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Taming the Word Work Chaos

Keeping word work materials organized


Isn't this how it usually goes...the new year rolls around and we decide to get our homes and classrooms organized.  I don't know about you, but word work materials can quickly become chaos!  Many student groups, all on different levels needing different words, not enough time and soon enough everything is a mess!

Here are some easy to set up and easy to maintain ways I keep my word work materials organized and ready for my reading students.

1.  Magnetic Letter Boxes

Organizing Word Work Classroom Materials

One of the biggest organization problems is all those magnetic letters!  I have lots of letters and I just can't take it if they are all mixed up.  This divided letter box is fabulous!  It came with my letters from Lakeshore.  If your school doesn't have the budget for that, you can get a clear plastic fishing lure box in the hunting/fishing department at Walmart.  It works great too!  I get asked about these boxes from Lakeshore.  They came with stickers to label each individual section to help students find and put back the magnetic letters.

Organizing Word Work Classroom Materials

I keep our letters for making a new sight word in these little plastic cups from Dollar General.  The cups make it easy to prep your words for all the different guided reading groups.  I use different colors for different groups.  

2.  Word Sorting Cards Storage

How to Organize Word Sorting Cards for Word Work

I'm sure you use those little word sort cards and picture sorting sound cards like I do.  


We sort a lot of pictures for word work and they easily can become a mixed up mess.



But after using the word sorting or picture sorting cards, put them back together.


And store them in these plastic pocket folders.  This is a small one about the size you would use for coupons.  This one has 13 different slots.  I paper clip my groups and then store in the folder.  I keep them by short vowels, long vowels, etc...

3.  Student Baskets

Organizing Word Work Materials with student baskets

I know some teachers hand out each set of materials they need during guided reading and then take them back.  That just didn't work for me- personal preference.  I bought these cute narrow baskets at Dollar General and I keep almost every single extra material they will need in them.

Organizing Word Work Materials

The baskets sit on my tables all of the time.  Students are in charge of keeping the materials in the baskets- not me.

Organizing Word Work Materials

Pencils & eraser, dry erase markers & eraser (make up puff from Dollar Tree), paint strips for segmenting sounds, reading strategies bookmark, word cups and a pom pom are all kept in the baskets.

Using Linking Charts for Phonics Word Work

You can use the pom pom or bingo chip in the baskets to use when reading linking charts.  No passing out extra materials.  Keep it all right there!

4.  Student Reading Notebooks

Reader's Notebook for Organizing Student Learning

I started using Reader's Notebooks for my guided reading groups a few years ago and I haven't looked back!  The work kept there is a great way to show progression of skills.  This one with tabs make all the difference in helping students keep it organized!

Using Linking Charts for Word Work

I also have students keep their linking charts in the notebooks.  I do not want to be handing these charts out all the time and taking them back up so in the notebooks they go and stay. 

Using Linking Charts during Word work

I place the charts in plastic sleeves first so we can write on them.  

5.  Phonics Binders

Phonics Word Work Intervention Binders for guided reading and RTI Intervention Groups

Seriously, I should own stock in notebooks!  I use so many of them for my classroom, but it's what works for me.  

Phonics Binders for Word Work in guided reading and RTI Intervention Groups

These phonics word work binders are different from the student Reader's Notebooks.  These binders are strictly for phonics and word work practice. 

Phonics Word Work Binders for RTI

Using no prep, just print and use binders make it easy to get the materials into binders and into the hands of the students.  The phonics binders can be used for word work during guided reading and during RTI intervention groups.  Each student is placed in the binder that best fits their skill level and helps move them forward.  It is so easy to differentiate within each binder too.


Hope these organization tips were helpful to you and helps you manage your work work materials!










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Inspiring Student Writing

Writing Activities to Inspire Student Writing

Happy New Year!!  It is almost time to head back to our students and our classrooms- our home away from home!  And as I think about getting back to school, I am thinking about student writing and how to encourage students to write even outside of writer's workshop.

When I think of student writing, I try to think of real reasons to be having them write- communicating with their friends and teachers in authentic ways.  Here are 3 fun, but real ways to inspire them!

1.  Writing Letters & Notes

Writing Activities to Inspire Student Writing

Kids LOVE to write notes, right?  I know I did in school and I got into trouble for this quite often.  But isn't this an authentic writing activity?  How about letting them know that writing to their friends, teachers, parents is a great way to communicate with them?  Set up the parameters that work for you- no letter or note writing when they should be working on something else.  Give them a fun area with colorful supplies and let them WRITE!  They will go through a lot of paper so scrap paper is good and cheap scrapbooking paper is fun.  Cut it up into small rectangles and set out fun markers and pens.  

2.  Interactive Bulletin Boards

Interactive Bulletin Boards

I have wanted to increase student engagement with reading and writing this year.  Not only with the students who come to my classroom, but with ALL students in our building.  I wanted to create a buzz and some excitement about literacy in a way that everyone could be involved.  These interactive bulletin boards have been a lot of fun!

Students, teachers, administrators, staff and parents were encouraged to write on this back to school board.  They really enjoyed sharing book titles!

Interactive Bulletin Boards

Of course at Thanksgiving, students wrote about what they were thankful for in their lives.  It is fun to read what is written on interactive boards.

Interactive Bulletin Boards

Once the paper is hung in the hallway, students notice what the topic is and they will start stopping by my room to ask for markers so they can add their thoughts too.  I like that it is something everyone can contribute to.

Interactive Bulletin Boards

Instead of what WE want for Christmas, I had students think about what their TEACHER might want instead.  Puppies, a sun hat, and vacations were some of the answers!

3.  Setting Goals

Writing New Years Growth Mindset Goals

Do you have students write about their New Year's Resolutions?  How about instead of resolutions, have them set goals for the year!  This works so well with  Growth Mind Set.  Instead of writing a resolution that is quickly forgotten, students can write about what goal they have and how they will improve or meet their goal.  

Writing New Years Growth Mindset Goals

After students have written their goals and decorated them, they make a great display for your room.  Students then can see their goals and be reminded what they are working towards.  

You can get this New Year's Goal pack by clicking the picture above and signing up for our newsletter!  We offer goodies like this that can only be found through the newsletter so don't be left out- sign up!  You can click on the envelope below too.





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Are Your Students More Than A Reading Level?

Students don't need to know their reading level.


Reading levels....and students knowing their reading levels has been on my mind a lot lately.  Have you read Jill Backman's article on Fountas and Pinnell's  Literacy blog:  A Level Is A Teacher's Tool, Not A Child's Label ?  If you have not, you can check it out here.  Jackman writes that levels are for teachers and not for students.  Students need to enjoy books, not levels.  We need to teach students how to find "just right"books for themselves.  If they always look for a level label how will they be able to do this in libraries and books stores or even in their own homes when there are no color coded levels to guide them?

I teach struggling readers and they have not always developed or matured their reading decision making yet.  Let's face it...some simply do not make wise choices when choosing books on their own.  But isn't this a perfect teaching situation?  Do they need to know the book level as they choose books?  Can we teach them instead how to make these choices and how to do it wisely?


How to Introduce Read to Self


If I could chose 2 teaching verbs that are extremely important to me one would be modeling.  Model...model...model with your students.  Not once, but lots of times.  And if you notice some students slipping in their choices, pull them together on the carpet and model it again.  


So how do I model without using labels?  We gather together and talk about just right fits for books.  I have a conversation with them about how my husband likes horses and reads all about them and how to train horses.  Books and magazines about horses would be just right for him.  But not for me!  I tell the students how I would be BORED with those kinds of books.  Then I show my kind of books and we discuss why I like those.  Would my husband like my kind of books- no!  We all like different kinds of books and that is okay.


How to introduce Read to Self


After this demonstration, we talk about how to choose a just right book.  I want them to look the book over, inside and out.  Not just grab any ole book.  Think about why you are going to read it.  Are you wanting to learn something about tigers or do you want a good story?  We also talk about interest in the book.  Which goes back to the horse discussion we just had.  Then we talk about can you read it and can you understand it?  I spend a good amount of time on can you read it and understand it.  Students learn to open the book and read a page or two before choosing it.  Did they know most of the words?  Can they understand what the author is telling them?  And next we shop for books!

This is the hard part for me.  I like a bit of control.  :)  But I make myself stand back and let them shop.  Just like anyone else, students WILL get better as time goes by and the more practice they get at it.  But this first time can be a bit rough, especially for readers who struggle or are less mature.  Students get their baggies and spend time choosing their books.  I let them make their choices, no matter what books they choose and we settle in to Read to Self.  


How to introduce Read to Self


My second important teaching verb would be conferencing.  And this is a super important step not to skip.  Start meeting with your students and listening to them read the books they chose.  You can read my post about how to keep conferencing and anecdotal records here.

