Mme G.C. -Work in Progress

Independent Consultant sharing my learning with others. Please scroll way down to follow me!!


June 2011

Step One -Starting With the PWIM

Once you have chosen your PWIM photograph, you need to attach it to a back ground that you can print on. It is best to use a light coloured background. White and pastel colours are perfect-not too distracting. I like to colour coordinate my PWIM cycles. If the first one is on a white back ground, then I will also print all of my word cards , sentence cards and paragraphs on white. The next cycle might be pale yellow or pink. It makes classifying and finding words in subsequent cycles much easier. I use a black marker to trace the lines from the item the student has described to the word I print.If you want to re-use your photograph you may wish to have it laminated with a matt film. It is essential ,when working with young children to print neatly as you say each letter. Do not allow the children to print for you-you are the model.This will be an anchor chart for the rest of the year-make it count.

Your students will be making instant connections to the anchor chart. Do not re-copy or type the words afterwards.You will be breaking those very important visual connections. As you are “shaking out the words” with the students, keep going back and reinforcing words you have already printed and note similarities.This will help later in your classifying. Make sure that you are printing NOT your students. This is your chance to model correct size ,shape and name it. With younger kids also naming the sound of the letter.

Take one word from each student aiming to have 25-30 words MAXIMUM If the student gives you a word with a plural (notice bubbles at the top) draw two lines from the word to indicate more than one. On some occasions, if they cannot properly name the item,allow them to describe it-you are more concerned about word properties at this point. If a  student  says a long yellow tube take it-it has many important properties. You can add the word snorkel later on,on an additional word chart when you start your read alouds.Remeber however that a phrase counts as several words not just one:blue water would be blue, water and blue water. Students tend to learn the phrases more quickly-we want to ensure they are learning each individual word as well. Some teachers like to print the “author’s ” name or initials, lightly in pencil under each word. This is the beginning of learning about author ownership.

Post the picture in a location where it is easy to see and easy for the smallest child to touch the highest word. Posting the picture to high will remove some of your success later on. Young children will quickly remember-“that was Anna’s word” which gives them their first connection. This is also an especially helpful connection for ESL learners or French Immersion students.

Be sure to assess your students within the first three days of shaking out the words. You want to be able to assess maximum growth and waiting too long will not allow you to see their true growth. As the year progresses you will notice that they learn words more and more quickly each cycle. Be sure to go back to previous cycles and see how many of the words they have retained or added to their sight word vocabulary.


An Effective PWIM Photograph

All PWIM photographs should:


  • provide a common inquiry in which we learn about our world through our language
  • help us to study how our language works  in a meaningful context
When choosing a PWIM photograph, consider the following:
  • is it a springboard into curricular studies? (what outcomes can you address)
  • does it take the students to new places in our world? (We are creating global citizens)
  • does it contain both familiar words and new words? (useful word properties)
  • are there at least 25 – 30 words ? (more can be added on a side chart)
  • what relationships are shown? (movement, location..)
  • what are the major features and supporting details?
  • will it move us to more complex vocabulary? (through read alouds and talk alouds)
  • will it lead to wonder – Inquiry

Shi-shi-etko and the Traits of Writing

I find Shi-shi-etko to be  a great book to use to inspire students with the traits of writing.

 Shi-shi-etko is a fabulous book written by  Aboriginal storyteller and children’s author, Nicola Campbell. The illustrator is Kim LaFave.

  It is the heartbreaking story of a young Salish girl in British Columbia, who is gathering her memories together ,before being sent to residential school.

Shi-shi-etko   by Nicola I. Campbell

I was teaching a lesson with a class who wasn’t very interested in writing. We have been studying the traits, and how understanding them helps us to write, for a while. I was trying to think of ways to motivate them to think about their reader,as they write. This book hits a topic most kids can relate to on some level-loss. It also brings in our First Nation Content.

I read the story to the class, really thinking aloud as I read. I shared my connections, inferences, and other comprehension strategies as I read. They shared some of their thoughts as well. I really wanted to ensure their comprehension was strong before we moved to writing

 After reading the book to them, we talked about the various traits in the story.

