If a child can't learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn.

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LOVE the Pensieve!

For those of you out there also using the Daily 5 (or in my case, the Daily 3), I’m sure you have created your own version of the pensieve.  Basically, you have to have a notebook or place to compile reading strategies for each child, conference logs for each child, goals for each child, and so on.  I started off using a large binder with many pages and sections.  I wasn’t feeling organized, and I felt like I was spending too much time on the binder itself.  Then I was introduced to the interactive Pensieve on the Daily 5 website.  My colleague and mentor, Andrea Hernandez, discovered this amazing site for me to use.  There is a small fee for the yearly subscription, but it is so worth it.

This is just one individual student’s page.  There is a page which lists my entire class individually and I just click on the child that I am working with.  It has the calendar right there to schedule my conferences with students.  It is all right at my fingertips.  There are charts for keeping track and it keeps a running record from each conference.  It has definitely made my life easier, so I wanted to share.

Currently, both of my classes are working on the CAFE menu now.  Each child has their own strategy to work on and their own reading journal.  We have made it through the first nine weeks, and now I am hoping to see the students’ growth and progression with their reading, writing, and vocabulary.


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This week we focused on context clues and author’s purpose.   The students were able to learn the meanings of several unknown words by finding the context clues.  They were challenged to find their own examples in the books they were reading.  We determined that context clues can be in the form of synonyms, antonyms, definitions, a list of examples, and written clues to help them make their own conclusion on the meaning of the word. The student’s also learned that authors all write with a different purpose in mind.  Some authors write to persuade, some to inform and many write to entertain. One student wrote his interpretation of this lesson.

BY: Itamar

Do you like P.I.E? I am positive that authors love P.I.E. Not the ordinary kind of pie that you can eat, sorry kids, it is something that makes it so that you can define what the author is trying to tell you. P.I.E stands for…





If it is a fiction book, like Harry Potter, it is very possible that it is a book that the author intends to entertain the reader. Entertainment can consist of stuff like violence, comedy, problems, and stupidity. Now that you know a bit about P.I.E, let’s talk about how I came by it and also how P.I.E relates to  author’s purpose. We were in class and then our teacher told us we were going to learn about the author’s purpose. Meanwhile, our technology teacher wrote P.I.E on the board and then we started learning. We talked about it and then we found out what it stood for. Then we thought what the application was after an author was done writing a book. This goes very well on author’s purpose because usually their purpose intertwines with the application. Some authors write a book for popularity, fame, or easy money, while others do it so they can delight their reader, or just clear their head. Sometimes authors reflect their application in their book, although, not directly, of course. When you are writing something just to persuade the reader about something, it usually means that they just want you to do that thing. If they inform you, then they wish for you to know what’s going on. To show that we understood, the teachers asked us to look at the books we were reading and then we would say what category they fit in. Mine fit in the inform category. It was a really exciting lesson which will help me in the future!

The students each wrote their own explanation of context clues for homework.  Here are a few samples of their work.

BY: Jonah
My understanding of context clues is when I was reading the book Fantastic Mr. Fox, it said that the farmer, Bunce, was squat.  I didn’t know what squat meant, so I looked for context clues.  I read that Bunce’s chin could touch the shallow end of any pool, so I guessed that squat meant little.  And guess what?  It did!
BY: Gil
I understand that context clues help you with the definition of a word or phrase. Context clues can come in different formats such as examples, exact definitions, adjectives, and synonyms and  antonyms. If a word is new to the reader, sometimes context clues MAY help you understand it a little bit better. Sometimes context clues are scattered throughout the sentence or paragraph. Those are the tips I have for you about context clues.
BY: Zoe
Context clues are different clues that help you figure out the meaning of a word. Context clues can be the words around the word, you have no idea what it means that help you figure out the meaning of it. I think context clues are very important and I use them a lot when I am reading. There are five different context clues. They are synonym, definition, example, antonym, and inference. They all help a lot. I use inference the most when I am reading.An example would be the word equestrian. If a sentence says “The equestrian went riding around on his horse,” how would you know what it means? First, you look for the clues. I found inference. The key word in this sentence to finding out what equestrian means is horse. Horse helps you figure out what it means because you now know it is a person, and the person has something to do with horses. So it would be horseback rider. It is very simple and easy of you think about. That is what I know about context clues!

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Assessment and Authenticity

This year, with teaching only Language Arts, I am required to have grades for spelling, reading, word study skills, and grammar/writing. Using the Daily 5, my students work independently on each of these subject areas.  I teach mini-lessons daily and conference with students daily on either reading or writing skills.  I find myself questioning how I have  should be evaluating their work.

I know parents want to know how their children did on a test.  It is much easier to test vocabulary and spelling skills with a test.  Again, I am not sure “testing” is the best method for the Daily 5.  I prefer to use student-made goals, daily progress made, and proper usage of these skills shown in their work, to assess the students.  For some reason, there is such a large focus on “grades” which makes it difficult.  I have students making higher grades this nine weeks than they probably should, based on a spelling test grade, or a vocabulary test, or even an AR test.  But then I notice in their work that they are still misspelling the words they were just tested on.  Sometimes I notice that they are using the vocabulary words in the wrong context. What is truly the best way to assess these skills authentically?

One teacher at my school is doing “Student Led Conferences”, and I would love to somehow incorporate an assessment tool for grades that would be based on each student’s goals and whether or not they were able to achieve their goals versus test scores. I want their work to be authentic and NOT based solely on a “test” that they studied for and passed.  With the Daily 5, each child reads their own books based on his/her appropriate level and interests.  Therefore, in order for me to check for comprehension, I am relying solely on the AR (Accelerated Reader) tests.  Is this the best form of assessment?  These are all questions that I am constantly asking myself, and also looking for other options.  I would love any feedback or suggestions on different methods of how you assess your students.