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Meet Michelle Negron Bueno

 Posted by on August 27, 2020  Reading Resources, Teacher Features  Comments Off on Meet Michelle Negron Bueno
Aug 272020
 

Hello! I am Michelle Negron Bueno and I love writing for StarrMatica!

From a young age, I have been enthralled with stories. It comes as no surprise that many years later, my whole life surrounds reading and writing. I was born and lived for many years in Spain, a place extremely rich with history. I also lived in Germany where I went to boarding school. Years later, after reading the Harry Potter series, I would remember how lucky I was to attend boarding school, but would also wish it could have been Hogwarts. I would have loved to have learned magic and known Professor Dumbledore!

In college, I studied anthropology. I wanted to discover stories from both the ancient past, as well as cultures in the present. In the years after college, my love for writing merged with my passion to make the world a better place. I joined the communications department of a non-profit organization specializing in community development in El Salvador, where I had moved to a few months after getting married. I began to write stories of people living in extremely poor communities and how they were courageously and creatively changing their lives.

During my time in Central America, where El Salvador is located, I raised three children who are now both Salvadoran and from the United States. In El Salvador, I also wrote for magazines and began to write stories of my own. Eventually, I completed a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and Children’s Literature from Hollins University.

While I was at Hollins, I learned about StarrMatica. I began to write fiction stories for StarrMatica at first and then began to write both science and social studies texts. While I did not think I was particularly good at science growing up, I found with research and a little help from experts, I could learn amazing things! I also found writing both fiction and nonfiction was still all about stories.  

Even though I still work as the Head of Communications for the same nonprofit and am a writer for StarrMatica, I continue to research and write my own stories. My current project is a novel taking place in El Salvador in what is known as the Balsam Coast in the 1930s. The main character is a young woman who is both Maya-Pipil (two indigenous groups who still live in Central America today) and a descendent of the renowned profiteer, Sir Francis Drake, who spent time in the Balsam Coast region while on his voyages around the world.

I love that no matter where my life takes me, whether a new country or a new job, I can always read, write and discover new stories. It is what makes my life always new and always fascinating.

I’m on the left in this photo. The person on the right is my sister, Elizabeth Baldwin. She also writes for StarrMatica!

Leveled Texts

 Posted by on February 26, 2020  Reading Resources, Science Resources  Comments Off on Leveled Texts
Feb 262020
 

In my second year of teaching fourth grade, my science curriculum had a unit on plants. In an effort to integrate my English Language Arts and Science instruction, I wanted my students to read an informational text about plants during our small group guided reading time (In our district, guided reading was a time when students with similar reading abilities met in small groups to read and discuss a leveled book and receive more individualized reading instruction.)

So, I headed down to our guided reading library intent on finding a leveled text about plants for each of my guided reading groups.  However, I was met with not one book about plants in the entire library.  In an effort to be respectful of your time, I’ll spare you the details about the hours I spent in the coming days combing through our school library, area libraries, our local AEA catalog, online sites and resource catalogs and still could not find what I needed.  I found books at a few levels, but not at the levels all of my kids could read independently.  The books I did find were about plants, yet didn’t cover the same content from title to title.  Then there was the problem of needing multiple copies for everyone in the group.  I have to admit, I finally just gave up on the idea and read my kids a text aloud in addition to round robin reading from our old textbook.

This is one of the experiences that lead me to the development of StarrMatica Texts:  Science Your Way.  Through our research, I’ve found I am far from alone in my quest for science informational texts aligned to my curriculum that all my students could read.  In our latest survey about science informational texts, many teachers responded they were having issues finding appropriate informational texts for the Next Generation Science Standards:

“Most science books are nonfiction and that can be harder to read especially for lower readers.”

“I read difficult text to students and reword text so they understand.”

“Finding resources already integrated together are a challenge. It is up to me to find appropriate text that aligns with science and try to figure out which standards align.”

“I struggle with finding the texts I need due to lack of time to search.  I also struggle with finding the texts I need to match what I am teaching.”

