Thursday, September 14, 2017

Graphing Through The Year!

Your 1st and 2nd graders will be engaged and love collecting data, recording it on the graph and interpreting their data with these Graphing Activities Through the Year. Be sure to grab the FREEBIE sample below!

These graphing activities follow the seasons and include counting, coloring, rolling a die, spinning with a pencil and paper clip, recording data with tallies, recording data on a graph and interpreting their data. 
Slip them into plastic sleeves and use them over and over again! With the dice and spin activities, data will be different each time.
Grab a FREE Sample HERE.
See the full graphing product HERE.

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, August 7, 2017

4 Guided Reading Must-Dos

I get a lot of questions about how to run guided reading lessons, and I could share exactly how I structure my lessons, but to be frank, there is no ONE perfect way to run all guided reading lessons. If you observed every primary classroom in your school during guided reading time, you would probably see vast differences in approaches, strategies, methods, materials used, and personalities while teaching. You can't be me and I can't be you. But we can learn best practices from each other, and that is what my focus is for this post. So I've narrowed it down to my 4 Must-Dos when it comes to teaching Guided Reading for any student at any level.

1. Target your instruction to your student needs

If you know me, you know this is a biggie for me. Guided reading lessons must be targeted to the needs of the students you have in front of you. Not all guided reading lessons should look the same. Just like the treatment prescribed by a doctor should be targeted to the specific health needs of the patient. Not everyone should be treated for appendicitis. (Wait, it's just a sore throat!) 

For example, not all students need to practice sight words. If a student is reading fluently and has demonstrated that all assigned words have been mastered, then don't waste precious time reviewing them. Does each student know all their sounds? Maybe you have documented last week that one group is struggling with long/short vowel discrimination. Perhaps another group needs more work with phonemic awareness activities. And another group is ready for more challenging prefix/suffix skill work along with more rigorous comprehension activities. This requires close daily observation, note taking, progress monitoring once or twice a month that includes sight word testing, sounds testing, fluency testing, word decoding and blending. We use DIBELS testing along with sight word and sounds testing. Using this information along with our daily observations in small groups, I target our instruction using this best-selling program: Targeted Guided Reading Plan for K-2 (Also Targeted Guided Reading Plan for 3-5 and Targeted Guided Reading K-5 Bundle.

Once every 2 weeks, I create a new plan. I record names and the target(s) for each group using the plan below.
Then I use the included Targeted Guided Reading Suggested Activities Flip Books to select activities that will help meet my students' needs. (If flip books aren't your thing, no worries...All of the information included in the flip books are also included in easy to follow full sheets that are easy to store in binders.)

Read in greater detail about Targeted Guided Reading HERE.

2. Use every minute of your guided reading time wisely

You probably only have 15-20 minutes each day to meet with each guided reading group. In order for students to make the reading growth necessary, we have to use every minute.

There's no time to search for those white boards or markers. All materials need to be ready to grab and this requires planning. Once the Targeted Guided Reading Plan is in place, you can select activities and materials needed. Have them ready to grab.

Keep somewhat of a routine for each group so students are ready for the next activity and they know what your expectations are. If you change up your activities too often, you are constantly spending time explaining what they need to do and answering questions. Keep activities simple and routine.

Write down in your guided reading plans exactly how much time you are allotting for each activity so you can stay on target for time.

Make sure the other kids are doing what they are supposed to do and that transitions to the table and to their centers are smooth. Keep activities simple to follow and again, somewhat routine. My Must-Do, May-Do System (instead of rotating reading centers) works great! Read about it HERE.

3. Keep the teacher talk to a minimum

Yes, you need to teach. But often, less is more when it comes to teacher talk. You are guiding them to read, so let them do the work and guide them without too many interruptions and long instructions/verbal lessons.

Try to:
  • point to a missed word to indicate a mistake
  • prompt students who pause before challenging words with one word: "sound" to remind them to sound it out
  • prompt students who pause before sight words with "sight word" to remind them it is a word they need to know by sight
  • listen to each student read several times with quiet prompts so you are not interrupting their flow
(The video at the end of this post has great modeling of quiet listening and prompting from the teacher among many other things!)

4. Keep your activities engaging and research-based

There are so many fun sight word activities out there! But are they all the most effective for your students? Make sure you are using activities that are 1. going to meet your targeted goals and 2. that are engaging and help to reach different types of learners.

If all you do is flash sight words at your students, you may not be reaching all of your different learners. 
Try a couple different approaches:
  • sight word flash cards
  • dictating sight words (paper or white boards)
  • read, spell, read sight words
  • building sight words (see 16:00 on video)
  • focus on a few weekly sight words
  • sight word focus boards or drills (example HERE)
This video demonstrates most of the points I have made above. She makes smooth transitions from one activity to the next and keeps students engaged, she has everything ready so no time is wasted, she uses a variety of strategies to teach sight words, students know exactly how to do each task, she quietly listens to each student and gives quick feedback, she takes notes as they read, and so much more. See what you think:

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Wild About Pandas!

You may have noticed... I love pandas. So cute and chubby. They're adorable. So I made this Panda Classroom Decor and now I'm asking myself, why didn't I make this years ago? I love it.

So it's at 305 pages already, and I keep thinking of cute things to add, so customers luck out. I just know I will add to this cute pack as the year goes on and customers will be able to download any and all additions for free! I will also take suggestions, so feel free to make them. I can't guarantee I will create them all, but I will certainly consider all reasonable requests.

So here it is...

Monday, July 31, 2017

TpT Back To School Sale August 1-2!

Teachers Pay Teachers Back to School Sale!
 Save up to 25% with code BTS2017

Friday, July 28, 2017

Enter to Win $10 TpT Gift Card! 3 Lucky Winners!

Enter to win a $10 TpT Gift Card! 

Giveaway starts 7/29/17 at 12 am MST and ends 8/1/17 at 12 am MST
3 Lucky Winners will be notified by Tuesday, August 1st by email with an attached $10 TpT Gift Card!
If you missed this giveaway, there will be others. Follow my blog (on the right add your email, follow on Bloglovin', or click under "Followers") so you know about future giveaways!
Easy to enter. See below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good Luck and Thanks for entering!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Fun and Easy to Assemble Pocket Puppet Books

Our 1st graders can't get enough of these adorable, engaging Pocket Puppet Books. They love coloring, cutting, gluing and then reading them over and over using the puppet to tell the story. The Pocket Puppet stays in the library pocket on the back of the front cover until it's time to read. If these pockets are unavailable, a paper clip could be used. But trust me. There's something about putting the little puppet in the pocket that the kids just get a kick out of. 
Pocket Puppet stays safe in the library pocket on the back of the front cover until time to read!
Little Brown Squirrel Hides a Nut

Pilgrim Pocket Puppet Book
Santa Claus Pocket Puppet Book

All parts and clear directions are included. Easy and fun to assemble!
Students use positional words (above, over, under behind, etc.) as they tell the story. They use the puppet to go up a mountain, through the grass, around the lake, etc.
See the video below to see the Pilgrim Puppet Book in action! (If you don't see the video below, click the line that you see and the video should open.)
Check out all 3 Puppet Books here:
Little Brown Squirrel Pocket Puppet Book
Pilgrim Pocket Puppet Book
Santa Pocket Puppet Book

Thanks for visiting and don't forget to follow my blog or follow me on Bloglovin' (See icon above on the right.) and "SAVE" this post on Bloglovin'!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

6 Things I Would Do Differently As A First Year Teacher

It was 1986. I had just signed my very first teaching contract... to teach 6th grade at a junior high school. My salary for the year was $14,500. (I'm not joking... I figured I could lose a few pounds anyway...) But I was going to have my OWN class! I was so excited I could hardly see straight. I envisioned attentive students in their neat rows of desks, absorbing every word of my flawless lessons. I could see it clearly. I was ready. Bring it on.

So the day came when they finally let me into my classroom. Geeze, I had only been pounding on the school door to let me in since June 15. There was my room. OK, so the desks were a little old and mismatched. I could handle that. But wait, were there enough desks? And where was my desk and chair? Shouldn't there be books? And shelves? Supplies?

Little did I know at the time, but the new teacher got the scraps. My room looked like it had been looted after a major riot. Once the other teachers came trickling in, they must have taken pity on me because somehow I managed to scrape up more desks, some books, shelves and had things halfway presentable for the first day. 

