Saturday, September 17, 2016

Basic Reading Assessments {Free and Editable}

Over the summer, I redesigned my reading inventories that I use for pinpointing reading difficulties and tracking progress throughout the year. I am happy to share them with you. They will be fully editable by you. That way you can tailor them to your specific intervention program or requirements. WARNING: Don't worry if the file looks all "wonky" in Dropbox. It will look correct when you open the file in PowerPoint.

If you missed my math post, you can read it {HERE}.

These assessments will cover the main areas where kids encounter reading difficulties: phonological awareness, phonics, sight word knowledge, and fluency. I keep track of all of this data on a cover sheet that you can grab and edit {HERE}.
First, I give a phonological awareness inventory. This one is a blend of several that I have used over the years. It has been an invaluable tool to me. I have never had a child score low on this inventory who didn't have significant issues with phonological awareness. Each word/question equals one point out of 50. You can download your own copy {HERE}.

Next, we do a quick sight word inventory. The student receives a flip book of sight words so that they are not overwhelmed by too many words at one time. I used the Dolch list, but you can edit this to use Fry's list. List 1 = preprimer, List 2 = primer, etc. I don't use a score sheet. I just keep count of errors with my fingers. When I reach five, we stop at the end of that page. If they make no errors, I record the date of mastery on their cover sheet. You can get your editable copy of the flip book {HERE}. After you download/edit, just print, cut, and bind them.
Then, I give a phonics inventory. It starts off with letter identification and goes all the way to multisyllabic words. Each section has its own page in the flip book so you can stop whenever the student has reached a point of frustration or excessive errors. During our first session, I try to do letter id through real long vowel words. The flip book pages look like the one below. It always amazes me how you can separate the sight readers from the kids who can truly decode by comparing their ability to read real v. nonsense words with the same sound patterns. You can download the student book {HERE}.
As the child reads each page, I either mark out correct responses or circle incorrect responses. They are less anxious when they hear you making a mark for everything they read. I use this inventory to pinpoint specific phonics deficits. Then, I use it to pre/post assess each skill as I teach it. You can download/edit the 3 page score sheet {HERE}
Lastly, we do a one minute fluency read using a passage from DIBELS. You can get the student text and the assessor's sheet for free {HERE}

Many thanks to Kimberly Geswein and A Perfect Blend for their amazing fonts! 

I hope that these will be helpful to you! If you have any questions, please feel free to email me or comment below. :)

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Basic Math Assessment {Free & Editable}

Over the summer, I designed a quick math assessment to use for both baseline data and progress monitoring of my Title I math students. I needed it to have a few key components.
1. I needed it to involve NO reading.
2. I needed it to give me a quick picture of strengths and weaknesses with BASIC math skills.
3. I needed it to align to 2nd grade standards and our curriculum.
4. I needed it to be quick and also portable.
5. I needed it to grow in complexity throughout the year.

I came up with a spiral bound flip book and some recording sheets that met all of my needs. I hope that you will find these to be user friendly. If you need to tweak a few things, I am also making these editable with PowerPoint.

I printed, laminated, cut, and bound all of the student pages to make a flip book. It has been my experience that students are far less anxious about testing when they can hold something in their hands.
For tasks A - L, students should (at a MINIMUM)  be able to do the red tasks. If they could, I went on to the blue. If they did the blue correctly, we attempted the green ones.
Here's a brief picture walk through each task in the flip book.

Task A: red: count from 1 to 20, blue: count from 84 to 112, green: count from 285 to 310.
Task B: Tell how many hundreds, tens, and ones make each number.
Task C: red: count by fives, blue: count by tens, green: count by tens using 3 digit numbers
Task D: Each set involves: reading the number, telling h/t/o, and expanded form.
Task E: For each number, tell one more/one less, ten more/ten less
Task F: Basic addition facts
Task G: Two digit addition (with one regrouping problem)
Task H: Three digit addition (with regrouping one time)
Task I: Basic subtraction facts
Task J: Two digit subtraction with no regrouping
Task K: Three digit subtraction (with regrouping one time)
Task L: Odd/Even (MUST explain their reasoning)
Task M: time to the hour, half hour, and five minutes
Task N: counting coins (dimes/pennies, larger total, total over $1)
Task O: Counting bills and coins
Task P: Students will interpret the graph to answer 4 questions.
Task Q: Name fractions (1/2, 1/3, 1/4)
Task R: Name each plane shape.
I used the following forms to record student responses. I keep my paper hidden from the students so that they cannot see what I am writing. I give checks for correct responses and write down what they said for incorrect responses. They seem to be less nervous when you make marks for every response. Recording their incorrect responses gives me powerful data about their errors, too. Here's a quick demo student packet.

