Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Sub Tub: A Must Have for Alleviating Stress When Calling in Sick!


How many of us have dragged ourselves to work when we were not feeling well to avoid having to write sub plans?

Or if you are a mother like myself, there have been numerous where one of my three sons suddenly develop a fever after having a simple cold. In these situations, it is impossible to know to plan ahead for a substitute.

In the past, I have had to bundle up a sick child in snowy Buffalo and take them to work with me in the morning just so I could take the day off to care for them. Nothing worse than mother’s guilt... and as a second runner up, not being there for your students.

No more worries!
No more stress!


The Sub Tub was created to alleviate this stress and guilt. 

Before the school year begins, I prepare several standalone lessons for each content area that will enrich or review what we have already learned throughout the school year. I try to choose activities that will engage my students to eliminate potential discipline problems.

Your substitute will thank you. The lessons included in The Sub Tub offer them the opportunity to utilize their own creative lesson delivery strategies. In addition, they can choose which lessons to teach based on their own comfort zone.

If you would like to download the tab dividers and storage label featured in the photograph, visit my TpT store:
The Organized Sub Tub: Stress Free Substitute Teacher Plans


You may also like to include a classroom Behavior System for your substitute to use in your absence. If you use the Class Dojo, this one is perfect: 


Substitute Teacher Behavior System using Class Dojo

Keep “The Dojo Meter” in your Sub Tub or alongside your substitute plans. This will hold your students accountable for their behavior in your absence.

Your sub will thank you for this classroom behavior management system as they navigate through the school day.

Included are 6 monster themed clip charts and title card.

As a bonus, I have included 2 parent contact forms that your substitute may send home to communicate student behaviors:

1. Behavior Notice listing specific behaviors that were disruptive throughout the day
2. Positive Feedback Form praising students for stellar behavior


When you return to school the next day, meet with the students and praise good behaviors, award the Dojo points earned and privately meet with those who lost Dojo points to reflect on how to make better choices.

I do hope this system alleviates the dread of coming back to your classroom after an absence…with a not-so-happy report about student behaviors and disruptions.

If you would like to download The Dojo Meter for your classroom, visit my TPT store:

Monday, May 1, 2017

Ocean Life: Nonfiction Reading and Writing Unit (Determine Importance)

Students read nonfiction to LEARN and to become experts on one topic of study. Most importantly, they celebrate what they have learned by sharing it with others.


Students love to read nonfiction text almost as much as they love to learn about ocean life.

31 different ocean creature templates are included in this resource:

1. Sticky note template for each ocean animal
2. Publishing paper for each ocean animal (one blank page for additional space)
3. Poster for each ocean animal.


Retelling nonfiction text can be difficult for young readers. However, using the Most Important Words (MIW’s) strategy allows students to determine the importance of what is read.

Assign your students with a nonfiction text on a chosen topic. Allow them to peruse the Table of Contents to decide what they wish to learn about.


After reading the chapter, have the students reread to determine which words are “most important”. 


Provide your students with the fun sticky notes included in this resource. Be sure to limit your students to 6 post-it notes to challenge them to record true MIW’s.


Once they have chosen their MIW’s have them practice retelling what they have learned using the MIW’s recorded on their sticky notes.


Now, celebrate their learning by creating a class book on Ocean Creatures using the publishing paper included.

Ocean animals included in this resource:


If you would like to download this resource, please visit my TpT store:


Sunday, April 23, 2017

4 Tips to Motivate Struggling Readers to DECODE, not GUESS!

As phonics teachers, we spend most of our time teaching our children to READ, and READ some more.  This is not always an easy task.  We take on this responsibility and are continuously searching for the right strategies and tools that will provide our young readers with ample opportunities to feel successful and look forward to reading.  I have a few tips and tricks to share with you!

Young readers are training their eyes to identify the many phonics rules as they read.  As we read, we are constantly on the look out for word chunks that will help us decode new words we encounter in the books we love.  To help my students locate these "word chunks" we have a color coded system that we call "gumballs".



My students use this system all day.  They color code their sight words, the articles, poems and word problems we read.  They even love to "gumball up" their own writing!  It is a wonderful sight to see how they thrive using this visual and kinesthetic approach to phonics.  And their work looks beautiful.  To learn more about our Gumball Collections click HERE.

Up until now, my students were simply using their crayons or highlighters to gumball up the word chunks during our phonics activities.  But look at what I discovered at Oriental Trading!!!!



They work like a charm.  The dot is the perfect size for printed text for primary grades!

Before reading the passage, students do a bit of word work by hunting for the spelling pattern. One dot and their pages are color coded with the current phonics rule we are focusing on.  Then when it comes time to decode the text, their eyes are able to identify the word chunk immediately.

In the photo above, you can see how one of my students is highlighting the /ea/ phonics rule with one quick dab of the Washable Mini Dot Markers.  The kids love using them, I love them because they come in a variety of colors...to match our color coded system!  It's a win-win!  Be still my teacher heart. I'm in love with them!!!