I wrote the traits up on their white board. Then we filled in the following  chart together.

Shi-shi-etko   by Nicola I. Campbell

1.Word choice nature, descriptive,repeating words
2.Sentence fluency poetic verse, some shorter than others
3.Ideas being taken away somewhere you don’t want to go/loss
4.Organization Introduction 1-2-3-4 mornings until I go to school, Sequence-count down of days and what she does till she leaves. Conclusion Shi-shi-etko leaves in a truck.
5.Conventions Capitals ,  “” every time someone speaks, . ,  ?
6.Voice young girl, narrative 3rd person sad/angry/lonely
      Presentation lots of pictures, sad muted colours

 We then talked about how an author might come up with an idea. I asked them to think about a loss they had faced in their life-that only they could talk about. How would they tell it? What voice would they want to use? I modeled for them from my own experiences.Sharing a personal story adds validity to the writing.  I provided them with the following graphic organizer to start filling in their ideas. The wording seemed to really help them as we talked about the purpose of each step very carefully.


My writing            Name
1.Word choice Beautiful language, not boring, sometimes just how you would say it helps your reader visualize: 
2.Sentence fluency How it will sound when someone reads it aloud, easy to read, makes sense, not too many words the same, sentences are not all the same length: 
3.Ideas What do you want to write about? Select your idea, develop it, stick to main idea, what is the best way to share your idea?:  
4.Organization Introduction-hook the reader, sequence makes sense, pace , conclusion-make the reader feel the ending made sense:  
5.Conventions Like good manners, happens when you are done and ready for good copy, spelling, capitals,punctuation. , “ ( ? ! grammar :  
6.Voice How you want to make the reader feel-the mood of the writing-your idea that nobody else can tell:  
Presentation What will your final copy look like?  

The Simple and Complex Theories of Reading

Which theory do you follow? What are your reasons for following it? Have you seriously considered your beliefs? This chart has given me food for thought. An excellent book!

The Simple and Complex Theories of Reading

A teacher with a simple ,or item based ,theory is more likely to do the following: A teacher with a complex, or literacy processing, theory is more likely to do the following:
  • Value assessment tools heavily based on quantifying systems-numbers or levels that indicate whether a child is at grade level, above or below
  • Choose a focus for a lesson based on grade level lists, curriculum guides, basal reading charts, or state standard lists
  • Use independent reading time so children can learn how to read more books, add more sight words to their repertoire ,develop vocabulary and practice phonics skills
  • Believe that struggling readers need more practice time on skill and drill phonics tasks, word lists , spelling lists and so on..
  • Use ongoing assessment tools, such as running records that when analyzed properly give information about the way the child is processing text in order to inform instruction
  • Choose a focus for a lesson based on what the children need, keeping reading process in mind as well as school and state curriculum standards in mind
  • Use independent reading time so that children use their thinking system of strategies in an integrated way to make meaning and solve problems; believe that the more children use their strategies, the stronger their system will become
  • Believe struggling readers need support and practice building a reading process system while reading and writing continuous texts

Catching Readers Before They Fall (Supporting Readers Who Struggle k-4)   Page 26

Johnson/Keier 2010  Stenhouse Publishing

Inferring with No David! Grades K-2

No David by David Shannon

This is a work in progress-more soon

David gets himself into so much trouble. Everywhere he turns there is a new problem.

  • Inferring is more than predicting!!
  •  Remember the six steps of explicit instruction-see my earlier post if you need it. 
  • Introduce the strategy of inferring. Explain why it is important for good readers to infer and how inferring will help them understand what they read.
  • Look at the cover of the book. Ask students to use their schema to predict what is going to happen next. Usually they will say something along the lines of ” the fish bowl is going to fall on his head.” ask students how they know. The goal is to get them to explain their connections.I have had the following responses from grade one :” The table is tipping on its side-once my table at home did that and then it crashed to the floor…” “The water is going to splash everywhere like when I have a bath!” Encourage the conversation and explicitly tell them that using those connections helps them to infer what might happen next. It is beyond a prediction-they are not guessing they are using their schema to infer.

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