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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Saturday, August 12, 2017

How to Make Birthday Balloons

Hi friends! If you're an elementary teacher like me, then you know that student birthdays are a big deal! I love when the kiddos come in all dressed up with their sweet treats for the class.  I mean, is there anything cuter?

I'll be honest,  I've never been great about birthday gifts for students! I always keep little stick-on birthday badges in a drawer but they easily get misplaced. This year I decided to give out birthday balloons! They are easy to make and they make a cute display so they are close by when you need them! In this post, I'm going to show you how to make birthday balloons!

First you're going to need Krazy Straws. I like using crazy straws because they are a great non-candy option!  No need to worry about any student allergies! You can find them at most party stores or the dollar store. Then, you will need some washi tape. There are some cute options at Target or most craft stores. Finally, you'll need some balloon printables. Click here to grab some from my TpT shop!

Go Krazy!

Print out your gift tags and cut them out! I love the black and white version because they look great on bright paper!

Next, grab a balloon and make sure your washi tape is near by.

Tape the Krazy Straw onto the back of the balloon using the tape. Repeat until they are all finished. 


I like to keep my balloons in a vase because they make a cute little display. I even added a tag to them!

What do you do to celebrate student birthdays? I would love to hear about it! Leave me a comment below! 

PS- don't forget to the grab the tag and label at my shop by clicking the image below!

Happy teaching!


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Friday, August 4, 2017

Tools to Alleviate Classroom Anxiety

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Hello teacher friends! It’s almost that time of the year…back to school! Soon, our classrooms will have new, smiling faces, our empty bulletin boards will be filled with student work, and our cupboards will be bursting with new school supplies!

As a student, I always looked forward to back to school time (as I’m sure you did too!) I loved buying new school supplies! Filling my pencil box with brand new colorful markers, sharpened colored pencils, and full bottles of Elmer’s glue was so calming! It helped me to feel ready for a new year! (I really was meant to be a teacher, wasn’t I?!)

All the heart eyes for these supplies! 😍😍😍

Unfortunately, there are students who do not find any part of back to school calming. To them, it might be downright stressful. The idea of a completely new routine, new people, and new concepts to learn can be very anxiety- producing for our little ones. Being an intervention specialist in the primary grades, many of my students struggle with feelings of anxiety. For example, students with autism can feel anxious about changes in their routine. Students with learning disabilities may compare themselves to their peers, which can cause anxiety in an academic setting. You may also find that students with no diagnosis may feel anxiety as well. Because anxiety in children is becoming more prevalent, and can be detrimental to student learning, it is crucial for us as teachers to address this. In this post, I am going to show you some ways to use those precious school supplies to make calming tools for your even more precious students!

1. Use your Expo Markers for checklists.

For many students, anxiety can stem from the uncertainty of a new routine. If you have students who have anxiety regarding certain tasks or moments in the day, create a simple checklist for them and laminate it. If students can visually see what is expected of them and what is coming next, it can help to reduce some anxiety. As students complete the tasks on the checklist, they can check them off with their Expo Marker. Best of all, when you use an Expo Marker on a laminated checklist, students can use it again and again! Grab a free and editable version of what I used by clicking here!

Grab these free and editable checklists by clicking the link above. Perfect for EXPO Markers!

2. Create a Calm Down Bottle

One of my favorite tools to help with anxiety is a calm down bottle! They are bright, beautiful, and filled with one of my favorite things… glitter! Best of all, you can easily make one in your own kitchen! Calm down bottles are a great break for students who are feeling anxious. Students just shake up the bottle and watch the glitter settle. It is a great little “time out” from an anxiety-producing situation.

To create a calm down bottle you will need:
An empty water bottle
Warm water
Loose glitter
Elmer’s Glitter Glue
Food coloring
A funnel to add the glitter (Happy teacher tip: Don’t forget this, or you will have a big glittery
Optional: hot glue to seal the lid on tight

To create the bottle:
Fill your water bottle about ¾ of the way full with warm water. Warm water will help the glitter glue separate.

Add about 3-4 drops of food coloring. You can always add more or less depending on the size of your water bottle, or how dark or light you want the color to be.

 Squeeze about half of the bottle of Elmer’s glitter glue into the bottle. Again, you can always add more or less, depending on what you want.

Grab your funnel and sprinkle in some loose glitter.

 Put the lid on tight! You may even want to add some hot glue to the lid to make sure it doesn’t come off when your students shake it. I always do this because the last thing I need is a neon-glitter concoction all over my students, classroom, and self.

Once you have finished this, you can add it to your classroom or even a small box filled with other calming tools. I like to even add small labels with directions to remind students of what to do.
I love calm down bottles so much that my students and I have made them together! Click here to see more!

3. Color a calming picture

If you plan to have a calm down box or space in your classroom, a few
coloring pictures can be a simple tool to add. Or, you can tuck them away in a folder. Many students find it calming to color pictures like mandalas or simple shapes. It can be a great break for students that are feeling stressed out over work completion! If you teach little ones, they will just love to color with these scented Mr. Sketch markers or crayons! Seriously, Mr. Sketch is how I won over one of my students who refused to work independently.

Grab this coloring page free from Coloring Pages 4 Kids here

 If you work with older students, try these Prismacolor colored pencils on a calming picture!

Lotus Mandala by Michelle Grewe coloring page. Get it here!

4. Special Supplies for the Teacher

Teacher friends… I didn’t forget about you! Back to school time can be very stressful on us, too! There is so much to do in your classroom on top of all those meetings! Every year before I head back to school, I always buy myself some special supplies! I absolutely love my Paper Mate Flair Pens! They can brighten up your grading and make some of your note-taking during staff meetings a little more cheerful!

Paper Mate Flair Pens are part of my staff meeting necessities! 

Sharpies, Inkjoy, Paper Mate Flair Pens, and Mr. Sketch make me one happy teacher!

Hope some of these suggestions can help to relieve some of your students’ anxiety! Please note, depending on each individual student's need, not all of these suggestions may work for him or her. For example, a student may not like the texture of the slime or the scent of a certain marker. However, I’m sure some of these tips will work for your students!

What tips do you have? I would love to hear about them in the comments!

Have a great school year and happy teaching!

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