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4 Easy Ways to Help with Reading Comprehension

I wrote a post at the end of November about how to support struggling readers.  You can check out that blog post here.

I will be continuing this series to focus on several strategies to support ALL readers!  Today's post will focus on supporting students that struggle with reading comprehension.

Personally, I feel like these are some of the most difficult readers to work with.  They sound beautiful and fluent when they read, so there are no external "clues" of where the break down occurs. So how can we "fix" the problem?

Here are 4 EASY tips (with FREEBIES to match!) to help with students that are struggling with reading comprehension.

Does the student monitor for meaning?  If not try the "Monitoring Monster." Ask students to draw a  monster on the bookmark.  It can look anyway they want it to. After students draw their monsters, explain that this monster helps us monitor, or make sure we are understanding the story. It will help us as we read.

Younger students can simply read a page and then tell their monster bookmark what they just read about.  Older students can read and use the checklist at the bottom of the bookmark as a guide to understanding what they read.

This strategy is a great and simple way to make students aware they have to think about what they are  reading. Some kids do not realize reading is much more that word calling!

I have two veresions of this freebie.  This one is perfect for younger readers.

This one is better for older readers!

Some students may have difficulty retelling a narrative story.  A simple way to help with this is to teach students the Retelling Hand.  This gives students a kinesthetic way to help remember story structure.

To begin, you can write the story elements on the matching fingers of a gardening glove.  Students can put on the glove, and touch the word prompt while retelling the story. Then, students can retell the story but simply looking at the picture of the Retelling Hand.  When students are ready, they will be able to retell the story without any picture or glove because they have internalized the story structure.

A larger poster and small posters (2 to a page) are included.

Another way to keep students thinking about their reading is the Reading Red Light. This is a way for students to realize that we think about our reading before, during, and after we actually read the text.

  Show students the stoplight.  Then, explain that just like a stoplight has three parts, so does our reading.  We think about our reading before, during, and after we actually read.

You can color code the red light hand out (red, yellow, green from top to bottom).  Give students matching colored post its (pink if you can't find red!).  Then, before reading the text ask students to orally answer the questions from the "Ready" section and have students write them on the pink post it.  Allow students to read part of the text.  On a yellow post it, have students answer some of the yellow "Read" questions. Finally, after reading the text, have students answer the "remember" questions on a green post it.

Explain to students that we may not always write these answers, but we always need to be thinking about them as we read.

Jump in the Story is a great strategy for students that have difficulty with inferring what is happening in the story, as well as inferring about the characters.  It is best to use this strategy with a text with great illustrations.

While reading the book, stop on a page with a great illustration.  Then ask students to jump into the story.  This means that they pose and move to look like a different character in the story.  Basically, create a visual tableau of the picture from the book.

Explain to students that they are the character they are posed as.  Ask students inferential questions about the text.  Have students answer as the character. "How is your character feeling right now? Why do you think that?" This literally "puts the students in the character's shoes" and can give them a better reference for answering questions.

Want to snag your freebies?  Click below!

I have already written a few other posts about reading comprehension.  If you want to read more, make sure to check out these posts.  

This post gives strategies of what to do in a guided reading group when the child has no idea of what they just read.  

This post gives some more strategies for students struggling with comprehension!


Click here for this great pack of FREE math centers, plus get tips and updates from me!

If you would like more ideas from me, be sure to follow me on Teachers Pay Teachers, Pinterest, and Facebook to catch all the freebies and ideas and more!

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Center Storage and February Math Centers

This January has had such wild weather.  We were all tucked in for a fabulous winter storm that left our yard looking more like a skating rink than winter wonderland. Now it is 70 degrees, but we could have flurries next week?  I dunno, but Mother Nature must be in a dizzy lately!

Let's talk about how to keep teachers out of the winter ups and downs! February is right around the corner.  NOW is the time to get prepared.  Let's talk centers.

Center Organization 

Once you spend all that time printing, laminating, and cutting out centers you want to be able to use them year after year.  However, they are so hard to keep organized!  SO.MUCH.STUFF! LOL!

I found I was best able to keep up with my centers when I used the large clasp envelopes. I would print out the cover sheet and directions.  Then, I glued them onto the envelope.  If I was realllllly sweet to the laminator and it was in a good mood, I would run the envelope through.  Before running the envelope through, break OFF the metal clasps.  These can sometimes jam the laminator.  After cutting out the envelope, I would run my scissors along the opening and slit the lamination.  Boom!  Custom, durable center envelope! All the cards, recording sheets and materials could be stored in the envelope.

I stored all my centers in large plastic totes.  I LOVED these. They are the letter size "Show Offs" by Sterilite.  I bought mine awhile ago at Wal-Mart (hence the solid blue top). You can also buy them on Amazon here.

You can pack TONS of centers in these! Some of mine are even in baggies (when I was lazy), but I prefer clasp envelop method above.