I have also found providing my students with a Phonics Goal to encourage them to take ownership of their learning. I have created a set of 22 posters with "I can" statements to help my firsties focus on the spelling pattern we are studying in our differentiated Word Study Groups. If you would like to learn more about how we go about this click HERE.


Have you found some of your reluctant readers having trouble with one-to-one correspondence when reading from leveled texts?  This is such an important skill for emerging readers.  However, it can be frustrating when they slide their fingers across the text and just GUESS!

Look at these Arrow Finger Readers I discovered at Oriental Trading to motivate my struggling readers to slow down and decode each word:


My firsties were so excited to use these new tools.  It's amazing how your tactile learners thrive when you give them a simple tool to manipulate.  These Arrow Finger Readers were proven to motivate my young readers!

Using these simple yet effective manipulatives along with a little encouragement and reminders...

"Get your lips ready, kiddos and make that beginning sound...  
Look for the word chunks...
Stretch out the word until it makes sense..."

young readers begin to utilize the strategies you have taught them. They know them by name!  In fact we have "Reading Buddies" in our classroom that remind us of what to do when we come across a tricky word:

You can find this set of 8 Reading Strategies Posters with "I can" Statements at my TpT store:Reading Strategy Goals with "I can" Statements Poster Set

And there you have it.  4 Tips to Motivate Emergent Readers to
DECODE and not GUESS!


If you are interested in BOTH the Reading and Phonics Goal Posters Sets you can download both HERE as a bundled set:


Disclosure: The K Files & Oriental Trading partnered for the purpose of this post. I received free samples of Oriental Trading products, but all opinions are my own and 100% honest.


Friday, April 21, 2017

We are celebrating 4,000 Members! $200 Gift Card GIVEAWAY!

To help celebrate 4,000 members in the TPT Social Marketplace... A team of amazing teachers have grouped together to gift an awesome teacher a $200 TPT giftcard!


Make sure you complete each entry. The more links you complete, the MORE you have a chance of winning!! Good luck!

Imagine all the resources you could purchase for your classroom to improve the delivery of your instruction, the climate of your classroom, your student's engagement and growth!

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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Words Their Way, OUR way Part 7: Read to Self as Word Study



Why not take your Word Work one step further?  I have disguised Read to Self as a bit more... Word Work... and my firsties don't seem to mind.  Yours won't either.  It's a Win-Win!  Read on!


Read to Self Word Study Assignments

In addition to my students' Word Work during our Daily 5, one of their "Must Do" items is to Read to Self.  During this time the children are assigned a story to read from one of our decodable readers that reinforces their Word Study Goal.  (The students have the opportunity to choose what books to read later in the day during our Reader's Workshop or as a "Can Do" when they finish their Daily 5).

Since I have 5 differentiated word study groups (using the Words Their Way program), I have found it difficult to manage each group's reading assignment from the different sets of decodable readers that I have collected over the years.  I was using post-its, but that seemed like a waste of 20 post-its a day-they quickly disappear. I found it necessary to create bookmarks to mark the story to be read each day:

I currently use the decodable readers from the Journey's anthology that our district purchased for us.  I also saved the last set of readers from our previous anthology.  I have to admit, I finally have a nice supply of readers that allow for each group to have a story to read each day.  If I find I am a story short, I have several sets of reading comprehension passages that I have purchased and I provide them with a photocopy to keep.

Once I determine which decodable reader (and the story within) best matches each group's Word Study focus, I slip the bookmark right to the page and drop the books in their respective baskets!  

It takes me about 5 minutes to prep their Read to Self assignments each day...  now that I have created book marks as a management tool.  Not to mention, the kids LOVE using book marks!


Another plus...directions for the Read to Self assignment is printed on each bookmark to remind my young readers of what must be done.  You will notice that each Word Study group has a color coded bookmark with their group's name printed on it.  This makes it easy for my students to locate their Read to Self assignment for the day.


My students are also encouraged to jot down the words that contain that week's focus in a folder as they read. We call this notebook a "collection".  For example, if they are working on the long vowel sound of /ai/ they would list any words that contain that word chunk in their folder (we call word chunks  "gumballs" because we highlight them with a color coded circle). They love to see their collection of words grow.  This is their incentive. They also receive a real gumball after taking a weekly spelling test if they do well.  If you would like to learn more about our Gumballs Notebook please visit my post:



As you can see, I have disguised Read to Self as a bit more... Word Work... and my firsties don't seem to mind.  Yours won't either.  It's a Win-Win!

And there you have it!  Words Their Way--OUR Way!


