Friday, August 16, 2013

Teachers Pay Teachers Sale

Teacher Pay Teachers is having a Back to School sale this weekend!  If you like any of the items I have posted or if you want to find more for your classroom, check out the BIG SALE!

Guide Reading Difficulties and Solutions - Comments Needed!

I am currently working on a project for my EdS to try and develop training (fun and worth your while training) to help make the most of your Guided Reading lessons.  My goal is to try to create training that you can take and use and not make extra work.  So here is what I need from you all:

In the comments section, please answer any of these questions below:

1. What problems do you have with managing your guided reading time?

2. What strategies work in your guided reading?

3. What is the hardest for you in planning your guided reading time?

4. How do you collect reading grades?

5. How do you use technology during guided reading?

6. Other concerns, problems, or things that work for you?

Thanks in advance for all of the responses!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Getting Ready for a New School Year

Time and Money:
10 Ways to Make a Teacher Smile before Winter Break
By: Jessica Zannini

Over the summer, schools are cleaned, students relax, and teachers start planning for the new school year.  The beginning of the school year is the time to put excitement to work and start making plans to save time and money.  You will be glad you did it on those busy weeks when you need to type weekly plans, grade papers, and inspire learning. 
1. Get to know the standards: Print a copy of your standards and search the textbooks, supply closets, your cabinets, and the media center to find materials that you can get your hands on for free. For those standards that need new materials shop around for the best price or see what you can make.
2. Spending your money right: After searching for materials at the school talk with the secretary and PTA president to see what money the school will provide you for supplies.  Make a list of what you still need.  Use that school money to buy consumable products.  For those items you know you want to keep and use wherever your teaching takes you, use your own money. 
3. Shop around at the beginning of the school year: During tax-free weekends and Back to School sales you can find great deals.  Think through your school year.  Do you need class sets of colored pencils, clipboards, or markers?  It is cheaper now to stock up on paper than to buy more in January. 
4. Make copies now: For those quizzes, notes, etc that you already know you want to put in the hands of your students, go ahead and make them now.  Be sure you know you copy limit for the year.  Maybe you have a friend, family member, or parent volunteer that has access to a copier and can make some of these for you. 
5. Laminate those weekly folders and posters: Anything you know you want to keep – laminate it. Create two folders per student so that you can have fresh ones after the holiday season.  Laminate those store bought and teacher created posters so they will last over the years.  You will appreciate it the following school year when you already have one thing checked off the list.
8. Make a Wish List: Decide on materials you would like to have throughout the year such as tissues, snacks, pencils, and copy paper.  Put the list on your website.  This will eliminate shopping during the school year and help save a few dollars. 
6. Use Parent Volunteers: Create a list of help you will need throughout the school year.  For those parents that can come in during the school day have them make copies, create bulletin boards, be reading and math tutors, or study buddies.  For those parents who work full time and can’t get in the room, have them cut out laminated materials or donate supplies and snacks.  If you ask for help, the parents will come running. 
7. Let Students Choose Their Own Seats: Don’t spend time on a seating chart before you know your students.  You will learn that first day, your talkers, friends, and responsible students.  Let this information guide you in making seating charts in the future.  You may just find that the students will be able to handle this arrangement and you don’t have to make time for rearranging.  This knowledge can also be used for cooperative grouping activities.
9. Create Book Lists: Find great read alouds and have them handy.  Look in your classroom and the school media center.  What books do you already have that match standards and the interest level of your students?  Make a list for those units and standards to pull out when you teach each unit.  The media specialist can pull the books for you or students can use their research skills to find the books and place them at your fingertips.
10. Go Through Those Permanent Records: Look at past scores.  Are there students you could already plan for reviewing and strengthening skills?  Find out how you school district wants the records organized and go ahead and make sure they are accurate and have the right materials.  Some may get disorganized throughout the school year, but you will be glad this is done in May.
Side Bar:  Want to keep them on track?   Research popular songs appropriate for school and make a CD of the songs to have on hand.  Push play anytime you need to motivate the students.  This is also a great discipline tool to get students on task and working at a pace to get you through a busy day. 
Find a way to eliminate road blocks you face in a school year, and there will definitely be more time

and money. As one of my former students told me while plopping a peppermint in my hand, “Keep up

the good work and there’s more where that came from.”

