Archive for March, 2010

A trip to Goliad

On a recent Sunday Tom and I took a little road trip to Goliad, TX. What a great, historic little town! We visited the “hanging tree” that was actually used for hangings. Across the street is the Hanging Tree Restaurant – who wouldn’t want to eat there? Check out the pictures we took:

The courthouse in Goliad

Tom sitting by the famous hanging tree

The Hanging Tree Restaurant

Historic plaque by the hanging tree

Inside the Mission

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I have met so many wonderful educators while traveling to spring reading conferences! Thank you to all who attended. And my apologies to those of you who couldn’t get into sessions because they were full.

At Illinois Reading in Springfield, I had to take pictures of the people at my sessions. People were hiding behind the table on the stage so they could stay (and not be removed from the fire marshall!). We had a great time! Loved being at MI Reading, too, in Detroit. Then I was off to Columbus, OH for OAASFEP …

Our room is overflowing and we still have 20 minutes before the session begins!

Teachers stow away on the stage to try to stay at the session.

Folks wait outside the room to try to get a seat at the overflow session.

Happy teachers (and my editor, Philippa at the end of the front row) at the overflow session late in the afternoon.

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When I recently visited Red Lion and York schools in Pennsylvania,  I worked with upper grade teachers on guided reading. I modeled how to plan and teach guided reading lessons in many classrooms. What a great week it was! One question that often comes up is, “What texts should we use in guided reading in grades 3-6?”

Here are some of the kinds of texts I’ve used (be sure what you choose is on the instructional reading level of the children you’ll work with):
  • news magazine articles, such as National Geographic, Time for Kids, and Scholastic News
  • little books for guided reading from publishers such as Mondo, Benchmark Education, ETA Cuisenaire, Pacific Learning, and Okapi
  • leveled books that come with your core program
  • trade books
  • texts from the Comprehension Toolkit by Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis
  • short stories (see Janet Allen’s Read Aloud Anthology from Scholastic)
  • ballads or song lyrics
  • newspaper articles
  • informational text cut and pasted from the Internet
  • the first few chapters of a novel
I recommend you work together as a grade level team and/or across grade levels to build up files of resources you can use for guided reading with older students. The key is SHORT text. And something your students will be interested in.
Please let me know what some of your favorite resources are for guided reading in upper grades.

National Geographic Explorer- the Pathfinder edition is written for grades 4-5 and Pioneer is for grades 2-3

Leveled readers from a core reading program for grade 4

National Geographic Extreme Explorer is for struggling readers in grades 6-12

Time for Kids Exploring Nonfiction has cards in a set. There are two cards whose pictures look the same. One is written on-grade level, and the other is below-grade level. Sets are available for each grade level, K-8.

Guided reading book from Mondo

Trade books can be used for upper grade guided reading, too

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Three Little Wolves book with characters glove and sticky notes

During a 2nd grade guided reading lesson recently, a teacher and I focused on helping students think more deeply about characters and how they act. The teacher told me that they can tell what happened in the story, but have trouble identifying the problem and solution or moving beyond naming characters and setting. Sound familiar to anyone???

Book choice was very important in this lesson. We picked The Three Little Wolves and The Big Bad Pig. Children were familiar with the story of the 3 pigs, so there was a good comprehension scaffold. We began the lesson by talking about the kind of book this was. Children quickly identified it as fiction, and said it had animals that talk in it and that it was a made up story. However, when I asked them about what they’d think about in a fiction story, their faces went blank.
I pulled out my story elements glove for fiction, and just showed them the thumb that said characters. “Oh,” one of the children said. “It’s like our story map,” and pointed to a chart nearby that had been made with the class. How often this happens. We’ve taught something, but it seems like kids have never heard of it!
I told them I wanted them to think about the characters and what they did in the story today. Then they read several pages on their own and jotted down what they learned about the characters on sticky notes. We labeled one post-it note “pig” and the other “3 wolves.” I scaffolded them as they read on their own by asking them about what they had found out about a character. We used their notes to talk after reading. The sticky notes and scaffolding helped them pay attention to characters today. We will have to repeat this same idea in lessons multiple times before children “own” this strategy. But today was a good beginning.

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Read the latest news about my travels to classrooms across the country and get connected with other teachers on my Facebook page! Just follow this link to become a fan! It’s also a great way to find out about my latest books and videos, leave comments, and read what other teachers are saying!

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Last post about winter

Spring officially arrives this weekend, but I wanted to share one last post about winter with you. When I was visiting SE Pennsylvania at the beginning of this month, I packed my wool coat and winter boots and I was ready for wintry weather! This is where I grew up, and my sister has been keeping me posted with number of snow days, number of inches of snow, etc.

So, during the modeling of a guided reading lesson, I was amazed to see one of the teachers’ painted toenails peeping out from a pair of cute spring sandals! She was watching the lesson, and I had to stop and stare at her toes! It was 38 degrees outside!

But I think finally the time has come for colorful toenails! Enjoy!

In front of the snow bank at Red Lion School District in Pennsylvania. Check out the teacher's toes and shoes!

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Take a moment to connect with yourself and find your inner peace every week by receiving a Peace Partners message every Monday and Friday! To sign up, send an e-mail to d.diller@live.com. Until then, check out the Peace Partners page to see previous messages.

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Recently I worked with teachers to plan and teach small group lessons in K-5 in Pennsylvania. One of the kindergarten lessons centered on rhyming. We began with what children were familiar with and could connect to. The teacher chose a rhyming song from Jack Hartmann that she’d taught it in whole group instruction (and the kids loved). We worked with 4 children who still needed support with rhyming and sang the song with just those children using an I-pod. Then we had them identify and produce rhyming words. In a smaller group these students took more risks than in whole group, and the familiar song gave them a link to learning.

What rhyming songs do your kids love?

Note the iPod used in the small group lesson.

Students clap while singing a rhyming song.

We had so much fun working together in small group!

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While working with schools in Indiana, we brainstormed a list of some good websites to use at computer stations for literacy. Here are a few to get you started. Please add to the list!

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Upper grade teachers in Goose Creek ISD worked together to create sample anchor charts to accompany Figure 19 Comprehension Skills (related to TX state standards). Many of them used the theme of “making connections.” I told how I liked to tell my students that when they read it’s like a TV. When you turn the TV on, there’s sound and a picture. But you need to plug it in to make it work. When I read, I make connections. It’s like plugging in your TV. When I make connections, I see a picture and hear what’s happening. Kids really seem to get this!
Here’s a look at what teachers who came to training will try with their students:



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