Out of This World Literacy : August 2014
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Getting Started with Guided Reading

Hello Again Friends!!

I wanted to talk with you all today about getting started with guided reading.  It is that time in the school year when we all are finished assessing students and are ready to pull small groups for guided reading instruction. 

If you are like me, you may struggle with exactly what is the best way to use this important time with students.  Over the years, I have tried so many different approaches, using a variety of note taking forms and lesson plan formats. 

I have found that the following lesson format is the best way to cover the most important reading instruction, regardless of the students’ instructional levels:

  The Steps in a Guided Reading Lesson:

1.Introduction (2-3 minutes)

i.Decode and define tricky words by bringing students to those words they may struggle with.

ii.Give students background knowledge to better understand the text.

2.Reading the text (10 minutes)

i.Students read the text silently, while the teacher listens in to each student whisper read for a few minutes.

ii.The teacher takes notes on the types of strategies students use to solve unknown words.  The teacher may quickly teach a word solving or fluency skill to an individual student.

3.Talking about the text (5 minutes)

i.   The teacher has a conversation with students about their thinking and what they might still be wondering about what they just read.

4. Teaching objective  (5 minutes)

i.The teacher explicitly teaches one of the learning objectives recommended for students at their instructional level. 
ii. The teacher can ask open-ended questions specific to the reading strategy being taught.

5.Word work (3-4 minutes)

i.Some days the teacher may plan to work on a spelling pattern that follows weekly spelling words.  Other days the teacher may want to write down a few words that students were struggling with during the guided reading lesson. 

6.   Assessment Assignment (optional: completed independently)

i.Students complete a graphic organizer relevant to the teaching objective covered during the lesson.

I hope this lesson outline helps you as you are planning your guided reading lessons.
For specific teaching objectives for fiction, nonfiction, and word work on guided reading levels, you can click here
For guided reading teacher forms click here.

Best of luck to you all who are just getting your guided reading groups going.  They are such a great way to differentiate instruction and reach students where they are so that we can move them forward in their learning!!
Jen Bengel

7 Ways to Prewrite

Hello Friends!

Today I want to share with you 7 prewriting strategies we use to ensure everyone is a successful writer!!

Strategy 1: Making a List
***Students can make a list of lots of different things!  Some of our favorites are: 

a. What I Would Do With a Million Dollars
b. My Favorite... (foods, tv shows, movies, friends, etc)
c. Things I Want to Do Before I'm an Adult
d. My Dream Vacations
e. If I Had Unlimited Wishes I Would Wish For...

Strategy 2: Make a Web

Strategy 3: Sketching
***Sketching can be a great strategy for your artistic or reluctant writers to get ideas and details about a writing topic!  Remind students that a sketch is a quick drawing that is meant to develop ideas and details for a potential writing piece.  Kids LOVE sketching!!

Strategy 4: Make a List From a Topic on Your First List

***After students have a list, ask them to circle 3-4 items on the list that really stand out to them.  Tell them to think about the things they could write more details about.  After they have their few circled, have them write each topic on a clean page of paper.  Then they can make another list with even more details from each topic.  this is a great way to narrow down writing ideas!

Strategy 5: Branches

Strategy 6: Cartoon Strip
***My kids LOVE to write with cartoon strips.  It's a great combination of sketching and writing.  When I told my son he could write cartoon strips he went from being a reluctant writer to begging for more than 20 minutes of time to write!  They are a great way to encourage reluctant writers!!

My Son, Greyson Loving his cartoon 'stripe' prewriting time!!

Strategy 7: Timeline
***This is a great prewriting strategy for informational or nonfiction text writing.  It can work great for personal narrative, biographies, or memoirs as well!

The Mini Lesson

Step One: Have students copy the mini lesson into their writing notebooks

Step Two: As a class, brainstorm a list of ways writers can gather seeds during prewriting (your class may have other ideas than the 7 we thought of)

Step Three: Model a few of the strategies with your own prewriting notebook

Step Four: Invite students to share which strategy they will try during writing today.  Make sure every student quickly shares his/her plans for independent writing time.  This will ensure that they are all ready to write and you can hold them accountable at the end of the workshop.

