November Desktop

Happy November to you! It is finally cooling off, and I even got to sit by the fire last night and read for a little while.  Houston is getting a little tease of fall, and I'm loving every minute of it.

• November 2017 • Computer Desktop Calendar Background and matching iPhone Backgrounds
I'm in love with these fresh fall colors and that sweet little fox.  The graphics are from Little Sisters Studio, and they're beautiful.  You can grab the calendar here or by clicking the image below.
• November 2017 • Computer Desktop Calendar Background and matching iPhone Backgrounds
Grab the matching iPhone backgrounds, too!  Grab the calendar background here and the plain one here.
• November 2017 • Computer Desktop Calendar Background and matching iPhone Backgrounds
Have a wonderful month!

Bulletin Board Quote Hack

I've been in love with the #famousfirstlines that Literacy For Big Kids shares on her Instagram account. (If you're not following her @literacyforbigkids, your literacy teacher life is suffering.)  I found them powerful, and I know students would, too.

She uses one of my favorite apps, WordSwag, to create these images for Instagram.  It's only taken me two years to figure out that WordSwag doesn't have to be just for your phone.  With just a few extra steps (and one extra hack for my fellow OCD teachers), Word Swag can transition from your iPhone screen to your classroom walls.
Quick, colorful, and powerful-add favorite book quotes to your classroom using the WordSwag app.
If you're interested in how my trick for getting pictures of book covers for Book a Day displays, you can read this post: Book Photos in a Snap.

The short version is Word Swag-->Transparent background-->Add text-->Choose your configuration-->Save-->Send to your computer-->Set desired page size in PowerPoint-->Add image-->Print.

For my visual learner friends, here's a video of what I did on my phone:

And what I did on my computer:

If you're super type A need things to match, here's an easy trick to make that happen:

I also printed one out full sized, and it looks great, too.
Quick, colorful, and powerful-add favorite book quotes to your classroom using the WordSwag app.
I love that this is an easy way to make quality literature a visual focus in our classrooms.  If you try this or are already doing it, tag me @iteachwhatsyoursuperpower on Instagram.  I'd love to see how it looks in your classroom!

That Book is Too Hard for You

I can tell you all of the reasons why teaching students how to select their own books is important.  I have taught great whole class lessons on that from The Daily 5.  I can tell you the books that say that, the reasons why it is helpful to readers, and lots of other blah, blah, blah stuff about it.

The reality is when I was juggling 44 kids, I would just try to quickly and kindly redirect a student to a new book when I could tell they were way in over their heads.  But let me tell you about the time I finally didn't do that.

Why I finally quit saying, "That book is too hard for you." How to stop telling students they don't understand a book and start showing them instead.
This post contains affiliate links which means Amazon tosses me some change whenever someone makes a purchase through one of these links and allows me feed my book habit!

I was working on character traits with a small group of third graders, and their teacher mentioned that one of the students was reading a book that was too hard.  As I listened to each student read and asked a few questions about characters to connect to the strategy we were discussing, it quickly became clear to me that "Emma" was way in over her head.  I went into teacher freakout mode.  It sounded like this in my head:

•She's not sure if the character is an animal or a person?
•How has she gotten 100 pages into this book?
•This child needs a new book stat.

But, I was trying to channel my inner Jennifer Seravallo.  I knew I could redirect Emma to a new book, but that would not address the fact that she didn't know she wasn't making meaning as she read.  If the most basic concept of reading is making meaning, then that was the most important lesson I could teach her.  So I didn't send Emma to choose a new book.

Over the next few meetings, we continued to discuss strategies for understanding characters.  Students shared actions or dialogue or descriptions that helped them understand their characters.  Emma had little to contribute.

I was hoping she would catch on that if she didn't have anything to say that maybe she didn't understand the book.  That didn't happen.

The next time we met, I started our group by talking about what it sounds like in your head when you are making meaning, and the types of things our thinking voice says to us as we read.  We talked about if we're not making meaning, we're not really reading.  I asked them to notice those things and jot a few down as they read.

