MAT Blog

K-12 Teachers: Know your Gurus in Language Arts.

Posted by Colleen Cadieux on May 30, 2012 4:31:00 PM

When teachers are familiar with the leading researchers in their field, they know where to find credible resources for best practice instruction.If you have ever instructed a child to read, chances are your methods have been influenced in one way or another by researcher, author Tim Rasinski, Ph.D., a literacy education professor at Kent State University and leading expert in reading education.  He has published a variety of valuable materials for elementary and middle grades on reading fluency, word study, and reaching struggling readers. Dr. Rasinski has edited and co-authored a variety of texts and curriculum programs centered on reading education. Throughout his prolific career, he has authored over 150 articles in an array of publications. He is a guru you should get to know!

Dr. Tim Rasinski's work is focused on several key areas:

  1. Reading Fluency There is a plethora of research explaining the connection between reading fluency and proficiency in reading comprehension.  Rasinski's work aims to inform teachers about the effects of fluency instruction on students at all grade levels, not just in the early elementary years.  He encourages teachers to model fluent reading for students, expect students to practice the repeated reading of specific passages, and provide embedded fluency support in students' independent reading. His work also supports teachers in determining and acquiring appropriate instructional materials for fluency practice such as scripts, poems, passages, and leveled texts. 
  2. Vocabulary and Word Study Vocabulary development is one of the five core principles of quality reading instruction, yet teachers often struggle with finding engaging and effective ways to teach vocabulary.  Rasinski's work helps teachers ensure that students acquire a vocabulary that will support their reading development and overall comprehension. He encourages teachers to employ both direct and indirect instruction to teach new vocabulary. Engaging direct instruction techniques include categorizing and classifying, concept maps, word derivations and histories, and cloze (fill-in-the-blank) activities.  
  3. Reaching Struggling Readers  Rasinski's work into understanding the struggling reader can help teachers analyze a student's reading behaviors and identify appropriate instructional methods for areas of need. He helps teachers focus on the “big picture of reading instruction” while understanding specific instructional strategies for improved word recognition, vocabulary, reading fluency, and comprehension.  

There are a variety of resources available for teachers to learn more about Tim Rasinski's work in reading education including, but certainly not limited to:  


Scholarly Articles:

Online Resources:

Dr. Rasinski began his career as an elementary and middle school classroom and Title I teacher. He has served as president of the College Reading Association as well as on the Board of Directors of the International Reading Association. He was elected to the International Reading Hall of Fame in 2010.

Boost your students’ reading comprehension with the resources mentioned above and download our Best Practices Guide to Reading Comprehension. Put a refreshing spin on a traditional strategy!

 Download our K-6 Reading Comprehension B

Tags: literacy instruction, K-12 reading, reading comprehension, download, reading strategies

Make the transition to fourth grade an easy one for your students.

Posted by Colleen Cadieux on May 26, 2012 5:30:00 AM

Fourth Grade is a transition year; help your students succeed!Fourth grade is a transition year for many students. Fourth graders are expected to read to learn instead of learning to read. They have mastered basic math facts and concepts and now must weave together these skills to solve increasingly sophisticated math problems. Fourth grade students' abilities to read and comprehend non-fiction texts are put to the test as the content areas increase in difficulty. In addition, projects become more complex and expectations rise for cooperative learning.  

It is important for K-3 teachers to understand what is expected of fourth grade students in order to help them prepare for this crucial year. Ask your administrator to help you set up collaborative time with your fourth grade colleagues for up-to-date, key input. You can be an effective ally by passing along highly prepared students!
The following are some basic expectations for fourth grade students that can help you as you plan:

  • The ability to read and comprehend both fiction and non-fiction texts. While teachers hope that all students are at grade level by the time they enter fourth grade, this might not always be the case. Regardless of reading level, students can learn comprehension strategies to be able to better navigate both fiction and non-fiction texts. 
  • Mastery of math facts and the basic ability to work with large whole numbers, fractions, and decimals. Students spent their primary grades focused on basic math facts, skills, and concepts. In fourth grade, as academic expectations become more difficult and skills more sophisticated, students must be able to integrate these previously learned concepts to solve math problems.  Fourth grade students should also understand and be able to work with the basic concepts of whole numbers, fractions, and decimals. 
  • Understanding of how science, social studies, and health concepts connect to prior knowledge. The real power behind content area learning is for students to understand the connections to their own life experiences and prior understandings. For example, students should be able to connect historical events learned in Social Studies to their own community.
  • Responsibility for independent classroom work. Fourth grade students may be faced with more traditional instructional methods which often require a higher level of independence. Teachers often require students to complete larger assignments independently with an ability to attend to a specific task for a longer period of time.
  • Completion of larger, more complex projects. More complex book reports, research projects, and class presentations are common in fourth grade.  Whether they are completed in class or at home, students should be able to work independently on these large projects.

Referencing your state's academic standards for fourth grade is an excellent way to understand exactly what is expected. Additionally, the Common Core Standards is another resource for understanding the academic expectations in fourth grade. 

Help prepare your students for the rigors of fourth grade by reviewing this quick guide on Cooperative Learning with Social Cohesion, and give it a try in your classroom, today!

 Click me



Tags: transition to fourth grade, preparing students, download, Cooperative Learning

Here's a preventive reading strategy for “summer slide" that parents need to know.

Posted by Colleen Cadieux on May 19, 2012 5:30:00 AM

parents can help prevent summer slide by reading with their children each day.“Summer Slide,” or the loss of skill over a prolonged time away from regular, routine learning is very common among struggling readers. Parents of struggling readers can help their children maintain their skills by exercising the strategy of paired reading over summer break.

Paired reading
is a research-based fluency strategy used with readers who struggle with fluency, and is perfect for summer reading at home. Share this blog with your parents before school ends, or send home a note with simple step-by-step pointers for them to follow. They’ll thank you for it.

It is generally recommended that parents read with their children for at least five minutes per day. Paired reading can be used with any book, taking turns reading by sentence, paragraph, page or chapter. For best results, have the child select the reading material, or parents may select age-appropriate books with topics that interest their children—whichever works. The point is to read on a regular basis.

We’ve adapted what Researcher and Literacy Expert Dr. Tim Rasinski recommends from Teacher Created Materials Publishing, a website full of great resources for teachers:

Practice what you preach.

•Both you and your child read the words out loud together. Read at the child’s speed. You are modeling good reading for your child.

•For young readers, as you read together, read every word. To make sure your child is looking at the words, one of you points to the word you are reading with a finger or card. It’s best if your child does the pointing.

•When a word is read incorrectly, you say the word correctly, and then have your child immediately repeat the word.

•Show interest in the book your child has chosen. Talk about the pictures. Talk about what’s in the book as you go through it. It is best if you talk at the end of a page or section, or your child might lose track of the story. Ask what things might happen next. Listen to your child – don’t do all the talking.

Make the Time.

•Try very hard to do Paired Reading every day for 5 minutes. If your child wants to read longer, a total of 15 minutes is long enough.

•Select a time that is good for both you and your child. Don’t make him do Paired Reading when he really wants to do something else.

•For days when you are not available, train someone else to be a substitute. Grandparents, older brothers and sisters, aunts, and baby-sitters can be excellent reading role models, too.

Choose a Quiet Place.

•Find a room with no distracting sounds. Children are easily sidetracked by noise. Turn off the T.V.

•Find a place that is private. No one else should be in the room. Many families find this a great opportunity for one parent or grandparent to spend time with just one child.

•Find a place that is comfortable so both of you can concentrate on the story without having to shift around. This will help to associate warm and snuggly feelings with reading.

When to Encourage Reading Alone.

