Sunday, April 3, 2016

Reading Comprehension for Beginning Readers

I used to teach 3rd grade, for 8 years, and before that I taught 4th grade for 2 years.  I liked how independent the kids were.  I liked how I could joke with them and they actually got my jokes.  I especially loved how those years were such a huge turning point in a child's elementary life and I was the one to help them through it.  Students in those grades actually remember, for years, the things you do in the classroom....and come back to tell you ALL about it!  It really is a great age to teach!!

What I didn't love, however, were the state assessments.  Yuck!  They really sucked the fun out of teaching for so many weeks leading up to the tests.  Then when Common Core was adopted and the tests consequently changed to being so much harder, so much longer, and frankly - so much more unfair....I decided I needed a change too.  That was when I took the opportunity to move to 1st grade.  This was the best decision I could have ever made because 1st grade is just ME.

First grade and me go together like peanut butter and jelly.

I could go on and on about the things I love about my little firsties, but what I love the most of all is knowing where my students have to get to in a few short years and being confident that I can be the person to help them get there.  I feel effective!  And isn't that what all teachers want to feel?

You might be wondering why I went on and on about all that and how it has anything to do with reading comprehension.  Well I'll tell you.  When I watched my little third graders - and yes, they are still little in 3rd grade - struggle through a reading test for HOURS and feel defeated, it broke my heart.  I wanted to do anything I could to try to prepare them for the stamina they would need and the strategies to get through it.  Now that I'm in 1st grade I feel like I can help them on this journey by providing as many opportunities to practice strategies they will need but at their level and with my support.  It is my hope that I can give them the foundation that will help them down the road.

So this year I started creating some opportunities to guide my students through the process of reading comprehension.  It definitely is a PROCESS - am I right?  So besides being able to read (kinda important) - what DO children need to be able to do when answering reading comprehension questions?

Here are 5 things that I think young readers need to learn when it comes to reading comprehension:

One of the hardest things for students is just knowing what exactly a comprehension question is even asking.  I spend time teaching those question words: who, what, why, where, when, and how.  I teach them how to read those words, of course, and then also what kinds of questions they might see with each of them.

As with anything we teach, it's important to start out with some modeling and guided practice.  I use my whole group reading time to model using our read alouds.  I use my guided reading time to practice with texts at their level.  When it comes to practicing independently I wanted to give my students the opportunity to just work on the questions, so I made these Picture Comprehension pages with some basic questions like: Who is in the picture? What are they doing? Where are they?  And then also some inference questions like: Why do you think they are doing that?

These allow the students to practice reading those question words, but keeps it quick and simple for independent work.

The next skill that children need to learn is to read ALL of the choices when answering multiple choice questions.  They need to get used to being tricked by similar answers and not just pick the first one they read.  So again, I use the Picture Comprehension to practice this, but I also made these simple Sentence Comprehension pages for that as well.

Many of the choices are similar and students really need to pay close attention to the answer they choose.

It's important for us as teachers to understand that children don't naturally know how to answer comprehension questions.  We need to start out simple in order to help them practice and be successful from the get go.  When students get into reading longer passages they will need to pay close attention to detail and be able to search for important clues in the text.  Again, I like to provide the support of pictures to help students practice this.  Important clues can be found in the text and also in pictures.

These Picture Match Books have become a favorite in our classroom.  The kids cannot get enough of them!!!

I also use these CLOZE Comprehension pages for practice.  Children need to fill in the missing words and then answer a couple questions about a short passage.

One of the hardest parts of reading comprehension for beginning readers is the amount of time it takes to get through a reading passage and THEN they have to go back and find answers to the questions.  Teaching students to find the key words in questions and then skim through the text to search for the answer is one of the best skills they can have in their back pocket.   This takes TONS of modeling and guided practice.  When I am working on this with students I really like to have a short passage with questions to answer.

I teach them to read all the choices first, pick out key words to search for, and then skim to find those words.  In the Earth Day example shown I would have students read #1 and the choices.  Then we would skim for the numbers 2 or 22 in the passage since numbers are easy to skim for.  The next questions in this passage involve a little more inferring, but we would still search for key words to give us clues that help us answer the questions.

The final strategy I teach my first graders really goes along with #4.  When they are skimming for key words, they then need to underline where they find the proof for their answers.  We try to make this more interesting by using crayons or highlighters when we practice.  This also lets me see quickly if students are actually using this strategy and doing it correctly.

