STEM/STEAM in Classrooms

 STEAM aims to spark an interest and life- long love of the arts and sciences in children starting at an early age
STEAM aims to spark an interest and life- long love of the arts and sciences in children starting at an early age

We all know the importance of marketing in selling things.  It’s all around us every day!  A great marketing campaign that has entered the school doors is the STEAM movement. Yes, it may be the catchy name but kids, parents and teachers now think STEAM is cool! Some of us have known all along about the cool factor of science but now the word is out. Now, we are all “living and loving” science. And, that’s OK!

What’s STEAM All About?

The rebranding of Science and Math is a result of the need to better prepare students for higher education. Students in the 21st century workforce need to have the skills and knowledge to be innovators.  The acronym was first introduced as Science, Technology, Engineering and Math and is now often referred to as STEAM with the inclusion of an A for Arts. STEAM lessons include the following:

  • Makes connections between standards, learning objectives and assessments.
  • Focuses on real world problems
  • An integrated approach to learning
  • Crosses all 5 disciplines (science, technology, engineering, arts, math)
  • Teaches kids how to ask questions, experiment and be creative.  

STEAM projects aim to spark an interest and life- long love of the arts and sciences in children starting at an early age. Lessons are designed to teach skills to be good learners, therefore, the skills can be translated into almost any career. Teaching kids to think critically and solve problems will help them to thrive in the 21st century. 

Isn’t education ALL about reaching the kids?

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Historical Dates: Oct. & Nov. 2019

Including Historical Dates in lessons gives relevance to learning.
Including Historical Dates in lessons gives relevance to learning.

For kids in school, knowing historical dates helps them relate to history and builds their general knowledge. Knowing these dates can help teachers engage students in conversations and students may even be impressed  by their teachers historical knowledge!

Knowing historical dates provides opportunities for students to learn history and build their general knowledge. Take a look and impress your students!

October

Fire Prevention Week (October 9- October 15)
National Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept 15 – October 15)

Oct. 4 World Smile Day

Oct. 8 Yom Kippur (10/08-10/09)

Oct. 9 Fire Prevention Day

Oct. 9 National Bring Your Teddy Bear To School Day

Oct. 14 Columbus Day

Oct. 25 Make A Difference Day (10/25-10/26)

November

Nov. 5 Election Day

Nov.. 11 Veterans Day (Observed)

Nov. 28 Thanksgiving

Isn't education ALL about reaching the kids?
Isn’t education ALL about reaching the kids?

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Great Calendar Resource

3 Writing Strategies to Use Evidence

Ways to help student use evidence to answer open-ended questions.
Ways to Help Students Read and Write

Answering open-ended response questions is an important task in third and fourth grades.  Looking for evidence is the key and organizing your thoughts. As the length of reading passages increases, many students struggle locate information. Teaching kids a “list of steps” and pairing it with an acronym helps students respond to a written article. Kids like acronyms because they are easy to remember. Three strategies to try in your classroom are: R.A.D., R.A.C.E and C.E.R.   

R.A.D. (Restate, Answer, Details)

  • RESTATE the questionto start the beginning of the answer.  
  • ANSWER the questionby going to your notes and looking for the answer. Read and circle any information that you have in your notes that will help you answer what is asked. 
  • DETAILS should be included from the text as evidence.

R.A.C.E (Restate, Answer, Cite, Explain)

  • RESTATE the question.in your topic sentence.
  • ANSWER the question that is being by including it in your topic sentence.
  • CITE evidence from the text to support your answer.
  • EXPLAIN how the evidence from the text supports your answer. 

C. E. R. (Claim, Evidence, Reasoning)

  • CLAIM – A statement that responds to the question being asked using words from the question.
  • EVIDENCE – Provide (facts) from the text as evidence to support your answer (claim). (No opinions, just the facts)
  • REASONING – Explain how these facts support your claim.  You may need to include background knowledge along with the facts to explain your reasoning.  

Using one of these strategies will help students answer open-ended questions.  It will also be helpful when students face high stakes testing. Having an acronym to hang on to will help reduce test anxiety.  

Isn't education ALL about reaching the kids?
Isn’t education ALL about reaching the kids?

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ReadWorks a FREE Reading Resource (K-12)

ReadWorks provides K-12 teachers with nonfiction and literary resources.
ReadWorks provides K-12 teachers with nonfiction and literary resources

I LOVE this site. ReadWorks is Amazon shopping for EVERY type of teacher!  Everything that you need to support your student’s comprehension.  It’s all in one place and FREE

ReadWorks is a nonprofit that provides K-12 teachers with nonfiction and literary articles that support reading comprehension and vocabulary learning. Resources are easy-to-use, research-based, and FREE (I guess I said that enough). Articles are leveled for reading instruction and can be printed, used digitally or projected on a Smartboard.

ReadWorks Includes:

  • Reading Passages
    • Over 5000 K-12 passages
    • Search by grade or by Lexile
    • Written by experts, curated by educators
    • On curriculum topics
  • Questions Sets
    • Text-based questions
    • Multiple choice and written answer questions
    • Explicit and inferential questions that build a deeper understanding of the important elements of a text
  • Vocabulary
    • Carefully selected, high-impact words
    • Multiple definitions and authentic sentence examples
    • Practice with word families and metacognition
  • Article-A-Day
    •  A 10-minute daily routine that dramatically increases background knowledge, vocabulary, and reading stamina
  • Paired Texts
    • Two texts related by topic or theme
    • Question sets to draw connections and comparisons
  • Step Reads
    • Less complex versions of original passages.
    • Designed to provide access for struggling students.
    • Preserve the integrity of the original text, including vocabulary, knowledge, and length.
  • Lessons and Units
    • Based on trade books.
    • Support instruction of longer texts.
    • Include complete lesson plans with guided practice and independent practice.
  • Student Tools
    • Audio versions of all reading content
    • Ability to highlight, annotate and adjust text size.

ReadWorks encourages teachers to share their resources with other colleagues. Pass it on!

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ThreeRingsConnections’ Newsletter: September 2019

Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.
Nelson Mandela

Nine months down in 2019, how are you doing on those New Years Resolutions? If you are still working on catching up on professional development, take a look at this month’s newsletter. All 13 September  posts are below, as well as ALL the posts since I started the blog in September 2018. My New Year’s Resolution to get the Threeringsconnections’ newsletter out on a timely, consistent schedule is accomplished: 9 down and 3 more to go! Have a great month!

September 2019 Archives

September’s Most Popular Posts

My Favorite September Posts

See some posts coming next month
See some posts coming next month
  • The Grand Canyon for Kids
  • Hour of Code
  • 3 Writing Strategies to Use Evidence

Comprehension Questions: Grade 2-3

Asking the right comprehension questions will support a child's reading ability.
Asking the right comprehension questions will strengthen your child’s reading.

For teachers and kids, the beginning of the school year means “Reading Assessments”.  We test to see if our students’ reading levels have increased, remained the same or decreased over the summer.  However, although we get an independent reading level, we know that the reading level may not always be 100% accurate.  Asking the right comprehension questions can help kids be better readers.

The following Behaviors/Skills and Questions can be useful when working with students who are at an independent reading level from K through N.

Knowing the skills and behaviors at levels above and below a student’s level will help teachers and parents ask better questions to support comprehension. This strategy can help our students on their independent reading level as well as our Review/Reinforcement and Enrichment students.  

Comprehension/Behaviors Skills (F & P Levels K/L)

  • Uses dialogue to understand characters 
  • Infers cause and effect by understanding characters and events
  • Understands how problems and events are related
  • Searches for information to confirm predictions
  • Use evidence from the story to support their ideas or thinking
  • Makes predictions based on prior knowledge and the text
  • Predicts the solution to the problem
  • Identifies important ideas in the text 
  • Makes predictions based on character traits

Comprehension Questions (F & P Levels K/L)

  • Retell the story in detail
  • Who is speaking?  How do you know?
  • Does what you just read remind you of anything?  How does this help you better understand the text? 
  • Describe (character’s name) in detail.
  • What happened?  Why did it happen? 
  • What in the story makes you think that?
  • What do you think will happen next?  Why?
  • What caused (problem or event) to happen?  How do you know?
  • What do you think (character’s name) will do?  Why?
  • What is important for me to know?  Why?

Comprehension Skills (F & P Levels M and N)

  • Searches for information to confirm predictions
  • Identifies important ideas in the text
  • Notices descriptive language Summarizes the text
  • Describes characters’ traits, feelings, and motivation.  Uses this information to make predictions
  • Demonstrates changes in perspective as events unfold
  • Pays attention to the author’s craft
  • Expresses clear opinions to agree or disagree with the text
  • Rereads and closely monitors their understanding
  • Uses a variety of strategies when meaning breaks down

Comprehension Questions (F & P Levels M/N)

  • Does what you just read remind you of anything?  How does this help you better understand the text?
  • Summarize the story or text
  • Describe (character’s name) in detail.
  • What happened?  Why did it happen?  
  • What in the story makes you think that?
  • What caused (problem or event) to happen?  How do you know?
  • What do you think (character’s name) will do?  Why?
  • What is important for me to know in this text?  Why?
  • How does the author help to create a picture in your mind as you read?
  • What do think about this text?  
  • How do you know when you do not understand what you are reading?  What do you do?
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School Age Readers and Writers Activities

Reading and writing activities at home to help young readers.
Reading and writing activities at home to help young readers.

School Age Readers and Writers – (5 to 9-year-olds)

  • Give your child encouragement when he or she is doing homework or a writing assignment. Remind your child that writing involves several steps like panning, composing an initial draft, revising, and final editing. No one does it perfectly the first time.
  • Read different types of books to expose your child to different types of writing. Kids love a variety of fiction and non-fiction formats including plays, chapter books, series books, books with sequels, short stories, diaries and logs, and graphic texts.
  • Create a writing toolbox — Find a special box and fill it with drawing and writing materials. Think of everyday opportunities for your child to write —the family shopping list, thank -you notes, birthday cards, or sign on the bedroom door.
  • Ask your child to read out loud what he or she has written.
  • Create a book together — Make a handmade book together by folding pieces of paper ion half and stapling them together. Your child can write his or her own story, with different sentences on each page. Ask your child to illustrate the book with his/her own drawings.
  • Show your child how to summarize a story in a few sentences, for example, or how to make predictions about what might happen next. Both strategies help a child comprehend and remember. After reading a story together, think out loud so your child can see how you summarize and predict.
  • Pick books that are at the right reading level —Help your child choose reading materials that are not too difficult. The goal is to give your child lots of successful reading experiences
  • Partner Reading – Take turns reading aloud to each other. Whether it’s a page or a sentence, it’s another way of getting a couple minutes of reading fun.
  • Have your child read aloud to you every day. 
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Preschool Readers (2 to 5 years)

Activities for Preschool Readers (2 to 5 years)
Preschool Readers (2 to 5 years)

Preschool Readers (2 to 5 yrs.)

Learning to read is not easy and takes time.  Many parents wonder on the best ways to help their kids learn to read.  With 8 grandkids under 9, we have various levels of reading going on in our family. Ranging in age from 7 months to “newly 9” we have readers of all sizes and abilities.  

I created the following list to make it a little easier for my adult children to have a few “reading ideas” to help their kiddos. Reading is very comprehensive and therefore, there is a wide range of activities at each level.  The important thing to remember is reading builds on foundational skills.  Therefore, each level is important for reading success.  Don’t worry if your more advanced reader wants to do a lower level.  Even advanced readers can continue to learn and grow from some of the Preschool Reader activities. Last week we started with our series with Very Early Readers (Birth – 2 years).  This week we continue with Preschool Readers (2 – 5yrs). 

Preschool Readers (2 to 5 years)

  • Discuss what’s happening, point out things on the page, ask your child questions
  • When looking at a book together, point out how we read from left to right and how words are separated by spaces.
  • Talk about print everywhere. Talk about written words you see in the world around you and respond with interest to your child’s questions about words.
  • Ask your child to find a new word every time you go on an outing.
  • Watch My Lips – Encourage your child to watch your lips and mouth while you make certain sounds. Have your child think about how his/her own lips and tongue move. You can say something like, “Can you feel how your mouth moves the same way at the beginning of the words sun, snake, and sour? Watch my mouth while I say them.” Exaggerate the letter s when saying the words.
  • Play sound games— Give your child practice blending individual sounds into words. For example, ask “Do you know what the word is? m-o-p?” Say the sound each letter makes rather than the name of the letter. Hold each sound longer than you normally would. This will help your child recognize the different letter sounds.
  • Trace and say letters while saying the letter’s sound at the same time. Use a pan filled with rice, sugar or beans to involve touch, sight and speech.  
  • Play word games — Use a dry erase board to play word games with your child. First, write out a word like mat. Then change the initial sound. Have your child sound out the word when it becomes fat and then when it becomes sat. Next change the final sound, so the word changes from sat to sag to sap. Then change the middle sound, so the word changes from sap to sip.
  • Punctuate your reading.?! -. Discuss how punctuation on a page represents ways of speaking. You can say, for example, “When we talk, we usually pause a little bit at the end of a sentence. The way we show this pause in writing is to use a period.”
  • Dig deeper into the story — Ask your child about the story you’ve just read together. Try questions that require your child to draw conclusions. Say something like, “Why do you think Clifford did that?” A child’s involvement in retelling a story or answering questions goes a long way toward developing his or her comprehension skills.
  • Tell family tales — Children love to hear stories about their family. Tell your child what it was like when you or your parents were growing up or talk about a funny thing that happened when you were young.
  • Storytelling on the go — Take turns adding to a story the two of you make up while riding in the car. Either one of you could start. Start with a beginning middle and end and work up to a longer story. A fun activity that stretches the imagination!

