Thursday, July 2, 2015

Tutoring Tips and Tools

Hello again! It's been a busy blogging summer so far. I'm on a roll this week! Since most of us are not teaching in classrooms right now, I thought it would be the perfect time to talk about tutoring. Before I had kids, I was tutoring like crazy during the summer! I would literally tutor from 8am to 4pm four days a week. It was before the days of blogging, TPT, and kids so I had the entire summer to myself. Tutoring was the perfect way to get some summer cash and fine-tune my teaching skills sharp in my earlier years of teaching.  Now, I don't tutor all day during the summer, but I did start tutoring two kids during the school year at my son's school. It had been a while since I tutored, but it's very similar to what I do for my actual job (reading pull-out.) One big difference was that at my actual job I have a big classroom to put all of my things. When I'm tutoring, I was going into another school so I had to haul all of my things with me. That brings back memories of my earlier summer tutoring. I would literally roll in a suitcase full of stuff to the public library and station myself at a table all day. Ha! Well, I've evolved a little. Now I have a cute teacher bag and a binder that go with me and a filing system at home. I thought I'd share some of my tutoring tips today. :) 

Don't lug around a suitcase like I did early on! Unless you tutor in your classroom, you will need to be prepared and organized. My tutoring sessions usually last between 30 and 45 minutes so I need to make sure I have engaging and meaningful activities to fill that time. Keeping this stuff organized is key for your own sanity! Also if you are totally organized, it makes your tutoring session flow much more smoothly.  

This year, I carried a teacher bag with this binder. I had a separate filing system at home filled with more tutoring stuff.  Everything I need for that day is in my binder. 

I use these divider pockets to separate parts of the lesson.I like the ones with pockets because I always have things to fill them with! The picture above shows the different tabs I use for my binder. For each session, I do a phonics lesson, sight word practice, a fluency exercise, and guided reading.  At the end of my binder there are tabs for lesson plans, notes, and assessments. 

The first page of my binder is just student information. This was especially important when I was tutoring multiple students. 

Since you may be tutoring in a room with no materials besides a pencil waiting there for you, you should definitely come prepared with your own pouch of goodies. Above is a picture of what I have in mine. 

You can create your own word building mat and tiles. You can cut index cards into smaller rectangles for the letter tiles and use a regular piece of paper to draw a word building mat. 

This page includes detailed directions for how I do this activity. You can download this page here. 

I have two phonics tabs in my binder. One is for introducing the phonics skill (the building words) and the other is for addition practice. I usually have 2-3 more activities to follow up my introduction. These are less guided and more for the student to practice sounding out words using that phonics rule. These are three of my go-to activities that can be used with any phonetic rule:  

You can make your own sorting activity using index cards. Choose three word families and write several words with that those word families on the index cards. Use those notecards for a sorting activity. You can download the full directions here. 

You can make these same cards using colored index cards. Write onset on one color and rimes (word endings) on the other color card. Use these cards to match up words (real and nonsense) and to play memory. This is a quick and easy way to practice phonics skills. Click here for the full page of detailed directions. 

When you are planning your sight words, there are a few more tips:
1. Get a list (dolch, fry, or a list your district uses)
2. Find out what words your student already knows (this means they read them instantly on sight)
3. Keep a checklist of which words you taught and which they mastered. 
4. Introduce 3-5 at a time, depending on where they are at. Don't try to throw a bunch of new words at them. To make them stick, your student needs to practice them over and over in different ways. For your beginning readers, you may only want to introduce two at a time.  
5. Review previously learned sight words. This is good for two reasons: It's good to review so they go  deeper into their stored memory and it helps with confidence/flow when you are playing a sight word game.  Have a stack of notecards with the words that you have worked on, plus some that they already knew. Begin by going through this stack. 
6. For your new words, add a multi-sensory experience by tracing the word in glue. You can add glitter or just keep the glue. Then let your student trace and feel the word. You could also use Wikki sticks and pipe cleaners to make the word. That way, your students can feel the word and build the word in a different way. These materials are also easy to carry around. :)

These activities are meant to be done to practice words you've just introduced (as explained above.)
These activities pictured are from my Super Reader Pack. It includes phonics and sight word activities.  For your tutoring session, you can use any sight word activity that you like! There are so many awesome ideas on TPT.  

This is an activity that you can make on your own using a file folder. Games are fun, but your student does need to be seeing the word, tracing the word, and writing the word. This activity is perfect for that. 

Your plan doesn't have to be super detailed. I just think about two main things: what am I teaching and how am I teaching it. In this picture below, you see the what under the skill.  The how is under the method

Here is an example of what you could use if you are tutoring more than one person in a day. I used something like this in my earlier years and it helped me stay organized with all those kids! In the boxes, you can include the what and the how together.  

I plan it out first, then I "pack" my binder with the things I'll need. 

I use Readinga-z for my assessments. They have Guided Reading assessments a phonics inventory.
This is honestly the best investment! I first bought a subscription my first year of teaching and I was so happy I did. It's SO worth it! Look at all these options:
Once you've assessed your student, you are ready to plan your instruction!

I'm constantly changing the way I assess and keep notes from year to year in my own classroom. It's a problem. Don't be like me. Choose a way and stick with it! Here are some ways that I keep track of my students' sessions and assessments. 

The top left is used when the student is reading a book or reading passage. I do a quick check using this page. The checkmarks under the running record column show a snapshot of their reading for that day. Then I go back and "grade" their fluency, comprehension, use of phonics skills, and sight word knowledge with a simple plus, check or minus. 
The Snapshot Assessment is what I fill out at the end of the session. It includes all the pieces of the session. I "grade" with a scale of 1-4. This helps me keep track of their progress. 
The Phonics Snapshot is used specifically to keep track of phonetic skills. It goes into more detail (can they blend, can they segment, are they fluent with reading those phonetic words.) I mainly use this with my beginning readers. The last picture is my phonics quick check form. For time sake, I might only check half of it in one session and half in another. I use that when I think a child is ready to move on to the next skill. You certainly do not have to be this detailed! Choose one that works for you and go with it! :) It could be as simple as a box to take notes!  

One mistake I made super early on was that I spend too much time having my student read a book. Although it's important to practice reading real books, they can do that with their parents. They can do that on their own. We need to provide them with instruction and guided practice. Our struggling readers see a book as a daunting task. It's big, filled with too many words. Sigh. I find it really helps to give students opportunities to read in smaller parts. If you are working on fluency, they need to have opportunities to reread things. It makes sense that those texts need to be short so you have the time to reread them. I use short reading passages or story cards (in my Super Reader pack or any seasonal guided reading pack.) Whatever you choose to use, make sure it is an appropriate level and not too long. Choose one focus each day: expression, rate, stopping at punctuation, etc. Model it first and again after they read so they can hear good fluency. 

I hope my tips helped you today! 
If you are interested in my tutoring binder, I will be uploading it to TPT tonight hopefully and blogging about it tomorrow.
Stay tuned if you're interested. :)

In the meantime, here are links to some of my favorite resources. 
When I'm tutoring, I often pull from these:

Sentence Scramble

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Sight Word Fun in the Sun

Hi Everyone! I hope you are enjoying your summer so far. I am loving every minute of it. I looooove summer time. This summer I've been mostly keeping busy with my two boys, but I've also been balancing with a little work. Summer is such a great opportunity to catch up on things that I wanted to do during the school year, but never had time to do. That list just keeps growing and growing until summer, when I chip away at it a little. Don't worry though, I'm not stressing myself out at all. :) Ha! I'm definitely in vacation-every-day mode. I often ask myself what day it is. Awww, summertime.

