Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog!

Classic Post: Teaching Speaking & Listening Standards

Posted by Dana Lester on Jul 22, 2014 8:00:00 AM

This is a guest blog post by Dana Lester of Common to the Core, originally published in October 2013. Dana wanted to bring the attention of the teaching community to the Common Core Speaking and Listening Standards, which she feels are often overlooked. She's come up with some ways to encourage oral language skills in the classroom, so read on to find out more!

dana lester 200Speaking and Listening Standards in the Classroom

Reading lessons that include Literature and Informational Text standards can easily be created around pretty much any book, but what about Speaking and Listening Standards? Do you purposefully include these standards? Do you teach Speaking and Listening standards with the same explicit instruction that you use with the other standards? Prior to spending hours and hours in Common Core State Standards training to be a Core Coach for my state, I didn’t. I was of the mindset, “Oh, they know how to talk to teach other. They can listen. I don’t really have to teach those things.” WRONG.

We have to use the same direct instruction that we use to teach vowel sounds, to teach speaking and listening skills. Yes, our students talk. Yes, they listen (most of the time). But it’s probably not the quality of speaking and listening that’s called for by the Common Core State Standards. Teachers must model rich, purposeful talk and understand that oral language skills influence reading comprehension.

I have a few Speaking and Listening activities to share with you that can be used around any genre of story. Folktales are one of my favorite genres and I love designing lessons around them. The Little Red Hen is a classic story that is familiar to most children, but there are so many versions of this tale, that it is easy to find one your students aren’t familiar with. For example, the most recent version I’ve seen is one in which the cat plays the guitar, the duck plays the drums, and the goose sings! This hilarious version is retold by Alan Trussell-Cullen and is published by Hameray. I like the ending of this retelling because the hen actually lets the other animals eat the bread after they each choose a chore to help with clean up!

Little Red Hen Cover FinalSo, you’re ready to read. Start with intentional pairing. This will allow more students to be engaged in dialogue. Some tips for pairing are:

  • Know your students; don’t put a Chatty Cathy with a painfully shy child. The painfully shy child will never get a word in edgewise.
  • Assign each partner a number (1, 2) or a word (peanut butter/jelly, milk/cookie)

Read the story, pausing to discuss along the way. Don’t wait until the end of the story to ask questions about what the hen did first. An easy way to remember to ask questions is to put a sticky note on the page you want to ask questions about. Encourage oral language by requiring students to support their answer with details from the text. This, my friends, is what “close reading” looks like in Kindergarten or 1st grade!

Allow students to have a thirty-second conversation with their partner about a specific part of the story. For example, the teacher says, “Boys and girls, I want you to turn to your partner and all the 1’s are going to talk about why the hen’s friends did not want to help bake the bread and when I call out SWITCH, I want the 2’s to talk about what the hen did when no one would help her.” This intentional pairing ensures that each child gets the same amount of airtime and all voices are heard. The thirty-second conversation hits the first Speaking and Listening standard for grades K–2.

We can also use sentence stems to build oral language. Sentence stems are sentence starters. First, the teacher would explicitly model the process by writing the stem on the board and reading it aloud while writing: “I can help…” The teacher completes the sentence. “I can help my daughter with her homework.” Next, the teacher directs the students to “grow” their sentence stem with their partner. Partners share their sentences with each other, then shares with the class. Not only would this meet the firstSpeaking and Listening standard, but it pulls in the first-grade standard on producing complete sentences when appropriate to task and situation and the Language standard on producing and expanding simple and compound declarative, interrogative, imperative, and exclamatory sentences.

5085 Different Kinds of Bread Cover FINALGreat conversations can arise from reading two different versions of the same folktale. Students can compare and contrast the actions of the characters using sentence stems and the thirty-second conversation. Creating a word web is an excellent way to expand vocabulary. Read an informational text on bread, such as Different Kinds of Bread by Alan Trussell-Cullen and have students create a web with the word “bread” in the center. Students will be able to pull words such as wheat and flour from The Little Red Hen and words such as "pita," "crust," and "baking powder" from Different Kinds of Bread.

To sum things up, oral language strategies will benefit our high- and low-language students. We must design our lessons with Speaking and Listening Standards in mind and plan for opportunities for students to practice these skills throughout the day. Give students thirty seconds to talk to each other about a specific topic. You will be surprised at how students can benefit from half a minute. Emphasis the importance of vocabulary through word webs. Post these webs in your writing area so students can see these words and use them in their own writing. Support language development with activities that structure sentence formation. Post sentence stems around the room so students will have constant reminders on how to produce complete sentences. Literacy gets its start with oral language, so we must be purposeful in our talk!

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dana lester blog screenshotDana Lester received a B.S. and Master’s Degree from Middle Tennessee State University and is currently teaching at Walter Hill School in Murfreesboro, TN. Dana is also a Common Core Coach with the Tennessee State Department of Education. She has 12 years of classroom experience and has just begun her role as Library Media Specialist. As a strong advocate of the Common Core Standards and Whole Brain Teaching strategies, she engages her students in hands-on, inquiry based learning and shares many ideas and activities on her blog, Common to the Core. She was named Teacher of the Year at Walter Hill in 2013.

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Do you know a K–8 teacher whose creative classroom activities could use some well-deserved recognition? Have you, yourself, hit upon a strategy that you think works so well that you'd love to share it with others? Do you have a teaching blog or website with ideas you'd like to spread? Come stand in our Teacher Spotlight!

We're looking for teachers with unique, fun perspectives to feature on our blog. At least once a month, possibly more often, we want to inspire the teaching community with the innovative work of teachers who have a true passion for what they're doing. We'll broadcast your ideas here on our blog, distributing them through social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

Each teacher we choose will get some Hameray "goodies" from a series that fits their classroom needs—early literacy, oral language development, striving readers in upper grades, informational text, or literature.

To nominate yourself or another teacher, tell us a little more here.

For more information about the Story World Real World series shown in this post, visit our website or click the image below to download an information sheet with series highlights and key features!

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Topics: Teacher Spotlight, Common Core, Literature, Informational Text, Oral Language Development, Dana Lester, Speaking and Listening

Using Informational Text Features

Posted by Dana Lester on Mar 19, 2014 8:08:59 AM

This is a guest blog post by Dana Lester, who writes a blog called Common to the Core, in which she writes about the Common Core State Standards, student reading skills, behavior management, books and products, and more. Dana is writing a series of guest posts; to see her other contributions, you can click here!

Using Informational Text Features

When I was a child, text features were always my favorite part of our social studies and science books. The long paragraphs just looked too long and too boring to read. I’d rather get my information is short quick bursts of words. As a teacher, I’ve found this is true with most children. They like the pictures, maps, diagrams, timelines, and captions.

martialarts-200The Download series is written on a second- to third-grade reading level with a fourth- to ninth-grade interest level. They are aimed at struggling and reluctant readers. Book topics are of high interest to all children, especially boys. With titles like The Paranormal, Natural Disasters, Martial Arts, and BMX and Mountain Biking, what student could pass them up? Each book is primarily nonfiction, but includes a three-chapter fictional story that relates to the book topic.

I recently used several books from the Download series with my third-, fourth-, and fifth-graders. I passed the copies out to some of my more reluctant readers and let them start exploring without any directions or specifications. After fifteen minutes, I asked them what they thought about the books. They immediately began showing me all of the new things they’d learned. Guess what! Every single “cool new thing” they learned was in a picture or caption—proof that kids love text features! I asked them to specifically show me what they liked about the books. Some liked the fictional story inside the nonfiction text, some said all the captions, and others said they liked the pictures and maps. I had to pry these books out of their hands when they left the library so I could use them with my next class.

The third-grade Common Core State Standards specifically mention text features. Third-graders are expected to use text features and search tools to locate information relevant to a given topic efficiently (ELA CCSS R.I. 3.5). While there are many ways to teach text features, I will share one lesson with you that I have taught.

Lester-7-250First, I wanted to highlight the differences between a text with text features and one without. I gave out a typed paragraph of nonfiction information. This could be on any topic you choose. The students were told to read the information and make as many notes as they could in about five minutes.

Then, I gave them the same information in a two-page spread, but with pictures, maps, captions, labels, and sidebars. I gave them the same directions as with the first passage. After examining both texts, we talked about the similarities and differences, and discussed which of the formats held their attention longer, which was easier to glean information from, etc. The consensus was that the passage with the text features was better.

The next part of the activity, which they loved, was to take a passage that had no text features and completely redo it to include as many types of text features as they wanted. They LOVED this! We pulled pictures off of the Internet, and used markers and colored pencils. Some students used the books from the Download series as inspiration for how to arrange their text features. They truly enjoyed this learning experience!

How have you taught text features in your classroom? I would love for you to share your lesson ideas in the comment section below!

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Dana LesterDana Lester received a B.S. and Master’s Degree from Middle Tennessee State University and is currently teaching at Walter Hill School in Murfreesboro, TN. Dana is also a Common Core Coach with the Tennessee State Department of Education. She has 12 years of classroom experience and has just begun her role as Library Media Specialist. As a strong advocate of the Common Core Standards and Whole Brain Teaching strategies, she engages her students in hands-on, inquiry based learning and shares many ideas and activities on her blog, Common to the Core. She was named Teacher of the Year at Walter Hill in 2013.

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To learn more about the Download series, you can click here to visit our website, or click the series highlights images below to download an information sheet with key features.

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Topics: Informational Text, Dana Lester, Download

An Introduction to Mrs. Wishy-Washy—with FREE Download!

Posted by Dana Lester on Mar 10, 2014 7:52:00 AM

This is a guest blog post by Dana Lester, who writes a blog called Common to the Core, in which she writes about the Common Core State Standards, student reading skills, behavior management, books and products, and more. Dana is writing a series of guest posts; to see her other contributions, you can click here!

I'd Like to Introduce You to Mrs. Wishy-Washy!

MWW portraitI guess I’ve been living under a rock, because I did not know Mrs. Wishy-Washy until just recently. Now that we’ve met, we have become such good friends!

Here are five things that Mrs. Wishy-Washy and I have in common:

  1. We both love to clean. Neither of us can stand a mess. In Mrs. Wishy-Washy and the Big Wash, she even loaded up her animals and searched all over town for water when there was none on the farm!
  2. We have both entered our (clean) animals in the fair and won! As a teenager, I showed cattle through 4-H and have a box full of ribbons to show for it!
  3. We are both farm girls. She currently lives on a farm and I grew up on a dairy farm.
  4. We are both hard workers. Her hard work, and cleaning obsession, is apparent in Mrs. Wishy-Washy on TV. She scrubs every animal and person in sight until they are sparkling!
  5. A cow, pig, and duck sang to me on my last birthday too, just like in Mrs. Wishy-Washy’s Birthday. Just kidding, but it was really sweet when it happened in Mrs. Wishy-Washy’s Birthday!

Now that you know a little about Mrs. Wishy-Washy and me, let me tell you 5 things you’ll love about these books:

  1. Each book has a teacher’s guide specific to that book. It’s not a separate document that you’re bound to lose, but actually printed on the back cover. It’s a brilliant concept that I wish all books had! You could easily leave this book for a substitute teacher and just say, “follow the guide inside the back cover” and you’d know your students were going to get a great lesson.
  2. The word count for the four books I have averages out to 198—a perfect length for beginning readers. The stories are engaging and humorous. The vocabulary in the books is varied and each one has three to four specific words listed in the guide to pull out and talk more about. Students can take these new words and come up with antonyms and/or synonyms, put them in alphabetical order, or create new sentences using the words.
  3. The characters are constant. After reading a few books, children can expect to see the cow, pig, and duck. Stories can be created from one of the animals’ point of view. Predictions can be made about what the animals did to get so dirty, or what they’ll do after their baths. Book summaries are a great thing to do with your students to make sure they understand parts of the story. You can download a story summary chart below to use with any Mrs. Wishy-Washy book.MWW with animals
  4. These books would adapt themselves well to a Reader’s Theater script. After a shared reading of the book, students can work together to retell the story and create parts for a script as they work.
  5. All sorts of word studies can be done with these books. Mrs. Wishy-Washy’s Birthday lends itself to a study of onomatopoeia, words with suffixes, and compound words. Mrs. Wishy-Washy and the Big Wash has several rhyming patterns, and onomatopoeia. All of the books are great to use for punctuation lessons, because they have a wide range of sentence types and quotation marks.

I have fallen in love with Mrs. Wishy-Washy and all the things you can do with these books. I’ve really just scratched the surface with the ideas shared here. There are two sets of these delightful books written by Joy Cowley. There is the Joy Cowley Collection, written for grades K-2 and then Joy Cowley Early Birds. The Early Birds Collection is written on a lower level. You can even enter to win books from the Mrs. Wishy-Washy series by entering the giveaway happening right now—just click this link!

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Dana LesterDana Lester received a B.S. and Master’s Degree from Middle Tennessee State University and is currently teaching at Walter Hill School in Murfreesboro, TN. Dana is also a Common Core Coach with the Tennessee State Department of Education. She has 12 years of classroom experience and has just begun her role as Library Media Specialist. As a strong advocate of the Common Core Standards and Whole Brain Teaching strategies, she engages her students in hands-on, inquiry based learning and shares many ideas and activities on her blog, Common to the Core. She was named Teacher of the Year at Walter Hill in 2013.

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To download the Mrs. Wishy-Washy story summary chart, click the worksheet image below. To learn more about Mrs. Wishy-Washy and see Joy Cowley's books, you can click here to visit our website, or click the series highlights images below to download an information sheet with key features.

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Topics: Joy Cowley Collection, Mrs. Wishy-Washy, Joy Cowley, Joy Cowley Early Birds, K-2 Literacy, Dana Lester

Celebrate Black History with Biographies—with FREE Download!

Posted by Dana Lester on Feb 21, 2014 8:00:00 AM

This is a guest blog post by Dana Lester, who writes a blog called Common to the Core, in which she writes about the Common Core State Standards, student reading skills, behavior management, books and products, and more. Dana is writing a series of guest posts; to see her other contributions, you can click here!

Using Biographies to Celebrate Black History Month

Lester 5 1 200This month I set up a display of books on famous black Americans to bring attention to Black History Month. My students have loved this display. It’s brought to light many books that were tucked away on a shelf that might not have been noticed in awhile.

I also have a few biographies from the Hameray Biography Series, which are my favorite. They are not in my library circulation, because they are paperback, but they get plenty of use in the library. I like them because the reading level is third to fifth grade, there are many colored photos throughout, and there is an index, timeline, glossary, and list of other resources in the back of each book. The timeline is a perfect reference for projects and the “Learn More” resource list is a perfect addition because it lists other books, videos, and websites!

My students like these biographies because of the color pictures and photos. I think they also like the fact that they are small and paperback. Paperback books just feel more informal and Lester 5 2 200fun. The reading level these books are written on is perfect for third grade and beyond. The text is interesting and has a conversational feel to it rather than textbook language. There are fun facts throughout each book. There are thirty titles in this series and I am super excited about the Teacher’s Guide that is coming out soon! If you are in need of biographies your students will WANT to read, look no further! This series is a hit in my library!

We spent a week focused on biographies. Each student chose one person and used information from all the biographies I had on that person to complete a biography research report. The students who used my Hameray books had a much easier time understanding the information and filling out their report organizer. Look below to download the report organizer my students used in creating their reports!

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Dana LesterDana Lester received a B.S. and Master’s Degree from Middle Tennessee State University and is currently teaching at Walter Hill School in Murfreesboro, TN. Dana is also a Common Core Coach with the Tennessee State Department of Education. She has 12 years of classroom experience and has just begun her role as Library Media Specialist. As a strong advocate of the Common Core Standards and Whole Brain Teaching strategies, she engages her students in hands-on, inquiry based learning and shares many ideas and activities on her blog, Common to the Core. She was named Teacher of the Year at Walter Hill in 2013.

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To download the Biography Research Organizer, click the worksheet image below. To learn more about the Biography Series, you can click here to visit our website, or click the series highlights image below to download an information sheet with key features.

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Topics: Classroom Libraries, Informational Text, Dana Lester, Biography Series

Teaching Math through Literature—with FREE Download!

Posted by Dana Lester on Feb 7, 2014 8:00:00 AM

Dana LesterThis is a guest blog post by Dana Lester, who writes a blog called Common to the Core, in which she writes about the Common Core State Standards, student reading skills, behavior management, books and products, and more. Dana is writing a series of guest posts; to see her other contributions, you can click here!

Teaching Math through Literature

Reading, listening, writing, and speaking are skills that cannot be limited to one specific discipline. They play a role in all areas—even math! The educational trend is toward integrated curriculum. The integration of math and reading makes math meaningful and creates real-world connections.

Research shows that incorporating children’s literature is a great way to open the lines of communication about math. Students become better critical thinkers and improve problem-solving skills when the two are combined. If you, as a teacher, look forward to teaching reading and language but dread math, try incorporating a book into your lesson. Or maybe you have a student who is into reading, but not so great with numbers—they can make the connection through books!

Shape Hunt 2Here are several ways to incorporate literature into mathematics:

  • Books can be used to pose a problem. Read a book that lends itself to numbers. Stop reading after you come across the character's problem and have the students solve it mathematically.
  • Create task cards with math problems to accompany specific books in your reading center.
  • Use a book to set the stage for a new math concept or to review a previously learned skill.
  • Use a book as the basis of your math lesson and let the students create equations that relate to the story.
  • Introduce certain manipulatives through literature. If you read a book about cookies, give the students paper (or real!) cookies to solve the problems.

Shape Hunt 3Any type of literature can be used for its mathematical instruction. The books you use do not have to be written specifically for one math skill. You can take a real world situation from any book and create a math task the students can relate to and solve. Hide math in the story! Math can be fun!

Take for example, Baseball Shapes by Jamie Duncan. Obviously, this book is intended to teach shapes, but it also incorporates real-world connections by using baseball to appeal to students. Most students can relate to baseball either through having seen it on television or through playing on a team or on the playground.

After reading this book, I would encourage my students to find more of the shapes named in the pictures, then around the room. I would even take them on a shape hunt around the building to identify these shapes in real life and to find shapes I had previously hidden. I have included the materials you need to go on a shape hunt of your own free for you to download. I hope you will share ways you incorporate literature into your math lessons in the comments below!

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Dana Lester received a B.S. and Master’s Degree from Middle Tennessee State University and is currently teaching at Walter Hill School in Murfreesboro, TN. Dana is also a Common Core Coach with the Tennessee State Department of Education. She has 12 years of classroom experience and has just begun her role as Library Media Specialist. As a strong advocate of the Common Core Standards and Whole Brain Teaching strategies, she engages her students in hands-on, inquiry based learning and shares many ideas and activities on her blog, Common to the Core. She was named Teacher of the Year at Walter Hill in 2013.

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To download the Shape Hunt Word Cards, click the cover image below. To learn more about Kaleidoscope, you can click here to visit our website, or click the series highlights image below to download an information sheet with key features.

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Topics: Making Learning Fun, Literature, Dana Lester, Math

Teaching Punctuation for Expression

Posted by Dana Lester on Jan 27, 2014 8:00:00 AM

Dana LesterThis is a guest blog post by Dana Lester, who writes a blog called Common to the Core, in which she writes about the Common Core State Standards, student reading skills, behavior management, books and products, and more. Dana is writing a series of guest posts; to see her other contributions, you can click here!

