Saturday, November 14, 2015


Hi!  I am so excited to tell you about this Swap Meet.  Heidi Martin of Droppin' Knowledge and I chose a product to trade and review. 
I chose Heidi's Speed Read (All Year Long!) because I have a bunch of young learners who need active, fun ways to learn their sight words.
 My class LOVES this product.  When I tell them we're going to do it, they cheer.  The best part is, they are learning their sight words.  I even sent copies home for students to play at home.  One of my little boys has learned 20 additional sight words since we've begun!  That's amazing.
There are 18 levels to this product for students to work their way through.  They get progressively more difficult so it is easy to use. 
Students can play with a partner, or by themselves.

Students roll the dice and then read all the words in that column as fluently as they can.
If students correctly read a column and are playing with a partner, I allow them to give themselves a point at the bottom of the column.

Students use two different colors to keep track of their points.

I love how quickly students can move up levels!

 This is such a fun, effective product and a great way for your little learners to read sight words!
Now, go and check out the rest of the hop!  Keep track of the letters on every other blog to spell out the secret word.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Trick or Treat Blog Hop

Happy October!  To celebrate this beautiful month, I am taking part in a Trick or Treat Blog Hop.  On this blog hop, you will gather tricks to help you survive this time of year as well as giveaways and freebies!  What could be better?

My trick of the trade for this time of year is to keep your schedule as close to normal as possible.  This will keep behaviors to a minimum.  There are a ton of fun activities to do but I highly recommend doing them at the end of the day or on a Friday.  We began Fall Break today, so I saved all the fun for Friday. 


 I decided to offer all of you lovely bloggers a freebie and a giveaway!

Here is my freebie:

This product Close Your Eyes and Visualize is what I am giving away.  Click the Rafflecopter link to enter to win this amazing product!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

To celebrate this fun blog hop everything in my store is on sale today and tomorrow.
Now click on the button below to continue on this fun blog hop!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Tips for Successful Parent Teacher Conferences

It is that time of year again!  Some of us love conference week while others of us dread it.  Either way, it is stressful.
We put in more hours during parent teacher conferences and need to be prepared.
I will share some of my tips for a successful conference week.

#1.  Use Sign up Genius to schedule conferences.  This is such an easy way to schedule conferences.  Make your schedule and send the link to your class.  Parents can sign up for a time that works for them.  You can make it so parents can swap times, too.  The site even send them reminders!  The best part is, it is FREE!

When making your schedule, think about what you need.  If you have a late night of conferences, you may want to give yourself a break.  That way you can freshen up and get a bite to eat and go to the bathroom.  I know I cannot go 4 hours without a break!
#2.  Be prepared!
Start gathering data and work samples several weeks before conferences for parents to look at.
When I first began my career I would wait for the last minute.  And then the student got sick... and I'd have to scramble to gather data.  Luckily I learned my lesson quickly and continually gather data and work samples now. 
I give the DRA2 and assess sight words.  I also use these:
I keep track of reading success via running records using this product:

In addition, I photocopy major assessments and send them home so parents know how their student performed.  If a student did not perform well on an assessment, I contact parents and we come up with a plan to intervene immediately.

#3  Think about seating for the conference.  I like to sit next to my parents.  We are a partnership working for the success of their child. Sitting higher than parents or across from them changes the mood of the conference. Also, consider spots in your classroom that would make for a comfortable conference.

#4  Don't surprise parents!  Anything you discuss should not be a surprise.  Parents want to help their children.  They will be upset if you tell them their child is struggling and they could have been helping them.  Don't assume parents realize how their child is performing.

#5 If you are going to have a difficult conference, get help!  Talk with your colleagues beforehand and consider having support.  Perhaps an intervention teacher or administrator can attend as well.
Make a plan for the conference and stick to it!  You may want to share the agenda for the conference with parents prior to the conference, too.

#6  Be positive!  Even if a student is struggling you can still be positive by having a plan to intervene.  When you know your students well, it is so easy to be positive!

#7 It is okay to not have all of the answers.  People are unique individuals and we should not expect to have all of the answers.  Sometimes it takes trial and error to help a student be successful.  And that is okay.  Give yourself permission to not know everything!

#8 Stick to your schedule.  Everyone's time is valuable and we need to honor that by sticking to the schedule.  If someone comes late, you may want to reschedule the conference so you don't leave parents waiting.  I think it's better to reschedule than to have someone annoyed that you did not honor their time.

