Differentiating Notes for Struggling Readers

Differentiating Notes for Struggling Readres.001

I have always struggled with making notes for my inclusion class. The challenge is a lot of these students need notes to be taken for them or provided copies, but in my personal philosophy, you do not benefit from taking notes if you aren’t taking them. It’s taken me 2 years and a 6-weeks to finally figure out the solution to this problem and help students become better readers a long the way. Enter: Story Notes.

With the help of Ed Helper, I have started adapting my notes for my inclusion to be reading assignments. My inclusion class model is the same everyday. They come in and reading leveled provided material at the start of class (8:17). When they are done with this, they are allowed to read their independent reading books until 8:35. Providing them material ensures they are reading at their level. I try to filter the Just Right Books, but it’s not always possible to catch every book that comes in. At 8:35, I have them put their books down. We usually re-read the selected material out loud as a class. The resource teacher that aids me during this class always makes a fun game out of this and calls on kids by random labels–their clothes, their first initial, their seat proximity to the door, etc. Once the book is completed, we do a small activity or mini-lesson relating that book to the content we are discussing that week. I try to find material that is focused on that skill in the first place so it makes it easier to discuss all around.

With my notes, I type these into a story. I usually download Ed Helper’s version then adapt them as I need. Sometimes they are written on a 6th grade level and the students need a 4th, so I find places where I can cut down words or make the vocabulary easier. If I can’t simplify the vocabulary, I type in my own sentences that help to explain the word. Example:

Original Sentence: A catalyst often occurs that sets the conflict into motion.
What do I see wrong with this sentence? Catalyst is a hard word. Students will see that and immediately check out during their reading. “Sets into motion” is nothing a phrase that low readers often see or use.
Adapted Sentence: A catalyst (CAT-UH-LIST) happens in a story to help us learn about the conflict. A catalyst is an event that gets the conflict started or “sets it in motion” (think of someone pushing a ball down a hill. Their push is the catalyst).

Once we have read the notes, depending on their length, I have another reading out and ready to go. I read this to the students because by the time they are done with their notes they are usually mentally exhausted. Once I’ve read the read (usually a short 1-3 paragraphs), we discuss what I read in relation to their notes.

Today, we didn’t have time to read another story. Instead, I left blank space in the bottom of their notes and had students draw a plot diagram with the help of me on the overhead and my 2 instructional aides floating around. We labeled all of the relevant vocabulary on the plot diagram as well.

That’s all for today!

-Miss Wyoming

Story Elements–Setting

I think I win the award for worst blogger ever! Haha Oh well! I am currently in over my head again (though not nearly as bad as with cheerleading last year). I was appointed Technology Committee Chairman in a school year when we have brand new Chromebooks for students to use. My principal is advocating “use them differently than a regular computer” but in actuality—you can’t. I think my school thinks technology is going to change the face of education forever, but in reality, the kids are already using these things on a daily basis. We are just bringing them more.


We are currently in a unit on Short Story Elements. This is a long unit. I want it to take a good while (hopefully well into October) because I am focusing on key reading and writing skills on top of learning the parts of a short story. My focus is…..

Content: Short Story Elements (Character, Setting, Conflict, Plot, and Theme)

Writing: Composing in complete sentences, Composing on the computer, Revising on the computer, Writing using evidence from the text

Skill: Inferring and Concluding


I will post on character later, because I have a ton of fun resources for that. We are working on setting. Their notes include the definition of setting, how the author includes or shows you the setting, the impact setting can have on a story, and mood/atmosphere.

Day 1….We took a lot of notes and talked about those notes. I also introduced setting by showing them 6 pictures and having them guess where the picture was taken, when it was taken, and one word to describe the feeling they got when they looked at those pictures. They ranged from a run down mental hospital to the Jetsons to people playing the rain. I wanted to quickly expose them to a lot of “feelings”. This helped the ideas be fresh when we talked about mood.

Day 2….Student place “stickies” in their book when the author describes setting or the students can infer mood. We talk about these stickies as a class.

Day 3/4…Students use computer to make a Facebook page I designed for their character. This focuses on our last sub-unit of Characters/Characterization and our new sub-unit of Setting. They had to write status updates that focused on their character’s dynamicness (new word I just invented), about their setting, about their conflict (a little intro to this), and had to find cover photos of their setting. This made them think of places they could “connect” it to in their actual life.