Punctuation’s Important!

Hi! This is Dana from Common to the Core. Today, I want to talk for a few minutes about punctuation. When we think about fluency, the first thing that usually comes to mind is speed or maybe accuracy. Expression is usually an afterthought, but it is just as important. You’re wondering what fluency has to do with punctuation, right? Well, punctuation drives expression. Our inflection is decided by the punctuation of each sentence. Consider the difference in these two sentences:

1. Let’s eat Grandma.

2. Let’s eat, Grandma.

Sentence 1 always makes me giggle! Leaving out the comma not only changes our tone, but the meaning as well. We have to teach our young readers this!

After teaching your students the basic punctuation marks (period, comma, question mark, and exclamation point), bring attention to them in the context of text. Using a big book or morning message, let students highlight the punctuation marks with highlighter tape. Place a sheet protector over a page in a book and circle punctuation marks with a dry erase marker.

A favorite way of mine to bring attention to punctuation marks is with sound effects. First, students make up a sound and motion for each mark. Then, during oral language activities, or anytime the child speaks out in the class, they must use the sound and motion at the end of the sentence. For example, with my first graders, the sound for a period was of tires screeching on the road. The gesture was to put your hand out and down like you were pushing an imaginary brake pedal. When students made a statement it would go like this, “I like to play on the monkey bars EEERRKK” and hand would press that imaginary brake pedal. They loved it!

The Zoozoo Storytellers books by Alan Trussell-Cullen are great for practicing intonation. These books have nice short sentences full of sight words that even your most struggling readers should recognize. Students can easily look ahead to the punctuation mark at the end of these short sentences and practice using the correct tone and voice inflection. Take a look at the punctuation in the flipbook below:

A method for practicing punctuation mark fluency is to write down the alphabet and insert the marks you want to practice. It looks something like this:

Abc? Defg. Hi? Jklm, n, o,p. qrs? Tuv. Wx! Yz!

Go ahead, read that aloud, it’s fun!

Please share with us any activities you use to practice punctuation fluency in the comment section below!

Thanks!

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Dana Lester received a B.S. and Master’s Degree from Middle Tennessee State University and is currently teaching at Walter Hill School in Murfreesboro, TN. Dana is also a Common Core Coach with the Tennessee State Department of Education. She has 12 years of classroom experience and has just begun her role as Library Media Specialist. As a strong advocate of the Common Core Standards and Whole Brain Teaching strategies, she engages her students in hands-on, inquiry based learning and shares many ideas and activities on her blog, Common to the Core. She was named Teacher of the Year at Walter Hill in 2013.

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To learn more about Zoozoo Storytellers, you can click here to visit our website, or click the series highlights image below to download an information sheet with key features.

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Topics: Dana Lester, Zoozoo Storytellers, Punctuation, Oral Language Expression

Informational Texts and Kindergarten Language Convention Standards

Posted by Dana Lester on Jan 8, 2014 8:00:00 AM

Dana LesterThis is a guest blog post by Dana Lester, who writes a blog called Common to the Core, in which she writes about the Common Core State Standards, student reading skills, behavior management, books and products, and more. Dana is writing a series of guest posts; to see her other contributions, you can click here!

Kindergarten Language Convention Standards

Hello everyone! This is Dana from Common to the Core. Today I wanted to share with you some ways to cover some of the Kindergarten Language Convention Standards. I’ve found that informational texts (i.e., nonfiction books) are extremely appealing to many of my students, so I was delighted to discover the low word count Zoozoo Animal World books.

The repeating text is great for struggling readers. I took Horse by Lee Waters and typed out the words for each student. After we read the book together, I gave each student the words. As I read each page again, the students found the words and arranged them in the correct order. This activity provides exposure to frequently occurring nouns and verbs (CCSS L.K.1b). You can download the word cards for Horse by clicking the word card image at the bottom of the article.

