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 Friday Freebie: Plot Graphic Organizer


Plot GO

Welcome back!  Today’s Friday Freebie is another Reading Response Gem!  This is one of my favorites!  In first grade,  out students focus all year on story plot.  We use Author Studies, Character Studies, and Genre Studies to mix things up and expose our kids to ALL kinds of texts, but this little organizer is one we can use for SO MANY things!! One thing I love, in particular is the open boxes, which allow for easy differentiation. Non-writers or writers who are hesitant can draw and/or write while writers of all stages can write without feeling constricted by lines. My kids are able to respond in their own way with confidence! I hope you and your kids enjoy it and get as much use out of it as we have!

To get your own copy of the Plot Graphic Organizer, click HERE!

As always, thanks for visiting and feel free to share for personal or classroom use.  Please do not use my files for commercial use.  I think we are all made better by sharing our ideas, just don’t try to make a profit off mine!!

Thanks again, come back soon!
– T

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!

Back to School!


Tomorrow is the first day of school and this is the first year that my classroom feels “ready”.  This week was all about working in our rooms and planning for next week.

Our first full day in the rooms was Wednesday – here’s where we were:

The front wall of the room – pretty much done.

This is the front wall of my classroom.  Since I (thankfully) didn’t have to move rooms this year, it was already covered and the tree and lights were still up from last year.  AND, at the end of last year, I boxed all the books up and stuck them on top of the cabinets, SOOOOOO this year once I got the bookshelves moved putting the books back into my library was EASY!!  Bonus!

Lots to be done still.

Last Friday, my dad came up and helped move all the furniture around so it already looked SO much better!  Except for finishing the bulletin boards, cleaning, and doing something with my back wall. See how sad it looks? It really needed some help.  My Pinterest addiction definitely came into play this week.

To brighten up the corner of the room, AND to help label the colors in English and Spanish for my Dual Language kids, I (and my amazing momma) made tissue paper pom-poms.  For the tutorial, go here!

The finished product, labeled in English and Spanish

They turned out so cute!!  And they definitely added a pop of color and interest to the back corner!  In the bottom corner of the picture you can also see a little of the bunting I added to the windows to give them some color too.

Also, I put up the Science Word Wall (Palabras de Ciencias) and the letters for my English and Spanish word walls.  This year I will be teaching 2-Way Dual Language.  I’ll post more about this later, but the basics are:

1) My homeroom and math blocks will be a mix of native-English and Spanish speakers.

2) Language arts is taught in the students’ native language so I’ll be teaching English language arts.

3) Science is taught only in Spanish and Math is only taught in English.  I will teach 2 math blocks in English and my teaching partner will teach 2 science blocks.

Here is the state of the back wall at the end of Wednesday.  Getting there, but still a lot to do!

Great Work is Flying High!

Since my room has sort of an “outdoors” theme, I decided to use the clothespin ideas I’ve seen on (again) Pinterest.  I bought regular wooden clothespins, painted them bright green and used yarn to string them across.  I finally got to use my picket fence border I’ve had for 6 years, too!  Win-win!


Getting a little cleaner now, and I put my line down on the floor to help the kids line up.  This is especially going to be helpful since the line is going to be a lot more zig-zaggy with my desk in the way.  I used orange floor tape.  It’s great because it’s like electrical tape but it comes in TONS of colors! Oh, and I got my lamp set up behind my easel and put light bulbs in it finally!

My lovely, organized classroom library.  Once the kids get a hold of it, it probably won’t look this good.  The yellow-bordered boxes are fiction books separated by type, authors, some are by reading levels or character.  The green-bordered boxes on the left are nonfiction separated by habitat (Oceans, Desert, Arctic, Rain Forest) and Space, Animals, Biographies, My Body, etc.  The big rolling cart is full of big books and will be used as a center during Daily 5 time each day.  The red tub on top is full of Buddy Book sets – 2 books in each that are the same for kids to read as part of Read to Someone – also during the Daily 5.


The back wall is finally (pretty much) done!  The table tubs are organized with pencils, markers and books in English and Spanish.  The math manipulatives are all on the math shelves under the bulletin board.  The blue boards are up to hang math words (and to add more color to my previously sad wall).  The math board is almost complete except for the wipe-off page for the Calendar Talk (yesterday was, today is, tomorrow will be).  We’ll use this board to talk about the calendar, how many days we’ve been in school (and place value) and to have Number Talks about ways to make different numbers.

Last, but not least, here’s the writing/supplies center organized and labeled!

That’s the tour folks!  So far, so good and my class is actually ready for kids tomorrow!  Looking forward to meeting all my new kids and getting to know them!

Good luck to all you parents and teachers starting school this week!

Teacher Stuff – The Daily 5: Reading Workshop


If you are a teacher, especially in PreK through 2nd grades, you have probably heard a lot about the Daily 5 in the past few years.  The Daily 5 is a method of managing Reading and Writing Workshop for younger students created by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser.  The Daily 5 incorporates independent reading (Read to Self), partner reading (Read to Someone), reading response (Write about Reading), Word Work, and listening (Listen to Reading) to create a more independent  more rigorous and easier-to-manage reading block.

I first began using the Daily 5 when I started teaching 2nd grade a few years ago.  Before then, I taught 3rd grade for 3 years.  I read the book, researched and read about other teachers who had been using it in their classrooms.  By the time school started I was ready!  I was immediately sold!  My 2nd graders were more independent readers and writers in the first 6 weeks of school than my 3rd graders had EVER been!  It was so exciting to see them reading, writing, focused and pushing themselves like never before!

So, last year when I came to 1st grade, I knew it was so important that I start the year with the Daily 5 right away.  I wanted to instill a sense of purpose and independence in them to help them become amazing readers and writers.

First, I set up a magnetic word wall.  I got the idea from a fabulous Kindergarten teacher who retired last summer but passed on 35+ years of experience to us before she left- THANK GOODNESS!!  I used the bottom of my chalkboard and part of a bulletin board to create the word wall.

I used self-stick magnetic tape to make letters A-F magnetic since I used the bulletin board in addition to the chalk board.  Then, I created words, laminated them and then stuck magnetic tape to the back.

The great thing about the word wall is that it is very user-friendly!  Once I showed the kids how they could take the words with them to where they were working and how to put them back, the kids began using them during reading response and writing ALL the time!  It was a huge success!

This one part of the room helped them become much more independent during the Daily 5!  They could find words they needed, help each other find words, take them with them to use and put them back all on their own!

To help with management of Guided Reading groups and Reading Center rotations, I created two charts that the kids used to monitor where they needed to be and when.

The top chart was for guided reading groups.  This took a few minutes to explain and go over with the kids and then about a week of review right before groups started (2-3 minutes each day).  After that, the kids used it frequently and it was great for subs!!  I highlighted the children’s names in my class to help them find themselves in the midst of all the 1st graders!

The bottom chart is the centers.  I changed out the sticks each day to make sure that students visited all the centers each week.  I liked the ease of use for the kids, but I think I will change this for next year somehow.  Next year, my kids will have a reading “pair” or buddy that they will rotate with.  Also, there will be time for them to go to more than one center each day so I’ll need to reflect that too.  BUT, that being said, the sticks were easy to change out and the icons made it easy for the kids to see where to go and with whom.

On a side note: The “What I Need” chart was my students’ idea!  They said that having a chart with pictures to remind them what they needed would help them remember, so we made one!  And it worked!  The kids would even refer new students to the chart when they weren’t sure what to do!  GREAT!!

Overall, I have been VERY happy with how much the Daily 5 has helped my students focus on reading and become more independent, focused readers.  The key to independent reading is MODELING!!  When I first read the Daily 5, I underestimated the “Sisters” emphasis on the need for modeling appropriate as well as inappropriate Read to Self behaviors.  But, determined to follow the method, I did it-every day, several times.  Also, increasing the amount of time each day to build stamina was a BIG help.  We started at 3 minutes (and some couldn’t even make it that long at first) and once the kids got the hang of it, we were able to increase time most days.  To help the kids remember what Read to Self looks like and sounds like, I posted a chart on the wall – also helpful for subs!
This program (and the anchor charts) really helped my kids (even my 1st graders) become independent focused readers this year!  Not to say we didn’t have to go over the behaviors and refer back to the looks like/sounds like chart every now and then, but overall the kids really came a long way!  I have become a Daily 5 Believer, have you?