Monday, September 26, 2016

Teaching Reading IS Rocket Science Webinar Questions and Answers

Thank you for attending my webinar hosted by ESGI on August 31st. I enjoyed the opportunity to present the Reading Aptitude Continuum to you and explain how you can use targeted assessments to drive your reading instruction. if you want to watch the webinar for the first time, watch it again or share it with a colleague, it is available on YouTube.

There were lots of thoughtful questions before and after the webinar. Thank you for your engagement. I always admire the commitment of teachers—even after working all day at school! Here are some key points to remember about reading instruction and the Reading Aptitude Continuum:

· Teachers can target skills and teach to individual and small group needs by understanding progression of skills.
· Less is More! If we are trying to teach everything, we actually teach nothing. Young children need focused instruction.
· Great teachers never forget that our introduction of skills is one-third of what children need. They then need guided practice time (one-third of the time) and independent practice (one-third of the time). If we continue to teach, teach, teach, students don’t ever have time to practice and master skills.
· The best assessments change what we do each day. It is imperative that we have quick and easy assessments and charts that allow us to immediately use the data to instruct students. 

You can learn more about the Reading Aptitude Continuum and my tests on ESGI on a previous post on The Smartie Blog. The entire Reading Aptitude Continuum is available on a thumb drive for purchase at The thumb drive contains the reading ladders, instructions, printable flash cards, and score sheets, as well as customizable versions of the cards and score sheets.

To access the tests, you can also try ESGI FREE for 60 days! Sign up with promo code thesmartiezone to save $40 off your new user subscription. After entering your students, go to the Test Explorer to locate all of my Reading Aptitude tests. You can see the list of 112 tests here.  An introduction, lists of all included skills and the reading ladders are available to ESGI teachers here. I love that ESGI has allowed me to take what would be a massive amount of work and make it useable and quick for teachers to assess kids! 

Remember, if you want to watch the webinar for the first time, watch it again or share it with a colleague, it is available on YouTube.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Reading Aptitude Continuum

 What is the Reading Aptitude Continuum?

As I present around the country about reading, I am often asked, “What do you use and is there a more purposeful assessment available?” To answer that question, it is important to understand that reading occurs on a continuum and that at times, our biggest enemy is our belief that assessments that are grade specific, as opposed to skill specific can help us determine what our students need. The assessments that I have created are based upon skills, not grade level. They can be utilized with any student in the process of learning to decode for reading. This can be a child that happens to be at the Pre-K level, a struggling intermediate reader, an ESL student, a student with disabilities or any other student in the process of learning to read.

As teachers, each of us needs to determine what is a student’s skill level, what needs to be taught and what skills comes next. The purpose of the Reading Aptitude Continuum is to provide teachers with a framework that allows you to see skills in a progression that will aide your students in becoming successful readers. Every time we test a skill and find the student unsuccessful, we have to look to the prior skills and then determine what to teach. When the student has successfully mastered the skill, we then move to the next skill assessment. Targeted assessments should drive our instruction.  Foundation skills embedded with fluency and comprehension strategies can lead to creating successful readers. 

What is ESGI?

ESGI, Educational Software for Guiding Instruction, is a simple, online assessment platform for conducting one-on-one assessments. I partnered with ESGI because it is ideal for testing non-readers, emergent readers and struggling readers. You can choose from hundreds of pre-loaded tests—including my Reading Aptitude Continuum tests—or create your own. After assessing students with the yes/no format, choose from charts, graphs and reports to guide instruction. ESGI eliminates the paper, saving you hours on assessments and providing you hours for instruction.


How does ESGI help to effectively use the Reading Aptitude Continuum?

The Reading Aptitude Continuum provides a series of tests that are thorough, tested and reliable. With ESGI, teachers can give one-on-one assessments, instantly visualize student performance, analyze areas of weakness or growth, and quickly target instruction. With an ESGI subscription, a teacher has access to all 112 of the tests in the Reading Aptitude Continuum. Once the assessments are given, the teachers can target their instruction based on the data in the Pie Charts, Bar Graphs Analysis, Class Totals Report, and Test History. Teachers can also print customized parent report letters as well has flash cards to support the reading instruction.


How do I get started?

Each ladder in the continuum contains rungs that build decoding skills.  While it is certainly possible for a student to miss a couple of rungs and continue to climb the ladder, you wouldn’t want a student to have no footings in a ladder.  Pick and choose the assessments most valuable to your class or individual students in identifying needs.  Your first step will be to determine where to start in your assessments.  Based upon your work with the student, look at the ladder and determine where you believe he/she should start.  If the assessments are too hard, stop and go back several tests.  If they are too easy, jump forward a few.  Keep in mind, that for the most part, the assessments were created to be easiest at the start of each assessment and to end with hardest level of the skill.  This will allow you to determine if a high level of mastery is evident.   It’s important to remember that many skills have a quick assessment and that if there is any sense that the student hasn’t truly mastered the skill, you may want to add to the number of questions.

Each of the 7 ladders in the continuum contains rungs that build decoding skills. Pick and choose the assessments most valuable to your class or individual students in identifying needs. Each concept has directions on the sheet, along with the questions, words, letters or phrases listed. Each list then has a corresponding sheet or sheets of the cards that can be used for the assessments. (The exception is the Phonemic Awareness section as all of the concepts are done orally and require no cards) Assessment Recording Sheets are included. There is an individual student recording sheet and a class recording sheet. Each sheet has skills broken up by ladder or concept. Every sheet is customizable and can be modified for the skills you are assessing.

