Archive for October, 2007

Rubrics, Rubrics…Everywhere!

A colleague recently introduced me to Rubi Star.  I don’t know how I ever lived without it!  Rubi Star is a FREE online tool for generating custom rubrics.  All you have to do is choose your subject and the specific categories (i.e. grammar, content, etc.) you will be grading.  Then, it automatically generates a description for each point value.  Don’t worry, Rubi Star lets you edit the content it generates.  I love this feature because I find it necessary to make some edits in order to make my Rubrics first grade appropriate.  Rubi Star takes care of all the complicated formatting work for you.


You can create a free login and password to save your rubrics and make them available to yourself in the future.  Check out Rubric ID#1477966 for a sample of a Writing Rubric for a Writer’s Workshop Final Copy I just used in my classroom.


Word Families

This past summer, I spent some time with my colleagues producing videos of educators teaching reading for Free-Reading. Watch the video below to get ideas for teaching word families. For additional videos click here. I hope you enjoy these clips. We had a great time producing them! -Anna

Lost for Words

My friend Margaret, sent me the link to Lost for Words (a show about reading in the UK) today. The site explains, “Lost For Words is a Channel 4 season of campaigning programmes to get all our kids reading.” I was immediately intrigued by the program and the website because as a former Comparative Education major and early literacy teacher in Japan I have always been interested in how schools in different countries approach similar problems such as closing the achievement gap and teaching children how to read.

The site is filled with lots of videos, information on learning and and tips for teaching reading, and in particular information about synthetic phonics.

Watch the video on this page to learn about how the children at the Monteagle School struggle to learn how to read at first. Then watch the other videos on the site to see what method of teaching educators used at the school to better help their children learn how to read. Finally, watch the video about Liam–a struggling reader that is beginning not only to read, but to love reading! -Anna

Reading Groups

p1010861.jpgReading Groups is the hot topic in my school right now. We are all stuck in the same boat… we know exactly what we are supposed to do. However, running reading groups with 33-35 kids is a classroom management nightmare. I was lucky enough to have a fantastic Reading Specialist in my school my first year of teaching. She went out of her way to spend time with me and teach me a management method that makes it possible to do groups in such an overcrowded classroom.

To start with, I divide my kids into 3 groups. Yes, just 3 groups. Each day, the groups do 1 of 3 things: Work with the Teacher, Seatwork, or Centers. The “Work with the Teacher” group is pretty self explanatory. I do a guided reading of a leveled reader with the group. The “Seatwork” group stays at their own desks, and I have a phonics page or a comprehension page ready for them to work on. It is very important that the page is leveled to the group – don’t make it too hard for them to do on their own. The “Centers” group is subdivided into three groups. Currently, I have a listening center, a game board center, and a library center. Again, it is very important that these centers have activities that are at the kids’ level so they can work independently.

The first few weeks of centers is always challenging. I am constantly reinforcing the importance of independence. After a few weeks of practice, my kids understand that I am busy with my group and they are not allowed to ask me questions. In other words, they must stay in their own groups and do their work! It takes a great deal of patience to get your kids to that point… but it will happen! I am always looking for good center games. Here are a few of my favorites….Letter Sound Spin, Rhyming Memory, Word War, Bam!, Go Word! and Take a Roll.-Melissa

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Yahoo! Answers

Last weekend I met up with my friend Christine, a former classmate of mine at Teachers College and coworker at the Teachers College EdLab. Christine and I share many things in common, a love of Japanese food, experience teaching English in Japan and a desire to find all things cool, useful and free on the Internet. Christine mentioned to me that while trying to figure out what language was used to build Netflixs, she discovered Yahoo! Answers:

With more than 21 million unique users in the U.S. and 90 million worldwide, Yahoo! Answers is the largest knowledge-sharing community on the Web. It’s an online community where anyone can ask and answer questions on any topic. Yahoo! Answers connects people to the information they’re seeking with those who know it. Everyone has life experience and knowledge about something, and Yahoo! Answers provides a way for people to share their experience and insight.

I was immediately intrigued and embarrassed that I hadn’t heard of Yahoo! Answers before, so right after finishing my yummy bowl of ramen, I took the subway home to check it out. One minute into my exploration, I was hooked, especially to the section on primary and secondary education. There are tons of questions on the site that I think teachers will find an interesting read, such as:

1) How can I get literature circles up and running in my first grade classroom?

2) In reading comprehension strategies, what is meant by a self monitoring lesson?

3) Where can I buy big books?

4) Is there a forum where teachers in India can get ideas for lesson plans or share ideas related to teaching?

I look forward to reading your questions on Yahoo! Answers. Check out Yahoo! Teachers too! -Anna


My principal came in to observe me this week. Luckily, I just happen to be doing reading groups at the time. The big push in my school (I am sure may teachers can relate) is on cooperative groups right now. Timing was definitely on my side.


Running reading groups with 33 1st graders and just one adult usually looks more like a 3 ring circus then a learning experience. So naturally, I was a bit nervous when my principal walked in. My first thought, was “did she come down to see what all the noise is?” To my surprise, she didn’t seem to be bothered by the “relevant chatter.”


The one thing she did take notice of was a very simple game five students were playing in the back of the classroom. Bam! is a simple sight word game. Students take turns pulling index cards out of a box or bag and then reading the sight word written on them. If they pull out a card that says Bam!, then they must put all of their cards back and start over. My principal raved so much about this virtually effortless game, that I felt compelled to share it with all of you. I hope it brings you the same high praises…


OER Commons–More Great and Free Teaching Resources!

Today I was introduced to two of the organizing forces behind the OER Commons website (OER stands for open educational resources). The website explains, “OER Commons is a teaching and learning network, from K-12 lesson plans to college courseware, from algebra to zoology, open to everyone to use and add to.”

I found OER Commons immediately appealing because it is easy to navigate, it looks very Web 2.0 and it already contains thousands of free and useful lesson ideas and teaching resources. Check out the primary education resources! In particular I liked the learning object titled “100+ Web 2.0 Ideas for Educators: A Guide to RSS and More.” As a person relatively new to blogging, social bookmarking, tagging and more, this is an excellent, easy-to-reading guide to the world of Web 2.0. Thank you Quentin D’Souza (an elementary resource teacher from Toronto) for sharing this useful guide! -Anna

Halloween or Fall?

As I was surfing the internet this week, I came across this posting from The Education Wonks. It seems as though, once again, a little bit of childhood innocence is being lost to political correctness. Classroom Halloween parties have been banned at Kohl Elementary School in Colorado, so as not alienate those children who do not participate in the Holiday. The principal is allowing teachers to have “Fall” Parties, but no costumes can be worn. C’mon? As a classroom teacher myself, I can tell you that come the end of October, we are all in need of a little celebration. The first 8 weeks of school are hard! We put so much pressure on our kids to pass tests and master skills, what is the real harm in letting them be kids for 20 minutes at the end of one day? I understand that not all children can participate. Maybe a Fall Party is a solution for those students. But let’s just let them be kids…


And only because I am a true reading enthusiast… how about a game of Halloween Bingo at your Halloween Party? – Melissa

Literacy from the Sunshine State

When I have a question about literacy research, the Florida Center for Reading Research is one of the first sites I consult to find the latest research. Recently, I noticed that it has a great repository of literacy lessons for classroom teachers as well. For example, check out the student center activities on the FCRR Curriculum and Instruction page. There are tons of lessons on comprehension, fluency and more! -Anna

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Reading Rockets!

While surfing the Net today, I found the website for Reading Rockets–a fun TV show on PBS that teaches educators and caregivers about the stages of early literacy development. I love this site because it is filled with straight forward articles on how to teach reading and reading research. In addition, it is filled will streaming videos of teachers in real classrooms across the States modeling best practices around reading pedagogy. Check out this video on spelling and word families. I also like this video on invented spelling! -Anna

Listening to letter sounds (a letter sounds activity that incorporates iPods)

My friend Mo, just passed this activity along. It is a great way to teach kids their letter sounds and how to use relevant technology tools. If you have an iPod, it might be fun to try this lesson out. -Anna

A free early literacy resource to pass along…

Since this is my second official post, I suppose I should introduce myself as well!

My name is Anna and I work at Wireless Generation, a New York-based education technology company that focuses on developing early literacy and math instructional tools and curricula. As a developer of early literacy products, I spend a lot of time in K-3 classrooms across the United States observing teachers working with budding readers. I then take ideas and feedback from teachers back to my office where I work with a team of developers to create useful products that help teachers teach young children how to read. Before becoming a product developer, I taught early literacy classes to children and English conversation classes to adults in Osaka, Japan.

I would like to share with you a web site that is near and dear to my heart, as I have been working on it for the past year with my colleagues, as well as with many teachers across the States, but particularly in New York… is a free online early literacy program that helps educators teach early literacy skills—in particular phonics and phonological awareness. The activities and sequences can be used to support a typical core or basal program or as part of word study time for teachers using a balanced literacy curricula. In addition, the site provides an opportunity for teachers to share their great ideas and activities.

Here are a few links on the site that I think literacy teachers will find particularly useful:

I hope you enjoy the site!


Welcome to the Literacy is Priceless blog. I am a first-time blogger, so bare with me, as I get used to this new online world…


I guess I should start by introducing myself. I am a first grade teacher on the south side of Chicago. Like most public school teachers, I find myself with too many kids in my class, not enough help, and the ever-present problem of a broken copy machine. When I am not in school, I am busy planning my upcoming wedding. Busy is pretty much the theme of my life for the moment!

We all know that most teachers are pressed for time. That is why I want to share this great website with all of you. Check out Kidzone. The free printables save lots of time. I haven’t used it yet, but the word family card game listed under 2nd grade will definitely be at my Game Board Center next week. And I did the poem worksheet #2 with my class last week. I needed a quick writing activity. Well, actually I needed something cute to display for the parents at Open House! Either way, it worked out well. We did Worksheet #2 in class as a rough draft, and then I had them recopy a final draft and illustrate it. I hope you find this site as useful as I have.


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