Monday, January 2, 2017

Running Records Interventions

The long-awaited (or not?) post about my running record intervention program is here! 

This summer my grade level team and I got together just before school started so we could share resources. One colleague is a second year teacher (she was my student teacher once!) and hadn't taught 3rd before and the other taught with my last year but hadn't had elementary school in awhile so it was clearly skewed my way in terms of the amount of resources I have. We got them hooked up with licenses for all of the fabulous products I tested out last year and knew worked well with our curriculum and to get the kiddos up to speed with the skills they needed.

Out of desperation I was searching around for some leveled reading passages that I could use and found this file by Jen Bengel. The cost made me cringe at first because that is a lot of money...but then I read that because it's a bundle file, she would let up to 5 people use the file on a single license. SOLD! So my team and I split the cost three ways and for the love of everything I ever glad I found this file. I do not believe that either of my colleagues are actually using it at this point but I made this my instructional goal for this year so I WOULD use it...and it is amazing!

We have to make an instructional goal for improvement every school year as part of our evaluation. Not that I think I am perfect or anything but I was like what the heck am I going to try to improve upon?! I've spent many years of my career really honing in on areas where I feel like I was weak and I was kind of running out of ideas. My K-2 colleagues use running records and I thought that I would try that...and let me tell has been a game changer. I know so much more about every single one of my students because of these records/interventions. 

During my formal observation this fall, my principal saw me do a couple and during my post observation she said how amazing she thought they were...but then she said "how in the world do you manage to do this with all of your students?!" Great question and definitely one that needs to be addressed.

First of all, I have 21 students. 3 of these students are essentially monolingual and thus the program is not appropriate for them, thus I do not use it with them at all. That leaves me with 18 students. I have a chart at school that gives me a basic idea of where the kiddos "should" be reading to provide me with a rough estimate of whether or not they are on grade level. Since this system is leveled in a range (i.e. A-D, E-G, etc), any students who tested in at level L or above were considered to be "on grade level" and thus I really only progress monitor them (think DIBELS language here) so they only read with me once a month. That cuts down on how many records I have to do. The other kiddos read with me twice per month until they move up to the "on grade level" range. (I have already had two students move up into this range that were not there before so I only have 10 students that have to be read with twice a month.) 

We began the program in November. November and December were tough months because we had so many non-instructional days due to the election (we had that Monday and Tuesday with no students), plus 3 days off for Thanksgiving and then the holiday break. Plus I do not do records on Mondays because of library and Fridays because our schedule is so weird. So basing this program on how well I managed it in November/December would be unfair because there were so many days that were not available. 

So back to her did I manage to do all of those records? I got creative! I started using some of our computer lab time on Tuesdays to pull kiddos. Since this lab time is not for testing (they use or Lexia Core 5), I didn't feel guilty pulling them for 10 minutes to read with me. And let's be honest...the kids LOVE reading to me. They often ask me when it will be their turn again, because who doesn't love 1:1 time with their teacher?? 

I also got a brain midway through November and made myself a calendar. Here is January's. 

Sorry for the boxes but I didn't feel comfortable blasting my kiddos' names all over the internet. At any rate, you can see that I have crossed out every Monday and Friday plus this coming Thursday. That is because I won't be at school and I don't let anyone else do these but me. The good news is, you can see that the 26th and 31st are blank so if I do get behind (snow days, I'm out sick, a meeting or whatnot), I can move kids and still get them in. That is also why I will absolutely use those Tuesday computer labs too...and I have many times in order to get caught up. 

You can't see it because I boxed over the names but all of my students who I only have to read with once are highlighted so that I know once I do a record with them, they can go into the back of the bin I keep these in because they won't have to read again until the next month. It's quite handy if I get behind also because the once-a-month kids are the ones I'll skip first as I know I can easily make those kids up at the end of the month or during those computer times. (But there aren't any more months, except April due to Spring Break, that are as short as November and December were so I don't anticipate this being a problem from here on out.)

I used the data from last spring to place the kiddos. Most of the kids fell right back into the spot they were in, thank goodness, but I did have a student I had to move back a level because she just couldn't do it. Alas, she hated being moved backward so it also serves as motivation...and since only the students themselves and I know their level, it's not something they need to feel shame over or anything like that.  

This is how I put them together and use them. First each student got a folder and I stapled the tracker sheet to the inside. I sorted the kids by the level they had at the end of 2nd grade and put them into that range. I figured out how  many kids were in each range and made copies accordingly. Each student got 3 running records/intervention sheets put into their folder initially as I knew that would be long enough for me to determine if the level was too high or too low and then I could adjust without having a ton of wasted sheets. 

This is what the tracking sheet looks like as of the end of December. This particular student joined our class in late November so he only has one record for November. He is in my lowest level (A-D). All of the information on here comes directly from the intervention sheets and is perfect for at-a-glance progress monitoring.

Here is one of his running records. What I love about this program is they read to you three times. I have them read the three times in the same sitting. You just use the one paper and you can tell the errors apart because you use a different color pen (red for the first read, blue for the second and black for the last, although you could certainly use other colors if you wanted). I love this because I can absolutely see the difference in their fluency and accuracy from the cold read (red) to the hot read (black) because they have read it before. Plus it allows me to see if they are transferring information such as if I have to tell or pronounce a word. I can easily see on the form if they transferred that to the other two readings. At the bottom of the sheet I record the middle score of the reads (again think DIBELS style).

After the third read, there are comprehension questions on the back. There isn't a ton of room to write their responses so I have learned to really limit my notes to key words that tell me whether or not they got the gist of the story. There is a scoring guide to help you track their level of comprehension (and 98% of my class scores roughly 15/20 almost every time because they just aren't quite providing *enough* detail overall to score that last bit...but that also tells me that this is an area I can hone in on during direct whole-class instruction since pretty much my entire class needs some support with it....something I might not otherwise know without this system).  At the very bottom is a place to score the student sheet which is the next picture.

I don't know if this is how these were intended to be used, but this is how I do it.  After the child has read with me and answered the comprehension questions, I send them to their seat with this paper. They have one week to complete it and give it back. They complete them during silent reading time. You might gasp at that and think it is horrible, but believe me...I think this is very authentic reading and it gives me SO MUCH INFORMATION. And generally, unless the student is the last one I read with that day and doesn't have time to work on it, they use one SSR time to complete it before they give it back to me. I'm willing to sacrifice that because the data these sheets provide me is invaluable. They have some comprehension questions on the far right (not graded but very good for helping me to see if they got it), and then some vocabulary where they have to define the bold words and word work which is all of the coloring you see. Depending upon the level they might be hunting short vowel words or parts of speech. Once they give this back to me, I grade this part and add the information to the sheet above as well as on the tracking sheet. This way, at a glance, I can see if they are progressing in all of the areas of the intervention.

It's a powerful tool because I have one student (not shown here) who does very well with the readings. He is very fluent and his comprehension is fabulous when he answers the questions. But I have noticed that on the last three (out of four!) sheets he has done, he has not gotten a single part of the word work correct. The first time I let it slide because I wasn't sure if it was just a bad day, but after the second one, I did some work with him on it. On the next one, however, they are all still incorrect. He is not able to identify things like contractions, adjectives and some short vowels. So this means that when we come back to school tomorrow, I will be pulling him aside and helping him to make some reference cards so he will remember the terms so when he is asked to find contractions, he will have a visual reminder to help him be successful. Guarantee I would never have known he was struggling with it without these records because I do not have any other systematic system that provides reinforcement on these things the way this system does. (Yes they are taught in my curriculum but a lot of the independent work is done in stations where they have a partner and thus it's impossible for me to know how much help they get...these are done 100% independently though so I can absolutely see who is struggling and who isn't.) 

Here is another student example, this one a level higher than the previous one. Again because this student is not at least at an L level, he has four records because he will read with me twice a month until he hits benchmark.

This student is just about ready to move up a level because he is reading accurately and fluently. 

As you can also see here, his comprehension is good (15/20 is not terrible because a 3 is satisfactory) and he scored 100% on both the word work and the vocabulary section on this particular task (and the one before it also). If he has another record at this level that is this good, he will bump up to the next level. 

Here is the student sheet that accompanies the above running record. This particular student is not the strongest reader (he is very distracted and can't focus) but he begs me to read with him. Sometimes I have to show him the calendar so he'll quit bugging me about when it will be his turn again :) 

As I mentioned, I'm almost positive my colleagues are not using this system. Bummer on them, I say. Yes, it is time consuming. Yes, it takes a lot of paper. But man, oh man...the information I am gathering about every single student that I read with is absolutely invaluable. This allows me to better focus my small reading groups to the kids' needs as well as create better support materials for them (such as the visual aids for the student mentioned above who I am positive is messing up on the word word just because he can't remember what the words mean). I wouldn't have this information without these records. (And no, the seller is not paying me to tell anyone how awesome this product is either *wink*)

If you're looking for something to help you get to know your readers better, I'd suggest you buy this. I know it is pricey but see if you can split the cost with a colleague or two. Honestly I'd have paid full price for it if my team hadn't agreed to go in with me...and especially now that I know how amazing and useful it is. It has every level from A-Z so I have something for every reader in my class. You can't really beat that.

And I'd bet that by the time that standardized testing comes around in April/May, I'm going to have a class full of kids who are very ready for that test simply because they have had strategic and personalized instruction at their level because their teacher knows so much about them as a reader due to this fabulous product.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Happy New Year 2017 + OLW 2017 + 2016 Reflections

Happy New Year! I for one was very glad to say goodbye to 2016. It was such a crazy year in so many respects. Onward and upward!

This post will be sort of a hodge-podge. Clearly I am not the sort of blogger who has ever felt the need to conform and make my posts all cutesy. I'm just real and honest and that's all I can guarantee with each and every post...even when they come few and far between. (And for the love of lemonade, I promise that Interventions post is coming! More on why that is delayed in a bit.) **Can I point out how much I miss Currently because it at least made sure I was posting every month?**

First I'd like to reflect on 2016. I'm not sure I can honesty remember another year that had so many huge ups and downs. Some truly amazing things happened for me in 2016, but also some sad things and some downright scary things happened too.

Arguably the biggest thing that happened to me was also life changing. I became a grandma. Yeah, I'm young (not even 40!) but I also had The Oldest young so there is that :) I have all daughters, no sons of my to be blessed with this beautiful baby boy as my grandson has just been amazing. For many years, I have had on-again, off-again baby fever (likely due to my young age when I had all of my kiddos)...this way I get to enjoy some of the spoils of baby but not the 24/7 all consumingness that comes with a new baby. I was so very blessed to stay home for two weeks and help The Oldest adjust to her new role as a momma and I will be forever grateful that I had that time. It was magical for us both.

It's hard to believe that in just 10 days that little guy will be 9 months old! He certainly has stolen his grandma's heart. And since his momma doesn't plan to have another child for awhile (she would like to finish school) and my other kids are only 14 and 15...chances are this little guy will be the only grandbaby for many years. So spoil him we shall :)

I just love this pic collage I made. That's him and I on Christmas Day on the right. The absolute and pure joy on his face when he looks up at me just melts my heart, every single time. The left was taken today. He sure looks mad huh? But he wasn't...he was alternately yelling, laughing, and leaning back like this. (His mom told me its because no one was holding him upside down LOL) He stayed over for New Years Eve and it was amazing for me (but reinforced I am waaaay beyond having a baby at this point). 

This winter break was shorter for us this year and I didn't do a single school related thing. Not one! I had the best of intentions...and you better believe I have a pile at my feet that does need to get done before I go to bed tomorrow...but it was SO NICE to not worry about anything to do with school or grad school. So it'll get done but I'm so, so glad I took the time to just relax and enjoy my own kids and my grandbaby. It was worth it.

The only things I sort of did that could possibly be related to school was catch up on some reading. Below is a short list of the books I finished up over this break:

I read this book as some research for my Ed.D. I am currently in the research phase and will be focusing upon self-regulation with elementary students. This book was recommended by a friend and will become a cornerstone of some of the work I do for my dissertation. It's a fast read and probably would have saved my sanity many times as my own kids were growing up!

This one was recommended to me by someone in my PLN. It's a great book, especially if you're a leader in any educational capacity (including teacher leaders). It really shows you how you can stop being an accidental diminisher and start being a Multiplier.

Okay, okay this one totally isn't related to education...but we saw the movie and I had to order this for my collection (plus The Youngest snagged the screenplay for her birthday sooo....)

Up Next
This one is definitely next on my reading list. I have skimmed it a bit but I want to at least get through the front matter where she explains how she put the book together and such before I head back to school on Tuesday. I just ordered the Writing Strategies book and can't wait to get my hands on that one as well!

This is another one that will be devoured here shortly (grad school doesn't resume until January 9 so that's about all the time I have HAHA). I participated in some EdCamp Voxer chats about Growth Mindset both this summer and over winter break and I'm excited to dive into this one, especially since I think it will relate quite nicely to the self-regulation work I plan to do for the dissertation.

I'd say, by far, my biggest professional achievement this year was being a co-author of the first #EduMatch Snapshot in Education book. (You can snag a free copy of the ebook at this link or check out the Kindle and paperback versions [EduMatch: Snapshot in Education (2016)] at My chapter focuses on student centered assessment. A co-author and I co-moderated an EdCampVoxer chat on the topic in July, then I wrote the chapter and originally that was going to be my dissertation topic...still kind of is except I'm focusing more now on whether or not kiddos can learn to be better self-regulators in order to have more authentic student assessment and ownership.  Kind of nerdy but definitely fun for me.

That leads me to my #onelittleword for 2017. I have done OLW before but honestly haven't put much stock into it beyond the first few months of the year. This year, I think, will be different. Partly because I have plastered it all over my Life Planner but also because I have ordered a graphic to put on my phone where I will see it every single day of 2017 to remind me. My word this year is Inspire...because I have been so inspired by others throughout my journey as a connected educator and I want every move I make in 2017 to be with the intention to inspire someone else.

And on that note, I will leave you with wonderful blessings for 2017. It can only get better from here, right? :)

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Happy Holidays!

Hello dear readers and bloggers!

I hope you have had a wonderful Christmas season! Things are insanely busy here (as usual)! It seems like there is never enough time to do anything!

Alas before this break is over, I will share how I am using the reading intervention program I mentioned before. I brought all of the files home with me over break so I could do some organizing. It's been such a busy fall!

I hope you and yours have had a wonderful break and are enjoying your time away from school :)

Saturday, December 3, 2016

SMILE Folder Goal Setting & Tracking

For several years, my colleagues and I have tried various ways to help our students to set and track academic goals. Most often these goals surround the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test because it is the most frequent test that is given for our students. There are also a wide variety of resources available for teachers (ala the Learning Continuum) to help find materials and resources to support students who are struggling in any specific areas of the test. 

Since moving down to 3rd grade, I have definitely discovered that they are not fourth and fifth graders. For one thing, they aren't quite as mature and for another, most of them have never been asked to set goals before. (I even asked my colleague who went to 4th when I came down to 3rd and she said it was definitely easier to do this with 4th graders in her opinion.) 

At any rate, since last year was my first time in 3rd grade, I didn't do some things I would have done if I had stayed in 4th where I knew the curriculum very well. I spent the majority of the year focusing on learning a new curriculum and managing a very large class. But this year, since I have a much smaller and better behaved group, I have been able to up my game again and push myself to help them to be the best they can be. 

This includes our Power of Yet poster to foster growth mindset to getting back to helping student to set and work toward goals. I feel this is so incredibly important for the students I work with because many of them will be first generation college students. If they can learn to set and execute a goal starting in 3rd grade, they will be better off in middle and high school. 

A fabulous colleague of mine showed me this cute file by Teacher Karma called the Smile Folder. I absolutely love the kids' smiles and I had to download this file and make my folders. Super cute! I just want to smile every time I see these little faces.

I started by making a copy of the cover for each student. I also typed out the SMILE acronym onto smaller strips that I could glue onto the folders as a reminder. I used colored manila folders, drew a design on them for hte information I wanted to include and then laminated them. I write on them with a Vis-A-Vis marker so that they can be erased and reused. 

 Sorry for the reflection. Aren't they adorable? 

This folder is from one of my highest achieving students. You can see that I wrote the student's spring score (from 2nd grade) in black. The current score is in blue. It is very normal for the students to have a big slide back from 2nd to 3rd grade because our district has students taking the primary test from K-2. So in 3rd grade, the test no longer reads to them which can throw them off at the beginning of the year. Our school goal is to have students meeting at least the 60th percentile on the MAP because studies have shown that if they are at or above that range, they are more likely to pass the state standardized test. 

I wrote the test information in for the students and then they made a short-term goal for the winter test. We revisit these every couple of weeks to help students remember their goal and discuss how we can ensure we will meet that goal (for math that might be practicing math facts or practicing word problems). 

This is the same student as above, the other side of the folder. You can see that in reading, she stayed in the same place, but with a slightly lower number. At the bottom of this page is also their reading tracker. I am using a running record intervention program this year and this is how the kiddos are tracking their reading. I do not ask my students to read books only within that level but for the running records, we are keeping track of the level they are at. (I will write a blog post about the interventions very soon.)

This is a different student's folder. You can see the student was very high achieving at the end of 2nd grade (the black) and had a huge backslide (the red) for the beginning of 3rd grade. Again, this is actually fairly normal...I saw it last year as well because they are so used to having the reading support and once it disappears a lot of the students panic or they don't read carefully and thus they go backward a lot. (Personally I like to consider the fall of 3rd grade data to be "dirty data" because I really do not believe it reflects well their January when they are used to taking some tests on the computer -- as they take their weekly reading tests on the computer -- they tend to do much better with the MAP and those scores are usually much more reflective of what they are able to do.) 

This student was much more stable in reading scores than in math. She stayed within the same band and actually went up a few percentiles over the spring. It doesn't happen very often but sometimes they do come in with a higher score than they had in the previous spring.  This student is in a much lower reading level than the student above and we will track their progress in the same way. Any students who are not at "benchmark" are doing two intervention cycles with me a month so much more tracking comparing to students who are benchmark or above and are only doing one cycle a month (again more on that in a future blog post). 

I absolutely love this system. First it is very easy for my 3rd graders to follow and track their own goals. Second because I can add their new scores when we get them and the students can track their progress over time (in January/early Feb when we take the next test, their scores will be recorded in green so they can tell which is which). 

Stay tuned for more information about the reading intervention running records I am utilizing. 

Sunday, November 20, 2016


*knocks on the screen*

Is anyone out there?

I've been so busy lately that I haven't really even thought about posting here. Sorry! This year is FLYING and I'm so darn tired when I get home that there are many days I don't even make it upstairs to my office (thankful for my laptop where I can still get some grad work done while lounging downstairs on the couch).

You'd think since I have a student teacher I'd have more time. Ha! Nope. It's even busier to have an intern because you have to help them figure out all of the ins and outs of being an elementary teacher. I'm very lucky right now that my student teacher is willing to come early so we aren't staying late. That helps but I feel like sometimes lunch is the only time I'm not running around like a chicken with my head cut off. Sheesh.

I have been able to implement some things I'm not sure I would have been able to start if I'd been on my own this fall. I have to remember to take pictures of these things so I can share them here. I always remember after I get home (to be fair, I also left my keys AT WORK on Friday because my brain is fried).

Alas, we have been moving along quite nicely. 10 less kids than last year sure makes a difference! For awhile I only had 18! Unreal. I am back at 20 and for the most part they are awesome kids who really are letting me push them to their potential. It's pretty fabulous to see them growing every day.

We had parent teacher conferences and all but two showed up! I had lots of compliments from parents which is not necessary but definitely nice to hear. I'm happy to know the kids are enjoying school and that the parents are also happy with what we are doing. Makes coming to work so much better and more fulfilling.

I hope you are having a great year also and enjoy your upcoming holiday! I'm hoping to remember to take pictures of our SMILE folders and the running records/intervention program I am using this year (guarantee both would have been much harder to get off the ground without an intern because I get it all together while she is teaching). I'm super impressed with how both systems have been implemented and I will do my best to try to remember the pictures so I can share them here.

Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Product makeover & a Freebie

Happy Saturday! I don't know about you, but this last week felt like it was at least three! Whew! Full moons are not a joke! I think Monday might have been three days all by itself. ;)

I'm coming to you today with a quick product makeover and a quick freebie!

I do not have the time, nor the inclination to create a billion products on TpT. I am very grateful for teachers who do have the time because about half the things I use in  my classroom on a daily basis I have purchased from TpT! Alas, every once in awhile, I find something that works for me that I'd like to share.

First up is a product makeover. A few years ago, I read Total Participation Techniques. I was instantly sold. I created a printable set of Total Participation Task cards and it is by far my most popular product. I just gave the front a little makeover today.

I totally love this background paper :) Since this is currently my only paid product on TpT, I decided to put it on sale for the weekend. You can save 10% of this product today and tomorrow!

I also added a new freebie skills tracker and accountability sheet.  This is a very simple form (no fancy schmancy design or anything), but very useful for helping students stay accountable to the goals they set and complete. This one is and will always be completely free.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Fun in 3rd Grade

I am all about rewarding my students for working so hard all week. Friday is seriously my favorite day aside from the obvious (almost the weekend, wearing jeans at school, etc). For the last five years I have been pretty successful at keeping my Fridays pretty darn epic. This year is no exception. Our Fridays look something like this:

Arrrival tasks (pledge/morning work)
Circle Up Brag Tag celebrations (absolutely the highlight of the week!)
Spelling test
Computer Lab (weekly test)
Literacy (assembling the notebook for the next week and read aloud)
Lunch and Recess
Math (with a visit to the school store mixed in)
Fun Friday

So I teach one thing all day and get to enjoy my kids and celebrate them. It's pretty wicked. These friends are so stinkin hilarious and sweet too. I just love them.

Today I had a student success team meeting in the morning so I was only in my room basically long enough to do the Pledge and take attendance. Some of my kids still forget we cover our heart with our right hand so I always show them by turning every which way to show them no matter what direction I face, it's still the same hand. Today one friend was trying to be helpful and said "yeah it's the one with that tattoo"...and I had to burst her bubble and say that wasn't a good reference point because I have a tattoo on the left side too (it's covered by my watch so they don't notice it much). Maybe you had to be there but it was funny.

This afternoon at recess duty a colleague told me she overheard one of my kids say to a 2nd grader that she would LOVE third grade because she would have the best third grade teacher ever (meaning me). So sweet <3 div="">

And finally for Fun Friday, the friends who earned it got a lesson in the circle of life...we have a gecko I got from a colleague 18 months ago. He lives at school during the year. I had to feed him before the weekend and the kids were fascinated watching him eat his worms. (It IS pretty fascinating.) We also had to "give him a bath" by putting him in a tub with a small amount of water to help him shed. They thought it was the coolest thing in the world. 

I am so, so thankful for this group this year. They are so kind and sweet and I just enjoy going to work to be with them every day. :)