Tales from Outside the Classroom

Assessing and Scoring Fluency

7 years ago (um, wow!) I was a reading teacher in a K-5 building.  We revamped our report cards that year to be very standards focused.  Indicators based on the standards were broken apart into the report card and each received their own score which then made up the overall grade.  One of the teachers came to me and said...
At the time, all of the K-2 teachers were using DIBELS.  However, this was the original DIBELS (before the accuracy rate was included).  The teacher didn't want to give the students' grades just based on accuracy.  She contemplated giving a percentage based on the students' automaticity in relation to the norm.  However, as she described, that score in no way reflects students reading more than the target to determine intervention.  So, basically, if that was used, students would have been considered fluent readers as long as they weren't in need of intervention.  And while that's not a crazy thought, it in no way incorporates how students sound, or if they read really, really quickly and made a ton of mistakes.  I didn't have a good answer, so I took to the internet.  And found nothing.

One of the first things I found was the NAEP Oral Reading Fluency scale.  I was excited to find something that gave tangible characteristics for how fluent readers should sound.  But, of course, I didn't think that should be the only thing students were rated on.  I took my knowledge of accuracy rates, the DIBELS automaticity benchmarks, and the prosody scale from NAEP and turned it into a 12 point rubric.  I then emailed the fluency guru, Dr. Tim Rasinski to see if I could get his input or if he had any recommendations.  I fully expected no response.  I mean, who am I?  And he's an innovator.

Guess what?  He responded.  Not only did he respond but he said that they were "really, really good".  I died.  I printed out that email to have forever and then I died.

Fast forward 6 years and a few things have changed.  First, DIBELS now gives benchmarks for accuracy rates for each grade level.  The automaticity scores have also increased as demands have increased.  While I do not think DIBELS is the end-all-be-all of reading, I do think that their figures have been normed and are research based so I used them as the basis for reworking my rubrics.
The automaticity rates vary from the DIBELS benchmarks in a couple ways.  First, students need to score ABOVE the benchmark to receive the full points in this area.  This is because DIBELS is intended to identify struggling students, and not students who are above grade level.  Also, the automaticity level 3 incorporates all of the 'strategic' area from DIBELS.  This is because students can be fluent readers, with a high accuracy rate, and still be a bit slow during an assessment.  It doesn't mean that students aren't fluent.  If students are not reading with proper prosody, and are also a bit slow, then their score more accurately reflects that they need some strategic assistance with their fluency.

I've recreated the rubrics for grades 2-6.  There are different rubrics for the beginning, middle, and the end of the year.  Between those benchmarks, the rubrics can also be used for progress monitoring or formative assessment purposes using the rubric from the previous benchmark period.  They can be used with any grade level one minute cold read.  My basal includes a set of assessments for cold reads, so I use those along with the rubric to score my students, because the grading piece is still missing from the basal.  With one strand of the Common Core standards tied to fluency (RF.4) for each grade level, it's important to me to have a tool that accurately depicts students' fluency so that I can report the information accurately to parents.

If you'd like to download the rubrics for use for your students or your school, click the image below.

If you're looking for tools to help your students become more fluent readers, check out my

Fluency Building Phrasing Task Cards

Fry Sight Word Phrase Powerpoints

How do you give students a grade on fluency?  Is there a rubric or tool you are already using?
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Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

After a couple weeks, and a much needed break, we headed back to school last Tuesday.  Monday we were off for a furloughed records day, but I thought it was amazing to only have a 4 day week that first week back.  With it being a shorter week, switching things up in my reading block a bit, and wanting time to review procedures, I decided not to do our regular reading block.  Instead, I introduced Martin Luther King, Jr. to the kids.  As luck, our mother nature, would have it, Tuesday was our only day in school last week, and thanks to that, we'll now be attending on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. day, so I'm sue we'll continue to study his life and legacy throughout the next couple weeks.

To begin, I did my annual reading of Martin's Big Words where I purposefully put select students in the back of the room, tell them they can't sit up or stand to see, and then begin very quietly reading to the group in front of me.  I generally make it about 4 pages or so before I give in to the complaints that the kids in the back can't see, and I call everyone forward.  I realize that this might be a little controversial for some, but it works for my students and I.  After we finished reading, we discussed how Dr. King used his words to create positive change in our country, and how we often spread messages of love.  I then challenged my students to think of what they can do to create a positive change in our classroom, and community.  I tied everything into bullying because it's something the kids can relate to and have seen in their daily lives.  We turned it into a Pop Art display in our room.  To see all of the details on how we set it up, click the picture below to head over to the Ellison Education blog to see the information.

