Saturday, September 9, 2017

A True Interactive Word Wall

Many of us Super Teachers have had Word Walls in our classrooms for years and years now. I have had one since forever! However, I have never found the Word Wall to be truly interactive for my students. Have you?

Of course, we practiced our words daily, and reviewed most of the words on a weekly basis. I would smile proudly when I found my students referring to the Word Wall during Writer’s Workshop but I always had this niggling suspicion it truly was not benefiting my students. Until I switched things up a bit and now it is TRULY INTERACTIVE!

You’re going to LOVE it!

8 years ago…
When I taught kindergarten, I had a traditional word wall. Later, I was sure that I included my students’ names and their pictures (adorbs! -not pictured, of course). Shortly after, I began to include Word Family Houses. This was a HUGE stepping stone for me. The FIRST step toward an interactive Word Wall. Here is a photo of my first Word Wall:

I thought I was so clever including the Word Family houses for short vowel sounds above our Word Wall! I mean, I was, right? It was great practice for my kinders. But was it truly interactive? Not really. We placed our sight words and our word family houses on display and simply looked at them on occasion. That’s it. A pretty bulletin board that took up A LOT of valuable wall space. So, the desire to create a TRULY interactive Word Wall was born.

3 years later…
Now, being a first grade teacher and since having begun my journey with differentiated Spelling lists with the help of Words Their Way (learn more about this journey HERE), I found the need to focus more on phonograms rather than letter sounds. So, I switched up my Word Wall. It then evolved into this:

Notice the post-its around each Long Vowel house! Yes! Those are words written by my students as they hunt for words in their decodable books that contain the current Spelling pattern they are studying! A bit more interactive, right? Yes, I was getting closer to having a truly interactive Word Wall.

But I still was not satisfied. So, the pursuit for a truly interactive Word Wall continued.

I spent a huge amount of time this summer working on individual Word Family houses for EACH phonogram. For example, there is not just ONE word family house for each long vowel sound but, FIFTEEN long vowel houses-one for EACH phonogram! Here is a glimpse of “Long Vowel Lane”:

I must ask you to take a closer look at one of the houses. Notice the windows are the exact same size as a 3x3 post it. Notice how the graphics all contain that ONE long vowel sound for ONE phonogram. In fact, you might even tell a story about the words that live in that house together. Here is a closeup for you to take a better look (click to enlarge):

Now it gets exciting! Since I differentiate the spelling lists for my students using Words Their Way, we mainly focus on one phonogram a week. If I am working with 4-5 different Word Study groups, that involves 4-5 different Word Family houses!

Just WAIT! …it’s coming…

First let me explain our Read to Self routine.

When I am working with my small guided reading groups, the remaining students are assigned differentiated Word Study assignments for Word Work AND Read to Self.

As a Read to Self assignment, I provide my students with decodable readers so they can practice reading words according to that specific spelling pattern. They hunt for words, record them in their “Gumballs Collection” (a notebook that contains a page for each phonogram -we call them "gumballs"-I’ll explain this further in a bit) and they prepare a post-it to share their learning with the class during “Share”.

You are going to LOVE this…

After our Daily 5 center rotations, I provide my students with the opportunity to share their learning from their Read to Self assignment with the whole class. This provides the whole group with the opportunity to learn from each other. Which will expose them to 4-5 different phonograms!

My above-level students will have an opportunity to review what they have previously learned when an “on-level” or “below-level” Word Study group presents their learning.

On the flip-side, my “on-level” and “below-level” students will be exposed to new phonograms that the above-level groups present (a bit of frontloading!)

It’s a win-win!

After the children share their “gumball”, we display their learning by adding their post-it to our Word Wall. We place them on the house windows or below the house for all to see and learn from. The children feel so proud to see their work displayed on the “Wall”.

To learn more about how I manage our Read to Self assignments and Share Time, please visit this blog post:

Would you take one more peak at a house? I want you to notice one more thing about our Word Wall:

They are color coded! Be still my teacher heart! What teacher and student doesn’t enjoy color-coding?

You are going to LOVE this too…

My students benefit from using a color-coded system for our spelling patterns that we like to call "gumballs". The color of the houses matches the color-coded system!

