Sunday, November 16

Sight Word Spelling Practice

Today's post is all about Sight Word Spelling practice...I've chosen to work harder with my fabulous firsties on spelling their sight words than reading them, as past experience has made me feel I get more bang for my buck when going that route.

Our district has a variety of high frequency word lists, containing 25 sight words each. In early October I conducted spelling inventory tests, starting with List A. For students who spelled most of those words correctly (18/20+ out of 25, depending on the child and the misspellings), I inventoried them on List B. And so on and so forth, all the way to List D, as that's where my kiddos maxed out.

So each child has been placed in the list that has a mix of words they know, as well as words they need to learn. There are four groups - a group working on List A, a group in List B, one in C, another in D.

I divided the lists up into five groups of five words each and each week and labeled each grouping with a fancy name...Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4 and Week 5.

You're loving my ingenuity with creating names, I can feel it.

For at home practice, students have this Tic Tac Toe page - I copied it on blue paper and asked them not to write on it...that they should try to make three in a row each time they practice, but that they should save the sheet to use week after week.

So I'm working through a series of 5 week cycles. All students in all lists have practiced and been quizzed on their lists through Week 4. Next week is our Week 5 quiz and after that I'll reinventory...since it's a short Thanksgiving week.

Here's the form I'll use on the upcoming inventory:

Based on how they do on the inventory test of their list, I'll move them ahead to Week 1 of the next list or I'll keep them in their same list and have them start at Week 1 again.

After each weekly quiz, the students get their new list on the form below. I have the words listed on the far left. They re-write the words two more times so that the three lists look the same. Then after I do a quick double check that they spelled the words correctly going across, they cut off the school list and keep it in their School Folder.

For practice at home, they take home the Home and Car lists. I have them keep the two together and cut them apart at home, as I don't want the lists to be too skinny and get misplaced.

The weekly quizzes are done using this page, cut into thirds...

For practice at school, we spend a few minutes a day practicing in a variety of ways, including - 

Roll A Word (which is a freebie from {THIS POST HERE})

Buddy Quiz - where kids partner up with someone assigned to the same list and take turns quizzing one another.

We use magnetic letters to do "Make Mix Fix" where students MAKE the word while looking at the correct spelling, then MIX it up, then FIX it up.

The class knows the Tic Tac Toe options well and enjoy practicing those ways, too.

How do you organize/practice Sight Word Spelling in your classroom?


Saturday, October 18

Student Goal Setting based on Learning Targets

I'm super excited about the goal-setting my first grade readers did this week! Plus, it ended up being a great topic to share here, in my favorite linky - Bright Ideas!

We are a district that implements the Teachers' College Reading & Writing Project model for Reading (and Writing) Workshop. It's our second year and boy, oh boy, is it FUN to be in my second year. LOVE having a full year's experience under my belt, as TCRWP was a huge change from our Guided Reading Centric literacy model.

Our main learning targets for Unit 1 are on green paper. We're through Bend 2 in Unit 2 and our main learning target is on blue paper.

I like keeping a running history of what we're really striving for as readers - cuz readers take a lonnnnng time to develop.

Once the Target board is filled up, I'll make a "packet" of the previous targets and post it to the board so readers (and I) can flip through them when we need a refresher.

I love to have my first graders involved in and empowered by our Learning Targets - you can see how they have additions and highlights and (not very good) illustrations...

One strategy I've used is to have the students help me formulate the learning target. Yes - I have to know the learning target ahead of time and yes - the mini-lesson includes a specific method that names the learning target multiple times...but what wonderful higher order thinking to have the students join you in deciding how to record it.

Once a target is posted and a mini-lesson fits into one that's up, I have my cuties think about the mini-lesson and decide under which target it belongs. They love doing this!

This week I wanted to take it further and have them set goals for themselves based on the target they felt they needed to work on.

To make the process as clean as possible, I took a picture of the target board...put the pic in a PowerPoint slide and typed up text boxes with the targets. The text boxes are in the same order as the targets are on the target board, since that is what they're familiar with.

Here's a closer look:
I'm absolutely thrilled with how my firsties did at self-selecting an appropriate goal! They, by and large, selected the goal that I would choose for them...but they were (and are) empowered because they did it ON THEIR OWN!