Day 5….Warm-Up on Inferring Mood from teacher.depaul.edu (great resource if you have never used it before!) where students have to highlight their evidence they used to make an inference. We will then talk about and check the passage. After that, I am showing them  4 short video clips. In the first two, they have to infer setting. In the second two, they have to infer mood. I also give them a worksheet where they write their inference and then their evidence.

Day 6….They are doing a personal book application to show where they infer mood. In this,I make them write a focus sentence to introduce their book and the mood of that particular scene. They then have to give me background information on the mood of their story, a quote from the text to support it, an analysis of that quote, and a return to their focus statement. They hate doing this because thy don’t like to read directions, but it’s helpful for me to see who gets it and who doesn’t.

After that, they are going to do some whole class activities and take  a quiz being moving onto conflict.

Here are some of the anchor charts I have up in my room right now…Displaying photo.JPGDisplaying photo.JPG


Below are also the links to the videos I used for our video lesson. I like to do this to give them videos to watch so they can relate the skills to another media.

http://safeshare.tv/w/zjndrQyjuE (Titanic–Infer Setting: Early 1900’s and Loading Dock for the Ship. Evidence is the clothes, the cars, the ship right next to them, and the things they talk about)

http://safeshare.tv/w/TWXAAoiLwf (Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters–Infer Setting: In a cave in a magical realm in present day. Evidence: Cyclops, Looks like a Cave, Cell Phone and “Going Viral”)

http://safeshare.tv/w/iMEDqocQVl (Because of Winn Dixie–Infer Mood: Sad, Opal talks about being sad)

http://safeshare.tv/w/hHQbrpiidR (Twilight: Eclipse–Infer Mood: Serious, Confident, Important. Evidence: They are fighting and receiving instruction. Everyone is serious and doesn’t laugh. They hop right into the fight.)



Have a fabulous Tuesday!


–Miss Wyoming (:



Is it time to go back yet? Pre-planning my first weeks!

Hello, firsties! And other teachers, peoples, robots that are interested in what I have to say,

So….it has come to the point in the summer that I am ready to go back to school. I have been moving out of my parents house and into my new townhome. It’s been entirely too stressful. I will just say one word: Comcast. Enough said. I am so thankful that I teach swim lessons and lifeguard during the summer or I’d be spent on cash. It’s been so expensive and such a headache. It’s a really cute place though. I will post some pictures once I have it completed. I just need ROUTINE at this point. No students, maybe ever. But an expensive vending machine, free water cooler water, and the peace and quite of my classroom sound on point right now!

I have been working on planning my first few weeks of school. I can hardly remember the beginning of last year because I was SO stressed. This year I am trying to put the IMPORTANT stuff first instead of the “Just get me to November” attitude I had while I was coaching cheerleading. My general breakdown so far is looking like:

Day 1: Ice-breakers, Get-2-Know activities, Seating Chart,
Day 2: Syllabus (this is a lot as I have really “cracked” down on rules this year. I want to save it until the second day)
Day 3-5: Another G2K activitiy, a school wide assembly, a team assembly, discussion of expectations again, review “complete v. incomplete sentences”, and possibly a short writing assignment.

Some G2K’s I will use….
-Alphabet Grid–write 1 word that describes you for each letter
-G2K Class Bingo
-Design a Binder Cover (This wil happen in the Day 3-5 time. Assembly days are unpredictable with the schedule. This takes up a whole day!)

Week 2: Begin Fiction v. Non-Fiction unit. This will lead into two independent genre studies….one where we look at TEXT FEATURES (internal text structures will come later) and one where we look at genres of fiction/elements of a short story. I am going to have all the students then pick a dystopian book and we will read and discuss different features of this. I think I am going to do a whole class genre study applied to individual novels instead of a novel unit this year. In my lowest class, I am going to supplement this with giving them different short stories to read. We will probably do Realistic or Historical fiction in this class. This group is at a pretty big defecit, so I feel that focusing their reading will be more helpful. Additionally, I have found in my lowest classes the concepts in Dystopian.Science Fiction tend to be hard to grasp. Realistic and Historical are areas that are easily confused with non-fiction, so hopefully this helps them in their reading.

F V NF Unit will begin like this…
-Pre-Quiz and Discussion about Fiction v Non-Fiction
-Fiction v. Non-Fiction foldable (will upload a picture with unit. I change what I put inside per class, so I need to have one made. Some classes can have “additional identifiers” if they need a better understand or are understanding TOO well)
-Discussion of different types of materials
-Checklist….How do I know what I am reading?
-Breakout into Non-Fiction Text Features and Fiction Genres/Elements of a Short Story. The elements of a short story will happen in conjuction with the novel unit/story units.

