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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
“What one learns in a classroom is just a very small part of learning process . The real learning starts when one crosses borders and travels miles for the real knowledge.” – Vivek Sahni
One of my passions, besides teaching, is travel! I have always believed that the classroom is not the only place to learn; in fact, I’ve learned some of my most lasting lessons while traveling. Back in my classrooms days, I brought back my experiences and lessons to my students so they could experience more of their world as well. I did this in a number of ways: through slideshows, displays of souvenirs and photos, and research activities on people and places. While working as a GT facilitator, I would post photos of my travels on Edmodo or Google Classroom and give the students challenges where they had to find out information about whatever was in the photo. I offered digital badges to those students who would complete the challenge first. I am still doing this with my tutoring students; when my husband and I took a two week trip to Italy in 2017, I left all of my students with some reading, writing and research activities on Italy.
Last week, I finally made it to Washington D.C.! I can’t believe that someone who loves traveling and history, and has gotten to be this old and has never been there! I was also passionate about teaching my students American history and government! We were headed there to attend my stepson’s army reenlistment ceremony; it was going to be held at the National Archives Museum in the rotunda (more on that in my next blog!). I began planning in earnest to visit the places that my students (and my own daughters) and I had read about or seen in photos and movies. I have provided photos and links below that you help your students learn about these places and people. In addition, my visit has inspired me to create some learning activities for my tutoring students, and you will be able to use these activities with your students a well (more at the bottom of the blog)! Off we go to our nation’s capital. (All photos are by me unless otherwise credited.)
First, some general resources for you and your students on Washington D.C.
Our first day was spent on the National Mall. We, unfortunately, chose to go there on not just a Saturday, but on a day when the cherry blossoms were in full bloom! The crowds and traffic were insane, and to get anywhere on the mall, you had to walk quite a bit. But we managed to see several sites and loved learning about them with an audio tour from Atlantis Audio Tours. Here’s what we saw on the mall, with links for you and your students:
Washington Monument: The Monument was closed for repairs…but I didn’t mind…just seeing it was amazing!
A lesson from the National Park Service in which students can see and analyze primary sources, as well as learn about the qualities of a leader and why George Washington was chosen to have a monument built in his name, as well as design their own monument for a leader of their choice.
World War II Memorial: Another amazing place to visit! In the audio tour, we learned about the features of the memorials and the significance of the bronze wreaths and rope connecting all the state and territory columns. In addition, there are famous quotes, engraved on the walls, from Franklin Roosevelt and others about this war.
Five lesson plans from The Friends of the National WWII Memorial, featuring “a culminating activity called, “World War II at the Memorial” connecting the lesson directly to features of the National World War II Memorial addressed in the lesson.
Lincoln Memorial: We arrived here with tired feet after starting at the Washington Monument, and slowly climbed the crowded steps. But it was all worth it when we turned around to view the iconic view toward the Washington Monument, the same one Martin Luther King, Jr. saw during the “I Have a Dream” speech.
On this interactive site, you and your students can view panoramic views as well as videos that discuss Lincoln and his memorial.
The Jefferson Pier: I know, you’re saying…”The what?!” But this is actually quite interesting and we would not have known about it except for our audio tour. This little nondescript marker (almost looks like a “mini” Washington Monument!) once had great ambitions of marking the prime meridian of the United States…if Thomas Jefferson had had his way! From the website Adventures in DC website: “He (Jefferson) had it located on the southern bank of Tiber Creek due south from the center of the White House and due west from the center of the U.S. Capitol. The creek no longer runs through the National Mall, but the stone remains.” Boats used to dock near this marker (the Potomac at that time came up near this point) to unload materials for building the Washington Monument. This poor little marker never became the U.S. Prime Meridian as our country chose to use the more standard Greenwich Meridian.
