Getting The Most Out Of Reading Comprehension

The transition from 2nd Grade to 3rd Grade can be a tough one.  Students are no longer learning to read, they are reading to learn.  I have had (and am continuing!) to adjust my teaching practices in order to meet their needs and the higher-level comprehension skills that are expected of them.  I want to share with you some resources that I have found to be effective for increasing comprehension at school and at home. 

I loved Debbie’s post this month on the importance on daily reading.  My new schedule doesn't allow for daily read aloud time anymore, but I'm trying to squeeze it in as much as I can.  I am also trying to push reading at home more.  I've always sent home a reading calendar to record nightly minutes.  This year I revamped mine, had students set a goal, and reward them with a more special prize each month they meet the reading goal.  

Check them out here.

I want my students (and their parents) to get the most out of their reading.  As I was brainstorming with colleagues on the best way to accomplish this, I came up with these reading comprehension question cards.  

Check them out here.

This week I went through the 3rd Grade Reading Standards and came up with questions for most of the Literature Standards.  I plan on copying the question cards on different colored card stock, laminating, and putting them on a ring for myself, my instructional aide, and my parent volunteers.  This will help us all ensure we are asking 3rd Grade appropriate questions and helping make the most out of our daily readings.  I am also going to send a copy of the questions home, so parents have an idea of the types of questions their child should be answering when reading.  It is no longer simple, closed questions.  Students are now expected to answer open-ended, higher-level questions about complex level texts.  I will be adding to this packet over the next month or so, as I continue to unwrap the reading standards. 

In addition to my two products, I want to share with you two products that I have been loving from The Teacher Wife.  



I bought these two reading comprehension packets back when I taught first grade, and I am still using parts of them in third.  They are FULL of questions and activities to use with any book, a valuable resources to have!

How do you get the most out of reading comprehension?


DIBELS on the Brain

When the Middle of the Year DIBELS benchmarks roll along, I will have been the DIBELS coordinator for my school for two years.  My word, have I learned a lot about these tests!

I always have known the skills tested were important for kids to be great readers, but I didn't really know more than that.  DIBELS tests are meant to look at the "Big Ideas In Early Literacy" (indicated by the National Reading Panel's report), which are phonological awareness, the alphabetic principle, accuracy and fluency with text, vocabulary, and comprehension.  I always send this link to my parents so they can understand first of all, what is DIBELS, and second of all, why the skills the  DIBELS tests assess are important.  That was a tongue twister!
Since I started teaching, I have always had my students complete bellwork.  They have been trained from day one to follow the morning procedure, and then get started on their bellwork.  During this time, I take attendance, hear random stories from my students, and pull students for RTI.  Before I begin a new type of bellwork, I always walk them through the process so they can feel comfortable doing the work independently.
I start my kindergartners with first sound bellwork, because I want to give them practice hearing the first sounds in words and they also get some extra phonics practice because they have to write the letter as well.

The kids cut and glue (which is an important skill on its own) the picture in the correct column.  Before they get started, I go over all of the pictures at the bottom.  I ask if there are any questions.  After the questions have been answered, if a student needs to know what a picture is, they have to ask their neighbor.


The back side was formatted so the paper could be double sided.  There is a space at the bottom because the kids cut it off on the other side.  I'm weird about saving paper.  Again, before I get started, I explain all of the pictures, and if the kids have any questions after my explanation, they need to ask a neighbor.
We then transition into the vowel challenge bellwork.  We use this bellwork through the rest of first quarter and the first few weeks of second quarter.

 It steps it up a bit, because it moves from just writing the first sound to writing the vowel sound to full phonemic segmentation.

The front side of the paper looks exactly the same as the first set, so the kids already feel very comfortable with the format.

I also have them sort by short and long vowel sounds, which is a common core standard.

The move from writing the medial sound...

to full phonemic segmentation.  Again, the pages are formatted so they can be copied double sided.
 It has the kids use their letter sound knowledge and the spelling rules we have studied.  We start with simple CVC words, and then move into CVCE words and then even tougher words.  We always check our work before we start our day, and I love how I can see the light bulb illuminate, and then hear, "Mrs. McCleary, I see a phonogram!"  If I had a quarter for every time I heard that, I wouldn't need to work; however, it is SO incredibly rewarding when the kids make those connections.
When we begin entering words into our spelling notebook (which will happen in two weeks), I change the bellwork again.  We start working on DIBELS skills for the middle of the year tests (nonsense words, letter naming, phonemic segmentation, first sound fluency).  In my opinion, the kids need to understand that nonsense words won't make sense when they sound them.  This is kind of an odd thought when we always ask them, "Does that sound right?"  So, I want them to understand the words don't make sense.  I have seen my scores increase and my students' reading skills improve since I've started using them.
So, I combined DIBELS skill practice with the kids practicing their spelling words.  I teach at a Spalding school, so the lists are aligned with the kindergarten spelling lists.  Even if you don't teach at a Spalding school, the words come from the Ayres list of high frequency words, and the extra practice will be beneficial for your students.


This is the front side of the page.  The format does not change through the end of the year.  The sentence at the bottom of the page becomes more difficult as the year progresses.

This page format is used on days one through three.  The kids "rainbow write" their spelling words twice.  They add the missing letter, and they copy the sentence.  For the higher kids, I am going to have them write their own sentence using the words at the top of the page.  As the year progresses (the third set of bellwork), all kids have to write their own sentence.

Day four is a word scramble.  I let them work with a neighbor to unscramble the words.  The kids have a blast and really learn to work together well.

Day five is a word search.  I was hesitant to use it at first; however, once I teach the kids how to complete a word search, they really do a great job.  I let them work with a friend on this as well.  They love it, and they LOVE to find hidden words that are not on the list.

Start with this set.

This is really the second set (now).  I went back and created the file with lists 1-5.


This is really part three now.
My students grow so much throughout the year because of this extra practice.  Their spelling improves.  Their writing improves.  I am so thankful for this (and the few extra minutes it gives me in the morning to get my clerical duties done).
Thanks for stopping by! 










Sharing Sunshine!!


Welcome to our monthly link up where we are going to share some sunshine!!  We hope that you will link up with us to share some sunshine too!!

You can grab the buttons below to join with us, and link up!!





An InLinkz Link-up

Be sure to check out some other amazing sunshine that has been shared as well!!

Follow Mrs 3rd Grade's board Sharing Sunshine on Pinterest.

Unlock Creativity With Your Classroom Read Alouds

Creative Read Alouds

Teacher read aloud is one of my favorite parts of my school day. I love being able to sit down with all my students nearby and share captivating books that tell such creative stories. I enjoy modeling reading fluency, expression and engaging my students in discussions about the books. The days that we run out of time and we don't get to do read aloud, my students get so upset because we missed such an important part of enjoyable reading instruction. 

Teacher read aloud is a key component of reading instruction. It's essential for students to listen to reading and engage in meaningful conversations. When choosing books for teacher read aloud, I keep in mind a variety of genres, authors, and book levels. As a primary teacher I choose stories that are fun but also purposeful. Sometimes the more serious stories have deeper meaning and teach a lesson that our children benefit from learning. 

 Teacher Read Alouds

I sat down and compiled a list of my favorite read alouds that I love sharing with my students each year! Each of these titles grab my student's attention and build their love of reading by the amazing stories these authors write.

1. Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
2. The B.F.G by Roald Dahl
3. The Chocolate Touch by Patrick Skene Catling
4. My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett
5. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo 
6. Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl
7. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
8. Sarah Plain and Tall by Patricia McLachlan
10. Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner

Once I captivate my students with an amazing story, I try to engage their understanding by doing something with the read aloud story. I have found creating something meaningful, connects the story and helps build reading comprehension. This summer I created exactly what I wanted to do with my read alouds this upcoming year. I made interactive paper bag novel studies that students can make as they read or listen to stories in the classroom. These paper bag books will deepen their understanding but will also be a culminating activity that will showcase their reading comprehension. 

 Reading in the Bag


Once you've narrowed your title choices for teacher read aloud this year, make sure you come up with creative ways to engage your students with comprehension. Make it a goal to take teacher read aloud to the next level! You can find my paper bag novel studies in my TPT store and also find other creative read aloud ideas on Pinterest! Don't let teacher read aloud be a time where you just sit down and read a book to them. Make the stories come to life and foster a love of reading in your students. 

 Paper Bag Novel Studies


Thank you for letting me share my love of reading and creativity in the classroom!


Final Drafts ~ Student Style

Do you students enjoy the writing process!?  Do they like brainstorming, coming up with a great topic sentence, then going back and editing their papers?  Or are they like my students, and they would just rather do it once and turn it in?!

To help eliminate the RUSH to get things done, I decided to let my students have a say in their final draft paper.  By doing this, it showed my students that I was taking time to actually sit down and read their drafts with them.  I was also showing my students that I cared about what they were writing, and that I was invested.

ENTER - Student styled final draft pages!

Giving students a choice during final draft time

As my students are working on their rough drafts I come up with what I want the basic outline of the final draft paper to look like.  Then I will call my students one by one to come tell me which accent clip art they would like to add.  I know that this isn't something that everyone can do, but what can I say, I love all things Krista Wallden!


I also enjoyed giving students prompts that they were able to add art to, or add a little extra piece to make them pop on the walls!  This amazing elf set is from the WONDERFUL Kayla Delzer over at Top Dog Teaching!!  It's one of my favorites to do every year!


This time the students all had the same final draft paper, it was on different colored paper, but they were able to make each of their bunnies unique!!  This once again added that personal touch to their writing, to make it stand out.

I hope that you are able to find some fun ways to incorporate fun final draft pages into your writing to get your kids excited about having their final work on the walls!  You can grab a freebie here with some fun writing pages for Fall!!

The More You Read . . .

the better reader you become. The better reader you become, the more you read!


It just makes sense that to become a better reader you have to read.  I used to tell my students that pro basketball, baseball or football players got there by practicing!  They dribbled, batted, passed, ran, jumped and practiced shooting the ball into the hoop for hours and hours in order to become the best player they could be.  To be a better reader, writer or mathematician is the very same, you have to practice.
It is so important for kids to read at least 20 minutes every day. Find out how to squeeze in a little more reading time into your busy day.


I found this chart on Mrs. London's Free Resources that very clearly shows how reading more often leads to increased test scores.
Reading is important,  Here is a free infographic that shows how reading improves test scores.

I know the school day is very busy, but you should try to squeeze in as much time as possible for students to read.  In my classroom, if students had any extra time they were to get out a book to read. There weren't any other little time filler activities, they just got out their book and read.

Here are some tips for getting your students to read more:
1.  Make sure they have access to books at their level.  Set up your classroom library so they can easily find good-fit books.  Teach them how to find those books.  You can show them the 5 finger test. Choose a page from the middle of the book, read it.  Count one finger for each word not known or not able to read.  If you get to five fingers then this book may not be a good fit.
2.   Make finding a good-fit book part of your morning routine.  Each student should have 2 or 3 books at their desk, ready to read.  I liked giving my students a Book Baggie.  They kept at least 3 books in it at all times.  When one book was finished it was taken out and another was put in.  This Book Baggie went home every night and was returned the next morning.
Book Baggies are the perfect way for kids to keep their read-to-self books organized so they can go home every evening and then be returned to school.  Saves a lot of wear and tear on the books, too.

