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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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.


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.


Celebrate Dr. Seuss in Style

Read Across America is around the corner–celebrate Dr. Seuss’ birthday with these fun, no-prep activities:

1. Cat in the Hat Kabob: Download this FREE recipe to make these adorable Cat in the Hat kabobs, a perfect activity to incorporate during your Read Across America celebration. You only need 3 ingredients–large marshmallows, red Swedish fish, and kabob sticks to make this snack. (Use strawberries and bananas to make a healthier kabob.) This activity includes Common Core State Standards as students are reading functional text and answering text-dependent questions.

Dr. Seuss snackdr.-seuss-kabob-1-800x5292. Cat in the Hat Pointillism Portraits: I found this cute, FREE template from You simply need red, white, and blue paint along with Q-tips (or students can use their fingers). My students LOVED this activity!

Materials 1Pointillism 1Completed painting 13. Seussical Photo Booth: I borrowed the librarian’s giant Cat in the Hat and added lettering to create this Seussical photo booth. I took a picture of each of my students which will the cover of our Dr. Seuss books (compiled at the end of the week). Replicate this with any type of Dr. Seuss-themed props.

A Seussical 2nd GraderCheck out tomorrow’s Read Across America blog where I will show you how to use Dr. Seuss supplies (from Target’s Dollar Section) to teach character trait analysis and central message.

Dr. Seuss suppliesJessica_blog_signature-SMALL

Teaching In Style: 5 Key Back to School Pieces

Back to School time is right around the corner and one of my favorite parts is picking out a few outfits for the first week of school. Here are 5 key pieces to start your year off with a bang:

Dress for success

1. Bold, Bright Color: Everyone looks better in color. Wearing the right color next to your skin can have a rejuvenating, uplifting and brightening impact on your complexion and overall appearance. Pale skin and dark hair look best in jewel tones such as ruby red, sapphire blue and emerald green. Skin tones with beige or pink undertones look great in muted colors. Yellow or peachy undertones look best in bright colors. However, there are no absolutes; wearing what makes you feel good when you put it on should be the general rule.

Pop of Color

2. Versatile blazer: A well-cut, tailored blazer is a wardrobe essential because it adds polish to any outfit. Pair it with your favorite dress or pencil skirt for work; add jeans and a crisp button-down for weekend wear.

versatile blazer

3. Mixed prints: Stripes & florals, leopards & polka dots or plaid and a graphic T are a few bold combos to spice up your style. Here I paired two different stripes to create a nautical weekend look. Pair this with jeans and you have a chic, casual Friday outfit.

Mixed prints

4. Crop Tops: Crop tops are the latest trend; they are all over stores in a variety of shapes and cuts.  While they look fantastic on celebrities, most of us shutter at the mere thought of wearing one. However, crop tops look great over button-down blouses, which can be very formal and stiff.  Crop tops are the perfect way to add color or pattern to any outfit.

crop top

5. Peplums: Peplums instantly narrow your waist and give you an hourglass shape, making it flattering on all shapes and sizes.

the peplum

Savvy Shopping: Many stores like Ann Taylor and NYC & Co. offer teacher discounts. Nordstrom Rack, Target and Marshalls are great places to find inexpensive, trendy pieces. My favorite find? EBay! I try on dresses and shoes at the mall and then search for them on EBay. Most are available at a fraction of the price. Be sure to buy from sellers who offer returns and have great feedback.

Thanks for stopping by! I hope you have a great start to your new school year. Be sure to download our FREE Top 10 Tools for Back to School. Happy New Year!


Use this dry erase table to promote active engagement during small group instruction.

Increase Student Engagement in 2 Easy Steps!

Create an amazing interactive whiteboard table for guided reading groups and math groups in two easy steps!  Purchase a roll of self-adhesive dry-erase paper.

1. Measure Table.  Use a yardstick or measuring tape to determine dimensions of table. Roll out dry-erase paper and cut large sections to fit measurements. It is easier to do the sides first and then the middle.  Working in three smaller pieces will prevent bubbling and wrinkling.

Use this dry erase table to promote active engagement during small group instruction. 2.  Trim to Fit:  Use an Exacto knife to trim around the edges.  Colorful duct tape can be used to seal the edge of the table to prevent peeling.

Use this dry erase table to promote active engagement during small group instruction.

Use this dry erase table to promote active engagement during small group instruction.

My students LOVE using this table to share their learning and engage throughout the lesson in a novel way.  In guided reading, we use the dry-erase table to create Thinking Maps, cite evidence, ask and answer questions, and note connections.  Students also write down key vocabulary words and illustrate the story elements.

Guided reading

Use this dry erase table to promote active engagement during small group instruction.

During math groups, we use the table to demonstrate thinking and solve problems.  Students draw mathematical pictures, tallies, number lines, and number sentences as they work through problems.  Students are encouraged to explain their work using their drawings.

Use this dry erase table to promote active engagement during small group instruction.

The whiteboard table can also be used as a behavioral incentive.  Stars or points can be awarded to each student in a little square or circle near their workspace on the table to encourage on-task behavior and work completion.


Walk the Line: 5 Tips to Teach Lining Up Procedures

Do you have difficulty getting your class to line up quickly and quietly? Does your line seem to go on forever? Like most teachers, I have experienced the frustrations of lining up and walking in line. Follow these five easy steps to put an end to the talkers, the stragglers and the wanders once and for all.

1. Establish line procedures: Explain and model expectations. Students will face forward with arms at side and closed, quiet mouths. As students walk in line, they stay close to person in front of them and use gentle, walking feet.

Establish line procedures_web

Scaffold the steps by using these sentences:
“When I say one, please stand up and push in your chairs.”
“When I say two, please turn and face the door.”
“When I say three, please follow your line leader to the place to lineup.”
When students are very familiar with these steps, simply call the number or use a nonverbal cue by holding your fingers. You should expect this process to take two-three weeks and constant reinforcement.

2. Use tape to model line formation: To design effective transitions in your classroom, start by mapping the route. There is one right way to line up, one path each student follows on the way to the reading area, door and other areas. Teach students to follow the same path every time. First model this path and then students practice it under your watchful eye, several times per day. You can even tape each path using a different color of masking tape so students know the exact route to get to designated area. Once students have mastered these routes, remove masking tape so it doesn’t leave a permanent mark on the carpet.

use tape to model line _web

3. Label stopping points: Map the route to important places around the campus. Take the same routes to specials, cafeteria, playground and bathrooms, labeling stopping points along the way. Stopping points allow the students in back to keep up with the line (no more stragglers) and help wanders remember the designated routes to specific destinations. I tape small owl decals to the sidewalk at class stopping points; these serve as a good visual cue to remember these important points. Remove decals after stopping becomes automatic.

Label stopping points_web

4. Provide visual cues: Create a visual cue to remind students to stay (or get) quiet in line. We are Weinberg Wranglers at my school and students all use a ‘Wrangler W’ to signal quiet time. Visual cues don’t add any additional noise and give students feedback.

provide visual cues_web

5. Reward and reinforce: Add some fun to the line by setting a daily goal. For example, set a stopwatch and time students as they line up in ABC order. Encourage students to beat the previous time. Be sure to provide modeling, praise and constructive feedback as needed.

I also use the Mystery Walker poem and select one Mystery Walker for each line. This student gets a ticket to Treasure Box drawing at the end of the week. You can also give students Mystery Walker paper bracelets or a hat as a reward. If all students are doing a great job, give them a Quiet Line Loop. Attach loops together to make a class chain. Determine how long the chain needs to before the class earns a reward. If the class earns a compliment in line, add an additional loop to the chain.

Mystery Walker_web

Download our Back to School Toolbox: Routines, Procedures & Transitions unit for additional tips and activities for teaching effective transitions and routines.


Students love Letterman, our Friendly Letter Superhero.

Friendly Letters: Superhero Style

Children love superheroes so what better way to engage them in writing than with Letterman?

During my second-grade friendly letter study, Letterman, our Friendly Letter Superhero, visits the classroom each day to teach a specific friendly letter skill. He leaves colorful L’s on the classroom door to signal his visits. My students are true believers! They are so excited to see L’s on the door in the morning; they race over to the Learning Nest to read his latest letter. 

Students love Letterman, our Friendly Letter Superhero.

Letterman first introduces himself and asks students to write a letter to him, a perfect pre-assessment. The next day, he teaches the parts of a friendly letter with a color-coded letter and special chant. During subsequent lessons, he teaches students how to plan, draft, edit, revise and publish letters. Students pull name sticks to determine which classmate they will write to. Using Letterman’s superhero skills, students complete the writing process and mail the letters after publishing.

Letterman bulletin board

I pick a mail carrier to deliver the mail using authentic United States Postal Service materials. Students love wearing the mail carrier shirt, hat and mailbag as they walk around to classmates’ desks, delivering the much-anticipated letters. Students read and share their letters with each other.

Mail carrier

Delivering mail

As a post-assessment, students write a friendly letter to me to demonstrate their new friendly letter superhero skills. I copy all of the letters, including the pre- and-post-assessments and make a Line of Letters for all students. I fold 12×18′ construction paper in half like a book. On the back, I staple the pre- and post-assessments next to each other and glue the accompanying rubric underneath the letters. On the inside of the construction paper, I staple the student’s letter to classmate with classmate’s response and rubric underneath. These are perfect to share at parent-teacher conferences or to send home with report cards.

Sharing Letters 2

Letterman comes to visit the class throughout the year to keep students’ friendly letter superhero skills sharp.

Letterman preview

Click here to bring Letterman to life in your classroom, too!



Flash Friday FREEBIE

The first week of school is a time to focus on establishing procedures, explaining expectations and building classroom community. Infuse some fun into these lessons with our FLASH FRIDAY FREEBIEBack to School Character Education Classroom Cooking Unit.

First Day Jitter Jumble: Students often feel nervous and anxious on the first day of school and it is important to address to help them feel more comfortable in the classroom. Read First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg and discuss Sarah’s feelings and compare to students’ initial feelings. Then follow recipe to make Jitter Jumble together, discussing and recording what each ingredient represents. Students can then complete First Day Jitters recording sheet as you serve Jitter Jumble snack to class.

Jitter Jumble

jitter jumble student page

Apple Mouth Snacks: Teach students the appropriate times to talk in class with this easy snack recipe. Discuss the importance of talking times and quiet times at school; reinforce that both are needed throughout the day. Complete Venn diagram together to compare appropriate and inappropriate talking times.  Students can then follow recipe to make the apple mouth snack.

apple mouths

Venn diagram

Friendship Salad: Help students define key qualities of friendship with Friendship Salad.

friendship salad

Read Horace, Morris but Mostly Delores by James Howe, stopping when Horace and Morris kick Delores out of the Mega Mice Club. Ask students if they’ve been in a similar situation and then brainstorm a list of strategies Delores could use to solve this problem. Read to the end, stopping to discuss as needed. Make Friendship Salad afterwards, discussing what each ingredient represents. Walk Friendship Salad around the room, allowing students to see and smell it (they will be very anxious to eat it). Then pull out the final ingredient…..a rotten banana. Start to peel the banana and move towards bowl; students will scream in disgust. Explain that the rotten banana ruins the salad, just like cruel behavior can ruin a friendship. Remind them to treat others with kindness and respect….don’t ever be the rotten banana. I post a picture of the rotten banana on our classroom door as a reminder.

rotten banana

Unit details: Detailed lesson plans are included with essential questions, materials list along with suggestions for teacher modeling, guided practice and independent practice. Each lesson includes accompanying worksheets and graphic organizers to help students understand and reflect on these important character traits and life skills.

Start your year off right with our comprehensive line of Back to School products! Be sure to check out our Best of Back to School Lesson Plans & Activities, Golden Keys to Success Behavior Management Planand Back to School Teacher Toolbox: Routines, Procedures & Transitions.

Happy New Year!


Blast Off Back to School Sale!

As veteran teachers, we know that the beginning of year often means countless meetings, endless hours of preparation and a great deal of stress. Let us alleviate some of your stress with our tried and true back to school resources guaranteed to help you work smarter, not harder. Plus, everything’s ON SALE!!!!





Best of Back to School Lesson Plans & Activities:  This unit focuses on establishing procedures, explaining expectations and building classroom community while creating an organized, efficient schedule with minimal preparation. Our comprehensive first week lesson plans  include 50+ interactive, engaging activities with objectives & detailed instructions, homework ideas,daily math lessons and art projects.

Best of Back To School Preview

Golden Keys to Success Classroom Management Plan: Golden Keys to Success is an efficient behavior management program that builds character, promotes self-monitoring and ensures high behavioral expectations. This program has made a huge difference in my students’ behavior because it teaches them to be responsible for daily choices. Golden Keys to Success focuses on 5 important life skills and qualities that students need to become successful citizens. This 90 page unit includes 21 detailed lessons with essential questions and quality literature, 34 engaging activities and projects, a Weekly Responsibility Chart (for students) and a parent brochure with overview of program, consequences and helpful parent tips.

Preview Keys to Success_Page_1

Common Core Math Problem-Solving Essentials Bundle: This ultimate bundle provides an entire year’s worth of differentiated Common Core problem-solving activities to give students the strategies they need to solve word problems. Perfect for general education, special education, RTI and math intervention! This 636 page file has all of the lessons, activities, worksheets and printables you need for comprehensive problem-solving instruction. It is the perfect supplement to any existing curriculum or can be used as a stand alone resource.

Problem solving bundle preview

We hope that these products reduce that dreaded back to school stress and make your life easier.

Happy New Year!


Master Meet the Teacher & Conquer Curriculum Night

Just the mention of Meet the Teacher or Curriculum Night makes most teachers break out into a cold sweat. Why is this? We speak in front of people all day, every day, but the difference is their age. Children will still love us if we make a mistake, get nervous or act silly (they especially love when this happens). Adults by nature are more judgmental and harder to win over. Stop the dread and take back control with these easy tips:

1. Prepare, prepare, prepare: Plan your handouts and student activities at least 2 days before the big event. Don’t wait until last minute–that’s when the copier breaks or the computer runs out of ink.  Not sure what to say at Meet the Teacher and Curriculum Night? Download our Welcome Back to School Parent Packet for several important customizable letters and forms.

meet teacher paperwork

2. Post directions & agenda for the night: Write specific directions for parents to read as they come into the classroom. Make sure they know they must fill out transportation form, room parent slip and student information card. Plus it gives them something to do (other than staring at you) while waiting for the presentation to start. Many parents must attend more than one Meet the Teacher on the same night. Help these parents by posting an agenda (with times) for the night so they can determine the best time to quietly exit and go to next session.


3. Serve refreshments: It is polite to serve refreshments for guests in your home and the same etiquette applies in the classroom. I purchase inexpensive cookies (from Target or Walmart) and place on serving trays. Add decorative napkins and flowers as a finishing touch.


4. Provide engaging activities for students: At the beginning of the night, I need to address just the parents and don’t want students talking or running around the room.  While parents are completing necessary paperwork, I gather students (and their siblings) and bring them to the carpet area where I give them a word search, pencil and white board. I explain directions and set expectations for their behavior. I also pass out lollipops to eat–this keeps their mouths busy while I am addressing parents. Be sure to put a garbage can there as well or you will have wrappers and sticks all over the room.

word search

word search meet teacher

After I speak to parents, I give the kids a scavenger hunt with 9 boxes of items to find in class. I glue small, round stickers to each scavenger sheet; students place a sticker on the box after the item is found. When students are finished, they get to help themselves to refreshments (I set a limit on number of cookies or you will have a couple that will try to take the whole tray–trust me, I’ve learned from experience)

5. Create suggested supplies visual: Each year students come in with random bags of supplies and rarely want to share them with the rest of the classroom. To alleviate this problem this year, I listed specific supplies I wanted to students to bring and then created a visual of what the supplies should look like. I simply purchased a medium-sized pencil case and glued the requested supplies inside and showed it during the presentation, reminding parents to unwrap items and place inside case as shown. This year all the students brought their prepared pencil cases just as I had shown and it was a HUGE time-saver! They simply put inside their desks and we were able to move on to other procedures.

suggested supplies

6. Make a Giving Tree: Parents love to donate supplies at the beginning of the year, so write down each item on an apple and post on a Giving Tree. Remind parents to pick an apple or two before they leave for the night. They return the apple with donations during the first week of school.


giving tree

giving tree 2

Most importantly, remember to smile, breathe and believe in yourself! You’ve got this!

jake at meet teacher

Back to School Organization 101

Does the sight of this classroom make you shudder?     Unfortunately for many teachers, this is reality during back to school season. As soon as we sign our contract, we become immediate hoarders, stock piling supplies purchased during those great back to school sales. But once we get in the classroom, we realize there’s simply not enough space for 100 boxes of crayons. What is one to do? Here are 4 easy storage solutions to get your year off on the right foot:

1. Book Boxes: These colorful cardboard book boxes are perfect for any type of paperwork. I purchased several to hold daily work as well as quarterly copies of behavior charts, writing paper and reflection forms. I also use them to store my centers; each box holds a specific concept (i.e. ABC order, antonyms). They can also be used as writing portfolios to organize students’ writing pieces.

Book boxes

2. Plastic Bowls: I purchased 4 bowls from Target clearance section to hold small items that I need throughout the day. These bowls are perfect for staples, rubber bands, paper clips and push pins. Simply label and place on desk.

Desk bowls

3. Silverware Caddy: A silverware caddy is the ideal desk storage solution because it has multiple spaces to hold a variety of items. I use the first 3 sections to store scissors, pens and . The back section is much larger, perfect for stickers and notepads. I label each section to help ensure continued organization (especially if students use).

Silverware caddy

4. Tupperware Storage: Inexpensive tupperware is a great solution for small items such as googly eyes, jewels, beads, cotton balls and clothespins. Plus they stack easily, making organization a snap. Add labels to find items easily.

Ziploc storage 2

Have an innovative organization or storage solution? I’d love to hear from you!


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