Hello Fonts - {New} Commercial Use License

I'm pleased to now offer a one time, life time commercial use license for all hello fonts.  

Here are the Terms of Use: 

This single user license allows you to use Hello fonts--past, present (55 fonts to date), and all future Hello fonts commercially in products you make and sell for profit.  Choosing to give credit within your product is up to youbut it is not required. (A license is included if you choose to give credit and want to use the image). I will update this font bundle frequently or you can find new fonts and download them individually here on my blog once you've purchased a commercial license.  

(font used here is Hello Millionaire) 



Trick OR Treat S-A-L-E



Tracked In & Focused on Poetry

If you haven't yet found Julie Ballew on Top Teaching (by Scholastic), you must check it out.  You'll probably remember Top Teaching from all the great stuff Beth Newingham shared about Reading Workshop.  Well, Julie Ballew is new to TT this year and her posts are awesome, not to mention the wealth of anchor charts that are on her own literacy website and literacy blog.  Last week she wrote about something called Focus Poetry

After reading this post, I said, "I LOVE THIS!"  So easy and do-able, engaging, on topic, and covers multiple Common Core language standards in one poem in one week.   Since I work with 3rd grade, and the 2nd quarter science unit is Objects in the Sky, I asked them if they thought this might be something they'd like to try doing this quarter...they're all doing it!  The rest of this post is going to make so much more sense if you go and read the Focus Poetry post first and then come back to my post. 

I took the narrative and daily focus from Julie's post and created a Focus Poem template.

Download Focus Poetry Template HERE

Because Objects in the Sky is the science focus for the next four weeks, I found several poems online about stars, the sun and the moon (and there a good many out there, and quality American Literature, too) and I began writing the weekly lesson for that poem completing the template for the first week.   I told the 3rd grade team that I would create the Focus Poetry plan for the first two poems for the first two weeks and they would do it after that and share out with each other.  (The poems were also added to their Objects in the Sky Text Set that they will use as the core set of hard and digital media sources, text and interactives for this unit.  To read more about Text Sets or find the ones created by the TCRWP, click HERE).

For the following poem (our first one) the plans follow:

Download the lesson plan HERE (two poems, two weeks of plans)

If you're interested in the Objects in the Sky Text Set that the third grade team created, let me know.  I'll have to ask their permission before I post it here.  I'm sure they wouldn't mind, but let me ask.

I also created the bulletin board pieces for them.  If you would like to use them too, just right click on any of the images and help yourself. 

I hope you have enjoyed this post and consider Focus Poetry for you class or school!
Happy Reading!

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A Thank You Sale!

Thanks to YOU I got my first check from TpT yesterday in the mail. To say thank you, I've set everything in my store 20% off, from now until Saturday at midnight.

Thanks everyone, truly!


B-I-G D-E-A-L Giveaway!

My friend, Holly, over at Crisscross Applesauce in First Grade is having a very bloggy birthday celebration and is having a whopper of a giveaway!   Not only is she giving away E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G  in her TpT store, she's asked a few of her blogging budding to throw some freebies in too! That's where I come in...I'm offering up my new Foundational Literacy Progress Monitoring RTI Assessments.  There's really a ton of great stuff you could win if you enter.   The giveaway is on Holly's site

I blogged about my RTI Assessments for Foundational Literacy interventions last week, but just in case you missed it, I have created a large set of assessments for five foundational literacy skills (and I'm working on more) that you would use to progress monitor foundational literacy RTI interventions.  In addition, I have written a Progress Monitoring Handbook that folks have left overwhelmingly positive feedback of...here's what some buyers have said, in addition to a 4.0 rating! 

