So, now what do I do?

October 12th and I’ve been in my reading room for over a month.   It’s like being a new teacher all over again!  I knew the jump to high school would be daunting but I still was unprepared for what direction I needed to take with such different groupings of students.

So the first thing I did was assess, assess, and assess!  I began with Bader IRI from Pearson. During my CAGS program, we used the Bader to complete a case study on a struggling reader.  I chose a kindergartner so this was my firs time using this with adolescents.  I am happy to say it is very comprehensive.  I was pleased with the baseline I was able to gain on my students. With the Bader, I was able to screen for:  Student Priorities, Graded Word List, then Graded Passages.  I continued with Structural Analysis.

Bader Reading & Language Inventory 6th Edition


If I found structural needs, I then administered the Quick Phonics Screener and determined any need for those students.  Most of my high school students did not need this, which was a pleasant surprise.  The few that did, however, mostly struggled with two or three syllable words.  I continued with a spelling inventory (Bader again), a writing sample, and Cloze and Maze passages to assess monitoring for meaning.  My district has very limited resources but we do have some for fluency in the form of Great Leaps and Read Naturally Live, which I am using to set a baseline for my students.

Quick Phonics Screener


Link to full copy of Quick Phonics Screener

CORE Maze Passages

CORE Maze Passages

link to full copy and directions for CORE Maze Passages

So, now what?

This last month I have devoted myself to figuring out what to do with a diverse groups of students with mainly comprehension needs.  My next post will share the materials and resources I used to begin setting up comprehension lessons and practice for my 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th graders.

Happy Columbus Day weekend all!


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September is here…

and that means a new school year and for me, a new school and position!

Since I spent the last two years achieving my CAGS in Reading and my state certification as a reading specialist, I decided to take the leap this year and look for a reading specialist position.  And since I always wanted to work with older students, I applied for middle and high school positions.

So, I will be the reading specialist in a sleepy little suburban town about 15 minutes from my home.  Because the town is so small, the middle and high school are in the same building.  Therefore, I will wear many hats — in addition to being the reading resource teacher for grades 9-12, I will teach a 6th grade language based ELA block, and co-teach a 9th grade language based ELA block too!  Very exciting and very overwhelming but I am up for the challenge!

My hope with this blog is to bring the resources for reading and ELA I have success with these older students.  Here’s a few shots of my room:room2roomWho says you can’t decorate in high school?  😉

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Brainstorming in WW

Over the years I have searched and searched for great charts for brainstorming.  Here are a few to help you out!

What’s the point? Instead of watermelon seeds/ watermelon analogy try using a pencil point to explain narrowing your focus.

What’s the Point?

Then have students try it using a prompt idea to narrow their topics down.

Getting to the Point

And its these great ideas that lead to great stories.  Coming up with them is hard!  Even for adults– using the heart map to create a large list is really helpful with small children and even for the intermediate crowd!

Writing from the heart

Back to Watermelon/ Seeds stories– it is also helpful for students to see the difference between an all about story and a seed story.  Here are two smaller charts to help them see how the different stories compare.

All about (watermelon) story

Here is the Seed Idea Story- I hang them side by side.  Great visual for little kids.

Seed Idea Story

See ya later! Have fun brainstorming!

I have a few more to post on brainstorming that I will get on next week.

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I’m back and blogging again… in 4th grade!

So made the switch to fourth grade this year. Big change that comes with more test stress but a better curriculum and relationship with the older kids.

And I am dedicating this blog solely to anchor charts and my love of them! I am a visual learner and I have learned more about teaching balanced literacy from anchor charts than I have from reading lessons.  They just put things in perspective quickly for me and become a sort of- agenda,  if you will.  So I am sharing everything we do at my school.

You may wonder where I work.  I am currently working in a low income, urban district that is a Level 5 in Massachusetts.  My school just came into Level 1 status.  So proud of our hard working teachers and staff, new and old. 🙂

I attribute our success to our strong commitment to balance literacy.  “Student as teacher, Teacher as coach” has propelled our nearly 80% English language learning student population into the highest level in our state.

So sit back and enjoy the charts!  First up, the beginning of the year–

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Launching Writer’s Workshop

September is here and so is a new Writer’s Workshop! This is an exciting year for our students.  They take the knowledge of beginning, middle and end stories and begin to truly craft a creative personal narrative!

