Scaffolding: Why kids need it!

Posted by Teresa Marchant on Sep 28, 2016 11:34:00 AM

Reading helps increase knowledge and vocabulary! Dr. Suess said, “the more you read, the more you know you will know”. Scaffolding goes hand in hand with reading.

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Topics: Classroom Ideas, Common Core, Reviews, Literacy

Breaking Down the Standards

Posted by Kristie J. on Sep 27, 2016 12:00:00 PM

Gone are the days that teachers decided what to teach in their classrooms. Now, we are left with the “How?”  Generally, your state provides your standards which are a list of items that must be taught for a particular year. Some states may provide timelines as well as resources. We all have now been introduced to a little thing referred to as “Common Core.”  As a first year teacher, it is easy to become overwhelmed with a stack of papers set before you that dictates everything you must cover in the school year. Breathe. Standards may be ambiguous in some ways. There is not always a clear-cut directive on what the student must learn. An example may be that a student must be able to recognize and formulate figurative language. In this case, you may want to teach similes, metaphors, and onomatopoeia. It is not stated in the standards, but using inference skills, you determine the details. Here are some tricks to help you understand exactly what you are expected to teach:

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Topics: Classroom Ideas, Personal Experiences, Common Core, Integration Ideas

Building Bridges: Making Initial Contact with Students' Families

Posted by Rashawnda Atkinson on Sep 23, 2016 11:40:00 AM

Now that the school year is in full swing, educators must find a way to connect with the families or support systems of the children they serve. Establishing early contact with families promotes a healthy school-community partnership and demonstrates that you are not only concerned with the child’s success this school year, but also value their insight into how to best support their learning development. Listed below are some suggestions that may help you in making the most of this valuable time.

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Topics: Classroom Ideas, Personal Experiences, Special Education

Formative Assessments:  Why do we do it?

Posted by Teresa Marchant on Sep 21, 2016 11:35:00 AM

By definition, a formative assessment can be formal or informal but are used as a tool to change teaching and learning for your students throughout a unit.  Basically, it gives you “snapshot” of your students' newly acquired information.

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Topics: Classroom Ideas, Common Core, Literacy


Posted by Kristie J. on Sep 20, 2016 12:05:00 PM
A buzzword in the education community is flexible grouping. Flexible grouping is using student grouping to maximize instruction. Those groupings can be utilized in many different ways. Groupings can also extend to include partners. If you are just starting out exploring groupings or it takes you a little longer to get going, I suggest focusing on five types of groupings:

  1. Emerging/Proficient Readers/Writers: Remember those progress monitoring probes we’ve discussed? This is where you can utilize them. This information is simple to gather. Look for students that are below grade below for emerging. Proficient students are on grade level. For my classroom, I also have a professional level. These are the students that are above grade level. In the beginning though, I would suggest starting with just twoseparate groups: emerging readers and proficient readers. Use these two groups to drive differentiated instruction based upon their ability. This would be encouraged in a special education classroom since you are meeting their academic need. Another example is pairing an emerging reader with a proficient reader to encourage peer tutoring and appropriate social interaction. 
  2. Learning Style: During the first few days of school, I have students complete a simple learning style inventory. It indicates whether the student is a visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learner. They may even be a combination of the learning styles. I use this information to drive differentiated instruction activities. If I know some students would prefer a video to completing a hands-on activity, I attempt to indulge them.
  3. Interest Survey: Interest surveys are also completed during the initial days of school. They are specific to content areas (English, Math, Science, Social Studies). These interest surveys are the basis for what some may call the “Genius Hour.” This is a topic that the student chooses and works on either independently or with a partner. Students work on this project if they finish early or during other designated times.
  4. Content-Driven: Content-driven groupings are used after assessing where students are in the curriculum. We may cover a topic within a week and complete an assessment to see how well the students understood and analyzed the information. If some of the students are showing a clear need for remediation, you can group these students together to clarify the topic or use peer tutors for extra practice.
  5. Socially-driven: As a teacher, you will find out that just because students meet the criteria for a grouping, doesn’t mean it is an effective grouping. I’ve had two students in the past that fit into similar grouping criteria each and every time, BUT they just could not stand each other. That is reality. Sometimes, you will have to adjust the groupings based upon the social aspects. That’s okay. It just means that you are meeting the needs of the students and providing the best environment for your class. 

