Teacher Talk with Kelly and Randi

March 2019

Happy Spring!

This month we are focused on ideas for writing short expository texts, building relationships with struggling students, diving into informational texts, and using photos for math instruction. We have included our summer 2019 professional learning lineup! Check our website for the most up-to-date workshop information. Have a wonderful March!

Happy teaching!

-Kelly Harmon & Randi Anderson

Information Circles

Students need to constantly build schema, or background knowledge, that will help them connect to new topics and ideas about the world. Reading nonfiction is one of the best ways to help students do this. It is important to note however, that informational texts can often be one of the most difficult genres for students to comprehend. Because of this young readers need to spend a lot of time processing informational texts. One way to immerse students in nonfiction texts is to invite them to participate in information circles.

An information circle is an instructional tool, much like book clubs or literature circles.

To set one up in your own classroom, first choose 4 to 5 informational texts related to a central topic or idea. You will want to pick texts that peak students' interests. Give your class a brief introduction of each text and then have students vote for their top two choices to read. The next day, put students into groups of 3 to 5 and reveal to the class who is in each informational text circle. Have students meet to discuss background knowledge and formulate questions to answer before reading.

Our favorite tools to utilize in this situation is the RAN chart. RAN stands for "read and analyze nonfiction." Click here to download the RAN chart. We suggest putting each heading on a sheet of 8-1/2" x 11" paper and having students write on sticky notes. The goal of the study is to "confirm" what you think you know by finding textual evidence. Students will also identify misconceptions in their background knowledge. At the end of the informational circle, students get together to discuss what was confirmed, the misconceptions they had, new information learned, and the questions they answered.

Each week students join a new informational circle. This will provide students with opportunities to read a variety of informational texts, actively participate in discussions about reading, and use metacognitive strategies on their own.

Teaching Tip: Each week have a different theme of informational texts. i.e.

Week 1: Animals

Week 2: Biographies of Famous Athletes

Week 3: Famous Places

Week 4: Current Events

2 & 10 Rule

One of my favorite classroom questions is asking students to spell love, and then eliciting "T- I- M- E." I love this idea that we express our love and caring for one another by spending time together. I think this is so true, even at school. Struggling students often don't feel connected while at school. Once a student thinks they aren't liked or don't belong, it becomes difficult for them to engage in productive group activities and accept feedback meant to move them forward.

One way to validate students and help them to feel more connected in the classroom is to follow the 2 & 10 rule. The 2 & 10 rule is simple. Spend 2 minutes for 10 consecutive days chatting with students about things other than school. (i.e. their interests, family, hobbies, etc.)

Showing you students that you care about them will help to build a vital and productive relationship. This is also an excellent opportunity to model how relationships are formed and how they should work. In addition, you can use your 2 minutes to gather data that you can use to create relevant math situations, to help students connect learning to their own lives, and to discover texts that students are interested in reading. Two short minutes can do so much to help your students feel connected to the community and to learning.

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Intentional Pair Shares

How can we get all our students to share their thinking? When setting up for pair shares, students should always know ahead of time who their share partner will be. They should have a title or designation to help them know who will talk and who will listen. Each time students are going to pair share, direct specific students to start the conversation. For example, say "Partner A: explain why you think the character..." Give students a short amount of time to explain and then say something like "Partner B: Do you agree or disagree with A? Is there evidence in the text to support your thinking?"

Intentional pair shares are a great way to help teachers remember who has talked and who needs to talk. Our goal should be for ALL students to share their thinking and listen to their partner's ideas. Whoever does the talking, does the learning!

Writing Reviews

Ever heard of Ryan's Toy Reviews on Youtube? Ever use Trip Advisor or Yelp? Reviews of products, locations, and places hold vital information for us as consumers, and also as learners. They help us to decide where to go for dinner or whether or not to purchase that coffee maker on Amazon.

Reviews are great in the classroom, too! Not only are they a form of expository or informational writing, but they also tap into students' interests. Reviews are short expository texts that have an immediate purpose for their intended audience.

After showcasing a variety of reviews to your students, students can start writing their own reviews of toys, restaurants in your area, or places they have visited on spring break vacation.

Before writing, have students plan out their intended message by asking:

  • Would you give this product or place a thumbs up or a thumbs down (or 1-5 stars)?
  • Why did you rate your product or place the way you did?
  • What do you want your reader to learn from your review?
  • What words will help you accomplish your purpose?

Showcase your students' reviews so that the entire school can see their thinking! Use QR codes or make a class Yelp book.

Here is a review to use as an example!

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Math Photos

Effective math learning takes place with the use of visuals! Most all of us need to see the math in front of us to be able to identify relationships and patterns. One fun way to grab your students' numerical attention is through photos that contain math situations. Simply take pictures throughout the day that contain groups of people or items that can serve as a catalyst for discussion.

Discussion starter questions:

  • What do you notice?
  • How many?
  • What is the best way to count these items?
  • Where do you see math?
  • What is the pattern?
  • What comes next?
  • What is the math situation?

After students begin to see the math in the pictures, turn the picture taking responsibility over to them. Have students take pictures and create the math problems for the pictures.This will build conceptual knowledge and help to develop fluent mathematical thinking!

From Phonics to Fluency

Saturday, March 30, 2019 / 9am to 12pm

Virtual Seminar (3 Hour)


Phonics and fluency go hand in hand because they are both essential components of a proficient reader. Join Kelly Harmon this Spring and boost your knowledge of phonemic awareness and reading fluency. Explore engaging activities that will get your students using common spelling patterns to create words, and reading fluently in no time! For more info click here!

Summer 2019 Seminars

Reading, Writing, & Rigor: Starting the Year with a Rich Literacy Classroom

June 24 & 25, 2019

Two Day Event

San Antonio, TX


Want to create a balanced literacy classroom from the start? Join Kelly Harmon & Randi Anderson in San Antonio for a two-day event focused on creating balanced literacy instruction for grades K-8. Explore class routines, schedules, homework, genre mapping, and much more! This seminar will give you an overview of an entire year of intentional planning for engaging instruction. We will dive deep into information on comprehension strategies, literature circles, guided reading, writer's workshops, achieving fluency, word work activities, and assessment ideas. Seats are limited, register today!

Guided Math: Setting the Stage for Success

June 26 & 28, 2019

Two Day Event

San Antonio, TX


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 and procedural knowledge, mathematical fluency, and how to transfer those skills to math problem solving. In addition, take a critical look at your math time block and learn how to incorporate writing into your daily math instruction. View our official flyer. Seats are limited, register today!

Bring a Seminar to Your District!

We provide virtual & onsite seminars for districts. Our trainings can be customized to meet the specific needs of your students and staff. Contact our us for more information on the trainings and rates! (817) 583-1290.