Here's a sample of a goal from each of the targets. 

I typed what the student wrote for you, as pencil doesn't always show up well in photos.

I made a copy of their goal and they added it to their Take Home Book Envelope for parents to see and build upon while they read at home, too.

For next week's Reading Log, I added mini-versions of the targets along the bottom so that students can highlight their goal on their log, too.

I plan to checkpoint with them in strategy groups by goal (all the build stamina's together, all the warm up before reading's together, etc) next week and my teaching points will be centered around their goal during the strategy group.

Thanks for stopping by today!!! I hope you found this helpful!!!

If you did enjoy this post, please consider following me on FacebookTeachers pay Teachers, and/or Pinterest!

There are LOTS of other Bright Ideas for you to read about from bloggers...make sure to check them out below!


Saturday, September 20

Table Zones with Masking Tape

Howdy Friends!

I'm popping in to my favorite Linky party with a quick tip on helping your kiddos have a defined table space.

This year I'm at a new school (loving it!) and getting a groove with my classroom. I have 5 giant tables, 23 students and kind of a small the tables are packed. Fortunately, there are seat sacks, which help get stuff out of the way when we need it.

But several kids have been struggling to know their space. Think, two-thirds of one child's stuff being in the child next to them's area and that child cramming themselves into a tiny area. I wanted to help them out a bit...


I grabbed my handy-dandy orange masking tape, since I was almost out of green, and got busy.

To figure out the spaces, I put a folder at each table spot to get a gauge for spacing. It's not perfect, but it does help.

I'll warn ya, though...
I did front load, telling my friends not to pick at the tape...after a week I have two spots where there was some picking.

Not gonna sweat it too much, the goal is to use the tape as a scaffold for becoming more aware of our place in space.

Will let ya know if I end up needing to buy and use more tape for continued zoning. :)

Thanks for stopping by today!!! I hope you found this helpful!!!

If you did enjoy this post, please consider following me on FacebookTeachers pay Teachers, and/or Pinterest!

There are LOTS of other Bright Ideas for you to read about from bloggers...make sure to check them out below!


Wednesday, September 10

Parent Support for At Home Reading & Back To School Parent Input Form

It is so helpful to parents when we, as teachers, provide strategies and tips for working with their readers at home! Parent input at Back to School time can be so helpful, too! I'm a big fan of parent communication and love doing what I can to help set parents up for success. This post contains two  parent letters - one for Reading at Home and one for Parent Input during Back to School or when you have new students.

This letter supports parents in reading at home with their children. I print it out and send it home in my first graders, Read at Home poly envelopes. Students keep it in their envelopes all year long for parents to refer to throughout the year as their readers grow and evolve. I don't even laminate it because it saves the environment, money AND time! I make 5 or so extra copies at the beginning of the year and replace any letter that's been ruined.

Parent Information Night is Thursday night and I've been getting a bunch of stuff ready! One of the things I've been getting ready is this letter to help parents support their child's at home reading...which, of course, I'm sharing with you! You guys are the best!!! I can't thank you enough for your kind words, emails, comments and support!

Disclaimer: this post contains some affiliate links. If you choose to click on the links, I receive a small commission.

I use letter size poly Take Home Book envelopes like  these or these because they last all year long (after we discuss and practice the expectations on how to take care of them)! 

This is all in an effort to support and enrich the foundation of reading workshop...which is to build readers who read like a star (S=study, T=think, A=ask & R=respond):

In my district, we use Lucy Calkin's Reading Units of Study. I created my reading workshop units prior to our district adoption, but because all three units are totally unique from one another AND from Lucy's curriculum, I still use them during whole group and small group. They are a GREAT supplement and can stand alone or be used in addition to any curriculum.

Readers Workshop Tips

Do you struggle with students that don't self monitor their reading? They plow on with their reading even when what they've said doesn't make sense, sound right and/or look right? Be sure to check out "Teaching Readers to Self-Monitor" in my TpT store!

This parent reading support letter provides explanations and examples of how they can provide support and compliment their reader from the lenses of word-solving, fluency & comprehension.

