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How NOT to Read Fluently

Today, my students spent some of our reading time practicing fluency. Especially at this time of year, I go out of my way to make it fun. (Brain research shows us that "fun" is a big motivator, but I think teachers knew that before the research was done!)

There are 4 important parts to fluency:

  1. automaticity in word recognition 
  2. accurate word recognition
  3. rate (speed) of reading
  4. prosody, or expression
We started today with a demonstration of what NOT to do when reading. I demonstrated reading too fast, not stopping for punctuation, mispronouncing words without going back to fix it, and using a monotone- no expression at all.

There were lots of giggles.

Then I modeled the proper way to read. I read smoothly and accurately. I kept an appropriate pace, and I gave it meaning as I read it.

This time, instead of giggles, I got applause! (I admit, I have my class well trained!)

I thought this activity would be perfect to put into my emergency sub plans. It's got limited materials (just books for kids, which I'm sure you have!) and is a skill that needs to be practiced frequently. This is the type of activity that can be repeated several times during the year. I've typed up the directions for you to download and put into your own emergency plans. Just click the image below.

For more ideas for substitute activities, see THIS POST.

For more information about fluency, see THIS POST.

This blog post tells about an activity that can be repeated numerous times, that the kids love, and that gets them thinking about fluency.

Patricia Polacco's Holiday Books and More Books

I'd forgotten about this book, then I found it in my collection and read it to the kids today.  Patricia Polacco is one of my favorite authors because of the way she brings emotion into her stories.  She uses rich vocabulary and real characters.

The Trees of the Dancing Goats is about a Jewish family living in a rural area of Michigan preparing for Hanukkah, who find out their beloved neighbors have come down with scarlet fever and are unable to prepare for Christmas.  It's a delightful example of a big Act of Kindness and sacrifice for friendship.  It also shares a taste for the traditions of Hanukkah, combined with Christmas family traditions as seen by those who don't celebrate Christmas.

Christmas Tapestry is another example of a story that brings out strong emotions and shares real family traditions, a valuable message, and true meaning of the holidays.

Welcome Comfort is another sweet book with a Christmas theme.  It features a young boy who doesn't quite "fit in", who finds a way to fit in, with a special friendship, and a delightful surprise at the end.  Students have loved this story every year, and I enjoy reading it as much as they enjoy listening.

For the Love of Autumn has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas, but it's my favorite Patricia Polacco book, so I had to mention it.  As all her books, it has warmth, rich vocabulary, and real characters.  (The main character is a teacher, so I couldn't help but love it!) Plus, who couldn't resist the sweet kitten, Autumn?

Singular and Plural, With a Holiday Twist

This is a key Common Core Standard in Language for grades 1- 3:
Singular and Plural, with a holiday twist! Here's a fun game for practicing word work and nouns, with a holiday theme!

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.1:  Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

Here are singular and plural nouns, holiday style! There are several noun pairs, some regular plurals, some irregular plurals, with several activities for the kiddos!

Grab it while you can, and be sure to check out several other holiday items while you're there!  (Many of them are free!)

Hanukkah Game Board Freebie

Looking for a little something to help your kids celebrate Hanukkah. This game can be used in many ways in the classroom!

Hanukkah Game Board Freebie: Want to bring a bit of Hanukkah into your classroom? Download this freebie, which can be used to practice any skill!

Brain research tells us that frequent repetition helps bring information from the short term memory to the long term memory. (Rather than "Practice Makes Perfect", I prefer "Practice Makes Permanent"!)  


I use board games like this to practice sight words, math facts, sentence fluency, task cards, or any skill that needs practicing! The children just roll one die, but before they can move their place marker that many spaces, they have to perform a task. I sometimes have a selection of cards the children can choose from, and sometimes I have a specific skill for them to practice. Here are some ideas for practice cards: Practice Card Bundle, Word Work Bundle, or Reading Celebration Game.

Just click this link to download your Hanukkah Game Board Freebie!


Hanukkah Game Board Freebie: Want to bring a bit of Hanukkah into your classroom? Download this freebie, which can be used to practice any skill!

Illustrating to Build Reading Skills

Illustrating to Build Reading Skills: Visualization is an important skill for reading and illustrating is one of the best ways I know to encourage visualization. This post has several suggestions for connecting reading skills with illustrating.

Illustrating is a great way to build reading skills!

I often have my students do some illustrating when I want to make sure they really "get" a concept.  

It forces them to visualize what they're learning.  
Brain research tells us that visualizing helps the memory and deepens understanding. 
Brain research also tells us that adding an element of fun helps them remember as well... and don't kids love to draw? 

Add some classical music in the background, and the brain is more activated! 
Want to add a little more assurance that the kids are learning?  
Let them talk about what they're drawing and why!

I have several resources I use with my students that get the kiddos illustrating.

Figurative Language can be very tricky for little ones to learn! It takes a lot of conversation before they are ready to illustrate, but it's important that they "get" these confusing phrases. Once the instruction happens, the illustration really helps them to GET it!

There's this Mini-book about Healthy Habits.  
This resource is the result of much research on health and children. It has 10 pages written in child friendly language.

My own students have been working on this one this week, and have come up with some incredible ideas!

I also have a set of homophones for the children to illustrate.  These can be tricky for most kids, but in order to draw the different meanings, they have to deeply understand the different meanings.  

That involves a lot of conversation as well as thinking, but once they've got it, they've GOT it!  

As children are "social animals", they tend to remember not only their own pair of homophones, but the homophones their friends did as well!

I've got another set of word pairs for illustrating as well... these are homographs!  Just like the homophones, these are tricky, but once they've got them, they've GOT them!

Another advantage to these individual sheets that the children illustrate... they make great visual displays for bulletin boards!  I've had many compliments on the work of my students on these!

They also make awesome class books!

Another advantage?  These are great for the sub tub!  Just run off the set and leave it in the emergency sub folder!  Plus, they work for a variety of ages and levels.  (Fifth graders are NOT too old to draw, they love it!)

Of course, any illustrating is enhanced by music. May I suggest this one?  (Click image for a link to Amazon!)

Acts of Kindness Holiday Countdown

Ever notice that wonderful feeling that comes from doing something for others?  I suspect you know it well, since that's what teaching is all about!

Acts of Kindness Countdown:Here is a freebie and directions on making a different kind of countdown for the holidays!

I decided, instead of just a "Countdown to Christmas", I wanted to do a more special countdown.

I made this Acts of Kindness Holiday Countdown Set, which is a paper chain countdown with a twist - each link of the chain is an act of kindness to be done by the child, each day between now and Christmas!

Acts of Kindness Countdown:Here is a freebie and directions on making a different kind of countdown for the holidays!
First, the children will choose a "topper".  There's a star, a tree, and a Christmas Bear.  The topper is mounted on a piece of construction paper or tagboard, and a slit is cut near the bottom to hold the first link.  Personally, I think this guy is going to need some glitter, and a big red bow at the top to tie him to a special countdown spot!

Acts of Kindness Countdown:Here is a freebie and directions on making a different kind of countdown for the holidays!
The "How Many Days" poem goes on the back.  I think this needs glitter, too!

Next, the children can put the individual strips into a chain, putting just the right amount so that one can be removed per day until Christmas.

Acts of Kindness Countdown:Here is a freebie and directions on making a different kind of countdown for the holidays!
I have to admit, I'm excited about my new product, and can't wait to put them together with the kids!

Acts of Kindness Countdown:Here is a freebie and directions on making a different kind of countdown for the holidays!

Acts of Kindness Countdown:Here is a freebie and directions on making a different kind of countdown for the holidays!

My Favorite Holiday Activity

Ever have one of those activities that's a win-win?  It's something that works so well, you keep bringing it back year after year. 

That's how I feel about this Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker.  I've done this activity with second

graders for about 15 years now. 

I've always loved the music from The Nutcracker. When my daughter was 5, I figured she was old enough to go into Boston to see the Boston Ballet perform the classic. We read a few versions of the story so she'd know what to expect, put on our very best holiday dresses, and drove into the city.

Since I knew the story so well, I brought the CD into school, and shared the story with my students. I wrote this summary of the classic story, and played the music while the children visualized what it must look like, then illustrated the different parts of the story.

Every year, the children loved the activity, and it practiced some valuable skills: visualizing, summarizing, and sequencing. Plus, it gives them some exposure to classic holiday literature and classical music. Of course, you can't miss when the setting is called, The Kingdom of Sweets!

A couple of years after seeing the production in Boston, my daughter had the opportunity to audition for a production of The Nutcracker. She was in the youngest group, and the little ones had a very small part, but it was priceless. She went on to perform in the Nutcracker 3 years in a row before life just got too busy with other performances.  However, the story of The Nutcracker will always be near and dear to my heart.

Enjoy this freebie: The Nutcracker story for Visualizing, Summarizing, and Illustration! It's one of my favorites!

My Favorite Holiday Activity: Ever have one of those activities that are a "win-win"? It's fun, it's easy, and it's also educational? This is my favorite freebie

Exemplar Texts for the Common Core - Informational Text

Today I'm getting to my favorite category of Exemplar Texts:  The Informational Texts!

The Exemplar Texts are books that are recommended for this level because of the complexity and quality of the texts.  Children in these grades should be reading many books of this complexity and quality, these are just examples.

Here are links to the 12 Informational Texts recommended for grades 2 and 3.

I've always found that every class has a core of children who just love information books.  These kids  absolutely love learning stuff, and just can't get enough!

I love all books by Gail Gibbons (and have quite a collection of her stuff!)  She has a great way of explaining information to children in this age group, in a way they can understand.  From Seed to Plant is one of my favorites of her books!

Several of these books are new to me.  I am dying to read Where Do Polar Bears Live and Throw Your Tooth on the Roof:  Tooth Traditions Around the World.  I also think it's interesting that 2 of the 12 books are about Bats.

For more information about the Exemplar Texts for the Common Core at all levels see the Common Core for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/ Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects Appendix B HERE.

Which of these books do you find interesting?  What other books do you know of for grades 2 and 3 that fit this level of complexity and quality?

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