Archive | January 2013

Infer Meaning

Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning.
Maya Angelou

Once again Ms. Angelou states beautifully a truth. This time it is about comprehension. Here is the difficulty for children; once they can read the words, they must learn to read beyond, beneath, and between the words. We want children to be able to discern the author’s true purpose and meaning. We must help them learn to infer meaning. This inference can begin with understanding individual words and move on to finding the universal theme set forth in the text.

The Comprehension Toolkit lessons by Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis provide several fine lessons for this in their 4th  book of the set, Infer Meaning. Its biggest lesson is Background Knowledge + Text Clues = Inference. (BK + TC = I). They give the students strategies for learning to do this important work. I love how the first lesson focuses on vocabulary. We refer to this lesson often in my classroom.

Infer the Meaning of Unfamiliar Words


Book 4 includes 6 lessons. All of them bring important skills to the students’ attention.

1. Infer the Meaning of Unfamiliar Words

2.Infer with Text Clues

3. Tackle the meaning of language

4. Crack Open Features: Infer the Meaning of Subheads and Titles

5. Read with a Question in Mind

6. Wrap Your Mind around the Big Idea


My poster set includes a poster for each lesson (10 – 15) and a wrap-up poster. All 7 posters are free here at my Teacher Pays Teacher store.

Read with a Question in Mind


Another strategy we use often is to read with a question in mind. Students need to look through the text features to pique their interest. They may bring some background knowledge to the text. They should stop first to think what they already know and ask a question of the text.

Wrap Your Mind around the Big Idea


One of the most moving lessons is on theme. It uses the text Cheyenne Again by Eve Bunting. The lesson helps the students feel more deeply the meaning of the text and helps them gain a more profound understanding.

These are valuable lessons. I hope you can use them.



Ask Questions

Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.

The third book of The Comprehension Toolkit by Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis focuses on asking questions. This is such an important way to learn and to build vocabulary. I have a little guy in my class who is so interested in every topic we touch on in class (science, social studies, etc.), that he gets non-fiction books on the topics from the library each week. Then he shares with me all of his new learning. Our conversations help him clarify what he is reading and to build his understanding. These Toolkit lessons helped him and his less interested classmates notice and respond when questions float through their minds while reading. It suggests ways to help students stop and think about how what they are learning fits with what they already know. Sometimes students need to realize that what they “know” isn’t actually so and they need to give up that thinking and update it with the new information they are discovering. Of course, this can also be true for adults!

This set of 4 posters for lessons 7 – 9 is available free at my Teacher Pays Teacher store. The set includes a strategies wrap up page.




It is through asking questions that we learn more about what interests us. Teachers ask questions of themselves and their colleagues about how to best reach and teach each child. We ask question of the child, too, to help access and assess what learning is taking place.

Questioning is an important skill, it needs to be taught.


Follow the Signposts

Good writers are in the business of leaving signposts saying, Tour my world, see and feel it through my eyes; I am your guide.
Larry King

Good readers use signposts, too. And that is the focus of Stephanie Harvey’s and Anne Goudvis’s second book in the Comprehension Toolkit.

“We teach the reader, not just the reading. We want children to be lifelong learners who read actively and independently across the curriculum, who engage their minds and understand what they read. The Toolkit lessons and practices teach kids to use comprehension strategies to ‘read to learn’ as they encounter information and ideas in a wide variety of nonfiction texts.”
—Stephanie Harvey & Anne Goudvis

Again, I have created posters to help the students remember to use these important lessons as they read. There are three posters. One each for lessons 4 – 6. You can find them all here at my Teachers Pay Teachers store.


Text signposts is a particularly important lesson, as younger students need to be taught to read all the words on a page. Often in non-fiction text they are in the habit of reading only those things that look interesting or catch their eye. Many younger students merely look at the photographs. This is easily evident when they become excited and come with a question about the picture and the answer to their question is in the caption. Reading all of the text takes much practice. It does not come easily as children naturally avoid things they feel will be difficult. That is one of the greatest benefits of this program. Students are given a “toolkit” to help them become more successful readers.

More to come.


Snowman Bioglyph

The Eskimos had fifty-two names for snow because it was important to them: there ought to be as many for love.
Margaret Atwood

I wonder how many words we have for some important topics. It has always seemed to me that someone discovered this factoid and thought it was really amazing, but didn’t really do any research on our language to discover which words fill up our vocabularies. A brief search on had me counting over 100 synonyms for love. This could be a great topic for discussion in a classroom. Which words do we have them most synonyms for? Which words are used in the most ways?


I created this snowman bioglyph for a fun following directions activity for my class. It also gives the students an opportunity to use their observation skills to discover differences between themselves and their classmates. I love the word bioglyph. It literally means “life picture”. When students complete a bioglyph they have a picture that represents something about their lives.

