October 7, 2017

Are your students confused by the Beanie Baby Reading Strategies?

Hello there!! I have a few things (including a freebie!) that I am super excited about and can't wait to share with you all! In fact if you follow me on TPT, Facebook, or Instagram, you have probably already seen a few of these items. :)

About a year ago or so, the Reading Recovery Teacher in my building came to me and expressed concern with the Beanie Baby Reading Strategies that are so popular these days. Don't start throwing tomatoes at me yet! Hear me out. I used these strategies all the time and used to love them. However, we started realizing that our struggling readers were often getting confused by these strategies. They may work well for some students (and that's great!!), but they don't work well for all students. So I set out to create something simpler for those students who were getting confused. That's when I came up with the Reading Strategy Tools.

In order to create something that would be beneficial for all students, I looked to our amazing Reading Recovery teacher for guidance and utilized one popular resource: Jan Richardson's The Next Step to Guided Reading (if you haven't read this yet, you should! It's filled with amazing ideas and information.) Also, after getting my Masters in Literacy, I knew that MSV (Meaning-Structure-Visual) was going to need to be a huge component in these reading strategies. 

So here we are. Reading Strategy Tools. By know you might be wondering what these look like. Well let me break it down for you.

(Check them out in my TPT store!)

These reading strategies are broken down by type of reader. There is a set for Emergent readers and a set for those Early-Transitional readers. 

The Emergent set has 4 basic reading strategies that beginning readers can utilize when they get to a tricky word: point underneath each word, look at the picture, say the beginning sound, and does that make sense. 

The Early-Transitional set has 8 basic reading strategies that readers can utilize when they get to a tricky word: look at the picture, think about the story, say the beginning sound, look for parts, does it look right, does it sound right, does that make sense, and go back and reread. 

Each set includes bookmarks, posters, table strips, and bulletin visuals.

Since implementing these strategies, I have seen less student confusion. Before, when students approached a tricky word, the dialogue would go something like this:

Me: What strategy could you use to help you figure out that tricky word?

Student:  Um... eagle eye.

Me: Ok.. what does that mean you have to do?

Student: I don't know. *Student blankly stares at me*

Using the Beanie Baby strategies is a 2 step process. They had to know what strategy they were using AND what it meant. With the Reading Strategy Tools, its only 1 step as each strategy tells you exactly what to do. While going from 2 steps to 1 step may seem small, to struggling readers, it could be a game changer.

Now, the dialogue goes like this:

Me: What strategy could you use to help you figure out that tricky word?

Student: Look at the picture.

Me: That's correct! Now, what would make sense?

I'm not saying these strategies are perfect, or perfect for everyone (we all know teaching is not a one size fits all), but I can tell you that I have seen less confusion with my struggling readers. :)


On another note.. I have a freebie for you!! I use these Hello Name Tags every year as part of my door d├ęcor and welcoming the students to my class. My students love them (they get to take them home at the end of the year)

They are FREE and they are EDITABLE!! What more could you want?!

(Check them out in my TPT store!)

Thank you for stopping by!! :)

March 1, 2015

You Can, Toucan, Math (Mentor Text for Mental Math)

This week, my second graders have been practicing mental math. They were struggling to make the connection from their 'worksheets' to what we meant by doing mental math. I'm not a huge fan of worksheets, so I took a step back and remembered I have a great tool at my disposal. I told my students to put everything away as I pulled out the book "You Can, Toucan, Math" by David A. Adler.

