I DARE you to revise your writing

Revision is hard for students and even adults. We think our writing is perfect when really it could use some tuning up. If we thought of revision as decorating our room or house, maybe the dreaded feeling when it comes to revising may feel less daunting.

So what is DARE and how can you use it when you are writing?

D – Delete any unnecessary information – Think to yourself: do I really need that information in my writing?

A – Add transition words, details, and voice to your writing.

R – Rearrange your writing so that it is in logical order: first, second, third . . . last.

E – Exchange weak words for stronger words. (Brings out the details and voice. Get rid of those “dead” words that keep being used over.)

The best tip I’ve heard is to have someone else read your writing to you. You’ll catch mistakes and revisions you want to make to your writing.

Happy teaching,
Traci

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Why I Love Using Google Docs for Writing Intervention

It’s my 21st year of teaching. Even though I’m considered a veteran teacher, I’m still learning new tricks especially this year with us being virtual then hybrid and now back to virtual come November 30th.

This year I took the initiative and started co-teaching/ working in the social studies and writing fifth grade classroom. A few weeks ago, it was made official and that I would be working with the fifth students who have writing goals on their IEP. This allows me to focus on one subject area instead of 3. To be honest, I still focus on all 3 subjects because I do have 2 fourth graders that I provide intervention for on a weekly basis. Both of them only have adaptive behavior goals, reading, and math.

We use a program called Boomwriter for their writing so they can have a portfolio. Even though I like the program because everything is right there. I’m still loving Google Docs for when I’m doing writing intervention.

Let me tell you why: I can be on their document at the same time which allows for in real time feedback. The other day, I cut and pasted the students’ writing into a Google Doc and then we edited and revised their writing. With the student’s help, we separated out the sentences by highlighting each one. It allowed us to work on each sentence together. (Before I continue on, I had one student in the same room as me and the other was on Zoom so it works for face to face students and virtual students.)

Each sentence was looked at for grammar errors (CUPS) and revisions (DARE). As soon as we were done looking at each sentence, we crossed them out. That was a visual reminder that we had checked over that sentence. Once we were done with checking each sentence, then we could remove the highlight and strike through.

Another way I use Google Docs for writing intervention is using the comment section. When the students are writing, they may ask me how to spell a word. I can leave a comment for them to help them with their spelling. More times than not, I need to write down the word to make sure I’m spelling the word correctly. I can also provide them with sentence starters with their writing.

Another reason I like it is because I can move my cursor to where I want them to write. They look for that cursor: visual cueing. It is so much better than continually telling them to find a certain word. Sometimes I might highlight the word, I want them to look for instead of using my cursor. It all depends on my mood.

My final reason is that it allows for assistive technology. If you get the Google speak to text extension, it will read the document to them. They can listen to their writing and see if it makes sense without you reading it to them. There is also the capability for them to use the speech to text tool (under TOOLS). Some students struggle at writing or typing. It is easier for them to speak what they want to say and that tool is beneficial.

I’ll write about using the acronyms of CUPS and DARE in another blog post.

Happy teaching,
Traci

5 Free Resources for Progress Monitoring – Reading Comprehension

As an Intervention Specialist, you are constantly trying to find resources to use for progress monitoring. There are some good resources and some that are not so good.

Here are some of my favorite resources that I have utilized during my career.

The first one is easyCBM. They have free probes for reading comprehension. What I like is the fact, you can determine if they are having problems with literal questions, inferential questions, or evaluative questions.

I use the lite version of the website.

Another great site is Newsela. They take current events from newspapers and present the articles in five different lexiles. All of the articles and questions are Common Core based which is great if you are looking for a specific standard.

You need to do a little searching for articles that are on lower grade levels. There is an advance search option which helps you if you need to find lower articles. If you have basic readers, you will not find articles for them because their Lexile levels are low. I believe the lowest Lexile range made the reading level equivalent to second grade.

Pro: High interest stories
Con: Only informational text

Florida Reading Research – If you are looking for graphic organizers or even some ideas to teach reading skills, this could be a jumping point. This site was developed before Common Core so some of the materials may be outdated so be cautious of that situation.

Readworks – I love that you can print out the articles or have the students complete the assignments online. Win! Win!
The one con is that for the lower grade/ Lexile levels, the writing space has primary lines. If you have upper elementary like me that can be disheartening to the students. You don’t want the students to feel as though the work they are completing is babyish.

