How to Find Balance with Virtual Learning

Love or hate it, virtual learning has become our new reality. As a reading interventionist and kindergarten teacher, this has been a difficult and daunting shift for us as we wholeheartedly believe in multi-modal, hands-on instruction.

One of our biggest challenges has been keeping young children engaged and motivated during virtual learning. It is important for us to find balance between screen time and authentic, hands-on learning. Here are our top 4 ways we’ve enhanced virtual learning for our students: Read more

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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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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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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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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.

Building Fluency with Animal Assisted Therapy

I’m excited to bring the Animals, Books and Children (ABC) program to our resource program this year!  Currently, I am piloting the program with 1st grade students and hope to expand to additional grade levels in the future.  

The ABC program will utilize Gabriel’s Angels therapy teams to help children improve their reading abilities, while also developing the core social behaviors of attachment, confidence, empathy and respect. The designated ABC therapy team (one handler & dog) read with the same three (3) children each week so that a trusting, secure relationship evolves. During a 20-minute time session, the individual child will have time to feel comfortable, work directly on reading skills, and conclude by engaging in an emotional and/or behavior development activity. A celebration ceremony will conclude each semester program duration.

This program takes place once a week in the resource room during the students’ regularly scheduled time. This is something that the students really look forward to and enjoy! Students rotate through 20 minute centers for differentiated, individualized instruction targeting their IEP goals. The 3 centers include:

1.  Fluency– Students will work the dog therapy team to practice rereading previously read books to build fluency.  When finished reading the book, the students will practice their sight words in a variety of hands-on activities.  Each book and sight word list is customized based on student data.  Students love the hands-on sight word activities from our Sight Word Intervention Bundle.

2. Phonics – Students will work with me to practice phonics skills as part of the Wilson Language System.  This 1:1 time is a perfect time for progress monitoring, addressing learning gaps, and reteaching skills that the students may have struggled with throughout the week.  To supplement Wilson, I use activities from our Reading Intervention Essentials Bundle.

3. Computers – Students will work on a Chromebook to review basic literacy skills or  practice keyboarding skills.  Some of our favorite websites include Moby Max, Starfall, Typing Club and Interactive Sites for Education.

I would love to hear how others have used animal assisted therapy in the classroom as well! Please comment below.

For more information about Gabriel’s Angels, check out their website here.

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:

Essentials of a Special Ed Resource Room

I’m so excited to be back in the classroom this year! After 14 years as a special education resource teacher, I changed gears to work in the capacity of an Instructional Coach and Special Education Coordinator in high needs schools. Although this work over the past 4 years has been rewarding, I’ve missed the direct, daily contact with students.

After I accepted my new position as a K-3 Special Education Resource Teacher, I quickly got to work in planning out my new classroom. I considered student need, layout, materials, and decor to prepare my room. I’m thrilled to share these 3 essential components of my new classroom with you!

1. Strategy-Based Bulletin Boards and Learning Centers:  I set up strategy-based bulletin boards that are being used to support and enhance district curriculum.  My students are already in love with all of the strategy animals!  Our strategies provide excellent interventions to use with any curriculum as they strengthen HOW students learn,  and do not necessarily change WHAT students learn. Here are some specific examples of how I incorporate our strategy animals into the curriculum.

Reading
Using the Wilson Language System, I incorporate our Sally Sounding-Out Slates or Charlie Syllable Slates to provide additional visual cues and practice to spell and decode words in isolation. These can also be used to focus on specific words in connected text to practice sounding out the phonograms. It not only makes learning fun, but it also helps struggling students who need additional support. This intervention uses the same content and Wilson instructional method, but provides a different format for practice and student response. Using the Slates and accompanying graphic organizers also provides a structured space for written dictation. Using our reading strategy animals along with a systematic, researched-based curriculum such as Wilson enhances motivation and investment, which is incredibly important for reluctant readers.

Reading Roost Photo

Math
Our math strategy animals fit in perfectly with the district curriculum. Students are expected to solve 2 or more word problems as part of the daily lessons. I introduce each of the Problem-Solving Pond strategy animals systematically as they correlate to the standards and concepts. As students become proficient with one strategy, I introduce another. After all strategies are introduced, students learn how to pick the most efficient strategy for the problem. Upton the Understanding Fish is used daily to help students complete the seven problem solving steps, explain thinking and justify solutions. Just as with Wilson, using these strategies does not alter or modify the curriculum in any way, it just enhances it and presents it in a way which students can grasp it more easily by making the concepts more concrete. Student connect with the strategy animals and are motivated to use various strategies to solve the problems. It also relieves math anxiety and builds independence by providing a toolbox of “animal friends” students can use to solve problems.

Problem-Solving Pond 2

Writing
There are 5 animal strategy characters which teach the writing process stages and 5 animals who focus on mechanics and conventions.  Writing can be especially difficult for students with special needs.
The strategy animals help eliminate writers’ block and encourage students to persist with writing stamina.  Because each animal has a specific job, it forces students to pay greater attention to each critical part of the writing process.

Writing in the Wild West

 

2.  Reading Corner: I set up an inviting and comfortable reading corner which has books organized by level and topic. My students love the Beanie Babies sitting on the bookcase.  They get to each pick one to read to on Fun Fridays to build fluency.  My favorite part of this area is the multi-sensory syllabication charts featuring Charlie the Chunking Chipmunk.  I attached pipe cleaners to the charts so students can practice chunking words into syllables.

