Easy Tips for Teaching Challenging Reading Content Across the Curriculum

How can content-area teachers successfully teach a class of students with mixed reading abilities?

In areas such as social studies or science, students are often asked to read content written at, or above, grade level.  Even good readers may struggle with the text.  Teachers have less planning time, and there’s even less time to help struggling students.  How can teachers help their students succeed when there’s so much at stake, and so few resources?

Here are some helpful strategies that are easy to try!

READING THE TEXT ALOUD
It’s important for students to independently read the text, but preferably not during whole class instruction. It helps students to hear challenging content read with fluency.  It’s most beneficial to students if the teacher reads the text aloud as the class silently follows along.

INTERMITTENT CHORAL READING
There are many ways to keep students actively engaged in the lesson.  First, as the teacher reads, he or she can occasionally pause to prompt the entire class to read the next word, or words, of the sentence aloud as a group.

The teacher might say, “The process of photosynthesis can be broken down into…” and then pause.  The class would then read the remainder of the sentence aloud, “…two stages.”The teacher can move closer to students who may be having difficulty participating.  This makes it easier to offer visual cues to help students find their place.  Once students are familiar with this procedure, right before the pause, the teacher can call on random students to read the next word or words aloud– by row, by color of clothing, or individually.

TRACKING THE TEXT
Students can also be asked to track the text using a pencil tip, finger, or book mark. By glancing around the classroom while reading aloud, the teacher can easily see who is on track and who needs redirection.

MARKING THE TEXT
It helps if students are allowed to write directly on the text.  If the instructional materials allow for this, as the teacher reads aloud, he or she can model text mapping.  To do this, from time to time the teacher can direct students to underline proper nouns or key phrases, put a box around important dates, or circle words that might be unfamiliar to them.By looking ahead at questions that the students may be asked to independently answer, the teacher can reinforce key portions of the text that students may later need. These marks create a “map” for students to use when completing work on their own.

ON-TASK CHECK-IN
Another easy way to make sure everyone is on track and able to participate, is to ask students to point to a specific word, picture, or section of the text.  Then, using a neutral tone the teacher might say, “If you’re having trouble finding your place please show me a quick hand.”  Students who quickly raise and lower their hands will be spotted by other neighboring children.  Students enjoy being helpful.  The teacher would then ask the class as a whole, “If your neighbors need help, could you please show them where we are in the text?”  Pausing only as long as needed, the teacher would then resume reading aloud.Some students may be hesitant to admit they have lost their place.  It helps if the teacher moves closer and is ready to show them the correct location in the text the next time there is a pause.  A quiet bit of encouragement can help build confidence.  It can be as simple as, “Sometimes it’s hard to follow along, but with practice you’ll get better at it.”

FRIENDLY COMPETITION
To encourage off-task students to join in, the teacher can offer the whole class a challenge.  After students complete a sentence aloud, the teacher might say, “I noticed that the students by the windows read well with clear voices.  Nice job!  Let’s see what the other side of the room can do, next time!”

MODELING
As the teacher reads aloud, he or she can model reading comprehension strategies such as summarizing, sequencing, inferring, comparing and contrasting, drawing conclusions, self-questioning, problem-solving, and relating background knowledge.This doesn’t require any specific preparation.  In fact, sometimes it’s best done by teachers when they are reading the material aloud for the first time.

For example, when the teacher reads a word or phrase that might be challenging for students, the teacher can pause and ask, “It says that these groups of people were hunters and gatherers.  What do you think that means?” 

Students will offer ideas, and the teacher can respond to each idea with a short comment such as “thank you, interesting, I hadn’t thought of that, or good inference.”  The teacher can then say, “Let’s read more and see if we can find out what it means.”

Students also benefit from hearing the teacher reflect on the content.  To encourage students who might feel overwhelmed by the reading content, a fourth grade teacher might say, “This section looks like something you’d learn in fifth grade.  It may be challenging, but I think we can do it!”  Or, to set a purpose for the whole class, the teacher could say, “Looking at the words in bold on this page, I think we’re going to be learning about the way plants grow. Let’s find out!”

The more teachers pay attention to their own internal dialog during reading, the easier it is model good reading strategies.  

