Tag Archives: Teaching

Day in the Life of a Teacher: Back to School Edition

So just what do teachers do to get ready for school? This video may enlighten you.

Vodpod videos no longer available.


WriteonCon Produces #TeacherWriter Hashtag

Teacher Cupcakes

#TeacherWriter Photo/Clevercupcakes on Flickr

WriteonCon, the amazing online conference for PB, MG, and YA authors, agents, and editors is ending in about two hours. These past three days have been a whirlwind of the glued-to-my-computer type of activities.

I even forgot to eat a couple of times. I completely forgot about school.

My family just giggles when I say, “I can’t talk now, I’ve got an online conference going on!”

I’ve met so many wonderful writers, so many of them teachers. It seems a shame to lose that camaraderie after the conference. Once we all head back to the classrooms, we’ll get so busy that writing might get moved to the back burner.

So, to encourage teachers who write to keep in touch, keep us accountable, and keep supporting one another, I’m starting a #teacherwriter hashtag on Twitter. If you write and teach, or if you love someone who does, or if you’re just curious and want to lurk, please join.

I’m on  Twitter most school day mornings as @suzannelilly between 4 & 6 am PST. I’ll check in to see if anyone from the #teacherwriter group is on and chat. Of course, anyone can use the hashtag anytime. That’s just my schedule.




I’ll be keeping an eye out for you!

Acquiring Reading Fluency: The Elementary Years

By Ann Bowers

Not long ago, the National Assessment of Educational Progress conducted a study of elementary-school reading skills. The study showed that 44% of fourth graders in the United States have low reading scores. In 2000, a report by The National Reading Panel stated that oral reading fluency is a critical part of effective reading instruction. Parents and teachers can help improve reading scores by building reading fluency skills in their children.

What is Fluency?

Fluency is the ability to accurately and quickly read text. People who read with fluency immediately understand words they read and comprehend sentence structures. If a person has not developed reading fluency, words are difficult to understand and pronounce. They read at a slow pace, and have to sound out many words. To develop fluency, a reader must practice reading and receive instruction. Gradually, reading fluency develops as the reader is exposed to varied text and word familiarity is developed.

Assessing Fluency in Reading

Fluency should be assessed to ensure that students are progressing. At home, parents can test fluency by asking the child to read aloud from an age appropriate book for one minute. The child’s school reader will work fine. As he/she reads, make a checkmark on a piece of paper for each missed word, substitution, reversal, omission, or words on which the child needed help. Count the number of words read correctly in one minute (WPM = words per minute). Do not count words the child did not have time to read. The WPM should go up as the child progresses. Listen to see if the child reads smoothly, with pauses and inflections, emotion, and expression. Does he or she react appropriately to punctuation cues? Or, does the child spend extra time trying to &quotsound out” words?

Fluency Instruction

There are numerous approaches to reading fluency instruction. One of the most effective is Repeated Reading, during which the student reads text aloud several times while being monitored by a parent, teacher, or tutor. After reading, the student is given feedback and guidance. Other approaches include: silent, independent reading, reading in phrases, listening to fluent reading models, and performance feedback.

Repeated Reading

Oral repeated reading consists of the student being monitored while he reads, then rereads, text. Practitioners of Repeated Reading have found that students who read a passage four times, and are given assistance with decoding words, word meanings, etc., will increase their fluency significantly. At home, the student should read orally, with help from a parent or tutor, for one-half to one hour per day.

Silent, Independent Reading

Teachers who maximize the time spent on reading skills instruction in the classroom will see the most rapid comprehension and fluency growth in students. While solitary reading can be productive for students, it should be kept to a minimum to free class time for skills instruction. Students should be encouraged to read more at home to replace independent reading in school. For parents, this means that you should have your child read independently for another one-half to one hour.

Reading in Phrases

When students read, they are exposed to phrases in sentences. Reading fluency improves when the reader reads the text in phrases. When teaching reading in phrases, the adult acts as a role model and reads a selection of text to the child, which has been divided into phrases by slash marks. Then the student is asked to read the same text aloud, three to four times.

Listening to Fluent Reading Models

Role modeling fluency in reading should be performed on a daily basis at school and at home. The student should read one-on-one with an adult who provides a model of fluent reading. The adult should point to the words being read. Then, the student reads the same text several times with assistance. When students hear exemplary role models of reading fluency, they observe and imitate correct pronunciation, emotion, enunciation, pauses, and reactions to punctuation.

In choral reading, students read as a group with an adult. They follow along while the adult reads from a big book, or read from their own copy of the book. Then the students reread the book in unison several times.

In tape-assisted reading, students read along and point to each word as they hear a fluent reader read a book on audiotape. The students read aloud along with the tape until they are able to read the book independently.

In partner reading, more fluent readers are paired with less fluent readers. The more fluent reader provides a model of fluent reading. Then, the less fluent reader reads the book aloud several times. The more fluent student helps with word recognition, showing emotion, and reacting to punctuation.

Performance Feedback

Research indicates that performance feedback, with incentives, improves reading fluency. Students who are told, specifically, how they have done on tests of fluency, improve more than students who are not informed of their progress. Incentives, such as certificates of improvement motivate students to improve reading fluency.


Using proven skills-building techniques, parents and tutors can help children improve reading fluency. If parents have concerns about their child’s progress, they should speak with the child’s teacher and then assist the child at home.

About the author

Ann Bowers is a former teacher and a writer for TeamUP! Tutors, an in-home tutoring company. http://www.TeamUpTutors.com

Looking for a private tutor in San Francisco or near San Diego, Los Angeles, San Jose, Oakland, or Seattle? Find out how TeamUP! Tutors can help. Call toll-free 888.383.2687.

More articles are available on our web site for you to help your child succeed in school. from http://www.FreeArticlesAndContent.com

Five Holiday Crafts for the Classroom

This time of year elementary teachers scramble to find crafts the students can make in the classroom to give as gifts. It needs to be not too expensive, but not too cheesy. If you are lucky enough to work in a school district where the parents will pitch in and send you the materials you need, great! If you’re not one of those fortunate teachers, here are a few inexpensive arts and crafts ideas.

One nice gift is a mirrored candle holder is made from a blank compact disc, a votive candle holder, some beads, and hot glue. You can see a picture of it with the link.

Students can create a mancala game , also call Owara, out of an egg carton, for Kwanzaa or just for fun .

We always decorate a tree in our school cafeteria. My classroom tradition is to make jingle bell ornaments out of egg cartons, bells, ribbon, paint, and glitter. The students love to make these.

Another idea for ornaments or for refrigerator magnets is to make them out of salt dough. dscn0800

The basic recipe is 2 parts flour, 1 part salt, and just enough water to wet it into dough. When I make salt dough, I add two tablespoons of white glue, and about ¼ cup of cinnamon. The glue gives it more plasticity and holding power, and the cinnamon makes it smell delicious. Cut the ornaments out with cookie cutters and use a pencil to poke a hole for the ribbon. Once the salt dough is dry, the ornaments can be painted or left plain. In the picture of the apples, I baked them in the microwave for 1 minute to get them to dry faster.


One last inexpensive craft is a winter scene painted on paper plates. We’re doing this one Friday. I don’t have a picture of it today, but once we do it in class, I’ll take a picture and post it. I use Chinet plates, the heavy ones with a lip on them. Give the students cool colors of paint, white, with a few drops of red, blue, and green to mix into the white. Have them paint a snow scene. Paste an oval of tin foil onto the center of the plate. (This is a skating pond.) Paint a few pine trees in the snow scene. Next, have them drizzle glue around the edges of the tin foil. Then, while the paint and glue are wet, sprinkle salt all over the plate. Shake off the excess. The salt looks like snow glittering in the sunlight. I also check my cabinet for extra art supplies for the students to glue onto their snow scenes. Things like tiny pine cones, wooden beads, or any other miscellaneous items that might enhance the picture are fine. This is one of my students’ favorite projects.

This is only a start. Teachers are creative, and they like to share. If you have other great ideas for elementary crafts, feel free to post a comment. If there is a picture link, that’s even better.

Have fun crafting with your class!

Teaching Tip: Back to School Night

Yes, it’s getting close to Back to School Night. For many teachers, it’s a nerve wracking time. We’re going to be meeting the parents who love the little angels we teach, and we want to make the best impression possible. Yet, with a little bit of planning, it can be smooth sailing.

At Back to School Night I let the parents know my goals for the school year, and I give them time to ask me questions. I also ask if anyone wants to volunteer in class, or has a special talent to share. Most of all, I try to open the way to forging a strong relationship that will help the parents unite with me to ensure their children get the best education possible. You may have other things you need to discuss. Every teacher handles it in a different way, but the basics are the same.

Here’s a checklist to help you get ready for the big night:

Three days ahead of time:

  • Have the students make invitations in class.

Two days ahead of time:

  • Start to clean up piles of papers, books, supplies, that are still sitting out. At my school, the supplies dribble in after the beginning of the year, so we always have boxes in our room the first few weeks.
  • Make a plan of what you want to say. Write it down on paper or index cards. Better yet, make a PowerPoint presentation. You can print notes handouts for the parents, and you can do a brief presentation, leaving plenty of time for conversation.

One day ahead of time:

  • Send a reminder home to the parents. Have the students plan on coming to Back to School Night. I offer a homework-free night if they come to Back to School night.
  • Practice your presentation, if you feel the need.

The Day of Back to School Night:

  • Have the students clean their desks. They can prepare a welcome note to their parents and leave it on their desks.
  • Clean your desk and straighten the shelves.
  • Set out some crackers and cheese or light snack for the parents. Some of them may be coming straight from work and be tired and hungry. A little food goes a long way toward creating goodwill.


  • Take a deep breath and relax.
  • Greet the parents at the door with a smile.
  • Make your presentation succinct and brief.
  • Give the parents time to ask you questions.
  • Enjoy getting to know them.

Tuesday Teaching Tip: Make Them Geniuses

I have a small note posted on a yellow index card that I keep on my computer monitor. Each day, when I log into the attendance program, I read the note. It says these things:

  • Do your best. You expect the best from them, they deserve your best.
  • Make them geniuses. Structure your lessons so they feel smart.
  • Praise them.

These three things I keep in mind as I plan, and as I teach.

I take the time to plan cohesive, interesting lessons that engage the students. I do my best to teach them well.

You may have read about the educational research experiment where teachers were told that the students they were teaching were all above average. The teachers taught with that assumption, and the students all performed above average on their assessment tests. This is because the teacher expectation was that they would perform well, and the expectation translated into higher success for the students.

Assume that expectation in your classroom. Expect the best from your students, praise their work, and they will give you their best. Teach them in a way that makes them feel smart, and they will act smart.

Student Writing Contests


Florida Collegiate Honors Council Writing Contest

Entry Fee: FREE

Deadline: November 7, 2008

Guidelines: http://www.floridacollegiatehonorscouncil.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=18&Itemid=33

This contest is limited to students enrolled in honors programs in Florida colleges and universities. It’s an excellent way to gain scholarship funds. Writing in four different categories, students may submit up to three papers. In addition to cash prizes, winners receive free conference registration to present their papers at the FCHC conference in 2009. These are academic papers, and the writing should be in MLA or APA style.

CREEC Imagine This! Story Writing Contest

Entry Fee: FREE

Deadline: November 1, 2008

Guidelines: http://www.cfaitc.org/Imaginethis/Imaginethis.php

Teachers in California may recognize CREEC as the California Regional Environmental Education Community. This contest is aimed at students in grades 3-8. The students should write a fiction or nonfiction story about a positive aspect of California agriculture. This is a great way to combine science and writing in your curriculum. Student winners receive a $100 savings bond, the teachers receive $100 in school supplies, and the student, teacher, and parents will be guests at the Awards Ceremony during Agriculture Week. State winners will have their stories published in a book that will be distributed to schools and libraries across California.