The Wait is Finally Over…

The wait is finally over! We are delighted to announce the launch of our newly updated website and blog, www.astutehoot.com, a comprehensive resource to spark enthusiasm for learning. Astute Hoot features….

A cast of lovable animal teachers: Each animal helper has a unique feature, accompanying poem, and hands-on tools that are used to teach children specific standards-based strategies or skills. Meet them here!

Engaging curriculum: Our supplemental resources include multisensory games, graphic organizers and centers which have been field-tested and refined in various early childhood classrooms. Download this freebie to see what the Hoot’s all about! 

Virtual learning support: Check out our tried and true videos to support and enhance distance learning.

Teaching blog: Take a glimpse into our classrooms for practical ideas, easy to implement strategies and friendly advice.

Why Astute Hoot? Now used in classrooms worldwide, these lovable animal characters bring the strategies to life, helping the most reluctant students blossom into motivated, enthusiastic learners. All students, especially those with special needs, make immense gains in academics and confidence.  We are excited to awaken the joy of learning in your children as well!

How to Find Balance with Virtual Learning

Love or hate it, virtual learning has become our new reality. As a reading interventionist and kindergarten teacher, this has been a difficult and daunting shift for us as we wholeheartedly believe in multi-modal, hands-on instruction.

One of our biggest challenges has been keeping young children engaged and motivated during virtual learning. It is important for us to find balance between screen time and authentic, hands-on learning. Here are our top 4 ways we’ve enhanced virtual learning for our students: Read more

Rhyming Made Easy

“Reggie the Rhyming Raccoon is my name.
Learning to rhyme is my game!
When words rhyme, they have the same ending sound–
You can hear this in the words ground and found.
I’ll teach you to hear and find the rhyme.
With my help, you’ll rhyme on your own in no time!” Read more

How to Boost Reading Fluency during Remote Learning

Like many other educators, I’ve been missing my students greatly and have been trying to wrap my head around providing quality specialized intervention instruction during distance learning and remote instruction.

 

Most of my students have goals in the area of reading fluency. During the school year we used a variety of strategies to increase their fluency. One of our most effective strategies was Repeated Reading. In the Repeated Reading strategy, students read the same short passage of text several times, improving with each time they read. Repeated Reading has been shown to improve decoding automaticity, phrasing, comprehension, rate and confidence.

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Best of Back to School Activities & Lessons

**Visit our Astute Hoot TPT store on August 20 for a bonus sale of 25% off using the code BTSBONUS19.

Planning back to school lessons is similar to cooking a gourmet meal—you need several elaborate ingredients, thorough instructions, specific materials and a great deal of time. Despite my best intentions, my back to school lessons, much like my gourmet meals, always seem to fall short of my expectations.

After 11 years of teaching, I finally cooked up the perfect recipe in The Best of Back to School Lessons and Activities.  It’s a well-balanced combination of community building activities, procedures practice, behavior basics, assessment time along with a heaping dose of fun. This unit includes:
–Comprehensive first week lesson plans
–50+ interactive, engaging activities with objectives & detailed instructions
–Homework ideas with accompanying parent instructions
–Daily math lessons
–Quality Back to School literature
–Cooking and art projects
–Photos of completed projects

Get cooking with our Gourmet Week at http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Best-of-Back-to-School-Lesson-Plans-Activities-735456

Mother’s Day Mother of the Year Writing & Art Project

Mother’s Day is right around the corner and what better way to celebrate Mom than with her own Mother of the Year magazine cover and article. Inspired by Time Magazine’s Woman of the Year issue, this persuasive writing and art unit teaches students how to systematically write a five-paragraph essay all about Mom. In honor of mothers everywhere,  this unit is FREE until Sunday! Click here to download now. Read more

Boost Intervention and Tutoring Success in 3 Easy Steps

As I’m wrapping up this school year, I’ve had the opportunity to reflect on what went well and what I could have done better in my intervention groups. One thing that I would have liked to have done better was to send more frequent and detailed newsletters to parents. Last year I was amazing at that, but unfortunately this year, the newsletters were few and far between. That is definitely something I will work on for next year.