If you would like to download the Read to Self Bookmarks, Bulletin Board Display, bin labels along with the data tracking forms and related resources mentioned in this article visit my TpT store:
Differentiating Words Their Way: Organization & Routines BUNDLE
If you would like to download a copy of the Read to Self Bookmarks, and related resources mentioned in this article to help motivate your differentiated Words Their Way groups, visit my TpT store:


Words Their Way, OUR way Part 6: Assessment



Now that you have your Word Study routines in place it is now time to consider how you will assess your students and evaluate their growth.  I have some simple solutions for you!

Assessing Each Sort

At the end of each sort/unit I administer a simple spelling test. I always choose words from their sort. Words Their Way also provides assessments that are simple to administer but are not available for each sort. Our school district also purchased the Journeys anthology that contains a variety of Phonics tests that I copied and filed away to match my own filing system. I do not follow the scope and sequence of Journeys but their resources are a great supplement to Words Their Way.

This is a sampling of my Words Their Way gradebook for spelling:


If you would like to download the EDITABLE gradebook and record keeping documents along with the related resources mentioned in this article you can find them at my TpT store:

If you would like to download a copy of the bulletin board display, and related resources mentioned in this article to help motivate your differentiated Words Their Way groups, visit my TpT store:

And there you have it!  Words Their Way--OUR way!


But WAIT!  I have one more idea for you!  Why not take your Word Work one step further?  I have disguised Read to Self as a bit more... Word Work... and my firsties don't seem to mind.  Yours won't either.  It's a Win-Win! To learn more visit:



Words Their Way, OUR way Part 5: Routine & Differentiated Mini-lessons



Now that you have motivated your students and set goals, you are ready to introduce your Word Study routines. I have some tips to help you introduce these routines whole group so that later on, your students will have clear expectations as to what they are to accomplish as they work independently in the Word Study center.  


Introduce the Word Study Routine Whole Group

Words Their Way has a multitude of Word Sorts that are called Concept Sorts. At the beginning of the year, I use these sorts to acclimate the students for our morning routine and weekly Word Work procedures. The entire class has the same assignment and we “practice” the morning routine which I refer to as our TUNE UPS—remember we are rockin’ readers and we need to “tune up” before our rehearsals (independent Word Work center activities)! Teehee. The kids love this. Drum roll, please.

“Tune Ups”: Differentiated Mini-lessons

Once you have your routine in place, you are ready to start differentiating your lesson content for each group. Prior to meeting with each rock band (word study group) I organize their daily activities in their own color-coded bins so they can access their assignment during their independent work during our Daily 5 rotations:


If you would like to download a copy of the bin labels, bulletin board display, and related resources mentioned in this article to help motivate your differentiated Words Their Way groups, visit my TpT store:


After our morning meeting, we distribute the Anchor Activity Folders and I call each rock band for a “tune up” lesson before we begin our Daily 5. Depending on the lesson you have planned, the tune up lessons should only take about 5 minutes. Enough time to touch base, revisit our goals and motivate one another.

We begin by stating our Word Study goal and dive into our mini lesson. We review the phonics rule for our weekly sort, practice the sort and I then explain the Word Work activity that they will complete independently during our Daily 5 centers. Their daily activity is in their assigned bin located at the Word Study Center. They help themselves to the resources they need for the day when they are ready to complete their Word Work.

Here is a glimpse of my weekly plan book to give you a better idea of how we manage our time:


Word Work Routine

I have found using a Monday – Friday routine difficult to follow due to schedule restraints: days off, assemblies, special events, etc. In addition, if all students are in need of the same materials each day you may run into a shortage of supplies (computers, fluency phones, decodable readers, etc). I find it best to vary my Word Study activities instead of having the class complete the same “type” of activity on each day. For example, if the whole class was assigned a “Write the Room”, it would be difficult to manage your small guided reading groups with 15+ students walking around the classroom.

I have a variety of resources that I use that are engaging, challenging yet not too easy… just right! You can refer to them HERE in Part 2: Getting Organized.

One consistent part of our daily routine is that each student is required to buddy up with someone in their rock band (word study group) and complete the speed sort. After the speed sort is completed, they complete their assigned written activity. It is highly beneficial for the students to complete the speed sort each day so they are exposed to the spelling rule often and repetitively.


If you are not a fan of assigning your students with worksheets (reading comprehension, cut and paste matching, etc.) you can assign the following activities that your students can easily complete in their Word Study Journal: 
  • Written Sort
  • Rainbow Write
  • Pyramid Words
  • Stamping the words
  • Play doh the words
  • Dry erase write the words
  • Stencil the words
  • Wikki Stix the words
  • Write each word in a sentence
  • Type the words
Now that you have your Word Study routines in place it is now time to consider how you will assess your students and evaluate their growth.  I have some simple solutions for you!

To read more, visit: 

If you would like to download a copy of the bulletin board display, and related resources mentioned in this article to help motivate your differentiated Words Their Way groups, visit my TpT store:
If you would like to download a copy of the bulletin board display, and related resources mentioned in this article to help motivate your differentiated Words Their Way groups, visit my TpT store: