How to Help Your Students Become Readers

reading Oct 03, 2019

You'd think I was crazy to say those things every night to my kids. Right?! I'm not. This happens regularly in my house. Why? Because my kids are readers.

If reading can be so pleasurable, what is it about teaching reading that is so difficult? Some students seem to just soar and others walk or even limp along. I have taught every grade K-6, and I know from experience that reading truly is one of the hardest things to teach well.

So, what's the magic formula for developing readers? Love. Time. The right books at the right time. Laying a firm foundation of skills and strategies. Sharing books- having a conversation while reading and enjoying books together. Respecting differences- tastes and opinions.


As teachers, we wonder why some teachers' classes seem to soar while ours seem to walk. It's all about the...

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5 Traits of Pro Classroom Management

classroom management Sep 26, 2019

Here's my top 5 traits of teachers with great classroom management. 

1. Student Engagement

This one is obvious and well-touted in education. Student engagement has become the "silver bullet" for many teachers in classroom management with room transformations, classroom stages and a lot of hoopla. (Can you tell how I feel about it?) That's a lot of pressure on a teacher. To be honest, it's possible and more realistic (think sustainable) to simply love your students and be passionate about what you're teaching. From there, find simple, interesting ways to convey your message. Sure, do an occasional room transformation if that's fun for you, but don't feel like you're failing if you don't. (You're not.) Students need to learn how to be engaged in learning without all the drama in order to become lifelong learners because that's the way real life is. 

2. Clear Expectations

I can't say enough about this. One of the biggest problems I encounter in poorly managed classrooms...

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How to Regain Your Confidence When Your Classroom Management Isn't Working

classroom management Sep 19, 2019

I've had my classroom management failures just as much as the next teacher. What I've done with all that info is what has set me up for success over the years. 

When you've been knocked on your rear for the umpteenth time (been there) and head home defeated (been there, too) , remember, you CAN do this. If I can do it, YOU can do it! You really can fix your classroom management and have a well-run classroom. 

By taking all of my successes and, even more importantly, all of my FAILURES and reflecting, making changes and refining, I've gotten to the point where I can step into any classroom and be successful. It didn't just happen. All the hard work I put in simply paid off over time. 

Classroom Management is a tricky thing.

There isn't a "silver bullet" that will solve all your problems (I've looked). A well-run classroom takes time, reflection and training of both you, the teacher, and your students. It takes having and understanding all the keys to success...

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Classroom Management and Teacher Mindset: How They're Tied

classroom management Sep 05, 2019

So much of our classroom management skills start in our own heads. Dealing with our own MINDSET and beliefs about who we are and what we're capable of is the first step in both changing your classroom management and making those changes STICK.

You KNOW what I mean.

You find a new system that works for a colleague and decide to try it out. It works great for awhile, but then, it starts to unravel. The system starts to drain a lot of your time and energy just to keep it going. It's hard to figure out why it works for them and not for you.

Before you know it, you're questioning yourself and your abilities. But... YOU are not the problem. It's just a mindset shift that needs to happen. So quit beating yourself up and struggling to make a failing system work.

Mindset Matters

Instead, let's talk about how your mindset it SABOTAGING your classroom management. What lies (about you, your students or even classroom management) are you telling yourself without even really knowing it?

Here's my...
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Advice for New Teachers

True story.

My very first year teaching, was a year of surprises, lots of learning and improvising. I had 34 kids in a 3/4 split that quickly turned into a straight 4th grade. The school was in a very poor, rough area of Los Angeles. I was in a mobile all alone at the furthest end of the school with no classroom phone (this was before cell phones). The teachers at the school were reserved and not exactly welcoming to a young teacher at first. I realized later, the teachers had stacked the class I was given as were regretting that just a bit. Oops.

About 2 weeks into school, I had assigned some reading to the class and they were to get busy while I started working with a small group of struggling readers. Within the first minute of that assignment I had a student pick up his desk, throw it and shout, "I'm NOT going to do this!" To say I wasn't prepared for this would be an understatement.  I stood in shock for what seemed like an eternity but was probably only seconds. Truly, I...

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Does Lesson Planning Get You Down?

teaching Aug 22, 2019

Have you ever struggled with planning out your year in Language Arts? Well, today's your lucky day because I'm giving my entire Language Arts program a makeover this year (in my spare time).  :D

Information Overload

You see, I'm always learning new techniques and finding great ideas that I want to incorporate into the whole. For awhile this year I was on information overload, so I just let it all sit and marinate. But now,, I'm ready to tackle it all, add in the best of the best and toss the rest. 

Here's my process:
First I, gather all my resources - teaching books, articles, saved notes and thoughts in you teacher journals, mentor texts... I sort them by what they deal with (reading, writing, vocabulary...) and how I plan to use them.  
Second, I map out a framework of what I want things to look and how I want them to flow when I'm done. I start with the end in mind. Where do I want my students at the end of the year? What do I want them to be...
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10 Things Teachers Should NEVER Apologize For

self-care teaching Aug 15, 2019

There are certainly plenty of things to have regrets about or beat ourselves up about as teachers and as parents. But... here's a few you should never apologize for.

1. A lesson that didn't go as planned.

So what?! As my mom would say..."quit boo hooing about it, learn something from it and try again". Show your students how to accept failure and start over. Now, there's a lesson worth teaching! Your failure is a powerful teachable moment for you to use with your students.

2. Sticking to and following through on your classroom management plan even when students or parents aren't happy about it. 

This is a big one! If you don't hold to your standards and expectations, then parents and students are going to fight you all year. Being firm is not mean or personal, it's just the law in your kingdom. Get yourself prepared with a list of all the objections you've gotten from kids or parents in the past. Next, write down your reasoning the way you want to sound when you answer them....

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How Classroom Rules and Routines Open the Door to Creativity, Curiosity and Lifelong Learning

classroom management Aug 08, 2019
Structure and Learning

We all want to have well-managed classrooms and students who reach their potential. Creativity, curiosity and independent thinking and learning (think lifelong learners), are certainly things we hope for with our students. But, what makes for the best environment to promote these in our students? Well, it starts with something that seems counter-intuitive to creativity and independence, structure.

Promoting a Creative Environment

“I have finally realized that the most creative environments in our society are not the kaleidoscopic environments which everything is always changing and complex. They are, instead, the predictable and consistent ones— the scholar’s library, the researcher’s laboratory, the artist’s studio. Each of those environments is deliberately kept predictable and simple because the work at hand and the changing interactions around that work are so unpredictable and complex.”  

Lucy Calkins, The...

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Back-to-School Book Guide

Here's my back-to-school book picks for those first weeks of school. With the help of these 15 fun books, you'll set the stage for great discussion and the opportunity to teach your expectations and train your students. While this is far from a complete list, it's a good start to your back-to-school collection.

The Pigeon HAS to Go to School! by Mo Willems

Pigeon has to start school and is terrified until... As usual, Pigeon is dramatic and funny but expresses all the emotions (and excuses) kids really have. 

So many kiddos are nervous about school and the unknown. This timely book (and very funny) book can help pave the way to talking about all those fears. 


Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes

Chrysanthemum loves her unusual name until she starts school and the mean kids get to her. Not to worry, her teacher has an ace up her sleeve.

Perfect for talking about class culture and how to treat others. It's also great for reminding students what others think of us doesn't...

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My Back-to-School Plan and Prep Plan

With summer winding down, it's time to start thinking about getting ready for school again (or heading back already for some of you). It's so easy to get overwhelmed with all there is to do. If that's you, this issue is for you!

Let's break things down into manageable steps so you can get it done without all that stress and overwhelm. Don't worry, you can download a free printable copy here. Let's dive in.

Be Prepared

I'm all about being prepared all year long. Some of these tasks may seem nitty gritty, but they really do help a ton throughout the year. If you're short on time (your school starts in August), do the essentials and simply skip the rest for now. BUT, (don't cheat yourself) schedule time to do them later.

Arranging Your Classroom
  • Arrange the furniture.
  • Wipe everything down for a clean start.
  • Desk tags w/student names or "Where Are We?" chart for flexible seating.
  • (Primary) Book boxes for students with names and possibly a few books to start the first...
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