Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Back to School Listening Center with QR Codes

 Back to School Listening Center with QR Codes

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This Back to School Listening Library includes 24 stories with QR codes and one Retelling Story Map. You can use these during your Daily 5 centers: Listen to Reading or as whole group Read Alouds!

All QR code links are safe to share with children without being afraid that they can get to potentially inappropriate content. Free of ads and outside links.

If you do not have access to a QR Code Reader, I have also provided a hyperlink to each story. You can simply click on the book cover and it will bring you right to the story. 

Below, I have included a FREE Listening Center task card for you to try out. Simply download a QR Reader app from the app store (most school districts already have them available on your devices). Or simply click on the book cover to follow the SafeShare link:

Back to School QR Code Listening Center

Once you print these out or project onto your smart board (students can scan the code from your smart board), assign a story for your Listening Center, whole group, small group or guided reading centers. There are enough stories included in this library for the whole month!

After reading, provide the children with a simple story map, sequencing map or related activity to complete after listening to enhance and assess comprehension. In addition to the stories, I have also included a simple Retelling Story Map (Characters, Setting, Problem & Solution).

Here is a list of the titles included in this Listening Center:

Pete the Cat, Too Cool for School
Pete the Cat, Rockin’ in My School Shoes
First Day Jitters
David Goes to School
How Do Dinosaurs Go To School
Splat the Cat, Back to School, Splat
You’re Finally Here
Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun
Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten
Too Much Glue
Have You Filled A Bucket Today?
Froggy Goes to School
The Recess Queen
Lacy Walker, The Nonstop Talker
Enemy Pie
If You Ever Wanted to Bring An Alligator to School, Don’t!
Each Kindness
The Kissing Hand
If You Take a Mouse to School
The Juice Box Bully
Tacky the Penguin
Don’t Squeal Unless It is a Big Deal
How Full is Your Bucket

To download this listening library with QR codes visit my TpT shop:
The Back to School Listening Center with QR Codes and Links

There are several other Read Aloud Libraries and Listening Centers with QR Codes and Links available at my TpT store that your students will also enjoy. You can find them HERE.

Happy Listening!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

School Store Behavior Incentive System

Click HERE to download an EDITABLE copy of the piggy bank labels
The students earn play coins when appropriate behavior is observed. This is an excellent way to point out desired behaviors in the classroom. Allow the students to serve as role models for their peers.

This is also an excellent method to provide positive reinforcement for individual behavior modification plans. When a target behavior is observed, the student is rewarded with a coin. 

This is also a hands-on way to introduce and reinforce the value of coins.  

Individual piggy banks are made using disposable Tupperware tubs with a small slit cut into the lid large enough for play coins:

You can download the EDITABLE labels HERE and enter your own students' names.
The label looks like this:

To create your school store, purchase the long storage bins that are made to slide under your bed, place four smaller baskets inside and label with coins to help your students shop!

A copy of the label is available in my TPT store:
School Store and Piggy Bank Behavior Incentive System

Friday, June 23, 2017

Disguise Read to Self As Word Study

word study, phonics, daily 5, readers workshop, read to self

Are you looking for more opportunities to encourage your students to apply what they have learned from your phonics instruction while they read? Let me share this success story with you!

We all know that first graders LOVE to read and be read to! The method described below gives them an opportunity to do both.  They read independently hunting for spelling patterns AND are read to by their classmates while they listen for spelling patterns!

Right here, on this page, I will share with you my tried and true method of how to disguise Read to Self as a little more: Word Study! Using what kids love:

sticky notes
color coded "gumballs"
decodable "just right" readers
peer teaching
Share Time (they all LOVE Share Time)
(multi-sensory strategies)

I begin our day (prior to the Daily 5) with a phonics/spelling mini lesson. For example, if we are studying digraphs we might complete a spelling sort or a short fluency passage. To read more about how I manage DiFfErEnTiAtEd Word Study groups using Words Their Way click HERE.

We close our mini lesson by taking a "sneak peak" at their assigned story for Read to Self. The story would include words with digraphs.

I provide my students with Read To Self bookmarks to mark the page in our decodable readers to help them quickly find their assigned story and to remind them of what is expected of them:

word study, phonics, daily 5, readers workshop, read to self
If you would like to download a copy of the Read to Self bookmarks click HERE.
During the Daily 5 centers, students spend time at the Read to Self center where they first complete their assigned reading and move on to their self selected reading. As they read the assigned decodable story, they hunt for words that contain a digraph and jot them down on a post-it to share with the class after the Daily 5. My students benefit from using a color coded system for our spelling patterns that we like to call "gumballs":

word study, phonics, daily 5, readers workshop, read to selfword study, phonics, daily 5, readers workshop, read to self

Once my firsties have completed their assigned reading, they may move on to their own self-selected books. I encourage them to look for these spelling patterns in these books as well. It is important for them to use those stickies as a bookmark on the page where they found the word in the book. They will need to find that page quickly during Share Time.