But it wasn't what I had envisioned. I quickly learned that (back then) it was sink or swim. I was determined to swim. But I felt very alone. Collaboration was not a thing back then. Teachers did their own thing. Now, don't get me wrong. The teachers I worked with at the time were caring, wonderful people. Mentoring was just not the thing at the time, especially at a junior high. But I knew I needed help. 

This was my thinking though...Maybe I should already know how to do this. Was it a sign of weakness to ask for guidance? It sure seemed like it. So I tried to figure it out on my own.

What. A. Mistake. I sank. Fast. No one really prepared me for 35 unruly 6th graders who were only 10 years younger than I was. (3 sat at a table in the back because I couldn't seem to acquire those last 3 desks...) Again. Not what I had envisioned. And why weren't they listening to me? All the other teachers seemed to have it all together. Why couldn't I?? I was in over my head.

After 3 or 4 months of (you know what), I began realizing I needed help. My classroom management wasn't improving. In fact it was deteriorating. I had so many questions. Since blogs and Pinterest weren't available back in the stone age, our teacher peers were our best resource. So I visited the veteran teacher down the hall, Mrs. Comeford. My savior. My angel. I cried. I put my pride aside and asked her for help. 

Well, she helped me. From classroom management to how to handle late papers, she guided me and I listened. Each day, each month, and every year I improved. I learned from my mistakes. And slowly, I got it together and began to evolve into the teacher I had envisioned. I learned a few tips over the years. Boy, if I could go back, I would definitely change a few things...

My hair looked a bit like this in the 80's. That's another thing I would do differently...

1.  I would seek the help from the teacher who had the classroom and the management that I had envisioned for myself BEFORE DAY 1.

Find your Mrs. Comeford. The teacher down the hall who has "It". "It" might be a little different for each of us. But generally, this teacher has students' respect, attention and love. They adore their teacher. Students know what the expectations are and they do their best. There is flow in the classroom. Think about what you envision for your own classroom and find that teacher who will help you accomplish that. It might even be a combination of 2 or 3 teachers. It might be hard to find that someone before school starts, but start looking early so you have some solid plans in place. Ask for some of their time each week to share some of their secrets. Plan some questions ahead of time like, "What kind of classroom management do you use?" "How many warnings do you typically give a student?" "Can you show me your plan book and grade book?" "When and how do you plan?"  etc.  If you are lucky enough to meet weekly, you will learn so much and perhaps make a new life-long friend. 

2. I would keep it simple. 

With so many ideas for organization, classroom management, decor, and instructional techniques out there on social media, it's hard to filter out the ones that will really work for you. You can't implement them all, no matter how amazing the ideas are. Besides, so many of these ideas cost $$$. And remember... Less is better your first year. So narrow those best ideas down to just a few. Keep your classroom decor inviting but simple and purposeful. Wall space is at a premium, so choose what you display wisely. What resources will the students need and use throughout the year? If it is just cute to look at, you might want to replace it with a purposeful student resource: word wall, alphabet cards, sound cards, calendar resources, anchor charts, rules, clip chart, and so on.

When searching for instructional resources online, stay focused on your students' needs and the standards. If I could go back, I would master the curriculum and standards for the first year and only supplement when absolutely necessary. If you are not familiar with the curriculum that the district has provided, it's hard to supplement appropriately. So keep it simple and just use what they've provided for the 1st year. When you feel confident with the curriculum goals and state standards, then start to supplement with materials that will truly help your students reach their goals. 

But keep it simple. More is not always better.
Remember... KEEP IT SIMPLE

3. I would try REALLY hard to go home at a reasonable time each day. Enlist VOLUNTEERS!

No, really. I mean it. Set a time and stick to it. You need to have time to relax and refresh. If I could go back, I would round up as many parent helpers as possible to help with tasks that can be done by anyone: bulletin boards, organization, center prep work, and so on. Then you can focus on the tasks that only you can do: planning, grading, parent contacts, emails... 

