Summer Virtual Tutoring Begins June 1st!

It’s summer and social distancing isn’t going to stop my summer tutoring! I have all kinds of ideas and resources ready for students of all ages to help them be ready for the new school year!

After I retired from public education three years ago, I started my own educational consulting and tutoring business. I’ve been tutoring many students in grades 1-10, in person once or twice a week. But the “in person” part needs to change, at least for now. Once the quarantine started, I became a caregiver for my elderly father, who had suffered a knee injury several months ago. He was not able to have surgery due to COVID-19 as he was in a high risk category due to his age. He was with us for two months and recently returned home in the mountains, about 90 miles from away. However, he may still need surgery, and I am not comfortable doing face to face tutoring because of this. In addition, my husband is in several high risk categories. So, this summer…it’s ONLY virtual tutoring for me.

Fortunately, I have been virtually tutoring a few of my students since March, and it’s worked really well! One of my students even said he enjoys tutoring more when done virtually. I have been using Google Hangouts, which I had used quite a bit while working in schools. Here’s some of the activities my students and I have worked on:

I have found it very helpful to create an agenda in Google Docs with all the links to the activities we will be working on. This way we have a game plan for our hour together, and all the links are in once place.

Newsela has been great to use in virtual tutoring! I assign the article ahead of time, then during the session the student and I both have it open and we do “popcorn reading” of the article, stopping to work on comprehension and vocabulary skills. I then have him take the quiz.

For students who struggle in reading, I never expect them to read an entire article silently on their own. I want to hear what they struggle with…and by adding my voice into the read aloud, I serve as a model for fluent oral reading.

After the quiz, I had my student respond to a prompt. This particular student still needs guidance, so I created a plan for him and we worked on each aspect together, the topic sentence, the evidence and the conclusion.

Students who struggle in reading and writing often need a “recipe” to help them craft their response. I can’t cook without a recipe, and many students do not magically know how to write a reading response without guidance, or a “recipe” either. This method worked so well with this particular student!


A parent requested that I help her son with a research project during our virtual tutoring. After leading him through some brainstorming, he decided he wanted to research chemical reactions. He loves science and was interested in the topic after his science teacher did the “Elephant Toothpaste” experiment in class.  As we started to research together I found that just like many students I have worked with, he had never been taught (or had forgotten) how to paraphrase information found on websites. Most kids just want to copy and paste. We talked a lot about how that’s NOT okay.

I modeled for him on how to take notes from information on a website. I stressed that he should NOT write complete sentences in his notes…just word and phrases to help him understand the information. He did use some quotes straight from some websites, but I had him put quotation marks around the text and we talked about making sure to cite where his information came from. We are done researching now and now he’s ready to work on his presentation!


Another parent did not want scheduled weekly sessions during the school closure; instead she wanted some optional activities that her daughter could do when she had completed all her work for school. I created the document above for her…and yes, she did several of these!


We can’t forget math facts! I found a wonderful website called 99Math where students can play live games to practice math facts. I chose which operation we would do, then setup the timing and the rounds. I just had to send him the live website and a game code, and he and I would compete with each other on how many and how fast we could do! So fun!


I am excited to be starting virtual tutoring with a student who just finished kindergarten. During a recent social Zoom with teaching colleagues, I was introduced to this wonderful website from Really Great Reading where students can build words with letter tiles! I can’t wait to use this with my kindie student!

Do you have a child or student who needs virtual tutoring this summer? The beauty of virtual tutoring is that I can tutor anyone around the world! Use the form below to contact me, or email me at jkanttila119@gmail.com

A Tribute to the Amazing Teachers During COVID-19! (Part 1)

If there’s a takeaway everyone else is learning about teachers right now, it’s this: there’s a reason they have a college degree. There’s a reason they strike when they are underpaid or mistreated. There’s a reason there is often a shortage of them. There’s a reason our kids miss them. – Trevor Muir on Twitter

Teacher Appreciation Week is over, but for me, teacher appreciation never ends. Yes, I am also a teacher…a retired public school and university teacher and a current teacher of tutoring students.  But it really does takes another teacher to truly appreciate everything that teachers do.

Since Spring Break, I have been even more in awe of our public school teachers. Within a week, school districts had to totally overhaul their education system to remote and distance learning. Teachers had to quickly learn new methods and resources in order to provide instruction. In spite of their own personal concerns, issues, and fears, they had to make sure their students were not just given the curriculum, but also their teacher’s love and support. This is one of the few times I regretted being retired; I would have enjoyed the challenge and have had the opportunity to use the many new resources and platforms I’ve learned about in the past three years since retiring. In addition, I want to feel that solidarity with the other teachers…that “We’re all in this together” feeling!

