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Teacher Book Stack

Books for Teachers Professional Development Resources

What's in your Teacher Book Stack for this summer?  I have some brand new ones and a few go-to teacher professional development resources that I like to revisit during the summer.  I just don't have the time during the school year to read and study as much as I can over the summer.  

Books for Teachers Professional Development Resources

I have always enjoyed finding teacher resources that help me sharpen my craft. We expect our students to be reading...teachers should be learners too!  And when I get to do the choosing I am much more motivated.  I also love to try out ideas that I think will help my students learn and grow! 

Books for Teachers Professional Development Resources

I have more than these 4 books in my stack.  But I want to highlight these books:  three are brand new to me and one I actually got last year, but I wanted to do some rereading.

Books for Teachers Professional Development Resources

I am very excited to introduce you to this new book!  My friend, Tammy, is the author of Gatekeepers.  Tammy is also the author of the blog Forever in First.  If you have visited over at her blog, you will recognize Tammy's familiar reflective and thoughtful voice in her book, Gatekeepers.  Tammy does a wonderful job of encouraging teachers to be watchful over the teaching practices they allow into their classrooms.  Her book follows her format of Saturday Sayings, in which Tammy gives you an educational quote and then her reflections on what this could mean for her and your classroom.  She gets you thinking about what is best for your students.  

Books for Teachers Professional Development Resources

I read Who's Doing the Work last year.  It challenged me to talk less and encourage my readers to discuss and think more!  One helpful part of this book in each section is a description of what this would like like in real classrooms at different grade levels.  It was very helpful to "see" what it would look like in action.

Books for Teachers Professional Development Resources

As a teacher of mostly struggling readers, it is very important to me to develop the love of reading in my students.  Several years ago, our school was an AR school, giving extrinsic rewards to try to get students to read.  On the surface, it may seem that those kinds of rewards work- kids read, they get excited to get prizes, etc...But it doesn't seem to develop a LOVE of reading and keep them reading after the contests are completed.  You can read my post about this HERE.  No More Reading For Junk takes you through the research about extrinsic rewards and gives you ideas to replace these so your school can develop a culture of loving reading for reading!

Books for Teachers Professional Development Resources

Do you conference with your students?  I know a lot of teachers find conferencing difficult...what to talk about, how to fit it in.  But so much can be fit in to a few moments.  These one on one teachings will help you figure out what students have learned and what they still need to move them forward.  And as an added bonus, kids love these moments that are just them and their teacher!

So what's on your Teacher Book Stack this year?

Fluency Intervention Binders






Summer Climb, Not Summer Slide

Using Summer Reading Folders for Summer Climb not Summer Slide

I know every teacher gets concerned about the Summer Slide for students who do not read over the summer.  

For my young students, they still need the guidance of parents to help be sure they read.  Not all my students have that support at home.  And for those that do, they may not have appropriate books for them to read.  

Using Summer Reading Folders for Summer Climb not Summer Slide

Our school helps with this by having summer school.  Just being in an educational environment is a huge boost!  But I am fortunate to also get to provide students with reading classes during summer school.  This hopefully will help students climb higher with their reading skills and not slide backwards and lose the gains they worked so hard for.

Using Summer Reading Folders for Summer Climb not Summer Slide

Then at the end of summer school, I like to send home Summer Reading Folders for students to have materials AT home for July and part of August.   Volume of reading is huge for students and their reading skills so I try to provide materials for them to read.  

In these Summer Reading Folders, I include several items.  I print books from Reading A-Z that are in the student's interests and put those together.  

I also like to let parents know about the app Epic.  Epic usually has a discount during the summer to keep ebooks in the hands of students.  I appreciate that!

Using Epic App for ebooks at home during the summer


Using Summer Reading Folders for Summer Climb not Summer Slide

Besides books, I want students to have a copy of a reading strategy bookmark.  It is a good reminder for them as they read and a great visual help for parents.  Parents usually are grateful for guidance on how to help their child when they have difficulty.  And the help needs to be beyond saying "sound it out".  

I forgot to include in the picture, but sight word baggies are another easy thing to send home in the folder.  If the student is still working on mastering sight words, this is something easy for them to practice on at home.  

Last, I include a calendar to provide a bit of structure for parents and students. Some days say to read for 15 minutes.  Other days say build a blanket fort!  It's all about balance and having fun.  

You can grab the calendar and reading strategies bookmark here if they will help you.  They are included in our Free Resources Library.   Sign up for these exclusives!




Tips for Games in the Classroom

Reading Word Work Activities to Use with Games in the Classroom

Games are such a fun way for students to get in extra practice with word work and other reading skills that they need to strengthen.  

