Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Main Idea Teaching Hack

As state testing nears, I've been tutoring a small group of Third Graders.  We've been working really hard on our reading skills.  Recently, one of our objectives was CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.3.2 - Determine the main idea of a text; recount the key details and explain how they support the main idea.

I've found main idea to be tricky skill to teach.  At first glimpse, it seems like an easy task, but students often focus on key details, and sometimes they focus on details that are not even relevant.  After much pondering, I FINALLY came up with a simple trick to get students to zoom in on those important words related to Main Idea.

To teach students how to do this, I wrote short passages on chart paper.  (The ones I used came from Erica Trobridge from One Lucky Teacher.  Her Determining the Main Idea, Task Cards and Assessment Option set is A.M.A.Z.I.N.G.)  In a whole group setting, students took turns reading aloud the short passages.  Next, I had students come up to the anchor one at a time to circle a key word, a word they would use when telling someone about the passage.  After all of the key words had been circled, we used them to create a one sentence summary of the passage.  That one sentence summary is always point-on with the main idea of the passage.  Finally, we read the questions (what is the main idea?) and the answer choices and decide upon the correct answers. 

Going through this process has made a tremendous difference with my kiddos!  It definitely takes quite a bit of practice and guidance at first, but this technique helps them hone in on what is truly important in their reading.  After several practices, I began to hear many of my kiddos using the term "key details" frequently!   

A super simple lesson that works!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Bouncy Bands Review

Do you have students in your classroom who struggle with hyperactivity and/or short attention spans?  I do and am constantly trying to find new ways to accommodate my students' needs.  Recently, I was asked to review Bouncy Bands and jumped at the opportunity.

What are Bouncy Bands?
Bouncy Bands are a device that help keep students' feet active.  Created by Scott Ertl, an elementary school counselor in Winston-Salem, NC, Bouncy Bands allow students to prop, bounce, and stretch their legs and feet. 

How do they work?
A simple device, they are made out of heavy-duty solid rubber material and PVC pipes.  To use, teachers simply slip the tubes and PVC pipes over chair or desk legs.  The super-easy installation only takes a minute or so.  Once installed, students can place their feet on the band to bounce, prop, and/or stretch. 

How much do they cost?
Bouncy Bands for Standard Desks are $9.95 each.  Bouncy Bands for Chairs (intended for Kindergarten and First Grade students) are $12.95 each.  A special Bouncy Band for Modified Desks is also available for $14.95. 

What do we think?
As I only had a few sets, I decided to place the Bouncy Bands with students who I thought might benefit the most from them.  After a week of use, I have noticed longer attention spans.  Before using Bouncy Bands, some students would lose focus after a minute or two of work. Now, they are able to keep focus longer.  Also, I have noticed less chair rocking, which is great for safety purposes!  In the future, I can see Bouncy Bands becoming a norm for desks/chairs.  Even as an adult, I get tired of sitting in the same position for a long period of time and need to change positions.  Kids do, too, and Bouncy Bands are a great accommodation.  They would also be perfect for students who struggle with some anxiety and learning disorders!

Check out Bouncy Bands at

Disclaimer: I received this product in exchange for an honest review.  The opinions expressed in this blog post are my own and are not influenced by the company or product.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Free Titanic Reading Comprehension Packet

As a child, I was FASCINATED by the Titanic.  Sure, the movie came out during my childhood, but I loved to read books about it, too.  Fast-forward a few (ok, several) years, and I am still fascinated by Titanic.  I enjoy reading articles, visiting museums, and watching documentaries about the fated ship.  I secretly get really giddy whenever I encounter a student who shares my fascination, and, trust me, there is at least one kiddo who is a Titanic fanatic every. single. year.
Two years ago marked the 100th anniversary of the sinking of Titanic.  I created a free unit at the time to go along with the important occasion.  Since then, it has received a lot of wonderful attention and feedback.  This year, I wanted to spruce it up with some new graphics!
April 15 (Wednesday) marks the anniversary of the sinking, so this week would be a perfect opportunity to use this packet.  If you can't work it into your plans this week, this Titanic packet will fit into your plans at any point in the year!  Consider it an opportunity to discuss non-fiction or informational texts or a fun end-of-the-year activity!
Now, onto the packet!
Included in the packet are two reading comprehension passages with questions (one of the passages is differentiated for different reading levels), an emergent reader for little ones, and a foldable book for the older students as well.
One of the Titanic reading passages included in this free packet

As for my favorite part of the Titanic unit, it would HAVE to be this fun Titanic craft and writing activity.

After students create their Titanic, the booklet opens, and they write about what they learned.  I included differentiated templates, so you can change what goes inside your booklet, if wanted.  For ours, we included a Table of Contents, Titanic Bubble Map and wrote about Titanic Facts, Titanic's Maiden Voyage, The Sinking of Titanic, and Finding Titanic.
The book takes a little time and effort to make but it is definitely worth it, and your students will LOVE their book!
Here's a look at the rest of the packet:

*Titanic Emergent Reader (Color Copy)
*Titanic Emergent Reader (Black and White Copy)
*Titanic Fluency Sheet (Easier Reading)
*Titanic Written Comprehension Questions
*Titanic Fluency Sheet (Challenge Reading)
*Titanic Written Comprehension Questions
*Finding Titanic Fluency Sheet
*Finding Titanic Written Comprehension Questions
*Titanic Facts Student Reader
*Titanic Bubble Map
*Titanic's Maiden Voyage Bubble Map
*The Sinking of Titanic Bubble Map
*Finding Titanic Bubble Map
*Titanic Book Activity (Craft and Writing) - Instructions, Patterns, and Templates
*Titanic Book Suggestions
*Titanic Web Site Suggestions