Good listeners become good readers.

This summer, I'm diving into LETRS training on the Science of Reading.  If you've been around my corner of cyber space for a bit, you know I was introduced to the Science of Reading a few years ago through RISE training in my home state.  It was mind-blowing.  Like a where-has-this-been-all-of-my-life kind of PD.  And I just wanted more.  So, I'm digging into LETRS.  And it's intense.  And so, so good.

As I process it, I'll be blogging about some nuggets of wisdom I've learned along the way.

So... let's talk about talking.  What is oral language?  Why should I care about it as a primary teacher?  Isn't that the speech path's job?  What can I do to increase the listening comprehension of my kids?

What Is Oral Language?

Oral language is simply the way we communicate with each other.  In honor of the Friends Reunion I just binged, let's look closer at oral language, Friends style! :)

It includes the words we speak...

The nonverbal cues we give while we speak...

And listening as someone else talks to us.

Kids with strong oral language skills are able to speak in complete sentences and carry on a conversation with someone in a way that is easy to understand.  They are also able to listen and comprehend what someone else is saying by asking and answering questions about what was said.

Why Is Listening Comprehension Important?

So what?  Why do I need to worry about listening comprehension and oral language?  Isn't that my speech path friend's job?

Yes and no.  Yes, speech paths do help kids with deficits in language.  But, scientist tell us there is a HUGE correlation between oral language and reading comprehension.

Read that again.  If I can't hear it and understand it, I can't read it and understand it.

Ya'll.  I know that seems intuitive.  And it makes total sense.  But, the first time, I read this, I thought, 

OMG.  Why in the world did I not spend more time doing read alouds and talking about stories with my kids...especially my ELL babies.  

I mean, I did read alouds.  I love a good read aloud.  But, if I'm being honest, storytime got cut short in my first grade classroom many times because of all the things I had to make sure I was doing.  And you can bet your bottom dollar that my firsties' reading skill suffered because of it.

How Can We Increase Listening Comprehension?

So, what can we do?  If I could go back and do those 10 years in first grade over again, what would I do differently?

I'd work on listening comprehension.  I'd target kids with low language skills.  Kids learning English as a second language.  Kids who only spoke English, but who still struggled to carry on conversations.  Kids who couldn't answer simple questions about stories we read together.  Kids who couldn't answer simple Who/What/Where/When/Why/How questions.

I'd target those kids and pull them back in a small group during intervention time.  I'd have real, organic conversations with them.  I'd warm up by drawing some table talk cards to read and answer.  I'd read a short book and ask questions as we read.  Sometimes, even after each page if needed. (Think like when a Mom reads to a toddler.... "Where's the spider?"  "What is the spider doing?")  

For whole group oral language lessons, I'd tell jokes and talk about multiple meaning words or other skills you can target with jokes.  (I LOVED using these joke slides with my second grader this year!)

Another thing I started doing my first few years and then abandoned because #time and I didn't know any better is explicit tier 2 vocabulary instruction with read alouds.  After I first became familiar with the Science of Reading, I started doing more of these.  We did these once a week during 2nd grade last year and we used them in kindergarten when I did a long-term sub.  It's an easy way to practice oral language, while increasing your kids vocabulary and oral language skills. You can find the specific ones I've used here or try the freebie.

And I'd do it all without asking kids to decode.  No reading.  Just listening comprehension.  Because the Simple View of Reading tells us that language comprehension is ESSENTIAL to reading comprehension.  

It's not the only factor of a successful reader.  But it's a necessary part.  And it doesn't have to be done with word recognition.  You can work on language comprehension on its own, and feel good, knowing you are increasing your kids reading comprehension skills.  

If I could go back 15 years and tell my first-year teacher self just that, I would.  I'd tell her to give herself some grace, and not stress if every small group literacy time didn't include kids reading or writing actual words.  

Because oral language is that important to the literacy success of our students. 

Because good listeners make good readers.


Anytime I can find a game for kids to play to reinforce a math skill, it's a win for me!  These are some of my go-to games for 2nd graders that are low prep, easy to learn, and simple to play over and over again!


Doubles Bingo

Doubles are huge in first and second grade because they help unlock so many math facts and give kids a fluent way to add and subtract.  I love using Bingo because most kids already know the rules and so it doesn't take much to model how to play!


I used one of the doubles bingo boards and spinners from my Guided Math Workshop Plans and we were good to go.  We used a pencil and paperclip to make a spinner.  I played this with my 2nd grader when I homeschooled him during the #covidyear and it was just as fun with one player as it is with a classroom full of players.


