Sunday, September 22, 2019

Word Study Woes? A Solution and New Resource by Jan Richardson

The English language is hard, tricky, complicated. 
Letters can make multiple sounds and there are always exceptions to the rules. 
No wonder why spelling is such a struggle for our little learners. 
No wonder why teachers have often felt at a loss as to how to teach spelling effectively. 

I have tried it all. 
I have used whole class spelling lists during the days of the old reading basals. 
I've tried all different configurations of Words Their Way. 
Lists and lists of words.
Whole group, small group, individual. 

I still have not figured it out.  
Currently, my students have word study journals and work with words that follow grade level spelling patterns. 

Is this the best method? 
I can't say with confidence that it is. 
That's why I was so thrilled when Scholastic informed me that Jan Richardson had just published a new book focused on the teaching of word study and phonics and that they were sending me two to use and one to gift to a lucky blog reader. 
I am a huge fan of Jan and her work in the area of literacy and in particular guided reading. 

I have read and reread her book The Next Step Forward in Guided Reading

I channel my inner Jan each day as I meet with my small groups. 
I've seen the impact it has made in my reading instruction. 

So I'm super excited and ready to dig into the companion to this resource: 
The Next Step Forward in Word Study and Phonics
by Jan Richardson and Michele Dufresne!

Are you a Jan fan?
I'd love to send you a free copy of this brand new teacher resource book.
Just enter the giveaway by commenting on this blog or visit me on Instagram.
Then enter the contest using the Rafflecopter below.
I will send the lucky winner the book next week!
Then come back and visit my blog.
I will be trying out the ideas and strategies outlined in this book and
will be posting about it along the way!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Our Five Writing Responsibilities: Editing Rules

My kids absolutely love writing! 
We organized a spot in the room for our writing supplies and offices. 

We decorated our writing folders with photographs, pictures and words to inspire our writing. 

My kids are filling up pages.
Sometimes they write to a prompt that I give them.
Other times they get to choose their own writing topics.
Writing in their journals is always a wise choice if they are a fast finisher and complete assignments early.  So many of them WANT to write!
That makes my teacher heart so happy!

I loved that they were writing up a storm, but I wanted to be able to read and understand their writing. The whole purpose of putting pencil to paper, right?
Although I knew my kids got instruction in using capitals, punctuation, sight words, handwriting, and sentence writing in earlier grades, they weren't always using what they had learned.

I decided to spend one week reviewing their "Writing Responsibilities".
I took one responsibility a day.  I taught it explicitly using a visual slide show and then we practiced together using a practice page.  After we posted the responsibility.

After the week our poster was complete and kids had a chance to review each important writing skill with me. Now I feel like it is fair to hold student writers responsible for using complete sentences, capitals, punctuation, correct spelling and neat handwriting.

Now when we edit our drafts, kids know what to look for.

In case you are feeling the same writing struggle, I decided to share.
I have added this set to my TPT store.
You can check it out here:

Teaching 5 Writing Responsibilities: Teaching Slides and Practice Pages

My Five Writing Responsibilities Teaching Slide Show

Happy Teaching and Happy Writing!

Sunday, August 11, 2019

First Day Fun with Modeling Me!

It's the first day of school.
What are your goals for the day? 

For me, building relationships and establishing a classroom community is key to my lesson planning. 

I like to spend time getting to know my new students on a personal level. 
Plus, I want kids to make connections with kids.
We will be spending the next 10+ months together and will become a family of learners. 
What we do these first weeks together will help form a foundation of respect and acceptance. 

One way we can find out more about each others' likes and interests is through a first day activity called "Modeling Me".  

Play-Doh, Play Dough, Creative

In this activity, students are given a bit of playdoh and get to model it into different shapes that tell something about themselves. 

Many kids feel anxious and worried on their first day in a new classroom. 
The act of manipulating the clay is also relaxing and calming...kind of like using a stress ball. 

I will "model" what to do with the clay first. 
I usually model it into the faces of my own two children and tell them a little about my family. 
Or I will model it into an airplane and tell students about my love of travel. 
Kids are really interested in their teachers!

Then I give them theirs and let them have at it. 

In the past, some kids modeled the clay into foods they like.....this student loves pizza.

Others use the playdoh and model it into their pet.

You could stop the activity right there and just have kids walk about viewing each others' creations. Or have them form a sharing circle to show and tell what they created. 

I often take it a step further and have them draw what they made and write a sentence or two about it. 

This student loves elephants and is drawing and writing about it.

We found out that this student loves football and plays for a team.

We have a gymnast in our classroom family!

I love this first week activity because it is both engaging and enlightening. 

