June 11, 2018

Boost Reading Comprehension with Informational Text Graphic Organizers

No doubt about it, children struggle with informational text more than literature. Nonfiction reading selections are organized in a differently, and they don't include elements like characters, plot, and setting that students have come to expect when they read fiction.

Graphic organizers are super helpful tools for teaching kids how to read and comprehend nonfiction texts. They provide a visual representation of how the information is organized which helps the reader make sense of the text.

When selecting a graphic organizer for a lesson, it's important to select the right graphic organizer for the text, especially if that text is nonfiction. Unlike fictional stories that have events occurring in chronological order, informational texts can be organized in a variety of ways. Some texts have a main idea with subtopics and supporting details, others present a problem and then descri

I want to share four of my favorite informational text graphic organizers with you. I developed all of them when I was writing Graphic Organizers for Reading: Teaching Tools Aligned with the Common Core, and I think they're worth a closer look. In this post I'll explain what each graphic organizer is used for; you can find the complete step-by-step directions for introducing these graphic organizers in the book.

Informational Text Features Search
Informational texts are organized differently from literary texts in order to make the information easier to read and understand. Theses selections often include “features” such as subheadings, maps, sidebars, diagrams, captions, and illustrations to help convey the meaning of the text clearly. Digital text often includes hypertext and other interactive elements. The Informational Text Features Search graphic organizer serves as a place to record those features, and it also helps students explore how text features help their reading comprehension.

Main Idea Neighborhood
Distinguishing between the main idea and its supporting details is a necessary informational text comprehension skill. This graphic organizer helps students clarify their understanding of these terms by comparing them to a neighborhood (topic), streets (main idea), and houses (details).

Cause and Effect Rockets

June 4, 2018

Make Time to Read Aloud!

What is it about reading aloud that’s so special? There's something about sharing a favorite book with your students that creates a unique bond and opens doors for discussion about sensitive topics. Even as a 5th grade teacher, I loved having my students to gather together on the carpet to listen and share a quiet moment in the day. Somehow it made us feel like one big family!

If you haven't been reading aloud to your students, you may feel that you simply don't have time to do so. However, you might be surprised at how easy it is to carve out a few minutes in the morning, after lunch, or at the start of reading class. Reading aloud is more than an add-on to regular instruction; research has demonstrated many real benefits to this practice. Among other things, reading aloud….
  • Allows students to hear fluent and expressive reading
  • Introduces students to challenging vocabulary
  • Provides a chance to address themes like friendship, courage, prejudice, bullying, etc.
  • Offers a chance to model reading strategies (questioning, making inferences, evaluating, etc.)
  • Introduces kids to a variety of literary genres and authors 

Reading Aloud and Reading Workshop
When I began using the reading workshop approach, I discovered how easy it was to create reading mini lessons based on my read aloud texts. Sometimes I read a short children's book to teach a specific skill, and other times I found a way to teach the skill using material from the chapter book I was currently reading. I always kept a copy of my current read aloud book at home so I could read ahead and plan my lesson based on the content in the upcoming chapter. I flagged challenging words so I could introduce them in advance, and I planned ahead about where I could do "think alouds" to model strategies like predicting, inferring, using context clues, identifying character motives, and so on.

Using Graphic Organizers 
One trick I discovered was to use graphic organizers and foldables as a way of holding my students accountable for instruction during my read aloud sessions. One of the easiest methods is to use the Read Aloud Snapshot printable. You can download the template from my Teaching Resources website, but it's so simple that it really doesn't require a printable if your students are able to fold a sheet of paper into six equal parts. Have them write the title and their name in the upper left block, and the remaining 5 blocks are used to create a visual storyboard. Each day when you finish reading, ask them to write the title of the chapter at the top of one block and draw a quick sketch of the main idea or main event. If they have room, they can squeeze in a short caption below their picture. At the end of the week, collect the Daily Snapshot graphic organizers and assign a participation grade. 

Read Aloud Book Suggestions
As an upper elementary teacher, I enjoyed reading chapter books to my students. They loved to get completely wrapped up in a story, wondering what would happen next! Some of our favorites were:
  • Canyons by Gary Paulsen
  • The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles by Julie Andrews 
  • Jake Drake, Bully Buster by Andrew Clements
  • Running Out of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix
I recently posed this question on Facebook and received over 100 responses! I invite you to read the recommendations of other upper elementary teachers and share your own. You can also find more book recommendations as well as read aloud tips and free materials on my Read Aloud page on Teaching Resources.

