MAT Blog

Fostering student-initiated learning with literacy work stations

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Feb 5, 2013 10:46:00 AM

Imagine a classroom where the teacher works closely with five students at the guided reading table. Meanwhile, 20 of their peers are on task at a variety of literacy work stations: Two students are manning the overhead projector; they’re reading a poem that is being projected on the whiteboard and compiling a list of words that rhyme with those in the poem. Over in the corner, three more students are in the classroom library; one student is reading and the other two are repairing books at the work bench.literacy work stations

We could paint a more vivid picture, but you get it. How does this happen? If you were to ask author, educator, and national educational consultant Debbie Diller, she’d give much of the credit to literacy work stations. But what are they and how do they differ from literacy centers?

Literacy work stations place an emphasis on work.  They take advantage of existing spaces in the classroom and give students the opportunity to work independently on the things the teacher has already modeled: read-alouds, shared reading, modeled writings, literacy games, shared writing and small-group instruction.

Unlike literacy centers, literacy work stations do not contain “busy” work; they’re not a place where students go to kill time while they wait for the rest of the class to finish an exercise or assignment. Literacy work stations place an emphasis on independence not only to help students take charge of their learning experience, but to keep the teacher from working harder than the students.

Too often, we exhaust ourselves, we burn out by trying to take care of everything when there’s no reason to. Our students are savvy in a variety of ways, so stop printing out materials, cutting them out, laminating, and cleaning up. They are perfectly capable of this. Instead, collaborate with your students; have them help you “decide when the materials at the work station need to change…and negotiate ideas for what they’d like to practice at each station.”

How do I set up a literacy work station?
The idea behind work stations is that often a simple change of location can engage our students. That space can be anywhere in the classroom regardless of how cramped it feels. Pick up a few carpet squares at a remnant warehouse and utilize the floor. Do you have an overhead projector? Good, there’s your screening station. Do you have a CD or Mp3 player? Have your students grab that, a splitter, and two pairs of headphones out of the closet. Voila, there’s their portable listening work station.

What should the work stations look like? And what kind of teaching materials should they have?

  • Miller suggests that they should be filled with materials that have already been used for instruction first. Then they are placed in the station to be used independently.
  • The materials in each station do not change arbitrarily or adhere to a calendar. Instead, they grow with students’ abilities and reflect the strategies and topics being taught.

literacy work stationsThis sounds great, you say, but how do you keep everyone on task?

One way to nurture independence is through modeling what Frey and Fisher have described as the “gradual release of responsibility model.”

First, the teacher models the activity (“I do it”). If, for example, you want to set up an overhead station where students read poems and come up with related rhymes, you’ll want to walk them through the entire process. Find the file folder containing the transparencies, turn on the overhead, read the poem aloud, circle the words that rhyme and begin writing your own rhymes on the board. When you are done, turn off the projector and return the transparency to its proper home.

Second, offer guided instruction by prompting, posing questions, facilitating and collaborating with students (“We do it”).  Third, place your students in groups (“You do it together”). You’ll guide and help them when they get stuck, but mostly you observe from the sidelines. Once your students have mastered the activity, you turn it over to them (“You do it alone”). 

Keep in mind that this is not a linear approach, so as your students master certain activities, expect them to move back and forth between steps.

If you are considering implementing literacy work stations into your classroom, we suggest that you check out Diller’s book, Literacy Work Stations: Making Centers Work. In addition to this, keep in mind that less is more. Introduce materials into each station gradually; having fewer materials will give students focused freedom and help them stay organized. Also, don’t abandon materials that still have a currency with your students. Move on when they are bored with it or when they have mastered it.



Download our new guide,  10 Hearty Valentine's Day Projects

Tags: literacy instruction, literacy work stations, reading strategies, reading motivation, reading instruction, Literacy

Marygrove College's most popular resources of 2012!

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Jan 18, 2013 11:58:00 AM

Best of 2012Before we officially shift our gaze towards 2013, we thought we’d celebrate the New Year by compiling some of Marygrove College’s most popular resources of 2012.

Now you can take them with you and access them whenever and wherever you are! Inside our Best of 2012 you’ll find:

  • 10 things you should know for the first day of school
  • Ways to reinvent elementary geometry and make it fun
  • Literacy tools that nurture independent reading
  • Ways to teach grammar…without teaching grammar
  • Classroom management tips
  • Simple and practical ways to enhance your curriculum with free technology

    And more!

These are only a few of the resources you’ll find inside our Best of 2012—and if you don’t find what you’re looking for, be sure to browse our blog and resource library as well!

