IRA

Interactive Read Alouds (IRA) are easily one of my favorite pieces to my literacy block in my first grade classroom!

Before I begin…

Watch this example!

From the IRA website, Linda Hoyt quotes, “When read-alouds are understood as powerful tools for teaching literary elements, building analytical ability, and addressing the standards, they can bring both joy and accelerated learning into the lives of our students.”

Interactive read alouds are a way that a teacher can make the most of read aloud time by using creative ways to use children’s literature to teach any grade level a specific standard along with building fluency and comprehension. Strategies include combining engaging guided conversations with reflective thinking for all learners at all skill levels. These lessons include strategic listening, speaking, reading and writing about text being read and allows all students to participate in the activities because the story is being read to them!

After I learned about this type of read aloud, I realized how valuable this time can be! Before I knew how to guide a successful IRA, I was using read alouds more as “time fillers” or just an extra daily activity. Now, I take advantage of each story I read by introducing new vocabulary, engaging students in conversations, and reflecting on specific comprehension strategies for all students involved! I also used to just pick a book up and start reading. The key component of an IRA is being INTENTIONAL. The teacher should read the story ahead of time to mark certain words to point out, places to pose questions and turn and talks along with any other interactive activities for students to engage in. I use sticky notes to note where I will be stopping within the story! This makes the IRA intentional and engaging!

I hope you try an IRA soon if you haven’t already!

Check out this link for more info! http://www.heinemann.com/interactivereadalouds/

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Comprehensive Literacy Programs

flowchart 2 medium.pngWhat makes a comprehensive literacy program you might ask? Well, let’s dive right in and find the answer!

There are several essential components of a solid comprehensive literacy program. According to Irvin, Meltzer, & Dukes, (2007), “A school wide literacy action plan is an essential blueprint for improving student achievement. An effective plan requires the skillful use of data about student performance, literacy needs and expectations in the school and community, school capacity to support literacy development, current teaching practices, and effectiveness of the literacy program. To generate change, leaders must actively use a literacy action plan to guide decision making around instruction, programming, and resource allocation”. This quote is the foundation of what an effective school wide literacy plan obtains.

Just like we differentiate for every classroom of students, a literacy plan must be differentiated based on the needs and areas of concern for the students and staff at that particular school. The plan must start by assessing the major needs in the school. Every action plan must have goals that target literacy development (Irvin, Meltzer, & Dukes, 2007).

According to Irvin, Meltzer, & Dukes, (2007), an effective literacy action plan also allows all members of the school to understand the status, goals for the future, the actions to be taken to reach the goals, who is responsible, and how success will be measured.

Another key component is the effective use of data as part of the school wide literacy initiative. Data must be taken on student performance, school and community needs, school capacity, and teacher practices (Irvin, Meltzer, & Dukes, 2007).

According to Irvin, Meltzer, & Dukes (2007), A literacy action plan has five key components:

  1. Strengthening Literacy Development Across the Content Areas
  2. Strategic Interventions for Struggling Readers and Writers
  3. School Policies, Structures, and Culture for Supporting Literacy
  4. Building Leadership Capacity
  5. Teacher Professional Development

“Using a data-driven plan to monitor the program is important to ensure that the literacy action plan is effective” (Irvin Meltzer, & Dukes, 2007). This step is critical for all steps taken both in the school and within each classroom in order to measure success of any given intervention or successful literacy plan.

References:

Irvin, J. L., Meltzer, J., & Dukes, M. S. (2007). Taking action on adolescent literacy: an implementation guide for school leaders. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Blog #4 State and Federal Legislation Analysis

Obama Explains ESSA

Education is the overall foundation for all children to succeed in their lifetime. In order to ensure that all students receive a rigorous, equitable and successful education, there are laws through our legislation that have been put into place by both the state and federal departments. Specifically, in literacy, there are guidelines in order to ensure that all students are on the right path to literacy success. These are put in place in order to monitor students’ progression but also to ensure that teachers are working to ensure this progression happens sufficiently.

On the state level, Minnesota is ranked one of the top 10 states in our country for a reason. The statutes that are put into play are to provide a solid education for all students that receive an education within our state. The state’s goal for teachers, parents and most importantly, students, is to have them reading proficiently by third grade. This is the literacy goal that aligns with having teachers providing comprehensive reading instruction. The state also requires teachers and staff to identify before the end of kindergarten through second grade the students who are not reading at grade level before the end of the current school year. The given reading assessments must also identify and evaluate students’ areas of academic need related to literacy. The progress and provided reading instruction for the specific needs of English learners must be monitored as well. The state also holds us accountable for parent communication and involvement with students’ families that are not reading at grade level along with resources and strategies to use at home. For students identified as intervention eligible, the district shall provide reading intervention to accelerate the student’s growth and reach the goal of reading at or above grade level by the end of the current grade and school year. The state also has legislation regarding teachers receiving professional development to promote the use of the most current and best practices. All of these subdivisions are put into place to ensure the quality and success for all students that enter a school in the state of Minnesota.

On top of the state’s legislation, the federal laws have held teachers accountable as well. In 2015, President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) which resembles the commitment to equal opportunity for all students. This law advances equity by upholding critical protections for America’s disadvantaged and high-need students., requires that all students in America be taught to high academic standards that will prepare them to succeed in college and careers, ensures that vital information is provided to educators, families, students, and communities through annual statewide assessments that measure students’ progress toward those high standards, helps to support and grow local innovations, sustains and expands this administration’s historic investments in increasing access to high-quality preschool, and maintains an expectation that there will be accountability and action to effect positive change in our lowest-performing schools.

Knowing the pieces to our state and federal legislation laws will allow teachers to become knowledgable of the expectations for both teachers and students to obtain a successful and equitable school experience at any school in our country.

