Sunday, December 27, 2009

QAR - Teach Students Test Taking Strategies

Knowing what kind of question you're answering is half the battle in answering correctly. Teach your students the difference in 'right there' questions, 'author and me' questions and 'on my own' questions.

Right there questions are answered directly in the book.
Author and me questions require the reader to infer the answer. He/she must read what the author writes and use his/her own knowledge to answer the question.
On my own questions can be answered without reading the text at all.

The embedded document has many questions. The author titled the kinds a little differently, but they're good questions. I recommend using the ones that go with the types of questions mentioned above -- replacing artist for author since Zoom is a picture book.

It's almost test-taking season.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Differentiated Instruction WI, IL, OK, AR, TN run

Thank you for attending Differentiated Instruction in a Whole Group Setting. Linked below are some of the websites we talked about. Let me know if you have questions. :-)

Download the PowerPoint from the workshop here:


Tiered Lessons:

PowerPoints and Interactive Games:

Reading Interventions:

Gifted Resource:

PowerPoint Slides - DI in a Whole Group:

Test Prep Site K-4:

Test Prep Site: 5-8:

Sing-a-long Science Songs:

Please let me know if you need additional resources! I plan to upload most of the PowerPoint to the wiki to the right of this page early next week. Then, you can download and print it if you'd like.

Friday, November 6, 2009

2nd Grade Science Magnet Unit

Magnet Science Unit Example

The goal was to take the learner objectives from the unit, the science inquiry objectives for the grade level and marry them with the 5-E Science Strategy [Engage, Explore, Explain, Evaluate, Extend]. This increases student engagement, provides common activities that assist with vocabulary development, and provides real focus on the appropriate content. The textbook is read last, with the use of appropriate nonfiction reading strategies.

This was created by two of Thomas’ 2nd grade teaches and Barbara St. Clair. If you are interested in creating something similar for your grade-level, please contact Barbara St. Clair to set up an appointment.

2nd Grade Magnet Unit

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Writing Mini Lesson - Student Writing Examples

In looking for writing samples for a couple of lessons I'm modeling tomorrow, I stumbled across this site:

I found some excellent examples of student writing I can easily use with mini-lessons for grades 1-12. I think you may find it useful.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Writer's Workshop - Student Work


The examples in this post are from my son's writing notebooks in 4th grade; he's currently a freshman. Although I wasn't his fourth grade teacher, his teacher and I collaborated and followed the same general format for lessons/student work/conferring. This is still my favorite way to organize student work during writer's workshop.

You'll notice that Kyle had two writing notebooks. One was for mini-lessons and the other was for free writing. I know it's hard to read his writing, but you can scroll through these pages to see the anecdotal records written by his teacher during his writing conferences AND the scope-and-sequence of lessons taught throughout the year.

Two things I would change (remember these examples are FIVE years old) include adding mini-lessons integrating each of the Six-Traits (continuing to sprinkle conventions lessons throughout) and scoring some of the students' work in their mini-lesson notebooks with a scoring rubric similar to the one posted below.

Kyle had an amazing teacher in 4th grade! Thanks, Mrs. Sallee, for having Kyle keep these two documents so I can share them with other teachers. :o)

Writing Mini-Lesson Rubric

Writing Rubric

Guided Reading Rubric

Guided Reading Rubric

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A Collection of Quotes

Partner Read - Summarize Research

We know that reading/paraphrasing is effective. Sometimes we skip this strategy in Guided Reading because it takes so long to read a passage. Ponder this question: Is it more important to FINISH the passage or to use the passage to teach students to deepen their understanding of the text? If you're coupling Guided Reading with Self-Selected Reading, students should be reading silently for a sustained period each day and finishing books on their reading level. These two blocks work hand-in-hand.

Check out the research I came across today while reading Checking for Understanding: Formative Assessment Techniques for Your Classroom by Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey published in 2007 by ASCD.
  • Inviting student to retell what they have just heard or read is a powerful way of checking for understanding (Hansen, 2004; Shaw, 2005).
  • Gambrell, Koskinen and Kapinus (1991) examined the use of retellings with 4th grade proficient and less-proficient readers. They found that students who employed this technique made SIGNIFICANT INCREASES in the number of propositions and story structure elements recalled as well as the overall number of comprehension questions answered correctly. These authors noted that students needed at least FOUR practice sessions with retelling to become comfortable with the strategy.

I also found some disturbing research related to conversations and poverty in the classroom.

  • In classrooms where there are increased numbers of students living in poverty, teachers talk more and students talk less (Lingard, Hayes & Mills, 2003).
  • In addition, there is an increased focus on basic skills in these classrooms and less attention to critical and creative thinking (Stipek, 2004).
  • Teachers of struggling student groups or tracks usually offer students "less exciting instruction, and more rote drill and practice activities" than do teachers of high-performing or heterogeneous groups and classes (Cotton, 1989).

People will talk and listen - that's a given. The ways in which this talking and listening are used are the real keys (Fisher, Frey, 2007).

Math Problem Solving Strategies

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Video Clips for Writer's Workshop

If you're looking for the video clips on writer's workshop, you can find them here:
(mini-lesson, conferences, author's chair)

SSR Conferences

*Photos taken from Debby Money's examples. Thanks, Debby!

Sustained Silent Reading should be a daily part of the Four-Blocks classroom. Conferring is imperative for this to be effective.

Students who spent more time in silent reading at school increased their independent reading levels, scored higher on comprehension tests, had significantly higher grade point averages, and developed more sophisticated writing styles than peers who did not engage in silent reading.

Block, C.C. & Mangieri, J.N. (2002) Recreational Reading: 20 years later. The Reading Teacher, 55, 572-580.

Brain Based Learning - High Pointe

This display is from Mrs. Myer's 4th grade classroom at High Pointe Elementary School. :-) Mrs. Carter's class wrote the story on the green paper last year to help the students remember the major cities in Missouri. I'll try to get a better a picture next time I'm there so you can actually read it.

Guided Reading

Mini-Lesson: (10 minutes)

During Reading: (20 minutes)

The students need to be reading during this time. Partner reading is very effective -- one person reads a paragraph, the other summarizes, asks a question, connects .... does SOMETHING to demonstrate comprehension of the text. Partners take turns reading/comprehending. This is an opportune time for the teacher to listen to each student read each day.

After Reading: (10 minutes)

Students demonstrate understanding of the concept taught during the mini-lesson.

After Reading Ideas

In the after reading part of Guided Reading, students demonstrate understanding of mini-lesson taught. These can be scored with a simple rubric similar to:

Scoring Rubric (modified from Robert Marzano)

(Advanced) 4 - In addition to 3.0 performance, in-depth inferences and applications that go beyond what was taught (read).
(Proficient) 3 - No major errors or omissions regarding any of the information (simple or complex) that was explicitly taught.
(Basic) 2 - No major errors or omissions regarding the simpler details and processes but major errors or omissions regarding the more complex ideas and processes.
(Below Basic) 1 - With help, a partial understanding of some of the simpler details and processes and some of the more complex ideas and processes.
0 - Even with help, no understanding or skill demonstrated


Response to Intervention (RtI) - They key word is INTERVENTION. We should be meeting the needs of most of our students (80%) through differentiated classroom instruction. What about the other 20% -- How are you intervening and monitoring the growth of the top two tiers in your classroom?

RtI Components:
  • Screening

  • Tiers of Instruction

  • Progress Monitoring

  • Decision Making Rules

  • Fidelity Indicators (adherence, exposure, quality of delivery, participant responsiveness, program differentiation)

FREE Websites to assist with RtI:

Florida Center for Reading Research

The Florida Center for Reading Research is one tool you'll definitely want to check out.


1. Select a grade range from the options below (e.g., 2-3).

2. Select Phonemic Awareness, Phonics, Fluency, Vocabulary, or Comprehension, and then check the subcomponents you wish to search.

3. Click on Show Results to see a list of matches for your search criteria. (Not every possible combination will produce a match.)

4. Search results may be sorted by clicking on the column headings.

5. Click on Activity Name to view or print an activity or routine in PDF format.

5. The “New Search” button will clear your previous search criteria.

Reading Interventions to Improve Comprehension

Reading Comprehension (from The Savvy Teacher's Guide: Reading Interventions That Work)

FREE Math Worksheet Maker

If you have a child needing extra practice with a specific math skill, you can make FREE customizable worksheets to send home for extra practice at You don't even have to create an account. :o)

Free computation worksheet maker:

Strategies to Improve Mathematical Fluency:

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

2010 M.A.P. Test

This is just a heads-up on the 2010 M.A.P. test.

There will NOT be embedded items in Communication Arts or Math this year. All questions on the test will be factored in the students' scores.

