5 Tips - How to Do Close Reading with Emergent Readers

Hey there everyone!
Today I am joining my girls from The Reading Crew to bring you THE most amazing blog posts and FREEBIES!
I am sure that if you are reading this article you are probably a teacher in the primary grades. More than likely, the majority of your readers are at the emergent level of reading... and this means that you are providing your students with guided reading instruction that is going to move them from "learning to read" to "reading to learn." One of the most effective ways to cross this bridge is through close reading. I blogged about the differences between guided reading and close reading HERE!


Unlike guided reading, close reading is an instructional routine that allows you to guide your students in their understanding of complex text. In order for emergent readers to be able to unveil and truly understand complex text, close reads should be done over multiple readings and over multiple instructional lessons.
Because complex text is not meant to be entirely accessible for emergent readers, you cannot expect your primary students to read the text with 100% accuracy.
That's right! YOU, the teacher, will be reading the text aloud if your students are unable to read it accurately.
The goal of a close reading activity is not to learn how to use word-attack strategies, the goal is to uncover levels of meaning at the literal, structural, and inferential levels.


I generally conduct close readings with my higher readers. I prioritize in terms of instructional approaches and routines in order to meet my students' needs. I use the majority of my planning time in designing activities that are relevant, targeted, and fun. But how about text selection? This is a graphic that I created to show you my thought process when choosing close reading pasages:


I hope you are not under the misconception that close reading in the primary grades is less rigorous, or watered-down, than close reading with older students.
Far from the truth! If nothing else, I could argue the exact opposite.
Since true close reading goes beyond "eyes-on-print", I always think that close reading gives my students the opportunity to explore ideas and structures more deeply. 
Like WAY more!
And since I am the one doing the reading, and they are attentively listening, I feel as if they are able to be free from decoding They are actually able to access grade level context through complex text in a very authentic manner. In other words, a close reading routine will always allow me to conduct a read-aloud with my students. 

You can get these close reading brochures in my TPT store or by clicking HERE!


A couple of years ago I was so afraid of annotation marks. This is when I taught first grade. I always kept wondering how in the world would my emergent writers get to annotate on the side of the text.
These were the obstacles that I , myself, put in head without even trying first:
  • My emergent writers will take FOR-E-VER in getting an annotation down on paper.
  • My emergent writers will start asking the typical: 'how do you spell _____?"
  • My emergent writers are not developmentally ready to write in tiny patterns that will fit on the side of the paper.
And in all honesty... I was so wrong.
I found a way around:
  • I had my students use words like: WOW, OMG, LOL, YUCK, UGH, etc.  Which you might think is probably not best practice. But it certainly was perfectly appropriate for my students to focus on their thinking and understanding of the text, rather than on the spelling of words.
  • I had my emergent writers draw on the side of the paper as well. If there is a vocabulary word that they have inferred using context clues, I was always eager to see them "show" me their thinking.
This is an example:

You can get these brochures from my TPT store or by clicking HERE!

And the bottom line is, annotations are a way to help our students interact with the text. At my school, for example, there was a teacher that would use Wikki Stix to underline the text. I though that was such a creative, fun, and hands-on- way to do annotations.  
If you are not teaching your students to annotate, you should totally give it a try. You will be providing your students with the  foundational steps to the more formal annotations that they will be required to do in the upper grades.

I keep all my annotation goodies like this:


Close reading matters because it builds reading strength. Research shows that during your instructional day, you should be spending some time  building reading stamina AND reading strength.
Also, close reading allows to get more bang for your buck.
And by buck I mean instructional time.
These are some reasons why:
  • Close reading gives you ample opportunity to model how to read with fluency and expression.
  • Close reading leads your students to uncover deeper levels of meaning with the three phases of close reading. The phases are: what does the text say? How does the text work? and What does the text mean? Now, I don't consider these phases "the steps in a close reading lesson," rather, they help me organize and plan for text-dependent and text-specific questions.
  • Speaking of... Text-specific and text- dependent questions are KING when it comes to close reading. They should be done orally and in writing. If you are conducting a close reading lesson and your students are silent and you are the only one talking, then you are NOT really doing close reading. You are just simply helping them answer a worksheet. Close reading  is so much more than that. Close reading is interactive, full of thoughts, emotions, and questions. Students should be learning from each other, and each question MUST take them back into the text. I will be blogging some more about this next month.
  • Close reading, allows you to target a handful of reading, writing, listening, and speaking standards... with only ONE passage! 
  • Close reading is plain good teaching... and good teaching will always lead to amazing test results.
 I also did a FB live on this topic, you may watch it HERE!

You can download a  FREE sample of these brochures by clicking HERE!
or HERE!!


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Please come and read more amazing posts!! 

Word Problems 101: All the Basics You Need to Know

Hi everyone!

Normally, I get about 4 or 5 emails a week from teachers who have purchased my word problem resources for Kindergarten, 1st grade, and 2nd grade. Most of the questions that I get, are related to students having difficulty understanding what to do when they encounter addition and subtraction situations. 
Like I have said many times before, I am not a math oriented person. As a matter of fact, I was one of those students who hated it due to math anxiety. I, however, have done my "homework" in terms of not letting my students (and my own boys) get to that point and today I want to offer you some insight.

There are basically three levels of progression when it comes to problem solving:

  • Modeling--> Direct modeling must be your step #1 in helping your students understand and develop a sense of context and relationships when learning how to solve word problems. I wrote about helping students discover the relationships in story problems HERE. You cannot expect your students to use and apply any strategy without modeling it first. Let the kids use their fingers if they are in K or 1st, or even if they have not had enough exposure to addition and subtraction situations. They will need LOTS of opportunities to interact, listen, fail, and succeed. Some modeling strategies are: using fingers, drawings, or using actual objects.

  • Counting strategies--> Students who use counting strategies to solve story problems, probably don't need to model every number. When you see that your students are using counting strategies, they are probably more aware of the relationships in the story problem. Some of their counting strategies can be invented and some others you will have to model as part of your pacing guide. These are some anchor charts with counting strategies (addition and subtraction ones) that I have made in the past with my students.

  • Derived facts-->OK so this is the stage in which your students truly demonstrate their knowledge and fluency of number facts. Usually, I can tell when my students are composing and decomposing numbers, compensating, looking for ways to use benchmark numbers. etc.  I wrote about benchmark numbers HERE. On the other hand, at this stage, students are already computing. And with computing comes to urge to solve. At times, this urge to solve and compute,  may take our students away from making sense and analyzing the story problem. When you start observing this, you can try removing the numbers from the word problems. That way, they have no choice but to make sense of the context and relationships.

There are just about 14 or 15 word problem types. There are some that are more difficult than others, but by the end of 2nd grade when the children have been exposed to all the types, they should be fluent with these addition and subtraction situations.
In my opinion,  "join" and "separate" word problems should be introduced first. They are easier to solve because they involve actual actions that children can model or act out.

These two word problem types are perfect to introduce and solidify the concept of part-part-whole using number bonds.
From experience I tell you: Unknown start and unknown change problems will always be a bit more challenging than the others. This is because when my students are getting ready to model the problem, they do not know how to start... because the start is unknown!

Part-Part-whole word problems are so much fun. I used to teach them when I taught first grade a couple of years ago, and we usually used them as an opportunity to develop conceptual understandings and to make combinations of. They are also perfect to use with Rekenreks! 

The most challenging type of word problems to understand for my students have been the comparing ones. There is just something about the wording and the language involved:
  • fewer
  • less than
  • more
  • bigger
  • greater
Hello Tier 2 vocabulary!
This is especially true for English Language Learners and for students with poor number sense skills, and/or very little language experiences.
Compare type of word problems provide the perfect context for you to introduce and teach strategies using bar models. I will be blogging about this later.

You may download these problem types cheat-sheets HERE!

