Monday, December 30, 2013

Webb's Depth of Knowledge & DOK Posters FREEBIE!

Everybody is talking about RIGOR or asking, "What is rigor?"  If you do any research on rigor, you will find that rigor does not mean difficulty.  Instead rigor means the level of mental processing that must occur to answer a question, perform a task or generate a product.   Two widely used measures of rigor are Bloom's Taxonomy and Webb's Depth of Knowledge Levels.  Both measures of rigor go from the simple to the complex. Karen Hess' Cognitive Rigor Matrix integrates these models as a strategy for analyzing the level of teacher lessons and assessments.  Bloom's verbs indicate the level of performance or the level of questioning.  Webb's Depth of Knowledge focuses on the complexity of standards in order to successfully complete an assessment or a task.  The outcome (product) is the focus of the depth of understanding.  

In my district, we have been using Karen Hess' Cognitive Rigor Matrix to map out our learning events in our UbD units  This matrix allows you to map out your lessons and assessments to ensure a balance at all levels.  Certainly there is a place for recall and reproduction or routine thinking, but this matrix can be used for "tweaking" some of our lessons to make them more rigorous.  When you unpack the Common Core Standards, look at the verbs and align the standard with the level of Bloom's taxonomy.  Then check out what follows the verb to indicate the level of understanding.  What comes after the verb is more important than the verb itself.  For example, 
                     DOK 1 Describe three characteristics of metamorphic rocks. 
                     DOK 2 Describe the difference between metamorphic and igneous rocks.
                     DOK 3 Describe a model you might use to represent the relationships 
                                  that exist within the rock cycle. 

Online, you can easily find copies of the Cognitive Rigor Matrix for ELA, Math, Science and Social Studies.  You can also find the Bloom's Posters created by Wake County Public Schools System Academically Gifted Program. 

 I am attaching a link to my free flipchart on DOK in the Content areas on TPT.

You can also download my free Depth of Knowledge  posters for your classroom.  

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Unique Interactive Word Wall & Student Journal

Check out these Alphabet Posters or Alphabet Posters & Student Journal
with Embedded Sight Words and High Frequency Words by clicking on TPT

ABC Posters alone 

ABC Posters & Matching Student Journal
Word walls can be effective literacy tools that have the potential for enhancing vocabulary learning when used in conjunction with effective instructional practices.  Reading fluency is one of the primary elements in the reading process.  It is the ability to read orally with speed and efficiency, including word recognition, decoding, and comprehension (Chard & Pikulski, 2005).  Research has shown that one effective way to improve reading fluency is by interacting with a word wall and its related activities to develop high frequency word recognition. 

Be the Teacher students make up a quiz and quiz their partners on ten self-selected word wall words.
Guess That Word  - students give hints to what word they are thinking of by describing the formation of the word.
Let’s Be Creativestudents write a story that includes as many word wall words as possible.
Letters in My First Name  - students write their name vertically and then match two word wall words to each letter in their name.
Letters in Words  - students pick ten word wall words and then find two or more words that have the same letter as the original word
Rainbow Writing  students write the words from the word wall in different crayons focusing on the configuration of the word while writing.
Shape of Words  - students focus on letter formation (tall, small, and dropped letters) in the word wall words and write the words that are tall, small, and dropped.
Cloze Sentences  - students will fill in words from the word wall to complete cloze sentences from the teacher.
Play Clue  - the teacher will give a clue about a word and then ask students to find the word on the wall that goes with the clue.
Scramble the Letters  - the teacher will scramble letters of a word wall word and give a clue to its meaning.  Students will try to guess the correct word wall word. 
Share a Topic  - the teacher will share a topic with the class and ask students to find all of the words on the wall that connect with the topic. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Freebie! Dual Language Classroom Resources

I have been working with some teachers that teach dual language programs.  They shared a book with me by Karen Beeman, M.Ed. and Cheryl Urow, M.Ed., Teaching for Biliteracy: Strengthening Bridges between Languages.  This book illustrates how to build bridges to biliteracy and how to bridge theory to practice.  Dual language programs are designed for students who speak English at home, for students who speak Spanish at home, and for two-language students who speak both languages at home.  The goal is for students to develop cross-cultural understanding, bilingualism and biculturalism in all students.  To reach these goals, instruction is divided between English and Spanish with at least 50% of instructional time being delivered in Spanish.  