"Extremely helpful for documentation purposes"-ejohnson0606

"Thank you! This will be great to put me on the path to monitor my group of
students. Thank you for simplifying it for me."-DebbieJack

"Love, Love, Love! What a great tool!! Thanks!"-Hastings

"This is fabulous! Thanks so much for sharing!"-McPherson

"Thank you for the hard work you did. It gives me a great 
a way to record my RTI student progress".-Ronbewolf

"WOW!!! I feel so enlightened about RTI. It makes so much more sense now. I think I may know more about it now than other staff members who should know more than I do!"-Jenny789

Progress monitoring a sight word intervention is just one of the skills included in this packet.  1-minute assessments are also included for Letter Names, Letter Sounds, Phonemic Awareness Word Segmentation and Nonsensical Word Fluency.   We all know how critical it is to have documentation for RTI now, well this packet will help explain it all in simple, easy to understand language and give you the progress monitoring assessment tools to make sure you have the documentation you need to prove that an RTI intervention worked or didn't work. 

Buy it now    OR      Enter to Win




...20% from now to midnight! 3 hours only in my TpT Store NOW!



Guided Reading, Leveling and the Common Core

A few days ago the Kindergarten Goonies left a comment on my blog inviting me to comment on their blog post "No More Running Records!!! REALLY???? GR out the Door with Common Core!!!" Although I had not heard either one of those claims for myself  or heard interpretations of either one of those claims with the Common Core, I read their post and left a hearty reply.  I, too, invite you, to join in the conversation over at Kindergarten Goonies (don't let the name fool you).  In response to that blog post, here was my comment: 

Dear Kindergarten Goonies,
I admire your willingness to air your leveling issues out there for everyone to hear and be a part of. You are definitely not alone in your "struggle" with how leveling, guided reading and balanced literacy all fit into to the new standards. Since you asked me to comment, I will share my own opinions regarding your post. I do not think the Common Core is saying that guided reading should go away. I do think the standards and shifts of the common core would have more "balance" between guided reading, reading conferences and whole group read-alouds and think-alouds. I was just emailing back and forth last week with Jan Burkins, author of Preventing Misguided Reading and co-blogger at Thinktank for 21st Century Literacy. (I realize we all have our favorite researchers out there). I happen to agree with Burkins and Yaris that guided reading should be kept to text that is on the child's higher end of instructional...like around 95% accuracy, and like Marie Clay would say, children should be doing most of the reading and strategy work in guided reading. For the times that we as guided reading teachers need to swoop in and assist, which shouldn't be very often, we need to provide scaffolded cues from least supportive instructional moves first before trying most supportive instructional moves, always giving students the opportunity to make the strategy move first. Students should be having lots and lots of reading success during guided reading and if students are guessing at every tricky word then we are either not cueing students to self-monitor when guessed words sound wrong and they keep reading anyway, or we are having them in books with too many tricky words, in other words, it's too hard for guided reading and more on their frustrational level. If you have to help/assist/swoop in  more than 5 times on one book per 100 words, than the book is too hard for guided reading. Guided reading is the time of day where we as teachers provide the least amount of reading support, it is their chance to prove to you that they can do it on their own *most* of the book but are not 100% independent with word work and strategy work. This notion of guided reading has not changed with the Common Core. What the Common Core has done, at least in grades 1 and up, however, is added the text complexity dimension, but the task of reading complex books, according to the common core, should be provided with the *most* amount of support, not the least amount of support like in Guided Reading. Therefore, students would be supported to read, comprehend and become proficient in complex texts through the support and modeling of the teacher through read-alouds/think-alouds, novel studies and teacher led literature circles. In most classrooms now, (and this is a broad generalization) most read-alouds/think-alouds and group novel studies diminish after the primary grades, and the Common Core would say we need to bring the balance of both guided reading and shared reading back through read-alouds of complex texts to at least a 50/50 split, where the 50% for guided reading is even split again between guided reading (small group instruction) and individual reading conferences (individual instruction) in all elementary grades where the focus of each is differentiated and flexible to meet the needs of the group or individual (i.e. where the common denominator of the group isn’t always around a level letter, but a strategy, a genre or those struggling with a particular text structure, for example). Burkins and Yaris would even say, and I love this, that with the dimension of text complexity, now there should not such thing as "too hard" of a text. They propose that it will all be hard and that the gradients should go something like, "sort of hard, really hard, super hard and diamond hard." Anyway, it's all food for thought and a great conversation nonetheless. Thanks for asking for my input. Jen

I invite you to jump into the conversation with your thoughts and comments! Isn't that what blogging is all about anyway?