K12 reader – These are short half page informational text about a variety of topics such as making connections with what you are reading.
Pros – Short passages
Aligned to the Common Core standards

Cons – They are 36 passages for each grade / reading level. However, they are not in sequential order which means if you want to do them in order then you need to search through all of them.
There is no Lexile level for any of the passages. So if it says it’s on second grade reading level, is it truly on that level?
The questions seem to be more literal which is DOK1 maybe DOK2 questions. You might need to supplement with creating some of your own questions.

I hope these help you with your search for resources. I will continue to share some resources for other subject areas.

Happy teaching,
Traci

Sight Word Bowling

I have many students who struggle with reading basic sight words.  I previously wrote a post about one sight word intervention that I have used with the students.

Then I decided to go back to what I did back in the day.  In one of my books from my first year of teaching was a game called Sight Word Bowling.  I wrote the words on bowling pin clip art.  After I laminated the words, I cut out the bowling pin shapes.  I put those words in a big manila envelope that I taped onto the wall of my office.

I also had a bowling score sheet that  I used while we were playing the game.  The students loved it.

Since I’ve brought it back, my struggling students are now learning sight words without realizing they are learning.


When I created an updated version of the game, I looked up the Dolch sight words by frequency and grade.  Since there are 220 words, I divided the Dolch list in half.  Now I have 2 different games, a more basic level and then a more advanced level.

The basic level has all words from the pre-primer level and primer level.  It also has some of the words from the first grade level.  The advanced level has the remainder of the words from the first grade level.  It also has all the words from the second grade and third grade lists.


Once I divided the words into two different levels, I decided there was going to be 11 words per point value.  The point values range from one to ten.  The more frequent words are worth 1 points while the less frequent words are worth 10 points.


For my students I put the words on blank flash cards (orange for the basic and blue for the advanced).  Then I put the cards in a container.  We pull out the cards one at a time.  They read the word.  If it’s correct, they get the word and points.  I give them 2 chances to read the words.  We play 10 rounds.  Then they waited with baited breath as I total up the words.

For you, I typed up the words where you can cut them out and glue them on index cards so they are more durable.  Click on the photo for the link to the words.  (This is only the basic level.)

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Here is also a list of all of the words and all the point values.  The different colors represent the different lists starting with the pre-primer to the third grade list.

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I used to do a score sheet but now I just used the values on the cards.  However if you would like a printable score sheet, I found this one.


One of my students was doing the math of how many points he earned while we playing the game.  Love it.

Happy teaching,

Traci

 

P.S.  I got the bowling ball clip art from Bee Creative Cliparts

Sight Word Intervention

There is much debate on the importance of reading sight words in isolation.  Should students being doing that or should they be reading them in phrases?

When you have insecure readers, sometimes the best thing is to have them read the words in isolation first.  Build up their confidence THEN have them start reading the words in phrases.  Then in sentences and finally in passages.

I have multiple insecure readers in my resource room.  Flashcards on index cards frustrate them.  So how can I make them not be so frustrated?

Making a Google slideshow or Power Point slideshow with one word per slide.  They love it because it’s on the computer.  (I’ve hooked up one of the Google slideshows that I’ve created of  words from the Pre-primer list.)


Where do I find the word lists online?  There are 3 places I can find sight words.

Sightword.com is an excellent website because it has lists of the words, flashcards, and ways to teach sight words.  It has both the Dolch sight word list and the Fry sight word list.

Another great resource is Mrsperkins.com.  She provides all of the Dolch sight words.  What I enjoy about this resource is the fact that she also provides Dolch sight word phrases.  So once I’ve worked on their confidence, I’ll begin making Google slideshows with the phrases.

The third place is Cando’s Helper.  This one focuses on the Fry word lists.  He has different activities for the Fry lists.  Warning:  This website has not been updated in 6 years so you might want to “snatch” some of the resources and save them for later.


How do I assess the students or keep their progress?

Data is the key to education.  So how do I know that this intervention is effective?  You can print the slides on Google slides without the background and with multiple slides per page.  By each word, you can put the date of the assessment.  You put a plus sign by the words they read correctly, a minus sign by the words they read incorrectly, and a circled minus sign by the words they self-corrected.

This is effective if you going to have them read the words multiple times.  Once they have mastered the words, move on.  Spiral back from time to time to assure they really do know the word.

On Mrs. Perkin’s site, you can print the a pretest/ posttest sheet.  Highlight the words you tested and then use the plus, minus, and circled minus sign coding.  Date it.


