Mme G.C. -Work in Progress

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Comprehension Strategy lessons

Think Alouds

It isn’t as important that students can list the strategies as it is to be able to name them and explain how a strategy helps them as a reader. “This strategy helps me to understand the author’s message because…”

Think aloud


Talk Aloud (for Comprehension)

A Talk aloud (for comprehension) is using mentor text to help you explain what published authors do and how text features or structures help you to better understand what you are reading. It is not as important to be able to name them, but being able to recognize the features and how they help the reader is crucial.Talk aloud

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Les 7 enseignements sacres

This is a lesson I created a few years ago to help primary teachers incorporate more First Nation content into their classrooms. I also have an English version of this lesson. The goal was to study one of the teachings each  week, by reading as much as possible about each teaching, by learning a bit about each animal and relating the teachings to students lives. Some people prefer to have the students paint or draw each animal rather than using the photograph. Ideally inviting an Elder into the classroom to help with the process would be the best way to go.Les sept enseignments sacrees

le bison



le castor

la tortue

le loup

Kitsch Sabe

For more information:


Les Sept enseignements sacrés | Les Éditions des Plaines




The Reading Strategies Book


I’ve been reading the Reading Strategies Book by Jennifer Serravallo. This book was first recommended to me by my colleague L.H. and by  Aimee Buckner ,whom I had the great pleasure of working with , this summer at our school division’s “Back to School Ignite” session.

There are many things I like about this book. The layout is really practical. Jennifer starts with a concise introduction explaining how to use it. The introduction is followed by 13 goals influenced by the work of John Hattie, to help students improve their reading, by setting clear goals for students. Within each of the 13 goals there are answers to questions such as “how do I know this is right for my students?” accompanied by suggested strategies. There is a side bar on each page titled “who is this for?” which tells you which Fountas and Pinnell  reading level the strategy is intended for, what genre(s) it addresses ,and suggests what skills students might need.  There are also book recommendations and colourful photographs of anchor charts to co-create with students.

This book is a must for every school’s professional library, but I would highly recommend it as a support for beginning elementary school teachers as well.

I will be posting lessons I try from it!!

Comprehension with Jingle Dancer Grade 1-3

All in one comprehension with JINGLE DANCER by Cynthia Leitich Smith


I always start my Comprehension All in One by carefully choosing a picture book which connects to the curriculum and which my students will find engaging. Once I have a book I like, I peruse it carefully. I put sticky notes on the cover with the titles of I want to be addressing with my students-visualizing, making connections, questioning etc. Once I have decided if the book will help me address all the strategies I want it to, I start planning what I will put on my anchor charts. stickies Because I have already taught all the comprehension strategies through the Think Aloud process, we often refer back to those co-constructed anchor charts. I never use prefab materials as I feel it is essential to build this knowledge  with students. Current research also tells us not to teach the strategies in separate silos, but rather have the students know how to access the strategy when they need it. “How does this help me as a reader?” I then prepare parts of these anchor charts ahead of time. Most of the details are filled in with the students. I make sure to teach the difficult vocabulary ahead of time. In this case I took words from the glossary at the back and added a few that I felt students would have trouble with. Students then chose to illustrate the words.

VocabularyVocabulary Jingle Dancer (2)

I always start my process with questioning-we look at the cover of the book and I print some of their questions on the chart. I find this can go on and on so I am careful to remind them to ask BIG Questions, and I do not take too many. Once I have the before questions, I remind students that we might not always find answers to our questions and as long as that does not stop us from understanding the story, that’s ok. We read the story asking questions as we go. I record student’s initials beside their questions so that I have a record of who is asking questions, and what kinds of questions they are asking.


I then move on to Making Connections. Some teachers call this Schema, others call it background knowledge. The term is not important if you are consistent, the metacognitive action of the student is what matters. In this situation the anchor chart just indicates what we are doing. This is a totally oral activity. I have a feather for the students to pass and hold when they are speaking. For my assessment, I record if the students were on topic, if they passed or if they were off topic. It is a great opportunity to work on manners and respectful listening and sharing.

Making Connections

After making connections I move  on to  visualizing. If children were unable to make a connection they will not be able to visualize. They will need more support. We spend a lot of time practicing the sharing process. Knee to knee, eye to eye, listen, talk and discuss. I reinforce the suggestions of Debbie Miller to be respectful listeners and never complain about who they are partnered with. I assess visualizing by listening to their conversations, looking at their drawings and having them explain their visualizations. I don’t get to each child each time, but I start with the ones I have concerns about from my previous checklists.


Click here to see some of the art the children created. Some of the boys were able to visualize themselves as girls doing the Jingle Dance, but others chose to do other dances they were familiar with such as Hoop Dancing and Hip Hop.

After visualizing we move to inferring. I find that the more we have worked on the strategies, the harder it is to separate them. Sometimes the students are having me add to different charts at the same time.


Next we move to Synthesizing. My version of synthesizing is quite  simple. When we are dealing with very young readers, I want them to take all the ideas in the story and be able to synthesize that. I don’t want it to be so hard for them that they don’t even try. As they become more adept at synthesizing I add more detail to it. It is essential to have students be able to explain why or why not. Sometimes I do that orally, sometimes on paper, sometimes with a partner. Without being able to explain their reasoning they are not synthesizing. Once they are able we move on to adding new knowledge and adding that in.


