Letter Review

In September I benchmark my Grade 1 students on their letter names and sounds (see my: Grade 1 Phonics Assessments). Then students who need additional review are placed in my room, as well as continue to review the letters in their classrooms. A typical intervention alphabet lesson includes:

  • review any letters that we have previously studied (name, sound, and action) with the large Letterland flashcards
  • introduce the new letters (name, sound, and action) with the large Letterland flashcards
  • practice forming our sounds with each student watching my mouth, discussing what my mouth/tongue looks like, and then practicing in their own mirrors to replicate the sound/mouth movements (I listen and correct sounds/formations as needed)
  • read the Letterland story for the current letters
  • brainstorm our own words that start with the letter sound
  • listen to the Letterland song for the letter while students repeat the sound and action (movement break)
  • sort 8 items/toys by initial sound for the letters (also focusing on turn taking)
  • find the names of our classmates that start with those letters and adding them to our word wall (we sometimes discuss sight words, too)
  • practice letter formation, after listening to “Start Your Letters at The Top” (Handwriting Without Tears), on our whiteboard tables
  • We also use activities from the Florida Center for Reading Research K-2 Phonics Curriculum and various letter songs on YouTube.

As a review of multiple letters or the entire alphabet we bowl or fish for letters (while the other students practice their writing), and play alphabet Jenga, Twister, dominoes, memory, Bingo, etc. One of our favorite reviews is the alphabet scavenger hunt!

I hide lowercase and uppercase foam letters of all sizes around my classroom. Students are put into teams or they can work as a group. When I hold up letter flashcards, everyone must state the name and sound and show me the letter action. I pick two students (from opposite teams) and they must search for the letter around the room while the rest of the students cheer them on. Students can receive two points – one for finding the letter and another for stating the name/sound when they bring it to me. I keep track of their points on the board and then we practice counting by 5s afterwards. The activity only takes about 30 minutes and allows me to take some anecdotal notes on each student’s letter proficiency. The best part is the student engagement!

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Classroom Library

Today we will be talking about classroom libraries! The Saskatchewan Reads document states that “libraries play an important role in supporting and engaging students as readers. “They provide environments rich in information, literature, and technology that, together with effective instruction, enable students to achieve curriculum learning outcomes and acquire the attitudes and skills for lifelong learning” (Saskatchewan Ministry of Education, 2008, p. 1).” It is recommended to have books around the room, in addition to on the shelf, and students can assist with this book selection. I plan to display books on top of the shelves once I have read them aloud to the students. Another option is to switch out books based on current units of study and/or student interests. Routman (2014) states that “excellent classroom libraries” should be of top priority “ahead of the latest technology, resources, programs and standards. It is only through wide, self-selected reading that we will produce proficient and joyful readers as well as writers” (p. 99). It has been one of my main back-to-school priorities, as I know the importance of a well-stocked and organized classroom library for student literacy achievement.

 

My classroom library has both leveled books (blue bins) and interest books (green bins). Students select from both blue and green bins to fill their individual pouches so that during guided reading they have books to keep them engaged and improving during read-to-self and partner reading. Having students self-select these books regularly helps avoid interruptions to my guided reading lessons, as students are excited to read. Students get to choose where to sit, whether it is the reading cubbies, couch, Tipi, swivel chair, standing desk, carpet, or pretty much anywhere but the roof! We even get to enjoy the outdoor classroom space in the fall and summer.

 

When students are both comfortable and interested, classroom management takes care of itself. Well… pretty much. We do have to go over stamina training (graphing time on-task to meet a class duration goal) and lessons on the “Right Fit” books using the 5 Finger strategy. 

Scholastic notes that “experts claim a classroom library should have at least 20 books per student, so a typical class of 28 students would have a classroom library of close to 600 books.” While that may seem like a lot of books, 20 books per student is on the lower end, especially when considering the diverse learning needs in our classrooms. I am proud to say that I have grown my classroom library to 500 books over the past three years. I found the best sources are garage sales, family members and friends with young children, and talking to administration. As a Student Support Teacher, the number of students that I serve varies so 500 books feels like the right amount… for now!

The changes I made this year to my classroom library were to my green bins, or interest book sections. I created more sections so that books can be found easier. I used to put multiple categories in a bin but this just didn’t work for student put-back. Using the labels I found, I created 12 categories: Friends, Family, Cultures/Canada, ABCs, Math, Weather/Seasons, Animals, Fiction, Feelings, Good Character, School Stories, and rhymes and poetry. There are many other categories but I found these worked best with my previous system. The labels were easy to use and I printed the bin labels on Avery 8168 labels. The corresponding book labels were printed on Avery 8293. Everything printed well and it looks visually appealing but not too distracting (in case you are interested in these labels for your own classroom).

