Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Teaching Main Idea in grades 3-5

Identifying the Main Idea of a text and supporting details seems to be a struggle for many readers. Students at all different levels of reading often struggle to determine what the author is trying to convey as the most important information.

To help our students determine the main idea we need to follow a few steps ourselves. The first step is ensuring we choose an appropriate text. The text we choose should require our students to comprehend and think in depth. The goal of the text is to build a deep understanding. The types of text we choose can range from a text book, magazine article, passage, online articles, any form of informational text that lends itself to the skill we are focusing on.

Step two is introducing the text to our students. Before reading a text discuss your purpose for reading. When students know the purpose they are better focused and prepared to read for understanding.

Step three is modeling how to identify the key ideas and details from the text. Modeling how to omit or cross off any unimportant information is also beneficial for students to understand why the information is not critical to the main idea. While reading students should write down any key ideas or details in the margin or on a graphic organizer.

As educators we know prompting and discussions about what was read is a crucial part of the reading process. Too often we feel unsure of what prompts to ask or are overwhelmed by the large amount of question prompts available to us. Below are a few prompts that focus on identifying the main idea and it's supporting details from a text.

1. What are some of the most important ideas?
2. What does the author want you to know about ______?
3. Ask students questions about specific sentences in the text; how does the information relate to the main idea?
4. What is the text mostly about?
5. What are some reoccurring words or phrases within the text?
6. What could be another title for the text?
7. What is the main idea?
8. What details does the author use to support the main idea?

Even with the best teaching and perfect text some students still need support with pulling out the key information from a text. I'm working with some struggling readers who are able to pull the information from a text with my support, but struggle to do this independently. I've created some passages that will allow my students to think critically and provided them with a graphic organizer to help them write down the key information. Some of the students need more support than others so I chose to differentiated the graphic organizer rather than the text. With state testing coming up soon I wanted to ensure my students have been exposed to grade level text as much as possible. I have shared freebie from this Main Idea Maps pack for you below.

Students needed lots of support use a highlighter to trace the lines and boxes that show the supporting details.

To purchase all five lesson plans and passages please visit my TpT store. 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Reading Comprehension Strategy & A Freebie

One of my favorite close reading strategies to teach students is SQ3R. I have used this strategy for several years and continue to teach it in the 3-5 classes at my current school. This strategy has fewer steps than UNRAVEL and other similar types of strategies.

SQ3R is usually a Reading Strategy used during reading and students generate questions for what they are reading to help them comprehend the passage, chapter, or book.  The way I use it in my class, and most teachers in my school, is for test prep.  Those reading passages and questions on state assessments can be very intimidating or overwhelming for our students.  I have revised the original SQ3R and our school's version of SQ3R to help prepare  my students for difficult reading passages. {I do have my students use this strategy in ALL subject areas.}

Looking at the poster below you can see some of my adaptations to each of the steps. You can get the poster HERE for Free :)

Scan: Students do this step naturally, they simply look over the reading material while looking for illustrations, graphic organizers, bold words, number of paragraphs or stanza, etc.

Questions: I require my students to read the questions BEFORE reading the passage.  This is to set a purpose and get them focused on what they are looking for as they read.  I now require my students to write the skill each question is addressing.  We have been practicing this with my Reading Comprehension Question Analysis product.

Read:  Students read the passage and make annotations as they read.  This year's group really needed to chunk information which is why I added annotations.  To simplify it for my students they write the main idea of each paragraph for informational text and a summary of each paragraph for fictional text.

Reread: Students answer the questions by looking back into the text and highlighting the proof or evidence that helped them answer each question.  Students also write the problem number next to the highlighted evidence.

Recheck: Students simply make sure ALL questions have been answered and they have highlighted their evidence.

In the above picture you can see how my student uses SQ3R.  I do have my students write the letters S, Q, R, R, R on their papers to help them keep the steps straight. In my current district they do not allow students to use highlighters on the state assessments, so I simply teach students to underline their evidence with their pencil.

The next two pictures show how my students label their questions.  Some questions you do not know the skill until the passage has been read, but they can still write what they believe it is.  I do this step to get them thinking about what the question is asking for.

Using this strategy has helped my student's reading comprehension.  It requires them to be active readers and to show their work and thinking.  The only problem I have is getting them to do it on their own.  Recently I handed them a passage in which they followed the steps in class to compare with a homework assignment they did not use SQ3R, and compare their grades.  They needed the visual to see how effective this strategy is.  On weekly test I will note who read the questions first and reward them with a piece of candy. Each week I change the step I am looking for and don't tell which one will help them earn a piece of candy.  By the time testing comes around they can follow these steps in their sleep :)

Because I LOVE this strategy so much I've created a FREEBIE for you to use with your students.  The first passage is to help you model and complete each of the steps with your students. The second passage is for them to complete with a partner, and the third passage is for them to complete on their own independently or for homework.  I would LOVE to hear how this strategy worked for your students!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Freedom Summer Literacy Companion: Pin It to Win It

Can you believe we are already half way through January!  I'm not sure about you, but these two weeks have been long and interesting! I was looking forward to this long weekend to catch up on some sleep, laundry, and planning!

