Sunday, June 13, 2021

What New Teachers Can Do to Prepare for the School Year

If you’re here reading this post, you must be a new teacher that is eager to start planning for the school year. First of all, let me Congratulate you on landing your first teaching job!!
Bitmoji Image

I wish you the best school year ever :)

Since you’re here, I’m also assuming that you are a planner! Most people will tell you to relax and enjoy your summer (I will, too) but if you’re like me, I wouldn’t be able to because I would always be thinking ‘what can I be doing to plan’. LOL, so I’ve got you covered with 5 things you can start working on now! 

The best thing you can do to start preparing for a successful school year is to start familiarizing yourself with your grade level standards. If your state uses Common Core, this site has great resources for unpacking the standards to help you better understand them!

Select the
2017 unpacked content ‘your grade’ math standards. This resource will help you to know exactly WHAT your students need to know and be able to do, you’ll also see visual examples. 

Now that it’s summer and you have the time (and you’ve familiarized yourself with your grade level standards) start creating and organizing your Pinterest Boards or Instagram Collections. There are SO MANY ideas and resources readily available. I remember when I first started teaching, I spent hours scouring the internet trying to find different ideas on how to teach certain topics. Save yourself time by doing the searching NOW rather than later.

Be sure to label your boards (Ideas for teaching Fractions, Beginning of Year Activities). It’d be a good idea to look through the resources you’re pinning, and only pin what you know you want to try or use. This will help you to be able to go directly to your board and pick something to use. It’ll save you a tremendous amount of time later. 

IG is such a great place to gain new ideas from fellow teachers. Search hashtags to find other teachers in your grade that you can learn from. Be sure to only follow accounts that lift you up and motivate you. As you get into your year, always remember that the teachers you are following have all started in a similar place as you. 

General hashtags like #iteachthird or #thirdgradetribe can be searched and similar hashtags will pop up. You can follow the hashtag on IG, then when you see posts you like, click on the profile, check it out and follow if you're into their feed! :)

You can find me on IG @teachinginparadise

Having clear and specific routines and expectations for everything will help to set your students up for success. Students should know what to do and how they should be conducting themselves for literally anything you might ask them to do.

This may seem tedious, but it will truly help with your classroom management and eliminating transition times or student issues with one another.

Some examples of things you could plan for are:
  • How will students enter your classroom
  • Where and how will they submit work?
  • How will you collect important papers and/or notes from parents
  • What supplies will students keep in their desks?
  • How will you dismiss students to get things from their cubby?
  • How will the use the classroom sink?
  • What will your bathroom procedures be?
  • How will you handle student supplies? Sharpening of pencils?

The more you can plan for, the better you’ll be. You can access a copy of the planning template that I use and also see the things that I create procedures/routines for here

Last but not least, RELAX and enjoy your summer!
happy stroll in meadow
The year will be here before you know it. You’ll have a never-ending to-do list once the year starts, so enjoy your summer while you can!
Find the time to take care of yourself, relax, and have fun!!


Wednesday, June 2, 2021

5 Tips for Writing Sub Plans

1. Be Explicit

Be very clear about what the sub should be doing and what the students should be doing. As the teacher, YOU expect that your students know what is expected of them and that they will follow those expectations when you’re not there……but this isn't always the case.
I’ve done my fair share of subbing in classrooms, luckily I know the teachers and their procedures. Too often than not, kids try to bend the rules and get away with things. It’s helpful to clearly outline all expectations so that the substitute knows exactly HOW students should be working (quietly at their desks? No walking around, etc).

2. Label and Organize 

Label all of your worksheets and assignments with post-it notes so that your sub. knows EXACTLY what to give out when. Be sure to use the same language in your plans as your labels, this helps to avoid any confusion. If you have several different assignments for one subject, you could use color-coded post-it notes and designate which color to hand out when. (Send home math homework-(blue post-it). 
Click here for a tutorial on how to print on sticky notes.

