August 3, 2020

Back to School Sale!

Mark your calendars for August 4th and 5th!  It is officially TPT's Back to School Sale!  Whoop Whoop!


Most sellers have set their ENTIRE stores set to 20% off, but you can receive an additional 5% discount if you enter code: BTS20 at checkout.  This is a wonderful time to get all the items on your wish list for a fraction of the cost!  I know I have my cart loaded up and ready to go for Tuesday!

All products in my store are 20%, including my three most popular sellers listed below! 








July 31, 2020

Teacher Self Care

My district has purchased The Distance Learning Playbook by Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey and John Hattie, to assist in guiding our distance learning efforts for this upcoming school year.  While our district hasn't fully decided what our school year will look like, we do know it will look different, and our administration wanted us to be as prepared as possible. Although it is still technically summer, teachers were able to get their hands on this playbook, if they wanted, to start mentally preparing for what school might look like.  I jumped at the chance...... my brain HAS to start preparing or I will go cRaZy!



If you think you might be tasked with distance learning, whether at 100%, a hybrid model or a crisis shutdown if a Covid-19 outbreak happens, I highly recommend this book.  It's a wonderfully accessible read which details research and evidence based strategies teachers can employ to deliver high impact learning online, virtual or in an distributed environment.  If you want more of a sample, visit Corwin's website where they offer a complimentary download introduction of the book.  

The very first module (of 9) is about self care. I was a bit surprised this was the first module, but after reading through it made total sense.  We can't take care of others, unless we have first taken care of ourselves.  If we are stressed, overwhelmed, anxious and exhausted...what good are we to our students?  

In order to keep your cup filled, it is important to have a plan. A plan to keep you mentally healthy during times of crisis (looking at you Covid-19).  Use these following tips to help you come up with a plan specific to distance learning taken from Module 1 of the Distance Learning Playbook

1. Keep a dedicated workspace at home (this doesn't have to be a specific room, but could be a corner in your bedroom or kitchen.  Wherever it is, set ground rules for others in your home about your workspace. At my home, since my husband and I are both teachers, we share a workspace--but at different hours of the day.  We are lucky to have a spare room in the basement, where we have space and privacy.   However, we need to spend more time making the space feel more like a "classroom" by hanging up marker boards, organizing supplies and decorating.  

2.  Create a routine Routines are great for our brains--brains love predictability.  Routines help us stay organized and are predictable.  I know when my "normal routine" gets interrupted, I can become frazzled--which is how the start of "crisis learning" went for me, and likely many others.  Our whole world got rocked, and we didn't know how to re-establish routines.  So, before beginning distance learning create a morning and ending routine.  My morning routine is beginning the day with a walk, and my ending routine is spending time watching tv with my family.  Those are the bookends to my day. Routines don't have to be long or elaborate, rather something that signifies a clear start and end.  

3. Stay connected with people outside your home Humans thrive on both personal and professional connections and we shouldn't forget this when we are teaching remotely. This was a struggle for me during crisis learning--yes I had the occasional text conversation and attended PLC meetings with colleagues--but I didn't have a plan to stay connected on a regular basis.  If my school enters a distance learning phase, I plan to text a friend or family member daily.  I also plan to search for PD opportunities that I can attend virtually each month. 



4. Stay Healthy.  This means having a plan for when you do get stressed or overwhelmed.  Eat healthy. Exercise. Get regular sleep. 

One important note---if you are experiencing overwhelming anxiety, sadness or stress please seek professional help.  You aren't good to anyone else, unless you have taken care of yourself first. 

Lastly, a few weeks ago I posted about 7 ways you can help kids cope with anxiety.  If you haven't had a chance to read it--- please take a moment as the tips were great for helping kids cope, yet also useful for adults and fits nicely with the topic of self care.   

July 24, 2020

The Importance of Morphology: Prefixes, Suffixes and Root words

Are you interested in getting your upper elementary students to spell more words correctly, understand the meaning behind more words and read more words independently? If so....then code based instruction must continue in the classroom. 

What is code based instruction?? This is when students are taught phonics skills in an explicit and specific sequence.  Research tells us, code based instruction is the most effective way to teach students to read and spell.  If a student is taught using this approach they will have the skills needed to apply learned patterns when spelling or encountering the unknown word in text.  According to  international literacy expert and co-author of LETRS, Dr. Carol Tolman, orthographic learning should continue beyond phonics concepts into morphology and etymology.   

Morphology is the study of morphemes. Morphemes are units of meaning in language (i.e. prefixes, suffixes and root words).  Etymology is study of the historical development of words (i.e. identifying if the morpheme is of  Greek, Latin or Anglo Saxon origin). Typically instruction on morphemes and etymology would happen at the end of third grade progressing into middle school and beyond, although younger students can easily learn basic morphemes.  Dr. Tolman uses the hourglass figure below to clearly illustrate the multiple layers of  direct instruction teachers should provide, progressing from phonological skills all the way into etymology.  The video is about 20 minutes in length, but well worth the watch if you want to learn more about all of the layers. 


There is a sort of natural progression of instruction with morphemes. You will notice the progression goes from easier to understand to more difficult concepts that require background knowledge.
  • One might first start with Anglo Saxon and Latin compounds which are free morphemes.  A free morpheme is a morpheme that can stand alone and have meaning (i.e. dog and house alone mean one thing, but combined make doghouse, which means something else).  Compounds are a great introduction to illustrate word chunks are meaningful.
  • Next, one might progress to inflectional morphemes. Inflectional morphemes change what a word does, but doesn't change its meaning (i.e. ing, ed, etc.). 
  • Then, one might progress to irregular past tense plurals (i.e. catches, catch and caught).  
  • After that, one might teach common prefixes (un, re, pre, etc.) and then move to less common prefixes (macro, mono, fore, etc.) 
  • Next, one might instruct on derivational suffixes, which are suffixes that make a word change a grammar class.  For example this means a word can go from being a noun (ex: pore) to being an adjective (ex: porous) by adding a derivational suffix (in this cause -ous). 
  • Finally one might teach Greek and Latin roots.  Greek roots are not as common as Latin roots and are more scientific and technical. 


After a prefix, suffix or root word is explicitly taught there needs to be multiple exposures and chances to engage with the learned morpheme.  Some great ways to further explore taught morphemes are by creating word webs, thinking of a visual or action that represents the morpheme, word hunts, graphic organizers, cloze activities or playing games.  


Ready to better instruct on morphology?

Prefix, suffix and root word graphic organizers are a great way to deepen understanding of morphemes!
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    Bottom line--the more students understand about the structure of words, the better they will be at reading them independently, understanding their meaning and how to correctly spell.

    July 16, 2020

    7 Tips to Help Kids Cope with Anxiety

    As I sit down to write this post 137,734 people have died in the United States from Covid-19. This invisible enemy has killed more American lives than the Vietnam, Gulf, Afghanistan and Iraq Wars COMBINED.  The average daily death rate in the US is 924 people.  That is four and a half commercial planes of lives lost each day.  Let that sink in.



    To say I am anxious about school reopening is an understatement.  In March, when the schools were closed by our Governor, my little family created a safety bubble.  We haven't gone out.  We get all things delivered or by curb-side pick up.  We have missed parties, funerals, weddings, graduations and seeing family and friends. This was the choice we made to protect our family. Now.....that bubble is going to be popped, and I am terrified.

    I know I am not alone in my worry for schools to reopen. I know many of us are having the SAME exact thoughts.  Yet, at the same time, we want SO BADLY to be with ALL of our students.  Face to face.  Learning, playing, laughing, hugging. I have yet to talk with one teacher who doesn't want to go back into the classroom.  All of us do.

    On Tuesday of this week the Kansas State Department of Education released their guide to reopen schools. Last week our district's leadership team (which I am apart of) began working on how to safely continue to educate students with our world's "new normal."  Right now there appears to be more questions than answers....which doesn't help with the anxiety!!  I am thankful my district and  state's governor has leadership that is rooted in science and puts kids and teacher's safety top of mind while making decisions. 

    Deep breath. (okay lots of deep breaths....)

    So what can we do about our anxiety? Our fear? As educators, if we are having these anxious thoughts, how might our students be feeling?  What might we do to help students?

    Here are seven tips that can help you, and your students cope with anxiety.  These tips were compiled from experts at the Centers for Disease Control and the Child Mind Institute, a leading nonprofit clinic that offers care for children and families struggling with mental illness.


    1. Deal with anxiety in a healthy way

    We need to model for our kids how to react to stressful times by coping with anxiety in a healthy way.  When one is feeling anxious, name the emotion but don't let it run the show.  Instead of jumping on the hamster wheel of worst case scenarios, think about what is going right, or something that is positive. Often what an adult is feeling can be inadvertently passed on to a child.  Thus it is important to show students how to confront anxiety the right way.

    2. Watch for signs of anxiety in your students

    Kids might not always be able to express how they are feeling, so make sure you are in-tune to any changes.  For example, in many younger students anxiety masquerades as a psychical ailment (headache, stomach ache, irritability).

    3. Use kid-friendly language

    Kids will probably have questions, and when they do make sure you are are using words that students are able to understand.  Give your kiddos time to process what you have discussed and check back to confirm their understanding. 

    4. Reassurance

    Provide reassurance to your students, but don't over-do it.  Sometimes when we constantly assure it actually creates anxiety.  Instead let your students know we are doing everything we can to keep them safe.  Share with them the routines and safety measures that are put into place and why they are important.

    5. Model Calm

    Be present.  Practice mindfulness.  I know one thing I have to do, is limit myself to one news program a day---otherwise my brain spirals.  It is important to be informed, but I don't need to be watching the news 24/7.

    6. Routine

    Sticking with your normal routine in the classroom and at home feels safe for students.  Yes, your routine may have additional steps--but try to stick to the script.  Structure during an uncertain time is comforting.

    7. Find the positive

    Find the silver lining.  You may have to dig deep and search far---but they are there!

    The following quote hit the nail on the head for me, as I hope it does for you.


    If you are looking for more resources on how to help kids cope with anxiety, check out the links below.




    July 11, 2020

    Stopping Sound by Sound Reading: Part 4

    You've made it---the final post in the four part series of stopping sound by sound reading.  Wahoo!!

    To conclude the series we will be focusing on decoding. 

    BUT, before we get to that...make sure you have read part 1 (inside a reader's brain), part 2 (phonemic awareness) and part 3 (orthographic mapping).  Phonemic awareness, orthographic mapping and decoding are the three things teachers should be doing with their students to stop sound by sound reading. 

    Alright...back to decoding. :) Students NEED intensive practice in basic decoding. Practice should follow direct instruction and be guided until students are ready to practice independently. It is important to start at the whole word level and then progress to phrases, sentences and decodable text. 



    Guided practice should enforce and promote healthy reading habits.  Students must keep their eyes on the text and not rely on faulty reading strategies (i.e looking at pictures and guessing).

    When (yes....it will happen) a student encounters a difficult word; fight the urge to immediately help.  Give the student plenty of wait time to apply any decoding skills they have learned.  If the student still struggles guide them using the following strategies:
    • Spot the vowel (point to vowel, say it, blend to the end, read whole word)
    • Look for "word chunks" (students look for chunks of the word they know)
    • Stretch the word (point and say each grapheme, blend into whole word)
    • Cover up parts of the word (cover up rime, or cover up the onset to help students visually chunk word)
    These decoding strategies ensure that students are keeping their eyes on the text and cement the understanding that students MUST look at text to unlock meaning. 

    Positive error correction is also a must during practice.  This is a great strategy for building student's self confidence and providing immediate and corrective feedback. Check out this video from Linda Farrell on positive error correction. She is just so adorable! :) 


    That's it! I sincerely hope this series has been helpful and that you have a solid plan on how to help sound by sound readers in your class.

    As always--contact me if you have any questions. :)


    May 6, 2020

    $100 TPT Giveaway



    Wow....what an exciting opportunity!!  Enter for your chance to win a $100 dollar gift to TPT.  Whoop Whoop!  This giveaway ends May 13th and is open worldwide.

    This is a monthly contest hosted by An Apple fo the Teacher (Kelly Malloy).  Soooo.....if you don't win this month, make sure you come back in June! :)

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    If you are a teacher blogger or Teachers Pay Teachers seller who wants to particpate in giveaways like these to grow your store and social media? Click here to find out how you can join oru totally awesome group of bloggers!


    May 5, 2020

    Teacher Appreciation Sale!

    Dear Teachers,

    Thank you for all that you do in our classrooms.  Thank you for continually putting your own needs on hold and keeping the focus on the little minds of our future. We appreciate the planning you do even before the day begins, and well after the day is over.  We are so grateful for the hand you put on a shoulder, the hugs you give in the hallways and the smiles you share throughout the day. You are constantly thinking of new ways to reach students--, socially, emotionally and instructionally. You are SO LOVED!!  Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!


    In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, Teachers Pay Teachers is having a site-wide sale where you can save up to 25%.  The sale runs May 5th through 6th.  Make sure you enter "thankyou" at checkout.

     
    Happy shopping, and thank you for all you do!