Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Scholastic Book Wizard

I found a little jewel that I want to share with you:

I was looking for a book leveler - and last time I looked I had found one for $1.99 or something, but I'm such a cheapo, I decided to wait. Then I found this one from Scholastic called Book Wizard for free. 

I used it last week and I love it! 
So Kiddo A is reading a book like this during centers:

Well, I can tell right away that this is way too hard for Kiddo A and they need to find another book so they can make their teacher happy. LOL

I have this on my phone and what I do is scan the bar code on the back of the book and it will come up with all this information. You can decide if you want to look at the DRA level, or the Guided Reading level, or Grade Level Equivalent. 

The only frustrating/annoying thing is that I'll try to scan a book - that I've gotten from Scholastic! and it will say they don't have information on it. I've found this is happening with books that say they are printed by Scholastic - or something like that. {I mean, get it together, people - this is a free app I'm trying to use!} 

Anyway, it has been very helpful for the last week and a half when I'm trying to get my kiddos to read just right books!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Catching Readers - Assessments

I wanted to write about one last chapter in this book:

{Well, that is unless I read something else that is really good!}

Chapter 10 is about assessments. When I brought this up with my little in-service group, there was some discussion about teacher observation versus testing data. Our school is going more and more toward testing data as the final authority - the teacher's thoughts/observations/anecdotal notes don't really mean much. 

Having said that, however, I feel like my thoughts, observations and anecdotal notes go a long way toward what should happen in my class - together with the testing data. In my guided reading group, I need to work with students, based on what I'm seeing throughout the week. And I need to move students around, based on that, too. 

Here are two quotes:

“assessments must be authentic, ongoing, and informative in order for teachers to effectively use it while instructing children.”

 “We must be intensely aware not only that they are struggling but also of what is contributing to their struggle.”

As to the first one - my school does running records on below level kids ever week - but I'm not given those results. Hmm, does that make sense? I didn't even think about it until I read this, but I think it's something I need to bring up and ask for. Why should I do this to my kids again, when the information is already there?

The 2nd quote - ouch - I'm working on this. I do at least weekly anecdotal notes on each of my kids. I've also started noting "what's next?" What do I need to work on with this student. I want to be more aware of what each of my students' struggles are, particularly my lower kids. Haha, that's one of my struggles!

This is a great book and an easy read. If you get it, you might want to make sure you have a highlighter with you as you read. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Grammar Excitement!

I've had this in my mind for a couple weeks, so here we go --

Isn't this adorable? In grammar, we have been working on irregular BE verbs. Really, what could be more exciting than that? So I really jazzed that lesson up by having us draw a cute little bee before we added words to our graphic organizer. I think I've mentioned how LOOOONNG our afternoons are - and grammar is just not something to get our juices flowing. So I'm trying {I'll admit, in a limited way} to make things a little more fun. 

This was another one:

I actually like it a little better. It's pronouns. {We all agreed we couldn't tell what our stick creatures were, so they were definitely an it!

So there you have it - a quick, easy, no copies idea you are more than welcome to steal - LOL

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Thinking About Conferences

Here's part of my "haul" from the Valentine's Day party at school:
Thank you and oh my goodness. This was my before school haul. Then I got a whole bunch more during the party. Yup, some of this is headed to hub-bub's work for those moochers to take care of. 

Did you survive your party? I told my kids not to mention the V word until 3:00! Or there would be sad times for sure!!

OK, serious school stuff now - 
here's my problem:

I have this cute little field trip form from the semester I taught 3rd grade - 6 years ago! But for some reason I made mega copies. {This pictures does not adequately show the stack!} I also was quite clever and made a pre-field trip form. Oh, yes, I was on a roll! 

The problem - we aren't even going on any field trips this year. And this has been in my file cabinet for 6 years! But we are limited on copies now. And I might want it ... someday! But my files cabinets are starting to bulge and I need the room. Argh! I think I need someone to come stand beside me and say "it's ok to toss that!" 