Will some of them have made poor choices?  YES.  
Will they realize this when you conference with them?  YES.  
Will they learn to make better choices for themselves?  YES, YES, YES!


How to introduce Read to Self


This is one of my first grader's baggy and the type of books he chose the first time.  Can he read these books? No.  Are there even enough pictures in them to keep his interest in the book?  No.  But stay with me.  

I moved around the room conferencing with other students:  Show me what you chose.  Oh, that book looks good!  Read a bit of it with me.  What do you think of this book?  Do you think it is a good fit for you?  They make the decisions.  If they decide that they didn't make the best of decisions, I send them right then to go make better selections.  

I did not make it that first day to this little guy who selected the Magic Tree House books.  BUT he was listening to me conference with others.  When our time was up and I had to send them back to class, he came to me to tell me these were not good fits for him!!  WOW!  On his own, he is figuring this out by hearing me conference with others and he just happens to be one of my least mature students.  


How to Introduce Read to Self


This was this little guy's book baggy after making better choices!  He can read these books and is interested in them.  HE picked them out, not me.  Choice is extremely important to everyone and he got to make his own choices which creates buy-in to what we are doing.  Now, I am not saying that this little guy is good to go now and will not ever make poor choices again.  More than likely, I am going to be having more of these conversations with him again.  And I always like to go back and model after extended breaks at school- like Christmas vacation.

I do discuss with the students that sometimes we like to have books that we may not be able to read all of it.  Picture books that teachers have read to them or books they enjoy looking at the pictures.  It's okay to have that in our baggies as long as we also have just right books.  


Familiar Read Books

Some of my students love to reread and reread our  familiar read books.  So I let them take those too.  The levels aren't marked for the students to see which allows them to just enjoy reading.  And isn't that what we want?  Students enjoying books!

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Word Work- Long and Short Vowels

Short Vowel activities for word work

Our groups are working hard on learning vowel sounds!  Young readers that do not achieve a firm foundation in vowel sounds struggle with reading.  And for some students vowel sounds are just HARD!  Short vowel sounds seem to trip up some of my students. 

Having vowel posters with pictures to link to sounds really help students to learn those sounds.  And of course, if they can move to chunking the word- even better!

Short Vowel word work ideas

I also like for students to get in some practice reading those words and noticing chunks.  Struggling readers need a lot of practice with this.  They also need to practice these sounds in context and not just in isolation.  I like to keep a notebook with posters and students can practice reading the chunks during word work for guided reading or during RTI intervention groups.


Long vowel posters help with those silent, sneaky, super e words too!  

Long Vowel Posters and activities

Sometimes just adding in a fun pointer helps with engagement as students practice reading in their notebook.  It is important to take it to the next step too.  When students are reading in their books point out that they will be reading silent e words and see which ones they notice.  That application part is essential to getting a solid foundation with their vowel sounds!


Be sure to enter to win a TpT $10 gift card to spend however you would like on TpT!





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Informational Text Response Booklet-Free

Informational Text Response Booklet

Students love to read informational text.  I think they especially enjoy real photographs and all the cool facts that they learn!  But for some students informational text can be a bit tougher to navigate through than fiction text.

Informational Text Response Booklet

I have quite a few of these National Geographic informational books.  I like to give the students a choice of which one they are interested in reading.  Choice is huge!

Informational Text Response Booklet

An easy way for students to organize their learning is by using an informational text response booklet.  Students can fill it out as they read and learn or after reading the entire book.  It is fun and engaging with open-ended questioning that gives them more choice in what they enjoyed learning.

Informational Text Response Booklet

After completing the booklet, students can share the new information learned with each other or the booklets can be hung for a display. 

Informational Text Response Booklet

You can find this Informational Text Response Booklet here or by clicking any of the pictures!

Check out these phonics word work intervention binders:

word work intervention binders





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Blessings for YOU!



We have blessings to share with you!



I am so thankful for many things this year...my family, a job that I love, and friends who care.  Truly I am very blessed!

I am joining in with some friends to share our blessing with YOU!  Each one of us will be blessing you with a free resource on Sunday, November 20 and Monday, November 21.  PLUS, we are each giving away a $25 TpT gift card!!  How fun!


Be sure to come back on Sunday or Monday to be able to receive my Holiday ELA Task Cards for free only those two days!


Enter the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win my $25 gift card.  Be sure to do this at every stop along the way on the hop!

Don't forget to return this Sunday and Monday to collect all your free resources!



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