I have been teaching for more than 25 years. My first teaching experience was in a refugee camp as an ESL teacher to Indochinese refugees. I was also a music teacher to elementary and middle school students in the San Gabriel Valley area. I moved to San Fernando Valley to work as an elementary school teacher for Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). Although I have taught all grade levels from kinder to fifth grade, I have been teaching grades 3, 4 and 5 in Sunny Brae.
If you want to help, here are possible ways to help:
- You can volunteer in my classroom. Just tell me so I could plan.
- You can do things at home like prepare things for my students’ projects.
- You can donate to my classroom. I always buy gadgets that may help my students. I sometimes post these to different websites
Allow me to introduce myself:
This is a video of the refugee camp where my wife and I used to teach. This refugee camp is a processing center for Indochinese Refugees (Vietnamese, Khmer, Cambodian, Laotian) prior to their resettlement to other countries.
What will be the focus for this school year?
As a teacher, I am required to use the standards set by the state of California. For Reading Language Arts and Math, I have to follow the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS); for Science, the next Next Generations Science Standards (NGSS); for English Language Development (ELD), Social Studies, Arts, Health, and Physical Education, the California State Standards. Common Core State Standards also have literacy standards on other subjects including science, social studies and other technical subjects. The technology standards are also embedded on the Common Core State Standards. To learn more about these, click this page: www.mrreyes.org/curricular-areas/standards.
How do we work on reading?
Reading has no short cuts. It involves a lot of hard work but if done consistently and with the help of the parents, the students, and technology we will show improvement in reading decoding and reading comprehension. I can not make a blanket statement that everybody will have a dramatic improvement in reading. Some will; some will have slow and little improvements.
My focus can be found in my room. My bulletin boards show “The FACES of Good Readers. FACES is an acronym for
- Expanded Vocabulary
- Strategies for Test Taking
FLUENCY: Fluency is done with fluency instruction, fluency practice and fluency assessments. We work on word fluency (words in isolation) everyday using PowerPoint slideshows featuring 100 high frequency words. I also send home a list of 20 words per week that students should read daily. Why high frequency words? These words comprised 60-70% of every text the students read. Students should not spend all their energy figuring out words that they should be able to read automatically. Some parents may think the students are just memorizing these words. Students should be able to recognize these words quickly as man of these words do not even follow the rules of phonics (e.g. the, are, many). These high frequency words once mastered will change. We will be working with 1200 high frequency words throughout the school year. As the reading fluency improves, there should also be an improvement in reading comprehension.
We also work on phrase fluency and reading stories. This means students should be able to read a chunk or group of words as a phrase. Students who have reading difficulties read one word at a time sounding like a robot without the appropriate phrasing and appropriate expression. Other than the list of 20 words that I send home for daily reading, I also send home a story per week for students to read.
Assessments: Students are assessed weekly to see what words have been mastered and to see if the reading fluency rate has improved. Students then graph their scores and are posted on the bulletin board. Each student has a goal of improving their fluency rate by 2-5 words. I also administer DIBELS (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills) Progress Monitoring so I have an online record of students fluency rates and retelling scores. The scores and observed reading behavior of students give me an idea on what to teach the following week.
ACCURACY: There is daily phonics instruction regardless of grade. I focus on the decoding strategies and the use of the curriculum, i.e. California Treasures. This allows me to teach or reteach important phonics rules that will help students decode grade level textbooks and other materials. This is done before we read the story of the week as it helps students easily recognize words used in the story.
One example of a rule that the students have learned this week is the use of “ck” in spelling a word. As a rule, there is a short vowel sound that precedes the “ck” spelling. This will help students read words with this spelling pattern as most words will always have a short vowel preceding that spelling pattern. Why is the word lack spelled with a ck and why is the word bleak spelled using the letter k?
Assessments: At the end of that instructional week, students are “assessed” if they have mastered the lesson. It is not a spelling test. We focus on how to listen to each sound in a word and figure out what letter to write. Again, the focus here are strategies. This will lessen student’s dependence on adults with spelling when they are writing. This will also increase students’ self confidence when writing.
COMPREHENSION: As we read a story a week, we do close reading to dissect the text to better understand the story. We focus on different elements such as
- word use and vocabulary
- main idea / central idea / theme
- characters and character traits
- text structure
Assessments: Depending on the story, students show understanding of the text through the use of:
- Main Idea: Students, orally or through the use of graphic organizers, identify the main idea and supporting details.
- Retell: After reading, the students tell the story again but using their own words. Once a week, I also administer DIBELS progress monitoring. The student is asked to read a text that has not been read before. The student is timed for a minute. The student gets a reading fluency rate. There is also a component in DIBELS (benchmark assessments or progress monitoring assessments) that asks students to read a text for a minute and do a retell if the student has read at least 40 correct words per minute. The teacher tallies all the elements that a student answered and also marks grades on the quality and sequence of these elements.
- Summary: Students may also write the summary after using a graphic organizer.
- Thinking Maps: These are advanced graphic organizers that students use. For example, when describing a character, students use the Bubble Map. When comparing and contrasting, students use the Double Bubble Map. When showing the plot, students use the Flow Map.
EXPANDED VOCABULARY: Part of the reading language arts program is learn how to understand the meaning of words used in the text. We focus on different vocabulary strategies that students may use as they read stories and other text. Students look for:
- context clues: New words are often understood in the context of the sentence or paragraph. Some words with multiple meanings can be best understood in context. Students look for clues within that paragraph to figure out the meaning of the word.
- appositives, apposition, comma, or comma sets: Some words are followed by comma or a pair of commas and a phrase. These are known as appositives. Appositives can show the synonyms or definition of the word, a description, or show an example.
- cognates: The use of cognates allows English language learners to use their home language as a resource for learning new academic words in English. It is particularly helpful for students who speak Latin-based languages, including French. Cognates are words that have a similar spelling, pronunciation, and meaning across two languages. When students recognize words as cognates, they can access unfamiliar English words and better understand what they read. For example, the word abolish can be easily understood by Spanish speaking students if they are familiar with its Spanish cognate “abolir“. Teachers and students should be extra careful since there are false cognates. These are words that may appear to have an equivalent to the other language but have a different definition. For example, the English word camp may have a Spanish counterpart. However, the Spanish word “campo” does not translate to camp but to countryside. The Spanish word for camp is “campamento“.
- word parts: Sometimes the word can give clues to the meaning of the word. If you break the word apart, students will see commonly used prefixes and suffixes. They might also recognize the base word, the word stripped with affixes. For example, the word exporter can be broken into:
- ex- : This means out
- port: This means carry
- -er: This means one who
- So the word exporter can mean a person who carries something out.
We also employ other strategies for these words to become more meaningful to students. We use
- word maps: This is a graphic organizer where a word has
- is used in a sentence
- drawings or illustrations
- visual imaging: Students associate the word to a mental image.
- actions / movements: Students associate a word with a corresponding movement. For example, to remember the words greater and lesser in math, students made the gestures to show big (greater) and to show small (lesser).
- glossary, dictionary, thesaurus: There are times that you can not use other strategies but use the dictionary. My problem with dictionaries is these are not often available especially during tests. During the recent CAASPP tests, the new state standardized testing, students have access, although limited, to a glossary. When a student hovers the cursor to a word, sometimes a definition appears.
STRATEGIES for test taking:
Listening and Speaking
The new Common Core State Standards have language standards. I will be focusing more on Listening and Speaking as these are the areas where students struggle the most. These standards are not just limited to Reading Language Arts block but to the whole instructional day. So I expect students to always speak in complete sentences. I also ask students to restate what they have heard.
Right now, I am focusing on the use of sentence frames or sentence starters. I do not require all students to use these, only if they have difficulties. I have listed some examples of these sentence starters below. I have also posted these on the board and as table tents for easy access.
- ____ is greater than ____.
- ____ is lesser than _____.
- ____ is equal to ________.
Sentence Frames for Citing Evidence
- On page ___, the text says ________. (textual evidence)
- On page ___, the picture shows _____. (illustrative evidence)
- The answer can be found on page ___, paragraph ___. The author wrote ________.
- After reading page ____, I now know that _________.
- One example from the text is _______. This can be found on page ___.
Sentence Frames during Math
- I solved the problem by ________.
The Use of Technology
Digital Interactive Whiteboards: This class is always exposed to the use of technology. I always use a SMART Board, a digital interactive whiteboard. This year, I am slowly incorporating the use of a second board using a low cost alternative. These allow me to prepare the lessons and save these files for future use. Although this is my intent, i have not actually re-used any of these files. I constantly change these files to adapt to my students or even create new files. As I use these, students are exposed to technology words and skills that are required by Common Core State Standards,
Computers and Tablets: Students are always using these devices for class work using teacher created online accounts provided by the publishers of our books (e.g. eBooks,additional instructional materials, online games, and assessments). Students also use apps for independent work. For a list of these apps, click this page: www.mrreyes.org/classroom-apps-for-ipads-and-android-tablets.
Online Digital Portfolio: I have set up a personal webpage for each student. To see this page, click this page: www.mrreyes.org/students/student-log-in. This contains pictures and videos of the student so these are password protected. There is also an app to store the student’s work. Parents will have access to these student work. I have already sent out a sheet containing the student’s usernames, passwords, links, and apps to be used. I also upload videos weekly of students reading. These videos are not for public viewing, only the parents have access to these.