When we take the time with our beginning readers to model, model, model, then guide, guide, guide, and finally practice, practice, practice -- it gives them the time they need to internalize these strategies.  They do so with manageable texts and are able to build up their comprehension confidence.  I strongly believe that providing these opportunities for them early on is the key to helping them further develop these skills in later years.

So for a quick recap, here are the 5 strategies again:

You can find these reading comprehension pages in my seasonal Building Readers packs.

The ones pictured here are from the Spring Edition (March-May).  I also have Fall (September-November) and Winter (December-February).


I have plans to make more of these packs as well because I've seen such a difference in my students as readers this year.  These have become an important part of our reading routine and I think they could do the same for your class.  

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Back from Maternity Leave

If you've followed me along my journey, whether here or on Instagram, then you might know that I recently not so recently welcomed my third daughter into the world.  On October 10th to be exact.  Almost 6 months ago - wow!

 If you are a mom (or dad),  then you understand how having a baby can completely consume your life.  And since this was my third child and I already had two other girls at home, it's safe to say that I was completely and utterly consumed by family for the last 6 months.  


I'm not here to apologize for it, but definitely wanted to explain my absence from this little blog.  I've missed blogging and am ready to try to get back into it after my so-called maternity leave.  

So stay tuned for another post about TEACHING (go figure) hopefully very soon :)

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Haunted Halloween Hop

Fall is in full swing and maybe your planning could use a little perk up!

Well lucky to your, some of your favorite TpT sellers have gotten together to make your Fall a little bit easier to plan with the Haunted Halloween Hop!
You can score ALL of these goodies if you complete the hop by October 25th! 
Here’s what you need to do: 
1. Visit each blog on the loop for directions to snag the Secret Word. 
Make sure to follow each seller - we’ll be checking before we send out prize packs!

2. Write down each seller’s word on the Cheat Sheet!
3. Submit all of the Secret Words on the Google Form {and wait for the prize pack to be emailed to you!}

** Please note: Because some Sellers have their word waiting for you on their TpT Banners, you will need to visit their store using a computer, not a mobile device! **

So here is what you can get from me:  my Fall Reading Comprehension pack called Building Readers.

This pack is perfect for your progressing readers in the beginning of the year. There are multiple options to model and practice reading comprehension. The focus for this pack is Fall or Autumn themed and includes the following topics: leaves, apples, pumpkins, Johnny Appleseed, Christopher Columbus, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Veteran's Day, and Fire Safety.

Here is what's included, but also check out the preview to see it in more detail:

* 9 Picture Match Mini-books
* 5 Sentence Comprehension
* 5 PIcture Comprehension
* 5 Informational Comprehension
* 5 Fiction Comprehension
* 5 CLOZE Comprehension

Possible uses for this product:
* Guided Reading
* Daily 5
* Reading Centers
* Include with Science or Social Studies instruction
* Independent work

Now it's time to head over to my Teachers Pay Teachers store and follow me by clicking on the green star.  Don't forget to write down my Secret Word.  Make sure you're on a computer so you can see the banner.  

Now head over the Teaching Idea Factory for her amazing product she is sharing on this hop. 

Thanks for playing along!!

Friday, October 9, 2015

Five Things About My Week

It's been a while since I linked up with this fun one -- but now seems like as good a time as any.  My week was much different than it normally is when I link up here, so here goes.  

Last Friday was my last day of work for a little while.  As some of you know, I am due for my 3rd child and am now on maternity leave.  So last week was a mad rush to get everything all set for my sub, whom they just hired a couple days before I left.  I sent out for TONS of copies to have on hand.  

I had my daughter make a few sample projects so my sub could use them if she needed to.  

I was so happy I had made these packs this year because they were the perfect things to have ready for the next two months.  I love when things work out that way!

And if you missed my post earlier this week about prepping for Halloween in the classroom, you can check it out HERE!

So since last Friday my due date has come...............and I'm #stillwaiting!!

Well, what do you do when you are just waiting around????  Apparently I like to go shopping - both in stores and online.....a lot! 

Found this adorable onesie at Walmart --- among many, many other things as I walked around the mall trying to get this baby going.    

I also like to peruse Pinterest when I have nothing better to do.  Maybe you saw my latest wishful thinking pin on Instagram.  

But by far, my most favorite thing to do when I am home is to be a stay at home mom and do things that I don't normally get to do.  

Like put my daughter on the bus --- even if it is raining!

