Thursday, October 29, 2015

Elkonin Boxes

Elkonin Boxes, or Sound Boxes are used to help early readers hear the individual sounds (phonemes) in words and write them.  One letter is written in each box.  Students pronounce each individual sound as they slide a finger (or coin or other marker) to the right along the arrow.  The number of boxes matches the number of letters in the word.  Of course your earliest readers will begin with 2 and 3 letter words.

As readers progress into more complicated word patterns, boxes will grow.  In the 5 letter box you can see that a reader of a word like this, will need to work with consonant blends and digraphs.

Materials to make Sound Boxes need not be complicated.  You can draw one with a marker!  Or, use colored tape to form boxes on a cookie sheet, then spell with magnetic letters. Or, use colored tape to form boxes on a table top, then spray shaving cream inside box parts for kids to write letters with their finger.  Get creative.  The methods are limitless.  Go online and You tube some videos which demonstrate this strategy. You can also search the Internet for a variety of designs, including the cute one below from

Monday, June 8, 2015

Summer Reading

Here's my summer reading: Some Reading GOLD from Jennifer Serravallo and some Writing GOLD from Colleen Cruz!  Hot off the presses! Let me know what you think.  We'll compare notes.

Time to READ.  See you Later.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Learning by Doing

The idea behind the Readers and Writers Workshop model of learning is that students learn best by actually DOING what they are learning.  Readers need to READ.  Writers need to WRITE.  Artists, need to sculpt or paint or draw.  So what does the teacher do while her students are READING or WRITING or SCULPTING?  The teacher is moving around the room, observing, encouraging, helping, giving hints and tips, in a word...TEACHING!

For more information on how to CONFER with READERS take a look at Jennifer Serravallo's book, Conferring With Readers.

For information on how to CONFER with WRITERS take a look at Carl Anderson's book,
Assessing Writers.

Happy Teaching 2014-2015!!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Writing Conferences

Dear Writing Teachers,
Are you aware that almost all of your writing instruction
happens during your one-on-one writing conferences?
Sure, your mini-lesson is important and reaches a
larger audience.  But the real "MEAT" of your teaching
will come during your individual conferences with students.
This is when you are face-to-face speaking writer-to-writer!
In the Calkins/Hartman/White book, One to One, you can
read about 4 suggested steps to include in a writing conference.
As I coach teachers I give them a pink card with the 4 parts
written (below) to take around the room with them as they

Research: This part is when you observe and analyze what the student is doing as a writer. It is also important at this point to compliment your student on what they've done well.
Decide: Decide what you want to teach your student during this conference and how you will teach it.
Teach: You will teach what you've decided will get this student to the next step in their writing.
Link: Remind student what they have done well as a writer and remind them to do this in the future.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Cause and Effect

Running through almost every text your students read, there are examples of cause and effect relationships.  We often think of them as a text structure.  But I also see cause and effect when looking at a sequence of events. I see cause and effect when looking at a problem and solution.  And I see cause and effect when inferring, "why did this happen?" Is it just me? Causes and Effects seem to be everywhere!

Notice how this chart illustrates how there need not be only one cause and effect.  There could be several causes for a given effect...My good grades, my good attitude AND my helpfulness in the classroom might have all CAUSED me to get the Good Citizen Award. On the flip side, one "event" or cause such as a tornado might produce multiple EFFECTS such as building damage, torn up landscapes and bodily damage.

 The author writes about one or more causes or events and what happens because of it, the effect/or effects. The PURPOSE is to explain why or how something happened, exists, or works.

Sometimes authors use words that signal when a cause or effect will be shown. 
Here are some signal words to watch for:

because     therefore     due to     accordingly      for this reason     so that     consequently   nevertheless         in order to      if...then

Here is a poster which illustrates it all:

Saturday, September 21, 2013

A Character's Journey

In most stories your character takes some sort of journey.  It might be a literal journey or trip.  It might be a journey into new experiences, circumstances or feelings.  Help students take the journey with the characters they read about.  And as writers, invite students to take their readers on a journey!  The following idea was snagged from the Summer Writer's Institute at Teacher's College in New York.  I've used the example of Little Red Riding Hood, but you could apply this exercise to another story or demonstrate how a student might use this to assist with their own narrative writing.  Can you think of ways to use this?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Nonfiction Visuals

Chart Idea Inspired by The Comprehension Toolkit

Text Features

Nonfiction Readers

Student Nonfiction Features Journal

Journal Construction.
Hands-On and FUN!