When I checked in with Emma, her thinking voice hadn't said any of those things.  I asked her what she thought that meant, and she told me it probably meant that she wasn't making meaning from the book.  I held my breath and asked what she thought that might mean.  Emma told me she thought she didn't really understand what was happening in the book and that she was going to choose a new one.

And a rainbow appeared in the sky and happy instrumental music started playing in the background.  Not really, but it was a moment of realization for me.  It is really scary to think that a child can choose a book and not realize that they don't understand it.  We need to do something about that other than snatch it out of their hand.

So this year, take the time.  Make the time.  Throw out whatever else you need to to create time to support students.  If we are limiting students to guided reading level or AR level selections, it is saving time at the moment but not teaching them a thing.

If you're not sure where to start, The Comprehension Toolkit is an AMAZING resource to give students a common language to talk about meaning.  The Reading Strategies Book is a perfect year long resource to help you support students one on one, in small groups, or whole class as you teach about reading strategies.

And finally, it's easy to look at students and see what's "wrong" with their reading.  But there were so many things that were right with Emma's reading.

•She was reading multi syllable words accurately and reading fluently.

•She showed dedication in continuing to read a book even when she wasn't making meaning.  That girl got 100 pages in.  What would happen when she learned to select a text that matched her decoding ability with comprehension?  Nothing would hold her back.

•She was coachable.  Emma was trying to do the work and able to speak honestly about what was and was not happening as she read.

This year students will come to you with a complete inability to choose a text they can read accurately and comprehend.  If you do nothing else, send them on to the next grade able to do this.   I'm sure your principal will expect more from you, but y'all can work that out.

A MONSTROUS Collection of Monster Books

Your students will love this monstrously good collection of monster books.  Being a little scared is a lot more fun when you're enjoying a good book.
Your students will love this MONSTROUS collection of monster books.  They're a whole lot of fun and just a little bit scary.
This post contains affiliate links which means Amazon tosses me some change whenever someone makes a purchase through one of these links and allows me feed my book habit!

Maurice the Unbeastly

Maurice isn't like the other monsters-he likes kale, is polite, and even has a lovely singing voice.  His concerned parents send him to the Abominable Academy for Brutish Beasts to learn how to be a proper monster.  Can he show them that being different is a good thing?

Monster Trouble

Winifred Schnitzel isn't frightened, but she is tired when the neighborhood monsters won't leave her be!  The monsters won't give up trying to scare Winifred, so what's a girl to do?  Your little monsters will love how Winifred turns the tables on the monsters when she finally learns what monsters hate the most.

Leonardo, the Terrible Monster 

Leonardo is terrible monster.  As in, he's terrible at being a monster.  He just can't seem to frighten anyone despite his best efforts.  He finally finds success when he meets Sam, a nervous little boy that even he can scare.  Success turns out not to be as sweet as he'd imagined.  Leonardo learns that he may be a terrible monster, but he can be a really good friend.

Monster's New Undies

Need new undies? Monster doesn't think so . . . until his fall apart.  When his mom takes him shopping for a new pair, none of them seem just right because,  "Those undies aren't worthy of dressing these buns."  This hysterical story of a monster and his rump will have your kids in stitches.

Quit Calling Me a Monster!

Floyd Peterson may have sharp claws, giant teeth, and shaggy purple fur, but he's no monster.  Why can people never get past the screaming to really get to know him?  Floyd will have your students talking about how we treat others and what it means to be "different".
PS-This is a perfect story to share when teaching students to label their illustrations to add more detail in writing!

Monster Trucks

Turns out scaring people is just a monster's part-time job.  What do they do to keep busy the rest of the time?  They get to work with their monster trucks doing things like digging holes, paving roads, and clearing snow.