Let's take a quick peek at the data on "Amy Smith".
 Page 1: Amy's overall score was 18. I set the bar at 27 in the fall. So, she would definitely benefit from math interventions. She had difficulty with rote counting over 109.
 Page 2: Amy needs help with expanded form and 10 more/10 less than a given number.
 Page 3: Note the F and N I wrote in on the addition section. Amy relied on either her fingers or a number line on the wall to solve these problems. She needs help with automaticity. She clearly needs help with subtraction. She added. Then, she added incorrectly. Then, she saw no change at all.
 Page 4: Odd/Even: Amy probably guessed even. She couldn't give a rationale for her answer. She inverted the hour and minute hands on time to the hour. She couldn't count dimes and pennies.
Page 5: Amy has some basic data analysis skills. She is on the verge of combining two items, but really struggled with finding a difference. Fractions were a foreign concept. She needs a little brush up work on her plane shapes.
Lastly, I added a "notes" section where I can record anything that I need to remember to mention to her teacher or bring up in our next RTI meeting.

Benchmarks: As I said earlier, I expect a minimum score of 27 in the fall. I increase it to 50 in the winter. I expect the full 70 points in the spring.

If you think that this editable flip book and scoring sheets would be helpful to you, please download the student flip book {HERE} and grab the teacher's scoring sheets {HERE}. Don't worry if the files look "WONKY" in Dropbox. They should look perfect when you open them in PowerPoint. :)

I have also fully revamped by reading assessments. I hope to share those later this week. If I can answer any questions you have, please comment below or email me. Thanks!!

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Weekly Editing and Grammar Practice

So, my grade level was having a discussion during our weekly meeting about our 2nd graders' writing. We all seemed to have the same significant concern.
**While we love our daily grammar/editing practice unit and we agreed that the students needed to practice individual sentences, they were not transferring their knowledge into their own writing and editing. They could tell you that a sentence needed a period at the end, but they failed to notice that same need if there was more than one sentence running together. They could find a noun in one short sentence, but again they couldn't find 3 nouns in a short passage. **
So, they asked me to come up a quick once a week opportunity for their students to have text-based grammar and editing practice. They wanted to have a more in-depth supplement to their morning work routine. So, I created a Common Core standards-based editing and grammar program for us to try. 
**The product includes 36 weekly passages with various genres.
**I intentionally left out directions on how the corrections should be made. I know that each teacher has their own requirements. You could require traditional editing marks, or have students just make the corrections with colored pencil. 
**The first nine weeks are spent reviewing the first grade standards. Then, the 2nd grade standards are introduced in nine week sections.
**No spelling errors were included. I didn't want to affect the text's readability. 

If you would like to see a scope and sequence of the standards and get 3 FREE SAMPLE PAGES with answer keys, you may download them {HERE}or on the picture above. You can see the full product on Teachers Pay Teachers by clicking the picture at the top. 

If you have a need like ours, I hope this will be helpful to you in the coming school year! 

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Ideas for Making Your Class Newsletter More Interactive

We've all been there! The big field trip has been on your newsletter for 6 weeks at least, but the day before you are still getting emails, texts, phone calls, and notes about when the field trip is taking place. Even though all of the details are available in the newsletter in their child's folder. It can be frustrating! You are left wondering if anyone even reads the information you painstakingly type, print, copy, and send home every week without fail.