On behalf of Marygrove College’s Master in the Art of Teaching program, we want to wish you a healthy and successful New Year.

-The MAT Team


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Tags: classroom management, download, apps for educators, apps for teachers, downloads, math literacy, Literacy, Math, geometry, Best of 2012

Put a fresh spin on your reading log for students this year.

Posted by Colleen Cadieux on Aug 22, 2012 3:35:00 PM

Marygrove MAT encourages teachers to make reading logs interesting for students!Nobody doubts the value of literacy in education. Parents want their children to read, teachers want their students to read, even students want to be able to read.  But mention the word "Reading Log" and you might hear a universal groan from parents, students, and teachers alike.

Still, there are wonderful ways to add to the at-home reading process and make the log a source of creativity, active involvement, and interaction! It never has to be a chore.

Reading Comprehension Requires Reading Practice!
There's so much more involved in reading than a good story. Reading is a complex brain process that develops over time with listening, thinking, and speaking. For young children, listening to an adult read allows their ears and brain to become familiar with language. Vocabulary, rhythm, cadence, tone, rhyme, sentence structure, event sequencing - all of these become unconsciously familiar as children listen to their parents, guardians, siblings, and teachers read out loud.  Studies show that it takes hundreds of hours of reading time for children to develop the pre-literacy skills that will facilitate the reading process in school.

If parents dedicate just 20 minutes a day to read with their child, the results will become evident in the child's unfolding literacy skills. Plus, as all parents know, time is fleeting.  There are only so many years we can sit and read with our children as we cultivate one of life's most valuable skills.

Kick Start the At-home Reading Log - Make Reading More Exciting.

Most reading logs are pretty basic. They are a black-and-white printed piece of paper with three to four columns of information about the books, or materials, children are reading at home.  Children fill out the title, how long they read, and parents sign it. The teacher collects it, a grade is given, and the log is handed back. Not very exciting.

On the other hand, there are some great ways to make the reading log into a fun-filled and engaging activity! Below are some ideas on how to spruce up the reading log practice and make it appealing for students and their parents!

Skip the traditional reading log format.

  • Consider flexibility. Some days, 20 minutes might not be available, other days 30-40 minutes might slip by as a child and parent read together. Perhaps a weekly total is more realistic.
  • Creativity can be key: Make the reading log an art project.  Make it unique.  Switch it around every month. Create seasonal themes. Let older students design their own reading logs - with certain parameters about organization and legibility of course. You may be surprised with what they come up with. 

Use interesting formats that bring different reading elements to the table. Some examples:

  • Incorporate the log into the book: Children can make a book mark reading log that remains in the book until they're done.  Students are constantly reminded of their progress, rather than having another disconnected piece of paper for their parent to sign.
  • Focus on Reading Comprehension: Reading comprehension only happens when readers learn how to interact with reading materials. Create a log where children answer the 5 W's about each piece they read, or use different daily questions to help them connect with what is happening in the story, or how it relates to something in their own life. It's reading, writing, and critical thinking all in one.
  • Engage. Have students think of one or more questions, depending on their age, that they would ask the author about the section they just read.

There are some great online reading log sources.  Check out Enchanted Learning Reading Log Formats, or this printable PDF reading log for older students that asks different questions for each day.

The best at-home reading logs boost reading comprehension by getting students to engage with their reading material. Reading logs should help to make the reading process exciting, desirable, and something to be proud of. Give yours a fresh update this year!

Need more ideas on how to improve reading comprehension? Download our FREE Best Practices Guide now!

Download the K-6 Reading Comprehension B

Tags: reading comprehension, Literacy, reading logs

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!

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

Keeping the dialogue going; Reciprocal Teaching (RT) as a reading strategy makes good sense.

Posted by Colleen Cadieux on Mar 10, 2012 5:43:00 AM

Reciprocal Teaching is explored as a reading strategy for National Reading Month!Reciprocal Teaching (RT) is an instructional method pioneered by Annemarie Palinscar and Ann Brown (1984) which has proven useful as a highly effective reading strategy. They describe the method as "a dialogue between teachers and students for the purpose of jointly constructing the meaning of text." In other words, teachers, rap with your students about reading and you’ll get good results!

RT is designed to aid students' overall reading comprehension by focusing on four key strategies:

  • Summarizing for self review- Students are required to identify the most important information contained in the text.  Summaries can be based on selected passages, a group of sentences, across paragraphs, or over an entire reading.
  • Generating questions- Asking questions helps the reader reach a deeper level of comprehension because generating questions requires students to identify the most significant information in the text. This is closely related to summarizing, and supports comprehension by seeking answers. 
  • Clarifying confusing information- This strategy requires metacognition, or understanding, to evaluate when a text is confusing.  At times, students may continue reading without realizing that their lack of understanding is affecting their comprehension.  By stopping to recognize and clarify their confusion, comprehension is reinforced.  Since there are multiple reasons for confusion (e.g. lack of schema, or frame of reference for their understanding; difficult vocabulary; unfamiliar writing style or voice), dialogue with the teacher can help a student identify the cause of a misunderstanding.
  • Predicting upcoming events- Students use what has already been read along with background knowledge, to generate a hypothesis about what the author will discuss next. This provides a purpose for further reading, in order to confirm or disprove the hypothesis.  

The steps to reciprocal teaching below may seem simple, but using them with a piece of well structured text will provide deep understanding for students. A Houghton-Mifflin Intervention Program that used reciprocal teaching throughout included some of the following titles: Fourth Grade: "The Wonder of Wolves;" or "Martin Luther King, Jr.," by Wil Mara, Children's Press 2002. Fifth Grade: "How do Birds Find Their Way;" "Jackie Robinson," by Herb Dunn and Meryl Henderson, Simon & Schuster 1999; or "Whales." Teachers should gradually encourage independence by spending time modeling, explaining, and introducing the process of reciprocal teaching. This ensures that students completely understand the process before being responsible for their part of the reciprocal teaching session.

Facilitate an RT Reading Session in Six Steps!

  1. Choose a piece of informative non-fiction writing.  The piece should have strong organization and be engaging to students.  Each student will receive a copy of the entire piece.
  2. Revisit the four core strategies: summarizing, questioning, clarifying, and predicting. Use the first paragraph of the text to model the comprehension strategies.
  3. Divide the class into small groups and within each group assign each student one of the remaining paragraphs.  
  4. Give students time to read and analyze their assigned paragraphs independently, taking notes as necessary.
  5. Monitor as students "teach" the rest of the small group the four reading strategies relating to their assigned paragraph.  
  6. Encourage discussion within the groups before, during, and after each student's presentation.  Students should see connections between each other's presentations that will support their overall comprehension.

The benefits of reciprocal teaching are numerous. The focus on comprehension strategies requires students to practice how to learn, not just the content being learned.  Also, since the comprehension practice occurs within an authentic task, and not in isolation, the strategies are deeply embedded within the reader. Because the practice occurs cooperatively with other students, the individual reader is supported by interactions with others in the group.

The biggest complaint from teachers about RT is keeping students talking about the matter at hand, and not drifting off into socializing. Do not be intimidated by this method, since it takes a couple of tries to really master it. Be patient, and keep it light—the rewards will begin to reveal themselves, even among the most challenged readers in your classroom.

For more proven ways to boost comprehension in your classroom, download our FREE K-6 Comprehension Best Practices Guide today!

Download our K-6 Reading Comprehension B

Palinscar, A. & Brown, A. (1984). "Reciprocal teaching of comprehension-fostering and comprehension monitoring activities." Cognition and Instruction, I (2), p. 117-175.


Tags: literacy instruction, K-12 reading, reading comprehension, reciprocal teaching, download, reading strategies, Literacy, RT

“Catch Me if You Can:” A Free K-2 Mini-Lesson for St. Patrick’s Day!

Posted by Colleen Cadieux on Mar 7, 2012 2:54:00 PM

St. Patrick’s Day has evolved into a cultural celebration of Irish heritage that presents many engaging literacy activities for students. This year, try extending the wildly popular Elf on the Shelf idea by Carol Aebersold to a naughty leprechaun! Much like the elf, the naughty leprechaun can leave behind clues of his whereabouts in your classroom.

St. Patrick’s Day is usually marked in our school by leprechauns who play tricks on our students, often leaving a trail of gold and green glitter. But I’ve developed a leprechaun-themed instructional plan that will engage young learners in riddle-solving and creative writing, in just three days.

In this K-2 mini-lesson plan, students will create rhymes collaboratively and, by extension, independently.  It will tap students’ critical thinking skills as they solve riddles and develop new ideas for their own riddles. Students will identify rhyming pairs in the riddles and create rhyming pairs for their writing. To aid the teacher, the plan includes prepared riddles to use as models. 

