5 Ways to Plan and Differentiate for Young Gifted Readers: Part Two

 
5 Ways to Plan and Differentiate for Young Gifted Readers Part Two. A look at vocabulary, reading choices and differentiating classroom activities for gifted readers. A Galarious Goods Blog Post
 

Note: While this blog post is aimed at teachers in Kindy/Prep/Reception, Grade 1 and Grade 2, many of the ideas are adaptable or applicable to older grades as well.

3. Expand Their Vocabulary

Like background knowledge, vocabulary is something you develop with more time, more reading, more conversation, more exposure to different experiences and . . . well, more time. Asking 5, 6 or 7 year olds to automatically have the same vocabulary as older students is a tall ask.

While many of these young gifted readers have wide and varied vocabularies, it’s very possible that they have gaps in their vocabulary knowledge or that they are missing vocabulary understanding when it comes to particular subjects. While they can continue to grow their vocabulary through reading, it’s important to provide opportunities for students to see vocabulary as something you can work on, something to strive to improve at.

Parents of gifted readers will tell you that it’s incredibly frustrating to see sight words or high frequency words come home which are well below the level of their children. These are often accompanied with instructions to ‘learn them’ to ‘laminate the cards’ or to ‘check Pinterest for fun activities’. While these are excellent ideas for students who are learning these words, they leave parents of gifted readers wondering whether their child is being catered for at all, and what possible alternatives there are to sight word activities.

Offering a vocabulary list instead of sight word list is an easy way to differentiate this kind of homework (or school work) for gifted students. Like sight words, you can offer a few easy activities - look up the word, write a sentence with the word, see if you can spot the word in a book, draw the word - for students to complete in the classroom or at home. You can find or suggest additional ideas through Pinterest or extend students with ideas like using folding resources.

You can also help young gifted readers to extend their reading by teaching them how to look up word definitions in a dictionary. Students can develop the skills of finding words, looking at multiple definitions and (at times) looking up more words so they really understand the definition. This is a skill they’ll be able to use for years to come!

How do you make it work in a busy classroom?

You can create or find vocabulary templates (or teach students to draw up their own) so students can engage in vocabulary work at a range of times.

To find vocabulary lists, search online for a few years above the grade level of your students (this is where testing will assist you in knowing what level your gifted readers require) - there’s a lot available! A number of subject lists are also available.

To teach dictionary skills, see if you can work with a range of teachers across different grades to put together a small group of students who would benefit from learning these skills. If you have a teacher-librarian, they might be able to put on a little workshop for the students or you may be able to work with your Principal or Curriculum Leader to release a teacher to teach dictionary skills.

4. Support their Reading Choices

This one is especially important when it comes to school libraries. Many, many young gifted readers have experienced the deflating experience of visiting the school library only to be told, ‘No, you can’t borrow that’.

When questioned, various reasons are given for this refusal: the book is too hard (even if the student has borrowed harder books previously); they can’t comprehend it (even if they have other books in the series at home); the subject matter is too old for them (even if parents have given permission); it’s just school policy.

If it’s school policy, then it’s bad policy - designed to dull a love of books and libraries (which should be enjoyed as the magical places they are). As a teacher, I recommend finding out whether your school has a policy like this and whether it should be updated to allow for the fact that some younger children read harder books - or that their parents are happy to read harder books to them.

As for the other reasons, they usually stem from a lack of knowledge of the student (that’s where you - as the teacher who knows the student - can step in) or concern about parent reaction. One teacher librarian told me that her school solves that issue by asking parents for blanket permission, then recording that permission so students don’t have to ‘re-ask’ every year.

Getting to know the books in the school library allows students to explore a really wonderful range of books in a place where they are regular visitors. If you don’t have a school librarian, or your school librarian is reluctant to recommend books suitable for your gifted readers, consider finding an older ‘reading buddy’ from a higher grade - someone who loves books and reading and will share some of the delights of the school library with your students.

How do you make it work in a busy classroom?

Keep an eye out for advanced readers - anyone who might be reading more than picture books - before you start library borrowing. A quick note home to parents can help you get parent permission. You can then note this on a note you attach to the library box or basket or a tag attached to the child’s library bag. This way, you know who has permission at a quick glance.

 
5 Ways to Plan and Differentiate for Young Gifted Readers Part Two. A look at vocabulary, reading choices and differentiating classroom activities for young gifted readers. A Galarious Goods Blog Post
 

5. Differentiating Your Classroom Lessons

A gifted reader with excellent decoding skills will not be served with lessons purely aimed at decoding. And while some phonics lessons are excellent for spelling, constant repetition is also unhelpful if the gifted reader is already understanding and applying those lessons.

However, busy work - asking a gifted reader ‘just to read their book’ or to just do -more- of what other students are doing, isn’t respectful to the student either. They have a right to learn to the best of their potential - just like any other student in the class.