The Entire Reading Aptitude Continuum is also available on a thumb drive for purchase here. The thumb drive contains the reading ladders, instructions, printable flash cards, and score sheets, as well as customizable versions of the cards and score sheets.  Or Try ESGI FREE for 60 days! Sign up with promo code thesmartiezone to save $40 off your new user subscription. After entering your students, go to the Test Explorer to locate all of Donna Whyte’s Reading Aptitude tests. You can see the list of 112 tests here.  An introduction, lists of all included skills and the reading ladders are available to ESGI teachers here.


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Fight or Flight with Children ~ A Disaster in the Making

As a consultant that travels working in schools and with districts, I am often in an airport and seem to find myself "people watching".  This evening I have witnessed so many cases of pushing children to the brink, that I am shocked and motivated to write.  This has been an extremely LONG day for many travelers as the weather has been absolutely horrendous in so many cities that don't often see this type of weather and am not prepared to deal with it.  I truly understand circumstances are difficult when traveling with children and things go crazy. 
With that said, there is never an excuse for an adult to engage a child in a power struggle that ultimately leads a child to behave in a "fight" or "flight" manner.  Watching some of these parents has broken my heart for how children will ever learn empathy, self control and cooperation.  My heart hopes that this doesn't happen in classrooms across the world but my head says that it probably does.  So in defense of the children I want to share why ending confrontation with fight or flight is always a bad choice and negatively affects how our children process getting along in the real world. 
Fight or flight is a natural reaction for all people when pushed to the brink.  Many rational individuals can be driven to do and say things that outside of a particular situation, would never have occurred.  We witness this by athletes, government officials and many other individuals that publicly have to acknowledge that they "lost it".  My issue is about children and why we as adults would ever want to push them to "lose it".  Whenever a person feels severely attached they have a natural reaction to run or face it.  Some children may crawl up in a ball or hide their face saying things like "I hate you", "don't talk to me" or just refuse to speak.  This is a sure sign that a child feels like they are not being heard.  Other children will lash out trying to hit, kick, bite or scream to relay their frustration. 
A good rule of thumb is to always remember who is the adult.  To recognize when a child has gone from rational and is on the way to irrational so that you can be the one that stops.  It is often best to provide time for each of you to breath.  Depending on the circumstance you might want to put a bit of distance between yourself and the child.  Many times child believe that your "hovering" will lead to further attack or the child might feel threatened. 
I encourage every adult -  parent/teacher/relative/friend to remember that learning to solve problems takes time and that the least effective way to find a solution to a problem or problem behavior is to drive a child into fight or flight.

Donna - Author of "You Can't Teach a Class that You Can't Manage"

Monday, February 11, 2013

The debate continues on Accelerated Reader

Hi Fellow Smarties,
AR "Acclerated Reader" is a topic that I am asked about again and again.  Therefore, I decided that it would be the topic of this blog.  It is a hard topic as you find that few people "sit on the fence" when it comes to AR.  The public seems to love it, the teachers love it or hate it and most librarians I have talked to dislike it (to put it mildly).    Truth is that the first link below outlines what Best Practice suggests for independent reading programs.  See below

Abundant reading research proves that the following components of an independent reading program increase students' reading achievement and motivation to read:

  • Access to books: Students need access to a wide array of reading materials at their independent level.
  • Time to read: Students need consistent, daily time to read at school.

  • Reading engagement: Students need classroom conditions that engage them with reading and foster reading self-efficacy.

  • School-wide support: Schools must create a culture of reading that values reading in all subject areas.

  • Well-stocked libraries with qualified librarians: School library collections should contain current, well-maintained collections of interesting reading material manned by trained, licensed librarians.

  • Student choice: Students need frequent opportunities to select their own reading materials for both personal and academic reasons.

If your school can boast that they have these components without AR, you aren't alone.  Many schools have these built in each and everyday.  They also don't "bribe" kids to want to read.  See, if you read the research on AR their claims don't "compare apples to apples" most of the time.  I would love schools that already employ these components to go against the schools that use AR.  I think that we would be surprised.  AR schools would probably come out on the short end of the stick for motivation and definitely have less money to put into the above!  Here are some articiles, our best attempt to encourage children to read should be based on research of schools with best practice versus schools with AR.  I think that we would find that our monies would be best spent elsewhere.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Valentine's Day Riddle Book

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, I wanted to share an activity that my students love!  Valentine Riddle Books are fun, cute and challenge children to be “thinkers”.  Title a BIG Book “Who’s in my heart”?  Add all of the children’s pages.  Directions and free blackline masters are included for creating one.  The idea comes from my Riddle Books packet.
Valentine's Day Riddle Book

Please share with a page or two your children create and feel free to share this idea!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Monthly "Home" Work Calendars

Monthly “Home”Work Calendars provide activities that connect school learning with their home environments. The calendars are based upon different levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy of thinking skills. While some days children will use list, count, and find from the lowest level of thinking (the “knowledge” category) other days will require them to plan, create and rate from the highest levels of thinking, “synthesis and evaluation”. I have included activities for each of the 6 Thinking Levels. The calendar can provide parents with ideas on the types of activities that they can be doing with their children to connect learning between school and their lives.

Calendars include opportunities to build skills in math, language, speaking, reading, writing, science, social studies and many other valuable skills that bring learning to life for children. Many activities require parent involvement that will lead to better communication skills. Don’t miss this opportunity to provide the homework families often request with valuable activities that you know allow children to enjoy and experience learning in a natural environment. Children can complete any box on the calendar for any day which will give children choices and build motivation. You, as the teacher, can decide how many boxes a week or month you would like students to complete. Show our children that homework can be fun!

In addition to the calendar I have supplied thoughts and research on the topic of homework. The CCSS, along with 21st Century Skills move us in the direction of teaching children to learn and to become independent learners. I hope this will help as you connect home school with “home”work.

November "Home" Work Calendar