Monday, December 29, 2014

Close Reading for Teachers: Choice Words

I was working on a presentation focusing on the CCSS six shifts for instruction in English Language Arts yesterday, when I pulled out Peter Johnson's book, Choice Words: How Our Language Affects Children's Learning from one of my bookshelves.  The proverb, "Better Late Than Never," certainly applies to the reading and digesting of this book.  It is a short read but it is so profound and thought-provoking that I found myself going back to reread sections and think about them.  I only used post-it notes to write down my thoughts because it seemed sacrilegious to underline or highlight anything in this book.  This is definitely a book that every teacher would not only want to read but should read if they are interested in "creating intellectual environments that produce not only technically competent students, but also caring, secure, actively literate human beings." (taken from the back cover of the book, Choice Words)

"If we have learned anything from Vgotsky [1978], it is that 'children grow into the intellectual life around them'."  What if our most powerful teaching tool is our language?  "Throughout his book, Choice Words, Peter Johnson provides examples of apparently ordinary words, phrases and uses of language that are pivotal in the orchestration of the classroom."   

In Chapter Two: Noticing and Naming, Johnston demonstrates the power of ordinary words and phrases.  I loved the phrase, "Write down a line you wish you had written",  that asks children to turn their attention to the qualities of words while it implies that obviously they will want to use wonderful words to be authors themselves.  I wish I had written the line, "What if the children in our classes learned that what they notice matters, and that is is a valued topic of conversation?"  

As I read and reread the first 4 chapters, I realized that I was really doing a close reading with a first read, a second read and so on...   I was noticing the key understandings, things that surprised me, things that I was still wondering about and key vocabulary.  What a great book for us to practice and apply close reading skills.

Buy yourself a gift this holiday season that will have a lasting affect on your teaching.  You can do no better than to purchase and cherish this book.  

Monday, December 8, 2014

Freebie Day Potpourri!

I have spent the entire weekend into today, trying to finally complete some of my projects that have been sitting incomplete for over 6 months!  My work as a teacher coach has taken precedence over my personal work.  I have decided to celebrate and post the three free products that I posted today. While you're at my TPT store for these freebies, check out my other products.  I'd love to hear your feedback.  Thanks for checking out my blog.

My first free product is a set of VI COWS: 6 Traits Posters. The VI COWS stands for voice, ideas, conventions, organization, excellent word choice and sentence fluency.  I absolutely love the cows with the red hats from Scrappin Doodles. Just click the link below for the complete file on TPT.  Sorry about the terrible photo.  It's raining and icing up in the suburbs of Chicago!

                                                             VI COWS posters on TPT

My second free product is a 5 Inch Voices Banner for use with the implementation of Daily 5 and the fostering of literacy independence and the habits of mind necessary for small group work.  I have included a photo but just click on the link below for the complete free file on TPT. Credit for the cover clipart goes to DJInkers.

                                                  VOICE LEVELS POSTERS from TPT

My third free product are posters of the three reading voices: the reading voice, the thinking voice, and the distracting voice.  I attended a workshop from and I was reminded of the three voices that students hear while they are reading and using metacognition.  I went searching and found a document by the Reading Lady, Ginger Weisnek, that she adapted in 2005.  It's a great introductory unit on Metacognition.  I have attached both documents below.  Click on the titles and follow the links.  Credit for the clipart for the Reading Voices Posters goes to Melonheadz Illustrations and Creative Clips.  Check out their work on TPT and Etsy.

                                           METACOGNITION, AN INTRODUCTORY UNIT

                                                  READING VOICES POSTERS 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

How to Make a Portable Word Wall

If you want to make a portable word wall 
in your classroom...

1. See a portable word wall in a 
colleague's classroom.
2. Research the portable word wall and 
see an example of one on Pinterest.  All word cards are sorted by the letter of the alphabet and stored on a one inch book ring.  Each book ring is hung on its own (removable) hook in alphabetical order across the wall under the chalk ledge.  
3. Go to and purchase alphabet border and printer pages.  Create the ABC covers for each book ring.  Find an amazing site with free flashcards,
4. Heidi McDonald has created the site, Unique Teaching Resources and it is a goldmine.  Heidi has grouped the Fry Words in lists of 100 words.  Each set includes the list, a student profile list, weekly word lists and color-coded flashcards.  Run the flashcards on cardstock and cut them out.  Three-hole punch the cards and sort the cards according to the letters of the alphabet.  Put all of the letters cards on their correct letter card ring.  Hang the 26 removable hooks on the wall and hang the portable letter card rings in alphabetical order on the hooks!  

I have attached a copy of the ABC cover cards, a full-size word work journal and a smaller -version of the word work journal.  Get your copy HERE.  

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Looking for Rigor and DOK Resources?

If you are looking for Rigor and DOK resources, look no more.  I have collected a number of resources on Bloom's taxonomy and Webbs Depth of Knowledge but I have put my top 25 picks in one document for you to peruse.  I hope you find it helpful.  Also, check out my free DOK posters right on this blog!

Download Top 25 Picks Here!

I just reloaded this as a Word document.  
I checked all the hyperlinks again. 
Email me if you have any trouble.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Planning Your Own Differentiated Instruction Workshop!

I recently created and facilitated a worked on Differentiated Instruction That Works. The hardest part about planning for professional development is creating the framework for the presentation.  Once you have the framework, you can do your research and synthesize all the materials into the framework.  I created this workshop on Differentiated Instruction for the administrators and lead teachers from each building in one of the districts where I provide professional development.  Also this professional development is different from any workshop that I have ever facilitated because every document, video, or webinar is hyperlinked in the agenda for the participants.  Participants had the freedom within each session to view the webinars and the view and/or read the attached documents.  Each session ended with embedded activities for reflecting on the takeaways from within each session.  In addition, each session ended with participants creating goals and action steps in a schoolwide action plan to ensure the implementation of differentiated instruction.  I am sharing the hyperlinked agenda, including copies of all of the posters.  The DI Message Frames are available FREE and this workshop is available for purchase at my TPT store.  So, no matter if you are going to facilitate a workshop on differentiated instruction, or are looking for resources for your classroom or improving professional practice, this is a great resource on differentiated instruction all in one place!

Resources:  How to Differentiate in a Mixed-Ability Classroom, Carol Tomlinson, 2001
 Leading and Managing a Differentiated Classroom, Carol Ann Tomlinson and Marcia B. Imbeau, 2010                                     
 Step 1:  I created the framework. The presentation is divided into four sessions:
1.       Getting Started With Differentiated Instruction
2.       Managing Differentiated Instruction
3.       Low-Prep Strategies
4.       Community of Practice School Action Plan

Step 2: I created a two-column agenda that is organized into sections for each of the sessions.  Each session had an opening activity and a closing activity for reflection.  Each session was part of creating a schoolwide action plan.  As I listed each item on the agenda in column one, I attached the appropriate document, video or webinar hyperlink.  Right before the workshop, I emailed the hyperlinked agenda to each of the participants.  Each participant then had control over what they took away from each session.  I just facilitated the workshop as we as teachers facilitate learning in our classrooms. 

Step 3:  I created all of the posters and workshop materials including a handout.  The posters include: Belief Statements about DI, DI Message Frames, Hot Spots in a Differentiated Classroom. I also created a sample Choice Board and a sample Learning Profile Pre-Assessment (pictured below)

Sample Learning Profile Pre-Assessment (Opening Activity)