Wednesday, June 14, 2017

How Parents Can Help With Reading Fluency

Imagine it is the beginning of the school year, you've just assessed all of your kindergarten kids and guess what, only a few know some of their letters.  Are you surprised?  Not me.  I teach at a Title 1 school, so only my students who are coming to me from our TK classroom or Headstart will have letter ID and even then they have been out of school for 12 weeks so they may have forgotten some. My job is to have them fluent in letter names, sounds, sight words,  CVC words and nonsense words by June, ummm- OK- sure.
How Parents Can Help With Reading Fluency: Get parents involved at home for just a few minutes a night supporting their children on the road to reading success.
So why is fluency so important? Fluency is the bridge between word recognition and comprehension.  Readers who have difficulty decoding words will have a much harder time comprehending the text.   They will be spending all of their time focusing on the decoding rather than understanding the meaning behind the words they are so desperately trying to read.

How does one become fluent? With practice- just as if you were learning a foreign language, you need to practice to become fluent.  Reading is no different.  Children need to practice reading and reading orally helps children to become fluent readers.  Having parents help at home in the process from the very beginning helps set the foundation to a successful educational journey.  If I can send my kids off to first grade reading fluently at grade level, then I know I've given them the skills they need to succeed as readers.  They won't be struggling with the decoding,  they will be focussing on the text and their parents will have helped in the process and hopefully will continue to help in the years to come.

Alright back to my first week of school and my kids who I've just assessed. So now what?  Where do I begin? I start at the beginning and I include the parents in the process.  Luckily for me our back-to-school night is usually the second week of school.  This gives me the opportunity to explain my expectations to the parents of how they will be helping their child at home and how it will only take a few minutes of their time each night. I start with the Letter Naming Fluency Homework.
Letter Naming Fluency Homework: improve your Dibels Scores
Here is how it works- as the child reads the letters the parent circles the letters read correctly, then they sign it at the bottom.  

This paper does two things 
1- it tells me if the parent is helping their child at home.
2- it is letting the parent know what their child needs help with. 

If the child know all of their letters but doesn't know all of their sounds- I send home the First Sound Fluency Homework it is the same format. 
First Sound Fluency Increase your Dibels scores
Once we've gone through our alphabet for letters and sounds, which is our first trimester we move onto sight words. However, depending on the class, I often start sight words sooner becasue they are ready for them.  Last year I had many students on sight words in the first trimester becasue they knew all the letters and sounds. Sight words is the same format.  

My parents are familiar with it and know what to do.   My students love it becasue it is easy for them.  In the beginning it starts out with the words we have already been learning since the first week of school- I, like, my...
sight word fluency:Increase you students reading fluency
By then end of the second trimester we are ready for C-V-C words.  If I still have some students who need sight word practice they might get both for homework. Being that it only takes a few minutes to do both half pages parents don't seem to mind.

Although some of these programs are listed as 25 or 36 week programs obviously  you couldn't do all programs end to end in a school year.  What I do is skip pages in between.  I might do page 7a,7b and 9c, 9d in a week just to give variety.  You can go as fast or as slow as you need to.  You can have students on different pages as needed as well.  Make it work for you!
C-V-C Word Fluency:increase your students reading fluency with nightly homework
Last in my series of nightly reading homework comes the Nonsense Fluency Homework.  My kids love these.  This really shows me if they have phonemic awareness or not. Can they really read cvc words without sounding and blending each letter? 
Nonsense Word Fluency: Increase your Dibels scores
Now some of you might be thinking well, my kids don't have people to help them with homework or their parents are just signing it.  Yes this happens and here is how I address this.  For the parents that just sign it or if I think they are just signing it.  I assess the kids.  Kids are honest and will tell you.  "My mom just signs it I don't actually read it"  #kidstellthetruth 

I call the parents and let them know that I can see they are working at home with their child each night and I really appreciate it.  Then I tell them, that when I am assessing their child at school it isn't transferring.  They aren't able to show what they know at home at school, and ask them to spend a few more minutes each night working with their child.  i offer a few more examples of how to work with their child.  Most parents are receptive and are willing to put in the time.  Of course they won't admit they haven't been working with their child. Some might say they didn't understand what to do, but the majority will step up.  

