It's that time of year again!!  No..  not Christmas.  No.. not Back to School.  EVEN BETTER!  It's SHARK WEEK!  And for the third year in a row an amazing team of bloggers are coming together to provide you with some enticing shark week freebies! (Note - some of the freebies may only be free for a limited amount of time!)

Shark week is such an energy packed week on TV we won't be able to compete with their hype - but we're gonna try!  So what do I have in store for YOU!?  Take a bite out of this!  

I'm currently working on some very engaging phonics intervention games and activities!  I thought you might like to try them all out at once!  So today I give you:  

In this packet you'll find two engaging and ready to print games as well as a Bossy "AR" passage for fluency and comprehension practice!  

 The phonics vowel spin & color games are perfect for centers, small group intervention, or whole group partner time!  Everything is ready to print and no prep!  Students use the spinner with a paper clip and compete with their partner to fill up a specific number of squares in their grid by identifying words that match where their spinner landed.  Your kids will LOVE these games and will be begging for more!!  

Next in your freebie is my (SOON TO COME) phonics mazes.  They are set to be up on June 30th, maybe sooner, so if you <3 them stay tuned!  These are great for quick early finishers, centers, etc.  They go quick, but it's easy to put an activity with the mazes such as writing sentences using the words being colored, or draw
a picture of each word colored.  Your students will love these as well!

Finally, in your freebie is a shark themed read, highlight & sort passage.  These passages were designed for 2nd/3rd grade students who need longer more rigorous passages but still need to
focus on phonics!  Students read the passage and highlight the specific phonics content - in this case the AR sound.  Then the students sort the words in a way they seem fits.  The second page of the passage is to help extend the questioning and comprehension of the passage with a bit of creative writing!

If you LOVE these freebies and want to see the REAL DEALS, make sure to check them out!  

Remember - the phonics mazes are soon to come!

Want MORE shark week freebies - Check out the next stop in the hop! Just click the shark below to keep on reading!  

20 Whole Group Differentiation Techniques for ANY Grade!

Crap..  I said a bad word!!  We all know, as teachers, that the 'D' word is one of the most feared words in education.  Yes, we all know its a must do - but it truly is one of the hardest elements to incorporate into your every day classroom routine and lessons.  Many teachers feel more comfortable differentiating (eek!  I said it again) when the students are in small groups.  That seems and feels like the most natural way to differentiate, and rightfully so!  But what about when the class is together in whole group?  Whether we like it or not that has to happen at some point in our day.  So I've gathered 20 different whole group differentiation techniques that can be applied to any classroom, any grade, and any subject!  There's a printable copy of all of these ideas at the bottom of the post.  I have mine printed and in my teaching binder so I can refer to it when writing my lesson plans and sometimes even when I'm teaching!  I hope you can find one or two that you've never tried!  :)  

#1:  Sketch & Write
     After asking a question, give the students a choice on whether they want to write their answer in a sentence (or two) OR if they want to sketch out their answer.  This gives the students a little more freedom and takes the pressure off of those who don't like to write.  Make sure though, that everyone gets a chance to explain their drawing to check for accuracy!  

#2:  DOK Questions
     You've all probably heard of Blooms Taxonomy - but the 'new' up and coming questioning technique is asking a variety of DOK (Depths of Knowledge) questions.  There are 4 different levels.  Most elementary classrooms will be asking mostly level 1 & 2 with a push for level 3.  Upper grades need more level 3 & 4.  DOK is different from Blooms because Blooms is all about the verb.  DOK is what you do AFTER the verb.  Here's a quick visual for reference.  If you want more info on DOK, let me know!  By asking a variety of DOK questions during your whole group time, you can easily differentiate for each of your learners.

 #3:  Assign Roles
      During your model and core teaching, assign a few students with specific roles or jobs that they have to accomplish by a certain point in the lesson.  I usually think of the students that I know will either struggle paying attention OR those that will or have been struggling on a specific part of this concept.  These roles can be as simple as "Brandon, I want you to watch me model and when I'm done, tell me what the first thing I did was."  This gives Brandon a specific thing to be watching and listening for!  It could also be a question you want a student to answer.  Example:  "Carrie, when I'm done modeling I want you to tell me what the word product means."  Giving these roles can be very powerful!

#4:  Grouping
     This is one you probably already do well in practice.  Grouping during whole group for small discussions can help bring those lower level students out of their shell when talking with others either on their own level, or talking to those above them.  This can be done in a turn and talk or a stand up - pair up technique.  But get them talking!  

