Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Vocabulary Instruction At The Home Depot!

"Comprehension is the reason for reading, and vocabulary plays a significant role in comprehension" (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 2000). 
The question is, what kind of instruction do you think best promotes the development of comprehension and vocabulary?
I came across this video on Tch or otherwise known as The Teaching Channel while looking at some Common Core videos.  This is a great idea that could really be applied to any grade level K-12.  I really do believe that this could go cross grade level and be used in some really neat ways!  Not to mention we can get the materials for free at your local Home Depot, Menards, or paint store!

How would you use paint chips in your classroom?  Are there any other ideas or methods you use in your room for vocabulary enrichment?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Universal Design for Learning

I just got done teaching my final class of the semester at our local community college.  I teach in the Early Childhood Education Department.  I loved the group of girls that I had this semester.  There were lots of great moments and of course lots of laughter.  As they reflected on what impacted them this semester, I found a common theme.  They all walked away knowing that they needed to be a teacher that looked at every students as an individual. 

I talked a lot about Universal Design for Learning (UDL) verses Traditional Teaching.  Do you know what UDL is?  There are pockets of educators that don't know what UDL is but apply the practices that  are encompassed in UDL.  Then there are other pockets that are strictly traditional and do not have any idea what or why we should be looking through the UDL lens.  

One of the best crash courses in UDL can be found on the Iris Center website that is put together by Vanderbilt University.  It takes you through a module with videos, interviews, and real life examples.  It is a module that I would recommend for any educator to do on their own but it could also be used for new teacher orientation, PD, PLC, or a classroom for education students.  Hopefully this short post leaves you wanting to find out what exactly UDL is or gives you some extra resources (found below) that you can use in your own classroom or to send to another educator that may need a resource.  Below you will also find the outline that was one of the options that I created for my ECE students to use when going through the module.

If you have any tips or tricks on how you use UDL in your classroom or school please share!!

More UDL Resources

  • Outline I created for my students using the Iris Module Click Here to view on Google Drive
  • CAST is a nonprofit research and development organization that works to expand learning opportunities for all individuals through Universal Design for Learning. This site has information for you on assessing your current status of implementing UDL and also provides examples of how to use UDL in your classroom.  
  • Teaching Every Student provides information on Universal Design for Learning, as well as links for downloading a free book on UDL.
  • Scoop it! is a curated site that offers a treasure trove of UDL resources, including narrative, video and more.
  • WestEd's Using Technology to Support Diverse Learners contains links to a slide show, handouts, and related materials for professional developers (technology coordinators and inclusion teachers) that are helping teachers integrate technology into the curriculum to support diverse learners.
  • Packet that can be used when going through the IRIS Module.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

My First Year of Being a Teacher Bloggess!

It has been an exciting year!  I have just began to explore blogging and selling the products that I create for my classroom in the last year.  During this time I have been blown away with the amount of support and community that is in our online world!

I would highly recommend to ANY teacher that they become a part of at least one online community or at least follow some fabulous blogs!

So her is what has inspired and supported me in my first year of being a bloggess!

+Rachelle Smith at What the Teacher Wants.  This was the very first blog that I started following and inspired me to begin to create materials and introduced me to Teachers Pay Teachers (I will tell you more about that later)! Rachelle and Natalie have done such a great job support their followers with great ideas, tons of freebies, and a great platform for educators!
LadyBug's Teacher Files  This site has great ideas for classroom decor, organization, lessons, tech tips and lots of free things!  I have always found their organizational ideas to inspire me!
School Girl Style- I love this blog!  She has great ideas and awesome links to other bloggers that inspire!!
Here are a few other honorable mentions that I have followed over the year!


I love using these websites to learn more about blogging and getting fonts!

As a celebration of becoming an official bloggess (only in my mind) I am giving away a product that is typically sold in my stores for $8.99
For the next week A Reading Teachers Essential Set Up Packet will be free in my Teachers Notebook Shop!

