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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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How to Use New Year's Resolutions to Teach Effective Goal Setting

teaching Dec 12, 2018

Effective goal setting is an important skill all students need to learn.

As adults, we set personal and professional goals all the time. Sometimes we even have goals set for us by our employers. New Year’s Resolutions are the perfect way to help your students learn how to set and accomplish their own goals.

I know what you’re thinking… most people don’t keep their New Year’s Resolutions. True. I believe a lot of that has to do with how we write our goals. More often than not, New Year’s Resolutions are written more as wishes then goals. A wish is a goal without a plan. That will get you straight into failure territory. In oder to accomplish our goals, we need to know how to write them with the plan embedded in them.

7 Easy Steps to Doable, Realistic Resolutions

  1. Teach students the difference between a wish and a goal. Give examples of accomplishable goals vs. wishes (goals without a plan).

  2. Have students choose something they want to get...

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Using Storytelling to Improve Long-term Learning

teaching Dec 05, 2018

Storytelling will improve your students’ learning and retention.

That’s a big claim, I know. I still stand behind it because I’ve lived it both as a teacher and a student. Think for a minute about the best lecture you ever sat through. The one you remember, the one that made an impact on you to this day. Or, think about the best teacher you ever had in high school or college. What did that teacher do differently? There are two things I believe you’re will saying to your self right now: taught with passion for their subject and incorporated stories that made their subject come alive or feel relatable.

What’s so special about storytelling?

The short answer is engagement. Stories help our students relate and invite them to put themselves into the narrative. Stories help us, as teachers, engage more with what we are teaching as well. That’s powerful stuff to our brains. In fact, our brains are wired for relationships and oral storytelling.


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What Starfish and Our Students Have in Common

teaching Nov 21, 2018

This starfish keychain hangs on the wall in my office. It reminds me why I choose to be an educator, why I work so hard for teachers and students. I know starfish and students seem quite different. But in this story, you’ll find they are similar. It’s not a new story. In fact, it’s been around for more than 30 years. I took a few liberties with the original tale, but the gist of it is the same.

The day after a storm a young woman was walking along a beach covered in starfish that had washed on shore during the storm. The woman made her way down the beach slowly. With each step, she bent, picked up a starfish and threw it back into the ocean. It was slow going, but she labored on.

With each starfish she threw back into the water, she stopped, gazed into the water and smiled before reaching for another.

An old man was watching her and shaking his head as he too made his way down the beach. When he got close to the woman he commented, “Why are you bothering? You...

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10 Tips for Starting Writer's Notebook with Your Students

teaching Nov 14, 2018

Writers’ Notebooks are an essential piece in well-rounded writing programs. But, organizinging and using them appropriately is not intuitive. In fact, unless you use one yourself regularly, then it’s quite a difficult thing to teach.

I believe anyone teaching writing to students, regardless of the grade you teach, should be a writer in their own life in order to teach writing well. That’s a tall order in our busy lives, and for many teachers it may seem unrealistic. I get that. In fact, I’ve been there. But you really do write all the time. You just aren’t collecting it all into a notebook.

For example…

My mom has always kept a notebook near the phone. When I was little she told us to write in that every time we answered the phone and needed to take a message. My mom still uses it every time she’s on the phone, needs to make a list, write down a phone number… It was, and is, a chronicle of her days. When she started doing this, she...

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Finding Balance and Helping Learning Stick

I was waiting in a line a few days ago and a young couple was ahead of me with their 7 month old daughter. I asked her age and attempted to wave and say hi to her. Her eyes were glued to a phone screen. They informed me that they always made sure their phone batteries were charged before going out because she needed to watch movies to behave. Seriously?! The only way she wouldn’t scream and cause a fuss that whole time was if they let her watch a movie. Not only that, but they had to be prepared to switch movies whenever her attention waned. Wow!

My middle school daughter was with me and said, “Mom, we didn’t have that. What did you do before mobile phones and the internet?” Am I really that old?!

I had to laugh. I asked her, “Don’t you remember? We played, sang songs, talked, danced around and were silly. I kept a bag packed full of toys, books and other things to entertain children ready to go at all times.”

“Oh yeah,” she...

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How to Get Your Students to Transfer Word Work to Writing

teaching Oct 17, 2018

“My students spend all this time on word work and they still spell everything wrong in their writing! They aren’t transferring their phonemic awareness training and spelling words to their real work.”

Sometimes it seems like we do all this phonemic awareness and word work prep to get it to be memorable for our students, and they STILL struggle with transferring the skills and knowledge. This is not a new dilemma. Teachers have struggled with this issue forever.

As long as we teach spelling and phonics only in isolation, transfer of these skills will continue to be an issue. There are teachers that effectively teach all of their spelling and phonics inside of their writing lessons and conferring. It takes great planning, practice and skill to do so. I would call it the gold standard as it’s the most efficient and effective way to teach these things. But, it’s not the only way.

Here’s the thing. Whether we’re working on a plan toward that...

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How to Teach Questioning in Primary Grades

teaching Oct 10, 2018

Asking good questions and citing evidence is essential in helping students think deeply about their reading.

Students learn to ask better questions by example. If we want our students to ask good questions of themselves and think deeper about their reading, we have to model that in our lessons. One of the things I teach students of all ages, even Kindergarteners, is to answer with their evidence ready.

Here’s an example of a conversation with primary students about Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse. The conversation is happening just after reading the part where Lilly is heading out of the classroom after slipping her picture of Mr. Slinger into his bag.

My goal here is that students learn to observe, think critically and cite evidence while enjoying a fun text. Eventually, I’ll expect them to transfer these skills to other types of reading. But, using stories that capture students’ imagination and sense of fun is the first step in the process.

Here’s the...

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How to Make Your Parent Conferences a Success [Free Guide]

It’s fall and that means that parent conferences are just around the corner. Wouldn’t it be fabulous if you could go into each student’s parent conference feeling prepared and confident?

I know how hard you work and how much you care about each of your students. Take the time to prepare a bit for parent conferences so your families will have no doubt about your hard work and caring heart as well.

So what do we need to do to have successful conferences? Prepare an overall plan, prep student details, rehearse and understand parents' expectations. Think of conferences as an opportunity to build relationships, share information and create a plan for moving forward.



  1. Decide: What are you hoping to accomplish? What is the purpose of your conferences?

  2. Create a data form for each child - partially filled out (testing data, class time observations...)

  3. Collect work samples and behavior...

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3 Simple Ways to Help Students Retain Learning

teaching Sep 19, 2018

Remembering what we have learned is ever the struggle in school and in life. As teachers, we never set out to simply check a box once we have taught a concept or skill. We want our students to be a able to recall and use the information in the future.

Here are 3 simple ways you can do that.

Mixed Practice

The goal of mixed practice is to mix up the types of problems or examples as we study so the brain has to work harder.

For example:

  • Math - Do different types of math problems on the same topic all mixed in together. Don’t study all one type and then move on to all of another. Mix them up. This challenges us to both recognize the type of problem and how to solve it.

  • Language Arts - When practicing recognition of parts of speech, we mix up our practice with each type. We can’t do all verbs and then move on to adjectives. Challenging ourselves to identify each part of speech (and how it relates to the others) in the same sentence instead of finding verbs in multiple...

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