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August 27 2020

The Ultimate Guide to Virtual Teaching

The Read Side by Side Reading Program, a curriculum for teaching reading in grades 3-6, is designed to teach students how to access longer, more complex text and increase their interest and motivation to read.  As schools shift from in-person instruction to virtual instruction, these goals are even more important.  There are several reasons for this:

May 28 2020

5 Tips for Reading Aloud to Children

Reading aloud to children is one of the most effective routines for raising reading achievement and building a love of reading.  When an adult reads  to a child, he models fluent reading, a love of reading, and develops in the child comprehension skills. The child is exposed to new authors and text types, new words, and new ideas. Children learn to feel empathy for others as they explore the world from another perspective.  Snuggling up with a loved one and a book reinforces a feeling of connection, safety, and love (something our children need now more than ever).

April 13 2017

Using Turn and Talk Stems Across the Globe

Earlier this month, Bethany and I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Macau near Hong Kong to work with teachers and English Language Learners in Hou Kong Premier School to learn many of the strategies of our C. I. A. curriculum. While there, we learned the power of turn and talk stems—a major part of the Read Side by Side curriculum—to give confidence and a feeling of success to students learning the English language. How gratifying to see this approach help students across the globe!

June 25 2014

Hooked on C. I. A.: Reflections on the Year

My CIA experience this year was AMAZING!  My students are hooked on the CIA reading program!  Here are our teacher and student reflections on the year:

June 20 2014

Janet's Year End Review - Looking Back

It’s hard to believe another school year is complete.  This year will be one that I always remember with fondness; the students in my class were exceptionally kind, eager to learn, and attentive.  Pretty much a dream class…

June 9 2014

Sarah's Year End Review

The students and I know our classroom would have been a very different place without CIA this year.

May 13 2014

Glory Be: Charts and Vocabulary

“But it was so much fun!” This was in response (from my most busy girl) to a very long catch-up reading session, after which I drooped and said, “Thank you for sticking with it today. That was a lot of work!” When she said that, I perked back up.

May 6 2014

City of Ember Writing

The last 5th grade CIA unit is the City of Ember written by Jeanne DuPrau.  It is about a futuristic society that was built underground to save the human race from extinction. The people who live in Ember do not know any of this.  All they know is that everything in their environment relies on electricity.  But, the generator that makes the electricity is starting to break down and there are more and more blackouts.  The people are also worried about food, because there seems to be shortages of everything.  Students find out that there are two people, Lina and Doon, who want to try to save Ember.  How can 12 year olds save a city?

April 28 2014

Charts with Children of the Gold Rush

This is my first time teaching 4.4, Children of the Gold Rush, and I’m really enjoying it! My students love the topic so far, and all the background knowledge-building has led to great questions about the time period, people, and geography of the Klondike/Alaskan gold rush.

April 24 2014

Teaching Genre with Glory Be

After we came back from Spring Break, we started our final CIA unit of the school year, Glory Be. I was afraid that my students would have forgotten some of the important ideas that we had learned about segregation and the Civil Rights movement from our Martin Luther King Jr CIA unit. My class proved me wrong yet again! It was almost as if during the time between the two CIA units the ideas were marinating within them and becoming part of who they are now. Even in the early stages of reading Glory Be students have shared why they think segregation is wrong and how they would have felt if they were around at that time, as well as how it must feel for people to be treated differently today. These have been some of the happiest moments in my teaching career.

April 24 2014

Background Knowledge for Streams to the River

We are starting Streams to the River this month just as we are finishing our Native American unit in Social Studies.  This year we studied the Pacific Coastal People in a Story Path.  This curriculum leads the students through an interactive story about the Native Americans in our region of Washington.  At the beginning of the unit the classroom creates the “setting” of the story by building a bulletin board.  I made the connection to CIA’s first quadrant focus on story elements (setting, character, and problem).  The next part the students learn about the people of the NW Coast along with their village (long houses), jobs, and lifestyles.  The class then has the first white traders come and that leads to settlers coming in and claiming the land as their own.  This part focuses on the early 1800’s just after the time of Lewis and Clark’s Expedition.  The last part of the Story Path leads to relocation of the village onto a reservation.  I feel that this was a good background experience to have before we started Streams to the River.  Now my students have an understanding about what it was like for Native Americans to encounter “white men” for the first time.  I have been referencing this Story Path experience as we have started Streams.  During the lesson of comparing and contrasting the Shoshone and Minnetarees. I also brought in the local Coastal tribes and talked about their lifestyles of hunting/gathering, building long houses, and using salmon and cedar as their main natural resources.