I am sharing this "Modeling Me!" page in my TPT store. 
I'm making it a FREE resource because we all know that by this time in the summer teachers have spent their last dime on setting up their classrooms.
Just click the link below to grab a copy of this and other first day activities. 
First Day of Third Grade Printables

I'll be back to share more ideas and would love to have you join this community of teachers helping teachers!  Follow me on this blog, instagram and TPT!
Have a great first day with your new family!!

Saturday, August 10, 2019

First Week of School: Teaching Rules through Poetry!

Bus, School, School Bus, Education, Transportation

Ready or they come!
School opens in 2 days in my county. 

I've been busy prepping my classroom and thinking through first week lessons. 

It seems each new year brings with it new blessings but also new challenges. 

Our classrooms are filled with students facing difficult and challenging life circumstances which in turn can greatly impact their behavior and thus their learning. 

So, I've decided to spend more time in the beginning of the year focusing on creating a well managed classroom environment. 

For me that means spending more time explicitly teaching my kids the what and why's of school rules.  They need to know what the rules are and why they are important. 
Then my plan is to enforce these rules fairly and consistently with positive and negative consequences. 

This will take time in the beginning, but I feel it is necessary and worth it. 
At the same time, I am itching to start teaching! 

So what I have decided to do is integrate the teaching of rules into my language arts block. 
I'm doing this with poetry which can help my students get practice with rhyming words and fluency development. I've written a poem on the topic of school rules and will use this one during the first weeks of school. 

I usually introduce a new poem through a whole group activity called, "Guess the Covered Word". 
Kids see this as a fun game, I see it as a way to get them to practice rhyming words and using context clues

Here's how it goes,
I display the first stanza of a poem but one of the words is covered. 

Students use dry erase boards and markers to write what that missing word might be. 
I call out some of the words students are showing and we "cross check" by reading it in the line to see if it makes sense.  In doing this, I am modeling how to "monitor" for meaning....a good reader strategy!

I then uncover the word and we practice chorally reading the stanza together. 
Then we proceed to the next stanza following the same steps.

We start with easy words, like the word "play" in the poem above.
Then I will challenge them more by covering up some of the words inside the lines so that they can not rely on using a rhyme to help them. 

Kids absolutely love "Guess the Covered Word"!

This poem will then get handed out for students to read again in a buddy reading station. 
I will work in opportunities for students to read it multiple times throughout the week.
Here is this poem copied in book form.
I will staple the books and kids can reread and color in the pages.
Adding an original page of their own.
Kids will also use these as a take home book to read aloud to parents.
Now parents and kids are both aware of our rules!
No excuses to misbehave, right?

It can go in my writing station yet another day so that kids read it again but this time must respond in writing as well.

They build fluency with each reading.

To reinforce the topic of rules, I have also created a board game for my kids to play.

I will cut out the cards and place all pieces in a bag so it is ready to go.
The game is super simple.
Kids will roll a dice to see how many spaces they will move.
Before moving, they will pick a card from the deck.
They read and discuss the behavior with their partner.
If the card states a positive behavior, they move that many spaces forwards.
If the card states a negative behavior, they move that many spaces backwards.

I think kids will have fun with this and it will also give them an opportunity to get to know some of their new friends in a game playing situation.

I can walk about and monitor reinforce good partner play behaviors.

As an additional partner practice activity, I created some puzzles that focus on rules.
I just printed out the page and cut it into different pieces and threw it in a baggie...all while watching Netflix....teacher life, right?

I will hand out baggies to partners and they can put together and then rotate to another one.
I'm going to have them read WHAT rule they got and then have a conversation about WHY the rule is important.

I can't wait to try this out with my new kids this year!

I am sharing all these in a set on my TPT store for any other teachers out there who think they need to spend some time on importance of rules and appropriate behavior.
Click the link below to check it out!

Back to School: Following Rules Poem, Book and Games

Teaching Rules Poetry Pack

Wish me luck on my first week back!
Would love to hear your ideas on creating a well managed classroom.
Please share by commenting below or email me at!

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Math Practice Through Calendar Math and Number of the Day

“Repetition is the mother of learning, 

the father of action, 

which makes it the architect of accomplishment.”    

 Zig Ziglar

I think all teachers understand and appreciate the thinking behind this quote. 
Repetitious practice certainly can be key to developing skill in academic areas. 

The problem is often that the pace in which we instruct is too fast and furious. 
It is often time to move onto new learning when we know quite well that our students need more time to practice the skills they are currently working on.

This is why I always look for ways to sneak in more practice. 

When it comes to math skills, one way I fit in constant review of prior learning is through our Calendar Time and Number of the Day. 
I created sheets to fill in to review skills like place value, odd/even numbers, counting forwards, backwards, number lines, etc. 
These sheets slide easily into dry erase page protectors.  This allows us to write our answers on each sheet and then erase and use again. 