 

My hope is that students will be able to select books that they are interested in and also put them back in the correct bins. I will explicitly show them how to select and re-shelf books. At this time, I will also explore with students the books that can be found in each section and we will move books around if needed so that it makes sense to the kids. The system is self-explanatory enough that educational assistants, substitute teachers, co-teachers, administrators, and parents will be able to come into my room and select and re-shelf books to read with learners without me having to explain things. This should help books stay where they should.

My blue bins, or leveled books, are relatively the same as last year with a color-coded dot that roughly correlates to 2 levels of Fountas and Pinnell. I am not too worried about each book being precisely leveled as students will learn how to select “Just Right” books. The idea is that they are reading books that are within their level so that they can build fluency, maintain comprehension, and feel successful, albeit while still being challenged.

Class 18

I am beyond excited to share the classroom library with a new set of learners and some returning friends! As I always say, reading is succeeding!

Books, Books, Books

Here are some classroom Book Teaching Resources that I am fortunate to be able to share with my learners. I have found that having a categorized system ensures that no book gets left behind!

What are some books that you love to use in the primary grades? What organizational system works for you!? Happy reading!

 

Resources for a First Year SST

As a first year SST, I found myself wondering “what resources do I need to be a successful teacher and support?” These are the resources that have helped me get through the first few months (right after some awesome colleages and kids!):

Reading:

FAIR – researched based phonics activities/games. Great to cut-out, laminate, and file so they are easily accessible. So far I have utilized letter recognition/sounds and rhyme games with great success and engagement from the kids! Note: K level actually translated to Grade 1 in many cases (adapt/gage for your children as necessary).

Letterland – kids love the actions and really retain it. Videos on Youtube, as well as, the Sotrybook are great tools for basic classroom teaching and interventions.

This always helps too:

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#halloween #awesomestaff #teacherlife

Measured Mom – everything early literacy (and math!). Great, engaging activities to get student engaged during small-group instruction. It is a good idea to cut-out, laminate, and file some of these supports so they are easily accessible. I also made kids their own individual books and while they worked on those we played some games one-on-one. The kids loved it!

Raz-Kids – for levelled books for guided reading (totally worth it to get an account!)

Reading Assessments: 

Concepts of Print by Marie M. Clay – for basic/initial reading assessments

Fountas and Pinnell Benchmarking Kit 

Orchestrating Success in Reading by Dawn Reithaug – assessing the 5 main components of reading (great for LIT goals)

Reading Power by Adrienne Gear – great for LIT goals and reading instruciton

Autism:

Circles Curriculum – teaches social boundaries/relationships

Getting Unstuck – how to problem solve

Whole Body Listening – great tool for whole-class listening (pair with both positive reinforcement, such as a marble jar, and negative reinforcement, such as name with checks on board, and you will be set!)

Zones of Regulation – great for emotional thinking and tracking (self-monitoring)

Motivation:

A Love Letter to First-Year Teachers from We Are Teachers

And whatever you do, don’t forget to ask questions.. lots of them!

Feedly Follows

I chose to follow Think Inclusive, Edutopia, Free Technology for Teachers, and Educational Technology and Mobile Learning. My interest in inclusive education and membership in ECMP355 drove my decision to follow these pages. Inclusive education and technology (and the marriage of these two things) are vast topics that I will spend my entire life learning about. Furthermore, I am passionate and interested in these topics.

Feedly

So far I have read these articles:

5 Strategies For Structuring An Inclusive Classroom Environment – In summary, it suggests that all students benefit from a multi-sensory approach to learning, “fair isn’t always equal” and holding students to different levels/expectations is reasonable and allows them to learn at their own level, stations and centers benefit all students, rules and expectations must be clear, and teachers must be flexible/able to “read the room.” I read this article because as a fourth year education student, I am hoping to create my very own inclusive classroom environment very soon. I couldn’t agree more with what this article is saying. I am a strong believer in using Gardiner’s multiple-intelligences and used this theory to plan lessons/activities in my internship at Mossbank School. I also used stations in my 3/4 health class and this was by far their favorite lesson (aside from when I took them skating to promote healthy exercise). It was a lot of work but the learning was so valuable and well-received by all that it was worth every second! Finally, I believe that the best quality I can bring to the table as a student support teacher/inclusive educator is flexibility. I need to be flexible to meet the needs of students, parents, and teachers.