I hope these ideas help you.  I only spend about 5 minutes during intervention times to review the sight words.  I don’t want to make it the focus.  I rather have more authentic uses of sight words such as having them reading books/ passages on their instructional level.  My reasoning for the sight word intervention is to make them feel more secure with reading.

Many of them have felt frustrated with reading.

I hope this helps you.

Happy teaching,
Traci

This Year

April 2017 – My principal came to my room to evaluate me for the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System (OTES).  During the time she was in my room, she observed me working one on one with a student on my caseload.  When she walked out of my room, she was impressed with me.  She saw me in a different light.

So she wanted to work on my strengths which is working with students in a small group or individually rather than have me in a classroom.

Last year school year, I was slated to have a position of resource room.  I had students assigned to me.  By Thursday of the same week I was given the list of the students, my position was changed to inclusion teacher.  I spent all of last year in an English Language Arts and social studies class.  Even though I had 65% of the students I worked show increases in their reading, it was not the best fit for me.

This year, we hired another Intervention Specialist so that I could be the Resource Room teacher.  I work with some of the same students I did last year since they are fifth graders.  The majority of the students are “excited” and happy that I am continuing to help them with their IEP goals and objectives.  They remember some of the lessons I taught them last year when we did come down to my room/ office for intervention.

Some of the fourth graders were apprehensive when I took them to my room for the first time.  However they are now more than willing to come to my room even though it means they are still working.  I have a few that don’t really want to come down to the Resource room.  I don’t think it really has to do with me.  It’s because of social reasons.

So what do I do while they are in the resource room?

A little of everything – Reading fluency, phonological awareness, phonics, reading comprehension, math calculation, word problems, and writing.  As I said, a little of everything.

I’ll share where I get my resources in future posts.  I have taught in a resource room for the majority of my career so it’s something that I feel that I can be effective in assisting students become more academic proficient.

Happy teaching,
Traci

Primary Spelling Inventory

Thirteen or so years ago, I took a class about phonics.  The professor introduced me to Words Their Way which is a systematic way to teach phonics and spelling.

The program

Instead of the students having a set spelling list for the week, this program is a word study.  Each student is assessed using an inventory – primary or elementary.  After their assessment, they will then be identified as being in a certain spelling stage ranging from emergent where they are just learning about letters and the sounds they make to derivational relationships where they are learning and manipulating about Latin and Greek roots.

I rarely if never get students who are in the derivational relationships spelling stage.  Actually I can’t recall any of my students assessing in that stage.  The majority of my students are in the Letter-Name Alphabetic and Within Word Patterns stages.  The other stage is syllable and affix stage.

In order the stages are:

  1.  Emergent
  2. Letter-Name Alphabetic
  3. Within Word Patterns
  4. Syllables and Affixes
  5. Derivational Relationships

I’m not going to go into any real detail about the stages in this blog post.  Today I’m going to be talking about the spelling inventory.  I’m going to focus on the spelling inventory I typically assess my students with and that is the Primary Spelling Inventory.

 

So what are the features, you are looking at?

  • Beginning Consonants
  • Ending Consonants
  • Short Vowels
  • Consonant Digraphs
  • Consonant Blends
  • Long Vowel Patterns
  • Other Vowel Patterns (Diphthongs, R-Influenced Vowels)
  • Inflected Endings

So how do you administer this inventory?

  1. Read each word once without breaking the words into phonemes or individual sounds.  Give an example sentence.  Repeat the word.  (Do not repeat the words more than those 2 times.)
  2. Continue with the inventory.

Administer this inventory in the fall, winter, and spring.  It provides excellent data for their IEP’s.

Here is a breakdown by grade level of how many words you should administer of the inventory:

  • Kindergarten – First 5 to 8 words – Unless they have gotten 5 of the words correctly then you can continue on with the spelling inventory
  • First Grade – First 15 words – You can do more depending on the student.
  • Second Grade and Beyond – The whole list

Some websites suggest stopping after the student has missed 3 to 5 in a row.  It is up to you as the proctor of the test if you would like to stop.  I usually continue on so that I can truly see what my students can do.

Determining their spelling level

There is a feature guide/ breakdown of the spelling inventory.  The proctor analyzes the spelling inventory.  The student gets one point for each feature they corrected used.  Each feature earns up to 7 points.  If they get 6 or 7 of the points for the feature, they have mastered that feature.

If the student has missed 2 or more on a feature, that is their instructional level or their spelling stage.

My gift to you

I have created a document with a sheet where they can take the spelling inventory, the actual spelling inventory with example sentences you can use when administering the inventory, the feature guide/ breakdown of the words, and then a data sheet for the student so you can compare how they did at the beginning of the school year to the end of the school year.

On the page with the breakdown of the words, you could write fall, winter, or spring across the top or bottom to help remind you of when they took the season.

 

Words Their Way Primary#2

 

In future blog posts, I will explain how I use the data and how I’ve used the program in my resource room.

Until later,
Happy teaching,
Traci

Parent Contact Sheets

It is important to keep data on your students.  One way to keep data is to have a parent contact sheet.  Every time you contact or attempt to contact your parent, you should keep a record of it.

Am I good at keeping record of my contacts?  To be honest, not always.

I created a sheet that may make it easier.  Instead of a lot of boxes to write in, a few of the boxes are places you can check off with one spot of notes where you can write in whether you should follow up on the conversation or any other important details about the conversation.

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Let me walk you through the document.  At the top of the first page is a place for you to put the demographics of the student – their name, parent’s name, phone numbers, email, and any emergency numbers.  There were times we could not get a hold of the parent but could get a hold of another family member.  Our database listed other people we could contact.

Since there is plenty of room in the header area of the document, you could certainly write someone’s name that you cannot call because of a court issue or custody issue.

The table for the contacts is pretty user friendly.  You need to write the date and time you called them.  Writing down both of those will help you if the parent wants to dispute a conversation you had with them.  Believe me those things do happen.

The How column is for how you contacted them.  There were some parents that I could only get them by talking to them at dismissal.  Others I would email.  It all depends on how the parent wants you to contact them.

The Contact column is a little different.  There were a lot of parents who did not have a voicemail that identified who they were so I’m always leery about leaving messages on those voicemails.  Another problem was many parents who change their phone numbers and not update the office to those changes.  So that’s what the bottom two choices on the contacts section reflect.

The Reason column is for if it’s for something positive or a concern.  You do not need to be specific.  You don’t always want the reason you are calling to about concerns you are having about the student.  Make sure you are making positive calls.

The Notes column is for anything you want to remember about the conversation.  If you checked reason as being a concern, then you certainly need to write down your concern.  Don’t write a book just give specific details.  If there needs to be a follow up, write that down.

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The document continues onto the next page.  If you would like a copy of this parent contact sheet, click on this link.

Happy teaching,
Traci

Positive Messages

In the blog post State Testing Necessities for Students, I mentioned leaving positive messages to the students.

What are they? and How are they beneficial?

I had seen something about leaving positive messages on the desks using dry erase markers. So I decided to do that for my students.

The students loved the messages. Well, except for one. That student wiped the message off his desk almost immediately.

At the end of the testing period, I washed down the desks with Clorax Wet Wipes. You could not tell the desks had writing on them.

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The student who I wrote the message “Let your inner fierceness shine!” loved her message. She was upset when I cleaned up her desk so I had to promise her that I would write a different one during the district testing.

So why is writing those messages on the desks important? Students need to feel valued. Sometimes they come from homes where they don’t hear anything positive.

Another reason it is so important is if students hear something positive and motivating, they will work towards achieving the goals set forth by the teacher, them, or the teacher and them together.

It builds rapport between the teacher and student.

In this day and age, there has been so much violence in our schools. I don’t remember having this much violence when I was growing up. It may have been there but with social media being so in our face, the numbers are staggering on how much violence we are seeing in the schools. If we as teachers can make one connection with a student, that connection may mean the student not following a path of violence. Those motivational words on their day may let them know there is someone who cares about me and my future. You may be the person who turns that student’s life around.

Where can you find some inspirational quotes to write on the desks?

You can certainly write your own. All of mine said “Rock the Test!” and something personal to the student.

However you can use Google to help you come up with some quotes.

When I Googled Disney inspirational quotes, here are five links I found.

  • Inspirational Quotes from Disney Princesses – My favorite is from Tiana. “The only way to get what you want in this world is through hard work.”
  • Inspirational Quotes for Kids – My favorite is “You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” – A.A. Milne/Christopher Robin.
  • Great Quotes for Kids – “Why fit in when you were born to stand out?” – Dr. Seuss
  • Inspirational Quotes for Kids – 33 of them – “You have brains in your head, you have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…” Dr. Seuss
  • Connections Academy – “Today a reader, tomorrow a leader.” Margaret Fuller

You can also look on Pinterest to help you find quotes.

Happy Teaching!
Traci