Sunday, July 20, 2014

Blog Name Change

Hello All,

I hope this doesn't cause too much confusion but I am changing my blog name. It was My 2nd Grade Smarties but ..... I'm no longer a 2nd grade teacher. At least as of Friday, I am now a first grade teacher. I am adjusting to the idea. So, I decided to just change my name to something that would work for whatever grade I am in.  I LOVE Black and White Polka Dots.  I have been "accused" of black and white know it's all this or all that but no gray! Is that considered inflexible? LOL So, anyway, I digress. I made a punny. (A funny pun!) It's not all Black and White .... Polka Dots. It amuses me....sorry if it's not your type of humor.

I believe it's fitting to my teaching career journey. Nothing is ever black and white and there all kinds of shades of gray (or grey which is right?). So for now we're going for it.  I am going to try and remember how to change my blog background. I made my own out of scrapbooking materials I made for my scrapbooking blog.  But my friend Lisa is so much better at it. I might see if I can BEG her to do looking out for those polka dots.  I hope I can let my readers (all 3 of you) know that I have moved my stuff! :)

I hope you'll continue to read my blog....that is if you can find. it.

I'll be posting soon on the final two chapters of the Book Study soon! :)  It has been a great book!

TTFN (TA TA FOR NOW .... in case you didn't know!)



Saturday, July 12, 2014

Chapter 6 Phonemic Awareness

Hello All,

I'm trying to get caught up here. So I'm posting about Chapter 6 Phonemic Awareness  now. This was another great chapter.  The lessons of course are more geared toward KK and 1st grade as you hope by 2nd grade that many of these skills are already developed or at least on their way. However, as we all know as teachers, this is not always the case. So, it's important information for 2nd grade teachers also.

What is Phonemic Awareness?  We often confuse and use phonemes and phonics interchangeably but they are different concepts.  They are both developmental and foundational to helping children learn to read. "Phonological awareness is an umbrella term that refers to an understanding of spoken words, and includes the awareness of words, syllables, rhymes, and individual sounds." Whereas a phoneme is the smallest unit of speech a word can be divided into.  Once a student has mastered rhyming they are able to then manipulate words down to the phoneme. In this description it appears that phonics mastery leads to phonemic awareness.  What do you think?

Given that rhyming is indicative of readiness for phonemic awareness she spends a section of the chapter on stages of rhyming.  There's a chart and an example of a folder in the book to be used to see where your students are in regards to rhyming.

Heidi has made up a sheet to be used in a binder and it's on her blog here:  Stages of Rhyming

She points out that students need to learn about these:

  • phonological awareness, including listening, words and sentences, awareness of syllable, and playing with onset and rime (word families).
  • concepts about print (read left to right; top to bottom, spaces between words, print has a message)
  • letter names, shapes, sounds, and formation
Phonemic awareness is about the sounds. Phonemic awareness activities may include:

  • sound matching
  • sound isolation (initial, then final, then medial sounds)
  • sound blending
  • sound segmenting
  • sound addition, deletion, substitution
Phonemic awareness activities should be playful and engaging not drills.  They should begin only with sounds with no letters. Overtime, print can be added to phonemic awareness activities.

Key point in this chapter to me is that ***Phonemic Awareness is the most potent predictor of success in learning to read (Stanovich 1986, 1994).  That's crucial to understand. So, if you have struggling readers in second grade, clearly, it's important to understand where they may be gaps in phonological and/or phonemic awareness. 

There's a 2 page spread on possible lesson topics and activities so you definitely will want to check those out (pages 94-95).  Possible phonological focuses include: rhyming, alliteration, sentence segmenting, syllable blending and segmenting. Possible phonemic awareness focuses could include:  onset-rime segmenting and blending, sound matching, counting phonemes in a word, blending phonemes to make a word, isolating beginning phoneme in a word, isolating the final phoneme in a word, isolating the medial phoneme in a word, segmenting phonemes in a word, and substituting one phoneme for another.

Much of your phonics and phonemic instruction can take place in whole group about 20 minutes 3 to 4 times a week.  Those that struggle with an aspect could benefit from small group help.  Small group is probably more helpful than one-on-one. She has a folder for the stages of Phonological Awareness. I made one  up that you could either put side by side in a binder or print out and glue in a folder. Click the picture. It actually has some clipart on it but I added it after the screen shot.  
She makes the point to state not to move on to phonemic awareness until children understand how to rhyme, segment sentences into words, and clap their names by syllables, and are beginning to be able to separate onsets from rimes. (Diller,  p. 96)  

Phonic and Phonemic instruction should be explicit. Therefore, like her other chapters, she gives you a chart about Prompts for Phonemic Awareness. Yes, I typed it up for you!

Click the preview!

The idea is to build "your students' sound base, one block at at time -- from words, to syllables, to onset and rime, to individual phonemes." (p. 112).

Another great chapter with many lesson plans for both phonological awarenes and phonemic awareness.  I have typed up the lesson plans. They are here but no preview!  

I hope you have enjoyed the information in this post and the shares.  Still loving the book and all the great information!

I was surfing pinterest and came upon this FREEBIE! She has an assessment for all of the phonological awareness areas. If you don't have something you already use in your school/district this would be GREAT!! And did you read it's free???



Friday, July 11, 2014

Classroom Decor Freebie

Hello All,

I made these for my own classroom. I thought maybe some of you would enjoy them as well.  I started off by making some word wall letters to match my black and white polka dot themes.  I decided to add numbers for centers, cubbies, etc.... you can use them for many things. Then I added a title for Math Buddies.  Since you might have something else you can use them for I added two blank titles. You could use them for name plates or labels or whatever you see fit.  I hope you like these.  Please do give me feedback. At some point I might break down and get a TPT store. That's why I am starting here on my blog to see if what I am making is even desired or worth someone paying a $1 or $2 for?  So, please do leave me feedback!  I appreciate you checking out my blog.

Click on the preview to download the file:

I hope you like this and can use it. I laminated my word wall letters with my Scotch laminator. The cutting out was super easy with the lines on there. They are all "near" perfect size and match each other! :)



Thursday, July 10, 2014

Chapter 5 Fluency

Hello All,

I'm a little behind on posting about the Summer Book Study (#SBS14) with Heidi over at Mrs. Samuelson's Swamp Frogs.  In case you are just happening upon this then we are reading Debbie Diller's Making the Most of Small Groups: Differentiation for All.  It's a great book and if you are looking for a way to step up your Reading Small Groups it's a must read.Chapter 5 is all about Fluency.
There's a lot of great information in the book. Let's look at some highlights.

First, it's important to understand that "Fluency includes decoding accurately, reading rate, expression, intonation, phrasing, pacing and pausing."  So often we think about fluency as only the reading rate. But it is so much more than that.  Reading rate is only one small part of this.

How do you know when a child is reading fluently? Well for a few measures they need to be able to read text at 95% accuracy or above.  They must also be able to read with automaticity. Read with little effort to decode (which goes hand in hand with the reading accurately).  This can be measured by wpm. By the end of second grade students should be reading 90 words per minute. Hopefully they will be coming in around 50/60 words from 1st grade and then you have the school year to get up to 90.  You could think about it like 10 words per minute per quarter. Obviously, they will need to be practicing A LOT to increase this way. Lastly, students need do be reading with expression. You can check out this by listening to students read orally.  You can use a rubric for this. Debbie had one in her book. Yes, I typed it up and have it for your here to use if you would like.  Fluency Score Rubric  Click the link and you'll get it in a google doc. The graphic is from  (Be sure to support her. She is so kind to let teachers use free clipart because she appreciates teachers!!)

Some other important quotes from this chapter --
"Fluency is a bridge between phonics and comprehension."  This is important because if they cannot decode they use up too much brainpower trying to read the word that they have no energy left for comprehension. Which as we know is the goal of reading.  Remember no comprehension = no reading. That's also why fluency is so important. When children read fluently, they will comprehend! Practice is imperative to fluency and then to comprehension!

Given all of these facets of fluency which leads to our goal of reading -- comprehension what do you focus on?  Here are her suggestions for Focus for Lessons.

  • Decoding words effortlessly and automatically
  • High-frequency word work
  • Reading punctuation
  • Reading in phrases
  • Reading with intonation
  • Reading dialogue
  • Regulating the speed of reading
Here are some factors for choosing materials for fluency work:
  • Choose books at students' easy reading level -- at least 95% accuracy.
  • Larger print appears easier to read than small print and less intimidating for struggling readers
  • find books on topics that interest the students
  • familiar stories with repetitive phrases
  • gradually reduce support and present text that is a little more challenging as you progress
As is the format for the other chapters, there are sample lessons for High Frequency Words, Phrasing, Reading Dialogue,  and Adjusting Rate. 

Here is a blank lesson plan  Small Group Fluency Lesson Plan

I love also how she has information to help you link these small group lessons to Whole Group and Work Stations.

She had another chart about Prompts to say based on what the child is having trouble with.  So, I want this handy for my groups and so I have typed up here to share with you.  Prompts for Fluency

One thing that came to mind about teaching to read the punctuation was a video I saw, I think at Responsive Classroom training. The teacher had taught them to make a signal/sound for each type of punctuation mark to emphasize what is done when reading based on the punctuation type.  I googled and couldn't find anything about it so it must be just this teachers doing.  I did find this article online that said to use percussion for the punctuation during shared reading.  This is the same idea. The other was just more active and interesting.  I will look for the video and see if I can find it.  Here's a link to the article with some other ideas  you might find interesting as well.  Percussion for punctuation

Well, here's my shares. I will get to Chapter 6 later this week.  I think I'm behind a week now....but don't worry I'll catch up.  I hope you are liking our Book Study. It's a great book. I highly recommend you purchasing it. There are many sample lesson plans you could use to get started and many resources from the book.  Please leave comments. I like hearing your comments and if you have any questions or comments about the shares please let me know.

Have a great weekend,


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Teaching your students to ask questions

Hello All,

In the last post about Chapters 3 and 4 we mentioned thick and thin questions. I found a great resource for teaching children questions. This website has book suggestions and then multiple mini lessons/activities for teaching them how to ask questions.  I haven't gone into it deep but it REALLY looks great I just wanted to share it:

Questioning Resource  Check it out by following this link!

I made some posters you can use in your classroom. There are 2 introductory slides you could use to teach from as well. Nothing spectacular but hope they are useful.  We must be deliberate about teaching them to think as they read not just decode the words but really dig in deep. Helping them understand asking thick questions will help them to do this.

Thick and Thin Questions

Sure hope you like these. Please do leave comments. I enjoy your feedback.