Category Archives: ELA

Reading Is Fundamental

Not sure how it happened that my baby girl is to be reading, but she’s 5 1/2 and so very smart and has the desire to learn which is so vital to success. She LOVES our one-on-one time together with our Phonics book and honing in on those skills with some resources I’ve made for her to use and interact with in a way that fosters a love of learning! I will share about those resources as well as some other learning tools we use in our kindergarten reading adventures. I chose the title for this post, because I do believe with all of my heart that if we as teachers nurture the love of learning through developing good readers they sky truly is the limit! If you can read, you can learn anything really!

While I don’t employ the use of screens for very long periods of time, we do use screens everyday in our classroom. It is where we find ourselves today as a society, and if I’m being completely honest and why not … I need to use the screens to keep the proverbial wheels of progress turning with six students grades 11 down to kindergarten.


Li’l Bit loves to watch these videos from time to time. Now they are for review purposes only as she has a solid grasp of letter sounds for both the consonants and vowels. I highly recommend this little series because the videos are 30 minutes or less in length and they are engaging without adding unnecessary fluff to them. I purchased ours with a groupon code about a year ago, and they are well worth the $35 I paid for the entire set. Continue reading


Book Talk Tuesday: Integrating Art with Elmer and A Million Dots

My three younger students love to create works of art. Every week I try to think of ways (thank you Pinterest!) to combine art with planned lessons. Quite often, this is done by extending a book to add in an artful element of learning.

This past week, this was quite effortless. I love it when a good idea actually comes together! I know all teachers everywhere can totally relate. Holla!


I had been trying to snag A Million Dots from our local library for quite awhile. Last Wednesday, we finally found it available. I read it to them on Friday.

This book is so fun, because as you read through it you actually see a total of 1,000,000 dots! Each page shares a 6-digit number and an interesting fact. As we read the book my 3rd graders took turns reading the 6-digit numbers. They also read a page here and there, but this was my read-aloud to them that morning so mostly they listened while I read.



They loved it when I told them they could choose ANY 6-digit number, a favorite subject, AND we would do some research to write a fact about the number and subject matter. Continue reading


How Do You Spell …

… should be a banned phrase.

OK, in all seriousness, it shouldn’t. However, hearing this phrase 100+ times a week can in fact make one contemplate whether or not writing is in fact a necessary part of the school day.

Of course, writing isn’t optional, so what to do?


Well you could spell the words for your students 1,589 times a week or you can encourage them in creative ways to become more confident in their abilities to decode and decipher. I’m choosing option B more often than not these days. Below I’ll outline 5 ways to achieve spelling independence, and I will share in this widget some tools and books we use in our spelling lessons.

5 Ways to Achieve Spelling Independence


1. Use a spelling program.


That seems obvious enough doesn’t it? I have tried. Believe me, I’ve tried. I can’t even say that one hasn’t worked, because if I’m being completely honest I just haven’t stuck with it. I don’t even remotely like spelling lessons. I guess part of the blame lies in the fact that spelling comes very naturally for me, and I suppose in a way I just think (and secretly wish) it was that way for everyone. But it isn’t.


So we’re using The Logic Of English Essentials Teacher Guide and Student Cursive Workbook along with the Phonogram Cards and Gamebook. My 3rd graders love the games of course, and the lessons aren’t so bad. I have one natural speller and one who spells completely phonetically, which just doesn’t work for most English words beyond CVC words.




I am using this resource with both students for now, but there may come a time as the year progresses where I will need to spend some one-on-one time with them on spelling. When and how, I’m not sure yet, but we’ll make it work! Continue reading


Why Can’t I Multiply Myself: Meeting Needs of Learners of Multiple Ages and Abilities

Over the last five years, I’ve had students as young as 4 and students as old as 16. In fact, this year, I again have a 4-year-old in my class and for the first time ever I have a 16-year-old in my class. In all honesty, I don’t call the place where I teach a classroom. Instead, I refer to it as our library.