St. Patrick's Day Lesson Plan

Here is a sample of Day One:

Day One


Book related to St. Patrick’s Day. Here’s a long list, including everything from light-hearted fiction to some serious history: St. Patrick’s Day books.

  • Glue sticks and scrap paper.
  • Chart paper or white board.


1.  Print and cut vocabulary cards.

2.  Write riddle on chart paper or white board.

Up above, down below
All around the room you’ll go.
Look for me
And somewhere you’ll see,
I’ve been to visit.
Don’t you miss it!

Read the clue
To know what to do.
I’m in a sticky situation.
What have I gotten into?

3.  Using a glue stick, create a small mess in an area of the room where students will not readily notice. Leave the glue uncapped, glue some scraps of paper together haphazardly, etc. 


  1. Set the stage for this short unit by reading aloud a book related to St. Patrick’s Day.  Begin by accessing students’ prior knowledge.  Show the book cover and ask students what they know about St. Patrick’s Day. Introduce related thematic vocabulary, including leprechaun, pot o’gold, rainbow, shamrock. Use the vocabulary cards with pictures in the free guide below.
  1. During reading, pause occasionally to ask questions and to help students clarify their understanding. 
  1. After reading the story, introduce the students to the first riddle.  Tell them the leprechaun is playing tricks on the class just for fun.  Will they be able to catch him in the act of playing a trick?  Read the riddle with the students. Explain that the riddle rhymes and offers a clue about what the leprechaun did.  Which words rhyme?  Can they figure out the riddle and find the place in the classroom where the leprechaun played the trick?
  1.  End the lesson with a teaser such as “I wonder if he’ll play another trick on us tomorrow,” or “I hope he doesn’t make any more messes in our classroom,” or “Maybe tomorrow we’ll catch him before he gets into trouble.”

Day Two introduces the idea of writing a riddle like the leprechaun did, by having students brainstorm and share ideas for the leprechaun’s next trick. By Day Three, students will be writing and re-writing rhyming riddles! Extend this playful writing activity over as many days as you wish, allowing students to create riddles and “help” the leprechaun play tricks. It is a joy to watch the excitement build in your classroom!

For a copy of the complete instructional plan, download this St. Patrick’s Day Mini Lesson for K-2 Students, including printable vocabulary cards, FREE!

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Dr. Mary P. Sullivan shares her experience from 22 years in K-12 education as a Mentor for the Marygrove Master in the Art of Teaching Program. She earned her Ed.D in Educational Leadership from Liberty University and currently serves as Guidance, Testing, Evaluation and Placement Coordinator at Baconton Community Charter School in Baconton, GA. She is committed to identifying and disseminating research-based best practices for teaching and learning.

Tags: download, Literacy, Lesson Plan, St. Patrick's Day

Learning logs are important literacy tools.

Posted by Colleen Cadieux on Jan 17, 2012 9:54:00 AM

Learning logs are an important literacy tool for all students as they encourage reflection and improved comprehension.Although there are many different methods that teachers use for students to record current knowledge, learning logs have proven especially beneficial in the areas of reading and writing. They are also a valuable format for integrating the content areas. This instructional strategy helps to support students in all grade levels to become more responsible, and to take ownership of their educational experiences. Learning logs encourage independent learning!

What are learning logs? Learning logs are a record-keeping tool for students to monitor and reflect on their own learning. Typically, students keep these logs in a notebook, binder, or folder so the recording is ongoing and fluid. Some teachers find that using a printed template is beneficial, while others teach students a record-keeping system that is based on responses to specific categories. This teaches students how to organize ideas, as they record entries into their learning logs during or at the end of a class session.  

Why use learning logs? These frequent bursts of writing, focused on the lesson that just occurred, are highly effective in supporting ongoing understanding. The logs are excellent when used in assessing literacy learning because students are creating their own record of ideas and insights. What’s more, these logs are excellent vehicles for discussing the use of literacy strategies with students, parents, and teachersLearning logs also prepare young students to take notes—a study habit that will come in very handy later on.

How do learning logs support teaching literacy strategies? Each class session is an opportunity for both learning and reflection.  When teachers are able to reinforce literacy and content instruction via authentic student writing they are deepening both the students' understanding and application of literacy strategies.  Teachers can also use the logs to reflect on student learning to help make future instructional decisions, such as extending activities or “re-teaching” areas of weakness.

What are implementation options?  The goal is for learning logs to be a concise and factual record of learning as well as an honest reflection of a student’s understanding.  Although this goal can be met in a variety of ways, there are some proven implementation methods for learning logs that support the teaching of literacy strategies very nicely.