When working with information-dense reading content, students need practice tracking the text, identifying important details, and asking clarifying questions. With a little help and motivation, students can learn to independently tackle even the most information-dense material!

LOOKING FOR MORE IDEAS?
Check out the free supplement included with the resource Election Unit: Electing the President Print-and-Go!

 

Back-to-School Pencil Topper

Want something quick and easy to welcome students back at the beginning of a new school year?  Check out the free download of these colorful pencil toppers.  One side has a cute poem, and the other side says, “WELCOME BACK!”

These toppers can be printed on 1″ X 4″ labels and wrapped around the pencil.  Or, do what I did.  Use plain paper, cut out the rectangles, and then use clear tape to keep the pencil topper in place.

pencil topper with logoI found this versatile idea on Pinterest.  This same design could be used to welcome students back to school after New Year’s Day.  Or, using PowerPoint you could create your own design and personalize the message to include your name– Welcome Back to Mrs. Smith’s Class!

Has anyone else made pencil toppers?  I’d love to see your designs!

Students Who Don’t Celebrate Holidays

Each year, children enter our classrooms with learning disabilities or cognitive delays. Other students deal with challenges that are less obvious. Some are socially awkward, have food allergies, or are dealing with the recent loss of a loved one.

As teachers, we’ve learned to accommodate a variety of students’ needs in our classrooms. We model inclusion which in turn helps our students be more accepting and compassionate.

But, what about the child who is not allowed to be participate in activities that most children take for granted?

when students do not celebrate holidays smaller pin

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Chalkboard Quotes

It’s good to be surrounded by words that inspire, encourage, and motivate.  These are a few of my favorite quotes.

Colored cover page snipCheck out the two free downloads, below.  Just click the link after each one.

Print this one out for your own classroom. Or, frame it as a gift for a friend’s desk or the wall of a home office.

Blog marked Object of teaching posterDownload your own copy here!

This one posted in the Teachers’ Lounge will help my colleagues remember the value of their contribution, even during challenging times.

Blog snipped low memory Teaching is not a lost artDownload your own copy here!

Here are three more of my favorite quotes.  The set of all five is available through my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

Blog marked Seek opportunitiesClcik here to see this product at my TpT store!

Blog To know snip less memoryClcik here to see this product at my TpT store!

Blog marked Im more interested posterClcik here to see this product at my TpT store!

Do you have a favorite quote?  Please share it below.  Who knows, maybe it’ll end up as a freebie on a future blog post!

3 Easy Tips to Make Writing Instruction More Fun

Some kids love to write.  Some kids hate it.  How do you keep everyone engaged in the writing process?  Here are three quick ideas.

three easy tips writing fun1.  Editing Table:  Establish a table or area of the room that has at least two chairs.  During composition time, students who are ready to have their writing peer-edited may go and sit at the editing table.  As soon as another student is ready to peer edit, he or she will go over to the table to find a partner.  Each peer-editing pair leaves the editing table area once they are matched up.

With variations, I use this method in my classroom all the time.  If a lot of students are ready to peer-edit, I create the first pairs.  After that, students move to the editing table as they wrap up.  I usually ask that students peer-edit with at least three different people.

As soon as a pair approaches the editing table, the two students who are sitting there waiting to find a new partner MUST pair up and move away to begin work.  The editing table in not a work area and no more than two people should ever be there at any given time.jpg_Education-005-color2.  Peer-Editing Process:  Even reluctant writers enjoy reading their work aloud to a captive audience.  However, to make the most of peer-editing time it’s better for each partner to read the OTHER person’s writing aloud.  This gives the author a chance to hear how his or her words sound.

It can be very effective for a writer to see a classmate struggle over pronunciation due to the author’s spelling errors or awkward wording.  Also, children learn the language of writing during this process.  Nothing is more wonderful than hearing one student tell another, “You need a transition here.”   Also, student authors are less likely to be offended by a peer editor who asks “What do you mean here?”