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Happy 100! Celebrating the 100th Day of School

I can’t believe we’ve already been in school for 100 days! Where does time go? To celebrate this momentous occasion, my class participated in several 100 Day activities. Here are a few highlights from our special day:

1. If I Had $100 Writing Activity: I purchased this $100 bill pad from Really Good Stuff and printed pictures of students’ faces in black and white. I trimmed the pictures and glued each one onto a $100. Read more

Looking For A Last Minute Holiday Project?

Looking for a last minute holiday art project? Check out these easy, adorable activities that require minimal prep while keeping students actively engaged in learning.

Make a 3-D Christmas Tree: Follow the directions included in our new Winter Holiday Art Projects unit to make this neat 3-D tree. Students fold, cut and tape to assemble the tree and then decorate with markers, sequins and pom-poms. Read more

Holiday Survival Guide for Teachers

Our school recently kicked off the holiday season with a Winter Wonderland celebration this past week.  In Arizona, that means delivering 12 tons of snow to school grounds!  The kids are super excited for all of the wonders of this magical season.  It can be difficult to fall into the trap of filling December up with a variety of holiday fluff activities.  Don’t let yourselves make that mistake and waste weeks of instructional time.  Holiday activities and lessons can be both rigorous AND fun!!!  We’ve created CCSS aligned integrated literature units that use anchor texts to support a variety of standards in engaging and interactive ways.  Check out these great tools to help you survive the craziness of the holiday season…

Christmas Essentials: An Integrated Common Core Unit 

http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Christmas-Essentials-An-Integrated-K-3-Common-Core-Unit-995239

Hanukkah Essentials: An Integrated Common Core Unit

http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Hanukkah-Essentials-An-Integrated-K-3-Common-Core-Unit-972943

Holiday Fun FREEBIES

http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Holiday-Fun-Freebies-995333

Winter Break Phonics Packet

http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Winter-Break-Packet-Phonics-Decoding-2-Syllable-Words-990704

In addition, to keep students motivated and working hard, download our Reindeer in the Room: Holiday Behavior System.  We completely understand that these next few weeks can seem like pure torture as students seem to get wilder by the minute.

http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Reindeer-in-the-Room-Holiday-Behavior-System-445306

Reindeer in the Room is the perfect solution for maintaining a calm, productive classroom during the holiday season. A special reindeer, only used by teachers, is sent to watch over the classroom and this reindeer reports nightly to Santa. Each day the reindeer watches the classroom and he/she picks one student who demonstrates outstanding behavior; this student gets an antler award. The students who did not make good behavior choices (i.e. shouting out incomplete homework, etc.) will get a big hoof, telling them to stomp out misbehavior. The reindeer moves each morning after he gets back from the North Pole.

home-995239-1 home-972943-1Reindeer Cover

Calming Christmas Craziness

Is Christmas craziness taking over your classroom? As a veteran teacher, I’ve tried every behavior management trick and technique to calm holiday chaos that predictably arrives every year around December 1 and found limited success. These three weeks should be full of fun and learning, but for years they left me exasperated and exhausted. I decided to take back control with Reindeer in the Room, a customizable, effective behavior management plan I created based upon Elf on the Shelf.  It’s made a tremendous difference in my classroom and I’m excited to share this idea with other teachers. Follow these easy steps to introduce Reindeer in the Room to your class:

1. Purchase a small reindeer. I found mine at the Hallmark store, but they can be found anywhere.

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2. Read Elf on a Shelf to introduce Reindeer in the Room. The majority of students have an elf at home and it is a perfect connection to the Reindeer in the Room. I explain that Santa sends elves to watch children at home, but Santa gives teachers an extra special helper, a reindeer. He comes down from the North Pole and gives Santa a daily behavior report. This report provides valuable information to Santa because education is very important to him. Santa expects that all children listen, participate and give their best effort.