In addition to labeling everything, organizing all of your papers in the order that they are to be handed out is helpful for your substitute teacher. This takes out the guesswork and sets them up to avoid any confusion.

3. Student Transitions

Make it easy for your substitute to keep track of when students need to leave for special classes or services. In the designated time block, write out who needs to go where (and at what time). Use a different colored font so that it stands out. 
*Bonus tip: leave a note on the board so that older students can watch the clock and remind themselves. 

4. Plan for Quick Finishers

Provide your substitute with a checklist to keep track of which students finished what assignment. I always advised the sub to collect work back at the end of the block so that he/she could keep track of who is finished and/or who needs additional time.

Let the sub know what students should do when they are done with their work. It's helpful to include a list of activities your early finishers can do.
Since the sub already has a list of students who need additional time to complete assignments, there won't be any issues for them to direct the quick finishers to the extra assignments.

*I also like to include a page in my sub plans that help the substitute come up with activities or things to do with the class with extra time. Sometimes lessons will finish earlier than expected, so providing them with a backup plan is always helpful! I include a one-pager with different activities and instructions as well as the estimated amount of time the activity will take, that way subs can choose which ones will work for them! If you'd like to take a look at that, it's included in my Emergency Sub Plans.

5. Be Concise

Too often than not, substitutes come to school right before the bell and often don’t have time to read through your entire set of plans. Be as clear and concise as possible. Include enough information so that they are clear on what to do, but don't add TOO MUCH wording/instructions as it may get glossed over as they are rushing to read through plans as students are coming in.

It helps to break up the text and blocks so that the subs can read through the information in chunks. 

Last but definitely not least, plan for emergencies! You never know when a bug will hit you hard or you find a dead car battery when you're already running late to work. Having a set of Emergency Sub Plans for those last-minute, unplanned situations that occur will save you A TON of stress! 

Set your plans up in an Emergency Sub tub or Binder. 

If you're a 3rd-grade teacher, I've got you covered with an already written and ready to assemble set of Emergency Sub Plans! All you need to do is add specific information to your class, students, and schedule using the editable pages! You can find that set here


Saturday, April 10, 2021

8 Letter Recognition Activities for Toddlers

I began exposing my son to his letters at around 2.5 years old. He isn't the biggest fan of "learning" so I try to make it fun for him so that he doesn't realize he's learning. Today I’m sharing 8 fun toddler-approved activities that helped my son with learning and identifying his letters. The best thing about them are that they are all easy to do and very low prep!

In the very beginning, we just worked on letter matching. This process is important in allowing toddlers to differentiate that letters look different from one another, some have curved shapes and some have straight lines. As he got the hang of matching letters, I began telling him the name for each letter and had him repeat it back to me. For every match he makes, he is now required to say the letter name. We use this same structure for most of the activities below. 

Materials Needed: 

Magnetic dry erase board

Magnetic Letters

Dry erase marker

For this one, just write random letters on the dry erase board. Place magnetic letters along the bottom of the board. As your toddler chooses a letter, tell them the letter name and encourage them to find the matching letter on the board. Have them place the magnetic letter over the written letters.

*Try to stay away from using letters that look the same in the beginning (b/d, p/q).

Once your kiddo is done, you can start all over with new letters :)


My son is obsessed with dinosaurs, so I created this printable to encourage him to work on learning his letters. 

Materials Needed:

Flat dish

Rice (you could substitute with oatmeal)
Dinosaur letter cards
Dinosaur letter mat

I had my son dig through the rice to uncover letters. He pulled the letter out, I told him the letter name, had him repeat, then he found the match on the board. We continued this process. We’ve also switched it up by letting him use a paintbrush to brush away the rice. 

This one was definitely a hit! I stocked up on a TON of Easter Eggs one year after Easter was done and got them for like 10 cents a bag (or something crazy cheap like that). So I have eggs on hand all the time and use them for tons of activities.