There's a Monster in Your Book 

This interactive read aloud will have kids tickling, tilting, shaking, and wiggling to get the monster of the book.  When they finally succeed, they'll wish they hadn't and call him back to the safety of the pages.  Your students will love this book, and you'll love sharing it with them.

My Teacher is a Monster (No, I Am Not.)

Bobby's teacher is loud, yells, and takes away recess (when you throw paper airplanes).  She's an absolute monster. Bobby's trip to the park is ruined when he runs into Mrs. Kirby.  The day doesn't quite turn out the way Bobby expects, and he learns that monsters aren't always as bad as they seem.

What Makes a Monster

This nonfiction book takes a closer look at an aye aye, vampire bat, honey badger, and more monstrous looking creatures.  The creep factor will grab their interest but the fascinating facts will keep your students hooked.

Goodnight Goon

This spooky take on a classic book will be a favorite for any kiddo looking for a fun fright.  And how fun is the title for teaching alliteration?

Got any monstrous favorites that I missed?

October Desktop

Happy October to you! I love October.  I can pretend the blazing hot weather is going to end (it's not) and start dreaming of cozy sweaters and fall.  That may be months away, but the pumpkin spice lattes are not.  Say what you want-those things are good.

• October 2017 • Computer Desktop Calendar Background and matching iPhone Backgrounds

These falling leaves are about as close to fall as I'm getting this month, but I love them.  The graphics are from Beer Junk (no junk there!), and they're beautiful.  You can grab the calendar here or by clicking the image below.

• October 2017 • Computer Desktop Calendar Background and matching iPhone Backgrounds

Grab the matching iPhone backgrounds, too!  Grab the calendar background here and the plain one here.

I happy you have a wonderful October!

September Favorites

And that's a wrap on September! September has been much kinder to our family than August was.  We're ready to head into October and for things to cool down at least a little bit.  Maybe the low 80's at least?
Cork earrings? Yes, please!  Plus a Outlander, new shelves, and more September favorites.
Here are a few of my favorites from this month.

Y'allllll. These cork earrings from Nickel and Suede are going to be my fall BFF's.  I love the darker fall colors, but they kind of get lost in my dark hair.  These are perfectly fallish AND don't get lost on me.

Season 3 of Outlander is here, and I canna handle it.  Who else can't wait for episode 6 to hurry up and get here???  I read the series originally and am so happy with how they've managed the tv version.  I'm officially off duty every Sunday night from 7 to 8 o'clock!

This wall has been the bane of my existence since we moved in.  There was a cut out which would have been nice except it wasn't center and went weirdly low.  We've gotten it filled in, and I'm finally figuring out what I want to go there.

I finally went to Half Price Books for the first time in years.  There's not one super close to me, but y'all-it was well worth the trip.  I got tons of hard back books for mostly $5.99 each.  Totally worth the drive.

I have been on the hunt for bookshelves for my office that weren't too big or too small.  I find these, and I'm in love.
I spent hours online searching.  It was interesting to see that most of the sites I was shopping (Joss and Main, Overstock, Wayfair) had the same items, but the prices varied significantly.  It's worth grabbing the image of a piece of furniture you like and doing a Google image search of it.  The different sites showed the bookshelves with different names and brands, but they were all the same thing.  That's how I these from Hayneedle for much less than the other sites I was looking on!

Hope you had a great September!

The Literacy Teacher's Playbook {K-2}

Do you really want to read a book about data?  Probably not, but this one takes a look at the REAL data students provide us in their every day work.  Here's a guidebook for examining student work to determine what your students need to make the biggest difference in their literacy progress.
Not sure how to find your way through your mounds of testing and data to the heart of what your K-2 students need most? The Literacy Teacher's Playbook will help you find your way.

This post contains affiliate links which means Amazon tosses me some change whenever someone makes a purchase through one of these links and allows me feed my book habit!


Total Jennifer Serravallo #fangirl here.  The Reading Strategies Book, Conferring with Readers, and The Writing Strategies Book are all amazing.  (Click on the links to read more about them.)  So, I was definitely up for reading The Literacy Teacher's Playbook (Grades K-2).

