Teachers: Supporting Each Other


My former colleague Mary Spiker is currently living the dream. She has just won the honor of Idaho Teacher of the Year and has been spending this week in Washington with the other 49 winners as guests of the White House. She has been posting amazing experiences on her Facebook page and I've been eagerly following her on this adventure. I received a message from her yesterday that really touched me and made me reflect on how important colleagues are in our professional life. This is her message: 

I just want you to know I am currently enjoying Washington Week” as Idaho Teacher of the Year. Today I spent the day at ASCD where we each had to share about a colleague who inspired us to become the teachers that we are today. We had to get it down to 30 seconds and then they filmed us talking about that person. ASCD will make a mash-up of all the stories shared. I spoke of YOU! Here is what I said... remember I only had 30 seconds which I had to condense down from five pages.
”I still remember the day I walked into Kathy’s classroom. I was swept away by the different opportunities provided. Her children didn’t just learn about science, math, and writing - they BECAME scientists, mathematicians, and writers. I wanted to be a child in her classroom! Her love for her students, teaching, and learning was evident in everything she did. I actually told her “I ASPIRE TO BE YOU!” To this day I reflect on the things I witnessed and as a result I am creating the researchers, writers, and scientist of tomorrow.” Thank you!

I have had many many colleagues along the way during my quarter century as a teacher. I have learned something important from each one of them. Thank you Mary for your kind words, and more importantly, thank you for giving me the opportunity to reflect on the many teachers who have crossed my path. We are in this together and together we can always achieve more! May we all spend more time lifting one another and less time circling the wagons and shooting within. Thank you to all of my dear colleagues who have lifted me up, and represent, Mary Spiker.

Integrating Music in Elementary Classrooms

Much of what young children do as play - singing, drawing, dancing - are natural forms of art. These activities engage all the senses and help wire the brain for successful learning.
— David A. Sousa in How the Brain Learns

Integrating music into the elementary school curriculum occurs at varying degrees. At the very basic level students perform or respond to a piece of music. This is the kind of music integration that occurs in the classroom when we sing welcome songs as our students enter the classroom or play a simple melody when it's time to clean up. At a higher level of integration a piece of music can be used to teach a concept from the core curriculum. These kinds of integrations occur when we sing the ABCs, a counting song, or a simple melody to help children remember their math facts. The highest levels of integration ask students to learn music content alongside core content, learning music vocabulary, concepts, and skills in tandem with other academic concepts.

Here are some ways to integrate music in your classroom:

  • Listen to a piece of classical music. While listening, have students imagine a character that the music might describe. What does that character look like? What does he/she want? Write a story based on the character you imagined based on the music.
  • Add sound effects to a Shared Reading lesson. Use sticky notes to add cues in the reading to tell students when the sound effects should occur. For example, if the story includes a rain storm, have a student turn over a rain stick during the story when cued.
  • Create a soundscape with body percussion to accompany a science concept the class is learning about. Such as this soundscape for a rain forest:
  • Create rhythmic ostinatos to accompany a poem, shared reading, or guided reading. A rhythmic ostinato is a repeated rhythmic pattern created with voices or instruments. You can use a chart such as this one to help guide students as they perform the ostinato. In the first video, a rhythmic ostinato is being created by the cups. In the second video the students are chanting a rhythmic ostinato.
  • Teach nursery rhymes to develop phonemic awareness and then have students chant the nursery rhyme clapping once to the rhythm and once to the beat.
  •  Practice syllabication (and phonemic awareness) while learning rhythm through lessons such as this one by Jeri Crosby or these videos by Preschool Prodigies:

Want an easy way to integrate music into your preschool, kindergarten, or 1st grade curriculum? Try this Orchestrated Reader's Theater script! It includes Foley effects and Leitmotifs (sound effects and small melodies) that your students can include in their performance. You can buy it here or at Teachers Pay Teachers.

Using Questions To Extend a Shared Writing Lesson

During Shared Writing the teacher guides children to compose messages using a combination of writing. For beginning writers to understand what writing is and to cognize the connection between spoken and written language, the teacher must continually model the writing process by using the think aloud strategy - that is to verbalize the writing process as it is being executed. In subsequent sessions the teacher gradually solicits the student’s assistance as they begin to identify sounds and name letters in words; the teacher acknowledges and writes the letters in the correct placement.  This daily modeling and interaction builds confidence and encourages students to become independent writers.  The 6+1 Traits® Of Writing should be modeled continually, and it’s specific vocabulary: ideas, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, conventions and presentation (NREL, 2008, p. 1) should be used when modeling writing strategies to the students. For example a teacher may say, “Molly, I really like the word choice you used”.


  • Morning Message
  • Daily News
  • Chit-Chat
  • Summaries
  • Lists
  • Charts
  • Schematic Organizers
  • Group Stories


The following are examples of questions a teacher might ask students to extend the learning during a shared writing experience.

Concepts of Print

  • Where did we start writing? Which way did we go?
  • What did we put at the beginning and end of the sentence?
  • What did we leave between each word?
  • Find a favorite letter.  What is it?
  • How many words are in this sentence?
  • Should I use a uppercase letter in this word?

Phonological Awareness

  • What sound did you hear at the beginning(or end) of ___?
  • Name another word that begins with the same sound as ____?
  • Tell me a word that rhymes with ____?
  • When I say __ __ __, tell me the sounds you hear.
  • How many syllables are in the word _____?


  • What sound and letter does ____ begin with?
  • What sound and letter does ____ end with?
  • Find a word with the same beginning sound as _____?
  • Find a word that belongs to the _____ word family.
  • Let’s make a list of other words that begin with, end with, or rhyme with ______?
  • Do you see a vowel in the word _____?
  • What is the vowel in the word ______?

High Frequency Words

  • Find the word _____.
  • How did we spell _____?
  • Circle the sight word _______.
  • I need to write the word ____. 
  • Can you point to that word on the word wall? Or, can you spell that word?

Click here to learn more about Shared Writing by listening to our podcast:


Kindergarten Graduation or End-of-the-Year Program Songs: Free Posters

Whether you are planning a graduation like I am, a celebration, or simply want some great end of the year songs to celebrate your classroom community, here are some great choices for you!

This song, All We're Meant To Be, is written by Steven Vogel and can be found here. The children enjoy singing its thoughtful melody as it washes the brains with endorphins. Both the words and the melody are touching. In the words of Cooper, one of my kinders, "This song is beautiful, it makes tears in my eyes."

Several years ago I ran across a treasure! Her name is Nancy Stewart. If you are an early childhood educator and have not yet been introduced to her fabulous, age-appropriate music, I am happy that I can introduce her to you! This great song, We Are Singing With The Children of the World, is always a class favorite. You can download the sheet music, vocal performance and instrumental versions of this song

I am sure that you will quickly fall in love with not only this song, but all of Nancy's age-appropriate music.

The next little ditty, Kindergarten Graduates is an original song to the tune of Twinkle Little Star. Making up songs that are personal to your classroom and/or students is easy if you hook the words to an original tune. Did you know that you can sing almost any song to the tune of Oscar Meyer Weiner? You can and it is great fun! My students love singing favorite songs to familiar tunes. For example, try singing Mary Had a Little Lamb to Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.


I absolutely love the Russian folksong, May There Always Be Sunshine! I especially love the version by Jim Gill. His singing is so appropriate for young children, and he always brings his songs to the next level. Dr. Jean also has many tools that can be used with this song. I love making a class book using this song as a base to culminate our kindergarten year!

Another song that I love to do with my students is  I Like School. I always begin school with this song, and so it is always fun to pull it out in the spring of the year and revisit it! It makes a great program song because the kids LOVE it!

This song, I am a Promise, by The Bill Gaither Trio, is a inspirational song that speaks to promise and potential. You can get the sheet music for free here. I adapted the words to match the song to a school setting with school objectives. 


The song I Can Change the World by Jeff Johnson is a motivational song that demonstrates the promise of a brighter future through song.

The song Goodbye Kindergarten is an original song I wrote to the tune of Billy Boy as recorded by Singlish. This song is special to me because it not only notes the end of a kindergarten year, but I wrote it the year I left a school where I had taught for 20 years.

You can increase the learning for each of these songs by adding physicality to them. One easy way to do so is through sign language. My go-to sign language resource is Signing Savvy. I also like Baby Sign Language, which simplifies the process. If you get really serious about teaching sign language, you can also invest in Signing Time, a program that builds language and vocabulary through song.

I love to make this portfolio page or poster as we learn the Jack Johnson song we are singing at graduation. 

If you want to join in the fun, you can purchase the clip art here or at our TPT store. Use the code hats in our store for $2.00 off!

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This Craftivity and Graduation Essentials Include:

A “Graduation Me” Craftivity and bulletin board display ideas

Graduation Invitation (Two Size Choices and Style Choice)

Graduation Program Covers (Black and White)

Graduation Program Covers (Full Color)

Graduation Diplomas (Black and White)

Graduation Diplomas (Full Color)

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Download these free song posters here! Or you can find them at our TPT store.