I kept all my center totes (I had several!) in a storage closet in school.  This made them easy to access, but out of the way.  They are also perfect for storing on top of cabinets and shelves since they are contained and the boxes will keep the dust out!

I grouped the centers by concept.  The box pictured was my addition box.  It contained all my centers for addition.  However, you could also divide yours by month. If you are looking for EASY, monthly centers, I have just the thing!

February Math Centers

I have differentiated math centers all for the month of February.   Six of the eight centers are tiered so all students can be working on the same skill, at a different level of difficulty. Counting all the differentiated activities, this pack actually contains 19 different activities. The following concepts are covered:
  • Addition
  • Subtraction
  • Place Value
  • Time
  • Fractions
  • Money


Adding- Adding three numbers using a hundreds chart. 

This is a differentiated activity with two levels: adding using a hundreds chart with hints and adding with a hundreds chart without hints. Please note all the problems are the same, only the presentation is different.

Subtraction- Subtracting problems and then sorting the difference into one of two different categories

This is a differentiated activity with six levels: two digit subtraction with no regrouping and sorting differences into even and odd, two digit subtraction with regrouping and sorting into regrouping or no regrouping, two digit subtraction across zeroes and sorting differences into evens and odds, three digit subtraction with no regrouping and sorting differences into evens and odds, three digit subtraction with regrouping and sorting into regrouping or no regrouping, three digit subtraction across zeroes and sorting differences into evens and odds.

Place Value- Comparing numbers with <, >, or =.

This is a differentiated activity with three levels: comparing expanded and word form, comparing with mixed up expanded form and word form, comparing with mixed place value review. Please note all the problems are the same, only the presentation is different.

Time- There are two different centers for telling time.  

The first center is telling time. This is a differentiated activity with three levels: telling time to the nearest hour, to the nearest half hour, and the nearest five minutes. The second center is a puzzle activity matching time to the nearest five minutes in digital, analog, and words.

Fractions- Identifying halves, thirds, fourths and wholes. 

Please note, this is the only center without differentiation.

Money- Two different centers are included for money. 

In the first center students match the collection of coins to the amount. 

In the second center students solve money word problems. This is a differentiated activity with two levels.  The problems are identical but one set of cards provides coin pictures as cues.

In addition to the centers there are three different extra practice worksheets to remediate for each academic skill/ center.  These would be great as assessments, independent work, or an early finisher activity. There are a total of 18 extra worksheets.  Answer keys are included when possible.

I have a sweet treat for you!  These centers are 20% off until February 1st!

Click here for this great pack of FREE math centers, plus get tips and updates from me!

If you would like more ideas from me, be sure to follow me on Teachers Pay Teachers, Pinterest, and Facebook to catch all the freebies and ideas and more!

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Integrating Social Studies and Reading with Historical Figures

I think one of my most favorite historical figures to learn about in second grade is Jackie Robinson.  I always found him to be such a fascinating man. Also, because he was a baseball player, he was pretty high interest for my students- especially some of my boys!

To set the stage for segregation, since for many of my students it was (thankfully) very hard to relate to, we watched a video clip of the Sneeches by Dr. Seuss. It is a great, child friendly example of segregation and discrimination ("They had no stars upon 'thars!").  

We watched it and then related it to the definitions for segregation and discrimination.  It was really the perfect, simple example!

You can watch the video on School Tube for free!  Click here for a direct link!

After watching this and establishing the definition of segregation, I read aloud the book Freedom Summer by Deborah Wiles.

Now, before reading this book aloud to your class make sure to read it yourself first.  It is meant for slightly older children. While the content isn't really inappropriate, it is a heavy topic.  I felt comfortable and read it to my students because I knew them well. 

It is a beautiful story about a friendship between two boys in a rural area during the Civil Rights movement.  One of the characters is white and the other is African American.  In the middle of the book, "a new law" will allow his best friend to come with him to the public pool.  Both boys are thrilled, until they realize that sometimes it takes more than a law for change...and they try to make a little change themselves.

It is a great, but deep story. I used it to set the stage for the feelings surrounding segregation during the Civil Rights movement. It is a complex story, but then again, this was a complex era.

A beautiful story to introduce Jackie Robinson is the book Teammates by  Peter Golenbock.

I love this book to teach Jackie Robinson.  It is a great way to show examples of sportsmanship (good and bad), patience, and dependability.  It DOES mention the KKK and death threats.  I am not comfortable discussion this with my second graders so I just skim over this part. This book has elements of a biography as well as narrative. It has both photographs and drawings.

I wanted a biography about Jackie Robinson with lots of text features.  I did find this one.

It is a GREAT book and has TONS of text features...but it is also really long. I felt it was too much as a read aloud for my class.  Instead, I decided to create my own.  If you can't find it, you make it- right??!!