The other side has the Word-Solving strategies, a tidbit about fluency and an image from my READ bulletin board in the classroom.

Here are the word-solving strategies.

You can find this At Home Reading for Parents letter here.

For building your classroom community with a culture of kindness, you might want to check this Let's Be Kind mini-unit out, too! 

You might also like this back to school Parent Input form. It's a zipped file containing a non-editable pdf and a Powerpoint file that you can edit & tweak to your heart's content for your classroom. (Uncomfortable, but necessary, terms of use...please do not edit the file and then redistribute it, claiming it as your own.)

Read more about how I take the Status of the Class in Writer's Workshop. It is a practice I will continue for SO many reasons! 

Status of the Class

This Writer's Workshop post is full of tips for tweaking or refining your Writer's Workshop at Back to School or any time of year!

What tips do you have for building parent support and communication? I'd love to hear your ideas!

Monday, September 1

Back to School Preparations!

It's Back-to-School Eve and miraculously, my house is quiet. I'm going through some pics I snapped this weekend while I did some last minute back to school preparations prior to chillin' with my newest crop of firsties at my new-to-me school tomorrow.

The staff and families have been super welcoming and knock on wood...I'm pretty calm. Tonight, anyways.

A few of my favorite things have been getting a pretty serious workout this weekend! My new color laser printer...soooo worth it! Laser is soooo much cleaner and nicer than inkjet! And not having to wait my turn and monkey around on the color printer at school? Priceless! Cuz somehow I always mess something up when trying to multi-task!

My laminator! LOVE my laminator AND the pouches I get from Amazon...they work fantastically!

Here's what they've been doing for me...
Growing Firsties
Last year's batch didn't have Careful Caterpillar on them...and when a customer requested it I added it to the freebie pack on TpT but since I'd already made mine for my class I didn't make new ones.

I printed them on bright white cardstock, labeled them at the bottom with 1-M in case they get lost somewhere in the building...I also added student numbers at the top so that if one gets dropped in the room, it's easy to know who to return it to.

Included are full-page size posters and a page with all the strategies on one. 

Growing Firsties

Also got labels made and printed from the Avery Templates...if you'd like to download them for free, go ahead and click here or the image above. You will need the following free (for personal use) fonts in order for them to look the same as mine do...KG Behind These Hazel Eyes; KG Second Chances; Janda Silly Monkey.

Hope your year is off to a great start!!!

Saturday, August 30

Banish Lamination Glare! Quickly and Easily!

Does the glare from lamination drive you and your students crazy? It makes it so hard to see the item that was important enough to be laminated, which means the resource is less effective. Drives me nuts!

The first thing I do, is actually laminate fewer items....which saves resources, time and planet earth!

For what I do choose to laminate, though, I want exactly zero glare.

I'm just not much of a DIYer.

I see ideas on Pinterest and pin the bejeezers out of them.

My mom and stepdad are inCREDible DIYers.

I'm a WANNAbe DIYer.

Ya know those Pinterest fails?

That's me.

EXCEPT with this!

It was QUICK!

It was EASY!

And I didn't even get the idea from Pinterest! I saw this in the store and thought, waaaaait, is there a clear version? Saw it, bought it, tried it, LOVE IT!

Other people in the world have probably thought of this idea and done it, as well...but I'm not gonna lie, I was pretty proud of myself, hehehehe. Affiliate links included in this post.

(Gorgeous alphabet is from the impeccable Jen Jones at Hello Literacy)

All I did was lay out the laminated pieces on a whopper piece of cardboard from my school's receiving room. I set up just outside to avoid too much odor. It took about two minutes to spray the first coat onto the already laminated cards. Then I waited a few minutes (five mn max) and spent another two minutes to spray the second coat. Then I waited a few more minutes and carried it back to my classroom.

The directions say that it dries to the touch in five minutes and it will be fully dry in 24 hours. It dried to the touch really quickly.

I started hanging it up...and loved the results so much that I had to share!

Product Deets...
I used Rustoleum Matte Finish spray and it did have a bit of an odor, most noticed (but still not terrible) when I sprayed it inside my classroom...So for future projects I tracked down a Low Odor version from Krylon. The low odor is a couple dollars more than the regular version. If you buy a different brand, make sure you look for it to say "flat" or "matte" finish. You DEFINITELY do NOT want GLOSS!

By the you read this, I'm guessing you've sorta maybe thought that technically this is not really a DIY project. Thank you for not telling me that all I really did was spray laminate with a special finish to banish the glare. Which doesn't really constitute a DIY. You guys are the best!


Sunday, August 17

Back To School Freebie

Thinking about going back to school yet? I'm guessing that you're like me, in that you always feel like there's more you could be doing in each and every area of your life.
Back to School Freebie
Amazon Affiliate links are included in this post, for which I make a small commission at no cost to you.

I'm working really REALLY hard to give myself grace and mercy and to focus on what I HAVE done versus what I have NOT done.

Thanks for bearing with me! Btw, there are some Amazon Affiliate links in this post, which means if you click and order I will receive a small commission at no cost to you.

Last year you might have snagged up my "You're o-fish-ally" tags...from this post.

But this year I really would like to give my students a bag of goldfish crackers AND a glow stick...but I didn't want to prep two gift tag items...

Then this saying hit me like a ton of bricks...

While I was trying to ignore my daughter's tantrum today, I quickly left the area and wrote it down on a post-it so I wouldn't lose it later on.

I only need first grade, but I have grades pre-k through 5th grade.

When I printed them on my amazing HP color laser printer, I set the pdf to print two pages on one so that eight smaller tags printed on each page. The pdf is set up for four per page...cuz that's the best I could do while crazily multi-tasking.

I typically order a box of goldfish crackers and a family size bag of Swedish Fish (I put the Swedish Fish in ziplock baggies unless I am able to score those Swedish Fish mini-bags like what you see around Halloween.)

I usually have a basket with all three options (goldfish, Swedish Fish, non-food option) available and have the parents help supervise the choosing.

Some schools and families prefer non-food options, so here are some options I've used the last few years (whichever option is the least expensive is the route I go):

12 Pieces Fish Pen Ballpoint Pens Cute Fish Pen for Fish Pen Decoration Party, Christmas Halloween Near Year Gift

fish shaped gel pens (packs of 12)

shark stackable pencil (packs of 12) HUUUGE HIT!!!

UPDATE: I added a red background option (for the Swedish Fish!) AND a plain background for each grade, too! Why? You can print the plain background on any of your favorite colored paper! My favorite is always Astrobrights!

Back to school freebie

Of course I want to share them with you! So just click here or on the top picture to download them!

Saturday, August 2


I'm soooo honored to be participating in the book study for my friend Barbara Gruener's absolutely INCREDIBLE book!
Affiliate links included in this post

If you have not seen her blog, you MUST GO! She blogs at The Corner on Character. Her posts resonate. 'Cuz she's just so special.

I even got to meet her last summer and then saw her again a few times this summer! Lucky, lucky, LUCKY me!!! Here we are in San Diego, with Shauna from The Picture Book Teacher's Edition...where Barbara (who lives in TX) and I (who lives in WI) both happened to be at the same time!

I absolutely adore this entire book...Barbara's anecdotes and examples make each trait come alive and help me know exactly what I want to try in my classroom. It's more of a handbook than a one time read and I know that my copy will be dog-eared and tabbed sooooon!!!

The entire book is amazing and I have lots of pages tabbed already! You can find ideas and examples for each of the character traits highlighted.

She's set the book up so that each chapter highlights a character trait...using the acronym:


    • Service
    • Unconditional Love
    • Perseverance
    • Empathy
    • Respect
    • Honesty
    • Enthusiasm
    • Responsibility
    • Obedience
    • Encouragement
    • Self Discipline
Brilliant, right?

I am super late to the party (sometimes life just explodes, right? Thank you for your grace and friendship, Barbara. Love you!) with my post on Chapter 3...but better late than never, eh? This is a party that I absolutely did NOT want to miss!

'Cuz I LOVE the book and I LOVE Barbara!
Book Study - Perseverance Chapter

In this chapter Barbara emphasizes the importance of Perseverance...aka...stick-to-it-iveness.

What's Under Your Cape? Superheroes of the Character Kind

When something new is hard, ya gotta have it.

When challenges come your way, ya gotta have it.

When learning to read or write or solve is hard, ya gotta have it.

When learning has been easy and all of a sudden you're stretched, ya gotta have it.

It's especially powerful when perseverance is demonstrated with a positive attitude.

Along with fantastic examples and ideas, Barbara recommends several picture books...

I can't describe how lucky I feel to have my review quote selected and placed on the back of the book...

Barbara's entire book has me thinking about how I will tweak my classroom setup and though I always infuse character development into my classroom community, I'm wanting to go decorate with the Superhero theme...of the character kind! I'll keep you posted on how it goes.

I LOVE to combine our initial study of perseverance with finding text evidence - this best seller is engaging for my classes every year and produces powerful results! They LOVE holding each other accountable for finding text to support their answers. You can read more about this unit by clicking the picture below or {this link right here}.

You might also be interested in these posts about Growth Mindset...

In the meantime, here are some freebies for you to use when you work with your students on this mission-critical lifeskill! Click the pic to download!

Don't forget to pick up your copy of What's Under Your Cape? Superheroes of the Character Kind!!! Click here to get it personalized from Barbara!

Thursday, July 31

How I Work With Students to Self-Monitor While Reading

Teaching children to read takes a LOT of work. Important work. Powerful work. Work by students, work by us. There are SO many layers in learning to read, that it can very difficult AND very rewarding!

Don't we all have those students who sound beautiful when they read, yet have difficulty comprehending?

Or students who miscue while they read...a miscue that changes the meaning of the text and they just keep reading on?

And students who omit, insert or substitute words that makes their reading way off grammatically, yet they continue on and on?

Me, too.

These are students that have not quite developed strong, integrated Self-Monitoring behaviors.

We all teach students that do this and sometimes we go a little gray in the hair department or have an extra dose of coffee while we try to figure out how to reach them the best.

In the past I’ve tried a variety of techniques and strategies…with varying degrees of success…depending on the reader (of course).

1) Trying to “catch” them self-monitoring and praising their work like crazy saying things like,

“You just caught yourself!!! You worked it out and now you’ll understand!!”

“That sounded goofy/wonky/like gobbledy-gook and you stopped to figure it out! Whoop Whoop!”

“Did you just notice your amaaaaaaaaazing reading work? You didn’t just keep reading to get to the end, you were determined to make it look right, sound right AND make sense!”

2) Sent congratulatory notes home…so that kids are proud of their hard work and race to their parents to share their love note and then the parents know what to congratulate and notice while their sweethearts read to them.

3) Tally marks next to goals on goal-setting pages from Building STAR Readers. That pack is all about building STAR habits while reading. (S=Study T=Think A=Ask R=Respond) 

4) Have them use sticky notes to mark spots in their books to encourage them to slow down and be more aware of their thinking. (This image is found at Julie Ballew's site.) I pinned it to my School Stuff Board so I always have it handy.

Anchor Chart for sticky notes

5) While reading aloud, make intentional mistakes and stop to demonstrate self-monitoring and then identify the cueing system(s) where the mistake was made. 

For example, read, "The elephant's claw is very large," or "She ate the candles." Students can help you identify that it does NOT make sense. You can show them the text and have them help you figure out what it really says or you can have them offer suggestions that DO make sense.

When you miscue for visual/looking right, your miscue impacts syntax and/or meaning to the listeners. 

6) Whole group, small group and partner work to find proof and cite evidence in reading passages such as these from Finding Proof (which has been updated to streamline the look of each page and include additional content). 

This is all well and good….BUT…I’m not in small group or one-on-one settings every minute with every kid. #notpossible

We have to teach them to TAKE CHARGE of their own reading so that they self-monitor without us - every time, all the time.

I struggled to find resources for exactly what I was looking for, so I made one…

There are a variety of options for students to practice....I use the teaching projectables to introduce and practice theself-monitoring concepts and then follow up with having students work on the printables. I also included tracking forms so students can visually see how they are doing in regards to self-monitoring...

This pack is available as part of my Reading Workshop Bundle as well as in a Self-Monitoring Mega Bundle which contains some extra printables for practice looking closely across a whole word from beginning to end.

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