LibraryCharlie

 

3.  Sensory Support:  Knowing that many of my new students would need support with sensory issues, I prepared various options for them.  I have flexible seating arrangements using wiggle cushions, exercise balls, and lap desks.  Also, I put together a sensory basket containing Play-Doh, squeeze balls, Legos, Unifix cubes and a timer for 2 of my students.  Lastly, I signed up for a Go Noodle account and we use this for brain breaks. 

Essentials Collage

The first few weeks of school have been amazing!  I’m so glad I followed my heart and returned back to the classroom.  Helping students with special needs truly is my calling.  I hope you enjoyed taking a peek into my new resource room. I’d love to hear about how you set up your resource room too!  Please comment below.

See our strategy animals in action in this short video!

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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!

 

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.

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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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How Animals Can Help Children Learn

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

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

AH Slider_library_jenny

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

How Animals Can Help Children Learn Collage

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

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

Hazel's Reading Roost_rs

Problem-Solving Pond_rs

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

Math Strategies Poster_web

Writing Strategies Poster_web

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

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

Josh Testimonial

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

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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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Making Meaningful Text Connections

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

Chloe with text

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

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

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

Connecting Coyote 2

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

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

Chloe I Can Poster

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

alexander-terrible-day-cover

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

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

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

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

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

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

Connecting Coyote 3

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

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

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

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

Chloe graphic organizer

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

Chloe journal sample

Helpful Hints:

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

Journal

Chloe RGS sample 2

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

Chloe Connecting Coyote Anchor Chart

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

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Use Picture Clues to Support Decoding & Comprehension

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

Detecting Deer_with text

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

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

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

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

Dexter I Can

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

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

Dexter materials 3

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

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

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

Helpful hint:

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

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

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Making Purposeful Predictions

Making Purposeful Predictions 2

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

Peter Predicting Possum Poem

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

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

I Can Poster 3

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

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

Making predictions with Peter

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

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

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

Record predictions on graphic organizer

Helpful Hints:

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

ReadingResponseLogandJournal-2

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

Journal

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

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

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Teaching Visualization to Increase Comprehension

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

Visualizing Vulture_with text

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

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

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

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

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

Visualizing I Can Chart

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

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

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

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

The cutest dog visualization

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

Visualization Venture 3

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

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

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

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

Vern-Vulture-visual-3

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

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

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

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

Vern Visualizing Vulture Anchor Chart

Helpful Hints:

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

Journal

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

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

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How to Use Elkonin Boxes and Sounding-Out Slates

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Sounding Out Snake.blog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sally Sounding Out Snake Puppet

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

Guided Reading.blog

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

Helpful hints:

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

Elkonin Box.blog

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

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

Microsoft Word - Sally Sounding Out Snake.Preview.doc

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Meet Sally the Sounding Out Snake

“SSSSSSSalutations! I’m Sally the Sounding Out Snake,
Stretch each sound out and a new word you will make
Put them back together in a blend
And your reading will be on the mend.”

It is so exciting when beginning readers start to blend individual sounds together to form words.  I remember how thrilling it was when both of my boys started to read in pre-school.  I marked the day in their baby books along with their first words, first steps, and first bike ride without training wheels.

I used Sally the Sounding Out Snake’s poem and graphic organizer to teach them how to segment and blend words for reading and spelling. This tool made reading multisensory as they were able to engage the visual, auditory and tactile senses.  After seeing such success with my boys, we brought Sally into the classroom and created supplemental lesson plans, additional graphic organizers, worksheets, and flashcards.  Our students experienced the same success in the classroom.

Sally Snake 2

Your students can meet Sally too along with our other reading strategy animals in our complete Common Core Guided Reading Strategies Unit.

Individual supplemental Sally Sounding Out Snake units focus on a variety of one-syllable word combinations and are a great supplement to any general education, special education or intervention curriculum. This can be used during whole group, literacy centers, or as independent work.

Aligned with Common Core Literacy Standards in grades K-2, each unit includes the following activities and worksheets:

  • Differentiated lesson plans for sounding out words
  • Suggestions for use
  • 4 Graphic organizers for decoding and spelling
  • 7 Phonics worksheets for decoding and spelling
  • Word lists for one-syllable words (sorted by vowel type)
  • 32 Flashcards and activity ideas
  • Sounding Out Snake poster and puppet graphic
  • Decoding and Comprehension strategy poster
  • 4 Sentence writing worksheets with word banks and editing checklist
  • Customizable worksheets to allow for differentiation

Check out each “Common Core Phonics Activities for One-Syllable Words” unit below:

#1 CVC
#2 Digraphs
#3 Blends
#4 Double Letters f,l,s,z
#5 R-Controlled Vowels
#6 Silent e

Syllable Division

Here is a multi-sensory syllable division bulletin board I made in my classroom.  Chunking Chipmunk from our Hazel Learns to Read unit helps students follow the syllabication rules to chunk words into smaller parts for decoding.  I used pipe cleaners to show how to “scoop” the words.  Students can walk up to the bulletin board and trace the scoops with their fingers while reading the words.  Using visual, auditory, and tactile senses really helps the students internalize this important reading strategy.

Easter Egg Fun

Super fun way to practice basic skills; fill plastic eggs with letters, sight words, math facts, etc. and have your kiddos choose eggs from a bucket or find them around the house. When they open them up, they can practice the skill inside. You can even have them turn in the eggs for candy or pennies or other rewards.

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