Valentine's Day Scrapbook

I wanted to share this darling idea for all those Valentine's cards that students get from their classmates and end up going up in a paper bag or a decorated box...and eventually end up in the trash can.  Instead, have students create a Valentine's Day scrapbook.   I've created directions (easy!) for you or a parent volunteer to pre-assemble the scrapbooks, grade level labels for the cover, a heart template and video (below) to show it to you live.  You can also catch a glimpe of students taping and putting their scrapbooks together from a Valentine's party several years ago in my first grade classroom.  Grab everything (but the construction paper) to get this ready for Valentine's Day HERE.

Coloring Page included in the free download HERE

Here's a Smilebox I made of our Valentine's Day party one year. You can see the kids assembling the scrapbooks at the party.

Click to play this Smilebox scrapbook
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Happy Reading! -Jen


Fifty Shades of the Common Core - Part 2: Stretching ALL Readers

Fifty Shades of the Common Core - Part 2: Stretching All Readers from Jennifer Jones

I wanted to share with you the presentation I did for my own staff last week on one of our workdays before we tracked back in for the 3rd quarter.   You may remember back in the fall when I presented the famous Fifty Shades of the Common Core...we'll you can say this is the follow-up.  I actually have had the opportunity to present much of this content to other staff outside my district lately, but do to timing and availability of workdays, the Text Complexity piece of the Common Core puzzle had not been shared with the Lake Myra staff before....quite like this.   I feel fortunate to be able to work with two groups of students every day....this is a golden opportunity for the students and ME because when I present the topic of Text Complexity to teachers, I'm able to share real stories from our reading groups and anecdotal examples with teachers of comments and remarks that real students have said during these "close readings" of complex text.  Without committing a Common Core sin, and telling you what the slideshow is about before you see it, let's just let the slides speak for themselves.

Since several of you have asked, when I begin guided "stretch" reading next week with my 2nd and 3rd grade groups, I will begin to Flip my lessons and upload them to YouTube.  My current guided reading videos are bit outdated now, so I will attempt to "capture" what my guided reading "stretch" lessons with complex text will look and sound like now that Common Core is here to stay.   Also, I have included a link to the Reading Level Correlation Chart shown on the last two slides of the slideshow for anyone that would like to download it.  It's free.

Download my Reading Level Correlation Chart {Aligned to Common Core} HERE

Text Complexity Collaborative Coaching Cycle Opportunity - THAT'S YOU! 

I am also working on a Text Complexity mini coaching cycle with the 2nd grade team...teaching them how to write a "close reading" lesson plan with texts in the 2/3 stretch band using text dependent questions and keeping track anecdotally on my Anecdotal Formative Assessment Sheets.  If you like to take a peek into the lesson plan so far...and join the journey with us, I'd love to have you come along on a collaborative journey together.   Here's what you'll need to do:  

1. Secure the book, Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco - enough copies for you and your students.  If necessary, photocopy the first 4-5 pages of the book, so everyone has a copy and can actually read it themselves. It's a lexile level 770L, in the 2/3 stretch band.  Remember that in a Stretch Scoop you are providing more scaffolding and backing off if they don't need it vs. a tradtional guided reading group where you provide less scaffolding and provide more when they need it.  

2. If you don't have enough copies of the text for everyone in your group, then photocopy the first several pages of the book for students to read from during your guided "stretch" reading sessions.   Make enough copies for everyone in your group.  

3. Download the Lesson Plan that I have started creating for the team.  During our PLT tomorrow morning, I will share with them what I have done so far...remember, last week they got the presentation above so they're mind is in the right place and they are ready to roll. 

4. Leave a comment and let me know, "I'm in!"  

I've uploaded the lesson plan draft to Google Drive.  Go HERE to access it.    Read through it and as you use it with your students, make notes and add your own questions to it.  Go back to the document and add your comments.  I have changed the settings so anyone with the link can access AND everyone that has the link has access to EDIT.  So, let's learn how to do this together, and let me know what you think of this collaborative process!  

Happy Monday! -Jen

P.S. Comment link has been fixed.  Sorry for the technical difficulties.  :-)

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Snow Sale - 20% off Thanks to Ol' Man Winter!

Raleigh has a forecast of snow changing to a wintry mix today...our school district is on a 3 hour early release today. Woopee....dismissal at 12:45!  Everyone benefits. Today and tomorrow, everything in my TpT store is 20% off thanks to Ol' Man Winter!

:-) Jen


G'day Common Core Phonological Awareness Curriculum: It's September in Australia

We finally finished our September bundle of phonological awareness lessons...I know the order that we are putting them up in seems random and out of order, but there really is a rhyme to our madness.  We began uploading lessons in November and then began uploading consecutive months... December, January, February and March.  Then, Kylie from contacted me and asked if we could upload September next since in Australia where Kylie teaches, their "September" is now, in our "January."  So next week students in Australia will start back to school.   Here are the September titles: 

Sorry, it's hard to read...the titles are:
The Kissing Hand (Back to School)  (75 cents)
How I Became a Pirate (International Talk Like a Pirate Day - Sep. 19) (75 cents)
Late for School (First Day of School) (75 cents)

To try these lessons out first before you buy,
 you can download a FREE week's worth of PA lessons HERE.  

Although all these books were available in my school's media center, and are available at the public library, there are used copies available for as low as 75 cents at I've linked them above.  

If you are interested in knowing future titles, here are the titles for April:
The Lorax (Earth Day)
April Foolishness (April Fools Day)
Hailstones and Halibut Bones (National Poetry Month)
Tops and Bottoms (Spring Gardening)

For now...happy reading! Jen



Webb's Depth of Knowledge Common Core Classroom Posters

Earlier in the fall, I created the Revised Bloom's Taxonomy Classroom Posters, and they have become one on my best bestsellers, thanks to you.  However, I have had several teachers email me to say their schools have converted over from Bloom's to Webb's levels of cognitive thinking.  The Common Core documents refer to higher levels of thinking via Webb's Depth of Knowledge.  If you are teaching at a school that has converted over from Bloom's to Webb's, you'd know it.  Lake Myra Elementary, and I'm sure a lot of other schools, are sticking with Bloom's, or Revised Bloom's....they're similar but different.  The main differences are that Webb's has four levels and Bloom's has six. The other difference is that Bloom's levels of thinking are determined by the verb in the objective.  Webb's level of thinking is not just determined by the verb but the context in which the verb is used and by the complexity of the cognitive demand in the task. To read more about Webb's Depth of Knowledge, here is a good resource. Here is a Webb's Chart.   So for those of you that asked for the Webb's DOK Posters in the Signal Strength version, here you go.

You can download you're own Webb's DOK classroom poster set HERE

Happy Reading! Jen


Revised Post: More A to Z Books Are Here! (Video Tutorial Added)

Good Morning, Hello Literacyland!!  I have been busy making a few more A-Z books for your classroom literacy centers...or really, any instructional format that you choose to use them.  These are open-ended activities that get students working independently or cooperatively that is reading and writing about informational content.  Students can practice their research and reference skills with technology, the internet, text materials from the media center or reference materials.  Students can complete it at their own pace, for enrichment or homework.  The instructional differentiation possibilities are endless.   The Animals A-Z book has a Preview if you'd like to see what it looks like in "real life"...

Several teachers have emailed me about the assembly of these books and how to make them into "books" I have created this short video to show you how I assemble them.  I actually teach the kids how to do it, but this is how we do it.  


Take care & Happy Monday! Jen



Q & A from the Hello Literacy Inbox

I get a lot of emails from teachers all over the country asking me general and specific questions about literacy instruction...99% of the time, I answer them and if I don't, it's because it got lost in the email abyss that happens between my iPhone and my real Inbox and to the 1% that did not get a reply from me, I'm sorry.  I do, however, think that others might find value in others' questions as well as my response.  Therefore, I've decided to begin a new segment (of which I will do from time to time) to post the questions of others and my reply.  So here goes, an email I received today from Nicolle (first names only).

Dear Jen, 
First I found the text complexity very interesting.  However I am finding it hard to incorporate complex text because we have the journeys reading program at our school.  Plus we have been given the guided reading books th also come along with that series.  What are your suggestions as how to get more complex text.  Plus how do you know if it is a complex text?  Another question I had was about Marzano's vocabulary steps.  I want to use them in my instruction however we have set vocabulary words and we are supposed to introduce them in two days.  What are you suggestions as to how I can effectively use those steps in my classroom for vocabulary?  Do you have any websites that would clearly explain the common core.  We have been given our series however we have not been working to closely with the common core and I do not feel comfortable with using something that I do not know about.  Thank you so much for working with me.  

 The only website that is Common Core "approved" is It's actually maintained by the authors of the Common Core.  Unfortunately, it's not a nice neat package of information.  You could of course, read Appendix A, B and C of the Common Core documents, like I did.  I can also recommend a few blogs that you will want to follow and read on a regular basis to stay in the continuous learning curve, Thinktank for 21st Century Learning, by Burkin and Yaris (Jan Burkins wrote Preventing Misguided Reading) and then Timothy Shanahan, is one of the authors of the Common Core ELA is at These two blogs have differing interpretations of guided reading and text complexity so they offered some divergent Common Core food for thought. I would also recommend reading a few books. The first one is called Pathways to the Common Core by Lucy Calkins, et al, and Notice and Note: Strategies for Close Reading.  You can find the lexile level of any text by going to and if it's in the grade level stretch band, it's more than likely complex, and what makes a book complex doesn't have flashing neon signs either, you must look for some of the characteristics of text complexity (that I listed in my last blog post and anticipate these complex elements before reading it with students...this will take some practice, some extra work on your part).  It will take a fresh new lens on your part as well, seeing "old" literature as complex or rather, looking for, seeking out, the elements that students will find challenging, now that you know what you're looking for.  For example, coherence is complex element that is challenging for students, especially ELL's.  Here's an example, from the book, Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, by William Steig, on the first page it says something like (and I don't have the book right in front of me, so I'm just remembering what it says...) "Sylvester lived at home with his mom and dad.  He had a very unique marble collection. (Then you turn the page and it says) "In his collection was a very special red one."  Ok, so here you have to realize that "one" means marble and that it goes with the sentence on the page before and is a part of the collection from page one.  That is coherence.  Authors use pronouns a lot in sentences when referring to nouns in preceding sentences and this makes it complex.  I'm also going to attach an article for you to read about helping students through challenging text by Timothy Shanahan called The Challenge of Challenging Text. I think you'll find it useful in learning how to identify what makes a text complex and challenging for (teachers to teach) and students to learn. 

There is a new project out there right now called the Basal Alignment Project that is taking basals and aligning the stories to the shifts of the Common Core, you can access the lessons through Edmodo by joining the BAP group.  The group number to join can be found and there are several Journeys stories listed there, I can see them now.  Also remember that any basal program like any other piece of curriculum, is just a resource, it's what you do with it that is important.  I'm sure the stories in there are not bad, in fact, the stories in our HM Medallions series are not bad at all, but how they are used and the reader interaction/discussion with teacher scaffolding, is going to be the difference between using them the Common Core way vs. the traditional way.   

For Marzano's six steps for vocabulary instruction, I would recommend the six step process for tier 3 words...I would not go through all six steps for tier 2 words, just steps 1-3, which is completely doable and even with more words than the ones you are given, especially if all children have a Vocabulary Notebook. Also, when you teach the six steps with tier 3 words, steps 1-3 could be done at the same time, at the first exposure, but then step 4 would be done on another day, step 5 on another day and step 6 on another day.  Marzano would tell you that students need at least 25 exposures to a word before it is the internal and conceptual understanding level, so remember that nothing is probably going into the long-term memory bank after just two days.  

Good luck!

Sent from my iPad



Bringing Common Core Critical Thinking to Sonora Elementary School

This past Monday I had the pleasure of presenting a full-day workshop to the teachers at Sonora Elementary in Sonora, Arkansas, which is a part of the Springdale Public School System.  The school itself was built three years ago and last year was Year 1 for them.  The principal, Regina Stewman, contacted me last year through my blog, to ask me questions about the running record growth lines I had posted and the set-up of our guided reading room.  The similarities in instructional principles and practices at Sonora Elementary and Lake Myra Elementary are abundant, so I guess, to her, bringing me in for staff development just seemed logical <<<ok, maybe there's other reasons!>>> (More about bringing me in- later in this post).  Regina and I have been in close contact over the last year and her school began implementing the Common Core this year as well.  She purchased 35 licenses for my Revised Bloom's Taxonomy Thinking Posters in order to implement them school-wide....yeah for the students at Sonora! What lucky little ones! She also purchased the Rules for Discussion for her teachers and downloaded the free critical thinking frames.  Her 1st grade team is now using Rainbow Words and her 2nd grade and intervention groups are using Rainbow Phrases.  The Kindergarten and 1st grade team will be piloting my literature based Phonological Awareness lessons are excited to get started.   Regina is truly a principal on a mission to do what's best for students and teachers! She is a go-getter principal, reads my blog, read other literacy blogs, reads current research and stays abreast of the Common Core...although she doesn't teach, she is a strong instructional leader for Sonora and the teachers are lucky to have an administrator that is so incredibly supportive! Before I left, she had applied to her central office for a district credit card  when I told her that the Lake Myra secretary bought 15 copies of Bringing Words to Life: Robust Vocabulary Instruction, for the used price of .01 on Amazon using a district credit card...I'm sure that before my plane left the airport they were all ordered, I have no doubt!  Now, do you see why I love Regina and Sonora Elementary so much...this school is like a walking billboard for Hello Literacy...I love it!!!

Anyway...we spent all day Monday-- their only day back before kids started on Tuesday, with Fifty Shades of the Common Core...a presentation I created this September after presenting at South Mebane Elementary School here in North Carolina. (You can see my presentation, although I've even tweaked this one since originally posted it at Slideshare.)   In my presentation, I spend a good bit of time sharing strategies with teachers on how to develop the critical thinking skills of their students before even thinking of developing them as critical readers.  This part took most of the morning and although teachers may have been overwhelmed by lunch, they reported that they wanted to run back to their classrooms and start making stuff based on everything they'd learned from the morning.  I had suggested to the principal that she give them a form to complete during the afternoon. It's an idea I got from Molly Upchurch at Siler City Elementary this is something they do after staff developments...the sheet has three columns..."What I Can Implement Right Now", "What I Can Implement This Semester", and "What I Can Implement Next Year".  

As we resumed after lunch, we began digging deep into the shift of Text Complexity, (not originally part of the Fifty Shades presentation) and Close Readings (I blogged earlier about a close reading lesson I had done with my reading group using Two Bad Pilgrims), Book Introductions in the Common Core (what they should look and sound like...I blogged about this earlier blog post), Characteristics of Complex Text and some of the strategies shared by Kylene Beers in her new book, Notice and Note: Strategies for Close Reading.  

One of the things I learned from this staff is that close readings are essential if we want our students thinking about text ideas and making deep meaning AND understanding.  I realized that there are some key characteristics that make text complex and the more we can be aware of this "before" students read the complex text, the more we will be able to scaffold our students and set them up for success.  Some of the characteristics that make text complex are the following (from Shanahan's presentation, slide 21):

Scaffolding Text Features
  • Complexity of Ideas/Content
  • Match of Text & Reader Prior Knowledge
  • Complexity of Vocabulary
  • Complexity of Syntax
  • Complexity of Coherence
  • Familiarity of Genre Demands
  • Complexity of Text Organization
  • Subtlety of Author's Tone
  • Sophistication of Literary Devices 
Other Approaches
  • Provide sufficient fluency
  • Use stair-steps or apprentice texts
  • Teach comprehension Strategies
Several of the slides that follow (in Shanahan's presentation) give examples of vocabulary and coherence complexity...I especially like how Shanahan demonstrates (using the barbershop scene from Because of Winn Dixie) not pre-teaching, "what is a barbershop?" but more generalized and abstract, teaching students the pattern of human behavior when the boy denies knowing the dog inside the barbershop...Shanahan believes we should explain to children why characters (and real humans) tell white lies in the first place...this behavior is more generalizable to other stories and human nature, and much more "teaching bang for your buck" than teaching children what a barbershop is.   To demonstrate text complexity to the Sonora staff, I had them each read a piece of text, of which parts of each were complex. I gave K-3rd teachers a chapter from Beverly Cleary's book, Ramona Quimby, Age 8 (the chapter, Rainy Sunday) and I gave 4th-5th teachers, the first few pages of a non-fiction text, When Is A Planet Not a Planet: The Story of Pluto by Elaine Scott.     

The first two pages of the Rainy Sunday chapter is quite an exemplary demonstration of complex text for several reasons. One, there is a multitude of unfamiliar vocabulary words on the first two pages: dismal, ceaseless, pelting, dreary, and clawed (and not used in the animal sense).   Two, there are several complex (structure) sentences, including the second sentence of the chapter: 

"She pressed her nose against the living-room window, 
watching the ceaseless rain pelting down as the bare black
 branches clawed at the electric wires in front of the house."

Three, Beverly Clearly uses a lot of angry adjectives and descriptive language to paint a picture of one Sunday afternoon in the Clearly house...that by the end of the second page, you are so glad you are not there! Four, there's symbolism with the rain, right, nothing good ever happens when it's raining in books?  

On a 'close reading' of these two pages, a teacher would scaffold these 'complexities' for students and *not* glaze over them in a cursory fashion...attention would be drawn to them as to spend more time on these two pages, giving it the full attention it deserves and clue-ing students in on all the elements they might otherwise all the words alone, don't seem very complex, but it's the author's use of the words put together that make it challenging, all the while asking students questions like:

Why did the author choose to say it that way?
What kind of a mood was the author trying to show by including so many words in this sentence?
Why didn't the author just use the word ____ instead?
How did the author want you to feel by saying it that way? 

The second piece of text read by the 4th and 5th grade teachers, is also complex in it's own way.  If you're not familiar with the book, When Is A Planet Not a Planet: The Story of Pluto, and I don't want to ruin it for you, but it is actually not a "story" per se, nor is it about Pluto, the planet.  This narrative non-fiction story is about the scientific journey of how scientists came to classify it as a planet and then unclassify as a planet and the scientific claims and reasons that they used and disputed in the process over the years. This concept alone is difficult for students to get because the title makes you think it's going to be about Pluto, when it's really more about the scientific process that scientists go through.   Anyway, this text is rife with Tier 3 vocabulary words about space, space exploration, astronomy, astrophysics, space science, etc. There is one sentence in particular, among many, that is complex (for 4th & 5th graders), or at least it was to my students.  Would you agree? 

"However, on August 24, 2006, the International Astronomical Union (IAU),
a group of individual astronomers and astronomical societies
 from around the world, made an announcement." 

For a sentence length of 25 words, the verb occurred as the 23rd word! Phew, that's a long time after the sentence started!!! Did you stay with it? Will your kids if you don't scaffold them?

By now, you can probably start to get a feel for the teaching points you would scaffold for your students with a sentence, page, chapter or text like these examples.  

I mentioned earlier that I am in the middle of reading a good book right now, called Notice and Note: Strategies for Close Reading by Kylene Beers and Robert Probst, available from Heinemann.

 (I should have it finished by tomorrow) but in Part 1, they outline characteristics of 'close reading': 

1. It works with a short passage.
2. The focus is intense.
3. It will extend from the passage itself to other parts of the text.
4. It should involve a great deal of exloratory discussion.
5. It should involve re-reading.
6. (and I am adding this one) It will require the teacher to have read the text first.

"Close reading should suggest close attention to the text; close attention to the relevant experience, thought and memory of the reader; close attention to the responses and interpretations of other readers; and close attention to the interactions among those elements." (Beers & Probst, 2012, p. 37)

And close reading, in my opinion, is not a quantity issue, it's a quality issue.  Close reading shouldn't be counted, tallied or collected...the question should never be, "How many close readings are you doing? but rather, "How are you doing close readings?

Overall, I was very excited that the teachers were excited to go back and try some new things in their classrooms and I was even more tickled that they texted me pictures all day Tuesday.  Here are some of the pictures that many of the teachers texted in (you'll remember from last spring's blog post about the power of  BECAUSE for justifying our thinking)... I told them this could potentially be the most powerful slide in my presentation....

Teachers were also glad to put some systems and structures in place to help kids could work independently while teachers were busy teaching small groups of students (and couldn't be interrupted)...The famous Problem/Solution Chart....

 I was also very surprised by the showering of gifts and Southern hospitality at the end of the day. Charlisa French, the art teacher, made me this beautiful silver owl necklace....

...another gift (which is apparently a gift-giving tradition around Sonora) I received was an Arkansas Razorback pig nose {{lucky me!}} oh, and the photo with it *on* is a part of the tradition, too! :-)

...and then, as if I didn't feel warm and appreciated enough, I got a standing suey cheer! WoW! Could I feel the Arkansas love!!!! Yes, ma'am!  Regina Stewman, now I know why you are a Distinguished Principal!

Truly though, in all seriousness, I had a great time (like I always do presenting)...but it really hit me after I went back to my hotel room on Monday night, (when, after my presentation was over, and Janet Harris from the Springdale district office had been present all day and asked if I would be interested in coming back this summer to work with the Elementary Instructional Facilitators [which is what we call IRT's, what I am for my school]) I was know, there's probably a lot or a good handful of Common Core experts out there that know the Common Core really well...but they don't teach or have not taught in a classroom since the Common Core was adopted AND there's probably A LOT of great teachers out there teaching the Common Core way, but don't present....and that's what makes me unique. I AM a teacher who know the Common Core really well, I am a teacher who actually teaches the Common Core way in real classrooms AND I present.  I do it for my own school, in fact, next week when we track back in, one of our staff development sessions will be about Text Complexity & Close Reading, two elements we have not yet tackled at Lake Myra, but will soon.  I have no intention of quitting my job, but if I can assist your school in some Common Core training with practical, applicable strategies, please send me an email, my principal is very supportive of  my literacy consulting, and for that I am truly grateful! Although I must take non-paid days off when I go and "work" for other school districts and I don't need his permission to be out, it is important to me to have his blessing...thank you, Dr. Argent. :-) 

  I will be back in Alamance County at Highland Elementary on January 22nd and back in Chatham County at Pittsboro Elementary School on March 13th.  I will also be presenting at the North Carolina Reading Conference on Sunday, a two hour institute from 4-6pm, Fifty Shades of the Common Core, and on Tuesday, March 12, Reciprocal Teaching: It's Place in the Common Core, with some colleagues from ECU.  

Until next time...happy reading! ~Jen 

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