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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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 Do You Deal with the Dreaded "Inside Recess"?

recess teaching Oct 24, 2019
Do you dread indoor recess season?

As colder weather looms in the distance (if it's not already arrived), it's time to start thinking about the dreaded "inside recess". It's not so much that we don't love our students but that we need a break for a few minutes. Ask any teacher, or parent for that matter, breaks are essential.

Bathroom breaks and just a break from being "on" every second is part of our self-care. Caretaker burnout is REAL, and at school we call it teacher burnout. It's not "just in your head" and you're not a bad teacher for needing and wanting a break. It just means you're human. 

So, NOW is the time to start coming up with a plan for those days when students can't go outside but still need some physical activity and a mental break.

Here's what needs to be in your plan.
  • Creative activities for students who want them - drawing supplies, coloring pages, building supplies like Legos...
  • Games - a variety of board games or strategy games for your iPads or other...
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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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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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The Power of Teaching with Read-Alouds

books teaching Jun 06, 2019

It all started with this question. "How have you seen students respond to and learn from read alouds, Lisa?"

Hmmm. Well, since you asked...

When I first started teaching I thought read alouds should be treated as an “extra” with “time permitting." Obviously, I had a LOT to learn. With time and experience, I've learned differently. Read alouds are actually a golden opportunity to teach a good majority of reading and writing skills and strategies in meaningful and memorable ways. Not to mention, if you plan carefully, you can add in non-fiction and historical fiction texts to pair with your stories and/or poetry and get some mileage in Science and Social Studies. That's a huge bonus.

So, here's an example of read aloud ideas I might plan for a week in a first grade classroom and in a fifth grade classroom

First Grade


The Egyptian Cinderella by Jewell Reinhart Coburn

The Rough-Faced Girl by Rafe Martin

Adelita by Tomie DePaolo


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3 Easy, Fun Father's Day Gifts

teaching May 16, 2019

I'm always on the hunt for easy gifts students can make. 

Dads get shafted a bit sometimes when school gets out before Father's Day. Help your students prep a gift now, so they'll be ready in June even if school gets out before then. 

Here's 3 fun gifts your students can make for Father's Day.


This one is an app. You can get it on your tablet (or phone) for students to use. It costs just $2.99. First, have students prepare a list of 5-10 words they want to use to describe themselves or they can choose words to use as a hidden message for their dad. Snap a picture of the student with the tablet (or phone). Next, have the student tap on the T to enter their words. Then, they can tap the Style button to choose the look they want. Once they're done, the pic can be sent to a printer. Create a frame with construction paper and it's done!

Token Card

Print the card pages (back to back) and the token sheet on card stock. Students create a card with slots to place the...

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Sight Word Fluency in 5 Minutes a Day (or Less)

sight words teaching Apr 25, 2019

I think we can all agree that sight word knowledge is important to fluent reading. Since sight words are functors, the glue that hold sentences together, they're everywhere in our reading. Once students have a good sight word vocabulary, their reading takes off. In short, students struggle less and reading becomes more pleasurable. Knowing sight words is just one more tool we can give students' to put in their reading toolkit.


As much as we want students to know their sight words, we have to use caution in choosing how to teach them. Making sight word instruction another chore is stressful for everyone. We know stress inhibits our brain's memory system. The more stressful we make learning, the less students remember. So...

How do you teach sight words easily and effectively?

Here's a system that's super easy and takes only few minutes to do with each of your small groups. Once I started using it with my students, I realized it was a game changer....

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