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


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.


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?


The Trumpet of the Swan: Book Talk Linky

Joining up with Deanna again a couple of days late to talk about our current read-aloud: The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White, who also wrote Charlotte’s Web, which we read last year and my middle littles read on their own now.


I have to admit I don’t think I’ve ever read The Trumpet of the Swan before, though I assigned it to Mo a couple of years ago. He loved it and has been known to read it as of late (though he might not admit it publicly). It is a great book, especially for learning how we can have differences and yet are still worthwhile and as worthy of love as the next person (or swan in this case).

Louis the Swan was born with no voice. The book never really explores the why behind this, other than his father and mother having a couple of exchanges about him being “deaf and mute” (which he later proves he isn’t) and calling him “defective.”

I was taken aback at first until I thought through the time the book was written, 1970, and how every decade has led to more understanding and also more appropriate terminology regarding birth defects. Since all three of my littles were born with birth defects, some on the inside with their hearts/ears and some on the outside with skin tags and cleft lip and palate, this book has proven to be a great discussion starter.


We’ve talked about how Louis felt when he realized he couldn’t “talk” or trumpet like the other swans, especially his brothers and sisters born the same time as him. We’ve also talked about how the words used in the book didn’t sound so nice and we’re glad people aren’t called “defective” anymore.

I highly recommend this book for a read-aloud in any class IF the teacher is able to explore the discussions suggested above as well as use it to spark thoughts on how best to treat others with perceived and obvious differences, which in reality should be just like everyone else as much as possible!


If you have reluctant listeners or if you just want to add some more learning and creativity to your read-aloud time, encourage your children to grab a blank sketch pad and colored pencils/markers/crayons and work away while you read! Li’l Miss worked on her picture (above) through several days or reading about Louis. If you have access to a real trumpet, it adds some great fun to the book as well! I still have mine from marching band days YEARS ago and my littles love to toot on that horn! In the book, Louis’ father buys him a trumpet which helps him find his voice! I want say more so as not to spoil the book, but Louis also goes to school and learns to read and write!

Louis is very inspiring and quite a funny swan too! He goes on many travels, and we are not quite finished with the book, so I guess I should have waited to share, but Mo filled me in on the ending and it will not disappoint! We are about 4 chapters from the end, and my three littles—ages 9, 8 and 4—are still enthralled and want to read a chapter each morning and night!

I’m linking up with Mrs. Jumps Class for Book Talk Tuesday (on Thursday LOL)!



Homeschooling High School {10th Grade 2014-2015}


Our oldest, AKA Curly on the blog, will be in 10th grade this year. Where has the time gone?

Time marches on as they say, and he will be in his second year of high school this year. He will continue his education at home. This post is not about why, but he manages his time wisely, studies hard, is respectful of me as his teacher, and puts forth 100% effort in his school work 95% of the time.


This next year is going to be very challenging without a doubt as far as pure academics. He is going to have a heavier load than last year, and he will be working on his Eagle Project before the school year is over.

Below is a list of his classes:

  • Advanced Chemistry in Creation* (aka Chemistry 2)
  • Prentice Hall Algebra  **Per Jonah’s request, we switched to Geometry instead. More about that below.
  • Logic and Debate: Art of the Argument (1 semester)*
  • Music, Movies and Mozart (1 semester)*
  • American Lit and Advanced Communications*
  • Mandarin Chinese ***I loathe Rosetta Stone now, but I’ve invested so much. Trying again this year as Jonah will have a lighter load and we will try it with a newer computer.
  • AP US History
  • Physical Fitness: Flyfishing, Pursuing Eagle Scout*Taken at our local Tutorial with a teacher and other students

Continue reading