I filled the eggs up with the dino letter cards (same as the above activity) and hid them around the house. Little man went hunting for one egg at a time, opened it, then placed it on the letter board.

As always, as he opened the egg,  he was required to say the letter name and then place it on the board.  For the letters he wasn't sure of, or if he made a mistake, I would just tell him. 

Grab a paper towel roll, write letters randomly throughout the roll. Get the dot stickers (purchased here from Amazon) and write the corresponding letter. Have them match it up by placing the sticker over the letter on the roll. You could also extend this (and all other activities) by having them match the lower case with upper case letters. As you can see- this is one our earlier activities.

It's also great for their fine motor skills, peeling off those stickers can be tricky!

This specific one was to help him learn the letters in his name. I just printed out giant letters on cardstock paper and taped them to the wall.

I used letter stickers that I already had and also hand wrote a bunch of the letters for his name on the dot sticker sheets. I cut off a section of the dot stickers and hand them to him, he uses what he has and matches up the letters on the stickers to the letters in his name.

In this video, we were practicing the letters in his name but it could be used to work on any letter of the alphabet! Whatever you choose to work on, us sidewalk chalk to write the letters out. Call out a letter and have your child shoot the letter with a water gun. 

I also showed my son how to shuffle, so had him practice that as well lol.

Another obsession of my little on is CARS. He has a million little cars and can play with them for hours. I used the same Amazon dot stickers and wrote letters on each car. I picked up this painting roll paper from TJ Maxx, but they have them here on Amazon, too. I drew out little rectangular garages and wrote the letters of the alphabet. I used construction paper to make little roads. 

I threw all of the cars into a bin and left this out for him to discover. As soon as he laid his eyes on it he immediately ran over. He picked up his cars, noticed the letters on them and began looking at the mat. I told him that they were "letter garages" and he had to find the right garage for each car and park the car in there.

Little man had a total blast driving his cars down the road and parking them in the garage.

I have my son trace the letters on each sheet before starting. Then, I read him the "secret mission". I remind him that he will be looking for the big and little letters.

My son is working on coloring in the lines, so I have him color in the squares. If your child is a little younger, they could also use stickers to cover each letter.

As he finds the letter, he will color it and say the letter name out loud. This helps him to remember what each letter looks like as well as the name associated with that letter.

Once my son has completed the mission, we will take out a toy animal (if we have it) or he will use his fingers and walk along the path he just colored. We do this to make sure that it is a "complete" path and that he has successfully completed the mission.

Finally, I will have him count how many "steps" it took to get the animal to where it needed to go.

If you want to follow along on my little man's learning journey, be sure to follow me on Instagram! I'm always posting stories about the learning activities my son and I do together. You can also catch old activities on my highlight reel #teachatoddler!

I hope that you were able to find something fun for your little one to help them learn their letters. If you try any of these activities, I'd love if you share with me by tagging me on Instagram @teachinginparadise

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Monday, February 22, 2021

How to Teach Division to Your 3rd Graders

Does anyone else remember division being SO CONFUSING as a child?!

My teacher always used to ask questions like "How many times does 8 go into 48?".

I often found myself thinking, like what does that even mean?!

When I became a teacher, I "relearned" math from how I was taught so that I could better teach my students. I didn't want for my students to ever be confused and wonder "what the heck?!" like I often did as a child.

Every teacher knows that the teaching of division is no joke. But the great news is that it doesn’t have to be difficult. By using consistent language and making learning relevant, your students can learn division like that (audible snap).

I always begin my division instruction by asking students if they’ve had experiences where they’ve had to share something with a sibling, cousin, friend, etc. Inevitably, their answer is yes.

I then proceed to ask them if their parents would allow them to give their friend only 2 cookies but give themselves 5.


