Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Guided Reading Group Host or Hostess - The Ideal Intervention?

As a classroom teacher, do you have a child who is reading a couple levels below the expectation? Do they work hard, but never quite seem to catch up? 

Would you like to implement a 1:1 (or even small group) intervention for him or her - but find there just aren't enough minutes in the day?  Or are you already implementing this intervention, but finding that it is still not enough? 

Here's something to try. . . 

1) Keep that student in his/her own guided reading group. Continue to carefully select text at just the right level and provide solid instruction, as you do for each of your little sweeties. 

2) Look carefully at what this child is doing during the time he or she is not in your guided reading group. Consider an alternative to one of the reading rotations:

Invite that child to be your Guided Reading Host or Hostess! 

Have your Host or Hostess join a group one or two levels above his/her instructional reading level (as a helper and a guest). 

The Guided Reading Host can hand out the books and supplies for you. He/she will hear your book introduction and experience any word work activities you share with the group. The Host or Hostess gains exposure to any vocabulary you discuss with the group. Then the Host or Hostess simply chooses a partner to sit with. As the group member reads, the Guided Reading Host (or Hostess) silently follows along.

Surprisingly, they often offer help or pop in with the correct word when their partner is stuck! 

What is happening?  They are experiencing on-level instruction, free of stress. Many students learn best when they can relax and enjoy. They take pride in their genuine role as your helper. Participating as a Host or Hostess helps this reader build confidence and develop a special relationship with you. 

From my experience, it's both a joy and a huge academic boost for the child involved. In all honesty, my students sometimes gained more from simply helping me host another group than they did from the quick interventions I could fit into the day.  

As the group wraps up, the Host or Hostess can collect materials and put them away, helping prepare the area for the next group. 

** Note - This is never in place of their own leveled group.  It is in addition to it! **

If you try this idea, would you be so kind as to share your experience?  Just choose a student to help you host groups.  Record his/her reading level prior to becoming a host or hostess and after a period of time. Compare the growth with the average growth of the readers in your room. Help teachers take back research by sharing your results!  (To do so, just email me at Annegardner4@gmail.com.) 

P.S. - This routine works as well for students with impulse control/behavior issues as it does for students who need a little extra boost with reading. In this case, have your Host or Hostess go and gently give reminders to other students to stay on task and/or to keep the noise level down. You might even consider having him/her observe and take notes regarding students who are staying on task. What we teach, we learn. It's likely that your slightly behavior-challenged student(s) will internalize the behaviors they have the opportunity to help others learn. 

Thanks so much for stopping by!  

:) Anne Gardner (NBCT, Literacy)


Graphics by Tiny Graphics Shack


Sunday, July 7, 2019

Recognize Positive Character Traits and Teach Growth Mindset with Daily News

Would you like a powerful no-prep way to start the day? What if it was was completely free, supported multiple ELA standards, and also encouraged positive character traits as well as growth mindset?

What kid doesn't want to be a super hero? Help them see positive character traits and growth mindset as superpowers!

A little background. . . I am a retired teacher. Every now and then, I think back to what we did in classrooms long ago. There have been many new and exciting ideas since then. But, sometimes I think back to ideas that have fallen out of view and wonder - what have we lost?

Today, I often see pre-written daily messages or messages with a few blanks to be filled in. Long ago, we started each morning meeting with a blank page (from one of those easel-sized writing charts). Today, using a Smartboard would be a great choice for many teachers.

Here's a really simple way to start. . . Introduce one of these free posters designed to encourage positive character traits and growth mindset. Give students a moment to turn and talk about what this means to them. Some days, challenge them to think of a way they can display the trait. Other times, ask them to think of a time they noticed a classmate displaying the trait. 

Write, using Interactive Writing, with the class about ways students can show these traits. As you write, reinforce the concept of using complete sentences, with a capital letter at the beginning and punctuation at the end. Take time to model stretching words to hear the sounds. Chant the spelling of sight words the group is learning.

There are many ways to manage this. I always like the craft sticks with kids' names. After kids have had a chance to turn and talk, you could pull a couple sticks. Or - if you hear something during turn and talk that you'd really like to highlight, call on that child to share!  

When you're done, you'll have some authentic text to use for shared reading with the group. Some kids will read along throughout the text. Others may just be excited to recognize their own name in print.

Want to help parents understand some of your social-emotional goals?  Print this sheet out, perhaps at the end of the week - and send it home!  In doing this, the entire class grows to see themselves as collective authors.  

Here's a sample of what a page of daily news might look like:

The posters, which are available for free in my TpT shop, include 18 topics to get started. You can download the Kindness Counts posters here and the Growth Mindset version here

In writing this daily news, there are so many ELA standards that can be addressed.  Here are just a few examples: 
  • Use a combination of drawing, dictating, and writing to compose informative/explanatory texts in which they name what they are writing about and supply some information about the topic. (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.K.2)
  • Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about kindergarten topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups. (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.K.1) 
  • Speak audibly and express thoughts, feelings, and ideas clearly. (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.K.6)
Want to carry the learning a bit further?  These daily news charts can be the foundation of an amazing class memory book! As you create these with your class, add them to a simple 3 ring binder. I'm guessing this will quickly become a favorite.

If you ask for supplies, consider asking for a 1 inch binder with a clear pocket on the front. As you approach the end of the year, three hole punch these and place them in the binder. Give kids blank sheets as well, and have them add more examples of ways they display these traits and/or see their classmates display these traits. These can easily become an amazing memory book!

Wishing you a wonderful year!

Anne Gardner (NBCT, Literacy)

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Helping Kids Make Connections while Learning the First 100 Fry Words

I think we'd all agree, learning high frequency words is essential for beginning readers. I think we'd also agree, developing decoding skills is a very high priority. 

I'm here to say. . .  I really believe that it's best for kids if they are not kept separate! 

The Fry words are commonly used as high frequency words. I'm thankful to have this list. It's great to know which words occur most frequently in print. But, these word lists were not designed as an instructional sequence. When these words are introduced in order (by frequency within text), it takes away our opportunity to show kids the connections among words. Reading is all about making connections - and there are so many connections that can be made as kids learn these important words! 

I've been playing with various ways to organize these words in a way which can help kids develop phonics skills - and understand the relationships among these words - while also focusing on high frequency words.  

Do you have a moment to take a look?   

The first page of this file includes only short vowel words which are on the 1st 100 Fry word list. I'd recommend starting with these basic short vowel words. (There are digraphs included and a few consonant blends. Those are words to provide a bit more support with.) 

The second page is a bit unique.  It includes all the short vowel words with phonetic spellings - and also irregularly spelled words with the vowel sound. I recommend introducing this page after kids have become comfortable reading the first set, which included only short vowel words with standard spelling. 

  • Under short a, I've added the word have (even though there's a silent e.) 
  • Under short e, I've included words with the short e sound: been, said and many. This a great time to introduce the idea that letter sounds are very helpful for reading words, but there are some exceptions to every rule.   
  • Under short i, the words which, into and little are added.  
  • The short o words remain the same!
  • Under short u, I've added another column - words with the schwa sound. Once kids learn to use the short u sound (with the umbrella at the top as a key), it's much easier for them to remember the vowel sound and read these words. 
The third page, with long vowel sounds, includes just a few words that need some extra explanation.  They, there and their are included under long a - according to their vowel sound. You and your are included under long u. (This could be debated, but I find that kids pick up on it quickly!)

The fourth, and final page, was a lot of fun to create. My goal was to give kids supports that would help them read these words (once they have been introduced). So - I went with sets of rhyming words whenever possible - with a key word at the top. The few words left are grouped by vowel sound (first, her and were) or by concept (number words: one, two). 

There are definitely other ways these words could be arranged.  To me, the important thing is that we arrange them in a way (any way) which helps kids make connections. 

These word charts are available, for free, at my Teachers pay Teachers shop.  Click here or on any of the pictures to download the set.  

Thanks so much for stopping by and taking a look!   I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. 

:) Anne Gardner (NBCT, Literacy)

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Guided Reading (RtI) Lesson - Level C

One thing I've always enjoyed, but didn't often get to do, was to watch other teachers present lessons. I just came across this guided reading video. So - I decided to share it in hopes that it might be a conversation starter. 

I think these kids are just great and I hope you enjoy watching them read, build words and talk about books! (Sorry the resolution isn't better.  I had to compress it three times to get it small enough to load here.)

This is a 20 minute guided reading lesson. Watching the video, I thought of ten questions (below) that I'd consider while evaluating this lesson. If you'd like a copy of these questions, click here.

If you have other ideas for questions to ask ourselves as we complete lessons, I'd love to hear your thoughts. Please leave a comment below.

If anyone else wants to join in and share a lesson, just let me know. I would be happy to add your video here! (Imagine having a collection of videos to watch? As much as I have an aversion to seeing myself on film, it seems worth sharing a lesson with all my cyberfriends.) 

 Thanks for stopping by and taking a look!    :) Anne Gardner

Monday, August 14, 2017

Very First Growth Mindset - Tips for 2019

What could be better than helping kids switch from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset?

Helping them start school with a growth mindset!

Students with a growth mindset are able to understand and celebrate the importance of problem solving, perseverance and learning from their mistakes. 

Introducing and discussing growth mindset can help our youngest students take pride in doing their personal best, accepting new challenges and learning to recognize mistakes as learning opportunities. 
Here's a simple way to help kids develop a growth mindset: Discuss, display and then revisit these Very First Growth Mindset posters.   

Introduce just one poster a day. With the goal of developing the classroom community, ask students if they can think of a time when a classmate acted like a superhero by displaying that trait.  (Have an example in mind just in case students don't come up with ideas.)

When a student exhibits a growth mindset trait, put a sticky note up by the poster with their name and celebrate what you've noticed.  (The best thing is when kids start to naturally notice and celebrate as one another exhibit these traits!)
Click here or on the picture above if you'd like to download this free set of Growth Mindset Posters from my Teachers Pay Teachers shop. 

Kindness, honesty and caring will always be essential traits to notice and celebrate!  

These Kindness Counts posters are a handy way to introduce and discuss these essential qualities.  Click here or on the picture above to download this set.  

