Teacher Talk with Kelly & Randi

October 2018 Newsletter

Dear Educator Friends,

We hope this newsletter finds you in the midst of a great year! This month we are focused on teaching writing, providing micro-interventions, and fluency building ideas. Also, check out our virtual and onsite trainings coming up this fall. Registration is still open!


Happy Teaching,


-Kelly Harmon & Randi Anderson

Modeled Writing = "Write Aloud"

Writing is an abstract macro-process that must be taught explicitly, followed by guided and independent practice. Writers need to learn to make a series of decisions using their schema and executive skills for planning, organizing, avoiding distraction, and staying focused on the message. Becoming a proficient writer takes years and needs to begin early in life.


What are some ways we can teach students to become successful writers?


We should plan to spend about 30% of our instructional time writing for and writing with our students. In order for students to become proficient writers, they will need to write a lot and receive feedback that moves them forward. Focus on the content of the writing first and then on the conventions. You can have a piece of writing that follows all the convention rules, but says nothing. This isn't the goal. Ideas come first, then conventions.


One of the most powerful instructional strategies for teaching writing is modeled writing! It is also known as "Writing Aloud". This is the "I do, we do" part of the gradual release of responsibility.


Just like read alouds that provide a model of what proficient reading looks and sounds like, write alouds help the novice writer see and hear what good writers think as they plan, organize, draft, revise, edit, and publish a piece of writing.


Predictable Charts

This strategy models for students how to craft sentences and get your thinking from your brain to paper. Predictable charts begin with the teacher model writing a simple sentence such as,


I like pumpkins. (Mrs. A)

I like.....


The teacher then writes "I like" and has a student say what they like followed by the students initials to show ownership of the sentence. The teacher then continues the list for other students. Students can then practice reading the sentences with a pointer. Below is a picture of Ms. Avalos' kindergarten class who just completed a predictable chart. Ms. Avalos turned her predictable chart into a shared writing activity.

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Modeling Short Writing

Teachers can model writing short pieces within specific genres for students. Children need a demonstration of the thinking that happens before you even pick up a pen. Start by brainstorming a simple list or outline before you begin. Be sure to explain the importance of the planning phase.


The most important strategy for the write aloud is modeling your thinking as you write. We cannot expect students to have the thinking process if they have never seen them in action. Model for students what your brain is saying as you write. This is also a great time to model your revision skills like rereading and substituting words or phrases to better convey your intended meaning.


For more information on best writing practices, join us for a virtual training all about giving kids opportunities to write, Kids Need Opportunities to Write! But, How? on October 13th, 2018!

Quick Writes in Action

We love to show ideas from our newsletter and seminars in action! You have probably heard and read some of our posts about quick writes. It is one of the best instructional strategies for building writing stamina and confidence. Here are two educators who used quick writes in September!


Ms. Avalos' Kindergarten Class

Ms. Avalos created simple quick write journals using one piece of construction paper and a few sheets of white paper. This was a way to have quick write journals that were easy to access for her students. In K, she is having them start the year doing quick "drites" (drawing + writing). This gave her students more opportunities to practice putting pencil to paper and getting their ideas from their brain to the page.

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Mrs. Chapa's 5th Grade Class

Mrs. Chapa used quick writes in social studies to discuss the events on 9/11. She used a powerful image as a prompt for the quick quick write. Students are asked to "write as much as you can, as fast as you can, as good as you can." Students wrote about what they saw, felt, and thought about that tragic day.

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Karaoke Builds Fluency

One of ouf favorite strategies for building fluency is using karaoke in the classroom! Youtube offers all the karaoke songs you could want for FREE!


When students participate in karaoke, they are practicing reading from left to right, reading high frequency words, developing vocabulary, and improving their reading rate. All this while having a blast!


Post a song a week for students to use for reading practice. Some great songs to start with are Disney tunes, Katy Perry songs or Bruno Mars. Be sure to screen the songs first for appropriateness.


Take it a step further and print the lyrics to the selected song out for the students. Have them dive into the text and analyze for meaning and author's craft.


Here is a list of great songs to use with kids!


I just Can't Wait to Be King (Lion King)

The Bare Necessities (Jungle Book)

Roar (Katy Perry)

Happy (Pharrell Williams)

Let It Go (Frozen)

Micro-Interventions: Are we Taking Action Quickly?

Last month, we wrote about using learning targets and success criteria. When students know what they are supposed to be learning and what success looks like, they are likely to hit the target sooner and be able to evaluate their own progress.


Using the success criteria, teachers can closely monitor learning and provide timely feedback about each students' progress or lack there of. The goal is to watch for students to demonstrate the success criteria. If they aren't able to demonstrate the daily learning target, then we must think about what is keeping them from doing so and take action quickly. Is there a gap or misconception that needs to be addressed in order to move students forward?


For example, recently a group of fourth graders were practicing finding the main idea and key details of each paragraph in order to summarize an informational text. They were not given any success criteria to guide their thinking. As they read and discussed each paragraph, they kept identifying the topic, rather than taking it further to the main idea. This misconception (that a topic is the main idea) needed to be addressed quickly. I stopped the group before they went on to the next paragraph and provided a quick teach on topic vs. main idea. This micro-intervention took less than two minutes and helped the students close the gap.


Another micro-intervention might be providing sentence stems for students to use as they begin to use a new strategy or do new thinking. This is a temporary support system that helps the reader know what an exemplary reader might say and think when using the skill or strategy.


You may even consider pairing students up so that a slightly more proficient student can coach a student who is still making sense of the strategy and success criteria.


Micro-interventions are all of the little things we, as teachers, do quickly to provide the learning or support the student needs to achieve the daily learning targets. Taking action quickly can prevent bigger gaps from developing over time. If we can close the daily learning gap, we ensure that students learn the grade level targets they need for success in later grades.

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Virtual Workshop Offerings

In-Person Workshop Offerings

Strengthening Your Guided Math

November 9, 2018

8:30am - 3:30pm

San Antonio, TX


Grades K-6

In this interactive training, Kelly Harmon will share a variety of guided math strategies, techniques, and ideas for addressing all students' math needs. Walk away with resources and ideas for strengthening your math instruction immediately! You will learn the best research-based instructional strategies to help your students develop conceptual knowledge, procedural knowledge, fluency, and how to transfer those skills to math problem solving. Registration opens on September 4th. Space is limited to 50 seats. For more info, click here.

Teaching Comprehension Strategies (Figure 19)

February 4, 2019

8:30am - 3:30pm

San Antonio, TX


Grades 2-12

In this energizing, fast-paced seminar, educators will learn research-based strategies students need to use to process a variety of texts. Take your students from think alouds to literature circles as they learn to think about the text and beyond. Explore ready-to-use techniques and activities to help student master Figure 19 Comprehension Strategies.Kelly Harmon will provide instruction, activities, and ideas for engaging students in close and recreational reading. Registration opens on September 4th. Space is limited to 50 seats. For more info, click here!

Bring a Training to Your Campus

We provide virtual and onsite seminars for schools and districts. Our trainings can be customized to meet the specific needs of your students and staff. In addition to seminars, we provide instructional coaching, model teaches, and curriculum support. Contact our us for more information on our trainings and rates! (817) 583-1290.