Here we go…Blog #2! First, a HUGE THANK YOU to all of you checked out my first blog and subscribed; I appreciate you more than you can know!
You will be finding out in later posts that I am a HUGE groupie of all things Laura Ingalls Wilder! I first discovered her in third grade in the Hartman Elementary School library in Omaha, Nebraska…I think it was Little House on the Prairie, but I quickly devoured that and went on to read the rest of her books. At that young age, I must have already had a love of history and journeys. I still have that original copy of LHP (below – bought in 1968) and now have all of the books she’s ever written, as well as books about her, about her family, and the Little House series stuff in general.
In the book, These Happy Golden Years, Laura became a teacher at the age of 15, in a one-room schoolhouse on the South Dakota prairie. All she had for her resources were her own school books, a blackboard, chalk and the primers for the students; check it out:
Today’s teacher needs far more tools! I’m happy to introduce the first of many blog posts about the latest and greatest teacher resources I have found and have been using with my tutoring students, or with the students when I worked in a school. This week focuses on literacy (many more literacy resources to come in the future)…I hope these are helpful!
- Reading a-z: I’m sure you’ve heard of it…the website with all the leveled books…but do you know how much MORE they have? Yes, I have used this site to make leveled books in the past for my RtI students, and in the present for my tutoring students (leveled text is SO important for struggling readers!), but I have used this website’s resources for fluency practice (they have leveled fluency practice and assessment passages), benchmark assessments, and phonics practice and assessments. The phonics assessments are particularly helpful when first working with a young and/or struggling reader as it can help you understand where this child is at in his or her phonics abilities. There are also oodles of graphic organizers for reading, as well as for vocabulary! There are so many resources on this site…I keep finding new ones! I just discovered their close reading passages…short pieces of leveled text to strengthen students’ critical thinking skills. Reading a-z is not free; a school can either buy a license for or some classrooms or a teacher can buy an individual license for their own classroom. The cost is $109.95 for a year’s license – and worth every penny; I bought a license to use with all my tutoring students.
Words with Friends EDU
I JUST started using this with my tutoring students and I am SO wishing I could go back in time and use this with the gifted students I worked with for four years before retiring! I have to admit that I am a Words with Friends junkie (have you tried the solo challenges? So fun and so hard!), so when I learned they had an education version for teachers, I was very excited. Once you set up a log-in and create a class, you and your students can play games with each other…or just have your students play. They offer vocabulary and phonics lesson plans on their website so you can integrate the game into your literacy instruction. I am having my tutoring students choose five words from each game that they have either never heard of or are not sure of the meaning, and then adding them to a new list in Vocabulary/Spelling City to practice and master! On the website, they have a research report that states:
Students who play Words With Friends EDU can experience statistically significant gains in use of academic words within the first 6 gameplay sessions. Information gathered on the game’s effectiveness supports its use as a high-quality formative assessment that can aid teachers’ understanding of what the students know and can do.
Oh, how I adore this site! I have used it for four years now, both with my gifted/highly able students and with my tutoring students, many of whom are struggling readers. Thousands upon thousands of leveled articles for students grades 2 through high school. Every topic you can think of is here…current events, world issues, history, science, politics, kid stuff, biographies, primary sources, famous speeches and more! You can choose the level of the article, assign to your students and have them read and then take the quiz or do a reading response. The articles can be printed out and used for guided reading, especially in the intermediate grades where it’s harder to find leveled text for groups. Newsela can be used as homework, independent reading or in literacy stations. I just use the free version, but that’s all I need for my students. Purchasing Newsela PRO can provide classroom teachers with more options; check with your school administration to see if they can fund this. For comparison of the free vs. PRO version, click HERE.
A few of my favorite literacy apps!
Fry Words – I used the app on my iPad as my RtI students played “Around the World”. All I had to do was hold up the iPad and they would say the word. No small flashcards! This app is appropriate for all elementary grades and struggling older readers.
iSort Words – Students have to sort words based on their beginning and endings. The app will keep track of how many they get right and their time. Check out a preview video HERE. Grades: 1st and 2nd grade, as well as struggling intermediate students.
Reading Comprehension: Fable Edition
Perfect for a literacy center of independent reading, this app provides elementary age students with a variety of stories to choose from and offers practice with vocabulary words and a comprehension quiz. You could easily use this for comprehension progress monitoring data. Grades: 1st – 5th
I can’t remember how/where I first discovered this app (based on the actual Story Cubes that come in a box), but it was many years ago when I was an elementary school literacy specialist. Being one of the few certified teachers who did not have a classroom, I was often called on to cover a classroom when a sub didn’t show up or a teacher had to leave early. I’ve always had this deep-rooted fear of being in a classroom and having nothing to do, so I quickly created a toolbox, both literal and digital, of activities I could do with any age of students. Story Cubes was always a big hit! I would put my iPad under the document camera, shake the iPad and the cubes would roll around. Once they “landed”, the students and I would discuss what the images were on the cubes. Many were open to interpretation…see my screenshot from below! Once we all decided on what the images were (I listed our decisions on the board), the students were off and writing. After a specified amount of time, I would have students partner up to share what they had so far and offer suggestions. After another amount of time, I would use a choice wheel or other fair way of choosing which students could come up and be in the Author’s Chair and share. You would not believe the variety of stories you will get, even if you have already decided on the images! Students then can have the option of taking the draft to completion or not. I developed a graphic organizer for students to use; they sketch the cube on the left and then write their description of what the cube depicts on the right. Then they plan their story. You can access this resource for FREE by clicking HERE!
A variation is to roll the cubes under the doc cam and then let EACH student decide on their own what the images are, then create their story. I did this with several third gifted students, and while I let them each decide on the images, but one of them was a pyramid, so I got several Egypt stories! This app, or the actual box of cubes (which you can purchase on Amazon, at Walmart or Target and other places), would make a fantastic literacy center as well!
Last but not least…a few literacy hands-on games!
I love this game…and loved using it with my RtI reading groups and still use with my tutoring students! Now if I could just get my friends to come over and play it with me… This game has students trying to create words with the various cards in their hand. The more letters they can play, the more points they earn. I help my struggling readers out by telling them how many words they can make with the cards in their hands. If they immediately plan a two letter word, I ask them if they’re sure they can’t play a larger word for more points. This really gets them to think about how to put together digraphs, blends, vowels, and consonants to make words!
Another fun word building game! Students are given board with either blank side or a side with words missing the first letter. For the blank side, students take turns choosing both a vowel and a consonant and try to make words with each turn. For the missing first letter side, students choose consonants and try to make words. The first one to fill up their board wins!
That’s it for now! If you have also used any of these resources, please comment below and let me know what you think of them. If you try any for the first time, also comment! Stay tuned for more virtual mentoring, and in the meantime, hang in there, teachers! You are all my heroes!