Or go on preschool field trips to the pumpkin farm and see your daughter interacting with her friends and classmates.

And of course, just spending more time with family on the weekend because I don't have any lesson plans to write or papers to grade.  

So my week hasn't been a normal week in the life of a teacher, and yes I'm getting a little impatient waiting to meet my little girl, but there are definite positives too!

I hope you all had a great week!  Hopefully my next post will include a picture of our newest addition.    

Monday, October 5, 2015

Halloween Happiness

If by chance you've been checking out my Instagram, you might be aware that we are expecting our third baby girl any day now.  To be exact - our due date is today!  So right now, we are just in waiting mode.
A photo posted by Melissa Machan (@firstgradesmiles) on

Or maybe you saw this post way back when where we told our other two girls they were getting another sister.  

If not, now you know.  This is the reason why this poor little blog of mine hasn't seen much action over the last 9 months.  But now that I am here just waiting for #3 to arrive, I have a little time to talk about one of my favorite times of the year.  

If I were in school right now (my last day was Friday) I would be taking out some of my favorite Halloween books.  

I might also be getting my favorite bulletin board ready.

And I would most definitely be getting some of the following activities out and ready to be copied for these next couple weeks.  I wanted to share them with you because even though these pictures are from last year, I never got a chance to properly share them amidst the Halloween chaos.  Plus, I'm a little sad that I won't be there this year for all the Halloween fun they will be having.  I'm sure my sub will be lovin' it all because I have a great group of kids this year that will eat. this. up!  So here are some of the activities (mostly literacy) that I love to do with my kids this time of year.  

First up is this little rhyming story that I LOVE to read with my students.  I was lucky enough to have Nikki from Melonheadz clipart make me these little witches and the other clipart to go with my story.  We read this book together and then the students complete some activities afterwards like some comprehension activities and also a pocket chart activity.  

As I mentioned earlier, I love to take out my Halloween books each year.  One of my favorites, and probably most teachers' favorites, is The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything.  I love using the book on tape (yes I said tape -- I'm not throwing away those cassettes until they do not work anymore).  This one is a fun one to listen to with the background music and noises.  Then students complete this sequencing activity and put together this mini-book.  

Halloween is also a great time to learn about parts of speech.  There are so many fun nouns and adjectives that fit with Halloween like: spooky spiders, creepy ghosts, wacky witches, and slimy skeletons.  There are tons of great activities to go with teaching Halloween parts of speech.  I like to sort them and practice using them first.  

Then we turn them into something adorable like this Witches' Brew writing and craft.  

OR this Haunted House book.  

I also have another quick activity in my store that uses nouns, verbs, and adjectives called: Halloween Fill-in-the-Blank Poetry.  

Did I mention I love to do as many Halloween read alouds as I can???  So an easy activity to do with a read aloud is a story map. 

Here is another book activity that is fun to do.  These two books are perfect for a compare/contrast lesson and finding text-to-text connections.  

Now after all this literacy fun, it will be time for a snack.  I love making this Witches' Brew with the kids.  I use the labels on paper lunch bags and put the ingredients inside so they can't see them.  I add them one at a time --- making a big deal about what it is.  "Time to add some witch warts --- now these are yummy!  But not as good as these smashed bugs -- plus, they have protein!"  You get the idea.  I mix it all up in a large bowl and serve it in cups for the kids.  Obviously they figure out that dragon wings are really Doritos and smashed bugs are raisins, but it's still fun.  

These activities can be found in my Bewitched: Halloween Literacy Pack.  

So although I won't be the one teaching these activities in my classroom this year, I can't wait to see the pictures and hear all about it from my sub.

I will be home, being a mom!  The best job in the world.  I might be able to go in to school for my daughter's classroom Halloween party that I usually have to miss.  Maybe I will bring in a snack.  The two snacks below are suuuuper simple if you are looking for something to send in to your child's class. 

The bottom pictures are just mandarin oranges with a black sharpie.  Sometimes it's nice to have something other than candy at a Halloween party.  The Jack-o-Lantern is made out of a pan of brownies.  It was so simple to cut the outline of the pumpkin, frost it with orange icing, and then use the leftover brownie pieces for the face.  My daughter loved it so much she has requested it again this year instead of a birthday cake for her end of October birthday.  

Even though this year will be a little different than it usually is for me, I am still so excited to have some Halloween fun!  

Happy Early Halloween to you!!!