#012: How to Effectively Teach Reading and Writing Skills in an Online or Blended Classroom Model

reading teaching Jun 18, 2020
Do you feel like you're fully prepared to teach reading and writing skills in an online or blended classroom model?

While teaching at a workshop this last weekend, I realized what a disservice is being done to teachers who still don't know what kind of teaching they'll be doing in the fall. The uncertainty of not knowing what the school model will be is stressful and exhausting. Teachers are planners. We want to be prepared. However, it feels impossible to be prepared when we don't know what we are preparing for.

Well, I'm here to tell you being prepared is something you can start to do now even if you don't know what the fall will look like. We simply have to have a plan for what to change for each teaching model. So here goes...

New Normal

I believe teaching online or in a blended school model will be the new normal for a large amount of schools around the country. We can't wait around for things to go back "to normal' because they simply won't. So, how do you make...

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#011: Instilling a Love of Reading in Kids and Families with Michelle Dunham

books reading teaching Jun 11, 2020
My guest today is Michelle Dunham from Ruby Reads. She's a mom of 3, a book aficionado, an educator and the creator of Ruby Reads where she supports families and kids by instilling a love for books and reading.

As you know, I'm a book lover and passionate about literacy and teaching students to love books and reading. I first found Michelle and Ruby Reads on Instagram @rubyreadsbooks. If you don't follow her account, do it now! You won't regret it!

We talk about how to simply create a culture of readers and book lovers in your classroom by what you read, how you pair books and the conversations you start with your students. The steps are truly simple. Like anything new, it's not always easy at first, but the more you prep and practice the easier it becomes. It all starts with a love of books, a few paired books and the heart of a teacher. 

Click here to listen to the podcast.

Here's a peek at what's inside this episode:

  • Who is Ruby and the history of that cute little red...
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#009: How to Get Your Students from Knowing HOW to Read to Becoming READERS

reading teaching May 29, 2020

Helping students become committed readers is a daunting task, at best. And while there isn't a straight path for each student to follow, there is a method that actually works. Now's the time to start planning changes to your program for the coming year to keep the reading and learning going no matter what school looks like next year.

There are important things we can do as educators that set students up to be come successful readers and committed book lovers. While we don't know exactly which combination of things will be the trigger, we do know what to do to provide the right classroom culture for it to happen.

Click here to listen to the podcast.

Over the years, I've found there are certain things we should be doing to create a culture of readers and certain things we often do that inhibit the process and even have to opposite effect. 

Here's a peek at what's inside this episode:

  • What you should not be doing.
  • How to easily infuse reading and books...
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16 Simple Ways to Celebrate Read Across America Day

reading teaching Feb 27, 2020
Read Across America is coming! Get ready with these fun bookmarks. 

Making reading fun is worth giving up a little time for. Why? Once students love reading, becoming a lifelong reader becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. On that note...

Here's some fun things you can do for Read Across America Day.
  • Make fun bookmarks. [See video]
  • Read with finger lights.
  • Have a Pajama Party - Wear your pJs and bring a pillow to make reading more relaxing all day.
  • Dress up as your favorite book characters.
  • Choose picture books to read aloud for every subject all day.
  • Have older students choose books that have a character that they are like or would want to be like. Share the book and tell why or write about it.
  • Make green eggs and ham.
  • Have a book tasting in your class.
  • Read with flashlights.
  • Have a Read-a-Thon to raise money for books in your school or classroom or to raise money to give books to students in a needy school in your area.
  • Try talking in rhyming words all day.
  • Read Red Fish Blue...
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How Do You Create a Culture of Readers?

reading teaching Feb 20, 2020


Creating a reading culture in your school can be as simple as re-evaluating how you promote and talk about reading. Here's an incentive program that helps promote a culture of readers. It can be done as a class or as a school but is most effective when done school-wide. [I wish I'd thought of it, but I didn't.]

The Million Words Club 

At the elementary school my kids went to, students can read any books they choose to get to a million words read in a year. When they get there, the art teacher does a cartoon drawing of them reading and it hangs framed in the hallway until they graduate and take it home (my daughter is in college and still has hers). You could easily do a photo booth session with lots of books or something fun related to reading instead of the cartoon drawing. Students can earn ribbons to add to their framed photo for each additional year they read a million words.

The school started this program 12 years ago and it’s still going strong. The kids...

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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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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 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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Purposeful Summer Reading: Setting the Stage for the Next Year

reading summer reading May 09, 2019

Summer reading is a requirement at many schools around the country. While I'm not a fan of checklists and reading logs, I am fan of reading.

So many students have wonderful teachers who've matched them with books and made reading purposeful and exciting. Their students have learned to search for good books and to love books. You've have caught their hearts, and they will be readers for life. 

 Let’s see if we can catch some more hearts this summer.

Here's a few ideas for making summer reading purposeful for students and have it flow right into lessons for the first weeks of school. 

 Entering Kindergarten

Order caterpillars for September. Perhaps the summer read for incoming kindergarteners is the Very Hungry Caterpillar and as many Eric Carle books as they can get their hands on over the summer (parents can read to them aloud). Then, you can start September with these and an author study on Eric Carle. Read a bunch of his books, talk about...

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3 Creative Ways to Get Students Excited About Books and Reading

reading teaching Feb 13, 2019

If you struggle to get some of your students interested in books, here’s a few fun strategies. They work beautifully with both picture books and chapter books.

Book Tastings

Book tasting have become a mini-fad in schools around the country. It’s a brilliant idea! Decorate your classroom like a restaurant, create place settings and a menu of books (with a short synopsis), have a set of books for each table and let students “try out” several books.

It’s fun, creative and very effective. Student LOVE doing this. It makes reading not only fun but desirable. I’d call that a win.

Blind Dating Books or “Mystery” Books

This is another way to get your students to try something new in their reading. I especially love this when a bunch of new books are coming into the classroom library or school library. Books are wrapped up in wrapped up in plain, brown paper. You can get some at Michaels or use butcher paper, if you have it.

Now you have...

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