Frequently Asked Questions

A, B C, D E, F G, H I, J K, L M, N
Assessments Calendar Math Fp3, Mp3, PDA Guided Reading igloo Literacy Centers Mini-Offices
Behavior Classroom Forms Graphing   Lesson Plans Math
Bee Books Clip Art Fonts Handwriting   Library Thing  
Book Bins   Homework Bags   Letter Work  
O, P Q, R S, T U, V W, X Y, Z 1
Organization   Schedule Vista Print Word Walls    
Pocket Charts   Shared Reading Visiting Me Work Work    
Poetry Books   Shared Writing Writing    
Prodedures   Website
      Wake up Work    





























I am looking for a pre-test to do with my kindergarten students at the beginning of the year.  I have been using a generic pre-test that I made up.  I would like to have one that is more in depth.  I am looking to do a pre-test, an interest inventory, and a multiple intelligence inventory.  Do you have any suggestions on where I may find these assessments?  I have seen a few, but they are not geared towards kindergarten.  Any help or advice you can give me would be much appreciated!!  

As for assessments, I've linked a few for you to peruse.  I've done interest/inventory surveys with upper grades before, but never the younger grades.  Not sure why...?!  Here's another resource for you:


I am unsure on how to build a classroom community.  I have tried year after year, but I do not feel like I was successful at doing so.  Do you have any pointers or ideas to share that will help me make this work?

Building a classroom community is hard to put in words.  My take on it is that everyone in the classroom must see themselves as an important participant.  We all give and take.  We are all experts at one time or another and can teach others.  Other times we need to be taught and need to allow ourselves to be taught by our peers.  For this to happen we need to work as a TEAM. 

There are a few quotes that I often use as a quick reminder that we are a TEAM.

  • "What benefits the hive, benefits the bee."   or    "What benefits the bee, benefits the hive." 

  • "Together Everyone Achieves More"

  • "There is no 'I' in team."

  • "Are you being a part of the problem, or a part of the solution?"

We work on a lot of problem solving when problems arise, and do some proactive problem solving too, if I anticipate that problems might arise.  In the beginning of the year, we work on building a classroom community by learning our peer's names, interests by playing games, working cooperatively, etc.  Community is built by having to learn how to do our jobs (be a learner) while others are doing their job (be a learner).  This is hard for little ones.  It's hard for big ones like us too.  I've linked a couple of my beginning of the year TEAM building activities for you. 

This fall (2009), our school will begin its first year as a PBiS school (  

I like the PIZZA PANS; however, how or what do you use to keep them up on the wall or door?  Also do you have a way of sending a note home to the families showing how your class or what we call our little people did in class that day?  We have a laminated copy of a stop light and would daily just color in the light that they ended the day on.  Can you tell me how or what your system was or is?

I had to use heavy duty Velcro to keep the PIZZA PANS attached to the wall.  I also hot glued around the edges after that. 

I don’t send home any parent communication alerting parents to their child’s daily or weekly behavior.  I do have stoplight stickers that I tried once, but didn’t really end up using them.  If I ever have a problem that needs to be communicated to parents, I’d rather call (preferably with the child present) so that they know what’s been going on.  Sometimes I might write a note home, but usually a call is more my style.  I have known teachers who do what you are suggesting, a weekly behavior report that goes in their take home folder.  I’ve seen it where the child “colors” in the red/yellow/green, or where the teacher, gives a red/yellow/green sticker.  Our reading recovery teacher sometimes has to develop a behavior plan with some kids, and with two of my little guys she’d send them back with a red/yellow/green slip of paper (she just cut construction paper).  If they came back with a yellow, I just talked with them, and if it was red they moved their clothespin/card.  BUT…alas….I don’t do the red/yellow/green system anymore. 

When I used to use the green/red/yellow stoplight system, all students began on green.  If a student was misbehaving, not making appropriate choices, I’d warn (warning = verbal) them.  I the behavior continued, I’d have them move their clothespin to yellow (warning = visual and physical).  If the behavior continued, or if later on they were having trouble again, I would warn them verbally, and they'd have to physically move their clothespin to red.  Children who were on red had a loss of a privilege (recess, free choice centers). 

Last year I didn’t do the red/yellow/green system.  Instead, I used a vartiation 1, 2, 3 magic (  Basically within a given time frame (morning meeting, let’s say), if a child was having a hard time, I’d say, “Tom, 'S'”.  If they had problems again during Morning Meeting, I’d say, “Tom, 'I'”.  If again they had trouble, I’d say, “Tom, 'T'”.  They would then have to get a chair and sit on the outskirts of the group, still participating, but away from us.  After (or briefly, on the spot during) that particular segment of the day (Morning Meeting in this case), I’d have a 1:1 talk with Tom and we’d talk about “what were you doing, what should you be doing, what will you do now” type discussion.  The “S, I, T” starts OVER for every new “segment of the day” - - they don’t carry over from Morning Meeting to Writer’s Workshop.  I liked this system a lot better.  Next year I will do it again.  I often find that the ones that continually missed recess because they landed on “red” from the previous system were the ones that NEEDED recess….and I NEEDED them to have recess (mental break from just being with them….!).  So now loss of recess is saved for other cases:  1) students who misbehave on the recess equipment or can’t seem to use their hands/words appropriately during recess.  It would be natural for them to miss recess for these cases b/c their recess behavior was the problem.  2) students who are not working appropriately during an academic time (not working to ability) and need to demonstrate how to do it appropriately during part or all of recess. This might be “how to say the pledge appropriately” or how to work productively at the Pocket Chart Center, etc, etc, etc.  Again, it makes sense for them to stay in for recess at this point and demonstrate the correct behavior, and then head on out and get that energy  out so that they can work productively the last half of the day…  Again, we have that “what were you doing, what should you be doing, what will you do now/next time….” talk.

I was just curious to know how you made your behavior board.  Are they plates or Frisbees?

They are actually pizza pans spray painted red, yellow, and green.  I had to use Velcro and also a high temp glue gun to get them to stay on the wall!

I am wondering if you know of a Behavior Chart/System that has really worked.  I'm looking for something I can put in my students' B.E.A.R. Binders each day.  I have seen Donna Whyte's The Smartie Zone, but I'm not real sure how to use it, and I'm thinking it might be too time consuming.  Knowing how resourceful you are, I thought you might know of something.

I don’t actually use anything to report daily behavior.  I’ve found that for those kids that have consistent problems with behavior - -it’s just better to take the time to call about good and bad days.  I have tried to use the “stop light” stickers for these kiddos - - to indicate really good days and days that were challenging, but didn’t get much feedback from those parents, and sometimes they’d still be in their BEE book folder the next day, so I wasn’t even sure if they had read them.  I’m actually horrible with notes and such, so having a daily report wouldn’t work for me.  I know teachers sometimes do those reports, and I’m glad they can get them to work, but with me, it’s probably just a personality/style thing - - it hasn’t been successful.  I know that some of our first grade teachers do them, and they have the kids fill them out independently.  That wouldn’t work for K probably - -at least not in the beginning of the year.

Book Bins

I am interested in building my classroom library, but I'm not sure where to get the best prices on books.  Where do you buy most of your books?  I've checked with Amazon. If they don't have a particular book then they refer me to a different seller who charges $3.99 to ship a book that costs $2.50.

I know what you mean about needing to build a classroom library!  Several years ago (spring, 2003) I moved to WI and began teaching Kindergarten after having taught 3-6 grades for the previous 5 years.  I had lots and lots of books, but NONE were appropriate for my new little ones.  And - - the classroom I moved to was virtually book-free (only 4 books that I could find!). 

Amazon Marketplace is NOT the best way to build a classroom library - - those books are from sellers that sell one book and then charge the shipping rate for one book.  They make money off of the shipping, b/c to ship something that is less than a pound; you can ship it for less than $2.00.  And I can almost guarantee that most of the books are less than a pound!  So they are making money! 

Here are ways that I do it.....

  1. Check out books from my local public library....mine lets teachers check out crates of books (you just check out the entire crate) for I think 2 months.  Or, what I do is check out books that I request via the computer.  The downside to this method is that I can only reserve 15 books, pick them up (I have them all shipped to one library location) and then I reserve another 15, and repeat the process.  I renew online too, so I can keep them longer than 6 weeks.  I love the public library system (I love doing it online), and the librarians are very helpful and nice.  The KNOW ME!!!  :o)

  2. Visit garage sales.  This can be a pain, especially if you don't garage sale for other things....what I do is just ask them right off the bat, "do you have children's books for sale" and that way I don't have to look around for them - -wasting time.  The books are generally very cheap and nice! 

  3. Shop at Good Will, and other thrift stores.  We have one in Green Bay that I love, LOVE, love to go to.  They have 25 cent picture books and USUALLY, you buy one get one free.  Sometimes I've been very lucky when going there.  I also look at their GAMES section too, for great board games.  The one that I visit is called Saint Vincent DePaul's.  Good Will has lots of books too.  If you GOOGLE "thrift stores" or "thrift shops" and add your nearest large city, then you will get a few links that will list the thrift stores near you.  This has been by FAR the best way for me to build my classroom library.

  4. Scholastic book clubs is another great way, but it can be expensive too...but if you have a class that orders (this past year I was fortunate enough to have a class that had $100 orders each month) you can really stock up on BONUS POINTS and order nice books that really fit your themes/lessons.  Laura Candler has a great system for earning THOUSANDS of Scholastic Bonus Points in September.  I love scholastic book orders! 

  5. EBAY is a GREAT way to stock up on books.  Last summer I made it my goal to search for Eric Carle, Tommie dePaola, and "How to Draw" books.  I'd bid on auctions and win some and lose some, but I came away with some great sets of books.  This summer I've been bidding on "easy readers" book auctions.  It's actually kind of fun and addicting!  I sold lots of teacher resource books last week and made some money so now I feel like I have some money that I can spend (buying books that will really be used in my classroom by MY KIDS).  :o)

  6. Family members, church members, Friends, etc - - if they know that you are collecting....they might be able to help out by cleaning out their book shelves. 

  7. Rosalie H (website visitor), sent me a link to Better World Books .  She says that the books range in price from $3-XX (used/new), and that shipping is free.  I haven't tired this site out yet, but I plan to.  I like their two tickers at the top, that count how many books were saved from landfills and how many dollars have been raised for global literacy!

Have fun, and good luck!  Keep your chin up, it WILL the meantime, your classroom CAN have books - - from the public and school libraries for free while you try to locate books at the other places for good deals/prices. 

Do you place all your books in the bins at once, or do you add the books as you read them to the class?

I've approached this task two different ways.  The first way, I invited parents to come in and be resident book experts and to help facilitate the process.  Students worked with piles of books and we sorted them by type.  All apple books went in a pile, all animal books went in a pile, etc.  Piles were clearly marked with visual images that students were familiar with.  If they were unsure of a book, they asked a book expert.  The parents had a lot of fun with this!  The second way was to just presort all the books myself.  This is easier, and I do it this way now because all of my books already have been stamped with my name in them and have an identification label on the inside top corner that matches the book bin icon card.  Every time I have a load of Scholastic books that come in though, we do as a class, determine which bin it belongs in, and put the correct label on it, and put it in its home.  

Do you have labels on the inside cover of each book so the kids know which bin the book belong in?

The labels are in the inner, upper left corner along with my name stamp.

Do you keep seasonal/theme books out year round?  How do you fit some of the bigger sized books?

All my books fit the bins, and they are kept there year round.  Some bins have more than one category of book.

What kinds of books do you put in the Character Education Category?

Character education books focus on topics such as sharing, friendship, lying, stealing, cooperation, bullying, etc.  I've included a document that I've started formatting, but never finished.

Bee Books

Where did you find the CLEAR ZIPPER POUCHES?

During the summer of 2005, BIG LOTS had them for about $1 each.  During the summer of 2006, TARGET had them 3 for $1.00.  Once my stash of zipper pouches from Target ran out, I have used Ziploc baggies.  I just cut off the end, rolled the cut off part once or twice, taped it, and then three hole punched them.  In April of 2009 I found them at Wal-Mart for 50 cents each on clearance.  I bought a bunch of them. 

Where did you find the HOMEWORK POUCHES?

During the summer of 2005, I purchased DOCUMENT HOLDERS from an online office supply web site.  They didn't hold up at all!  The holes tore and the re-sealable flap really wasn't re-sealable after the first few weeks of use.  For 2006, I bought a 6-pack of smoky gray document envelopes from Wal-Mart.  They are the Mainstays brand of Wal-Mart, and they are not 3-hole punched.  They have a snap closure, and I 3-hole punch them and they work very well!  Very affordable too!  I hope to get a picture of them up on the web site soon.  I also have purchased 3-hole punched 3-ring binder pouches from Target, but they are $1 for one and I can never seem to get a whole class set of them.  The ones from Wal-Mart work well enough, so I just plan on using those from now on.

How do you manage your BEE books?  What are you routines like and the children?  I also read on your to do list about Creating BEE books (changing to 2-pocket, 3-pronged folders this year, instead of 3-ring binders).  How are you going to organize that?  I am contemplating whether or not to use binders or 3 pronged folders. 

The children just bring the bee books in, put them on the shelf, and during the day I find time to just quickly flip through them to find notes/money/forms, etc. that need to be taken out.  During the day, I add anything that needs to be passed out and taken home to a “Bee Book Basket” and at the end of the day the children get their bee book, sit at the edge of the carpet and I pass things out quickly.  The folders will be the same as the books, only a condensed version – more stickers/labels for things instead of full size sheets.  I’ll post pictures.  The management part will be the same.

Calendar Math

Do you by any chance remember where you purchased the pocket chart that you use for your date - Today is Thursday, June 28, 2006. I  have been searching for one and can't find it anywhere. 

Actually that is just cut off of another pocket chart.  That’s all!  Just one “row”…

I would appreciate your thoughts as to what grade level is appropriate for the calendar binder?  I see you mentioning using it in first grade.  Have you ever used it in kindergarten?  What are your thoughts.

I think that they are perfect for 1st grade but if you can devote the time to them in K, then go for it.  I’ve since scaled back on them since I teach K, but that doesn’t mean that if I had the time that I wouldn’t do all of the binder components or more.  My new initiative (district requirement) is math journals (writing in math) and I’ve since jumped on that bandwagon.

Where do you keep the numbers for the Days of School Place Value in your calendar chart.  I am in the process of setting this up and I need help on the details of housekeeping.  Also, how to you keep the children from tearing the plastic when used daily. 

For the # of Days of School, I give each child these number: Two (2) Zeros, Threes, Fours, Fives, Sizes, Sevens, Eights, and Nines.  I also give them  Three (3) Ones.  They put them into the zipper pocket.  I have them write their initials on the back of each number card they have for easy identification of whose card it is if we find one on the floor. Every day, they find the number card they  need to make the new number.   The pockets have never ripped.   They get much, much better at inserting the cards.  Great for fine motor!   I don't reuse the pockets from year to year.  They get grimy and the pockets do stretch from pulling each day, but they have never ripped.   One other way I've managed the numbers is instead of giving the  numbers to the children to keep, I put the numbers into a drawer system (hardware bin).  I then take out the needed drawers and students either return and take the numbers as needed or I give out numbers and they give me the numbers to return.

I am wondering if you can explain to me how you make the monthly calendar sheets with the dotted numerals in the boxes.  Can you tell me how to do that?

For the calendars, I go into WORD, insert a table, and then type in the numbers.  You have to have a dotted [Zyia Learns Letters] font on your computer.

For Kindergarten, at the beginning of the year, do you just do a little (calendar wall activities) at a time, and then add to it?  Do you do the tally, birthdays, everything from the start?

For our calendar wall, we do it ALL from day one.  By 2nd semester, I have calendar partners that “do the calendar” during our morning work, and then they lead it during Morning Meeting.  This means that when we gather at the carpet, it is already “changed” over for the new day.  It makes it go a bit faster…we get more done then…  J  Also, it is a nice way to “assess” through observation which students really get those calendar math skills and which don’t.  Plus  - - they LOVE being the “teacher” for Calendar Math.

Where did you find your large coins that you have on your Math Calendar Wall? 

I ordered them from “School Specialty” and they were called “Giant Money” - - a set of 36 double-sided coins for $7.99.  The item number was/is 30371952.  I am not sure if they have them anymore, but here are other things that I found that might be of interest to you:

Magnetic Coins/Bills:  #1     #2    #3

Giant  Paper Coins/Bills:   #1     #2    #3

Classroom Set Up, Materials, Supplies

I noticed in many of the pictures that your walls are not "decorated" but in other pictures I see lots of things on the wall.  Do you decorate the room progressively?  How do you approach your room decor?  I feel like my room needs to be "filled up" with all sorts of stuff in order to look appealing for meet the teacher, but I hate doing it.  Would you share some thoughts with me?

My thoughts/feelings about this is that the room should be a blank canvas.  As we learn, we fill our room with our learning.  I prefer student created things on the wall.  This included our COLORS   NUMBERS    SHAPES  word walls.  Really, the only thing that is up the first day of school is our ABC chart.  That is district mandated - - but if I could I’d have the kids make that too.  None of the things on our walls are store bought - - pre-made.  I feel that the children are more “attached” to and are more likely to USE the resources on the wall if they make them.  Sure, it takes time to do this, but we make the time to create the environmental print that we end up using all year long (Writer’s Workshop).

On a side note - - two years ago, a teacher stopped by my room (we have "slightly" open concept, and the room I was in you could see into that year.  She noticed that “I might need help with putting things up on the wall".  She was concerned because school was starting in a couple of days.  Bless her heart!  I explained my philosophy, and she seemed intrigued. 

Who buys all of your classroom materials?  

I get $300 a year for classroom supplies.  I used to buy lots with my own money!  However, now I've pretty much got myself established as far as storage, books and materials are concerned.  So generally the $300 a year is sufficient.

How long did it take you to get your room to look like it does? I love your library/meeting area. Could you please tell me where you purchased your white shelving units that you use for your book bins?

Those white shelves are from Wal-Mart. I think they still have them, or something similar at least.  They are in the hardware section, and are 4-shelf units, but I took out the middle "leg" and made them into two 2-shelf units instead.

Where did you get the compartment drawers that hold your mini sorting manipulatives and your letter stamps and letter cards? 

Those units are from ACE Hardware and Wal-Mart (hardware section).  The red and gray ones are from ACE and the yellow one is from Wal-Mart.  You can get them in any store that has a hardware section.  They are neat to have!!

I was looking through some of your class photos and in one of them you had the 3-drawer units labeled with student names.  Are those their mailboxes or how do you use those drawers? 

Those are for our storage boxes where we put our supplies (glue, pencils, crayons, markers, etc).  I don’t like anything stored on our tables….so we use these (students just bring their drawer to their work spot).  I’ve used these for three years now and love them.

I was looking at your pictures of your classroom. Do you not have the students work at desks at all? I like how it is set up, but I have my students work at their seats some, so I was wondering what you do.

The literacy corner tables also double as student work areas.  Students just self-select a work spot.  None are assigned.  Does this make sense?  We work at these work spots during Writer’s Workshop, and anytime we are working on a project (class book, etc). 

How do you and the kids like using the storage tubs for their crayons, etc.  Aren't the drawers too big for them?  Sorry, I am trying to get ideas for next year and I love how your room is set up, but just want to make sure I understand how it works. Does it become a problem for the kids to get their tub of crayons, etc. before they work?  I like how your tables are so clean.   I get so annoyed with using crayons boxes b/c they play with them, but using something like you have may work better and have them go get it when they need it. Do you have them keep pencils in the drawers or are they already at the table?  How often do they have to go to their drawer?

I love the storage bin drawers for their crayons and supplies.  They aren’t too big at all!  When they sit at a table, only two sit at a table so there is plenty of room.  WE take them out for Writer’s Workshop, and when we do class books and add a poem to our poetry journals.  That’s about it.  1-3 times per day at the most.  When we get them, I dismiss them from the carpet (meeting area) by boys or girls first, or by color, or some other indicator (birthdays, age, hair color, shoelaces/Velcro/slip-ons/etc, ….).  All supplies are kept in the drawers.  I do have a cup pencils at the writing table, for if we just need those and not the entire storage box.  Sometimes I even say, you only need a scissors and glue stick and they just get that and not the entire box.

Clip Art & Fonts

Where do you find your clip art for your website and lesson plans and documents?

I typically use these sites:

Where do you get the cute letters for your main page? 

They are from - - - - I have all 3 CDs, and have purchased several additional fonts at (same company).


Do you have supply list of things you request your students to have and an idea on how you use them in you classroom?

I have a supply list that goes home on my "Welcome Back to School Letter/Brochure/Postcard": (look under “welcome letter”).

As for what the items are used for, the composition notebooks are used for Poetry Notebook, Working with Words Notebook, Calendar Math Journal, Writer’s Workshop Journal; the folders are for the Bee Books, and I think the other things might be self explanatory.  Oh, this coming year [2007-2008] I asked for 3-ring binders and page protector inserts (I’m going to do the Poetry books this way and see how that works…).

The school provides us (teachers) with felt tip pens, glue sticks, post it notes, construction paper, tissue paper, writing paper, teacher scissors/staplers/staples/paper clips/binder clips/bull dog clips….etc..

I always buy extra sets of crayons, glue sticks, scissors, markers - -anything that is on my list, I buy extra sets of b/c inevitably, some kids don’t come with the correct things, or don’t come with things at all…..OR I get new students during the year….that seem to come with nothing at all!    

I noticed you have a Welcome Brochure for 1st grade.  Do you have one that you used for K? 

I do not have a welcome to K brochure.  I just did that this year for the first time.  If I go back to K, I’ll do it again.  I think it is a nice, concise way to give out information!  It was kind of fun to make!  The WORD version is on the web site…you could try to adapt the one I have to meet your needs if you wanted to. 

FP3, MP3, & PDA

I teach k and have a lot of books on tape. I downloaded Audacity,  but I am not sure how to save the projects. I want to be able to put them on CD's and for future mp3's. Can you explain to me how you do that and if MP3 players were successful in K classrooms-did they break and were easy for the kids to use?

During the 2007-2009 school years, I used FP3 players.  I got three great  deals on Ebay!  I have lots of CD books, and to get them on the FP3 player, I have to put in the CD (into my computer) and upload it DIRECTLY to the FP3 player software (it comes with software that you load onto your computer).  So, I don’t burn it to my computer and then sync it to the FP3 player, I have to upload it directly to the FP3 player from the CD. 

For the 2009-2010 school year, I purchased four MP3 players.  I don't use the FP3 players anymore.

From what I understand, cassettes, have to be converted to an MP3 format.  This is done by putting the cassette into a tape player that has a “line out” (the cord would go from your cassette player to your computer) there are directions online for how to do this.

Once you record the cassette to your computer, you’d need to (likely) edit it using audacity ( to edit out the background noise, and then once it is saved to your computer as an mp3, you’d need to make a CD copy of it (burn the MP3 to a CD) and then upload the recording form the CD to your FP3.

Can you see why it would be a lot easier if you had CDs to begin with?  Do you have any teacher friends that have the CD versions of the books?  They might be able to lend them to you.

I have far more CDs than cassettes, so I don't plan on doing any cassette conversions. 

Are you downloading books from the Fisher Price website or books on CD that you already have?  If you are downloading books from a CD, does it show the front cover of the book on the screen on the player so that the kids know which book to pick up to read along?

When you download from the FP site the books come with an image or icon that helps the kids associate the recording with the book.  You can also assign an icon/image when you pull recordings from CDs that you have.  I don't really use the icons though, instead I make "menus" for my recordings.

Graph of the Week/Day

I was curious about the student pictures that you use on some of your GRAPHS.  What type of camera do you use?  Is it digital and you print their pictures every time you need them for a graph.  Or do you just get several pictures developed from a regular camera at the start of school and just use those? I'm trying to figure out the most cost efficient way to do that.

I take each student's photo using my digital camera the first week of school (or Open House - - which is a few days before schools begins).  I then download them to my computer and create labels and business cards.  I like the labels because you just peel and stick.  I do different sized labels, too, for different projects.  You could just print out on regular paper too, and instead of loading labels into the printer, print it on copy paper, and then cut apart.  We have a color printer at school and I have one at home too.  I only print color pictures every once in a while.  I usually use the black and white laser printer at home or school.  I've never had them developed at a store to use (for class graphs anyway).  That would be expensive, probably.  I save the "real developing" costs for class books and/or anchor charts - - special projects.  

Guided Reading

How do you group your readers?  What strategies do you use for struggling or emergent readers?

For struggling readers, lots and lots of ABC practice for emergent readers:  naming letters, writing letters, identifying words/objects that begin with a given letter, sorting letters, etc.  Emergent readers must also know the differences between letters, words, sentences, and lines.  Shared reading is the BEST strategy for emergent readers.  Shared Reading is where we:

Take a picture walk

□       Find front/back of book

□       Identify author and illustrator

□       Talk about author and illustrator roles

□       Talk about the pictures

□       Activate prior knowledge

□       Do a 1st reading of the book (sometimes play “Guess the Covered Word”)

□       Make connections

□       Do choral readings/repeated readings

□       Work with directionality (top to bottom, left to right)

□       Act out the book

□       Find punctuation marks

□       Identify punctuation marks (name and function of each)

□       Find sight words

□       Chant (spell) sight words

□       Write sight words

□       Count number of sentences on a page

□       Count number of words on a page

Shared reading is done with a LARGE format of the text (Big Book, Chart, etc).  For the repeated readings, I give students a small version of the text, to use.

All of the above are helping students to develop Concepts of Print (here are a few web sites about C.A.P.)





How often do you do running records?  Do you use an specific form?  How do you do guided reading and centers or reading stations while you do guided reading?

In First Grade, I’d try to do them every week or so.  In Kindergarten, we don’t start Guided Reading until January, but I did have a handful of students that started in November last year.  I do a Running Record on students before starting them in a Guided Reading group to make sure that starting them in reading groups is the best decision.  It helps me to know what level to begin them at.  Once I notice them reading more fluently, making fewer mistakes, and self correcting any errors they made, I then do another R.R. to see if they should be moved up.  Comprehension questions are always a part of the R.R. process.  Our school uses a "running record" form.  I don’t have it on computer.   

Do you follow a particular format/template for your guided reading lessons?

I’ve been working to get a format for lessons for G.R. books down and so far I like this one the best.  It includes a written response at the end of the lesson where students extend their learning by writing in their response logs.

I have read you meet with students individually.  How long do you meet with them?  Do you meet with everyone everyday?  How many minutes of your day is spent with the literacy activities? 

I meet with students in small groups and/or individually.  I prefer to read with them individually, though!  I have the books already selected, and I just call them up one at a time.  I do the introduction, and activate prior knowledge (through discussion), I then have them read the book.  We work on reading strategies on the spot, when needed.  I then have them do a quick recap of what the book was about, and the entire process takes probably 3-7 minutes.  Of course, the longer books take longer (if they are reading at a higher level).  I'll be teaching 1st grade next year and plan to do it this way, but a bit different.  I plan on doing small group skill work as a small group, doing the book introduction and background knowledge as a small group, and then reading 1:1 if possible.  If time constraints are there, we will do a group reading (whisper reading).  I still prefer 1:1 reading though.  Sometimes I get through the whole class, sometimes it takes 2 days to get through the whole class. 

Homework Bags

I came upon your "homework bags" and I love the idea.  Can you tell me a little bit about them.  Is there only one bag per skill?  Does every child get a bag every day or week?  How do you distribute the different skills across the school year?

I started creating these in December of 2005, and worked through January and half of February 2006 - - it took THAT LONG!!!  My kids take them home on Tuesdays and Fridays and return them on Tuesdays and Fridays.  I don’t care what concept they bring home.  They are all meant to be “practice” - - primary aged children must over practice skills to really learn them and know them.  That’s what homework in my opinion should be about at this level anyway.  I don’t want any NEW concepts being sent home. 

On a side note - - I’ve tried homework calendars, homework sheets, tic-tac-toe calendar sheets, etc - - I’m never very successful with any of those forms of homework.  We do have reading homework - - but its basically, if the children have a book in their reading folder - - they are to read it.  If they don’t they are to read one from home or are to be read to by an adult or older sibling.  We don’t keep track of minutes or books read or anything.  Homework bags have been the most successful, and parents [and students] really like them.  Parents are given the opportunity to OPT OUT of the Homework Bag program - - I've never had any opt out.

I didn’t have many things lost.  By labeling EVERYTHING - - it almost guarantees that things will come back - - even if they are lost for a day or two or more!!!

As far as the number of skills per bag - - some bags touch on several skills - - but right now, I have only one of each bag.

I was just wondering how you manage your homework bags. I see the tags on each bag, but then what happens? Do you just check off who has had the bag? Do you have a checkout system? How do the kids choose what bag? Do you use a clipboard or something to know who has what bag what week?

Students self-select (I help a lot though, to be sure that they don’t take a bag they’ve already had).  I write students name on a check off sheet that lists the homework bag titles and bag numbers (clip board) Students bring the bag home, complete it, and check off the tag.  Students bring the bag back to school, hand it to me, I check to see that the tag is checked off (sometimes it’s NOT!!).  I cross off the students name off of the check off list (clip board)


Is there a way to get your handwriting printables in Zaner-Bloser manuscript?

I will look into creating the handwriting printables in a Zaner-Bloser style font this summer.  Currently, I don’t have the correct fonts.  They’d cost money, and I don’t want to buy any until I know if my school is “changing over” to a ball and stick style font. 

What are gel packs?  Do I use some sort of dye for color?

You can make gel packs by using a Food Saver machine and colored hair gel.  You can also make them using Ziploc baggies, colored hair gel and tape to reinforce the zipper/top.   Numbers Gel Packs       Letters Gel Packs

I don’t do a lot of handwriting practice in Kindergarten - - we begin formal handwriting practice in first grade, however, during Writer’s Workshop is when I make observations and have students make corrections (do a 1:1 mini lesson with them on how to correctly form the letter they are having problems with.  For example, if a student consistently writes the letter Ss backwards, I’ll have them take home practice sheets or do practice sheets with me or independently during Literacy Corner time.  Every once in awhile we’d do a whole class handwriting lab - - where I’d call out random letters/numbers/words and I’d do an on the spot assessment.  Sometimes I’d get out the handwriting paper (lined paper) and use that, but mostly it as on white boards or magna doodles. 


Web Sites:

Key Words:

  • paper shaper
  • paper shapers
  • "___" paper shaper
  • craft punch
  • craft punches
  • "___" craft punch
  • paper punch
  • paper punches
  • "___" paper punch


Which sides of the milk jug do you glue?

Any part that is touching another jug gets glue.  I used a lot of hot glue sticks! 

Literacy Centers

I love how you start out your centers so slowly and the tasks you have listed for each one.   On the first few days, are the students doing literacy centers or watching you clean up correctly, chose a partner and such?   

We do the activity as a class.  On the Literacy Corners web site page, you will see how each activity is introduced under each activities there is a heading - "When and How to Introduce the Task" - -and that should give you some detail as to what it looks/sounds/feels like to introduce the task to the class.  I try to keep the students engaged!

After you have started your first task in each corner, when do you start adding other choices? 

Whenever we have time to introduce another activity.  I want to build up a plethora of activities from which students are allowed to select.

How do you run your literacy centers? What is the rotation like? How many students do you have in each center?

We have a 10-day rotation.  Students visit one “corner” (center) per day for approximately 30-40 minutes.  They work in partnerships of two.  We meet at the Literacy Corner Work Board.  It is there that I send them off to work, with words of encouragement to follow classroom rules/procedures/expectations.  While they work, I call students to the “reading table” to read with me independently or in a small group.  All activities in the Literacy Corners remain there for a long period of time.  We add to them as the year progresses, and if it gets crowded (too many activities) - - I weed out “old” activities.  Students refer to the “I Can…” posters for activities that they are able to do. 

Where did you purchase the wooden alphabet magnetic "train"?

I bought them from Michael's Craft store (summer of 2006).

Where did you find the business card pockets that you used in your "I Can" charts?

The “SELF-STICK VINYL POCKETS” are by SMEAD.  I bought three different sizes and am already out of the business card size (I bought a box of 100 of each size).  I’ve also purchased CARDINAL “Hold-IT Business Card Pockets” from Office Depot (more expensive, but totally CLEAR).

I noticed that you go through the first 7 days introducing different "parts" of the centers.  Then on day 8 you begin to introduce the first activity at each station.  Well my question is what are the kids doing at each station when they are practicing each of the first 7 days? 

Well, in Kindergarten, it's pretty much keep the mini lesson to a certain minimum OR I try to keep the first few days worth of mini lessons as short as possible.

For day one.....They are learning about partnerships.  I read a book about partnerships and talk about what working with one other person looks like, feels like, etc.  I have them practice.  To do this I take out math manipulatives or puzzles (so they are all working on the same activity) with their partner, and then take pictures.  I print one picture for our anchor chart and we add it to the chart.

For day two....They are learning about working in one area and basically that I don't want them moving around the room...!  So we practice day one and day two by working with puzzles with partners and staying in one area.  I take pictures, and I print one and we add to the anchor chart.

For day three...They are introduced to our work board.  We'll practice finding our names/pictures on the work board, we'll practice learning the names of the 10 literacy corners and learning where they are located in the room (this one may be broken down into two mini lessons during day #3 of school).  Again, we take pictures for our anchor chart and add text to the anchor chart.

For day four...They help me establish expectations, and we'll practice day one, two, three, and four, take pictures.

I guess that I just felt that before they start the actual literacy corners, there are some definite things we need to “go over” to get them up and running smoothly.  The anchor chart is what helped me a lot last year.  Unfortunately we didn’t create an anchor chart until after there were problems - - It helped, but it would have helped a lot had we started with it from day one…  Know what I mean?!

Do you introduce one "first activity" each day for 10 days then go back and intro a new one at each center - another 10 days? 

I’m not really sure.  I guess what I did last year was add to each literacy corner as I came across activities.  This year I’m going to create a map of what I added, where it was added, and when it was added.  I didn’t do that last year, so I’d be going from memory!  And that’s not something I can do at this point.  I think you’ll find that adding activities isn’t really hard at all.  In fact most times an introduction takes 5 minutes or less.  Some activities require more practice as a whole class or require a demonstration that takes a bit longer than 5 minutes.  Most don’t though.

Where can I purchase felt sets?

EBAY has many sets.  There are a few SELLERS that sell on EBAY and I've always liked buying from them.  Otherwise, the more "professional" ones (nursery rhymes, fairy tales) are from the FELT SOURCE.

I wanted to know HOW your rotations/centers worked.  I read that the center board you have is a 10 day rotation and the children go to centers in groups.  However, I wanted to know if the children go to all the centers within the 10 days.  Do  they have an assignment that they have to finish, or is everything hands on?

For our Literacy Corner time (centers), we are on a 10 day cycle. This just means that we switch partners and choose a new center (center to begin at for the first of the 10 days).  Students stay with their partner for 10 days.  They visit one center per day.  During centers I call students to work with me individually or in small groups.  Center activities are designed so that if a partner leaves the one left behind can still work, or if a partner returns, they can join right in and it’s no big deal.  Everything is pretty much hands on.  I would LOVE to do a response log (literacy log) - - but time doesn’t permit that at this point.  I did one in first grade and it worked out really well.  I tried one year in K, but it was too hard.  Accountability for them right now is basically observation on my part, and each partnership also helps keep each other on task.  I can see every center from where I sit….and hear them…so it’s pretty easy to see off task behavior and to remediate. 

I also struggled with centers, and this just works for me.  I love that the activities always stay there, and we just keep adding to them.  So, when they visit a center they read the “I can…” poster sort of like a menu to see what activities are available.  I love that we practice the activities as a class first…so in other words, everyone knows how to do it when it is place in the center and there are no excuses of “I don’t know how to do it, that’s why I was _____(goofing off, etc).”  They don’t have any prerequisites or anything that MUST get done.  If I call one of them under the carpet though for goofing off, or whatever, I sometimes give them a goal - -ie “you have to have ____ done by the time I say it’s time to clean up, or else you will need to do centers during learning areas (free play areas).”  That works really well, but again, I rarely have had to do that. 

What are the items inside your a-z soda bottles and where did you purchased them?

Here's what's inside the Baby Soda Bottles:

Do you have a "color" copy of your images you use for your centers?

I don’t have a color copy of the images.  Sorry!  I wish I could help you out with that, but they were B&W to begin with.  

Would you tell me where you got your wonderful graphics?

The Literacy Corner (center) graphics are from

I am not quite sure from the pictures how you fill the name it with glitter and letters or laminated names and pictures?  Do you use water or some other liquid?

The name bottles are filled with water.  Food coloring could even be added if you wanted.  The letters are letter beads from Wal-Mart.  Then a bit of glitter. That’s it!

Which centers should I have first?

After completing the “First 18 Days” as described in my Literacy Corner Planning Guide - I’ll have all 10 literacy corners open with a few activities in each one.

Where did you purchased all the items for your sound tubs? I have some tubs from Lakeshore but many items have disappeared over the years and I would like to find items to replace the missing ones without purchasing the entire set again.  Is it cheaper to buy all the items individually or the ABC Lakeshore sound tubs?  Did you buy your items separately?  About how big are the items and where did you find them?  

I inherited an ice cream bucket that was about ˝ full of “things” - - I think that some of the “things” came from a set of LAKESHORE ABC TUBS - - but I am not sure…some of the items look similar.  I sorted through this tub, added them to my drawers, and then searched my classroom and home HIGH and LOW for other items to add.  I bought a few things…but mostly just found things around the classroom and home…  All items fit into the drawers…if it is too big, it just didn’t got in there….The drawers are hardware drawers from ACE HARDWARE.  It is the 24 drawer red unit.  I think it has grey on it too.  The drawers are clear and com with dividers so you can divide the last two drawers in half so you can get 26 compartments instead of 24 (for 26 letters).  I asked a local dentist for a tooth x-ray for the “Xx” drawer!   I also like adding pictures of my students to the tubs every year, too.  Whenever I’m out shopping, at a thrift store, garage sale, or Wal-Mart/Target, or a craft store, I try to be on the look out for little things to add.

I really like your idea of the bottled up activities.  But what do you put on the inside?  Are the names/words/numbers printed on tiny pieces of paper?  What is used to fill the bottles--glitter?  Popcorn? 

I buy little cubes from and use those in the bottles.  I printed the letters, numbers, words on little labels and then cut them down and put the labels onto the cubes.  The bottles could be filled with a bit of glitter or popcorn.  Or nothing at all.  The name bottles are filled with water and a bit of glitter - - the names are spelled using beads.  One name per bottle.

I would love to make some reading rings of my own.  I think they would be great to use at the beginning of the year with K.  Can you share how you make the reading rings, where you get the materials, how you get the ideas for them, etc.?

I really didn't buy anything except "book rings" for the reading rings.  You see, I had a collection of cards, card games, etc that I had either previously purchased or had inherited with the classroom that I am now in.  I always thought that I'd use the flashcards, cards, games in centers, but didn't know how to organize them in such away that they'd be really used.  I was trying to think of a way, and then it dawned on me that I could just punch a hole into them and "bind" them and create reading rings for the kids for the Reading Literacy Corner (center).  It has definitely been worthwhile, and they get used now.  We used them for our beginning of the year "readers workshop" mini lesson when we were talking about WHAT it is that we (pre-readers) can read (colors, names, numbers, shapes, words, signs, etc).  And these rings then came in handy because we then practiced reading them and then put them into the reading corner (center) for future use. 

Where did you get the "Literacy Task Baskets" from?

The Literacy Task Baskets are from 1st and 2nd grades each have a set.  They are nice.  Students record their responses in a response log.

Your green baskets with the Literacy Centers are perfect!!!  Do you find that the children are distracted by them while sitting on the carpet?

I have to teach/remind the students that the baskets (any of them on the shelves) are not to be touched, played with, or used to hang from.  It’s not much of a problem. 

How do you make it happen? At my school first grade has to do Literacy Centers, but how do you have literacy centers when the students do not know how to read? I used to teach second grade with guided reading. We did the skill as a small group and then they moved on to their centers. I just cannot see it happening in first grade until they know how to read.

As for literacy centers, they can do them!  Just make your initial center activity a lot of ABC activities.  You can do lots of ABC activities in just about every center.  I have ideas for this on my Literacy Corners page for you to see if you want.  Give them scaffolds (helps) by providing mini abc charts in each center so they have a point of reference when writing/ordering/sorting/etc letters.  Remember that the first few weeks are introducing the centers anyway, doing them TOGETHER (practicing) so that will be helpful.  Once they learn their letters and sounds it will get easier for them.  For the reading center teach them the different ways to read a book (1) read the pictures, (2) read the words, or (3) reread a familiar story (retelling the story).  For the listening center - - that’s an easy one…just teaching them the mechanics of running the player. During centers you are then pulling students for guided reading and/or skill work (writing/letters/words).  I think they will be able to do more than you think….and soon they WILL be reading.  J  

Where did you purchase your pocket chart that you use for the center work board?  I have not been able to find one like it.

The pocket chart is actually a 100-s pocket chart.  I just folded the "unused" part under....and used thumb tacks to make it stay on the wall. 

How many minutes of your day are spent doing Literacy Center activities?

Last year (2006 - 2007)we had a 45 minute literacy block.  Next year (2007 - 2008) in first grade it will be 60 - 80 minutes.  In K, I have definitely done guided reading as a whole group (when I had a class set of books) - -that's how I introduced the whole concept of guided reading...and once the pattern was established, I said that we'd continue to have book groups, but with smaller groups.  I'd start earlier than January (that's when our district wants K's to start Guided Reading).  I feel they are ready for G.R. earlier than January for the most part.  Some might not be, but most are.

Lesson Plans

What creative activities or games do you play on the first day of school? The first day seems the most overwhelming.

On the first day of school, we created refrigerator magnets (see below), with a poem (see below) I bought the gingerbread man/girl shapes from a craft store (Hobby Lobby – Michaels – JoAnne Etc).  They are wooden cut outs, already cut out and packaged for you to buy.  We also did TEAM building and started our color and number wall.  We also colored our “Mrs. Meacham Contact Information” magnets and created them (taped them and put business card magnets on the back ) and then sent them home. - - see attachment (print on bus. cards).  Seemed like the days go by so quickly…and after getting the supplies situated, going through morning meeting routines, etc - - there’s not a lot of time left!

You list some units in your lesson plans:  Me on the Map, All about Me, and Apple Tree Seasons.  Are these on your page anywhere, if not where did you get them from? 

I am in the process of typing out separate "theme" sheets for each science and social studies unit we do in 1st grade.  I hope to finish them this year (2009-2010).  If it is a kindergarten unit/theme, that will take even longer (maybe summer of 2010).

I was wondering if you have an example of a First Grade differentiated lesson.

You can differentiate by content, process, or product.   If I were to differentiate it could look like this:

When learning about Pilgrims, students will read about them and write about them, and then share their learning…


§         Group #1:  Students will read Pilgrim, Pilgrim emergent reader.

§         Group #2:  Students will read A Pilgrim’s Thanksgiving from A to Z abc book.

§         Group #3:  Students will read The First Thanksgiving step into reading book.


The basic idea is that students are divided by ability and each group is given a text to read. The texts are about the same topic, but vary in difficulty - -allowing each student to read at their own level, yet be able to participate in the conversation and book share that will follow.  This can be done at every grade level.  The challenge is in finding books/texts that are suitable.  The kids enjoy this activity though.  During the book discussion/share, each group shares their “findings” from their text/book.  They are the “experts” for that book.  By the time all groups share, the entire class has heard about each book, and has heard learned about Pilgrims and the subtopics that are related/associated with Pilgrims.  So, even if their book didn’t cover a particular subtopic, they heard it during the presentation.


§         Group #1: Students will paint a mural depicting newly learned facts (incorporating as many subtopics as possible) – after participating in a book read and book share. 

§         Group #2: Students will plan a thanksgiving meal (draw meal items) reflecting newly learned facts – after participating in a book read and book share. 

§         Group #3: Students will plant a garden (pilgrim garden) incorporating newly learned facts – after participating in a book read and book share. 

§         Group #4: Students will design clothes (pilgrim clothes, construction paper, ribbons, buttons, other art media) incorporating newly learned facts – after participating in a book read and book share. 

§         Group #5: Students will create a photo album book that will include newly learned facts (Native American influences/friends, hardships, challenges) – after participating in a book read and book share. 

§         Group #6: Students will construct a timeline that will span from departure to New World to arrival at Plymouth Rock, incorporating newly learned facts - after participating in a book read and book share. 

§         Group #7: Students will create a travel brochure that will share information about the Mayflower incorporating newly learned facts - after participating in a book read and book share. 

§         Group #8: Students will create a post card that will travel back “home” to loved ones, and include information about the “trip over”  incorporating newly learned facts - after participating in a book read and book share. 

The basic idea is that students are regrouped (not in the same groups as before) and work collaboratively to create a product of some sort that will be on display in the classroom or hallway.  All products will be presented to classmates when finished, allowing further “study” and “learning” of the topic of Pilgrims to occur.  Students will be grouped based on ability and interests.  For example, artistic students would be given a task that dealt with art, logical/linear thinkers would be given the “timeline” task - - those interested in model airplanes/boats/etc might enjoy the mayflower brochure - - maybe even making a mini model of the mayflower could be an option.  Anyway - - all products are shared after they are completed - - and by sharing them, students again have an opportunity to learn about more subtopics that are pilgrim related.


Students will write a “Letter Home” to a family member….

§         Group #1: SOME Students will write the letter (blank, lined paper) – no scaffolds

§         Group #2: SOME Students will write the letter but will have the scaffold of using paper that is a “letter template” - - prompting students to remember the date, salutation, closing, etc

§         Group #2: SOME Students will write the letter but will have the scaffold of using the typewriter instead of paper and pencil

§         Group #3: SOME Students will write the letter but will have the scaffold of speaking their letter into a voice recorder and having an aid or the teacher type the letter for them

§         Group #3: SOME Students will write the letter but will have the scaffold of working with an older, capable student writer who will help

The basic idea is that students are working independently, and working on the same project, but completing the project in different ways that suit their abilities/interests/needs.  

I'm a pre-k teacher and the kids are there from 8:30-1:00.   We do not have a curriculum assigned to us.  So how did you get started with your lesson plans?  How do you know what benchmarks you want to do for that week?  It seems so over whelming to me. 

Standards and benchmarks can be pretty daunting.  I took time to sort my standards and benchmarks by skill/theme/unit/concept/part of day - - for example, I thought about our Calendar Wall and went through each standard/benchmark and decided if it “fit” in with the activities or not.  I made a list for each component of our day and those standards always stay the same on the lesson plan (Calendar, Read Aloud, Morning Message, Shared Reading, ect).  For themes, I have those separated into a separate document, so that when we are doing the theme, I just open that document and copy and paste it into the lesson plans.  I hope this make sense…  I use word to create the lesson plans.  The format is what works for me, and I think it’s easy to use.

What program do you use to create your lesson plans?

I use Microsoft WORD to create my lesson plans.  I insert a table, and then merge/split/shade the cells to meet my needs.  Takes time to get to know how to do this, but it is well worth the time and effort! 

I was wondering what you do on the first, second and third day of school?  Do you start with your lesson plans (weekly plans) right away or do you do some special building atmosphere, rules, and expectations first?

For the first week/days of school, I really like to begin teaching the schedule and routines.


We go through and learn our entire Morning Meeting routine which includes:

□        Calendar Wall

□        Graph of the Week

□        Song and Movement

□        Morning Message

□        Announcements

□        Review of Day’s Schedule

□        Etc.


We begin Writer’s Workshop minilessons, and the first few mini lessons cover:

□        Notebook (parts of the notebook, how to use, where they are stored)

□        Tools (markers, crayons, pencils)

To teach these lessons, we trace our hands, write numbers, add stickers to the first last page…these mini lesson are explained here:


We learn about our “Wake Up Work” routine, and create a picture of what this looks like (anchor chart) - -

  1. turn in BEE BOOK:
  2. go to breakfast if you are signed up for it and haven’t had breakfast already
  3. begin a math tub: (although at first, we just explore manipulatives, puzzles until all tub activities have been explained whole class)


We begin our SHARED READING - - learning September’s poems:


We start our NAME GAME:


We do a few classroom community building activities - -


Read Aloud:

□        Teamwork by Ann Morris

Discussion Questions:

□        What is a team?

□        How do teams help one another?

□        Who is a part of our TEAM?


□        Build puzzles w/ partners


Read Aloud:

□        A Team of One by Ila Wallen

Discussion Questions:

□        What is a team?

□        How do teams help one another?

□        Who is a part of our TEAM?


□        Create classroom puzzle  for wall


Read Aloud:

□        Let’s Play as a Team by P.K. Hallinan

Discussion Questions:

□        What is a team?

□        How do teams help one another?

□        Who is a part of our TEAM?


□        Play game of toss using stuffed animals & practice classmate names


Read Aloud:

□        No David by David Shannon

□        David Gets in Trouble by D. Shannon

□        David Goes to School by D. Shannon

Discussion Questions:

□        What is a team?

□        How do teams help one another?

□        Who is a part of our TEAM?


□        Brainstorm a List of Classroom Rules and Expectations

□        Sort Classroom Rules into Categories

□        Decide on Classroom Rules

□        Create Anchor Chart Listing/Depicting/Showing Classroom Rules in Words and Pictures

□        Establish REASONS for why it is beneficial for us to follow the rules/expectations

□        Establish CONSEQUENCES for poor choices (not following rules/expectations)

I hope this helps a bit!  You can see this in the lesson plan format at  

Library "Thing"

How do you use Library Thing?

It is easy!  I started entering my books June 3, 2007, just a few at a time, and once school let out (June 15th) I went crazy and entered all of my professional books and picture books.  I still have chapter books to do.  So far I’ve entered over 1300 books!  The program is really easy - - it is all online, nothing to download at all.  I bought the scanner, and that works well.  I found that the newer Scholastic books usually didn’t scan in as well (where the system locates the book for you, so I had to manually add those.  I also discovered how to upload and search for book covers if one didn’t load for the book I entered.  Anyway, if you decide to do this, I’d be happy to help if you need any pointers.  I’ve added tags to my books and you can see my library by visiting  Just click on “See All Tags” under “Top Tags” on the right hand side. 

Do you use the library thing website mainly to keep yourself from buying books you already own?

I actually am OK with buying multiple copies.  As for how I will use MY LIBRARY THING DATABASE (click on "more tags" under the "top tags" section) - - I plan to keep track of the books that I already own, which ones I lend out, which ones have been returned, and to whom books have been lent.  I also plan to use it as a reminder of which book groups (categories) I need to buy more books for (for example I am currently lacking in the area of Dr Seuss books, so I will keep that in mind when I go shopping at garage sales, Ebay, and thrift stores).  I can also print out a master list of books for when I go shopping, download it to my pocket pc (PDA), or access the list via anywhere that has internet connection.  In addition, I also check TONS of books out from the library, and this year, as I do that, I plan on creating lists for each unit/lesson so that I can remember in subsequent years the book titles I used and where I got them from (another teacher/the public library/school library/my library…).

Mini Offices

Do you laminate your mini-offices?

I do not laminate them.  Instead, I use packaging tape to "laminate" them (2004-2009). 

I plan on laminating them this year (2009-2010).


What exactly does your math time look like?

In 1st grade we have a regularly scheduled math workshop time every day:


1.  Interactive Mentor Text Read Aloud

2.  Modeled Teaching on SMART Board

3.  Guided Practice on SMART Board


4.  Independent Practice in Workbooks (I sometimes pull a small group for guided practice/intervention if they need help)

6.  Math Tubs

During the Independent Practice - - I work with the "lower" students at the small group table (reading table).  We'd do the pages together, using lots of manipulatives (modeled writing/drawing on the board to solve out the problems).  The students working independently at their desks/tables work on their ow.  They turn their pages (workbook) into me when finished and then do math bins for reinforced practice. 

In Kindergarten, our math standards and benchmarks are covered through a variety of activities.  We don't have math textbooks or workbooks in Kindergarten.  Instead, we do:

  • Math tubs

  • Math labs (periodically scheduled throughout the year)

  • Calendar Wall

  • Calendar Binders

  • Math Journals

How do you organize math bins and run them in your class?

The math tubs are actually kind of like our literacy center activities.  Activities that the students had already been introduced to, and have practiced.  They are intended to provide the children with repeated practice in identifying, naming, and writing numbers; identifying, naming, and drawing shapes; identifying and naming coins, etc.  Repeated practice was the key (in a variety of ways - - using different activities, materials). 

As for organization…it is pretty laid back.  Students self-select.  No more than two students per tub.  There is no recording sheet that students use (this year anyway) to help then keep track of which tubs they’ve used before and which ones that they haven’t used in awhile/yet.  Maybe next year…  I have all tubs open at once.  There are 4 tub tower units, each unit has 7 drawers…so 28 activities. 

In kindergarten, the children used them randomly as they entered the classroom after eating breakfast.  I didn't keep track of who used which one, or when, or for how long, etc.  It was pretty laid back.  In kindergarten we don't have a formal text book or work book.  Our math standards are taught through our calendar routine, calendar binder, and math journal (word problems).  We'd also have math labs, where I'd introduce the activity, maybe read a book related to the skill, and then model the activity and provided time for independent exploration/practice.  The activity would then go in a tub.  Math labs were not a regularly scheduled event, I just planned them as needed.  We had more in the beginning and end of the year though it seemed.  Not sure why. 

In 1st grade we still do math tubs, but we have a regularly scheduled math workshop time every day that they fit into.  

We have a textbook/workbook and it pretty much runs like this:


1.  Interactive Mentor Text Read Aloud

2.  Modeled Teaching on SMART Board

3.  Guided Practice on SMART Board


4.  Independent Practice in Workbooks (I sometimes pull a small group for guided practice/intervention if they need help)

6.  Math Tubs

When finished with the workbook page, students will work on a math tub.  Math tub activities will allow them to practice (over learn) already learned skills.  This will help build math fluency (hopefully!!).

Can you tell me what you do first when you have math manipulatives first thing in the morning (first month of school) on your lesson plan? ("learn about Unifex cubes")?

In the beginning, I like to see how they interact with manipulatives, so it is a lot of free play/investigating on their part (day one) and then I move into showing them other ways to use the manipulatives (day two)…later on, we then learn specific activities that utilize the manipulatives so those first days of exploring and learning about the manipulatives are pretty important.  Oh, and we learn rules (the first days) and expectations, too.  What to do, what not to do.  Lots of discussing!

Organization Ideas

Where can I find the pouches you put the business cards into?

Business Card Pouches/Pockets:

"Self Stick Vinyl Pockets"

Hold-It Business Card Pockets"

"Avery Self-Adhesive Business Card Holders"

I was wondering how long it took you to get this organized.  I am in my 4th year of teaching, and I thought I was organized until I saw your site.  I am getting married this year and my fiancé is going to be  overwhelmed by all the stuff I have in my classroom.  I have started to get organized and it is costing a lot of money and can't seem to find an idea for all of my worksheets and theme related activities.  What do you do with all of your papers and how are they organized?  Do you have a bin for each unit?

I guess with regard to organizing…it is easier to become more organized as the years pass.  Each year I try to think of what worked, what needed to be more streamlined, and I go from there.  I find that with myself, if I have an organized area in which to work and have my class work, then things go more smoothly.  I try to reduce all the stressors….  For example, I got rid of my desk.  That helped me in several BIG ways…  It gave me more floor space, allowing more room for student movement and student areas, and it also got rid of the habit of my piling things…storing things…etc…  As for a filing system….I just use a computerized filing system.  I don’t have theme binders/files/bins/buckets, etc…that house paper files.  Anything that I need is housed on my web site and home computer hard drive.  If I need it, it is a click of a mouse away….  This saves me ROOM and less stress as I don’t have to hunt for that shared reading poem for the kids’ poetry notebooks, etc.  I just make sure I back up my hard drive every once in awhile. 

There is a lot of STUFF that I do have…and it’s nice to have a wall of shelves on which things can be stored.  I’ve sorted through the things that I have and store them according to how they are used.  All of my pocket chart Literacy Corner materials are stored on one shelf, my ABC lit. corner materials take up 2 shelves, etc…   Of course some things get put on the wrong shelf as the weeks pass by…so I take a day each quarter to reorganize my wall of shelves….  This also reminds me that I need to pull that for this or that…or need to finish this project for ….  Well you get the picture. 

In 2003 we moved, and my in-laws and parents were pretty amazed at how much teaching stuff I had acquired over just 6 years of teaching.  Well, now they’d be even more amazed as I’ve added a lot more…because I was only an upper grade teacher back then, but now I’ve moved to being a primary teacher…and well, that makes it even worse.  I have stuff stored in my basement (upper grade things) and all my primary grade stuff is at school).  Anyway, I think your fiancé will realize that these things help you and are a part of you… 

Whichever system you decide on… let it be flexible and rethink how it works for you….  I have tried the binder/bin system…and it’s not for me.  I like the digital way for papers….  For supplies/materials that can’t be stored on a computer hard drive…well, use what you have, or really think it through before buying storage units….  I personally should start investing in Sterilite Stock!!! 

Pocket Charts

Do you by any chance remember where you purchased the pocket chart that you use for your date - Today is Thursday, June 28, 2006. I  have been searching for one and can't find it anywhere. 

Actually that is just cut off of another pocket chart.  That’s all!  Just one “row”…  

Where did you purchase your pocket chart that you use for the center work board? 

The pocket chart is actually a 100-s pocket chart.  I just folded the "unused" part under....and used thumb tacks to make it stay on the wall.  

Poetry Notebooks

I like your idea of just using notebooks for your poetry notebooks.  Did they hold up all year and how many notebooks do you use throughout the year?

I use one notebook, and it holds up the entire year.  They are composition notebooks.

Do you do a poem weekly and is this your shared reading?

For the poetry, we did several poems each month (Shared Reading).  Whichever are listed for each month on the site - - those are the ones we did.  We took the first two weeks learning the poems, practicing reading them.  The last two weeks of the month we’d add one poem per day to our books - - sometimes it took two days to do add a poem.  Adding a poem meant we glued it down, illustrated it, and worked with the text (sight words, word families, punctuation, etc).  We also read the poems of the month the last two weeks too….just at a quicker pace…so we could have time to add the poems.

I was wondering if you put anything on the front of the spiral notebooks which you use for your poetry journals, or do you just have the kid's names on the front?

I have labels that I print that have the student's name on it as well as the title "Poetry Book" and a graphic of Humpty Dumpty on it.

What do you do about the very first page in the notebook where there is only a page on the right side and the inside of the cover on the left?  Do you start that way and put the poem on the inside of the front cover and then have the kids draw on the first page in the notebook?

You can either glue the first page to the cover, or just start with a poem that will only take  up one page, or glue the poem to the inside front cover.  I started with the ABC chart this year.  They "read" the ABC chart by chanting it.  We just colored it.  It didn't have any words.

Do you think first graders could handle writing their own poem into the book instead of just putting in a photo copy or do you think that is a little too much handwriting (especially at first?)

I have thought about that, and there's a web site out there that it seems to me shows students writing the words themselves (but it was during literacy center time).  I am thinking that this would be too much for my kids to handle, especially with time constraints.  Instead, I think that it might be better to limit the number of times that you have students do it.  Maybe only for shorter poems.  If you check out my handwriting page, maybe you might find alternative ideas for handwriting practice.  I have some resources there... 


What are  your procedures for (1) how to enter the classroom, (2) how to get in line, (3) how to get them to the bathroom and back to the classroom?

OK!  Hold onto your HAT...!

I kind of take the whole "Harry Wong" approach to rules/expectations/procedures.  Lots and lots of practice.  Modeling the correct way, modeling the incorrect way.  I tend to choose students who I KNOW will have a hard time doing something correctly (i.e. walking down the hallway, hands to self, zero voice) and ask THEM to model it incorrectly, and then ask them to model it correctly a few times.  This gives us a visual for how it looks like and gives us an idea of what it sounds like, too.  And it gives the children practice so they know what it feels like.  Sensory....!!!

Upon entering the classroom...

I always stand at the door and every 3 or 4 students I give directions on WHERE they need to go, and WHAT they need to bring there.  I physically touch their heads, shoulders as I do this...kind of an attention getter.  For example, "Scissors, glue stick, edge of brown carpet." Or "Pencil, clip board, gray carpet."  Or "Storage box, journal, table spot."  The directions are short, sweet, and to the point...not a lot of extra words.  Brain research suggests that children at this age can only chunk (remember) 3- or fewer "bits" of information at a time....!  So I try to keep that in mind.  As I go to the meeting area and there are stragglers (and there will be...!), I don't repeat the instructions, instead, I say, "If you are NOT sure what to do, where to be, look at ______, they are doing it correctly."  All immediately check out so and so to see what's so special about them, and then check themselves out to see if they match.  I say this a couple of times, including other students who are doing it correctly.

When at the bathrooms...

I preface our bathroom trips by having one or two students REMIND us of what going to the restroom looks like/sounds like.  

For us, that is we, 1.  use the restroom, 2.  wash hands, 3.  get a drink, and 4.  sit/stand in line.  All of this is done w/o talking.  Some need reminders though, of course.

  • Restroom:  we establish what it is that we can do in there and not do in there.....we add to this list as the year progresses...I'm never surprised about what children will do in a bathroom full of other 5/6 year olds!

  • Sink:  we establish how much soap (1-2 squirts of the 5K and older soap - -our school has foam soap dispensers at a lower level for the preschool), how long (count to 20 or say abc's), how to wash and scrub (between fingers/on tops and bottoms and sides of hands/up to elbow if needed/ and under fingernails, how many pulls on the paper towel unit, how to dry hands, where to toss the trash.

  • Drink:  we establish where to line up for a drink (for us there is a tile part under the water fountain - and then the carpet - - the people waiting must be in line ON the carpet - and the person drinking uses the stool  to drink if needed), how to wait for a drink (hands to side, no talking, facing forward), how long to drink ("1, 2, 3, 4, can't have anymore" - -if a teacher is not saying it, children say it in their heads quietly as they drink).

  • Line:  we establish how to sit (kindergarten) in line (facing forward, cross legged, hands in lap, no talking, no gaps in the line, no budging, no heads/tails, once in line - -stay in line....etc).   I walk backward when we walk somewhere.  Students may not walk backwards.  Some years I've done an assigned order when lining up, some years it is not needed.  I've done number order, abc order....


What program do you use to create it?

My schedule on paper is created in WORD.  I insert a table and manipulate it to fit my needs.  I merge, split, and/or shade cells.  Takes some practice, but the more you play around with WORD (and tables, especially), the more you realize how versatile WORD really is.  My schedule on the wall for the students is created in WORD - - on business cards, and I laminated them and put business card magnets on them and then slide them into the schedule pocket chart.  They stick to my calendar board which happens to be a chalkboard. 

While browsing your 2005-2006 K schedule, I came upon an entry called "Drops In a Bucket."   What is this and can you describe the procedure?  Do you differentiate these to fit each child? Do you have a certain system to keep it organized- or is it a whole class activity-all using the same sheet?

I begin "Drops in the Bucket" 2nd semester for both kindergarten and first grade.  We start by doing them together (one Language Arts and one Math).  I have them photocopied front to back.  I also project them on my SMART Board when we do them together or when we check them.  We don't always check them as a whole class.

For the sequencing at the bottom of the math sheet (great activity to do - - but takes time to cut, order, and paste) - - I just have them number the pictures to sequence them instead of cut, order, and paste.  We will do them together the first few weeks.  Then when they get the pattern/hang of them, I'll release responsibility and allow them to do them on their own during math bin time and we'll quickly go over them during Morning Meeting. 

The neat thing about Drops in the Bucket is that the same set of skills are presented on each sheet.  They are great for review and re-teaching.  I suppose that they could be differentiated - - but that’d be a huge task and ordeal - - It'd mean that students are completing different sheets each day based on their immediate needs/levels.  I prefer to keep it sweet and simple.  It’s not meant to take any longer than 5-7 minutes. 

Shared Reading

Would you be able to send me the clip art for Apple Happy and Pumpkin Happy?

I can’t send that clip art because Victoria from KinderKorner sells it.  I hope you understand.  I had to buy it - - but by doing that it saved me from looking for clip art and editing it to match the poems.  Her site is

I was wondering about your shared reading schedule that you posted for K.  I know that you do the ABC chant, rhyming song, and good morning poems everyday.  I was wondering about your other poems that are listed for each month.  Would each of those be weekly poems for as long as the unit continues? 

As for shared reading, you are right, the dailies are pretty easy to get through, and can be squished in there at any spare moment, before a transition, during morning meeting, during shared reading, at dismissal, while waiting for a specialist class in the hallway (it happens…! I just bring a chart…!).  The others are done during shared reading, and I just pile them all up on the easel (the ones I want us to read through) and we start with one, read through it, and continue on.  At the end of our shared reading time, if we have time, we dig in deeper on one of them, and talk more about it (skill work).  The last two weeks of the month (I try to run my units by month) are when we add the poems to our poetry books (one per day) and we spend more time with each poem that we are adding.  The repeated readings are very beneficial I find - -and if I keep the pace at a steady, quick pace, we get through a lot of them and they don’t get bored with the repeated readings at all!  Sometimes I have a student be the leader (more toward the end of the month).  They lead the class with the pointer.  Kind of fun!

Approximately how many songs/chants/poems do you get to each day? 

I designate about 15 minutes for shared reading, and I basically stock our easel with all of the charts and books and we start with one and keep going….until time runs out.  I don’t really like to “plan” the discussion out ahead of time, b/c I like to see where the kids lead me.  If we have time left, then I’ll go back and we will do a bit of skill work on one of them. 

Shared Writing

Do you do a class book once a month? 

I try to do a class book each week.  Sometimes it might take two week to get through, though.


I was wondering if you had ever used Sitton Spelling before.  We just implemented it in our school and I am very confused.  If you have had experience with it, would you mind giving me a little guidance for the testing (or non-testing)? 

I have used Sitton before.  In grades 5 and 1. Sitton is confusing at first, but once you get the pattern of her lessons, it becomes easier. Has your school received any training from Sitton?  One thing to know is that she will ANSWER her phone of you call her (# is in book).  Isn’t that cool?!   We’ve called her before (our reading specialist and other teachers).  Pretty neat.  The things that I keep in mind when using the program are:

  1. Each grade level has a bank of words (core words) that they are to learn/master.
  2. Each grade level has a list of “no excuse” words that they are to master.
  3. Each grade level works through the units at a steady pace, trying to get through the material by the end of the year.
  4. Each grade level reviews the previous years material (there is overlap - - so if the book was not finished in the previous grade, it’s not a HUGE deal).
  5. The activities/mini lessons for each unit are a “bank of ideas” - - you don’t have to do them all….!  Pick and choose, based on your kids’ needs and interests.
  6. The assessments are nice.  I really like them - - they tie in nicely with our standards and benchmarks, so they are easy to code.
  7. Sitton’s web site has (if I remember correctly….) a plethora of ADDITIONAL mini lessons and activities for teachers/students. 

What happens after the words [Sitton Spelling] are corrected and the kids make a list of the words they need to practice.  How do you re-test them on the words when you have to test a bunch of other words the following week?  Do they have to be tested on 2 tests the following week?  Plus when do they have time to practice the words they missed when I will be focusing on the new words?

The three Sitton Spelling assessments are:

  1. Assess Spelling Progress (5 core words - - students write/spell words as you read the story)
  2. Assess Skill Application (this is a visual discrimination assessment - - students go back into the story and locate/record answers based on the prompt questions)
  3. Extend Spelling Assessment (this is a “hearing sounds in words” assessment - - students write a dictated sentence)

For our spelling assessment, I make a double-sided test.  On one side is the blackline master for the unit we are assessing.  It has the “word test” (#1) and the “skill test” (#2) on it.  On the reverse side, I have lines for the sentence dictation.  The rest of the back side is blank. After completing the assessments, I hand out a double-sided sheet for students to record their “words to learn”. These words come from the assessment they just took (any misspelled words are recorded on the sheet), and come from the sentence dictation (sight words), and also come from daily work (such as Writer’s Workshop - - If I notice that a student is consistently using and misspelling words in their stories, I’ll make a note of it, and have them include it on their “words to learn” sheet.  The back side of the “words to learn” sheet is the parent directions/letter “ideas for word study”).  These sheets are both found on pages 198 and 199 in the first grade teacher’s manual. 

They practice at home, and during “centers” (Working with Words).

As to how they are assessed on words that were written on their “words to learn” sheets - - that’s a good question.  I need to think about that one some more, OK? I seem to think that they are not assessed on them in the traditional paper/pencil way.  I think that the whole philosophy behind Sitton is to assess students authentically (that’s why the assessments aren’t stand alone word assessments - -your basic I say a sentence with the word and you spell the word.  Instead it’s a story, and they fill in them missing words, do a sentence dictation, and some word skill work - - the three assessments…..).  If I notice that they continue to spell core words we’ve previously learned/been assessed on in their daily writing or continue to spell certain words they use a lot during writing, then they will continue to be added to their “words to know” lists.  I could be wrong, though (on the not assessing students for previously misspelled words that are on their “words to know” assessment).  I have to look at my training manual.  It’s been too long since I’ve used the program - - only two years, but out of sight, out of mind, you know…!?

Wake up Work

What is "Wake up Work"?

Wake up Work is a time for checking in, doing morning jobs, etc.  In K - -they all staggered in, and in 1st, they all pretty much come in at the same time for the most part.  (K doesn’t have AM recess right away, but 1-6 does)  (due to breakfast).  What I have them do during wake up work changes from year to year, depending on how I set up the classroom and schedule.  I create a sheet and post it on the wall for students to refer to, (and subs).  This year I printed large 5x7 photos and made a chart.  I liked that better than the sheet.  It is showing in pictures #4506 and a little bit in #4666.

Working with Letters

Do you prefer letter of the week for kindergarten? What do you use?

I don’t do letter of the week at all!!!  In my K class, we learn letter names and sounds, play with words, learn spelling patterns, etc, through these activities:

1. Writers Workshop

2. Name Game

3. Songs

4. Shared Reading (poetry, big books, rhymes, songs, morning message, abc chart chant)

5. Shared Writing (class books, morning message, interactive writing)

I know it tends to sound random, and in a way it is, but we do learn a lot through these activities.  Especially through our name games and writer’s workshop.  

There’s a book called No More Letter of the Week - -and some web sites that might be REALLY helpful, when explaining to others (teachers, parents, administrators):

What is the "ABC Chant"?  How do you do it?  What does the chart look like?

The ABC chant is basically how we “read the ABC chart” - -

I’m sure there are more web sites, that can give you ideas for variations of Shared Reading of the ABC Chart, but for the most part here’s how we do ours:

  1.  I display the ABC Chart Poster on the teaching easel.

  2. Students sit on the floor in front of it.

  3. I point to each letter as we “read” it. 

The most popular one that we do is to incorporate sign language into our reading of the ABC chart.  Here’s what it looks/sounds like:

“A. (sign the letter A) Apple (sign the word apple).  /a/ /a/ (sign the letter A) Apple (sign the word apple).”

“B. (sign the letter B) Butterfly (sign the word butterfly).  /b/ /b/ (sign the letter B) Butterfly (sign the word butterfly).”

“C. (sign the letter C) Cat (sign the word cat).  /c/ /c/ (sign the letter C) Cat (sign the word cat).”

“D. (sign the letter D) Duck (sign the word duck).  /d/ /d/ (sign the letter D) Duck (sign the word duck.”

We read the ABC chart every single day!  It is quick and easy, and really helps with letter ID (names/sounds/key words).  And the sign language adds another element (good brain food I tell the kids).

I am interested in using the Fountas & Pinnell Phonics---we will be looking at our language arts program either this school year or next year. What method do you currently use? Do you use a specific order of letter introduction, or do you stick to the traditional one letter per week method?

I don’t do letter of the week at all.  Currently we don’t have a Kindergarten Phonemic Awareness/Phonics program, nor do we have a 1st grade resource.  Each teacher does their own thing I guess.  In my class, we learn letter names and sounds, play with words, learn spelling patterns, etc, through these every day/week activities:

  1. Writers Workshop
  2. Name Game
  3. Songs
  4. Shared Reading (poetry, big books, rhymes, songs, morning message, abc chart chant)
  5. Shared Writing (class books, morning message, interactive writing)
  6. Phonics Minnilessons by Fountas and Pinnell (1st Grade)

I know it tends to sound random, and in a way it is, but we do learn a lot through these activities.  Especially through our names and writer’s workshop. 

Looking at your site it appears that you do not focus on a letter a week like I see in so many other K programs.  Am I correct?  What do you do in place of this to make sure children can recognize letter (capital and lower) and the sounds that it makes.

I don't focus on a letter per week, instead we learn letters by focusing on student names (daily) - - you can teach a lot of letter/sound ID through the "Name Game" activities that you can do the first semester of the school year and even beyond if you wish.  We also do the ABC Chant daily - - mix it up a bit - - and  Finally we dive right into Writer's Workshop and once they have control over and familiarity with the ABC chart and chant, begin to have them label their pictures (stories) and work your way toward simple sentences, and then more complex sentences and/or multiple sentences (see my writer's workshop page for more detail on this).

Working with Words

How did you create your Working with Words Folders?

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I lined up the notebook on the pocket chart.  I cut off the bottom of the pocket chart (the part just below the last row).  I then cut up the side of the pocket chart and around the top, leaving the extra fabric above the top row of the student pocket chart so that I could fold it over when three hole punching it (added thickness).  I then positioned the folder on top of the remaining pocket chart and cut up the sides and top (again leaving the extra fabric above the top row).  You can see the "extra pieces" in picture #3.  I threw away the sides and bottom part, but kept the top two rows part because I thought it looked useful (not sure WHAT for....though).  I then sewed the cut side (straight stitch and then a zig-zag stitch), and sewed the bottom (zig-zag).  Then, I three hole punched the top.  I had to make sure that I positioned the punch correctly (test one) and adjust if needed.  

Do you do a word wall with your students? If so, how do you set it up.

I most definitely had a Word Wall with my 1st graders.  We had well over 100 words in it by the end of the year.  I’d introduce roughly 5 words per week.  We’d do a variety of Working with Words activities:, and I also did some of these, too:

#1         #2

I've been teaching my students only about two sight words per week.  I don't like that and would like to teach them more like 4 or 5 per week.  We use magnetic letters and work with the words in small group, and we try to find them in context as much as we can-but what do you use as your main way to teach sight words to your students that you find most effective?

The most practical way that I’ve found that works with my students is through writer’s workshop, shared reading, and shared writing.  During any Shared Reading, as sight words come up, we talk about how these words are very important to know when we are reading and writing.  We call them star words, and I share that we will learn many star words.  I tell both the class and their families that at our school Kindergarteners will need to know 20 star words; however we will not stop at 20 in our classroom, we will continue on and learn 1st grade star words!  For some reason the kids get a HUGE kick out of this.  By the end of November, most know all 20 Kindergarten star words, and are ready for more.  I’m not the type that has to have 4-5 star words per week, rather, I’m more fly by the seat of my pants.  There are some “planned” star words - - meaning we will learn the star words “I”, “like” and “me” when we read our shared reading book, I Like Me.  But mostly I just try to focus on words that keep popping up a lot.  For example if the word “it” seems to be popping up a lot in our shared reading and writing, I’ll bring it to their attention and we will add it to our Word Wall, and chant it whenever we see it (shared reading) or use it (shared writing, writer’s workshop).  During W.W. when they help me “write” my story, I do the writing, but when we come to a star word, they chant it and throw it at me (with their fingers, while they chant)…gets them moving, talking, and thinking. 

I was wondering what you use or refer to as your year-long phonics curriculum. Do you use a certain format, like writing workshop? I am looking for a sequence of activities to use at the beginning of the year during guided reading lesson time.

We don’t have any, but I really, really want to use this: - - but am not sure if the district will buy it for me or not…I’m waiting until our Language Arts curriculum is up for re-adoption to ask.  For now, everything is definitely taught via Morning Message, Writer’s Workshop, Name Game, Predictable Charts/Class Books, Working with Words/Letters/Sounds, etc…  (balanced literacy approach).  I want to do exactly what you are suggesting next year - - during Guided Reading, do a lot of word work.  I ordered these books and hope to get the activities developed over the summer months.

Words Their Way : Letter and Picture Sorts for Emergent Spellers  

Words Their Way: Word Sorts for Letter Name Alphabetic Spellers

Have you always used the black and white composition books.  I’ve got tons of 3 prong pocket folders and free access to all the paper I would possibly need. Do you foresee a down side to this?

I don’t always use those composition notebooks.  I've used spiral and 3-pronged folders w/ 3-hole punched paper, like you are suggesting.  I like the composition notebooks better because they seem more durable.  Besides, I got a really good deal on them last year (fall 2007) at Target….they were clearance priced after school began - - like 5 cents a piece or something crazy like that!  I bought LOTS of them.  I have used 3-pronged folders…..I liked them, and had no problem with them.  I added a name label and month label.  Easy to add paper.  I had a parent volunteer do it each month, or I just did it. In K, they don’t pay attention to the lines in the notebook anyway.  

What do you do with students who say, “I’m finished” and yet most of the students are just beginning to write? 

It’s not really a problem.  I just don’t let them think that I am going to let them be done….  If they think there’s another activity….they will try to be done…and some are naturals at wanting to be done first…my motto is “we write until I say we are done”. 

How much do you write when you model a mini lesson, and what do you write on?

I do it on chart paper.  Large chart paper (larger target for their eyes).  I later on transfer to a reg. notebook, once their eyes know where they should be looking (smaller target).  In the beginning I am really only drawing a simple picture (maybe some simple text, (labeling)….at first we really focus on telling stories orally and pictorially.  We then transfer to adding text (labels first, then eventually to simple sentences, and then onto more detailed text).

How do you allow students to help you when you journal write your teacher mini lesson?

I elicit help from the class by simply asking for it.  “who knows how to spell….”  “how could I draw a ….”  “does anyone know where I should put the …. In my picture….”  I  sometimes have them come and write the word, add the ….to my picture, etc).  Has to be really quick though, or the mini lesson isn’t so MINI…. 

What are the students writing their first weeks of Writer's Workshop?  Are the topics about anything or do you direct them to something in particular? 

They are drawing really.  Anything.  I never give prompts.

After the directed lesson on the carpet, how long do students engage in writing at their tables for writers Workshop?

Hmmmm….hard to say, if I remember correctly the beginning of the year was a total of 30 mins, from start to finish (mini lesson, work time, share time)….we build up our endurance…stamina...!  :)

Are students allowed only 1 double page spread a day? 

NO!  They do as many as needed.  We aren’t finished until the teacher says we are finished.  No exceptions.  I tried the whole, “go and read” until we are all done” thing but that doesn’t work.  Writing time is for writing….and if they finish early, I encourage them to 1. add detail to their picture/story/text (depending on the time of year) or 2. start another story

Can you tell me what words you use as sight words? I have tried to decide if the sight words should go with the nursery rhymes and stories we are reading or if they should come from Fry's list.

We have 20 words for Kindergarten and 50 words for 1st grade.  These are the words that students are assessed on.  With that said, the children are exposed to more words (and I do hold them responsible for them, once they begin using them in their writing/reading).  

How do you rotate getting to each student every day during your teacher-student Writer's Workshop conferences? 

It isn’t easy.  It is helpful to have another Adult Writer in the room.  I try to train parents.  Last year I had one faithfully come, and this year I had one faithfully come (one day a week both years).  Other than that, once they are writing more text, I encourage some to kidwrite first instead of illustrating, that allows me to adult write and conference earlier….and, sometimes I simply don’t get to everyone, but I try…and if I don’t get to them, I for sure do adult writing in their book a little later on in the day…they want that!  Later on in the year, as they become better spellers, I might skip it altogether…and just read it…they think it is pretty cool if I don’t do any adult writing “because they spelled well”  

Writer's Workshop

Do you store all your read alouds for writing all in one bin?

I don’t actually have very many of the writing mini lesson read alouds.  I wish I did, though!  In fact, I get them through my local public library system.  I go online every week and request a batch of books.  15 is the limit, but as soon as I pick some of them up, I go and request more (online).  They know me VERY WELL at my local branch!  J  Requesting online is very easy and so fast!  I love it!  If I had a bunch of money though, I’d buy all the books I like to use for mini lessons (math, reading, writing, science, social studies, etc).  When I do get the books from the library, they are stored in one bin.  Same for any batch of books that I get from the library (graph of the week, theme, reading, etc - - they all have a bin, or share a bin, so I can easily find them…).

I printed your writer’s workshop mini lessons information from the internet and was very interested in it.  I do have some questions –

1.  Do you use the writer’s workshop?

2  Is this a program that your district paid for?

3. Where can I find out more information about writer’s workshop?

Yes, we do Writer’s Workshop every single day.  I love it!  So do the kids! It is not a program.  It is a concept that I use after I have read several books about writing, in particular emergent writers.  The books are listed on my website:   So you could find out more about it from those or from doing an internet search for “Writer’s Workshop”, but I suggest the books, in particular “Kidwriting”.  The mini lessons on my site were created and written by me.

Could you tell me a little more about your writing time.  I am really having a hard time getting my students past very simple 3-4 sentence stories even with reading a lot of 6-trait examples.

I really started basic this year.  At first I thought it might be too basic, but in the end, I think the kids are doing really well. Most of my kids are CONSISTENTLY writing 2 sentence stories by the beginning of January.  They then go on to write another 2 sentence story or are finished for the day (depending on when I call "time for share time") - - The ones that write more than one story, I'll start to challenge them to focus on only ONE story that has a detailed paragraph (4 or more sentences).  We are also moving beyond "I like and I love" sentences too, and for some that is hard. This year's class is doing better than last year's class though.  I pretty much take it one day at a time and work from there.  I seem to have better success in my mini conferences with students (1:1) - - for example, on Tuesday of last week I noticed that one little girl in particular was still writing in all CAPS and we've talked about this in our whole group mini lessons for a few weeks now, and because she is one of my top two writers, I expect her to carry over the concept of writing in lowercase more quickly than the others so I encouraged her to do this during our teacher/student conference.  I conference with every student every day. This is possible because on some days I have extra help, but for the most part it is possible because I've trained the kids to continue writing even though they may have finished, or may need help.  They continue working on their story until share time.  Some may have written 2-3 stories, others only one.  Just depends on their stamina and determination to work hard.  Oh, and the importance of share time needs to be stressed.  This is not only a time for students to share their writing, but we also celebrate each students success (personal gain), and I also make teaching points during this time using student stories that are shared.

How much time you spend on each blue section (unit/topic).  Or if you break it down to one day on each mini-lesson?

That's a tough question, really, because it all depends on what my students need - - and for how long they need the mini lessons, and I sometimes might even need to go back and revisit previously taught mini lessons.  I like to read my kids like a book and look for clues as to what types of mini lessons would help them to become better, more efficient writers. 

Here's a LOOSE (off the top of my head) schedule of what "went down" during Writer's Workshop last year in our class....

  • notebook parts (1-2 days),

  • writing tools (2 days),

  • establishing a routine (2 weeks),

  • storytelling (4-6 weeks),

  • labeling (5-6 days),

  • beyond labels (3-4 weeks),

  • directionality (1 week),

  • organizing our text (1-2 weeks),

  • spelling strategies (2 weeks),

  • conventions (1 week, then ongoing),

  • detailed illustration (5-7 days),

  • personal narratives/editing/nonfiction (rest of year)

I skipped the lists and letter writing UNITS this past year (2006-2007) in Kindergarten, as my kids were having HUGE successes with personal narratives and nonfiction stories.  I felt like letter writing and list making might interfere with the good progress they were making.  I guess that I could have incorporated it in somehow, but I just didn't.  :o)  The pacing is hard to figure out and explain, because it really just depends on what skills/interests your writers are exhibiting.  I'm going to add more lessons geared toward 1st grade sometime this summer (2007) - - as I am moving to 1st grade and want to beef up the lessons even more (ideas and conventions are our TRAITS that we teach in 1st grade - - but I want to touch on word choice, and organization too...because I feel that 1st graders are ready for it....)

Where do you find all of the books for the writing lessons?

When I created the mini lessons, I searched and search the web (Amazon, library, my personal collection) for literature tie-ins.  Your public library would be your best bet.  They have a MUCH better collection than my school library or I have.  Besides, they are kind of like a little network of libraries within my county, if one doesn't have it, the other one might.  I do all my library book requests/searches online, too.  It's fast and easy!

I know you have taught K and 1 in the past - was the Writer's Workshop minilesson's timeline designed with K or 1 in mind?

This was created with a K class in mind.  It could be adapted to 4K/Preschool and 1st grade.

I noticed you have taught first grade before.  Do you still have those [Writer's Workshop] plans?  

My general first grade plans are here:  BUT - - for specific writing plans - - I only started documenting those when I started teaching full day Kindergarten (2005).  I didn’t teach writing it in first grade like I do now - - I would from now on though, if I ever moved to a different grade.  

When you do your mini lessons for writers workshop, you always say dismiss for workshop.  Is there something certain you have them writing at this time?  I noticed you don't always have a lesson for them to specifically be writing.

Nope – no predetermined topic.  Just something that’s near and dear to their hearts.  They choose the topic…ALWAYS.  My thoughts about mini lessons, is that through repeated lessons/focus on the topic/skill and repeated reminders/modeling - - students eventually “catch on” and apply the skill.  So, I don't say that they "have to _____".  Instead, I observe to see that they eventually (each within their appropriate time frame) begin applying mini lesson skills/concepts.  If they don't, then I address it during our adult writer - kid writer conferences (goal making).

Do you conference with the students every day?  What are your methods, and do you have an easy to sue conferencing from?  How do analyze the baseline-line writing (from the beginning of the year) to group your students for writing?  Do you use writing buddies?

I try to conference with every student every day.  It is a short conference.  I ask, “Tell me about your picture.  Read me your story.”  In the beginning of the year, I record their story for them if they can’t.  I model for them how to use the tools we have available (mini offices, word wall, ABC chart, environmental print, friends, teacher, our heads…).  As we progress through the mini lessons on the web site, the kids become increasingly independent.  Some are slower than others.  I give them time though.  They’ll come around when they are capable.  Writing buddies for us - - my kids sit two to a table.  Their table partner is their writing buddy.  This is the first person they ask for help from - -before asking another friend or me.  Help in finding a certain color marker/crayon, help in spelling a word, help in drawing something, help with writing the date, etc. 

How long is your Writer's Workshop?

In the beginning of the year, W.W. is much shorter.  I'd say 30 minutes from start to finish.  In the end of the year, W.W. expands to 60 minutes.

How do you keep you writing conference notes?  Do you use a form or a notebook/binder?

For writing conferences, my notes are made in student notebooks.  I’m trying to get better at notes.  I’m always interested in knowing what they did independently, any support tools used (strategies they used), and any prompts that I gave.

I noticed that your children write in a regular spiral notebook.  I feel like in the last few years I have been knocking myself out putting together journals for kids and providing lines when I thought they were ready.  I was interested in finding out how the notebooks work for you and any tips you might have to make their use successful. 

In my experience, emergent writers/beginning writers ignore the lines.  I, too, like you, always painstakingly made journals every month.  I find it to be freeing to not have to copy and bind notebooks every month.  Instead of focusing on the little “already there blue lines” in the notebooks, I have my writer’s create a ROAD MAP for their writing.  They say their sentence out loud, count the words, and then draw the road maps.  They then say the sentence again and write each word.  They do this for every sentence.  This results in drawing a line for each said word.  This method has worked out well for me.  I went to 1st two years ago, and noticed that many used this strategy in 1st, then dropped it, and used the lines in the notebook.  

I just adore your writing lessons, but I was wondering if they are available in a "print friendly" format?  I am the Kindergarten Steering President for Hillsborough County Schools and would love to present your lessons website as a terrific resource to my teachers.  The only problem is that the lessons are very "print intense".  Any ideas?

I just copied and pasted them into a word document, and converted it to a .pdf so that it would download better..  I didn’t take any time to really reformat the document though.  Some of the text and graphics might be messed up.  

Do you give your students prompts for their daily journal writing?

I have a few book recommendations on my site, if you are interested.  There is also a program called Units of Study, too, that many teachers use.  I don't have it (too expensive for me to buy - - and my district won't buy it...) - - but if I could get my hands on a copy of it, I certainly would.  Those resources (U of S, and the ones listed on my site - - which isn't a comprehensive list by the way) in combination with the principals of Kidwriting, work as a team and really get your Writer's Workshop up and running. 

As for prompting - - I'd recommend not prompting.  Instead, let them choos their own topic.  Students are great at coming up with their own topics - - things that are near and dear to their own hearts/lives. 

The components that make Writer's Workshop successful include:

  1. Mini Lesson

  2. Kidwriting and Illustrating

  3. 1:1 Student/Teacher Conferences (Adultwriting)

  4. Share Time

I know it seems daunting, and I get overwhelmed with it too, but with practice, it does get easier.   One resource that I really like a lot is called Kidwriting.  It gave me a good basis and a lot of background knowledge of beginning writers.  I don't use it "exactly" the way it is laid out in the book, instead I use the theory behind the book (kidwriting and adultwriting) to help my students move from one stage to the next (Developmental Stages of Writing) .  Next to that, "reading" your kids and planning/delivering mini lessons that will help them to develop as emergent writers is also very important.  There are a lot of good resources out there that you can buy (already planned mini lessons), and I even have a few on my site for free, but the BEST mini lesson ideas come from your observations of your students.  

What does "beginning writing" look like?  How do you get students to write in the beginning of the year?

The Developmental Stages of Writing are:

  1. Scribbling

  2. Letter-like Symbols

  3. Strings of Letters

  4. Beginning Sounds

  5. Consonants

  6. Initial, Middle, Final

  7. Transitional

  8. Standard Spelling

I've seen other names for the stages, but this is the best printable (Developmental Stages of Writing) that I could find on the web that shows the stages, so that's why I refer to it. 

Anyway, most of my students come to me with little to no experiences of being able to fully work through stages 1-3.  They also come to me with little or no letter knowledge. 

With that said, I firmly believe that every child has a story to tell.  It is natural for students to share life experiences.  It's exciting to hear what is going on in their lives.  They love to talk about themselves, their families, pets, and friends.  We, as their teachers, can USE this natural skill that they have (oral storytelling) and hone in on it as a PREMISE for building our Writer's Workshop.  I encourage you to not wait until they have their letter sounds and names.  Instead, start from day one by having a Writer's Workshop.  Establish routines and expectations during this time. 

What does this look like, then, in the beginning?  Well, instead of asking them to "WRITE" a story, they orally share a story.  Maybe they bring in props.  They use the prop as their "illustration" and after the story is told, the class applauds and there is a time for questions and answers.  Eventually transfer this activity to drawing a story (using a prop as a reference, and then to using just their memory to draw the story).  Again, they use their ORAL LANGUAGE to tell the story during share time, showing their picture instead of the actual prop. 

This can easily be modeled and done through the months of September and October.  Then, by the time November hits, most all are ready for the "LABELING" of their story.  Or, if you would like to take more time to develop stages 1-3, then that could be done, before the labeling unit begins.  I personally feel though that once they have acquired letter names and sounds, that I need to make them accountable for using those letter names and sounds.  That's why we learn them, right?  So that we can use that knowledge when reading and writing. 

Part of the reason I love Writer's Workshop is that its very nature is DIFFERENTIATION - - we, as teachers, accept all forms of storytelling stages, but push each storyteller based on what tools they have in their pocket at that moment and based on what I am noticing about their writing and comfort level. 

What are you "end of the year" expectations for you Kindergarten writers (spelling stage, 6 Traits of writing, etc)? 

Stages of writing Goal - - SPELLING: My personal goal is for my Kidwriters to leave Kindergarten SPELLING (writing words) at a stage 6.  This means that I want them to be able to correctly spell sight words that we've covered.  This means that I want them to be able to s-t-r-e-t-c-h spell unknown words, hearing the majority of the consonants and some vowels (we talk about how words save at least one vowel in them).  I refer to the Developmental Stages of Writing when deciding on which stage a student is at. 

Traits of writing Goal - - IDEAS and CONVENTIONS:  My personal goal is for my Kidwriters to leave Kindergarten writing personal stories and/or nonfiction pieces that have between 2-5 ideas (sentences).  My goal is for them to write sentences that move beyond the simple, "comfortable" sentences that students tend to write at the beginning of the year and seem to fall into a period of writing where it seems that they will never move beyond writing those sentences - - I'm talking about the "I like, I love, is pretty, is nice" type sentences that are easy and familiar for students to use. 

How do you "run" your SHARE TIME?  How do you decide who shares during SHARE TIME?

As for how many students to share - -  I've done it several ways, and flip back and forth between these options:

All Share - - going clockwise they stand one at a time, we are in an oval on the outskirts of the share carpet (s).  After all have shared, we give one THUNDEROUS round of applause and time permitting, have time for a few questions/comments.

Pair Share - - partnered up, students share their stories and talk about them (questions/comments).

Teacher Selected Share - - I select students to share based on my observations of their work and which samples we can talk about as mentor texts - - "I asked ___ to share their work with us today because ____________."  After each student shares, we applaud and they can take two questions/comments.  WE get through 2-4 students if we do a teacher selected share.

Student Selected Share - - I select the first student to share, who does share and we then applaud and have time for two questions/comments.  After that student is finished, they select the next person to share.  If they have a hard time "selecting a student" that is to share next, I say, "If you don't choose quickly, I will need to choose for you."  I then pair that with a quick countdown - - "Choose 5, choose 4, choose 3, choose 2, choose 1, I'll choose!"  I rarely get to "choose 1".  We get through 2-4 students if we do a student selected share.

My students prefer the "All Share" - - but now that their stories are getting longer (most write stories that average 4-6 sentences in length - 3rd quarter), we just simply don't have enough time to get to everyone.  Lately, we've been doing the "Teacher Selected Share" and I take time to write down a list of who've I've selected and why.  That way I can get to everyone in a week, and I then have a list of what strength they showed in their writing. 

I was wondering how you model spelling for Kindergarten children.  Do you model the correct spelling of words that are not high frequency words or words that are not found in the room?  Or do you model the way that it sounds when you stretch it out?  For instance, if you were writing the word "excellent" would you model spelling it the correct way or spell it by stretching out the word?  I am a 2nd year teacher and currently model what I want them to do, which, at this stage is to stretch words out in order to spell them.  But I was told by my principal and several veteran teachers that this is wrong.  I appreciate any advice you have!!

When we stretch words, we stretch the word and listen for any and all sounds that we hear.  This is called hearing sounds in words.  Sometimes that might be a vowel combination (ow/ou), or a digraph (sh/ch/th/wh), or a blend (cl/tr/st).  We use what we already know (our sight words, our names, and other words that are known to us, as well as letter names and sounds to identify the sounds we hear as we stretch and we write down what we hear.  For the tactile/visual learners, we use our arms and fingers to help us stretch.  This has been VERY helpful!

For example, when we spell the word "climb" - - I'd say, "get your arm and finger ready, and let's go!"

We start at our shoulders and run our finger down our arm to our fingertips quickly at first, saying the word over and over again - - starting at the top each time we star the word again - - "climb" (shoulder to wrist), "climb" (shoulder to wrist), "climb" (shoulder to wrist).

We then do this again, but slower and stop at each NEW sound we hear, and write it down, and start over until we hear a new sound...until the very end.  /cl/ (shoulder) - - that sounds like "cl" in "clara" - - "its two sounds working together, what are they?"  (write them down), start a shoulder again, /cl/ (shoulder) /i/ (farther down the arm) - - "yes, the 'i' is saying its own name" (write it down), start a shoulder again, /cl/ (shoulder) /i/ (farther down the arm) /m/ "yes, that's the letter 'm'" (write it down). 

We would stop here, because they wouldn't hear the /b/ in climb. 

I can understand your principal's desire for your students to spell more traditionally, however it is developmentally appropriate for them to move through the stages of writing.  Here's a document that is helpful - -

Students don't naturally skip to the STANDARD stage.  They get to that stage through exposure to words through WORD WORK, READING , and WRITING.  These all work together.  We, as early literacy educators, know that, but it is really hard to convey that message to parents and administration sometimes.  I feel for you! 

Students begin to learn spelling patterns for vowel pairs, blends, digraphs, etc as they work with their names, words, begin to read, and write everyday.  Each day during the mini lesson, we through additional tidbits out there to our students for them to grasp.  Some grasp the concepts right away, others need the tidbits to be thrown at them repeatedly until it sinks in. 

For kids, it is important for them to realize that some words are spelled the way they sound, and others can't be spelled the way they sound (sight words like "they" and "of").  High frequency words such as "like" "is" "me" "my" and any other words that we have on our word wall must also be spelled correctly.  I teach my kids that they must spell sight and high frequency words correctly from the beginning, otherwise bad habits are hard to break. For words that can be sounded out, we call these "words that can be stretched" and even though the stretch might not result in the STANDARD spelling of the word, we call this kidwriting, and I write the correct spelling under the word, which we call adultwriting. 

Here's a sample of what kidwriting and adult writing could look like:

This isn't my sample, but one I found on the web.  Here, the teacher wrote the adultwriting below the kidwriting.  I actually write the adultwriting under or over the actual kidwriting words and add dots to the correct letters, so students can visually see how close they actually came to being an adultwriter for that particular word.

Here are a few sites that might be of interest:

Walls [Anchor] Charts, Displays

I really like your color and number class, could you tell me how you do all kids make the TLC kind of art for the chart and them you put one on...or do the kids make their own books and someone makes a second snowflake or apple? 

Everyone makes the project, and then I select one, two, three…etc for the wall.  I found the total number of projects needed for the entire wall, then divided that number by the number of students in my class to see how many projects from each student needed to be selected and displayed.  The projects not put on the wall, were sent home.  You could do it the way you thought up though - -where everyone makes a color/number book, and then a student makes an extra.

I've seen you mention on your site several times about TLC style of art.  I've been trying to find information about this and not much is coming up.  If you have a moment, could you briefly explain it to me?  From what I see it seems to be a follow the directions art concept, from which all children start with the same materials, follow the same directions, but create slightly different products through their own cutting and placement.  Is this correct?

You are right about TLC.  I don't own any of their books though.  I just looked for pictures of TLC projects on other teacher websites and figured out how to do it on my own, or created my own projects.  It is really easy to do.  They have a free lesson on their site, so you can see what the directions look like.  I don't like to be that structured though.  Here's the website:

What are anchor charts and how or when do I use them. 

Here’s a blurb on a web site sharing what anchor charts are:

I hope to get pictures of different charts up on the site next year.  :o)

We use the charts to refocus our behavior and/or as a reference tool.


Where do you find your clip art for your website and lesson plans and documents?

I typically use these sites:

How did you get started designing your webpage?  Is it through a webpage program like Front Page? 

I started my web page about 8 years ago.  When I first started, I used Geocities, and I wrote the HTML (code) myself.  That was hard!  I’m glad I learned how, because I still remember basic HTML and that’s helpful sometime.  For the past 9 years I've used a "What You See is What You Get" (WYSIWYG) editor.  I used Frontpage, and then upgraded to Expression Web  I build the web site on my computer and then upload to my server (I buy server space).  My web space host is GoDaddy (  I pay them every month to host my site.  I started with free, but quickly learned that to have a large site, you need more web space and have to pay for it.  Here are frew great webpages about building a teacher site:

Where do you find the clip art on your web site (first page - - the index page)?

The font is from  I have SETS 1, 2, and 3.  They are wonderful!  I know that they can be used for lots of projects, but I mainly use them for newsletters and my site.

Visiting Me

I was wondering if you ever allow visitors to come to your classroom and observe? 

I’ve been asked that before and have always declined.  I need to feel out my principal and other coworkers a lot more before venturing into that kind of commitment and really think it out myself first.  When I first started web site building, I never realized it would evolve to what it is now.  I feel good about doing it still and will continue, but have kind of just limited myself to only web site building and not presenting and/or writing, or opening up my classroom for observations.

Vista Print

Just wanted to show you this link: I was wondering if any of these scams ever happened to you.  I just placed my first order today and I am nervous now!!  How did you pay?

This topic came up last summer (2006) on  None of the teachers that posted said they had problems.  I certainly wouldn't share any information about Vista Print on my website if I had had problems.  I do know that you have to be careful about what you click on when you "check out" on the site.  I didn't find anything tricky, and I didn't sign up for any additional "offers" that popped up, as I wasn't interested, and didn’t want to be LURED into any other promotions from other companies.  I did read the consumer affairs comments about Vista , but again, I think it all boils down to knowing what you are clicking when you check out.  Some people just simply are too much in a hurry and don't read what they are clicking on.  

I think I paid with a credit/debit/check card.  Can't remember though.  I think that after I read those "reports" that I just decided to use a cc, as it'd be easier to "refute" - - but I didn't have any problems, and neither did any of the teachers on (kindergarten message board).  As far as what I understand, it wasn't that identities were getting stolen, it was that charges were added to the persons account (credit card, etc) because they had "accidentally/unintentionally" signed up for additional services.  You just have to be careful about what you are clicking on and agreeing to. 

First thank you for the ideas on different ways to use Vista Print's products.  I have used their free business cards before but I haven't used the other products.  That brings me to my question.  Did they offer the magnets, note pads and postcards as free only during the month of July and August?  Do you think they periodically change what they offer as "free"?  Right now it seems they only have business cards, sticky note pads, and stamps.  Am I possibly in the wrong section of the web site?

I haven’t checked back with them, and I don’t receive any emails from them anymore, so I’m thinking that you might be right that they only offer offers during the summer months, but that wouldn’t be smart on their part because lots of people might want them during the year too.  I checked their site, and they have free checks, stamps, sticky notes, business cards.  Only four things.  I think it is a better “deal” when they offer six free things, although the sticky notes intrigue me…  I like to try to think outside the box when I use their products - - the star word magnet for instance….  I hope they have the same deals this summer as last summer, because their postcards and oversized postcards were great (for open house and welcome back to school). 

I absolutely love your boy/girl address labels you made and ordered from Vista Print.  I wanted to make & order the exact ones but am having a heck of a time getting it to work.  Any suggestions or help you can give?  I would really appreciate it!

I choose the "make your own" design for the address labels.  I then searched their clip art database for "children" or "school" or something like that.  They have many, many clip art images.  After that, I then (if I remember correctly) made two text boxes (one for my name, and one for my contact information).  It took a while for me to format and get it just right.  Let me know if you need more help with the labels.  The site can be tricky to work with.  You'd think that their software for editing the things they let you create would be easier to work with!! 

I followed it to vista print and I saw the free logo.  I have never seen more than one "free" item.  Am I doing something wrong?  

I just clicked on the link on my site, and I then click on “Specials” at the top of their page.  Look everywhere on the page for the word “FREE” - - they don’t really make it easy, and I’ve recently read in an email from them that they are working to revamp their site to make it easier to use.  I’ve never been disappointed and think you’ll be happy with their products too….

Today [8/26/06], I see:

  • FREE business cards (250 cards)

  • FREE oversized postcards (50 cards)

  • FREE postcard (100 cards)

  • FREE stamp (1 stamp)

  • FREE notepad (50 pages)

  • FREE note cards (10 cards)

After my initial order, I then started receiving emails that told me what the FREE items were and what specials (not free) I could then get.

I printed out your directions and followed them exactly and I didn't see any of the things that you saw except for the usual business cards and stamp.  Do you have any idea about what I am doing wrong?  Thanks for taking the time to help me.

Very odd!  My only suggestion is to call vista print if you can and ask them why some visitors see free things and others don’t.  When I visit their “specials” page I see all those free things (oversized post cards, regular post cards, business cards, note pad, stamp, and note cards).  5 of them were printed in a RED “free” and the business cards were listed on the side bar, and said free business cards.  Maybe because they recognize “my computer” as a returning customer? 

I have a question about the Vista Print orders.  Their website does not offer as many freebies as you received.  Am I looking in the wrong place, or are you a preferred customer since you have ordered before?

Follow UP Email - - (the web site visitor called VISTA, and explains the aftermath below...) - - THIS occurred on 6/27/07.

I think I finally figured out my problem!  After calling Vista , I was told that the specials changed daily, sometimes several times a day.  Each time I logged off their website and logged back on, the free items had changed.  Sometimes the postcards were free, sometimes the note pad was free, etc.  I just stayed on and found all the free goodies I wanted.  I got 11 free items and paid $38.00 in shipping.  

Once I ordered initially, they (Vista Print) have since then sent me “offers” now and then.  I think the “big” offers are sent after you order the first time.  Feel free to call them if you continue to have problems.   

I went to the Vista Print website, created an account, and tried to order some postcards. Every time I would type in my initials when I had viewed the proof it would close out of my account. Do you happen to know what I am doing wrong? How do you order so many things at a time for free? I did not see that option on the website.

Vista Print is notorious for having different sales for different days/even times of the day.  They are always sending me new sale notices.  I think that once you sign up and order you’ll get them too.  You might want to call them.  As for the editing, I’ve never encountered that problem!  I type in my initials, and it just brings me to the next screen.  

Did you create the files and upload them to the Vista website or did you just use the template they had available?

I created them using through the VISTA web site using a template they had available.