When it comes to differentiating for the gifted reader, it’s important to know where they can continue to learn (it all comes back to the testing!). Do they need to learn comprehension skills which help them with texts on unfamiliar subjects? Do they need to extend vocabulary knowledge? Should they begin to explore responding to texts through reviews or reader reactions? Or could they learn more about sentence structure and grammar so they understand why a sentence works - or doesn’t work?

Vocabulary and comprehension skills are two places where you can differentiate for students. If the class is concentrating on reading a particular book, you could ask gifted students to ‘insert’ or ‘substitute’ a range of provided words into the original text and to work out where they would be effective (a great way for students to apply their vocabulary understanding with words they have previously defined). You can also provide deeper thinking questions for students to reflect on while the class is reading particular books.

Retelling stories in different ways, creating questions for stories or other texts and asking ‘what if . . .?’ questions are all ways that students can extend their thinking about stories. And sometimes differentiation can be as simple as using correct terminology as well as easier wording when talking about sentences - pointing out that descriptive words are also known as adjectives provides a framework for students as they explore sentences in more detail.

How do you make it work in a busy classroom?

This can be the hardest thing to make work in a busy classroom, but the more you do it, the easier it will become. Remember that differentiation doesn’t always need to be a whole new lesson - it’s ok to repeat activities like writing reviews (even adult book reviewers improve by repeating this!), creating questions, finding effective words in texts or asking ‘what if . . . ‘ questions. And sometimes differentiation can happen just by offering an alternate text.

When you’re planning, ask yourself if there are any skills your gifted readers will need to explicitly learn - whether it’s how to write a review, use a dictionary or what a verb is. You may be able to work with teachers of other gifted readers to make this one group during literacy rotations, or you may be able to work with one or two gifted readers during silent reading time or individual learning time. And remember, even if your gifted readers are working on self-directed work - make time to check on their understanding and to show them that their reading is valued in your classroom.

Have you read Part One of this post? It covers testing and offering a range of texts and is a must read!

 
 
 
 

7 Reasons We Love the Pig the Pug Books

My family loves the Pig the Pug books by Aaron Blabey. We love them so much that both my children have dressed as the not-so-well-behaved but lovable dog for Book Week. But what is it we love so much about Pig? My son sat down with me to put together some reasons we love Pig - and some ways you can explore that love in the classroom.

 
7 Reasons We Love Pig the Pug. A blog post exploring Pig the Pug by Aaron Blabey and the ways these wonderful books can be used by teachers in the classroom. Perfect for teachers looking for reading resources. A Galarious Goods post
 

1. We Love the Lessons . . .

Every Pig book comes with a little lesson (or two) to learn - whether it’s sharing our toys with others, telling the truth about our misdeeds or sharing the spotlight.

While the lessons are pretty broad - and sometimes pretty specific to Pig (it’s unlikely our children will be eating their food bowls any time soon!), they’re a great starting place for further conversation about what good and considerate behaviour looks like. We can pose questions like what does a winner look like? Is it necessary to share everything? Is it better to get difficult things over and done with - or just try to avoid them.

2. . . . and How Pig Always ‘Learns His Lesson’

Pig always ‘learns his lesson’ by the end of the book - which is another aspect students can discuss. Does he really learn his lesson. Do students honestly think he won’t repeat his mistakes. And since he usually behaves well when he’s injured and physically unable to misbehave - what might happen when the bandages come off and he is well again. Students can follow this train of thought and develop their prediction skills!

3. We Love the Humour

These are really funny books! They’re a dream for teachers and parents who are reading them out loud, as you can explore with voices (take care with Pig - the shouting can be a problem!) and the funny pauses as you turn pages. But even when you are reading them to yourself, you can’t help but wonder what hilarious hijinks that pug will get up to next . . . and what hilarious trouble he will find himself in.

A lot of the humour comes from the ridiculous nature of the trouble - we know it’s unlikely that these things would really happen to a dog - but it’s funny to imagine that they might. Students can explore writing their own ridiculous paragraphs or stories, seeing how far they can stretch their story before they lose their reader. They can also look for other examples of ridiculous humour in books - the books where the author just has fun with the reader!

4. We Love the Repetition

There’s something terribly comforting about opening a brand new Pig the Pug book and seeing those familiar words . . . ‘Pig was a Pug . . . “

The Pig books follow a comfortable formula which makes them perfect for students developing an understanding of how stories can be structured and for students who like to look for connections between different texts. The familiarity of the stories can also help students concentrate on the details of the book - like the language or the specifics of this particular story - giving students a framework to work within.

It also gives new and pre readers the opportunity to join in and read with the story - they know this bit! They’ve read it before. It can be a wonderful confidence boost or a way to engage with a text because you’re really reading it.

This repetition can be used in writing lessons as well. Students can brainstorm ways for Pig to get himself into trouble and then use the framework to create their own Pig stories. Or they can create their own framework as a class or group and then write a class series of stories which work into that framework.

 
7 Reasons We Love Pig the Pug. A blog post exploring Pig the Pug by Aaron Blabey and the ways these wonderful books can be used by teachers in the classroom. Perfect for teachers looking for reading resources. A Galarious Goods post
 

5. We Love Trevor

Poor Trevor. While Pig is rampaging his way through the books, Trevor is the ultimate straight man. He’s kind, thoughtful, honestly cares about Pig . . . he just wants things to go right for him occasionally. Who didn’t cheer when Trevor was selected to be a star?

