Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Levels of Understanding


Happy New Year!


I hope you had a wonderful 2017 and New Year's celebration! Being almost six months pregnant, my NYE consisted of sparkling cider and falling asleep long before the ball dropped. Even though I was out before 9:30, I still made a few resolutions before 2018!


One of my New Year’s resolutions this year is to check my students’ level of understanding more frequently! This can sometimes be an abstract concept for students. Although it is a difficult concept, it provides very important information for us as teachers and for our little learners. In order for students to grow in their understanding, it is important for students to think about what they know and do not know.





Levels of Understanding 

In order to make this abstract concept a little more clear, I use a visual along with a short and simple explanation for each level. These levels and explanations are based upon Marzano's Levels of Understanding and are communicated to students in a child friendly way. It is very important to explicitly explain what each level means along with examples. Working with younger students, it can take a while before students grasp each concept. My students often struggled with not being at level 5 so it is important to reinforce that it is OK not to know everything right away! This can make a great lesson to tie into growth mindset. 




I chose to make the cards into a display since I have a low number of students and they don’t have assigned desks. You can also put them on the corners of students desks. You may also choose to put them on loose-leaf rings and have students keep them in their desks or with their things. Students can hold the cards up at the end of a lesson. There are many different ways to use these! Just choose what fits your classroom management, needs and style best! See below on how I set up my display and cards.

After a lesson, students will “check out" by moving their card to where their level of understanding is. Using the different colors allows me quickly assess where the majority of my groups are. For example, if I see most of the cards on green or yellow, I know I have some reteaching to do!



Set Up:


If you are using the black and white version (this is what I used) I would recommend printing each level on a different color. I love using Astrobrights! I like putting each level on a different color because it allows you to quickly check to see where the majority of your class’ understanding is.




As mentioned on the previously,  these can either be put on rings or the adhesive square label pockets from Target, I don't have a link for them but they are typically sold in the Dollar Spot! If you are going to put them on a loose-leaf ring, I recommend laminating them and then hole punching them at the top corner to attach them.




Make a Poster or Display:

You may choose to make this into a display with the adhesive pockets (if you have them.) You should be able to fit about 20-25 of the adhesive pockets on a piece of poster board. In my example I only included 6 because I have a very small number of students. To fill some of the space, I added the posters to the bottom.

Print and cut out the letters, included in Levels of Understanding.


Add the letters to the top of the poster boar and laminate it. 


Teacher tip: fill in the inside of the letters with a Sharpie!

Place all of the cards in the adhesive square pouches.




Stick the pouches to the poster board. You will want to add student names or numbers under the pouches to distinguish each students pouch. I used my label maker for this. You can also attach them with Velcro.




If you'd like to try this out in your classroom, click the image below!



Again, this can take some time for students to fully understand where they are, but it is a great tool! Do you use a self assessment tool in your classroom? Leave me a comment below!




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Sunday, October 29, 2017

Handwriting Tips Made Fun!


Go teach!, formerly The Elmer's Teacher Club, is an amazingly loud and incredibly proud new community created to inspire, empower, motivate and support educators like YOU! Join me and other teachers in this community by visiting the Go teach! Facebook page! 


Hello all! Working with elementary aged students, handwriting can often be a struggle. It's such a crucial skill for students to learn but can often lead to frustration for students who struggle in this area. With limited time in the school day, it can often be tough to get the chance for students to work on this skill. I'm going to show you some fun, simple, and quick tips that your students will love!

1. Glitter Gel Baggies
Students love this activity and it is a very simple DIY project that you can create right in your kitchen! Once you've made the baggie, students can practice tracing letters, sight words, etc. on them! I like to even write letters and words and place them below the baggie so students know what to trace.

Get your supplies!
First you will need to get your supplies! You will need Elmer's School Glue. I like to use the glitter glue (if you couldn't tell from my blog name I reaaaaalllyy like glitter). You will also need contact solution. I like to use the Target brand because it is inexpensive and I like any excuse to go to Target. ;) Just make sure the contact solution that you use has borate or boric acid in the ingredients. Finally, you need Baking Soda.



Step 1: Squeeze the entire bottle of Elmer's Glue into a mixing bowl.




Step 2: Add 1/2 tablespoon of baking soda to the bowl.


Step 3: Add 1/4 tablespoon of the contact solution to the bowl.




Step 4: Stir up all of the ingredients until it is evenly mixed.


Step 5: Add the mixture to a baggie and tape up the top of it. Give the baggie to students so they can practice tracing letters, words, and more!


2. Mr. Sketch Scented Markers
What is it about these fun markers that instantly improves students' writing motivation? I mean I get it...when I bring Paper Mate Flair Pens to my staff meetings or PD, it instantly makes my note taking 5000% more enjoyable.

I recommend using these Mr. Sketch Scented Markers to give students a little extra motivation to practice handwriting. One of my students favorite ways to practice handwriting is with rainbow writing. If you're not familiar with rainbow writing, students get to use all different colors for some fun and repeated practice!



First students will choose a color and trace the letter. They will select another color and trace again. Repeat until it looks like a rainbow!