Aha Moment

I think I recognized myself in this quote.

"Sometimes, it's our tendency as teachers to focus heavily on the most salient observations, falsely assuming that because it's the most obvious, it's also the most important."

Yikes.  I see myself in that statement.  Sometimes we look to the thing that is the most obvious thing instead of working on the need that will make the biggest difference.  The process this book takes your through for looking deeply at student work will help you see beyond that.

I Wish

I wish it were easier.  Unfair, but true.  This approach would be best for your students that you were most concerned about or the ones you were struggling to challenge.  I would recommend starting with two or three students as guinea pigs to get the hang of things.


You're not giving more tests! Yay!  I love this quote:

"With this book, I hope to begin to shift your thinking about what data means and help you to see that much of what you can pull out of your students' messy seat pocket is actually data."

Good For . . . .

Anyone wanting to see through the masses of tests and data we collect.  This book provides an organized way to take a look at the mounds of work to get a clearer picture of what your students' needs are and what to focus on.

Wise Words

If you're feeling lost with where to start with your K-2 students or where you should focus to best meet their needs, The Literacy Teacher's Playbook will help you find the way.

Book Photos in a Snap

My reading teacher heart went into overdrive the minute I saw this picture on Instagram from Teaching 3rd with Mr. G.  (You can read more about his amazing classroom here.)  How incredibly powerful is for students to see the books their class has shared over the school year displayed this way?
I loved the idea of committing to reading students a picture book everyday and knew the minute I got back in the classroom I wanted to do this.


It's kind of a big commitment.  It is a very simple display, but finding or taking the pictures, uploading them, printing them, sizing them, laminating them so you can use them again . . . .  Next thing you know, it's been six weeks, and you haven't updated it.
Make your Classroom Book a Day reads visible without spending a ton of time. Here's a simple hack that will have you caught up in no time.

Then a lightbulb went off, and I realized an app I'd been using for documents called CamScanner was the answer.  (PS-if you are buying a house, this app will save your sanity.  Trust me.)

Here's my rigged up display.  I don't have a classroom right now because job hunting 3 weeks after school starts is no joke.  Crossing my fingers that I'll eventually have a real picture to update with.

In about 20 seconds, you can have a beautiful image ready to go.  It's super simple:
1.  Take the picture.
2.  Adjust the corners if necessary, and tap the checkmark.
3.  Tap the checkmark to accept the enhancements.  You can adjust the image, but it does a nice job on it's own.
4.  If you want to take more pictures, tap Add.  If not, tap more.
5.  Select To Album to save the images.
6.  It's now on your camera roll!
Make your Classroom Book a Day reads visible without spending a ton of time. Here's a simple hack that will have you caught up in no time.

After that, I used the Walgreens app.  I uploaded the pictures, and they were ready in less than an hour.  Walgreens often has a photo coupon, so I would hold out if there isn't a current one.  Because my pictures were 40% off, they ended up being less than a quarter each including tax.
**Heads up on ordering your pictures-the proportions of the book don't always fall in the 4x6 or 4x4 range.  The app will choose the best size for your image, but you may want to adjust how it's cropped in the app.  If you're super Type-A, you can edit them on your phone before uploading.

I think I'll just pass on doing much cropping of pictures though.  Sometimes I make things so complicated, I end up not doing them.  I think this is powerful for students, and I don't want to get in the way of it.  If one looks really bad, I'll crop it myself and reorder.  They're only about 20 cents each, so it's not too big of a deal.

I hope you'll embrace A Book a Day and make that experience visible by displaying all of those beautiful books!

Mail Call! Books Written as Letters

Who doesn't love mail?  Growing up, I was obsessed with books written in letter format.  To this day, Daddy Long Legs is still one of my favorite books.

