Monthly Archives: June 2013

Just Five More Minutes!


Mentally – I just had to drag myself kicking and screaming out of Barnes and Noble. I mean, full on terrible two’s tantrum of not wanting to go, please-don’t-make-me-leave-the-train-table fit pitching (this was a common occurrence when I worked at B&N for four years).

I love books.  If you have read even one of my blogs, I think you know that right away.  imagesa-reader-lives-a-thousand-livesMy love for books and reading should come across everyday in my classroom – well at least I hope it does.

Today, I went in to Barnes and Noble to distract myself from other things.  I love browsing the picture books and making my wish lists.  I look for books I needed this year but didn’t have, books I knew I wanted to check out, and books I had no idea I even wanted.

These are some of the gems I found today (titles linked to B&N website):

by Daniel J. Mahoney, Illustrations by Jef Kaminsky
We teach a monster unit every year, so I was automatically drawn to this book by the cover alone.  When I started to read, I wasn’t disappointed.  Patrick is very worried about not being scary enough for the first day of Monstergarten.  His friend, Kevin, offers to help him polish his scare tactics.  This book would be a great read aloud, component of my monster unit, or mentor text for compare/contrast using Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems.

20130630-180849.jpgDinosaurs Love Underpants
by Claire Freedman and Ben Cort
We also teach a dinosaur unit.  I like to break up the nonfiction with some fun fiction read alouds.  Right away, I knew from the title that my kindergarteners will love this book.  What kid doesn’t giggle uncontrollably when you talk about underwear? According to this adorable book, underwear were invented because the cavemen were tired of running around naked and dinosaurs are now extinct because of an underpants war.  The illustrations are colorful, dinosaurs scientifically correct, and text is humorous.  It is going to be a great addition to my dinosaur collection!

20130630-180906.jpgThe Day the Crayons Quit
by Drew Daywalt, Illustrated by Oliver Jeffers
I am very particular about crayons.  Apparently, crayons can be particular too.  Duncan’s crayons leave him their “walking papers” one day to air their grievances and he must figure out a way to make them happy and get them back to making his world colorful again.  I found the illustrations to be charming and the use of letter writing appealing.  This would make a great mentor text for point of view, letter writing, and persuasive texts.  I’m thinking it could also go well with The Crayon Box that Talked by Shane Derolf.  Keep your crayons happy and equally loved!

20130630-180856.jpgIsabella, Star of the Story
by Jennifer Fosberry, Illustrated by Mike Litwin
By far – my favorite find of the day.  My attention was grabbed by the cover alone and next came my heart within the first few pages.  Isabella’s parents are taking her to the library.  As she goes running in to the library her father says “Isabella, slow down”. She responds with, “My name is not Isabella.  I am Peter Pan”.  And I became a fan, right there on page 3.  Isabella searches for the right book and morphs from one classic character to the next.  This book is a great mentor text when talking about imagination and how we use other stories to help us write our own.  It could easily be paired with Not a Box or Not a Stick by Antoinette Portis. Next best thing about this book – it is the third book all featuring Isabella.  I may have found a new favorite author!

So… If you do not have an educator card with Barnes and Noble, please get one.  You will receive 20% off in store and online.


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Filed under Literacy, Mentor Text, Uncategorized, Writing Workshop

Tutor time


Last week I talked about building brain muscles during summer vacation. My post today (and others to follow) will hopefully give you some ideas to max those brain muscles out!

I love tutoring – I really and truly do. It fills the void that I tend to feel about 2 weeks in to summer “break”. I start missing my students and the things they say. I start missing the rewarding feelings of watching a student try his or her hardest and succeed. And – it also helps me know that students who need to maintain their school year gains are. 🙂

Tutoring is an opportunity for me to try out some ideas that I’ve been looking at and to see how it goes. I’m always looking for new ways to reach emergent readers. My Pinterest boards are even separated into Classroom Antics and Tutor Time.




When working with students who are emergent readers, it is important to teach the same concept in as many different ways as possible. Some students may come from low income homes – which can drastically affect vocabulary acquisition and comprehension. For example, in a low income home, by the age of three a child may have heard 10 million words. This is in comparison to a child of the same age from a middle class home which has heard over 30 million words. Karen Tankersley included in her book on literacy strategies: Juel (1988) reports that by the end of 1st grade, students proficient at reading will have seen an average of 18,681 words of running text, whereas those who are struggling will have only seen 9,975. It is no wonder that, given half as much practice as their more proficient peers, struggling readers lost ground in decoding, automaticity, fluency, and vocabulary growth.

Struggling readers need to feel motivated and find themselves successful. Choice is also important. There are many other statistics and research I can offer on this topic, but I will resist the soapbox for now.