But before they can do that, we wrote on what WW is, how the writing process works and how we will work with each other and our teacher. Here are some charts to help with that:

The Elements of Writer's Workshop

How WW is set up!










Managing Our Writing


The five steps of the writing process set up as a management tool for students to evaluate where they are in the writing process.

Writing from the Heart or Close to Your Bones

Now it time to select some topics!  We write from the heart or “close to our bones” in 110!  These are the things that are most important to us.  Students learn that if you care about it, and it means more to you, then your reader will know that too.   Here is a chart to help students find those those special moments, people, places.  This is a true anchor chart as students contributed to this with their own writing.

Oral Story Telling chart

After we think about some topics, it’s time to tell our stories to each other.  We use a five finger story telling method because, if you can say it, you can write it!  I usually pick a topic that is funny or scary or sad!  I model for them using this poster and students TALK!  They share their own silly, funny, angry, or scary story!  It can get pretty crazy but fun– and they begin to see that they need to excite their reader on paper next!

Choosing a Small Moment

And of course before the begin these stories we need to make sure we narrow down or topics to SMALL MOMENTS!  Students learn that All About stories are the watermelon but the seeds of that watermelon, well, they are the small moment.  Together we take large ALL ABOUT topics and narrow the focus to something smaller we can really sink our teeth into.


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Launching Reader’s Workshop

September is here and so is Reader’s Workshop!

During the launch, students learn how to select a Just Right book, swap books in the library and build reading stamina.

Here are some of the charts that help students remember and retain strategies learned in the launch:

 Here is a chart for transitioning to the rug between tasks.

Routines chart

Here is a chart to help students choose a Just Right Book.  Students can ask these five questions and if they answer yes to them, it’s a just right book.  Students then are taught how to swap books, selecting 1 easy book, 5 JR books, and 1 challenge (or hard) book for their book bin (or bag) to use during independent reading.

Just Right Books

Here is a fellow colleague’s chart to help students exchange books in the library with ease.  The library tickets are the student’s independent guided reading level.  What I like about this is that most of her students are able to stay in their own JR book level and are therefore less frustrated.

Book Swap chart

Here is a chart to help students understand what Independent Reading “looks like, feels like, sounds like”. Students decide if they were a 4, 3, 2, or 1 on the Independent Reading Rubric.

What Does IR Look Like? chart

Here is a chart for building stamina. In second grade, students come to independent reading with some strategies for sustained purposefully quiet reading but many still need to create this stamina.  This chart explains that stamina is needed but needs to be built.  Every day teacher can watch to see how long the majority of the class can read without losing focus.  Once the class begins to fall off, move the post it note up the steps until the goal of 15 minutes is met.  In 2nd grade, by mid year students can sustain this reading for at least 25 minutes.  This is a great beginning year strategy. Thank you for this one!

Building Stamina in Reading

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September Happenings!

Back to school is in full swing this year! We start off the year with some ice breaker activities, and reminiscing about our summer.

This also the time we put our routines into place.

This begins with daily routines: calendar, rules, schedule.We meet here every day before math to talk about the day, the week, the month and the year.  We count our days of school. We record the weather daily.

We also establish our learning community.  Together we learn about each other and share details about our families and our friends.  Things we like and dislike.  We begin to become friends and neighbors.

We do this through literature.  Some of the titles about caring and friendship we read together are Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes, Horrible Harry in Room 2B by Suzy Kline, Amber Brown Get Ready for 2nd Grade by Paula Dazinger, Miss Malarkey Doesn’t Live in Room 10 by Judy Finchler, First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg, Brand-new Pencils, Brand-new Books by Diane deGroat, Yoko by Rosemary Wells.

Focus lessons are taught on the rug during Phonics, Reader’s Workshop, Math Workshop, Writer’s Workshop, Social Studies and Science. Here is where the majority of our learning happens. Mini lessons last between 15-20 minutes followed by independent practice and share out. Students in our school go to special classes once a day: PE/ Health, Art, Skills, Technology, and Literature.

We also spend a lot of time in September talking about the school rules of TONE.  T= Talk it out, O= Own your own behavior, N= Nurture Feelings, E= Enjoy learning.  Our class did exceptionally well as earning TONE raffle tickets this month and already had several students when the school wide and televised weekly TONE raffle!  Congratulations!

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