I found these anti-bullying pledge cards at Dollar Tree over winter break and grabbed a set.  They were the perfect tie in for bullying and helped bring relevance to our studies.  Plus, the kids really benefitted from a reminder about being kind to each other.  They were starting to nag and nit pick each other.  I also love that they were only $1!  Holla!

We then started reading about Dr. King with a much more complex text than Martin's Big Words.  This three page biography goes through Dr. King's childhood, to his work with the Montgomery Bus Boycott, to his meetings with President Kennedy.  We've been practicing close reading with the text as well.

Not only are students interacting with a complex text, but the comprehension questions really require the students to go back to the text to find evidence to support their answers.  The questions are inferential, so it really helps stretch the students.  With testing season just a few weeks away, we really need to practice test taking skills in relevant and meaningful ways to help prepare the students.

You can download this freebie from my TpT store by clicking below.

If you like this set, it's part of my larger African-American Heroes set.  It includes biographies on Dr. King and 8 other African-Americans who helped bring change to America.  Each biography includes real photographs, and constructed and extended response questions for each text.

You can get this unit by clicking the image above or below to head to my TpT store.
I'd love to hear other ideas for how you incorporate Dr. King's memory into your classrooms.  We're going to continue to talk about him the next couple weeks and then continue going through and studying people like Rosa Parks, Sojourner Truth, The Little Rock Nine, and Madam C.J. Walker (which is really relevant for my kids since we're in Indiana).

How do you teach Dr. King in your classroom?
I'm also linking up for Hump Day Highlight with Mrs. Stanford's Class.

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This is Your Year!

Each new year always brings along a string of resolutions for people.  Do you set a bunch of resolutions each year?  Do you follow through with them?

My fitness resolutions started to be tackled a few months ago.  I got my new Samsung Gear Fit watch and I'm obsessed.  I use this, along with the S Health app, to track my eating and working out and I've already seen results.  Because it's a smart watch I also can access things like texts and the alarms from my phone.  It's helped make me way less phone dependent in my classroom and has cut out much of the "Who has seen Miss Maguire's cell phone?" that used to happen.

With fitness resolutions already off to a good start, I want to focus this year on time management. I always have a lot going on, and I like it that way, but I often over extend myself, become stressed, and then my major procrastination tendencies get overwhelmed.  There's many days where I come home, sit on Facebook for hours, and accomplish nothing.  I'll look back and wonder where the last two hours went.  I'm going to start using my Plum Planner more often and I'm super excited about this daily to do list from Blair Turner that I'm going to add into my classroom.
{Click the picture to head to Blair's amazing paper store}

I've always previously used my teacher planner to take notes, but it doesn't really give me room to list everything I want to accomplish.  This is going to be PERFECT.  I'm a big fan of to-do lists and being able to cross things off gives my OCD side such a sense of satisfaction.  I'm hoping this helps me stay much more focused and help me complete everything I want to.

What are your resolutions for 2015?  What are you hoping to change for the better?

I'm hoping to add a little brightness into someone's day and help her accomplish her resolutions.  I'm giving away a $10 TpT Gift Certificate (that can be used at ANY store, not just my own).  Enter using the Rafflecopter below.

We also have a HUGE giveaway going on over at Owl-Ways Be Inspired.  Click the image below to head over there for a chance to win a $100 Amazon gift card AND enter into the other awesome giveaways!

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December in our Classroom

Is there a teacher out there who breezes through December?  If so, I need her tips because December kicks my butt every year.  This year, things seemed to be crazier than normal.  As a Fine Arts magnet school each grade level gets a month each year to showcase what we've been learning and applying it to the fine arts.  It's amazing.  I wish I had photos to show you of our planning and projects and performances because I was blown away by what the kids did.  We chose to do our Showcase on what we've learned with Sound and Light {as part of our science standards}.  Students created instruments out of household objects with each group using a different way to make sound {pluck, strike, etc}.  In music each class learned to play different instruments and performed different songs.  In art class the students became photographers and took pictures of each other, experimented with the shadows and contrast, and then created Warhol like portraits.  They also did a really cool shadow 3-D project.  Oh, and the classes learned step routines.  That might have been my favorite part.  The entire thing was amazing and so worthwhile.  But, it was exhausting and the last week of school was basically dedicated to rehearsals and wrapping things up.  And my Christmas to-do list didn't happen nearly as much as I had hoped.  We did get a few things done though.

I found this idea for these Subway Art coasters from Runde's Room and loved, LOVED the idea.  It was a great way for me to incorporate the arts in our classroom and was an affordable gift for students to take home.  You can head over to her page to see the step by step directions but here's a few snapshots of us working on them.
After showing students Subway Art and discussing characteristics like style, thickness, direction, and color, students began writing on their square piece of paper.  We had some common words on the board so that students could spell them correctly.

 Then students went over some of their pencilings with black Sharpie so the black parts would come through clearly.  After that, the cards were shrunk, each student got 4 copies, and students colored their designs.

Then, in between the chaos of Thursday and Friday, students Mod Podged the designs onto ceramic tiles.  I helped put additional coats on as well.  I loved this project and look forward to doing it again, hopefully when we aren't so rushed.

I used my Ellison AllStar Machine for a fun craft project for students as well.  I love having my own Ellison machine in my classroom and I love using all of the dies that are out there.  My school has letters and a few other dies, but I never knew all the possibilities that are out there.  Students designed their own fun envelopes and were able to give two sets of IOU coupons out as gifts as well.  As an Ellison Blogger, I shared how we created the envelopes over on the blog.  Check it out.
 You can read about how we created it, and download the IOU tags for you and your students by clicking on either picture and heading over to the Ellison blog to check it out.

On Friday, I wanted a fun treat for my kids.  This was a big hit last year and so I thought I'd do it again.

It's just mozzarella string cheese and Sharpies.  Easy, fun treat.

I also had hot chocolate with marshmallows and whipped cream and we watched a couple movies as well.  I pulled students to the back to work on their coasters, and students worked on their coupons and envelopes throughout the day.  No matter how ready I thought we were- we still ran out of time!  I forgot to pass out the students' books and so they'll be there when they get back I guess.

I hope your last week was a little less crazy than ours, and I hope you got to end last week instead of this week!  Happy Holidays to you and yours!

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Holiday Gift Giving

This time of year I'm always on the hunt for the perfect gift.  I tend to stress about giving gifts because I want them to be perfect.  I want the receiver to know I put a lot of thought into them and I want the gift to be something meaningful to them.  That's why we give gifts anyway, right?  Here are ideas for gifts for the people in your lives.

Gifts for Students
Gifts for Teacher Friends
I also spend a lot of time during the month of December doing heartfelt projects with my kids.  Our stockings are already hung so we can leave each other kindness notes.  We are going to be talking about Paying it Forward and ways we can give back to each other in our classroom during the next couple weeks (and always).  How do you keep the holidays relevant but not so outspoken in your classroom?

If you're looking for ways to save money on gifts for your students, coworkers, and friends and family, check out The Good Stuff on Coupons.com.  They're currently running The Good Stuff Holiday Sweepstakes. The sweepstakes runs from today through Christmas Day with one $100 winner per week and one $500 grand prize winner.  Wouldn't that be a great prize to help offset your holiday pending?  These also have 3 GREAT gift-giving guides with budget-friendly ideas (this week), gifts for enthusiasts, and gifts for the hostess that seems to have everything.  Keep checking back for the other guides.

Good luck!
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Merry Little Tips

I don't know about you, but I'm not looking forward to the next few weeks of school.  This week I had 3 days off, and sure that's restful.  I even convinced myself that I didn't need to spend time at school doing any of the million things I need to do.  I just needed to spend a few days away from school.  For my sanity. But the next few weeks are going to be crazy.  The kids are a little crazier.  And time.  TIME.  What happens to time in the month of December?  It seems like our days are more full of programs and special presentations.  My evenings are more full of events, programs, and time with loved ones.  There just isn't enough time in December.  Time to plan.  Time to grade.  Time to relax.

Some friends and I wanted to share some of our best time-saving tips.  Some sanity saving tips that can be used during the crazy month of December, and throughout the other crazy times of the year.
 I use one chapter book as a mentor text to introduce all of our fiction comprehension skills.  The posters/anchors we create in those lessons are on display in one area of the room for students' reference.  I planned this out at the beginning of the year, but you can certainly implement it at any time.

Starting the first week of school, I read aloud Lulu and the Brontosaurus by Judith Viorst as our read aloud.  The beginning of the year has a little more time for read alouds it seems so we finished it up pretty quickly.  There are also two more companion books that we read aloud as well, which allowed us to compare/contrast and discuss how the character changes in different texts.  Lulu is a strong main character and the kids are so entranced by this book that they remember tons of details.

Then, when a new comprehension skill is introduced we have a high-quality text that we all know that is used as a mini-lesson.  I introduce the skill and we then build a reference poster.
Here are the posters we created for sequence and summary.
And the one we created for character traits.

It might not seem like much of an idea to you, but for me, it's such a help knowing that for a few weeks each month I have at least 1 ready to go lesson that doesn't require planning, or hunting for resources.  I know that on Monday after I do a brief explanation of the skill, we'll create a poster showcasing it with Lulu.  Done and done.  That day's plan takes me literally 2 seconds, and that extra saved time makes a world of difference.

There are so many high-quality and engaging chapter books that are read aloud in classrooms, that I hope this is an easy idea for you to implement in your rooms.  And I hope it saves you just a bit of time.

Visit the link up below to see other time saving tips from some of my favorite bloggers.

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A Collection of Bright Ideas

Early on this year, a group of bloggers that I admire tossed around the idea of doing a monthly link up of "bright ideas" with no strings attached.  No freebies.  No products.  Just great, often simple, ideas that make a difference in our classrooms.  I've been so excited to participate in it often throughout this year, sharing ideas that work for me and my students.

This year, I showcased a variety of posts from management to kinesthetic ideas and technology tips.  Here's a round-up of my posts from this year.  To go to any of the posts, just click on the corresponding image.

My kids are squirrely (Is that how you spell it?  I saw squirly but now I'm thinking that's it's squirrely like a squirrel being frantic.  I've never tried to spell it I guess) and I'm always looking for ways to keep them engaged and to keep our energy level at a point where they're involved but things aren't getting out of control.  These 4 ideas help me intertwine some movement into our day.

I add some morphology topics into my word wall to help solidify some of the skills we work on (suffixes, prefixes, etc) but also to help get students to transfer their knowledge of one word with an unknown word.  I use a tree to help me showcase the skill, but then I use our word wall to remind students of each new word part we've learned.

I've showed a couple ways Google Docs can be utilized in the classroom...


If you're looking for ways to use board games in your classroom, here are some ideas.

If you haven't discovered the amazing ClassDojo website, come see how I use a token economy in conjunction with ClassDojo.

This year I also started using Powerpoint to completely manage my centers boards and rotations-including the timing! Come watch this video to see how simple it is to set up!

I love going through all of the Bright Ideas posts each month.  They're seriously some of the best posts I've ever found.  To check out other round ups, check out the link-up below.

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Sight Word Shakers

I receive office supplies from Shoplet.com from time to time to try out.  I was super excited when these Astrobright sets arrived at my house.
I received the Neon Astrobrights colored paper and the Happy Astrobrights colored card stock sets.   I generally just use the colored paper that my school supplies and I rarely, rarely have used card stock.  Well, after using both of these sets, I don't think I'll be going back to either.  I was super impressed with the quality of the paper.  It was a bit thicker than the cheap paper my school provides, but what stood out the most was just how bright the paper actually is.  This will be perfect for the art projects we do because they just stand out so much.  I'm thinking it'll be fantastic as a torn paper project on black paper.  I used the card stock to create a couple sight word shakers for our word work bin.
I used a Coffee-Mate creamer bottle since the bottles themselves are clear.  I soaked it, cleaned it, then took off the wrapper and let it dry for a few days.  It did take a few days sitting upside down to get all of the water out it seemed.
 I copied each of the Dolch sight words onto three colors of the card stock.  I then cut out a row from one color, a different row from another, and a row from the last color.  I then used the rest to make three more bottles.

I started by pouring a bit of rice into the bottom.  Then I dropped 5-7 words at a time into the bottle, added more rice, added more words, etc.
 The Astrobrights card stock was great to use for this project.  The bright colors make it super simple to see the words in the rice.  The card stock is also firm enough that rice hasn't damaged the words as the students have shaken it up.

 It's important to leave some space at the top for the rice to move around and the words to come out.  I taped a piece of construction paper over the top before screwing the red cap back on.  That way, nothing really can come out.  Especially because we all know that there'll be at least one kid who does open the top to check it out even after you've explained that they need to not do that.

My students have multiple word work options in the Word Work center, so this is just one that they can choose.  They love using it so far!

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