If you require your students to use this shared reading process, remind them that the author has ultimate control over his or her words.  For example, if one student tells the other that a word doesn’t make sense, it’s the writer’s decision to change it or let it stand.  Partners suggest, but they are never to insist.  In the end, the writer earns the grade, not the peer editor.jpg_Education-001-color3.  Monitor Progress:  Provide a way for students to see how they are progressing.  When conferencing with students offer them two positive comments and one constructive criticism.  For example, a teacher might say, “Zack, you did a really good job with spelling and punctuation.  I also like the way you tied the topic sentence to the closing sentence.  Your personal challenge for next time is to avoid repeating any one word or phrase too often.  Did you notice that four of your sentences in this composition begin with, “He really likes…?”

Students also benefit from monitoring their own progress either along the writing process, or within a specific set of skills.  You can create a writing process monitoring chart and have students move move a clothespin up the chart from prewriting, to drafting, and so on, all the way to finishing the final draft.

Each student may also have his or her own goal chart with a list of three to five skills on which they will focus.  Students with introductory writing skills may focus on writing neatly, using complete sentences, and including a topic sentence.  Students with more sophisticated writing skills may focus on point of view, using specific language, and adding figurative language.  The key is setting small, reachable goals, and acknowledging each tiny improvement.  Click here, to download the assessment ladder of skills that could be used to develop student goals.  (See below.)

Asessment Ladder Glow edgesWriting can be fun for both teachers and students.  The best way to insure student success is to: (1) encourage students to write and rewrite until the meaning is clear, (2) provide ongoing opportunities for students to share their writing with their peers and interact, and (3) set clear, easy-to-meet goals for students still developing their skills.

What do you do in your class to make your writing lessons more interesting?  Please share your ideas below.  I’d love to hear from you!

DIY Posters


Looking for a quick and easy way to get your message across? Check out Recite, a fun way to “turn a quote into a masterpiece.”

It’s pretty easy.  Click “create” on the main screen.  Type in your quote.  Scroll through the different formats at the bottom of the screen.  Select one, and then post it to Pinterest, Tumblr, Stumbleupon, Facebook, or Twitter.  Or, simply download it to your computer.

Here are a few mini-posters I made using both an original idea and quotes I found on Brainy Quotes.nelson mendala

ben franklin4_4d7e306805f03902ee65b_c742-postmalcom forbes largerClick on the first three images to see the quotes displayed in the Piccsy gallery.  This is where Recite parks them once they’re created.

The final image was sent directly to my main Pinterest board, Lessons4Now Teach, Learn, and Have Fun, so I could immediately share it online.

I hope you’ll try making a masterpiece of your own, and then leave a link in the comment area to share your creation!

 

Tackling Tattling

Tattling is a constant issue at the elementary level.  With our school’s focus on anti-bullying, it’s sometimes difficult to know how much attention to give to students’ complaints about their peers.  It helps to make sure that the children understand the difference between tattling and telling, and to set clear expectations about how each will be handled.jpg_whisper201

Children tattle for many different reasons.  Some want to test limits and figure out whether or not the teacher will enforce rules.  Sometimes students point out misbehavior so that the teacher will recognize the their own efforts to follow the rules.  Other students may not know how to handle a situation, so they turn to an adult for guidance.  Of course, there are also times when the concern is legitimate and there’s good reason for reporting an inappropriate behavior.

The best way to eliminate tattling is through classroom discussion.  Students can work together to create a list of specific situations they encounter at school such as name calling, non-participation in group activities, incorrect completion of an assigned activity, taking another child’s belonging, using inappropriate language, cutting in front of someone in line, and so forth.  Once the list is made, students can decide which should be reported, which should be handled on their own, and which they should simple ignore.

Reporting Vs TattlingA good way to reinforce the whole-class lesson, is by displaying this FREE poster by edgalaxy.com.  Students who continue to tattle can be directed to this poster to review the difference between reporting and tattling.

This FREE 2:10 minute You Tube video, Tattling vs.Telling is a clear, straight-forward way to initiate another lesson followed by whole-class discussion.  It explains the difference between reporting a serious concern and trying to get a classmate in trouble.

For teachers who want to implement a more formal plan, this FREE 8:47 minute You Tube video, Tattle Ender by Charity Preston outlines a paper-and-pencil classroom management program.   Using this approach, students who bring any issue to the teacher that is not of immediate concern are directed to record the issue using a special procedure.  At week’s end these notes are reviewed by the teacher who determines which, if any, require additional attention.

With these resources and little patience, there should be less tattling and more time for teaching!