Powered by Blogger.

Four Ways to Dig Deeper with The Reading Strategies Book

If you've been on my blog before, you may have noticed that I'm a HUGE Jennifer Serravallo fan.  I'm pretty much trying to live my reading teacher life as the gospel according to Jen.

The Reading Strategies Book (affiliate link) is one of the best resources out there for reading teachers.  I love how easy it is to use.  It's 300+ pages but each page is a single teaching strategy lesson.  You can read more about it here and here.
Take your love of The Reading Strategies book to the next level with four great ways to get more out of this resource.

If you already have The Reading Strategies Book, here are four ways to get more out of your book:

1.  Get it Spiral Bound

I have seen this on Instagram, but I've been scared to take my precious book to Office Max for potential butchering.  I won an extra copy at a workshop and figured it would make the perfect guinea pig.
Take your love of The Reading Strategies book to the next level with four great ways to get more out of this resource.
This is a book you'll turn to over and over.  Being able to open it to a specific strategy lesson and having it lay flat and stay on that page is a major bonus.  Maybe Heinemann should try this out for future releases? (Hint, hint!)

2.  Join the Facebook Group
Heinemann started a Facebook group, The Reading Strategies Book Community.  So many teachers have come together to support each other and discuss how they are using it.  Jennifer Serravallo shares tips and answers questions in Facebook Live videos.  You can join the group here.

3.  Online Resources
Heinemann has a The Reading Strategies Book page.  It's kind of buried on their site, and I didn't know about it until it was shared at the workshop.  There are several resources on the site-a book study guide, how to use it with a basal reader, blog posts, etc.  My favorite one is this reading inventory to use with goal setting.  I think this is hands down one of the best reading inventories I've seen.
Take your love of The Reading Strategies book to the next level with four great ways to get more out of this resource.

4.  YouTube Videos
I love being able to see teaching in action.  Hop on over to YouTube and search The Reading Strategies book (or just click here) to see videos about the book and of Jennifer Serravallo conferring with students.

How else do you get more out of your The Reading Strategies Book?

your photo name

Differentiation in a Snap with Newsela

Differentiation.  We all understand how it valuable it is for our students' learning but finding high quality and high interest materials to actually use is a whole different story.  A mythical rainbows and unicorn type story.

I feel like I'm late to the Newsela party, but this site is amazing. What's not to love about a free site with high interest, quality non-fiction articles WITH ADJUSTABLE READABILITY LEVELS in English and Spanish?

Differentiation is easy with Newsela.  One click changes the readability level of the high interest articles on this free site.

I love how easy it is to change the readability level.  Click the Lexile level buttons on the side to select the text difficulty.  The grade level recommendation and word count is shown for each level.  Quizzes and writing prompts are included for each article.

There are two sites you can visit: Newsela and Newsela Elementary.  Both sites have overlapping content articles, but Newsela also inlcudes more current event type articles for middle and high school students.  Each site also has curated text sets on different topics like hurricanes, recycling, and monsters.

Newsela is free for students and teachers.  If you do want to take it to the next level with Newsela Pro, you can click here to see a chart that shows the difference between a free and paid Pro account.  The Pro account allows you to have more tracking and student/teacher interaction.

I'd love to hear how you're using Newsela in your classroom!

your photo name

October Desktop Calendar

Happy October to you!  We started out October in Houston with a morning temperature of 60! I'm in heaven.  We'll be back to 90 soon, but it's a start!  I love the month of October-the clothes, the decorating, the pumpkin spice overload, I love it all.

September 2016 Desktop Calendar Free Download

Here's a calendar background that will help you pretend it's fall even if you're somewhere that the mosquitoes are still biting!  These watercolor leaves are from Design Lovers Studio (affiliate link), and they're so perfectly fallish.  Download the image by clicking here or on the image below.

Happy fall to you!

your photo name

September Favorites

A trip to Target for just one thing, my rose gold obsession, and more favorites from September.

Woohoo! The first full month of school is complete.  Here are a few of my favorites from the month that seemed like it just wouldn't stop.

I Survived

This is my 18th year as an educator, and I somehow manage to underestimate how hard this time of year is each and every year.  It's like childbirth.  You remember it was hard, but the details fade some, or you'd never do it again.

Campaign Manager

I ran my first political campaign, and it was a major success.  This little lady decided at the last minute to run for student council.  Pinterest rescued us with great ideas for campaign posters and some great tips for writing the speech.
Here she is with my parents before her first official chance serve during our Grandparents' Day chapel.

Target Run Away Trips

After 17 years of marriage, my husband knows that when I say I'm running to Target for one thing it's a bald faced lie.  First of all, a trip to Target never involves one thing.  Plus, it usually involves a few more stops on the way home.

I snagged this awesome rug on my last trip.  It looks perfect in my office now that we have the wood floors down.  I knew when the ad had my desk it in, it was meant to be.

Rose Gold Everything

Darn you Kendra Scott.  I have no self control.  I love the new filigree option for the color bar.  I picked up a rose gold bracelet and some rose gold earrings this month.  I've banned myself for a little while.

Stan's Donuts

I had a little runaway girls weekend to Chicago this month.  I ran my mouth so much that weekend, that the only picture I took was from Stan's Donuts (that I might have sent in a taunting text to my husband.)  I love the variety of their donuts.  The lemon pistachio old fashion is hands down my favorite.

Hope you had a great September! I'm ready for October and the hope of highs in the 80's (maybe?  Please, Lord, make this happen.  Amen.)

your photo name

Making Room for Independent Reading: How

Welcome to the third post in a series on Independent Reading.  You can catch up on the other posts below:

Making Room for Independent Reading: Why

Making Room for Independent Reading: When

You COULD just tell your kids to go read for 20 minutes, and then you could grade some papers. It would be great for catching up on that never ending stack of grading, but it's not the best strategy if your goal is to increase your students' reading ability.

Making room for independent reading: what do with the time during the most important component of your literacy block.
So, how are you going to get the most out of your independent reading time?  I'll be honest with you, for the majority of my classroom experience, I announced that it was independent reading time and expected them to get busy.

They didn't.

I spent time way too much time managing the behaviors.  You might recognize a few of these from your classroom:

1. Staring everywhere in the room except the book in their hands.

2. Emergency bathroom use.  Daily.

3. Book shopping that filled 99.9% of the independent reading time.

4. Random page flipping accompanied by fake reading.

5.  Miscellaneous off task behavior-talking, roaming around the room, etc.

A significant amount of time and energy was spent managing behaviors without ever addressing where these behaviors came from.  I was treating them as classroom management behaviors rather than reading behaviors.

Whoops.  So how do you create a shift in your classroom?

My literacy block underwent a radical change when I read The Daily 5 (affiliate link) by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser.  Their lessons on building stamina and teaching kids HOW to read independently was a total game changer.  I only hate how common sense the lessons are because it makes me feel like a big dummy for not figuring it out on my own.

You can read tons online about the Daily 5, but none of it will replace reading the actual book.  Do yourself a favor and invest the time to read it.  Even if you don't fully embrace the model, the idea of teaching kids to be independent will rock your literacy block.

Helping my kids know what to do with that time and how to use it made a HUGE difference in the quality of our independent reading time.

And now that I know how to teach the kids what to do, I am learning what to do with that time as a teacher to help students grow.  Some time ago, I purchased The Reading Strategies Book (affiliate link) by Jennifer Serravallo.  It's simply an incredible book.  The strategy lessons (300 one page lessons!) are perfect for whole class, small group, or individual instruction.

I've been in love with the idea of focusing lessons on the individual student based on self selected texts.  I think it's an incredible way for students to learn, but I just could not wrap my head around it.  I was recently able to attend an all day workshop with Jennifer Serravallo, and it was a total game changer.

I'm a see it in action kind of gal.  There are tons of helpful videos from Jennifer Serravallo on Heinemann's YouTube Channel.  I think if you start to work this into your independent reading time, you'll find tremendous value in it.  Even to the point where you would start to shorten your small group time and start allotting some of that time to your individual/small group strategy lessons (which sure would help with Part 2: When)

Next up on my reading list is No More Independent Reading Without Support (affiliate link) by Debbie Miller and Barbara Moss.  At 96 pages, I think it would make a great book study for a school.
How are you getting more out of your independent reading time?  Any tips for me or must read books?

your photo name

So You Bought Some Clipart . . .

I get tech help requests quite a bit in my Teachers Pay Teachers store’s Q and A section, so I thought it might be time to start a series of some quick tutorials.

Tutorial for teachers on how to use PowerPoint to create a sign and other classroom resources.

If you’re having an "I just bought clipart, what do I do with it?" moment, here are some tips and tricks to get started.  This tutorial focuses on how to create a sign like this one:

Tutorial for teachers on how to use PowerPoint to create a sign and other classroom resources.
Want to see it in action?  Click here to watch the tutorial of how to make a sign in PowerPoint using my School Days Jumbo bundle.

1.  Open up PowerPoint
Believe it or not, PowerPoint is a super easy way to create.  Many Teachers Pay Teachers sellers use this for product creation.  It’s easy to insert text and graphics in layers without having to deal with the learning curve of a product like Photoshop or InDesign.
**Be sure to resize your PowerPoint slide size by going to File-->Page Set.  It is set for optimal PPT size, and you’ll want to change your size to 8.5x11 for printing.

2.  Add the top border of digital paper
Insert shape-->rectangle
(Right Click) Format shape: Fill-->Picture
**Check the box that says tile, so your image isn’t distorted.

**PowerPoint has a line and shadow turned on by default.  You’ll need to go to these two areas to turn them off once you fill in the paper

3.  Add the blue border
Insert shape-->rectangle
Format shape: Fill-->Color (again, turn off line and shadow)

**Select More Colors, then use the eyedropper tool to select the color you want from the digital paper

(Right Click) Arrange: send backward

4.  Add Welcome to First Grade
Insert text box-->add text
Highlight text: Font color dropdown-->More Colors-->Use eyedropper tool to select color

5.  Make text rainbow
Highlight individual letter: Font color dropdown-->More Colors-->Use eyedropper tool

**As you select colors, they appear in the area under Recent Colors

6.  Add paper clips divider
Insert picture-->add saved image

**Got a divider you want to use, but it’s too long?  After you insert the image, click on the crop tool to shorten it.

7.  Add chevron divider
Insert picture: select saved image
Resize and use crop tool
Insert shape-->Lines
Select Freeform tool: create shape to cover unwanted area.

Format shape: Fill-->Color (you will also need to turn off the outline and shadow)

Click here to watch the video of how I made this welcome sign in PowerPoint using my School Days Jumbo bundle.

your photo name

Making Room for Independent Reading: When

If you’re not already on board with the value of independent reading, hop on over to part one of this series.  To be completely honest, if I had to choose between all whole group instruction or all independent reading and conferring with the teacher, it would be independent reading.  It’s that important.  It’s important not just to my teacher heart but is also supported by reading professionals and research over the last several decades.

Making Room for Independent Reading: Why

Catch up on Part 1 HERE

When are you going to squeeze this into your day?  Instructional minutes are precious gold to teachers.  How can you make the magic happen?

Making room for independent reading: how to find time to make room for the most important component of your literacy block.


Don’t squeeze it in.  Plan your time for independent reading first, and then make everything else work around it.  Making independent reading the cornerstone of your literacy block.  If you truly believe, as Donalyn Miller says, that, “No exercise gives more instructional bang for your buck than reading,” then making space for independent reading should be your first priority.


Once you make space for independent reading, where can you shave off some minutes from your other instructional segments?  If you’re using whole group and/or small group reading, reduce the number of minutes in each by 5-10.  It’s not that those aren’t valuable,  but you’re adding a top tier instructional tool, so it’s okay to cut back in those other areas.


Stop thinking about how many minutes each part of your day should take and start thinking in percentages.  What percentage of your literacy block should be writing?  Independent reading?  Whole class instruction?  Small groups?  Once you assign each part of your block a percentage, use that to figure out how many minutes it gets.

You may find you’re giving something more minutes than it’s worth.  For years I used a Daily Oral Language model for grammar and punctuation.  Then I realized by the time I taught this well, it was taking up way too much time for what it brought to students.  I switched to mentor sentences to teach this and to make space for independent reading.  Mentor Sentences is a faster and more effective way to teach grammar and punctuation AND addresses craft, also.

Want to learn more about mentor sentences?  Check out Ideas by Jivey for tons of resources and how to’s.  She has posts on her blog, webinars, Facebook live lessons, and there’s even a Facebook support group.


Are you taking whole class bathroom breaks? Give that time to independent reading.  Yes, I know they’re still going to need to use the restroom.  Here are my simple rules:
You can read more here about how I let anybody go to the restroom {almost} whenever they want without it being a disaster.


Make a schedule and stick to it.  One of the best purchases I ever made for myself was one I thought was for my students.  I bought a Time Timer for my class because I loved the idea of a visual cue for passing time since most of my kids had a poor concept of time.
(Affiliate link)

Turns out, while it was wonderful for them, it’s greatest value was keeping me on track.  I’m a rambler (especially in guided reading lessons.  Seriously, the worst.)  Having the Time Timer helped keep me conscientious of the time, and I stopped cutting into my other lessons so much to keep up.  There are smaller versions, too, but I found this to be the best for whole class use.

How do you make room for independent reading?  Any tips for finding those extra precious minutes?

your photo name