•When you are reading together, allow your child to read alone when he feels confident and wants to. Agree on a way for him/her to signal you to stop reading along. This could be a knock, squeeze, or tap with the elbow. (Saying “be quiet” or similar words might make your child lose track of the meaning of the story.) When signaled, you immediately stop reading aloud and feel glad that your child wants to be an independent reader!

It’s never too late in the year to try something new. For more interesting ways to engage readers, download our Best Practices Guide for Reading Comprehension, today!

Download our K-6 Reading Comprehension B







Tags: how parents help kids read, download, struggling readers, summer slide

End-of-the-year parties. Make them memorable for students.

Posted by Colleen Cadieux on May 17, 2012 12:46:00 PM

Teachers: Make your end of the year party fun!Most elementary school teachers are in countdown mode. Only 30 days to summer… 29 days to summer…28 days…But even veteran K-5 teachers will concede that, no matter how road-weary you are, you still need to consider the perspectives of your students right to the very end. Children look forward to celebrating their year and their successes. And you should, too. After all, you’ve been building a cohesive classroom community all year, so make it a strong finish!

Although teachers are inclined to want to reward their young students with treats and parties at the end of the year, these traditions need not be lavish. Ideally, school parties should still be meaningful, authentic learning experiences for children. Celebrations are excellent opportunities to reinforce a myriad of things like responsibility, self-discipline, imagination and creativity.

For fresh ways to spend the last week of school, we found some wonderful examples from Mrs. Feinman’s class, a first grade teacher in Houston. Mrs. Feinman lets everyone share their opinion by providing “exit interview cards” to her first graders. They answer questions about the past year and about their teacher. This is realistic feedback that can help teachers of any grade level determine the learning experiences that resonate most with their students.

Mrs. Feinman also makes “advice cards” for her exiting students to tell next year’s class what to expect. She attaches each student’s class photo to the cards and hangs them in the hallway to greet her incoming students in the fall. It’s an empowering exercise for students to “advise” their successors, and works well for even the youngest of children.

Inspire Imaginations with a Cultural Theme Party.

Instead of the typical end-of-the-year pizza party, last year Mrs. Feinman planned a pretend field trip to “Hawaii.”

She sold plane tickets ahead of time for a few dollars each and used the money toward party food and decorations. She made mock tickets from this very cool website and laminated them for instant souvenirs.

When her students arrived on the morning of party day, this teacher-turned-flight attendant collected each student’s boarding pass as they entered the classroom. They were delighted to find their seats arranged in rows of two with an aisle down the middle like an airplane.

The principal made a pilot’s address over the intercom system and welcomed students aboard their flight. Mrs. Feinman played sound wave clips of airplanes taking off (get yours free here), and showed a tourism video on Hawaii as an in-flight movie.

When the class reached their destination, they disembarked to the playground, (parents could be enlisted to distribute Hawaiian leis). The rest of the afternoon was spent playing simple games that fit all skill levels, such as limbo, surfing contests on towels, and coconut toss. They snacked on tropical fruit.

No doubt, there were some tired travelers that night! Parties like Mrs. Feinman’s are self-esteem boosters, because they provide interesting, yet simple activities for children of all social maturity levels to master and enjoy.

We recommend that your end-of-the-year parties always have some set plans for learning. Do not be tempted to hand over complete control to well-meaning parent volunteers. Parties are still learning opportunities that happen on your watch during the school day, so in other words, you are ultimately responsible for what occurs. Some structure mandated by the teacher prevents class parties from becoming free-for-alls, where students who are less socially oriented might feel isolated and uncomfortable.

For more examples of fun ways to learn, download our Extension of the Classroom Guide of teacher-tested tips, and put a fresh spin on an old idea!

Click me






Tags: end-of-the-year parties, school parties, download, Classroom Community

K-12 Teachers: Know your gurus in math.

Posted by Colleen Cadieux on Apr 24, 2012 5:36:00 AM

K-12 Teachers should keep abreast of the gurus in their fields. If you haven’t heard of Marilyn Burns, well, you should. She’s a leading researcher and practitioner in teaching mathematics, and she has created a series of math interventions aimed at offering additional instruction to students who have fallen behind. The interventions are focused on numbers and operations, providing reteaching and remediation in mathematical computation, problem solving, and number sense. Her materials can really make a difference.

The Marilyn Burns math intervention series, Do the Math supports students and teachers in three critical ways:

  1. The instruction is focused on whole numbers and fractions to rebuild the foundation for further, more complicated algebraic learning.
  2. The lessons are designed around research-based, instructional practices.
  3. The embedded professional development allows teachers to learn more while also implementing the intervention program.

It is worth mentioning that there are two different programs as part of the Marilyn Burns math interventions:

Do the Math (for grades 1-6) and Do the Math Now!® (for grades 6 and up). The elementary version is divided into 13 modules focused on basic mathematical operations and fractions. The secondary version, Do the Math Now, is designed as additional, year-long instruction for students who have exhibited significant weaknesses with operations and number sense.

The elementary version of the Marilyn Burns math interventions has been found to be incredibly effective in remediating struggling math students by:

•Rebuilding mathematical fluency. This approach is focused on whole numbers and fractions by returning students to some of the most basic mathematical concepts to rebuild and strengthen their foundation. Students lacking these basic computational and number-sense skills are less likely to become proficient in more advanced concepts. So Do the Math Now! helps to clear up misconceptions and rebuild the basic math skills of these struggling students.

•Enabling student and teacher flexibility. The program is designed for a variety of grade levels and a wide range of abilities. This flexibility allows teachers to meet the true needs of an individual student by using quality intervention materials.

•Employing research-based methodologies. The intervention program is built around the concepts of eight research based principles: explicit instruction, scaffolded content, multiple strategies, student interaction, gradual release, meaningful practice, vocabulary and language, and assessment and differentiation. These principles guide teachers on the implementation and effective use of the Marilyn Burns math program to best meet the needs of all learners.

•Providing accessible assessment tools. The Do the Math Now! intervention program has a variety of assessment tools available to teachers in order to provide ongoing feedback and progress monitoring. There is also an additional, web-based assessment component (Progress Space) that can be customized to suit student needs. The information provided from the Progress Space reports allows teachers to carefully monitor student achievement. 

Marilyn Burns, founder of Math Solutions®, has been a teacher/researcher/author for more than 40 years. Her professional development sessions and mathematics resources are considered best practice in education. Inducted to the 2010 Educational Publishing Hall of Fame, Burns and her website should be favorites for math teachers everywhere.

Need fresh ideas, inspiration, or innovative ways to help your math students? Check out our Math Literacy Guide, with authentic tips and suggestions from teachers in the field.

Download Our FREE Math Literacy Guide

Tags: download, mathematics literacy, K-12 math, Marilyn Burns

Three Cooperative Learning Strategies in Middle School Math.

Posted by Colleen Cadieux on Apr 22, 2012 5:32:00 AM

middle school students benefit from teh more social cooperative learning activities.Middle schoolers are often naturally social and many of them love to work in groups during class. The middle school mathematics classroom is a wonderful environment for promoting these social learning connections while mastering math concepts. There are a variety of cooperative learning strategies that benefit the middle school math student. Here are three excellent ones you can use now:

1. Jigsaw Lessons are not puzzling at all.
Often implemented in social studies or science, a jigsaw lesson can work equally well in the math classroom. Certain mathematical concepts, such as geometry, lend themselves nicely to the jigsaw format. 

As in all jigsaw lessons, the teacher will divide the class into groups and within each group assign students numbers. The number of students in each group is dependent on the number of concepts in the jigsaw lesson.  For a lesson on triangles each student is assigned the task of creating a specific triangle based on defined attributes.

For example, one student in the group may be asked to create an acute scalene triangle while another student is tasked with creating an obtuse isosceles triangle. All students in the class with the same task form a temporary new group to complete it and plan ways to explain it to their original group. Once the triangles are created, the group will reconvene with their starting team. Each group member must then display the triangle, describe the assigned attributes, and clarify the process they used to complete the task. By sharing ideas and answering questions, students have the opportunity to reinforce their own understanding and learn from one another.

For your reference, we found an excellent, thorough description of the jigsaw instructional strategy from Instructional Strategies Online, by Saskatoon Public Schools in Canada.

2. Quiz Show helps students win at math literacy.
Using the quiz show format teachers can plan a cooperative learning activity that spans an entire unit and provides a fun review session before the final assessment.  It is great for learning math vocabulary and reviewing concepts. 

The teacher begins by assigning groups at the outset of the unit.  This is best done using heterogeneous, or mixed, groups so that students will collaborate, learn, and become stakeholders in the group's success. Over the course of the unit's instruction, the groups will meet periodically to write quiz show questions. The teacher can front load these collaborative question-writing sessions by providing a framework for questions or requiring a specific format (multiple choice, multi-step problem solving, true/false, etc). These questions will be submitted to the teacher as possible questions for the final quiz show competition.

On the quiz show review day the students compete in their original teams and the teacher chooses the questions that will be asked.  (You should include some questions written by students and others that you have composed yourself).  The students will review the unit material, enjoy working in teams, and be thrilled when one of their own questions is used!

3. Student Peer Coaching is more than a game…it’s leadership training.
Teachers may choose to use peer coaching in the middle school mathematics class in an effort to give students the opportunity to observe how others approach problem solving.  Since students have different ways of solving the same problem, giving them the chance to learn from one another allows each to experience a different perspective.

Implementing peer coaching as part of a math lesson requires a simple structure and is highly effective at expanding students' understanding. The teacher assigns students a partner (or small group) and they work together to solve a problem as a cooperative group. The group must come to a consensus on the problem solving steps, computation, and the final answer.

Eventually, each student will be responsible for completing a similar problem independently. Adding a self-reflection journal question that asks students to identify a part of their problem solving process that was impacted by working with others will provide data about the effectiveness of the peer coaching.

No matter which strategy you try, we know each of these promises to engage and enlighten your socially-oriented middle school students…many of whom are afflicted with severe cases of spring fever…especially on those seemingly never-ending Fridays!

Download our Guide on the Highly Effective Instructional Strategy of Cooperative Learning for a brief refresher on how to conduct it with success!

Click me



Tags: curriculum, instruction and assessment, download, middle school math, cooperative learning in math

Finding Joy in Ongoing Assessment in Math.

Posted by Colleen Cadieux on Apr 20, 2012 10:05:00 AM

Ongoing assessment in math is smart for teachers and students alike.  International best-selling author and wellness expert Greg Anderson once said, “Joy is found not in finishing an activity, but in doing it.” This may be true, but for most teachers and students, joy is probably not a word either would associate with assessment in math. It’s undeniable, traditional methods of assessment carry a significant amount of baggage—for both teacher and student. Perhaps it is time to ditch this baggage, and rethink the old paradigm of how we evaluate student progress!

More recently, discussion about assessment has shifted from focusing solely on the finished product to an ongoing, process-oriented approach. Unlike traditional methods, ongoing evaluation assesses students throughout the process of “doing.” Teachers constantly interact and collaborate with learners, and students continuously engage in self-reflection. This multi-faceted approach is happening all the time, in and out of the classroom.

Ongoing assessment has long been used in the rigors athletic training.

At each practice, a football coach continually provides feedback to players in order to improve individual and team performance. In every drill the coach analyzes the strengths and weaknesses of each player and the team as a whole, and modifies future practices to reflect their needs. Ongoing feedback is provided based on observation and analysis throughout the actual games, and the data are used to plan the next series of practices. This coaching model is very similar to the work of a teacher who uses ongoing assessment. It works.

There are multiple benefits of implementing ongoing assessment in mathematics:

  • Clear, relevant criteria. Ongoing assessment in mathematics utilizes clear, easy to understand criteria that are explicitly articulated at the outset of a unit of study.  For example, in a primary unit on telling time the students understand that there will be informal, ongoing performance assessments. A teacher can utilize a variety of assessment to gather ongoing data such as performance assessment, student reflection, anecdotal observations, student/teacher discussion, and problem solving.
  • Frequent feedback. Students frequently receive feedback when a teacher is using ongoing assessment in mathematics. This feedback continues from the beginning of the unit to the final assessment, and at every instructional point in between.  In the previous telling time example; the teacher doesn't wait until the end of the unit to determine if the child can tell time to the minute. Instead, there is ongoing data regarding the child's progress in telling time to the hour, half hour, quarter hour, five minutes, and minute. At each of these points there is feedback to the students.
  • Instructional modification. Ongoing assessment in mathematics provides feedback not only to students regarding their performance, but also to the teacher regarding lesson planning.  As the teacher collects data from the ongoing assessments, future lessons can be shaped based on needs. These modifications can be for the entire group or targeted for students who need remediation. They may also be used to provide additional, more challenging concepts to students who are already displaying mastery. For example, the teacher may find that when monitoring students' ability to understand place value to 1000, there are some that need remediation and reteaching on place value to 100 and others that have completely mastered the skill. The teacher can then use this ongoing data to shape future instruction. 

Ongoing assessment has a rhythm to it, and takes some time and practice to master. New teachers should start out slowly; soon you will feel the joy of doing it, as you are able to measure the impact on your students' progress! 

For more ways to boost your students’ enjoyment of math, download our Math Literacy Guide full of helpful hints from teachers, for teachers!

Download Our FREE Math Literacy Guide


Tags: curriculum, instruction and assessment, elementary math, ongoing assessment in math., download

Poetry reading is a great explicit word analysis exercise!

Posted by Colleen Cadieux on Apr 18, 2012 10:49:00 AM

Celebrate National Reading Month with Explicit Word Analysis ActivitiesIt’s National Poetry Month! We celebrate it wholeheartedly, and can’t help but wonder why poetry is often overlooked in the elementary classroom as a way to teach a multitude of skills. We know that poems are excellent for practicing fluency, learning the different forms of rhyme, and understanding the genre.

Having students participate in poetry reading is also an effective way for teachers to teach explicit word analysis (EWA) skills. Explicit word analysis includes training in phonological awareness, phonics, and the alphabetic principle that letters represent sounds in a language. These core foundational skills are vital to emerging readers, allowing them to identify and read words with ease. EWA also helps prepare students for future, more difficult reading.

Consider this EWA exercise using the following poem by British children’s literature author James Reeves from the book 70 Wonderful Word Family Poems by Beth Handa and Jennifer Wilen:

Run a Little
Run a little this way, 
Run a little that!
Fine new feathers 
For a fine new hat.
A fine new hat
For a lady fair - 
Run round and turn about
And jump in the air.

Run a little this way,
Run a little that!
White silk ribbon
For a black silk cat.
A black silk cat
For the Lord mayor's wife
Run around and turn about 
And fly for your life!

There are many different ways teachers can use this poem to teach explicit word analysis skills. Here are a few good ones:

  • Copy the poem onto large, chart sized paper for the entire class to read together.  Used along with your students’ own personal copies, this large version allows for choral reading and word analysis.
  • Read the poem multiple times aloud to the class. Students should listen for any words with a specific sound (-at). If they hear a word with the identified sound have your students put their hands on their head each time they hear it during the reading, then raise their hand at the end of the reading to share.  Students can come up to the poem on the chart to underline the specific sound in that, hat, and cat.
  • As your students become more familiar with the poem, through repeated readings, they can increase their participation in the reading. You can have them point to their ears or clap when the targeted word is read.  
  • You can add the targeted words of that, cat, and hat to index cards to use for sight word practice. This is especially powerful when targeted words from previous poems are also included. The words can be used in a pocket chart or on a word wall as additional practice during a center or independent activity.

Outside of identifying the targeted sound of -at words, teachers can use this poem to teach and reinforce a variety of explicit word analysis skills.

  • On individual copies of the poem students can "mark" the paper to identify certain sounds, words, or phonemes. For example, you can have your students identify every word that contains the /l/ sound by underlining the word with a red pencil or marking the word with a highlighter. Next, they could circle every word with the /r/ sound with an orange pencil or use a different color highlighter to mark the word. Finally, the teacher can direct them to box all the words with a /t/ sound with a blue pencil or mark the words with a third color highlighter.
  • Students can use highlighting tape to identify rhyming words on a large, laminated copy of the poem.
  • Once you have completed using the poem in direct instruction it can be added to center or small group work. Your students will gain additional practice in fluency and word analysis based on individual need. This is an activity that can be easily differentiated to meet the needs of a variety of learners. 

We hope we’ve given you some good ways to celebrate National Poetry Month with your students. For more ideas and tips on infusing EWA into your classroom of eager readers, download our guide, today!

Click me



Tags: teaching strategies, download, reading strategies, National Poetry Month, poetry

Sign language helps the hearing child learn to read, too.

Posted by Colleen Cadieux on Apr 12, 2012 5:35:00 AM

sign language benefits the hearing child learn to read, too.Although sign language and fingerspelling were developed primarily for the hearing impaired, teachers have embraced their benefit for use with early readers. The use of sign language and fingerspelling provides a kinesthetic and visual approach to early literacy that may be helpful to a wide variety of students. Young learners find that signing is fun and teachers notice the benefit of integrating multiple learning modalities into their reading lessons.  

The use of sign language and fingerspelling with early readers has many advantages in the classroom:

  • Aids instruction in multiple intelligences. Howard Gardner's work in multiple intelligences suggests that presenting information in a variety of ways, based on a wide range of intelligences, provides more pathways to learning for students.  Using sign language and fingerspelling is adaptable for several of Gardner's defined styles of learning.  A child who is an interpersonal learner will enjoy the group dynamic of fingerspelling and sign language while a kinesthetic learner will benefit from the physical movement they require.  The use of sign language and fingerspelling in early reading acquisition provides an additional avenue to learning for students.
  • Boosts development of oral language. Teachers may choose to use sign language in an attempt to present new information to students via multiple modalities.  This is especially powerful when developing oral language and content specific vocabulary.  When a teacher signs a word, the child has the opportunity to both see and hear the word.  The connection of the visual to the auditory can be a powerful connection for students.  In turn, when a child signs and says a word he is further engraining the meaning through both a kinesthetic and auditory channel. This will boost a child's oral language development and the recall of new vocabulary.  
  • Supports knowledge of print and phonemic awareness. Knowledge of print relates to the student's ability to recognize letters and relate them to the corresponding sound and phonemic awareness. Sign language and fingerspelling reinforce the ability to auditorially identify and manipulate sounds in spoken words.  Students combine these two skills to sound out words as part of their emerging reading skills.  A teacher may use fingerspelling to represent letters, their sounds, and other letter/sound combinations.  Using the hand shapes, teachers provide students an alternate method for learning and understanding the letters and sounds.  Fingerspelling utilizes discrete hand shapes that may also help to eliminate confusion between similar letter sounds such as /j/ and /dr/ or /c/ and /z/.  
  • Integrates easily into almost any reading program. Using sign language and fingerspelling to boost early reading development is another way to acquire important skills.  Since their use is an ancillary support method you can easily integrate it into any existing reading program.  Sign language and fingerspelling fit nicely into the sequence of skill development required for early reading acquisition. 

