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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Why I Don't Do Reading Logs and What I Do Instead

teaching Sep 05, 2018

I'm not usually a quitter, but in this instance... I quit!

Quite a long time ago, I quit sending home reading logs and asking parents/students to time their reading. I've never regretted that decision. Reading at home is expected but runs on an honor system. I don't need parents or students stressing over reading time or hating reading because of having to keep track. Reading should be a joy, not a chore.

I have found that students who have been well-matched with books and have a teacher who instills a joy of reading will read. That's my job. I have to be the "book detective" to find the right books for each student. Students are going to get plenty of reading time at school because I build it into our day. So, I look at reading at home is an exciting bonus.

I encourage reading at home and tell families I expect students to read. I give families a list of suggestions for getting students to read willingly outside of school. We all know it will benefit them hugely....

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3 Tips for Memorable Word Work

teaching Aug 29, 2018

How memorable is your word work?

We all do word work with our students in elementary grades.

Whether that looks like spelling words, phonemic awareness or something else isn't the point. Word Work can differ from classroom to classroom and still be effective. There isn't one activity that is the perfect way. I also know, there's not a single teacher out there who plans activities not caring if students remember the learning long-term.

So knowing we care deeply about our students' long-term retention, how do we increase the odds of our students remembering what they practice in Word Work? From my experience, here's what I know works really well. 

3 Tips for Memorable Word Work

  • Make it sensory. The more senses we use the better the memory is embedded.

  • Make it fun. Studies show that fun, silly and/or surprising things wake the brain up and draw attention to what's right in front of us.

  • Make it active. Movement [appropriate to the task] helps people of all...

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Tried and True Picture Books for Teaching

books teaching Aug 08, 2018

Every summer I clean out and purge all of my books. It's a difficult task because I love them all. Many books are like good friends. But, I have limited real estate on the shelves. Sometimes I need to make room for some new finds that fulfill a teaching purpose or need for students better than an older book. Sometimes I have an older book that does the best job for me, so I get rid of a newer one. Hard choices, but necessary. 

Part of what I am doing is staying focused in my purpose in teaching and coaching. Having too much can be overwhelming and decision making becomes harder. Being thoughtful in my library makes me more efficient and directed. 

How do you choose the books you teach with and what deserves shelf space in your teaching library?

There are so many wonderful picture books coming out every year. It can be a bit overwhelming. However, we need to remember there are older books that are just as wonderful. Perhaps it's time to walk away from the next shiny thing...

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How to Plan a Successful "Meet the Teacher" Event

organization teaching Aug 01, 2018

Meet the Teacher is such an important event for our students and their families. It's so easy to get busy and miss someone or have a family monopolize our time. As teachers, we want everyone to have a good experience.

How do we make Meet the Teacher an event that makes all of our students and their families feel welcome, seen and comfortable in their new classroom?

Some of the things I have ready for families and students at Meet the Teacher are:

A Plan for Everything

  1. Greet everyone at the door with a class list [check them off as they come in]. Hand each student a Meet the Teacher flyer and printed steps to complete in the room [a scavenger hunt, checklist or a map to follow]. Have a quick greeting ready that you'll say to everyone. This lets them know you are excited they came, get them on track and move them along.

  2. Have an exit line. You have to prepare for excusing yourself quickly from long, personal conversations and monopolizers. I like: "I don't want to take any more of...

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10 Back-to-School Read Alouds to Teach With

books teaching Jul 11, 2018

Using books to teach or enhance lessons brings a richness to everything we teach and makes the lessons more memorable. Stories embed in our memories better than facts alone. One of the things all of these books have in common is they teach a lesson in a fun way without being preachy. Each book can be used to teach about reading and writing as well.

I put a few suggestions for writing by each book. There are certainly plenty of other ways to use them, but these are a start. All of these books can be used for ideas for writing- new ending or beginning, write about a similar topic or from a different point of view, compare/contrast these characters to themselves, retelling, beginning, middle and end... This is a good place to begin the year in our writing instruction to get student started and be successful right away.


Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes (using type style and size effectively, sentence fluency)

Lily's Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes (ideas,...

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How do Students Become Lifelong Readers?

books teaching Jul 04, 2018


You'd think I would've had enough of picture books after so many years of teaching elementary school and raising 5 kids. I haven't. Here's the thing... even my kids still read [and love] the new picture books (and chapter books) I bring home. They have an opinion on all of them, too. 

My love of books, especially picture books, began young in the children's section of our local public library. My mom is an avid reader and library user. So, I've been going to the library from the time I was born. I've had a lot of 'favorite' books over the years, but you never forget your first real love. 


It wasn't ground breaking, particularly moral instilling or really anything special in and of itself. Most kids my age probably never read it. It just captured MY imagination. So, I checked it out every time it was available for an entire year. My poor mother read that thing...

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