If this has ever happened to you, too, here are a few quick and easy and often free suggestions for increasing family engagement with your newsletter. Hopefully, you will find a trick or two that might work for your classroom.  Nothing is one size fits all!
I am old school. I like to send (and receive) a paper copy of newsletters. I see so many classrooms with far more technology options than are available where I live. Some homes don't even have cell reception or internet access. I think it is good to have options for parents. So, here are a few you might want to consider:
-Send an old school style paper copy.
-Email a .pdf file and request receipts for when it has been read.
-Set up a private blog for your classroom and post it there.
-Post it in a private Facebook group.
-Use to text message families when an updated newsletter has gone home.
-Upload it to
-Send it as an attachment via Class Dojo.
So, what do they do with it once it's in their hands? How can you know if they read it, or at least perused the parts that you NEED them to see?  Here are few ideas for getting a response from families once the newsletter has gone home.
-Add a puzzle, riddle, or math word problem for them to solve as a family, sign, and return to you.
-Add a neat trivia question (possibly related to something you are currently studying). They can research the answer and send you their response.
-Put a conversation starter at the bottom. (As the mother of a boy who always says school was "fine" until I ask him very specific questions, this would come in handy at home.) Some examples could be: Ask your child to tell you about our science lab experiment, our new class pet, today's assembly, our upcoming field trip, etc..
-Ask the families a question about pertinent information contained within the newsletter. (i.e. What time does Field Day begin on Friday?) Maybe you can head off some of those calls/emails/texts at the pass. 
Once they have completed the engagement part, they can submit it for a bribe reward/incentive. You will probably want to switch out your bribes incentives regularly.  If you keep it new and fresh, they will stay more responsive. Sometimes you may want to offer everyone the same prize. Here are a few ideas to help you get started.
-Earn Class Dojo points
-Give out small treats (bubble gum, erasers, suckers, etc.)
-One Night Homework Free passes
-Eat lunch in the classroom
-Extra computer lab time
-Extra recess
-Stuffed Animal Day
-Sit with your friend
-Special snack 
-STEM time
-GoNoodle Dance Party
There are other times when you might want to go for a big individual reward. Anyone who completes the newsletter interaction piece gets their name entered in a drawing for:
-Sit at the teacher's desk all day
-Write with special supplies
-Be the teacher's assistant
-Raffle style drawing for a larger prize: toy, game, school supplies
-Lab assistant during STEM
-First Choice Award: the owner gets first choice during flexible seating, indoor recess, weekly job selection, etc.
**It might be fun to put rewards in envelopes for kids to choose as a surprise.  Throwing in a few zonks could be fun, too.  I have a freebie with picture cards you could print and use {HERE} in my Let's Make a Deal blog post. 

In this struggle, remember that kids are your greatest allies. I have tried every format I knew to reach certain parents with no response. Then, in desperation, I enlisted the child's help. All I had to do was sit with them at lunch or buy them ice cream and those critical forms magically came back! Lesson learned! 

Kids are naturally curious! If you tell them that they won't believe how awesome this week's treat is, they will jump through flaming hoops to find out what it will be. 

During MOST of the year, small incentives will work. However, there are times during the year when families tend to disengage because they are so busy. For me, even my most engaged parents got overwhelmed at the beginning of fall and spring sports season, the winter holiday season, and the end of the year. You may want to "up the ante" with some larger scale incentives during these periods of time. 

Then, there's the elephant in the room. What about those precious ones who are NEVER going to get someone to interact with their newsletter? Here are few suggestions for dealing with those in challenging situations. 

-I am required to submit my newsletter to someone in administration as a part of the communication part of my evaluation. Why not have a "specially selected" messenger or team of messengers? They can share the newsletter and complete the engagement piece with a great role model. Double win! 
-Assign a child to a co-worker, parent volunteer, or school mentor.
-Give select children full credit for completing items that were on the newsletter even if they are taking the responsibility on their own little shoulders: homework done for the week (check), permission slip returned (check), wore class t-shirt to school program (check). NEVER exclude a child from participation in incentives because of circumstances out of their control! Give them credit for stepping up and doing the things within their control. 

I hope some of these ideas are useful to you! If you would like to print these out to keep handy or share with a friend. You can download a printable copy {HERE}

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Fun with Place Value

Place Value comes in at a close second to subtraction with regrouping on the concepts that are the most difficult to teach to my RTI population. Often, these sweeties need a more concrete/visual/kinesthetic approach to math. So, here are a few of our favorite activities from our place value unit. I hope you find something useful for your classroom!

1. I really needed to make the value of the numbers more visual. Of course, we started out with base ten blocks and the usual stuff, but I wanted a way for them to really "see" and understand numbers in their expanded form. Before we started this, the students were reading numbers like 873 as 8-7-3 NOT eight hundred seventy-three. When they wrote that number in expanded form, they may have written 8+7+3 = 873. So, I whipped up these expanded form cards. We spent a lot of time building and deconstructing numbers. I just printed out this set on 3 different colors of copy paper. This made a HUGE difference with my students. You can grab this set for free {HERE}

2. Once we were rockin' and rollin' with reading numbers, understanding basic place value, and modeling numbers in different ways, we did some REAL rockin' and rollin'. We played Place Value Musical Chairs. Each student picked a numeral. We started out with 4 kids and 3 chairs. We cranked up some Christmas music and the game began. When I cut the music off, they had to sit in an empty chair representing the hundreds, tens, and ones of a number and hold up their digit card. The kid who was "out" got to choose if they wanted to ask or answer questions about the number that the other students had created. If they chose to ask, they had to come up with questions to ask the rest of the class about number. If they chose to answer, the group posed questions to them about the number. It was a BIG success! Everyone was involved and engaged! 

3. Once we had a handle on Place Value Musical Chairs, we expanded the game to include 7 kids. When the music ended, 6 kids would create two 3 digit numbers. The kid who was "out" had to compare the numbers and use his/her body to create the >, <, or = symbols. 

4. Last, we played Roll and Compare Place Value by The Primary Techie. The game uses a sound signal for students to roll a die. We used some giant foam dice. Then, the spinner lands on a place to record the number they rolled. They build two 3 digit numbers. Finally, they compare the numbers they have created. This is a great assessment and WAY more fun than a plain worksheet! You can find it on TPT {HERE}

These are just a few of my favorite things that are VERY inexpensive or even FREE for teaching place value. I hope you found something useful! 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Number Reversals

Oh my goodness, if I had a nickel for every time a parent has said to me, "He/she still writes some letters and numbers backwards. Does he/she have dyslexia?", I could apply for early retirement! Written letter and number reversals have absolutely nothing to do with dyslexia! So, why do some kids persist in making these reversals?

1. It could be a fine motor skill issue.
2. It could be immaturity or even a later birthday. These skills are often developmental.
3. My personal theory is that practice does not make perfect. Practice can make permanent. Children are learning to write at a very early stage of development now. Handwriting instruction has been terribly neglected since other skills have taken priority over it. Some children have written their letters/numbers backwards for so long that it has become a habit to do so. 

So, what can we do? As an RTI teacher, I see a lot of students with issues like this. My assistant and I have had a great deal of success with a few simple strategies. 

Try placing salt in the bottom of an empty pencil box or travel soap container. Let them form the letter/number with their fingertip in the salt.
Let them rub a fingertip across fine sandpaper.
Write it in the air. Use your finger as an "air pencil".
Shine it on the wall with laser finger pointers.
Line the kids up. Let them form the letter/number on the back of the kiddo in front of them.
Tickle write it! (My kids LOVE this one!) They use their own finger to form the letter/number on the wrist/forearm area of their other arm.

I implemented a new resource this year, and absolutely LOVE it! We used this resource on my SMARTboard during our reading warm up time before small groups begin. I purchased this animated PowerPoint from The Primary Techie. Here is a video of her explaining several cool ways to use this program. You can purchase your own copy of this product {HERE}

We noticed that many students who were struggling with b/d and number reversals were writing in a way that had multiple pencil lifts. For example, rather than making a b with one continuous motion, they were writing a "stick" and then adding a "ball". They often forgot the order of those elements. We showed them how to flow write a b and a d. The motion feels completely different. MOST of their errors DISAPPEARED! 
Now, that we have addressed their letter reversal issues, we are about to tackle number reversals. I searched high and low on the Teachers Pay Teachers site for number formation products. I found so many that were cute or had great poems. However, if the poem for teaching how to write a 3 says, "Go around the tree and go around again to make a 3!", they can follow those steps and still do it backwards! I needed something that specifically taught directionality. 

Then, I remembered that when I taught first grade nearly 20 years ago, we sang a song about each number. The song didn't teach directionality though, so I tweaked it meet my needs. Each number has specific directions sung to the tune of "HERE WE GO ROUND THE MULBERRY BUSH". We are going to project the pdf onto my SMARTboard and use our tactile strategies from there. We will also use laser pointers, our fingertips, or the SMARTboard pens to trace and write our numbers as tickets to our small group tables. Here is a sample page from this free resource. 

If you would like to check out this free strategy, grab your copy {HERE}. What strategies work for you? I would love to hear from you!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Officer Buckle and Gloria: Freebie and More

Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathmann is one of my favorite stories. I identify with boring, rule loving Officer Buckle. I also have a soft spot in my heart for German Shepherds. When my husband was just a toddler, his life was saved by a German Shepherd named Champ. His family was visiting family at a lake house. He wandered out of the house while they were busy preparing lunch. They began searching for him everywhere. Then, they heard his little voice saying, "Move, Champ, move!" Champ was blocking him from getting into the lake and pushing him back towards the house. That precious dog refused to get out of his way!

I have a new book study for this classic story in my TPT store. You can check it out {HERE}.
If you have never heard the story of boring Officer Buckle and his charismatic dog, Gloria, you may enjoy this video narrated by the John Lithgow. 

Last, but not least, here is freebie from my book study. I hope this character analysis map will be useful to you. Grab yours {HERE}.