Sunday, June 27, 2010

tagxedo or wordle websites

I've been using in the classroom for a few months and I really like it. I used it to make the cover of the class yearbook. Another thing I did with it was I took all of the character traits that applied to Karena in Is. of the Blue Dolphins and made a wordle out of them. I had the students pick three of Karena's character traits from the wordle and write a paragraph using text based evidence from the story. I just found this new site and I like it even better. The shape option is really cool. Christine


I really liked this site: . You can use the beautiful artwork they give you and make up your own stories to publish and share. Its a great idea for kids and parents. I will have to work on potential uses in the classroom. Christine

vocabulary instruction

I keep this poster up all year as a reference for the kids. What do you do when you don't know the meaning of a word?It is really just a list of strategies. At the beginning of the year I use it in whole group/small group instruction with specific words we come across. Later on I have them show evidence that they applied the strategy. You can see this with my post on Titanicat by Marty Crisp, The column on the right of the poster asks the question: What helped you? Sometimes while reading, meaning breaks down because they don't know a word that is crucial to comprehension of the text. These strategies are tools that give them some idea of where to start. P.S. Notice that ask the teacher is at the bottom of the list! Christine

Saturday, June 26, 2010

SMART Boards in elementary school

Lots of examples of how the Smart Board could be used in different subjects in the elementary school. Christine

5 Tips and Tricks for the SmartBoard

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Narrative elements glove

I love this glove for teaching narrative elements (characters, setting, problem, solution) in fiction texts. I got the pictures online and then just added my own ideas. For many years I believed that explicit teaching/discussion of narrative elements was unnecessary in 4/5th grade. After all, don't they get this is the younger grades? I decided to make the glove more intermediate by fine tuning it to 4/5th grade standards. Instead of just asking children who the characters are I have them sort them into major characters and minor characters. We discuss whether or not the story has a narrator and through who's point of view the story is told. When we move on to setting we discuss the time the story takes place in and give text based evidence to support our answers. Another sophisticated use of the glove related to setting is when the story has a flashback (or flashforward).In order to understand that the setting/time has changed you have to have some strong inferencing skills. Problems and solutions: Another appropriate use for the glove in the upper grades involves a change in vocabulary. I introduce the word conflict and discuss the different types of conflicts: character vs. character, character vs. nature, character vs. society, and character vs. self (conflict within the character). They have to tell me which type of a conflict is now occurring in the story.We also discuss that some problems/conflicts in stories are solved right away and others are never solved. Many times one problem is resolved and another one pops up. Characters can also have many problems to tackle at the same time. What is interesting is that I can usually pull the glove out after the first page or two of a fiction text and have the kids nail down the characters, setting and maybe a problem right away. This helps immediately with future comprehension of the story. It also helps to set a purpose for reading. Don't you want to find a solution to that problem the character has? Don't you want to see what happens next?Christine

Sunday, June 20, 2010


Synthesizing is the most complex of the reading strategies. It is far more difficult to nail down examples of when you are actually synthesizing as you read as compared to a time when you are visualizing or asking a question. Synthesizing is that moment when we are reading along and then something happens to change our thinking. You are using your background knowledge, the clues in the text (inferring) and then BAM! You realize something new, something you hadn't seen might be insight into why a character has been behaving a certain way. In the story The Wednesday Surprise by Eve Bunting, the clues in the text combined with our background knowledge lead us in one direction. About half way through the story, the clues start making the reader question whether the original assumptions about the characters were correct. A new perspective emerges. That aha! moment is true synthesis.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Inference lesson/poetry