StarrMatica Texts: Science Your Way helps teachers with these struggles by providing informational texts written specifically for each Next Generation Science Standard Performance Expectation.  All students can access the texts online at their specific Lexile level.  This innovation means all students can independently read the same text with the same content. 

One of the criticisms of leveled texts presented in labeled bins in a classroom is that children may feel labeled as a good reader or a struggling reader by their designated level.  Our texts help to address this concern.  Since teachers are choosing the Lexile level of StarrMatica’s texts behind the scenes, the level is never displayed for the child and the content of the text is the same for each level.  So, a student doesn’t know there are multiple levels of the text read in his/her classroom.

Another criticism of leveled texts is how much a child’s reading choices are limited by the books available in his/her school at his/her designated level.  This criticism speaks to me as a former fourth grade teacher.  I had access to sets of leveled readers at our school, but there are only so many books and so many copies of each we could afford.  Having sets of texts about the same topic, all aligned to my curriculum and that all of my students could read independently would have been a game changer in my room.

If your school doesn’t ascribe to book leveling or guided reading, you still may be interested in choosing different Lexile levels or different text structures based on how the text will be used with your students.  If you are reading as a class, maybe you want to choose the highest level because, you will have an ability to discuss vocabulary and to address student questions.  If you are reading in small groups, maybe you want to have half of a group read the text written as a problem/solution piece and half of the group read the text as a descriptive piece before discussing the similarities and differences between the two sets.  You might also be interested in additional customization options to allow you to turn on and off voiceovers to read the text aloud, to choose ELA standards, and to select graphics.

You can visit http://www.starrmatica.com/index.php?/main/texts to learn more about StarrMatica Texts:  Science Your Way.  Send me an email with questions or just share your classroom struggles and triumphs with informational texts.  I would love to hear what is and isn’t working for you!

Why is Informational Text Reading Comprehension Important?

 Posted by on December 23, 2019  Behind the Scenes of StarrMatica, Content Recommendations, Reading Resources, Uncategorized  Comments Off on Why is Informational Text Reading Comprehension Important?
Dec 232019
 

It sounds like a silly question if you are a teacher.  We know students need to understand what they read, but maybe you haven’t stopped to really think about the question in awhile.  It may seem counterintuitive, but just because your students read fluently doesn’t mean they understand what they read.  This is a dangerous pitfall, because if we hear a student reading fluently, we often assume they are a good reader.

Assessing reading comprehension is further complicated when students who are able to comprehend fiction passages, may not be comprehend informational texts. Literary passages simply do not require the same set of comprehension skills as informational texts.

This issue of comprehending informational texts was identified in 1993 when researchers found “nearly 44 million American adults cannot extract even a single piece of information from a written text if any inference or background knowledge is required” (Levy, 1993). Not much since 1993 has happened to address the issue. Nearly two-thirds of U.S. fourth graders can only read at or below a basic level according to the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) (The Nation’s Report Card, 2015).  Researchers have even identified a “fourth grade slump” they attribute to issues with comprehending informational text (Biancarosa & Snow, 2006; Chall & Jacobs, 2003; Sanacore & Palumbo, 2009).

It is no surprise success in school, career and society depends on a student’s ability to comprehend informational text (Duke 2004).  But did you know, increasing a child’s ability to comprehend informational text also increases overall reading achievement (Duke, 2004)?  Did you know, reading informational texts increases a child’s background knowledge and background knowledge accounts for as much as 33 percent of the variance in student achievement (Marzano, 2000)?  And did you know, a major predictor of overall student achievement is the ability to use comprehension strategies during content area reading (Duke, 2003b; Hall & Sabey, 2007; Vacca et al., 2009)?  These are some of the reasons why the writers of the Common Core recommend increasing the instructional time spent with informational text during elementary school from 10% to 50% (Coleman, 2011).  Is 50% of your reading instructional time spent with informational texts?  Probably not.  I know as a fourth grade teacher, I didn’t meet this goal for a variety of reasons including not enough access to informational texts and the inability of students to independently read the texts I did have in my classroom.

So, what can you do to help your students with informational text comprehension?  Not only does comprehending informational text require a different set of strategies for students than when reading fiction, it also requires a different set of strategies for teachers:

  • Students need to be proactively taught to identify and understand informational text features first and foremost (Bamford & Kristo, 1998).
  • Students benefit from learning multiple comprehension strategies while they are reading (McKeown et al., 2009).
  • The more informational texts a student reads, the better their ability to comprehend text (Brenner & Hiebert, 2010). 
  • Informational texts should be carefully integrated into the curriculum (Strauss, 2010).
  • Informational texts should be matched to the student’s reading level (Lennon, C. & Burdick, H., 2004).

Frustrated with the lack of informational text resources, we decided to come up with a new solution based on research to help teachers with informational text instruction.  StarrMatica Texts: Science Your Way is a library of customizable informational texts written specifically to address the Next Generation Science Standards. StarrMatica Texts: Science Your Way helps teachers access and integrate informational texts into their curriculum during ELA or science instructional time. Unique to our resource, texts can be adjusted to a student’s individual reading level, so all students can read the same text. Corresponding comprehension instructions are taught throughout the text and Common Core-aligned quiz questions are provided as well.

We are excited about StarrMatica Texts: Science Your Way and will keep you updated on our progress through upcoming blogs. Please visit our website or contact us directly to learn more.

3-6 ELA Manipulatives

 Posted by on October 12, 2017  Content Recommendations, Reading Resources  Comments Off on 3-6 ELA Manipulatives
Oct 122017
 

Here are five pieces of digital content a teacher might choose from StarrMatica’s library to use ELA manipulatives to help students develop concepts and demonstrate their understanding.

oct1Exploring Onomatopoeia

Create onomatopoetic words to describe each sound you hear.

 

oct2Persuasion Map

Plan a persuasive essay using this online persuasion map.

 

oct4Character Trading Cards

Create your own character trading cards.

 

oct3Myths Brainstorming Machine

Use this Myths Brainstorming Machine to help you write a myth of your own.

 

oct5

Create Your Own Comic Strip

Create your own printable comic strip!

How do you use ELA manipulatives in your classroom?

K-2 ELA Manipulatives

 Posted by on September 5, 2017  Content Recommendations, Reading Resources  Comments Off on K-2 ELA Manipulatives
Sep 052017
 

Here are five pieces of digital content a teacher might choose from StarrMatica’s library to use ELA manipulatives to help students develop concepts and demonstrate their understanding.

sept1Foam Phonemes

Shoot letters and word parts into the air.  Then, create words in the sky with what you have chosen.

 

sept2CVC Maker

Switch word beginnings and endings to create words.

 

 

sept3Writing Repeater

Write letters and words with this writing repeater.  Then, play back what you have written.

 

sept4Flip Book

Create a flip book to demonstrate your knowledge of cause and effect, fact and opinion, summarizing, or sequencing.

 

sept5Letter and Number Formation

Learn how to write letters and numbers by watching and following examples.

How do you use ELA manipulatives in your classroom?

December Friday Favorites – ELA Resources

 Posted by on January 2, 2017  Content Recommendations, Reading Resources  Comments Off on December Friday Favorites – ELA Resources
Jan 022017
 

monsterEach Friday on Facebook and Twitter, we share a curated digital resource from our library that is one of our favorites.  In December, we focused on ELA resources.  Here’s what we shared:

Persuasion Map

Students map out their argument for a persuasive essay or debate.
http://www.readwritethink.org/files/resources/interactives/persuasion_map/

Storyline Online

Check out this amazing source for stories read aloud online.
http://www.storylineonline.net/

Exploring Onomatopoeia

Create onomatopoetic words to describe each sound you hear.
http://rwtinteractives.ncte.org/preview_mg.aspx?id=736&title=

Digital Content for Common Core Standard 2.MD.D.10

 Posted by on December 6, 2016  Common Core, Content Recommendations, Reading Resources  Comments Off on Digital Content for Common Core Standard 2.MD.D.10
Dec 062016
 

One of the most common questions we are asked is how our library of digital content supports the Common Core.  The easy answer is that our entire library has been aligned to the Common Core standards, so teachers can find resources related to each standard.  The more complex answer is that there are many pieces of content that can be used in flexible ways to support each individual standard, and it is up to teachers to choose the content that best supports their lesson and their students.

Here are five pieces of digital content a teacher might choose from StarrMatica’s library to support and enhance the teaching of: CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.2.MD.D.10 Draw a picture graph and a bar graph (with single-unit scale) to represent a data set with up to four categories. Solve simple put-together, take-apart, and compare problems using information presented in a bar graph.

30Create a Bar Graph

Students can create and print a bar graph of data they have collected.

 

 


animal-islandAnimal Island Bar Graph

Select Hard to help Molly read a bar graph. Choose Really Hard to help Molly answer questions about a bar graph.

 

 

32Create a Picture Graph

Students can create and print a picture graph of data they have collected.

 

bugsBugs in the System

Help the Cybersquad clean up the infection of nasty bugs by using the bugs to create a bar graph.

 

 

34The Data Bank

Students gather data, organize data, and display data while working for a business in this realistic game.

May Friday Favorites

 Posted by on May 30, 2016  Content Recommendations, Reading Resources  Comments Off on May Friday Favorites
May 302016
 

Each Friday on Facebook and Twitter, we share a curated digital resource from our library that is one of our favorites.  Here’s what we shared in May:

Student with writer’s block?  Check out these story starters:storystarter

http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/story-starters/

Need some end of the year fun?  Try creating these paper critters:

http://www.papercritters.com/pc.php

Use the assets in the national archives to create a poster, movie, or pathway challenge:

http://www.digitalvaults.org/#/create

Looking for some end of the year fun?  Create an animated movie!

http://zimmertwinsatschool.com/movie/create

January Friday Favorites

 Posted by on February 1, 2016  Content Recommendations, Reading Resources  Comments Off on January Friday Favorites
Feb 012016
 

Each Friday on Facebook and Twitter, we share a curated digital resource from our library that is one of our favorites.  Here’s what we shared in January:

Create words with these floating letters and word parts:foam

http://www.ictgames.com/foamPhonemes/index.html

Two challenging word creation games:

http://www.teacherled.com/resources/vowels/vowelsload.html

For our StarrMatica members:  Maria’s Word Challenge

word challenge

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another great word creation game:

http://www.readwritethink.org/files/resources/interactives/construct/index.html

Create words with word wheels:

http://www.crickweb.co.uk/assets/activities/ww2.swf

Digital Content for Common Core Standard 3.MD.C.6

 Posted by on October 14, 2015  Common Core, Content Recommendations, Reading Resources  Comments Off on Digital Content for Common Core Standard 3.MD.C.6
Oct 142015
 

One of the most common questions we are asked is how our library of digital content supports the Common Core.  The easy answer is that our entire library has been aligned to the Common Core standards, so teachers can find resources related to each standard.  The more complex answer is that there are many pieces of content that can be used in flexible ways to support each individual standard, and it is up to teachers to choose the content that best supports their lesson and their students.

Here are five pieces of digital content a teacher might choose from StarrMatica’s library to support and enhance the teaching of: CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.3.MD.C.6 Measure areas by counting unit squares (square cm, square m, square in, square ft, and improvised units).

35Geoboard

Students create shapes on a geoboard and find their areas.

 

 

36Airlines Builder

Students use their knowledge of perimeter and area to build airliners and launch ships.

 

37Zoo Mapping Units

Students find the area of each zoo habitat by counting squares and half squares. (Some perimeter and volume questions are also included.)

 

38Area Explorer

Students count squares to find the area of each shape.

 

 

39Paving Slabs Problem

Students use their knowledge of area to solve a realistic paving slabs problem.