Archive | March, 2015

Using the B.R.E.A.K. Strategy for Text-Based Responses

31 Mar

In an effort to encourage students to use text-based evidence in their written responses this year, the third grade team in my building started using the B.R.E.A.K. writing strategy. Kudos to my colleague Jill, from Differentiated Drake, who came up with this acronym and strategy. She has some wonderful classroom posters and materials to reinforce this awesome writing strategy, and it has helped our students tremendously!

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Similar to the strategy R.A.C.E. (Restate, Answer, Cite, Explain), the students are prompted to read, understand, and provide text-based evidence in their writing. The students spend extra time BREAKING APART the text and digging deeper into text details. I like this particular strategy because students are encouraged to include more than one evidence detail, and it reinforces paragraph structure!

B – Begin by Reading the Question

R – Restate the Question

E – Evidence Detail

A – Another Evidence Detail (or two!)

K – Key Closing Sentence

Jill (being the fabulously, generous person that she is) decided to make her easy-to-use graphic organizer FREE for all of you. Be sure to leave feedback and check out her other strategy resources. She offers bookmarksposters, and an additional version of her graphic organizer!

(Download the FREE graphic organizer HERE or by clicking the image below.)

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Our third graders are now at the point where they write B.R.E.A.K. at the top of their pages and use it as a cross-off checklist. After completing the response, they also search for each element of B.R.E.A.K. in their own writing and mark the elements with the specific letters.

Below are some examples from a writing response my third graders completed a few weeks ago. The students used the free iPad app Skitch to take pictures of their first drafts and mark-up their responses to show each element of B.R.E.A.K. Later, we transitioned to marking these elements with just our pencils. The Skitch app was a motivating, first-step tool in the revision process for this strategy. (Want to learn more about Skitch? Check out my previous post about this wonderful tool!)

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NOTE: You’ll see that many of the students used “+” symbols for additional evidence-based details. This is helpful for students who include more than two details from the text. 

Students had a menu of sentence starters to use and were encouraged to also use non-fiction text features as evidence to support their answers. Grab my FREE sample of text-based evidence sentence starter cards to use with your students. This is part of my larger Common Core Booster product.

(Download this resource by clicking here or the image below!)

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PLEASE SHARE! — How do you teach students to include text-based details in their writing? Comment below or send me an email! I’m always looking for new ideas! 🙂

Happy Teaching!

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Exploring Perspective and Point of View

29 Mar

Happy Spring!

Here in WNY we’ve had a “tease” of spring, but so far the remaining days of March have been pretty cold (and even a little snowy – *yikes*). At this point, I’m 100% over the cold weather and ready for some warmer temperatures. Before we head into April, and my focus turns to poetry (Yay, Poetry Month!), I wanted to share a few of the fun activities I’ve been doing with my students.

Be prepared for a few extra posts this week! 🙂

As some of you know, I love my small RTI pull-out groups, but I also enjoy the dynamic of an entire classroom of students. This year, with a combination push-in/pull-out program, I’ve been able to do both.

For part of my day, I have the pleasure of working with a third grade teacher who is just FABULOUS (You rock, Jan!). She has great ideas and is always willing to try new things. A few of my RTI students are in her classroom, so I work with them during small group time and provide extra support for them during whole group mini-lessons and activities.

Last week, we explored perspective and point of view with our students. To kick off the week, we read I Am the Dog I Am the Cat – a great book for introducing perspectives. It’s a book with two voices and two characters, so the students can compare and contrast different perspectives within the same text. Since many students have pets, this is also a great book for them to relate to and make text-to-self connections.

On Tuesday, we spent time with one of my new favorite books, The Day the Crayons Quit. (Seriously, this book is the BEST for point of view, and it’s absolutely hysterical! If you’ve never read it, you need to… right now. Your students will love it, too!)

We read this book as a read-aloud, and then the students worked independently to further explore each crayon’s letter and unique point of view. I retyped the letters, and we put a basket of letters on each table. Students pulled out one letter at a time and recorded the character point of view on the graphic organizer.

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The finished products were wonderful, and it was a great way for students to practice analyzing character point of view.

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 (Download the graphic organizer we used for FREE by clicking the image below!)

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As an added bonus, some of the perspectives weren’t stated explicitly, so this allowed students to practice making inferences using text evidence. (I always love when we can embed and review past skills and strategies, don’t you?!) It was also a great way to bring in some problem-solving skills. We stopped before the last few pages and asked the students to brainstorm how the main character should solve the problem. We asked them what they would do if they were Duncan. The students did such a nice job with this, and some of their solutions were truly creative!

(UPDATE: There is a sequel that is JUST as perfect for point of view. The Days the Crayons Came Home. Check it out HERE! Now you can use one text for modeling and one for independent/small group practice.)