That leads into my topic for today:

Specifically, ways to trick your kids into practicing sight words outside so you can still enjoy the beautiful sunshine. ;) These are meant to be quick activities to keep those brains from getting cobwebs. They can be used for review for our beginning readers (so they don't lose everything that they started to gain in kindergarten,) or a mixture of new and review words to build skills over the summer.

1. Make a "sand box."

Playing in sand is classic. I was hesitant last summer because sand = big mess. I cracked under the pressure of course. My friend found an idea on Pinterest that seemed way better than a sand box. So I dusted off one of our clear plastic shallow bins and filled it with big $3 sand bags. My kids played with that sand all summer.  In school, I always used the pretty color sand on a tray to practice sight words. This picture shows the pretty sand in a  water table, but it's even better to put sand in the "sand box" (a.k.a. long, shallow clear plastic bin.)

This only has to take a few minutes. I think of a word that stumped Shawn during reading the night before. I write the word, read it, and have Shawn repeat it and trace it with his fingers. Then I mess up the sand and have him write it, saying the word again. It helps to have him say the word and the letters as he traces. Wait a few minutes, let him play and write that same word again. "Remember this word?" Trace it, say it, have him erase and write it again." See? Do that a few more times and you've given your child opportunities to add that word into his memory. He might even associate it with the fun of the sand box and remember it better. Who knows!

2. Bean Bag Toss

We are big time Cornhole lovers in my family. This isn't quite Cornhole, but it involves beanbags and taking aim at something, so we'll take it. :) Have your child read the word that the beanbag lands on. Throw a few beanbags per "round." Then have your child read the word again when he goes to pick them up. 


There was one word that kept stumping Shawn. So, we adjusted the rules. We were trying to get that word to "win." The word with the most beanbags on it after throwing 6 beanbags was the winner. We were trying to get "were" to win since that was our tricky word. He actually aimed at that word and tried to get it there. That made him really concentrate on the word and gave him more opportunities to read it. 

3. Word Hunts:

Having a Word Hunt is always a good time: In a classroom, in a house, and especially outside. I've blogged before about various word hunts, but it hadn't occurred to me to do it outside. Kids love searching for things outside and why not spice it up with a few sight words? You can put the words on index cards and hide them in trees, under rocks, and by bushes. Just make you sure that when they find the words, they read them to you. If they can't read them, you read it for them, then hide the word again.

4. Chalk it up:

Confession time. I actually can't stand the feel of chalk on my fingers. It makes me shiver. It's a good thing I'm a teacher in the age of white boards because I don't know if I could've made it with a chalkboard. I have a problem, I know. Buuuut, I still love chalk for the kids. :) We always have ample chalk at my house. My kids love to draw and write with chalk. Plus who doesn't love some sidewalk art? Writing sight words in chalk is way more exciting than writing them with pencil, right?

5. Soak a Sight Word:

Ah, the super soakers. We have already made good use of ours this summer. Yes, it's definitely more fun to soak your mom and dad, but maybe they can settle for soaking a sight word sometimes? You could really jazz it up and "time" them. How fast can you find and soak the word could? This was totally Shawn-inspired. I was writing letters in chalk for his little brother when he comes over with the soaker and calls out the letter as he sprays it. Then he did a few more. Owen went nuts (in a good way) and wanted me to write more letters so he could spray them.  Did I mention that I like to trick my kids into learning sometimes? :) Mission accomplished.

6. Rock Tic-Tac-Toe

Sight Word Tic-tac-Toe is always fun in the classroom, so I wanted to find a way to take it outside this summer. It's a little different than the classroom version of sight word tic-tac-toe in that you are taking off the rocks once the words are called. (Notice how the rocks don't need to be pretty at all. Just your run-of-the-mill gray rocks here.)

BONUS: You can use these same rocks to make a "hide-and-seek" game. Hide the rocks in the grass and have your child search for them OR hide them in your sand box. Cover the rocks with sand and have your kids "dig them out."