Happy Friday! ~Jen
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An RTI Match Made in Heaven!

Bless Mrs. Wills over at Mrs. Wills Kindergarten...she's organized a double whammy RtI giveaway with the Kindergarten RtI pack by Abby Mullins of The Inspired Apple.   Here how it works, you would use Abby's pack to provide a foundational literacy intervention in letter recognition, then you would use my the Letter Name Identification assessments from my pack to "progress monitor" that the letter recognition intervention is working! It's so easy...a 10 minute {fun} intervention and a {quick} 1 minute assessment. Easy-peasy, and a match made in heaven!  If you'd like to enter the drawing to win both packs (shown below), you need to "follow" each of our blogs (this is on the honors system) and enter the drawing over at Mrs. Wills Kindergarten.  

So, since my Fifty Shades of the Common Core presentation I delivered to my staff a couple weeks ago, I've been getting several emails from teacher (at my school) who want help coming up with higher order independent activities.   So, here's the first one I created...it's called The Venn Center.  At this center, students would work to compare and contrast two similar but different things...thinking how they are alike and different.  I created a set of 16 venn diagrams that would last you 16 weeks.  It would be done as early as Kindergarten and all the way up to 5th grade.  They could be done as part of bigger unit or topic study, students could also do mini-research to find out more about the two things or animals in the venn (for example on the dogs and cats venn diagram, students could work to research information about dogs and cats before completing the venn.  Doing mini-research projects and using research and reference skills in all over the Common Core.  Here is a preview to this file:

These were created for printing on LEGAL size paper, 8 1/2 x 14 for a wider area for the venns.

And, another project I've been working on is creating Common Core standards-aligned Anecdotal Reading Record Sheets, one per grade level for both fiction and non-fiction.  How would you like to sit down with a child (either in guided reading or during an individual reading conference, do an informal running record ( (formative assessment) with a child and be able to check off 18 standards when you're done? If you said, YES!...then this form is for you! Check them out...I'm sorry it's a bit blurry...

So far, I've created them for Kindergarten, 1st Grade & 2nd Grade and am working on them for 3rd 4th and 5th grade...I should have those done very soon.  

I think that's all for now.  For those of you staying tuned...I *am* sleeping!  
Oh, and I did make a couple new fonts in my sleep. ;-)

Happy Reading! ~Jen



...and the {RTI} Survey Says?

So, I've been running this little {very} informal survey. I asked folks that read this blog and a few RTI folks that filled out my survey for my RTI documents to complete a short survey about WHAT you and/or your school is using to progress monitoring RTI interventions you are putting into place for your at-risk readers in Tier 2. So first of all, THANK YOU to everyone that completed it, the results were very interesting and I'm going to share the results below as many of you asked that I would. The main reason I was curious is that, without a doubt, the most emails I get from teachers (all over the United States) are about RTI and exactly WHAT is it? And WHAT to do? It seems that many, many teachers out there are being told they must "do" RTI, yet given no direction, no training, no intervention resources or no progress monitoring tools to "do" RTI.  I realize that everywhere is not like Wake County, or Your County or XYZ County, and that everyone is trying to figure IT out with however much or little each district is supporting you with, AND that everyone has a very different conceptual understanding of RTI, what an intervention is and what progress monitoring that intervention means.  So with that said, here are the results of the little {very} informal RTI survey:

All but four states in the United States were represented in the survey.
 The four states not represented were Vermont, Wyoming, Hawaii and Rhode Island.

 56% of the you are regular education classroom teachers, 21% of you that responded are reading interventionists/reading coaches, 9% special education teachers, and 4% administrators.  

25% of you use Aimsweb.
29% of you use Dibels.
5% of you said easycbm.com
24% said Other, and I'll tell you some next
16% use nothing but would love for me to make something easy and manageable. 

