Avoid the Desk Mess Chaos! 

See, children by nature are not organized humans. We have to teach them how to be clean, oraganized, and overall--how to care about their things. Would you agree? Then, if they don't have this reinforced at home, our job is that much harder...but that much more important! 

I learned a tip from Learning in Wonderland a while back that changed the way my students handled their desk business. 

The Desk Fairy. It isn't enough just to say you have one...believe me, I tried. The Desk Fairy didn't make an impact in my classroom until she had a door to come through. Boom! Game Changer! Learning in Wonderland was even amazing enough to decorate her fair door for holidays. Oops. Guess I need to do that in the future! Lol. 

The Fairy Door is simple. Tell the students that a Fairy (name your Fairy) is coming in while they are out of the room to check their desks. If their desk is clean and organized, the Fairy will reward them.

I didn't do this daily by any means, but just randomly! I usually rewarded with a fun eraser, pencil, bookmark, or some other Target Dollar Spot find! (Am I Right?) lol. 

The door also comes with fairy dust that I would sprinkle on the cubbies (where she would fly past) in our room! (Photo Credit- Learning in Wonderland

I used a yellow door with my 3rd graders! I unfortunately didn't take pictures of mine though because that was before my Instagram days. My kids loved looking to see if the fairy came and their desks (most of them) were so much better than before! Kids know how to organize, they just need incentive. In all honestly though, I didn't try it with my 5th graders. If you have, I would love to know if they bought into it! 

In closing, I hope this is a helpful tip for you and will help give your kids some incentive in keeping organized desks! 

(Affiliate Links are included for your convenience) 


We're Ready! 

I'm back with another classroom management tip that is GOLD! So Joanne Miller at Head Over Heels for Teaching uses this technique in her classroom and I cannot get over how fantastic it is! 

First, she takes simple push lights (from Amazon--affiliate link provided) and the mm used her Cricut to place letters on them that say We're Ready! (Not handy with a Cricut? Sharpies or Scrapbook Letters work great too!) :) 

Then, she places one on the table of each group of students. During transition time, the students get their items ready then when the entire table (group) is ready, they press the light! When all lights are on, it's time to begin learning! Brilliant right!? 

It really is the little things that can make such a difference! 


Organize Your Writing

Teaching students to organize their writing can be hard! I am a firm believer that a visual helps in most cases!

One of my favorite visuals for organizing writing is the Hamburger Paragraph Anchor Chart! The kids always love how it looks and I love that it is a constant reminder of what a paragraph should look like! From there, the students learn that their writing should have multiple paragraphs that follow the same "recipe!"

Creating anchor charts can be a challenge, that is why I like to use these! You can also grab this chart paper on Amazon! Just print, cut and glue!

Building strong writers starts with those writers understanding the importance of organizing their writing!

Begin from the start of the year teaching your students to write in paragraphs and use these paragraphs to organize their writing! Confident and successful writers will soon emerge.

(Affiliate links are included for your convenience)


Red Light, Green Light!

Keeping students on task and having the students manage their own time when you are teaching a small group or working with another student can be a challenge.
Many people enjoy using timers projected on their board. If that works for your students, great! These timers have not worked well for me in the past though. My students have enjoyed watching the timers count down a little too much. Even though I would tell them "don't focus on the timer," they would still become distracted. I also found that if I tried to tell them it was time to clean up, I would become distracted and forget! The struggle is real!
I did finally find something that I love though! The Time Tracker Mini is one of my favorite classroom management tools!

My favorite place to use it is in centers. Place this in your centers and set the timer (I do 20 minutes total on the green dial) then set the warning dial for 3 minutes. The warning tells the students it is time to finish up and clean up their area!
The light turns from green, to yellow, then to red when time is up! It is perfect for keeping students on task and managing their time!
If you would like to check out my favorite classroom management trick for transitions, check out my post called Ding Dong, Who's There? 
I've found that being prepared for each area of the day makes our job with classroom management so much easier!

(Affiliate links are included for your convenience)


Prove It!

