Teaching Tip Tuesday: Spinners

Spinners are a fun way for students to engage in learning.  I have run across a few ideas of how to use them lately.  Usually, I see them used in elementary classrooms, but with anything, they can be adapted for our high school classrooms.  Add more complex tasks to the spinner and it will fit into your curriculum and will raise engagement and rigor.  These are a fun way to mix things up in your classroom and add a little more excitement and unpredictability to your lesson.

Vocabulary Spinner for Smartboards



Students will uncover hidden vocabulary words from under the shapes. Then students will spin the spinner on the Smartboard.  The space on which the spinner lands is what task the students must complete. There will be a variety of tasks for which students must use and demonstrate understanding of the selected words. This spinner could be adapted to include other tasks: example, non-example, drawing/picture, personal connection to the word…

Check out this page, which shows you how to create your own spinner on Smartboards.  There is also a library of spinner files.


Responding to Reading Spinners

Download and print out the fiction and nonfiction spinners here:

fiction & nonfiction spinners

2 spinners

Students will spin a paperclip under the tip of a pencil. Watch this video to see how it is done: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d4g1FV_bhTo  Where the paperclip lands is how they must respond to the text after reading. Students could use these in small groups.  Students could stop at the end of each section of a text and respond.

spinner with paperclip


Identifying Similarities and Differences

Just to recap what was discussed yesterday, we will be focusing on ONE strategy for the rest of the YEAR.  The strategy is “identifying similarities and differences.”
Click below for the resources & ideas for implementation that were inside of the yellow folders that you reviewed with your department.
Here is the Tier 2 Word of the Week:
Your two goals:
  1. Use the activities and strategies for “identifying similarities differences” as often as you can.
  2. Use the Tier 2 words of the week with your students.
The “Caught Red-Handed” certificates will now be awarded for those two goals.
Let me know if you have any questions or need any ideas about how to make these goals fit within your current lesson plans.  I would be happy to strategize with you…. but I don’t have many days left until baby-time, so let the countdown begin!


Teaching Tip Tuesday– Six Step Process to Teach Vocabulary

The two biggest barriers to reading comprehension are vocabulary and prior knowledge.  We need to help students learn how to expand their vocabularies, so they will succeed across the curriculum.

 Students can acquire new vocabulary in two ways: incidental acquisition (through context during reading and listening activities) and direct study.  Incidental acquisition is a common means of learning new vocabulary for proficient readers and young children.  Direct study is the more efficient way for older students to acquire vocabulary, especially high-risk students with poor vocabularies.

 As we teach vocabulary to our students, our goal is to help them expand their vocabularies and become better readers.  In order to achieve this goal, we need to teach vocabulary using high-quality methods. 

 There is power in language. And there is power in the instruction of every new word. But sound vocabulary instruction requires attending to the selection, context, and grouping of words. In addition, teachers must model their thinking about the words, and students must be engaged in activities that get them using the words in the company of their peers. And finally, learners must have multiple experiences with new words so those words can become part of their personal vocabularies. Vocabulary instruction, therefore, must be intentional—that is, explicit—in order for it to be effective. 

–Fisher & Frey

 Most of the teachers at MSB are teaching students the words for the week on Monday, and then students are tested over the words on Friday.  Students need to think about the words and engage in a variety of activities with the words throughout the week for these words to become part of the students’ personal vocabularies.  Research shows that students need to encounter a word about twelve times before that word becomes a part of their personal vocabularies. As you design your lessons and try to incorporate Tier 2 words, please consider using Marzano’s six steps for teaching vocabulary to help students acquire new words in their vocabularies.  Click this link: Marzano’s Six Step Vocabulary for further details and activity ideas to implement each step.

1. Provide a description, explanation, or example of the new term. 

*Looking up words in dictionaries is not useful for teaching vocabulary

*Students will benefit from your explanation, using Tier 1 words that they will understand

 2. Ask students to restate the description, explanation, or example in their own words.

 3. Ask students to construct a picture, symbol, or graphic representing the word.

 4. Engage students periodically in activities that help them add to their knowledge of the terms in their notebooks.

 5. Periodically ask students to discuss the terms with one another.

 6. Involve students periodically in games that allow them to play with terms.

Teaching Tip Tuesday: Frayer Model

As we focus on Tier 2 Vocabulary to improve students’ reading comprehension, Isabel Beck suggests we use examples and non-examples to help students fully grasp the meanings of words.  Marzano also suggests we use the high-yield strategy of identifying similarities and differences.