When I think of what I hope to happen over the course of our days of learning, I think of scenes from a well-functioning library: students of many ages and abilities coming to a central location to learn at their own pace and from resources created for their unique levels and interests.

I will share four ways I have implemented a successful learning environment for students from preschool to high school.


1. Since I can’t multiply myself, I make myself available at specific times for specific students.


Many teachers do this everyday. You are most likely meeting with small groups or individual students over the course of a typical school day.


Each morning, I begin with my most needy student, who happens to be the youngest in my class at age 4. When I spend one-on-one time with her first, the rest of the day is always smoother and more productive. This time always includes reading a few books together, some of my choosing and some of hers, and on Mondays we also begin a new letter focus for our week.



After our focused time together, I encourage her to peruse independent activities from her workboxes. I won’t lie. She has been my most difficult student to embrace independent learning, but with time and patience she is learning this time can be rewarding and fun.

At the same time I am working with my little Pre-Kindergartner, my oldest, who is in 10th grade, is busy working on the laptop, which is shared between my four students. Also during this time, my two 3rd graders are working independently on reading to themselves, listening to an audio recording of a book they are reading along in, and/or grabbing one of their own workboxes from their ELA or Math shelves.


After my time with the PreKer, I move into group time with my 3rd graders, which could be a math lesson, a spelling lesson, a writing workshop, science or history lesson, or a combination of a few of the above. Since we homeschool, we definitely don’t do a group lesson on each subject every day, but we do spend time on each subject every week for a targeted time of learning new content. On this particular day below during a Math Group lesson on multiplication, we were working on a wonderful Multiplication Array activity shared by Elementary AMC.


I have found posting a daily schedule for all to see not only helps my students to not say constantly, “Will you help me with this?” It also helps ME to stay on task and be present and available when I have said I would be.


2. About those workboxes, they are necessary, needs-based, functional, and fulfilling.



My 10th grader has obviously moved beyond the workbox, so I’ll leave him out of this topic. I have used and continue to use workboxes with my elementary students as well as my preschool student. I don’t have a huge budget, which I’m sure is the case for 99.99999% of teachers everywhere. I needed a way to have a work surface and workbox storage for my then 2nd graders. I turned to Pinterest of course. I used Cubeicals from Tar-Get and a table top purchased from a secondhand store to make a large work surface with space for 18 Cubes underneath. The green bin on each side is mine, and I use it to store things for the following week.

For my preschooler, I repurposed an old shoe cabinet (cleaned up of course) and some cloth bins that used to be in my closet!



My 3rd graders have two sets of workboxes: one for ELA and the other for Math. They also have color-coded boxes, so they know where to go for their things and where to return those things. Often, they have similar or the same items but not always. In this way, I can differentiate as needed when I place new items in their workboxes before the start of each week.


 I use two resources available for FREE on TpT to help them move through their boxes each day: Math Rotation labels and Daily ELA labels. I printed both 3 to a page to fit my space and I use painted clothespins, which correspond to each student by color, for managing the available choices each day.

3. Use common resources with specific additions that meet individual learning goals.


You may be scratching your head here. Let me give three examples. I have these photo blocks that I purchased along with a membership to access cards to fit them. The cards range from preschool level to upper elementary, so on any given week I can pull out these blocks to include in our workboxes. Then I just add cards accordingly for my preschooler and my 3rd graders.

In the photo below, my Pre-Kindergartner is working on one-to-one correspondence.


 My 3rd graders were working on adding three or more two-digit numbers. If you need an active math center, this might be a good option! The blocks are active but they are QUIET. Each of these activities were included in their work boxes and were clipped with Math Games on our Math Rotations board.


 I created this game for my preschooler to work on number recognition and counting, however when trying to work with multiple students of different ages and abilities I have found simple games such as this can absolutely be used with a bit of differentiation among players.