I just posted Spanish ABC Cards on TPT

Dual Language Classroom Resources 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Free Resources for Creating ELA Centers K-2

I have been working with a group of K-2  teachers on creating centers for English Language Arts.  The centers that I designed are interactive and include "I Can" cards.  These centers will help your students to become more independent learners, allowing you to focus on small group instruction without interruptions! Just download and print the materials below.  I recommend that you introduce one center and one activity from that center at a time until the directions and expectations for behavior are understood.  We want students to be self-sufficient.  

I designed the centers below from some fabulous materials that can be downloaded free on the internet and from my colleagues on Teachers Pay Teachers along with materials from the local Dollar Tree store!  While you're at the store, stock up on double-sided tape and a few science boards.  Each science board can be cut in half for two centers.  

Caitlin Clabby at Kindergarten Smiles designed a set of Writing and Word Work Cards! free on TPT.
 Literacy Centers "I Can" Posters English & Spanish were designed by mrsriccasclass on TPT.
Writing Center Vocabulary Cards were also downloaded from TPT.  The file contains monthly files. 

The Poetry Center is a great accompaniment to a student Poetry Notebook.  The center includes a poem of the week and poem strips for students to put together.  If you Google: Catawba Schools Literacy Centers, you will find the Poetry Task Cards in the center above.  

Happy Creating!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

What is Rigor? FREEBIE DOK Posters!

Everyone is talking about RIGOR.  The Common Core Standards call for a more rigorous curriculum, instructon and assessment.  Rigor is the kind and level of thinking required of students to successfully engage with and solve a task.  Rigor is not about difficulty, it's about complexity of understanding. 

What does rigor look like in a classroom?  Two widely accepted measures of cognitive rigor are Bloom's Taxonomy and Webb's Depth of Knowledge Levels.  Bloom's Taxonomy focuses on the verbs and indicate the level of performance or the level of higher-level questions.   Depth of Knowledge focuses of complexity of content standards to successfully complete an assessment or a task.  When you unpack the standards, first look at the verb and align it with Bloom's levels for the level of performance.  Then look beyond the verb to determine the level of understanding required to meet the standard.  

Karen Hess created a Cognitive Rigor Matrix that integrates Bloom's Taxonomy with Webb's Depth of Knowledge for analyzing teacher lesson planning and assessments.  In my district, we have been "mapping" out the learning events in our UbD units to ensure a balance of lessons and assessments across all levels from simple to complex.  Teachers are seeing that they can "tweak" some of their lessons and assessments to make them more rigorous.  For example, 

DOK 1 Describe three characteristics of metamorphic rocks.
DOK 2 Describe the difference between metamorphic and igneous rocks.
DOK 3 Describe a model you might use to represent the relationships that exist in the rock cycle  

All three tasks begin with the word describe but each task is at a different depth of knowledge.  Check out what comes after the verb!  What comes after the verb is more important than the verb itself.  

Karen Hess has a Cognitive Rigor Matrix for ELA, Math/Science, Social Studies and the Arts. and they can easily be found on the internet.  You can also find beautiful Bloom's Taxonomy posters for the elementary grades from Wake County Public School System.  

Grab my free Depth of Knowledge DOK flipchart on TPT:

I am also attaching Depth of Knowledge DOK posters that I created today.


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Let's Talk Math! - FREEBIE Math Talk Posters

As we all begin to implement the Common Core Standards, it is important to explore the role of discourse in these standards and in our classrooms.  The Common Core Math Standards for mathematics are based on five processes: communication, reasoning and proof, problem solving, representation and connections. 
Students demonstrate their understanding by being able to explain, justify and apply.  Math talk actually helps students become problem solvers by focusing on getting students to talk and communicate in groups.  

Rich math discussions are key elements in mathematical development.  The two pathways for creating and using new knowledge are when students talk about mathematical concepts and strategies or when students listen to other people's ideas during discourse. 

In order to build a community of mathematical thinkers, we need to teach the following skills to our students:
1. How to explain your thinking
2. How to be an active listener
3. How to have a conversation
4. How to be supportive of your fellow mathematicians

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Making Thinking Visible: SEE-THINK-WONDER

Ponder this quote from Ron Ritchart and David Perkins and Project Zero at Harvard ...

