Learning, Leading, and Loving Literacy

Posts tagged ‘Writing’

Summer Literacy Lessons

Each year, we are lucky enough to partner with Providence College and host their students from the Graduate Literacy Program.  The students are teachers who are working to earn their Master’s degree and become certified Reading Specialists.  In order to do that, one of their final courses requires that they work intensively with students who struggle with aspects of reading and/or writing. We invite students from our school who could benefit from extra summer instruction for a four week intensive Summer Literacy Program.  It is a win-win for our students and the Providence College students.

The children work in very small groups (1:2 teacher to students ratio) and get individualized instruction from teachers who are motivating, caring, and learning best practice.  Of course our goal is to have the students maintain or make gains in literacy learning – but it is also to foster their love for reading and writing.  We work on developing basic skills such as phonics, vocabulary, comprehension, fluency, and self-monitoring.  However, we always put the joy of reading and writing first and work on these skills by reading real texts and writing real pieces for authentic audiences.  In short, we focus on what it really means to be a reader and writer.

We are just starting week 3 of our program.  Our daily schedule consists of reader’s workshop, a whole class lesson, and writer’s workshop.  Our whole class lessons are designed to enhance the individual lessons of the reader’s and writer’s workshops. Below are some samples of what we have learned so far, and how families can encourage and support the work we have been doing at home.

Lessons in Reading:  We have learned

  • How to use punctuation to make our reading sound good and make sense
  • How to check that our reading makes sense, sounds right, and looks right
  • How to ask questions and wonder as we read
  • How to use clues within the text to figure out the meaning of new words

How you can help at home:  Looking at the lessons above, there are many ways to support the work we have done. The best way to help and support your child at home is to read with them and talk with them about what they have read.

As you share a story, model your thinking such as asking “I wonder why the character did that?” to model asking questions.

Change your voice as you read aloud and mention “I saw the exclamation point so I knew I had to make my voice sound excited”.

When you read a new or unfamiliar word, model your thinking about what the word might mean. “They say the bird was perched on the branch and from the picture I notice the bird sitting on top of it.  That must be what perched means.”

When you notice your child reading and making an error, give him or her some wait time to see if they notice the error as well.  If not, wait until the end of the page and then say something like “You said ‘The bunny hopped in the call grass (if your child read call/cool).  Does that make sense?”  Always ask your child to check if his or her reading makes sense, sounds right, and looks right;  all three are important.

Lessons In Writing:  We have learned

  • How to plan out our writing to include a beginning, middle, and end
  • How to add details to our writing to help readers visualize our story

How you can help at home: Good writing almost always begin with good language.  Talking about the events that happen in life is a great way to prepare your child to become a better writer.

As you recount something you did throughout the day, model how to retell the events in order using words such as first, then, next, and last.  A great way to do this is to ask your child to tell another adult about something that happened.  For example, when my husband comes home, I might ask my son to “tell daddy what happened when we went outside today” and then begin by modeling “First, we went outside to go on a nature walk. Then…” and I let my son fill in the blanks.  Modeling that story structure makes children become familiar with the sequencing of a story and it will become natural for them to tell stories in this way.

Additionally, expand your child’s vocabulary (and ability to add details to their storytelling and writing) through conversation. The best way to do this is by using a strategy called the PEER strategy by Grover J. Whitehurst as you read or talk:

PEER Sequence:

Prompt the child to say something about the book or topic.

Evaluate the child’s response.

Expand the child’s response by rephrasing and adding information to it.

Repeat the prompt to make sure the child has learned from the expansion.

Example:  You bring your child to the beach and on the way home you ask “What did you see at the beach today?” Your child says “I saw the waves”. (Prompt)  You answer “Yes (Evaluate), we saw the waves crashing on the shore.  They were tall and moved quickly” (Expand). Finish by saying “Did you see those tall waves today? (Repeat to see if the child picks up on and uses the new vocabulary).

This is a very simplified example and usually reserved for reading but the concept is to take every opportunity you have to expand your child’s speaking vocabulary as this will prepare them when they write.

Summary:  I have a poster hanging on the wall of my classroom and it is one of my favorites.  It says “The Top 10 ways to become a Better Reader: 1.Read 2.Read 3.Read 4.Read 5.Read 6.Read 7.Read 8.Read 9.Read 10.Read”. The best way to help and support your child is to enjoy and talk about books with them.  We are having a great time with the kids and hope that knowing what skills and strategies we are working on will help you think about how to expand this work at home.  In a future post, I will include a list of the books we have read aloud so that you can share them with your child as well.





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Writing about Reading

I’m always trying to find ways to motivate my students to read.  I read books to them, try to give intriguing book introductions, express my enthusiasm, and even act a little crazy from time to time, all in the hopes that they will want to pick up a book and read.

Sometimes, I don’t need to work so hard.  If we read a book together and the students love the characters, all I have to do is find another book with those same characters and the excitement to dive in is already there.

Earlier in the year, my second grade students read a Pioneer Valley book about two little white dogs named Bella and Rosie.  Generally, Rosie follows the rules and Bella breaks them.  There are many Bella and Rosie stories in this series, so there are many opportunities to learn about their personalities through actions, illustrations, and dialogue from book to book.  Recently, my second graders read their first chapter book about Bella and Rosie and were able to compare the actions and adventures in the story with the story they read earlier in the year.

This lends itself well to the Reading:Literature Standard 1.9, “compare and contrast the adventures and experiences of characters in stories”.  Although this is a first grade standard, my second grade students are getting good practice doing that in preparation for the end of Grade 2 standard (RL 2.9), which is to “compare and contrast two or more versions of the same story by different authors or from different cultures”.

After reading, we discussed the events in the text and the kids determined that between the two dogs, Bella was definitely the “bad” one. I posed the question “How do you know Bella is a bad dog?” and I asked the students to write their answers using evidence from both texts.  Because the kids love these characters, they were more than happy to search for evidence from both books to prove Bella is bad.  We also talked about using “bridge” words to make their writing sound better than just writing a list.

All this practice will make our end of year expectations easy to meet and best of all, it feels like fun because we are starting with characters we know and love.

Here are some photos of those second graders working hard to write about reading.  I love how they are all searching both texts to find evidence to include in their writing:

Alex searches both texts for evidence.

Alex searches both texts for evidence.


John rereads his writing to be sure it makes sense.

Connor is focused on his writing.

Connor is focused on his writing.

We agreed these "bridge" words make our writing sound better.

We agreed these “bridge” words make our writing sound better.