The Frayer Model is a graphical organizer used for word analysis and vocabulary building. This four-square model prompts students to think about and describe the meaning of a word or concept by . . .

  • Defining the term,
  • Describing its essential characteristics,
  • Providing examples of the idea, and
  • Offering non-examples of the idea.

This strategy stresses understanding words within the larger context of a reading selection by requiring students, first, to analyze the items (definition and characteristics) and, second, to synthesize/apply this information by thinking of examples and non-examples.

Steps to the Frayer Model:

1.   Explain the Frayer model graphical organizer to the class. Use a common word to demonstrate the various components of the form. Model the type and quality of desired answers when giving this example.

2.   Select a list of key concepts from a reading selection. Write this list on the chalkboard and review it with the class before students read the selection.

3.   Divide the class into student pairs. Assign each pair one of the key concepts and have them read the selection carefully to define this concept. Have these groups complete the four-square organizer for this concept.

4.   Ask the student pairs to share their conclusions with the entire class. Use these presentations to review the entire list of key concepts.

Cross-Curricular ideas, samples, and variations….




Top 3 for MSB

*created with Dr. Muhammad’s suggested infograph website: www.easl.ly

As we start the year at MSB with a clear focus, I wanted to share some documents that might help with your implementation of these goals.

First, we want to clearly demonstrate to students and evaluators that we are daily implementing the components of our instructional plan at MSB.  When you hear administrators talking about your “blackboard configuration,” they want to see the following elements of your lesson clearly displayed or posted in your room (preferably on your white board):  Objectives, Essential Questions with DOK, Tier 2 Vocab Words, Do Now, and Agenda.  If you click on the link below the picture (“Blackboard Configuration”) I have further examples and photos of what this can look like in your classroom.

click here for more info: Blackboard Configuration

Secondly, we want to start using research-based, high-yield instructional strategies with literacy and vocabulary and with general instruction.  Referencing the publications and the research from Marzano and Isabel Beck, I created two menus with instructional strategies.  One is for general instruction and the other is for vocabulary.  As a building, we will focus on one of Marzano’s strategies each month.  Please use the menu (link below,) which includes activity ideas with each strategy.

click here to save a pdf of the menu: Instructional Strategies Menu

For vocabulary, we need to focus on Tier 2, cross-curricular words with our students to make an impact on their reading comprehension.  To do this, I created a Vocabulary Instructional Menu (link below,) using Isabel Beck’s Bringing Words to Life.  For more vocabulary ideas and instructional strategies, you can also use my vocabulary instruction packet (link below.)

click here to save a pdf of the menu: Menu of Vocab strats


We will also be trying to incorporate more reading and writing activities in all of our clases.  I have many reading resources on my blog, but I will also continue to be a resource and help to you throughout the year.  When you have students write in your classes, we will be using the 6 Trait rubric.  Please see the two links below with rubrics you can use.

click here for the pdf: 6traitrubric

click here for the pdf: 6plus1traits

PHEW!!! That’s a lot we need to focus on this year.  As always, let me know how I can assist you or if you have any other questions or ideas!


Teaching Tip Tuesday–CPR

Don’t worry, teachers.  This has nothing to do with Cardiopulmonary resuscitation.  Nurse Woelfel could teach you all about that.  CPR is also an acronym to help students learn vocabulary strategies.

Each Tuesday, I will send out an instructional idea or strategy for classroom teachers.  My teaching tips are all posted here on my blog, so you can always check for additional and archived resources.  

I wanted to start this year with an idea that would assist you as you focus on Tier 2 vocabulary words with your students.  Before reading any text with your classes, carefully preview the text and choose Tier 2, cross-curricular words that you think students should know but may struggle to define.  As students are reading, they will look for those targeted words and you can teach them the skills they need to figure out the meaning of unknown words with the three skills of CPR: Context clues, Parts of word, and Resource.  By emphasizing CPR with students, it will help them remember three strategies they can use if they don’t know the meaning of a word.  When you first begin using CPR with students, you will need to guide students in how they can use the three strategies.  For example, you will need to teach them how to use context clues and practice the skill with them, and you will need to teach them about prefixes and roots. 

If you continue to use this strategy throughout the year, and if we start emphasizing this strategy as a building, our students will become better readers and will expand their vocabulary in all of their classes.

 CPR Vocabulary Strategy

(Define vocabulary words using these strategies)

C = Context (Look for clues in the text.  Reread the sentence before the word and continue reading into the next sentence to check for clues.)

P = Parts of a Word (Prefixes, Suffixes, Roots, Compound Words)

R = Resource (Source such as a dictionary, glossary, computer, or teacher)