Throughout my years of teaching I've always looked forward to the MLK weekend to get caught up and to start planning my for February. With February known as Black History Month, Presidents, and Love I always try to tie my teaching standards to those topics.  One of the books I utilize in February is Freedom Summer.  I love this story of friendship and how it overcomes segregation during a difficult time period in our nation's history.

Last year I used my  Freedom Summer Literacy Companion Pack with a third grade class during our MOY mClass assessments.  Here is an overview of how I used this resource as I taught character traits and reading comprehension with Freedom Summer by Deborah Wiles.


Pairs & Whole Group
We started our lesson out using the Fan-N-Pick Context Clues cards (Pairs).  I loved hearing their discussions for the the word "shell".  The sentence in the text was, "We shell butter beans together".  They came up with some pretty good definitions: share, cover, and cook.  They were pretty surprised by the actual definition.  During Whole-Group I read each sentence and we discussed the definitions they came up with and each word's actual definition.

Whole Group & Pairs
I then read aloud Freedom Summer to them, stopping to discuss our vocabulary again, asking guiding questions, etc.  Any time I asked a question I had the students turn and talk to the person next to them before I called on one student for the answer.  Doing this requires ALL students to participate and not just the one or two students who always raise their hand.  Once we read and discussed the story we worked on the graphic organizer.

Whole Group & Pairs & Whole Group
We completed the Time Period and Character components together.  I had them work together with a partner or group to complete the "Important Events" and "Evidence Joe is a Good Friend" components.  We then went over their responses as a  whole class.

They were getting chatty by this time, we had a snow day yesterday, and I was in there first thing this morning.  I assigned them to start working on the Comprehension Brochure independently.  These questions are Higher Order thinking questions and I knew it would be a little bit of a challenge for some of them, but appropriate for them to think about and try.

Now is your chance to WIN a copy of Freedom Summer and my Freedom Summer Literacy Unit Companion! To enter simply PIN any image from this post and comment below with the link to your pin and email.  I will use to choose one lucky winner. Pin-It-To-Win-It will end Jan. 24th and the winner will be announced Jan. 25th.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Highs and Lows of 2015

Can you believe 2015 is over!?! It's amazing how fast the years start to pass as I get older. To recap my year I decided to do a fun Highs and Lows post.

 High: Started 2015 with several snow/ice days here in NC.
 Low: Making up the snow days at the end of the school year.

 High: Receiving my free shirt from A Plus Images for Vegas.

Low: I ended up not making it to Vegas for the TpT Conference. :(

High: Our school year started out with a fun team building activity and has continued to keep a positive moral!

Low: We haven't done one since, but continue to work hard at keeping everyone positive.

High: I LOVE my job! Being and Instructional Coach is very rewarding. I love being able to support teachers and students!
Low: I don't have much to blog about. :( When I had my own classroom I blogged about what we did, as a Coach much of my job is confidential and I'm unable to share all that I do.

High: My high student number meme went viral at the beginning of the school year.

Low: I failed to watermark it :(   (I added it for this blog post).
 High: My Apple Place Value Game made the TpT Newsletter in September!
Low: I haven't created or done much with TpT this year.

High: A few of my teachers and I had the wonderful experience of attending Solution Tree's PLC Conference.  This was truly one of the best I've ever attended!
Low: Dr. DuFour is in Stage 4 of lung cancer and will no longer be able to share his passion with others. (His wife and team will continue his legacy.)

High: I was missing the classroom a little, so when a 4th grade teacher moved this fall I covered her class part of the day.  One of the students melted my heart when he stated this...
Low: Grading papers and juggling teaching and coaching!

I have no complaints about 2015 and look forward to what 2016 has to bring.  I am planning on spending more time blogging again and creating products. I have so many ideas and just have neglected making time to create again. 

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Why I DON"T use C.U.B.E.S. in Grades 3-5

Several years ago the district I worked in had mentioned that we shouldn't use C.U.B.E.S. At the time I didn't know anything about the strategy so I didn't really pay any attention to the reasoning behind the why.  Fast forward to last year as my first year as an instructional coach, and I now know why C.U.B.E.S shouldn't be used in most classrooms.

C.U.B.E.S. is a strategy that is successful for students who are already successful in understanding word problems.  With this strategy students are focused on a completing steps, not what the problem is asking for.  For many students word problems create anxiety and many will complete any math problem with the operation they are most comfortable with just to get an answer.

Let's be honest think about your first lesson this year with word problems, I'm going to guess majority of your wanted to add all the numbers in the problem.  No matter the grade level, this is the operation students rely on most.  With C.U.B.E.S. students often "fake" their way through the strategy and will still add the numbers.