7 Things Every Special Education Teacher Should Know About Themselves – Once again, as a fourth year ed. student I read this article in hopes of getting some insight about what I should expect in my first job (hopefully!) as a student support teacher. The article highlights the need for self-reflection, asking for help, acting/trying your best, being flexible, accepting your own imperfections/inability to keep up to the workload, and maintaining a positive attitude. I agree with these observations, although I am reluctant to admit that accepting my own imperfections/inability to keep up to the workload will be part of my job. This is something that I will have to work on. The three things that resonated with me the most are: “The worst thing you can do is nothing” – Temple Grandin, “attitude makes or breaks your day,” and “flexibility solves 99% of all problems.” I didn’t, however, agree with the belief that I should accept weight gain. I think it is important for educators to take time for themselves. If your job is getting in the way of your eating/sleeping/working out and other basic health necessities, I think it is time to take a step back and reflect. The airplane analogy of fixing your own breathing mask in a crash before helping someone else here may apply – you can’t teach your students if you’re dead. I plan to do the best I can at my job, while still maintaining my own personal physical/mental health. I’m an avid runner/biker/swimmer and take pride in my cleaning eating lifestyle; I want to be a role-model for children and for them to see me leading a positive lifestyle! Balance is key!

8 Examples of Assistive Technology in the Classroom – This article is a great one to tab and keep around for future reference. It acknowledges the benefits to inclusion: “The philosophy of inclusion promotes a sense of community. Children learn valuable social skills like empathy, problem solving, communication, taking turns, teamwork and more!” but also lists assistive technology/tools that can help you create that inclusive environment, such as Class Dojo. Inclusion doesn’t happen overnight and it is nice to see an article that lists the benefits but also acknowledges how to carry this philosophy out! See also: 13 Disability Resources on the Web You May Not Know About 

The 8 Most Atrocious Myths About Inclusive Education – Another great article to tab and keep around if those difficult conversations ever arise. The reality of being a student support teacher is that resistant behaviors will arise and these must be met with data/facts.. as well as, a cool head!

12 Things To Remember When Working With Challenging Students – The do’s and don’ts of working with those challenging students (which we all will)! I think the most important thing to remember is the children who need the most love show this need in the most unconventional ways. The article mentions getting to know your students, realizing they want your love, AND not letting them walk all over you. To me, that is the recipe for success and all three ingredients must be added or it will be thrown in the trash. Tough love!

Assistive Technology Increasing Inclusion in Classrooms and Beyond – This article discussed the importance of problem solving in inclusive education and looked at a Desktop Desk invention that was made for a student in a wheelchair. We can go a long way and see great success if we think outside the box! It is all in the mindset we let ourselves have! To read more about mindset and reflective questioning/listening read: Opinion: Open-Mindedness Needed for Inclusion to Thrive

Providing Structure Without Stifling Creativity – This article caught my eye because in ECE 325 we were talking about how to balance exploration and play/child directed learning with our human instinct/desire of structure and teacher curriculum planning. This is something that I am just beginning to grapple with and it is one of my personal goals to take advantage of more “teaching moments.” I find this balance to be one of the hardest.  Maybe if I allow for choice in the set structure students will  be able to learn in a creative environment? Maybe I just need to throw out my watch? I am interested in how other educators deal with this tension; please comment below!

What Is Autism? A Definition By Nick Walker – I chose to look at this article because it is always good to refresh  my basic knowledge about varying abilities. Autism is a genetically based human neurological variant that starts in utero. It is a pervasive development disorder and 1-2% of our population is diagnosed on this spectrum,. Early diagnosis and information/research is needed. Autism is characterized by language development, social interactions, behavioral, and sensory issues. However, it is a broad spectrum and no one should be defined/categorized into these rigid boxes. Autism is different for each person because all people are unique!

Happy reading! 🙂

Reading Intervention and Learning to Read

This post highlights some helpful tools to use when teaching students to read and/or practicing during intervention times. This is an awesome website for teaching reading in Kindergarten and beyond is Starfall. I recommend game-based reading programs, as the kids seem to engage more and learn the strategies faster! I now have an entire binder overflowing with resources, games, and tricks that can supplement programs like Fountas and Pinnell. (How many binders will I have after a 35 year career?)

Intervention time and Kindergarten time are easily some of my best moments everyday and the more I work in a school the more I realize that my passion is teaching kids to read. I am enjoying, more than I ever would have guessed, working with young children. I could definitely envision myself as a Kindergarten or Grades 3-6 teacher, if I do not get my preferred SST placement!

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