Using Candy Land in the Classroom for Word Work Activities

One of my students favorite games is Candy Land.  They love those picture cards!  Except when they get sent to the bottom.  😀  I have students draw a sight word card to read before they can draw a game card.  TIP:  I print the sight word cards as slides and they are the perfect size for the game.  

Using Uno Stack in the Classroom during Word Work Activities

Another really popular game is Uno Stack.  You can use Brain Warm Up Cards like prefixes, suffixes, short vowels, etc...  Any type of phonics students need to practice more to increase their fluency.

Using Uno Stack Game in the Classroom for Word Work Literacy Center Activities

TIP:  Have students play this game on a run or short table set on a rug.  Then when the blocks fall, it is not so loud!

Using Differentiation Learning Cubes and Tic Tac Toe Games for Word Work Activities

A really low prep game that is also good is Tic Tac Toe.  One thing I like to do to change it up from the other games is to us a learning cube.  If you missed my post on Differentiated Learning Cubes just click here to read about it.  You can place picture sound cards in the cube's pockets.  Then students roll the cube, say the sound it begins or ends with and identify the letters before marking their spot for 3 in a row.

Using Sight Word Lists and Tic Tac Toe during Word Work Activities

Another way to change it up is to place sight word lists in the center.  The students must draw and read a list before placing a marker on the board.  TIP:  Laminate your Tic Tac Toe boards and place different items in the center for marking the spaces.  Keeps it interesting!

Using fluency strips with Uno Games for word work activities

Kids love card games so, of course, Uno is a favorite!  I like for students to practice sentence fluency and including a pack into the game is easy.  TIP:  A great way to differentiate for students is for them to use the sight word list, word cards, or fluency strips that each student is working on at the time.  They can have their own stack at their spot that fits them.  

Using Multisyllabic word cards with Uno for Word Work Activities

Multisyllabic word cards are great too!  There are so many ways this can be used:

spelling words
vocabulary words/meanings
math problems
syllables
rhyming 

You can find the Tic Tac Toe Boards in my free Resource Library by signing up for newsletters.  





Roll It! Differentiation Cubes

Using Differentiation Cubes

We are using these differentiation cubes ALL the time!  Kids love rolling them and I love that they are quiet when students are using them.  

Using Differentiation Cubes

I ordered mine from Amazon.  They are great for literacy and for math activities.  Sometimes each small group will use more than one cube at a time and sometimes each student gets just one.


*  Roll Letters
Roll ABC Letters Activity

Students can work with just capitals or lower case letters or both.  You can easily differentiate the cubes for students to work on exactly the letters they need.  

*  Add Recording Sheets for Accountability

Roll ABC Letter Activities

I always have students record their work with the cubes.  It provides them more of a purpose for their activity.

Roll A Word Silent e Word Activities

Also, I require students to read the letters or words as they record them.  I don't ever want them just copying down letters.  It needs to make sense to them.

*  Sight Word Practice

Using Differentiation Cubes

Students can write a few sight words they are working on learning onto small cards and slip these cards into the pockets on the cubes.  Set a time for just a few minutes.  Students roll, read, and write their words to see which word will win when the timer goes off.  Only allow them a few minutes so this is truly a quick practice and doesn't become busy work for them.

*  Make Words~ Is it Real or Nonsense?

Roll on set and rime activities

This is where these cubes really get their name- differentiation.  By slipping different letters or chunks into the cubes you are giving each student just what they need to practice.

It's fun to listen to the students as they roll the sounds and try saying the new words to determine if it sounds like a real word or not!

Rolling suffix endings Activities

Students can even practice adding endings.

Roll R-Controlled Words Activities


*  Add Game Cards

Using Differentiation Cubes to roll Words

You can make the cubes even more fun by adding cards like Roll Again and Lose A Turn to create a game-like atmosphere to the activity.  This simple addition makes the cubes even more excited to use them because they are having so much fun they don't even realize they are learning so much!

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Tips for Making RTI Meetings Work

A guide to use for placing and moving students in RTI Interventions Tiers

You and your team have done all the hard work.  You've spent weeks teaching interventions to your small groups of students.  Now what?  It's time to have an RTI Team Meeting to make those important decisions about what tier each student should now be placed into.

1.  Committee schedules a decision making meeting.


A guide to use for placing and moving students in RTI Interventions Tiers

As the RTI coordinator in my school, I gather all the data, set the meeting date, make the schedule for the day and prepare RTI Decision Guide packets for our team.

When I make out our schedule for our meeting day, which lasts all day long for the committee, I work hard to not schedule meetings on a teacher's planning time.  We get substitutes to cover the classroom teacher so they can come to the meeting at their appointed time.  The substitute floats to each room at the scheduled times.


