From the Desk of Kelly Harmon

December 2015 Newsletter

Dear Educators,

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year! It's the holiday season and we all know that the education world is in fast motion this time of year. Enjoy this month's newsletter as we focus on important instructional tips and holiday ideas. Happy teaching!

-Kelly Harmon & Randi Anderson

Using Holiday Songs as Teaching Tools

Do you know the back story to Jingle Bells? What is it really about? Jingle Bells is a great song to use when teaching students to use comprehension skills. Students are reading to find out the overall meaning, make inferences about the author's intentions and characters, and make connections from the historical setting to present day setting-all while singing!

Using a holiday song as a shared reading is an engaging and rigorous reading activity! Standards that could be addressed using this song:

  • Making inferences about the character's goal
  • Making inferences about the setting
  • Drawing conclusions about the impact of the setting on the characters problem and the events of the story
  • Monitoring for comprehension by visualizing
  • Making Inferences about the Author's Craft (mood, tone, and word choice)

Great Holiday Songs for Shared Reading:

Questioning Lesson and iPad Centers Using Holiday Songs!

You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch! Check out our ready-to-use holiday mentor lesson with iPad centers! Students will engage in rigorous thinking while keeping in the holiday spirit. Download, print, and USE!

Click here to get it now!

Instructional Time Crunch

Recently I was asked my opinion about how much time should be spent on ELAR in the elementary classroom each day. I started thinking about how much instruction and practice it takes to reach our literacy goals. Students need hourly opportunities to use language and literacy skills if they are to continuously grow in their reading and writing skills. By the end of the year, not only should the student be at a higher reading level, but be able to explain and select strategies that they use to process a variety of complex texts.

Instructional time should be organized to ensure that students are listening, speaking, reading, and writing in all areas of the curriculum. If students are doing activities that do not deepen their understanding and help them process at deep levels of comprehension, we should discard the activity and use the time for more authentic and meaningful practice opportunities. Anything else is distraction that prevents the learning goals from being achieved as quickly as possible.

Here are some ideas for authentic practice that develops content knowledge, language and literacy skills.

  1. Draw a picture or act out important ideas from informational texts. This type of activity is a great way to show what the student knows about the content while practicing literacy skills.
  2. Create a puppet for a storybook character or to narrate an informational text. Create puppets using paper bag , popsicle sticks, or by sealing an envelope, cutting it in half vertically, and drawing a face on each half of the envelope. Students will love being able to use puppets to act out stories or give commentary.
  3. Write a speech that includes important ideas, opinions, claims, and textual support about a topic. Then create an avatar who delivers the speech. Apps to use include Tellagami, GoAnimate, and Chatterpix. Be sure students write a draft first. After they have revised the draft of their "speech" and practiced reading it, record the speech using the app. Be sure to save the recording and post it on your class website or wikki. Most apps will allow you to save and send a link to parents.

Hopefully, these ideas answer the question "What should students be doing while I work with small groups to differentiate instruction?"

Academic language needs to be heard, seen, spoken, and written in order to be efficiently stored in permanent memory. Practice makes permanent!

Winter 2016 Workshops

Check Out Kelly Harmon's New Book!

Kelly Harmon & Robert Marzano teamed up to writePracticing Skills, Strategies, & Processes. The book is part of the Essentials for Achieving Rigor Series.

Practicing Skills, Strategies, & Processes: Classroom Techniques to Help Students Develop Proficiency explores explicit techniques for mastering this crucial strategy of instructional practice. It includes:

  • Explicit steps for implementation
  • Recommendations for monitoring students’ ability to develop fluent thinking
  • Adaptations for students who struggle, have special needs, or excel in learning
  • Examples and non-examples from classroom practice
  • Common mistakes and ways to avoid them

For more information click here!

Kelly Harmon & Associates, LLC

Kelly Harmon & Associates began in 2001 with a mission of instructional coaching and providing rich literacy resources for educators and parents. Our work incorporates research-based best practices for teaching and learning. Our services are professional development, curriculum development, instructional coaching, grant writing, project management, and technology integration.