(Affiliate links are included for your convenience)

"Finding text evidence isn't always easy and it sure isn't fun!" These are words spoken by my 5th graders. Getting my students to highlight text evidence was nearly impossible until I "wised up" and decided to make it fun!

I ran across this photo about two years ago and changed my ways from that moment on! First Grade Bangs had a brilliant idea to make labels for her student's highlighters.

I went straight over, downloaded and printed these, and labeled my students highlighters during my conference period. Since I had 75 kids that year, I had the last batch of students do their own.

Then, we practiced! The kids loved it! We of course had the chat about not going "highlighter crazy!" and a few tried to make rainbow text evidence...but all in all, it was amazing!

I will say, I am a bit of a highlighter snob though and use ONLY the BIG Sharpie ones. The students might bring others, and they are welcome to use those for other things...but for text evidence, I buy these, hand them out (and take them up.)
These highlighters are not the student's to keep. We know as teachers...we have to protect our nice supplies. You can buy multiple colors in these depending on what you need, they last a long time and they are super cheap!

Finding text evidence is so important for building strong readers! Why not make it fun? Now my students enjoy proving their answers and it helps me see more of their thinking!

Hillary Kiser

Ding Dong! Who's There?

(Affiliate links are included for your convenience)

Oh man, I have been wanting to share about this favorite classroom management tip of mine for a while now, but my blog has been inactive...(don't get me started.) Finally, after the lovely Georgia Lou Studios helped me out, it is up and we are back in business!

While this blog post will be short, you will love this classroom management tip! I must confess though, I completely "stole" this idea from the Mustache King at The Kindergarten Smorgasboard! When I saw what he was doing, I was sold!

First, simply head on over to Amazon (because we all love PRIME right?) and snag a wireless doorbell!

The wireless doorbell receiver simply plugs into the wall in your classroom, and the transmitter remote is easily worn around your neck, placed in your pocket, or just laid on your desk. It includes 50 chimes and no batteries are required! When you want to get your student's attention or it is time to move on to another station, center, activity, line up, etc...simply ring the doorbell and it chimes.

What I really love is...the chimes are not annoying, they are almost soothing but still grab the student's attention. I will never go back to the vocal attention grabbers. I know those work for many, but for me...I enjoy this method!

Anyway, I hope this helps! It was one of those moments where I thought, "why didn't I think of that!?" I love my online teacher community for this reason though! We share, we learn, we care!

I hope this helps!

Happy Teaching!

A Fundamental Tool in Teaching Reading

When we think about teaching reading, we often get caught up in the "teaching words" part of reading. Yes, being certain the students can read words is extremely important in reading using skills in reading is equally as important. Skills such as questioning, author's purpose, point of view, using text features, and the list goes on.

Guided Reading is a fundamental tool in teaching students to comprehend what they read and become successful readers in every area. I have a special way that I teach guided reading that is unlike many other teachers. I integrate the "how to read" portion into a skills based lesson format. I focus on the skills, and while they are learning those, I am teaching other important things such as phrasing, inflection, and word knowledge.

I start my guided reading with a skill in mind and my groups (of course!) Common Core and TEKS versions are shown below (I use TEKS though because I teach in Texas.)

I do 4-5 groups (total) but only two a day. Each group lasts 15 minutes and every day I meet with my low students. My high students only see me twice a week during guided reading and I am okay with that. I am always asked, "But what are your other students doing?" Well, working of course! My other students are doing Literacy Centers during this time! It takes a few weeks to get this routine going, but it runs like a well oiled machine after that!

Once, I have the skill in mind that I want to work on with my group, it is time to get busy picking a book and choosing vocabulary words! Many people have asked how I choose my books to go with my lessons. I use Reading A to Z to find my books! 

Reading A-Z

You can use books you have or books in your school's Guided Reading Library, but I love Reading A-Z! You can locate the levels and skills so easily! Then print the book and the students are able to highlight, write, etc! So perfect for Guided Reading! A subscription is $109 for an entire year, but it is so worth it! You can always ask your school if they are willing to help you purchase your subscription too! Again, this is NOT A MUST with my lesson plans but I do love this subscription. They have a free trial too! Feel free to check it out!

Once I have my books chosen, I begin choosing 3-5 vocabulary words! The students have a short vocabulary activity to do with me at the table each day for guided reading, so these 3-5 words are important!

Once I have my area prepared, we are ready to begin our lesson! My lesson plan is already typed out for me and includes everything I need! (Common Core and TEKS versions shown below.)

During these lessons I use questions stems to ask questions while the students are reading and I always have my students turn their chairs around so they are facing outward. This cuts down on the distraction while I am listening to them read. I go from student to student and their voice is projecting outward. The other students at the table are not able to hear the other child reading. 

We do a before, during and after activity each day! The before reading is when I teach my mini-lesson on the skill for the day. Then the students read and I assess the students during and after their reading. 

I always have the students share their "findings" (or assessments) at the end and we discuss what they have learned and any other questions they may still have! If the students seem ready to move on to another skill (they have mastered the current skills), we will move on the next time I meet with them.
If they have not yet mastered the skill, we spend another session on that particular skill. 

Finally, I record my findings on my anecdotal record sheet! These have served me so well in the past for documentation. I use them in parent conferences, with administration, and just for my own needs in understanding the progress of my students. The "glow" is what they are doing well and the "grow" is what they still need to work on. I only choose once thing per child (per column.)

Guided Reading doesn't have to be painful or scary. The kids should love it and want to come back for more! 

If you are interested in seeing more of the curriculum I use, check out this video I did on my Guided Reading Curriculum. 

Also, if you are in need of Guided Reading Curriculum, you can find your grade level here!

Guided Reading Custom Category

I do have literacy centers bundled with some grade levels, so check those out as well (if you need literacy centers.)

Most importantly, just dive into guided reading! It is crucial in building strong readers!

Happy Teaching!


Engaging Readers in Informational Text

Do your students gravitate more toward fiction books? I have often faced this problem as well. When I think about it, maybe it isn't a problem, but it is something I need to be aware of in the classroom.

We want our students to have a wide variety of interests. Different genres are important for students and they need to find ways to become engaged in many different areas of reading.

Reading informational text helps the students understand more about the real world, learn facts about real things, and helps them learn to use tools in reading that they may not find in fiction resources.

The question remains though...

How do we get our students interested and engaged in informational text?

Some kids just love informational books. My son for instance is one of those kids. He is only in Kinder but he doesn't favor Critter books, he wants space books or snake books. However, most of the kids I have taught favor fantasy or even realistic fiction.

There are five things that you can do as a teacher to help the student engagement of informational text increase in your classroom (not matter what age of student you teach!)

1. Direct teach the difference between a fiction book and a non-fiction book.

This may seem very basic, but so many kids (even in 5th grade) come up and say..."is this informational?" They truly do not know! It is not the fault of anyone, it is just something they have not learned to grasp yet. I always show this video, and I LOVE it! Kids of all ages love it too!

Fiction Vs. Non-Fiction Video

It shows two movie clips about penguins. One is a fiction movie and one is a documentary (informational is what I call it in class!) I feel it really helps the kids grasp the difference. Then of course we look at actual books and discuss the difference.

Making an anchor chart helps tremendously too! I like this one from Mrs. Denson's Adventures!

Part of the Common Core ELA Standards requires students to be able to read informational text and determine meaning. We think this reading note can be really handy and useful!:

2. After you know they understand the different it is time to immerse them in the text. 

Kids need to have time to read informational text to become familiar with the types of texts they like, and learn how to work their way through the text. The best way to do this is to provide informational text sections in your room.

I love Creating Readers and Writers Blog and she has a picture on her blog of a set up for the younger kids with informational text!

Creating Readers and Writers:  Nifty Nonfiction Blog Post  {See Mrs. DuMoulin's classroom library... it's packed with fun and exciting nonfiction!}:

It is easy to duplicate this with the older kids too though! Just book baskets, labels, and informational books!

3. Read informational text aloud to students! 

If the kids know you are interested in it, they will be too. Also, there is something that we teachers add to ANY text that makes it more special. :) My favorite sets to read to my students are the I Survived Series and the Who Was or Who Is Set!

The kids LOVE these books and they are great for the teacher to read because you can get in some history lessons too! :)

4. Teach the students how to work through text features. 

Text features can be a bit overwhelming for struggling readers. The bold print, captions, graphs, etc. The students see all of those "extra words" and "numbers" and want to give up.

I have fallen in love with this DIY text feature poster from Create Teach Share's Blog!

I have fallen in love with Non-Fiction over the past few years. I used to find…:

The kids love putting all of the pieces on and they have a great visual to look back at throughout their readings! We used file folders and old magazines from Scholastic! Worked like a charm! The students really need to understand all of the features or they will want to shut down while reading.

5. Lastly, encourage students to choose books they are interested in reading. 

So many times, students just go grab a book, flip through it, then grab another 5 minutes later. Lather, rinse, repeat until reading time is over. Am I right? I love this blog post from Conversations in Literacy!

Giving Students Choices with Informational Text- great freebie for doing this!!:

She talks about giving the kids choices but also about helping the kids choose a book that is right for them. Students can be easily disenchanted with reading if they are not interested in the books. Having the students take time to think about what attracts them to a book, what topics they are most interested in, and what they are curious about will help them develop a love for reading informational text!

I hope these 5 things have helped you think about informational text in your classroom and how you can better assist the students in your room to become engaged in reading all types of literature!

Happy Teaching!


Snow, Snow!

Do you get much snow where you live? Well, we live in Texas and snow is rare around here. I have a Kindergarten son and he so badly wants to see snow. He saw it a few years ago, but when he heard the weather man say it might snow on Friday (this past Friday) he was so excited. Well. It did not snow. Not a flake.

Luckily I had seen on @mrsplemonskindergarten instagram that she had bought some fake snow on Amazon! I found it, clicked purchase, and it was here two days later (well before Friday, which I knew would be a bust with no snow!) lol.

Needless to say, after we did this (on Saturday), I just had to blog about out so you could go get some and do it with your students! Any age!! So before I chatter on, if you are in a hurry and can't finish reading this blog...that is totally fine! You can find the fake snow I bought here. If you can hang out, I have a freebie you can do with the younger grades after they are finished playing with the snow!

The snow is easy to prepare. Just pour it into a bucket (it looks like salt.)

Then add two quarts of water!

After you do that, just mix it up with your hands or a spoon!

Yep, it looks and feels like snow! It is cold and wet, it does not melt, and if it does get on the carpet or whatever, it dries out quickly with no mess (trust me!) lol. It is the strangest, yet coolest stuff EVER! It is not cold enough to need gloves, but it is cold. 

I had some finger puppets from Christmas laying around that we put in the snow and my kids played with those! They had the best time! After we were done, I just stored it in a cabinet (it lasts for days and days!) When you get ready to dispose of it, sprinkle it in your yard and it will add water to your grass (or plants!) 

I know this is not real snow, nor can kids go and play in it or build a snowman, but when you live in Texas and never see snow...you are happy with anything that resembles snow! My son and daughter LOVED this! I just knew it would be a great sensory bin for younger grades!

Now, for the freebie I promised! This is obviously for K or 1st kids but my son is in Kinder and is working on writing. So I made this mainly for him and wanted to share it with my blog readers! If you don't teach K or 1st, maybe you can share it with your team at school or something! :)

My son isn't a fan of writing...anything, but he loved this. I know it was because the activity before it was so fun! When kids have fun with something, they don't mind writing about it!

The kids simply use words to describe the snow (sensory words.) Then the kids write two sentences about the snow. My son is working on expanding his sentences. He is very much a "I like the snow" writer. When I (and his teacher) want him to be an "I like the snow because it was cold and wet" writer. :) However, we are getting there and he is doing wonderful! 

We ran out of time and had to go somewhere before he could color, so I colored these later. He was unhappy that I did not let him color them. (oops.) 

You can find the freebie in a google drive link here! 

Thanks so much for taking the time to read and share this with a friend if you think they will enjoy it too! Here is the links for both things one more time! Have a great week!

Back to Top