Month: March 2014

ELA: Perseverance

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Earlier this week teachers at Ponderosa Elementary put on their dancing shoes! Skip to 1:09 to check out their awesome moves to Katy Perry’s “Roar!”


The video was produced by music teacher Sarah Windisch and will be shared with 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students prior to next month’s S-BAC testing. Teachers Kelly Howard, Stacey Peppin, and Becky Rice recently came up with the idea after attending a workshop focused on helping kids develop GRIT and GRIP. The presenter gave teachers the lyrics to “Roar!” and suggested sharing them with students in a lesson about perseverance. The Ponderosa team took it a step further and made a video. Thanks for inviting me to be part of the fun!


ELA: Basal Alignment Project

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Over the past month, I have been asked several questions about the Basal Alignment Project. More specifically — “What is the Basal Alignment Project?” and “How can I access it?”

bapThe Basal Alignment Project  started as a way for teachers to share Common Core aligned resources with other teachers for use with common basal readers throughout the country. Teachers worked to create a bank of text-dependent questions as well as resources focused on specific comprehension strategies and Tier 2 vocabulary support. The result was the Basal Alignment Project.

The Basal Alignment Project does not address the spelling, phonics, or grammar portion of textbooks and is only available for grades 3-5. However, almost each lesson contains culminating tasks and classroom activities that align with the more rigorous standards. Paired with our District’s TIA StoryTown documents, the Basal Alignment Project is a great tool for teachers to use while planning instruction.

The Basal Alignment Project can be accessed two ways:

By visiting the AchievetheCore.Org website 

  1. Select grade 3, 4, or 5.
  2. Scroll down to find StoryTown.
  3. Select the appropriate story title.
  4. The Word document will open and save to your computer.

By creating or logging into your Edmodo account

  1.  Join the Basal Alignment Project group with the join code “F4Q6NM.”
  2. Click on the folder icon on the left side.
  3.  Choose the “HMH StoryTown” folder.
  4.  Click on appropriate story title.
  5. The Word document will open and save to your computer.



ELA: Overview of the Six Shifts in the Idaho Core Standards

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Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 8.45.23 AMReading teachers and paraprofessionals from all five elementary schools spent Monday morning in a workshop session at Post Falls High School. Paraprofessionals were introduced to the basic format of the Idaho Core Standards in ELA as well as the new Smarter Balanced Assessment before diving into the six instructional shifts in ELA associated with the Common Core Standards.

If you’d like a refresher (or introduction) to the ELA Idaho Core Standards feel free to click through the Prezi used during the workshop. The Prezi contains valuable videos, links, and resources for each shift. They are also downloadable below.

Teachers and paraprofessionals walked away from the training with new tools for close reading and writing text-dependent questions as well as strategies for supporting at-risk readers in vocabulary development and writing from texts. Teachers also revisited the foundational skills that need to be taught at each grade level for students to meet the rigorous demands of informational text. Be sure to ask them to share some of their new knowledge!

Foundational Skills

Text Complexity

Text-Dependent Questions

Academic Vocabulary

Writing from Sources

Check out the Prezi for videos and online links!jennifer-signature

ELA: Formative Assessment Quick Guide

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marzanoThis morning I’m excited to be teaming with reading teachers at Frederick Post Kindergarten. We’ll be exploring various formative assessment strategies designed to inform teacher instruction.

While searching for resources online, I stumbled upon a goldmine of formative assessment strategies put together by the State of Maryland International Reading Council. The guide lists 32 different strategies teachers and students can use to check for understanding as well as a short description of how to use each strategy.  The Formative Assessment Quick Guide is a must see tool if you get stuck in the same formative assessment ruts like I do!

What is your “go-to” formative assessment strategy or resource guide? I’m a big fan of Seven Strategies of Assessment for Learning by Jan Chappuis.  jennifer-signature

ELA: Sample Performance Task Questions

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Looking for a few sample Performance Task questions? Try this site suggested by Prairie View teacher Tammy Gay during this morning’s session on Digging Into Informational Text!


The Reading & Writing Project is a collaborative project that provides teachers with tools designed to help students become skilled readers, writers, and thinkers. It is headed by Lucy Calkins, a respected reading researcher and author.

As part of the Reading & Writing Project, Teachers College at Columbia University created a bank of ELA performance task questions for the State of New York. A large bank of questions is available by grade level and most of the tasks include digital videos, photographs, informational text, paired text, and rubrics. This is a great resource for high-quality digital text!

Performance tasks on this site are also perfect for first and second grade teachers looking to introduce these skills to students for the first time. Sample performance task items are currently available for K-8.

To access the performance tasks click on – RESOURCESASSESSMENTSPERFORMANCE ASSESSMENTS. Then choose a school year and grade.

Know another great resource? Let me know!jennifer-signature

ELA: Spring into Reading

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Spring is finally here! Check out these three resources  for a little something extra to celebrate this week . All resources are aligned to the Idaho Core Standards.

springTry this March Madness Vocabulary Bracket from Vocab Girl at Sadlier Publishing. Students can use the brackets to set up matches between vocabulary words. Winners can be determined by the strongest definitions and corresponding sentences until each student determines their own “Ultimate Vocabulary Word.” This is perfect for reinforcing Tier 2 vocabulary in the intermediate and secondary classroom.  The download is free after registering on the site.

One of my favorite sites for informational text, Readworks, released 12 new K-1 reading passages for the first day of spring. These are perfect short texts for introducing close reading at the primary level. Lexile ranges on these passages range from 110L to 520L. By registering your email address you will  be given free access to all of Readworks passages, lessons, and question sets. 

It’s also the 45th anniversary of Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar today! Check out the videos below of a kindergarten teacher closely reading the book with a group of students for some springtime inspiration.

ELA: Last Idaho Core Workshop Series Resources

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Post Falls teachers will be wrapping up the ELA Idaho Core Workshop Series at Seltice Elementary tomorrow afternoon. Feel free to join us or snag the resources below! We’ll be focused on the three types of writing in the Idaho Core Standards, strategies for teaching writing, and rubrics for scoring student work. Hope to see you there!

This little girl has a lot of evidence. I think she may have a solid argument!

Writing from Sources

Looking for resources from the previous five ELA workshop sessions? Check out these archived posts!