Some of the "other" programs, websites or systems that you said you used to progress monitor RTI interventions were, {now remember, this is what folks filled in for Other}:
Star Early Literacy
All Three
Renaissance Learning
PALS for Virginia
Reading Recovery
Fundations K-1
FAIR for Florida
Alphabet & Sight Word Checks
Every teacher is on their own--it's a HOT MESS
Running Records
Teacher Created Forms
95 Percent Group Materials
various resources, but it's a mess overall
Google Doc created to monitor
Literacy First
Excel spreadsheet
Mastery Manager
F&P Running Records
Discovery Education
Read Naturally
Teacher made
School created
6 Minute Solution

Clearly, there is a WIDE variety of materials out there  I am familiar with some of them. Not familiar with others, but the answers to the original question, left me wondering, "Are folks calling an intervention a progress monitoring tool?"  With some of these "Others" listed, yes, they probably monitor the progress of students in some way, or they wouldn't use them, but these are a lot of intervention type programs.  With the discrepancy model of referral out the window, teachers must now come to SST with hard data, data points to show that the intervention they put into place worked (or didn't work).  A progress monitoring tool as characteristics that give a teacher quick snapshots of data to quickly tell if the daily interventions in the targeted skill area are working.  These characteristics included and the most important is that they are standardized, administered the same way every time, and usually timed (for one minute).  When a progress monitoring tool as these characteristics, it's called a CBM, which stands for Curriculum Based Measurements, meaning that what the skill of the measurement is part of the child's regular grade level curriculum, something they are expected to know in that year of learning.  A CBM can also be called a probe (a very quick assessment).  Also, from week to week, the CBM measure doesn't change.  So, if you are working on  a decoding short vowel words intervention with a first grader, you would progress monitor with a CBM measure for decoding short vowel words.  Every Friday (that's how I do it) after a week of daily intervention work in short vowels instruction, I administer to the child a page of nonsensical short vowel words to read in one minute.  As the weeks of intervention instruction go by, my students continues to grow each week in reading short vowel words and I have the data now to prove it, both hard copies of the progress monitoring CBM and her data graph.   For the 16% of you that said you would love for me to create something easy and manageable, I have been working on my own set of Foundational Literacy progress monitoring probes.  You'll remember that the Common Core now calls Phonemic Awareness, Phonics and Fluency...Foundational Literacy, which it is, that's just what it's called in the stardards.  If you are an Aimsweb or Dibels school, these would be of no use to use, unless either one of those is going away, and some of you did say, they were.  My probes cover the foundational literacy skills of letter names, letter sounds, phonemic awareness and breaking words apart, short vowel words and sight words.  For those of you using easycbm.com, this is just a paper option to some of the progress monitoring measures that easycbm.com offers.  I really created these to help all the teachers that email me on a daily basis and say what I said before, "I have to do RTI and I don't even know what that means?"  I get that and I personally respond to everyone that emails me...shoot, I even spoke to one gal for an hour on the phone one day last spring who was doing her Master's thesis on RTI...it's a lot, and it seems the PD support from district levels is virtually disappearing and teachers look for support from other teachers, within their building and outside their building, like here, in the blog-o-sphere, and I think that's really why I continue to maintain this blog...to learn and share with others.  In an effort to help the teachers out there, that look to me for help with RTI and for those of you in the survey that said "None of the above but would love for you to create something easy and manageable, I have done that.  Although Foundational Literacy Skills are usually taught in grades K and 1, what I have created will help any classroom teacher,  reading interventionist or special education teacher (I know I'm leaving some of you out, I'm sorry...tutors, substitutes, homeschoolers) who has 2nd or 3rd grade students reading at least 1-2 years below grade level.  I have created 25 progress monitoring CBM probes for each of the following measures:
Letter Name Identification (to measure letter names)
Letter Sound Production (to measure letter sounds)
Phonemic Awareness Segmentation (to measure phonemic awareness)
Nonsensical Word Fluency (to measure short vowel word decoding)
Sight Word Identification (to measure sight word reading)
So there are 125 probes altogether.  Now, if none of this makes any sense to you, I wrote a 10 page Foundational Literacy Progress Monitoring Guide that explains in simple, easy to understand language, why to do it, what to do, how to do it, when to do it and who to do it with...here's a preview: 

There are 25 different versions of this progress monitoring measure of letter names. 