#5:  Two Models
     One of the most important pieces of a strong lesson is the teacher's model.  This is when the teacher shows the students the thinking behind how to solve the problem in front of them.  This thinking is usually done on the level of the students that you're modeling for.  But if you have a variety of levels in your room for the model - it isn't fair that you cater to one level or the other.  So why not do two models!?  Start by modeling something more on or below level.  Then give those specific students a task to practice that concept with a partner back at their desk for 3-4 minutes.  Then with everyone who is left with you, do another quick model but with a harder problem.  Then send them back to their seats to practice for 3-4 minutes.  During this time you can check in on the first group you sent back and now you're all ready to move more into the lesson.  

#6:  Choice Boards
     Choice boards are very simple to make and very fun for students to complete.  On the board you can have a variety of tasks, problems, or even questions about a specific text in reading, science, or social studies.  You can even go as far as labeling the difficulty of each box.  Let the students know that these boxes are easy, these are doable, and these are harder.  Then guide them as you walk around to which boxes they should probably be completing.  

#7:  Text Levels
     This example works best when working on a unit or nonfiction type topic.  For example:  Let's say you're studying Dr. Martin Luther King.  In the unit, expose the students to a variety of text levels regardless of their level.  Use an excerpt from a more difficult text and an excerpt from an easier text and require that all readers use all levels of text for their activity or question.  Exposure to all levels of text is a great way to show students what's out there and where they can be striving for as a reader.  This can work in math too with exposing them to a variety of difficulty in the types of questions and problems.  It is OKAY to ask a question that only maybe 1-2 students in the class can answer.  That is great exposure for them!  

#8:  Discussion
     Again, this is one you all probably use on a daily basis - but it has so much potential to be a truly powerful differentiation tool.  A good teacher will use the discussion coming from the back and
'forthness' of questions and answers between teacher and students or students and students to help guide where their conversations with each person go.  Discussions can be very differentiated if the teacher is receiving the data back from the students correctly and responding appropriately.  

#9:  Feedback
     This idea goes right along with #8.  Giving academic feedback to a student is a wonderful and easy way to differentiate for each student individually even when whole group.  When a student gives an answer - the teacher's response needs to be academic based as opposed to just 'good job' or 'you're right!'.  We are all guilty of it and yes, we can say that sometimes, but to get a true discussion the teacher needs to respond to a student's answer with appropriate academic based feedback.  So for example if a student, when asked what's the main idea of the article, says "I think the main idea is about how penguins survive in the winter."  The teacher would respond with "Excellent, how do you know that?"  (Making them justify their answer).  The student would say, "I know this because throughout the text the headings all referred to penguins and they all had the same topic in common of everything they do to survive in the winter."  This is where academic feedback can be powerful.  Instead of saying "Good job" and move on - validate that student's thinking not only for them, but for the rest of the class to hear.  Teacher would say "I love how you were able to find those commonalities throughout the headings of the article and use them to find the main idea.  That's a great reminder to use those text features when trying to find what the entire article is about."  In those two sentences you've validates that child but also TAUGHT the class how to find main idea.  Feedback is powerful!

#10:  Sentence Frames
     Sentence Frames are an easy way to help differentiate for the lower level students when being asked to verbally or write a written answer to a question.  This allows the student to do more of a 'fill in the blank' but still left to fill in the most important parts of the question as well as have a model to format their answer both verbally and written.  

#11:  Visuals
     Such a fun and easy way to differentiate - use visuals throughout the lesson you're teaching.  Remember though, that it is important to teach the students HOW to anchor their learning to the visual.  You can't just have it up and expect the students to use it.  In your model, show them when it is appropriate to use it and how it can be helpful.  This can help any level of learner!

#12:  Using Text Excerpts
     This is a grand idea to help all learners feel included in on a discussion of a specific text.  Find a text that meets more of your higher level of students and from that, find an excerpt or two and cut those out.  This is what you will give to your lower level of students.  Your discussion and questions will come from primarily the two excerpts you've taken but the higher students can pull from the entire article to help answer and justify their answers.  Everyone feels apart of the discussion and you've used one text but easily given everyone something they can handle!

#13:  Talking Chips/Colored Cotton Balls
     My teachers went CRAZY over this idea when I presented it to them!  Talking chips are a great way to hold students accountable.  Each student is given a certain number of talking chips and by the end of the given time, the chips must be gone.  For each time they contribute to the discussion or answer a question they can put their chip back.  The colored cotton balls are a twist on this idea!  Give each student the same number of cotton balls, each student a different color. Same rules as above with the talking chips - but with this idea, you can monitor who has been talking more and who needs to contribute more!  