April 9 2014

4th Grade Writers

Writing is a big part of the CIA program as it gives students a chance to think deeper about a text.  I love how the quadrants all end in a writing assignment.  After reading multiple units students know what to expect when they reach the end of a quadrant.  This year I will complete three units whole class with one book study independently.  Each book has increased in text complexity to allow students to grow as readers and writers.  My current unit of Streams to the River, River to the Sea will give my students their most detailed Retell Summary experience in 4th grade.  This unit is twice as long as the Shiloh and Castles units and students are taking a lot more notes in their CIA journals.  The charts that they keep are longer and more detailed and they are getting introduced to new charts (cause and effect, actions/motivations, and hardships/response/character traits).  With this novel students are making deeper connections about how a character feels.  They will use this to create their final piece of writing at the end of quadrant 4.  For my three units this year my students have completed multiple retell summaries, a compare and contrast piece, a persuasive essay, a problem/solution piece, and two literary essays.

March 6 2014

Kids at Work

My students are reading the fourth unit of study, Kids at Work by Russell Freedman.  Like the other Units of Study Sarah Collinge has written, Sarah has chosen a book that speaks to kids and gives them important issues to think and talk about.  Many of my students said they knew nothing about child labor and are glad they know about it now. Mary wrote, “…the problem that Lewis Hine saw was that people didn’t see how bad it is to have children doing monotonous jobs.  Also people were using children as cheap labor to raise profits.  Lewis Hine’s solution to this problem was to take photos and collect exact information about each child he took photos of.”   They admire Lewis Hine’s photographs and the work he did to change the lives of children.

February 26 2014

Historical Fiction - Chains

My class will begin reading Chains in January. There are a couple of things I think about, one the genre is Historical Fiction and two, it will be the longest book students have read so far during the school year.  I know from past experience that the length of the book will, at first, intimidate them.  In order to help them understand the genre, my 5th grade colleague, Kathryn Oswood, made up a template for us to include in our reading packets.  The template helps students to compare and contrast realistic fiction to historical fiction.  Below is a sample of the completed template.  We give students a blank template and we try to complete as much as we can together.  I also use the genre posters Sarah developed to hang in my room, so students have a quick reference tool to use whenever they need it.

February 24 2014

MLK and Writing

Well, we are finally halfway through Martin Luther King Jr.’s biography! It feels like we’ve been reading this short book forever…and yet the students are not bored or in need of extra entertainment to stay engaged. They have taken the big ideas and the details to heart, searching each week in library for connecting texts and noticing protests and boycotts on the news at home. There has been such an outpouring of connections, I have had to start a “waitlist” poster so I can pull connections when I am ready for them instead of giving up time we don’t have each day (I do think they could use up a whole subject area with excited sharing of connections – and I wish I could let them!)

February 1 2014

Background Knowledge in Streams

One reason I love the third CIA unit for 4th grade, Streams to the River, River to the Sea, is the opportunity to integrate Social Studies content and skills throughout the book.  Students use skills like reading maps, making and using timelines, and of course learning about the explorers and Native Americans of the Northwest.  They will start using these skills as we build background knowledge for the book.

January 6 2014

Student Engagement

Well, I sit here trying to figure out what to write about engagement. I have never used a curriculum or program for literacy that has captivated every 5th grader the way the CIA approach does. Whenever you use any other curriculum or program you really skim the surface of text. You might focus on a particular skill for week or two and then move on. The CIA approach embeds it all into one approach. Students actively seek to uncover the mysteries of the books naturally. I have four children of my own, and currently one of them is almost two. He works hard everyday to understand the world around him. As he explores and experiments with his own little world, he finds the answers he seeks all by his own drive and intuition. What I absolutely love about the CIA approach is that the drive to uncover the mysteries of the world is now used to uncover the mysteries in books. I see this again re-emerge in my classroom. Students beg me to read each day when they walk in my classroom. (Our literacy block is at the end of the day.)

December 23 2013

The C. I. A. Approach in The War with Grandpa

I cannot believe we are in the process of wrapping up the writing project that follows our read aloud The War With Grandpa. This unit just flew by. My students had such a fun time making connections with the struggle that comes with being in a disagreement with a family member. This was a great choice on Sarah's part for third grade. Students were so into the book because of its real life connections. All students can relate to being in disagreements with someone you love. I am going to break down quadrant by quadrant the work we did in The War With Grandpa.