While my Pre-Kindergartener was just naming her numbers and finding that same number on the board to which to move, my 3rd grades were working on multiplication facts! They would draw two cards while she drew just one. She named her number and found that space. They found the product of their two cards and chose one of the numbers to move to on the board. It made learning fun and achievable with these multi-age learners.



Finally, I made Math Manipulative boxes for our students this summer. While each box contains the same “ingredients” if you will, my students can use them at their own ability levels and as tools during their independent learning times.



If you’d like more specific information about these boxes, you can read about them HERE.


4. Using assistance is key to our success in this unique learning environment.

I will share just two of a few ways I use assistance in our learning adventures: technology and a tutorial. For those in a more traditional classroom, you may be wondering what is a tutorial and what does it have to do with classroom needs. A tutorial is a one-day-a-week (or sometimes two days) program where I drop off our students for a full day of rotating classes with same-age peers and tutors who guide the students in that particular subject. At tutorial, our students are exposed to various teaching styles, to a more traditional classroom environment, and lastly they are accountable to someone other than me.

While classroom teachers aren’t using a tutorial, you may very well be in a setting where you rotate and teach certain subjects. I like having someone to assist me in this teaching adventure, and I hope you have a team approach in your classrooms as well!


As far as technology, we use the computer and my iPad along with several websites, particularly the following:

• Tumblebooks (this is free to us as we have a library code; perhaps your school or local library has one as well)

I love that my students can follow along as each book is read. I also love that this site works beautifully on a tablet device! Each book has the appropriate reading level already assigned and they are divided into story books, language learning, chapter books, fiction, and non-fiction.

• IXL Math (and Language Arts)

We use this exclusively for math review and practice. I love that it features individual student accounts and that at any time I can view and/or print a report for each student’s progress. While it is divided by grades, students are allowed to use any grade level or multiple grade levels, which makes differentiation a breeze. Also, the CCSS are included and state standards as well for those who need this information for reporting purposes.

This site isn’t free, but there are no ads and they do offer discounts through various ways such as school licenses and through sites specific to homeschooling like Homeschool Buyer’s Co-op.

Reflex Math

Again, a paid site but to me it is worth the cost for the absence of ads and the reports it generates in addition to its intuitiveness. Each student works on fact families at their own pace in addition, subtraction, multiplication and/or division.

Both IXL and Reflext Math have a built-in rewards system, which can be extra motivation for reluctant learners or those with a competitive spirit!

In addition to these sites, we use the computer for keyboarding practice and writing through typing. Even my youngest learner can find her way around the iPad. One other tip I’ll add: each of my students has their own set of headphones that are comfy and make it possible for them to use these devices anywhere in our library without disturbing students around them. I also set up a blog where my students can access free choice websites during independent tech time. You can find it here.

One last piece of advice: don’t underestimate the resources available for FREE from your local library! If you have a listening center in your classroom, you may be missing out if you aren’t checking out the wide range of audiobooks available at your local library. These work well on tablets and/or your desktop computers, and your students will be polishing up those reading skills if you also pair them with the actual book for them to follow along!


While you are working one-one-one with a student or small group of students, other students can be working independently on a device or computer with many options for ELA or math or a combination of both!

I hope you have found some helpful information in this article that perhaps you can use in your own classroom among your students. With just a bit of creativity and stretching, we can teach children of different abilities in one room, and in the process our students learn that all of us have something to offer and we can all learn from one another!


Book Talk Tuesday: Separate Read-Alouds

Normally, I choose one read-aloud to read to our two 3rd graders, Li’l Bro, 9, and Li’l Miss, 8. After reading The Trumpet of the Swan and The Wind in the Willows aloud this summer with our rising third graders, I decided to change it up and choose two different books to read with them aloud and individually.


For two reasons: one, these books have been on my short list a long time but they never seem to make it to the top and two, while reading aloud to them I can also have them read-aloud to me for assessments and building their reading fluency. I always have my notebook in hand to take notes as they read. I’ve also begun to time them though they don’t know it, and I’m so pleased with their progress!


They are loving this new set-up and I am loving it too. Sometimes a certain Li’l Bit, 4 and in PreK, listens in while I read with Li’l Miss, but more often than not I’ve already read with her and she is {somewhat} happily working on something independent from one of her busy bins. Continue reading


CVC Word Work Freebie

I have a brand-new resource I made for Li’l Bit to work with her magnetic letters, and I’d love to share it with my readers!


Just CLICK HERE to go to dropbox where you can download your own copy FOR FREE! If you’d like to share, PLEASE, PRETTY PLEASE, link your friends back to this page on my blog. Let me know what you think! I will be working on some more magnetic letter resources soon.

If you like this freebie, you might also like Magnetic Letters Print and Go: Vowel Blends.



Pattern Blocks and ABCs

We’ve had our fair share of summer schooling, and we’ve had our fair share of summer lovin’ fun! The two phrases don’t seem to be synonymous with some of my students!


I love to find ideas on Pinterest. The key is to actually implement or at least try out those ideas. The two I’ll share more about below actually worked and are some I’ll keep in my bagbin of tricks for my official PreK sweetie. Continue reading


Now I Know My ABCs: Blog Product Swap


My Li’l Bit, who is 4, is very interested in the ABCs, and more importantly, she understands completely now that each letter makes certain sounds and that those letters make words! She was so excited today to try out a new ABC Letter Sound activity! She was able to try this fun resource out thanks to Green Apple Lessons, who sent it our way! Julie and I along with other awesome TpT sellers participated in a Blog Hop hosted by Cara’s Creative Classroom!

This resource kept my incoming PreK student very engaged and she asked me with a smile on her face, “Do I get to keep this, Mommy?” I assured her she could!


It was so beautiful in our neck of the woods today that we decided to test it out on the back porch! Li’l Miss decided to first put out the letter cards in alphabetical order. Her 8-year-old sister suggested this, and Li’l Bit thought it was a great idea! With Li’l Miss’s help, Li’l Bit soon had all of the letter cards lined up in ABC order.


I made sure the picture cards were in random order. The very first card she picked up was a zipper for Z, and Li’l Bit said, “Oh, zip … that’s a Z sound!” She was off to a great start! She loved figuring out which letter each picture card belonged to as she pulled card after card. Each letter card has a corresponding picture card.

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Since we were outside on the steps, which she chose as her learning space, she was was able to work on gross motor skills too! She just knew she could get the umbrella under the letter U card by twisting around, and she did!

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After she was all finished, she broke into an impromptu rendition of the ABC song! She asked me one more time, “You are going to put this in my ABC center box, right, Mommy?” I said I was and she was a very happy and proud 4-year-old girl!

photo 3This ABC activity would make a great activity for early finishers, center time, small groups, or even in a speech therapy setting. The possibilities for using these cards are endless! Please check out this ABC Letter and Sound activity and many other early and elementary education learning resources at Green Apple Lessons TpT store!

Be sure to continue reading the other blogs linked below for more practical, kid-tested, and high-quality products from some stellar stores at Teachers Pay Teachers.


Book Talk Linky {The Wind in the Willows}

My eyeballs are not cooperating, but I’m going to attempt to keep them open to finish up this post! The littles and I finished reading about Louis and his lovely life in The Trumpet of the Swan, so it was time to choose a new read-aloud. I decided to try reading one we attempted before. They are older now and they also saw the play for this at a specialty Children’s Theater. We’ve read just two chapters, but they ask us to keep reading when it is time to stop, which is always a positive sign!

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I really like this little version we found at the nearby Dollar store. It has wonderful black-and-white illustrations and the type is larger for little eyes to focus!