7. Sight Word Frisbee

Get some sturdy paper plates for this one. They don't glide as well as a real frisbee, so you could get a frisbee at the Dollar Store and tape an index card to it (with a sight word on the index card.) Shawn is not a fan of the real frisbee because he's afraid of getting hit in the face, so the paper plate is preferable. He actually thinks it's funny that the paper plate frisbee never goes in the direction I had hoped.

8. Word Find

Okay so, technically, this might not sound like an outdoor activity. However, I did use this activity for real, outside, in the summertime. a lot. We love going out to eat in the summertime. Something about eating outside is so much more appealing when the cooking is done for you. I am personally against getting out the iPad or iPhone for my kids while waiting for a meal at a restaurant. Granted, it is more of a challenge and I'm sure that makes my kids more annoying or loud than the kids quietly playing on their iPads. But alas, I stick to my guns on that one. I think waiting is an important skill for them to develop. But that's a whole other blog post! Instead of the iPad, my kids need to make do with the coloring sheets that are given to them. Sometimes while we wait for our meals, I would create a little sight word find on a napkin or on the back of the kid's menu (the ones that are just paper of course.) It was simple, fast, and helped time go by. I did this a lot with Shawn last summer when he was first learning sight words. It was perfect because he knew he had to wait anyway. He was stuck sitting at the table and this made the time go by. Win, win. Or as Michael Scott would say, "Win, win, win." (Office, anyone?)

9. Sight Word Memory and Go Fish:

Okay, so these aren't really outside games technically either. But if there is no wind, they could be! Everything is better when you try it outside. Remember Jen Jones' post last week about summer reading? It's the same idea. Throw a blanket out, get some snacks, and sit in the shade. You have now created a great ambiance for your sight word games. A little break from running around in the sun. :) Here, we are using a little foldable table on our front porch, taking a break from the sun.

Well, there you have it! I hope some of these ideas work for you, too. :)

If you want a printable version of these ideas, click on the picture below:

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Daily 5 Book Study: Chapter 3

I'm back with chapter 3 of The Daily 5: The Second Addition brought to you by Primary Inspired.

We are starting to get into the meat of the Daily 5! I would say that this chapter is the most helpful for me as a teacher. Even if you are choosing not to do Daily 5, this chapter is still so meaningful. In this chapter, the Sisters talk about the ten steps they go through when introducing the Daily 5. The reason why I love this chapter so much is because you can apply these steps to anything you are doing in your classroom to teach independence. We all want that, right? 

First, the Sisters give you a little background as to why these steps are so effective and imperative to follow when introducing something new to a class. They used research from Michael Grinder, who explains that when information is stored in more than one system (visual, auditory, or kinesthetic), memory is improved. 

The goal is to help our students store the desired "movement" in their muscle memory to become part of of their default behavior. The movements, of course, are the procedures and routines that we want them to apply while working independently. 

This involves creating the I chart (like a T chart, but I for independence) where you write what is being taught (Read to Self, for example.) This step seems so basic, yet when I reflect back on my earlier years of teaching, I found that I didn't always state this so explicitly.  

"Setting a purpose and creating a sense of urgency establishes a culture in which every moment of learning and practicing counts." I think this is always important with teaching because kids do want to know why we are learning something. I know I do. Think about when you are forced to sit through a presentation. Aren't you thinking, "How does this benefit me?" or "How will this help me be better at ----?" We want our students to see how important reading is, and how valuable this learning time can be.

One change from the first edition is that the Sisters no longer recommend brainstorming the desired behaviors because the length of the lesson became too long (remember the brain research from the previous chapter with the correlation between age and focus time.) Now, they record the desired behaviors on the I-chart in front of the students. 

The Sisters also point out that how we choose to communicate these desired behaviors is significant. Instead of using the word "don't" over and over (don't walk around; don't talk), state  the exact behavior that you do want to see: Stay in one spot; work quietly

This isn't anything new, but they did make a good point in this section. We all know modeling for our students is effective and necessary for them to learn our expectations. However, we don't always give it the time it deserves. I know I was guilty of this!