Please do me a favor and do not teach your students to solve word problems using keywords. Either you are a younger teacher or a seasoned one, avoid telling your students that "in all" means add, or that "left" means subtraction.  I can see how, when we are close to testing season, we may resort to this, especially if we have students that still struggle. But for goodness sake, this takes away from the real conceptual understanding and we are only patching things up in a lousy way.

What he said.
Keywords are misleading... the truth of the matter is, not many  story problems have keywords and your students will not be able to solve multi-step word problems either.

You may get a FREE sample of my word problems for first and second grade HERE!

You may also get the FULL products from my TPT store.

I hope that you enjoyed this post, thanks for reading!

Why STEM Should Be More Than Engineering Challenges

Hey my sweet teacher friends!

I have always worked very hard to keep up with current research, and to always find a happy medium between fun and intentional. In my district, like everywhere else, programs, approaches, and expectations are communicated while many of us feel the pressure to keep up with it all, while still keeping a positive attitude.
Sounds familiar?
Well, in all honesty, many times before I have felt the pressure and have rolled my eyes at the "new" thing to do. But it is also a fact, that every single time, I  have actually learned valuable things that I can implement in my classroom with my students in order to move them forward with intention and precision.
Every. Single. Time.

For a couple of years now, I have been implementing STEM in my classroom.
Well, or so I thought.
Last school year, around St. Patrick's Day I designed the typical "leprechaun trap" STEM challenge.
We also brought in supplies, read leprechaun books, had a leprechaun snack, and even had the time to show my students an educational clip about  the facts and traditions of the holiday.
My students had a wonderful day, they gave me hugs, told me I was the best teacher ever.
Oh, bliss!
Then I happened to ask one my students, who was hugging me, the million dollar question:
"Well and what did you learn today?"


As I was driving home I felt like a total failure. I couldn't help but think that there's got to be a happy medium between the fun of  engineering challenges and actual intentional, relevant, and rigorous content integration.

And many times before life has taught me that failure is the best teacher there is.

For a couple of weeks after that, I started critically looking for content or activities related to a more intentional way to STEM.  I bought a couple of books and after a lot of reading, reflecting, observing, and thinking, I started noticing that many of the  simple experiments that I found on the web were being called STEM.
What the what?
I even saw an origami craft being called STEM.
What in the world?
Doesn't STEM stand for Science, Technology, Engineering, Math?
Well, where is the Science in that?
Where is the Technology?
Where is the Math?
Or the actual Egineering?
I know what an engineer does, my sister is an engineer. Her husband is an engineer.
And I am sorry guys, but that doesn't seem like much engineering to me. It seems like basically anything can be called STEM for the sake of educational trends.
We need to stop mislabeling STEM. It is actually quite unfair, and we need to make sure that we are providing our students with genuine STEM experiences so that they can fill those STEM jobs.
Don't you think?
Let's turn our science lessons into projects that challenge our kids to build, explore, analyze, reflect, research, and actually solve a problem.

During the subsequent months, I started creating STEM and STEAM mats for different science and social studies content.
And I realized that when I gave my students an engineering challenge in which they had to use their knowledge of content area, they truly did deepen their connections with the standards.
And here is the truth:
Engineering challenges allowed my students to practice communication skills, true collaboration, critical thinking and creativity...
These traditional challenges did not allow my students to make actual connections with the curriculum, and even though those skills are critical, it was hard for me to ACCEPT and JUSTIFY doing just engineering challenges.

As a result, I had  the idea of creating Cross-Curricular STEAM mats aligned to content area standards.  They are project based and aligned to grade level content.


The first resource I have created is tied to  the science concept of matter, specially solids and liquids:

Each section in the  S-T-E-A-M is clearly explained and all the activities are high-order! Sometimes I ask my students to work with a partner, and sometimes they work on their own. It depends on if I use the STEAM mats for my fast finishers and high achievers, or if I use them for a core activity on a two-day span.