I love Bingo games because they are great for whole group lessons if you need something easy for a sub.  They are great for volunteers or aids to do with a small intervention group in the hallway.  They work well for parents to use at home too.  And they are great to put in a station like I do for Guided Math and let kids play in partners.


Roll and Solve

I used LOTS of Roll and _____ games in K-2.  Once the kids know the framework of the game, it's easy to change out the skill across all areas of math, phonics, literacy and more!  The version shown below is for practicing specific addition and subtraction strategies.  It's to force kids to move away from using the same strategy every single time and push them to be more flexible mathematicians.


In Roll and Solve, kids have one die.  They roll and solve one of the math problems in the row of the number they roll.  So, if they roll a 2, they solve the first box in row 2.  Once they fill a row, they win.


There are different ways to play this game.  You can have a game sheet for each partner.  Let the partners take turns rolling and solving.  The first one to fill a row wins.


You can also do what we did in this version below.  My 2nd grader and I each used a different color.  He solved odds and I solved evens.  When he rolled, he rolled until he rolled an odd number.  I only rolled even numbers.  Again, whoever fills in the first row wins.  This just saves a few more trees! :)


Add and Subtract Tic-Tac-Toe

Everybody loves tic-tac-toe!  And I love using it for practicing skills.  It's another one that's grade for a wide range of skills in math and literacy!


This printed version is from my Guided Math Workshop Plans, but I have made hand written copies of tic-tac-toe countless times over the years to help with Letter or number ID, spelling, decoding words, shapes and more!


In this version, kids will choose which square they want.  They must correctly solve the 2-digit addition or subtraction equation before they may put the X or O in the square.  They must notate how they solved as well.


You can find all of these games in my Guided Math Workshop Plans for 2nd grade.




I love finding games to play in our Sunday School class that are engaging and help kids remember the Bible story.  


Today, let's talk about the game we use to learn about Ruth gleaning from Boaz's fields!


Materials and Preparation

All you need for this activity are...



If you are using wheat stalks, put a colored dot sticker on each stalk.  Use 3 different colors and have 10-20 of each color.  


If you are using wheat cards, copy them on 3 different colors of cardstock.


Directions

Scatter the wheat on the floor around the classroom as you are retelling the story of Ruth working in Boaz's field.  You are pretending that you are a harvester and dropping some of the extra wheat as you go, just as they did in the Bible story.

Now, it's the kids' turn to glean the wheat.  Divide the kids into 3 groups.  Each group is assigned a color.  When you say go, they will glean only that color of wheat from the field.  Give them 1 minute to glean. 

The group that gleans the most wheat of their color during the 1 minute wins!

We love this quick and low prep game so much and you can find the paper materials if you need them here!



Have you heard of TpT credits?  Chances are you haven't.  And that's because it's one of TpT's best kept secrets.  But don't worry, I'm about to let you in on the secret.  And it will literally pay off for you!


What are TpT Credits?

TpT credits can be used to partially or fully pay for paid resources on TpT.   You earn credits by leaving feedback on paid TpT resources. 


And while we are here... does that mean you should not leave feedback on free resources?  No!  Of course not!  While you will not get any credits for leaving feedback, it is super helpful to the seller to have the extra feedback so that he or she knows what you like or don't like.  Think of it like a thank you to the seller for giving you something for free.  Spread TpT kindness...leave feedback on freebies! :)


How do I earn TpT credits?

Leave feedback!  It's that simple!


Head to the TpT website and click "My Purchases."



Then, click FREE resources and be a kind human and leave feedback to help the seller that gave you a free resource! :) #winkwink


Next, click "Paid resources" and you should see a list of all of the resources you have paid for.  If you haven't left feedback for the resource, it will look like this.


Click on "leave a review," and you will see this screen.


If you haven't used the resource, don't leave feedback yet.  The most helpful feedback to sellers is detailed feedback that tells what you like and want you wish the resource had.  That's super hard to do before using the resource, amiright?  

After you've used the resource, click the green "Yes, I've used it" button.  It will walk you through a few short and simple questions.  As a seller, I will tell you that I LOVE getting good, useful feedback. 

Unhelpful feedback sounds like, "Thanks," or "Love it," or even ":)" believe it or not.  While these will currently earn you tpt credits too, it's just not helpful to me to read this because I don't know what is useful or not useful in a resource.  Also, when you are looking for a resource to buy and reading through reviews, thanks and the infamous :) just aren't helpful to you as a buyer either, right?

An essay isn't necessary either (although fine by me if you have that kind of time!).  Just a sentence or a few about what you love or wish we could add in a future update.  Think like what you write on the comments section of the report card that's actually useful to parents! :)

Once you've left feedback, it will look like this.