Have a volunteer sign-up sheet at meet the teacher and/or open house. Place it on a table with cookies or other treats with a big sign. Use a sign-up website to do the work for you like SignUpGenius where parents see what tasks you need completed and they sign up for dates/times to come in and do them. When parents sign-up for specific dates and times, they are more likely to follow through. Plus, they get automatic reminders from SignUpGenius! Ha! One less thing to do! 

Be ready for your parent volunteers. Have a tub with materials ready for them in a consistent area of your room with simple directions. If you're lucky, you will have that one parent volunteer who can read your mind. One who just jumps right in and can see what needs to be done. Ahhh.... I've had a few of those angels. Remember them at Christmas and the end of the year with little thank you gifts! 
Thanks,! Check out her post on Thank You Gift Tags for Classroom Volunteers FREEBIE!

4.  I would keep the grumbling to a minimum

I'm not proud of it. I whined my first year. I lacked support, I missed my family and friends, I was starving (I actually did lose more than a few pounds) and I was struggling to get it all done and maintain my sanity. But I complained too much and smiled too little. Thankfully, I figured it out fairly early on that people were more responsive and supportive when I did my best to be positive. I learned to save my venting for my closest family and friends and tried hard to be solution oriented. Not just a whiner. Don't get me wrong. We NEED to vent once in a while. But be careful. Choose your allies wisely and keep the venting to a minimum. You want your co-workers and administrators to view you as a positive, valuable staff member. Your positive attitude helps your relationships with peers, family, students, parents AND yourself!

5. Stay organized

If I could add up the minutes I have spent looking for something in my classroom, it would add up to days...maybe weeks. I don't know. My point is, I sometimes put things in very special places. So special, I can't find them again. 

I LOVE it when I have spent a few minutes labeling, tidying up, tossing old things I've never used but was sure I would...

After 31 years, I decided to get rid of the teacher desk that I never sit at. It just became a place to plop things and hide things in the deep black holes called drawers. I tossed things from the 90's and found some great school pictures I had forgotten about. (I took them home and made a photo album and had a great time laughing at the ridiculous hair and clothes through the years.) I even found $20 buried under 5 staplers and a bunch of useless claw staple removers. 

Once I purged 3/4 of what was in my desk and kept only what was truly necessary, the desk was rolled out of my room and replaced with this (purchased at Sam's for under $30):
Yes. Everything necessary from my desk has now gone into these wonderful drawers. No more plopping either. I sit and work at the kidney table where I teach small groups. I HAVE to clear it off daily so I can teach. So I must file away papers. I use something similar to this to organize those loose papers without a home, although my labels include M-F files, team meetings, to file away, to grade, etc.:

I also organize with binders on my shelves. 

We'll see how it goes this new school year. My hope is I won't spend half my day looking for things. More time to spend on important things! 

So get organized in a way that works for you. Don't wait 31 years to do it though...

6. Win over parents

I found that only being 10 years older than my students my first year teaching was challenging in many ways. It was especially challenging to get parents to trust in my expertise as a teacher. If I could go back, I would work harder at winning over parents. Since then, I've learned that when parents are in my corner, I can accomplish just about anything. Call parents periodically to tell them about something wonderful or funny their child did or said. Or send home positive notes regularly.

Happy Go Home Notes are a quick and easy way to let a parent know their child had a great day. Some parents even keep them in a scrapbook. They are important. Take the time to send those positive messages out to parents. You care about your students. Let your parents know how much.

Take time after school to make positive connections with parents. Say hello. Ask about the new baby in the family. Tell a quick, positive story about their child. Be friendly and smile. It goes a LONG way! When I noticed that the father of a certain little boy in my class would look worried if I was holding his child's hand after school, I decided to take a different approach. Yes, I needed to let him know that his son had a hard time once in awhile. But I also had to let Dad know when his son made good choices, tried hard that day, or just made me smile. I saw that worried look on Dad's face less often when I was holding his son's hand, and saw more smiles. 
Make those positive connections with parents! 
I could go on and on about what I've learned since that 1st year of teaching. It is an endless list. But the important thing is I learned from my mistakes and made the necessary changes. 

My hope for you is that you save yourself the trouble and be proactive instead of reactive like I had to be. Learn as much as you can from those teachers that have "It." And stay positive and friendly. One day you will be the teacher who has "It" and the new teachers will flock to you for your secrets! ♥
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