Struggling Readers - I got you

Wednesday, April 21, 2021
Struggling readers....what do they need more of, what is the best bang for my buck in the limited time I have with them?  How can I best reach all my readers and the wide range of deficits I'm seeing in my students?

helping struggling readers

All great questions that good teachers should be asking themselves...

Welcome to another edition of 

We've all been there....looking at your limited time for small group reading instruction and trying to meet all of your students' needs with the time you have ~ it's tricky for sure! 

First, I'd like to walk you through a typical reading group in my class to get started.  

sample small group reading plan

Now, I need to quantify this a a literacy specialist I have 30 minute groups typically.  If you have a larger class your groups can't take up that much time to fit them all in.  I had 20-22  minute groups when I taught second grade a few years ago.  If you have a smaller class size you absolutely can have longer groups and you should in my opinion especially if you teach 1st or 2nd.  

The reading program we use is Fountas & Pinnell and we have our encoding piece every other lesson.  So, on the days we don't have the writing about text our book is a little longer and or we can devote more time to comprehension or word work.  I like to squeeze in an engaging game to make it fun for them.

Having been a first grade teacher for over a decade I know the importance of explicit systematic instruction in the area of phonics.  Phonics is an essential component of your daily reading instruction as is phonemic awareness.

Remember:  Phonemic awareness drills can be done in the dark.  That just means you are not introducing or working with print/symbols when you are working on these drills.  They are all related to sounds in spoken words.  

If you can make this instruction multi sensory even better.  I pull from my bag of tricks often to get this in.  

Examples of this:  tapping your arm for each sound and sliding down your arm to blend.  

arm tapping for segmenting words

Pressing down on playdoh in elkonin boxes to say each sound with or without the letters displayed.  

ideas for reading groups

Building words with wikki stix or playdoh and even pool noodles (while saying each sound) .  Using shaving cream or gel food colored bags to spell words and write letters helps as well.

reading manipulatives

reading group tips

Here are a few more fun things you can incorporate into your reading group time that incorporates tactile learning for your littles.

hands on reading group ideas

hands on reading group ideas

There are so many ways to make learning to read fun!  I hope some of these ideas are helpful!

Happy Teaching!



The Importance of Crossing the Midline

Thursday, April 15, 2021
My mom was an educator - I always thought she was before her time.  There were so many strategies and ideas that she embedded into her teaching that were new, innovative and greatly successful in her classrooms and enrichment centers she ran.

One of the things she talked about quite a bit with me was 'crossing the midline', she not only had us at a young age growing up involved in many fine motor activities but made sure we were crossing our midlines often. 

I can remember she let us bang pots and pans with wooden spoons.  Can you imagine the noise level in my home?!?  4 kids - 3 boys and I was the youngest...they finally got their girl. 💟💕

My house was wild growing up, lots of commotion and friends over, lots of fun but most importantly lots of love.

Back to the pots and pans - that is actually a GREAT way to get a little one to cross their midline.  Place the pots strategically so they have no choice but to cross their midline as they hit them.

Crossing the midline

I can also remember weaving pipe cleaners through metal strainers - yeah I'm a product of the 70's so we used those. 😂  Another great skill to build fine motor skills and again cross the midline.  

Other great ways to implement this is:

* a game of TWISTER

* playing patty cake and crossing while clapping someone else's hands.

* playing tennis

* playing piano

* playing SIMON SAYS

* stretching

* finger puppets - have them pull them off their hand by crossing over and using their opposite hand.

* tracing an infiniti loop

* kicking a ball ( soccer drills )

There are so many great ways to practice this all important skill....why is this so important- I thought you'd never ask!!

So, first let me explain what this even means:  

The midline is an imaginary line ( think equator ) although it is vertical not horizontal that divides the body between left and right.  Crossing the midline is the ability to reach across the middle of the body with the arms and legs.  


This isn't the best example as I'm not standing straight but you get the idea.

Crossing the Midline Advantages:

Crossing the midline helps the brain build pathways that are extremely important for various skills.  Crossing the midline builds bilateral coordination, the ability to use two hands together.  We use bilateral coordination for skills such as dressing, tying shoes, buttoning, handwriting, cutting and coloring to name a few.  

Crossing the Midline

This is needed for printing/handwriting, copying from the board in school, early tracking - left to right.  It also develops gross motor skills such as coordination and balance.  

Neurologically, the lack of crossing the midline could result in poor communication between the left and right hemispheres of the brain.  Although the hemispheres work in tandem , we typically have dominant traits that labels us as right brained or left brained based on the tasks we are good at accomplishing.  Any activity that involves the movement of crossing the midline actively engages your brain.  If not skilled in this children can have mental fatigue that's why doctors and educators feel it's so important.  Some studies have shown that children expend so much mental energy focusing on gross motor skills ( due to a lack of crossing the midline ) that it negatively impacts their attention and working memory.  

Sadly, this is a crucial skill to have in their repertoire so that later they can be successful with tasks in learning that require a strong working memory.

If you feel your child or student has issues with fine/gross motor skills and you notice they are not well versed in crossing their midline...trouble with buttons, using 2 hands at once, printing, etc.  you may want to contact your school's OT for further assistance and screening.

Hope this helps you identify the needs of your students ~~ 
happy teaching!



Party Ideas, Fun Friday Tips ~ Let's Have some Fun

Monday, April 12, 2021
Y'all know we LIVE for Fridays but guess what?!?!  Kids aren't that sad about them either. 🤣

I know I loved having early finisher projects HANDY for when I threw a class party.  For one, there are usually a ton of parent helpers and they were busy.  That last thing I wanted was for kids to go talk to a parent helper when they finished up a rotation early and take the focus away from what the parent is doing.. helping a group of kids.

So, for every party I host I always have a little something something on the kids desks just in case they finish a rotation early.  Sometimes a rotation doesn't take as  long as another....other times a rotation requires 1 on 1 help and the kids have to wait patiently for their turn.

So, out comes my handy dandy fun friday fill ins.  It might be pin art, a self-paced directed draw or even a word search with all their classmates names in it.  

These fill ins are also perfect for FUN FRIDAY.  Let's face it ~~ with all the rigor in schools today we all deserve a little down time about 40 minutes before the bell rings on Friday afternoon....

Many of the teams I've been on have had Fun Friday rotations:  chrome book room for fun apps, outside extra playtime and then usually an  art project or game of good ol' fashioned Heads up 7 Up.

My Pin art packs or Fun Friday packs are PERFECT for these situations.  They are easy to print out and have ready for those early finishers at parties or a Fun Friday rotation.  You can't go wrong.  My pin art packs are thematic :  seasonal, emojis, letters 

If you are interested in grabbing the PIN ART BUNDLE - you can grab it here.  
It includes: 

pin art bundle - fun friday and parties

I also have pin art for each letter of the alphabet as well which you can find here.

My Fun Friday packs are monthly: both seasonal and thematic  ( still working on finishing them all ) - they include both pin art and self paced directed draws.  Click here for the National Symbol pack.

National Symbols fun pack

National Symbols fun pack

You can find my other fun friday packs in my store:

Fun Friday Packs

I just finished the APRIL fun friday pack which you can find here.

Pin art and directed draws April

As you can see these are EASY, no prep things you can do with your students to celebrate the end of the week.

Other fun ideas:

Go Noodle Dance Party
Head up 7 up
4 corners
outside free play
tear art
STEM activity
PBL activity
Flashlight Friday 
Handball against the teacher

I get it some weeks are L - O - N - G and it's nice to have a no brainer activity to round up the Friday, I hope these are helpful to you.  I know many times I was stuffing Friday folders and multi tasking while the kids were working on pin art...our work never ends.

Take care and happy teaching!