Cursive Tips

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Welcome to another edition of: 

Cursive ~ to teach or not to teach?!?  I LOVE cursive and so do the kids!  
There are always 2 sides to the debate: 
* there's no time to teach cursive
* it's a lost art/ not necessary anymore
* it's not relevant - keyboarding is more important
* it's a tradition
* you need it to be able to read old historical documents
* it's a rite of passage 
* they need it to be able to sign their signature

As you can see cursive can be a 'hot' topic for sure.  When I tell the parents at back to school night that I teach cursive they are always so happy.  I do think it's still an important skill for kids to learn and enjoy teaching it!  

Some tips I give my students to help make them more successful:

I always start by reading Muggie Maggie FIRST before I even talk much about cursive and certainly before I teach any of the strokes or letters.  Muggie Maggie is a fun chapter book written by Beverly Cleary that talks about a girl that is not motivated to learn cursive. 

cursive tips

Usually from my experience kids are excited to learn cursive, they feel grown up and want to try something new.  So it's nice to have them motivated before I even begin.  I follow the Handwriting Without Tears website for when to teach the letters ( order )
Here's the link if you are interested in taking a look at how they do it. { HWT }
I show a You Tube video before EACH letter I teach.  These are ADORABLE and so kid friendly.  They can't wait to watch them everyday and are only like a minute long.  Here's an example:

This you tube video series by Super Smart Kids Club/ Letter School - grabs their attention by having a train track with a train following the letter or flowers and a lawn mower following the letter etc. to show how the strokes form, the kids LOVE this!

After we watch the video we get in the proper cursive position to practice our letter.  I pre- make a book each year and have it bound by the district print shop.  It includes my very talented friend Melissa's cursive pack mixed with mine.  I love how her pages include a color in the letter smart and engaging! You can find them both here:


cursive tips, cursive license

The license is a fun touch I make a big one and hang it up in my classroom and then I make small ones and laminate them - the kids can put them in a wallet and they feel so grown up - I put their photo on it and it's like a real license or ID.

cursive license for your students, if they get sloppy they can lose their license
If you only want the license you can grab it ( here )

However you choose to teach cursive, make it fun and engaging and keep them accountable all year ( with the cursive license ) so their cursive stays neat and they can be proud of their work.  Happy teaching! xo,


Meeting the Needs of All Students

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Welcome to Wait for it Wednesday!  This week's topic: meeting the diverse needs of our students.  Rarely do we come into a school year with a class that is mostly on the same level for reading and math and certainly we have a wide range when it comes to behavior/attention issues.  So after talking to a new teacher I was inspired to share some tools I offered her for a handful of her students she was worried about ~~

Teaching is hard work friends!  I think as veteran teachers we can sometimes ( certainly not always ) forget that.  Trust me there are days I come home, put on jammies and have a glass of wine.  #exhaustedmuch But I was talking to a brand new teacher about her class and realized how overwhelmed she was and just wanted to help. 

She was asking me how to help a child that has very delayed fine motor skills.  Another child can't sit still, and another one kept losing their place during reading groups.  I listened as she shared her concerns with me.  Some I thought were easy fixes with some class management tweaks and ideas other required a much different approach.  

So as I was sharing ideas I had with her I realized there might be a teacher out there with the same concerns that wanted #ideasfast.
I  found this picture from

Here are some ideas of what I've done in the past.  I've used a 4 inch binder for the student to write on which gives them a natural slant to work with - research shows that the angle of the slant board promotes better placement of the shoulder, arm and hand.  It helps with posture as well as allows the child to reach from the top to the bottom of the page.

Another idea for the child that has weak fine motor skills or really struggles with writing - the Alpha Smart!  Kids love this and it motivates them to write and write and write.  I've used this for years and seen wonderful changes in children that use this device.  

I used pointers and highlighting sticks a lot in first grade when I taught reading but last year I had a child that constantly lost their place in our chapter book reading.  I pulled out my old highlighter sticks and it worked like a charm.

For the child that can't sit still I had several ideas to offer her:

BRAIN BREAKS one of my favorite tools from GoNoodle always seems to help them refocus.

Another idea - Attach an exercise band around the legs of a chair for them to move their legs around without being disruptive.

Maybe even use a stress ball to squeeze or a calm down corner.  There are wonderful ideas on pinterest for calm down corners.  
Keep doing what you're doing teachers - your students are blessed to have you!


It's the Little Things that Matter...

Sunday, September 18, 2016
This post has been in the works for quite some time.  I've been teaching a long time - I've seen TONS of changes believe me.  My first year was in the inner city with 32 first graders and I had a bilingual aide everyday until 12:30 - when she left each day I cried - at least for the first month. LOL  I've taught at private christian schools and public schools in very different environments.  I've seen whole language, phonics, thematic teaching, class size reduction, CLAD, year round and traditional school calendars and much more.
What I've learned over the years is that it's the little things that make ALL the difference.  So, you might not have a Pinterest worthy classroom ~ ~ that's okay.  Some kids don't learn well in an overly decorated or bright classroom.  It can over stimulate them... { I need to work on that } I definitely love decorating my classroom and the Target dollar bin.
You may not have the latest and greatest gadgets and technology.  We JUST got Smart Boards this year in August.  I've had friends that have had them for almost 10 years.  California - lagging much!?!
What sticks with kids obviously is how you make them feel - we've read the quotes and the research.  Kids don't learn under a teacher they don't like, etc.  But it's true folks - you have to love the unlovable, reach out to the one that wants the most ( negative ) attention and may drive you batty.  CONNECT on any level you can find with them.  I urge you to find SOMETHING you can connect with for each child in your class.  Even if you are giving them a fun nickname that you know they are okay with or asking them about their sporting event they play in.
Other little things you can do that cost you NOTHING:

** Change a number on your date you write on the board each month.  Watch what happens ~ your students will start copying you and it's the cutest thing ever.  You will read their journals and they will start writing the 0 in 2016 like an apple or a pumpkin.  Kids remember this little, tiny act.  It sounds silly but it sticks with them and makes school more 'fun'.

** Play games in class - we play Math Champ which is just like Around the World with flashcards.  We play Trash Can Spelling which you can read more about { here }.
** Give EXTRA table points on Fridays and call it Double Down Friday.  They will behave like perfect angels to get those double points trust me.  To be honest my students and I call it: Double Down Friyay! :o)

** Have a Mystery Walker - this costs nothing and it's a management idea but it's another thing that sticks with kids.  Kids from past years will see my students walking quietly in the hallway when they are going to the restroom and say, " Mrs. Moore I know you are watching for the Mystery Walker right now. "  I love it!

** Incorporate a Journal Fairy into your day ~ sprinkle some glitter on those extra awesome journals while they are at recess.  They will be so surprised and happy when they come back to class.

( I have more info on this here )

** Incorporate a Mystery Reader program into your year.  Parents, grandparents, school staff , past principals, district superintendent and even the mayor like to come out and I've had all of the above visit my room.

Mrs. Readers

Invite the school mascot - that was so fun!

Mystery Readers

These are all FREE which is the beautiful thing.  If you welcome each child at the door with a high 5 that counts.  Just reach out, be creative and loving and encouraging and watch the magic and memories happen my teacher friends. What's something you do that is one of the 'little things' ?


Reading Group Rotations

Wednesday, September 14, 2016
Happy Wait for it Wednesday my friends!

Reading groups are vital to a strong ELA block!  I'm a huge advocate for reading groups probably because I've spent most of my career in first grade, a bit in second and a bit in third.  I still faithfully include reading groups in my schedule in third grade.  I've met many teachers  over the years that have asked me how I fit it answer:  How can I not fit it in?  I see it as the HEART of my ELA block...without reading groups the rest of my 'body' can't function.  
So...what does it look like?  Well I use a rotation wheel that I made years ago - I even have it offered as a product in my store if you really like this idea:  Click picture to take you there.

**  I'm working on making this editable this weekend to give you more options **

Once my students have been tested and placed into homogeneous groups I color code them and set up my wheel.  
Here's how it looks:
One group meets with me - we are reading from a chapter book, responding to text, working on informational text features, focusing on third grade standards within their reading, etc.
one group is writing in their journal with a very specific task most days so they know their purpose and can get right to work. * I've noticed that before I did that - they would spend most of the 20 minutes thinking of an idea and would never get to writing. *
one group is at what I call: Grab a Spot, Read a Lot!  This is like a built in DEAR time during this rotation.  They love this!  They can sit in my cozy library - read with a stuffed buddy and read anything that they want.
one group is working on spelling ~ this is mostly done on their white boards, writing the list, circling patterns in words, etc.
Since this doesn't take long after they are done and they show it to me they can hop on one of my 6 classroom computers that are pre loaded with TONS of kid friendly software, educational games that they LOVE.  * I don't let them use these any other time of the day so it's a special time and they look forward to their time on them during reading groups. *
one group is working on skill: this is the 1 thing I do copy each day.  It is either a close reading, a phonetic or grammar skill we have been working on etc.  It's important that it's something that they can be successful with independently so that I can have uninterrupted time in my reading groups.
I spend 17 - 20 minutes with each group and use Autumn's                ( Primary Techie ) timers which are AMAZING!!!!  You can find them { here }

Here's a closer look:

Here is my rotation wheel that is the hub of my rotation time.  The kids know their color and follow what to do each time I turn it.  I turn it based on the timer system...when it's : Time's Up I ring a bell and we 'rotate'.

The kids LOVE Grab a Spot, Read A Lot!  They can sit in my library and pick a stuffed buddy to read to, it's comfy cozy!

Here is when we squeeze in practice for our spelling list each week.  After a short activity they can play educational games on my 6 computers I have in my classroom.

I include a skill of some kind here - sometimes it's a worksheet, other times it's an activity or center that reinforces a skill we've learned in class.

This is when they are with me in groups on the rug.

Here we are practicing a very specific writing assignment so it can be completed in the 20 minute time frame.  Often times I've modeled what I'm looking for before groups even begin.
I'd love to hear how you have organized your Reading Block - this wheel works great for me.  I've been using it for years and it's like a well oiled machine as they rotate.  What does your reading block look like?


Wait for it Wednesday ~ Spelling

Wednesday, September 7, 2016
Welcome to another edition of: 

Spelling ~ it can be seen as a chore, some even view it as unnecessary in our day and age.  I have always loved spelling.  It has come naturally for me since I was a child...unless you are counting auto correct in texting then not so much. LOL
I've been listening to people argue how with spell check and technology being so prevalent that the need to know how to spell correctly is not as important as it once was...I highly disagree!
I was having a discussion with my third graders and showed them various notes written that could be sent from an employee to their boss or co worker.  They laughed at the misspellings.  I asked them if they thought it looked professional to have words spelled incorrectly, then  I asked if the notes looked like they were written by an educated person.  It got them thinking and realizing how important it is to understand patterns in words and spell correctly.

I think every grade level 1st - 5th at my site offers a weekly spelling list.  I usually have 16 - 20 words that focus on a phonetic skill to reinforce.  Daily practice activities can get: boring!  So I compiled some clever ideas that I've come across to spice up your spelling work:

Look at this adorable idea from my friend Christina @ Mrs. Winters Bliss { here }

Here's another idea from my friend Molly @Lucky to be in First - read more about it { here }

I have a spelling pack you can grab with several options to make it more engaging for kids. { here }

With photo copying being at an all time low in our district I try to use my white boards as much as possible for practicing our spelling.

Don't you just LOVE this spelling game idea from my friend Justine @ The Typical Mom ~ read all about her awesome idea 
{ here } and be sure to follow her for more kid friendly ideas and recipes.

How about spelling through technology:  Here are some great spelling apps from The Measured Mom.  Read more about them  
{here} ~ great way to focus on specific skills: long vowels in spelling,  double consonants, etc.

Hopefully I've given you some fresh new ideas to use for your spelling/word work block in your day.  If you have some fresh ideas comment below: we'd all love to hear them!


Getting to know your students ~ name activities

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Welcome to another edition of Wait for it Wednesday:

Fun with names ~ ~ name activities are a GREAT way to start the year off for your young learners!  When I taught first grade it was a must!  We would read Chicka Chicka Boom Boom talk about the letters, listen to the fun song ( Scholastic has this ) and make a fun snack.

Here's a picture of my sweet boy in first grade with his Chicka Chicka name snack:

Use the book Chicka, Chicka, Boom, Boom and have your students build their name on a celery stick.
This snack does definitely involve some prep:  I bag up each child's name letters or I think finding them in a bowl would take FOREVER!  So each child's name is bagged up and obviously not in the correct order in the bag so they put it in the right order and stick them down on the peanut butter celery stick.


** JUST be sure of your kids with allergies before making this **
Another fun name activity is what we called the 'bean name'.  We would teach our students the name poem/chant and then glue beans onto their names on tag board.  It looks something like this:

The first few weeks of school we make a BIG deal about their names:  talking about how many letters ( and graphing that of course ), talking about how many vowels, how they got their name, what they think of their name etc.  We sit in a circle and say this poem together.  Our grade level would have a pom pom and  megaphone in the circle too.  Then we go around one at a time and do one of the things the poem says: sing our name, announce our name, snap our name, growl , wiggle or howl our name, etc.  They laugh as we go around and take turns doing it.

So as you can see I have them decide on a pattern first with unifex cubes.  Then they recreate that pattern with beans.  You can't see from the pictures but we put different beans in a cupcake pan so they are already separated for the kids and easy to grab.  Then we place a couple cupcake pans at each table so they have plenty of beans.

I have this fun pack that helps with ideas on ways to use their names and make learning one another's name fun the first week or so of school.  You can grab that { here }  It's a dollar off this week!

Name pack, get to know you, back to school printables and ideas.

Grab some pool noodles and you have a great build a name center.  I cut the pool noodles up and wrote consonants on one color and vowels on another.  You can provide a class list and after they build their name they can build their friends names.  The best part is, with using a crate like shown you can have 4 kids working at this center at once.  

Create a center for your students where they will build their name or their friends names with pool noodles and a crate.

So hopefully you are getting to know your kids and building that awesome sense of classroom community right now in your room.  Learning names and having lots of name activities certainly helps to build community quickly.  Happy first ( few days or weeks ) of school my friends.  You were born to do this ~ making a difference everyday in your classroom!