Learn to Read

Listening Skills & the Classroom

When you think about baseline testing or beginning of the year testing, do you include listening skills? Back to school is a hectic time of the year. Adding one more thing to your to-do list may not be something you want to do. Once you see the impact listening skills have for your students' academics and behavior, you will be happy to add another thing to your to-do list.

Do you have a "Listen Lizzie" in your class?
  • Lizzie interrupts your reading group lesson to ask how to complete her center assignment.
  • Lizzie does not line up at the end of recess.
  • Transitions are difficult for Lizzie. Lizzie refuses to clean up when you ring your bell that it is time to cleanup.
  • Lizzie often needs redirected during your lessons.
Poor listening skills can sometimes be misinterpreted as willful or not making good choices.  Some students' behavior and "choices" in the classroom will improve when you add listening activities to your lessons.

It is helpful to schedule a conference at the beginning of the year when you have a  "Listen Lizzie".  Frequent ear infections during the toddler years is common with the "Listen Lizzie" student.  If you've ever had an ear infection, you know that it can affect your hearing.  An ear infection is similar to hearing with your head underwater.  You can hear noise, but not the actual words.  You may turn towards who is speaking, but not know the meaning of the words.  You may even look for gestures or other body language to help you.  --Please note, this is my personal theory and observations.

Children learn to follow multi-step directions in the toddler years. Toddlers with frequent ear infections do not develop these important skills.  A parent with more than one child may notice a difference in their child's listening skills, but not always. Parents may not realize the impact of listening skills until their child is bringing home notes and/or a teacher requests a conference.

There are activities your student's parent can do to help your "Listen Lizzie".

Parent Tips:
  • Before giving your child directions, ask him/her to look at you.
  • Say the direction(s) in short, simple sentences.
  • Tell your child to repeat the direction before he/she begins.
  • You will begin by giving one-step directions.  Example "Lizzie, bring me your take-home reader."
  • Once your child is successful following one-step directions over an extended time period, add another step.  
  • Continue adding steps when your child shows improvement.
  • Remember, this is a skill.  Like any skill, your child will need to practice.  Think of at least one tangible, measurable thing you can ask your child to do each day.  Then ask your child to do it.  Example:
Set the table
One step direction:
  • Lizzie, please put these plates on the table.
Two step directions:
  • Lizzie, please put these plates on the table.
  • Then put the forks on the table.
Three step directions:
  • Lizzie, please put these plates on the table.
  • Then put the forks on the table.
  • Last, take the salt and pepper shakers to the table.
There are activities you can do with your class that will help your "Listen Lizzie" plus strengthen all of your students' listening skills.
Listen and Draw is a 20-30 minute whole group lesson that you can use to test and strengthen your students' listening abilities. The only supplies needed are the worksheet, a pencil, and crayons. You will read the directions telling students what to draw, one step at a time. You will read the directions 2 times before you go to the next step. Students need to listen closely to what you are saying so they will know what to draw. Students who do not listen closely will not have that part of the drawing in their picture.

After listening to your directions, your class will write a sentence(s) about the picture. This is also a good writing sample to show growth throughout the year.
  • Beginning of the Year: Give your class Listen & Draw lesson. Save this lesson for their portfolio to show parents at conference time.
  • Show Growth: At least once a month give your class a Listen & Draw lesson. Hopefully, you will see growth in their listening skills and writing skills.
  • Conferences: If listening skills are an issue, share the Listen & Draw lessons with your students' parents.
  • R.T.I.: You can also use these for R.T.I.
  • Sub Plans & Inside Recess: Use these for inside recess and your sub plans. You and your sub will appreciate how your class is quiet for this lesson.
Read stories about listening.  Ask your librarian if your school has the books below.  You will be happy to see that it is easier for your students to learn when they are good listeners!

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Authors' Birthdays, Freebie, Author Study

Celebrating authors' birthdays is a fun way to add author studies to your lessons throughout the year.
•Collect books of authors who celebrate their birthdays for a week at a time.
•When students visit the birthday center, they will choose one book to read.
•Students will then complete one of the assignments.

You can hang up their assignments, let students share their thoughts about the books they read, or make a monthly class book of the students’ assignments which is a free download.