Now for those few who don't have someone.  I either pull them aside  a few times a week, get a volunteer or sometimes I have had another student in class be their peer buddy.  It only takes a minute, that is the beauty of it.

So, if you like what you see, you can grab all 5 of these in a big bundled value set in my TpT store.
Building Reading Fluency Bundle for Kindergarten: great for creating that home to school connection or use in class for RTI
Still not sure-  Sign up for my emails and receive a 3 week sample of the Letter Naming Fluency pack to try out with your classroom.
Need more proof, here are what a few teachers
who used these products have said.

Have questions- I'm just an email away.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

End of the Year Clean Up Time

It's that time of year when teachers are cleaning up their classrooms, packing up and saying so long kids. Many teachers, like me, like to get a jump on next year.
end of year classroom cleaning, the best tools to get the job done

What does that mean, it means cleaning all the dirt and grime off of everything that has accumulated over the last nine months of school.  How do those crayon containers manage to get that dirty?  Have you ever wiped the edge of a table? Let's talk dust- isn't it amazing how much dust accumulates over the course of a school year on your desk? How is that even possible with all the things piled on it as a protective layer.  Yuck?

So the big question is where do you begin?  My first reaction is to close the door and run screaming,  because seriously I have way too much stuff.  My second gut reaction is to pull the fire alarm or pray the maybe it will all just vanish becasue the cleaning fairy will have come- that really did happen one time-  not the fire alarm, but the cleaning fairy. It was Open House and a parent came in to help me clean things up and wipe things down.  #loveher.  I've tried to keep those areas clean since then.

So back to where do we start.  Pick one area and work on it until you are satisfied with it.  Don't move about the room working in different spots.  This will cause you to just make big messes in all areas. This is my to do list for the summer, some of which I have already completed

  • Organize class library: Add new books- take out old ones, add labels to missing books (done)
  • Organize math program into containers (done)
  • Organize Literacy program into binders (done)
  • Go through math shelves-purge math centers no longer use
  • Go through file cabinet-purge
  • Craft drawers- purge the unused items
  • Housekeeping/dress-up downsize items
  • Teacher manuals resource books purge
As I work I use my tables; one is the donation table, one is the dumpster table and one is to give to someone or someplace specific.   Once the area is clean, I wipe it out with a disinfectant wipe.  Then I put the items I'm keeping back and admire my work.   

So that takes care of the inside of my classroom clutter, but then there are the items that the kids use that need to be REALLY cleaned, like the table caddies , the scissors and other containers.  People are always asking how to get crayon off, even our custodian was saying he couldn't get it off my floor, then I showed him the Mr. Clean magic eraser- and like Magic- it erased the crayon.  The dishwasher will not melt the crayon off of your containers.  It may disinfect them, but they will still LOOK dirty.  I soak mine for about five minutes in hot soapy water.  Really that isn't even necessary, but might as well get the washing party started.  Then I wet the eraser and start wiping away the crayon- rinse and wipe more if necessary.

Scissors, glue tubs and even glue sponges have all been washed in the dishwasher and are all waiting back at school.  Glue sponges I did wring out in hot soapy water a few times by hand first just to get all of the glue out before running through the dishwasher.  My chair pockets came off the last week of school, were washed and they too are back at school.  When I return in August.  I won't have to clean anything, and I didn't have to bring it home for the summer.  I did it all the last week.

So what tools do you really need to clean your room

Mr. Clean Erasers

  • containers
  • dry erase boards
  • floors
  • walls
  • helps to remove label residue 


  • mirrors
  • window

Kids and Pets (find it at Walmart in the cleaning section

Goo Gone and a Scraper

  • remove labels
  • remove tape
Now it is your turn- Do you have some tips to share for cleaning your classroom at the end of the year?  I'd love to hear them.  I'm always on the lookout for anything that can save me time and keep my classroom clean in the process.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

How To Use Smelly Markers As A Sensational Incentive

Scentos Smelly Markers are Magical!!!  If you want to motivate students to work faster, to write neater or do their personal best, dangle the carrot of the smelly marker when they finish.  For some reason students are willing to work for that scented happy face or star drawn on their paper when they are finished.
The magical incentive of the smelly marker: How to use Scentos markers in your classroom to motivate students to work quicker, harder and quieter.
Here Is How I Do It
Once I have explained the assignment and send my students back to their tables. I retrieve a Scento's Smelly Marker from my desk.  Each day I change the incentive.  Of course I'm always looking fore everything but my students don't know that.  Once students are seated I tell them what I am looking for.  It may be I am only marking the first 10 students who are done, or perhaps only those who have the neatest handwriting, or they must have ALL of their math problems correct on the first try.  This helps to eliminate those who are trying to be the first ones done.  Little do they know everyone gets something on their paper with the marker.  I want all students to feel successful.  Even if they are the last to finish.  Just last week I had a student who was so proud to get that star becasue he finally finished a paper.  Something he never does.  He kept showing everyone his paper and saying "I finished it!"  I don't think finishing would have meant as much without that big smelly star.
Scentos Markers: the Magical classroom incentive to get students to worker harder, quicker and quietly
Another trick I use is the quiet game.  If they are quietly working I will put a tally mark on their paper with the marker in the corner.  If they make it to five they can draw their own star with the marker when they have finished.  If it is a short assignment I may just put 3 dots on their paper, you get the idea.  Either way, they are working hard for the opportunity to use those markers.

I like to change up the the color-flavor-smell of the marker I use as each student has their favorite,  including this teacher.  I love the raspberry and the black licorice.

Using the Scentos markers is such a quick motivational tool to use in my classroom, that when I forget my students actually remind me.  If you haven't tried it I suggest you do.  You can find them almost anyplace, Walmart, Target, Michaels, Grab a pack or two and have fun.  If you have other ways you use them in your room, leave them in the comments below.  I know there are a bunch of great ideas out there, these are just a few ways I use them on a daily basis.

Also be sure to follow Scentos on Facebook and Instagram, they do lots of giveaways and share some great ideas of how to use all of their products.

Have a great weekend.

Monday, April 10, 2017

The Wonderful World of Plants in Kindergarten

It's Spring time and that means it is time to start teaching my class all about the wonderful world of plants.  I gathered the supplies I needed over the weekend; plastic cups, a large bag of soil and green bean seeds.  I'll soak the seeds overnight before we plant them.  This is an old farmers trick snd it seems to really help the seeds take off and sprout much faster.
All about the wonderful world of plants.  2 Freebies to jumpstart your unit of plants for kindergarten
Below are (affiliate links) to many of my favorite books that we will be reading.  I like to have a variety of fiction and nonfiction books available for my students to read and browse through during our plants unit.

We will also be reading the book Tops and Bottoms and sorting the vegetables using the cards from my plants pack.  Below is a picture of a sorting activity we made last year  of what plants need.
Plants vocabulary cards for anchor charts and sorting
Plants vocabulary cards for anchor charts and sorting
Well if you made it this far, you may want this little FREEBIE. If you have a nice big window you can plant seeds in sprout houses. All you need are cotton balls and small ziplock bags. Print the spout houses on construction paper. Let the kids decorate them. Soak the seeds overnight.   Wet the cotton balls, then squeeze out the excess water. Add a few seeds with two cotton ball to the bag, zip it closed. Tape the bag to the back of the sprout house. Then tape it to the window. Watch the seed sprout in the bag as the bag creates its own water cycle. You can grab your own copy here.   This is a fun activity if you want to compare how plants grow in dirt versus the bag, or if you just don't want to mess with dirt.
Free sprout house for planting seeds to watch them grow.
Lastly, here is one more Freebie for you.  Once you have planted your seeds and you have watched them grow, have your students write about the process.
 How to grow a plant FREEBIE

Happy planting!!!!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Why Teachers Need Their Teacher Tribes

Teachers, take a close look at your colleges, do they want the same things for your student as you do?  Do they share the same passions and interest for teaching as you do?  I'm sure they truly do care about their students and teaching or most of them wouldn't be doing what they do.  But, do they (really) have that underlying craving for teacher engagement like you do.? I know you do or you wouldn't be here reading this right now.
Teacher Engagement at the French Lick 2017 Blogger Meetup
There are two types of teachers;  those that teach and those that TEACH (Teachers Engaging All Children Happily).  It means they are excited to engage their students.  For those of us who TEACH, we need more from our professional developments that our district offers.  We don't need another PD day where we analyze DIBELS data or look over yet another adopted curriculum.  We need to be inspired by others who are like minded.  We need to be surrounded by other teachers who feel the same way about teaching as we do.
T.E.A.C.H Teachers Engaging All Children Happily
This is why I am willing to travel 2,500 each way across the country for the weekend each year, just to be with other educators who are just as passionate about teaching as I am.  The weekend puts me in a room filled with other teachers who aren't afraid to "Think Different" be different and teach differently all to engage the students.  

This past weekend.  I connected with educators from all over the United States and Canada, sharing ideas, swapping stories and laughing a lot.  It is important for teachers to find their tribe, if you can't find it within the walls of your school, look elsewhere, perhaps another school, online in a Facebook group or message board.  Wherever it is, know that there are others like you that feel the same passion you do for teaching.  Don't be discouraged by those who you work with, close your door and do your thing.  Do what makes you happy.  Remember, a happy teacher makes a happy class.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

So You Want to Open a TpT Store

I am often asked how hard it is to be a full time teacher, wife, mom and a TpT seller.  I'll tell you the truth, life is hard, but it isn't impossible.   Many people do it and you can too.  However it isn't just making cute little worksheets on your computer then putting them up into cyber space and waiting for the money to come rolling in.  Theres a lot more to it than that.  

So you want to open a TpT store.  Let me break it down for you.  First Lets start with the actual product creation.

Your Product Must be your Original Idea
Do not take an idea you saw o Pinterest and recreate it
Don’t alter a Freebie from another seller
There are probably things you do everyday in your classroom that
you have come up with all on your own that would be valuable to
Stay away from big names like Dr. Seuss, Pete the Cat  Elf on a
Shelf for copyright reasons. Just because others do it doesn’t
mean it is alright. Trust me it isn’t fun to get a cease and desist letter. 
Tools of The Trade
For product creation PowerPoint, Keynote, Pages, Photoshop, or illustrator can be used.  When I first started out I didn’t know better and I used MS Word.  I spent countless hours trying to nudge graphics around my page trying to line everything up.  If only someone had told me to just use PowerPoint.

There are so many fonts out there.  You’ve probably heard the jokes about not using Comic Sans.  I too used to use it in the beginning.  Hey it’s what I had. However, things have changed and now there are so many font choices and font designers.  When creating products Just make sure to follow the font designers’ TOU. If they require a license for their font in order for you to sell a product using their font.  Please buy the license.  Think of it this way.  If the font only cost you $5 you will essentially recoup the cost of the font within one sale.    Just don’t get too crazy with your font usage in a product.  You want your products to be readable by kids.  It’s one thing to have fancy fonts on the covers, but for the text that students are reading make it easy on the eyes. These are a few font designers who offer font licenses for all of their fonts.

Clipart will most likely be one of your ongoing expenses.  I have an obsession with clipart.  I have one designer that I use primarily in most of my products and then back-ups if that designer doesn’t have what I need.  For me I like my products to have a uniformity when using clipart- this is something I didn’t think about early on and it shows in my earlier products.  Just like font designers Clipart artist also have TOU for their work.  Be sure to follow and respect these as well.  Some will allow their work to be used on interactive products, smartboards, or webpages and others will not.These are just a few of my favorite Clipart artists'.

Be sure to give The artists' credit in your products.   Most sellers have a credits page stating this product was made using the following resources then it will list the fonts and clipart designers logos with links to their stores. 