This simple color-coding strategy has proven to be a HUGE help to my students when identifying phonograms in their reading AND applying these spelling rules in their own writing! I cannot begin to explain how well this works for my students and how much they enjoy it. I urge you to try it!

There are SIX different Word Wall sets available at my TpT shop.
You can find them HERE or by clicking on the image below.

The complete set is also bundled up for your savings:
The Interactive word Wall BIG Bundle

I truly hope you have found this information helpful. Be sure to try the color-coded system to help your young readers identify spelling patterns in their reading and their writing! It helps tremendously!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Reader's Workshop: The Reading Mat

The Reading Mat will provide your students with a visual reminder of how to keep track of what they are reading and build stamina! This system will also encourage your students to reread and build their fluency!  Oh, yes!

Begin by adhering the “My Reading Mat” cover page to the top of a file folder. The “Stop” and “Go” mats are adhered to the inside of the file folder.

Students begin by placing their stack of books on the “GO” side of their mat. They place the harder texts at the bottom and the easiest on top (to be read first).

When they finish a book it gets placed on the “STOP” side of the reading mat.

When all the books are read, students then “make their way back” as they reread their books, each time placing in on the “Go” side of the mat. This will encourage your young readers to stay on task and avoid returning to the classroom library to peruse for additional books. This will encourage them to reread to build their fluency.

Here is a closer look at The Reading Mat in action:

It is also helpful to provide your students with a post-it so they can tally how many books they have read during independent reading to keep track of their growth. This will help them set goals and take ownership of their reading growth!

If you would like your own copy of The Reading Mat, you will find it here:

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

A Back to School Freebie for YOU!

It's that time of year again!
We're Back to School!

It's bittersweet isn't it?  Everything is fresh and brand new, new faces, new friends, new beginnings...and new school supplies! 


Yet, no more lazy mornings, late nights, planning your days on a whim.  


Here is a little freebie to cheer you up, my teeps!

You can find it here at my TpT shop:


Sunday, September 3, 2017

Bookshelf Makeover for my Readers Today, Leaders Tomorrow!

A few years back, one of my favorite "teeps" passed down her tiered bookshelves when she retired. They were in good shape but just needed a bit of lovin'. I finally got around to giving them a little TLC. Here they are with a little spray paint and some polka dot decor and voila!

If you would like a copy of the "Reader's Today" and "Leaders Tomorrow" letters, head on over to my TpT shop for this FREEBIE:

I also used these same letters to spruce up our classroom door. We are only allowed to cover up 20% of our door due to the Fire Code, so this will have to do. A lil' fringe from the Target Dollar Spot and a few inspirational words:

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Differentiate Your Writing Instruction with Writing Goals

 Writing Goal Posters and Brag Tag Set

In my personal experience using the Reading and Phonics Goals in my primary classroom, I have found that not only are they a great visual reminder for my students of what good readers do, it also holds them accountable for their learning and achievement. I can not begin to tell you what a tremendous change had occurred when I started using them.

So, I just had to take the time to create this set of 32 Writing Goal Posters with “I can” statements. I also took it a step further and created matching brag tags to keep my young authors on the “write track”.

Why Writing Goals?

One of the biggest questions I am asked is if you should display all the goal posters at once. Yes! Definitely display them all at once. There is no need to display one poster at a time as you introduce each skill.

Your students develop their writing skills at a different pace. You have students at varying stages in their writing development. One of your students may still be drawing their stories and building phonemic awareness. You will want to encourage them to label their pictures with beginning sounds.

While in another instance, you may have a group of students who are ready to write complete paragraphs and will benefit from using time order words in their writing to help them add more detailed sentences in a logical order.

Displaying all the posters at once will also make all your students aware of the many strategies that good writers use. You will find that many of your students will inform you that even though they are focusing on labeling their stories with words, they are also using capital letters when they label character names! This is when I praise them for going above and beyond!

How do I differentiate writing for each child?

You will find that using Writing Goals in your classroom is an effective way to differentiate your instruction. As you hold writing conferences with your students, you are able to discern exactly what your young author's strengths and weaknesses are. During these conferences, assign them a writing goal to help improve their writing based on a specific personalized need.