Step Five: Give students time to write.  Walk around and conference individually with students who may need additional support.

Step Six: Gather back together as a class.  Have students share what they were working on with partners (ensuring that every student is involved and held accountable).  Have a few share with the class.

The lesson and prewriting strategies can be used all year long to produce great writing!!

I hope you all have a wonderful time writing with your students!!

If you need reading and writing units of study for your classroom, you can click here.

Best wishes,
Jen Bengel

5 'Must Do' Back to School Activities

Hello again teacher friends!  

I am so excited to share in the always amazing Bright Ideas Blog Hop!!

This month I am going to share with you 5 'Must Do' Activities for the first week back to school.  

I started Homeschooling my 3 kids!  They are in 10th, 7th, and 5th grade. 

My son wasn't too excited about his mini desk!  We are working on an upgrade :)

Here are the 'Must Do' Activities we did on the first day of school:

#1: Creating a class set of Norms

We brainstormed together what we wanted our set of norms to be.  We kept it short and sweet so we don't have an overwhelming number of things to remember.  Here is our list:

The kids copied the norms into their daily notebooks so that they had the chart with them at the front of their notebooks all throughout the year.

Their homework for the night was to work together to create a nice poster we could hang in our classroom as an anchor chart.  

They could use whatever resources they found.  But the key was they needed to work together.  

You could have small groups of students work together to create several posters that could be hung up all over the room as reminders.  Eventually you could just leave one up for the year!

#2: Decide What You Need from Each Other to Learn Best

Be honest and open with your class as you have them share what they need from their classmates and you in order to have a successful year.  Get every student involved by asking them to turn and talk with a partner to brainstorm ideas.  Give them some time to share and then ask the class to share what they discussed with their partners.  This is a great way to have the class see clearly what they need from each other to be successful this year!  Have students copy your chart into their notebooks so that they have it for the entire year!

#3: Create a Classroom of Kind Words and Respect for All

I found this idea on pinterest and loved it!  What a great way to visualize how our words can impact our hearts!  We may revisit these hearts if our words start to become hurtful to others.  One idea is to ask students to try and tear the glued hearts out of their notebooks.  They will likely end up in pieces.  Then ask the class to put the hearts back together so that they look exactly as they did before.  Of course, this is impossible as there will be tears in the hearts.  Tell students that our words can tear others apart and it is very difficult to put them back together in the same way.  It's a powerful message to respect others and think before we talk!!

#4: Begin a Class List of Books You've Read Together

I have been keeping track of all the books our class has read together over the years.  We are constantly referencing books we have read all year long.  It's really fun to see this list grow and to see how much kids remember books for months to come.  So many times we have talked about books we read  in August when it is April!  The list makes it so easy to remember all we have read.  

#5: Set up Your Reading and Writing Workshop Notebooks

These are the tabs we chose for our readers and writers notebooks this year.

I gave the kids sticky tabs and had them mark each section.  Labeling sections in our notebooks keeps all our thinking organized and makes it super easy to find our work from weeks and months past.

If you enjoyed this bright idea please consider joining me on Pinterest or at my TpT Store.

I hope you are able to use some or all of these ideas in your first few days of school!  I wish you all the very best year ever!!!!!!

For more bright ideas from over 100 different incredible teacher bloggers, please browse through the link-up below and choose a topic/grade level that interests you.  Thanks for visiting!

Best wishes,
Jen Bengel

Back to School Giveaway and YouTube Party!!

Hello Friends!

I am so super excited to join my friends over at the Primary Chalkboard for a blog-hopping back to school party and giveaway!!

We are doing things a little different this time around.  In order for you to get us to know us a little bit more, we all created short video clips with some awesome back to school tips!!

It's a YouTube Party people!!!

You are NOT going to believe how many incredible back to school tips you can find as you hop through our YouTube videos.


 We are having a HUGE giveaway!!!

Would you like...

A $100 Amazon Gift Card...

A $100 TpT Gift Card...

Or a Fabulous Michael Kors Bag...

You can EVEN gain EXTRA entries in the giveaway by watching our videos
and entering our SECRET WORDS into the Rafflecopter.
(I know you were going to do that anyway, so... 2 birds, 1 stone).