Every minute counts in becoming a good reader. Why not set a goal to try to do at least one activity a day? Be prepared to have days when it doesn’t get done. It’s only a goal. Most of all, enjoy the special time with your child.

Isn’t education ALL about reaching the kids?

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Very Early Readers (Birth – 2)

Very Early Readers
Birth to 2 yrs.

Very Early Readers (Birth – 2 yrs)

Learning to read is not easy and takes time.  Many parents wonder on the best ways to help their kids learn to read.  With 8 grandkids under 9, we have various levels of reading going on in our family. Ranging in age from 7 months to “newly 9” we have very early readers to advanced readers.   

I created the following list to make it a little easier for my adult children to have a few “reading ideas” to help their kiddos. Reading is very comprehensive and therefore, there is a wide range of activities at each level.  The important thing to remember is reading builds on foundational skills.  Therefore, each level is important for reading success.  Don’t worry if your more advanced reader wants to do a lower level.  Even advanced readers can continue to learn and grow from some of the Very Early Reader list activities. This week we start with our very early readers.

Very Early Readers (Birth to 2 yrs.)

  • Read together every day. Uninterrupted 2 minutes of time is time well spent.
  • Keep a book or magazine with you all the time to read with your child.  Every minute counts. 
  • Re-read a favorite – Kids love to hear books again.  Repeated reading helps kids read more quickly and accurately.  It helps promote their reading confidence. Research shows that repeated reading builds language skills.
  • Read with fun in your voice. Why not use different voices for different characters. A little acting can go a long way!  
  • Let your child choose —Give your child the chance to pick his/her own books. Letting children choose their own books nurtures independence and their own interests.
  • Read it and Experience it — Help your child make the connection between what he/she reads in books and what happens in life. If you’re reading a book about animals, for example, relate it to last month’s trip to the zoo. 
  • Make books and reading into something special by taking your kids to the library, helping them get their own library card, reading with them, and buying them books as gifts.
  • Have a favorite place for books in your home, or even better, put books everywhere!
  • Talk about what you see and do together.
  • Talking about everyday activities helps your child’s background knowledge, which is crucial to listening and reading comprehension
  • You can play games that involve naming or pointing to objects.
  • Say silly tongue twisters—Sing sings and read rhyming books. These help kids become sensitive to the sounds in words.
  • When you read aloud, read with expression.

Coming Next Week:  Preschool Readers (2 to 5 years)

Coming in 2 Weeks: School Age Readers and Writers (5 to 9 years)

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Tools to Use in Social Studies

Tools to strengthen Social Studies instruction.
Tools to strengthen Social Studies instruction.

Social Studies concepts can be difficult for some students to learn.  However, there are some tools teachers can use increase a student’s access to academic content. Check out the 8 research-based strategies listed below.

  • Graphic Organizers – Graphic Organizers, Mind Maps and Concept Maps provide a pictorial or graphic way to organize information and thoughts for remembering, understanding and writing.
  • Multiple Intelligences – Dr. Howard Gardner proposed the theory in 1983 that there are 8 multiple types of intelligences or ways of processing information.  (verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical, visual-spatial, musical, naturalistic, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal.
  • Graph Dissection – Taking apart of breaking down information found in graphs, charts, maps and other graphics.
  • Content Enhancements – Includes advanced organizers, visual displays, study guides, mnemonic devices, peer mediated instruction and computer assisted instruction.
  • Historical Timelines – Timelines help students understand the passage of time by comparing the length of time passed with a time sequence with which they are familiar.
  • Textbook Analysis – The systematic analysis of the text materials including the structure, the focus, and the learning assists.
  • Concept Comparisons – Students use a graphic to compare and contrast key concepts.
  • Assistive technology – Any item, piece of equipment, or product system that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individual with disabilities.

There is no ONE WAY to teach Social Studies. The key to developing lessons is to try different techniques and assess their effectiveness.