If you're like me when I first discovered the hidden gem of TpT credits, you will have quite a few resources to go through and leave feedback on.  Grab some coffee, watch some reruns of friends, and get busy!  I promise you it will literally *pay* off!


How can I check my TpT credits balance?

So you've seen a few Friends reruns, your coffee cup is empty, and you wanna know how many credits you have.  Here's how.


Head to the TpT website and click on "TpT Credit Balance."


This will take you to this page. 


You can see I have 1 credit right now.  And I have a few more things to give feedback on so, I need to find some downtime to do that!

You earn 1 credit for every dollar paid for resources.  And TpT will round up.  For example, if you paid $4.50 for the resource, you will earn 5 credits.

Each credit gets you 5 cents off of a resource.  That may not seem like a lot, but it is essentially 5% off.  And that's 5% more that you would've gotten before you realized you could earn TpT credits!

But seriously, they add up.  I've gotten paid resources completely free just by using credits to purchase them!

So, how do I use credits to get my resources for FREE?

Add the resources you want to purchase to your cart.  Then, view your cart and choose "Secure Checkout."

Underneath the Order Summary is the TpT Credits section.  In this section, it will tell you how many credits you have left.  You can type in the credits you want to use.  You can use all of them, none of them, or part of the credits.

Then, click "Apply."  And that's it!  Now you can get that resource you've been wanting at a discount when it's not on sale, at more of a discount if it is on sale, or maybe even for free! Time to start shopping and leave feedback!

For some reason, we (or maybe just me) tend to think that division is super hard and littles just can't handle it.  But when my oldest kid was just 3, he started naturally doing division on his own when he shared his snacks with me.  He would divide his banana in half so we could each have some.  And he would desperately try to share his goldfish between the two of us too!  It was at that moment, that I knew, that if I just used the natural, and accurate division language, it would help lay a solid foundation for his division skills later!


Today, let's talk about laying more of a foundation for "straight up division" by dividing sets, understanding equal parts, and partitioning shapes in second grade.


Dividing Sets

The first thing we worked on in 2nd grade was dividing sets.  We played share the cookies.  We used these printed placemats as sorting mats, but you could also use these fun and cheap plastic plates!  My 2nd grader set the table with the placemats and then I gave him a set number of cookies to share with the family.


The cookies and placemats made the perfect, engaging manipulative to help him do the division without feeling like he was doing "hard" math! Manipulatives for the win, once again!

We also used the book, The Doorbell Rang, and acted out the story with our cookies and mats.


We charted the the number of people sharing and the number of cookies they each got so we could look for the relational patterns in division. (As the number of sharers increases, the number of cookies each gets decreases.)


Division Trade Books

We've already talked about the book, The Doorbell Rang, but one of my newest favorite tradebooks is The Lion's Share.


I love this book because it's a fiction story that just happens to include some math.  And it also teaches a really, really great moral.  In fact, it reads like a fable and would be great to do with a fable unit and integrate division!  Math and morals... what more could you ask for in a book, right??


In the first half of the book, the animals keep dividing the left over cake in half thinking they are all getting the same piece of cake.  With this story, we acted the first half out.  We started with a full sheet of construction paper as our cake.  


Each time an animal divided it in half, we divided ours in half and labeled the half the animal kept with its initial.


This visual is super powerful in helping kids see that not all halves are equal!  Then, I gave my kiddo a new "cake" construction paper and had him cut the cake so that each animal would be able to get the same size piece.  This hits on that second grade standard of dividing rectangles into arrays of equal sized pieces. #2birds #onestone #winning


If you don't want to take the time to cut and use up the construction paper, this handout acts as the perfect visual too!


The second half of the book is multiplicative.  Each animal tries to "show up" the animal before by making double the cakes.  I had my 2nd grader figure out how many cakes each animal would make as we read this section.  It was really great for practicing mental addition and doubling and relating that to multiplication.


Dividing With Fractions

Later on in the year, we worked on partitioning shapes and giving them fractional names.  


One of my favorite ways to review math skills are with Roll & ... games.  This one, was called Roll & Partition.  In this game, you roll a die and solve one of the skills in that row.  You can play alone and just see how many rolls it takes to complete a row.  Or you can play with a partner and each get your own mat and see who can fill up a row first.


For our homeschool lesson, my 2nd grader wanted to use the same mat for both of us and I used the odd number rows only and he used the even number rows only.  So, for example, if he rolled a 3, he would just roll again until he rolled an even number.


You can find all of the detailed plans and paper materials for these activities in my Guided Math Workshop Plans for 2nd grade.


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