March 17, 2020

The ULTIMATE list of FREE Educational Resources

I am trying not to panic. I am trying not to panic. I am trying not to panic.  Maybe if I say it enough times it will be true, right?

In all honesty I am very anxious about the current situation the world finds itself in, yet I remain hopeful.  I can worry constantly, or I can trust God.  BUT....I can't do both.  I am choosing to trust Him.



To keep my worry and anxiety at bay, I am keeping my brain busy.  This isn't to say I am not keeping myself informed and vigilant, but it does mean I need to take a step back from social media and constant news cycles---while still social distancing! :) Sooooo...... for the remainder of my spring break, I will plan fun activities to do with my toddler, watch ALL movies available on Disney+, work on home projects with my husband, read and scour Pinterest.

Now.....some of your school districts have already closed--which I think is an incredibly responsible reaction.  I can't imagine the tough decisions leaders have had (or will) make to keep our population safe.

I think the tweet from Dr. Massengill sums it up best:


As I have been scrolling through Facebook, I have seen some wonderful posts of free resources available to teachers and students during this time, yet none of them were compiled in an all comprehensive list....so that is what I did.  You know one of the things to keep my brain occupied.....

I hope you find it useful!  You can access this list as a PDF by clicking here.  If you access it as a PDF then the links are clickable.  Clickable links make my heart much happier. :)






In addition check out some of these other helpful resources:

Google doc created by Amazing Educational Resources Facebook group. Access it by clicking here.


Over 60 math websites by We Are Teachers.  Access it by clicking here.


 Over 100 fee elearning websites for schools impacted by Covid-19 compiled by Tech & Learning.  Access it by clicking here.


Stay safe, healthy and hopeful!

March 5, 2020

Stopping Sound by Sound reading: Part 2

Welcome back!

We are going to explore the first intervention that should be included to stop sound by sound reading.  If you aren't sure how to identify who a sound by sound reader is, and what goes on inside their brain, make sure to check out Part 1 of Stopping Sound by Sound Reading.

The first component (of the three) that should be included is phonemic awareness.

Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear, identify and manipulate the individual phonemes of spoken words.  Phonemic awareness is often confused with phonological awareness.  In fact many people use these two terms interchangeably, yet they are not the same.  Lets take a moment and distinguish between the two, and really get our understanding solid.



Phonological awareness is the broad skill that encompasses identifying and manipulating all parts of oral language).  Think of phonological awareness as an umbrella which has skills like rhyming, identifying final, medial and initial sounds, syllabication, etc. all housed underneath.  Phonemic awareness is one of those sub skills under  the phonological awareness umbrella.


Phonemic awareness requires students to be able to manipulate the smallest units of speech. Kilpatrick (2015) says that phonemic awareness is an essential part of the process of storing words in one's sight vocabulary.  A reader's sight vocabulary is any group of words that an individual can decode quickly and effortlessly (high frequency or not).  Phonemic awareness is what allows us to anchor the sounds in a word to the sequence of letters that represent those sounds (Kilpatrick 2015).

We want our students to be quick and accurate decoders, so we MUST explicitly instruct in the area of phonemic awareness!!!

So....how do you do that?


The answer: sound chaining!

Sound chaining is where students receive explicit instruction and practice with phoneme manipulation.  Students will substitute, delete, and add sounds orally.  Students will use colored tiles, blocks, chips, paper squares, etc to represent sounds in words. It is important to note that students ARE NOT looking at any text--this is all done in the world of sound.

Follow the steps below in the graphic to complete the sound chaining exercise with students.  You can also download the steps and a sample word list by clicking here.


I would recommend starting with two sound words and progress to 3, 4 and 5 sound words when your students are ready.  Also, start with changing the beginning sound and progress to final and medial.    Keep in mind DO NOT add letters---as this is a phonemic awareness task and we are just working in the world of sound.

If you are looking for some word lists to complete this sound chaining exercise, check out these free resources:

Word list from On Track Reading
Word list from Really Great Reading
Word list from Hanging Around Primary (TPT Freebie)
Word list from Fun with Phonological Awareness

Also make sure you vist my TPT store to download the steps and sample word list by clicking here.  It's free!




February 17, 2020

Stopping Sound by Sound Reading: Part 1

Do you have or have you had a student that is a sound by sound reader?



You know.....the child that sounds out each letter of the word before blending (hopefully correctly) all of the sounds together to form a word?  I certainly do. I certainly have quite a few students who read this way.

You want to know something great??? I am about to help you STOP sound by sound reading and move your students to unitizing and whole word reading!!

I must admit I **used** to think this was a good  okay thing when students read sound by sound.  Sure it didn't sound the greatest....but at least they were able to say the letter sound correctly.  Also, if a student made a mistake,  I would be able to quickly identify which sound (beginning, medial, or final) the student struggled with.  I honestly was A-OK with sound by sound reading.......UNTIL....I heard Linda Farrell speak on how to stop sound by sound reading.

Side note: if you don't know who Linda Farrell is....you should research her and her work.  She is amazing! :) Make sure to check out her videos on Reading Rockets and her website Readsters!

Reading tutor working one-on-one with an elementary student

Anyway.....the brain works SO MUCH HARDER when you read sound by sound, than if you unitize. 

Let's take a simple CVC word and see exactly what the brain of a sound by sound reader does.

Step 1: see the whole word in print
Step 2: see the initial letter
Step 3: say the sound of the initial letter
Step 4: hear the sound of the initial letter
Step 5: hold the sound of the initial letter
Step 6: see the whole word
Step 7: see the medial letter
Step 8: say the medial letter sound
Step 9: hear the medial letter
Step 10: hold the sound of the medial letter
Step 11: see the whole word
Step 12: see the final letter
Step 13: say the sound of the final letter
Step 14: hear the sound of the final letter
Step 15: hold the sound of the final letter
Step 16: Take all of the held information, blend and say the word

WOW....look at how much work the brain of a sound by sound reader is doing!!  AND....that is a simple CVC word.  What about a word that is 4 sounds or 5??  Check out the graphic below to illustrate the steps.


It seriously was a light bulb moment for me when I saw that graphic. I had never realized how much extra the brain works when you say the sound of each letter before blending them all together.  As a comparison....check out the graphic below of a proficient reader.

A proficient reader is able to see the word in text, think of the word and say the word.  A proficient reader's phonological processor and orthographic processor are working efficiently and simultaneously....which is what we want all kids to achieve.

So the next logical question is how do we stop sound by sound reading?!?  According to Linda Farrell to stop sound by sound reading every intervention lesson must include three things: phonemic awareness, orthographic mapping and decoding.

I will explore each of these three components in upcoming posts....so stay tuned!

Part 1: what is a sound by sound reader
Part 2: Phonemic awareness
Part 3: orthographic mapping
Part 5: decoding

February 3, 2020

TPT's February Sale

Just a quick little note to let you know TPT is having a two day sale, and it starts tomorrow! So load up those shopping carts tonight and purchase discounted goodies tomorrow! :)
Most all sellers are setting their stores to 20% off, but you can have additional savings by entering promo code FEBSALE at checkout.

All of the products in my store will be 20% off, which includes my most popular items (pictured below).

Connect 4 Game using vowel teams



Paragraph Writing Frames 


Citing Evidence in Writing (Sentence Starters)


Happy shopping, and thanks for stopping by my blog today!

January 22, 2020

Diagnostic Decoding Survey

As teachers we are inundated with screeners, formatives, diagnostics, summatives, data, data and more data.  Am I right?!?! 

Now, I might be in the minority, but I LOVE assessments and data! :) Well......let me clarify my thinking.....I LOVE assessments that are quick and enlightening, and I LOVE data that informs my instruction.  So I guess I don't have a fondness for all assessments and data....just the ones that are useful. 



One assessment that I have found particularly helpful is the Diagnostic Decoding Survey (DDS) from Really Great Reading. The DDS is a free resource to help teachers diagnose word level reading difficulties for students in grades 2-12.  The entire assessment takes less than 10 minutes and pinpoints specific decoding weaknesses.  The DDS is basically a MUCH quicker version of the Quick Phonics Screener (QPS).  You can download the free resource by clicking here.

The DDS has two surveys--the beginning decoding survey and the advanced decoding survey.  Students start with the beginning decoding survey and then, depending on their performance, can move on to the advanced survey or stop.

The beginning decoding survey assesses how well students are reading words they should have mastered by the end of first grade.  This includes:

  • high frequency words
  • single syllable words with short vowels
  • digraphs
  • two sound blends.  



The advanced decoding survey assesses decoding skills students should have mastered at the end of third grade. This includes:
  • single syllable words with short vowels 
  • advanced phonics patterns (trigraphs, three sound blends, etc)
  • single syllable words with advanced vowel patterns (ai, oi, au, etc.)
  • Multi-syllable words (real and nonsense)

At my building we use the DDS as a diagnostic following the AimsWeb Plus screener.  Any student who completes an oral reading fluency (ORF) assessment with less than 95% accuracy is given the DDS to determine specific word reading deficits.  Results are then used to group students and instruction is provided. 

My building loves how easy, quick and informative the DDS is!  I hope you all will find some use in it too! 




January 9, 2020

Mastering Short Vowels

Do you have some students that just can't get short vowel sounds mastered despite multiple instructional methods, and countless exposures? 

I sure have had those students....but several years back I began teaching ALL students a quick and simple action to go along with short vowels and their sounds.  The addition of movement to the sound and visual was a GAME CHANGER!  I honestly can say I no longer have students who struggle to master short vowels.



I don't know why I didn't think of adding movement sooner?!?  I mean....research proves that movement can be an effective cognitive strategy to bolster learning, improve memory and increase learner motivation. 

In fact...did you know that the part of the brain that processes movement is the same part of the brain that processes learning (I'm looking at you cerebellum)?  Fascinating, right?!? 

BUT...you don't just have to take my word for it...check out Teaching with the Brain in Mind by Eric Jensen.  This book is an ASCD best seller and loaded with ideas for how to improve student achievement by applying brain research to your teaching. 

I haven't read the whole book, just excerpts...but it is on my list to read this summer!

So.....are you ready for the QUICK and SIMPLE actions?  Pictured below is a card I use to teach the actions.  It is a great visual anchor, and you can download it for free by clicking here (or you can click on the picture).  Action descriptions are listed below.

Short A
visual anchor-apple
action- pull your hand toward you mouth and pretend you are biting into an invisible apple while saying the short a sound

Short E
visual anchor--desk edge
action--run your hand along the edge of a desk while saying the short e sound

Short I
visual anchor--itching a wrist
action: scratch the inside of your wrist while saying the short i sound

Short O
visual anchor--octopus
action: Have your fingers pointing toward the floor and wiggle them.  Pretend your hand is an octopus.  Say the short o sound while doing the action.

Short U
visual anchor--hand pointing up
action: use your index finger and point toward the ceiling while saying the short o sound

You can download (for free) the directions on how to do the actions by clicking here, or by clicking on the picture below.



Once students have practiced the short vowels and their actions--it makes correcting errors so much easier.  When a student is reading for you and mispronounces a short vowel all you have to do is cue them with the action--and BAM--error correction!

Happy accurate reading!