Please keep in mind, that in the Writer's Workshop model, I do present a whole group mini lesson to expose my writer's to skills and strategies for all writers. After the class is sent off to write independently after the mini-lesson, I then pull a small group of children who share the same writing goal and provide them with explicit instruction that focuses on their writing goal. A differentiated mini-lesson! 

Once you confer with each student again, evaluate their writing. Are they consistently working on their writing goal?  Have they achieved their goal? If so, you can celebrate by providing them with a brag tag. If you do not use brag tags in your classroom, simple provide them with the brag tag as a certificate of achievement and watch them beam with pride! Now...assign them a new goal!

You can find the Writing Goals Posters and Brag Tag Set HERE.

This is what is included:

32 Writing Goal posters
32 Brag Tags (or individualized writing goal cards)
6 EDITABLE name tags (separate pdf file)
One blank template to create your own Writing Goal
One blank brag tag template

Writing Posters:
I can draw pictures to tell my story.
I can write stories with a setting.
I can write stories with a problem and solution.
I can label my pictures with beginning sounds.
I can label my pictures with words.
I can fancy-up my writing.
I can write a sentence that tells a complete thought.
I can add details to my story.
I can write Word Wall words correctly.
I can print my letters correctly.
I can print my letters without reversals.
I can use the correct pencil grip.
I can write my letters neatly so others can read my story.
I can stay focused on my writing and build my stamina.
I can write a sentence that matches my picture.
I can write capital letters at the beginning of my sentence.
I can use capital letters at the right time.
I can use an ending mark at the end of a sentence.
I can use finger spaces between words.
I can think of ideas to describe the main idea of my story.
I can indent the first word in my story using two finger spaces.
I can write a topic sentence to introduce the main idea of my story.
I can use time order words to help my story move along.
I can write a closing sentence to remind my reader of the main idea.
I can write a proper paragraph.
I can write a story that sticks to one topic or main idea.
I can reread my story and look for missing words and correct mistakes.
I can stretch out each word and write down each sound I hear.
I can write longer words by breaking them up into chunks.
I can write longer words by listening for a base word inside.

You might also like to learn more about:

The theme of this resource is an addition to the On the Road to Proper Paragraph Writing and the Writing Portfolio Set available at The K Files Shop. If your students need a unique visual reminder of the paragraph structure, you can learn more by finding them here:
Writing Portfolio Road Map Set

I have also bundled up all three resources for your savings:
The Road Map to Writing Complete BUNDLE

I do hope that you find this information helpful.  Incorporating Writing Goals in your Writing program is so very beneficial.  Students become accountable for their growth and thrive on celebrating their success!  

Friday, August 11, 2017

Showcase Your Young Author's Writing in a Writing Portfolio

The On the Road to a Proper Paragraph system works so well in my classroom, I decided to give our Writing Portfolios a makeover to match our writing theme: A Road Map for Writing.  And I am thrilled with the results!

My students have had great success in writing proper paragraphs we needed something extra special to showcase our writing throughout the year! This is the result!

You can find it here at my TpT shop:

6 EDITABLE portfolio covers (red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple)
1 black and white portfolio cover
6 EDITABLE portfolio spines
1 Table of Contents
10 monthly Table of Contents (September-June)
10 monthly tabs to cut, paste and glue

The theme of this resource is an extension to the “On the Road to Proper Paragraph Writing” resource available at The K Files. If your students need a unique visual reminder of the paragraph structure, you can learn more by finding it here:

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Classroom Library Labels: Freebie!

It's that time of year again and as teachers we are torn between soaking up the last days of summer vacay and prepping our classrooms and resources for another school year!  Let it be a great one!

To help you get your year off on the right foot, here is a freebie for you!

 Classroom Library Labels Freebie

These leveled classroom library labels will help you organize your collection of books.

60 labels included:

Leveled labels from A (1) to R (40)
Fiction labels for series and Author Studies
(please see preview to view the complete collection)

Sorting your library by reading level promotes reader's confidence and growth. These labels measure 3x3". I have also included author study bins.

 You can find them at the shop:


Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Back to School Listening Center with QR Codes

 Back to School Listening Center with QR Codes

 buy now

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:

Too Cool for School
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!