There are 25 different versions of this progress monitoring measure of letter sounds.

There are 25 different versions of this progress monitoring measure of phonemic awareness. 

There are 25 different versions of this progress monitoring measure of short vowel decoding.

There are 25 different versions of this progress monitoring measure of sight words.

There are graphs for students to chart their own progress, too.

And graphs for teachers to complete to record weekly progress monitoring results...hopefully the student's dots stay above their aimline...(this is all explained in my RTI Progress Monitoring Guide.

1 page Quick Start Guide  OR....

10 page Comprehensive Guide to Progress Monitoring foundational literacy skills of your at-risk readers. Oh, I forgot to mention that several of you indicated on the survey that you use all three...Aimsweb, Dibel and easycbm.com...GREAT...here is yet something else to add to your arsenal.  I hope you find it helpful.  
Here is the link for you to grab one for your teams.  For $10 - one grade level gets the whole thing (125 CBM assessments + the RTI Guide I wrote) for unlimited copies among grade level teachers and interventionist working with at risk readers.   

$10... and it will last you the entire year (let's hope they know they're letter names after 25 weeks ;-)

All you need to add is a 3-ring binder, a 3-hole punch, a pencil, a timer and you're set!
I hope some of you find this helpful!

Happy Reading! -Jen

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RTI Question for Hello Literacy Blog Readers

I'm conducting a very short, and very informal research project on what schools are using to progress monitoring the RTI interventions you are putting in place for your at-risk readers.  If you don't mind filling this out for me, it will take approximately 15 seconds of your time.

Thank You! -Jen



Do Teachers Sleep?

Since most of you know I'm tracked out, you can imagine all I'm up to! Well maybe don't do that? It really has been a sweet break so far. I had no trips planned on purpose, and I have really enjoyed getting "caught up" on the personal professional stuff, like this blog and stuff for TpT.   Did you all hear about Deanna Jump? First grade teacher extraordinaire! The first "teacher millionaire"...EVER! And I'm sure not the last. This is an uplifting segment and sure to make you feel good! What a teacher trailblazer!

 Teachers Pay Teachers is really a fantastic site. I know most of you know about it because you follow me here and there, too...and I really can't thank you enough and many of you sell, too. It seems to be a very close community, as teachers are, so that is very cool.  I really do enjoy what I do, but never EVER imagined I'd make some extra money selling my stuff.  I do go out of my way to put on high quality, high thinking, and high yield learning lessons, rubrics, assessments and activities up there.  You will never find me repackaging old worksheets with cute clip art and a fancy border. I'm not knocking cute clip art and fancy borders (hey, I make them, too)-- it's the lower level thinking worksheets that you must be careful of. (Speaking of, I've had huge success with my Bloom's Thinking Posters...so grab yourself a set if you haven't already).  I make my own borders and fonts because I feel design and product appeal is very important. If you create your own lessons and classroom projects, I encourage you to become a TpT seller, too.  If you don't know how to get started,  just create an account and go! The site is very simple and easy to navigate and walks you through the entire "uploading a lesson" process.

In Deanna's honor, I have created a new font for her (and anyone)...Hello Deanna!
You can grab it in my sidebar or HERE.  

So as you all know, I'm tracked out which has really been great. Like I said, it has given me a real chance to catch up and now that my youngest is in ice skating camp all week, I'm taking a stacation (stay+vacation) on my couch, parked up with my laptop, blogging with you and uploading a backlog of things to TpT. If you know me in real life, you know I don't stay down for very long, so these days have been quite productive. In fact, here's a tweet I got last week from my friend Lacy in New York:

And a text from my friend and 5th grade teacher, Leslie Meadows...she's beginning to think I'm a vampire.

I'm really not a vampire, but I do have to stay that I've have been staying up later than normal AND waking up at 5:30AM, my normal time, to maximize all the hours in the day...no grass growing here! And I've even made dinner for my family 4/7 nights so far...which if you know me, is VERY good for me!  

Seriously, when do *you* get it all done?

((((({new}fonts and products added to my sidebar today))))



Making Connections

With the new Common Core standards, the comprehension strategy "Making Connections" has caused some stir in the reading world, however, I believe it's just as important now as it was before Common Core came on the scene.  It hard to dispute decades of research. You'll remember from my "Fifty Shades of the Common Core" slideshow, that it I quoted Lucy Calkins when I said that the Common Core "de-emphasizes" making "text to self connections"...I did not say that the Common Core says you *can't* teach text-to-self connections anymore. There are however, plenty of opportunities in the new standards for students to make connections across one text and between two texts to make "text to text connections".  And again, although making "text to world connections" is nowhere in the new standards either, it does ask students to think about how  the content they read is relevant to their life, now and in the future. And in Kindergarten alone, students must make connections in standards K.RL.9, K.RIT.3 and K.RIT.9.  Connecting is an essential foundational comprehension strategy that students must use in order to comprehend at higher levels, to evaluate, analyze and interpret character actions and be proficient in RL anchor standard 3 "analyze how and why individuals, events, and ideas develop and interact over the course of the text" and anchor standard 6 "assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text."  Being able making text to text connections helps students compare and contrast characters within a book and across texts in order to do anchor standard 9 "analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take."  Making "real" connections are important, and recognizing when we don't have connections is important, too. Being able to say "Nothing in this book is like my life" tell us that students are aware that they have no connections and honors the DIFFERENCES between us and the characters in texts.  You can read more about Disconnections from the book, The Reading Turn-Around by Jones, Clarke and Enriquez.  Also,visit the blog by Burkins & Yaris, 21st Century Literacy, to read their critical (and I mean that in an analyze-y way) interpretations of the Common Core standards for ELA. They blog daily about different aspects of the standards and the shifts and have been blogging lately about Connections. Be a "close reader" and "judge" (EVALUATE) for yourself.  

Happy Reading! -Jen


Informational & Opinion Writing: Making Copycat Mentor Texts

"Play With This, Not That" Writing 

After few months ago, I wrote a post about having kids use the "{Anything} for Dummies" books to write in the Explanatory/Informative style of writing.  We all know Informative Writing is Common Core standard W.2 and Opinion Writing is Common Core Standard W.1  So, here's my  idea.... I walking by my classroom library the other day and glanced down and saw the book, Eat This, Not That, and it occurred to me...hey, given another kid-friendly topic, like toys or books, kids could research the best and worst toys to play with and be doing both informative and opinion writing AND working at the two highest levels of Bloom's Taxonomy of thinking.  It could even be a class book where each student creates one "play with this, not that" page. It would involve them researching the best and worst toys to play with, which would require them to EVALUATE toys based on a criteria they would develop and include on their page, where designing a criteria would require them to CREATE an evaluation criteria for judging the "goodness" or "badness" or the toy (or topic).  They could also include other features of non-fiction that informational writers use, like Headings, Labels, Facts & Figures, Sidebars, Diagrams, Hyperlinks, etc.  Be sure to grab my new & updated Informational Text Features Notebook to pre-teach all the features of non-fiction included in the Common Core that students would need have under their belt before composing and crafting as a non-fiction writer.  Kids could easily CREATE these book pages in Powerpoint or Glogster and insert self-made product review videos onto the page.  This activity could easily be an independent higher order literacy option in your literacy block. Would love to see how they turn out!

Other ideas might be:
"Read This, Not That" (with for books)
"Watch This, Not That" (with movies or YouTube videos)
"Fly Here, Not There" (about the solar system)
"Grow This, Not That" (for garden food, plants or flowers)
Raise This, Not That" (for pets)
"Catch This, Not That" (for fish)

Got any good ideas for this? Leave a comment. 

*You'll notice that I bolded and capped the BLOOM'S VERBS for this lesson/activity/research project. I will try to do this for here on out on reading and writing lessons I blog about.  If you follow my blog, you know how I committed I am to getting all kids thinking, reading, writing, speaking and blogging at the three highest levels of Bloom's in the classroom everyday.  If you haven't seen my new Bloom's Classroom Posters, you'll want to grab them.  Like anything, before you display them up on your wall, you'll want to teach kids what they are and why they're important. Like I tell the teachers at my school, "they're not just posters, they're conversations" and then, an anchor for the learning and thinking work.

Link to Bloom's Posters

Happy Reading! -Jen
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Fifty Shades of the Common Core...FEATURED on Slideshare's Homepage

Thanks to everyone that clicked and viewed on my presentation that I uploaded to Slideshare last night. In less than 24 hours, it has received over 2,800 hits and sure to be viewed more now that it's front and center on the Slideshare homepage. Check it out for yourself at www.slideshare.net. Thank you to you and everyone that follows my blog! Hello Literacy Followers ARE THE BEST!!!


Quarter 1 Reflection: Getting On With Teaching "The Common Core Way"

Now that the first quarter of the school year is behind us, and I've had a few days off to reflect on my own implementation of the Common Core State Standards in my own teaching practice with my 3rd and 2nd grade reading groups. I wanted to share that reflection with you.  

I have a unique position at my school in that I work with 2nd and 3rd grade students in reading groups for half of the day, and the other half of the day, I work with teachers, in their classrooms and in PLT's as they implement core instruction and the best research based best practices to do that. 

Last spring, we did a lot of training for teachers on the implementation of Common Core for Math.  However, we really didn't devote too much time to the Common Core for ELA, for two reasons. One, we were already doing many of the practices emphasized by the new standards and two, we only had a limited amount of time to devote to the Common Core training.  I also sort of think of it as, you're going into it with a blind-fold...last spring, no one was sure what it would really be like until we started teaching the Common Core way.  I did begin using the Common Core standards and the practices (shifts) of the Common Core last spring because I felt that if I was training teachers on how to teach this way, that I must teach this way myself...sort of a "talk the talk, walk the walk" kind of thing. That's really important! 

And this next part is the brutally honest truth about our school....please don't judge. 

As this first quarter began to unfold, my principal kept coming in to my office and saying, "I don't see teachers teaching any differently?" "They sound the same, the students sound the same." "Their lessons seem the same." "Guided reading looks the same." ....I too, would walk in and out of classrooms and saw pockets of the Common Core, but nothing consistent or school wide (again, I'm talking ELA now).  

In the meantime, I had been contacted by South Mebane Elementary School in Alamance County (a county about an hour north of Raleigh). Tammy Yeatts, the assistant principal, emailed me, she said she'd been following my blog for years and followed me on Pinterest. She asked if I would consider presenting to her staff in the area of Higher Order Thinking, especially in the area of independent reading and guided reading, and would love it if I would tie in the new demands and rigor of the Common Core.  So, on September 19th I  spent three wonderful hours with 45 elementary teachers building their capacity for A)the difference between lower order thinking vs. higher order thinking and B) shared real classroom strategies (with visual examples) of ways to teach not only critical thinking but critical reading in all areas of their day, not just in the reading block, and highlighted all the areas that the Common Core where higher order thinking is necessary....BTW, that's EVERYWHERE!

Here is my presentation for South Mebane Elementary School (3 hours).

So upon returning to Lake Myra, there was a sense of urgency in also building the capacity of the teachers at Lake Myra...really just "telling" them all that is and ISN'T in the Common Core.  Even though we faced getting ready for track-out, and we knew that sitting and listening to a 90 minute presentation, was not the way  99 out of 100 teachers would want to spend the last two hours of the last day of school before a three week track-out. However, before teachers can tell you what they need to implement the Common Core, they must first know what they need. The "I don't know what I don't know" conundrum was creeping in and our school was actually in deficit mode, which is huge for us, considering that I feel like most of the time, we are ahead of the curve, mostly progressive when it comes to instructional practices. However, for the majority, everyone needed to hear about the standards and the shifts and really learn what is and isn't valued in the Common Core documents.  I said to my principal, "I believe that if you just give me 90 minutes to present to the staff on the standards and the shifts for ELA, that our school could just get on with teaching the Common Core way." So I adapted the presentation I created and delivered to South Mebane Elementary (because I didn't need to spend time building capacity for higher order thinking at Lake Myra) added more focus on the Common Core and retained the important critical thinking aspects.  