Horse Cover 180After the students ordered the words for the sentence, we talked about each one. The book provides talking points on the back cover that are very helpful; for example, the text on page two says, "A horse can sit." The talking points on the back cover give more facts about horses: "most horses are raised on farms and they are used for work, travel, and for fun; there are many different kinds of horses of all shapes, sizes, and colors.” Using the information from the talking points allows the students to practice producing and expanding complete sentences in shared language activities (CCSS L.K.1f).

I used the books Horse, Pig, Arctic Fox, and Killer Whale with these activities. We also worked on changing nouns to their plural form and whether or not the plural form made sense in the sentences. After reading about these animals, you could create a Venn Diagram of their habitats (farm and arctic). I invite you to share ways you use low word count books with your students in the comments below.

I hope these activities are successful in your classroom! Below is the image to click to download the word cards for Horse.

Horse Book Word Cards

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Dana Lester received a B.S. and Master’s Degree from Middle Tennessee State University and is currently teaching at Walter Hill School in Murfreesboro, TN. Dana is also a Common Core Coach with the Tennessee State Department of Education. She has 12 years of classroom experience and has just begun her role as Library Media Specialist. As a strong advocate of the Common Core Standards and Whole Brain Teaching strategies, she engages her students in hands-on, inquiry based learning and shares many ideas and activities on her blog, Common to the Core. She was named Teacher of the Year at Walter Hill in 2013.

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Topics: K-2 Literacy, Common Core, Dana Lester, Zoozoo Animal World

Spotlight! Teaching Speaking & Listening Standards with Dana Lester!

Posted by Dana Lester on Oct 30, 2013 8:01:00 AM

teacher spotlight


Welcome once again to our Teacher Spotlight, giving recognition (and free books!) to deserving teachers who have great ideas to share. Today's featured teacher is Dana Lester of Murfreesboro, TN. She writes a blog called Common to the Core, in which she writes about the Common Core State Standards, student reading skills, behavior management, books and products, and more! Dana wanted to bring the attention of the teaching community to the Common Core Speaking and Listening Standards, which she feels are often overlooked. She's come up with some ways to encourage oral language skills in the classroom, so read on to find out more!

dana lester 200Speaking and Listening Standards in the Classroom

Reading lessons that include Literature and Informational Text standards can easily be created around pretty much any book, but what about Speaking and Listening Standards? Do you purposefully include these standards? Do you teach Speaking and Listening standards with the same explicit instruction that you use with the other standards? Prior to spending hours and hours in Common Core State Standards training to be a Core Coach for my state, I didn’t. I was of the mindset, “Oh, they know how to talk to teach other. They can listen. I don’t really have to teach those things.” WRONG. We have to use the same direct instruction that we use to teach vowel sounds, to teach speaking and listening skills. Yes, our students talk. Yes, they listen (most of the time). But it’s probably not the quality of speaking and listening that’s called for by the Common Core State Standards. Teachers must model rich, purposeful talk and understand that oral language skills influence reading comprehension.

I have a few Speaking and Listening activities to share with you that can be used around any genre of story. Folktales are one of my favorite genres and I love designing lessons around them. The Little Red Hen is a classic story that is familiar to most children, but there are so many versions of this tale, that it is easy to find one your students aren’t familiar with. For example, the most recent version I’ve seen is one in which the cat plays the guitar, the duck plays the drums, and the goose sings! This hilarious version is retold by Alan Trussell-Cullen and is published by Hameray. I like the ending of this retelling because the hen actually lets the other animals eat the bread after they each choose a chore to help with clean up!

Little Red Hen Cover FinalSo, you’re ready to read. Start with intentional pairing. This will allow more students to be engaged in dialogue. Some tips for pairing are:

  • Know your students; don’t put a Chatty Cathy with a painfully shy child. The painfully shy child will never get a word in edgewise.
  • Assign each partner a number (1, 2) or a word (peanut butter/jelly, milk/cookie)

Read the story, pausing to discuss along the way. Don’t wait until the end of the story to ask questions about what the hen did first. An easy way to remember to ask questions is to put a sticky note on the page you want to ask questions about. Encourage oral language by requiring students to support their answer with details from the text. This, my friends, is what “close reading” looks like in Kindergarten or 1st grade!