"For classrooms to be cultures of thinking for students, 
schools must be cultures of thinking for teachers."

With that in mind, I am going to start a Culture of Thinking project in the district where I coach.  I plan to introduce one routine at each grade level at each school and have the teachers pass it forward to their grade level colleagues.  I also plan to post videos of the lessons that I model on the district website along with resources for all the teachers.  With the introduction of each new routine, I will choose different teachers at each grade level.  

Visible Thinking routines are instructional strategies developed to help teachers provide opportunities for students to generate deeper thinking and understanding throughout their learning.  Each time a routine is completed, teachers should look at the thinking of their students with these three ideas in mind:
What do you notice?
What surprises you?
Where will you go next?  

A tool for looking closely at student work and reflect on thinking is to search 
for evidence of thinking moves.  
Click here for a Thinking Moves poster.  
I also plan to create Thinking Moves posters for display in each classroom.  As teachers making students thinking visible, I also want students to have a common language for their thinking moves.  

The first routine I'm going to introduce is SEE-THINK-WONDER.
What do you SEE?
What does it make you THINK?
What do you WONDER?

This a very easy tool for students of all ages and is most useful for looking at and reflecting on a variety of visual artifacts such as YouTube and other clips, cartoons or an individual or series of images.  It encourages students to make careful observations and thoughtful interpretations.  It helps stimulate curiosity and sets the stage for inquiry.  

Saturday, September 28, 2013

FREEBIE! Daily 5 Posters

On a recent school improvement day, I was working with a group of kindergarten teachers on centers.  I suggested using the Daily 5 for the ELA centers.  We created a number of centers for each element of the Daily 5.  All of the centers aligned beautifully with the Common Core Standards for kindergarten.  

I loved the I Spy Bags, the Sand Writing and the Chicka Chicka Boom Boom 
story mat at  

I also fell in love with the amazing Retelling Prop ideas at

FREEBIE! I created Daily 5 Posters in Spanish or English using clipart 
from Scrappin Doodles.
Click on the version you want - Spanish or English.

Daily 5 Posters in Spanish or English

Friday, July 5, 2013

FREEBIE Daily Planner!

             How do you like this Daily Planner?   
     This Daily Planner is FREE to anyone who becomes a follower!

I decided to design my own planner for the upcoming school year 2013-14 from August to July.  On the left is a NOTES page and on the right is the CALENDAR for the month.  If you'd like your own copy, become a follower by email and I will customize the cover with your name and email it to you.  

Take a look at the daybed we made out of a king-size headboard and footboard.  You would think I have nothing else to do!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Strengthening Bridges Between Languages

I recently facilitated a School Improvement Day for a friend that’s a principal of a K-6 building with gen ed, dual language and gifted classes.  I presented on the CCSS shifts for ELA.  When we were planning for the SIP day, my friend suggested that I use some of the research from Karen Beeman and Cheryl Urow’s book titled, Teaching for Biliteracy Strengthening Bridges between Languages.  Of course I needed another book!  This is a very comprehensive and practical guide with strategies for building bridges to biliteracy and the bridge from theory to practice.  This would be an excellent text to read and discuss because of the diversity in our classrooms. 
In my research I found this                                  
amazing site of the week!


The mentor mob from the UK listed the 12 rules for Spanish cognates along with examples.   Spanish cognates are words from two languages that are the same or similar. What intrigued me was this quote, “As English borrows many words from Latin there are many Spanish-English cognates. By learning a few set rules you will have an instant Spanish vocabulary of thousands of words.”  I just created a powerpoint using their material.  This presentation includes each of the rules by themselves followed by the second slide that includes the rule and the examples that I found on the Mentor Mob’s site.  I thought the ‘rule’ slides could be posted and the powerpoint could be used for instruction. It would make a great ongoing activity for students to add new words that they find onto the charts.  You can get the Spanish Cognate powerpoint here.  

Friday, May 3, 2013

QAR for the Primary Grades

We all know that the easiest way to increase student achievement is to improve instruction and questioning is the most powerful tool in our teaching repertoire.  The CCSS rely heavily on text-based evidence and higher-level thinking.  Questioning really builds the bridge between literal and inferential understanding and content knowledge.  

Recently, I read something about questioning that is based on Costa' work:
Well-structured questions include three parts: an invitation to think, a cognitive process and a specific topic.  “The order of the three parts may vary, but all three are necessary to formulate an effective question to promote thinking.”  This strategy is based on the work of Costa and the “Three Story Intellect.”  It is a very simple yet profound strategy for questioning.  How simple is that!

1. an invitation to think       "Penny, 
2. a cognitive process         can you explain in your own words
3. a specific topic               how you solved this problem?"

Here's a photo of a product I just posted on Teachers Pay Teachers on QAR for the Primary Grades.  
Right There Questions are in your hand questions - Students look closely with a magnifying glass for Think and Search Questions - Author and Me require thinking and On My Own come from the heart 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

I've Got a Deal for You!

Are you as busy as I am working on curriculum 
or aligning your lessons with the CCSS?
I have a deal for you!
Become a follower by email
and I will send you one grade level checklist
of Common Core State Standards
for both English Language Arts and Mathematics.
This checklist is editable.  

Pass the Word,

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Jump Start Thinking in Your Classroom

I've been reading two books simultaneously!   The first is Teaching Students to Read Like Detectives, by Fisher, Frey and Lapp and the second is Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding and Dependence for All Learners by Ritchhart, Church and Morrison.  They are my new favorites because they embody the essence of Common Core Standards and what our students can achieve. 

I love the idea of giving kids and teachers the tools/structures to meet the expectations of the CCSS.  I have attached a free foldable I adapted from a Thinking Visible routine called, Compass Points.  It's a popular routine that helps students explore various facets of a proposition or idea.  Ask students these questions and record their responses in the directions of a compass to provide a visual anchor.  More information can be found at
Compass Points (Free Foldable)
I envision strategically choosing a few of these thinking routines at a time to model in classrooms and share with teachers before the end of the year.  

Friday, April 5, 2013

Getting to the Core: Argument Writing

Argument writing is a key area of focus in the CCSS.  The CCSS routinely expects students to draw evidence from texts to produce clear and coherent writing that informs, explains, or makes an argument in various written forms (notes, summaries, short responses or formal essays).  I have created a foldable on TPT that is a great tool for instruction in the writing of a CEI paragraph: Claim, Evidence, Interpretation.  It's also a great follow-up tool for student's to practice the skill of argumentation.  When you make copies of the foldable, copy the foldable pattern on the front and lined paper on the back.  I have the students cut one “door” at a time.  After students complete their response under each door, they just need to open all the doors to see a completed Claim, Evidence, Interpretation paragraph.  

Monday, April 1, 2013

Leibster Award!

I was very hesitant to open an email from Marianne at Teach to be Happy because I figured it was a spam or an April Fool's Day joke.  I'm happy to say that Marianne nominated me for a Leibster Award!  This is a recognition award for new bloggers that have less than 200 followers.  

So, here are the rules of being nominated:
1. You must post 11 random things about yourself.
2. Answer the questions that the nominator set for you.
3. Create 11 questions for the people you nominate.
4. Choose 11 other blogs with fewer than 200 followers to nominate and link them in your post.
5. You cannot "tag back" the other blog, but leave a comment on this post with the URL of your Liebster 
post so I can learn learn more about & see whom you nominate.

11 Random Things about ME!
1. I love to create materials for teachers to use in their classrooms.
2. I have been facilitating workshops for over 25 years.
3. Before retiring, I taught all grades K-5.
4. I love my job as a teacher coach.
5. I have been listening to Adele 21.  Love it!
6. I am loving a new book by Harvard researchers at Project Zero, Making Thinking Visible.
7. I have two grown children and a 4 year old granddaughter.
8. My husband is a saint for supporting me always.
9. I enjoy riding on the back of my husband's Harley!
10. I'm always on the search for a new recipe.  Today it's a Foodnetwork generic recipe that can be modified to make 5 different rolls.  I'm going to start with the Lemon Poppyseed rolls.
11. My goal is to make a quilt someday.

