Tracking Reading Levels Through the Year

Primary students can make incredible reading growth each year and I am always looking for a quick and easy way to track that growth.  This is a simple form that works for me, so I thought I'd share the idea with you.  It's just a table I created in PowerPoint to match the levels our testing kits assess.

After receiving my class list, I plug in the names of students onto the chart.  This one page chart is super handy while making sure to prep enough copies for reading assessments.  Not to mention it fits into a sheet protector that is kept in the front of my grade book for safe keeping!  Here is an example of a class I recently had (I use names on my handwritten chart, but changed them to numbers to protect student privacy while sharing here):
Note - the N/A column indicates new students without reading data

In our district we are required to test and report data three times during the school year (I test my below grade level readers more frequently than that).  Here is the data after my beginning of the year testing:
Key (blue = lower than reported, green = new students, pink = higher than reported)

It's important to note that J was the expected level at this point of the year.  Second graders reading below a level J are required to be placed on a reading plan.  If you're counting, I wrote NINE reading plans that fall.  Yes, that's over 1/3 of my class.  Yikes!!  

Each year we are required to write professional goals, one is usually based on student performance.  I make an individual reading goal for each of my students.  As I meet with my principal throughout the year to discuss my goals, I bring this page with me to show evidence of student growth (or lack thereof).

Another reason I like this form is it makes it super easy to see possible groupings.  Let's face it, if I have students on 12 different instructional levels, I'm not going to run 12 different reading groups.  I just don't have time for that.  So, I look for groupings that might work well together.  At this point of the year I had five reading groups:
ABC (3 students)
FG (5 students)
IJ (6 students)
JKL (5 students)
MPR (5 students)

As I assessed and students made progress, I just erased and move the students along on the chart. I would keep the groupings flexible and students would change groups, as needed.  By the end of our second trimester, this is what my chart looked like (L was grade level expectation):
Note - numbers disappear as students move, new students indicated in pink

Yes, I know I still had 9 students below grade level, but they were making progress!

Here is my data for the end of the year:
Considering I reduced the number of students below grade level from 9 to 5, I was thrilled!  Not to mention that 3 of those 5 are only one level below.

How do you track reading progress throughout the year?  I'd love to hear about it!

Math Warm-Ups for Number Sense

Students need repeated practice on skills in order to work towards mastery.  I recently shared with you how my grade level team uses a customized Daily Math Review for our morning work (click here to read more about it).  Another key component of my morning is our math warm-up.  A few years ago I purchased this pack from Jen Ross (Teacher By the Beach) and I love it!
Here's a little peek into the pages I use in my second grade classroom and more about our daily routine with the pages. 

No matter what, we always start with the hundreds chart.  I use the 120s chart included in the pack. Here are some examples of what I might say:

Circle 37.  
Now circle the number that is 3 more than 37. 
Circle the number that has 6 tens and 2 ones.  
Now circle the number that has one more group of ten.  
Circle the number that is one more than 94. 
Circle the number that is 20 more than that.
I like to skip around in our folders just to keep things fresh and interesting.  For now I'll just go in order.  Next up is our number of the day page.  We usually use what day we're on in school.  Here's a tip I learned after the first few days - put the number words page next to the number of the day page so they can correctly write the word form.

Another page I enjoy using is the fact family page.  Once we got into 2-digit numbers, I had the kids split the tens and ones into two, 1-digit numbers to work with.  Then they can use the number as it is to complete larger addition and subtraction sentences.
 I love number grids.  I find the kids get kind of bored with them for awhile when we're using 2-digits.  You should see them perk up and refocus when they have to cross into the hundreds place.

After my students complete a page, we do a "swap & check".  Yes, even if they didn't complete the page in time.  The partner circles any mistakes found and shares them when they swap back.  This person found an error in the tally marks:
 Second graders can always boost their money skills, right?  I love that this page forces students to use the fewest coins possible.  Even though the box on the right asks for one different way, I have my students draw a line (sometimes two lines) to show multiple different ways.  It really shows me who is struggling with coin combinations and values.  Oh, and once we get further into the school year, I'll let my students use half dollars (HD) to save space.
Jen's pack does include a variety of different pages.  No matter which pages I use in the folders, I always leave the back side of the last page blank so I can have my students practice whatever I feel is needed.  Here you can see a few examples of things I've had my students practice (name collection boxes, rounding, addition and subtraction, etc).

Well, that should give you a good idea of what we do before I begin our formal math lesson each day.  If you want to see more about this pack, Jen does a fantastic job explaining how she uses it with her first grade students here.

Five for Friday

It's officially Fall, which means my DVR is working overtime to catch all of the season premieres of my favorite shows.  It's also Friday and I'm back to share five random things from my week with you.  Here we go!
My daughter brought home her first book order and had so much fun identifying her favorite characters.  I can still remember being excited about these as a kid!
I decided to make myself a priority again and started going to the gym.  It's amazing how much better I feel by carving out just a little more time for me and my personal health.  I'm also getting my reading fix accomplished while working out!

I went digging through my teaching tubs looking for a specific book, but ended up finding all of these monster books instead.  I started reminiscing about the year my students created monsters and then I guided them through a how-to piece on trapping their monsters.  That was so much fun!
I finally finished up a picture book pack for Anansi and the Magic Stick.  I started it about two years ago and then life got in the way and it was put on the back burner.  In case you missed it, you can learn more about it here.

When the coin jar is overflowing, it's a problem.  I hate going to the bank, but I guess putting money INTO the account is far better than taking money OUT, right?  
P.S. I miss the free coin counting machine at the bank!

Enjoy your weekend!

My Real Life Juice Box Bully

Just a couple of years ago, I had THAT kid in class.  Do you know the kid I'm talking about?  He wore the same scowling expression as Pete from The Juice Box Bully.  

He had me thinking about walking away from teaching.

He brought me to tears in my classroom after the kids left each day (sometimes during recess breaks). 

He's the reason I avoided blogging for months because I couldn't put my emotions into words or find joy in teaching the other 24 students.

He's the same kid that could turn a calm and quiet atmosphere into one filled with anxiety, tears, fear, and chaos even with FIVE TEACHERS present in the room.

Have you had THAT student?

He's the reason I bought The Juice Box Bully.  It was the first book about bullying (one of many) I would read to my class that fall.

I couldn't wait to start read aloud that first day.  I wasn't reading the book to him or for him, but to show the other 24 students that I was fighting for them, whether they could see it or not.  Right away my class learned what the word bystander meant:
Whenever I have the bullying and harassment talk, I have one major rule: No Names!  We started talking about examples and non-examples of what bullying was.  We talked about which situations students could solve on their own and when they should get an adult (in this particular case, it was best to get an adult involved each and every time, no matter how small the issue was). 

Once my students had a grasp on bullying situations, it was time for a book extension.  We made juice boxes and wrote a promise not to be a bystander and what we would do instead.  Here's the example I had made:

Did reading The Juice Box Bully and completing this book extension solve my problem?  If it were only as simple as waving a magical fairy wand.  But seriously, here's what DID happen:

I was documenting every second I could.  I had a second adult in my classroom for 4 hours a day.  I had a radio in my classroom to get my administrator or school counselor to my room pronto.  My class had a quick evacuation plan in place.  We had meetings 1-2 times a week to discuss behavior and incidents.  The student was suspended more times than any other student I had previously had.  The parents made frequent doctor visits and medication changes.  

Two (very long) months into the school year we sat down at the table with the paperwork for the behavior program on the table.  There was an opening in the program and my student was at the top of the list.  It was time to make a decision and I'm not going to lie - the decision was harder than I imagined.  Every fiber of my being wanted to just sign the paperwork and move on.  

But I couldn't.  The child was actually making progress (academically and behaviorally) and becoming a better version of himself.  Was he perfect?  No.  Were the other students in constant fear everyday?  No.  In the end, we decided to let him stay because he just wasn't the same kid he was in September anymore.  The documentation proved that the incidents were becoming minimal.  He was becoming your average second grader (behaviorally).

Did I leave that room questioning whether I had made the right decision or not?  Absolutely!  

So how do I know my team made the right choice?  
Was it because he learned to read?  No.
Was it because he started writing?  No.
Was it because he memorized his addition facts?  No.

