Archive for May, 2008

Another site to bookmark: FREE phonics, comprehension, vocab and fluency printables!

Today, while on a flight to Florida en route to give a FreeReading presentation, I spent some time going through emails and resources I bookmarked over the last few months. While doing so, I came across an email from my friend Cynthia recommending that I look at Steck-Vaughn’s Professional Development Resources. Once I arrived at my hotel this evening, I took a look at the site and was quite impressed by the number of free and high quality research articles and classroom resources in the areas of phonics/phonological awareness, vocabulary, comprehension and fluency.

For example, take a look at:

  • Goldilocks and the Three Bears (Readers Theater, found in the fluency section of the site)
  • The story map chart (found in the comprehension resources)
  • The Frayer Model worksheet (found in the vocabulary section of the site)
  • The Amazing Alliteration worksheet (found in the phonological awareness resources)

This is definitely a resource to bookmark for use during summer school or next fall!

Signing off from Ft. Lauderdale, FL!


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Summer Reading

Reading Rockets has a nice resource for parents, teachers and librarians titled Summer Reading. Take a look at the resources and tips the site provides to “prevent the summer slide.”

Resources for parents can be found here.

Resources for teachers and librarians can be found here.

Heading to the beach this summer? Here is a great list of children’s Books for the Beach!

I just got back from the beach where I spent my afternoons reading Eat, Pray, Love and The Unbearable Lightness of Being overlooking the San Juan sand!

Cheers to great summer reads!


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Universal Design for Learning: Scaffolded Online Readers from CAST

Last week my colleague Margaret forwarded me an email from the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST). As the website states, the mission of CAST is “to expand learning opportunities for all individuals, especially those with disabilities, through the research and development of innovative, technology-based educational resources and strategies.”

I am a big fan of the UDL Editions by CAST. Universal Design for Learning Editions are online stories that incorporate multimedia scaffolds to help budding readers develop important comprehension skills such as the ability to predict, understand metaphors, etc.

Take a look at the story How the Coyote Stole Fire. Notice how CAST has created animated animal reading coaches that pop up to help children read and understand various sections of the book. In addition, readers and teachers can determine the level of scaffolding appropriate before beginning the text. The following bullets describe the scaffold settings available for this story:

  • Maximum support-“Stop and Think” prompts are multiple choice. Highlighting critical features, models, and hints available. Immediate feedback on responses.
  • Moderate support- “Stop and Think” prompts elicit constructed responses and text revisions to explore author’s craft. Highlighting critical features, models, and hints available. Immediate feedback on text revisions only.
  • Minimal support- “Stop and Think” prompts offer strategy choice and open responses. Students are guided to highlight and collect key elements in the text, thus actively highilghting critical features for themselves.

If you enjoy the UDL Editions by CAST, try exploring CAST’s UDL Lesson Builder and UDL Book Builder.


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Educational Research Newsletter

The Educational Research Newsletter is a site dedicated to keeping educators informed on the latest happenings in the research arena. Since 1988, Educational Research Newsletter has informed educators about the latest in education research in easy-to-read articles. Each month, ERN reports on some of the most relevant and useful research from leading journals and organizations.


If you don’t have a ton of extra time, like most teachers, then this site is worth checking out. You won’t have to spend hours combing through a complicated article to keep yourself informed. Make sure you check out this month’s article on Positive Behavior Reinforcement. – Melissa

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Primary Games

Primary Games is an excellent resource for teachers and parents. It can keep your child occupied for hours on a lazy summer day at home, or it can be a useful teaching tool in a computer center in the classroom. Language Arts Games include Hangman, Letter Blocks, Writer’s Block, See ‘N Spell, and many more. What a fun way to get children to practice basic phonics skills. All the games are free, but you may have to fight a few advertisements to get to them.- Melissa

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Worksheet Generator

I just discovered the Worksheet Generator from Discovery Education. This handy tools lets you create your own worksheets – fill in the blank, mulitple choice, matching, scramble, word chop – in seconds. What a great time saver for the end of the school year! There are also a variety of pre-made worksheets to check out. –Melissa

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Midwest Tech Forum Podcasts and Videos are up.

Last month Kellie Doubek and I presented a session titled “Supporting Reading and Literacy with Technology Tools” at Midwest Tech Forum. To listen to a podcast of the session, click here.

If you are interested in viewing the handouts from the session you can find them here. To see videos and podcasts from other presenters such as Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach click here.


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Wouldn’t it be fun to make a classroom book?!

Last weekend I attended my sister’s college graduation at Virginia Tech. Since the drive to Tech is a bit long, my family had lots of time to catch up. While talking about FreeReading with my father, he mentioned that I should spend time on the website blurb.

Blurb is a website and service that allows you to turn your photos, text and artwork into beautiful and professionally bound books. For examples of the types of books you can make using this site, click here. My father’s good friend Andy Ilachinski uses blurb to create books of his photographs. Andy highly recommends the site, which in my mind is the equivalent of giving blurb a Michelin star!

Just imagine how much fun it would be for your students to create a professionally bound class book filled with student poetry, illustrations and more!

Have fun!


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How do they do it abroad?

While browsing through the Urban Education Exchange website, I came across a short article by Linda Darling-Hammond that was originally published in Time Magazine on February 14, 2008. The article is titled, “How they do it abroad” Darling-Hammond writes:

When school starts each year, the most important question on the minds of parents and children is, Who will my teacher be? The concern is well founded. Researchers have discovered that school’s deepest influence on learning depends on the quality of the teacher… Put simply, expert teachers are the most fundamental resource for improving education.

She goes onto discuss how countries with top international rankings (such as Finland, Singapore, Canada and Japan) prepare their teachers. A former MA student in comparative and international education and teacher in Japan, I find studying other school system’s a fascinating endeavor! There is so much we can learn as educators from our international peers. If you have 3 minutes, check our Darling-Hammond’s article here.


PS If you are interested in catching a glimpse of the education systems in India and China, you might enjoy the recent documentary 2 Million Minutes.

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Laura Candler

Teaching Resources from Laura Candler is full of exceptional ideas for the classroom. She is an experienced teacher who enjoys sharing her resources.


Over the years I have created a collection of blackline masters and activities for my classes. I enjoy sharing those resources with other teachers and have placed them online in my virtual File Cabinet. I’ve also written five print books and five eBooks for teachers.


Inside her virtual file cabinet you can find everything from health and science activities to center ideas. I especially love her literacy idea for book buddies. Students pair up for just five minutes a day to discuss the books they are reading with one another. There is even a printable log and bookmark to go along with this activity. – Melissa

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Thinking about formative assessment, RTI, comprehension and your summer holiday?!

This summer Wireless Generation will be hosting its annual Summer Institute in Chicago. If you are interested in learning more about formative assessment, RTI, improving comprehension outcomes and just about everything early literacy and math, this is a great event to attend. Click here to see the brochure.

The keynote speakers for the event are:

  • Dr. Catherine Snow, Henry Lee Shattuck Professor of Education, Harvard University: Ready! Set! Achieve! Understanding How To Improve Reading Comprehension Outcomes
  • Margaret Heritage, Assistant Director for Professional Development, National Center for Research Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST) at UCLA: Making High-Quality, District-Wide School Improvement Decisions
  • Dr. Herbert Ginsburg, Professor, Columbia University Teacher’s College: I Didn’t Know They Knew That! Using Formative Assessment to Promote Children’s Early Math Development
  • Dr. Roland H. Good III, Associate Professor of Psychology, College of Education, University of Oregon; DIBELS® Author: Using Formative Assessment Data to Individualize Instruction: How to Meet Every Student’s Needs

There will even be a session on FreeReading and Literacy is Priceless! What could be better than a nice summer Chicago breeze, a slice of deep dish pizza and stimulating discussions about early literacy and math in July?!

Hope to see you there!


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Inviting book authors into your classroom

Last week I attended the International Reading Association Annual Conference in Atlanta to present FreeReading. While I was there, I met Nick Glass, founder of I love the concept behind his site–to invite book authors into your classroom as you read their books! The site states: specializes in creating original content with award-winning authors and illustrators to enable you to connect with the author the moment you are reading a book — for any subject area you are teaching.

Authors talk about journaling, doing research, bringing history to life, and working with inspiring ideas. Illustrators show techniques they use to create picture books, graphic novels, and more. original content highlights the opportunity for you to have the author as a primary-source resource, sharing the professional work they do. original content includes:

Although I typically don’t talk about for-fee sites, this one is too good to pass up! To get a glimpse of what the site is about, check out the FREE author name pronunciation guides or start a free trial here.

Happy author studying!


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The Teacher List

The Teacher List is a blog full of resources for teachers at all grade levels. Sign up for a subscription, and a new resource from the list will be e-mailed to you each morning Monday thru Friday. Some of my favorite primary level resources highlighted on the list include FreeReading, an open source reading program, and Personal Education Press, which is full of free educational worksheets, flashcards, and games. – Melissa

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Free ELL Literacy Resources on the Web

While reading the latest issue of T.H.E. journal, I came across a very useful article about online resources for ELL teachers and students. In the article, ELL Spoken Here, I learned about the following resources:

  1. Childtopia-This site has a ton of educational games in multiple languages to help children develop literacy and writing skills. I like the Learn to Draw the Letters Game.
  2. ESL Flashcards-In need of flashcards, but don’t have time to make them or care to buy them? This is a great site to bookmark!
  3. Kindersay-My favorite resource mentioned in the article! This site has a ton of free videos to help develop vocabulary in young children and ELL students! Try it here.

Thanks Neal Starkman for writing ELL Spoken Here!


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The New Face of FreeReading!

The new FreeReading site design just went live! Check it out! Thanks to everyone that worked so hard to make this happen!


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