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Best Digital Kindergarten Assessment

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Have you been wanting to try ESGI, the best digital assessment tool around, but the cost has held you back, or perhaps you wanted to really try it out before purchase? Well wait no longer! ESGI is now offering a deal not to miss!

All teachers who register for a free trial account between now and April 10th, and who use the promo code B7227,  will receive an EXTENDED FREE TRIAL through August 31, 2017! That's right! FIVE MONTHS FREE for ALL teachers who have always WONDERED about ESGI but for some reason, have never tried it out! And then when you are in LOVE with ESGI, your price of purchase will be the discounted price of only $159.

Wait there's more! 

All teachers who register for an ESGI trail during this campaign will be entered to win a "Pot of Gold" mystery grand prize from ESGI.  Announcement coming on April 11th, the day after the campaign has ended. What can that prize be?? The folks at ESGI are amazingly generous so I would guess it to be something as fabulous as March itself!

Speaking of March

Amazing Paint Sticks Great For Young Children

I received a set of 6 paint Kwikstix Thin Stix from The Pencil Grip Company to review. I liked them so much, that I just ordered a large set for my classroom, from amazon! These thin sticks are able to reach the small spaces that my regular size Kwickstix couldn't reach. I love these stick! They are easy to use, vibrant colors, and not messy at all! Perfect for young children. 

I have these paint sticks available to my students for all projects; they are just that easy to use. Just look at these adorable projects!

The Cat and the Hat

The Cat and the Hat

March came in like a lion

March came in like a lion

Guided or Scaffold Writing


Guided writing is a time when the teacher provides guidance, mini-lessons, and scaffolded support to move students within their zone of proximal development (ZPD). This type of writing is based on the works of Vygotsky (1979). Children are encouraged to solve their own problems with teacher assistance. 

The Steps For Scaffold Writing
A Method to Support Emergent Writing

  •  A simple line is used to materialize each word. This technique is based on the theories of Vygotsky and Elkoin. It helps children learn to plan their writing and visualize words and sentences. Thisapproach has been field-tested and has shown amazing results.

• Have the student state the sentence to be written. (Keep the sentence to 3-5-word minimum during this early stage of guided writing).

• Repeat the sentence back to student, count the words to the sentence on your fingers, and then draw a line for each word as you say each word.

• Point to the lines as you repeat the sentence once again; next have the student do the same.

• Remember during scaffolding you are helping a student segment a word, identifying sounds as naturally spoken.

• Never isolate sounds! This would make this activity a phonics lesson rather than an authentic writing experience. Rather, state the word whole or ever so slightly rubber band the word. Never repeat the word in an exaggerated fashion. Keep the integrity of the word at all times.

• Ask student: “What is the first word in your sentence?” After student responds, repeat the student’s word back to him, such as “My.” “What is the first sound you hear in my?”

• Child will reply /m/*. Great, do you know what letter makes that sound? Okay, write that letter. (Pointing to the appropriate line.) If the student does not know what letter makes the /m/ sound, draw his attention to the alphabet chart and tell him that the /m/ is made by m. Ask him to write that letter.

• *If the student cannot hear any sounds independently, assist him in hearing the beginning sounds of the word, show the letter that makes the sound on the chart, and ask him to write that letter. Follow this process for each word always assuming that the student will hear the sound himself. At these beginning stages, concentrate on one three word sentences during guided writing and assure that the student is getting additional practice in sound/symbol relationships. Also, give struggling students more practice using structure or model writing experiences.

• After the student has identified the /m/ sound ask him if he hears any other sounds in the word my. (If the student hears /ï/, have him write it in the appropriate space. If he does not hear it, simply go to the next word. At the early stages of scaffold writing it is acceptable for the child to write the word my as mi or even m. Later as writing skills develop and sight words have been introduced, move to spelling high frequency words displayed on the word wall with conventional spelling.

• Continue this process until the sentence is complete. As the student develops, encourage him to write additional sentences. Always move student to the next level keeping within the zone of his proximal development.

Click here to learn more about Guided Writing by listening to the podcast.


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Using Writing Prompts

One of the best ways to satisfy the need for writing daily is by using writing prompts. Using prompts is an easy way to keep students engaged and excited about writing. They help prevent writer’s block, inspire creative and independent thinking, and give students a level of comfort when asked to take risks.

Keep writing prompts simple and open to interpretation, sometimes a simple title will suffice. Some examples of such prompts are:

  • My first day of School
  • Bugs
  • My Classroom
  • What I like About My Friends
  • My Best Birthday

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Good writing resource. Cannot wait to use with my Kinders next year!
Really helpful to start a new school year! These are great :)
Thanks! I’m looking for ways to support my beginning writers and readers.
Love this resource :)
I use this a lot.