Finally, if you'd like a banner to top off a bulletin board, here's a free and simple banner saying, "What's Your Superpower?"  This banner is now included with the Kindness Counts posters at my shop.

Thanks so much for stopping by!  I hope you find these materials useful.  

:) Anne Gardner

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Dots and Boxes!

Do you remember using dot paper as a kid?  It was always one of my favorite things! My grandmother used to carefully draw the dots by hand. Times sure have changed, but I find my primary students are just as enamored with activities using dot paper as I was.   

Dot paper and a die are great tools to help kids develop number sense.  A student can roll a die, draw a shape around that many dots and write the number in the shape.  (Kids can play with a partner or on their own.  A wipe-off plastic sleeve is handy for this activity.) 

The next step ~ Offer either a ten-sided die or two dice to roll.  When using two dice, it's easy to differentiate by deciding whether each student is best served by writing just the number or an equation inside the shape. 

My kids always love this simple counting and number writing game.  The first person circles one dot and writes the number one.  The second person draws a shape around two dots and writes the number two, . . .   The only rule is that a player may not cross a line.  

Early in the year, I like to show kids how to play the classic Dots and Boxes game. Kids take turns connecting two dots, either vertically or horizontally. Players write their initial in each box they complete.   

Later in the year, I put sight words inside the boxes. When a student completes a box, he/she reads, traces and writes the sight word. You can add your own words to dot paper. (To try a sample of this game and also download simple dot paper, click here.)  

I always felt like I was missing a piece - kids just love these games so much that there must be a way to add more . . .   

Then I met Linda Nelson of Primary Inspiration.  Linda shared her Spring into Summer math games with me.  I was AMAZED! This set includes 30 unique games and every one involves a creative twist that makes it especially engaging. These are games that students beg to play, even during inside recess. As they play, they practice essential math skills while also learning to plan ahead and use a variety of strategies. What a combination! 

Since I just love Dots and Boxes games, Linda's Fireflies game really jumped out at me! Linda had put numbers inside the dots. Brilliant! It was the exact twist I had been looking for.  

My son, Keith, was studying Computer Science in college and had just written a variation of a Dots and Boxes app. When we saw Fireflies, our eyes grew oh so big! We touched base with Linda, and she said go ahead and use the idea in an app. THANKS, LINDA!

Here's the app on iTunes.  It's called Addition and Subtraction Boxes. The following levels are included: 
  • Counting within Five (Free)
  • Counting within Ten
  • Addition within Five (Free)
  • Subtraction within Five
  • Addition within Ten 
  • Subtraction within Ten
  • Addition within Twenty
  • Adding with Three Addends
  • Subtraction within Twenty (Free)
The game can be played either with a partner or in one player mode. (In single player mode, an image is uncovered as the player completes the boxes.)

We've had fun creating this game and would love to hear your feedback if you have a chance to take a look. 


If you're looking for fun and engaging games and activities, I highly recommend exploring Primary Inspiration by Linda Nelson. She puts such a fun twist on rock-solid content!

Here are just a few of her fabulous free games and activities: 

I played these games just for fun (repeatedly) 

as soon as I downloaded the file! 

Another fun twist on a Dots and Boxes game!

So versatile and kids love them!

Thanks so much for stopping by!  I'd love to hear about your experiences with any of these activities or other variations on dots activities.  

:)  Anne Gardner 

Monday, December 28, 2015

Pick Up Sticks with Straws ~ How fun!

I'd like to share a game my kids have always loved - Pick Up Sticks with Straws. 

To play, just pick up a box of straws. These were 99 cents at Price Chopper. Cut the straws into sections. I used a ruler and cut pieces of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 inches long. 

Then, play just like the traditional game of Pick Up Sticks. One player holds the sticks vertically in his or hand with the bottom of each straw touching the table (or floor). The straws scatter as they are released.  Players take turns trying to pick up a straw without moving any other straw.  If any other straw moves, that straw is returned to the pile. 

I love to use this game for measurement and estimation! Players can be challenged to pick a straw and then estimate its length. Either nonstandard units (such as paper clips) or standard units (such as inches can be used). If the player estimates within one unit of the actual length, he/she keeps the straw. If not, the straw is put back into the pile and play continues. Variations include playing until all straws have been picked, or playing until a player's straws can form a straight line from one end of the table to the other.  

Looking for a quicker game? One player can hold a collection of straws of a variety of lengths. Straws up to five inches long generally work best for this. The player conceals the bottom of the straws within their hands and let's the top show. The other players take turns picking a straw. Options include:
  • Pick one straw each. Player with the longest straw wins, if he/she can tell how long the straw is. 
  • Pick several straws each. Players measure their straws and add the length. Player with the greatest length wins. 
  • Pick two straws each.Player with total length closest to 5 units wins. 
  • Pick two straws each. Find the difference between the lengths of the two straws. The player with the greatest difference wins.
Kids often have so much fun with these games that they don't even realize they are practicing important math skills.  

Do you have favorite, easy to make, inexpensive math games?  If so, I'd love to hear about them!

Thanks for stopping by!   :) Anne Gardner