We pick a random number of the day.  I have numbers cut and place them into a number can.  My "Calendar Helper" pulls out two or three numbers to make a two or three digit "Number of the Day". 
The students work through identifying the word form, expanded, picture form of that number. 

We draw pictures of the base ten blocks and even work through a problem using a part/part/whole box. 

We count forwards, backwards, identify ten more and less. 
We even round the number using a number line. 

I change out the number cards seasonally to keep it fun. 
How cute are these snowman numbers?

I have added this Calendar Set to my Teacher Pay Teacher Store. 
You can click the link below to check it out. 

Calendar Time: A Math Review with Number of the Day

Sunday, July 21, 2019

First Week of School: Independent Reading and How to Pick a Book

Isn't there so much to cover during those first weeks of school!
It can be hard to know what to include and what can wait.
If I was to prioritize, I would say lessons that help familiarize students with literacy routines and expectations would rank in my top ten.
I have been a long time follower of Gail Boushey and Joan Moser, aka: "The Sisters".
Every year I rely on their wisdom in setting up my literacy block.
Their book, The Daily 5 has guided me in this area and I use many of the lessons they outline for that first week of school.

Buy the Book: The Daily 5

There's no arguing the point that the more time spent on real, actual reading, the more reading progress and growth a student will make.  Of course, I want my students to grow in their ability to read,  but just as importantly, I want them to grow in their LOVE of reading!   I know I can get my kids hooked on books IF I help train them on picking ones that fit their interest and reading ability.  Struggling through a book that is too hard or yawning through a book that does not interest them will just cause my students to see reading as a chore.
 I want my students to view reading as something  they "get to do" not "have to do".

Because of this, I will spend some time on lessons that are intentionally focused on helping students pick the right book for them: the Good Fit Book.

In the book, The Daily 5, Boushey and Moser explain the acronym they use: I PICK and how student can use this as a guide to picking the books that are just right for them.

 The Sisters suggest the idea of introducing picking books through the analogy of picking shoes.
They go into detail on how they work through this anchor lesson.

Here's how the lesson goes.
You bring in a collection of different kinds of shoes.
  They suggest: snow boots, tennis shoes, party shoes, hiking boots, etc.

Take out the shoes one at a time and show them to students.
Talk about the purpose in wearing each one.

You might take out a slipper and show it to students.
Discuss how this shoe is perfect to slip on if you are walking around in your home in the evening.
It fits that purpose.

You could go on to explain how you would NOT wear the slipper to PE class at school.
Choosing to wear a tennis shoe would be a better fit.

Continue taking out shoes and discussing the purpose of each.

From there you could go into how the picking of shoes is a lot like picking a book to read.

For example:
If you want to learn more about space and the planet Jupiter, you would not pick a book like this:

You would be better off picking a book like this:

This is a great time to take a look at different kinds of books:

Comic Books:

How to Books:

Discuss the purpose of reading these different kinds of books.

Then it's time to introduce the letter "I" for Interest.
Back to the shoes:

Pull out a shoe such as a golf shoe.

Discuss how you may never want to pick this shoe to wear because you don't like playing golf.
It doesn't interest you.

Now it's time to relate this to picking books.
I like showing students books that I like to read and those that would not interest me.

I might show them this book and talk to them about how I would not pick it because the topic of motorcycles doesn't interest me.

But I may want to read this one because I am interested in antiques.

I don't think we can overemphasize the idea that students should pick books that interest them.
Once a student finds a book that they can't get enough of, we've got them hooked.
They will begin reading volumes and with each turn of the page, become a better reader.

For the last two steps of picking a book, we again take out a selection of shoes.
This time, we pick out books that are not the right size.
Maybe they are too big or too small.
We won't pick these shoes to wear because they are just not comfortable.

Now we relate that to the idea that we would not want to pick a book that is too hard or easy either.
Reading a book that fits right feels right.
Here is a good time to model reading the first page of certain books and play the part of a student who is figuring out if they can read the words and if they can understand what those words mean.

I found a children's book that can serve as a great springboard into this lesson.

Buy the Book: Which Shoes Would You Choose?

In this book, the character is choosing shoes for different activities.

I've included the link to a set of bookmarks to give your students after a lesson on picking books.
Students can carry their bookmark to your class library before choosing their independent reading books.  It can serve as a reminder as to what they should consider when making book choices.

Head over to my TPT to download this free resource:

I PICK Good Fit Books

I'd love for you to consider following my blog and store!
I will be posting other resources and thoughts as we go through the year.

Please let me know what lessons you cover that first week of school.
I'd love to hear.
Comment below or email: