Thursday, March 13, 2014

Guest Blogger- Teacher Timesavers from Crystal!

As I mentioned, March is a super busy month! While I'm at parent-teacher conferences today, my friend Crystal is filling in to share some of her favorite teaching timesavers- because, really, is there anything we can use more?

Teaching Little Miracles

Hi there! It's me, Crystal, from Teaching Little Miracles. I'm so happy to be here! It is such a privilege to guest blog for Jenny today. I enjoy reading all her organization tips (did you catch Sunday's post on organization for progress monitoring?) and other great ideas!

I'm excited to share some of my favorite time savers with you all today. I know this time of year, I'm always looking for ways to stay organized and save time. Here's some of my most terrific timesavers:

1. Morning Routine Posters!

This was one of those things I figured out after my first year of teaching--and yes, it took me a year (maybe two). Every morning I would write a list on the board of things for the kids to do when they came in and it was usually very similar. I realized it was silly to write it every day when I could turn it into posters. I printed mine on cardstock, laminated them, and put magnets on the back. Such a time saver in the morning! This is a freebie in our TPT store if you're interested. You'll notice in the picture that my posters are now part of my Daily 5 slide show that I project on the board each morning, but I still pull out the posters sometimes too.
2. Weekly Checklist!

This one also took some time to develop. My blogging buddy Kristi is a list maker and we both struggled to leave school at a decent time every day. We found that we would start working on something, then as we walked across our room to take care of it, we would get distracted and start on something else... I'm sure you can see where this is going. WASTED TIME! Finally, we came up with this handy checklist. It has my list of things that I need to do each day (Friday is on the back) tucked inside a page protector. As I accomplish something, I cross it off my list. It keeps me focused and best of all, each week I just erase and use the list again.

3. Picking Prizes!

I use Dojo points in my classroom. At the end of the week, students pick a reward based on how many points they earned. I found it was taking too long for me to ask each student what they had chosen, so (using those handy page protectors again) I created a way for them to sign up themselves. While you may not use Dojo, maybe this will give you an idea on how to save yourself time in your classroom.

I guess I will stop with just THREE terrific timesavers because this post is getting way too long! Now...make sure you come visit our blog. We happen to have a $75 WiseDecor giveaway happening right now!
Teaching Little Miracles
Have a blessed week! Thanks again, Jenny!  

I am so glad Crystal could send in a guest post for today! She and her blogging partner have tons of simple, smart ideas for your classroom- like using I Have, Who Has cards to play Scoot easily- plus a motivating Wisdom for Wednesday post each week! Be sure to check out her blog :) Thanks, Crystal!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Bright Ideas: Tips for Organizing Progress Monitoring Materials

It’s time for another Bright Ideas Blog Hop!

Blair Turner's photo.

Last time I was amazed at the wealth of knowledge shared, so be sure to hop through or browse through the linky at the bottom to find some new ideas to make your life easier as a teacher!

This year, I’m a reading specialist for 2-6 one half of the day, and a Title I teacher for kindergarten the other half of the day (at different schools). Organization has always been a challenge of mine, but this year it’s been impossible not to keep my progress monitoring materials and data organized.

For progress monitoring, I keep a binder for each measure. For instance, we share a big binder for AIMSweb passages at one of my schools. We have tabs to separate grade levels, and then we keep the ORF student copy on one side of the page protector, and the teacher copy (with numbers) on the other side. At my other school, I organize my EasyCBM Letter ID and Letter Sounds measures back to back, so that all of my week one materials are in one page protector and I just have to flip it over in between assessments.


I keep track of my official data for the class on a data sheet like this one I made. (Picture from last year, when we used DIBELS. Yes, I know ALL the tests now, haha.) I know this feels like one more thing to do, but like with my lesson plans, making the form that fits what I need at the beginning of the year is so helpful!


I also keep a sheet in my teacher binder for each student that I update just around grade card times or before conferences. It is absolutely vital for parent teacher conference organization!

For anecdotal notes, I kept it very low-tech and used basic supplies you already have:

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I flip the index cards over and write the students’ name or number on the edge of the card.

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Then, I tape it down from the top on the very bottom of the file folder.

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I layer the next card over it so just the name is showing.

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And keep going…

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And finally, I put a cover for the teacher’s name (or group time, boy/ girl, etc.) on the top of each group.

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When I am finished adding for each class, I can easily flip to the kid I need- but the notes are always covered & secure.

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When I fill a card, no problem- I just put a new one in its place and file the filled one away in my student folders. I might also use scrapbook paper and/ or washi tape to cute this up- but I was in a hurry and this only took me a few minutes to pull together!

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All of my notes fit in this one folder for the entire afternoon- and if a teacher asks about that kid, it’s easy for me to instantly flip to that kid’s notes.

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This could work for academic notes, behavioral, workshop/ CAFE conferencing, or pretty much anything YOU need- but it’s a simple way to keep anecdotal notes at your fingertips!

Next up in the link-up, you can find some new, fabulous writing ideas from The Bubbly Blonde.

The Bubbly Blonde

Thanks for stopping by!

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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

March Currently & Winner Announced!

March is going to be a CRAZY month for me- but a very good one!

The month includes: a baby shower, awesomely bad movies with friends, finally seeing Wicked, taking my husband on a surprise trip with friends, seeing my little brother & mom, a blog conference, a visit from a friend, maybe a trip to the ballet, my birthday, AND the start of Spring Break!

Of course, it also includes parent-teacher conferences, lots of standardized testing, and finishing the yearbook, but it ought to be a good month, even if it IS super busy! And since it will be so busy…


Please email me (see link above and to the right, with the little mailbox!) if you would be interested in submitting a guest post. I’ll especially consider those that focus in the 2-3ish grade band, or focus on organization and/ or helping new teachers.

I’m linking up with Farley for Currently…

march currently

Can you guess my missing question?  : ) You can link up with Currently at Farley’s blog here.

One last thing- time to announce the winner of my Text Detectives March giveaway!


Thanks for entering! Of course, you can still pick up the Seuss passage for free by downloading the preview here- and if you like it, the pack’s just $4. Be sure to check out my Feeling Lucky? Multisyllabic Word with Prefixes game while you’re there, too!

march products

Happy March, everyone!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Teaching Kids to Go Back In the Text When Answering Comprehension Questions

Since I’m a reading specialist, I see even MORE kids than usual who are lazy in reading. When I give them a reading passage, they try to skip reading it and then they randomly search for the answers. When they can’t find them instantly, they get frustrated and guess.

Reading is hard, so they want to get it over with- and going BACK to the text, after I already read it? No way is THAT gonna happen!

refer to text graphic

My students are finally going back to the text- but it’s in large part because we’ve learned how to make it easier. (Okay, and when I use Text Detectives, they’re kind of forced to.) Here are our steps:


Depending on how independently your readers can access the text, I vary between reading it as a group, with partners, or individually.


On one side, we label each paragraph by number. (We use arrows to find the indents, which helps.) We put little brackets off to the side of each paragraph and they use 1-3 words to tell the topic of that paragraph. You can see here that the first paragraph is the intro, the second paragraph is about when he was a kid, etc.


Then, we read the first question and circle the question word. We’ve learned about each question word, so we know that when it says “where” we’re looking for a place and we need to keep an eye out for place words, including proper nouns with capital letters.


After that, we underline any key words. These are words that we think might be found near the answer. They’re going to help us narrow down where the answer might be. Of course, these words aren’t always near the answer- but it gives us something to look for.


Next, we predict where this answer might be found using our summary words from earlier. It’s not always clear, but sometimes we can clearly decide, “Oh, this is about when George Washington was born. It’s not going to be in the part where he was in war, or the part where he was President… it’s probably going to be in the part that talks about his childhood.” I have my students put a little number next to the question that shows which paragraph they’ll look in first.

While we’re learning about this, I do a lot of thinking aloud to model what my students should have going through their heads. Then, as we do it together, I say, “Where do you think we should look first? Why?”


Finally, we go to that paragraph of the passage and skim for the key words. When/ if they find one, they go back to the beginning of the sentence and see if it answers the question. If they can’t find key words, they read that whole paragraph to see if they can find the answer.

With these Text Detectives sheets, I have my kids underline JUST the answer- not the surrounding sentence- so I know they can pinpoint the exact answer. Of course, we also work on writing our answers in complete sentences… but first, they have to know exactly what the answer is.

And when they find it, they’re allowed to color the crayons (because, for some reason, they can’t stand to leave them white!)

Once we’ve practiced this a few times, my kids feel a lot more comfortable trying it themselves! Of course, our kids can’t always use these exact strategies on a test- but for those struggling kiddos especially, this gives them a process to try and a place to start. And I love that it's not just "test prep," but valuable skills for real reading and research too!

One last thing: I love to use my Text Detectives packs to teach finding text evidence, but hopefully these are strategies you can use or adapt with ANY text. On the off chance that you want these, though…

seuss preview

I've written Text Detectives passages for every month of the year, and you can choose the 2nd grade or 3rd grade reading level. The passages are similar so they can even be used together in the same classroom for differentiating! If you’re interested, you can find Text Detectives here and try out a Dr. Seuss reading passage for free by downloading the Preview file.

Another really helpful strategy for my kids in the next step of this process (looking back in the text both when the answer is explicitly stated, and when it’s not) is a version of QAR called the 4-H strategy.

You can read more about it here from my friend Kylie at Ripper Reading Resources.

*How do you work with your students on answering questions in the text?*

Edited to add: This post originally contained a giveaway which has now ended. Please be sure to follow my blog for future giveaway opportunities!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Saturday Night Teacher Feature: This Little Piggy Reads!

Being a teacher can be so isolating sometimes- it’s you, in your classroom, making it work. Today I’m writing to feature a teacher friend of mine who you may not know yet!
I know for me, it feels amazing when someone recognizes the hard work I put into my job- so today, I want to introduce you to Deniece from This Little Piggy Reads!

This Little Piggy Reads
Deniece teaches 5th grade gifted students in an urban school in Texas- which is her dream! What I love is that she doesn’t shy away from making things engaging while still making them rigorous and helping students get prepared for testing (especially TEKS- aligned resources and STAAR test prep- although I find it almost all applies to CCSS too!).

And of course, since she’s a star, I want to feature three of her “greatest hits!”

I loved Deniece’s post about multiple meaning words!
What do drawing pictures, plastic Easter eggs, and Round-the-Room all have in common?
They were ALL featured in this post in a way that works even for those upper elementary kids who are “too cool” for everything.
So along those lines… I love Deniece’s Multiple Meaning Words pack! She really has a knack for making skills interactive in a creative way and I love the variety in this pack.
Multiple Meaning Words (CCSS and TEKS Aligned) STAAR Style Q's
I love that the activities can also be used independently in a literacy center, or as whole group lessons. That variety becomes important, especially as test time comes up and I like to do test review centers based on what each group of kids need.
There are also some differentiated puzzles, which is perfect for making sure that ALL of your kids get what they really need to master the concepts.

Completely, and totally, in love with these fonts. I just recently downloaded them, and they are so great for adding a little personality to my work- and did I mention FREE fonts?

FREE Fonts for Cover Pages - Please Use My Credit Button
You can find these AND lots of other free fonts in her TpT store here.

So, have I convinced you yet?


Hop over and check out Deniece’s blog on Bloglovin, or look through a few more teacher features and find some new friends to follow. Hope you are having a great weekend!