Friday, October 25, 2013

Super Sleuth Blog Hop Stop #8

Inference Investigators

Teaching the reading strategy of inferring can be a bit tricky since it is a complex task that requires synthesis of various bits of information and what we do with them.  Some readers seem to be born inferring:  they naturally infer as they read, although they may not even be aware that they are doing so.  Others, have great difficulty with the strategy.  They may struggle to go beyond the literal and to "read between the lines".  Others may be able to make an inference, but are not sure how they arrived at that conclusion.
When teaching inferring, I recommend two very useful books:  The Cafe Book by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser ( a great resource for primary teachers) and Mosaic of Thought by Ellin Oliver Keene and Susan Zimmerman (very inspiring for upper elementary and middle school).  Both books offer a thorough explanation of inferring and concrete examples and suggestions for teaching.  This quote from my reading is beautifully expressed and captures the essence of making inferences:

I enjoy teaching inferencing and so I created my "Inference Investigators" mini-unit for my freebie!  This packet can be used to introduce or review what good readers do when they infer for first and second grades.  I begin with a charades-type game that I have used for years.  "The Sisters" explain a similar activity that they call "The inferring Game".  My game is used at the beginning of your whole group time to show kids that they infer everyday in their own lives and not just when reading.

In my packet, I explain in detail how to play this game and set the stage for digging deeper when reading.  I use two texts, Pancakes for Breakfast by Tomie DePaola and Young Cam Jansen and the Missing Cookie by David A. Adler.  Using these texts allows you to model your thinking process as you infer by thinking out loud.  Students are urged to be a "reading detective" to find the clues in the story to figure out what is happening, to make a prediction (which is inferring!), and to draw conclusions.  I also include two mini-posters ( for instruction, your focus wall, etc.) and a few generic graphic organizers that I created to use with any story.

Before I give you the link to download this FREEBIE, I want to share two websites that you can use when teaching inferring.  The first is a site where clues are given and the reader has to solve the riddle (great for inferential thinking!).  Click here to check it out.  The second is an information page from BrainPOP that provides several creative ideas for using in the classroom.  You can't watch the video unless you have a subscription, but there are still many good ideas on this page.

To download my inferencing mini-unit for FREE click the picture below. Remember, it will only be free from 10/25/13- 10/27/13.

Now that you've learned a little about mini-unit, you're ready for my clue.  On your form (click here if you need to download the recording form to crack the code!), you can record the letter...

Thanks for visiting today.  I hope you'll enjoy my unit with your students, and if you'd like to keep informed of upcoming events from our group, please click the button below to follow my blog.

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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Fast Facts About Selective Mutism

As I wrote earlier this month, October is Selective Awareness Month.  I still remember a phone conversation I had with my sister almost three years ago.  I was describing my concerns about my then three year old son who would not speak in public and was reluctant to talk to his cousins and even his grandparents. She responded that she suspected that he may have Selective Mutism.  A few weeks before, she had attended a workshop on S.M. so the symptoms were fresh in her mind.  Not many days later, a good friend that I taught with told me about a middle school student with S.M. she had in class several years ago. She offered to let me borrow a book that this student had given to her.  As I read it, I recall being completely in shock.  This book could have been written about my son!  Not only that, but the book is filled with much practical information and treatment options.  Click the book cover below to read more about it on Amazon.

 Here were two of my favorite people telling me about the same disorder, and even after twenty-two years of teaching, I had never heard of it!  As it turned out, my son was diagnosed with this childhood anxiety disorder and still suffers today, although he has made tremendous progress.  

In an effort to spread awareness to parents, teachers, and the general public, I want to share some "Fast Facts" about Selective Mutism:

1.  The main symptom of Selective Mutism is a lack of speech in specific social situations.
2.  People with Selective Mutism can and do talk normally in situations where they are entirely comfortable.
3. Children with Selective Mutism are often extremely talkative and loud when they feel comfortable.
4.  It’s common for people with Selective Mutism to struggle to communicate in social situations even without their voice. Using whispering, writing, or gestures like pointing, nodding their head can be just as difficult. Smiling can be difficult as well.
5.  Some people with Selective Mutism display stiff body language and a blank facial expression in situations where they have trouble communicating.
6.  People with Selective Mutism are often of above-average intelligence.
7.  Selective Mutism almost always develops before the age of six.
8.  Selective Mutism is often first noticed when a child starts preschool or kindergarten.
9.  School is the most common place for someone with Selective Mutism to be silent, and inside their house is the most common place for them to be able to talk.
10.  Over 90% of people with Selective Mutism have social anxiety disorder, also called social phobia, as well.
11.  Without treatment, it’s not uncommon for childhood Selective Mutism to continue into teenage years or even adulthood, and it can become significantly worse rather than improving over time.
12.  It’s thought that many children with untreated Selective Mutism grow into adults who can speak but suffer from severe social anxiety disorder and possibly depression.
13. The first name for Selective Mutism was “aphasia voluntaria” (voluntary lack of ability to speak), which was first mentioned in 1877.
14. The Diagnostic and Statistics Manual of Mental Disorders first included Selective Mutism in 1980 as “elective mutism,” again meaning a voluntary lack of speech.
15. The new Diagnostic and Statistics Manual of Mental Disorders classifies Selective Mutism as an anxiety disorder.
16. People with Selective Mutism usually say that they want to talk but either are too afraid to or feel like they physically can’t.
17. Selective Mutism sufferers almost never have control over when they speak normally and when they are silent, though it may look like they do.
18. Some people with Selective Mutism appear entirely calm and confident in social situations, though they may still feel extreme anxiety about actually speaking.
19. An "s" was added to the name "elective mutism" in 1994. The new name, "Selective Mutism," was supposed to avoid the implication that people with the disorder choose not to speak.
20. It’s common for people with Selective Mutism to have more than one other anxiety disorders or phobias
21. According to research, 0.1% to 0.7% of children have Selective Mutism. That’s one child in every 1000 to one in every 150.
22.  Many people with high-functioning autism have Selective Mutism or symptoms of Selective Mutism, but the majority of people with Selective Mutism are not autistic.

Source:  Selective Mutism Awareness

You can read about my personal experience with S.M. and learn more by reading my informative articles over at The Educator's Room where I am a contributor.  Click the banner below~

In other news, I was contacted by
 K5 learning - Main Logo - 200 px

 to review their online reading and math program. 
 K5 Learning has an online reading and math program for kindergarten to grade 5 students. I've been given a 6 week free trial to test and write a review of their program. If you are a blogger, you may want to check out their open invitation to write an online learning review of their program.

And finally, stop back on Friday, October 25, as I am participating in this wonderful blog hop that is jam packed with lots of FREEBIES for you!

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Saturday, October 12, 2013

Slow Down! Helping Students Who Read Too fast

As a reading specialist, I work with students on fluency goals, administer fluency assessments, and craft my lesson plans to provide plenty of oral reading. Using oral reading daily promotes effective fluency along with repeated readings and using a multi-sensory approach to reading instruction.  For the majority of my students, they struggle with decoding and in turn, their fluency is marked by word-by-word reading and an inability to read at an appropriate speed and prosody.

However, there are students that read too fast.  These students usually have an average to above average reading level, often skip or insert words, and do not read with much expression.  As a result these readers often have gaps in their comprehension, may have difficulty retelling, and may score lower than expected on a reading assessment such as an IRI.

Unlike the student with a below average reading level who labors over decoding and who has difficulty understanding sentence structure, phrasing, and vocabulary, and therefore may be an unmotivated reader, the "fast reader" usually has a high interest in reading.

A Mini-Case Study

My middle son, age 7 (will be 8 in just three weeks!) who is in second grade is a spirited child who reads WAY too fast. An avid reader, he has several chapter books scattered around the house that he is reading, in addition to his nightly Guided Reading book and weekly library books.  If I want to get his attention, I place a few new books on the dining room table or in my home office.  He rarely stops in his tracks, but will do so if he spots a new and interesting book!

Noah does everything fast.  He runs, rarely walks, talks fast, and for the most part, learning has come very fast and easy.  Since preschool, he has had the misconception that being the first or one of the first to finish his work is the goal, no matter the quality or correctness.  He also thought that good readers read "really fast"- the faster the better!

When reading out loud to me, here is what I notice:
  • A very fast speed that at times makes it difficult for me to hear all the words
  • He skips words and inserts words (mostly for articles or sight words)
  • His prosody will often sound like mumbling
  • He does not slow down to verbalize his thinking (asking questions, predicting, monitoring)
  • After reading, he gets the "gist" of the text, but does not always remember key details or all story events.
Because his Guided Reading level is lower than I would have anticipated and because he desperately wants to read chapter books for Guided Reading and independent reading in his classroom, we have been working on s-l-o-w-i-n-g down his reading speed.

Tips for helping students who read too fast:
  • The first thing I did was ask my son if he thought he read too fast.  His response?  A resounding "No!".  Then I asked him if he remembered everything he read, which he admitted he did not.  Lastly, I asked him if he still wanted to read those chapter books in school.  Of course he did and so I used this intrinsic motivation to explain to him that he was reading too fast and that I could help him slow down and prove to his teacher that he could read those books!
  • So, we sat down to read his Guided Reading book that he brought home that day.  He began his usual speed reading.  I stopped him and he was not aware that he was reading too fast and did not think it was a big deal that he was skipping words or using careless decoding (look at the first letter and say any word that pops into his mind).  So, I read the page to him reading at his speed and then again at a more appropriate speed so he could hear the difference.
  • He read the page again, repeating and echoing my model.  I pointed to each word on the page as he read to slow him down. I used a gradual release model of "I do it, We do it (Choral reading), and You do it".
  •  I like to use my HearAll Assessment Recorder from Learning Resources to record my son reading at a fast pace and then at a more effective speed.  He can listen to both files to hear the difference.  Sometimes kids are not aware that they are reading too fast as they are reading.
  • For my son, he was pausing slightly at end punctuation.  Other readers will speed right on past any punctuation at the end of sentences. I tell my son that he needs to slow down or he will get a speeding ticket; he needs to put on the brakes!  A strategy that helps readers to stop and take a breath at the end of sentences is for them to lightly tap their pointer finger on their lap every time they come to the end of a sentence as a way to remind them to stop and take a breath.
  • He was not reading in phrases, not paying attention to syntax or commas, and barely pausing at the end of sentences.  To help him focus on phrases and sentences, I had him use a Reading Helper slide.

Just the act of holding the slide and having to maneuver it caused him to decrease his speed. Because of the green color of the plastic slide, it helped him to visually discriminate and not make so many simple miscues.

The slide also highlighted the internal sentence punctuation such as commas and semicolons. I reminded him that he needed to pause and take a breath and modeled what that sounded like.  For others, it may be necessary to remind them of how good readers read in chunks or phrases, which naturally causes you to take a breath.

Another suggestion is to read poems together, which we know is so much fun and effective for all fluency instruction.  By doing a choral reading, the reader hears a model of appropriate speed and is "forced" to adjust their speed and slow down.  We enjoy the You Read to Me, I'll Read to You series which again provides opportunity for modeling and guided practice of appropriate reading speed.  Click the picture below to see the listing on Amazon.

At present, my son has reached the point where all I have to do is say "Put on the brakes! "or "Slow down!" and he understands what I mean and can reduce his speed.  Just this week, he told me that his teacher told him that he had increased his Guided Reading level!  I was so happy for him praised him for working so hard to show his teacher what a "super" reader he is!

If you have success with working with fast readers, please share your tips and strategies.

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