Teaching Reading Strategies When Students or Parents Aren't on Board

Teaching reading strategies is hard enough. But when parents or students aren't on board, it's doubly hard.
My daughter LOVED the Mercer Mayer books when she was little. At age 4, she would "read" them to herself every night in her bed -pointing to the words and repeating the stories to herself from memory. The ENTIRE stack. EVERY night. She literally memorized ALL those words and could apply them anywhere. So she accidentally learned read and that sounds great, RIGHT?!
Here's the PROBLEM with that method. She had NO decoding skills for new words. I had the hardest time teaching her to decode when she had such a large memorized vocabulary and felt she already KNEW how to read just fine. Ugh!
Over the years, I've encountered students like this as well. They've memorized their way into reading but struggle when they encounter unknown words and sometimes don't have any comprehension skills either. But, they [and their parents] feel they can read just fine. Helping...
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Getting Your Teacher To Do List Under Control

organization Jan 02, 2020
I'm the queen of lists and teacher to do lists. Don't even get me started!

Seriously, I really do LOVE lists and live my life by them. It's my go-to for staying organized - checklists, to do lists, grocery lists, lists of goals and so much more. I've got lists for all kinds of things. And while I might have mental lists, more often than not, mine are written down. As one of my besties tells her kids, "I have two brain cells left and one them is busy." Yup. that's exactly how I feel so many days. So, I write things down. But, a million notes and lists don't work. It's just too easy to lose track of it all. Trust me, I've tried THAT approach. 

This time of year, the Teacher To Do List can become overwhelming. There's so much to accomplish in what's left of the school year, and so many extra tasks get added to your teacher plate whether you want them or not. Add in all your personal tasks and goals, and it can be a recipe for disaster. That Teacher To Do List can become a mile...

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Behavior Management: What Works for the Long Haul

Behavior management or managing a class for the long-haul is much more difficult than anyone ever tells us in our teacher training.

Remember when you were getting ready to begin your student teaching and being informed what you're in for when you have no experience to tie that information into? You simply can't fathom what that means or what it looks like in reality. We need a lot of experience in order to make sense great classroom management. In addition, there's a lot of trial and error that goes with figuring it all out.

The more teaching experience we get under our belts, the easier it is to understand and evaluate the various behavior management options.

Here's a few ways that we can manage a class and each method's pros and cons. In addition, I have a few acton steps at the end of this post to get you on a great path to train your students toward self-regulation. 

Here goes...


Management by proximity is when you move to stand near a student when they're...

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Behavior Management and Instructional Strategies for Surviving the Holiday Madness

classroom management Dec 05, 2019

As we head into the holiday madness and the home stretch for 2019, everyone's in anticipation mode. This can be fun or agonizing depending on what's going on in your classroom and school.

I've always been torn this time of year.

On the one hand, there's holiday programs to prepare for and all kinds of assemblies and other events that are fun and exciting. On the other hand, losing precious instructional time is always difficult for us teachers. I want both but something has to give. As I always say...a YES to one thing is a NO to something else. We have finite time in our day. We simply can't do it all. 

So here's how you can deal with it all in a way that melds the two extremes. 

Put everything on the calendar that you have no control over - Christmas play, a sing along, school assembly, etc. Make up your mind to be happy for all the moments that make your school a community. 

Then, ask yourself this question:

What are the essentials I need to teach in...

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11 Teacher Self Care Tips

self care self-care Dec 05, 2019
Self care is essential in a profession known for burnout. 
1. Use Your Sick/Personal Days

A mental health day is a justifiable sick day. Better to have a mental health day than to be sick for days because you wore yourself out. Look at the calendar and see when your longest stretches are without a break (no Monday off or other holiday). Make a note of possible days you would want to take off to give yourself a break and tentatively put them on your calendar.  Maybe plan a long weekend or take a random Wednesday off (my favorite).

2. No. Say it. Often.

NO is a powerful word. Don't be afraid to use it. You can always change your mind and say yes later (on rare occasions), but it's really hard to go back on a yes.

3. Do Not Disturb

Put a sign on your classroom door when you are working on planning or grading. You'll have less interruptions and have more focused work time.

Do not disturb your heart as well. Don't listen to negativity. Have a standard answer when...