Also, there will ONLY be FOUR constructed response questions on each 3rd - 6th grade Communication Arts and Math tests. 3rd Grade CA will also have a writing prompt and 4th grade Math will have a performance event.

For more details, check out page two of October's edition of the TOSA Tribune.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Monday, September 14, 2009

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Plethora of Reading Ideas

Heather Pearce, a 4th grade teacher, shared this site with me: Lori Elliott also linked it on her blog last year: I've used before but never directly from the first link above. It simplifies the site!

I've hyperlinked a few items from it below. It's DEFINITELY worth your time.

Friday, September 4, 2009

3rd Grade Science Lesson - Gestures

4th Grade Writer's Workshop - Beginning of Year

Mini-Lesson: Using a graphic organizer to write a narrative - day three

Writing Conferences

Author's Chair

Monday, August 31, 2009

Writing Mini-Lesson: Organization

Mini-Lesson (10-15 minutes):

  • Have the basic graphic organizer on the screen for students to view. (one minute)
  • Ask partners what they notice; students record info. on sticky-note. (one minute)
  • Post sticky-notes on chart and discuss a few. (two minutes)
  • State Objective: ...use a graphic organizer for writing
  • Play and discuss animated slide. (four-five minutes)
  • Ask partners what they noticed; students record info. on sticky-note. (one minute)
  • Post sticky-notes on chart and discuss a few. (two minutes)

Students Write/Teacher Confers: (15-20 minutes)

Author's Chair: (10 minutes)

Monday, August 24, 2009

How TO ... Covered Word

How to Create Guess the Covered Wordvalue="always">

Rituals, Routines and Relationships

Three critical ingredients to a successful school year:

1. Establish Rituals

2. Establish Routines

3. Build Relationships

Good class rituals are thoughtful, short, prearranged events. They are:

1. 100% Dependable
2. Simple
3. Engage EVERYONE
4. End in a positive state
5. Solve a recurring problem

Examples of Rituals:
Quiet signals - Clap, Clap, Whoosh
Turn to your partner and say: "Let's have a great day!" Songs: Line up (We are the class, the mighty quiet class, Ms. _____'s class, Ms. _______'s class) Thank you Mrs. Russell for sharing!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Welcome Back!

Welcome Back!

It's not too late to sign up for August 5th and 6th PD. The brochure is available @

I will be presenting Differentiated Instruction in a Whole Group Setting on August 5 for 1-8th grade teachers. This is the same workshop I do 'on the road' for SDE.

On August 6, I will be presenting three of the sessions I did last week in Vegas. The PowerPoints are available in the next post if you would like to take a look:

  1. Differentiated Reading in a Whole-Group Setting (small groups sometimes)
  2. Integrate Six-Traits in Writer's Workshop
  3. Teach Spelling without Memorization

Both sessions will be very informal with discussion and planning time.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

E.A.T. made Easy

If you’d like to peek at our plan for accessing curriculum next year, go to and sign in.
Click on Curriculum Information (to the right, under e-mail log-in).
Click on Click here for faculty information (under grid).
Check out the linked curriculum cards.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Summer Plans

The last week of school is finally here! Now, if only the weather would catch up. It's hard to believe it's time for summer vacation.

My marching order for summer is to work on making our on-line curriculum user-friendly. I posted the draft version of the Science COC Cards for 3rd and 4th grades. They still need edited and formatted - which explains the draft watermark. :)

Feel free to call me at home if you have curriculum/assessment related questions this summer; my number is in the school's diretory.

Have a great summer!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Roman Numeral Song

The song "18 Wheels on a Big Rig" by Trout Fishing in America is my favorite way to teach Roman Numerals. It is definitely memorable and good for a laugh.

Here's a link to the song on YouTube. The embedding link was 'disabled by request.'

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Differentiated Instruction Powerpoint

Uploaded on authorSTREAM by cheryl_dick

New England is an amazing place to visit -- beautiful country, excellent food, wonderful people. :) Thank you for your hospitality.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Linking Verbs Song

Linking Verb Song

Shared by: Cheryl Torres, Massachusetts

(to the tune of a military marching song ... "Sound off: 1,2, - 1,2,3,4)
am, is, are, was, were, been, be .....
feel, look, appear, become and seem
Sound off (1-2)Sound off (3-4)
Cadence count1-2-3-4 (1-2, 3-4)
List of Linking Verbs:
to be (is, am, are, was, were, has been, have been, had been, is being, are being, was being, will have been, etc.)
to become (become, becomes, became, has become, have become, had become, will become, will have become, etc.)
to seem (seemed, seeming, seems, has seemed, have seemed, had seemed, is seeming, are seeming, was seeming, were seeming, will seem)

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Introducing 2009-2010 Book Study BLOG

As of Thursday, May 7
9 Books Left

You are invited to join a book study blog! The first 25 Nixa teachers to register will receive this book for FREE. (You will need to complete the study to keep the book.) Read/Post from school or home on YOUR schedule. I've read the entire book ... cover to cover; this is one book study you won't want to miss! It's appropriate for ALL grade-levels.