Isn’t education ALL about reaching the kids?
Isn’t education ALL about reaching the kids?

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Guided Reading Level: At School and Home

Knowing a child's Guided Reading Level (GRL) can support a child's reading.
Knowing a child’s Guided Reading Level (GRL) can support a child’s reading.

The start of the school year brings some new reading terms for parents of children in the early grades.  Many teachers use Guided Reading to teach reading.  The days of everyone reading together out of one book has been replaced by small-group instruction.  The small groups are composed of children that have similar Guided Reading Levels (GRLs).  The level is assessed on a child’s word-knowledge, comprehension and fluency.  These levels are also used to determine a child’s independent reading level.

Fountas and Pinnell, (F & P) is one of the most popular assessment tools.  The levels range alphabetically from A to Z, with level A representing the lowest level and level Z the highest. This allows the teacher to work closely with each student to help them become better readers by introducing them to increasingly challenging books and instructional focus.

How Are Book Levels Determined?

Books are assigned Guided Reading Levels based on several general expectations and capabilities of a reader. As the levels progress, the books become more difficult. Each level is based upon the increasing complexity of ten benchmark common book characteristics that readers encounter at all stages of the reading process from when your child picks up his or her first book through the time when he or she becomes a fluent reader. These guided reading categories are: 

  • Themes and Ideas: Big ideas communicated by the author
  • Genre: Type of book
  • Text Structure: How the book is organized
  • Content: Subject matter of a book
  • Sentence Complexity: Difficulty of the sentence
  • Language and Literacy: The writing techniques used by the writer.
  • Vocabulary: The frequency of new words introduced in the book.
  • Words: How easy the words in the book can be figured out (decoded) by a reader
  • Illustrations: The correlation and consistency of images and pictures in the books to the words printed on the page
  • Book and Print Features: How the printed words are on the page.

How Can I Find Books at My Child’s Guided Reading Level?

Ask your child’s teacher for the appropriate Guided Reading Level (GRL) to practice reading at home. In the classroom, books are often labeled so kids can easily grab a book at their reading level.  Your school or local librarian can be helpful to find books at your child’s level.  Many book publishers also include a Guided Reading Level on their books.

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FREE Teacher PD Using Overdrive

Overdrive is a database to access free books for adults and kids.
Overdrive is a database to access free books for adults and kids.

I’ve written a post about Overdrive as a database to access free books for adults and kids. However, I was not aware that they also have collections of books on different subjects. One of the listed subjects is Education. The collection includes books for both teachers, parents and students. Books are in both digital and audio files.

Using your library card you can borrow up to 10 ebooks or audiobooks from your local library. Just use your library card for your one time registration and you’re ready to go. Books can be borrowed from 7 to 21 days.

Sample: Overdrive PD Teacher Books

  • Building A+ Better Teacher                       Green                             2015
  • How Children Succeed                              Tough                         2013
  • Mathematical Mindsets                              Boaler/Dweck                2015
  • Montessori From the Start                         Lillard and Jessen              2004
  • Secrets of the Teenage Brain                   Feinstein/Jensen            2013
  • Teach Like a Pirate                                     Burgess                          2012
  • The Coddling of the American Mind       Lukianoff/Haidt              2019
  • The Teacher Wars                                      Goldstein                       2015
  • The Wild Card                     King/King                       2018
  • What’s Math Got to Do with It                   Boaler                             2015
Isn’t education ALL about reaching the kids?
Isn’t education ALL about reaching the kids?

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Student Teacher Professional Lending Library

Student Teacher Professional Lending Library
Student Teacher Professional Lending Library

Over the years I’ve collected a collection of education books.  Take a look at the list below and let me know if there are any books that you may find helpful in your placements. I can bring them to your placement on our next observation.  Access to your very own professional lending library! 

  • Brainstorm                                                   Siegel                             2012
  • Bright From The Start Stamm 2008
  • Classroom Instruction That Works        Marzano & Pickering          2001
  • Classroom Management                  Evertson & Emmer     2000
  • Drive                                                             Pink                                 2009
  • Engaging Children with Print                  Justice & Sofka             2010
  • How Children Succeed Tough 2013
  • How Young Children Learn                       Ostroff                            2012
  • Interactive Think-Aloud Lessons               Oczkus                           2009
  • Mindset                                                         Dweck                            2006
  • Mosaic of Thought                            Keene & Zimmerman              1997
  • Multiple Intelligences- Reading/Writing    Armstrong                      2003
  • Nonfiction in Focus                                     Kristo & Bamford           2004
  • Picture Books to Teaching Writing            Culham & Coutu            2008
  • Power of Repeated Reading                     Bamwell & Doyle           2008
  • Reading with Meaning                                Miller                               2002
  • Texts and Lessons – 65 Mentor Texts      Daniels & Steineke          2013
  • The Differentiated Classroom (2nd Ed.)    Tomlinson                      2014
  • The Fluent Reader                                      Rasinski                         2003
  • Thirty Million Words                                    Suskind                          2013
  • What Works in Schools                              Marzano                             2003
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Historical Dates: Sept. & Oct. 2019