Allow students to have a thirty-second conversation with their partner about a specific part of the story. For example, the teacher says, “Boys and girls, I want you to turn to your partner and all the 1’s are going to talk about why the hen’s friends did not want to help bake the bread and when I call out SWITCH, I want the 2’s to talk about what the hen did when no one would help her.” This intentional pairing ensures that each child gets the same amount of airtime and all voices are heard. The thirty-second conversation hits the first Speaking and Listening standard for grades K–2.

We can also use sentence stems to build oral language. Sentence stems are sentence starters. First, the teacher would explicitly model the process by writing the stem on the board and reading it aloud while writing: “I can help…” The teacher completes the sentence. “I can help my daughter with her homework.” Next, the teacher directs the students to “grow” their sentence stem with their partner. Partners share their sentences with each other, then shares with the class. Not only would this meet the firstSpeaking and Listening standard, but it pulls in the first-grade standard on producing complete sentences when appropriate to task and situation and the Language standard on producing and expanding simple and compound declarative, interrogative, imperative, and exclamatory sentences.

5085 Different Kinds of Bread Cover FINALGreat conversations can arise from reading two different versions of the same folktale. Students can compare and contrast the actions of the characters using sentence stems and the thirty-second conversation. Creating a word web is an excellent way to expand vocabulary. Read an informational text on bread, such as Different Kinds of Bread by Alan Trussell-Cullen and have students create a web with the word “bread” in the center. Students will be able to pull words such as wheat and flour from The Little Red Hen and words such as "pita," "crust," and "baking powder" from Different Kinds of Bread.

To sum things up, oral language strategies will benefit our high and low language students. We must design our lessons with Speaking and Listening Standards in mind and plan for opportunities for students to practice these skills throughout the day. Give students thirty seconds to talk to each other about a specific topic. You will be surprised at how students can benefit from half a minute. Emphasis the importance of vocabulary through word webs. Post these webs in your writing area so students can see these words and use them in their own writing. Support language development with activities that structure sentence formation. Post sentence stems around the room so students will have constant reminders on how to produce complete sentences. Literacy gets its start with oral language, so we must be purposeful in our talk!

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dana lester blog screenshotDana Lester received a B.S. and Master’s Degree from Middle Tennessee State University and is currently teaching at Walter Hill School in Murfreesboro, TN. Dana is also a Common Core Coach with the Tennessee State Department of Education. She has 12 years of classroom experience and has just begun her role as Library Media Specialist. As a strong advocate of the Common Core Standards and Whole Brain Teaching strategies, she engages her students in hands-on, inquiry based learning and shares many ideas and activities on her blog, Common to the Core. She was named Teacher of the Year at Walter Hill in 2013.

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Do you know a K–8 teacher whose creative classroom activities could use some well-deserved recognition? Have you, yourself, hit upon a strategy that you think works so well that you'd love to share it with others? Do you have a teaching blog or website with ideas you'd like to spread? Come stand in our Teacher Spotlight!

We're looking for teachers with unique, fun perspectives to feature on our blog. At least once a month, possibly more often, we want to inspire the teaching community with the innovative work of teachers who have a true passion for what they're doing. We'll broadcast your ideas here on our blog, distributing them through social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

Each teacher we choose will get some Hameray "goodies" from a series that fits their classroom needs—early literacy, oral language development, striving readers in upper grades, informational text, or literature.

To nominate yourself or another teacher, tell us a little more here.

For more information about the Story World Real World series shown in this post, visit our website or click the image below to download an information sheet with series highlights and key features!

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Topics: Teacher Spotlight, Common Core, Literature, Informational Text, Oral Language Development, Dana Lester, Speaking and Listening

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