My Answers to Teach to be Happy
1. What is your favorite thing to do when you get home? My favorite thing to do when I get home is to check my emails and get everything done before I start thinking about my next project.
2. File cabinet or digital files?  My computer just crashed and I lost all my files that I created over Christmas break, but I still would say digital files.  I just back up better now. 
3. What inspired you to become a teacher?  I had a great music teacher in high school that inspired me but I also have always loved teaching.  As a teacher coach, now I get to teach teachers and model lessons for students.  
4. What is your funniest student story? I remember when I got a new student named Christopher.  The first thing he said to me was, "I beat up my last teacher!"  I replied, "I'll tell you what, Christopher.  If you hit me, we'll both be bloody when the police arrive."  He turned out to be one of my best students.  
5. If you could be a kid again, what would you play with?  I would love a pair of metal skates to hook onto my shoes so I could skate around the block on the sidewalk.  
6. What is your favorite spot in your school? My favorite spot in a school is the media center with the kids and the books.
7. What do you do with your class that others don't do with theirs? Everything I did with my class was pretty much hands-on.  It's the only way to learn.  
8. What is the secret to teaching success?  The secret to teaching success is to never stop growing and learning.
9. If you could redesign your classroom, what would you change?  I think every classroom needs working walls (anchor charts, vocabulary etc.) and different "areas" for learning like whole group, small group/hands-on work and individual quiet spaces.  
10. What is your favorite school lunch? I love soup and a baquette from Panera's.  The only problem is that I have to purchase it the night before.  
11.How much time do you spend on school things outside of the school day? I get up at 5:00 am and I go to bed around 9:30 pm.  Most of that is dedicating to working at school or working on school at home.  Thank goodness my husband is a saint that rides a Harley!

My Questions for You!

1.  How do you balance your life at school and your life at home?
2.  What do you like best about teaching?
3.  If you could change one thing about your job, what would it be?
4.  What are you focusing on now as a teacher?
5.  Who supports you in your journey as a teacher?
6.  Have you read any good books lately?
7.  Any hobbies?
8.  What is the secret to teaching success?
9.  How do you manage everything that needs to get done in one day?
10. How do you stay current with the research?
11. What do you think of the Common Core Standards?

My Nominated Blogs:

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Getting to the Core: Accountable Talk

The Common Core Standards require students to engage in collaborative discussions, elaborate on the points of others and clearly explain their own ideas. The standards also want students to review key ideas and draw conclusions based on information from discussions. This is called collaborative argumentation or as the Institute of Learning at the University of PIttsburgh calls it, "Accountable Talk."  The Accountable Talk chart pictured below is available on Teachers Pay Teachers in both color and black and white.  The picture it enlarged to 139% on ledger paper and used as a placemat on student's desk during discussions.  
Accountable Talk Chart

Traditional lessons are characterized with a sequence of teacher-initiated questions for student response and teacher evaluation.  These questions simply test students' knowledge.  It constrains the participants from collaborating or building meaning from the text.  Discourse-based lessons focus on the quality of the teacher's questions and talk moves to generate effective reading comprehension lessons.  Accountable Talk consists of three levels of accountability: 
  1. Accountable to the Learning Community - that discussions are on topic
  2. Accountable to the Knowledge - to use accurate information
  3. Accountable to Rigorous Thinking - to think deeply about what is being said.  
Within each level of accountability there are structures that need to be taught individually and then synthesized into an understanding of Accountable Talk.  

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Getting to the Core: Annotating Text

On Thursday and Friday, I presented at the Superintendent’s Conference in Tinley Park, IL on Getting Your Daily Dose of the CCSS.  It was very exciting but I'm glad it's over.  I need to learn how to cut down on the prep time!  Over the next six posts, I will share the key resources from my presentation on the CCSS key shifts for ELA/Literacy instruction. 

The CCSS call for close reading and “reading with a pencil.”  Annotating, or marking up, text will help students develop confidence analyzing text.  This strategy can be applied in all content areas. Model the method with a short passage or article while students are acquiring the skill of annotation. Have students work in groups and gradually increase the text complexity of the texts you present while applying the gradual release of responsibility.  Eventually, students should be able to transfer the process to appropriate, self-selected texts.  To make this a formative assessment, score the annotated text.  

There is no right or wrong way to annotate a book.  Pick up a pencil, a pen or a post-it.  Write directly on the text (if it’s your property or a copy of a selection) or use post-its to mark your pages and thoughts.  Read everything at least twice.  The first time read quickly to get a sense of what the text is about.  Subsequent re-readings should  include close reading and annotating text.   

Begin to annotate:

A.      Circle, underline, or stick on a post-it for important ideas.
B.      Mark repetitions or rhetorical signals.
C.      Circle confusing words or phrases. 
D.      Note passages that seem inconsistent.
E.       Write questions where you made annotations.

Use your margin to decode the text, to help remind yourself what the author is saying 
and mark your thoughts as you read.   Marking in the margins involves the reader in:
  • Writing brief summaries
  • Listing or numbering multiple ideas
  • Sketching pictures and charts to explain difficult concepts
  • Predicting
  • Noting puzzling or confusing ideas that need clarification
  • Defining words to help remember them

    Check out my annotation bookmark on TPT!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Update on "What the heck is a rekenrek?"

On February 8th, I published a post on my experience with rekenreks.  I recently received a response from Jami Smith at the Math Learning Center that I wanted to share with you.  Also, you might want to check out the original post.  

Hi there! I appreciate that you think our rekenrek book is "amazing." :-) I just wanted to let you know that we now sell kits to make your own number racks. All the materials needed to build 10 kits for only 10 dollars.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Increasing Instructional Rigor

Are you interested in increasing the instructional rigor of the lesson you teach and the tasks that students complete?  I just posted a Depth of Knowledge (DOK) Questioning Tool flip book on TPT.  This tool is based on Norman Webb's Depth of Knowledge that aligns with the rigorous expectations of the CCSS.  DOK has four levels: level 1 recall, level 2 skill/concept, level 3 strategic thinking and level 4 extended thinking. This flip book includes the DOK Expectations for Student Performance, the DOK Descriptors or verbs and the DOK question stems.  I really like how Depth of Knowledge aligns beautifully with both the CCSS and the Understanding by Design process.  When you study UbD, you learn that lessons, tasks and assessments are always designed to build understanding.  Acquire, making meaning and transfer are the three levels of understanding in UbD.  The same is very similar in Depth of Knowledge where acquire, use, and extend understanding are the three levels.  Just click on my TPT button and look for Depth of Knowledge (DOK) Questioning Tool.  This tool will be very useful for planning rigorous lessons, tasks and assessments for your students and as a tool for asking higher-level questions in class.  When I model DOK in classrooms, I make a copy of the tool for each group in the classroom to utilize during the lesson that I teach and for future lessons.  

Everyone loves stuff that is free.  You can download my first product on TPT for free or download it by clicking here.  It's titled,  DOK (Depth of Knowledge) in the Content Areas.  For each level of DOK and for each content area of English Language Arts, Writing, Math, Social Studies and Science, a variety of performance levels are provided.  For instance, under the Social Studies tab, you would go from...
                                        Level 1 Identify specific information
Level 2 Describe interpret or explain issues or problems 
                                        Level 3 Draw conclusions and cite evidence
                                        Level 4 Analyze and synthesize information from multiple sources
I hope you enjoy this product.  Let me know what you think!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Have a Ball with BLOOM'S Taxonomy!

I'm off school today so I'm trying to catch up on everything.  Consequently, I have posted two BLOOM with higher-level thinking products on TPT today.  The first one is BLOOM with Questioning blooms to hang up on an English Language Arts focus wall for reference.  In the photo below, notice the stems with the key words and the flower pots.  The stems are an editable resource and along with the pots are available free on  If you aren't acquainted with Sparklebox, everything is free.  All you need is lots of white cardstock and access to a colored printer.  It's like free, one-stop shopping!

The second is a two for one product.  In Part 1, students construct a Bloom's Ball as a tool for creating higher-level questions.  I have used the Bloom's Ball many times with kids as I have modeled this activity in classrooms.  Part 2 is a performance task where students customize the 12 panels of the Bloom's Ball in response to reading a literary or non-fiction book.  Directions for this task are included and this performance task can be completed individually or as a group project.  I'd love to hear from you if you try these resources.
Completed Bloom's Ball
Putting the Panels Together

ELA Frameworks K-8

It has been crazy lately trying to get everything done.  I'm sure you feel the same way.  I was busy preparing materials to facilitate a day long institute day on the CCSS and the implementation of the Understanding by Design process and my hard drive crashed for the second time since July.  I love Dell laptops but their service stinks.  I lost all of the English Language Arts templates that I typed up in January.

I originally saw the attached English Language Arts Frameworks from the Georgia Department of Education.  I used their format to design a template for the district where I work.  Imagine how thrilled I was when I realized that these templates were actually based on the PARCC (Partnership for Achieving Readiness for College and Career) Model Content Frameworks!  At this time, the PARCC Frameworks are available on their website for grades 3-12.  Based on the PARCC Frameworks, I have re-typed the ELA templates for grades K-8.  You can download them here. Below is a photo of the grade 4 template for ELA.
The PARCC Frameworks are oriented horizontally on the page but I prefer the vertical orientation which also mimics the orientation of the Common Core Standards as you look vertically down the column for your grade level.  I also like these documents because it clearly depicts the requirements for each module or nine week period during the school year.  These documents also demonstrate how the six shifts for ELA instruction are threaded throughout each nine week period.  Thankfully, no one should be stopping instruction to prepare for THE TEST.  Instead, everyone just needs to do their best teaching everyday and keep the six shifts for ELA in mind every week as you write your lesson plans or as you work on curriculum committees to prepare units of instruction. 

I am schedule to present at the Superintendent's Conference in Tinley Park, IL on March 21-22, 2013.  My presentation is based on a bulletin board that I created titled, Daily Dose of CCSS, which focuses on the six shifts in instruction for ELA.  On page 7 in the introduction to the Common Core Standards for English Language Arts, there is a description of a literate individual. So I decided to create a diploma depicting a literate individual to hand out at the end of my presentation with all of the links that are included in my presentation.    I'm going to roll up the diploma and tie it with red ribbon.  See the picture above and click on the bold print ELA for a hyperlinked copy.  
I'd love to hear your comments.  

Monday, February 18, 2013

CCSS Integrated Model of Literacy

Recently I created an interactive focus wall for CCSS and reading in the content areas.  It combines the utilization of reading strategies, the text structures of informational text, and graphic organizers to organize and retain information as you read.  It is tied all together by the expectations of the CCSS for reading informational text.   I love to use bulletin boards that I can reference during instruction and students can reference during independent work time.

Putting It All Together:
  1. Super Six Comprehension Strategies Posters at include: Predict, Monitor and Clarify, Evaluate, Question, Connect, Summarize.  Just as comprehension anchors reading, these posters anchor the focus wall. 
  2. ·Beth Newingham at Scholastic has created beautiful text structure posters: Description, Compare and Contrast, Sequential, Cause and Effect, and Problem and Solution.  The text structures help us to comprehend informational text and these posters give structure to the focus wall. I hung a transparent pouch with every text structure poster.  These great pouches are available from Lakeshore Learning and work great for holding the graphic organizers.
  3. The graphic organizers are the interactive element of the focus wall.  I strategically chose graphic organizers that met the expectations of the CCSS with the comprehension strategies and the six text structures. Go to for a variety of graphic organizers on Social Studies and Science.  You’ll find an amazing Story Map for Science and Social Studies.!  I also found a great set of graphic organizers that align beautifully with the CCSS especially argumentation, analyze content and evidence.
  4. Finally, I created posters for the CCSS for reading informational text for the appropriate grade levels.  In my case, this picture focus wall is in a middle school classroom.  Just splash the standards posters and the vocabulary of the standards across the focus wall.  
This focus wall has worked successfully with students as I model lessons in a colleague's classroom.  You might be interested in another CCSS bulletin board that I created for TPT called, Daily Dose of CCSS.  

Friday, February 8, 2013

What the heck is a rekenrek?

I recently received an email from telling me that an exemplar unit for math is available for grades 2 and 5.  The second grade unit is titled, “A Story of Units” and it is supported by teacher-selected and classroom tested tools and manipulatives.  I have been studying Singapore Math strategies and many of the tools that teachers selected are used with Singapore Math including the use of the rekenrek, place value disks, ten frames and arrow (place value) cards. The Math Learning Center has posted an amazing “how-to” guide on the internet titled, “Using the Rekenrek as a Visual Model for Strategic Reasoning in Mathematics.”  So check it out.
So what the heck is a rekenrek?  A rekenrek is a calculating frame.  It is a tool that helps kids to generate a variety of addition and subtraction strategies, including doubles, doubles plus 1, making tens, and compensation.  I have used it for one-to-one correspondence, counting on and number of the day.  At the beginning of kindergarten when students are just beginning to subitize 5 and 10, I  would probably only concentrate on one string of ten beads on the rekenrek with five of the beads being red and the other five white.  I would gradually transition to the two strings of ten beads for addition and subtraction.  This is an amazing tool for metacognition and number talks and kids love them.  I created the first of many powerpoints for the rekenrek.  This powerpoint is for building and practicing doubles.  You can get your copy here.