This usually gets an astounding "NO", when I ask why, they tell me "because it's not fair!". We talk about the concept of fairness and I have the kids explain it to me. I then take that explanation and tell them that since they understand the concept of sharing and fairness (sharing equally), they already understand the concept of division!

I then jump into a read-aloud with the wonderful children’s book The Doorbell Rang by Pat Hutchins.

This classic book tells a story that perfectly pairs with the concept of division, and the kids love it! While Sam and Victoria are waiting to devour hot, chewy chocolate chip cookies, some friends stop by. As the doorbell keeps ringing from more and more visitors, their hopes of eating lots of the cookies continue to dwindle.

Once we’ve finished reading and discussing the book, I hand out paper cookies to the students. We use these cookies to illustrate division problems from the book. Math concepts are so much easier when manipulatives are involved.

Since I know that many of you are currently using a distance learning model, I have also created a digital resource to go along with this book and lesson idea. Simply have your students complete the same activity by physically manipulating and moving the cookies to represent the division problems.

Emphasizing the connection between multiplication and division is so necessary to get kids to become proficient with this skill. Anytime students are required to figure out the quotient, I always ask them 8 times what equals 40? This gets students always thinking about division in this way so that they can quickly and easily figure out the answer. 

Continue to provide guided practice to students as they are just learning this concept by using the I do, We do, You do model. The goal of doing this is so that you know students are ready to go off on their own to practice independently. You DO NOT want students to practice the concept the wrong way and get that way stuck in their heads.

As you are practicing, ask your kids questions and begin to release the responsibility of modeling off to your students.

As you are ready to connect to division word problems, it's essential to practice alongside other word problems (at least multiplication, too) so that students are forced to think about the context of the problem and not just assume every answer will be division.

I love having task cards on hand to be able to provide my students with a variety of word problems at any moment. These multiplication and division task cards are perfect for providing your student guided practice and then following up as center rotation or independent work.

If you're interested in more ideas on how to use task cards in the classroom, check out this post

Literature is a great add-on to math instruction, and manipulatives always help make the learning stick. Whether 3-D manipulatives or online, young math students benefit greatly by using them. I hope that these tips for teaching division help both you and your students.

If you enjoyed the ideas in this post, be sure to follow me on Instagram! I will update you there when new posts are released :)

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Sunday, October 4, 2020

Supporting Your Struggling Readers- The What, Why and How of Reading Fluency

Everyone who knows about teaching reading knows about The Big Five - Comprehension, Fluency, Phonemic Awareness, Phonics, and Vocabulary. These five components are critical for effective reading instruction. One of The Big Five, fluency, is sometimes misunderstood as being less important than the other four, and perhaps even merely aesthetic. Not true! Let’s dig into the concept of fluency and learn more about its critical role in the comprehension process.

Last week, I shared with you how to dive deeper to determine a specific intervention focus for a student that may be struggling to comprehend. You can check that post out here.

Today we will be focusing specifically on Reading Fluency. 

What Exactly IS Reading Fluency?

The chart below shows the elements of Reading Fluency. All of these elements combined are what makes a reader fluent. It is important to remember that fluent reading is NOT fast reading.
Le'ts take a deeper dive into each of these components.

ACCURACY- this is the ability for students to read words correctly. Without accuracy, the reader will not have access to the author's intended meaning. If a student is reading with an accuracy rate below 90% this means that the text is at the student's frustration level.

AUTOMATICITY- is quick, effortless, and accurate word recognition.

RATE- refers to how quickly and automatically one reads connected text. Slow laborious reading of the text taxes the reader's capacity to construct ongoing meaning of the text.

PROSODY- is when a student can read with expression (pitch, tone, volume, emphasis). Poor prosody can lead to an inappropriate grouping of words or applications of expressions.

Children can gain fluency by practicing reading until the process becomes automatic, engage in repeated oral reading, and engage in modeled fluent reading.

Why is Fluency Important?