Don't get me wrong, C.U.B.E.S. is a great strategy for the K-2 classroom where the word problems are set up in a way in which it is easier for students to use the strategy and get the correct answer. See the sample word problem below.

However, in the upper grades (3-5) many of the word problems are multistep which is where I see many students using the strategy incorrectly or having no success with it.  Below is an example of a multistep word problem completed with C.U.B.E.S.

As I mentioned above, many students will not read the problem and will automatically start circling numbers, boxes action words, and underling the question.  They are children and something we as teachers know is going to happen. I even tested C.U.B.E.S. out on my own third grader when he came home with the strategy in his homework folder.  He is bright in math and he did exactly what I described above, just completed the steps because he was taught this strategy will help him find the answer.

I am currently coaching and teaching 4th grade reading and math. (We had a teacher move and many of the students in this class are low performing and my heart wouldn't let me leave them with a sub.) Last week I saw first hand why C.U.B.E.S shouldn't be used in 3-5, especially with lower leveled learners.  My kids did exactly what I have already addressed. So, what do I use?  The STOP Sign Strategy.

Remember I mentioned my previous district didn't want us using C.U.B.E.S? Well they shared the STOP Sign Strategy with us, although I don't think that is the name they call it.

With this strategy students are required to read the problem more than one time. I know we teach this to our students, but how often are they actually doing it without our support?  Students STOP at each punctuation and jot down notes, highlight, etc. When I teach this strategy whole group we all raise our hands and shout out stop. This requires them to actually think about what the problem is stating, asking, and how the numbers in the problem are related.  Below is the same sample problem done with C.U.B.E.S, but with STOP.

I know I may get several comments about how the math strategy C.U.B.E.S. works well in classrooms around the world, but with my experience the past two years I don't believe it is appropriate for all 3-5 classrooms. C.U.B.E.S does not work for our students in 3-5, so at our school I have made the same call as my old C.U.B.E.S. The teachers do not have to use the STOP Sign Strategy, they can use any strategy they know of that does not allow students the opportunity to fake their way through the problem.

I have created Word Problem Task Cards like the samples in this post for my kids to practice this strategy next week in centers.  If you would like to grab them to try out with your students they will be on sale for the rest of the week.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Light a Fire With a Good Book - and a HUGE Giveaway!

So, I had huge plans of blogging and creating this summer....didn't happen and now that August is here I'm now prepping for school.  I'm really excited about this school year because I have a better grasp at what I want my role as and Instructional Coach to be and what I need to do in order to better support my teachers.  I know that if I'm thinking about school starting in a few weeks, then I KNOW you are too :)

Several of us bloggers have come together to give you some awesome ideas for Back to School Books! These books can be used to set up your classroom community, begin a good lesson, or just as a fun read-aloud.

The book I'd like to share with you is...

The Name Jar is a great read aloud for the first day of school or sometime during the first week.  Uhei moves to America and the reader is able to share her first impressions and experiences in an American school.  Uhei is embarassed by her name and doesn't reveil it to her classmates.  They place a jar on her desk and add their favorite names for her to choose from. Uhei realizes that her name is special just like her.

Last school year I visited classrooms to read aloud this wonderful story to third, fourth, and fifth graders. I had created a three day lesson plan for The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi. I used each of the day's materials, along with several of the centers .

The Name Jar is a great beginning of school book to teach summarizing, character traits, and comparing and contrasting. This sweet story focuses on the importance of identity, a fabulous topic for the beginning of the school year.

My Name Jar Plans and Centers comes with a Center Menu for your students to use to help you set your expectations and routines for centers. You will find a center for each of the three days lesson plan. (Word Work, Vocabulary, & Comprehension)

And have you heard? Teachers Pay Teachers is having a site-wide Back to School Sale August 3rd and 4th, so you will be able to get [this product] 28% off using the promo code BTS15!

We know what else really "lights a fire" in you, and that is fabulous technology! We are giving away a brand new Kindle Fire HD6 to one lucky winner! 

Enter the rafflecopter below by hopping through each of our blogs and entering the secret word that can be found on the tablet in each of our posts. Also make sure to follow our TPT stores because the winner will be announced through a message in your TPT inbox! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

We are also giving away a $25 gift certificate to Creative Teaching Press!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Good luck! We hope you have a successful start to your school year! 

Monday, June 22, 2015

Monday Made It

Quick post for Tara's Monday Made It!  I look forward to this linky every summer :)  For Father's Day I always have the boys make a craft for their dad.  Thanks to Pinterest I found this idea and made it our own.  My husband loved it and is hanging it in his office today!

While making this I sadly realized how quickly my boys are growing.  Next year we will need a much larger canvas to fit their hands.

Be sure to stop by tomorrow for my Phonemic Awareness post for my Summer Blogging Series.  I am also looking for anyone who would like to donate a Phonics product for an upcoming post and giveaway. If you are interested, please comment below with your email.  Thanks!

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