If you haven't heard of this book, and you teach math in the primary grades, I'd highly suggest you go pick it up. It's one of my favorites for math. According to Amazon.com, it is less than $10, and it  "introduces kids to addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division in a fun and unthreatening fashion. Math riddles encourage young readers to think through math problems as they study both the amusing verse and pictures."
If you haven't heard of David A. Adler, he has written books for children such as, Cam Jansen, Picture Book Biographies, and books related to math strategies (fractions, money, area/perimeter, etc.)
Anyways, as I read the first word problem to the kids, we talked it through. I picked a fairly easy one. Then I prompted with questions like...
 How do you solve this problem?
Do we need to add, subtract, multiply, or divide?
Ok, now how do we know what to add?
Alright, so what answer did you get?
Are you right?
Are you sure?
You're positive?
Well, so and so got a different answer, so who is right?
All of you try it one more time and see if you get the same answer.
Well then how did you get to that answer?
What strategy did you use?
As the kids got the hang of it, I didn't use as many prompts. Eventually, I would read the riddle and wait for them to raise their hands to give me their answers. Often, I would have each student (keep in mind I'm working with groups of 2-4) whisper me their answer so the others couldn't hear and copy off of each other. Then I would prompt with, "Are you right?" and "Are you sure?" I would follow up by asking them what strategy they used (ex. counting on).

I have noticed that many of my kids, when asked, "Are you right?", they would immediately change their answer because they are so used to being wrong when questioned. I try to question my students whether they are right or wrong. I want them to gain the confidence in their answers and start thinking more for themselves.

If you decide to try this out with your kiddos, or you have used this book in other way, I'd LOVE to hear about it!! :)

Until next time..


February 21, 2015

Through Your Child's Eyes (Simulations)

This morning as I was scrolling through Facebook, I noticed an article from Understood.org, written by a mom of a child who has Dyslexia. (Now before you stop reading my post because your child does not have Dyslexia, or because you think this is all that it's about, it's not. There's more.) Normally I would keep scrolling, but the title of the article drew me in. It is called "Now I Understand What My Child With Dyslexia Is Going Through".  As I read the title, I thought to myself, "how could anyone possibly know what a child with Dyslexia is going through, unless they've gone through it themselves?"
According to the author of this article (Lyn Pollard) one way to understand what these children are going through is to see for your self through simulation. As a special education teacher of children with multiple learning disabilities, I had to find out what this simulation was all about.
But before I tell you more about this simulation and my thoughts, I want to explain what the site, Understood.org, is all about. (Keep in mind that I am in no way affiliated with Understood.org, I simply thought this would be a good resource to share.) Understood.org is a site dedicated to helping parents access information needed to help them understand their children with learning and attention issues. It provides resources, tools, and support. Understood.org is supported by 15 non-profit organizations (including the National Center for Learning Disabilities) , and countless numbers of experts and advocates.
The experts at Understood.org have put together a simulator in order for others to experience what a learning and attention issue might look like. Each simulation starts with a video of a child and/or expert speaking about the specific issue (You can skip these videos if you'd just like to try the simulation). Afterwards there is a simulation that takes you through what that child might be experiencing. Keep in mind that each child's experience is going to be unique for them. The simulations are short, and if you are interested, it should only take you a few minutes.
I, myself, still don't fully understand what my students are going through even after experiencing the simulations. It did, however, give me a different perspective. It is not the child's fault that they struggle on a daily basis (yes, I already knew this, but it was a reminder I needed). As teachers and parents, it is our job to help these children find ways to cope, adjust, and succeed with the tools they are given.  Each time I get impatient and frustrated, I am going to come back and revisit this site as a reminder of what these children are dealing with.
If you take anything away from this, hopefully you will have a little more understanding, compassion, and patience for these children.
Please continue reading for step-by-step directions on how to access the simulations.
(You do NOT need to set up a profile in order to access the simulator.)
1. Click on the link Understood.org.
2. Go to 'Your Parent Toolkit'.
3. Click on 'Through Your Child's Eyes'.
4. Find the box that says 'Experience It' and click GO.
5. From there click your child's grade level (I clicked grade 1 since I teach K-2)
6. Click on 1 or ALL (Reading, Writing, Math, Attention, Organization) issues. ( I chose to click on ALL since I deal with all on a daily basis.) It will prompt you to begin, or continue.
(Feel free to click on the direct link below)
I hope to have helped open your eyes just a bit, as this did for me. It is one thing to know that a child is struggling, but it's another thing to experience it for yourself.