There were several memorials we were not able to get to, either due to time or exhaustion…but here are some teaching resources for them:
National Monument and Memorial Challenge: I wonder how many of our students across the country, who have not been to the DC area before, know about all the memorials for famous Americans…not just those on the National Mall, but many more located around our country. I created a visual challenge in Google Slides for my students to see how many they could identify and if they knew who that famous person was. In this presentation, you have a photo that shows the monument with no label, and then one with the label. At the end of the presentation are photos of some famous Americans who do NOT have one. I am having some of my students choose one of these persons, research them and then write a persuasive piece about WHY this person deserves a memorial. The students will then have a chance to design the memorial using whatever medium they would like. This idea is based on a lesson idea from the National Park Service.
This National Monument product is ON SALE on Teachers Pay Teachers, Here’s the LINK! If you like these materials, please let me know in the comments or in TpT reviews.
Update on Newsela…I “waxed poetic” on how much I love this website in that previous post, and now it’s gotten even better! I’m not sure how long they have offered the units feature, but I just happened to discover them recently! (The link to the units only offers info on history units, but they have added much more! The units feature several articles (grouped in a Text Set) and teaching ideas to go with them. I chose to use the unit on Technology with my 8th-grade tutoring student, but they also have units on U.S. History, government, civil rights and ancient civilizations. The units come complete with guiding questions, student activities, and even a culminating project!
In addition to the units, each article on Newsela offers a writing prompt for practice in constructed writing responses, and some articles have Power Words, defined as: “Power Words are research-based, high frequency, high utility vocabulary words used across a range of texts.” Students can click on the words to discover the definition. Check out more information HERE.
I also revised Newsela’s summer reading graphic organizer (left) for my students to use after reading Newsela articles, with areas to put their scores on the quiz, a summary, and a reflection. (That’s one of the FREEBIES FOR YOU…KEEP READING TO SEE HOW TO GET IT!) For the summary, I am using the $2 Summary technique I learned from a 6th-grade teacher/colleague. The basic premise of this type of summary is that you write what the article is about (or the main idea) with just enough detail that the reader clearly understands what it was about. Each word in the summary (excluding the title) will “cost” the student 10¢ and they need their finished summary to cost as close to $2.00 as possible! Check out my 4th-grade student’s summaries in the photos above. I also think the reflection piece is important…the articles I have students read are about important or interesting topics, and I want them to reflect on the content they read.
Spelling/Vocabulary City – I can’t believe I did not include this website in my first literacy resources blog, but I think it’s because I wasn’t using it as often as I am now…I think I am now addicted to this website…not only is it FUN for the students and they learn so much about new vocabulary, but it’s so easy for teachers to manage and use. (Disclaimer: I went ahead and paid the $34.95 for the Premium Membership because while you can do a great deal with the free log-in, you can do so much more for your students with the premium!) Click HERE to learn more about the Premium features. Here’s how I use this website with my 1st – 5th students:
Self-Chosen Vocabulary: As students are reading books and articles, I have them either use small colored tabs to highlight unfamiliar words, online highlighting or list on their reading logs. This will personalize vocabulary instruction and lets students learn the word using the context in which it was written. I help students discern between words they are likely to encounter again in text or the world and words that they will not, such as words that are scientific, outdated or obscure. I then add their words into a list for them on Spelling/Vocabulary City. I give them choices on what activities (my personal favorite is the game show, Word-o-Rama) they want to use, but I always have them start with the Flashcards so they can learn the words. The students and I keep track of their progress with the activities and tests, and to help with this I created a log (CLICK ON THE FREEBIE AT END OF POST!) for them to track their progress and scores; this helps them take ownership of learning and success.
Academic Vocabulary: For students who are two or more years behind in reading and vocabulary skills, I will assign them Academic Vocabulary lists on this website. It’s so important that students learn the words they will see over and over in academic settings!
Spelling/Handwriting: Many of the activities and games are printable! For one of my students, I printed out a list of the words he misspelled on his benchmark writing assessment. This is written on writing paper with lines, so he was able to practice not only the spelling but handwriting skills as well!