Happy Blogging!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Free To Be Passionate

When was the last time you allowed a choice… I mean a real choice for your students, teachers, or administrators?  When were they allowed to explore, do, or create something that they were talented in and passionate about?  Do you regularly feel supported and empowered to achieve in the areas that you are most excited about and proficient?
It is hard to not put constraints on a job, lesson, assignment, project or initiative. Our educational system seems to believe that without those constraints one will not learn anything, produce enough, or create the right thing.  They are sure that  without these structures, a person will fail if they are not told what to do and how to do it.
We need to step back and realize that by giving them the freedom and trust to create in a way that THEY are passionate about and gifted that they will actually learn more, perform better, and build the confidence to be not only the person that they want to be, but should be, for the benefit of all those around them and the rest of mankind.  We must squelch this desire to micromanage our administration, staff, and/or students and empower them to pursue their passions and creatively add to and improve our education system and, by doing this, our world.
Learning to follow rules, step by step processes, and or proven curriculum has a place, but what place should it hold?  Should we do we do the unthinkable and let people excel at what they do best by helping them find and live out their passions?  I believe that we should… our organizations, cities, country and world will be much better off if we do!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Reader's Workshop Tips and Tricks Round 2

In the last Reader's Workshop Tips and Tricks #1 I talked about how to get to know your students before you begin your Reader's Workshop.
This weeks Tips and Tricks Round 2 are based around getting the first few weeks off the ground!!
Before a child can have an interest in reading, he must first have an awareness of it.  The child who is unaware of the riches of literature certainly can have no desires for them.

          ~ Jim Trelease 
I have to admit that I am a Reader's and Writer's Workshop junkie...I love scouring the web looking for new ideas to integrate into my classroom.  I have learned a few things over the past years while teaching Reader's Workshop in my fourth grade classroom.  I thought it was about time I put them down and shared some of the tips and tricks that I have been taught.
The most important piece of advice I have ever received about implementing and learning Reader's Workshop is you need to give yourself time and grace!  There is no one that is able to implement it all at once without taking the time to get to know each of the parts in-depth.  Experts say that it takes at least three years for an educator to have all parts of the workshop fully implemented and thriving.
 The best advice that was given to me was to make the first year you do
workshop the "year of the mini".

Start off really concentrating on getting to know your minilessons.  I find that the best format to organize these lessons and really keep track of all of the parts is using the same format that Lucy Calkins uses.  The only thing I did for my own lessons for the first year...and for those of you that may have some of my lesson is I eliminated the "mid-workshop teaching point".  Then about half way through that first year I was able to grasp how and when to insert that "mid-workshop teaching point". Now a few years in, I have become artful at doing and I know the lessons well enough to really know what the students need and where they are missing pieces.

I have developed a series of Reading Workshop Units for grades 3-5.  They are all on sale starting today on Teachers Pay Teachers and Teachers Notebook!!!!!!  

Example Unit
Reader's Workshop
Launching Unit:  Building A Reading Life

The Reader's Workshop: Launching -Building a Reading Life is easily adaptable for 3-5. 16 Lessons with connection, teaching point, active engagement, link, and sharing. It addresses Common Core Standards and includes anchor charts, minilessons, booklist, conferring notes, partner expectations, parent letter and much more. This product has been adapted from Units of Study for Teaching Reading Grades 3-5 by Lucy Calkins.
In the Launching Unit some of the very first lessons include...
    Launching Reading Workshop_3
  • Setting expectations for behaviors during the mini lessons, independent reading time, and partner work.

  • Setting goals for reading as a class.  I keep these posted all year.
  • Typical starter mini lessons like "Signs to Watch for When Choosing a Book" and "Reading Fast, Long, and Strong".  During this unit you will be continually trying to build their reading stamina.  Over the past few years I have used Stamina Graphs as recommended by the "The 2 Sisters" who have written Cafe and The Daily Five.