For me, this is always a tough one. I always had those kids who loooooved this part because it was an excuse to be silly. Sometimes it felt like this was the most memorable part of the day, which of course, is not what I wanted. I was relieved to read that the Sisters did recognize this problem and have a solution. They choose a student who "frequently exhibits off task behavior" to model the undesirable behavior. Their theory is that this allows those kids to get the desired attention in a more productive way. It is an opportunity to shape his/her behaviors. The key is bringing the class back and following up with questions like, "If this continues, will he/she become a better read?" At this point, you can have that same child model the correct behavior. 

The Sisters also note that for kindergarten students, it's best to only teach them the desired behavior so they do not get confused. I was so happy to read this!

This is all about teaching students to choose a responsible work space. They recommend calling over 5 students at a time to grab their book boxes and find spot in the room. This is more efficient that one at a time because that would take too long and possibly wear out stamina time before it even begins. This was always an important time for me to watch to see what areas the kids saw as "prime real estate". It's funny how it can change from year to year. There is always that spot, that for whatever reason, becomes the coveted spot. We don't have time to keep track of who sits there and how often. At the same time, we want to make sure our students aren't all hovering in the same spot or arguing over one spot. I would love to hear if any of you has tips for this issue! :)

This was amazing to watch my first year. It truly works! The Sisters suggest letting the students' behavior set the pace. They recommend starting with 3 minutes, but that is just a suggestion. You will watch your students and determine how long they last. It may be more, it may be less. My advice: Don't push it. Sometimes we want our kids to feel success and make it longer than you had hoped. If you prolong it when their stamina is broken, you will regret it. Remember we setting the tone for the year. By stopping our students at the first sign of stamina loss, we are establishing our expectations. Don't make them feel bad if they don't make it to three minutes. Just encourage them for the next time! A stamina chart can work wonders! Students are so excited to watch that chart grow. :) 
A week ago, I posted a summer stamina graph to use at home. I adjusted it to use at the beginning of they year. You can download it here. 
I also included a blank one. :)

This step is maybe the most eye opening for me. I always thought it was best to be praising students during this time, checking in with them, walking around to monitor, etc. The Sisters make such a good point though! When we do that,  our students' "on-task behavior has been anchored to us." They aren't really independent if they are used to having us constantly check in with them and praise them. Once that's gone, they fall apart. Remember the goal is to eventually be able to use this time to conduct a reading group or a conference with a student. We need to rely on the rest of the class to truly be independent and not have to rely on us for support. 

Once you see a student showing you that his/her stamina is gone, use a quiet signal to get the class' attention and bring them back to you. The signal should be different enough to grab the attention of your students, but not too loud. I found this to be very powerful. To calmly and peacefully end a session sets the tone for the next activity. The sisters recommend using chimes or a rainstick. 

I bought a music wand when I was at a conference a few years back. Little did I know, it would be one of my best purchases ever! I love this thing. You gently tap a surface and it makes the perfect sound. There are a ton of other Music Wand options to choose from!

After calling the class back together, refer back to the I-chart and ask students to reflect on their personal behavior. Go through the chart, pointing to each expectation, and ask your students to hold up 1, 2, 3, or 4 fingers to indicate how they think they did. I remember skipping this step back in the day. I think this is a really important step though. In a way, they are holding themselves accountable. Based on these self-refelctions, students are then asked to make a goal for the next round. They can share this goal with an elbow buddy, write their goal, or just make a internal note to themselves. 

These ten steps are used for each session when introducing the Daily 5. During the first days of launching Daily 5, they do three to four practice sessions each day. I found it very helpful to spread these sessions out throughout the day. My students were excited to "get another chance" throughout the day. The goal during this time is to build stamina and to model/practice behaviors repeatedly so they become "default behaviors."

Head on over to The Crazy School Teacher who is hosting this week's chapter to see what other people are saying about this chapter. She also has a freebie for you with all of these steps on one page.