References:

2016 Minnesota Statutes. (n.d.). Retrieved June 20, 2017, from       https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/?id=120b.12

(n.d.). Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Retrieved June 20, 2017, from     https://www.ed.gov/essa?src=policy

Blog #3 Using Data to Inform Teaching and Learning!

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Data, data, data. To be completely honest, I used to find myself rolling my eyes at the thought of all of the data studied in our PLCs. However, just like any job, we really DO need “research” and concrete data to back up our daily instructional and overall classroom decisions day in and day out. Anecdotal records, informal observations, formative check ins, and summative assessments are all essential ways to gauge and evaluate the level of understand and growth from each individual student.

Exit and entrance slips for any math standard can be used to pre and post assess a student in order to ensure that it has been mastered. If not, that is where intervention strategies and reteaching/relearning happens. This is how our first grade team runs our math instructional model and uses our extension teacher for small group Guided Reading Plus intervention time. We communicate this information to families and parents by entering each standard into our online grading portal and also use progress reports with this information listed as well. Parents then can see whether their child is beginning, developing or secure in that standard or strand. We then reassess these standards to show growth.

In reading, we use a few different assessments that drive our instruction forward. The AIMSWeb words per minute timed reading along with a sight word check in are a few of the common assessments we use across our first grade classrooms. We use the famous “Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System” to assess the guided reading levels of our students. This is also how our Tier 2 and Tier 3 groups are decided. We use the exit and entrance criteria to decide which students need another “boost” and which students can exit the extra intervention. We communicate this to parents by sending home letters from the intervention teachers explaining the process and introducing themselves. We also share what reading level their child is currently at when they enter and exit the intervention groups. We also send home quarterly progress reports along with checking in regarding growth and progress during monthly communication nights as well. We also input this data into our online grading system as well along with other language arts standards for parents to view as it us updated.  

Assessing students takes A LOT, and I mean A LOT A LOT of time from our instruction time. Therefore, if we are already using up precious learning time to gather this critical student data, we need to actually utilize, analyze and adjust from it. The simple and informal anecdotal and informational observations are all part of formatively assessing growth and progress among all students. These small observations lead to bigger decisions during a lesson. Whether students are grasping the standard or content determines the next step in instruction. It is key to know where your whole or small group is at in order to move on with a lesson. Not all lessons will go as planned and not all groups of kiddos will respond the same as the last year’s did. Teachers need to be quick thinkers, adjustable and flexible with making instruction decisions for students. This is best practice and will ensure growth among all students, no matter their skill level.

Assessments are like dominos and if the small informal observations are used to adjust instruction, then the formative and summative assessments should be straight proof of the growth in the classroom. This data should be shared with parents as often as possible and also with any other adults working with that student in the building so that all communication lines are covered. Involving students in their growth is important as well. Communicating the success and growth throughout the year and having students be involved and make goals for their own learning is a huge motivator and part of allowing students to take ownership of their own education and learning! 

Blog Post #2 The Power of CHOICE..

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Just like I was given choice in this blog I am about to write, it is incredibly both important and powerful to allow as much CHOICE in our classrooms as we possible can each day. We need to give students options and opportunities to learn and also to show that learning within the classroom. Student-led choices should be occurring all day long and also specifically within your literacy block. Giving students choice in which books they get to choose and also which media they use to read is a critical aspect of getting our young readers to LOVE reading now and forever. This may be a variety of choices such as listening to reading on a tape, reading a story on a laptop or iPad, reading a story with a partner, reading a newspaper or magazine article, or simply choosing the spot in the classroom where the student will read independently. As an adult, we all love choices in our day and it makes us feel like we have control. It is a powerful way to make students feel important and powerful to be able to make some of these daily academic choices on their own as well. This is also an essential way to build classroom community and a rich literacy based environment.

Daily 5 is a literacy structure that allows different literacy activities to be going on at the same time by different students. This includes listening to reading, independent reading, reading with a partner, working on writing and working on word work. I used to assign which station my students would be at and when they would be there… but I quickly learned that if a student wants to read first and then write… LET THEM! Sometimes teachers just need to give up a little bit of control and allow students to jump right in and make an independent choice, while still keeping them accountable.

LET THEM CHOOSE! Allowing students to explain their thinking or learning from what they read in different ways is also important in a classroom. Not all students will be successful showing their understanding in the same way on the same day. We need to provide an abundance amount of opportunities to “show off” their new learning. We all love choice! So it is time to embed more student-led choice in ALL grade levels, no matter how hard it may be for some adults to do! 😉

Blog Post #1- K-12 Literacy Leaders

Why I Read

Reading is the ground work for just about everything that is done in any school, institution or career setting. The video linked above is proof that students who have teachers who love teaching reading, will become learners who love reading and learning. It is our job as educators to be literacy leaders. Every day. Not only for each other, but for our students. If students sense that teachers are engaged and excited about teaching reading, they will quickly absorb that excitement as well. Sharing the passion for reading will create a culture where learning to read and a strong passion for reading is the “norm” in every classroom. Literacy leaders can be formal, like a literacy coach. However, literacy leaders can come in many forms such as both general and special education teachers. We all have the power to be leaders for each other and for our novice and eager readers.

A literacy leader or coach can help team up with educators and walk along side them to create a literacy focused environment that is best for all kids. A literacy coach can help facilitate, guide, and model how to navigate the wide world of teaching reading. This person can be a wealth of knowledge and obtain a plethora of resources for educators. This leader should be another “team player” to support the challenging and demanding work of classroom teachers.

Literacy leaders are needed everywhere. It is our job to instill the passion for loving to read in students but also loving to teach reading within our educators. Literacy leaders have the knowledge, power and spark to get educators AND students fired up about reading!