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

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