost over $65. These activities, lessons, graphic organizers, posters, assessments, and printables have been proven to make significant reading gains in not only our classrooms, but classrooms across the country. These are a great supplement to any general ed or special ed curriculum. This Reading Intervention Bundle contains more than a whole YEAR’s worth of phonics instruction with 15 individual units.

We hope that these products reduce that dreaded back to school stress and make your life easier. Happy New Year!

 

Set Up Your Best Classroom Yet

Welcome to my second grade classroom, my home away from home.  Each year, I refine my classroom with special finds from Target and Hobby Lobby (my favorite!) to make it comfortable and inviting. I love to think outside of the box, using plastic table cloths for curtains and bath mats for classroom rugs. My goal is to make the room a safe, creative space that promotes engagement and exploration.

Curricula

As a traditional academy teacher, I use Spalding spelling, HMH Journeys reading, and Saxon math to teach highly-performing students at an accelerated pace. I use the district-prescribed curricula along with our reading and math strategy animals to help 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 Hazel’s Reading Roost and Problem-Solving Pond along with our hands-on tools to support and enhance required curricula in this blog series.

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Special Spaces

Hazel’s Reading Roost

In our charming book, Hazel Meets the Reading Strategy Friends, Hazel stumbles upon a magical tree in the forest. Out of the tree appear 10 colorful woodland animals that each introduce a research-based, standards-aligned reading strategy. These animals guide Hazel to become a proficient reader.


Each day students attend Hazel’s Reading Roost, my guided reading group, as one of their four reading rotations. During guided reading time, I use the woodland animals to teach specific strategies and concepts through the context of authentic literature.Jessica at Reading Roost_rs
I use our animal puppets and reference our Decoding and Comprehension Banners throughout the lessons. Students use our accompanying graphic organizers and our hands-on tools to practice and reinforce the strategies.

To replicate the magical tree, I purchased an inexpensive faux tree from Goodwill and gave it a dusting of gold glitter spray paint. I glued glitter foam leaves to give it an enchanted gleam and used Velcro to attach the animals. This allows for easy removal during reading group time. Read more about creating a Reading Roost here.

Reading RoostDuring guided reading group time, students sit in a circle on our  Astute Hoot’s Numbers and Letters Rug. I post a specific learning goal for each group and reference it throughout the lesson using our Learning Scale Banner. Students enjoy monitoring and reflecting upon their thinking and learning. They understand that honest ratings help me as a teacher because I can see what they understand and areas in which they need more help.

Read tomorrow’s blog to see my Problem-Solving Pond and accompanying math tools.

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Master Meet the Teacher in 5 Easy Steps

Just the mention of Meet the Teacher or Curriculum Night makes most teachers break out into a cold sweat. Why is this? We speak in front of people all day, every day, but the difference is their age. Children will still love us if we make a mistake, get nervous or act silly (they especially love when this happens). Adults by nature are more judgmental and harder to win over. Stop the dread and take back control with these 5 easy steps.

Master Meet the Teacher in 5 Easy Steps

1. Prepare, prepare, prepare: Plan your handouts and student activities at least 2 days before the big event. Don’t wait until last minute–that’s when the copier breaks or the computer runs out of ink.  On each student desk, I place a student information card along with a Welcome to 2nd Grade form that outlines everything students will need on first day of school. Before I start my presentation, I have parents complete the card and read the Welcome to 2nd Grade form as we wait for everyone to get to the classroom. Many schools now combine Meet the Teacher and Curriculum Night and this can be so overwhelming to all parties involved. Parents are often in and out of your classroom during Meet the Teacher, making it difficult to listen to a full curriculum presentation. At Meet the Teacher, I explain that on the first day of school, I will send home a comprehensive Welcome to Second Grade folder. In one pocket of the folder, I include all of my policies and procedures. This includes an introduction, Meet Mrs. Murphy, curriculum overview, grading procedures, specials and classroom schedule, and much more. Parents read these and keep at home as a reference throughout the year. In the other pocket of the folder, I include all the paperwork that needs to be signed and returned. This includes office paperwork, volunteer form, and the classroom directory. Parents return the signed paperwork by Friday. I show them an example as I explain the folder so they know what to look for on Monday.Welcome to second grade 2Welcome to 2nd Grade paperworkWelcome to 2nd Grade folder

Not sure what to say at Meet the Teacher and Curriculum Night? Download our Welcome Back to School Parent Packet for several important customizable letters and forms. Use the coupon code hoot50 for 50% off all of our digital files!

2. Post directions & agenda for the night: Write specific directions for parents to read as they come into the classroom. Make sure they know they must fill out transportation form, room parent slip and student information card. Plus it gives them something to do (other than staring at you) while waiting for the presentation to start. Many parents must attend more than one Meet the Teacher on the same night. Help these parents by posting an agenda (with times) for the night so they can determine the best time to quietly exit and go to next session.Meet the Teacher Agenda

This year, I placed 4 owl rugs around the classroom at the 4 centers I wanted parents to attend before leaving. These centers included OWL About 2nd Grade, Helping is a Hoot, OWL About Transportation and Volunteer Opportunities and WHOOO’s Hungry? (refreshments–see below). On the board, I wrote, “Learn OWL about 2nd grade by traveling to each center marked by an owl rug.” This visual made it easy for parents and students loved discovering each owl center.

Transportation InformationOWL About 2nd Grade3. Serve refreshments: It is polite to serve refreshments for guests in your home and the same etiquette applies in the classroom. I purchase inexpensive cookies (from Target or Walmart) and place on serving trays. Add decorative napkins and flowers as a finishing touch.Whooo's Hungry

4. Provide engaging activities for students: At the beginning of the night, I need to address just the parents and don’t want students talking or running around the room.  While parents are completing necessary paperwork, I gather students (and their siblings) and bring them to the carpet area where I give them a word search, pencil and white board. I explain directions and set expectations for their behavior. I also pass out lollipops to eat–this keeps their mouths busy while I am addressing parents. Be sure to put a garbage can there as well or you will have wrappers and sticks all over the room.Meet the Teacher engaging activities Meet the Teacher student activities

After I speak to parents, I give the kids a scavenger hunt with 9 boxes of items to find in class. I glue small, round stickers to each scavenger sheet; students place a sticker on the box after the item is found. When students are finished, they get to help themselves to refreshments (I set a limit on number of cookies or you will have a couple that will try to take the whole tray–trust me, I’ve learned from experience).

Classroom Bingo

5. Create suggested supplies visual: Each year students come in with random bags of supplies and rarely want to share them with the rest of the classroom. To alleviate this problem this year, I listed specific supplies I wanted to students to bring and then created a visual of what the supplies should look like. I simply purchased a medium-sized pencil case and glued the requested supplies inside and showed it during the presentation, reminding parents to unwrap items and place inside case as shown. This year all the students brought their prepared pencil cases just as I had shown and it was a HUGE time-saver! They simply put inside their desks and we were able to move on to other procedures.

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6. Helping is a Hoot: Parents love to donate supplies at the beginning of the year, so I created a Helping is a Hoot tree; each owl has a needed supply written on it. Remind parents to pick an owl or two before they leave for the night. They return the owl with donations during the first week of school. Be sure to thank them for giving a hoot!

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Most importantly, remember to smile, breathe and believe in yourself! You’ve got thi

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Helping other teachers and students is our passion and we are excited to contribute to your classroom success! We know Back to School time is so expensive for teachers and we want to help! Use the coupon code hoot50 for 50% off all of our digital files!

Check out our other Back to School blogs for additional tips and tools: Back to School Organization 101, Back to School Cooking, The Art of Active Listening, and Classroom Management Keys and many more. Happy New Year!

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