·      Cover page
·      Additional contact page (should there be any issues/typos)
·      A terms of use Page
·      Credits Page
·      Advertisement of other products page

Once your product is complete you will need to flatten and secure your product.  This protects your work and the images that you used from being copied/lifted.  I use Adobe Acrobat Pro to secure all my products.  I can also use it to make products editable.  There are FREE programs out there to secure, however, I am not familiar with them.  I bought Adobe Pro my first year. It was money well spent. I bought mine on Amazon.
(Please know that clicking this link that you are clicking an affiliate link)  

Remember it Takes Money to Make Money
The TpT Store & All Of It’s Components

When you open a TpT store you want to open a Premium Seller Store.  I know $59.99 might seem like a lot of money, it did to me too when I first started out, but you make it back and in the end, it is a tax write off.  Also, you will make that money back faster because of the ratio of money that TpT keeps when you are a Premium Seller versus not being a premium seller.

Selecting a Store Name
When choosing your store name be creative, but not too creative.  You want people to remember your store name easily.  Also, don’t copy another store’s name.  For example, I’m Time 4 Kindergarten, so please don’t open a store and call it Time Four Kindergarten or Time for Kindergarten.   

What is in a TpT store?
Your Profile Picture
When selecting your profile picture, you will need an image that is round. You can choose a photo such as your blog button if you have one like I did or a photo of yourself.  However,  the photo should be of high quality, not a selfie or something that you cropped your family out of.  Remember this is the face of your store.  Look at the landing page of TpT and see what others use as their Profile Picture.  You'll quickly pick out the ones that aren't professional looking.   This is a business treat is like one.  

Personal Quote/Quote Box
This is a space that recently has become quite popular as an extra space to feature products in stores.    There are several tutorials available on how to design an animated Gif for your quote box or you can pay another TpT’er  like I did to do it for you.  Time is money.  After I spent a few hours trying to make my own, I decided I had other things I could be doing with my time, like sleep…  Thanks to Lindsey Nagorski I have exactly what I want. 

Store Banner
Your store banner is yet another way to welcome customers into your store, tell them about a new product, or just add a little pizzazz and monthly thematic flair.  To change this, you first need to go to your Dashboard> marketing> customize from there you can upload your image.  Jillian Starr offers Free Monthly Store Banners if you don’t want to make your own.  The below is not one of hers, I actually felt creative this month.
My Featured Items
This is your retail store space to feature four of your products.  Think of it as yet another store window.  Many sellers including myself often feature products that are seasonal, or a new release.  Whatever you choose you want the product covers to reflect your brand and your store.
Custom Categories
These categories are on the left side.  This is where you can create categories that fit your specific product descriptions.  Think about the types of products you create and what you will potentially create in the future.  You will be tagging your products with these categories.  Notice that I have also used icons to dress up my custom fields.  This can be achieved by using symbols or copypaste characters.  Visit  for a variety of characters to use.

My Product is Secure-It's Time to Upload to TpT
Upload your product to TpT along with 4 images of your product.  These can either be images that TpT creates from the PDF or images that you make or take of the product.  

Next if you are on Pinterest make a pin for your product and pin it.  If you have a blog, blog about it, show it being used in your classroom.  If you have a FB page for your blog, share it.  If you are on Instagram, share it there too.   The more you spread the word about your product, the more likely you are to get the word about your product out there.  However, don’t spam the web all at once.  I like to wait a few hours or even a day in between. 

I have compiled below some resources that I have found to be helpful for those who are just starting out and those who just need a refresher along the way.

Great Resources from TpT Authors on How to TpT
       How do I TpT?

Want to take your Pinterest or Blogging to the next level? Take a class online from Blog clarity

Or Maybe you are ready to try your hand at Smartphone Marketing. This online course is Amazing.  I started it last summer and Tabitha is always adding to it. The online Facebook group is so much help too.  

I hope you have found all of this to be valuable and somewhat helpful to getting your TpT store off the ground.  There are a lot of resources out there to help you get started.   The TpT community is full of wonderful teacherprenuers who are a supportive group.   We look out for each other and will come together when needed.  I have made many friendships all because of TpT.

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