Including Historical Dates in lessons gives relevance to learning.
Including Historical Dates in lessons gives relevance to learning.

For kids in school, knowing historical dates helps them relate to history and builds their general knowledge. Knowing these dates can help teachers engage students in conversations and students may even be impressed  by their teachers historical knowledge!

Knowing historical dates provides opportunities for students to learn history and build their general knowledge. Take a look and impress your students!

September

Constitution Week (Sept. 17-23)

National Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15 – Oct. 15)

Sept. 2 Labor Day

Sept. 8 International Literacy Day

Sept. 8 National Grandparent’s Day

Sept. 17 Citizenship Day/Constitution Day

Sept. 22 Ice Cream Cone Day 

Sept. 23 First Day of Autumn

Sept. 26         Johnny Appleseed Day 

October

Fire Prevention Week (October 9- October 15)
National Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept 15 – October 15)

Oct. 4 World Smile Day

Oct. 8 Yom Kippur (10/08-10/09)

Oct. 9 Fire Prevention Day

Oct. 9 National Bring Your Teddy Bear To School Day

Oct. 14 Columbus Day

Oct. 25 Make A Difference Day (10/25-10/26)

Isn’t education ALL about reaching the kids?

Great Calendar Resource

Article-A-Day Helps Comprehension

An article each day builds comprehension skills.
An article each day builds comprehension skills.

Article-A-Day in 3 Steps

Article-A-day is a strategy that teachers use in a classrooms that assigns students a non-fiction article to read each day.  This technique strengthens a student’s background knowledge, vocabulary and stamina.  This research-based classroom routine combines writing & oral sharing. The technique is used in whole-class or  small groups and also as an independent project.

A great FREE resource to support your Article-A Day program is ReadWorks. The site provides article sets that include 6-9 articles related on nonfiction topics.  The articles are leveled from Kindergarten – 8th Grade. The resources can be printed, used digitally or projected on a Smartboard. ReadWorks encourages teachers to share their resources with other colleagues. 

  • Step 1: Students read an article independently. For students who cannot read independently yet, the teacher reads the article out loud twice.
  • Step 2: Each student then uses their own “Book of Knowledge” to write down, or draw a picture of, two or three things they learned from reading and would like to remember in their own “Book of Knowledge.” A classroom Book of Knowledge can also be created if the article is used in whole class instruction.  The strategy builds writing skills and strengthens the reading-writing connection.
  • Step 3: Student volunteers share with the class, in 1-2 minutes, what they’ve learned and want to remember.   

IF 10 minutes is all you need to make an impact on reading comprehension, why not give it a try?

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ThreeRingsConnections’ Newsletter: August 2019

Happy New School  Year!
Happy New School Year!

Eight months down in 2019, how are you doing on those New Years Resolutions? If you are still working on catching up on professional development, take a look at this month’s newsletter. All 10 August posts are below, as well as ALL the posts since I started the blog in September 2018. My New Year’s Resolution to get the Threeringsconnections’ newsletter out on a timely, consistent schedule is accomplished: 8 down and 4 more to go! Have a great month!

August’s 2019 Archives

August’s Most Popular Posts

My Favorite August Posts

See some posts coming next month
See some posts coming next month
  • Guided Reading for Parents
  • Student Teachers: Ready to Go!
  • 8 Social Studies Tools to Strengthen Instruction

Student Teaching: Ready to Go!

Ready to start Student Teaching
Ready to start Student Teaching

I am so pleased to be working with you during student teaching this semester.  The college has provided you a high-quality education to prepare you for this day.  They have recruited cooperating teachers that exhibit best practice to guide you through your student teaching placement.  These mentors will help you graduate as competent teachers in content skills, classroom management, and knowledge of individual student learning needs. 

As your student teacher supervisor, I am here to assist and encourage your professional growth during your classroom experience. As the liaison between the college and school, I can assist you with both procedural and content material.  Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.