Those things are important, but here's how I really know we made the right decision:
He made friends and earned the respect of his peers.  In fact, if you had walked into my classroom at any point at the end of the year, I don't think you would have figured out which student he was.  I guess you could say he's become one of those teaching success stories.

So if you ever have THAT kid in class, you are not alone!  

Anansi and the Magic Stick

Hate is a very strong word, but let's be clear....

I HATE spiders.

But then I met Charlotte...

And then there was this guy:

I guess that means I don't hate ALL spiders, I just hate REAL spiders.  Fictional spiders I can support.

Maybe that's why I enjoy reading books about Anansi, who happens to be a spider.  Anansi is an African folktale character who often takes the shape of a spider.  He has been written about for years, often in many ways.  My favorite version of his stories are retold by Eric A. Kimmel.

Today I want to share some of my favorite things to do with Anansi and the Magic Stick.  If you aren't familiar with the story, Anansi the spider steals Hyena's magic stick so he won't have to do his chores.  However, when the stick's magic won't stop, Anansi gets more than he bargained for!

Character Traits
Anansi is a little different from most of the characters we read about since he tends to have more negative traits than positive.  However, second graders kind of enjoy pointing out all of Anansi's faults.  Sometimes they just put the word 'not' in front of a positive trait so it means the opposite.  I will help them with the correct word (ie. not responsible = irresponsible).  This helps them build vocabulary and word choice:

I do keep these character trait cards handy, though, just in case.

After we're done, I'll have students choose words from the chart (or add their own) to a character web.  Once they are done, they color, cut around the border, and glue into their literacy notebooks.

Story Elements
At this point in the year I'm still working hard on identifying story elements and a story retell (oral and written).  Since we work on these skills a lot, I thought it would be fun to put a spin on things (pun totally intended) and keep things fresh and new.
Students who volunteer to spin are also volunteering to identify the story element the spinner lands on.  The good news is we can do this several times so even your students who struggle with comprehension can try to recall the important events and participate.

Book Extension & Craft
This next part would probably creep me out if it weren't for these spiders looking so silly (and fake, definitely fake).  In the story, Hyena and Anansi both use a chant to control the magic stick.  My students get to write their own chant for the magic stick and we attach it to the spider:

PS - I don't know if it's the black paper I used, or what, but seeing the lines was hard work for the kids (and adults in the room trying to help).  I think next time I'll either use dark gray paper or just make tracer templates for the kids.  I ended up having my kids trace around the spider heads with white crayon because they just looked like they disappeared into the bodies.

If you aren't big on pre-made crafts, you could always have your students draw their own spiders.  Here's a great video tutorial that your kids can try as you watch:
(video courtesy of Art for Kids)

Most of these activities are included in this Anansi and the Magic Stick pack.

But that's not all - look what else is in there:

Happy Reading!

Coin Toss (A Free Math Game for Counting and Comparing Coins)

Football season is upon us and I thought it would be fun to put a football twist on a math game my students enjoy playing.  Second grade students need a lot of opportunities to identify, sort, and count coins.  This game is perfect and can easily be differentiated for your students.

Container (to hold coins)
Recording Sheet
Coin Sorting Mat (optional)

Place students into partnerships.  Determine each student's role (one is heads, one is tails).  Students will gently shake the container and then pour out the coins onto the sorting mat.

Students will sort the coins into two groups: heads and tails.  Each student will begin counting their assigned coins to determine the total value of their coins.  For example:  I have 3 dimes, 2 nickels, and 7 pennies on my side of the sorting mat.  My total would be 47 cents, or $0.47.

Students will check each other's work and when in agreement, students will record the data on the recording sheet.

Students will continue playing until the recording sheet is full or until time is up.

Note - You can also place the recording sheet into a sheet protector and use dry erase markers to save copies.

Since students come with all skills and abilities, you'll want to consider the many ways you can differentiate this game:

- types of coins used
- amount of coins in the container
-adult or volunteer support
-counting the number of coins rather than the total amount
-determining whether the total amount of coins is even or odd
- finding the difference between each partner's coin values
-finding the sum of all the coins combined

I hope this game is helpful to you.  You can grab the football-themed recording sheet and sorting mat by clicking here.  Let me know if you have any questions!

Do you watch football?  Who are you rooting for?  You know I'm rooting for the Hawks today and hope it's a good one!

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