Finally we end by a class discussion. Usually students are so comfortable with the book that it is a pretty easy conversation. We then return to our questions to make sure we have answered them. If we can’t we talk about where we might find the answers.

Big idea (2)

Tip: There is no room to store all of the anchor charts in your classroom. Take photos of them and keep the photos in a binder that is easy for students to access. They will refer back to the binder as they work on their metacognitive skills.

Jingle dancer has some strong verbs and great onomatopoeia as well. I would use the verbs in body breaks to get the moving and thinking. I would use the Onomatopoeia to springboard into more in other books.

onomotopaiastrong v erbs

Further information on Jingle Dancer A non-fiction book I used to build knowledge at student level.

Jingle Dancer Book


Top Ten Reasons to Use Poetry as Mentor Texts


Poetry Mentor Texts Making Reading and Writing Connections, k-8 untitled

By Lynne R. Dorfman and Rose Cappelli

  1. Children love the sound of language and the chance to read, recite and perform poetry.
  2. Poetry can help us see differently, understand ourselves and others, and validate our passions and human experience.
  3. Poetry easily finds a home in all areas of the curriculum and can bridge the reading/writing workshop.
  4. Poetry is the great equalizer-a genre especially suited to the struggling unmotivated reader/writer.
  5. Poetry enhances thinking skills and promotes personal connections.
  6. Reading poems aloud captures the ear, imagination and soul of the listener.
  7. The playfulness of language and the ability of words to hold us captive with their intensity, beauty and genius are particularly apparent in poetry.
  8. A poet helps us see things in new ways and help us talk and write about ordinary things in ordinary ways. That’s the essence of good writing.
  9. Poetry helps broaden the children’s experiences and what they are able to write about.
  10. Poetry can be the voice that names the event we live through by helping us make sense of them and write about them.

Dorfman and Cappelli      Stenhouse 2012

I really like the way this book is laid out. Dorfman and Capelli have made it so easy for teachers to succeed. Each chapter is laid out with examples, mini lessons. The reading writing connection is very clearly explained. Some of the lessons included are list poems, acrostic and persona. They have given great book ideas. This book would be a fabulous tool for teachers who are trying to get away from teaching poetry in isolation to teaching it all year long.


Reading Notebooks in Any Grade

I love the idea of kids having a Reading Notebook for the year. In it they can keep track of their reflections and progress over the year. Aimee Buckner’s book Notebook connections (Stenhouse 2009) gives many ideas as to how to start and work through the process.

Even young children can add their sticky notes to their notebooks and collect their reflections, as well as add mind maps and drawings to the notebook. Conferring with the teacher and parents will make it very useful.

The Reading notebook process teaches students to be reflective, when supported by the teacher, and moves them into metacognition with the teaching of comprehension strategies.

Amy focuses on reading “like a writer” and provide rubrics to assist the teacher. I suggest reading the book to get started, but plan for every child to start the year with a reading notebook!


Kindergarten Visualizing with CHALK

Chalk by Bill Thomson


I love everything about this book. The illustrations are amazing. I have used it in many classrooms at many grade levels. This particular lesson was for kindergarten visualizing, but I would recommend it for any elementary grade you want to engage in an adventure.

I talked to the students about what good readers do. We talked about how important it is to stop and think and try to get a picture in your head as you read. I  introduced my Visualization Wizard and told the children  that when we visualize we conjure up some or all of our senses to help us.Chalk

I introduced Adrienne Gear’s poem from her book Reading Power:

“You don’t close your eyes when you visualize,

You don’t close your eyes when you visualize,

You don’t close your eyes when you visualize,

You use your brain! yeah!” (we added in some snapping,clapping dancing…)


I said “visualize “ice cream” and think about it quietly.” Then we shared-I asked “what would you see,smell,taste,feel or hear? ” Everyone laughed at “hearing” ice cream. After sharing we talked about how not everybody visualized the same ice cream, because we don’t all see things in the same way.

We continued with visualizing  “pizza” and ” a dog” . It really helps to do this orally, before trying to do it with a book.

I then proceeded to share the book Chalk stopping in key places to think and visualize…”get a picture in your head…” at the end of the book, students drew a picture with coloured chalk to show what they would draw if they had magic chalk.

Finally, we sat in a circle and shared our drawings and talked about what it would be like if the drawings came alive.

My next step will be to go to Adrienne Gear’s book and do the activity about Lollipops in her visualization chapter.

I will do this lesson again!!


Other books for visualizing :read more

Leo the Late Bloomer

I have had several requests to share other books I have used for my “comprehension all in one book” strategy. Here is my latest set of lessons for Leo the Late Bloomer, by Robert Kraus.


I do one strategy a day, ending the week  by asking children to think about and share which strategy helped them the most. The objective is for them to see that not every strategy helps all the time. They must learn to pick and choose which strategy they need, as they are reading. Naming the strategies is not the goal-being able to use them is. Assessment should be ongoing as you check which students are participating and demonstrating an understanding of the tasks assigned.

I like to start with questioning and then move to making connections and visualizing. Here are my  anchor charts that I start with. They are then filled in with student responses.




There is not enough room in any classroom to keep all the anchor charts up. I take photographs each anchor chart when we are finished with the book. I keep the photos in plastic sheets covers, in a binder,along with a copy of the book, for the students to refer to at any time.

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