Monday, June 29, 2015

Reflections on my summer so far....

Today was my first "official" day of summer vacation!

I've spent the last three weeks teaching for the Department of Education in TN.  To those familiar with TN, it was part of the summer TN Core trainings.  This year, our training focused heavily on ELA tier 1 teaching. I took lots of pictures and want to share some of the most memorable activities that we did.

During the training, we stressed the importance of teaching vocabulary.  Did you know that over 50% of reading comprehension is tied to the student's ability to understand vocabulary?  It isn't about teaching a list of words from the story, it is about helping the kids use their context clues and learn vocabulary as it is embedded into the text.

Crazy... when you think that so many of us give out a list of words to study each week and test them with a matching test on Friday.  NO MORE!   Each week I will be testing the kids on their ability to understand the vocabulary in a new text and writing about it.

Here is a way to help the kiddos "dissect" vocabulary within the text.  This is a "tier 2 word" from the story Lon Po Po.   Tier 2 words are high frequency/multi-meaning words.  If you haven't read about vocabulary tiers yet, just google it.  Very good information to have and it will change your vocabulary instruction!

The format for this acitvity is always the same.  The word and a picture are at the top.  In the next section, they define the word in their own words.  Next, they write a sentence.  The last section is the actual word taken from the context of the story.

I've used this activity in my classroom at the end of the year and the kids LOVED IT!

We also spent some time working on using close reading and repeated reading.  I have to admit, before this training I don't think that I spend enough time rereading text over the course of several days, so it will certainly be something that I focus on this year.  I have already picked out a bunch of books to help the kids uncover the multiple layers of meaning throughout the book.

We stressed the you don't have to reread the whole story.   After the first read through, you can reread smaller sections to help the kids really connect the meaning/purpose of the story.  So the first day you start off by reading the whole thing, then on rereads you can either read a small section or specific part.  

We had lots of fun creating these posters during our discussion.

Another area we talked about was decoding.  So much of our instruction seems to be using isolated lists of words.  We encouraged our teachers to try and write a text for the students to read using a specific pattern/sound.  Here are some of the examples, that they wrote in less than 5 minutes.    While we discussed the benefits of using this in our classroom, we saw how easy you could differentiate this for your best readers... having them write their own TEXT!  This allows those already reading fluently to still participate during this type of activity.   How cool would it be for the class to decode a text that was written by a classmate?

Another activity we did to practice decoding was to break a story apart on sentence strips.  The students read their strip and together they work to put the story in the correct order.  It was more challenging than you think!  I tried this with my kids in May and they couldn't get enough of it!  They worked in teams to write their own 10 sentence story and for the next 4 days we practiced this activity with the stories they wrote.  Doesn't get much better than that!  Here are some teachers trying the strategy out. This was a favorite of my teacher participants!

This wasn't actually in my training, but I saw it in another room and had to share.  You put sight words in the snack size ziplock bags.  Attach the bags together using tape on the back.  Then, you can mix the words up and change them out in a snap!  What a fantastic idea!

That is about all for today....
It has been a busy three weeks!

People always ask me why in the world I spend the first month of summer vacation teaching teachers? The answer is simple.....  I LOVE IT!  At the end of the 3 weeks I know that I've touched so many more classrooms and hopefully gave a few teachers some new ideas that will make their classrooms a better place!

Happy Teaching!