I posted  this example several months ago:

A simple Glyph

A simple Glyph2

This one is great because it also shows if students understand the cardinal and intermediate directions.

Our snowman bioglyphs were especially fun for us because many of my students rarely if ever see snow. They don’t understand how a snowman is built or how heavy or cold it really is. We had a very good conversation throughout their work. Here are some pictures of my students working. After we made our bioglyphs I made a couple of changes to the directions page and the snowman to make them easier and better. Nothing like classroom testing to improve a products!

Snowman bioglyph

Snowman biog 2



My Snowman Bioglyph product is currently available at my Teachers Pay Teachers and Teachers Notebook stores at a special low price. Also watch my Facebook page as it will be a flash freebie for one hour each day this week!


I hope you are enjoying your day off.


Comprehension Toolkit

We use Comprehension Toolkit strategies in our classrooms every day with a specific new lesson once each week. This is a great program by Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis. If you haven’t heard of it, you can read more about it here.

I have created posters to go along with these lessons. They are available for free at Teachers Pay Teachers.

Comprehension Toolkit Book 1

This first set contains three posters: Follow Your Inner Conversation, Notice When You Lose Your Way, and Read , Write, and Talk. The posters can be used on their own for good resources, but are much more effective when used with the toolkit.

I will add links to each of the 6 sets through the month, but you can find them all at my Teachers Pay Teachers store. They are all freebies.


1 Big Speech Can Change 1 Big World

“1 big speech can change 1 big world.”  Kaylee, age 8

One of my students wrote this statement yesterday. It was written in response to an assignment to write a sentence using adjectives. This is the skill we focused on with our Mentor Sentences this week. Kaylee synthesized what we had been talking about with adjectives and  our week long references to Dr. King into a very spectacular thought.

Since Monday is both MLK day and Inauguration Day, speeches are indeed an appropriate topic for the day. Here vocabulary is chosen carefully, strongly, and for impact. Consider Lincoln’s Gettysburg address, Churchill’s “We will fight them on the beaches”, Kennedy’s “Ask not what your country can do for you” and “We choose to go to the moon” speeches as speeches that brought dramatic change to our world. Dr. King’s “I have a dream” speech has become a part of our country’s vocabulary.

Maybe Monday will bring a memorable speech. We can hope that words can be spoken to improve our country and our world. Mr. Obama brings hope for many in a way similar to Dr. King. It would be of amazing benefit if he could find words of healing and of progress. Here is an opportunity, at least, to compare these two  men who have changed our world.

King Obama Venn

King Obama Venn

I haven’t shared a Word of the Day card since December. Here is a new one for inauguration.

Word of the Day inauguration

Word of the Day inauguration

And here is the Word of the Day card from my National Holidays set for Dr. King’s birthday.

Martin Luther King Day

Martin Luther King Day

This is a companion card that explains the words “civil rights”.

Word of the Day Civil Rights

Word of the Day Civil Rights

You can see all of the holiday cards and important definitions cards here.

I will be listening Monday!


Brain Twister Bingo

Here’s an amazing find from Teachers Pay Teachers. It is by one of our newer members and it has some great material for word study and thinking skills!


This activity pack introduces and teaches four different types of brain twisters:


Letter Patterns – determining what certain letters stand for based on number clues

Example:  “24 H in a D”  is 24 hours in a day and “26 L in the A” is 26 letters in the alphabet

Visual Puzzles – deciphering a common phrase or word based on the visual attributes of letters or symbols in a box

           Example:      “2nd     2nd     2nd     2nd     2nd”  is 5 seconds and “SH    IP” is Spaceship


Hink Pink – identifying two rhyming words based on a defining sentence

           Example:  “a distant light in the sky”  is FAR STAR  and “a tiny sphere” is a SMALL BALL

Clues in Common – deducing what complimentary word a group of words may have in common

Example:  “door, ache, stage, pack”  all have the word BACK in common, while “keeper, brick, wife, fire” all have HOUSE in common.

Angela includes a fun teaching sheet with three or four completed samples to help students figure out how to approach each type of brain twister. Each of these fun activities challenge students to think about words in unique, interesting ways. These activities will initiate great conversation about words! An answer key for each activity is included.

Here is what Angela has to say about her amazing product:


Here is an example of one of her 36 complete bingo sheets! One sheet would be fun to solve on its own! I am blown away by the value of this product! You get a total of 48 pages, packed with brain building materials, currently for only $4.00!


I am always on the lookout for creative ways to get children to love language learning! I am excited to present this one and I am anxious to find and share more amazing products.