A teacher must first decide the format for the learning logs (binders, notebooks, folders). Also, teachers must evaluate their instructional plans to identify the best times for students to record in the log.  

At first, a teacher may want to provide focused question(s) for students to answer in the learning logs. Such as:

  • What did you learn in class today?
  • What strategy did you practice during your independent reading?
  • What did you find interesting in the book you are reading?
  • What questions do you have about what you learned?

When students are comfortable with the process of recording in their learning logs, the expectations can be expanded to include a variety of content areas. Some content examples are:

  • Observations and questions from science experiments
  • Writing predictions before a science experiment, and then recording what actually occurred during the experiment. Students can reflect on why (or why not) their predictions were correct.
  • Math problem-solving entries 
  • A written explanation of how to solve a specific math problem
  • A record of independent use of literacy strategies
  • Writing from the point of view of a historical figure

How can I use learning logs for assessment and evaluation? An effective way to begin using learning logs for assessment and evaluation purposes is to integrate them into a student conference.  Together, the teacher and student can review the learning log to identify areas of new understanding, discuss authentic applications, and challenge the student to extend their new knowledge.

For other ways to encourage independent learning, view our FREE webinar on Goal-Setting and Reading Fluency: “D.I.B.E.L.S., Does It Benefit Early Learners to Set Goals?” with Christina Bainbridge, MAT ’09!

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Tags: independent learning, reading comprehension, reading strategy, Literacy, learning logs

Five New Year's Resolutions you can Keep...for Literacy.

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

Marygrove MAT offers teachers New Year's Resolutions for literacy.Winter vacation is a great time for teachers to rest, refresh, and renew in preparation for the start of school in the New Year. The beginning of a new year, or new term, is the perfect time to make resolutions for literacy instruction in your classroom.  Just a few small “tweaks” to your literacy strategiescan help you feel instructionally renewed and refreshed!  Here are a few resolutions you should consider keeping…for the benefit of your students:

  1. Carve out time. Find time in your day for children to spend more time reading at their own level.  It could simply be a small chunk of time (10 minutes is fine) before or after a transition that students could spend reading text at their independent level.  This time will encourage their independent use of literacy strategies and help to build confidence as readers.
  1. Make the connection. Take a look at your content topics (social studies, science, health) for the remainder of the year and find ways to integrate your literacy strategies.  There are so many high quality non-fiction texts available— on a variety of topics— that you are sure to find the perfect match for topic/reading ability of your students.  You may also find ways to further integrate the students' writing into your content instruction.  A science unit could be a great platform for a writing genre study on research reports.
  1. Take a second look at your data.  All of your assessments provide you with powerful data about your teaching and the students' learning.  It can be beneficial to return to the assessment data to discover areas of learning opportunity for students. Disaggregating the data based on different criteria can provide you with a completely different glimpse into student learning.  For example, your DIBELS™ data may show that few of your students advanced out of the "At Risk" category for words read per minute.  However, a further examination may show that even though few advanced to "Low Risk," a group of students showed significant improvement.  An even closer look could lead you to identify that the students that did make progress were each part of a targeted intervention.  Having a second look at the data can lead you to different instructional priorities in the New Year.
  1. Reflect real life.  The world just beyond your classroom door is teeming with opportunities to connect to your literacy instruction.  What ways can you make the students' learning more authentic?  Perhaps having students compose poems or pieces of prose for a writing competition will show them a larger audience outside of the classroom.  Check out a couple of good resources:  The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards for teens, and The Young Voices Foundation for all ages of students.
  1. Infuse the classroom with experts.  Are there others in the school or the local community that could add something different to your classroom; an area of expertise, a unique travel experience, or a different perspective on your community? Bringing in others to act as "experts" in an area of study is powerful to learners. You can connect these experiences to the students' literacy through integrated reading and writing activities that ask students to infuse their new learning with literacy strategies. 

For even more ways to capitalize on the reading and writing connection, download our K-6 Best Practices Guide for Reading Comprehension. Happy New Year!

Download our K-6 Reading Comprehension B  


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

Literacy Artifacts: How to encourage parents to use them at home.