XYZ Book Study Suggested Guidelines

Pace Yourself: YOU decide when and where to post; this is YOUR study! Once you post a reflection, lesson, question and/or story to each section, the book is yours to keep . . . if you were one of the first 25 Nixa teachers to register.

Postings: Dr. Allen has suggested reflections at the end of each section. You may choose to post reflections or stories, lesson ideas and/or questions regarding information. If you share stories, please omit students' names.

Other Postings: Consider reading other educators' postings and responding to their questions/comments.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

NEW GLEs in Math, Science, Comm. Arts Next Year

Many of you are beginning preparations for next year; the GLEs have CHANGED in all subjects except Social Studies. The new GLEs for K-8 are linked below; Debby Money and I are busy updating EAT.
~Each GLE has the Depth of Knowledge expectation listed.


Communication Arts


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Oklahoma! Junior High Production

Nixa Junior High students will be performing Oklahoma! Thursday, April 23, and Friday, April 24, in the Junior High Auditorium at 7:00 P.M. I can't wait to see all their hard work pay off! Practice has been until 5:00 every night for what seems like weeks and weeks and weeks.
Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for students.
The adorable blond in the cowboy hat belongs to me. :)

Monday, April 20, 2009

Mr. Phillip's Sing-A-Long Science

Looking for science ideas? Mr. Phillips has an amazing site and is working with Marcia Tate on a new book called Science Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites. It will be released in 2010.

His Sing-A-Long Science songs are on I-Tunes, and his collection of guest videos from the last 25 years of teaching are being posted to his website through a Comcast grant next month.

You'll definitely want to check this out.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Nixa Honored with Distinction in Performance for 7th Year

Video Compliments of Lori Elliott:

Junior High One Act Play- Five Minute Scrapbook

Click to play this Smilebox scrapbook:
Create your own scrapbook - Powered by Smilebox
Make a Smilebox scrapbook

Blog Layout Changes

Changing your blog design is EASY. Click on dashboard; click on layout; click on pick new template. Choose Minima. (It's the top-left choice.) Save and exit.

Search for the free layout of your choice. Once you find it, copy the code. It says ... copy this code; you can't miss it.

In your blog, click on dashboard; click on layout; click add a gadget. Add the HTML gadget. Paste the code you copied here. Save and exit and your new design has been created.

It's that easy! Let me know if you run into trouble.

*I've learned NOT to change my font color when posting because you can go into the layout tab and change the font on all of your posts with the click of a button. This doesn't work on the ones I manually customized in initial postings. Now I just type in the compose tab and adjust later in the layout tab.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

End of the Year Scrapbook Idea

Click to play this Smilebox scrapbook: Class Scrapbook Idea
Create your own scrapbook - Powered by Smilebox

Make a Smilebox scrapbook

In a conversation last night, Lori told me about using Smilebox for last year's Christmas photo. She also has Mixbook on her Blog as a class scrapbooking idea. I haven't had a chance to try Mixbook, but I found Smilebox to be VERY EASY to use. Basically, you can create and post scrapbooks to your Blog for FREE! When viewing, be sure you click the right arrow so you can see all pages. I made this one in less than five minutes; I just uploaded some clip art from my files. If you make a real one of your class, let me know, I'd love to post it for others to see.

If you want to print your scrapbook, there is a fee ... but Smilebox offers a 14 day FREE trial. If I read the printing page correctly, you can buy the design to own and reuse for $3.99 or pay a $5.99 monthly membership to make and print as many designs as you want.

I know that I plan to FINALLY get my family photos off my computer and in a printed book this summer. Now, what should I do with all the UNUSED scrapbook products in my closet???

Monday, April 13, 2009

Periodic Table of Videos

Jefferson Memorial Virtual Tour

Would you like a closer look at Niagara Falls, the Redwood Forest, the Space Shuttle Discovery Launch or the Golden Gate Bridge? Prepare to become a little dizzy. :)