Friday, January 31, 2014

Loving Literacy...My Story

Welcome to...

With Valentine's Day approaching, a group of reading specialists, coaches, and teacher bloggers that I am a part of decided it was the perfect time to share our love of literacy with you.  

We are passionate about helping children develop a love of reading, and what better way to show our love of reading than through sharing our favorite books.  

Each blogger participating in this weekend's hop is sharing materials for his/her favorite book.

I didn't learn to read until I was in second grade.  All I remember of kindergarten is coloring, playing dress up, and playing in the kitchen center.  I think we talked about our ABCs, but I didn't learn them.  I can't even remember what we did in first grade.  I was put in resource in second grade because I couldn't read.  I had a FABULOUS teacher.  I loved going to her room.  She made learning to read fun.  I quickly picked it up and have been devouring books every since.  I don't know where I would have been without her.  I wish I remembered her name because I would love to send her a thank you letter to let her know how much I appreciate what she gave me - a love of reading.

When I went to college, it took me almost a year before I decided on a major.  The turning point was an honors college world history course.  The professor used novels to help us understand history.  We read some great books in that class - Ishmael by Daniel Quinn and Hot Zone by Richard Preston.  Because of her, I decided to become a high school social studies teacher.  I graduated and got my first job teaching seventh and eighth grade social studies.  I liked it but knew that I hadn't found where I really belonged in the education world.  I was given the opportunity to become the reading teacher for seventh and eighth grade and jumped at the chance.  LOVED IT!!  I know a lot of people do not like those grades, but I think those kids are so interesting.  Not only did I love the grade level, I found my home in the classroom teaching world - showing students the joy that can be found when reading.

I am an instructional coach now and really, really love it (I think I may be using the word love too much but I want you to know how strongly I feel).  I have found my place in the education world (not just the classroom world).  I get the best of both worlds - I get to support teachers and I get to work with students.  I can use my love of literacy to show teachers how every subject can be supported by incorporating literacy strategies.

I had a really hard time choosing just one book to share with you this weekend.  I finally settled on Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen.  Why do I love this book?  Oh, so many reasons.  First the illustrator Kevin Hawkes did a fantastic job of creating pictures through acrylic and pencil.  He brings to life the people, the lion, and the library.  When asked about creating the illustrations for the book, he says, "Illustrating Library Lion was like going back to the libraries I knew as a child.  I can't think of a nicer thing than sharing a story hour with my own private lion.  I wanted the illustrations to remind me of those simple days when a visit to the library was as exciting as a trip to the zoo, only better."  Second, the story is captivating.  Outside of the New York Public Library are these massive lion statues.  Have you ever thought what would happen if one of those lions actually walked into the library for story hour?  Knudsen did!  What happened when the lion walked in?  You will have to get the book and find out.  I feel the same way about libraries that Knudsen does.  She says, "Anyone who loves libraries knows that they are special, magical places, where everyone is welcome and anything seems possible.  I've made lots of wonderful friends in libraries, both inside the pages of books and among the people who work with them."

I created some before, during, and after reading activities to go along with this magnificent book.  They are available for free this weekend only and exclusively on my blog (just click the picture above).  It will convert to a paid product after February 2nd on Teachers Pay Teachers.

I appreciate you dropping by today, and if you are new to my blog and love literacy, I hope you'll take a moment to follow my posts on Bloglovin.  It is time to continue your travels and read about everyone's else literacy story.  Click the image below and be taken to Tales of a Title I Teacher.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Trading Spaces Tuesday

Hello Fans!  If you read on, you will realize Jana is not at "home" today. She's off visiting Eclectic Educating, and she's handed off the keyboard to me for the day. I’m Carla, visiting from Comprehension Connection. I’m a reading specialist in Virginia working with fourth and fifth graders this year, and Jana and I met through a few collaborative reading blogger events. Today we're switching things up and posting on each other's blogs.  If you'd like to check out the other reading and writing posts, the bloggers participating in today's swap are listed at the bottom of my post.

Today, I thought I'd talk to you all about vocabulary.  Earlier this year, I prepared a workshop for vocabulary, and naturally, we ended up with a weather related delay on presentation day!  Let's just say I was the only one disappointed about the delay. I love sharing the information and exchanging the ideas, but the presentation part...well, it's stressful!