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Fun Gingerbread Man Activities and More

teaching Nov 29, 2019
I love gingerbread. I can't get enough of it.

Every year my family and I make gingerbread cookie ornaments for our Christmas tree, gingerbread St. Nicholas cookies for St. Nicholas' Day, gingerbread houses on Christmas Eve and read gingerbread stories during Advent. 

Gingerbread stories abound. The Gingerbread Baby, The Gingerbread Boy, The Gingerbread Man, The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School, The Gingerbread Cowboy and The Baker's Dozen: A St. Nicholas Tale are just a few.

Once December hits, we are all a little antsy in the classroom. So steal my gingerbread ideas for the classroom and...

Keep your students engaged and learning until the last minute before break with gingerbread. 

Start by having some fun with gingerbread stories. Pick a few different versions to read. Then, decide on some lessons. 

Here's a few ideas:
  • Compare and contrast them.

  • Students can practice their persuasive writing skills by "selling" a favorite version with a...

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Teaching Sight Words: A Quick and Easy Win

Are you struggling with teaching sight words? Is your students' practice transferring into knowledge they can use at the drop of a hat? Here's a question I get a lot. "How do I teach sight words so my students will REMEMBER those sight words when they need them?"

You know how it is... you teach (maybe even test) and students don't seem to know their sight words in context.Sure, they seem to be making progress, and then, it's gone! Maybe you've tried worksheets for sight words or sight words games. But... as soon as your students start reading a book with those same words in it or have to use sight words in a sentence, they act like they've never seen those words before. All you can think is...Really?! After all that work?!

Teaching sight words used to be a "given" in schools. Now, there seems to be some controversy over should we or should we not directly teach sight words. In addition, I know many teachers wonder should they teach sight words vs...

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How to Incorporate Writing Across the Curriculum [Free Printable]

Writing every day is one of my non-negotiable items for students no matter their grade level. I know when teachers hear me say that, one of the things they [guiltily] imagine is MORE grading and planning in an already busy life.  Adding more writing can certainly turn into that if we let it, but it doesn't have to be that way.

My purpose for more writing isn't to have more grades in a grade book. I rarely grade this extra practice...
...and I don't think you should either.

Writing more frequently is an opportunity for students to practice, and I don't grade practice work. Why? It stifles creativity and student's willingness to take risks in their writing and thinking. In short, my purpose is to give students a chance to play with writing, thinking in new ways, get more comfortable with writing and challenge themselves.

It's much EASIER than it sounds.

The answer is Quick Writes - short, fast moments to try something new, think deeply or offer their thoughts and opinions on all...

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Are Worksheets Effective Teaching Tools?

effective teaching Nov 07, 2019
If you've followed me for awhile, you probably know I'm not a fan of worksheets most of the time.

I'm going to jump all the way into the deep end here and offend quite a few people on BOTH sides of the issue. Guess what?! I'm here to tell you the truth, not be popular.

So here goes...

There are a few instances in which worksheets are effective. However, most of the time, relying on worksheets on a regular basis in all subjects is a way we mask problems and struggles in our teaching. 

Please know...

I do not jump on bandwagons, and I try very hard to NOT throw out great resources and teaching practices when trying something new. So, I have to say sometimes worksheets, when used correctly, ARE appropriate. I know that's not the current rhetoric in education, but it's true. When we think of worksheets as supports or guideposts we can put into place to help students become independent (and not need them), they are very appropriate. 

Here are some appropriate uses of...
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One Classroom Management Mistake You Can Easily Avoid

classroom management Oct 31, 2019

There are lots of classroom management mistakes we can make. But, here's one thing that many teachers do and never think to do differently. They don't have a CLEAR vision for how they want their classroom to run each day.

Yes, you have rules and consequences. Having a list of systems and procedures to train students is common these days, and you probably have that as well. But, do you have a clear vision in your head of HOW you want your classroom to run all day long

Here's what I mean by a clear vision.

Do you know what each part of your day looks like, sounds like and feels like? Whether it's whole group instruction, small group instruction, individual work time or some combination going on all at once, you should KNOW exactly what you're aiming for. What is the ideal right down to noise level, how each group of students is conducting themselves and what you, the teacher, are doing. 

What I'm ask you is...Do you know how each process and system will work when thrown...

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