So the best I can do is showcase some of the amazing things my former colleagues and other teachers have been doing for the last several weeks. I bow down to them…they are working SO hard and making sure they connect with students in every way they can! Below are several examples of remote teaching and student connection at its finest!

Virtual Pre-School

Screen Shot 2020-05-05 at 11.37.16 AMRemote learning and teaching in PRE-SCHOOL??!! Yup…my former school district (Douglas County School District in Colorado) is requiring all pre-school teachers to do two live sessions a week with their students. My friend and former colleague, Leslie Schlag, sent me a video of her session; I watched Leslie cheerfully greet all of her students, lead them in the “A” and “B” songs, then do weather, calendar, and nursery rhymes…just like she would have in the classroom.  She is required to turn in a weekly plan with the state standards attached for the activities she will be using for literacy, speech, math, as well as social/emotional, fine and gross motor skills. She also virtually attends IEP meetings for some students and has started 1:1 sessions with her students as they were so excited to share all they were doing at home and that was hard with the full group online! Check out a snippet from her video below; I just love the joy she radiates to her students!

Virtual Elementary Intervention

Screen Shot 2020-05-08 at 6.23.15 PM (1)Another friend/former colleague, Kristin Gregory, works as an Intervention teacher in Cherry Creek School District in Colorado. Since this is one of the education jobs I once held at a few different elementary schools, I was curious as to how this could be done remotely. Here’s her description of her requirements:

  • Each interventionist was paired with a grade level, we were required to meet with that team every time they met, help them plan their lessons based on state standards, and provide differentiation. We were also there to step in if someone on the team got sick.

  • Recorded weekly lessons for small groups ( 3 different grade levels literacy and math) and those lessons were sent to students via the platform each grade level choose, could have been Google classroom, Google slides, email, or Seesaw. We were not allowed to do live lessons due to equity, students had to be able to access the lessons whenever they were able

  • One-on-one conferences with students to help with classroom work, provide accommodations, and continue to work on intervention skills.

  • Collaborated with teachers to provide modifications for specific students, providing alternative instruction at their level and modifying classroom slides to meet their needs.

  • Facilitated closing out Colorado READ Act plans for the end of the year.

  • Virtually attended weekly staff meetings, professional book club meetings, and principals accountability committee.

Check out Kristin’s virtual weekly lessons here…and below is her wonderful video read-aloud of I am Yoga!

Virtual Read Alouds

Abby Anttila, a 2nd-grade teacher in Lincoln, Nebraska,  sent me this lovely photo of her reading aloud to her kids on the first day of remote teaching! Abby also invites students to have lunch with her to keep in touch with her students in a more personal way. Abby’s experience with virtual teaching was different from other districts that had teachers come up with how and what to do with virtual teaching. Here’s how she describes her experience: “Our district does everything for us (lessons, worksheets, etc.). They have teachers record a minute-long intro video for each lesson… reading is Monday/Wednesday and math is Tuesday/Thursday, not on Fridays. So on Mondays, I get myself ready and record all videos for the following week. Then I have to post my video, the district video, and materials to Google Classroom for each lesson.” Abby says her district places an emphasis on equity and wants all kids to receive the same instruction.

Renee Hartwig-Ott, a first-grade teacher at Stony Creek Elementary in Littleton, Colorado, dressed up for virtual read-aloud of Junie B. Jones: Dumb Bunny…and made herself flat to introduce her “Flat Mrs. Ott” project, encouraging kids to take her flat self along with them around the house and outdoors and send photos back! Here’s a link with info if you’d like to try the “Flat Teacher” project!

And let’s not forget math…check out Ashley Hagarty’s photo of her demonstrating a math concept! Ashley Hagerty

Virtual First Grade

Screen Shot 2020-05-09 at 10.57.12 AM

Just as with pre-school, I can’t imagine virtually teaching first graders! But the first-grade team at Edmunds Elementary in Des Moines seems to have it all together…check out the Padlet they put together below! I love that there’s a section for each teacher, plus one with resources for keeping kids active and moving! Shelby Oelmann, a member of the team, shared her welcome video with me.

Screen Shot 2020-05-09 at 4.57.15 PMScreen Shot 2020-05-09 at 4.58.15 PM

Part 2 of AMAZING REMOTE TEACHING coming soon! Highlights include:

  • Teacher Social Distancing Porch Visits
  • Virtual Classroom Decor at Home
  • Virtual Science (including a virtual lesson from a teacher’s backyard with caterpillar to butterfly transformation!)
  • Virtual Social Studies
  • Virtual 6th-grade Continuation

Teachers! Share your photos and examples of the amazing remote teaching you’re doing down in the comments! I’d love to feature you!

Amazing Remote Teaching!

 

Reading Resources for Homeschool and Remote Learning

“The most valuable resource that all teachers have is each other. Without collaboration our growth is limited to our own perspectives.” – Robert John Meehan.

Right now, many parents are having to become their child’s teacher and it’s so important that teachers and parents support each other during the coronavirus and school closures! I’ve seen that all the teacher-bloggers are writing about how parents can support their child’s learning at home, and how teachers can set up remote learning opportunities for their child. I thought I would weigh in on some of my favorite resources for teaching reading that can easily be used at home.

Newsela: Grades 3-12:  I have used this website full or informational articles for years, even though in the last year they made much of the content only accessible via a paid subscription. But upon visiting their website today, I saw this amazing announcement!

Screen Shot 2020-03-18 at 2.11.31 PM

The articles are either taken from newspapers around the world and adapted for various reading levels, or are written specifically for students. In addition to news articles, they have biographies, primary sources, famous speeches, and pro/con pieces. Each article comes with a writing prompt and a quiz. The quizzes can be very challenging, and I spend time teaching my students how to use close reading for the questions and strategies for choosing the correct answer.  I have used this Newsela reading log for my students to keep track of their articles and scores. I have also used a Google spreadsheet with bar graphs for a more visual representation of the students’ progress; feel free to copy the sample and use it for your child or students! FYI…parents can sign up for a parent account!


Readworks (1st – 12th): Both parents and teachers can sign up for free accounts on this outstanding website for reading passages. You can find fiction stories, narrative poems, biographies, and informational articles on anything. Each passage comes with a question set, vocabulary activities and a writing prompt that always requires the student to provide text evidence in their response. I used these free resources from Jennifer Findley’s website to help students with finding evidence.  Readworks is also offering tips on remote learning, as well as a webinar on “Effective Remote Learning”; click HERE for more information.


Learning A-Z/Reading A-Z (K-8): Learning A-Z is offering FREE digital resources to teachers for the rest of the school year…learn more HERE! I love this website so much that when I started my tutoring business, I bought a yearly subscription for $109.95 – one of the best buys ever! This website has leveled books, both fiction and non-fiction, as well as phonics, sight word, and reading comprehension passages and activities.  I could not begin to dream of teaching reading without this website! Important tip: In order to save paper and printing costs, I download the books or passages on my Macbook, put them in my iCloud folder and then open up the folder on my iPad for students to read. They can also highlight the text on the iPad!

And….if this website wasn’t already incredible, they recently added graphic books! This has been a HUGE hit with my tutoring students!


Common Lit (Grade 3-12) is yet another excellent website for students to practice reading skills and strategies, and both teachers and parents can sign up for accounts. You can students into your roster, then assign reading passages (they have both fiction and informational text, as well as excerpts from novels) that come with an assessment and writing and discussion prompts. My favorite feature is being able to turn on the “guided reading mode” which allows the student to read part of the article, then answer a comprehension question before more text appears. This helps the student to read for meaning and think about the text while reading. For my tutoring students who are struggling readers, this is a huge help! Here’s their information on how they can help teachers with remote learning. (Note: While they have some passages for younger students, it’s mostly geared for grades 5 and up.)

Screen Shot 2018-11-13 at 11.36.11 AMScreen Shot 2018-09-25 at 4.19.57 PM


Just a few more online reading resources…

Tween Tribune from the Smithsonian – reading passages for K-12
Colorado Kids and the Mini Page
Kids’ Magazines (see photos below)

204EFC02-31CC-4A26-81BF-117BFD18F146

Tell me in the comments about other reading resources for learning at home and watch for more posts soon on resources for teaching writing and math virtually or at home! Remember, we’re all in this together!

C5NH0OfUkAA55O2

 

From Thanksgiving to New Year’s: Holiday Activities for the Classroom!

Blog Happy Holidays

The holidays are coming up before you know it, it’s time to get some activities ready for this busy holiday season! I remember that December was one of the hardest months for me to teach as I was not only trying to keep excited kids engaged and learning, but I also had all of the family Christmas shopping and preparation going on. So I hope that these ideas will make your holiday season a little easier!

Holiday Roll a Math-Word-Problem Story

My tutoring students and I have had so much fun with this for the past few years, and I wish I had created this during my school teaching days! Many of the students I work with do fine with math computation, but when it comes to integrating reading into math, they have difficulty. So in addition to having students use close reading to SOLVE math word problems, having them WRITE their own word problems opens up a whole new way of thinking. Not only do they need to come up up with a challenging word problem, but they also need to craft a real-world situation around that problem. Here’s a great blog post from Primarily Speaking on having younger students write their own word problems. Here’s another resource from ThoughtCo. for you on how to lead students through writing word problems.

Screen Shot 2018-10-01 at 8.09.19 PMIn my product, Teachers Pay Teachers Year-Round Roll-a-Math-Problem Story, I have sheets for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s (as well as all of the rest of the holidays The product will open in Google Drive so you can make your own copy, and on many of the sheets are links for students to find out more about customs, traditions, and people of holidays. I am also currently working on a Hanukkah one and will update the product in TpT soon. Check the slideshow below to see some past ones written by my tutoring students for both Halloween and Thanksgiving.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Do you want a FREEBIE of this fun, easy activity? Keep reading!

Fantasy Holiday Shopping!

Oh my gosh, my students had SO much fun with this during the last holiday season! This is such a perfect way to get students to practice their math computation skills in an authentic way. I saved all my Christmas catalogs that came in the mail and brought them to the tutoring session, along with the handout I needed for the math work: addition, subtraction, multiplication or division. Students then went on a “shopping spree” using the catalogs, recording their items and the cost and then doing the appropriate computation. I had a few students make a presentation of their “shopping” and had them include WHO the gift was for, and why they were getting that particular gift for them…so there’s a literacy integration as well!

CLICK HERE TO GRAB YOUR COPY OF FANTASY HOLIDAY GIFT SHOPPING!

Fantasy Holiday Gift Shopping (1)   A8F2BD1F-42DF-431D-9BFE-88C40EED1D2B

Using the same “Fantasy Shopping” idea, I had my high school student use her list of vocabulary words taken from texts we had read and then use those words in explanations of what luxury item gifts she could buy if she had the money.  I gave her a list of websites with outrageous, incredibly expensive gifts. This was great practice in using words in context, as well as utilizing descriptive words.

copy-of-websites-for-gifts_page_1.png  holiday-shopping-writing_page_1.png

Another holiday vocabulary activity I did with a middle school student was to have her choose words from her personal word wall on Padlet (these were words from texts we had read that she was unfamiliar with), and use a FREE account on Smilebox to create greeting cards with these words. Again, a great way to practice writing skills and using vocabulary in context. In her cards below, can you tell which ones her vocabulary words? 🙂

c30773dd-ae7b-4de1-a3c8-3161766c8d2b.jpeg

I hope you and your friends and family have a wonderful holiday season!

Here’s your freebie…click HERE to receive your Freebie of the Christmas Roll-a-Word Problem story! Click HERE to purchase the entire year-round set of the roll-a-word problems!

Copy of Math Roll-a-Word Problem

 

Is Your Classroom Literacy Rich? Part 3: Classroom Libraries

I believe that a classroom library is the heartbeat of a teacher’s environment. It is the window into an educator’s own personality, and it reflects the importance of literacy in the classroom. I believe that every teacher — no matter what subject he or she teaches — should have one.

Heather Wolpert-Gawron on Edutopia

Growing up, my favorite place in the world was a library, and it still is! As an adult, I have continued to frequent public libraries, first with my daughters while they were growing up and now on my own.  I love that the majority of tutoring I do takes place in public libraries! I remember clearly being in the library of Hartman Elementary School in Omaha Nebraska, around 1968 and discovering Little House on the Prairie, the book that for me, changed my life.  I had been a voracious reader before that, but this was a book I connected to in a powerful way.

Teachers need to ensure that our students have opportunities to connect with books, right in their classrooms. Classroom libraries are one of the most important elements of a Literacy-Rich Environment.  In my previous post on this topic, I provided an overview of all the important literacy elements for a classroom. Now it’s time to delve more into how to make your classroom library the best it can be!

All students must be able to access, use, and evaluate information in order to meet the needs and challenges of the twenty-first century. – NCTE Statement, May 2017

Note the use of the words “all students”. Classroom libraries are most often associated with primary classrooms, but they need to be in intermediate, middle and high school classrooms. One of my former school colleagues, who now teaches middle school writing, sent me photos of her classroom library in response to a request for photos. She said that her students always ask why she has a classroom library if she teaches writing! I applaud her for having the library, pictured below, because as Stephen King says, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”

Middle School Classroom Library
Carol’s Middle School Writing Classroom Library

But classroom libraries are not just for reading and writing teachers in middle and high school! Content area teachers should not only have books on and about their content in their classrooms but all kinds of reading material…fiction, informational books, resource, magazines, etc. There will always be those early finishers…of assignments or tests. Why not have reading material handy? Perhaps one of those students in your math class might come across one of your favorite books and ask to borrow it? Every teacher can make a difference in the reading life of a student! Check out the classroom libraries in these classrooms: (l–r, top to bottom – science, art, art again and music). By the way, I put out several requests to teachers for photos of classroom libraries in math, science, social studies, industrial arts, etc. and received NO response.  Do you know of any teachers who have one? Let me know!