What type of groupings do you use in your classroom? Any tips or tricks that you would like to share?
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Topics: Classroom Ideas, Differentiation, Literacy

Fluency Boot Camp, Week Three: PUNCTUATION

Posted by Reine L. on Sep 19, 2016 12:05:00 PM

The key is to get students to understand that punctuation is for the reader, not the writer. Not to mention, when students begin to focus on punctuation, the reader employs a rhythmic tonal quality that is not monotonous, but captures the patterns of the language, according to Fountas and Pinnell.

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Topics: Classroom Ideas, Differentiation, Reviews, Literacy

The Importance of Progress Monitoring

Posted by Kristie J. on Sep 14, 2016 12:00:00 PM
Progress monitoring is an integral part of the classroom. It allows you to assess a student's individual academic ability and provides a starting point for future instruction. There are many portions to progress monitoring. Your school may complete the minimum or complete a full-battery of assessments. Progress monitoring usually encompasses the following portions (explained in a simplified manner):
  • Fluency- This measures reading speed. Accuracy and appropriate rate are taken into account. It can begin with letter naming and move forward into full passages.
  • MAZE- Comprehension is measured during this assessment. Does the student understand what they are reading? Can they infer future sentences?
  • Computation- Computation measures the basic computational skills of students. If they struggling with a particular skill, such as division, it will be evident during this assessment.
  • Math Concepts or Applications- This assessment measures students' problem-solving or reasoning skills. This is an important assessment since it can alert you to issues with critical thinking.
  • Written Expression- Written expression is given to determine a student's ability to communicate their ideas and thoughts. It can indicate that a student may need remediation in word usage or other areas of writing.

These assessments allow you, the teacher, to develop plans of action for students that require that extra bit of assistance. Learning goals can be set and progress monitored using these assessments. It also provides documentation for accommodations. In many cases, conditional accommodations are only allowed in cases where data supports the need. An example: A student who is eighth grade is found to be reading fluently at a second grade level. For that student to receive a read aloud accommodation (where the computer or person reads passages, questions, and answers aloud to them during instructional and testing time), it must be documented through progress monitoring. This student may be capable of achieving their state standards at a passing level with this accommodation. It becomes a very important tool for them.

Progress monitoring also allows for grouping to take place. In the classroom, the teacher may decide to partner a student (A) that is on grade level with a student (B) that is struggling, so they both may benefit. Both students learn the value of teamwork while implementing a support system for Student B. In another example, students of similar abilities are grouped together for differentiated assignments. Without progress monitoring, groupings may be a little more difficult to configure.

How does progress monitoring work in your classroom? Does it vary between regular education and special education?
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Topics: Classroom Ideas, Differentiation, Literacy

Fluency Boot Camp, Week Two: PHRASING

Posted by Reine L. on Sep 13, 2016 12:00:00 PM

There are many dimensions of reading fluency, in week one of Fluency Boot Camp we discussed PACE, which is the speed at which a child reads. The goal being to read at a just right pace, not too fast and not too slow.

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Topics: Classroom Ideas, Differentiation, Literacy

Is Blogging in Your Technology Toolkit?

Posted by Teresa Marchant on Sep 12, 2016 12:00:00 PM

Helping students find and use information is vital for their future success in the workplace. By providing various learning opportunities that use technology, you will see an increase in their reading, writing, and problem solving skills. This post will focus on how blogging can benefit you as well as your students.

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Topics: Classroom Ideas, Personal Experiences, Reviews, Publisher Preview, Writing, Technology, Literacy

Technology and Literacy go Hand in Hand

Posted by Teresa Marchant on Sep 8, 2016 11:00:00 AM

The best way to become a better reader is by reading. This statement is true, but how do you get your reluctant readers to read? These are my go-to tips for students who need help finding the right book.

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Topics: Classroom Ideas, Differentiation, Technology, Literacy

Thank you for taking the time to read the Big Universe blog. We hope that you find the information of value as you create a reading culture within your classrooms and schools. If you would you like more information regarding how you can utilize the Big Universe cloud-based literacy solution in your school, please contact one of our Literacy Consultants to learn more.