3.  Make reading the one and only choice of what to do when an assignment is finished.
4.  Schedule a relax and read time after recess or lunch.  Kids can get their water bottle and find a place around the room to relax and enjoy their book.  In order to maximize the time, set a timer.  When the timer goes off, if everyone is in their spot and reading, the class earns a point toward a Friday reward.
5.  Connect independent reading to your reading lessons.  One way to help connect your reading lessons to the independent or read-to-self time is to use Thinkmarks.  Thinkmarks are small bookmarks students keep in their book to remind them of a recent skill or strategy taught during a lesson.  The Thinkmark may even have a place for students to stop and jot down notes as they read.  
 Click on the image to download a free sample of the Thinkmarks from Crockett's Classroom.
When kids use Thinkmarks they are more engaged with their reading.  It's also a great way to transfer skills and strategies practice over to independent reading.


I hope you've found an idea or two you can using in your classroom this year.  Happy Reading!


Ways to Help Young Writers Feel Successful

For whatever reason, writing always seems to be one of the most daunting concepts to tackle in the mind of a student. I don't think I have heard the phrase, "I don't know how" or, "I can't" more than when a student is tasked with a writing activity. This is especially true with our little learners who are just starting out with the most basic writing concepts. I've put together just a few simple strategies you can use to help your early writers feel successful and make huge growth in their writing.


The key to student writing success is to start with the basics. For me, this is introducing sentence writing using predictable charts. Predictable charts are a great way to introduce writing concepts such as capital letters, spaces between words, and punctuation at the end. It's also a great way to practice sight words and sentence fluency -- bonus!

The first thing you do to set up a predictable chart is come up with a sentence stem that uses familiar words or phrases. The three I usually like to choose from begin with "I like...", "I see...", or "I can...". Then students will create their own sentence using the stem and complete it with the word of their choosing and then I'll put their name in parenthesis at the end so we know they wrote it.


The thing I love about this part of the predictable chart is the students feel proud of the sentence they created - it's something they did, with their name on it. It may seem like a simple thing, but this really does help them become excited about writing!

You can also have pre-made sentence stems on a big chart paper for the students to actually write a sight word themselves. I used this predictable chart during our apple week last year and they filled in a sentence stem using the word "see" and a number - again, combining multiple concepts in one easy strategy!


After your predictable chart is completed, you can turn it into an independent writing activity for your students to accomplish. First, I'll type up the students' sentences and give it to them in a strip.


Next, they'll cut out each word and glue it to a piece of writing paper, being sure to put the words in order, use spaces between the words, and have the word with the period at the end of their sentence.



After that, they will draw a picture to match the sentence and practice writing the actual sentence themselves.



Having their sentence as a visual model helps with handwriting, sentence structure, and even confidence!

Another way to help young writers feel successful is to have pictures and labels for more difficult words. One activity I love using with my students is pocket chart sight word sentence builders. In this picture, students are building predictable sentences similar to the ones they created with me during shared writing. Only, instead of having the actual word at the end, there is a picture representation.


Then, based on my students' levels of writing, I have differentiated writing recording sheets for them to complete and show their work. Differentiating work this way allows every student to feel successful because they will have completed the activity that best fits the writing level they are at. Some are only ready to trace the words; others are ready to write all of the words on their own.



Another way to help young writers feel successful is to break down reading/writing sentences into separate tasks. I love using my Read It! Write It! Build It! Draw It! printables from my monthly sight word sentence builder packs. They provide students the opportunity to read a sentence before they write it; thus providing a model for them to reference as they are writing their sentences with the proper structure. I noticed a huge improvement in my students' ability to remember to include spaces and capital letters in their sentences. They loved being able to illustrate - another HUGE part of early writing - the sentences they built. This helped them work on adding details to their pictures as well.

This activity can be found in Spooky Sentence Building!


This activity can be found in Snow Many Sentences!

All of these pocket chart activities and printables can be found in my Sight Word Sentence Builders for the Year {The Bundle}. You can get there by clicking the picture below! There are also links to each individual monthly pack so your students can practice these in the pocket chart or writing center all year long! 

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