#14: Learning Contracts
     Learning Contracts are similar to choice boards.  The nice thing about a learning contract and the way you can differentiate for your students.  On learning contracts you can have different sections of difficulty and then assign the students to do a certain number of questions or problems from each section.  So your higher students will have more to do in the harder section but your lower students might have more on the easier side - but both getting exposure both all types of problems.  This also allows them to have choice even though they have been told the number of problems in each area to do.  

#15:  Task Cards
     Task cards are very popular right now and can be a very simple way of differentiating.  Have a variety of leveled cards for your students to pick from to give them a wide exposure to different questions.  OR you can color code the task cards and assign specific students to a specific color of card allowing everyone to participate in the activity at once, but having differentiated problems!

#16:  Side by Side Reading
     Side by Side reading is very similar to the variety of text levels.  The only difference is that you have the texts copied next to one another creating (hopefully) one large text or article for the students to read. Then when you assign the article you are making it look like specific sections are being assigned to specific students when in fact you're really assigning specific levels to specific students.  This idea may take some prep work and some cutting and pasting to create your perfect article.  This can work in math to by mixing up the level of problems throughout the page but knowing which problems are which levels when you assign them to students!

#17:  Jigsaw Text
     If you haven't done a jigsaw text activity in your class you need to RIGHT NOW!  It's a fantastic activity!  Take an article or page and give it to everyone but break it down into manageable sections.  Then number your students off into the number of groups that equals the number of sections.  (5 sections means 5 people in each group)  Have them get into their groups and then have each person take a section of the text.  When they know which section that they are responsible for - they then
break out into their 'specialist' groups - meaning if I'm in charge of section 1 then I'm going to meet with everyone else in the class that's also in charge of section one.  While in the specialist groups - they read the text or solve the problems and become experts on that section.  When time is up - they go back to their original groups and present their findings on their sections.  This allows students to focus on small portions of texts or pages but still have collaboration and exposure to the entire text.  Jigsaw baby!

#18:  Graphic Organizers
     G.O's are one of the most common way to differentiate.  Take any concept you're teaching and find a way to push your higher and assist your lower with the way the G.O. is organized & the types of questions that are on the G.O.  Everyone is working on the same topic but being pushed where needed!

#19:  Weather Reports
     Also known as checking for understanding, have a specific type of weather report somewhere in the lesson.  This can be having a thumbs up or down, a fist or five, or my favorite - using unifix cubes in red, yellow, and green for the students to show me what they are feeling throughout the entire lesson.  You can read more about that idea HERE!  This can help differentiate by knowing how the students are feeling and getting the concept, which will help with questioning and grouping your students!

#20:  Open Ended Exit Tickets
     Exit tickets are great, but having something open ended will truly get a feel for what the students are capable of doing and give them a chance to shine.  Put a few different questions and give them a choice for which question to solve to make their ownership even more.

Whew!  That was a long one, but I hope you got an idea or two out of it.  I would LOVE to hear your ideas on whole group differentiation.  Please let me know if you have any question about anything.  If you'd like to have all of these ideas on one document, you can download that HERE!  Happy Teaching!  

I've Done My First Read - Now What!?

Are you and your students completely engrossed with the 'new' close reading strategy fad?  Yes, it is what many teachers were already doing - rereading to find text evidence. But what I love about Close Reading is how specific it gets and gives the students concrete objectives for each read.  There are so many different versions of close reading, a teacher can truly make it their own with keeping the best pieces.

One of the pieces of close reading I really focused on this past year was the types of questions being asked during each read and teaching my students how to identify those questions.  By the end of the year, my students were able to read the questions of an article prior to reading the article, and they were able to tell me which read they would be able to answer that question on and why.  This took a lot of work - but it was so worth it!

One of the ways I was able to do this was by teaching my students what each read was about, specifically starting with the first read.  That first read is supposed to be the 'big picture'.  I'm not supposed to remember specific details of events.  I might, but I'm not required.  I need to know those big ideas - and with that I should be able to answer some big idea questions.  In our classroom - here were those questions:

  • What is the main idea?
  • What is the author's purpose of the text?
  • What is the genre of the text?
  • What is the theme? (if not nonfiction)
  • What is the author's perspective about _____?  
These questions were asked after EVERY first read no matter what our overall objective was.  So if I was teaching making inferences and we had completed our first read - we took time to go over these questions to make sure we had that 'big picture' in mind.  But was we came to find was just asking these questions after each first read, got a little redundant.  So of course I had to find ways to put a spin on it!  So today I get to share with you 7 different and engaging activities you can do after a first read on any article or text!    No matter how you tackle a close read - these activities can help spice up your close reading and get the students truly engaged in knowing that 'big picture' of the text before you dig deeper!

#1 - Color Coded Questions
     This is a fun and simple idea to help minimize the work your students do, but allowing them to still be able to hear and be a part of the entire discussion.  All you need is different colored beads (or something similar to) and the recording sheet.  Pass out the beads, one to each student and assign one of the first read questions (see above) to each color.  I write my colors and questions on the board for a visual.  Have the students get out a crayon that matches their color of bead.  As they read the text, they use their crayon to underline evidence to support their answer for their question only.  After reading, record their answer for their question only.  Then go over each question calling on the students with that bead.  If it wasn't their question - they then listen and record the answer to the other questions!  Quick, fun, focused, and simple!  (See bottom of post to download recording sheet)

#2 - Group It!
     This easy idea can be done on scratch paper or post its.  Using the same first read questions, ask one question at a time and give them about 1-2 minutes to answer.  Then pull out a popsicle stick of a fun way to group the students.  These fun ways can include:  birthday month,  tallest to shortest, youngest to oldest, etc.   Pull out a popsicle stick or verbalize how you want them to be grouped.  Group them quickly and then in their groups they go around sharing their answers for the question.  They must then pick what they think is the strongest answer to be shared.  Allow each group to share their answer and discuss.  Go back to your seat for question #2 and repeat!

#3 - Reverse It!
     This is a fun one!  All you need for this is index cards and markers.  You have a bit of prep work for this one but I promise it doesn't take too much time.  Prior to the first read, create index cards with the ANSWERS to all of the first read questions of your text.  Write each answer in a different color.  (ex:  all my main idea answers are in blue)  You'll want to make multiple copies of each card so you have enough for everyone to have their own card.  So when I did mine I made 5 of each answer card so altogether I had 25 cards.  Before the first read, pass the cards out to the students and review with them what the 'big picture' first read questions are.  Tell them that today you're going to reverse the roles and that you've given then the answers to the first read questions - but they have to figure out which first read question they have been given.  Complete your first read and then give the students time to write which question they think their index card answers - write it on the back of the card.  Then have the students group themselves by color (technically it's by question but they don't know that!)  Have them make sure everyone in their group has the same color then have them compare their answers - which technically is the question they just wrote.  If someone in their group has a different question written down, odds are they are incorrect and need go go back to their seats to rethink - which gives you an opportunity to give some one on one help!  Have each group share out and discuss!

#4 - Poster Time!
     Gather up some small poster boards for this one - you can even reuse some that are used up on one side.  After the first read, group the students into small groups (3-4) and give each group a poster board and a marker.  Have them create 3 first read questions and write them with space in between on their board.  When done, have them trade with another group.  Now they must answer the questions created by that group and justifying their answer!  Trade back and grade - then group back together and share out!

#5 - Dice it Up!
     This idea is simple and ready to go - just add dice!  Same first read questions, but put the students into partners and have them roll to see which question they get to answer first.  OR even better and if you want to do more whole group - create your own first read dice by taping index cards to each side of a square tissue box and rolling it as a class and recording your answer!  (Freebie included in the download below!)

#6 - Note Taking!
     Have you kids practice the art of note taking while you're doing your first read.  Make a version of the Lotus Diagram (see below).  In each of the 8 squares is one of the first read questions/concepts.  In the middle of the Diagram is the title of the article/story.  Have the students place a star in 3 of the boxes.  Those will be the three questions/concepts that the student focuses on - all 8 would be overwhelming!  As they do their first read, stop ever now and then and give the students time to take 'notes' - they may need this modeled to them.  They can write evidence or summarize something from the text - but they need to write it in the box that matches their question that they stared.  When done - have them partner up with someone else and compare notes - discuss as a class.  (Blank one included in the download)

#7 - Evidence Flow Chart
     This is one of my favorite ones!  After completing the first read - pick out different pieces of evidence from the text and write it on the board.  Have the students then create a web or flow chart of "What does this show me?".  This means - based on this evidence - what do I now know?  For example the sentence:  "The bear picked up the chair and threw it across the room." would be a great piece of evidence to show me the genre as well as a character trait for the bear.  It's almost like a role reversal!  After doing this a time or two whole group - your students might enjoy doing this in smaller groups!  

I hope you are leaving with a fun idea or two to help get your readers engaged and conversing after that first read.  If you're interested in any of the printables, you can get them here for free!  Let me know what YOUR favorite first read activities are - I'd love to hear them! :)  

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