Trevor shows us what Pig could be like if he would just learn how to behave. He also shows us how a character can react to Pig’s antics. This is a great way for students to explore side characters - the characters who observe many of the actions rather than getting directly involved in them (unless they can’t help it!)

Students can also imagine what Pig’s world might be like if Trevor wasn’t around. How would that make things easier for Pig? How would it make things harder?

6. We Love the Language

I LOVE the way vocabulary is used in the Pig the Pug books. Aaron Blabey refuses to talk down to his young audience, using a wide range of words and terms from ‘quivering’ to ‘sook’. It’s not all big words - there are plenty of smaller, easier to digest words - but this is a great way to explore great words and the way they can be arranged and manipulated to create rhythm, rhyme - and a really funny story.

There are so many vocabulary activities you can do with this book - whether it’s exploring the different words or phrases around the word ‘pig’ or using vocabulary folding activities to record some of the great words you can find in the books. Students can create their own word walls of ‘Pig the Pug’ words and try to incorporate them in their own writing.

7. And We Love the Illustrations

When I had to come up with a Book Week costume on fairly short notice, we decided on Pig the Pug - with a crocheted hat doing the majority of the work. As my son walked out to the car to head to kindy, his friend from across the road yelled out ‘It’s Pig the Pug!’ - those eyes and ears immediately tell you who you’re dealing with!

As well as Aaron Blabey’s iconic Pig and Trevor illustrations, the books are filled with little drawings which expand the story - and sometimes fill in the spaces between the words. My particular favourite is Pig the Star, where we see Pig and Trevor dressing up as a wide range of famous people.

Students can explore how Aaron Blabey uses illustrations to tell the story - and how the story might change if there were no illustrations at all. They can also look at how they can tell their own stories - using just illustrations, or by combining illustration and words to create a complete tale.

Aaron Blabey has so many wonderful books, and I have a hard time deciding on a favourite. But there is definitely a place for the naughty Pig the Pug in your classroom - and many different ways you can explore these stories with your students.

 
 

3 Ways to Engage Students with Folding Vocabulary Lessons

Over the last few months I've discovered interactive notebooks and folding resources - and I've fallen hard for them! I love the ways you can combine folding, colouring, words and ideas to create an interactive resource which helps students to explore and engage with the topic they are learning. 

One area I love using interactive notebook resources with is novel studies. I've included them in all my most recent ones, updated some old resources to include them and plan to update the remaining ones! I especially love using them with vocabulary. Which made me think - what are some different ways to explore vocabulary using folding resources?

 
3 Ways to engage students with folding vocabulary lessons. Interactive resource blog post with free downloadable resource. Includes three examples of folding vocabulary resources - a vocabulary wheel, vocabulary pocket and vocabulary expandable resource. A Galarious Goods blog post
 
 
 

This is the main way I use folding resources in vocabulary resources. Students begin with one or two 'wheels' with a number of different sections. In most of my resources they use these wheels to connect the vocabulary words and the definitions, though you could use them to connect to the roots of the words, to share some synonyms or even include an image to define the word. 

Students using one wheel cut it out and write the words (or definitions) on each of the sections. They cut between the sections and fold on the dotted lines, gluing the middle section into their notebook. Students then write the definitions (or words) under each section. (Reversing the 'standard' order - by putting the definition on top - can help students connect the definitions to the words in a different way). Students can also use both wheels and layer one on top of the other.

This is definitely an activity which you can adapt for your own vocabulary needs. Students can layer additional circles, add extra vocabulary knowledge or experiment with making their own templates with extra folding pieces or pockets for more information.

These can be reduced in size to create smaller folding vocabulary wheels for notebooks, or can be enlarged to be used as a display. Students may like to work in pairs or small groups to create these.

2. Go Deeper With a Folding Resource

 
 

This is especially good for students to take an in-depth look at a particular word. Students write the word, definition, synonyms and a sentence using the word in the different sections, then fold the resource up to keep in their notebook or a folder. This resource can reduced in size (with several copies on one page) and students can complete several smaller folding activities or it can be enlarged and displayed around the classroom - especially as part of a unit of study.

The best part of this style of folding vocabulary resource is that it’s easy for students to design and create themselves. It can be easily adapted for different students; designed to meet their individual learning needs.

3. Synonym Pocket

 
 

Collecting synonyms can be very useful when students are writing, especially when you're looking for them to move beyond words like 'good' or 'happy'. This resource gives students a place to keep those synonyms. They write the word they're finding synonyms for on the pocket and then write the synonyms on the inserts. These pockets can then be glued into notebooks or into a manilla folder for students to refer back to. They can also be used to create a display in the classroom or as part of a writing centre.

These can also be adapted to collect similar words for content areas. Students can collect words connected to different historical events or civics and citizenship concepts or vocabulary connected to mathematical concepts.