I also have a Pinterest board with videos and other helpful information about authors of children's books.
The follow authors are celebrating their birthdays in September.  I will also give links to some popular books by the authors.  Click on the pictures for more information.
Gail Gibbons and Jim Arnosky's birthday is the same day - September 1st.

Books by Gail Gibbons include:

Books by Jim Arnosky

Books by Syd Hoff:

Books by Aliki

Books by Jon Scieszka

Books by Roald Dahl

Books by Tomie DePaola

Books by Robert McCloskey

Books by H.A. Rey

Books by Stan Berenstain

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Teacher Tips, Freebie, and Ideas

Summer is a good time to reflect about what worked well the year before and what needs to be tweaked.  If you did some reflection this summer you are probably looking for new ideas.

Calendar numbers are one of my V-8 moments - why didn't I think of this earlier? I tape the numbers everywhere - or so it seems - when I organize my classroom at the beginning of the year. I tape them:

  • Mailboxes (see picture above) where students gets notes for home and graded work
  • Above coat hook
  • On the floor to show students where they line up
Calendar numbers add color to the room.  You can also use the thematic ones to add to what you have planned for your room.

Popsicle sticks are one of my go-to manipulatives.  They are cheap, small, and easy to store.  They can be used for:
  • Math counters
  • Math - make geometric shapes
  • Early finishers - keep a cup of these on your tables.  Students can create pictures with them.

Testing your class at the beginning of the year is an extra challenge because your students do not know all of the procedures yet.  How do you give one-on-one tests and keep the rest of your students engaged?  One way you can do this is with an activity like the one in the picture above.  Color by code is fun and a good way to review skills.  The math themed printables in the picture are free.

Displaying students' work in the hallway was always a challenge for me until I figured out the system in the picture above.  Students color a picture to look like themselves.  Then I staple a gallon size ziplock bag to it.  Students can easily slip an assignment that they are proud of in the ziplock bag.  The great thing is the bag will hold many assignments.  Clean out the bag at the end of each month.  Keep them until the end of the year and you have a student portfolio of self-selected work.  You can read more about this bulletin board.                                        

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Trends in Education: Changes can be Stressful

Raise your hand if you’ve heard these type of comments before?

Have you ever wondered why people think that the longer you teach, the less effective you are?

How many other professions work this way? Do you look at your accountant who has practiced 20 years as rigid or ineffective? Would you be willing to go to a surgeon who has performed surgeries for 20 years?

Many times I have noticed that these experienced teachers have already “experienced” the current latest-greatest-buzz-word trend. Their experience of already using program X has enabled them to incorporate the parts that worked into their teacher toolbox.
Experience tells you that a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in a brown paper bag and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich a ziplock bag is still a peanut butter and jelly sandwich --- they are just packaged differently.

When you are new in your career, the pendulum swings can be frightening. After a while, you will learn to add the good from each “new wave” to your teacher toolbox. While you may not teach with fidelity to one particular program, with time you will have a well-equipped toolbox that can fill in gaps and meet your students’ needs.

Has your school introduced some new program that is causing you anxiety and sleepless nights?  Find a veteran teacher at your school to discuss the new program.  I think you will find it helpful to talk to someone who has already used a program that is similar to the new repackaged program. 

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Birthdays in the Classroom

How do you celebrate birthdays in the classroom? I like to incorporate birthday "celebrations" with lessons so it isn't as disruptive to our schedule. Less interruptions means less behavior problems, which is a win-win.

You can incorporate birthdays with your journal writing time. Anytime it is a special day, pull out this handy-dandy FREE "Birthday Star Class Book" lesson. The Birthday Star will decorate the cover while each student in the class will write a page to add to the book. This is a wonderful gift that the Birthday Star will treasure!

Another way to make the day special for the birthday boy or girl is to slip a birthday chair cover on his or her chair before he or she arrives in the morning. You can get a set of these chair covers here.

Do you have a collection of birthday, cake, or gift themed books? Gather them in a bag or tub. Let your birthday star read them if he or she finishes the book cover early.
I am going to send one of my FB followers some birthday books (pictured above) that have been taped and leveled.  Make sure you follow my FB page so you won't miss out on my book giveaways!

Do you have any favorite birthday, cake, or gift themed books? Here are a few you should check out: (click)

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Toxic Workplace: Bullying at Work

Some teachers dread going back to school because of early mornings, limited restroom breaks, or lack of time with family.  There is another group of teachers whose lack of enthusiasm is due to the environment which they work.  For this group of teachers, there is an employee, co-worker, supervisor, team leader, dept. chair, supervisor, or administrator that has created a toxic workplace for him or her.

Teachers often sit through training, school assemblies, and workshops about bullying - students bullying other students.  But, how many faculty meetings or inservice meetings have you attended that told you point blank that the actions of an employee could be considered bullying and create a toxic workplace for you? 

We teach lessons and host school assemblies telling our students to NOT  be a bystander.  Bystanders give tacit approval to the bully.  Yet, how many teachers have witnessed a fellow staff member using these same tactics with a co-workers and said nothing? Shouldn't we walk our talk?

The new school year is upon us and sadly this is often a time when bullies will find new victims - the newly hired teacher or a teacher who has moved to a new team within the school.


  • Introduce yourself to the new teacher or new team member privately.  Tell this person that you would like to help and let them know the best way to communicate with you.  Do you prefer chatting before or after  school, email,  or text?  Tell your new co-worker:
    • "While you love your school and have been here X number of years.  You realize that it can be hard being new.  If anyone is less-than-nice, giving you a hard time, or is being a bully you would like to help.  You always hope for the best, but if something happens please do not hesitate to contact me at ____."
  • You have opened the lines of communication which is important if you want to fix this problem.

Some schools, unfortunately, have "D.W.s" - Designated Witches. D.W.s have usually taught at the school for a very long time. Through the years, people have accepted that this is how this person behaves.  This person was issued a "Designed Witch Card". It is like a get out of jail card from Monopoly - no consequences. You may have even found yourself checking the parking lot to see if there was a broom in her parking space.  Other days you wonder how YOU can get a D.W. card.  Unfortunately, a D.W. can also create a toxic environment.
  • If something does happen how will you handle it? You and your co-worker can discuss this and decide.  
    • When a new co-worker told me about another employee actions, I asked her if she would be comfortable with me having a chat with the employee.  I told her that I suffer from "Mother Hen Syndrome" and do not appreciate it when someone else is acting this way.
    • I went to "Ms. Bully" and asked her if she could tell what happened the day before with Miss New Teacher. She immediately got defensive and told me it was none of my business. 
    • While it was true that this particular incident wasn't technically my business, her actions create an unhealthy work environment for my co-worker, which trickles down to me.  Miss New Teacher dreads seeing Ms. Bully so she gets stress headaches or dreads coming to work so she calls in for a sub more often.  A sub next door can mean more work for me.  So, YES, Ms. Bully I was making this my business.  Or I would be happy to accompany Miss New Teacher to principal's office to discuss the incident there.  But, I thought I should discuss it with Ms. Bully first.
    • After explaining how her actions could impact me in the future, she became a little more cooperative in our discussion.  At the end of our conversation, I told her that I would be watching to make sure there isn't anymore "incidences" with other co-workers.
In order for this to work, it takes employees who are established in a school, to take a stand and speak up!


Have you read about Gretchen Carlson filing a harassment case against Roger Ailes?  When the news first broke, most reports seemed to be slanted in Mr. Ailes' favor.  The story changed directions, when more details came to light. Some of the women were told that Mr. Ailes has too much power when they reported it years ago.

Granted, Mr. Ailes was doing a different type of bullying than the type that takes place with employee-to-employee in schools everywhere.  There are many teachers  who are suffering from migraines, tension headaches, and other anxiety ailments because of the behavior of other teachers.

It isn't just the victim that pays the price.  Districts and students are also paying a price.  Districts have higher cost of health insurance claims and higher use of substitutes.  Even with the highest quality substitute, students are not getting the same level of instruction as they would with their assigned teacher.

Teachers should not have to file a harassment lawsuit to stop this type of behavior.  Districts need to take a stronger stance and implement new policies on this issue.  Until districts do this, it will continue.

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

Click HERE to read my blog's disclosure statement.

Book Bag, Reading Response, & Integrate

Have you heard of the Reading Highway?  It is an easy way to integrate social studies with reading.
Do you have a packed schedule this year?  Integrating my curriculum is one of the best ways I  have found to deal with the "too much curriculum and not enough time to teach it" problem.

Social studies is an easy subject to integrate with reading when your students are on the Reading Highway.  Set up a map like the one in the picture.  Give students a small picture of a vehicle to show on the map the setting of the book they are reading for Daily 5, SSR, D.E.A.R. time, or reading homework. 
There are many different ways to organize your class library.  You can pull some of the books from your collection and put them in regions of the United States (setting of the book).  Your students will soon begin to notice more (social studies) details in the story such as climate, landforms, etc.

Students can record the books they read on the book logs that are organized by regions of the United States, too.

Do you send home book bags?  This is a great way to engage students and parents in reading.  You can start small and have a few book bags that you send home to students once a month.  Example if you have 24 students, organize 6 bags.  Each week send home the book bags to 6 students.  Students will quickly learn if their assigned week is the first week of the month, second week of the month, 3rd or 4th week of the month.  

Book bags can have a theme or subject matter like the one in the picture.  These books are social studies topics.  I found the bags in Target Dollar spot.  Quick and easy way to integrate social studies and reading homework.

You can hold students accountable with their reading and integrate that with social studies using the Reading Highway forms above.  You can use these with the book bags, reading homework, Daily 5, literacy center, or other reading work.

Do you use morning messages?  Your students can learn facts about states while completing their morning work.  These are a good extension when your class is researching the states. Morning Message - Facts about States

What are the best book choices?  Biographies and Magic Tree House books are easy books to find the setting of the stories.  I have a Pinterest board with book lists and links to books set in states.

Do you need books?  I am going to choose a teacher on my FB page to send a box of books who would like to try this.

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

Reading, Writing, & Books

Have you read the research about the benefits of students taking notes by hand instead of electronically? Taking notes by hand engages the brain, more which increases comprehension and retention.

This research was not a surprise to me.  I found that my students' reading skills improved when my writing lessons became more structured.  I integrated writing with my lessons which is good but was not structured enough.  Through trial and error, I found two systems that worked for me.


Morning Messages, which are differentiated are a great way to start your day.  You can read more about my morning routine and get free samples with this post.


Home journals are a great way to get parents involved.  Your students and parents will love to see the writing progress through the year.  It makes a great keepsake, too!  You can read more about my Editable Home Journal program on this post.

I know with all of your Back to School shopping, you could use a little help, right?  You could win a $10 TPT gift card.  You can use it to purchase whatever you would like on the site.

Plus, I am also going to give the winner the following:
To enter:

Winner will be announced on my FB page and emailed.  Winner will have 24 hours to respond to email.  If no response, I will choose a new winner.

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

Netflix, Grading, and Tips

Grading papers is like laundry, a never ending task.  If you skip a week, the stack gets bigger and more overwhelming.  I have found a few things that help me tackle tasks that are less-than-fun, especially when you are doing it on the weekend.

Cool supplies can make the job more fun.  Scratch 'n sniff stickers, sparkly stickers, stamps, and different markers and pens will make your go time go by quicker.  Follow my FB page the week this post is published because I plan to give away a box of markers, pens, stickers, and stamps to one of my followers.

Do you have students that rush through their work and make careless mistakes.  Staple a "speeding ticket" on their paper.  Parents seeing the speeding ticket and students redoing their assignment should help with this problem.

Encourage top quality work by showing your students what you consider high quality work. One easy way to display work is using the twine with clothes pins that is shown in the picture above.  I purchased this at Christmas time.  It was supposed to be used to hang up greeting cards.  Teachers can repurpose it to display students' work.

You can also motivate students by stapling a reward to an assignment that is top quality.  The banana bucks are easy to attach and fun to use if you have a jungle, zoo, or monkey theme.
Put on comfy clothes and binge watch your favorite shows will make your time go by quicker.  The following are some of my favorite shows to watch on Netflix or Amazon Prime:
  • Cover Affairs
  • Hunted
  • The Cleaner
  • Homeland
  • The Americans
  • The Unit
  • Madam Secretary
  • Scandal
  • The Closer
  • The Guardian
  • The Glades
  • The Good Wife
  • Blue Bloods
  • Brotherhood
  • Lie to Me
  • Graceland
  • House
  • Blacklist
  • Chicago Code
  • Legends
Do you have a favorite show(s) to watch when you grade papers?

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