Teacher Stuff: Cute Character Secrets


I got a comment today that really made my day, made me feel guilty, and motivated me, all at the same time. I have been absent. No bones about it. But I haven’t forgotten you.

My past year has been an upheaval to say the least. Not to get into the nitty-gritty, but a divorce with kids is a time-consuming and GIANT ordeal. However, we are on the greener side of the hill, folks, and I am starting to have more time.

That being said, I have SO MANY ideas for posts. So I ask you to be patient and keep checking back, I am motivated (Thanks, LaserTest) and ready to go!

Today, though, I want to share a secret.


I LOVE book characters! I love that they cover my wall and remind my students of the amazing stories we’ve read and the journeys we’ve been on. I get compliments on my characters all the time but you should know something…I have a secret helper.

It’s a projector.

I am BLESSED to have a station in my classroom with a doc cam, computer and projector. I use them to find a picture with either the doc cam or computer, project it on the wall and trace it onto chart paper! Yes, I do a LOT of coloring at home, and yes, it might seem trivial to some. But when my kids walk in every day and see their favorite characters on the wall, they make great connections, they share memories of favorite stories and they remember how FUN reading is!

So, pull out a book, trace and color a little, it will be worth it, I promise!  Here are a few from the first weeks of school. Sorry, my camera was not cooperating with the lighting in my room. More soon!




Teacher Stuff: It’s Chart Day!!


I LOVE making charts!  Step into my classroom and you’ll probably say, “Wow, someone has too much time!” but to be honest, I  don’t!  I just love them so much and love the way they are useful but can add so much character (sometimes literally) to our walls.  They help the kids remember stories, access words they’ve learned, or recall tools to help them organize their thinking.  I have found that the kids, especially little ones, use and remember more from the charts when they are very visual, so I make time in my week to create these charts using characters from the stories, pictures to illustrate a poem or concept, and bright colors.  It’s also a win-win because I get to do a little art, which I don’t really have time for at home!  So stop on in and look around!

 5 Finger Retelling

    Let’s start with the charts I made for the week we were practicing Retelling using familiar stories.  We started by introducing the 5-Finger Retelling chart and using the elements of a story to help us retell all the important parts of a story.  This chart was based on several charts and ideas found on Pinterest, particularly one from First Grade W.O.W. and one from The Techy Teacher.  We had the idea to use a hand as a strategy to track whether they had included all the important elements in order. During the week, we used the chart to help us retell familiar stories together as well as in their Reading Response journals.

Red Riding Hood SummaryOn the first day, we discussed the elements of James Marshall’s Red Riding Hood and worked together to write a summary of the story.  We then paired up and practiced retelling the story to a partner using the 5-Finger Retelling strategy to help.  Students completed a story map in their journals of the characters, setting, problem and solution.

The rest of the week, we read together, practiced retelling to a partner or as a group and then completed the story map on the chart.  Students then wrote their own summaries for Reading Response using the 5-Finger Retelling strategy.

Story Maps 2Story Map

Books We Used:

Red Riding Hood by James Marshall

The Three Little Wolves and the Big, Bad Pig by Eugene Trivizas

The Tortoise and the Jackrabbit by Susan Lowell

The Three Little Javelinas by Susan Lowell

Corduroy by Don Freeman

Moving on to other charts!!  I also like to use charts to help us remember skills we’ve learned in Word Work or Writing.  Some of my favorites have been the Alliteration Chart, based on the amazing chart from The First Grade Parade!!  I added a few extra tongue twisters the kids particularly liked but it very close to hers!  It was just too cute not to borrow!

Alliteration Chart

One of my other favorites is our Treasure Map of “ar” words!  The kids had so much fun adding words to the chart! I got the idea from this pin from The Inspired Apple. The purple words were the kids spelling words for the week.  During the week, the kids came up with other words to add and we wrote those in green!


These are just a few of the many charts we’ve made this year, but it gives you an idea.  Sorry the pictures aren’t great, my camera is MIA at the moment and my phone is just ok.  Hopefully I can search the house during our Beginning of Summer Purge next week!!  For those of you not finished teaching yet, have a great week!  And for those of you at home, enjoy an extra cup of coffee and an extra 30 minutes of sleep for me!!

Can’t wait! -T

Teacher Stuff: Reading Workshop is BACK!!


We have completed Week 5 of school everybody!  Hard to believe!  I have to say, I love my class and, so far, I love Dual Language!!

I teach English Language Arts to a group of 13 (yes, 13!!!) native English speaking kids and it is so much fun!!  It’s amazing to me the interaction and discussions we can have since there are only 13 of them!!  Okay, I know I am using a LOT of exclamation points, but seriously, I feel so lucky to have this wonderful small group of kids to work with for the morning!

The majority of our first 5 weeks together has been setting up routines, discussing books together as well as setting up the beginnings of the Daily 5. We have discussed Ways to Read, How to Pick Books, the 5-Finger Rule, and practiced, modeled, discussed and practiced again how to Read to Self until we all have it down.  We have settled into the routine for the most part and the kids are beginning to become more independent during Daily 5 time!  Good deal!

For our whole group lessons, we have been focusing on how to think about literature.  We have done book studies of Swimmy by Leo Lionni and Julius: The Baby of the World by Kevin Henkes.  We have also focused on to think about and relate to characters like Pepita and Franklin! Let’s take a look!

Book Study of Swimmy by Leo Lionni

For Swimmy and Lilly (the main character in several of Kevin Henkes’ books) we read the same book each day and focused on different things.  The first day, we read half of the book and made predictions.  The second and remaining days, we read the entire book and picked a focus for each day – Problem/Solution, Retelling and Character Analysis.

Literature Chart for Julius: The Baby of the World

Character Study chart for Franklin

For Franklin, we spent the week discussing what we know about Franklin.  Our discussions revolved around making connections between him and books we’ve read before as well as between Franklin and our own experiences – Text to Text and Text to Self Connections.  The kids’ discussions were really interesting to hear and facilitate.  They had great connections to other books we’ve been reading and themselves.

You might be wondering about all these charts and graphic organizers.  Let me explain.  After reading, we complete most of the organizers together as a class on the document camera.  Then, for the first couple of weeks as first graders, the kids usually copy the more in-depth organizers such as the retelling and character analysis. Now, though as the kids have gotten used to using the organizers and are becoming more familiar with the word wall and how to use a word bank, the initial chart we do together looks like this:

Sentence Starters with word banks

After the kids have filled theirs out, we come back together and create one together for the wall like this:

Completed Franklin Chart

These completed organizers then go onto our literature chart!  Eventually, the kids’ charts will go on the bigger literature chart making the chart truly their own creation!

For now, I use a clear pocket chart to display 6 journals each day.  I pick the journals to display randomly.  I don’t pick the best or worst specifically, I just randomly pick 6 journals out of the basket, turn to the organizer for that day and put them up.  This allows them to see their work as well as to compare their work to others.

Reading Response Journal Display

There you have it!!  Stay tuned this week, I’ll also be showing you some of the vocabulary building and Dual Language elements in our classroom!!  See you soon!