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!



Mastery Teaching! Start Where Your Students Are

If we want our students to succeed, we cannot afford to leave to chance what happens when they do not learn.

How to Support Struggling Students (Jackson & Lambert, 2010)

As a continuation of my post on The Seven Principles of Mastery Teaching, we will look more closely at the first principle, start where your students are.


When determining the competencies students bring with them to the classroom, we usually tend to focus on academic performance.  Beyond that, we also may explore their background and culture.  Although this information is valuable and necessary, there are some other noncognitive characteristics that can provide insight into student potential and possible success.

In the book, Beyond the Big Test by William Sedlacek (2004), eight attributes are defined as predictors of future success that may not be typically looked at when determining where students are.

1.  Positive self-concept: leads to the determination to succeed

2.  Realistic self-apprasial: accurate assessment of strengths and weaknesses

3.  Successful navigation of the system: accessing resources to achieve goals

4.  Preference for long-term goals:  setting and achieving goals and persevering in spite of obstacles

5.  Availability of a strong support person:  particularly in times of crisis

6.  Leadership experience:  ability to organize and influence others

7.  Community Involvement:  any type of a community (group)

8.  Knowledge acquired about a field:  a particular field of study (or subject)

Some of these competencies are more relevant as students progress through grade levels, but do allow us to notice, value, and build upon  characteristics that usually go unrecognized.   More importantly, being aware of these strengths and informing students of them can offer an open door to challenge students in areas in addition to academic performance.  For students who struggle academically, here are areas where they may be able to succeed, and that feeling of success and achievement could positively impact their academic performance in the long run!

Want to read more?  Here is Sedlacek’s book!


Food for thought,


Using Fountas & Pinnell’s Leveled Literacy Intervention!

Another school year is well underway, and I have to share how excited I am about the LLI program we are using this year!

imagesClick this pic to get product information!

After 3 years of implementing RTI, this is the first year we have used a packaged program.  So how’s it going?  The short answer is GRRRRRREEAT!  Yes, that’s right…Tony the Tiger great!!

Let me just say, my First grade group started in early October on Level B (middle of Kdg level).  This past week, they have just moved into D (end of Kdg/ beginning of Gr. 1 level)!!  Our goal is to have them to F before leaving for Winter Break.  And based on the progress thus far, I have no doubt that it is possible!  We will have moved them about 1 full grade level, and they will be considered as Meeting Expectations for Grade 1.  AMAZING!

We are providing the 30 minutedaily lessons in addition to the teachers’ guided reading lessons in the classroom.   The students are being pulled-out in groups of 3.   We are constantly assessing since every other day the lessons call for a Running Record to be done for one of the students in the group.  This way, we are constantly ensuring their stability in the level.

So can a classroom teacher use the program?  Of course!  Just remember that the lessons need to be done daily and should not replace your guided reading.  This program provides an extra dose of reading, writing and phonics/word work instruction.  So if you can figure a way to get the 30 minutes in, I say go for it!

I will keep you posted on how things going throughout the year!

J.GreenSystemComponentShot         EfficacyGraphs

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



RTI Must Haves!!

Response to Intervention is more than a program…it’s a way of teaching and learning that puts the focus on the student.   Some elements that are non-negotiable to breaking down barriers and ensuring free flowing instruction within the 3 tiers.  (What are the 3 tiers?  Check out my RTI Basics button to get an explanation!)

I attended a training with the esteemed RTI author Mary Howard and learned a TON!  Her non-negotiables were discussed there and in her book, RTI From All Sides: What Every Teacher Needs to Know.    Let’s add that to the Book Club!   She used the acronym LEARN to explain these must haves.

L   Link:  Support between the tiers should be interrelated with the other tiers.  Remember, Tier 1 instruction is ALL day, not just during the Literacy Block.

E   Engage:  Make students active participants in their learning.  Remember the phase: What I hear I forget, what I see I remember, what I DO I UNDERSTAND!

A   Accelerate:  Learning must be intensified…not slowed down…in order to make faster progress.  There should not be 1 wasted second in a day!  Losing just 10 minutes a day by the end of the year adds up to 2 full literacy blocks wasted!  Teach by the clock!!

R   Reinforce:  Make fewer holes- deeper!  Practice and applications of new learning must happen all day long.  Repeated exposures in multiple contexts with reading, writing, speaking, listening and viewing are mandatory.

N   Negotiate:    Adjust instruction in the tiers to fit your daily structure.  Being flexible and fluid will make your days less stressful.  

Want to learn more from Mary Howard?  Check out her books!

bookcover_rti bookcover_rti3 bookcover_GtoG


Intervention BEFORE Instruction? Well yes!! Of course!!!

Sound crazy??  Maybe…but don’t knock it until you try it!!untitled22

Think about it….most of the time, your whole group instruction is usually your chance to expose students to grade level standards, strategies, or skills.  When you have students who are below grade level, this exposure… although necessary… will pretty much go right over their heads.  This in turn will require you to reteach the skill in small group.  But meanwhile your whole group will probably include checks for understanding and guided practice…of which your struggling students would not be able to contribute…which effects their confidence…which effects their motivation…which perpetuates their struggle.

What if you used some of your small group lessons to expose your struggling students to upcoming standards, skills, and strategies.  You would be building their background in that area- so to speak- which will cause a shift in their position when you introduce it to the class.  They will be prepared to contribute during checks for understanding and guided practice with their peers.  Imagine their motivation when they have the secret keys before their classmates!!

Motivation is a huge factor for accelerating learning…so try a little pre-instruction intervention…you may find it to be an effective way to bridge the gaps of struggling learners!!