Posted by Colleen Cadieux on Nov 19, 2011 6:21:00 AM

Marygrove MAT urges teachers to help parents make their homes literacy rich.Although teachers are primarily responsible for the literacy teaching strategies in their classrooms, they also have an opportunity to promote the idea of literacy rich homes to all of their students' families. Parents are uniquely able to reinforce their child's learning through interactions and by understanding that a child's home is an excellent place to learn. Literacy artifacts, objects in the home that the child is already reading, are a great way to connect the teacher's literacy teaching strategies with real-life applications.  Teachers and parents can look for literacy artifacts within:
  • Environmental print: A print-rich environment supports the reading skills that students need as they learn. Environmental print will show them that reading is all around them, help them discover cues needed to read single words, and encourage an interest in writing. Consider the kitchen: it is full of environmental print. As parents prepare meals, they can point out a multitude of things to their children; individual letters, words, signs, or symbols on food packaging. They can ask their child to identify logos they recognize, letters they know, or words that they can read. Although it sounds simple, knowing that O-R-E-O spells Oreo is the beginning of associating letters with their meanings and ultimately reading whole words. 

  • Labels, signs, and charts: Parents can begin to label familiar objects in their homes that children interact with on a daily basis, such as door, table, chair, bed, or window.  The more opportunities a child has to see a word directly associated with its meaning, the better prepared he will be to read. Ask parents to identify signs or charts already present in the home that a child can read, such as a calendar or poster.  If a child can identify a word on a poster, the parent can then help her look in a book for the same word. These artifacts allow parents to help connect a child's current understanding to their future reading ability and the literacy teaching strategies they experience at school. 

  • Household tasks: Children naturally want to participate in household tasks with their parents.  Parents can take advantage of this interest by reinforcing literacy skills and using literacy artifacts. Many parents cut coupons out of the Sunday paper each week; Ask parents to involve their children and make it a fun activity by pointing out different labels, numbers, or words. 

For more strategies to help students become better readers, download our quick guide on Explicit Word Analysis, today!
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Tags: download, reading strategy, Literacy, literacy artifacts, literacy rich environment, environmental print

Three Classroom Strategies for Struggling Readers.

Posted by Dreu Adams on Aug 25, 2011 5:00:00 AM

explicit word analysis for struggling readers

Make Reading Fun for Struggling Students

There are many reading strategies for struggling readers that can pay huge dividends. The following three reading strategies for struggling readers can be easily adapted into what you are already doing in your classroom to reap great rewards.

Word Work...with a Twist. Although there are many ways to help a student learn and master the basic skills of word analysis; the practice of segmenting, blending, and decoding is often the most beneficial. However, if the approach is always the same, students may become disengaged with the activity, therefore not maximizing instructional time. A few simple changes can make this activity as fun as it is beneficial. Think about different materials you could use; letter cards, dry erase boards, sticky notes, chalkboards, anything that provides enough of a change to keep the child engaged in a routine activity. Many teachers have had students write with shaving cream, directly on their desks! The smell is generally pleasant, the shaving cream cleans the desks, and kids get a tactile experience.

An effective method for segmenting, blending and decoding can be found through Words Their Way. Here is a link you might find helpful

If you are focusing on a certain phonetic pattern or sound family, adding a simple "word search" through a teacher-selected text will reinforce basic word work skills. Students also like to monitor what they've learned and which skills they've mastered. Consider keeping a record of each word work skill the child has mastered on a spreadsheet and refer to it during each word work lesson to show growth and maintain excitement about the routine practice.

Readers Theater for All. Research has proven that Readers Theater, performed in groups, is beneficial to improving reading fluency due to practice, confidence and the focus on rate, expression, and phrasing. Sometimes struggling readers are left out of Readers Theater practice because teachers find that emerging or simple scripts are often hard to come by. We’ve found quite a few leveled, free Readers Theater scripts such as By practicing and participating in Readers Theater, struggling readers will gain confidence in their reading abilities.

Add Words to Wordless Picture Books. There are many high quality wordless picture books that can be used to support reading strategies for struggling readers - the “Carl” the dog books by Alexandra Day are a great example. All of the books are mostly wordless, relying on the details of the illustrations to tell the stories. Give a struggling reader the chance to inspect and study the wordless book and discuss with the child how the story can be told using illustrations. After the student has a grasp of what the storyline may be, have her dictate the story to you, a parent, or an older “reading buddy.”If you use a computer to record the story, you can print out the dictation and cut it to match the book's illustrations. A few paper clips on the bottom of each page and you've turned a wordless picture book into a book a struggling reader can read! Here’s a great link for wordless picture books:

For more interesting ways to engage readers in the classroom, download our Free Guide on Explicit Word Analysis, and boost reading comprehension for every student at every level!

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Tags: Explicit Word Analysis, Classroom Reading Strategies, Literacy

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