That’s it for my Literacy Resources update! Comment below if you use these resources or have other ideas! Below are the images you can click on to get either the Newsela Log or Vocabulary/Spelling City Log…or both! Both will shortly go on sale on TpT, but you can get yours NOW! See you next week!
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.
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.https://quizlet.com/features/live
A few of my favorite literacy apps!
Quizlet – I use this ALL the time with my tutoring students! When we read books, Newsela articles or other passages, if there is a word they don’t know, I add it to their personal folder in Quizlet. You can share the folder with your students, or have them join their class to study the words. I also create lists of words they miscue in fluency practice passages or assessments and use others’ lists of Fry Sight Words (you can import lists other teachers have created into your class!). These lists are great to have students practice for the first or last five minutes of tutoring sessions. After enough practice, I will have them take the test on the word. There are also games they can play with the words! I would LOVE to use Quizlet Live, but I only work with one student at a time, and this is designed for a group of students. I have given them feedback that they should set it up for us tutors!
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! Word Monkeys 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!
Photo by Jan
Photo by Jan
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!
Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton
When embarking on a new journey, it’s good to have traveling companions. I am glad you are choosing to join me on this new journey! As you can see, I have included photos of roads, as one of my favorite things to do is start a new road trip journey anywhere! Sometimes you will get lost or confused (as we have done many times while traveling), but I often end up enjoying the journey far more than the destination! I know I will LOVE this journey of creating blogs to help teachers. I am a bit nervous about starting this, but since I constantly push my students to take on challenges, I need to also take them on as well. Now that I am retired and finally have time to reflect, I realize that the successes and celebrations during my career (and travels) were the results of taking on challenges.
One of the celebrations that stands out for me is the mentoring and coaching of new teachers! There is nothing, NOTHING, more rewarding than being the one designated to help teachers new to the profession. The district that I worked for, Douglas County School District in Colorado, had started this amazing program called “Building Resource Teachers” (BRT) in 1990. The sole purpose of these veteran teachers was to be the mentor for teachers in their first three years of teaching. We were also in charge of professional development for the entire school. Here’s the sign that was posted outside my office:
When taking on this position, I constantly kept in my mind what it was like for me to be a nervous new teacher, hired at the age of 23 to teach Language Arts in a very large suburban Denver high school with no support other than the teachers across the hall. I felt like I had no idea what I was doing and was constantly stressed! I only lasted two years and left to work in the hotel business, then became a Mom. But…during those early years of being a mother, I felt the pull to go back into teaching, but this time in the elementary field. I worked on a Master’s degree, was hired to teach in a 5th/6th multiage classroom in Douglas County, and five years later I found myself mentoring new teachers and training and supporting the other veteran teachers! I think I ended up learning more from the teachers I was mentoring and coaching, then they did from me!
Even after I moved on to other positions and jobs in the district, my purpose was always to help teachers and try to make their job easier and to let them know someone would always be on their side. So…that will be the purpose of my blog…to try to make any teacher’s job, whether they are in their first year of teaching, or their 30th year, a bit easier. I lived the life you did for years, and I know what’s like…teaching can be all-consuming. I have always maintained that teaching is not a job, it’s a lifestyle!
Please follow me to check out these future posts:
Making learning fun!
Passion Projects in your classroom
Growth Mindset in the Classroom
Global Awareness project
Best practices in teaching reading: guided, shared and independent reading
Best practices in teaching writing: modeled, interactive, guided and independent writing
Motivating reluctant readers and helping struggling readers
Finding the writer in all kids by using sneaky methods!
Gifted and Talented identification and servicing
All kinds of ed tech ideas!
21st-Century teaching and learning
Apps and websites for teaching and learning
Assessment best practices
The Classroom environment
Please feel free to leave any comments on this blog and/or check out my Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest…as well as my website! (By the way, I have enough boards and pins on Pinterest to help plan the rest of your teaching career! Until next time….hang in there my teacher friends!