#9 Be well rested.  I know this sounds like a no-brainer but it's true!  We need to have clear minds when conferring.  It is hard to think straight when we are lacking proper rest.  I get cranky when I am tired and that is no way to be during conferences.  Do your best to get your z-z-z-z's!

Well, I hope you enjoyed reading this and got some ideas for a great conference week!  Please let me know what other tips you have!  I am always looking for ways to have a stress-free conference week!!  When you comment below with your tip for conference week, please leave your email so I can send you one of my assessment tools for FREE!  Just let me know which one you want from the items listed in #2.

Friday, September 18, 2015

What I Learned From Kristine Mraz


This week I had the opportunity to attend a conference with Kristine Mraz.  She is the smart and hilarious author of the books Smarter Charts and A Mindset for Learning.  She is also on the web at Chartchums and Kinder Confidential.  Listening to her speak, it is 100% apparent Kristi is passionate about teaching and her students.  She has so much to say {and I happen to agree with her} and I'd highly recommend that if you have an opportunity to attend one of her presentations, GO!

She covered SO much {and had me engaged all day, which is a hard feat for ADD me}.  Here are some of my take-aways that I wanted to share.

Build a Mindset for Learning

The conditions for learning anything:

adapted from Brian Cambourne

1.Engagement – You want to participate in everything that is happening

2.Immersion – Whatever you want to learn you surround yourself in it

3.Approximation- One of the most important conditions.  The more you do it you get better.  You have to accept your not-so-great first try

4.Practice – ideally, daily.  The more you practice, the better you get

5.Demonstration-Seeing someone more skilled than you, do it, talking you through it.

6.Expectations – To learn anything, you have to expect that you will be able to. Self-fulfilling prophecy

7.Responsibility – In order to do something, you have to be really responsible. You become responsible by having responsibility, not by hearing about it.

8.Response – Feedback. Specific response moves us forward.  It doesn’t have to be from teachers, it can be from peers.  Reflection is part of it.  Time to reflect makes you 20% more successful.

Build Community Over Compliance

Joyful classrooms have a community.  Classroom management – work for the betterment of people around you.
*Co-construct the community expectations through conversation
*Teach self-regulation strategies..
*Facilitate ownership of materials-they are all of our materials so let’s take good care of it.
*Make room for mistakes. Face mistakes, learn from them, move on.  “If you knew better, you would do better.”
*Have reasonable expectations.

So throw away your behavior charts!! They are a public display.  Would you publically display grades or reading levels of your students?

Remember their age.  Teaching is so much easier when you realize they are 5 or 6 years old.


Structured Time vs. Unstructured Time

Finland Model – work for 45, rest for 15 (unstructured play time)
Willpower depletion – think of it like a gas tank.  Balance things that take willpower to things that don’t take willpower. Ex:  Intense reading workshop- then buddy read, act out your story, build something from your book, color
Building a Growth Mindset
*Nice kids finish first (
Kids with better social skills in kindergarten were more successful in high school than those with higher academic skills in kindergarten.
*Carol Dweck and the 8/10 test
Effort vs. work hard
Effort gets better results. Outcomes are related to effort.
*Angela Duckworth and self-control
The marshmallow test showed us that children need a reliable environment.

*There is real, measurable value in teaching social-emotional traits.

So What is Worth Teaching?
-Empathy** Leonardo
-Optimism – The Little Engine that Could
-Persistence - The Most Magnificent Thing, Ashley Spires,
-Resilience – Ninja, The Dot
-Flexibility – Lilly’s Chocolate Heart
**Most important


Teach kids to have positive self talk.  (Charts)


-Storytelling is how we learn.
-Develops neural pathways
-Visualization – making a memory of the future
Teacher tells a story, students tell a buddy (retell), kids tell another story about same topic.

What worked well?  What didn’t?
How did persistence {empathy. etc.} help you?  How didn’t it help you?

1.Makes learning and teaching visible
2. Grows with the students
3.Supports independence
4.Values student ownership

Extended mind theory
Like when you think that you need velcro in the middle of the night you cannot sleep.  Once you write it down or text it to yourself, you can sleep.
Children don’t have to worry about the process if it’s down on paper.  They can focus on the thinking behind the task.
Charts will look different from classroom to classroom if it based on the 4 criteria above.

*Use songs and chant
*Reread often.
*Make it rhyme.

Take a picture and send it home (or make it a class book).

When planning a unit, think of your3 - 4  big goals.  The big goals are going to drive your charts. 

Examples of charts:


 This was one of the best professional developments I've attended in my 20+ years of teaching!  I am so excited to implement the strategies I've learned.