Rainbow writing is a really simple and low prep activity that your students are sure to enjoy with these fun and amazing smelling markers!

3. Tactile Letter Craft
Tactile letters are a fun craft to make and it gets students thinking about the formation of letters. When they are finished making the letters, they can trace over them with their fingers. It's a fun multisensory activity for students! Using a multisensory approach will help students to make connections and improves memory.

Your students will love creating these letters!

To make these tactile letters you will need: paper for the letters, pipe cleaners, Elmer's School Glue, and an X-ACTO Knife (for teacher use only).


First I printed the letters out for each student. You can make them on the computer or write them out by hand.



Student will add the Elmer's School Glue to each part of the letter. I like using the clear glue for this project!


Students will glue the pipe cleaner to the letters. They can trim it as needed. Let the glue dry while pushing down on the pipe cleaners.


Next, students will cut out the letters.


When students are finished I like to use an X-ACTO Knife to cut out the centers of the letters. Please note, the X-ACTO Knife should be used by only the teacher. 


4. Trace Letters with an EXPO Marker
One simple activity to give students some repeated practice is by using EXPO Dry Erase Markers on handwriting pages. Just be sure to put the pages in plastic sleeves. Students can practice over and over again. Best of all if they make a mistake, they can easily erase it and try again!






My Favorite Handwriting Pencils
Once your students have gotten some practice using the activities above, the Paper Mate Handwriting pencils are a great tool for some paper and pencil practice! My students love these brightly colored pencils and their easy, comfortable grip! These pencils are launching in February 2018 so be on the look out for them!!






Have you used any of these tips in your classroom? What are some of your favorite handwriting activities? Let me know in the comments!


Happy Teaching,



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Thank you Go Teach! for sponsoring this post. All opinions are my own


Sunday, October 1, 2017

Using Decoding Strategies: Start Guided Reading Off Right!



Hello friends!

What an important time of the day guided reading is! It can be a difficult time to plan for, but it is so important to get our new readers reading out loud and reading with a purpose. Before you start your guided reading time, it also important to have an instructional focus selected. During guided reading your focuses may include: a comprehension skill, vocabulary words, and word work. One thing I am guilty of neglecting to teach is decoding strategies. Decoding strategies are important tools that allow students to take some kind of action when they come to an unfamiliar word. Sometimes students come to an unfamiliar word and are just "stuck." Most often, it's our struggling readers that don't use strategies. In order to help students grow as readers, we need to teach them strategies!




My favorite way to start off guided reading, is by choosing a strategy to focus on. The strategy that you choose, may depend on the text you are reading. If the story you are reading has high frequency sight words, a predictable pattern, and lots of picture clues, you may want to focus on the eagle eye strategy. If your story has a lot of words with vowel teams, digraphs, or another phonetic concept, you may want to focus on chunky monkey. As the teacher, you're the expert on what your students need! :) All of the strategies are helpful so you really can't go wrong!


Before you start using your strategies, you need to get the cards organized! I store my cards in the Recollections™ Color Photo & Craft Keeper from Michaels. You can always hole punch them and store them on ring if you don't want to purchase the craft box! 



Before my students start reading, I show them the strategy we are focusing on as an "I can" statement" I explain to them what they will do and how to use the strategy.  I attached this to the bottom of the lid of my craft box.


Once I have chosen my strategy, I pass out the task cards to students. There are several different levels to each so be sure to choose the phonetic concept your students need practice on.

Choose the level that is right for your students!


A little about each strategy... 

You may wondering how each strategy works. Check out each strategy below or check out the video to see them in action!




Stretchy Snake


Have the student tap each dot and say the letter/letters sound. They can drag their finger across the arrow to blend the word. 


Lips the Fish


Have the student say the first sound of the word. Then, they can slide their finger to say the rest of the word. They can read the word altogether at the bottom. 




Flippy Dolphin 


I’ve included a quick “warm up” where students will quickly tap the dots and read the short and long vowel sounds. 


Have the student read the word using both the short and long vowel sound. They can decide which vowel sound makes sense and matches the picture. They will then use a dry erase marker to circle the answer, long or short. It will be pretty easy for students to read the word since it matches the picture but it really gets them thinking about short and long vowel sounds! 


Chunky Monkey

Give the child a dry erase marker and have them circle familiar “chunks” or parts of the word that they know.  I have organized the cards by short, long, and irregular vowels. Many of the words will be longer since it is easier to use these strategy on longer words with more “chunks.”









Skippy Frog


Cut out the frogs (included) and glue them on popsicle sticks. Have students cover up the end or entire underlined word when reading the sentence. After they have read the sentence, they will uncover the word and reread the entire sentence to decode the underlined word. Students may be able to solve the word using the context of the sentence or, if needed, they can use previously learned strategies. 





Tryin' Lion 


First, students will read the sentence. Then, they will read both word choices and decide which word makes sense. They will circle the word with a dry erase marker.



Eagle Eye


Students will read the sentence and use the picture clue to read the underlined word or words. 




I hope this was helpful! If you'd like to get these cards you can purchase them at my shop by clicking here! What strategies do you use in your classroom? Leave me a comment below!


Happy Teaching!


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