How to Implement Correct Reading Techniques

How to Implement Correct Reading Techniques

Today, I’ve decided to write to you, the adult reader, about a topic that most of us take for granted:  Reading. I’ve chosen this topic because improving reading skills is not just a concern for students only!  We all need to practice.  The truth is that your reading ability may be more important to you after you have completed your formal education.   

Here’s the thing.  Reading isn’t just for pleasure.  In fact, reading all kinds of written material and processing the information quickly is part of our daily lives at work, at home, and everywhere in between.  The scary part is that you don’t always have much time, yet it’s important to interpret many of these written messages with accuracy.  So, what can you do about it?  I’d like to give you just a couple of tips.  First, you can start by

Read More

The Joy in Play—Benefits of Unstructured Fun

The Joy in Play—Benefits of Unstructured Fun

In previous blogs, we’ve discussed the benefits of taking some time to slow down, relax, meditate, and focus on being more of a human-being rather than a human-doing.  For teachers and students alike, that all seems easy to do during the summer months, but how do you avoid getting sucked into the busyness of being that human that is always “doing” during the school year?  …“PLAYTIME” might just be the answer for both you and your students.

I recently read an interesting article in a local health magazine that focused on why children need unstructured fun in their lives.  Trust me, I don’t need to be convinced that playtime-fun is beneficial to human development, but I wanted to read what the experts had to say.  Play was described as

Read More

More Than the ABCs: Vowel A

More Than the ABCs: Vowel A

Last time, I showed you how to help students own the alphabet as more than just the ABCs. Each symbol or letter is a picture of sound. Our job is to teach kids how to attach the sound or sounds that each symbol represents.

 

We’ll start at the very beginning with the letter  A a . As you can see, I printed both the capitalized version and the lower case versions. I do that because children need to see and use both forms. I start with A a,  not because it is the first letter of our alphabet, but because it represents the first three vowel sounds I teach. I repeat…it has THREE sounds that should be taught right out of the starting gate: a, a, a. Click the play button below to hear the correct

Read More

How to Create the PERFECT Language Arts Action Plan

How to Create the PERFECT Language Arts Action Plan

If you follow the Shurley English blog, you already know that our main goal is to give students the knowledge, skills, and practice they need to become competent, confident communicators.  Our plan of action consists of applying the following equation during language arts instruction:   

(Knowledge + Skills) x Practice = Competence and Confidence.

 

An important addition to the equation is consistency.  As students learn the umpteen language arts skills necessary to use language with competence and confidence, it’s important for teachers to use consistent terminology and some consistent processes with fidelity.   Why?

Read More

More Than the ABCs: Owning the Alphabet

More Than the ABCs: Owning the Alphabet

Lately, I have been pondering my linguistic journey. Over the years, it has been a journey of self-discovery. A journey that led me to use a fascinating method to teach systematic phonics and phonemic awareness.

If you could have visited my first and second grade combined classroom about 20 years ago, you would have noticed that I displayed traditional alphabet cards above my chalkboard. I didn’t really use it as a reference tool. It was more of a standard classroom decoration than a tool for learning. That is, until I gained some knowledge about teaching letters NOT as letters of the alphabet, but as pictures of sound. I didn’t realize the power the alphabet has when it is considered as a code made of symbols that allows learners to attach sounds to them.

The fact remains, we have an alphabetic language. In other words, letters provide us a way to encode sounds of speech into symbols…the letters of the alphabet. But for years, that information was lost on many a teacher. When I realized how the code system works, it rocked my linguistic world!

Read More

Writing Mechanics: When should I write numbers in word form?

Writing Mechanics: When should I write numbers in word form?

The rules for writing numbers in a sentence or paragraph haven’t changed over the years, but for some reason, I still feel the need to double-check them.   I’m not sure why numbers are such a stumbling block, but any time I need to communicate a quantity, dollar amount, percentage, measurement, or date, I wind up questioning how to write it correctly.  I can never remember if I’m supposed to write the numbers in words, or if I’m supposed to write them in figures?

If you have the same questions, here’s a quick guide to help you know when numbers should be written as words:

Read More

Step by Step: The Value of Following Directions

Step by Step: The Value of Following Directions

For my birthday, I received a beautiful interior sliding barn door as a gift.  I envisioned that this hefty, rustic door was going to be a unique addition that would bring more style to my home.  With a few extra hands, how hard could this DIY project be if we just followed the instructions?  Right?

Well, it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be!

Have you ever experienced a situation when you didn’t need to read the directions for a simple recipe or to assemble a new toy?  I’d venture to say that sometimes that works out, but not every time.  Even when you’ve read the instructions, they sometimes aren’t clear enough to get the final product you’d hoped for.  If that’s the case, you may end up with holes in your wall and a barn door that is now taking up space leaning against the wall. (Ugh!)  When it comes to reading the directions every time, I’m just as guilty as the next person—I don’t always do it. 

In the classroom, many students bypass the instructions and head straight to number one on the assignment.  Shurley English students are not immune to this; it happens all the time.  As a teacher, it’s frustrating and heartbreaking to see the defeat in a child’s eyes when they realize they haven’t followed the directions and must start the assignment over.

Read More

Curriculum Toolbox: from hodgepodge to cohesive

Curriculum Toolbox: from hodgepodge to cohesive

During my undergraduate days, I was headlong into all of my pre-teaching training courses. I truly enjoyed all of them. But, as I neared my junior and senior years of college, I began to get more into the philosophies of teaching. It seems that, at that time, the prevalent theories of teaching led my professors to refuse to tout the use of specific curriculum. That was both good and bad. It was good because it forced me to think along the lines that I did not need to depend on current published curriculum to be able to teach well. It was bad, however, because it generated the incorporation of a hodgepodge type of homemade curriculum that was left strictly up to me to develop and teach—risky, to say the least.

After I landed my first teaching gig, I knew I was in trouble because the school district had a mandated curriculum, which is what I was told would probably happen. We were taught in college to “just close your door and teach the way you know is right.” Well, that was risky, too, because my lack of experience in the classroom made it nearly impossible to know “what was right.” So, I proceeded with what I thought was right while still trying to adhere to the required curriculum. What I discovered unsettled me.

Read More

Writing Toolbox: Composing Better Sentences

Writing Toolbox: Composing Better Sentences

Whether you teach language arts in the school classroom or your home classroom, you have to teach your kids how to write, right? To be clear, I don’t mean the mechanical parts of writing: holding the pencil correctly, positioning the notebook paper properly, and so on. I mean the actual generation of topics that kids know about and want to write about. I mean the composition of clear, concise sentences that convey what the writer is thinking. It would be nice if kids were natural writers and could pluck ideas (and the words needed to express those ideas) out of their brains at the first sign of a prompt, but most of the time, this is not the case.

What kid writers need is good modeling.

Read More

Shurley English 101: Pushing beyond your comfort zone

Shurley English 101: Pushing beyond your comfort zone

Just like many of you, teachers across the United States are experiencing lots of change during this time of year like switching classrooms or schools, learning new curricula, and welcoming a new class of students.  Changes like these push us outside of our comfort zones. 

I used to look at veteran teachers and thought they had less planning and preparing to do because they could use lessons from their previous years.  I’d dream of the day when I could relax at the beginning of the year and coast through my lessons like they were, or so it seemed.   For some reason, I believed I could avoid the inevitable changes in our field; I was proven wrong when I changed grade levels for the first three years of my teaching career.   I also learned that those veteran teachers still worked just as hard as the new teachers.   What an interesting welcome to the world of education.  I learned quickly that change is the one thing that always remains consistent. 

Read More