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I think we’ll finish this in about 2 weeks, but as always I will read as time allows. I do highly recommend a live play of this book if you ever have opportunity. I’m linking up with Mrs. Jump’s Class this week.




Current Reads {Book Talk Linky}

Starting to public school for our middle schoolers has led to required summer reading, which we have always done and they don’t mind, but of course I wanted them reading the specific books assigned by the school. I can’t remember the last time I read a book in one day. Possibly a decade or more ago?


One of my 10 Things to Do This Summer includes reading more books. While I’m still working on Uncovering the Logic of English (it isn’t a book you can read in a day and survive doing it), I have finished another book: The Outsiders. And yes, I read it in one day. Or rather I read 170 pages of the 180 pages in our used copy in one day.

Raise your hand if you read this as a middle school student yourself. I’m guessing a vast majority of my readers just raised your hand. OK, seriously, you probably didn’t, but I’m sure a lot of you have read it back in the day.

I admit to thinking, This book is going to be a yawn. Boy was I ever wrong! I couldn’t put the book down. By the way, S.E. Hinton is not a man like I thought. Maybe you did too. She was a tomboy growing up by her own admission and had many male friends growing up, but truly, she is a gifted storyteller. Just. Wow.

Larry and I have had quite a few discussions about the book. A warning for other adoptive families: the main character in the novel and his two older brothers are orphans. Their parents died in a car wreck, which is quickly told in first person by the main character. I wondered how Larry processed this, but that part … he isn’t willing to discuss. That is OK. I always throw it out there. He knows the Prez and I are willing to listen anytime regarding his own abandonment and losses. He talks about it when he wants.

But back to the book, I highly recommend it. Read it with your teen. Discuss. Engage. It is that good. Seriously. Read it. In a day. Or longer if you can actually put it down. I found it nearly impossible to put down.

I want to interject a tip to my readers who love to save money at this point in my post. If you don’t mind used copies of books, I **HIGHLY** recommend Abe Books. I use them ALL.THE.TIME and have ALWAYS been highly satisfied with the customer service and the high-quality books we receive. They have paperback and hardback copies, many of which are former library books complete with library binding. I rarely pay more than $7 for a HB and never more than $4 for a paper copy of “very good” rating, which usually means slightly used or like new. This isn’t an affiliate link; I just love books and love this source for very affordable books and wanted to share!

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This post has a bonus. Did I mention that previously? I don’t think so, but yeah, in trying to read more books and honestly connect with the aforementioned middle schoolers, who will be going into 8th grade and 6th grade, I am also reading …  gulp … The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.

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Oh. my. goodness. This one is WAY OVER my head. It has maps, pages and pages of maps. That I don’t understand. Yet.

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But I am reading on and enjoying the wide smile evident on my almost 12-year-old’s face when he asks, Did you read another page or two?

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And he isn’t exaggerating. Because, folks, I can sometimes read only a page or two. If you don’t understand hobbits, you’re in good company. At present, after finishing the first chapter of Book 1 of the first book (yes the book has two books within it; don’t ask me), I know that Frodo and Bilbo are related and Bilbo has disappeared. Oh and that Gandalf the Wizard cannot be trusted is actually a good guy. I DO get that much. I am currently in chapter 4 of the first book within the first book of the trilogy or epic as Mo puts it.

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Since initially drafting this post, I read more today. I actually am liking it more and more. I am on page 80 of 458 pages currently. I think I can definitely finish this one. As for reading two more in the series epic, I’m not sure my mind can encompass that! If it brings a smile to Mo’s face though … I think I can, I think I can (as she bows to all middle school teachers out there who actually work with kids everyday who love this stuff and love that so many teachers bring classics such as these to the classroom!).

One final note: no doubt about it that S.E. Hinton is a master at crafting with words and J. R. R. Tolkien was a master storyteller of epic proportions.


Linking up with Mrs. Jump. Please do share there or here. What are you reading currently? And why?