Guided Reading: Think you’ve seen it all? Check out these FREEBIES!!

LOVE Genia Connell’s post Guided Reading Organization Made Easy!  Check out the pics and video below.  Want to see more?  Find a Universal Lesson Plan template, free binder cover, and book organization materials on her post- click here!

Great idea for collecting student work!  

Maybe take pics once the work is complete to upload and save!

For observing and noting student behaviors…


Click the pic below to get the indicators A -Z for FREE!!!


Do you have materials and ideas you’d like to share?  Leave a note below!



Are your assessments being used to their fullest potential?

Consider how your approach measures up to the Seven Purposes of Assessment!

Take the pulse on your current assessment practices…make sure you are not just assessing student learning…but your teaching practices also!

Here are the Seven Purposes of Assessment as defined by Kellough and Kellough (1999):

  1. To assist student learning
  2. To identify students’ strengths and weaknesses
  3. To assess the effectiveness of an instructional strategy
  4. To assess and improve the effectiveness of curricular programs
  5. To assess and improve teaching effectiveness
  6. To provide data that assists in decision making
  7. To communicate and involve parents

As you can see, only 2 of the purposes above refer to students.  Five of the seven refer to systems of education that support student learning.  To maximize student learning, our testing must result in realsitic  measures of both learning AND teaching.  Unfortunately, we sometimes put too much emphasis on how well our students did, without considering the teaching part in the learning process.

As the saying goes, “When you know better, you do better”.  Now you know better- student assessment should not just be an ending point in learning, rather it should be a starting point in informing future learning for the student and informing future teaching practices for the teacher!image

After all, teaching without learning is just TALK.

Food for thought!


Brain Research + Intervention = SUCCESS!!

I have to admit, I am obsessed right now with learning about brain research and how it can impact student learning in a positive way.  MM900234673Now,  teaching and learning have gone through MANY changes over time and the truth is that there is no perfect way to teach.  What we know about the realities of teaching today, we have to find is right for each student- and that varies of course tremendously.  What I do know is we definitely need to learn more about teaching according to the best way the brain receives and retains information.

After all, ALL students have a brain!!

Brain research done by Trachtenburg ( 1990) asserts using a whole-part-whole approach is the best way to connect the skills you need to teach to literature.  According to him, there should be NO isolation.  Unless students are connecting the skills to actual text, they will be less likely to make the transfer themselves.

So the whole-part-whole process can be used with any skill  for any small group or individual instruction/intervention and looks like this..

Start with a whole text.  Grounding your literacy experiences this way is the foundation of meaningful instruction.  The selected text could meet one of 2 goals.  (1.) It could be a book used previously for another skill that students are rereading for fluency and/or for running record information.  (2.) It could be the text you are using to teach the new skill, and you will have the skill or strategy rise from the book.

Focus on the reading skill you want to teach.  This should be a planned, explicit way of highlighting the specific reading skill the students need to learn.  For example, you may zero in on a phonics skill, text feature, or literary device students need to know.

Return to the text to apply the newly learned skill.  Now, students have the opportunity to immediately apply/practice/identify the newly learned skill in context.  This could be a new text, or a familiar one students have experience with.  The goal is to take everything you teach students about reading back to the text!  After all, that’s where they will need to use it, right?

This whole-part-whole method is ensures reading skills are taught in a meaningful, strategic way that takes into account the best way the brain receives and retains information.



Modification, Accomodation, or Intervention? HELP!!

These terms represent various ways we address the learning needs of our struggling students.  They are especially important when planning for Small Group instruction and Center activities.  It is vital to know the shades of differences between these terms to ensure you are maximizing your instruction without minimizing learning.

Notice the instructional purpose for each method…

ModificationWHAT content is taught

Modifications involve adjusting the content of your lessons in order for struggling students to be successful.  This may include lowering the degree of the challenge by adapting the complexity, length, or amount of learning.  BE CLEAR…this should only be done for students identified as Special Needs, and ONLY according their IEP (Individualized Education Plan).  Struggling students should be expected to accomplish MORE- not LESS- if they are ever going to make up for their deficiencies each year.  So in the case of a Regular Education students this is a NO-NO!!

AccommodationHOW content is taught

Unlike modifications, accommodations do not change or lower the standards or expectations.  An accommodation can be a physical change or other support feature that the student needs to be successful.  This could include  learning breaks for students having a hard time staying on task, frequent repetition, alternating seating, extended time frames, tape recorded lessons, enlarged print, sequential instructions in smaller segments, adjusting the pacing, or oral assessments in place of written ones when appropriate.  For example..if students are asked to write an opinion piece with reasons and examples, you may accommodate by having strugglers write one reason/examples at a time, then bring to you to read over, offer feedback before having them complete the next one.  In this way, the student still has to complete the same assignment as everyone else, but with more support and feedback to increase their success along the way, and in the end.

InterventionTargeted, intensive instructional strategies

As a key feature of RTI, interventions refer to specific actions that are taken as preventative measures or support for strugglers.  Interventions allow teachers to adjust the intensity of instruction by increasing the instructional time and/or decreasing the group size for a more targeted approach.  For example, instead of meeting with a group of 5 or 6 students 3 times a week, the intervention groups should be between 1-4 students- daily.  Preventative interventions involve introducing new concepts to strugglers prior to the class in order to build their background knowledge of the skill and give them a head start in practice, in hopes that when the concept is introduces to the class those students should be more successful.  Interventions ideally include setting short term goals for students and constantly monitoring students’ progress towards meeting those goals.  Interventions like these are at the heart of the RTI Framework.

In a nutshell….

Modifications CHANGE the playing field
Accommodations LEVEL the playing field
Interventions ENHANCE the playing field



What does research say about Literacy centers?

Research is a fundamental part of RTI.   This is a time to put- what you’ve always done- on the back burner and make sure you are providingMH900431608 learning experiences that have been PROVEN to be effective!!

  • Literacy centers are defined as small areas within the classroom where students work alone or in small groups to explore literacy activities while the teacher provides small- group guided reading instruction (Diller, 2003)
  • Literacy centers within a learner-centered environment are also consistent with the work of Piaget (as cited in Deboer, 2002) who believed that children develop meaning through their direct experiences and through conversations with others regarding those experiences.
  •  Deci and Ryan (as cited in Deboer, 2002)  found evidence that children put more effort into their school work when they are intrinsically motivated rather than teacher motivated.
  •  In his book, Teaching with the Brain in Mind (2005), Eric Jensen writes that students learn when teachers provide choices, make learning relevant and keep it engaging,
  •  Ford and Opitz (2005) suggest that the teacher gradually introduce the centers by modeling the activities for the students and giving the students clear, accountable expectations for work produced in each center.
  • Social interaction, found by Johnson and Johnson (1981) to increase productivity and achievement, and the use of more than one language system (reading, writing and discussion) are also important elements of an effective center.
  •  Effective centers require students to transfer meaning and reconstruct it in other contexts such as a center where a student reads a book and then creates a board game based on the plot.   Also, an effective center offers a range of acceptable responses (Cambourne & Labbo, 2001).
  • Ford and Opitz explain that, “routines provide a predictable way for children to engage in learning”. Establishing routines allows for more independent learning to occur. If students understand the routine and their expectations, there will be fewer interruptions and more independent learning (2002).
  • Activities should be open-ended to meet all levels of developmental ability. Sloane (2000) states “open-ended materials are those that children can use in many different ways, and that support learning from initial explorations to mastery levels”
  • Lanning (2002) states, “incorporating content area concepts into guided reading lessons, allows teachers to develop integrated units that provide more opportunities to create meaningful literacy extensions for the rest of the class to complete on their own”
  • Fountas & Pinnell (1996) gave an idea on how to manage literacy centers. Centers must engage class members in meaningful literacy activities. The students must be able to function without teacher assistance, maintaining and managing their own learning.
  • Instruction away from the teacher needs to be as powerful as instruction with the teacher (Ford & Opitz, 2002). The ultimate goal of literacy centers is for children to experience success and view themselves as independent learners.

I love research!!



Deboer, G.E. (2002). Student-centered teaching in a standards-based world: Finding a sensible balance. Science and Education, 11, 405-417.

Deci, E., & Ryan, R. (1987). The support of autonomy and the control of behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 53(6), 1024-1037.
Diller, D. (2003). Literacy work stations; Making centers work. Portland, ME: Stenhouse

Ford, M.P., & Opitz, M.F. (2002). Using centers to engage children during guidedreading time: Intensifying learning experiences away from the teacher. The Reading Teacher. 55, 710- 717.

Jensen, E. (2005). Teaching with the brain in mind. Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development: Alexandria, VA

Johnson, D.W., & Johnson, R.T. (1981). Effects of cooperative and individualistic learning experiences on interethnic interaction. Journal of Educational Psychology, 73, 444- 449

Kersten, J., & Pardo, L. (2007). Finessing and hybridizing: Innovative literacy practices in Reading First classrooms. Reading Teacher. 61, 146-154.

Piaget, J. (1963). Origins of intelligence in children, Norton, New York.

Vygotsky, L.S. (1967/1933). Play and its role in the mental development of the child. Soviet Psychology, 5(3), 6-18.

Are you undermining student motivation??

Please read below!! These are elements based on research observations that undermine student motivation…

  • An emphasis on correct answers rather than learning from mistakes.image
  • Very little praise given to students.
  • Students have little or no choice in learning activities.
  • Everyone does the same work.
  • Modeling is rare or non-existent.
  • Extra schoolwork is given as punishment.
  • Lessons are not connected to each other.
  • Lecturing is done more than leading discussions.
  • Frequent reminders are made concerning upcoming standardized tests.
  • Classroom has little or no accountable talk throughout the day.

Throw ALL these behaviors into the instructional trashcan!!  Motivation is a huge factor in student achievement!

Information adapted from Richard Allington’s What Really Matters In Response to Intervention.


10 Techniques to Intensify Instruction!

  1. ani_hahaMaintain high expectations for all students, but adjust the support to accommodate each student.
  2. Increase your think-alouds that make reading strategies explicit.
  3. Check for understanding every 10-15 minutes by soliciting answers beyond yes or no.
  4. Illustrate key points with specific oral and written examples.
  5. Require students to restate or paraphrase learning.
  6. Engage students in conversations that reinforce and apply learning.
  7. Provide many opportunities to practice/apply new learning in various contexts.
  8. Use prompts/cues initially, gradually withdrawing them to promote independence.
  9. Give students ample wait time for reflection before asking them to respond.
  10. Summarize key concepts at the end of every lesson.

Adapted form RTI From All Sides by Mary Howard



Make the Most of Modeling!

Modeling can be a beneficial part of your instruction-whole group, small group, or one-on-one. So how do you ensure that it is? By SHOWING more that TELLING!

Sounds obvious, but many times modeling turns into simply telling. Don’t make this mistake! Make sure your modeling lesson includes the 6 Ws…and 1 H. 😊

  • What are you demonstrating?  Explain the skill or strategy.
  • Why is it important to know?  Make sure they understand the purpose of the skill or strategy.
  • When would it be used?  Give examples and non-examples, if applicable.
  • Where can students connect this new learning to their prior learning?
  • How to do it?  Demonstrate with examples while thinking aloud.
  • Watch out for common mistakes. Explain or show what to avoid when using the strategy or skill.

Incorporating all of these components into your modeling lessons gives students a complete picture of the strategy or skill you are teaching.  Remember, RTI requires high quality instruction all day long!   Making the most of your modeling lessons is one way to make sure that happens!