A guide to use for placing and moving students in RTI Interventions Tiers

2.  Use data from interventions and universal screenings.

Once teachers have taught interventions we give our universal screening again to determine if interventions had any effect on student reading scores.  Teachers turn in their scores from this assessment to me.  I use the assessment scores plus all the data from the interventions to put together a packet of student data for our meeting.  All of the meeting guide pages are placed into file folders- one for each member of the committee.

3.  Use a rubric to guide decisions.

A guide to use for placing and moving students in RTI Interventions Tiers

We use a rubric to guide our decisions as we determine what tier to place students into.  The rubric is there to help us use data to guide our decisions rather than feelings.  Of course, feelings always come into discussions, but data needs to be a bigger part of the decision.  I have found when we don't utilize a rubric, we dismiss fewer students because we want to continue helping everyone!  This is a good thought, but the goal of RTI is to accelerate learning and teach students to be independent learners.

RTI norms are a good thing to include in your RTI Decision Making Guide.  Teachers are passionate about their students.  It is important to remember to keep discussions confidential, encourage positive discussions and have respectful attitudes.

4.  Keep a Voting Record

A guide to use for placing and moving students in RTI Interventions Tiers

After our committee has discussed a student's progress in RTI, looked at the data, and gotten input from the classroom teacher, we vote on what needs to happen next (stay in that tier, move down a tier, bump up a tier, etc...).  Our rubric guides us in these votes.  I record on a voting sheet the voting tallies for each tier.  This sheet is our documentation for parents, teachers, administration, etc...  I also use it as I put together RTI groups for the next cycle.

Documenting and graphing progress in RTI Intervention Groups

Besides using a Decision Making Meeting Guide, it is super helpful to keep progress documented on graphs.  Then use these graphs during your meetings. This documentation system is available K-5 with a different binder for each grade level.  


Meeting Your RTI Needs!

RTI Data Binders


RTI Resources



Book Room Make Over



Book Room Set up and Organization

Our Book Room recently went through a make over!  We dismantled our old room due to construction in our school.  But that was okay, because it was needing a make over anyway!

Book Room Set up and Organization

I had a system in mind as we went through this make over process.  

First, we needed to decide how we would level our book sets that our teachers would be using for small groups.  We use Fountas and Pinnell letter system for our book sets.  

Book Room Set up and Organization


I mostly used 2 websites to search book titles.  The main one I used is Fountas and Pinnell Leveled Book Website.  It does cost, but it is only $25 per year to use.  This is the site that I trust the most for leveling books.  They use a 10 point check system to level books which makes it more accurate.  If I couldn't find a book title here, I then used Scholastic's Book Wizard.  Most books, I double checked the levels to try to find the most accurate one.

Next, I wanted to create a master list of books that teachers could look up online without having to actually go to the book room.  I chose Classroom Booksource .  I scanned or typed in the ISBN number of every book.  Classroom Booksource then created our list of books so teachers can look them up to see what books we have, the genre and the book level.  This was a HUGE job to scan all the books or hand type it all in but once it was completed, it was worth it.  

Now it was time to print out labels for each of the book sets.  We used Avery labels and you can design labels right on their site.  I just typed in the information we wanted on the labels and sent it to our printer to print.  We already had boxes for our books so we repurposed them and I put the new labels right on the old boxes.

Book Room Set up and Organization

We used to use the old library book check out system with teachers signing their names to a card on the side of the box.  There were several problems with this system.  Mostly, teachers didn't do it.  I was guilty of it too.  You forget to bring a pencil or are in a hurry so you just take the books and go.  And when you brought the books back...you could waste a lot of time searching to see where the books belonged.  The boxes all looked the same and boxes may have gotten moved around since you had checked the books out.  I hated resolving books!  Just a time waster!

Book Room Set up and Organization

This time we are using a clip system.  No pencils needed and takes almost no time to do!  Each teacher has a set of colored clips.  She takes a clip from her hanger on the wall and just clips it to the box she is borrowing books from.  

Book Room Set up and Organization

Now we the teacher comes back to return the books, all she has to do is look for her color of clips.  The colored clips stand out against the white label making it much, much easier and quicker to check in and out books.  If it is easy and quick, more teachers will likely use it!

Book Room Set up and Organization

We have also set up shelves for mentor texts and for teacher resources.  

Do you have a book room?  How is it organized?


Long Vowel and Short Vowel Activities

These picture cards and letter strips make great literacy centers or Write the Room Activities!

Long Vowel and Short Vowel Activities

Short Vowel Cards and letter strips can be used together or alone depending on how you need to differentiate for your students.

Long Vowel and Short Vowel Activities


Long Vowel and Short Vowel Activities




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