While the letter format of these books provides novelty, they're more than just fun.  Because the story is not directly written, readers must piece together bits of information making these books a fun and authentic way to teach inferring as well as letter writing skills.  They're also perfect for just reading and enjoying.  (Don't forget to do that, too!)
Who doesn't love mail? Your kiddos will love this book collection of stories told through letter format.  This format is perfect for making inferences and teaching inferring as students will have to piece together the story from pictures and what is written in the letters.
This post contains affiliate links which means Amazon tosses me some change whenever someone makes a purchase through one of these links and allows me feed my book habit!

Dear Peter Rabbit

I love this story.  Not only is it written in letter format, but the letters are from different fairy tale characters, so it is a great book to show kids how background knowledge influences comprehension.  Peter Rabbit, the Three Little Pigs, Goldilocks, and more send each other letters in this book.  Don't miss out on the additional books from Alma Flor Ada-With Love, Little Red Hen, and Yours Truly, Goldilocks.

The Day the Crayons Quit

In addition to being hysterical, The Day the Crayons Quit is great for teaching opinion writing, voice, personification, and a laundry list of other things.  And you won't want to miss out on The Day the Crayons Came Home.  This companion book is written as a series of postcards, and as just as full of fun voice and opinions as the first book.

The Journey of Oliver K. Woodman

In this book, Tameka writes to her Uncle Ray inviting him to visit.  He isn't able to visit Tameka, so he sends Oliver K. Woodman in his place.  Oliver just happens to be a man made of wood.  The story of Oliver's journey from South Carolina to California, is told through letters and postcards of those who help him make his way across the country.  In the companion book, Searching for Oliver K. Woodman, Imogene Poplar follows clues to find her friend, Oliver, who has gone missing.

Dear Mr. Blueberry

This sweet story is told in letters between Emily (who is convinced a whale lives in her pond) and her teacher, Mr. Blueberry (who is just as convinced a whale does not live in her pond), over the summer.  Your students will enjoy the humor as well as the imagination and faith Emily shows.

I Wanna Iguana

Alex's wants and iguana, and he wants one badly.  This fun story is perfect for teaching persuasive writing and may having your kiddos writing their own letters to Mom and Dad.  Your students will enjoy more of Alex's adventures in I Wanna New Room and I Wanna Go Home.

Dear Mrs. LaRue: Letters from Obedience School

Ike's letters in Dear Mrs. LaRue are so fun to teach with.  You'll watch those brains stretch as writers compare Ike's doomsday description of doggy school to what is happening in the pictures.  Opportunities to teach inference and point of view overflow throughout this text.  Kiddos will love the side by side illustrations showing what is happening in Ike's descriptions with reality.  Don't miss out on the companion book, Detective Mrs. LaRue: Letters from the Investigation.

Dear Mr. Henshaw

In this Newberry Award winner, students read letters from Leigh to his favorite author Boyd Henshaw.  Leigh writes about his struggles with his parents divorce, moving to a new town, and bullying.  The sequel, Strider, is written as a diary.  In it, Leigh writes about his life, running, and a stray dog he finds.

Daddy Long Legs

This book was originally written in 1912, but its humor and twist at the end have helped it stand the test of time.  Daddy Long Legs is the story of Judy Abbott who has grown up in the John Grier orphanage and is sent to college by a mysterious benefactor.  Judy's up and down experiences transitioning from orphanage life to college girl are shared in letters to her anonymous patron.


This last story isn't told through letters, but they are important to the story.  I love it too much to leave out because it's a wonderful story about acceptance.  Hermelin is a mouse who solves mysteries on her street.  When her neighbors throw a party in Hermelin honor to thank her, they are not so happy to realize she is a mouse.  Hermelin is crushed to learn she is considered a pest.  I won't spoil the ending for you, but it is a happy one.

Want to extend your study of letter books?
Read The Post Office Book: Mail and How it Moves by Gail Gibbons to teach your students how mail gets from one person's hand to another's.

Let me know if I missed any of your favorites!