Wednesday, September 23, 2015

A Virtual Tour of Chichen Itza

About five years ago I took a much anticipated vacation to see the Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza.  I had seen the Aztec center of Tenochtitlan several years before, and this completed my tour of Mexico's most significant ancient American sites.  Despite the heat, it was awesome.

I translated the pictures I took and information I learned into a powerpoint to share with my Spanish class.  I uploaded my lesson to TeachersPayTeachers as two separate files.  I uploaded the ppt as one and another file with the ppt + worksheet.  They are priced at $4 and $5 respectively.

Check it out today!  Or wait until tomorrow when this and everything else in my store is 20%.  The sale goes from May 6-7 in honor of Teacher Appreciation week.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Daily Five

I just finished reading The Daily 5: Second Edition by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser (2014) in preparation for my new job as an elementary school literacy coach.  The two sisters, as they refer to themselves, have been sharing their strategies with the rest of the world for awhile.  Their latest edition is a book worth reading, though, if you are an elementary school teacher who is familiar with their work but wants to hone your skills.  For teachers who are unfamiliar with the daily 5 framework, it is a must read.

This is the daily 5 in a nutshell: read to self, work on writing, listen to reading, word work and read to someone.  Each of those is just what it sounds like too.  It is not a curriculum, but rather a way to manage that time of day when students are working on reading and writing so that all students can engage in meaningful, independent skill building while the teacher confers with students individually.  Students are taught to read books, write and improve their vocabulary during self directed sessions, building their stamina throughout the year.

I am not going to summarize the whole book right here and now, but I will list ten reasons it grabbed and held my attention as I began to investigate what quality ELA instruction, especially at the elementary school level, looks like.  Here they are:

1) The daily 5 structure teaches routine and procedures so that students can learn to become independent.
2) The book is replete with references to the most prominent experts and latest research.
3) The structure engages students in meaningful, authentic reading and writing.
4) The book addresses the ever important issue of stamina and how to build it in students.
5) It addresses the latest research about the connection between time spent reading and reading scores and proposes a simple way to increase the number of minutes students spend reading each day.
6) It provides sample lessons and tips for getting started.
7) It addresses what to do with students who struggle to become independent and offers helpful tips.
8) It responds to high frequency concerns the sisters have heard as they've travelled around visiting other teachers.
9) It makes suggestions for how to differentiate.
10) It frees up teachers' time so that they are engaged in meaningful instruction rather then tedious work.

Check back in a couple days for a collection of freebies to help you get started using the daily 5!!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Fabulous Freebies: Superhero Style Lesson

For this week's freebies I'm showcasing a fun free lesson idea I got from a former art teaching colleague. She used this Superhero Registration in a fun lesson plan that is perfect for a cross curricular lesson!

The Superhero Registration form would be a fun start to a fictional story or interview for a literacy project. My former colleague combined it with a lego person template as the base of their superhero and had them draw their own hero by adding key details onto the example. The finished examples looked great and I think her students had a lot of fun with it!

If you wanted to add a science element to it you could always do a science experiment to test out super powers like making invisible ink!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Useful Websites: Finding Leveled Texts

Recently I was asked for tips on helping find appropriate texts for students.  So, I've compiled a list of resources that  are free and accessible.  These resources offer suggestions for how to assess a students' independent level along with how to find texts on a variety of levels and topics.  

#1: Unite For Literacy  is a site that has a collection of picture books.  Students can flip through the books online, read the text themselves and then listen to the audio recording of the page being read aloud.  Students can search according by content area.  Two new books are added to this site each week.

#2: Reading A to Z is a resource that costs about $100, but they do have free leveled sample texts online to download.  They also have programs and apps that they offer two week free trials on.

#3: While this is not a free resource, it is a bit of free advice for quickly assessing students' reading level.  The formula for testing whether or not a book is a good fit for the child is pretty simple.  Listen to a child read aloud.  If they make more than 5 uncorrected errors in a 100 word passage, the book is not at their independent level.  If the child shows an interest in a book that is beyond their independent level, don't discourage the child from reading it.  Instead make that a book they read with a buddy reader.

#4: Scholastic has a book wizard where parents can go and search for titles and cross check the levels.  If there is a series that the kids like, I'd encourage them to go through all of the books in that series, as they will all be at approximately the same level.  (For example, the Henry and Mudge books are all listed at level 16.)

#5: Project Gutenberg  has an online collection of children's literature whose copyright has expired.

#6: There is a collection of audio books at:

#7: Students can listen to books read aloud to them at:

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Wednesday Website: Sight Word Ninja

Sight Word Ninja is an free app you can download through itunes.  It is a fun way to do word work.  It is just like fruit ninja where the player slices through images on the screen.  Instead of fruit, though, students slice through the word that they hear as it appears on the screen.  It starts off easy with words that students only need to identify by matching the beginning sound to the initial letter.  Then it becomes increasingly challenging by requiring students to match all the sounds in the words.  If they miss a word, it appears a few more times for review.

Students enjoy playing this game and reinforcing their automatic word identification at the same time.  It is most appropriate for students in kindergarten or beginning first grade.  Still, this is definitely worth checking out.

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