December 15 2013

Castle in the Attic with Janet Erickson

My students are really into Castle in the Attic!  We have almost reached the end of the second quadrant, so they have a good understanding of the characters and the problem that is developing.  Imagine a giant GASP! when I read:

November 28 2013

The Holes Unit of Study

Our second unit of study for 5th grade is Holes.  Students are always excited to begin this book because so many of them have seen the movie.  Sometimes it is hard to get them to think about how the book is quite a bit different than the movie. Some students think the book will be easier to read since they are familiar with the story.  However, the book is much more complex than students think.  As Sarah points out on page 27 of the unit under structure, “This narrative is told by means of an unconventional and complex story structure.  Students must navigate five plot lines, revealed through flashbacks.”  There is a lot of things going on in this book!

November 14 2013

Vocab Handbooks

One part of the CIA program that I really enjoy is the vocabulary handbooks.  This is a great way to teach new vocab words to students.  By introducing them to a word before they hear/read it in the text it really helps students with their comprehension.  This allows them to identify these words and how they are used in context instead of reading over the unknown meaning of a word.  I use the CIA Teacher Manual Vocabulary Mini-Lesson Routine every day that we start a lesson with a vocab word.

November 12 2013

Vocabulary Handbook

At the end of each CIA unit of study are the pages of the Vocabulary Handbook.  I make sure that the handbook is copied for each student and hole-punched so they can keep it in their binders.  I have written all the vocabulary words on sentence strips.  Each day I post it in the pocket chart above the turn and talk stem for the day.  After the day’s lesson I put the word card in the Vocabulary pocket chart so students can see it whenever they need to.

November 8 2013

Castle in the Attic C. I. A.

Beginning Castle in the Attic

As a grade level we have to rotate CIA units so this year I started off with Castle in the Attic.  This is the first time I am teaching this unit and my class is super excited to read it!  The first couple weeks of the year I tried to mention CIA knowing that my students had this experience in 3rd grade.  This made my setup a lot easier with students having the structure of the CIA approach.  A week before we started our unit of study I had the students prep their reader’s notebooks.  I copied a picture of the book cover and made a title page in their notebooks.  Before we started the Day 1 Blurb reading, I asked my students to decorate their title page with pictures about castles and medieval life, words, predictions, etc.

November 6 2013

Turn and Talk - Hilary Cullen

Sentence Stems

The use of stems in my classroom has completely changed the way I look at student discourse. Before the use of stems I would always expect my students to turn and talk in the fashion of think-pair-share. Then I realized I kept getting frustrated because the students were not sharing their thinking the way I was expecting them too. Now I realize that if I want students to share in a certain way I need to model this and give them opportunities and structures to share their thinking. I have used stems in all content areas. For example, in math when I looked at the graph I saw __________ this makes me think________. It has had a huge impact on the level of student discourse that is taking place. The response stems have had even more of an impact. My students have such good conversations because they can organize their thinking and defend their thoughts.

October 22 2013

Writing - Finishing Poppy

Poppy is Over  :-(

Every single student in my classroom can now say that they have read a chapter book as we have finished reading Poppy. I’m not sure who is more bummed out, me or my students.

October 7 2013

C. I. A.: Poppy in Sarah Linington's Class

Beginning the CIA Unit

We started the unit of study for Poppy after two weeks of Patricia Polacco practice with sentence stems, literary vocabulary, and talking about how character’s change. We are in the first quadrant, Collecting, of the CIA framework. After each lesson, the students practice the same strategy for half their independent reading time in a book I chose. The second half of independent reading is in a just right book of their choice. Many students are making Character Trait lists for all independent books, Setting Maps, and some have started lists of events (even though we have not started that with Poppy yet.) I noticed that we were having many “burning questions” yesterday, so we made an impromptu Questions poster and also added that to our independent reading strategies list.

September 24 2013

Poppy: C. I. A. in the 3rd Grade Classroom


I’d like to start this blog with a few updates since my last blog. In my blog, about setting up the classroom, I had shared how my CIA area was all set up, and I how I wasn’t sure about the blank walls. Well, my walls are no longer blank! We’ve created so many charts in reading Poppy that I don’ t have much room left, and if anything need to find some more wall space for the charts we have yet to create. I could easily take down the charts that we may not be adding more information onto, but I like leaving them up to show what we have done, plus when my students are doing independent reading, they work on completing some of the same activities we have done within CIA for their own books and I like to have them up as a reference. You might notice how I use different colors within the same chart. The reason I do this is that it is easy for both myself and the students to differentiate the different pieces of information (plus I just like things to be colorful).

September 6 2013

Earthquake Terror Unit of Study

In 5th grade, our first CIA unit is Earthquake Terror written by Peg Kehret.  It is an exciting realistic fiction adventure story about a boy and his family who must survive a terrifying earthquake while camping on a deserted island.  I really enjoy this story and I think it is a great book to start with in September.  It eases the students into our daily CIA schedule and the story is attention-grabbing to the students.

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