A friend of mine is a principal in a K-6 building and recently we shad a blast as we spent the day together making  rekenreks with all of the students in her first and second grade classrooms.  After making the rekenreks with the students, we would sit on the carpet and introduce and model various strategies for addition and subtraction including problem solving for both the teacher and the students.  We would introduce a concept and then have the students work in pairs to practice the strategy.  I know these tools will be utilized for a long time.  

If you want to make them with your class, start saving cardboard now.  It has to be pretty thick to hold up to the pull of the round cord elastic.  I found that the best cardboard is the backing on easel pads!  I happened to find some adhesive dry erase paper from Pacon so I made my rekenrek tool dry erasable.  After a long time of using the rekenreks, I will introduce place value concepts by building the number 15 with the beads and asking students what it means.  They will be able to write 1 ten and 5 ones on the dry erase surface and eventually go from the concrete - representational - abstract when they build a problem and write the problem and the solution on the dry erase surface. I purchased all of my materials from Amazon.  

Grafix Medium Weight Chipboard Sheets 4" X 6" (25 pack)
Round Cord Elastic, 5 yards (fold and cut the elastic into 16 pieces and each student needs 2 pieces)
1000 Pony Beads Red (6 X 9 mm)
1000 Pony Beads White (6 X 9 mm)

Preparation and assembly is very easy.  The night before you make them, each cardboard needs to be measured and marked for the tiny slits you need to make with a pair of scissors.  These slits keep the elastic in place.  I measured and marked 1.5 cm and 4 cm from the top of the cardboard on each side.  Then I cut the slits.  Open the 5 yard package of elastic and fold it in half 4 times and slit the ends and you should have 16 pieces.  Each student needs 2 pieces.  It's about 10" long but I wasn't very scientific about it.  The day of assembly in the classroom, we just poured the red and white bead s in cups and passed them out to each group.  We passed out 2 strings and one cardboard to every student. The students put 5 red and 5 white beads on each of the strings.  When they were finished, they raised their hands and one of us double knotted the end of the cord and trimmed any excess.  Most of the students were able to stretch the elastic onto the cardboard frame and slip the ends into the slits.  Voila! the rekenreks were made. 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

NCDPI Rocks!

Oh the places you'll go if you run and do not walk to the collaborative workspace for the North Carolina Department of Instruction
The NC Department of Public Instruction is developing a wide array of instructional resources to support educators in the implementation of not only the Common Core State Standards but also the North Carolina Essential Standards.    As I have researched for CCSS resources on various state department of education sites, I have noticed that the NCDPI resources are referenced and for good reason. 
Under English Language Arts Resources you will find various documents:
1. ELA Instructional Shifts
2. Learning Progression for each strand that begin with the CCR anchor standards
3. ELA Text Exemplars
4. Webinars and Handouts
5. Posters on Text Complexity, How to Do a Close Reading and Scaffolding
6. A great presentation - From Snorkelying to Deep Sea Diving: Breaking Beyond Surface Reading 
Under Mathematics, Elementary Resources you will find various documents:
1. Standards Word document
2. Major Work of Grade Level
3. Unpacking Document
4. Lessons for Learning (Tasks)
5. Unit of Instruction
6. NCTM Navigation Alignment Document
7. Math Stars (Newsletter)
8. Problem Solving Decks

For many years, school districts across the country have utilized the math curriculum materials from North Carolina. When I was still in the classroom, I aligned my curriculum with these materials. I love to find materials that are off the shelf ready-to-use. These pre-common core materials can still be accessed and can be easily aligned with the CCSS.   Just click on instructional resources:
I have been referencing the Common Core Instructional Support Tools from North Carolina ever since I started researching and facilitating workshops on the CCSS.  The NCDPI has done an amazing job of unpacking both the CCSS for English Language Arts and Mathematics.