Throughout the week, we worked in small groups to further practice analyzing the point of view with instructional level texts. We used a combination of books, text passages, and poetry – including a few of my Partner Perspective Poems!

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Check out the links below for a few of these partner poems:

(NOTE: In addition to my everyday poems that are perfect for teaching point of view, there are many seasonal partner poems in my store, as well. Stay tuned — I’m working on a new springtime poem for April’s Poetry month, too! It will sold individually and will be added to the Spring Bundle and MEGA Bundle.

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Additional Point of View Mentor Texts & Picture Books:

FRACTURED FAIRY TALES

The True Story of the Three Little Pigs

The Wolf’s Story

The Pea and the Princess

Honestly, Red Riding Hood Was Rotten!

OTHER PICTURE BOOKS

Two Bad Ants

The Pain and the Great One

Hey, Little Ant

Dear Mrs. LaRue: Letters from Obedience School

What resources do YOU use to teach point of view? I’d love to hear your ideas and add to my growing list of mentor texts for teaching point of view. Email me msjordanreads@gmail.com or comment below. 🙂

Happy Teaching!

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A Lil Bit O’ St. Patrick’s Day Fun!

17 Mar

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Each year, I try to bring a little bit of St. Patrick’s Day fun into my RTI program, and my goal is to incorporate holiday-themed activities with interventions that are already in place. This week, I planned a variety of poetry, language, and phonics activities appropriate for each of my groups. Here’s a quick snapshot of a few of our activities! 🙂

A Lil Bit O’ Figurative Language

My fifth graders have been focusing on figurative language and analyzing poetry. I’ve been trying break down the different figurative language elements and terms throughout the week, while providing them with a variety of practice opportunities. Today, as a warm up, I had my group complete a fun practice St. Patrick’s Day writing task on the iPads (Read more about how to “go paperless” here!). Students had to brainstorm sentences for each of the different examples of figurative language. You can grab this for FREE below!

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Download HERE or by clicking the image above!

A Lil Bit O’ Word Work

This page is part of my Daily Phonics program. I don’t use Daily Phonics with all of my decoding students, but today my second grade groups worked through a page together! This is always a great assessment for me, to see where their phonics skills are. (NOTE: Most of my students completed these on the iPads, but for the classrooms I push-into I had paper copies for them to complete. Daily Phonics is a great paperless warm-up for students!)

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A Lot Bit O’ Poetry

I love, love, LOVE using poetry to celebrate the holidays! So many of my students need fluency practice, so poetry is a wonderful intervention for reinforcing these skills.

Here are a few of my own that I used this week:

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How did you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?

I would love to hear about St. Patrick’s Day interventions and activities you used with your students today! Please share in the comments below!

Happy Teaching! 

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My Paperless Classroom Journey: Notability for Teachers

15 Mar

Slide3If you’ve been following my paperless journey, this is the third post of my Notability blogging mini-series! Over the past few months, I’ve received some wonderful feedback (thank you!), including a bunch of emails from readers asking about how I use Notability as a teacher. It took me a little while to write this post… but here we go!

(Feel free to go back and check out my “Getting Started” and “Digital Resources” posts first, especially if you have NO idea what Notability is!)

Notability for Teachers

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I use Notability in a different way than my students do. On my teacher iPad, I use the app more for data collection and progress monitoring – collecting informal assessments, archiving student work, and recording anecdotal notes. All my students have their own color-coded folders in my app, and I organize the folders by RTI tier and grade-level. You can organize the notes any way that makes sense for you, but I find it’s a great one-spot digital binder of student work samples, audio recordings, and progress notes. I use the notes for parent conferences, data meetings, and quarterly progress reports. It’s much lighter than my 4-inch binder I used to use for data collection, and now I can easily bring my files home with me each night.

Setting Up Student Folders

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Using the “+” symbol at the top of my list of notes, I set up individual folders (“subjects”) for my students, and use the dividers to separate my groups.

Photo Mar 14, 10 47 34 PMYou can edit and reorder the folders, which is especially nice if your groups change, and you can also change the color of the folders. Additionally, I created an extra folder to organize my RTI schedule, group rosters, and student passwords (for easy-to-access information!).

Archiving Previous Progress Notes

Once my folders were set up, I converted my previous notes to a digital format. Some items I scanned and converted into PDFs, but I just took a photo of the remaining items. This allowed me to get rid of my ridiculously hefty data binder and have all my progress notes together in one spot.

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Next year, I will happily skip this step since I intend to start off the year “paperless.”

Student Work Samples

Part of my data collection includes student work samples.

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I snap photos of writing and anything that has not yet made it to my paperless world; however, now that we’re in March and more of my program is paperless, I have students submit screenshots of the work they do on the iPads (e.g., graphic organizers, notes, annotated texts, etc.) via DropItTOMe. I can easily save the student work I wish to archive by importing files from my “DropItTOMe” folder in Dropbox.

Monthly Anecdotal Notes

I typically create a new “note” to record anecdotals each quarter per student.

Photo Mar 14, 10 48 53 PMEven though it adds to the number of notes in the student folders, I’m easily able to find my progress notes for each marking period (which is especially helpful when writing report cards, etc.). It also saves me from having to sift through one giant progress notes document.

Student Assessments & Running Records

I complete most of my diagnostic/skill assessments and progress monitoring digitally on Notability using PDF forms. These include phonemic awareness screenings, sight word assessments, F & P optional assessments, phonics word lists, fluency speed drills, and running records.

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Administering digital running records is my favorite perk of using Notability for data collection. Not only am I be spared from making hundreds of copies of running record forms, but I can use the microphone feature to record the audio of each student reading, as well. While recording, the app keeps track of the time it takes for the student to read, so I can calculate a quick wpm score in the end, too. The students can listen back on their reading to self-assess and reflect, OR you can use it for your progress notes. It’s a powerful tool for analyzing and comparing reading skills quarter-to-quarter.

(NOTE: If a PDF running record form is not available, and I’m doing “on the fly” running records, I just snap a photo of the text and mark errors/substitutions right on the digital image of the page!)

Sharing Notes

With Notability, you can share specific notes via email, Dropbox, or Google Drive. This is helpful for me when I want to share progress notes with a student’s classroom teacher. To do this, go to “Settings” and “Manage Accounts.” It will prompt you to “Log In” to your accounts and then “Accept” the app sharing permissions.

If you choose to back-up your notes to Dropbox (see below), you can also share the specific destination Dropbox folder with other teachers. This will allow them to view or print your notes at any time, without YOU having to share one file at a time!

Backing-Up Your Notes

I set up my Notability folders to automatically back-up to my connected Google Drive account. If the app ever crashes, or my notes somehow “disappear,” I’ll always have a back-up copy of my progress notes. The app saves each note as PDFs to your choice of Dropbox, Box, or Google Drive.

To do this, go to “Settings” and “Auto-Backup.” It will ask which location you wish to back-up your files to. You can also customize your back-ups to only include certain folders and file formats. (You need to already have your accounts set-up through “Manage Accounts” to turn on this feature!)

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As I mentioned above, by backing up your files to Google Drive or Dropbox, you can easily share and add collaborators to your destination folder, or even to specific student folders within the back-up folder. It’s an easy way to collaborate!

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iCloud Syncing

If you have multiple teacher devices, you can easily sync your Notability accounts by turning on the “iCloud” feature under “Settings.” Be sure to do this only with the devices your students do NOT have access to. This is great for teachers who collaboratively work with the same group of students. If you choose to do this, keep in mind, you’ll need to be signed into the same iCloud account and all of your files will be accessible to the other teacher.

Importing Files from Dropbox

So where do I store all my running record and assessment forms, you ask?

Easy, peasy! I use Dropbox to store all my files, and then I import the files from within the Notability app. This cloud-based storage is a great way to keep files accessible, and it’s just a few clicks to import the file into a student’s folder. The best part is, I can choose to import specific pages of a file so that I don’t have keep or sift through 200 page documents in their folders for just the ONE assessment page I need that week. If it’s a page that I plan to use for multiple students in a group, I can duplicate the page in Notability and drag it into each of their folders (saves a lot of time!).

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After you import the pages you need, you can rename the files to better organize your progress notes. For example, if I import just page 2 of my phonics word lists, focusing on just DIGRAPH words, I can rename the file from “Phonics Word List” to “Bobby_Digraphs Word List_3.15.15.”

(NOTE: You can’t have two notes with the same name in Notability, so be prepared to use student names or “_1, _2, _3” at the end of names if necessary. So far, this hasn’t been a problem for me!)

My Dropbox Files & Forms

Running Record Forms — I take pictures of text pages for most of my informal running records, but if you have an LLI kit, you can download the forms from the “Online Resources” website or the DVD’s. If you have a Reading A-Z account, you can download the Benchmark and Fluency running record pages into Dropbox, and then import the pages into Notability, as needed.

Assessments — In addition to running records, I have many diagnostic assessment pages I use throughout the year to monitor student progress.

Here are just a few of the ones I use:

Word Lists & Graphs — I keep all my progress monitoring word lists in Dropbox for easy access. I also keep the blank forms and graphs for keeping track of student progress. (Students also have access to the graphs for their own folders in Notability.)

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Here are a few resources that I use pages from regularly:

I hope this helps you on your paperless journey! Please continue to share your questions and comments at the bottom of this post or via email (msjordanreads@gmail.com). 🙂

Happy Teaching! 

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