Friday, May 8, 2015

3 Ways to Differentiate with Decodable Text

Over the years, something that I have really enjoyed about teaching primary learners is phonics.  I love the routine of it.  I enjoy the patterns and rhythms of it.  It never ceases to amaze me how those patterns and rhythms turn into avid readers by the end of first grade.  It is nothing short of amazing!  That said, one of the things that I've found since coming to first from third is that differentiating for primary can be a challenge.  The fact that even my lowest student in third was literate was something that I took for granted.  How do you get kids to read and understand on their level in a primary classroom?  How do you KNOW that they know what they are doing in a center and they are not just playing?  Well, I just took it on back to the basics.  Nothing makes my life easier in first grade than my trusted friend....THE DECODABLE.
Decodable books are based on a specific phonetic pattern and build in an explicit way to develop confidence in readers.  Decodable books are super easy to differentiate with! Almost any program that has a decodable book series has a phonetic progression.  When you are working with primary aged learners you can build groups based on what phonetic patterns they have already mastered...and VOILA!  Therein lies your differentiation! :) So let's explore some things that you can do with decodable books that are great for small group instruction and then can be carried over into independent work time.  One of the things that I like to do a lot with my kids is sort.  We sort lots of things, but especially words! :)
Now, this is something that you can do very simply with a sheet of paper and a pencil.  Have them create a chart to sort for basic sound patterns in the text.  In a Short A text, consider sorting by ending sounds: -an, -ag, -at.
 Increase the complexity by asking students to sort by the vowel and how many letters are in the short a word.  For example: cat would be sorted with three letters.  Flap would be sorted with four letters. Clasp would be sorted under five letters.  You could go a step further and have students sort by the amount of phonemes...because the amount of phonemes can sometimes be different than the amount of letters.
Here's an example of a sheet that I made for my learners, but it could be easily recreated simply with lined paper and put into a page protector.  I use these types of sheets within a page protector to save on copies! :)
Want to differentiate in a different way?
Have your students draw a picture of a word that follows the pattern in their story and then write additional words from the pattern.  Again...this can be done just on a regular sheet of paper, or even in a phonics or writer's journal.  I taught explicit phonics lessons even in third grade! :)  The patterns are more complex, and the exceptions to the rule become more common, but being a great decoder never gets old.

I love to let my kids choose their partners, but sometimes, I need to choose for them because I want to ensure that the students are working towards mastery rather than just 'hanging out' with a friend during their independent reading time.  Sometimes, I will just split my class in half...high readers on one side, lows on the other and say...go find a buddy from the other side of the room to read the story with.  The kids have responded well to reading with someone that they are sure can help them...but also the kids who are stronger readers love to be in a position to BE a help! I have worked very hard to create a classroom climate of inclusion and, this method does not seem out of place to my students and it is welcomed.
When students are being intentional in their peer groups, I like to give them even more support by giving them question stems.  I have a variety of stems for them to choose from when they are working on sharing what they know with their peers.  At the beginning of the year, I used some stems that had pictures on it to help cue them.  I also used question stems during my lesson time.  Now that my kids are reading, they use the question stems that I've been modeling in the classroom. One of my favorite sets of question stems comes from Colleen Alaniz out of Texas.
  She created these Bloom's Buttons that help me to make SURE that I am asking different styles of questions in each lesson.  Because I model this daily, my students have now adapted to this in the classroom as well! :) For more established readers they can move from just the oral component to a written response.  Consider asking an open ended question for students to consider and respond to in a journal for a paper saving measure.  In my classroom, I sometimes use open ended recording sheets like the one pictured below to get a feel for what my students are taking out of their reading.
Interested in my sorts and recording sheets for short sounds?  Check them out on TPT here.

Not every student is able to share at the same, I try to offer the students multiple ways to share some of the same information.  This style of differentiation can work throughout the year as I'm trying to hit different writing goals as well!
Are you a fan of task cards?  My friend Leigh has some task card response sheets that would be really easy to implement...especially with second and third graders.  The great thing about task cards is that you can make them say whatever you need them to for the purpose of your in class review! :)
Task Cards Recording Sheet FREEBIE
Leigh's Free Task Card RECORDING sheet

Differentiation doesn't have to be hard when you have a set of decodables...or a set of decodable texts to use! :)

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

We {HEART} Teacher's Event DAY 2

It's time for day two of our We {HEART} Teachers Event 

and that means more fun stuff for you to win! 
But first, I am sure you are anxious to see if you won one of those 2 TpT Gift Certificates!

Today's prize is one for the #techieteachers... AND the not so techie teachers ;)

Yeah... you're reading that right! Here's an official run down of this totally awesome prize pack!

IPad Mini 2- Now you can bring technology to your classroom (or just keep it for yourself, we won't tell! ;)) with your own tablet. The miniature size makes it ideal for smaller hands or stowing away in a purse!

Chevron Stand Case- How cute is this case? Protect your newest accessory with this easy to find cover! The built in stand makes it ideal for video viewing while you're jet setting to Vegas this summer! (You are coming to Vegas, right? Can't wait to see you there!)

$10 Itunes Gift Card- Buy some educational apps, download a few books, whatever you want! You've got $10 to spend to help fill up your new toy, I mean educational resource, with new apps! 

Planbook Subscription for you and a friend- Ok, I shared yesterday that I LOVE Planbook because of how user friendly it is AND you can share lesson plans with your teammates. Now you and a teammate can enjoy easy planning for the year! You can check out more on   

Ready to get your #techieteacher on? Enter the Rafflecopter below! 

I am also excited to share with you that TeachersPayTeachers decided to join in on the Teacher Appreciation week fun!  They are having a site wide sale today and tomorrow as a way to say thank you for all your hard work this year!

Thank you Deana from Primary Punch for creating this cute graphic! 

So, from May 5th through the 6th ALL our stores will be on sale! Combine that with the coupon code THANKYOU and you can save up to 28% off your must have resources! Grab up some products to get your through the rest of this year or stock up for next year! It's all good when there's a sale! 

...And because we know your feet are tired at the end of a long day (and your brain!), we made it easy to shop! All your favorite stores all in one location! 

Don't forget to use the coupon code: THANKYOU!

Monday, May 4, 2015

We {HEART} Teachers Event DAY 1

Happy Monday! 

We are on our first official day of our We {HEART} Teachers event! 

I know as teachers, we don't usually look forward to Mondays... but this Monday is special! It's the first day of  Teacher Appreciation week! That means you'll be showered with notes of thanks, tokens of affection and LOTS OF HUGS! <3! 

It also means it's time to giveaway some AMAZING prizes!

Today, we have this amazing #TeacherEssentials prize pack for you!

This is a small collection of items to help you get through your weeks! 

Here's a peek at what YOU can win..

1. Blair Turner Paper Notepads- How cute are these? Perfect for all those last minute lists! And the Fun colors are SURE to brighten up any paper piled desk! ;) 

2. Spring Bling Coffee Cozy from Miss Squirrels Shop- Now that the end of the year is starting, coffee is a must! keep it warm with this adorable bejeweled cozy! <3

3. 12 Pack of Flair Pens- So you can write beautiful "to do" lists on those notepads! ;)

4. Custom Designed Pencil Door Hanger from Tallahassee Sunday- They made the CUTEST apple door hanger for me! Now you'll get one too! 

5. Custom Water Color Print from The Teacher Print Shop- Rachel from The Tattooed Teacher has an eye for desgin and she'll make you a CUSTOM Water color type print and MAIL it you! YES PLEASE!   

6. Pampered Teacher Box- Every teacher deserves a little pampering! Pampered Teacher is a monthly subscription service that sends you special hand picked teacher items based on your likes and wants! They've graciously donated one box for you! 

7. $10 Starbucks Gift Card- So you can have a cup to wrap that ADORABLE coffee cozy around! Oh and help fuel you for a few more days! 

8. Planbook Subscription for a year- I switched from a word document style lesson plan book to using this online service and I LOVE it! User friendly, easy, and soooo convenient. I can even send my lesson plans to my teammates! 

That's an AMAZING prize pack! What to enter? Enter below using the Rafflecopter!

AND don't forget today's the last day for you to enter the chance to win one of three $40 GC for 

TeachersPayTeachers, just in time for their Teacher Appreciation Sale!

Click here to go enter that giveaway! We'll be announcing the winners tomorrow AND We'll have another AMAZING prize pack up for grabs... let's just say teachers love their apple... products... ;)