{Now wasn't that some serious school stuff!!}

Our parent teacher conferences are in a couple weeks, so I've been trying to think ahead to those. Alyce at Mrs. Bartel's School Family had a good link to another blogger's packet for conferences. Of course, not one to take the easy way, I'm going to modify it for my class.

Something else I'm doing is taking data from my class and putting it into graphs. Boy, if that doesn't scare some parents. OK, really, I'm not doing it to be mean:

But if you are all happy that your kiddo is the highest in the class, maybe thinking about why they haven't moved up in 6 months of school would be a good idea. {This is for DRA scores - blue is coming into 2nd grade (1st grade scores); red is September; green is December}. 

Anyway, I've never done this before, but I'm going to try it {in a very gracious way!}. I don't really want to compare students, but I think it's good for parents to know - your child is the lowest in the class; or not making progress and others are. I'm a little nervous.

So what do you really want to tell your parents at conferences? And how are you going to do it? Inquiring minds want to know!

Sunday, February 9, 2014


I'm taking a Linguistics class as I work toward my ESOL endorsement {the happy part is my district provides the books and reimburses me! Yippee!!} After muddling through about 5 chapters, I finally got to one that has something I think I can use - I'm just not sure how yet!

Two quotes from this book:

"Many struggling readers focus too much on phonics."
"Unfortunately, when students experience reading difficulties, the first response is often "They need more phonics."

First of all, I am SO seeing this at my school. We had the embarrassing distinction of scoring way low on our mid-year AIMS testing. So we are being asked: what do we do with phonics? How do you teach it? Are you following the basal reader's teacher guide? And we're a grade level that actually helped our school. I feel for some other teachers in our school. 

Second, in retrospect, I'm noticing this in one of my lowest readers especially. I was very surprised when this boy didn't move up when I tested his DRA level before Christmas. His reading had been so fluent, I just knew for certain he'd move up, maybe even two levels. But even though he can read pretty well, he isn't comprehending what he's reading. 

One thing my textbook says is that proficient readers don't depend on phonics skills; instead they use context. And the reverse is true of struggling readers - they depend almost solely on phonics skills. 

What I'm realizing is that I've got to figure out how to encourage my students, especially my struggling students, to think about context - is what they are reading making sense. 

I sorta skimmed over the chapter in this book:
that talked about that. Definitely need to go back and highlight some things in there. 

So what about you? What do you do to help your struggling readers get past just reading the words? I'm looking for clues :)

Saturday, February 8, 2014


Good Saturday Morning!

Where should I start? 

OK, first, as I told one of my blogger friends, I was beginning to despair of getting a snow day this year. And I don't remember a year, even when my daughter was in school, that we didn't have at least one snow day. But we hit pay-dirt on Tuesday and Wednesday. I worked like mad both mornings - and not on school stuff! and watched TV and goofed in the afternoon. 

Which brings me to this:

Sorry the second one is a little blurry, I was trying to get his back and they were walking. 

First day back - The important thing is that as I took this picture, it was 8 degrees out; wind chill some mind numbing number. I mean, it's cold! And these two sweeties are wearing T-Shirts. Hello!!!

{The girl asked why I was taking her picture, and I told her I was going to show Mr. S. what she was wearing today. And she said, because it's so cold, right? Ummm, yes!}

One little share thing that I caught on a blog - and this time I know which blog!!! Teaching Maddenness wrote about a comprehension strategy she calls the Rainbow Strategy. She has them use a crayon to underline a question, and then the same crayon to underline where the answer is in the passage. 

I have a comprehension intervention group that meets each morning. We had some books, but they were just too hard for these guys. So new books are on order, but I've got to have something to do until they come. We were working on characters - so I had them use yellow to underline what Emily said; red to underline what Emily did; and green to underline what Emily thought. Sorta like this:

{I like this short passage I got off of Reading A-Z.} You might notice that this little friend underlined what Mom said - no, no, no! 
Of course, we didn't get to the discussion part, so we'll do that Monday. 

So yeah, it's Saturday and the temp is way up to 18 degrees already this morning {brrr} - and my bubby is telling me he wants to head out for lunch. I'd better go bundle up! Have a great weekend.