Monday, June 29, 2015

#SummerPD: Cross-Content Reading Strategies

Although many of the strategies that were presented during this summer PD workshop have been around awhile, I was encouraged by several that I hadn’t heard of before, or that were tweaked in a way that made them fresh.

ABC Brainstorm

This activity (and any variations of it) is meant to help students activate their prior knowledge about a topic. It’s a visual tool that can be done as a pre-assessment before a unit begins, added to throughout a unit, or as a culminating activity to wrap up a unit of study, making it a valuable study guide.

You can use a preprinted graphic organizer for younger students, or simply have older students write the letters of the alphabet down along the margin line of a piece of composition paper. Each version leaves space for students to write words or phrases associated with the given topic that begin with each of the letters of the alphabet.

You could decide to have students work independently at first, or to pair up in partnerships or small groups from the beginning. Once they’ve had a chance to record their list of words and phrases, students should be asked to share out, so that others can add to their list.

If you use interactive notebooks in your classroom for social studies and science, you could have students add this list to their notebooks. You might decide to color-code it with words added before in red, words added during the unit in blue, and words added at the end in green, for example. There’s a lot of possibilities with these!
Double-Entry Journals
Double-Entry Journals have been traditionally for middle-school students, but can be used at the elementary level with support. They enable students to record their impressions of the text as they read, enhancing their engagement with it. While the upper-level journals are more open-ended, you could scaffold it by creating an anchor chart of suggested items from the text and possible responses, or give them specific quotes from the text and prompts or questions to answer.


Bookmarks are similar to Double-Entry Journals in that they help students stop throughout their reading to consider its meaning. They can be used effectively with new vocabulary in nonfiction text, and as with the journals, students can self-select the words, or terms can be chosen for them.

I use my bookmarks to support my students’ understanding of text elements we’ve covered in our reading workshop and guided reading lessons, and keeps students accountable for their independent reading. 
Anticipation Guides

One of my favorite strategies that was discussed at my workshop was the use of Anticipation Guides. They can help stimulate students’ curiosity about a new topic in content areas. They can be used in both fiction and nonfiction, but in the area of expository text, these guides can get students involved by having them think about their opinions on certain topics in social studies, for example. A more common way to incorporate anticipatory guides is to state accurate and incorrect “facts” about a topic and have students respond whether they believe each to be true or false. This serves as a type of K-W-L.

I’ve used these guides without the paper-and-pencil as a way to get kids moving. I have my students all line up on one side of the room and instruct them to walk to the other side if they disagree with a comment that I read, to stay where they are if they agree, and to move to the middle of the room if they neither agree nor disagree. I’ve used it with the picture book Voices in the Park, asking my students prior to reading it whether they agreed or disagreed with how a person handles a situation that they would eventually find out happens in the story. They become quite surprised when their initial perception isn’t always their only view!

These, of course, are only a fraction of the many strategies teachers use to support their students with cross-content reading. I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you utilize these strategies in a unique way in your classroom!

Check back for my next #SummerPD topic:


Saturday, June 27, 2015


For teachers, summer is a time to recharge after ten months of hard work. For most of us, summer isn’t all relaxation and toes in the sand. Many of us look at summer as a time to hone our craft. We read professional books, revamp our curricula, and search Teachers Pay Teachers for just the right items to use with our students (or we create it ourselves!).

If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I recently sat through four days’ worth of Professional Development during my first week of summer “break.” At the beginning of one of the six half-day workshops that I attended, the facilitator asked everyone to introduce themselves and to explain why they decided to take that particular academy. Most responses were “It fit my schedule,” or “I didn’t want to come back in August.” I was in the small minority of teachers who responded with “I’d like to learn something.”

No judgment from me, since our differences make us unique. I consider myself a life-long learner, and even after nine years of teaching, I’m always looking for ways to improve my practice.

Taking six PD academies the week after school let out was intense, with a ton of information to digest. I realized I’d need to take lots of notes, and return to it afterward to personalize it in a way that I could use in my own classroom.

Over the next few days, I’ll be posting my thoughts, along with some really interesting ideas that I’m going to try using with my students this coming school year.

Deconstructing Professional Development Workshop Experiences – a 6-Part Series

Check back for each of the topics:

·         Cross-Content Reading Strategies

·         Student Engagement (3C of the Charlotte Danielson model)

·         SMART Notebook Advances

·         Student Growth vs. Student Grading

·         Setting Expectations: Instructional Non-negotiables

·         Academic Vocabulary

I look forward to hearing your feedback, too!