This is all such a BRAIN DUMP! I will post lesson plans and unit samples when I get to them. Also look for my ice-breakers and “first week in review” when the time comes.



Firstie Tip:

If it’s your first time teaching….every plan you have will no go as planned.
Don’t worry about planning out every details. Make sure you have enough ice breakers and a general idea of what direction you want to go once everything is settled in.

Alright friends. That does it for this teacher tonight. I still have a unit to work on and stuff to pack for le’ townhouse.


Miss Wyoming

Planbook Maker

Planbook Maker is an awesome website I stumbled upon through Pinterest. It’s an internet-based, free lesson planning book. I have recently been using it because it is portable. I can get on it from home, at school, through my phone and on my Kindle. It’s really a no-excuses way to lesson plan! I tend to be a little forgetful and leave my planner and notebooks in my car or at school, so it’s easy access whenever I need it.

Below is a quick tutorial, and how I use it.


It asks you to create a gradebook. You can make multiple…or you can do just one. I created just one for the year.


Once you have designed a planbook, it gives you a cool little calendar view. I just started using this program. The green indicates that you have a plan made for all classes in your planbook. I have three periods in mine (regular LA, reading, and my low-level LA). If all your plans are not completed, the green will only cover part of that calendar day.


This is inside your plan book. This is only a photo of my LA 1, 4, and 6 classes, but it extends down beyond that for Reading and LA 7. You can see any documents you have chosen to include and any highlighting you have made. I highlight my lessons in yellow and homework in blue. I also like to attach the notes and documents I am using that day to my Planbook. It helps me print stuff from school and home if I need to, or make a quick reference.


This is within my plans. I can edit from this page. I like to include everything I need in case I have an observation that day.


My favorite feature is the export or print. You can also see where the documents are included. You can either export it to a PDF to be emailed or saved OR you can print it out. It also offers a print out for the week, or a selection of the day you need printed.

This product is super handy! Visit http://www.planbookmaker.com to sign up for your FREE account. Did I mention it’s free?!

Happy Teaching!

-Ms. Wyoming

Finally! Personal Narratives and First Drafts


I finally have a second to post. Let me tell you about this GOOD Monday (do those even exist?!). Woke up late and still made it to school without getting stuck behind ANY buses and I had time to get coffee. AND it’s a jeans day. Did I just blow your mind!?

no i didn’t did i (this was one of my students that took it upon herself to type on my blog…this is what I deal with!)

Since I am a little late getting started in the year, I am going to pick up where I am in the year with lesson plans and strategies and then fill in all that “beginning” stuff later when I have more time. Mornings like these don’t come often enough!

For the past week, we have been working on writing personal narratives. This is based on Gary Soto’s short story “7th Grade”. The students have been writing about their first day of 7th grade. I have been using a variety of graphic organizers to help them along their way.

One HUGE struggle that I am having is meeting the needs of my lower level classes. I feel that they should be on the same page as my upper level classes, when in reality…that’s not a reality. Here are a couple strategies I have used to match up the learning standards with my regular classes…

1) Graphic Organizers


Instead of asking them to brainstorm, I am using a specific graphic organizer to prompt their writing. They have already completed a ten-minute timed writing on this subject, so it’s activating prior knowledge and repeating work at this point.

2) Simplified Assignments

Like I said earlier, putting my lower level class on the same page at my regular classes isn’t an option 90% of the time. Instead of having them write a personal narrative on their first day of 7th grade, I am having them write about eliminating homework. It’s still school focused and covers the same Standards of Learning (SOLs), but it’s more concrete. My students in this class need concrete. Writing about their first day is hard, because honestly, a lot of them have forgotten and didn’t want to be here in the first place. Maintaining a school focused piece with a specific purpose allows me to “match” the different curriculum, so to speak.

3) Meet them where they are!

My SPED cohort sat me down after a long frustrating day and said that it was ambitious of me to want to teach the same curriculum to all my classes, but in the case of my lower level class, I wasn’t going to make much progress doing this. He explained that when you have lower level kids, in order to make progress, you need to meet them where they are and guide them forward. Expecting them to be on the last lap of the race when they are still on the first isn’t a realistic expectation. You have to meet them at the first lap to coach them to the last. It made a lot more sense when it was broken down to me like that. This means that I use simple assignments, I explain things more, and I don’t get frustrated when they don’t get it the first time. It’s about TLC and working with them to meet their specific needs as students.

Welp! That’s it for today. Time to go teach!


-Ms. Wyoming