Here is the presentation I delivered to the teachers and staff at Lake Myra last Friday (90 minutes).

The bottom line on teaching "the Common Core way" at Lake Myra is that there are things we were already doing at the lake that we needed to continue to do and do with fidelity.  There is however, a handful of take-aways that are vital (instructional) behaviors that we need to replace.  By the way, the PD was VERY well received despite it being the last two hours on the last day before track-out.  LM staff feedback (reviews) are on the last slide of the above slideshow.  In sum, teachers collectively said, "That was perfect, exactly what we needed to move forward with the Common Core."

Here's what we're doing at the lake as we move forward:

-Continue emphasizing speaking in complete sentences, in addition to speaking and listening skills in Morning Meeting and all throughout the day.
-Continue emphasizing that students HAVE an opinion and need to justify it with reasons. Playing games like, Would You Rather? and The Book of Questions. 
-Continue doing and having conversations around Daily Analogies .DA helps kids classify words and the relationship of those classifications.
- Continue emphasizing Identifying Similarities and Differences
-When speaking and listening, continue getting kids to justify their thinking with reasons and evidence…I infer ___ because___.   The SIP team felt that creating Critical Thinking Sentence Frames was a vital behavior for critical thinking to occur in our school.
-Continue using and teaching to the three highest levels of Blooms…the posters are not just posters, but conversations with students. They are an anchor and a label for the thinking work.
-Continue emphasizing the daily learning of lots and lots of words with "permission" to add any word to their notebook (this builds ownership and engagement)
-Continue modeling the 3 column template for Vocabulary Notebook entries
-Continue to build & increase content vocabulary using the 6-step process
-Continue using more complex texts via shared reading to teach standards 2-9, like interactive read-alouds/think-alouds/text-talk lessons and novel studies.
-Continue instructing students at their instructional level in guided reading with an emphasis on the instructional shifts below. 

-Replace looking at the standards quickly with “close” reading and analysis of the standards (per quarter) by teachers to see what's in (and not in) the new standards. Use the app.
-Replace teaching Text to Self Connections with teaching Text to Text Connections and replace teaching Activating Prior Knowledge with How is This Content Relevant to My Life? (Real World Connections) sending kids the message that mastering content matters beyond passing a test and has implications for their daily lives.
-Replace cursory, fast and one-time text reading with emphasizing “close” reading and re-reading by students to analyze and evaluate the author’s choice of words, language structure, language syntax, the words and phrases that are said, and *not said*, paying close attention to what the author included and what the author left out and why.
-Replace generic question stems with text based questions and text based answers. De-emphasize reader response like schema & background knowledge as a basis for their justifications and emphasis more text-based evidence as a basis for their justifications.
-Go beyond summarizing and continue teaching Big Ideas and Concepts that answer the question “So What?” in non-fiction (Polar Bears)

Here is a Printable version of the Common Core Take-Aways for LMES 

A lot of what I said to both staffs are what a lot of teachers need to hear right now. 
Please let me know if I can help your staff. My email address is helloliteracy@gmail.com
Also, if it gets accepted, I will be giving the Fifty Shades of the Common Core presentation at the North Carolina State Reading Conference (NCRA)  in March of 2013, here in Raleigh, NC.   

Also, I reference the Critical Thinking Sentence Frames, the Critical Thinking Rubric and the Revised Bloom's Taxonomy Posters quite a bit in both presentations...these teaching and learning tools and behaviors are vital for teaching and learning in the Common Core classroom.  I have created and uploaded these documents to my Teachers Pay Teachers store. You can grab them below.

Critical Thinking Sentence Frames Classroom Posters (FREEBIE)

Rubric for Critical Thinking (FREEBIE)

For now, happy (text-based) reading! ;-)

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