I created a 12 page interactive EBook. It is perfect for projecting on your Smart Board or Promethean Board.  I tried to include several text features so that this could also be used for student nonfiction features in a text. Some of the features are clickable so that it will link to another slide or a definition will pop up (for the bolded text). The following features are included:

•Table of contents (clickable)
•Bolded text (clickable)
•Glossary (clickable)
•Index (clickable)

Do you have any favorite books about Jackie Robinson?

Click here for this great pack of FREE math centers, plus get tips and updates from me!

If you would like more ideas from me, be sure to follow me on Teachers Pay Teachers, Pinterest, and Facebook to catch all the freebies and ideas and more!

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Addition and Subtraction Strategies FREEBIE!

In Georgia, we have a "new" set of standards for math.  However, they are still verrry similar to the previous Common Core.  These "Georgia Standards of Excellence" still have much of the same (if not identical) verbiage.

This includes using strategies outside the traditional algorithm to add and subtract. The "new" Georgia standard is:

"MGSE2.NBT.5 Fluently add and subtract within 100 using strategies based on place value, properties of operations, and/or the relationship between addition and subtraction."

By encouraging students to use other strategies to add and subtract, we can strengthening their mental math skills, understanding of the base ten system, as well as have a deeper understanding of WHY the, "More on top?  Need to stop!" poem WORKS.

I focused on several different strategies in my classroom.   I am NOT an expert, I am just a teacher, like you.  This is how I chose to introduce the strategies in my classroom.

I do believe in beginning with using the most concrete methods to the most abstract methods. If you want to learn more about concrete to abstract relationships in math, this webpage is a nice, simple overview.

We WERE somewhat mandated in that we had to teach multiple strategies, but I felt we were given leeway in WHICH strategies we could teach. This was my personal sequencing for teaching. I have also included photos of the addition and subtraction math centers that I created to practice each strategy. Just click on the pictures to see the centers.

I am a HUGE fan of base ten blocks.  I always began EVERY addition and subtraction unit with base ten blocks.  Most students were able to be successful.

Some years before I ever pulled out the base ten blocks, I used unifix cubes in rods of 10. This made it an easy, PHYSICAL way to pop apart the ten to regroup.

The base ten block strategy also transferred easily to a semi-concrete level where kids could draw the blocks to add.  Some of my most struggling learners mastered this skill in second, but never full got to the full abstract stage.  They had a way to solve the problem- it just took them awhile.

We went from base ten blocks to base ten blocks while recording the work on white boards to only using whiteboards to scaffold support.


My next strategy when teaching two-digit addition and subtraction was using the hundreds chart. I read one website that said this was concrete and another that said it was representational.  I am not sure which it is, but I have a hard time thinking a grid of numbers would be concrete because it is harder to manipulate, but I am no expert. I liked this method because my kids were VERY familiar with the hundreds chart.  We used it ALL THE TIME.  It is also a break down of place value- basically hopping around by tens and ones, with visual cues.


I actually did a video at the beginning of the school year, showing several different math strategies that could be taught with the hundreds chart, including arrow math. This is essentially addition and subtraction.

After my kid were pretty good with this method, we practiced with laminated hundreds chart and either counters or dry erase markers.  Then, we would move to paper/pencil practice.  I made this pack for that very reason.

It has a poster with directions as well as scaffolded practice sheets.

The next strategy I taught depended on whether we were studying addition or subtraction. If we were working on addition, I would introduced adding with expanded form.   You can also lead into the partial sum strategy if kids get the expanded form strategy- they pair very nicely and kids "get" it. This was a personal favorite of mine because it lends itself easily to mental math.  It also happens to be how I add in my head! LOL!


I DO NOT prefer this was for subtraction.  It is fine for problems without regrouping, but  for problems with regrouping?  There is a bunch of crossing out happening.  This would make sense though, if it lead to teaching the traditional algorithm.  We didn't even TEACH the traditional algorithm in second grade.

Open Number Lines can be really hard for some kids.  I often used closed number lines. In fact, I used these all the time.  The different between an open and closed number line is simply  that the closed number line is labeled for kids, while an open is blank so kids can determine a starting point and increments.


This can be a hard strategy to find materials.  I created this pack to scaffold from beginning to end!

I think that besides the struggles with instruction we may come across, is simply educating parents.  I know I was not taught these strategies when I was a kid....and I am old enough to have a kid in elementary school! Let's not get more specific than that LOL !

I made these two FREE handouts for parents.  Just click on the pictures to snag them!


They are each two pages that describe different strategies to solve problems.  They are two pages for each.  On the second page, you can add an editable note to parents, if you want.  However, the actual handout itself is not editable. The handout includes MORE strategies than those I cover above, just in case!

Which strategies do you prefer? 

Click here for this great pack of FREE math centers, plus get tips and updates from me!

If you would like more ideas from me, be sure to follow me on Teachers Pay Teachers, Pinterest, and Facebook to catch all the freebies and ideas and more!

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