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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!


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!)





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!)


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!



NEW Daily Phonics Series

6 May

Introducing Daily Phonics

For those of you who love my Daily Fluency series, I recently developed a Daily Phonics series for practice with identifying sounds and word patterns. This series of resources is perfect for any group of elementary students who need a little extra support with decoding and phonics. My RTI decoding and fluency students love these packets!


Each packet contains a directions page, posters, and 40 Daily Phonics pages (20 per month). The series will soon include pages for every month of the year!


Daily Phonics provides opportunities for students to identify:

  • short & long vowel sounds
  • beginning & end sounds
  • consonant blends
  • digraphs
  • diphthongs
  • r-controlled vowels
  • syllables

Students will also have daily practice with:

  • illustrating the word
  • writing the word 3x
  • unscrambling a sentence with the word in context
  • hunting for the word in a list of similar words


There are many ways to integrate this resource into your daily routines. If you have the printing resources, copy the packet and create folders for each student to complete at their desks or at home. (See images below!)


You can also create reusable Daily Phonics pages by laminating each page or using sheet protectors. Students can write on the pages with dry-erase markers and then wipe-off when they’re done. If you use iPads in the classroom, upload this packet as a PDF and use a PDF annotating program for students to complete independently. You can also project the pages and have students complete them for bell work, literacy centers, or Daily Five rotations… all you need is a SMARTBoard or an overhead projector! There are many possibilities for how to use this resource, so it’s up to you how you want to integrate it into your day-to-day routines.

(NOTE: For my groups who do Daily Fluency everyday, I do Daily Phonics just on Mondays so that they’re not spending too much time with these warm-up activities.)

Free Daily Phonics Posters

Download my FREE Daily Phonics posters here or by clicking the image below. These posters are included in each packet and  will help students with identifying the following phonics sounds: consonant blends, digraphs, diphthongs, and r-controlled vowels. Hang the posters up in your classroom or put them in your students’ Daily Phonics folders!



Spring/Summer Daily Phonics Packets: 


DailyPhonics_MarchApril_TpT 3:14:2014





Happy Teaching!


Helping Students Understand Questions

19 Nov

I’ve been working on evidence-based questions with some of my RtI intervention groups…. and yikes. We didn’t even get to the response-writing part when many of my students hit a roadblock. Question words. They could come up with 101 “I wonder…” questions while reading, but when faced with a higher-level thinking question, they didn’t know how to answer it. They couldn’t dissect the question. How could I expect my students to find evidence to support their answers when they didn’t even know what kind of answer they needed? Although the biggest confusion was with “why” and “how,” I decided to spend some time reviewing the question words. All of them.

Teaching Question Words

Questioning is a skill that many students struggle with. Asking questions can be challenging, but answering questions can be even more challenging. Helping students understand question words is the first step. With explicit teaching and reinforcement, students can develop mental associations (using visuals and key words) to help them make connections automatically between questions and the type of answers that go with each. So how can you help your students build mental associations?

Below is a student reference I created for my students’ reading folders. Students can use this sheet throughout the year as a quick reference for question words.

FREE Question Words Student Reference


Also, here are a few activities (below) that I use regularly for teaching question words.

Question Word Activities:

Guess the Question. Read a section of text and have your students come up with a question that could be answered by that section. Students need an understanding of question words to decide which one to use for the section. This ties in many other skills, especially because students need to identify the main idea and important details before coming up with a question. They have to hunt for key words to determine what KIND of question to ask. They can ask themselves questions like, “Does the section describe the steps for a process?” “Does the section provide reasons or an explanation?” I like to use informational texts and cover up the section headings with a post-it note. The Scholastic Question & Answer Series by Melvin & Gilda Berger is great for this activity!


Question Sorts/Matching. Students match question words to visuals and key words. This can be guided or independent, timed or self-paced. My students make their own flash cards from their student-made graphic organizers. They either copy question words, key words, and visuals onto index cards, or I make copies of their graphic organizer for them to cut-out. I usually have them “speed match” the cards and try to beat their time over a few tries. My goal is for them to build QUICK connections between the key words, visuals, and the question words so that when they read questions they have to answer, they know HOW to answer it. (Looking for pre-made flash cards or a graphic organizer template? Check them out in my store here!)