Want more?  Find forms, activities, lessons, and bulletin board displays in the teacher resource: Starting the School Year Right! -

Monday, August 12, 2013

A Year Long Writing Guide


Writing is one of those subjects that is taking a backseat to math and reading.  It should be a major part of the curriculum since it is how students express themselves and demonstrate their knowledge of the standards.  Writing is the first subject I plan each year so it doesn't get overtaken by the subjects that have test scores tied to it.  Each unit is planned with Common Core Writing and ELA standards.  Then other Common Core standards are pulled into each unit.  This way several standards are able to be taught in multiple subjects.  I have created Common Core ELA guides to help organize my ELA standards.

Common Core Connections - Grade 1 
Common Core Connections - Grade 3
Common Core Connections - Grade 4

Here is my plan each year:

Weeks 1-3 - Poetry Unit - This is a great way to get students creativity flowing without having to worry about all of the rules.  Students focus more on word choice and ideas in poetry.  Poetry is also a quick and easy way to get a bulletin board up for Back to School and Open House nights. Since poetry assignments (both reading and writing) are shorter you can get grades quickly.  If you need a unit on teaching poetry check out these two:

Poetry Unit - Second Grade 

Poetry Unit - Third Grade 

Coming Soon - Upper Elementary Poetry Unit

Weeks 4-8 - Personal Narrative Unit - Writing personal narratives is an excellent way for your students to learn about you, and tell about themselves.

Unit available soon for grades 2-6 at

Weeks 9-15 - Fiction Narrative Writing Unit - Now that you have the ideas, word choice, and narrative organization down, it is time to combine these into a fiction narrative.  This is always a fun unit to teach and the students really enjoy being creative.  If you need a unit for writing Fiction Narratives check out:

Writer's Workshop - Fiction Narrative

Weeks 16-20 - Informational Writing - By now you have taught several science and social studies units. Create a list of these topics for students to research.  A unit will be coming soon to help you teach this topic.  However, if you are ready to teach informational writing now, read this to help get you started:

A webpage I created to help guide teachers and students in writing informational pieces.

Weeks 21-25 - Persuasive Writing - This unit combines all of the skills taught in previous units.  It gives the students a chance to show their thoughts and feelings and support it with what they have learned.  A persuasive writing unit will be available soon at

Weeks 26-29 - Writing Dramas - Too often dramas (plays) get overshadowed each year.  The new Common Core standards stresses an importance on understanding dramas.  A great way to get students involved in writing dramas is to allow for performances.  To help reach all students offer a variety of ways to perform: live, videotaped, or use apps for performances (Puppet Pals and Puppet Pals 2 are great apps for those students whose fear of public speaking keeps them from showing their best.)

Weeks 30-36 - Writer's Workshop - Student Choice - Allow students to choose any of the writing genres taught this year and write what they want.  By now your students know your writing routine so the class can handle everyone being on a different page.  Plus most of the standardized testing is behind you!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Ready to Write Fiction?

Are you ready to get your students motivated to write? This writer's workshop guides students through the writing process and teaches them how to plan and write a fiction story. 

This writing unit contains: 

- Daily lessons on showing emotions and actions, creating characters, 
setting, and plot, and mini-lessons on adjectives, adverbs, adding -
transitions, creating enticing beginnings and endings, using a
thesaurus, and how to use quotation marks. 
- Handouts are provided for the lessons. 
- Wall Display of all writing guides, and writing process. 
- Transition words wall display. 
- Editor's Checklist 
- A Unit Study Guide and Unit Test 
- Thesaurus Scavenger Hunt 
- Guidelines on HOW and WHEN to conference. 
- Conference Sign Up Sheet 
- Teacher Questions for Conferencing and Conferencing Tips
- Publishing Suggestions
- Suggested Books to Use for Lesson Topics
- Options for Struggling Writers 
- Suggestions for Differentiation
- Exemplars 
- Rubric for Grading