6 Ways to Ensure Quality Literacy Instruction

One of the main requirements of RTI is effective core instruction.  Think about it, if students are not getting effective Tier 1 instruction   more students may qualify for Tier 2 than really need it!   So how do you ensure your reading  instruction is quality?

Richard Allington is an extensive researcher and RTI guru.  In his article, What I’ve learned about Effective Reading Instruction from a Decade of Studying Exemplary Elementary Classroom Teachers  (2002, Phi Delta Kappan), Allington discusses the results of hundreds of classroom observations and interviews with teachers and students.  From this he found common features of  what exemplary literacy instruction looks like.  He summarizes his findings in what he calls  the 6 T’s of Effective Literacy Instruction.Book-Suggestions-from-GoneReading

They are…

  • TIME:  For at least half of the school day, students are actually reading and writing- a 50/50 ratio to other activities.
  • TEXTS:  Students needs a rich supply of books on their independent reading level, citing the motivation for reading was dramatically influenced by reading success.
  • TEACHING:  Active instruction…modeling and demonstration.
  • TALK:  Student  questioning/talk that is purposeful and problem-solving between teacher and students and among students.
  • TASKS:  More substantive and challenging project-based tasks that provide student choice.
  • TESTING:  Student work based more on effort and improvement than simply achievement.  Also, no test preparation!

Want to read the full article?  Click here What I’ve Learned About Effective Reading Instruction




RTI requires meeting students’ needs…so how do I find out what they need??

Well the easy answer to finding out what students need is…assessment.   The next question is what assessment?  Most schools have some type of diagnostic assessments for Literacy and Math.  If you have DIBELS, DRA2, or Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment…you probably have no problem grouping your students for small group instruction.  Most Math programs also come with pre tests or benchmark assessents to assist you with intervening.  You may need to dig a little deeper in the test results to create targeted groups for intervention…which by the way should be no more than 5 students in each group.  Ideally, the smaller the better…just don’t create your groups based on even numbers…it MUST be targeted for specific needs in order to be effective!

Here are some free assessments you can use in addition to what you have…or in case your have none.

  • DIBELS: Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) are a set of assessments used for universal screening and progress monitoring in grades K-6. They are standardized, efficient and extensively researched.   These assesments are available for FREE- all you have to do is register!  Follow this link to find them
  • Intervention Central is a comprehensive website for everything RTI!  The assessments they have available are extensive and include Literacy and Math.  Click this link to see them
  • The Helping Early Literacy with Practice Strategies (HELPS) Programs integrate easy-to-use instructional strategies that are specifically designed to improve students’ reading fluency.  Fluency is the prerequisite for comprehension.  The more fluent the reader, the better the comprehension will be.  This program is also FREE with registration and makes available a full manual with instructions, passages, progress monitoring forms, and reward system for download.  Videos are also available as well as a Spanish version of the program!  Click here to get there
  • Phonological Awareness Skills Test (P.A.S.T) is an assessment for primary grades to determine reading needs, or even upper grades to locate gaps in learning. Many students above 3rd grade who are struggling readers may have one missing piece to their “good reader” puzzle.  This test is a great choice to locate and fix those gaps! All you need to administer are some colored chips.   Here is the teacher script past_teacher_script, the student recording form individual-PAST-assessment-form, and the frequently asked questions phonological awareness skills test FAQ.

Have fun and happy assessing!!


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!


Where do interventions fit into my school day?


“When am I supposed to have time to do that??”  Asks every teacher at least a few times each year.  Instructional time is sacred and every minute counts, especially when you have students who may be below grade level.  Those students need to grow at an accelerated rate, and the only way to do that is to give them more time.  For most teachers who do not have an RTI program in their school, this requires some creative scheduling.

Your Literacy block must run on a whole-part-whole schedule.

One example:

Whole Group lesson

Small groups/learning centers or stations (3 rotations time permitting)

Whole group wrap-up

For teachers who say, “My kids can’t handle centers!”  First let me say YES THEY CAN!  With routines and procedures in place…and plenty of time and patience…students as early as Kindergarten can handle it.  We will get into more detail with this soon!

Another example:

Whole group

Small group/center or station

Whole group (short maybe 3-5 min)

Small group/center or station

Whole group (short maybe 3-5 min)

Small group/center or station

Whole group wrap-up

*This model may be useful when introducing centers or if students become disruptive when switching from center to center.

A third great structure is The Daily Five.  This is a structure that helps students develop independence while reading, writing and working with words daily during the Literacy block.  To learn more about The Daily Five follow this link

With one of these structures in place during the block, you can see that interventions can happen during “small group/center” times.  These can go for 15-25 minutes depending on available time during the block.

For additional time,

  • using a workshop model for Writing would allow time to meet with struggling students to work on phonics skills incorporating writing as a component.
  • During Science and/or Social Studies, using another whole-part-whole structure would give another opportunity to meet with struggling students.  NEEDLESS TO SAY…this should look like another Literacy block with the difference being the content would come from your Science or Social Studies curriculum.  This is critical with the new requirement of the Common Core standards as it relates to Informational text.

Bottom line…time is of the essence and if you find that you need to have a timer to help you stay on track…by all means do it!  It is so easy for us to get involved with a good lesson and lose track of time!

REMEMBER!  Your below level students need MORE TIME.  So you may see your above level students 1-2 times each week, your  on level students 2-3 times each week….but your below level students must be seen DAILY!!  I remember repeating to my students many times that “fair is not always equal”. It also applies in this case, fair is each student getting exactly what they need!

Do you know of any other structures in the day that would allow time for you to meet with your struggling students?  Please share!!

Thx, J.