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Fact ↔ Question. Students turn facts into questions and questions into facts. For the questions, I have the students highlight the question word and ask themselves what kind of answer they need. They use their student reference as needed. For the facts, I have them highlight important words and think about key words as they analyze the sentence. They look for reasons, explanations, “time” words, dates, names, etc. and use the clues to come up with a question.

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Question Word “I Have/Who Has.” Students love playing “I Have/Who Has.” Not only is it engaging, but it is a great way to review vocabulary and build fluency (multiplication facts, telling time, word patterns, sight words, etc.). Typically this game involves 20+ cards, but I use less than ten for this one to review the most common question words and their key words. I love to use this game as a 3-minute filler or quick warm-up activity. You can make your own game, or you can find the one I made here!


What do YOU use to teach question words? 

Additional Questioning Resources: 


WHOOOOOO is looking for a ready-to-use packet of materials? Check out my complete 25-page questioning packet called Questioning Owl: A Focus on Understanding & Asking Questions for more question word materials and resources!

Questioning Owl


   Questioning Owl Thumbnails

Gift of Giving Blog Hop

Also, on an unrelated note… next weekend is another BLOG HOP! The literacy specialists who came together for the popular Super Sleuths blog hop last month, have teamed up again. Check out the Gift of Reading blog hop next weekend and you’ll receive over 20 literacy resources for FREE! (Plus, you can enter for another chance to win fabulous prizes and gift cards. Woohoo!)

Promoting Image

Happy Teaching! 


A CCLS-Aligned Reading Curriculum

13 Oct

Like many other teachers, after having experienced the rigor and high expectations of last year’s NYS Common Core Assessments  for grades 3-8, it became apparent that I needed to reflect and make some changes in my teaching for this school year. Although I thought I did a pretty good job last year with aligning my instruction to the NYS Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS), I soon realized it was only a portion of what I could be doing. This year, I’m trying to be better prepared, and I’m determined to help the struggling readers I work with find increased success with the CCLS.

Taking a few extra steps to plan and prepare along the way has made a difference. Here are a few tools and resources that I have found to be helpful for navigating the Common Core in New York:

  • EngageNY — EngageNY is our new best friend. I’ve been spending many lunch dates with this website.


  • Common Core Resource Binder — I started a Common Core Resource Binder to house all my resources and help keep me organized! (Check out a sample binder, and grab some free printables to create your own resource binder at Lyndsey’s blog, A Year of Many Firsts!)


  • Common Core-Aligned Strategy Posters — My reading team developed “I Can…” Strategy Posters that are aligned to the different strategies. I display these on my board to increase student involvement with the Common Core. The “I Can…” statements put the standards into student-friendly language. (I included the PDF, as well as the editable version for you to download.)


“I Can…” Strategy Posters (PDF)

“I Can…” Strategy Posters (Power Point)

**I’m trying Dropbox for downloads, but I may switch back to Google Docs if many run into downloading issues. Please email me at if you have any issues!**
  • Pinterest — Pinterest is a great way to explore and collect resources. I use it as a bookmarking tool and “digital toolbox” for ideas, strategies, and materials. Over the past few months, I’ve discovered many new resources related to the Common Core. (Feel free to check out my Pinterest board, “Common Core,” for resources I’ve collected this year. Consider following this board to access all the Common Core resources I discover throughout the year!)


  • Common Core Checklists — I’m using the FREE checklists from The Curriculum Corner to keep track of my Common Core instruction, (i.e., introduction, review, and assessment dates for different skills/strands). This is a valuable tool for helping teachers keep track of their instruction and which skills they still need to cover. Some teachers are using one for their whole class, others are printing separate checklists for small groups and individual students. I use it for 1:1 instruction and my small groups.



Even with all the planning and preparation, as an interventionist for reading, I’m greatly concerned about the students who are struggling with grade-level skills and have difficulty closing the skill gaps to perform successfully on these assessments. The checklists, posters, and binder are just a starting point – they will help me manage my instruction and keep track of student progress – but I will still need to continuously reflect and refine my teaching to ensure that my students are meeting the new expectations and standards.

I would love to hear some feedback regarding what you and your districts are doing to prepare students and address the new standards.

  • How have you prepared for the Common Core?
  • What resources are you using?
  • What are you doing to help your students prepare for the Common Core Assessments?