These next few months will very busy so try to focus on everything that you experience. These day to day experiences will prepare you to have your own classroom someday.  Ask questions, reflect on practice and accept advice. You have been prepared well and are ready for this challenge. Enjoy the journey! 

Isn't education ALL about reaching the kids?
Isn’t education ALL about reaching the kids?

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Visual Thinking Strategies

Visual Thinking Strategies engages students in discussion.
Visual Thinking Strategies engages students in discussion.

A popular book study in our K-12 Professional Development offerings was Visual Thinking Strategies by Philip Yenawine. Teachers at all grade levels found this strategy helped expand student discussions. Special Education teachers found Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) very helpful to explore new content. 

In VTS discussions, teachers support student growth by facilitating discussions of carefully selected works of visual art/photographs or media literacy. Teachers are asked to use three open-ended questions to engage student discussion.

  • What’s going on in this picture?

  • What do you see that makes you say that?

  • What more can we find?

Teachers use facilitation techniques to expand student responses. By pointing at the areas being discussed and paraphrasing student comments, teachers helped link and frame student answers. For those teachers being observed using an evidence-based tool, the following evidence can be seen when using Visual Thinking Strategies.

Questioning/Discussion Technique

  • Students are engaged in exploring new content through effective questioning.
  • Engages all students in discussion.
  • Allowing “Think Time” before responding.
  • Topics can be expanded through follow up, rephrasing and applying student responses.

Engages Students in Learning

  • Examples are used to illustrate new learning.
  • New learning connects student knowledge, interests and culture.
  • Problem solving is highlighted as a technique in student learning.
  • Examples are differentiated to meet student needs.

VTS As An Assessment Tool

  • Teachers and peers comment on student responses.
  • Uses Non-verbal cues (nods, quizzical looks etc.) to encourage students.
  • Effective feedback is specific and descriptive.
  • Teacher comments help clarify student responses.
  • Feedback is immediate to support student learning.

Visual Thinking Strategies helps students to truly understand and transfer learning.  It helps them explain, interpret and apply new learning.   

Isn’t education ALL about reaching the kids?

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Transitions Are Important For Kids

Transitions Are Important For Kids
Transitions Are Important For Kids

I’ve reached an age that I realize I definitly need transition time to make a change.  Perhaps I have always needed transitions but I only NOW realize that I need them. Maybe, it’s because I see some upcoming life changes. Whatever the reason, transitions seem to make my life easier lately.  As a parent and teacher I know the importance of transitions to make life run smoothly. More than once I experienced my lack of planning causing disruptions.  Those tantrums and unhappy faces could very well have been avoided with some good transition strategies.

Strategies to promoted self-regulation are necessary for a calm home and classroom.  So, recently I dug into my toolkit of strategies to ward off grandchild disappointment and keep everyone smiling.  

Transitions Made Easy

  • Give Extra Time– Allow extra time to move to the next activity. Less rushing helps keep you remember the importance of transition.
  • Set the Clock – Give time warnings of how much longer until we have to leave. I’ve found that using the timer on my phone is a great visual for kids. Seeing the countdown helps them have ownership to plan their final activities. Also, allowing kids to start the timer ensures that they are indeed listening to you. Be sure to include a few extra minutes of buffer time.
  • Be An Accurate Timekeeper – Telling them 2 minutes more but giving them 10 minutes more, because they were quiet,  teaches kids that 2 minutes is REALLY long.  That is until the next time when you REALLY mean 2 minutes.  IF you are ok with an extended time, try giving them a “few minutes more”.  Only give them a specific time when YOU are ready.  This simple tip will help them learn to self regulate their activities. 
  • Look Ahead – Think of possible transition bumps to minimize  unplanned “great ideas”. IF you think they are going to ask for more time to play or a particular toy, prepare an answer before they ask. 
  • Share Next Steps – Share the next steps in your schedule and try to make it sound fun. 
  • Say It With Pictures – Especially for younger kids, show them a picture of the next steps. Draw your simple pictures on post its.  Kids will love to play with them and they can be reused in the future.
  • Give Choices – IF you have multiple things to do and the order can be varied, give them a choice of what they want to do first.  Best to keep their choices simple, maybe 2 or 3 choices.
  • Kids LIKE Schedules – They may say they don’t, but they do!  Let them know in advance any planned activities to help them become more aware.
  • Distract, Distract, Distract – Plan a list of things to do to distract BEFORE your child has an issue (e.g. a favorite toy, box of crayons). Sing, count, tell stories, whatever will keep their mind busy. You may also allow them to hold a special item.  As a K-2 principal, I often allowed new kindergarten students to hold my “very special book” or “wear my Principal necklace”.  Prior to the book or necklace idea, I had once used my keys to distract a nervous 5 year old. Two hours later, the kindergarten teacher was finally able to distract the child long enough to  unclench his fingers from around my keys.  It worked, but certainly, not my best idea.  A little planning would have been helpful!