Do you read aloud to your students? If so, what are some of your favorite books to share with your students? How do you fit reading aloud into your busy schedule?

May 29, 2018

40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club Membership Giveaway

I've been raving about Angela Watson's 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club for years because I truly believe that it's a life-changing resource. The 40 HTW Club only accepts new members twice a year, and I'm excited to share that it will open again very soon. Membership isn't free, but it's worth every penny of your investment. And if you're lucky, you might even be able to join for free! Read on to learn more about the 40HTW Club and how to enter this membership giveaway.

May 20, 2018

Book Donation Bonanza: Free Professional Books for Schools!

The publishing world keeps changing, and sometimes those changes happen so fast we don't see them coming. That's exactly what happened to my publisher, and it's why we're going to be donating thousands of my books to schools over the next few weeks! Power Reading Workshop, Graphic Organizers for Reading, and Mastering Math Facts are each listed for $24.95 on Amazon, but we're going to give them away by the carton! If you aren't familiar with these books, click here and follow the preview links to learn more about them.

January 14, 2018

Teachers, Help MrOwl Help YOU!

Wouldn't it be awesome to find a free tech tool for creating  collections of online resources, photos, and documents all in one place? Look no further! Welcome to MrOwl, a new platform that makes it easy for teachers to search for online resources and save them, upload photos and documents, organize resources by topic, share them with others, and so much more!

I discovered MrOwl last year when the founders, Becky and Arvind Raichur, asked me to review MrOwl and share my feedback about how to make the platform more useful for educators. After reviewing the site, I was so impressed that I wrote a blog review and developed a webinar to introduce MrOwl to educators.

To be clear, MrOwl is a public platform, and it wasn’t specifically designed for educational use. However, it does have loads of unique features that make it especially appealing to teachers. Here are a few of the things you can do with MrOwl: 

  • Create topic-based collections of resources called "branches"
  • Make your branches public or private
  • Search for, save, and organize online resources
  • Upload photos and documents to your topic branches
  • Share collections of resources with others
  • Connect and collaborate with others who share your interests

Discover MrOwl Webinar 
One of the best ways to explore the unique features of MrOwl is to watch my webinar for teachers, Discover MrOwl: A Free Tech Tool for Organizing, Sharing, and Collaborating. During the webinar, I explained how to set up your profile and how to use the basic features of the MrOwl platform. But the most important part of the webinar was demonstrating how to use MrOwl in your role as an educational professional and how to use it in your classroom with students.

Teachers, Help MrOwl Help YOU!
One thing that has impressed me about Becky and Arvind is their sincere desire to make MrOwl even more useful for teachers and more appropriate for students. They're excited about MrOwl's potential for classroom use, and they're seeking feedback from educators about how to improve the platform so that it meets YOUR needs. They'd like to add a special MrOwl for Educators FAQ section to their Help menu, but they need help from teachers to make this happen. Here's how you can help:
  1. Watch the replay of the Discover MrOwl webinar. Before you watch it, print out the Discover MrOwl webinar handouts so you'll have a place to take notes.

  2. Create a free account on MrOwl. When you register, keep in mind that your user name will be visible on the site, so choose one that you won't mind others seeing.

  3. Log on to the MrOwl from a computer and explore the platform. Create a few topic branches and subtopics within those branches. Search for online resources and save them. Upload photos or documents to one of your topic branches. Download the MrOwl smart phone app from Apple iTunes or Google Play, and test out the mobile version of the platform. Find Laura Candler on MrOwl and follow me!

  4. If you have questions or need help with MrOwl, click on the Help menu in the navigation bar to access the help pages. Were you able to find the answers there? If not, make a note of your questions so that you can ask them during the webinar.

  5. How do you envision using MrOwl both professionally and in the classroom with your students? What additional features would make MrOwl even better for educators? What information should be included in the MrOwl for Educators FAQ help menu?   
If this is the first you've heard about MrOwl, read my original blog review to learn a more about this new technology. Then watch the Discover MrOwl webinar and share your feedback with Becky and Arvind. They really do want to hear from you, because they need YOUR help to make MrOwl an even more amazing resource for educators!