(Please share your comments at the bottom of this post!)

Happy Teaching!


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Practicing Accuracy Using Similar Word Pairs!

16 Feb

Do your students make a lot of visual errors?

Visual discrimination is a tough for many readers who struggle with decoding. Many of the substitutions I see with my students include words with similar shapes, blends, vowels, or word chunks. I like to dig deeper to find out what TYPE of visual errors the students are making so that I can then help them train their eyes to read more accurately!

Reading Specialists are trained to analyze decoding miscues and determine interventions to address our students’ decoding needs, but this is something classroom teachers can do, too! Exploring informal assessments and interventions to address student needs is even more important now with the new Response to Intervention (RtI) mandates. Classroom teachers are expected to differentiate instruction at a higher-level and implement effective interventions to target student needs.

Here are a few ways to get you started with assessing, tracking, and practicing visual discrimination, tracking, and ACCURACY. Not only could your students make significant gains, but you’ll have valuable data to bring to instructional support meetings, building data days, and parent-teacher conferences!

Assessment with Accuracy Word Pairs

When to Assess:

Depending on your student population, you could assess your whole class, or individual students, as needed.

  • Fall/Winter/Spring – You can assess every student in the beginning of the year to get a snapshot of your class and create targeted intervention groups for Reading Workshop or Guided Reading. Follow-up with winter and spring “checks” to track achievement and compare accuracy scores.
  • As Needed – You can use this assessment to follow-up with a running record (formal or informal) for individual students who make A LOT of visual errors. This will allow you to “dig deeper” and find out their pattern of errors.

How to Assess Visual Errors:

  • Depending on the grade-level and stamina of the students you’re assessing. You may want to start with just a few word lists. I only do 3-4 word-lists with my second graders in one sitting, but 8-10 with my fifth graders. If I’m interested in getting a comprehensive assessment of ALL word pairs, I’ll break up my assessment over a couple of days. 
  • Pull one student at a time. Each student will read from the word lists while you mark a word correct (check mark) or incorrect (record the word/s they substituted).


(The downloads, shared below, include split columns for easier assessment and tracking! This was my personal tracking sheet version before I posted it on TpT and TN.)

  • After you complete the assessment, count up the number of word pairs the students read automatically (within 3 seconds) and correctly (more than 3 second, including self-corrections). Record the numbers on a tracking sheet. **If using the The Complete Packet for Assessment & Practice, use the tracking sheets and “Student Assessment Profile” to record all the data. 
  • Once all the corrects are recorded, you’ll want to take a closer look at the visual errors. Use a Miscue Analysis Menu to tally up the # of each type of visual miscue. (Download this FREE menu from my sample assessment packet, also listed below!)


Practice with Accuracy Word Pairs

Once you determine what type of visual errors your students are making, you can use that information to drive your instruction. If your students are substituting incorrect vowels for many of their miscues, you’ll want to review vowel sounds and patterns. If your students are substituting words with incorrect blends, perhaps you’ll want to work on making and breaking sounds with two and three-letter blends. The information you collect will only help you if you choose to use it. Integrate accuracy interventions into your small group instruction or 1:1 conference time with students. Send home practice materials or create Literacy Centers to address common visual discrimination issues in your classroom. You can build opportunities for practice into the structure you already have in place for Guided Reading or Reading Workshop.

Literacy Center Ideas:

  • Circle-a-Word – Students circle the visually similar words that are listed in a sentence. (Create sentences on a single page or use laminated sentence strips and have students circle with dry-erase marker.)
  • Highlight-a-Letter – Students highlight the differences between the pairs. (Provide printed copies of the word lists they can highlight, or laminate the word lists and have students can go over the letter differences with a dry-erase markers.)
  • Write-a-Sentence – Students write visually similar words in a sentence. (Provide students with a list of word pairs and have them create sentences that include BOTH words in the pair. Have them highlight the word pairs after they finish!)
  • Write-a-Story – Students write visually similar words in a story, poem, comic, etc. (Provide students with a list of word pairs and have them create a story, poem, comic, or another writing format of their choice using a full LIST of word pairs. Have them highlight the word pairs after they finish!).
  • Type-a-Word Pair – Students type similar word pairs. (Provide students with a list of word pairs and have them practice typing them on the computer. If they are computer savvy, they can even bold/italicize, change the font or format the color of the differences between the pairs.)
  • Rainbow Writing Pairs – Students use colored pencils to write similar word pairs. (Provide students with a list of word pairs and have them copy over using different colors to write the letters for the word pair differences.)

Additional Activities:

  • Speed Drills — Track pace & accuracy in a 1-3 minute assessment (use progress graphs to mark # of accuracy word pairs read correctly for each speed drill)
  • Practice Word Lists — Create take-home word list packets or individual keychains
  • Board Games — Pair popular board games with “Accuracy Word Pair” cards (cut word lists into rows so that word pairs are displayed on ONE card)
  • Power Points/Slideshows — Create individual slideshows for students to use on the computer. Include word pairs that were challenging or read incorrectly and then link them on your website or send them home on a CD-rom. Make changes as students master the tricky word pairs!)



Featured Product

Check out a 5-page SAMPLE from my newest product, “Accuracy Word Pairs: The Complete Packet for Assessment & Practice”:


(Interested in the COMPLETE version? Click the image below or click here to download the thumbnail preview!)


Do you have any additional ideas for practicing visual discrimination, tracking, and accuracy? Post them in the comments section to SHARE!

Happy Teaching!

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Snowballing Sentences!

8 Jan

Are you looking for a way to help your students expand their sentences to include details? 

Making Snowballs!

Try integrating this simple Snowballing Sentences writing activity! Read through the completed sentence page as a whole-group. Then, model and guide the students through the process of expanding sentences to include details.

Model writing a simple sentence with a Who and a Did What. Show them how to expand and “snowball” their sentences by adding Where (e.g., “at the park”), When (e.g., “yesterday”), or Add-On phrases (e.g., “and had lots of fun”). Sometimes it helps to highlight or underline the expanded sections to help students see the details that were added. Once you’ve modeled the full process of expanding a sentence with a few examples, guide students step-by-step through expanding a few sentences together.

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NOTE: As a CRAFTIVITY option, have students create and expand a sentence on three white construction paper snowballs. Glue the snowballs together and turn the snowballs into a snowman. (Don’t forget the top hat!) Display the class writing projects on a bulletin board or the hallway.

Are you looking for additional ways to reinforce fluency through sentence phrasing?

Scooping Snowballs! 

Use this same Snowballing Sentences activity for FLUENCY practice! Students can practice “scooping” and phrasing each snowball. The add-on expansion represents each new phrase your students should scoop & phrase together.

(Hey! Need additional ideas or want to learn more about phrasing? Check out my previous posts: Fluency Boot Camp or Exercise Your Mind and Fluency!)

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(Download this FREE resource here or by clicking the images above!)

Happy Teaching & Stay Warm! 

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Exercise Your Mind and Fluency!

24 Nov

So you completed the Fluency Boot Camp… now what? 

Fluency is a reading skill that requires maintenance and practice, especially for students who struggle with fluency.  After explicitly modeling and teaching the components of oral reading fluency, be sure to schedule time for practice and reinforcement throughout the school year.

Fluency Reinforcement Activities

It is important for students to practice their fluency skills on a regular basis! Reinforce the components of fluency through weekly/monthly activities, or “Daily Fluency” activities.

Some activities I recommend are: 

  • Weekly Poetry (model/echo/choral read)
  • Readers Theater
  • Fluency Passages (charting wpm progress each week)
  • Fluency Speed Drills (using lists of words, phrases, or sentences)
  • Phrase-Cued Passages (or passages where students mark their OWN phrases using scoop lines or phrase marks)

NOTE: Resources for all these activities can be found on my Fluency Boot Camp blog post. Even though I use the activities during the 1-Week Boot Camp, many of the activities can be modified, repeated, and revisited throughout the year.


My newest favorite resource I’ve found are these printable Dolch Sight Word Sentences by School Sparks. Each week I introduce a new sentence list (levels go from Pre-Primer to 3rd Grade) and I have my students draw in the scoop lines. They then read them each day, following the scoops with their fingers, to build up their automatic phrasing and reading rate. These are also great for developing automaticity with sight words! (If you like those, you’ll also like the Noun sentences that are available for printing if you scroll toward the bottom.)

Exercise Your Mind & Fluency

Perhaps you want to do more than integrate poetry or readers theater into your ELA block once a month, or perhaps you’re looking for a daily practice for some of your students beyond sporadic speed drills? Use this poster below to remind students that just like physical exercise, DAILY mental exercise is JUST as important.

This past month, I started something new with my students called “Daily Fluency.”  This is a follow-up to my Fluency Boot Camp, and every day the students complete a “Daily Fluency” Activity sheet that incorporates reading pace, phrasing, expression, attention punctuation, and a “Fast Finisher” extra! These activities take about 5 minutes total to complete and act as great “warm-ups” for getting my group started. At the beginning of each month, I model (or re-model) each task, including the “Fast Finisher” extras. We usually complete one sheet together, especially in the first few months! The students have a menu in their folders as a reminder of the activity expectations:

Students complete these activities using whisper phones or with partners. The goal is for them to be able to complete them independently, but the first few days I’m always around to offer coaching or support. The students pick up on the tasks quickly and soon you’ll hear them practicing fluency on their own!

I try to incorporate comprehensive “Daily Fluency” activities consistently with my fluency groups every day, but sometimes I’ll supplement with other warm-up activities before we get started with our planned RtI interventions. I use a lot of poetry, speed drills, and readers theater, so sometimes I’ll let them practice those as a warm-up. On those days though, I’ll send the “Daily Fluency” sheet home with the students in their fluency take-home bags.

As far as resource management goes, my RtI students who do “Daily Fluency” each have their own “Daily Fluency” Folders to collect all their daily activity pages, goal sheets, reflections, and rubrics. They have a separate folder for fluency passages and other Fluency Boot Camp activities we revisit throughout the year.

Remember… you should only use these AFTER your students are 100% familiar with the four major components of fluency… after modeling each explicitly AND practicing them together in depth.

Download a Sample!

If you’re interested in incorporating “Daily Fluency” into your classroom, check out the sample shared below. An activity menu is included, as well as a printable folder label and two activity pages (one from each month).

NOTE: This sample is appropriate for students in grades 1 and 2, though I use it with my struggling 3rd graders as well. (Depending on your student population, you could use it for your high-flyer Kindergarteners, too!)

(Download your FREE 4 page sample by clicking here or the image below!)

Check out the COMPLETE Daily Fluency Activity Pack for the months of November & December. Packets for each month will be available soon! 

Check out the COMPLETE Upper-Elementary Daily Fluency Activity Pack for the months of January & February. Packets for each month at this level will be available soon, too! 


Black Friday & Cyber Monday Sales

I’m offering 20% off at my Teachers Pay Teachers store Monday 11/26 & Tuesday 11/27, in addition to the 10% off from TpT! (Use Promo Code CMT12)

I’m offering 25% off at my Teachers Notebook store Saturday 11/24 – Monday 11/26, in addition to the 10% off from TN! (The discount will be applied automatically – no coupon code needed!)

Happy Teaching

S.T.O.R.Y. Extensions!

17 Nov

Earlier this month, I blogged about a mnemonic I use with my 2nd and 3rd graders for teaching story elements. This mnemonic is part of a larger strategy called “Picture It!,” developed by Victoria Naughton (2008). Each letter of S.T.O.R.Y. represents a story element, and students can use the graphic mnemonic for identifying and visualizing the common features of fiction texts. Learn more about this great strategy here!

S.T.O.R.Y. Poem

Many people make up a silly stories or poems to increase retention. I am one of those people. 🙂 According to Brain Training 101‘s article How to Improve Your Memory, “A mnemonic device, such as a poem or a song, can help you retain complex information that normally would be difficult for you to remember.” I use strategy poems and text structure poems a lot with my students to improve their long-term memory, especially for strategies or skills that involve steps or a sequence. I love, love, LOVE Naughton’s acronym of S.T.O.R.Y., so to help my students remember it, I created a poem for S.T.O.R.Y. to help students remember the five story elements.

S.T.O.R.Y. Extensions


In addition to using S.T.O.R.Y. to identify story elements, I also use this great mnemonic for retelling. In the beginning, students can use their individual graphic organizers to guide their story retell, but then I model using just the letters in S.T.O.R.Y. to guide my retell.

The students created prompt cards (using pink index cards) to keep in their take-home reading bags and use with their independent fiction books they take home. The letter representations are listed on the backs, but I encourage them to peek only if completely necessary!

For my kinesthetic learners, I sometimes have them visualize the letters of S.T.O.R.Y. on each of their fingers to guide their retelling of the story, similar to 5 finger retelling but using the S.T.O.R.Y. acronym.

I created this card-stock 5-finger prompt (below) for students to use as a guide, along with the poster (above) that’s in their folders!

NOTE: If you teach younger students, Kindergarten or 1st Grade, you may want to consider putting letter stickers on each of their fingers at first, until they can picture the imaginary letters on their fingers. I use the same glitter stickers that are shown below on the students’ actual fingers!

Text Coding

Once students are independent with using S.T.O.R.Y., I show them how they can use the visual representations of the letters to “code” or mark where story element clues are listed in texts. This is similar to thinking tracks for comprehension, but students record the letters S.T.O.R.Y. instead of comprehension codes. For printable books (like Reading A-Z books), students can record the codes right in the margins of the text. For actual book they can’t right on, students can use sticky notes with the graphic symbols of S.T.O.R.Y. (one letter per sticky note) to mark places it in a book where the story element clues are listed.

Below is a coding example using a Reading A-Z book! Students underline the clues and evidence for each story element in the printable book and use stickies to mark the pages they found clues. Sometimes I’ll have my students just write the S.T.O.R.Y. letters in the margins, but stickies allow them to find the places more easily, acting as markers for each page when the book is closed.

Text Coding helps students with constructing story summaries. Students can follow their S.T.O.R.Y. markers to record all the elements in their summaries. You may even want to consider connecting S.T.O.R.Y. with teaching students how to write book reports, even student book reviews (leaving out the R and the Y of course!).

Connection to Reading Hats

Sometimes, I like to teach S.T.O.R.Y. with my Reading Hats unit, and have the students pretend they are all Reading Chefs who need to gather and mix together the ingredients of a fiction story. Identifying and “mixing up” all the “ingredients” of a story (story elements) helps them comprehend and cook-up a wonderful story. I then love to show all my talented Reading Chefs how they can use their OWN ingredients to write stories of their own! This is a wonderful opportunity to connect their reading and writing skills!

Supplemental Materials

Interested in downloading the poem and retelling poster?

(Click here or on the image below!)

Happy Teaching!

Article Resource: 

Naughton, Victoria M., (2008). The Reading Teacher, 62 (1) pp. 65-68

Want to purchase and read the “Picture It!” article?

If you are interested in reading the research behind the “Picture It!” strategy or want to learn more, the article is available in a few locations.

  • Find it on ERIC here
  • Preview/Purchase it on JSTOR here
  • Purchase the article through the International Reading Association‘s publication’s website (or become a member to access it for free!)

Introducing Fiction Text Structure with S.T.O.R.Y!

7 Nov

Introducing Fiction Text Structure with S.T.O.R.Y (MsJordanReads).

A few years ago, I was looking for a fun and engaging way to teach Fiction Text Structure to my struggling readers, when I came across Victoria Naughton’s strategy, “Picture It!” (2008), in my copy of The Reading Teacher. Naughton was recognized for her hard work in research and publication with the Shaw Fund for Literacy 2009 award by National Louis University (NLU). Although she recommends it for all grade-levels (even high school), I use it with my 2nd and 3rd grade RtI groups.

Essentially, this strategy “uses pictures and other visual elements to enhance comprehension” (Naughton, 2008). Each letter of S.T.O.R.Y. represents an important story element of fiction texts, graphically and mnemonically. Students use this visual story map to support their understanding of a fiction story, picturing the different story elements and sketching them on paper.

S – Setting

T – Talking Characters

O – Oops! A Problem!

R – Attempts to Resolve the Problem

Y – Yes, the Problem is Solved!

(Above is a sample bookmark one of my students made using the schematic representations that Victoria Naughton recommended in her article! See a preview of her suggested sketches here!)

Strategy for Classroom Use

Students are different in their learning styles – some are visual learners, while others are auditory or kinesthetic learners. Since I try to address various learning styles within my intervention groups on a daily basis, I figured this strategy would be perfect for teaching story elements! The mnemonic device is helpful for students who have difficulty remembering the five story elements, and the “picture it” step is perfect for those who need a visual image to support their comprehension of each element.

Introducing S.T.O.R.Y.