Or Find it Here on TPT

Or Find it Here on TPT

Independant Writing and Writer's Conference

The last semester of the kindergarten year should be spent developing independence, moving from guided writing to independent writing.

Independent writing is the end goal of modeled, shared, structured, interactive, and scaffold or guided writing. As students learn the tools of self-expression and gain confidence in their mastery of writing conventions, they will become independent writers, and love the process. To optimize this move to independence, provide students with purposeful anchor charts.

During the last semester of the year it is time to turn students loose as independent writers using the resources provided at the writing center as well as using peer resources. At this time the students will begin to attend writers’ conferences with a greater purpose.


At writer's conference, the teacher becomes available in a defined area to call students over to work at individual levels, scaffolding students to greater writing success. (Always encouraging them to do more.) Daily writing conferences are not necessary, but it is important to call students over at least two to three times a week to keep students moving within their ZPD. On days that a child does not visit the teacher, I assign students to read their writings to a peer for a peer review.

As one sentence becomes easy for a student to produce, a second sentence should be added.  As before, you must scaffold the students to the next level continually pushing them within their zone of proximal development.

Remember that to scaffold a student to greater heights, continual instruction must occur. Also during independent writing, allow students opportunities to read their work to others. Provide opportunities for an author’s chair during whole group times.

Eventually students will be working so independently that they will have their sentences written completely on their own.  As students move into independent writing they will drop the lines themselves. Voila’!  Independent writers emerge!

Win an Entire Set of Classroom Shirts

Have you heard of CustomInk.com? CustomInk is the leading provider of custom apparel and accessories for groups and occasions. CustomInk believes that t-shirts and other custom products have the power to bring people together, just like the students in our very own classrooms! I know when I provide t-shirts for special occasions like the 100th day, special field trips, or even for Friday spirit days, my classroom unites!

CustomInk combines an easy online Design Lab with personal customer care to help its customers create the perfect design to get the whole class excited about what they are learning.

CustomInk and Kindergarten Kiosk have joined together for a massive give-away!

Enter to win an ENTIRE (up to 30) classroom set of adorable Jungle-Themed T shirts. These shirts fit perfectly with two of my favorite thematic units, jungle and zoo!

Enter to win using the rafflecopter below, and be sure to get the thematic units to bring animal-themed academic learning into your classroom. Enter the code JUNGLE at checkout, and receive 30% off our jungle unit.  Enter ZOO to receive the 30% off the zoo unit. 

This is an amazing giveaway! A FULL classroom set of adorable t-shirts!

*Contest opens 2/26 at midnight and closes 3/9 at midnight. Good Luck!

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Lots of fun activities and games for a jungle theme. I love the Snap game.
Such a great source for my preschoolers and the book. Thanks
many wonderful ideas
Fun resource for a fun theme!
Wow!! This is an amazing interdisciplinary packet. The children thoroughly enjoyed all of the activities that we used. It was a great resource for me. It is so well organized.
This is a great resource. I have used it a lot in my class. Thanks

Products available also at Teacher's Pay Teachers.

Measurement-Data and Common Core Standards

In addition to working with numbers, kindergarten students should also be introduced to measurement and data. As students work to meet three standards of Measurement and Data, they note measurable attributes such as length and weight, make comparisons, as well as sort and categorize information. Through exploration in these areas students gather, organize, analyze, and interpret information about the world around them.

There are some great books to get you and your students going. with my affiliate links.

STEM Center

If you haven't tried a full-blown science or in this case STEM center before, try setting up a center on measurement. Start simple with some rice and measuring cups, then build from there. Over the years I have accumulated materials from Lakeshore and others, but regular every-day measuring items for the center are easy to find.

The cornerstone for learning in kindergarten is formed by hands-on investigations. This is especially true in STEM. Touching, moving, and manipulating objects helps students gain a better understanding of mathematical concepts. 

Take measurement for example. Most workbooks adequately address length, weight, and volume, but students gain a deeper and more complete understanding of these measurable attributes when given an opportunity to measure, weigh and examine volume with measuring tools. 

Set up your area with a variety of standard and non-standard tools. Rulers, measuring tapes, craft sticks, and/or linking cubes are all effective means for measuring length. A balance and a tub of classroom objects allows students to compare objects by weight. A tub of colored macaroni and a set of measuring cups is a great way to learn more about volume.

Hands-on activities are engaging and interesting to students. “Discovering” the answer is exciting and satisfying to young learners. Whether the hands-on exploration is guided or independent, you will find that it enhances student learning.

Supporting Curriculum

Awesome resource! Thank you!
Using these this year. Thank you!
Good ideas, I haven’t tried them out yet.

The lessons vary in style and format. Many lessons can be used with small groups while others can be completed with a large group. All lessons can be adapted to support struggling students or to challenge high-achieving students. It can also be found on TPT.

For some great cross-curricular thematic fun, enjoy the measuring lessons found in our comprehensive thematic unit, Giants, Trolls and the Big Bad Wolf.

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Or, find it here at TPT.

Used it last year in May, and my students (kindergartners) loved every activity in this unit! Very engaging and fun! Planning on using it again this year. Thanks!
This was an absolute lifesaver! I used multiple products for my formal observation and was given great compliments! Thank you!!!
This unit is AWESOME!!!!! Thank you so much for including CC standards with these fantastic activities! Great, great purchase!!!!!

Stop Telling Teachers They're So "Talented"

You've stopped in to visit your child's classroom. Despite their young ages, diverse needs, and boundless energy the teacher has all of the children in her classroom engaged and learning.  It's kind of amazing to watch and you're impressed.

On the way out you tell the teacher, "You're so talented. You have a real gift."

Don't say that anymore. Here's why.

I've taught kindergarten for a quarter of a century. I have a Master's Degree in Reading: Curriculum and Instruction. I've attended (and taught) more Professional Development classes than I can count. I'm not "talented". I'm not "gifted". I'm educated and experienced, just like millions of teachers that you see doing great jobs day-after-day in classrooms across the nation.

You wouldn't tell a successful lawyer, doctor, or engineer that their success was due to their "talents," would you? Of course not. We immediately recognize that successes in these fields is due to hard work, education, and experience. Teaching is no different.

In the United States we tend to view teaching as something that requires no skill as long as you have the "talent" for it. A disposable job that anyone can enter and exit at will as long as they have the "gift" for it. Contrast this to other countries, like Finland, where only one out of ten applicants are accepted into teacher education programs and graduates receive a Masters of Education. Finish teachers receive respect and autonomy as professionals who have developed highly desired skills. While here in the United States teachers are so disrespected as professionals that having an education degree isn't even a requirement to be the head of the Federal Department of Education. And more and more states are filling jobs without requiring education degrees.

In many ways good teachers are like good authors or good musicians. When you read a great novel or listen to a beautiful symphony you may be tempted to say that the creator is "talented", but it's not true. In the 1990s a team of psychologists in Germany studied the practice habits of violin students. They found that those who became successful violinists put in approximately 10,000 hours of practice and that "natural talent" had nothing to do with whether students became proficient or not. Similarly, prolific and successful science fiction writer Brandon Sanderson has said that good writing is not due to innate "talent" but to the development of writing skills. Good teachers are the same. They have honed their craft with years of experience and education that largely go unnoticed, unrecognized, and unrewarded.

So stop telling great teachers that they are "talented" or "a natural". Instead recognize the time it has taken to develop those skills. Only then will we encourage more people to become similarly "gifted".

Setting up a Great Word Wall

A Word Wall is a collection of words that are easily visible in the classroom. This wall provides a dictionary of sorts for those high frequency words that generally break phonics rules or appear regularly in print. This wall provides support for students, enabling them to become independent writers. 


Place the Word Wall in a central location that can be easily seen from various views in the classroom.

Use a font that is easily read. 

Refer to the wall often to practice words and train students to look at the wall for support.

Put up the words one at a time as they are taught. If you litter the wall with the year’s worth of words in advance they will not easily see the dictionary pattern of the wall or completely learn its purpose. 

As you place words, use the think-a-loud approach to teach reference skills that allow words to be easily found.

A great way to begin the wall is by introducing student's names in a dictionary fashion as letters are being introduced. Do not add the entire class to the wall at one time. The process is more important than the product. Add the names as you introduce each letter.

Research has shown that words that are printed in red ink with a yellow background promotes visual performance and brain connections. The term power words connects the importance of learning sight words with the power of knowledge. Constructing the word wall as a dictionary; connecting letters and visual sound cards that are used frequently in the classroom (or home), makes for a powerful connection between letter-sound-word.

This packets contains all the materials you'll need to prepare students and organize your word wall. Also tips for extension and use, a personal student-size alphabet/word dictionary, alphabet chant (to promote alphabet knowledge), and an alphabet poster are included.

You will love the connections that this word wall kit will make with your students. And, you will be happy to see that research pays off as its all inclusive, interactive nature will create independent early readers!

NOTE: Contains over 200 power word cards and available in two styles. The one pictured above on the pin, and the other, also pictured above, filled our lovable alphabet zoo animals!

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Reading Strategies


In order to bring emergent readers to levels of independence, it is important to teach early readers the important reading strategies that are necessary for success.

The very first reading strategy that I teach my kindergartners on the first week of school is to sit in reading position using the cute little song. Students are very responsive and quickly develop habits of quiet sitting at the reading table. Now I want to say this strategy is a lot for me and my sanity, but actually, if students sit in a quiet manner at the guided reading table their attention is maximized.

The next strategy I focus on is tracking print. Students become readers more quickly if they point at the word their voice is saying. I love to use a ladybug sticker on the finer when I introduce this strategy. (Get more ideas for pointer here).

I introduce the next strategies as students are ready. Some groups may only be using 2 or 3 strategies while other groups may be using 4 or even all 10.


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Very helpful, great resource!
Great for guided reading groups thanks
Great for around my reading table
Great resource. Thanks so much!
Great idea! Can’t wait to use it.
Love these

Getting Nonreaders to Read


In January I gave the midyear Directed Reading Assessment to my students. Most of them did well, but a few of them really struggled. Despite all that we had done, they were still not looking at print, and leaning too heavily on the strategy of using picture clues.

I needed to come up with a plan of attack and this is the result. I wrote a set of books containing only sight words and CVC words. There are no pictures in these books. Instead, I made the pictures separate, and then included them, plus the letters needed to make the sight words in the book, in a baggie stapled to the back.

Each week, my target kids work on these books. A typical lesson goes like this: First, they review their alphabet sounds. Second, they practice the sight words that will be in the book by first building the words with the die cut letters in the baggie and then writing them.


Next, the child dictates a sentence to the teacher using one (or both) of the sight words from the book. The teacher writes the sentence, the child reads it, the teacher cuts the words in the sentence apart, the child puts the sentence back together and then reads it again.


Finally, we spread out all the pictures and the child reads the book. All of the sight words in the book have been practiced, and when they come to a CVC word they are required to sound it out using the "tap method". For each sound the child taps on their arm, then they slide the sounds together. For example, in the word "fat" the child makes the /f/ sound on their shoulder, the /a/ sound on their elbow, and the /t/ sound on their wrist. Then they say the sounds at they slide one arm down the other, blending them together. After they have decoded the word, they find the picture that matches the story and place it on the page.


This has really been working for most of my kiddos! I've really seen a lot of progress in them. They are actually looking at and through print now!! We'll see what happens come spring DRA :)

I have also used this set as a take-home book and allowed students to glue in the picture at its completion.

I know you will love this product, I do!!


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Fabulous sight word readers! Unique! Thank you!
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Love having the kids adding pictures after text is read!
I’m always on the look out for sight word books. These look like good ones. Thank you!

Book Boxes: And Guided Readers.


Beginning readers need a lot of practice; research has shown that fluency improves with repeated readings. Giving students copies of guided readers to keep at home provides additional practice opportunities for them. 

A home reading program will be more effective if the student has a way to save or store the books. A book box is a great at-home storage solution. A book box can easily be made out of a shoe box - either a regular shoe box or a purchased plastic shoe box. Your students can decorate the boxes at home. They can be elaborately decorated right from the pages of pinterest, or just covered with stickers. 

To encourage completion of this special homework project, have a Book Box Show and Tell. After the students share their boxes, send them home again with their first paper book ( I always begin with the alphabet book found in our alphabet fair unit). If you send home a book or two weekly, by the end of the year, the box will be overflowing with quality leveled readers that your students can read independently.

50.00 84.00
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Really like this for my k/1 friends.
Great readers!! I like the different levels!!
I always teach an ocean unit at the end of the year. Thank you for a great resource!
Thank you. Great emergent readers that the children could keep.

Using Leveled Readers At Your Guided Reading Table

Using Leveled Readers At Your Guided Reading Table

Guided Reading is an important part of the literacy spectrum as it is a time to work with students of similar needs and abilities using material at their instructional level.  It is a time to introduce and practice important reading strategies, build one to one correspondence, and to practice the importance of rereading text, and more.

If you are like me and find the guided books in your basal series to be marginal at best, you need something more. I have been making thematic books for two decades now, and find they fit the bill for effective guided reading. I have several sets for sale at our on-line store, they are moderately priced. My students love these little books! I usually sent home two a week. Additionally, each of our 50 plus thematic units and 12 homework packets each contain at least one guided reader.

Guided Reading - Building a Bridge to Reading Independence


Building a Bridge

Guided reading is the bridge between teacher-led reading activities and independent reading. It is an instructional strategy that helps students learn and practice the skills they need to become better readers. It can be used in many different grades, but it is most common in kindergarten, first, and second. Guided reading provides the support that children need to become readers.

through guided reading... teachers can show children how to read and can support children as they read... It is the heart of a balanced literacy program — Fountas and Pinnell (1996)

During guided reading, a teacher works with a small group of students that are working on similar skills. These groupings are not static, but change to reflect student needs and strategic teaching. During the lesson, the teacher selects a text that the students can read with support while working on the specific skill being taught. As children read the text, they practice and apply reading skills such as: using sight words, decoding words, using context clues, looking at word structure, and deciding if a word or sentence makes sense. During these times of supported reading, the teacher is able to scaffold students to a higher level of performance in a risk free setting.

While there are many adjustments and variations related to the age and level of children, in guided reading:
- A teacher works with a small group. -Children in the group are similar in their development of a reading process and are able to read about the same level of text. -Teachers introduce the stories and assist children’s reading in ways that help to develop independent reading strategies. -Each child reads the whole text... -The emphasis is on reading increasingly challenging books over time. -Children are grouped and regrouped in a dynamic process that involves ongoing observation and assessment. — Fountas and Pinnell (1996)

At the beginning of the kindergarten year, I am very concerned that students learn to track print. This is the primary strategy I teach during my first guided reading lessons. I call this strategy: Point at the word your voice is saying. It is important the children first learn to match their oral language to written language before we move on to other reading skills and strategies. I start with traditional guided reading books, but later add paper books to our lessons to provide a take-home, hands-on opportunity with text. The book “The Family” is a great example of one of the paper books that I use to help children learn the strategy of tracking print. I strategically teach this skill to my students using a mini lesson that comes before reading. The mini lesson is a powerful part of guided reading, during which I prepare students for the task ahead of them. Grab this leveled reader for FREE!


The Mini Lesson

Guided reading lessons usually open with a brief mini-lesson, during which a teacher prepares the students for reading. The objective of the lesson is tied to a skill the students will need in order to read the text successfully, and will be tailored to fit the needs of each individual group. Each group may work on a different mini lesson with a different book, or the same text can be introduced with different mini lessons. For example, when reading a book about bears, the teacher might give these three different lessons to different groups:

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Place the word cards in a row to construct a sentence. “Think Aloud” as you place the cards, talking about the words, and drawing attention to the space between words. “I have a sentence. I will take my finger and point under each word that my voice is saying.” Point at each word one by one in a slightly exaggerated fashion. Ask students to read the sentence one by one pointing at each word as the word is spoken. After the activity, remind students that when you read today’s book, they need to point at each word as it is read. For lower level groups, use objects rather than words and allow students to practice naming an object only when their finger is pointing at it.


To practice the words in, the and will, (or the sight words included in your selected reader), first show the students each word in flash-card style. Next, pull out a small deck of cards (about 3 or 4 of each word) with the words in, the, and will printed on them. “We are going to play Hot-Potato-Word!” “To play, I will draw the top card and read it. I will then pass it to ____ (the person at my left), and then he will read it and pass it and we will read and pass until it gets back to me. I will then put the card in a container to cool it down.” After play, show the students a page of the book, ask them to find one of the sight words on the page, then remind them to look for the words in, the, and will (or your words) as they read the day’s book.



To practice this skill, use cards with words only, and cards with words plus pictures (like the cards provided with our mini-lesson kit). “We are going to read words by using picture clues.” First show the children a card with a word only. “Who can read this word?” (the majority of students will be unable to read the card). Next show a card with a word plus a picture. “Who can read the word now?" (most all students will now be able to read the card). “Why was it easier to read the word on the second card than the first?” (Let students respond). “It was easier because you were able to use a picture clue to help you read the word.” Continue with the remaining cards. Turn to a page in the reader that contains a word that the children are unable to decode, but can discern with a picture clue. Have the children practice reading that word, then remind them to use picture clues as they read their book.


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Introducing the Book

The key to guided reading is providing children enough support so that they will be able to read the text successfully while still using their problem solving skills. After the skill/mini-lesson portion of a guided reading lesson, it is time to introduce the book to the children in order to prepare them for independent reading. The teacher should be familiar with both the students and the text in order to prepare an introduction that will provide the right scaffolding for reading. Introductions can serve various functions, such as activating children's prior knowledge, introducing new or unusual language from the text, discussing themes or features of the story, introducing new vocabulary, or anything else that will help the group read the text successfully with a few opportunities for trying out their skills.

This is not a case of telling the children what to expect. It is a process of drawing the children into the activity before passing control to the children and pushing them gently towards problem solving the whole first reading of the story for themselves. — Clay (1991)

For example, if the book is about turkeys, a teacher could activate prior knowledge by asking students what they already know about turkeys (you can simply accept responses and make it an oral conversation, or you may wish to record responses and make a list or a spider-graph to record responses). Next, the teacher uses the responses to draw interest toward the text about to be read.  The teacher may also wish to follow student responses with a personal experience with the subject. My students always love to hear my story as a young child growing up on a farm that not only had cows, horses, pigs, and sheep, but thousands of turkeys! I show them a old clip of when my brother put me in a pen with the turkeys. The clip shows me running from the turkeys while the mercilessly chase me wherever I go. After the video, I show a turkey feather that I kept from my childhood days on that farm.

Another simple, but effective way to introduce a book is to take a “Picture Walk.” The picture walk is a time for students to discuss pictures, make predictions, front-load vocabulary, and fill conceptual gaps. 

To begin the picture walk, the teacher holds one copy of the text for students to view. As she turns the pages one-by-one, she asks questions such as “What is this a picture of?” “What is happening in this picture?” “What clues about the story do you think this picture is giving us?” “What word(s) can you use to describe this picture?” “What picture do you think will be on the next page?”

During the picture walk the teacher should implant vocabulary that is found in the book. For example, if a page contains the word brown, the teacher might say on that particular page, “Yes. It is a bear. He looks like a brown bear to me.” If the word snout is found on the page, the teacher might say, “I think the bear on this page has a huge snout!” “Do you know what a snout is?”

Following the introduction, the teacher passes each student a copy of the guided reading book and invites students to point at each word as s/he reads the story. During this reading, the teacher models good reading behaviors such as tracking print, phrasing, inflection, etc. as students follow or read along.

Next, the group turns back to the cover and reads together as a group (choral reading). During this time, the teacher guides, observes and supports. Following this reading, the students re-read independently as the teacher focuses on one student at a time. Following, the students should re-read the book at least one more time. One way to accomplish this is to have a basket of book-buddies (stuffed animal pets) available for the students to read the story to in the classroom library, at another table, or other location in the room, and then return back to the reading table when that task is completed. This will allow the teacher to keep one or two students at the table that may need additional scaffolding.

Reflect and Respond

Following the reading, it is a time to reflect and respond to the text and the strategies used to read the text.

Making puppets as a response to reading.

Making puppets as a response to reading.

There are numerous ways that students can be given an opportunity to make connections with a recently read guided reader. One is simply by using conversation: “Turn to your neighbor and tell them your favorite part of the the story.” 

Another way is to construct a Story Map listing the characters in the story, setting, and problem. Or you may choose to make a Retelling Map listing the beginning, middle, and end of the story.

You may also choose to have a Guided Reading Journal for each student. Following the reading of the guided reader students can turn to their next page and write at their level of independence, about the story. Or you may ask them to concentrate on specifics of the story such as sight words, CVC words, rhyming words, beginning sounds, or other skills of focus.


After students have received instruction and support, they need to read the book at an independent level. Provide opportunities for them to read to teacher, read to peers, read to self, and read to parents.

One of the most important pieces of a guided reading lesson is assessment through running records. This is a very useful tool and deserves a whole section of its own. Look for that soon!

If you would like to learn more about guided reading, this is a great resource!

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You will love this bundle of guided readers. Each set is also available for purchase seperately.

As with all of our products, they are available here, or at our TPT Store.

Shop all guided readers here: http://www.kindergartenkiosk.com/commissions

Future Fun!

It's hard for small children to understand the past and the future, they have so little experience with either! But one thing that is guaranteed to help them think about the concept of time in a hands-on and fun way, is through a fun defunct technology themed Science Center.

It's usually not hard to find obsolete appliances and technology. I found an old typewriter at a thrift store for $5 and I can usually find old audio equipment and keyboards through public surplus. Children love to play with these old gizmos, and they give them a physical representation about how things can change over time. This can also scaffold their ability to think about the future. If people used to use a typewriter to write letters, and now they send messages on their phones, what might we use to send messages in the future?

Phonics Worksheets


If you are looking for some easy peasy worksheets to teach beginning phonic's skills, these great phonics worksheets listed below,  are an extension of our popular Phonics Series that we published several years ago. 

What people are saying...

I have and have used the beginning sounds pack and I love them. They are perfect for all types of instruction and has helped build the concept of beginning sounds. Can’t wait to use these. Do you make medial sounds as well?
This is a great resource: important skills, easy to prep, and easy to use. Thank you! I’ve been buying the other sets as they come out. Looking forward to using them as students’ skills grow.
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