This poem, Buying a Puppy, was in the 4th grade state standardized test (MCAS) one year. The open response question asked "What feelings does the speaker have throughout the poem?" In order to thoroughly answer that, the student would need to have the ability to infer characters feelings by identifying clues in the text .The poet does not come right out and tell us how the speaker feels. You are expected to infer.The students would also have to use their background knowledge about what it would be like to get a puppy. As you can see from the poster, I had the students locate the text based evidence. For example, the speaker (child in the poem) doesn't know why Pa wants a scrap of meat and an old towel. The leap is that the student has to understand that the poet is showing us the speaker (child in poem) is confused. Many fourth graders have a difficult time understanding that being confused is a feeling. Text based evidence for other feelings like feeling loved, happy or excited are also in the poem. This poem has many good example of show don't tell, a technique I try to get my students to use in their writing (personal narratives). Christine

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Gotta Keep Reading - Ocoee Middle School

This is awesome! Christine

make your thinking visible poster

Here is a picture of the poster I use with the lesson in the previous post. After the children have listened to the story and made their thinking visible on the mat, they come up to the poster with their favorite question or inference and add it to the correct column. Christine

Friday, June 11, 2010

Make your thinking visible

After I have taught the following reading strategies: background knowledge, visualizing, inferring, and questioning I start using these mats. I tell the children to "make their thinking visible" by writing down on stickies what is going on in their brains while I read a story aloud. Excellent readers use all of the strategies simultaneously, therefore I have them practice in a way that allows me to assess their ability to read critically. We are now fully into the apply stage. Next, I might ask them to tell me what they visualized or questioned and go up to place their stickies on a poster for the whole class. I use these posters/mats all year (probably once or twice a month)for whole group instruction. I have even given them a worksheet that looks like the mat for homework to use with their nightly reading (instead of summarizing the chapter). Christine

Thursday, June 10, 2010

write on the wall

We are building our background knowledge about John F. Kennedy before we visit the JFK Library next week by reading biographies about him and writing a report. This site, allows you to "post" individual thoughts, quotes or ideas on any topic. This is a picture of my Smartboard wallwisher page for the question: What do you know about JFK? The class loved it. I love my Smartboard! Christine

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Genre labels

I got these off of Beth Newingham's website last summer. I bought these buckets at the dollar store and spent some time organizing my books. I have used this system all year now and I have to say I am really pleased with it. The books stayed fairly organized all year. On the corner of each book I wrote a little code ..ex: AH for American History and M for Mystery. When a child suddenly found out they were interested in mysteries they had a place to go to look for more.

Monday, June 7, 2010

infer vocabulary words in context

I use this poster frequently to do vocabulary work. I believe I first got the idea after reading Debbie Miller's book Reading With Meaning. I love how the kids have to decide what helped them to understand the word. Ex: background knowledge, root of the word, replace the word, rereading. Whatever strategy they used, they have to verbalize it and then we write it down.The story you see is the picture book Titanicat by Marty Crisp. I do an inference lesson with it. I will write about it in a future post. Christine

Sunday, June 6, 2010

interesting websites

I thought this website was really cool.

vocabulary instruction

I love this poster. I teach the children how to show me a 1-5 when we introduce new vocabulary for the week. The first step in learning new vocabulary is realizing you don't know what the word means to begin with. Its a great formative assessment. You can look around the room and quickly figure out where they stand with a particular word. After they reflect on whether they know the meaning of the word I tell them to read the definition in the glossary of our anthology. Often a child will figure out that they new another meaning of the word.
When we come across a difficult word when reading together I frequently ask the children to give me a 1-5 on that word. Then I have them look for the context clues that help us to decipher meaning.Its a great tool for me and its easy and fun for them.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Inference lesson

Sarah, Plain and Tall was never a favorite children's book of mine until I really started applying the reading strategies while reading it with kids. Our grade 4 Trophies (Houghton Mifflin) Anthology has an exerpt, but I would rather read the whole book. The poster shows the lesson "read between the lines" from the first letter Sarah writes to Papa to introduce herself. To grasp what Sarah is really saying you need to have some pretty solid inferencing skills. We as adults clearly pick up on some of Sarah's character traits, but children do not. They have no background knowledge about what it is to be a mail order bride. Words like spinster and old maid may be foreign to them. After this lesson, the children are better equipped to continue with the story. I sometimes have them finish the story and summarize a few chapters a night for homework. If you are interested in building background knowledge about the prairie or pioneers before reading, I would recommend Dandelions by Eve Bunting or Dakota Dugout . Christine

Trade Books for Free with our Online Book Swap `

I get a great deal of my picture books for class from this site:Trade Books for Free with our Online Book Swap ` Christine

Friday, June 4, 2010

More on inferring

I just love this poster...It is such a great visual for teaching inferencing. Put your background knowledge and the clues from the text together...and BAM! You have an inference.


After I have taught all of my making connections, visualizing, and questioning lessons using the anchor texts I described in earlier posts, I am ready for the really hard work: teaching children about inferring. Inferring is truly about thinking while reading. Taking the clues from the text and combining them with your background knowledge is a leap many children struggle with. Direct, explicit instruction is necessary. Two of my favorite inference lessons are Tight Times by Barbara Shook Hazen and Fireflies! by Julie Brinkloe. You can see from the poster how I set up the Fireflies! lesson. (excuse my foot!!)I read the story as the students follow along (I have a class set of these books). The children write their inferences (and questions, what they visualized, and their connections) on stickies which they stick right on the page in the book. As we discuss the inferences in the story, I post the stickies on the poster next to the page from the text. Once I've taught inferencing, I expect application to start to occur. By now (we are in October) the children have had explicit instruction in 4 reading strategies. They should be using the vocabulary and applying these strategies every EVERYTHING they read. Christine

Thursday, June 3, 2010


Simply put: If you don't have any questions...stop reading the book. Questions drive us to read further. They are the engine! As I became more aware of the strategies in my own reading, I was amazed at the type and the amount of questions I had. In class I love to say the words...."Hmm, I wonder" or "My questioning strategy was just ACTIVATED here" while we are reading together. Questions are powerful. They engage us and make us wonder what the answers are. Asking questions is natural for children. The tough part is trying to get them to ask deep questions about the characters they meet in books. Why did the character say that/do that? (characters motivations). I love Charlie Anderson and See the Ocean for a first experience with questioning. Both books have that little twist at the end that makes you think. Christine

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Beth Newingham

More about Beth Newingham's website. I loved these theme posters. Throughout the year I would have the children add small copies of the covers of books we had read next to the theme. What is important here is that some books had more than one theme. We would discuss which theme was the strongest or just put the picture in both themes. We added picture books, paperbacks and even stories from our Houghton Mifflin (Trophies) reading series. Be sure to explain that their are MANY themes in stories. These are just some of the most popular ones. Its a great way to look back at all of the reading you did when the year is coming to an end. Christine

favorite websites for teachers

My alltime favorite website for teachers is Beth Newingham's site:
If you can't get to her site from this then just google her name. She is awesome! Last summer I printed out her templates for organizing books according to theme. I was really happy with the way they worked out. Here are some other websites I like:,, Christine

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


I read recently that visualizing could be considered the "most important" reading strategy. I've been thinking about how heavily I rely on it as a reader. If you can't visualize, can you really comprehend? I believe that picture painting in your mind is essential for enjoyment of text. Are some people just naturally better able to visualize while reading? I have worked with children who find the concept difficult to grasp and others who take to it like a duck to water. Why? Its an interesting topic to research...... In class I begin visualizing lessons early in the year.(Late Sept, early Oct.) I particularly like Owl Moon by Jane Yolen and The Seashore Book as anchor texts. Most poetry is highly visual. I love the poem: November by John Updike. Its easy to do a compare/contrast lesson involving visualizing with that poem and the picture book In November by Cynthia Rylant. I put a picture under each stanza in the poem, (see photograph) and I like to have the children guess what my picture is. In order to guess you would need to visualize. Simple lesson. Good practice. But you have to wait till November.
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