3. Read poem to students to introduce the reindeer and show them the reindeer. Explain that the reindeer works just like the elf, watching the class carefully and then reporting to Santa each night. Each day the reindeer will give a special antler reward to one or two well-behaved students. The reindeer will also leave a hoof on the desk of misbehaved students as a symbol to “stomp out” poor behavior immediately.DSC_1521

4. Discuss behavior goals with the class and record on board. Students will write 3 individual behavior goals and record them on the Reindeer Promise sheet. The reindeer reads these goals and watches students’ progress towards them.

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5. Display Reindeer Promises and Reindeer in the Room on a bulletin board. I purchased this Santa head from Hobby Lobby and then added the title, “Santa’s Watching….” as a reminder to students.

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6. In order to determine gets an antler and hoof each day, I take quick notes on a Post-It throughout the day. I specifically look for students that I see going above and beyond (helping others, picking up trash on playground, etc.). I give a hoof to students who lose a star (as part of my classroom behavior plan). Antlers and hooves can easily be used with existing behavior systems. For example, antlers can be given to students who get to blue (excellent behavior) and hooves can be given for students who go to yellow or red on stoplight behavior system. There are days when no one gets a hoof.

7. Each night before I leave school, I put the antler(s) and hooves on students’ desks and move the reindeer to a new location. Students are so excited to discover the reindeer’s new location and see who earned antlers and who got hoofed. I briefly discuss this with students before we go over the schedule and take attendance in the morning. It sets the tone for the day and reminds them about their behavior goals.

Download the full unit at http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Reindeer-in-the-Room-Holiday-Behavior-System-445306

Move Over Elf on the Shelf–The Reindeer is in the Room

Is Christmas craziness taking over your classroom? As a veteran teacher, I’ve tried every behavior management trick and technique to calm holiday chaos that predictably arrives every year around December 1 and have found limited success. These three weeks should be full of fun and learning, but for years they left me exasperated and exhausted. I decided to take back control with Reindeer in the Room, the teacher’s version of Elf on the Shelf. Just like the Elf on a Shelf, the Reindeer in the Room features a special helper (a reindeer) who is sent to watch over the classroom and reports nightly to Santa.   It’s made a tremendous difference in my classroom and I’m excited to share this idea with other teachers. Follow these easy steps to introduce Reindeer in the Room to your class:
1.Purchase a small reindeer. I found my reindeer at the Hallmark store but I’ve seen them everywhere including the Target Dollar Section.

2. Activate background knowledge and build excitement.  I call the students to the carpet and I read Elf on a Shelf to introduce Reindeer in the Room. The majority of students have an elf at home and it is a perfect connection to the Reindeer in the Room. I explain that Santa sends elves to watch children at home, but Santa gives teachers an extra special helper, a reindeer. He comes down from the North Pole and gives Santa a daily behavior report. This report provides valuable information to Santa because education is very important to him. Santa expects that all children listen, participate, and give their best effort.

3. Introduce Reindeer in the Room. Show students the reindeer and read the accompanying poem. Explain that the reindeer works just like the elf, watching the class carefully and then reporting to Santa each night.
Each day the reindeer will give a special antler reward to one or two well-behaved students. The reindeer will also leave a hoof on the desks of misbehaved students as a symbol to “stomp out” poor behavior immediately.

4. Record reindeer promises. Discuss behavior goals with the class and record on board. Students write 3 individual behavior goals and record them on the Reindeer Promise sheet. Explain that the reindeer reads these goals and watches students’ progress towards them.
5. Create a  Reindeer in the Room on a bulletin board. Prominently display promises on a Reindeer in the Room bulletin board.
6 .Move the reindeer nightly and award antlers and hand out hooves. In order to determine who receives the antler and hoof each day, I take quick notes on a Post-It throughout the day. I specifically look for students that I see going above and beyond (helping others, picking up trash on playground, etc.). I select one student to get an antler award; I place the antler headband, printable antler certificate and Santa chocolate on student’s desk before I leave work for the night. I give a hoof to any student who lost a star (as part of my classroom behavior plan) or who has a messy desk. I place the hoof printable and coal on the student’s desk.

Antlers and hooves can easily be used with existing behavior systems. For example, antlers can be given to students who get to blue (excellent behavior) and hooves can be given for students who go to yellow or red on stoplight behavior system. There are days when no one gets a hoof. I track antlers and hooves in my grade book to ensure that everyone (or most) will get an antler award.

7. Move the reindeer nightly. Each night before I leave school, I move the reindeer to a new location. I try to get creative and also make sure that the reindeer has a good view of the classroom to carefully watch behavior.

Students are so excited to discover the reindeer’s new location and see who earned antlers and who got hoofed. I briefly discuss this with students before we go over the schedule and take attendance in the morning. It sets the tone for the day and reminds them about their behavior goals.

8. Have fun! Download Reindeer in the Room to calm the Christmas chaos in your classroom.  I’d love to see pictures of your Reindeer in the Room in action.

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Hanukkah Essentials: Latkes, Dreidels, Menorahs & More

 

Hanukkah is here and what better way to engage students than through integrated Hanukkah activities aligned to Common Core Standards. Here are highlights from our Hanukkah Essentials Unit:

1. KWL menorah: To start our unit, students completed a Hanukkah KWL. They knew that Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday celebrated in the winter but had many questions regarding traditions and origin.

Hanukkah KWL

2. Hanukkah research: During social studies time, students researched to answer their specific questions from their KWL menorahs. They summarized and recorded new learning on their Hanukkah fact sheet.

Hanukkah research

3. Delightful dreidels:  Students colored and assembled dreidels using the template included in the unit.

Making dreidels

Playing dreidel

While students worked on their dreidels, I pulled small groups to make these adorable edible dreidels.

edible dreidels

dreidel step 1

dreidel step 2

dreidel step 3

dreidel step 4

4. Memorable menorahs: While students colored and glittered menorahs (included in the unit), I pulled small groups to make these keepsake handprint menorahs.

Glitter menorahs

Handprint menorah

Menorah step 1

handprint menorah step 2

handprint menorah 3

5. Luscious latkes: I used Latkes, Latkes Good to Eat by Naomi Howland as the anchor text for the Hanukkah unit. During reading group time, students made predictions, summarized the story and determined moral of the story (all lesson plans and graphic organizers are included in the unit). As a culmination, we made homemade latkes (recipe included in unit). I shredded potatoes and students formed the small potato pancakes.

Homemade latkes

We also tried the premade pancake mix, a much easier option. Most students preferred the mix to the traditional latke recipe.

Premade latke mix

Latkes

Download our Hanukkah Essentials unit for these ideas and much more!

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The Ugly Truth About Halloween

Halloween is just around the corner and kids are focused on costumes, candy and creepy creatures–it’s enough to make you batty before Halloween even arrives! It’s tempting to use Halloween coloring pages and other fluffy activities to keep students calm and help maintain your sanity, but don’t succumb to the pressure. Here are 5 secrets for creating engaging, academic Halloween activities:
1. Select an interesting topic: Most students love bats so I created Going Batty: A Stellaluna and Nonfiction Bat Unit. This comprehensive book study centers around our reading and writing strategy animals. It engages all learners while teaching research-based, standards-aligned decoding, comprehension and writing strategies within the context of authentic text. Students retell, compare and contrast characters, determine cause and effect, use text evidence to analyze character traits, make text connections, ask and answer questions using text and participate in shared bat research2. Decorate classroom: I turned Hazel’s Reading Roost, my guided reading area, into Hazel’s Reading Roost Visits the Bat Cave. I added a large bat from Party City and spider webbing for a creepy effect.

I added magnets to these 3-D bats, Beware, and Stay Out signs, all inexpensive treasures from Target’s Dollar section. I also found this adorable bat doormat at Target.

3. Incorporate dramatic play: Act out key vocabulary terms and the important events in the story to build comprehension and increase active engagement. Here are my students acting out a few Stellaluna vocabulary terms included in the book study.vocabulary 1

Bat Vocabulary

4. Integrate art: During our bat research, students ask questions, and use text features to find answers and record answers on this adorable bat foldable.  After they finish writing, they color, cut and fold bats and I hang them up in our Bat Cave. In this unit, students also create foldable KWL bats and write reports on a large bat template. Students also decorate and cut out both and I hang them from the ceiling with fishing wire, giving the bats a flying effect.

ask and answer questions

Bat question

5. Add food: Bring in food items or make a theme-based snack. Stellaluna eats mangoes, so I brought in one for students to touch and smell. I passed out small pieces for students to try; many had never tasted a mango before.

Mango

During the unit, I randomly hand out these chocolate eyeballs for on-task behavior, organized desks or any other positive behavior that I spot.

I've Got My Eye On You

At the end of the bat unit, students read a recipe and follow directions to make Bat Snacks, one of their absolute favorite activities.

Bat snack_600_2

Love these ideas? Download our complete Going Batty Unit, our FREE Bat KWL foldable and FREE Bat Name Tags, all guaranteed to keep students actively engaged in learning during the Halloween season.

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Fantasies of a Special Education Teacher

Are you exhausted? Are you suffocating under a mountain of IEP paperwork? Have you fantasized about applying for a job at the mall? Are you already dreaming about your next beach vacation? Do you wish you had more time for self-care?  Do your weekends consist solely of of Netflix and grading?  

As educators, we’ve experienced these same thoughts and more. It was only through the creation of these 4 life-changing intervention resources, that we’ve been able to find balance, have free time, and renewed joy in our careers.  

Let us help you avoid the special educator burn out. Download these ready-to-use resources to reach your ultimate teacher fantasy of work life balance. Having less planning, less stress, more free time, and increased effectiveness can be all yours with a simple click…

Special Education Ultimate Survival Kit

“The Special Education Survival Kit is amazing! I feel so organized and ready for the year thanks to this! After going through this, I feel like I have a rock solid foundation for the year in several areas. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you!”
–Melissa, special educator

Reading Intervention Essentials Bundle

“I cannot say enough about how wonderful the Reading Intervention Essentials Bundle has been in planning and instructing literacy. The students absolutely love the animals, they are so motivational! I can’t wait to see what you come up with next!”
–Sam, reading interventionist

Phonics Intervention Bundle: Multisyllabic Words

“The Phonics Intervention Bundle is a WONDERFUL product! I’ve been looking for a strong product that uses multisyllabic words to teach the different syllable types. I’ve used this unit to patch some curriculum holes and round out our intervention materials for this skill. LOVE!”
–Jennifer, second grade teacher

Special Education Time-on-Task Observation Chart

“The Time-on-Task Observation Chart is so useful to track data. Saved me a ton of time! Assisted me with reporting focused talking points for parents.”
–Carly, special educator

Guided Reading Survival Guide Part 4

Guided reading challenging, even to veteran teachers because there are so many factors to consider. In my 4 part blog series, Guided Reading Survival Guide, I explain how to go beyond the basal and provide engaging, authentic supplemental texts; teach research-based strategies using our unique cast of strategy animals; and incorporate hands-on tools to motivate and engage students. In this last blog, I will explain how to integrate multiple strategies within the context of authentic text.

guided

Guided Reading Survival Guide Part 4: Integrating Strategies

Skills and strategies should be taught within the context of high-quality text rather than isolated splinter skills. Explicitly teach each strategy and provide ample practice for students to apply the strategy using authentic text during guided reading lessons and independent practice. As students demonstrate mastery, introduce additional strategies. The goal is for students to integrate and apply multiple strategies to develop deeper meaning of the text.

In my classroom: During whole group instruction, the class and I read the text at least 3 different times on 3 different days, each with a different strategy and purpose. For the first read, I focus on overall comprehension and retell of the literary elements or main ideas. During the second read, I focus on a specific skill such as character analysis or cause and effect. After the third read, I prompt students to make inferences, determine author’s purpose, and make connections. I practice the same strategies during small group instruction using leveled text.

Reading Strategies Poster_web

During whole group instruction, my students read, “Animals Building Homes” from our Journey basal and the Reading A-Z leveled text, “What Lives in This Hole?” during guided reading time. Each day, we practiced a different strategy.

supplemental-collage

Here are some samples of the graphic organizers that students completed to practice and apply strategies:

quinn-answer-questionsquinn-vocabularysharonvern

Word work should also be incorporated during reading instruction. I use Sally the Sounding-Out-Snake and Charlie the Chunking Chipmunk to incorporate word work from both the basal and guided reading texts. Students also use the Sounding-Out and Syllable Slates during spelling center to practice their weekly words or word work from the selected text.

sallycharliespelling-scaffolds

Reading Response Logs also help students synthesize strategies while they respond to text in written form. I first provide opportunities for discussion for students to formulate their thoughts. This can be difficult for young students, especially with students with language issues so I like to provide scaffolds and supports to help them be successful. I use Reading Response Sentence Stems (specific to each strategy) to help students respond to text.reading-response-log

While the Guided Reading Survival Guide blog series aimed to help teachers go beyond the basal, use research-based strategies, motivate and engage, and integrate multiple strategies, guided reading looks different on each campus. Check out our FREE Ultimate Guided Reading Templates to help streamline planning and instruction. Plus they are completely customizable! Each strategy unit can be purchased separately and all include detailed lesson plans, I Can posters, graphic organizers, printable hands-on tools, assessment options and much more! Check out our bundle options and our new hands-on tools as well.

I’d love to hear your experiences, successes, and questions about guided reading. Please comment below or email me at Jessica@astutehoot.com

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Last Day of School Blues

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking for an engaging last day of school project? Use our Last Day of School Blues FREE Activity to help students reflect and discuss end of year feelings. My students LOVED it and it kept them engaged in learning on the last day, which can be a difficult feat.

First, the class and I discussed our feelings about the last day of school. I explained that it is normal to have a mix of emotions; I told them that I was sad to see each of them leave, proud of all that they learned, and excited to start summer vacation. Students took turns sharing feelings and I recorded these on the board for our reflection sheet activity. Next, we read  Last Day Blues by Julie Danneberg. In this story, Mrs. Hartwell’s students are worried about how sad she’ll be and how much she’ll miss them over summer break. They look for the perfect gift to help her remember them and decide to make a poster with a poem and drawings featuring all of the things that they’ll miss about school, especially Mrs. Hartwell. As we read, I stopped several times to discuss, make predictions, and create text connections.

Last_day_blues-210

Then, we made the Last Day of School Trail Mix. We read the recipe together and the class discussed what each ingredient represented in the recipe:

  • Alpha Bits cereal represents new concepts learned this year
  • Twisted pretzels represent the twist of emotions felt on last day (excited, sad, nervous)
  • Whoppers represent the whopper of a year we had
  • Good and Plenty represent plenty of good learning this year
  • Starburst represent the start students they’ve become
  • Smarties represent how smart and mature the students have become

Last day of blues ingredients

Students wrote in each representation as each ingredient was discussed and added to the trail mix.

Last day of blues trail mix

Recipe

Finally, students completed the Last Day Blues self reflection sheet using the list of emotions we brainstormed while reading the story. Afterwards, students took a Gallery Walk, silently walking around the room to read and observe each reflection sheet. Students participated in a Think-Pair-Share to discuss similarities and differences between the reflections as well as favorite memories from the year.

Last Day Blues Reflection SheetThis activity kept students engaged and focused on the last day of school, but more importantly, it gave them a valuable opportunity to reflect on and discuss key highlights and memories from the year.

I hope you have a wonderful last day with your students!

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