Download these cool sign language posters for your classroom! You can get a good alphabet chart from any of several websites on the Internet.

If you find that you need a few new ideas to help students engage in word play, grab our FREE Explicit Word Instruction Guide and energize your reading lessons, today! Have fun signing with your class. Try it; your students will love it!

Click me


Tags: literacy instruction, K-12 reading, sign language, signing, reading comprehension, download, reading strategies, Literacy

Reading reflection can boost reading comprehension.

Posted by Colleen Cadieux on Mar 30, 2012 1:43:00 PM

Marygrove MAT discussed reflection and how it boosts reading comprehensionLet’s suppose you have a 4th grade student named Robert in your classroom. He's an exceptional reader; both in interest and volume. He loves to read and always chooses a book, at home or at school, when he has available free time. Robert will read across genres and consistently reads above his assessed level. Yet in reading conferences with Robert, you discover he's missing something.  

He is by far at the top of his class when it comes to his reading ability and interest, but at times he demonstrates a lack of understanding, and sketchy comprehension.  It appears, through anecdotal notes, discussion, and assessment, that his fundamental metacognitive skills, those skills that allow a student to be aware of his own knowledge and understanding, need some work. What do you do next?

This scenario would require that you evaluate the amount of reading reflection students are engaged in your classroom. We’re sure you’ll discover that if an avid reader like Robert has trouble grasping an understanding of text, then the entire class would surely benefit from some reflective reading teaching strategies, too.

Reading reflection is an important skill to boost students' metacognition, or understanding and can take various forms in elementary reading instruction. Here are a few effective strategies, that you can use in your classrooms now:

  1. Reading reflection journals. This journal, cumulative and maintained over time, is a place for students to record what they've read and their thoughts about each text.  It can be tightly directed or students may maintain a broader amount of freedom with their reflections.  Either way, teachers should introduce and model different reflection options, including character analysis, text similarities, story elements, author's craft, and new information learned.  Since it serves as both a record of the books read, and the student's responses, it transforms into a record of thinking and new ideas that can be returned to at any time. 

  2. Reflection questions. Specific reflection questions provided by the teacher can be used independently or within a reading reflection journal. A teacher can create and assign questions to the entire class that connect to specific comprehension strategies or can differentiate questions for individual students based on readiness or learning style. If the reflection questions are used within a reflection journal, the teacher can use the previous entries as an assessment of a student's needs, and will then be able to tailor questions to address those needs.

  3. Oral reflection. When teachers have students participate in an oral reading reflection they encourage students to discuss texts with others in an effort to boost both their reflection and comprehension.  Either in pairs or small groups, these oral reflection sessions can incorporate specific questions, or teachers can give students the freedom to self-reflect. The skills and strategies for oral reflection should be taught and practiced over time to ensure that the students are able to effectively participate within a group.

  4. Exit cards. As students participate in more reading reflection practices it is important for teachers to have viable ways of assessing their abilities. Reading conference records, analysis of reflection journals, and formal assessments are all excellent ways to assess. But using exit cards is an assessment tool that teachers can use instantly to transform their teaching.  At the end of an independent reading session the teacher can ask students to reflect on a specific question, using a simple blank index card, and turn it in as their "exit" from the session. The teacher can then use the reflection exit cards to evaluate the metacognition of each student, and decide who would benefit from additional structure or differentiated questions in their reflections.  

We hope you had a productive month of reading! If you would like to integrate even more comprehension strategies into your planning, download our Best Practices Guide on Reading Comprehension, today!

Download our K-6 Reading Comprehension B

Tags: reading comprehension, download, reading comprehension strategy, Reflection

Our Most Popular Blog Posts

Subscribe to the Marygrove MAT Blog!

Comments on this Blog Post