Monday, March 17, 2014

Telling "Secrets"…& a FREEBIE!

Has anyone else out there in bloggy-land checked out Deanna Jump's blog when Katie Garner has guest blogged?

Mrs. Garner has been presenting precious pearls of wisdom that relate to phonics instruction and reaching kids who may not 'get it' from implemented core or supplemental resources, through what she calls a "back door approach" to phonics and spelling patterns.

I have used most of what I learned from Mrs. Garner's blog posts and videos.
My Tier (Intervention) group has really latched onto, and recalled, the "Secrets" I've taught them.

If you are not familiar with her ideas, I strongly recommend you go to her first (of many life-changing) post here:

My post can wait.

K…did you read it?
In its entirety??
Or did you do the teacher thing and skim through...
I'll wait while you go re-read:)

Seriously, her system is mind-blowing!
I have since become subscribed to her vlogs on YouTube, and her own blog, as well.
I am obsessed! #slightlystalker-ish

I had already planned to purchase her book this summer, just to check it out and see what I thought.
I was super curious about her background (i.e., how credible she is a researcher/instructor).
I wanted to know more about where/when this idea of revealing spelling patterns as "Secret Stories" to her students was created.
I desperately needed to learn all her other "Secrets", since the few she has told worked so well!

The price seemed a little steep (when you're talking about out-of-pocket purchases for school-use items), but I was more than willing to fork it over if I felt it would really help my students! (which I do)

Little did I know (until this post) that if you comment on her posts (at Mrs. Jump's blog or Mrs. Garner's own blog) or vlogs, you are automatically entered in a monthly drawing to win an entire set of her resources!!!

Should your lucky name be drawn, you get the whole enchilada:
her book, a CD with all sorts of fun phonics songs, & BEAUTIFUL, LARGE posters of her "Secret Stories" patterns.
Just look:
click on the pic to be taken directly to the SECRET STORIES website/store/blog!
Don't you know I was tickled pink---okay, more like completely psyched out of mind!---when Katie emailed me letting me know that MY NAME HAD BEEN DRAWN AS THE FEBRUARY WINNER!!!
I know!

That lovely box came in the mail this morning.
It must really be a 'lucky' day:)

I have spent all morning perusing her book, listening to the CD, and admiring the posters.
I thought I would wait until next fall to fully implement her ideas…I just can't wait that long!
Now, I'm planning on "telling secrets" to my whole class as soon as we get back from Spring Break.

I'll preface the secrets by telling them:
"Now that you are almost 2nd Graders, and getting to be so grown-up, I can let you in on some actual grown-up reading & writing secrets! Most adults don't remember these secrets, because they've just been reading and writing for so long…but teachers are special and get to remember the secrets of the alphabet!
If you all are working hard like almost 2nd Graders, and doing your very best every day, I will let you in on a grown-up secret at the start of the next day.
But, if I feel like you aren't doing your best work, I will know that you aren't quite grown up enough to hear a "secret", and I'll have to wait until a better day to tell you."

Here is me crossing my fingers, toes, eyes and whatever that this will keep our behavior in check as we zoom towards the end of the school year!

I'll start with the secret that goes with our spelling pattern for that week (ai-ay), and release other secrets when the need arises.
THAT is the true beauty of Katie Garner's system: it really does work best on a "need-to-know" basis!
You teach your students based on the necessity of classroom content---when the students notice a "secret" or it comes up context.
Not just the reading block, but anytime they encounter a word that just doesn't seem to read like it should.

For those of you who need a clear-cut "scope and sequence" to anything you implement, you may want to set that kind of control aside.
Even developmental readiness shouldn't get in the way of teaching your students these secrets…they will use them when they are ready, but you should present them whenever it is appropriate.

Okay, I'll let Mrs. Garner herself fill you in on the rest!
I hope you are intrigued if you haven't already heard about/from her.
Check out one of her coolest vlogs by clicking the button below, and COMMENT, COMMENT, COMMENT!

Best of luck to you that your name comes up as the winnah next month:)

Oh yeah…I promised a freebie:)
In one of Mrs. Garner's routines to build automaticity, she uses a vertical alphabet chart.
This chart helps with the ease and flow of her "Better Alphabet" song and "letter runs".
Already thinking about implementing these routines into my day, I created one for me to use.
Click on the image below if you want to download it for free to use in your classroom:)

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Spring Cleaning:)

So, spring is nearly here...
and, being on Spring Break, I have some time on my hands.

My good friend, Mrs. B, decided to give her blog a facelift…and it's adorable!
If you've never checked her out, click on her cute little button below:

Mrs. B's Bright Blessings

She inspired me to do a little "clean up" myself…and I'm pretty happy with the change.
I am, by no means, a professional 'tech-nerd' (I just pretend to be one), so it's taken me all day!

I also changed my blog name to reflect my actual URL…
but I kept my adorable "synonym roll", as a little homage to the old look:)
Maybe the updates will help me be a little more consistent in my blogging habits;/'s hoping.

Thank you SO MUCH to "The Cutest Blog on the Block" for their premade templates and banners!

Enjoy the rest of your weekend, friends!
Happy St. Patty's day on Monday!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Favorite Reading Strategies and Tips

I'm linking up with Primary Chalkboard again for their "Read Across America" celebration.

One of the best things I have been introduced to since becoming a teacher is the Daily 5.
Last year was my first year with the Sisters' reading block structure, and I loved it!
I HIGHLY suggest anyone that might be curious to read their book, and give it a go.

One of their biggest ideas that I really took to heart was to trust in the process, and really take time every day to build that reading stamina.
Start small, and increase that time ONLY WHEN THEY'RE READY!
I just can't stress that enough:)
I learned very quickly this year how important it is to be flexible and understand that each group of students is different…and you may need to adjust your management accordingly, with this system!
Choice has really not played as big a part this year as I would like...

I have said it before, and I'll say it again, that one of my very favorite sources (and inspiration for jumping in with this structure) is Amanda, from the First Grade Garden.
I gained so much from reading this post, and it helped my first year of D5 start off successfully.

Before I implemented this structure into my classroom, I read and re-read (a few times) the Sisters' book--- it's a very short & quick read!
Then, I set up my own implementation plan.

It's not perfect, and I adjusted a few things this year, but it will give you a good jumping off point if you're just getting started with the structure.

Be advised, this download in no way substitutes for reading their book.
I simply outlined their structure in a pacing guide for myself---but you will not learn anything about each of the components from my outline!
In other words, READ THE BOOK first:)

There are many titles of Children's literature mentioned in my outline.
Most (if not all) of them come from Amanda's post.

Right now, most first graders are working on developing reading fluency and increasing their WPM in repeated readings.
One of my reading groups gets a kick out of using these "funny voices" cards to lighten up repeated reading practice (it can become so tedious at times!).

Click the pic to download.

Finally, I have a few firsties who are still struggling with letter reversals.
One of my students even reverses m & w constantly…which isn't completely uncommon, but not quite as commonplace as b/d, p/q reversals.
I couldn't find any m/w reversal visual cues ANYWHERE, so I made one up.
graphics courtesy of
If you think it might come in handy for you or your students, click the pic to download!
I know my students have gained a lot from the b/d reversal song found here.
And this poster for p/q has helped a few kiddos.

I love this t/f reversal reminder!

I haven't had any kids with that issue this year, but I will definitely keep it in mind!

I hope this has been a somewhat helpful post!
Having only taught 3 years, I'm still learning myself:)
Let me know below if anything was especially inspiring, or comment with some of your OWN favorite strategies & tips!

Til next time, friends:)

Monday, March 3, 2014

Read Across America Linky

Hello, all!

Remember yesterday when I said I was praying kind of hoping for a snow day??


I really needed this.
My house is in a very scary state, and could use some TLC!

So, today I am linking up with Primary Chalkboard for their "Read Across America" week long party.

Today's topic is "Favorite Children's Author".
Well, my favorite children's author is actually Dr. Seuss, people!
I wanted BOTH my sons' nurseries to be Seuss-themed, but that wasn't very popular 12 years ago, so I could't find much to help with the decorating.
I had to settle for Winnie-the Pooh, but that was okay since it was Children's literature, too:)

Because tomorrow's topic is "all things Seuss"
 (and I am going to really try to blog 4 days in a row! I know!),
I will post a few of my other favorite authors.

Let's start with the late, great Barbara Park.
I LOVE Junie B.!
I know I would absolutely want to strangle gently reprimand her constantly if she was in my class, but she commands the attention of primary students!
A little controversial, this heroine uses words and phrases that teachers and parents detest….but let's be honest, no child is completely perfect! 
They've all thought or used those words once or twenty times.

Besides, you can use her outbursts as teachable moments: "Students, should we say/think something like that about someone? What would be something that Junie B. should do/say instead?"
My own son (a first grader this year) is a decent reader, and thrives on nonfiction text.
However, he ADORES the antics of this character!
He will drop whatever he's doing to read a chapter or two of Junie B.
If this series is good enough for him…and my own students…it's a winner in my book! 
(pun intended)

Another author fave: Judy Sierra.
If you have never heard of her, here are a few of my favorite books she's written.
Click the pic to go to her Amazon page!

One of her biggest inspirations was the good Dr., so many of her texts have a sing-song rhyme that he was so famous for using.
"Born to Read" was one of my student's very favorites this year, and they often reference how they are still becoming readers because they were all 'born to read'. Adorable:)

Last but not least, the very talented Steve Jenkins.
Here is my very favorite of all his texts:
Click on the pic to go to Amazon's page for this book!

My students literally fight over this book when it's available!
Most of his books are based on animals, and I just love the collage-Eric Carle-type illustrations that many (if not all) of his books contain.

I could go on and on about more of my favorite authors.
I would love to feature one every other week in my room, but where is the time to implement an author study?
I'll wrap it up today, and set a goal to be back tomorrow:)
Who are your favorite authors?
Let me know in the comments below!
I'd hate to not be in the know of some good kid-lit!

Okay…enough procrastinating!
The day is young and the house beckons:(
Wish me luck...

Sunday, March 2, 2014


So, today is the official birthday for the good Dr., who shall not be named. :)
(picture borrowed from a pin on "Really Good Stuff")

Tomorrow (and for the rest of the next couple of weeks), my students will be participating in some fun "Featured Author" activities.

Last week, we kicked off our celebration by making "Thinklings".
I don't know what they are actually called, but they are the bird-like creatures from the book "Oh! The Thinks You Can Think!"

My inspiration came from Babbling Abby, but since her cute little packet is no longer available (ahem…), I had to create my own templates.
I think they turned out pretty cute!
What do you think?

I can't provide the template for the bird creatures, but they are pretty easy to make, if you try!
However, I'll include the writing template and thought bubble I used for our project.

Simply click here for the paper that goes on top of the Thinklings' shirts!

For this project, I asked my students to sit quietly for 2 minutes and just think…. 
(btw, that is no small feat for this group of kiddos!
We are a very wiggly, energetic group this year! Oh my)

…then each student contributed a thought to our graphic organizer:

Some of their thoughts were creatively zany!
A crab fighting a buffalo! Really?

As you can see, they went in all directions.
From hot-glazed donuts (student after my own heart) to being with friends, and even "light and black", it was incredibly interesting to hear the thoughts of six- and seven-year-olds!


After listening to the story, we drew WITH PENCIL (no color at first) on our thought bubble paper what we had been thinking.
Then we added some color and started to put together our 'Thinklings'.

I was very glad to finally get some work out in the hall!
I'm telling you, this group of firsties wipes. me. out.

We also took some crazy pictures with these cute photo booth props from Chela's etsy shop:

You can't read the poster, but the girls holding it made a poster for one of the good Dr.'s famous quotes:
"Why fit in when you were born to stand out?"
If you want these cute little props for yourself, read more on Tania's blog, My Second Sense

As I'm typing, there is snow coming down, and I'm praying for it to fall harder kind of hoping for another snow day.
We haven't had very many this year….a few more won't hurt us, right?
I know it will affect our celebration, but I'm okay with that:)
We all must make sacrifices...

Enjoy your Sunday, friends!
7 more school days ( & 2 days of P-T conferences!) until Spring Break:), for me!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Yep, it's really me!

She's….she's alive!!!

That might be the thought that popped into some of your heads:)
if you are still following me, that is.

Wish I had a really good reason for my absence, but the school year just seems to get busy fast & stay busy for me.
I guess I'm a better summer blogger!
Which defeats the purpose, as this is supposed to be a school blog.

Maybe my principal will let me turn in "faithfully blogging once a week" as my professional goal for next school year.
Then I'd be sure to get in a few posts every month!

Today, I'm joining a couple of bloggers' linky parties.

First, I'm linkin' up with Blog Hoppin's "Show Us What You Bought!" linky.
Here are my purchases from the big "3 Million Strong!" TpT sale:

Bubble gum Clipart purchased from Krista Wallden (she is soooo talented!), and Black/White Digital Papers by Clever Chameleon.
If the pics above don't link to their stores, simply click on their names above! Great Stuff!!

Shout-Outs from the Common-Core-Guru, Katie Knight.
During my recent evaluation, my principal asked me to consider daily or weekly certificate-type rewards for my students, and Katie's packet (featuring adorable Melonheadz clipart) is just what I need to implement this idea.
Can't wait to try these out!!

Bubble Gum! Bubble Gum! from Alisha Peare, aka "The Bubbly Blonde".
This packet will provide just the vowel practice my students need, in the form of some fun centers! 
Can't wait to use them!!

July/August Color by Code pages from Kathy Law, or "First Grade a la Carte", as you may know her.
I have almost all her "color by code" packets…before she bundled them:)… 
and my student's just love them!  
Can you tell I'm already trying to plan ahead for next year??

Listen Up! Activity Sheets from the Fab Duo at "Fluttering Through First Grade".
They say two heads are better than one…
& these ladies are proof!
I CANNOT wait to try these out with my group this year.
We definitely need to work on some serious listening skills.
AND my grade level partner & I were just collaborating about how exactly to assess those tricky "listening standards"...
I think these activities are just the ticket!!

Okay, technically those last 2 purchases aren't "units" 
(even though they're posted under the "units" title on my pic), but I do plan on implementing them consistently throughout the next school year. 
Each activity will coordinate with thematic units, so they fall under the umbrella:)

Join the party!
 Link up with the ladies at Blog Hoppin' and :

Next up, the wonderful Farley's Currently:

I think the list speaks for itself.
If you have any guesses on the ?????? to my answers, comment below! 

Tomorrow, I'll be back (2 days in a row!! I know!)
and posting about "He-who-shall-not-be-named"-Day….aka, that great author we celebrate in March but aren't supposed to mention by name, for fear of lawsuits.

Glad to be back in the world:)
Thanks for checking me out today!