Now, down to the nuts and bolts of putting together a classroom library. In a presentation at CCIRA many years ago, Linda Cornwell, formerly of Scholastic books, stated that students in classrooms with well-designed and well-stocked library collections:

  • exhibit more positive attitudes toward reading
  • read more widely for a variety of purposes
  • demonstrate higher levels of reading achievement

In addition, she suggested the classroom library should:

  • look inviting to all students
  • be organized for easy access and materials
  • include a comfortable area for reading
  • offer an array of materials from many genres

Some things to consider when organizing your library:

    • How will you store your books to make sure they can be easily accessible to students?
      • My personal preference is colorful, plastic tubs, or even just clear ones. But years ago, while in observing in a classroom, I found this unique storage system…one of those rotating racks they have in stores for browsing!
    • Do you have guidelines for the use of the library?
      • I’m sure you don’t want students getting up in the middle of an important lesson to browse for books, so you need to let them know then the library is “open” and when it is “closed”. You could create some signs for your library letting them know when it’s okay to browse. In addition, there need to be guidelines for when students are using the library…here are some ideas:
        • how to respect books
        • how to shelve books back in the correct place
        • the use of quiet voices in the library and the importance of respecting others’ reading time
        • And for even more ideas on guidelines, you can find so many ready-made posters on Teachers Pay Teachers!

  • Have you shown students how to find materials?  Are there signs to help them?
    • Just as modeling when teaching something new to your students, you will need to model and/or explain how to use and check out and return materials from the library. The younger the student, the more modeling is needed. For secondary classrooms, the procedures can be more relaxed, but I’m sure you still don’t want to lose everything in your library! Check out this teacher’s blog post on how she introduces her classroom library to her students!
  • How have you categorized and arranged the materials?  Does the organization promote the reading of different types of materials?

    • I love that Teachers Pay Teachers have sellers who offer book bin labels in all genres! And of course, you can always make your own!
    • I found several blogs and websites for ideas on how to organize your library. This blog discusses organizing the library by genre; Reading Rockets stresses that there is no right or wrong way to organize and they offer several suggestions, including the reminder to LABEL your books so they can find their way home if misplaced. Here’s a blog on Scholastic with more organization ideas.
  • Does your library invite browsing and using? Is there a comfortable area to read?
    • Check out these photos and decide for yourself! (Note that you don’t need to spend a lot of money to make it inviting and have comfortable seating…pillows, a rug, a lamp, beach chairs….just simple things will work!
  • Do many of the books have their covers facing out?
    • I had never even thought about having my books facing out (probably because I was an intermediate teacher coming from a high school teaching job) until I read the chapter in Jim Trelease’s book, The Read-Aloud Handbook, and learned about rain gutters in the classroom…wait, what? Rain gutters? YES! Trelease promoted the practice of hanging rain gutters on your classroom wall in order to house books with their covers facing out. Think about it…when you go to a book store next time, look around to see HOW many books are facing out so buyers will notice them.  So, the same thing in the classroom; books facing out will help the “buyers” in your classroom notice books easier. And while you are teaching a lesson, those students whose minds wander can study all the books and decide which one to check out sooner.
    • After I talked about this idea and showed photos at our district literacy training sessions, we suddenly had a rash of rain gutters popping up in classrooms! Eventually, when new schools were built, shelves specifically for this purpose were added. But even if you don’t have shelving like this, there are other ways to have your books facing out. Check out the photo gallery below.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Oh, and last but not least…if you are a new teacher who does not have many books for your library, and you can’t necessarily afford a binge at Barnes and Noble…here are a few ideas for finding books:

  • Retiring teachers
  • Garage and estate sales
  • Library used book sales
  • Donors Choose
  • Ask parents for book donations
  • Use book club points
  • Craig’s List and eBay
  • Scholastic warehouse sales
  • Create an Amazon wish list and share with parents
  • Kids Need to Read donation application

A classroom library: If you build it, they will read.

– Jim Bailey, title of his Nerdy Book Club blog post

Copy of Copy of Copy of TpT Cover Page