I highly recommend if you are a lower elementary teacher that you check out the linked websites above.  The Sisters really have done a fabulous job giving resources that you can use tomorrow!
  • Setting up partnerships.  These partnerships start off minimal and using them only a few times a week with very specific conversations.  Then during the next unit which is our Character Study, they are ramped up.  By this time they have had a lot of experience with accountable talk and are ready for action!
Launching Reading Workshop_12
Later this week I am very excited to blog on the
Tips and Tricks of Conferring.  We just had an amazing PD day with a woman who had the coolest ideas and set up to her get excited for that to come your way!!!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Who Doesn't Love A Sale!?!?

Check out these HUGE SALES!!!!

3 Awesome Things You Will Find on Teachers Notebook...

  1. Build-a-Bundle!
  2. Sales!!!  
  3. Giveaways!  There is still time to enter our Teaching Upstairs Giveaway!  We are giving away 5 units of Reading Workshop: Navigating Nonfiction in Expository Text.  Teacher's Notebook will pick the random winners and then email you with a link to download the product. It couldn't be easier!

300 × 300

Save on EVERYTHING on Teachers Pay Teachers from 12/2-12/3!
Sale runs 12/2 12:01 am ET - 12/4 3:00 am ET

Here's How It Works:
-Save even more with Sellers who join the sale for up to 28% off of resources!-Fill your cart! Sale is ON Monday 12/2/13 12:01 a.m. ET through 12/4/13 3:00 a.m. ET

-Use promo code CYBER for 10% off everything except gift certificates

You must enter promo code: CYBER at Checkout to save!

Do You Want To Sell Your Products!
Have you ever thought about selling on Teachers Pay Teachers?  It has been one of the best experiences for me!  I would highly recommend checking it out and giving it a go!  If you would like to sign up and shoot me an email at I would love to support you as you get started in this process!

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Reader's Workshop Tips and Tricks! Round 1

Filling part of your holiday with a little dreaming.  I feel like sometimes I get the best ideas for my classroom when I just sit relax (knowing I have a long weekend to get stuff done before Monday!) and dream!  Here is some inspiration for all you dreamers and thinkers and guess what the best part is all things you can take back an apply!  Yay!  Some of these things you may want to begin next year(and get excited for the Round 2 Tips and Tricks) but for those who have not done this check it out...

              Reader's Workshop Tips and Tricks!  Round 1

 Getting to Know Your Students As Readers

My mama taught me well!  Before I ever do anything, I get to know the student as an individual!  In Reader’s Workshop we are providing students with an environment that is a catalyst to create a reader for a lifetime.  We do this by individualizing and personalizing not only our role as the teacher but fitting the needs of each individual student.  There is no way I can begin to teach without learning about their pasts as an individual and as a reader.  Then I also need to know how to get to them now but where to begin to get their attention and trust.  Some call them “Reader’s Profiles”
I collect as much information as possible about each student a couple weeks before school and during the first month (If you have not done this you still have time!!!!!!  It is never too late!!!).  This looks like scouring their previous work, standardized test results, talking to last years teachers, and anything from the previous years I can get my hands on!!!    Then I prepare to collect information from the student, my own observations, parent surveys, and more.   In the freebie below you will find some of the materials that I use in my room including...
  • Parent Survey and Information Form
  • Reading Interest Survey
  • Strategy Interview
  • Questions About My Reading
  • Getting to Know You Conference
 You will also find a couple of my "Beginning of Each Unit Forms" that have been thrown in!
  • “What I Want To Read Next” is a worksheet that I always have my students keep with them and add to it before and throughout the units.  We always talk about adding to it as we hear of books during book buzzes or learning of squeals to books they love!
  • “My Reading Goals”  is a form that is continually added too.  I mainly check up on this and we add to it as we meet and conference together one on one.   These are goals that we talk about in order for them to become better readers.
  • Reading Logs
Make sure and watch for ROUND TWO of Reader's Workshop Tips and Tricks!  Next I am planning on talking about Conferring in the Reading Workshop!
A couple other Freebies from my shop for you lucky ducks!  Click on the links below