To begin, it's important to know what words to teach and why.  Beck and McKeown (Bringing Words to Life) recommend Tier 2 words.  Tier 1 words are words we learn through everyday conversation and may even be sightwords.  Tier 3 words are specific words that are seldom used. They are difficult and are often times themed or content words.  So what are Tier 2 words? They are the words that are just beyond your students.  They add color to writing at your students' stage and are words your students may need assistance in decoding.  I think of Tier 2 words as the "wow" words we want our students to know because they are high utility words.  Instead of walk (a Tier 1 word), you might teach trudged, galloped, meandered, or scurried (Tier 2 words). Eventually, tier 2 words become tier 1 words when students know them well.

Now, you know what words to teach and why, but how you teach them makes a difference too. This is very important...Children need 12-15 exposures through active discussion for a word to become part of the child's speaking/writing vocabulary.  We do this by repeatedly talking about and using the words.  Introduce them and directly teach the meaning through active discussion with examples and non-examples.  If you like, you could use {this freebie} for talking points.  I typically explain words and then, we discuss as a group examples and non-examples. Many teachers make foldables or use column notes for vocabulary introduction, and these are all great ideas.  After words have been introduced, you might challenge your students to discuss your reading for the day using the vocabulary words from the selected reading.  See how many times they can use a vocabulary word in their discussion (tally mark)...winner gets prize (or not).  As you teach, weave the words into the discussion and have kids keep tallies on how many words you used for the day (including during math, science and social studies).

In addition to directly teaching vocabulary for your reading material, you might post "Wow" words on a "Wow Word Board" and have students share words they learn in their reading (this will help struggling readers).  You should also use challenging words in your discussion with students and follow the words with context.  Keep these words on notecards or on rings for spontaneous games at transition times.  At line up times, you might try playing games like "Odd One Out" where you list words from a category with one odd word that doesn't fit that the students have to figure out. You might enjoy using Word Ladders (my adaptation from Rasinski's idea).  This vocabulary building freebie I have listed is a powerpoint game where you give a description of the word and students try to figure out the "mystery word" and move the shoe up the ladder to reveal a trophy.  (teacher must change the describing sentences to match the words they're teaching).

Weekly Word Ladder Vocabulary Activity

You might also try Bunko My Word, another freebie from my store, in your guided reading times after the words have been introduced.  This game works well in a table pocket chart.  Students roll a dice and select the card that goes with their number.  They might give synonyms, antonyms, or use the word in a sentence. (the cards tell what they must do).
Bunko-My-Word Vocabulary Building Game
As you can see, teaching vocabulary to your students needs to be more than a one time introduction.  In order for vocabulary instruction to be effective, repetition and careful word selection are key.  

Now I'd love to hear from you.  What ideas have worked well for your students?  If you have fun ways that have worked for your students, feel free to reply with your comments.  We all learn from each other, and I can't wait to see what you do in your classes.  I hope you'll take a moment to share, and thank you, Jana, for allowing me to steal your blog for today.   Now, I hope you'll go to your classrooms and teach vocabulary with passion. Your students will improve their comprehension if you do.  Happy Reading! 
Reading Specialist from

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Adventures in Literacy Land

After two months in the making, Adventures in Literacy Land is finally HERE!!!  I am very excited to announce the birth of a collaborative blog I am participating in as an author.

Twenty bloggers, with over 250 years of teaching experience, who love literacy (reading specialists, reading coaches, literacy teachers, etc.) have joined together to share what we love the most! We plan to share information on best practices in literacy, keep you abreast of current trends, and provide you with excellent teaching resources.

Stop by Adventures in Literacy Land each day this week to meet the authors of this blog and read their introductory posts.  We divided into five groups to focus each day on a different topic in literacy:  phonics/decoding, fluency/sight words, comprehension skills, vocabulary, and writing/grammar. 

Even more exciting is our BIG giveaway at the end of the week.  We are giving away FOUR $25 gift certificates to Teachers Pay Teachers.  EVERYONE who enters will win an exclusive prize pack.  The authors of the blog each created an EXCLUSIVE freebie to give to ONLY our followers to show our appreciation for joining us on our new journey.

I am being introduced on day four (vocabulary).  Here is a glimpse at what I am including in our exclusive prize pack.  I can't wait to see you there!!


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