Once all students have had an opportunity to learn at each Daily 5 station, we meet at the carpet for a Share. This is when my first graders take the lead as "teacher" and TEACH their classmates their current Word Study focus.

word study, phonics, daily 5, readers workshop, read to self

Share Time is a favorite part of our day! By mid-year, my first graders have the routine down pat and run the show themselves. This leaves me the time to review their work from the Daily 5.

Student script for share time:

  • "My Word Study goal is I can read digraphs.  Today I read ________________, and my gumball is /sh/."
  • This is the moment when they read the sentence from their book that contains a word with their gumball. The rest of the students listen for the gumball and raise their hand to contribute their answer.
  • The "teacher" calls on no more than 3 students to contribute their answer. Once a classmate shares the correct answer, the teacher says, "You're a smart cookie" and both the "teacher" and the student who answered correctly takes a cookie from the cookie jar (Cookie Crisp cereal).
  • The "teacher" calls on another student, "_______ would you like to share?" and the new "teacher" responds with "Yes, please."
  • The sticky note gets placed on our Interactive Word Study Bulletin Board:
word study, phonics, daily 5, readers workshop, read to self
If you would like to learn more about how I manage differentiated Word Study groups as pictured above visit HERE.

Including a Word Study Share as part of your Daily 5 routine is an excellent way to help motivate your students to apply their Word Study focus and to celebrate what they have accomplished.

It is also a great opportunity for children to learn from their peers, especially if you are differentiating your Word Study groups. Children in advanced Word Study groups can introduce new spelling patterns to children who are not yet at that stage. And on the flip-side, children who have already learned a spelling pattern will have an opportunity to review those patterns they have previously learned!

Share Time also allows you to informally assess your students' ability to apply what they have learned.

In the last decade, I have been using the Daily 5 Management for Centers and Small Group instruction. In those years, I have morphed the Daily 5 into a system that combines MANY best practices (differentiation, Daily 5, Words Their Way, Lucy Calkins, Orton Gillingham... the list goes on).

Teaching is an art. If we go about our instruction utilizing the best programs and resources we can get our hands on, we find amazing results! This story is a testimonial!

Monday, June 19, 2017

"Your'e a Smart Cookie" Jar: An End of the Year Gift

One of our classroom themes this year was Our "Smart Cookie" Sight Word Incentive. My first graders went home each week with a Smart Cookie Sight word ring that included a set of 5-7 words. I met with each student on a weekly basis for their sight word assessment.  For every word they were able to read on sight, they received one "smart cookie" -- You guessed it: Cookie Crisp cereal!

I promise, this incentive system truly worked to motivate my students to learn their sight words each week.  They did not want to miss out on earning their smart cookies!

So of course, as an end of the year gift, I created a "Smart Cookie" jar just for them!

They were thrilled! Seeing their faces as they laid their eyes on 20 cookies jars was priceless!

It was well worth the small investment of approximately $15! I purchased the containers at the Dollar Tree and bought 3 boxes of Cookie Crisp which was enough to fill their cookie jars right up to the top!

If you would like to learn more about how I use differentiated sight word lists to improve sight word fluency, visit:

What to do with "Worn Out" Library Books?

Teachers have an endless to do list at the end of the school year.
One of those tasks is to reorganize your classroom library.  

By level,

By genre,
In baskets,
On shelves...

...In the Book Hospital...

If you are like me, I am always perplexed by what to do with our precious classroom library books that can not be repaired and must meet their end in the recycle bin.


Even the most worn and torn, yet loved library books can be saved!

There are a multitude of things that can be done with our beloved books. Check out this idea. Our local town librarian came for a classroom visit and provided our students each with a button made from books in her Book Hospital:

My first graders absolutely loved receiving these buttons to wear all day!

I was so inspired by this that I began to brainstorm other uses for our Book Hospital books that were beyond repair:

Anchor charts
Book reviews
Character Studies
photo frames
the possibilities are endless!
Mentor Sentences
Reading Strategy minilessons

Before you go thru your Book Hospital, do not fear having to say goodbye. Take a minute to think how you can reuse your treasures.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Summer Reading Goals & Paper Chains


These last couple weeks of school are just flying by with all the hustle and bustle of our End of Year celebrations. I am so very proud of all that my firsties have accomplished this school year.

The end of the year brings such a flurry of emotions. Excitement for summer, inspiration for a new school year, relief, stress, and the anticipation of less stress. Woot!

However, with that, the last day blues may start to kick in and you begin to worry that your young readers will forget all the wonderful strategies you taught them throughout the year. The dreaded "summer slide"...

To help combat this fear, my students set reading goals for themselves to help hold them accountable. We created Summer Reading Goal Paper Chains!

I began by telling my students the truth of what happens to students over summer break….the “summer slide”. They were appalled by this news. I asked them what could they do to avoid such a phenomenon. I happily received a smart answer: READ during the summer.

At this point, my students began making statements that they were going to read EVERY day. But then others piped in, and said they may not be able to do that because of family vacations and of course some of my firsties have a summer birthday so they would be too busy to read on that day (they are too cute).

This led to discussion of how many days long our summer vacation is. So, we counted: 76! We had a serious discussion of what was an acceptable number of days to read since summer was a busy time with their families.

At the primary level, I found it best to measure reading by days rather than by the number of books since there is a great variation in their reading levels. Some students are reading chapter books while others may still be approaching grade level standards.

They then began to set realistic reading goals for themselves and recorded them on a Summer Reading Goal Sheet (available HERE at my TpT store):

Then the crafting began. We made our paper chains to match the amount of days we planned to read.

I heard them counting by 1s, 2,s and making their chains in groups of 10. I also heard them discussing what books they would read:

“This link is for a nonfiction book about sharks, I want to learn more about killer sharks!” 

“This group of 10 links is for The Magic Tree House chapter book I am going to read because it has 10 chapters…I’ll read a chapter a night!”

This is music to a teacher’s ears!

Not only does the Summer Reading Goal Paper Chain serve its purpose to motivate your young readers to continue their love of reading over the summer, it took them a good hour to create them! It was a great end of the year craftivity! Not that I want to kill time or just throw busy work at them. They truly enjoyed making their paper chains and they were completely engaged in creating them for a great length of time! 

My firsties took these Summer Reading Goal Paper Chains home to their families.

As they read each day over the summer they plan to rip off one link. This colorful paper chain will serve as a visual reminder for them during summer break to read, read, and read some more... and avoid the "summer slide"!

This is a great visual reminder for parents as well; of the value of summer reading.

If you are looking for a Summer Reading List for your students, be sure to visit For the Love of Teacher’s article on Get Your Summer Read On- Reading List & Tips. She offers some great recommendations for favorite reads for kids of all levels, as well as tips and suggestions to provide your students and parents to help avoid the “summer brain drain”. You can read it HERE.

If you would like to read more about our End of Year celebrations, visit the blog post:

Happy Summer Reading!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Father's Day Candy Bar Wrapper

Need a simple gift for your students to create for Father's Day?

This Father's Day Candy Bar Wrapper fits perfectly snug around a Hershey's candy
bar (6 pack).

Have your students brainstorm a list of character traits that describe Dad (or a male role model in their life) and your students can use those words to list the ingredients on the back of the wrapper.

Serving Sizes Available:

1 Dad
1 Grandpa
1 Uncle
1 Papa
1 "You're the Best"

This Father's Day craft is perfect for the busy teacher who is "wrapping up" the school year. Just print, color and glue...that's a wrapper!

If you would like to download a copy of this Father's Day gift visit my TpT store at:

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Fabulous in First Memory Books

It's that time of year....
The end of the school year!

9 months ago, we all hoped it would fly by... ...and here we are again... another school year under our belt! I hope yours was FABULOUS!

We have so much to celebrate! Not that the school year over...well, of course that too ...but all that we have accomplished.

There is something about teaching primary students; you see such tremendous growth from the start of the school year to the final end. You may have students who struggle with letter sounds and by the end of the school year they writing paragraphs!

There is so much to celebrate!

Each year, I put together a Memory Book for my first grade students. Usually I create the book cover for each of them. But this year, I decided that I would create a template for my firsties to use and give them step by step directions on how to assemble the pieces.  

It looks a bit like this. Only you will have to imagine a 7 year old's smile on that cover. I included my own school photo to protect the identity of my firsties. You get the idea...besides it was a great year...I'm feeling fabulous too! Teehee.

If you would like to download this free template, please visit my TpT store at:

What's Inside?

I have found some really great resources at Teachers Pay Teachers and I have compiled them all in a three prong folder. Each day during the last month of school we add a page to our books.  

To help my first graders celebrate their learning this school year, I found this great resource from Love, Teach and Learn. They are called Growth Mindset Posters and there are endless possibilities for their use in the classroom.  

First, I had my students work in small cooperative groups and brainstorm all that they have learned as readers and writers. 

I was so pleased with how they collaborated; they took turns recording their ideas, they also helped each other sound out and write the words.

Mostly, I was astonished at how much they could vocalize all that they learned this school year. Take a look at this!

When they were finished meeting with their group, I gave them their own copy of the Growth Mindset T-chart for them to record their own learning as readers and writers. I was pleased as punch as I saw them roaming the room copying words and ideas from the anchor charts that hung in our classroom all year to remind us what good readers and writers do.  

Several of my students had asked for a second t-chart to record their ideas! fabulous firsties made me proud!  

I am pleased with how this page in their Memory Books turned out! When they look back at their first grade year as a young reader and writer they will remember how they learned how to:

Check it! Do a double Check!
Scoop up words!
Take a sneak peak!
Use time order words! 
...their lists went on and on!

The Growth Mindset Posters by Love Teach and Learn were an awesome addition to our Memory Books. My firsties can refer to them all summer and remember all that we learned. Be sure to add them as part of your End of the Year celebrations with your's perfect for all ages.  

Which reminds me, I must share another great End of the Year activity with you! The Summer Reading Goals chain! You're going to love this! Click HERE to read more about how my students set summer reading goals!

But for now, this FABULOUS first grade teacher needs some shut eye so I am ready for our last week of the school year!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Hands-on Words Sorts

We all know and appreciate the benefits of providing our students with hands-on learning activities. Not only does working with manipulatives keep students engaged, but they also help students retain what they are learning and foster a love of learning new WORDS.

As primary teachers, we often frequent the dollar stores and Target Dollar spots in our area. I have often times trekked to several in one day hoping to find a larger quantity of what I discovered for my classroom! It takes a clever teacher to turn the most simplest item into a classroom resource that will benefit our students learning.

But take a look at these beads! At $1 a bag an my local Dollar Tree, I purchased these alphabet beads (and pretty green tubs) for my Word Study Center. Making this purchase was a no-brainer.  

That is a lot of beads! And yes, we have had the beads spill to the floor once or twice so far. But my first graders quickly rescued each bead because they love having the opportunity to manipulate the materials, create something new and discover new spelling patterns.

There are numerous benefits to an activity such as this:

Recognizing the spelling pattern:

As my firsties worked through their spelling list. They began with hunting for each letter to make words from their weekly Words Their Way sort. After a while, it dawned on them that whenever they came across an "r" or a vowel they set it aside. Why?  ...because they were working with r-controlled vowels and it made the task of beading their words go so much faster. When students are exposed to a spelling pattern in a repetitive manner, they begin to understand phonetic groupings.

Busy Hands = Busy Minds:

In the primary grades, kinestethic and visual practice of words is necessary. Moving manipulatives around activate and strengthen the right side of the brain. The right side of the brain, in particular is where learning comes easily for young readers and is still developing at this young age. Kids are more able to construct meaning when manipulating objects. Having your students practice spelling patterns in a visual and kinesthetic manner help move those words into their long term memory. Children learn through using their senses. In such a simple activity as "Beading Your Words", students are visually constructing their words through manipulation of objects, and sounding the words out. They are more likely to retain the spelling pattern because they are using multiple areas of the brain.

Fine Motor Skills:

The best way to improve fine motor skills is through practice and more practice! Activities such as buttoning, tying your shoes, cutting and BEADING help strengthen young learners' fine motor skills.

I encourage you, visit that local Dollar Store, think outside the box and dream up new and engaging ways for your students to learn their spelling patterns in a hands on way to increase retention. They will love you for it!

I would love to hear how you engage your students. Please share the tricks you have to reinforce spelling patterns in your classroom below in the comments!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

On the Road to a Proper Paragraph

Your students will love using this road map for writing a proper paragraph.

Included in this resource is everything you need to visually encourage your students to write a paragraph using proper paragraph structure.

I have found that my first graders truly catch on to paragraph structure when using this model.

They understand that the Topic Sentence is how we start (Ready, Set, Go!).

When we write our detail sentences we really need to slow down and give our readers enough information to understand our main idea.  The time order words help us "move the story along the road".

And finally, our closing sentence is the stopping point of our paragraph where we remind our reader of our main idea.  This sentence is often a feeling sentence.

If you would like to download this bulletin board set for your own classroom, 
please visit my TpT store at:

2 bulletin board titles:
  • “Proper Paragraph Structure” (road sign lettering)
  • “On the Road to a Proper Paragraph” road sentence strip
Time Order Word Cars:
  • 8 ½ by 11 sized cars
  • 1 LARGE Wavy Road Map including Topic and Closing Sentence street signs (simple assembly required)
Desk Plates:
  • Wavy Road Map desk plates. Your students will LOVE using these!
Stop light:
  • One 8 ½ by 11 sized stoplight featuring the parts of a paragraph
  • One over-sized stoplight featuring the parts of a paragraph (simple assembly required)
  • 1. Wavy road (easily connected)
  • 2. Straight road
Street signs:
  • Paragraph Pl. street sign
  • 2. The Write Way street sign
Writing Paper:
  • Wavy Road Writing Paper with title and author name
  • Wavy Road Writing Paper full page of lines

Here is how it might look in your classroom:

If you would like to download this bulletin board set for your own classroom, 
please visit my TpT store at: