Learn to Read

Teacher from the Black Lagoon - Mike Thaler

Do you have a favorite author or series?  I have quite a few series and authors that I love to share with students.  The Black Lagoon series by Mike Thaler is a wonderful series because the books can be easily incorporated throughout the year.

  • Back to School:  Share the books and introduce the members of your school community.
  • Appreciation Week:  Read the Principal, School Nurse, Cafeteria Worker, etc. when it is the week to show appreciation for that person or group.
  • Community Helpers:  Add these books to your community helper lessons.
  • Sub Plans:  Perfect for sub plans because they aren't seasonal.

There are many different activities in my Lagoon Sub Plan file.  Choose the ones you want for your emergency plans. Then use the extras for your Back to School and Appreciation Week plans.  
The making words assignment in the picture above can also be used as a center or small group activity like the picture below.
There is a making word assignments for: teacher, principal, and cafeteria worker.
Read The Cafeteria Worker from the Black Lagoon before your nutrition lesson.  This can either be used as your science lesson with your emergency sub plans, during cafeteria appreciation week, or with a nutrition unit.

Below is a list of what is included with this file. Some of the pages are EDITABLE in Powerpoint.

The activities included in this file include:
Pg. 2-4 Teacher tips
Pg. 5 Inside recess
Pg. 6-8 Class procedures
Pg. 9-10 How we go home
Pg. 11-12 Class schedule
Pg. 13-14 Class chart
Pg. 15-16 Morning Message and answer key
Pg. 17-20 Word of the Day: worksheet and 3 slides
Pg. 21-22 Reading passages and answer key
Pg. 23-25 Word Work: Making Words
Pg. 26-27 Syllable count and answer key
Pg. 28-29 Writing: Word bank, writing page
Pg. 30-32 Fruit cards and ABC order wksh.
Pg. 33 Writing: Sentence - Draw and Illustrate Foldable
Pg. 34-35 List maker
Pg. 36 Letter writing template
Pg. 37 Key events: where, when, why, how
Pg. 38 Beginning, Middle, and End
Pg. 39 Compare stories: The Teacher from the Black Lagoon and The Principal from the Black Lagoon
Pg. 40 Compare stories: The Cafeteria Lady from the Black Lagoon and The School Bus Driver from the Black Lagoon
Pg. 41 Compare stories: The Teacher from the Black Lagoon and __________.
Pg. 42-49 Small Group Lesson: Phonemic Awareness
Pg. 50-51 Let’s Write: rhyme
Pg. 52-53 Let’s Write: onset
Pg. 54-55 Place Value and answer key
Pg. 56-57 Addition: Two Digits and answer key
Pg. 58-59 Addition: Three Digits and answer key
Pg. 60-61 Telling Time: Quarter Hour and answer key
Pg. 62-63: Compare Numbers: Sums of Addition Single Digit Problems and answer key
Pg. 64-65: Compare Numbers: Sums of Addition Double Digit Problems and answer key
Pg. 66-67: Science: Nutrition – Group Healthy and Non-healthy foods and answer key
Pg. 68: Draw and Write: Favorite lunch
Pg. 69-70: Thank you note – color and blackline
Pg. 71: Sub Report: How was your day?
Pg. 72-73 Lesson Plans template
Pg. 74-76 Assignment cards

The following are EDITABLE in POWERPOINT:
--Helpful information form – same as PDF
--Helpful information form: The graphic boxes are blank so you can personalize it.
--Class procedures: same as PDF
--Class procedures: The graphic boxes are blank so you can personalize it.
--How we go home: color and blackline
--Our schedule: color and blackline – same as PDF
--Our schedule: color and blackline – no table so you can personalize it to fit your needs
--Class chart – color and blackline – same as PDF
--Class chart – color and blackline – no table so you can personalize it to fit your needs
--Lesson Plans template
--Assignment cards

Looking for more sub plans?  Check them out HERE.

Do you follow my Facebook page?  I have been choosing teachers to send boxes of books that are already taped and leveled.

Sources to make my blog post graphics can be found HERE. 
Click HERE to read my blog's disclosure statement.

Reading Motivation: FREEBIE, Graphic Novels, Magazines

Have you ever had a student (or two or three) that was a perfectly capable reader, yet was not a highly motivated reader? Reluctant readers may be competent readers because of their lessons at school.  But, there is only so much guided practice that a teacher can provide for fluency because of lack of time. Eventually, the reluctant reader's lack of practice (reading for pleasure at home) will impact their fluency skills. When these students enter older grades, with more reading material to cover in a shorter period of time, their limited fluency skills will be a source of frustration.

There are a few things I have found that motivate this type of student.

 Does your reluctant reader have a limited attention span?  If so, he or she may be overwhelmed if there are too many words on a page.  Try books like graphic novels or non-fiction books.  These books have small reading areas with clear start-stop places.  This makes these types of books more motivating to read.  Eventually the reluctant reader reads so many of these that his or her fluency skills improves, builds stamina, and graduates to chapter books
Magazines are another good strategy to use with reluctant readers.  Magazines work the same way as graphic novels and non-fiction books. Magazines do not overwhelm students with short attention spans.  Magazines are also an easy literacy center to set up.  Plus, I have a free sample for you.

Do you follow my Facebook page?  I have been choosing teachers to send boxes of books that are already taped and leveled.

Sources to make my blog post graphics can be found HERE.
Click HERE to read my blog's disclosure statement.

Reluctant Reader Tips: Shark Week

Are you looking for reading ideas to use with your reluctant readers?  I've had some students through the years that I felt like I could stand on my head, do a juggling act, and they were still less-than-enthusiastic about reading.  

How are your books organized?  Some teachers are required to organize their books by levels.  Other teachers are given more flexibility. 

I found many reluctant readers were not motivated when books are organized by reading levels.  These are usually the students who are not motivated by moving their star on the A.R. chart or any other reading incentive program.  These systems was full of arbitrary numbers to them.

Books about topics that they were interested in seemed to be the key to motivating this type of student.  I had more success when I organize by books by a wide range of topics.  I used topics like castles, space, desert, time periods, Superheroes, animals - specific types.  

If you are required to organize books by level, you can set up a few "featured book areas" like the one in the picture below. 

Do you have trouble engaging your reluctant reader when you meet with your small group?  Use their interest to motivate them.  Sharks and other ocean creatures are motivating themes with students.

I found these manipulatives at a party supply store.  Sound boxes are a quick and easy warm up.  Great for your phoneme segmentation intervention group, too.  Get a free copy of it.

These gummy candies are fun to use, if your district allows you to use food with your lesson.  I found these at Walgreens.

Want to get your students excited about their reading assignments?  Use fun school supplies like smelly markers.  Suddenly, the assignment isn't work anymore!

You can find a variety of smelly markers.  Some can even be purchased individually.  I found the skinny marker on a clearance section of Staples for 25 cents.

You can download the Shark Reading passage plus other free activities on the link below:
Ocean: Shark themed freebie

I am joining some of my friends for Shark Week Blog Hop.  Be sure to visit each blog for tips and a freebie.  Hop over to Andrea @This Literacy Life  for some fun ideas.

Do you follow my Facebook page?  I have been choosing teachers to send boxes of books that are already taped and leveled.

Sources to make my blog post graphics can be found HERE.

Click HERE to read my blog's disclosure statement.

Add Movement to Lessons

Looking for new ways to add movement to your lessons?  Relay races is an easy way to add movement and review skills.  You can use this activity for phonics or adapt it for math or other subjects.

To play:

1. Divide your students into groups.  If they are particular wiggly the day you decide to do this, you need to have more groups so they will run more often.

2.  Students line up in straight lines behind a line.  Beside each team is a different colored bucket.  Each team is assigned a bucket.
Dollar Tree has these buckets for $1.

3.  The race part of this activity involves students running to a hula hoop that is at a designated place, finding letters that are lying inside the hula loop, bringing the correct letters back to their team and putting the letters in their team's bucket.  Each team has their own hula hoop.  P.E. teachers usually have hula hoops that they will loan you.   You can use letters used for bulletin boards or foam letters like these:

4.  The teacher will give clues for what letters the people at the beginning of the line needs to find in the hula hoop.  After giving the clue, the teacher will say "go", the student will run to the hula hoop, find the correct letter, and put it in their bucket.  

5.  The winner is decided at the end.  The team or teams that have all the correct letters in their bucket is/are the winners.
Use a variety of letters like the ones in the picture above, so your students will practice identifying letters with different fonts.

The great thing about this game is it can be adapted to any grade level.  Examples of clues:

*Clue #1:  This letter is the sound you hear at the end of the word "globe".
*Clue #2:  These are the letters you hear at the beginning of the word "chain".
*Clue #3:  These are the 3 letters you hear at the end of the word "coming".
*Clue #4:  This is the sound you hear in the middle of the word "zap".
You can also use shapes like the ones in the picture above.  I found these at Hobby Lobby.  Give clues like:
  • Find a shape that is a compound word.
  • Find a shape that has a digraph at the end of the word.
  • Find a shape that rhymes with dish.

You can also make this game into a Math Relay Race game.  It can be adapted to any grade level.

*Clue #1:  What is the answer:  12 + 3 = ___
*Clue #2:  What is the answer:  How many sides does an octagon have?
*Clue #3:  What is the answer:  4 X 8 = ___
*Clue #4:  What is the answer:  How many minutes are in a quarter hour?

This game burns off excess energy while reviewing skills your students have studied.  It's a WIN-WIN!

Sources to make my blog post graphics can be found HERE.
Click HERE to read my blog's disclosure statement.

BOOKS: Win Leveled Books, Organization, and More!

Need books?  Is there such a thing as too many books when you are a teacher?  I like to have more than one copy for:
  • Author study
  • Social studies or science unit
  • Leveled readers for take home readers or Daily 5
  • Class Library
Books are a wonderful resource in the classroom.  But, books can be expensive if you are a new teacher or are switching grade levels. Where are the best places to find inexpensive books?
  • Thrift stores:  Great prices - especially around the holidays! Books can be purchased at many for 25 - 50 cents.
  • Garage sales:  Many people will sell you bags of books for very little money if you show them your school ID.
  • Scholastic Book Clubs:  Use points to order books.  This is a great way to order sets of books for your reading groups.
  • Parents:  Add a note to your newsletter each month asking for gently used books.  Many parents are happy to donate books when they know they are going to a good cause.
One source of frustration for many teachers is "missing book syndrome".  You send home books with your students but somehow the book never returns to school.  You ask the student where the book is, you send home notes, email the parent, call the parent, yet the book never returns to school.  A book that you spent personal money, took time to level, add to your collection, is now gone forever.  What can you do?

I have tried a variety of things through the years.  Writing my name on the inside cover.  Nope!  This did not help.  Put colored dot stickers on the spine of the book showing which collection the book belonged to.  Nope!  There are other books at the thrift store with dots.  Parents also shop at thrift stores.

I needed to make my books look different so a student and parent could easily tell my book from the student's books at home.  Tape was what I found helped the most with this problem.
I put tape around the edges of the front and back cover.  You can easily see the tape when you look at the book without opening a page of the book.  I added tape to the hinge of the book, too.  I found my books also lasted longer with the tape along the edges of the covers of my books.  At the end of the year when I am collecting my books, I remind my students and parents to look through their books at home for books that have tape on the covers.  I had a larger percentage of my take-home readers returned when I did this.
If you are like me and have a huge collection of books, the thought of adding tape to your thousands of books seems like a insurmountable challenge. There are a few things you can do to make this less painful.
  • Collect the supplies that you need.  I used the ones in the picture above.  
  • Start Small: How many books do you need at the beginning of the year for take-home readers?  Collect that many readers and put them in a tub along with the supplies you'll need.  Do you work on this type of thing while you watch t.v. in the evening?  Put the tub next to your chair and do a few each night.  Soon your tub of books will be finished.  That sense of accomplishment will motivate you to go collect another tub of books.  Taking "small bites" of this project is the key!
  • You can also ask a parent volunteer to do this for you.  I would organize this for the parent like the suggestion above.  Give the parent the supplies and a tub of books.  Don't show your parents the 2,432 books that you need to be leveled and taped or he/she will be overwhelmed.
  • Make it a party!  Invite your teacher friends to bring their tub of books over.  It is much more fun to work on a project like this when chit chatting with friends.
Have you found a good source to level your books?  When I go to the thrift store, I usually purchase the Scholastic books because I know I can find the reading level information for those books on the Scholastic Book Wizard.  You can get that information:
I also find information about books on the Level It app.  I am not always able to find information about every book or it might give the Lexile level but not the Guided Reading level.

I like to level my books by grade level, guided reading level, DRA, and Lexile.  You never know when you may switch schools or your school may decide to switch to a different format.  By doing it this way, I don't get as stressed when there is some change that is introduced. 
BOOK BOX GIVEAWAY:  Throughout this summer, I will be hosting a giveaways on my Facebook page. Make sure you follow my page so you can enter each time I am hosting a book box giveaway.

I am also going to give a box of books to one of the members of my Facebook Group this summer.  Have you joined my group yet? 

Sources to make my blog post graphics can be found HERE. Click HERE to read my blog's disclosure statement.

Promote Active Listening, Assess, and Listening Skills

  • Do you find yourself answering questions about the directions that you just gave your class?  
  • Does your voice get hoarse from repeating yourself?
  • Do you feel like you have tried everything but still your students aren't listening?
Observe your class during their lesson with the librarian or school counselor.  Look for signs of active listening. Sometimes we assume that our students are actively listening when they are quiet. This isn't always true. Listening is a skill like reading or playing soccer that you need to practice in order to improve.
You can promote and practice active listening when giving directions for an assignment:
  • Engage your students when giving important directions.  Example:  "Boys and girls hold up one first and repeat after me, the first step of this assignment is ____", (class repeats while holding up one finger), "Now class hold up 2 fingers and repeat, the second step of what I will do is _____", (class repeats while holding up two fingers), continue until all of the directions are given.    
  • If your class is sitting at their table or desk, you can ask them to stand up when they repeat what you say, and sit down when they listen to you.  Movement helps engage them and with the wiggles.
Sponge activities that improve listening skills:
  • Teacher or student leader says:
    • If you can hear me tap your chin.
    • If you can hear me jump 2 times.
    • If you can hear me flap your arms like a chicken.
    • If you can hear me touch your left elbow.
  • Mental math:  teacher or student leader gives math problems to the class.  Great activity to use when class is waiting in line.
    • 4 + 2 + 6 + 1 = __
    • 7 + 5 + 5 + 8 + 2 = __
In order to actively listen, students need to concentrate on what the speaker is saying. This skill requires stamina.  Practice!  Practice!  Practice!
Assessing listening skills can be done formally and informally.  You will notice that you have to repeat directions less often as your students' listening skills improve (informal assessment).  It is helpful if you have a baseline of where your students begin to see how they improve during the school year.  Listening skills can cause academic and behavior problems for students. This is one more tool to add to your teacher toolbox.

Listen and Draw is an activity that is a non-threatening way to assess your students' listening skills.  I recommend doing activities like these at the beginning of the year and at least once a month throughout the year. It is helpful documentation for parent-teacher conference, R.T.I., and other times when you are looking at behavior or academic issues.  Listening skills impact many areas in the classroom.  I have a FREE sample that you can use with your class.

Click HERE for a FREE sample.

My other Listen & Draw files include:
How do you promote active listening?

Sources to make my blog post graphics can be found HERE. Click HERE to read my blog's disclosure statement.

Morning Messages - Best Way to Start your Day!

Ready to change how you do morning work? Looking for some new ideas?  I have written several posts about my morning message system that is a spiral review of important reading skills.  It is also differentiated which helps when your class includes a range of ability levels.

Post #1:  My morning routine which includes management tips.

Post #2:  Hectic schedule this year?  Set up morning messages as a writing center.  This post includes tips.

Post #3:  Improve your students' handwriting with morning messages.

Each of the thematic packets include ten morning messages.

Phonics / Early Readers:

Early Readers #1 (20 messages)
Digraph - CH (10 messages)
Digraph - SH (10 messages)
Digraph Bundle - CH, SH (20 messages)
Diphthong - FREE

Themed packets:

Each of the grade level packets include ten morning messages.

By request, I bundled my September - May grade level packets (links above) into bundles with 90 messages.

By request, I bundled two grade levels together.  There are 10 messages of each grade level in these packets (20 messages per packet).

Kindergarten - 1st grade
1st and 2nd grade
2nd and 3rd grade

By request, I am adding more grade level packets for teachers who do morning message daily.  You can follow my store or Facebook page if you want to be notified when I add more of these packets. I am selling Volume 2 (10 messages) separately and as a combo with Volume 1 (10 messages) so teachers have the option of having 20 messages.  Below are the ones I've finished so far.


1st Grade

2nd Grade
April - Combo (20 messages)

Morning Messages are also included with my Sub Plans:

Sub Resource Binder
Teacher from the Black Lagoon 
Early Reader - K/1
March - K/1 - this file includes more than just sub plans.

Sources to make my blog post graphics can be found HERE. Click HERE to read my blog's disclosure statement.

Facebook Group

Facebook groups are one of my favorite ways to connect with other like-minded people.  I belong to several groups. Each group has a different purpose and dynamic because of the people in the group and their experiences.
Through the years of my blogging journey, I have read questions in these groups, posts on my FB page, and received emails from teachers.  Even though we may live in different states or countries, we share similar experiences - spouse's job moves us to a new state, principal moves us to a new grade level, co-worker is a less-than-nice person, questions about how to meet the needs of our students, and the list goes on and on.  

My husband's job has moved me from state to state.  I have taught K-3 in a Catholic school and public schools in Oklahoma, Texas, and Chicago area and currently live in California.  Through these moves, I have found it helpful to find a group of like-minded people.  No matter the size or type of the school, there were always one or two people that I could connect and grow professionally with.

I would like to make a "cyberspace K-3 faculty" so members can connect online. We can share ideas, ask questions, and grow with people who think, drink, and eat K-3!

Do any of these questions sound like you?

  1. Do you spend your "free time" looking for teaching ideas?
  2. Do you think there is something magical about cutting out teaching stuff from the laminator?
  3. Although you may get stressed or frustrated about "that" student, do you spend personal money and time looking for a new strategy to try with him/her?
  4. Are you one of the teachers at your school that gets more than your fair share of students with behavioral issues?
  5. Are you a teacher who is often requested by parents?
  6. Are you a teacher who gets "hand picked" students?
  7. Do you find yourself addicted to rubbermaid and other containers?
  8. Do you feel lonely at times because you don't have anyone who thinks like you?
  9. Do your lesson plans include lessons that are creative, think outside-of-the-box, and NOT in the Teacher's Edition?

It is hard to explain your love of teaching when you breathe, eat, and sleep it to someone, even if that person is a strong teacher.  It has nothing to do with being a competent teacher.  I have met many teachers who are strong teachers, have good relationships with their students, and worked hard.  But, did not share my view of teaching. 

Think about the handful of students in your class who thinks outside the box. When those few students work collaboratively writing a story or on a creative project, step back and watch them go!  

I am hoping this FB group can be like the experience of the "think outside the box" students.  Let's bounce strategies off of each other after a tough day and celebrate our successes!

To Join:  cyberfacultyT123@g*

If you would like to join this group, send me an email from your school's email.  Sending the email from your school email will help prevent spam. 

In the email tell me:

  • Your name
  • Grade level you teach
  • Years of experience
  • Where you live (state)
  • Email address that you signed up with on Facebook.  The invitation for the group will be sent to this email.
I am not sure what is the perfect number for our "cyberfaculty". To make lively discussions, it would be nice to have a variety of teachers from different locations, working at different types of schools, with different levels of experience.  At some point in the future this group will be closed.  Give a link of this post if you know someone who might be a good member of this faculty.  Thanks!

Once you are a member, click on "files" at the top. 


BONUS LESSONS:  Members get bonus lessons.

  • I will add activities from products that I am working on for my TPT store to the group file from time-to-time.  
  • I will also add other free lessons, links to resources, and ideas for members.
  •  Check the files from time-to-time to see if I have added anything new.  

GUIDELINES:  Each FB group is set up a little different. Please read the group's guidelines located in the files of the Facebook group.

Sources to make my blog post graphics can be found HERE.
Click HERE to read my blog's disclosure statement.

Busy teacher forms

What did I forget now? Does this sound familiar?  It is very easy to get overwhelmed when you have too much to do and so little time to do it.

The Boy Scout's motto, be prepared, is the best way I have found to help with feeling overwhelmed. Organize your forms that you use frequently in folders or a binder. 
  • Have multiple copies ready to go.
  • Color copies work best for important reminders.

Keep of stack of "speeding tickets" with you when you grade papers.  Attach a speeding ticket to students' papers when they speed (rush) through their work.  Redoing the assigning plus parents seeing the speeding ticket on their child's assignments has a magical way of slowing down students during work time.

Use a variety of forms if you do not get the response you need the first time.  Start with a small note like the orange one in the picture above.  It can be stapled to make a bracelet or attach it as a ring around the student's backpack loop.  If those two ways don't work, use a bigger note like the pink one above.

Kids often talk about what level they are on when discussing their favorite game. Getting to the next level of the game motivates them and gives them a sense of accomplishment.  You can do this with the charts like the ones above.  One way you can organize this:
  • Each student begins with the first level chart - bookworm chart.  Keep the chart in either their book box, Daily 5 folder, or reading homework folder.  You set the goals for your students.  You can have different goals for each reading group or the same goal for your class.  Suggested goals:
    •   Read one book
    •   Return weekly reading log
    •   Read for 30 minutes
  • When students achieve the goal they earn a sticker, stamp, or hole punch on their chart.   
  • Students earn a prize when they fill their chart.
  • Give students a new chart which is the next level when they complete a chart.
Soon you will hear your students discussing which level of the reading motivational system they are currently on.
With this system, you are rewarding EFFORT not reading level.  Students who work hard will advance to the next level.  

Keeping your students accountable for their reading is a topic you often hear when teachers are together.  Students can chart what they read in the examples above.  Your students can keep these in their reading homework folders or reading boxes. Keep a couple of class sets of these handy for those times when the copier is on the fritz.

Build positive relationships with students and parents from the first week of school.  Happy phone calls, emails, or notes are wonderful way to show your students (and parents) that you recognize happy things about your class.  If you don't have a lot of time, you can quickly staple a note like the one above into a bracelet or the backpack loop of a student who did something great that day. It is quick and positive!

**I have found parents are more receptive to sad notes (behavior charts) if you have sent home, emailed, or called to say positive things about their child.

It never fails, your students will fall off track at the most inopportune time.  But, if you are following the Boy Scout motto, you will quickly have them back on track.  Have a stack of behavior charts in your files so you can work as a team with your students and parents when this happens. Charts are a quick and easy way to communicate with parents.  

How do you prepare for the new school year?

The forms from this post can be found:
(click below)

Sources to make my blog post graphics can be found HERE.
Click HERE to read my blog's disclosure statement.