In the science section, I have provided posters, and QR codes with videos for students to listen, watch, and learn about solids and liquids. In my classroom, I normally allow my students to visit classroom approved sites like:
Pebble Go
BrainPop Jr
Discovery Streaming

All these websites require a paid membership, which  my school gets for our students. I also allow my students to check some books out of the classroom and school libraries. In the science section their goal is to be able to compare and contrast solids and liquids

In the science section you will also find these academic vocabulary cards, they are perfect for your English Language Learners!


I have always believed that technology should be used to complement awesome classroom instruction. It should never be used to replace you, the teacher. So I am always very careful to preview and make sure that whatever websites, apps, or devices, that I provide my students with, keep a high level of relevance and rigor.
In this technology section, students will create a video  with their partners. I normally use SeeSaw for this type of tasks, but you may use a different video app. SeeSaw can be used for free, but if you want all the McDaddy options, then payments needs to be made.  The free version is perfect, though!

Students will have to chat with their accountability partners using these:


The engineering challenge is so much fun! Students will have to create a  balance scale to measure some liquids and solids

They will also use these STEAM task cards to test their prototypes:


In this art project, students will create a collage and acrostic poem craftivity for solids OR liquids.
They will have to apply their knowledge acquired from the S  and E sections of the STEAM mat. I also encourage my students to use their academic vocabulary.


In the math section, students will organize their data from weighing the solids and liquids from the S section, they will also solve a couple of problems involving solids and liquids.


Well, the unavoidable.  You are probably taking deep breaths,
rolling your eyes,
shaking your head.

Believe me, I know. I hear you.
This is not the type of diagnostic assessment, or standardized thing. I am talking about good 'ol formative assessment. The type of thing that allows us to make sure that our students are making progress. We owe it to our students and their families to make sure that they are learning, and if they are not, we need to make sure to fill in any gaps. Right?

In the assessment section, you will find a STEAM Mat contract, a constructed response, and a rubric! The rubric allows for teacher and self-assessment.

Pretty neat, intentional, and so much fun!

How to Purchase the STEAM Mats

If you would like to elevate your STEM or STEAM routines, you may take a look at my STEAM Mats in my TPT store.

I will be back later this week with another STEAM - STEM  post.


Math Sorts for First Grade

About a month or so ago, I created a set of math and grammar sorts for my 2nd graders. I normally use these math sorting activities to complement our BUILD math centers and our Daily 5 stations. A number of teachers have emailed me to ask for the first grade and third grade counterparts. Even though I am not teaching 1st grade any longer, I am pretty familiar with the standards and with what students need to know and be able to do.

What Is Included?

These math sorting activities target almost every  1st grade math standard. There are 4 sections that target operations and algebraic thinking, geometry, measurement, number sense, and place value.

Operations and Algebraic Thinking

The math sorting activities in this section focus on addition and subtraction to 20, fact families, part - part- whole relationships, and understanding the equal sign. In most of the sorts, students will have to solve different types of equations and THEN sort between true and false.

All of the sorts are differentiated without watering down the high order thinking skill or the mathematical concept.


I also included a couple of geometry sorts. Students will sort to determine the attributes and non-attributes of 3-D and 2-D shapes, as well as some fraction activities that go very well with our BUILD math centers.


In the measurement section, you will find math sorting activities for standard and non-standard units of measurement, telling time to the hour and half hour, and measurement tools.

Number Sense and Place Value

This is just about my absolute favorite section. #numbersenseismyfavoite
In this section, students will find math sorting activities to practice and review the counting sequence, tens and ones, comparing numbers, place value, ten more -ten less.

These math sorting activities are very easy prep, they will save you tons of time! If you are interested in these math sorting activities, you can find them in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

Thank you so much for stopping by!

November Math Centers Based on BUILD

Hi everyone!

I simply wanted to let you know that the November math centers for first grade based on BUILD are up and running!

As usual, each monthly pack contains three rounds of math stations based on BUILD. Every single activity is Common Core aligned, and if you want to learn more about BUILD math stations you may click HERE!