I always use the I Do It! – We Do It! – You Do It! teaching model when introducing new decoding or comprehension strategies to students. Struggling readers benefit from the explicit, scaffolded instruction that’s part of this model. During the “You Do It!” stage, I make observations and take anecdotal notes for pieces of the strategy that I may need to reteach. Students try this strategy with their own leveled books and use the teacher and shared models of the graphic organizers as a reference throughout the independent practice.

Teacher Modeling –  “I Do It!”

Last week, to introduce S.T.O.R.Y., I chose the simple and popular I Can Read! series book, Marley and the Runaway Pumpkin. After teaching the visual mnemonic device to my students the day before, we reviewed the different “ingredients” that make up a fiction story. The students then followed along in their copies of the book, actively listening for story “ingredients,” as I read the story aloud all the way through. With a think-aloud, I read the story a second time and modeled  my thinking process as I identified and recorded the story elements from the text.

To bring in the visual element of the “Picture It!” strategy (Naughton, 2008), I then modeled how to draw a quick sketch to go along with each of the story elements. I modeled this visualization sketching process for Marley and the Runaway Pumpkin using information from the story element chart (pictured above). I showed the students how I closed my eyes and tried to picture the setting and “talking characters.” I visualized the problem, resolution, and solution and talked them through my internal thinking process. My visualizations were then recorded using quick sketches on a blank graphic organizer.

(Sample image of my blank student graphic organizers!)

NOTE: For the graphic organizers, I always have the students add the visual component to the letters (S.T.O.R.Y.) on the left column so they can make the graphic connection between the letter and what it represents (i.e., setting, characters, problem, resolution, solution).

The students LOVE this strategy and truly benefit from the mnemonic of S.T.O.R.Y. to help them remember the different story elements. Since learning this strategy, we have used this acronym in so many other ways!

S.T.O.R.Y. Extensions!

Check out my follow-up post called “S.T.O.R.Y. Extensions!” where I share additional ideas for using Naughton’s acronym S.T.O.R.Y. with your students. Some examples include text coding, retelling, and a connection to my Reading Hats unit! Feel free to subscribe to my blog using the button on the navigation menu (to the right) so that my posts can be delivered right to your email!

Article Resource: 

Naughton, Victoria M., (2008). The Reading Teacher, 62 (1) pp. 65-68

Want to read the “Picture It!” article?

If you are interested in reading the research behind the “Picture It!” strategy or want to learn more, the article is available in a few locations.

  • Find it on ERIC here
  • Preview/Purchase it on JSTOR here
  • Purchase the article through the International Reading Association‘s publication’s website (or become a member to access The Reading Teacher archived articles it for free!)

Happy Teaching! 

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Have a Spooky Halloween!

31 Oct

Happy Halloween!

After having the day off from school yesterday because of Hurricane Sandy (a.k.a. Frankenstorm), my students are energized (maybe a little too much!) and 100% ready to celebrate Halloween. Since they were jipped of an extra celebration day, I am changing my plans to include Halloween FUN for the rest of the week! (Why not?)

For those of you in school today and not home picking up storm debris, enjoy this free Fill-in-a-Story Halloween writing activity I used with my RtI students to practice sentence structure and parts of speech!

Download your FREE Fill-in-a-Story Template here!

Your students will love filling in the blanks with the words from their word lists to create silly or spooky stories. For parts of speech practice and to make the story more of a surprise, have the students fill in the word lists BEFORE even previewing the story! If you want to make this activity more of a cloze activity, skip over the word list page and have them write directly on the story page.

If you want the students’ stories to be more Halloween-focused, consider brainstorming Halloween words ahead of time using an ABC Graphic Organizer or on chart paper. If your students are unfamiliar with these kinds of stories, you may need to model the whole fill-in-the-blank story process… especially for younger students! Teach them by creating one story together before letting them work in partners or work independently.

If you have time for students to share their stories, with the whole class or in partner pairs, use this activity as a chance for students to practice oral reading fluency. Spooky stories are great for adding extra expression to our voices! I modeled what their voices should sound like  using a fill-in-the-blank story I created while they were working so hard on theirs.

Be prepared though, the stories could be very silly and the students may not be able to read them because they are giggling so much. Not that I would know from experience.. 🙂

Happy Teaching!

What did YOU do for Halloween today?

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