The brain only has so much energy. Like a frazzled classroom teacher or an overwhelmed mother, it will try to do everything but won’t end up doing it very well.

Take reading, for example. The reader opens the book, says the word in his brain, and BOOM - understands the text - right? Not quite.

For an early or struggling reader, things are not so simple. The struggling reader must first when looking at the words on the page, figure out each sound. This is called decoding. 

When the brain puts all its energy towards decoding words, it doesn’t have much energy left to work on the natural phrasing and expression which are part of fluency. All of that decoding energy also means the reader isn’t looking for connections with his or her background knowledge.

‘Who cares about phrasing?’ one might ask. Well, it turns out your brain cares about phrasing, and cannot efficiently construct meaning without it. Further, if you think making text connections is ‘no big deal’, you’re missing the boat! Comprehension is the whole point of reading. Anything that detracts from comprehension must be addressed and fixed.

How do I implement a Fluency Intervention?

Now that you understand the what and why of fluency, I'm going to share with you a simple fluency intervention that you can most likely implement tomorrow!

The Critical Elements of Fluency Instruction:
1. Explicit modeling of fluent reading.
2. Repeated reading
3. Corrective Feedback.
4. Performance Criteria

If you plan to deliver daily fluency interventions such as the one I am going to outline below, I suggest using a passage that is at the child's instructional level. 

Below is a general daily fluency schedule that you could follow for your fluency intervention. The main objective is to model fluent reading for your students and allow them multiple practice opportunities while receiving immediate corrective feedback. 

By the end of the week, the goal for your student is to have a 30% rate increase from their cold read. Utilizing a graph is a great visual representation for your students to see and celebrate their growth and progress. 

Another fun idea is to utilize Fligrid. for your students to record their cold and hot reads. I have students watch their cold read and self assess what they need to focus on for the week. By the end of the week, the students can tell a difference in their reading and are very proud of themselves! What's nice about this is that it becomes almost like a digital portfolio. You can truly see the growth of each child from the very start of administering these interventions to the very end. 

If you found this post helpful, be sure to follow me on Instagram and/or Facebook to be updated when new posts go live!!

Monday, September 28, 2020

A Deep Dive into The Big Five: How to Determine Reading Interventions

Last week, I shared with you all about The Big Five. Today we will take a deeper dive into WHY knowing and understanding The Big 5 is important in supporting your struggling readers.

Let's pretend that Henry is in the 3rd grade and he is struggling with reading comprehension. This might be your focus for intervention and small groups, right??

We need to take a deeper dive into WHY he is struggling with comprehension. Knowing about The Big Five will help you to determine specific interventions that your students may need.  Let's take a look at this example:

These are prompts we typically use with our students right? Can YOU tell me about what you just read? For many of our students, this is what the text is like when they are reading! It could be either due to the fact that they are unable to decode the word or possibly that they simply just don't know what the word means. Both of these issues lead to a breakdown in understanding. 

We need to refer back to The Big Five and think of it as a Hierarchy of Reading Skills. 

The reason why Henry is struggling with Comprehension is likely due to several different factors. For 3rd graders, their beginning of year oral reading fluency assessments can provide a lot of information. If your student's reading rate is way below grade-level expectations and/or their accuracy rate is low, it is highly likely that your student is struggling to decode the text. They are reading slowly (and with many errors) because they are spending most of their cognitive energy trying to figure out what each word is. Since their brain is focused on this, they are unable to comprehend the text. 

Analyzing the errors also helps you to determine what the student needs. Perhaps the student is unable to read-only multi-syllabic words. This tells you that your intervention will need to focus on decoding multi-syllabic words. 

Taking a step back to analyze each component of The Big Five is necessary for truly targeting your students' intervention needs. Continue to move one step back along the hierarchy to determine a starting point for interventions. 

I hope that this post was helpful to you! If you have any questions, I'd love to answer them for you! Send me a DM over on Instagram or Facebook!