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5 Ways to Get Your Classroom Ready for the New Year


Are you ready to start thinking about getting back into your classroom for the new year?  Okay, maybe not quite ready yet...But we know it's coming and it is hard to shut a teacher's mind off!  So let's make the transition back into class smooth, organized, and easy!



Clear out the clutter!  Get all the paperwork and clutter put away.  And put it all away in the right places.  Take a few minutes to get every. single. thing put in its place.  Trust me, you will thank me later!  And while you are at it, have the students when they start back clean out those desks!  They need to start off in a clean and organized way too!






Take a few minutes and spruce up your supply baskets.  Replace the old and worn out with new pencils and erasers.  Clean the dry erase erasers, top off the glue bottles, etc...  Clean work areas and supplies feel like a fresh start to both you and the kids!




Take a few minutes and replenish all your copies that you use the most.  Copies for our Reader's Notebooks and my Anecdotal Records Notebook is what it would be for me.  Get all those copies made and filed so you are ready to go the minute students walk in the door.  



Students and parents love positive notes!  Make it easy on yourself by getting them ready ahead of time.  Write the kids' names on the notes ahead of time so that all you have to do is grab their note and personalize it.  It also helps you keep track of who has gotten one and who you have not sent one home to yet.  So easy!




This last one is for when the students come back.  Go over your classroom rules, just like at the beginning of school.  Make sure everyone is on the same page.  These classroom rules posters are a classic and clean design so that they will fit with any classroom decor.  You can grab them free if you like by clicking here or the posters above.  There are 10 different rules for you to choose from to post in your room. 

I hope these tips help you ease back into the classroom in January and get your year off to a great start!!


Styrofoam Snowman & RTI Binders

snowman from styrofoam cups

Christmas decorations are everywhere, students are excited and teachers are feeling frazzled!  But December is such a fun month!  The teachers have completed RTI tiers II and III and have turned in their RTI graphs.  We've been very busy decorating our doors and our school is looking very festive!

snowman from styrofoam cups

With a little help from a friend we got our snowman built from styrofoam cups made.  The snowman looks amazing and the kids have loved seeing him grow from the bottom up and each detail like the eyes and nose and hat being added. The snowman pieces were made by hot gluing the cups together to make a circle.  Then cups were added on top of that ring, continuing to add rings until it was filled in.  We used 3 different sizes of cups.  It took a lot of cups!

Christmas Tree from rolled paper

Then trees were added by rolling square construction paper into a bit of a funnel shape and hot glued to the door.  The students made snowflakes from coffee filters too.  

keeping RTI data on graphs with goal lines

Now, back to RTI.  At my school, teachers keep weekly graphs of each student's RTI data.  It is so important to test to check if the interventions are working and plot that out against a goal line.  If a student's data points are keeping up with the goal line, they are on track to reach their goal by the end of the RTI tier that they are in.  Teachers turn in these graphs, two per student, to me at the end of the RTI cycle.

RTI data graphs and binders

I also like to have each student keep their own graph of their progress.  After each weekly assessment, they color in their graph and I discuss with them how they are progressing.  

RTI Data Binders and Progress Monitoring Graphs

One of the easiest ways to stay organized with RTI and all the different graphs, rubrics, parent letters, etc...is to have an RTI Data Binder.  RTI papers are too valuable to take a chance on losing or miss placing them.  


Using ESGI software in RTI

Now that RTI is completed for the first cycle, I go in and do universal screenings on the students to check if all the interventions have helped improve their overall reading skills.  I use ESGI for a lot of my screenings.  This system has made my job 100% easier to manage.  The students are entered and then I assess them 1 on 1 in the areas needed.  For kindergarten, I assess on letter identification and sounds and phonemic awareness right now.  As students gain more skills, I assess on a whole range of phonics skills.  ESGI generates reports on all this information, creates flashcards for students to take home to practice and you can even print out parent letters!  


DRA and IRI for Universal Screenings in RTI

The other piece in our universal screenings is assessing with the DRA and IRI.  These assessments truly test if the students can apply what they have learned in  RTI interventions to reading.  After all the scores have been turned in, our RTI committee will meet on each student to look at the progress shown on each graph and their new universal screening scores to determine what action needs to be taken next to help each student find success!

Be sure to head over to my other blog- Spark of Inspiration- and enter to win some holiday classroom resources!  There is a giveaway each day for the 25 days of Christmas!!






You've Given The Test...Now What?

using information from the test to plan lessons

It's about that time of year for assessing students and their reading skills.  We use the DRA and the IRI at our school to measure the progress of reading.  I think teachers sometimes feel like the assessments they have to give are just one more thing on their already crowded teacher plan.  I was a classroom teacher for 16 years so I get it.  But there really is a reason for giving this test.  The DRA is not the end goal.  It's a way of letting you know where you need to go from here in your literacy instruction.


Using information from reading tests to lesson plan

I start by giving all my DRA tests to all my students.  Lots of piles on my tables!

using test information to help write lesson plans

As I go, I like to code the tests at the top of the test booklets.  This is a quick way for me to glance at the tests and know what the student is needing more instruction in to move forward.  F goes at the top for fluency and C for comprehension.

code DRA tests to help you group students according to skills they need

Take a few moments to look over the tests and analyze why the student was having any difficulties.  Write the names, level and codes on Post It Notes or index cards.  The notes or cards can be easily moved around so you can group the students to help you see who all needs more instruction in specific areas.  Use whatever codes that make sense to you.  The goal is to not just give the test, but to use the information you get from it to guide your instruction.

anecdotal records notebooks to help you organize student learning

I also like to keep anecdotal records on my students.  Get in the habit of having your anecdotal notebook with you and jot notes as you listen to students read.  This is a great way to keep track of what each student is doing.  It is provides wonderful documentation for parents and administrators if they want to know exactly how a specific student is doing in reading or what you are working on to move them forward in reading skills.

anecdotal records notebooks to help you organize student learning

This is another way of organizing your goals for each group so you can keep track of your teaching focus for each group at a glance.


Don't forget our Sharing Our Blessings hop that I posted last week!  Each teacher is giving away two $25 TpT gift cards.  AND today you can get a FREE resource from each one of us!  This is only available today and tomorrow then the resource will not be free anymore.  So don't miss it!  Click here or the picture to be taken there!





Thankful in the Classroom


What I am Thankful for freebie

November is typically the time of year that we think more about the people and things we are thankful for.  Considering what occurred Friday in Paris, I am even more thankful for the precious ones in my classroom and I want to be sure they know it.  You can use this freebie too if you choose.

What I am Thankful For Writing Freebie

I know a lot of us have students write about what THEY are thankful for during November.  But I want to tell each of my students (around 45) that I am thankful for THEM.  
What I am Thankful For Writing Freebie

I have included a color version and a black and white version for you.  

What I am Thankful For Writing Freebie

Just click on any of the pictures to download the Thankful pages.  It's a great way to spread blessings!  And an added bonus, students get a little more practice with providing evidence in their writing.  
blends activities


Chunk Its Consonant Blends and Digraphs

Wanted to let you know that the second resource in my Chunk Its resources is ready for you.  This new Chunk Its is about teaching students to read and spell in chunks of consonant blends and digraphs.  Students need practice using these chunks of sounds instead of using individual sounds.  Click the pictures or here to see this resource.  

Chunk Its Consonant Blends and Digraphs

Chunk Its Short Vowels Word Family Activities



It's All About Chunks


RTI Reading Intervention Visual Plans and Resources

Our RTI is a little over half way through for the first cycle of the year.  Lots of work on chunking word families and phrase chunking for reading fluency is happening.  My students are making good progress and are improving their reading skills.  And just as important, their confidence in themselves is also growing!

One thing that helps their confidence is I have my students graph their own progress each week.  Having students keep RTI Data Binders gives them a good visual to see how they are doing and helps them take some ownership in their learning.
Blends and Digraphs Reference Chart

My tier III student reads a Blends and Digraphs chart every day.  Then I say words and ask him to find a picture that begins like my word.  He also uses a chart for reference when he practices breaking words apart into chunks and putting them back together again.  We practice doing this quickly.  He has difficulty recalling the correct sounds to make and then holding on to those sounds when putting the word back together.

Questioning and Visualizing what you read

My older students in group 2 do a lot of practicing with questioning and visualizing the text.  You might be surprised how many students need explicit teaching for thinking about what they read.  Especially for struggling readers, they truly feel like the goal is just reading (word calling) the words.  It doesn't seem to click with some students that they should be thinking as they read.  I like to use these wipe off boards for students to flip back and forth as we read and discuss the story.  Sometimes they can't get enough time to say all they want to say about what they are thinking!  It has improved their confidence in their reading and thinking skills and they love participating in the discussions now.

This older group of students are also practicing hard to improve their fluency by reading in chunks of phrases.  Some were reading word by word and others just plowing through the words as quickly as they can.  They are enjoying reading more by using phrasing chunks because they can now add in expression and it helps their comprehension.

Chunk Its using word families to read and spell



Another kind of chunking my first group is working on is word family chunking.  He needs to move away from reading and spelling words in individual sounds.  He is working on using the chunks of sounds instead.  These Chunk Its are a great way to practice this!

Chunk Its using word family chunks to read and spell


Chunk Its:  using word family chunks to read and spell words

Students glue their chunks and then write the whole word.  It is important too that we move from individual sounds to chunks into the whole word.  That is always our goal- whole words.  Then they read a sentence with those chunks and you can check their comprehension of what they read by the student doing a quick sketch of what they read.  Reading is all about comprehending!
Click here to see the new Chunk Its resource.  More Chunk Its coming soon!


More Chunk Its Now:  Blends & Digraphs!

consonant blends and digraphs activities



Family Literacy Night- Campfires & Tents!


Family Literacy Night Camping theme


Family Literacy Night this year was a camping theme.  We had a great turn out and it was a lot of fun!  Our family nights revolve around literacy and math activities, parent information, and a free dinner for our families.  We plan our fall night for the same night at parent/teacher conferences and book fair.  By having all these events in one night, we all get more families to come in to see us.

Family Literacy Night Camping Theme

These are just some of the supplies we used and prepared for our family night.  Lots of books, fluency bags (both reading and math), and smores snacks!

Family Literacy Night Camping Theme

From the moment families step into the gym, they are coming into our Camp Learn A Lot.  This design and our table designs are by Mandy over at Teaching with Simplicity. 

Family Literacy Night Camping Theme

Our materials were set up on these tables.  Families signed in, were given a fluency bag for their child's grade level, a math fluency bag, and a timer if they didn't have one on their phone.  

Family Literacy Night Camping Theme

Our focus at school has been building reading fluency and math fact fluency.  We intentionally set our family night to revolve around these areas so parents could be informed with how well their child was doing in these areas.  This night was more about informing parents rather than just fun activities.  

After the parent and child completed their fluency activities, they came back to our tables and each child was given a free book (dollar sales at Scholastic are a huge help for this) and a bag of Smores.  The bags had miniature marshmallows, chocolate chips, and graham cereal.

Family Literacy Night Camping Theme Fluency Bags

These were my fluency bags organized by grade levels and the parent sign in area.

Family Literacy Night Camping Theme Fluency Bags

My fluency bags contained directions on colored paper, fluency passage (one for the parent to mark on and another copy for the student to read from), and a sticky note for their words correct per minute score to be written on.  The reading passages came from Reading A-Z.

Family Literacy Night Camping Theme Fluency Bags

We do not assess words per minute at this time of the year for kindergarten or first grade, so those grade level baggies contained stories and reading rubrics instead of fluency passages.

Family Literacy Night Camping Theme Fluency Bags

After getting a fluency bag from me, students also got a math baggie from Mandy so parents could determine how well their child was doing with recalling math facts.

Family Literacy Night Camping Theme Fluency Trees

These are our Fluency Trees!  We divided our trees by grade level bands.

Family Literacy Night Camping Theme Fluency Trees

Sticky notes with the students' scores were then placed on the trees.  They looked so pretty and colorful!

Family Literacy Night Camping Theme

We decorated the gym in our camping theme with tents, chairs, and campfires.   Families sat around the campfire to read and work their math problems.  

Family Literacy Night Camping Theme

The students really enjoyed the tents and reading inside them!  It was so much fun to see them inside reading.


Family Literacy Night Camping Theme

Campfire rings in each of our campsites!

Family Literacy Night Camping Theme

These were the table decorations as our families ate their chili and hot dog supper.  Mandy created these!

Family Literacy Night Camping Theme

We even had a photo booth for families to take pictures of each other!  Looks so real with that starry background.

Family Literacy Night Camping Theme

Our superintendent was able to get us some bikes for our drawing!  The kids were beyond excited about winning a bike from the drawing!

Family Literacy Night Camping Theme

We also had a drawing for Walmart gift cards for the parents.  With food, fun activities, and prizes, your family night is almost guaranteed to be a huge success!!

These wonderful ideas for having a camping theme came from Scholastic.  I found their post on using this theme for family night (read about it here) and adapted it to fit our needs.  Thank you Scholastic!


You can read about our other Family Literacy Nights by clicking here and here.







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