Michele A. Polselli's Kindergarten
Melville Elementary School, Portsmouth, RI


Planting a Literacy Garden



Making Connections/Schema


Determining Importance

Digging For Meaning

In 2004 I began attending a 3-year Literacy Coaching Class at our
 local educational collaborative that offered the opportunity to work collaboratively
with my colleagues to become part  of a statewide initiative sharing
 best practices teaching comprehension strategies in a lab classroom setting.


1.We have extended the repertoire of strategies for district colleagues,
    preservice teacher candidates and enable others to view and glean
    current best teaching practices and strategies that in turn impacts our
    student’s ability to earn and develop comprehension strategies.


2. Through integrating content areas, we help to infect all involved educators
     in more effective, child-relevant curriculum design while finding ways to
     include rigorous science instruction in this time of mandated time schedules
     to meet the criteria of No Child Left Behind.


3.  Having visitors has helped because the positive feedbacks at post
     observations have authenticated many of our choices and/or given
     us ideas for fine-tuning this approach.

Student achievement is impacted in several ways


1. The hands on science activities are both motivating and stimulating for children as they read and write about gardening and respond to other literature. 


2.  We drive instruction with the use of hands-on developmentally appropriate
    tools that include all learners because we combine “tools”, sunglasses (for     visualizing), seeds (relate to prior knowledge/schema), plastic shovels (to model digging for meaning), rakes (for questioning), hoes (help us determine importance), watering cans (are the synthesizing agent), and a picture of the sun (shines light on inferring), with the acknowledgement of the student’s prior knowledge of gardening.
    Students can’t wait to get their hands dirty, use real tools, and produce/nurture
    the real-life garden.


3. We invite parents as partners into the classroom to model effective literacy practices so parents can continue to model the same language at home.


This teaching theme is a developmentally appropriate hands-on
learning sequence, designed for teachers in the early primary grades (K-2)
 who want to incorporate comprehension strategies into their literacy curriculum.
To better understand the comprehension strategies used to enhance
 your literacy curriculum, begin by reading these books as reference.
Click to buy these books:


Mosaic Of Thought by Ellin Oliver Keene.


Strategies That Work by Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis


Starting With Comprehension by Andie Cunningham and Ruth Shagoury.


Seven Keys to Comprehension by Susan Zimmermann and Chryse Hutchins


Kid Writing Strategies developed by Feldgus and Cardonic. 

Before beginning each lesson, teach your students this song
 to help them remember the strategies.

 I Have A Tool Belt

Click on the pages below to make this book for your students before you begin your journey toward developing comprehension strategies with your primary students.  All these files were created with Microsoft Word.  They are designed mainly for Kindergarten age students, but you can tweak them to fit your age level.  Save them on your hard drive and print from there.

Planting A Literacy Garden
(Page 1, Literacy Garden Grid),

Using this grid, students will color each section to show which page they have completed.

 (Page 2, My Favorite Book),

After reading many selections, have students choose their favorite book to illustrate and write about.

(Page 3, Fairy Tales)

After reading several fairy tales, have students choose a favorite one to illustrate and write about.


(Page 4, My Favorite Author),

After reading books by several authors, have students choose their favorite author and draw a picture of one favorite book by them.


(Page 5, My Favorite Poem)

After reading several poems, have students choose their favorite poem to illustrate and write about.


 (Page 6, Inferring)

Have students write about an idea that the author wants them to know but was not literally present in the text.

(Page 7, Questioning)

Have students write one lingering question about the read aloud.

(Page 8, Synthesizing)

Have students write about a new idea they have conceived after reading aloud.

(Page 9, Visualizing)
To help your students visualize words while reading aloud, have them wear a pair of child's sun glasses.
Page 10, Determining Importance

Have students look at maps, charts, graphs to help determine the importance of the text.

Page 11, Making Connections/Schema

Have students make a connection to their past as you read aloud.


(Page 12,  Biography)

Have students write about their lives.


(Page 13, Auto Biography)

Have students write about one favorite person in their life.

Page 14.  My Memoir

Have students remember one moment in time and capture that in a picture and short paragraph.


Please comment and let me know how this program is impacting your students.

Comment Form

Click here on the Strategies page to help you understand the guiding relevant factors you should consider when teaching. For a word document to print of the Strategies, click here.

To help students understand the strategies, give each child their own tool belt.  I bought individual tool belts at Home Depot for 99 cents a piece.  Inside the tool belts I neatly placed various plastic gardening tools. Each tool is a tactile representation of the strategies.  On each shovel (digging for meaning) I taped twenty-five every day functional sight words that  students can use when they Kid Write.  As students "dig for the meaning of the story" they use the words on the shovel to create their sentences.

View the twenty five sight words here.
I bought little boxes that are shaped like flowers and inside the boxes I placed words that
students use when writing their stories.  Each box contains words based on a particular strategy.  Click on the word list below to print out a copy of the words to place in your flower boxes.

Words for Questioning     
As rakes push dirt aside and leave gaps in the ground, unanswered questions leave gaps in our understanding.  These gaps in one's understanding can be filled by asking questions.  Words students use to ask questions can be found in the Questioning Box.

Words for Inferring
As students dig for meaning and ask questions, they can make inferences  that leads them to
understanding an idea the author wants the reader to know without writing it in the text.  Words
that help students to infer are in the Inference box.

Words for Visualizing

As they listen to a read aloud, or as they read text they wear sunglasses.
The importance of visualizing and seeing the picture that is
playing in their mind is heightened and brought to life with the glasses.

Use these Rubrics on the left developed by Ellin O. Keene to help assess your students literacy development while teaching comprehension strategies.  The rubrics on the right were created for Kindergarten levels.

Rubric for Visualizing                     Kindergarten Rubric for Visualizing

Rubric for Questioning                   Kindergarten Rubric for Questioning

Rubric for Inferring                          Kindergarten Rubric for Inferring

Rubric for Determining Importance                    Kindergarten Rubric for Determining Importance

Rubric for Retelling                          Kindergarten Rubric for Retelling

Rubric for Synthesizing                  Kindergarten Rubric for Synthesizing

Rubric for Monitoring Comprehension             Kindergarten Rubric for Monitoring Comprehension

Rubric for Think Alouds                   Kindergarten Rubric for Think Alouds

Rubric for Using Schema                 Kindergarten Rubric for Using Schema

After I created Planting A Literacy Garden, I created a website that uses Eric Carle's books. If you are interested in integrating technology into your literacy curriculum
while studying Eric Carle as an author,  click on
  Carleworks below.  Lessons were created that integrate technology based on building five literacy skills of Phonemic Awareness, Phonics, Vocabulary, Fluency and Comprehension.  The website contains a Power Point to help develop the skills.


Please feel free to use any of my work and email me and let me know if this has made an impact on your students learning.
Thanks for visiting!

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