Not 100% guaranteed ideas but certainly worth a try. 

Good Luck!

Isn't education ALL about reaching the kids?
Isn’t education ALL about reaching the kids?

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IEP Vocabulary Basics

Special Education  vocabulary will help understand the process.
Special Education vocabulary will help understand the process.

The world of special education can by scary for parents navigating the process for the first time.  The following list contains special education terms, definitions and acronyms that are commonly used by schools during the IEP process .

  • Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE): Special education and related series are provided free of charge so that every child has the appropriate education for his or her unique needs.  It’s entitled under IDEA.
  • Due Process: Refers to the process where parents may disagree with the program recommendations.  Notice must be given in writing within 30 days.
  • Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): The law (2004) guarantees that all students with disabilities received a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).  It makes it illegal for school district to refuse to educate a student based on his or her disability.
  • Parent Consent: Term used by IDEA that describes that a parent has been fully informed (in native language) of changes to their child’s IEP. This informed consent must be obtained before a district assesses, makes a major revision to a child’s program, continues or stops services for a child’s disability.  You will be asked to confirm that you understand and agree to the change in writing.
  • Early Intervention (EI): Services for developmentally delayed children from birth to their third birthdays. The programs are designed to help prevent problems as the child matures. It’s mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
  • Least Restrictive Environment (LRE): Students must be educated in a classroom setting that is close to the general education setting as possible (IDEA mandated).

The IEP Process

  • Assessment or Evaluation: Term used to describe the testing and diagnostic processes that identifies strengths, weaknesses and progress.  An assessment plan is written to describe the results along with the determination and types of special education services recommended for student success.  IDEA gives only 60 days to complete the evaluation from the time a parent gives permission.
  • Annual Review: A yearly meeting is held of all IEP team members to review progress towards goals and update services if needed.
  • Individualized Education Team:  A committee of parents, teachers, administrators and school personnel that provide services to the students.  The team will review assessment results and determine goals, objectives and program placement.

The IEP Document

  • Individualized Education Plan (IEP): The written document that states the child’s goals, objectives and services of special education services.
  • Developmental and Social History: A developmental and social history is a common element of an assessment plan. The history is created by input from parents, teachers, pediatricians and service providers.  
  • Observational Records: Information about a child’s academic performance provided by anyone who works with a child. The records are part of the assessment plan.
  • Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP): A written plan of the early intervention services a child (age 0-3 receives). The plan is developed based on family-based needs and reviewed periodically.
  • Triennial Review:  An IEP meeting that takes place every three years. Testing is updated and a discussion on the continuation of special education services.  The meeting is often combined with the annual review.
  • Observational Records: Information about a child’s academic performance provided by anyone who works with a child. The records are part of the assessment plan.
  • Assessments or Evaluations:  Tests designed to provide an overview of a child’s academic performance, basic cognitive functioning, and current strengths and weaknesses. May also contain hearing and vision test results.
  • Present Levels: Part of the IEP that defines a student’s strengths and weaknesses, current levels of academic achievement and current levels of academic functional performance.
  • Student Baseline: A starting point of student’s ability level that is used throughout the year to measure a student’s skills. 
  • Performance-Based Tests: An evaluation test that is used to determine eligibility for special education services.  Common evaluations can include Woodcock Johnson or the Wechsler Individual Achievement Test (WIAT).

Services

  • Occupational Therapists: A professional that provides consultation and support to staff to improve a student’s educational performance in the areas of fine motor, gross motor and sensory integration development.
  • Speech-Language Pathologist (specialist): A professional who assesses possible delayed speech and language skills and provides direct services.
  • Physical Therapist: A professional who provides consultation and support staff on a student’s education performance related to gross motor development.  May provide direct services. 
  • School Psychologist: Provides consultation and support to families and staff.  Often involved in the student assessments.  May also be the chairperson of the IEP committee.

Great Special Ed Links

Isn’t education ALL about reaching the kids?

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  • IEP Questions and Answers