So let me show you what is inside:

1. Addition feast --> 1.OA.C.6
2. “Gobble” fact families mathtivity --> 1.OA.C.5, 1.OA.C.6
3. Various Printables that target subtraction, comparing numbers, number sense --> 1.OA.C.6, 1.NBT.A.1, 1.NBT.B.3
4. Thankful ordering numbers --> 1.NBT.B.3
5. Three mats with CGI type word problems --> 1.OA.A.1

6. Turkey Fact Families --> 1.OA.C.5, 1.OA.C.6
7. Turkey and Gravy Place Value --> 1.NBT.B.2
8. Various Printables that target ordering numbers, addition and subtraction, understanding the equal sign --> 1.OA.C.5, 1.OA.C.6, 1.NBT.B.3
9. Ordering numbers scoot --> 1.NBT.A.1, 1.NBT.B.3
10. Three mats with CGI type word problems --> 1.OA.A.1

11. Subtraction Scoot --> 1.OA.C.6
12.Shape Wreath Mathtivity --> 1.G.A.1
13. Various Printables that target missing number in addition situations, true and false number sentences, number sense. --> 1.OA.C.5, 1.OA.D.8, 1.OA.D.7, 1.OA.C.6, 1.NBT.B.3, 1.NBTA.A.1
14. True and False Equation sorts --> 1.OA.D.7
15.Three mats with CGI type word problems --> 1.OA.A.1

These are some pics:

Gobble fact families

Place Value

Geometry wreath

Word problem mats:

Ordering numbers

Addition and subtraction

More fact families

You can purchase this resource from my TPT store. You may also be interested in the BUNDLE to save!
Actually the December pack will be uploaded earlier this month.

Tons of love and gratitude,

Grammar sorts for 2nd grade

Hey, hey teacher friends!

Who else feels like teaching royalty when they walk out of the school on Friday and ALL of their activities are ready for the week ahead!?
Now, planning time is something that we all crave big time. I actually spend most of my planning time designing  independent meaningful ,engaging, high order, activities for language arts and math.

One of our absolute favorite activities these days is sorts of all sorts.
See what I did there?
We started with math sorts not long ago, and I have seen such great progress in all of my students, that I decided to give these grammar sorts a try.
When it comes to literacy instruction, the curriculum is so dense... I really work hard at making my balanced literacy lesson plans just that: balanced. I am truly devoted to providing my students with different instructional formats to meet their needs: whole group, small groups, individual conferences, partner work, etc. Most of their time is used for comprehension and vocabulary instruction and strategies.
But how about language?
It is so fun to teach, and our students discover the beauty of parts of speech, plurals, types of sentences, word relationships.
And so much more!
When our students are aware of the structure of our language, they start to notice how the text works in close reading routines. This is just one of the many advantages! Generally speaking, my students complete these sorts independently during their literacy stations, while I meet with small groups or I do individual conferences.

Once again I am sounding like a text book. Lordy mercy!

Let me show you what is inside these grammar and language sorts:

I also teach the students to do the sorts in three different ways:

1. Cut and paste:
 Students do the traditional cut and paste in their journals or in a piece of construction paper.

2. Solve and highlight:

If you don't want to have your students cutting and pasting, you may provide them with two highlighters. This way, they can sort and enjoy some "fun pens" while learning important concepts and skills.

3. Sort and snap:
So if you are a friend of technology and want to save copies, you are going to love this. All you have to do, is to print the sorts on card stock or construction paper and laminate. Cut the sorts and place them in a safe envelope or in resealable sandwich bag.  If the student has to solve a sort before actually sorting, make sure to provide a dry erase marker. Once students have solved and sorted, they may snap a picture with an approved device/app and send it your way for review, voila! If I may say, my favorite app? Seesaw.


If you are interested in purchasing these grammar sorts, you can get them from my TPT store! You may also be interested in my Math sorts for 2nd graders, you may check them out HERE!
Thanks for reading teacher friends, until next time!