This summer, I am tutoring a child I just finished teaching in kindergarten. We have a good time and I try to make the hour long sessions as fun as possible. But we work – HARD! I am incorporating ideas from Pinterest, research, and the far reaches of my brain. I’m also using lessons from Fountas and Pinnell.


She made such great progress this year. Her parents are incredibly supportive and understand the importance of not losing all those gains.

I give her as much choice as possible during the session. She chooses from the activities I have in mind and sets the order we do them. Some she is familiar with (apps on the iPad) and others are new to her.

After going back over her sight words lists from the end of the year, we created new cards for her to practice. I drew the words in block letters. She colored them and then stamped the word on the other side, spelling as she went. We then reviewed the words and she took them home. We go through these cards each day. When she recognizes a word 5 times in a row, she gets to put it on the hot pink binder ring she chose.

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We use those same words to play sight word hopscotch.


We use word family cards to come up with rhyming words. These are great sets I got from a teacher supply store.

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Also – we read A LOT! I have great sight word readers I printed from Hubbard’s Cupboard.


We use these to go on sight word hunts and for reading. She takes two home each day to read and practice. The following day, we search for sight words and highlight them in the text. Then she reads them to me again.

During the one hour long sessions, we may do anywhere from 5-8 different activities. She is always eager to find out what is next. At some points she needs to move on from one activity to another to prevent her from getting too frustrated. I am able to see what coping mechanisms her young brain has already developed – and decide which are good strategies to keep, which are bad habits to break. We mostly work on phonics and reading, but we throw some math in there as well. Remember, literacy extends into all subject areas.

More ideas to come!


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Building brain muscles


As teachers, we look forward to summer to take some time and try to relax, take a break from the rigid schedules, spend time with family, get paid for “doing nothing” (that’s our favorite, right?)…

But I also know, as teachers, ideas for the coming year start flowing whether we want them to or not.  I am always planning, somewhere in the deep crevices of my brain, even when I’m trying to focus on doing nothing.

The nurturing side of us wants our students to have an enjoyable summer and spend time with their families. But – we know that they should continue with something academic during their vacation.  With my experience in various grade levels, I have seen the power of summer.  Summer can be a glorious time for students to develop in their maturity and “catch up” on some things they struggled with over the school year.  Summer can also be an academic villain – causing backsliding, even in above average students.  Don’t get me wrong – summer is an awesome thing.  Our babies need that time to recoup from the rigors of the school year.  I’m not suggesting that parents need to enroll in summer school today. No, not at all, I’m just merely suggesting that our students continue with practicing what they learned this past school year.  And – READ! Read, read, read!

Our brains are like muscles – and muscles need exercise.  I can look in the mirror and tell you what happens to my body when I don’t exercise.  I can feel it in my muscles after that first run in a while.  And yes – I believe you can feel it in your brain too.  During school, we use our brains in a much different way than we do in other aspects of our life.  By exercising it over the summer, we keep it in proper shape – maintaining what we already know and easing the transition back into school in the fall.


Reading is such a great exercise for the youngest of minds.  While reading, they are able to practice decoding and comprehension skills. They build their creativity and imagination by being transported into other worlds with fictional characters.  They can answer their own barrage of “WHY?” by diving in to nonfictional texts.  All of these things happen while being read to as well.  So, while on summer break, parents consider the following:

1) Play those road trip games!  Many incorporate reading and math in the same game!

2) Check out local story hours.  Barnes and Noble offers storytimes weekly (sometimes biweekly) and never forget your local library! Story times are listed on the website.

3) Incorporate online stories (not a free site, but many schools have subscriptions) (read online and do a good deed all at the same time)

4) Encourage creative play inside and outside

5) Participate in fun activities together

6) Visit one of my personal favorites –

7) And of course – READ!


*Stay tuned for suggestions on working with struggling readers during the summer months*

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End with a BOOK!


I’ve had this post in my brain for two weeks now.  It has been trapped there – dying to get out!  But as we all know, the end of the school year can be crazy.  If you factor in moving and a 4 day road trip – well then it’s just out right chaos in my brain.

My school year came to a delightful close and we all enjoyed our fun those last few days.  I was blessed to have amazing parents help me power through and get all the end of year “housekeeping” tasks completed.  As far as teaching went, I used those days to do one of my favorite things – read aloud. I read aloud MULTIPLE times each day.

Even as adults, we can find pleasure in hearing someone read out loud to us.  It can be calming, nostalgic, or entertaining.  I use picture books throughout my teaching – everyday.  When teaching older students, I still read aloud, daily.  Whether you use read alouds as activating strategies, summarizing strategies, tickets out the door, time fillers, brain breaks, or discussion starters – you are incorporating something great into your classroom.  The benefits are endless:  increasing vocabulary, modeling fluency, increasing comprehension, modeling think alouds and other reading strategies… I could go on and on.

Here are some of my favorites – and some we read our last days of school!













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