Our Blog

The Power of Journaling

  • by Kelly Harmon & Randi Anderson
  • February 9th, 2016

Many people practice the art or skill of journaling on a daily basis. Some look at journaling as a way of relaxing, while others see journaling as a way to keep memories for years to come. Either way, journaling is powerful when used in the classroom!

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Goal Setting & Action Planning

  • by Kelly Harmon & Randi Anderson
  • January 9th, 2016

What are your resolutions this year? Knowing that we can start fresh rejuvenates our students as much as it does us.

Great leaders set goals and create action plans from the start. Teddy Roosevelt set goals to make the United States strong in the areas of economics and defense. He created an action plan to see his goals through and in effect he increased our production of natural resources and built up our Navy defense. Resulting in a stronger country as a whole.

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Teaching Students to Develop a Theme or Thesis

  • by Kelly Harmon & Randi Anderson
  • January 4th, 2016

One of the hardest skills a developing writer must learn is how to establish and convey a message about their experience, topic or belief. This seems especially difficult when students seem to lack background knowledge and vocabulary needed to articulate the message. In narratives, there must be a theme. In expository and persuasive writing, a central or controlling idea serves as the thesis or position statement. The writing should be focused on conveying this message from the beginning to the end on this message. Unfortunately, the writing of so many students in elementary, middle, and high school lack a clear message or ramble on with only broad references to a focused message.  Are we doing enough to help students focus on "the message" during the planning stage of writing?

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Students Taking Action

  • by Kelly Harmon & Randi Anderson
  • January 4th, 2016

One of the best pieces of advice I've ever been given in my teaching career is "Whoever does the thinking, does the learning." Students need to process the learning in order to develop comprehension of the concept or procedure. Here are some quick ways to get students to think through writing.

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Tween Tribune- A Great Online Reading Resource

  • by Kelly Harmon & Randi Anderson
  • December 29th, 2015

Tween Tribune, powered by The Smithsonian Institution, publishes an online collection of news articles for K-12th grade students and teachers.

Articles can be found on four sites:

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Instructional Crunch Time

  • by Kelly Harmon & Randi Anderson
  • December 8th, 2015

Recently I was asked my opinion about how much time should be spent on ELAR in the elementary classroom each day. I started thinking about how much instruction and practice it takes to reach our literacy goals. Students need hourly opportunities to use language and literacy skills if they are to continuously grow in their reading and writing skills. By the end of the year, not only should the student be at a higher reading level, but be able to explain and select strategies that they use to process a variety of complex texts.

Instructional time should be organized to ensure that students are listening, speaking, reading, and writing in all areas of the curriculum. If students are doing activities that do not deepen their understanding and help them process at deep levels of comprehension, we should discard the activity and use the time for more authentic and meaningful practice opportunities. Anything else is distraction that prevents the learning goals from being achieved as quickly as possible.

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Guided Reading is All About...

  • by Kelly Harmon & Randi Anderson
  • November 7th, 2015

COMPREHENSION! Yes, guided reading is all about practicing comprehension skills and strategies. In guided reading groups, teachers provide students with closely monitored practice as students begin to apply newly learned meta-cognitive strategies. Guided reading is often called "leveled reading" because students should be practicing using a text in which they know at least 90% or more of the words. Because we want to focus on applying critical comprehension skills before, during, and after reading, the text must be one that does not require a lot of attention to figuring out words.

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Expository Writing 101

  • by Kelly Harmon & Randi Anderson
  • November 6th, 2015

Expository (aka explanatory) writing has taken on a new sense of urgency with most state curriculums calling for explicit teaching of strategies for processing and writing this text type. After all, the most real world type of writing is expository. Student writers need to understand that this type of writing explains or clarifies an idea about a topic. Developing the proficiency needed to write a variety of expository texts is a necessary part of becoming college and career ready. Emails, essays, and blog posts are all relevant and important types of writing that require proficient writing skills.

Here are three teaching tips for teaching expository writing.

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Close Reading FYI

  • by Kelly Harmon & Randi Anderson
  • October 21st, 2015

Close Reading has certainly become a BUZZ word in the reading education world. Here are 3 essentials to know about Close Reading.

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Becoming a Proficient Speller

  • by Kelly Harmon & Randi Anderson
  • September 29th, 2015

During the past 20 years, much research has been conducted on strategies that proficient spellers use. Proficient spelling is linked to the ability to detect and isolate sounds heard in words (called phonemic awareness) and match the sound or sounds to the letter or letter patterns (known as grapho-phonemic knowledge) that most closely matches the sounds. As students progress through elementary school, they develop strategies for spelling and an awareness of misspelled words.

3 basic strategies to spell words are:

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