We will be linking up 5-6 new videos every day this week...
so you can come back, watch, and enter every day!

Let's Get Started!!

You can see my video tip on how to use quotebooks in your classroom here:

I hope you can use quotebooks in your classroom too!!

Okay, now you know my secret word and you can enter it into the rafflecopter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck and I hope you round up lots of great ideas and tips for a fabulous school year!!

Back to School Picture Book Activities

Hello Again Friends!!

I wanted to share four of my all-time favorite picture books for back to school!  I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to use use picture books as a way to build a classroom community of learners that share and understand the same background of mentor texts.

Some of the most important moments we as teachers will spend with our students are during those precious first few days of school.  These are the times where we will set expectations for behaviors and attitudes that will carry over throughout the entire year.  

Over the last nine years I have often reflected on how to improve those first few days so that I can be sure to foster a safe, caring, classroom community where everyone is expected to learn at his/her highest level.

One of the best ways I have found (aside from modeling my own behavior) is to use picture books.  

Yes, fifth, sixth, even middle school kids enjoy listening to picture books (even though they may not admit it!).  Below is a list of picture books and activities I use to begin building our classroom community.

Activity: After reading the story of how Miss Malarkey never gave up on a reluctant reader, explain that you are going to be just like her.  Tell students that you will always be there for them, encouraging them to find ‘just right’ books throughout the year.  Take some time to explain your classroom library and how to choose ‘just right’ books (books that are not too difficult, easy, or boring after reading the first page)

Activity: Read this book about Louis and how he learns a practical way to stop himself from shouting out in class.  As you are reading, have all the students try practicing how to stop themselves from blurting out.  I have done this with fifth and sixth graders and they love it!  Have an honest conversation with the class about how we can all be a Louis at times, but we (include yourself!) need to try our best to keep our thoughts to ourselves until the time is right. 
***TIP: Have students sitting on the carpet in a circle while you read.  It creates a great community of learners where everyone can see each other!

Activity: Bullying is a huge concern in every school.  Be proactive and set expectations about how to stop bullying before it even begins by reading this book in the first few days of school.  After you read about Pete and how the kids in his school decided not to just stand around and let bullying happen, make a class chart of all the ways you as a class are going to stop bullying.  Have students talk in partners or small groups to come up with ideas to stop bullying when they see it happening.  Then ask them to share their ideas with the group.  Write their thinking on the class anchor chart.  Having a plan in advance will give students the power to stand up to bullies and avoid making the wrong decisions (including doing nothing at all) right there in the moment. 
***TIP: Have all the students sign their names on the class anti-bullying chart.  Leave this up all year and review it often as a reminder of their plans to stop bullying!

Activity: This is such a great book to read to older students!  Have your kids sit in a circle on the carpet so that they are facing each other as you read.  Every student can connect to this book because the main character, Ira, is so relatable.  Ira is on his way to his first sleepover and is torn about whether he should bring his stuffed teddy bear that he always sleeps with.  His older sister teases him that his friend Reggie will laugh at him.  Ira really does not know what to do!  As you are reading how Ira keeps changing his mind, stop and ask students to turn and talk to someone they are sitting next to.  Have them share their thinking about Ira, his sister, and the book.  Encourage them to make personal connections with their own special objects. 
***TIP: After you read the book ask students to go around the circle and share a special item they either still sleep with or used to as a small child.  Give them the option to tell about someone they know who has a special item.  Remind them not to laugh and that we all have special items in our lives.  This conversation will bring your class together as a community because everyone will begin to understand, through sharing something a little vulnerable, that their class is a safe place to learn!  This is a super fun activity!!!

I hope you have found these activities to help in starting your year off right!  

If you would like more lesson ideas for using books like these you can check out the following back to school resources available at my TpT store by clicking on the link below:


I wish all my fellow teachers out there a wonderful first few days with their new class and an amazing year!!!

Jen Bengel

Back to School Sale!

I so super pumped to say that it is that time again for the BIG... 

Back to School Sale!!  Wahoo!!

Save 28% off EVERYTHING in my store Aug. 4-5!!

Click on the images below to see some of the great resources available from my store!!  

Have fun shopping and saving for back to school!!!

Best wishes,