Sunday, April 23, 2017

Teacher Tricks for Reading and Writing

Want some teacher tricks for reading, writing, and grammar? I am excited to share with you some fun ideas for literacy that you can use in your classroom or homeschool :)

I got a lot of positive response from my 20 Classroom Management Strategies You Can Use Right Away and Chatty Class Classroom Management Strategies and How to Help Gifted Kids posts where I compiled a lot of behavior management ideas so I figured I’d write some to show tricks for other topics like reading, writing, math, technology, parents, organization, centers, classroom set up, time management, and a whole lot more – I have a lot of posts planned and I’m really excited to share them with you all so make sure you check back often! I have included some affiliate links (I get a commission for purchases made through the links) in this post so you can easily find some of the things I show. I don’t care whether or not you buy anything – feel free to just idea scavenge if you want :) I just wanted to make it easy for you to find them!

Okay so first trick! You’ve probably seen in a lot of my literacy posts that I LOVE highlighting - a trick I love to use is labeling the highlighter!


Whatever you want them to highlight, simply write it on a white label and stick it on the highlighter. So easy!! For this activity, I just used one of my Short Vowels Reading Comprehension Passages to practice parts of speech (nouns, verbs, and adjectives).

My favorite highlighters are these chunky ones and you can use any rectangular labels like these rectangular self adhesive labels to stick on them and write what you want kids to highlight.

You can also have them highlight a specific phonics sound in a passage. You can also label each highlighter a different sight word for them to highlight when they come across it. Would you judge me if I told you I had a whole drawer of highlighters labeled with each sight word? :) It’s really visual for kids so I like this trick.

Speaking of highlighting, have you ever thought of highlighting words IN your pocket chart? Simply cut up transparent color binder dividers the size of a word and use them to highlight words on your pocket chart!


All you do is get transparent color binder dividers, cut off the tab and a straight line to cut off the 3 hole punches, and then cut what’s left into 8 equal size pieces. I fold it in half the long way, unfold, and cut along the line to get 2 strips. Then I fold the strips in half and cut to get 4 and then again to get 8 pieces total. They’re perfect for any literacy work in your pocket chart!


As you can see here, we’re working on AI and AY so we’re highlighting AY words in yellow, AI words in orange, and then also highlighting the sight word THE in blue when we see it. You can do it for phonics sounds, highlighting sight words, parts of speech, or anything you want to sort. You can do it whole group or even have students do it as a center.

I know I’ve raved about my magnetic pocket chart before but I just love it! It’s perfect for my daily graphing question (read my Graphing post if you want to see that) as well as a ton of math and literacy activities including the one above. For highlighting words, I just use index cards or basic sentence strips in the pocket chart then use the cut up dividers to highlight any sight words, parts of speech, words with the focus phonics sound, etc. 

What I use my pocket chart most for is my Phonics Pocket Chart Centers – I have them for the entire year of phonics sounds so they’re a weekly staple. I showed a lot of ways to use them in my Short A post, Digraphs post, EW UE UI post, etc. so you’ve probably seen them a lot but I wanted to show you another way to use them using DOLLAR STORE mini trash cans!


Are these trash cans not the cutest? And I got them for only a dollar each! I’ve shown you them before but I had to again because I am obsessed with these removable dry erase labels I stuck on them.

Why am I obsessed? DRY ERASE. I can literally write any phonics sound on them and then wipe it off and make it a new one the next week. They’re also removable so you can just peel them off if you want to put them somewhere else.


I use these on everything because they’re just so easy to write/wipe or peel off if I don’t want them on something anymore. They’re great for labeling buckets, centers, cubbies, etc. especially if you have students moving a lot, use a wet erase marker to label their cubbies with these instead so you can switch names easily.

Here I just write and wiped the SH / CH sort to make it a Nouns / Verbs sort in about 5 seconds :)


Kids love using dry erase markers too so I try to let that happen whenever possible. A teacher trick I LOVE is to put worksheets in heavy duty sheet protectors in a binder then let kids use dry erase markers to do the worksheets. It just makes it seem ten times more fun for some reason.


This is actually out of one of my Phonics Sound Binders which I plan on writing a post all about them soon to show how I have a binder for each phonics sound that kids can grab and work on that particular phonics sound. This is the Long i binder. All they need is the binder and a dry erase marker. 

I also plan on showing you this teacher trick in that post but here’s a sneak peek – use this tape to create reusable centers in your binder from regular worksheets instead of having to deal with scissors and glue. You definitely need heavy duty sheet protectors for this, not just regular ones, or they may rip when kids pull off the pieces. I also showed how I do this for math in my Fact Fluency post.


Both those worksheets are from my Long I No Prep pack – I have them for almost every phonics sound. If you go to my Literacy page, you can see all the sounds I have them for. I show a lot of the fun activities from them in the digraphs and other literacy posts I mentioned earlier.

I love fun hands on worksheets but I also love to do a lot of hands on centers which I think is a teach trick in and of itself :) Prefixes aren’t a lot of fun by nature but they can be if you have a lot of visuals and games. Check out my prefixes and suffixes post for examples of what I mean!

You can also switch up activities you already have by using them in different ways. If you read my CVC Bottle Cap Word Building post, you saw how I use recycled bottle caps for differentiated word building phonics centers. Well I also use them for a small groups game!

All you need are the Bottle Cap Center word cards for whatever phonics sound you’re working on and some red/yellow counters


Print out the version that has ALL the letters in the circles (none missing) and cover up as many as you want with counters. You could do just beginning sounds, just vowel sounds, just ending sounds, all the sounds, whatever!

Have the student put their finger on the counter and say the sound it is then slide it off to check. If they’re correct, they get to keep the chip. If not, it just goes back in the pile. Whoever has the most chips at the end of the game wins (or it can just be fun collecting chips)!


This can be a really fun game to play in small groups, especially for struggling students, and it’s so easily differentiated by how many/which letters you cover.

Like I said, I have these cards for just about every phonics sound so you can play the game all year. It’s also a great game or activity to have parent volunteers do with struggling kids because it’s easy and fun.

Another helpful trick for struggling students is using a storage bag with a slider to practice ABC order.


Simply use a permanent marker to write the alphabet across a bag then give it to students with their worksheet. Teach them to start at the first letter (A) to see if any words start with A. If they find one, they write it down; if not, they slide to the B and check for words that start with B and so on. It’s really helpful for students who struggle with putting words in ABC order.


That sheet is out of my Long A No Prep pack – there are ABC order sheets in all of them, though, so you can practice it weekly with each phonics sound. It’s one of those skills that most kids usually get but need to practice often to keep fresh so I like to practice it every week with the new phonics sound(s).

Okay so one of my FAVORITE tricks is a genius idea I saw from Sweet Sounds of Kindergarten that helps A TON with the frustration and mess of rough drafts and copy them into final drafts. Behold…. the clipbord stand!


Take any clipboard and turn it into a stand! Seriously classroom changing. They can just clip their rough draft onto it and have it right in front of them to copy into a final draft so they’re not shuffling papers. AND… it doesn’t get lost. An edited rough draft that gets lost is even more devastating than a lost glue stick cap (the horror!), am I right?! 

All you do is buy an 8 x 10 picture frame (go to the dollar store or clearance sections to find them cheap) and take the back out of it and adhere it to the back of a clipboard and it’s done!


I actually just doubled up strong tape to adhere mine but you could probably hot glue gun it or something if you wanted. It is seriously the best! 

I have no prep writing crafts for a ton of different themes, holidays, and writing genres that I like to do each week. They’re quick and easy to make and they make really cute bulletin boards so I usually like to do a rough draft first so this is perfect for that. If you want to check out the writing crafts I do, I have a post for most months showing that month’s crafts :) Just click on the month you want: January, February, March, April, October, November, or December

I also use clipboard stands to display center directions!


The centers in my first grade math units have directions so I just clip them onto the clipboard stand to easily make any desk an independent center! This game is Race to Graph from Unit 16: Graphing and Data Analysis which you can see the other activities in action on my Graphing post about that unit. It has a lot of other pictures and ideas – if you go to my MATH page, I actually have a lot of different math posts by concept (place value, adding 3 numbers, etc.) that you can click on from that page. 

Okay more tricks!

Do you ever receive notebooks from parents or donations but they’re college ruled? Well I still use them! Just teach kids to draw a line covering 2 lines, then skip one, a line covering 2 lines, skip one, etc. It’ll take a second to teach them at first but most will get it pretty quick, especially if you do it often. For younger kids, you can do it for them – but it creates nice and big space for kids to practice correct handwriting formation… and you don’t feel like you have a cabinet full of notebooks you can’t use! :)


Another handwriting trick is to use a highlighter to create instant tracing worksheets. If you have a kid who struggles with handwriting or even just a certain letter, you can just write in highlighter and have them trace it with a pencil.


You can also just create instant worksheets at your small groups table to practice sight words, spelling words, whatever! It’s nice because you can really tailor it to them without even using a computer.

One more trick for this post! File your books to read aloud by month! I just get a little magazine holder type bin (like the ones on top of my rainbow drawers) for each month and put my special books for reading aloud in it. It makes it so easy to pull books to read or to quickly fill your display bookshelf if you have one each month. For example, spread out your classroom management books between your August and September bins, your Halloween books in the October bin, etc.  

Okay so that’s all the reading and writing tricks I’m sharing with you today! Like I said above, I have A LOT of posts planned for more teacher tricks. If you scroll down the right hand side of my blog, there are a lot of different ways to follow me and my blog so you don’t miss out! If you try any of these tricks, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!! I hope you found them helpful! :)

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

April Writing Activities and Fun Spring Learning

Is it Spring already?! April writing activities, learning about life cycles, eggs and chicks and butterflies, oh my! I love Spring because students are finally starting to follow all the classroom routines with ease… right before the year’s almost over, of course :) but I also love it because there are a lot of fun spring themed science, writing, and math opportunities in April and May.

Spring writing activities that are easy no prep crafts for fun April and May learning

Life cycles are a fun topic in science in spring. We learn about the life cycle of a butterfly first. I love to integrate science into writing as you can see in the picture above from my Spring Writing Crafts pack. I think kids learn a lot more when they write about their learning.

After learning about the life cycle of a butterfly, an easy activity is the Find and Write: Butterfly Life Cycle activity. Simply put the big picture/word cards around the room (tape them to the wall, etc.) and have kids go on a hunt to find them, match the picture on their recording sheet, and write down the vocabulary word.

Life Cycle of a Butterfly science center that is fun and easy – simply put the picture cards around your classroom and let students find and write their new science vocabulary words

It’s nice because it gets kids moving up out of their seats in a controlled, educational way. You could have the entire class do it at once or have it be a group center during literacy rotations of just 4-6 kids. Kids love having to be detectives and find the words. You can also give them magnifying glasses and clipboards if you want to make it more fun :)

After learning about the butterfly life cycle, kids can show what they’ve learned by writing out the steps of the life cycle with this easy no prep craft. I’ve shown you my other no prep crafts in other posts by month (I’ll put them all at the bottom of this post so you can check them out if you want!) – I love them because kids simply write, color, cut, and glue onto construction paper to make an instant craft that makes a great bulletin board. I was so sick of cutting out this many legs, this many eyes, etc. for crafts so I created these to make it absolutely no prep for the teacher except for printing it out :)
Super cute butterfly writing craft activity that is no prep and perfect for young kids learning about butterflies and their life cycle


Like I said, I love integration across subjects whenever possible so it’s great to mix math in there too! This Butterfly Place Value puzzle is an easy way to get in a ton of numbers practice:

Butterfly place value puzzle where kids grab a card with base 10 blocks and figure out the number it is and color it in to reveal a butterfly! Click this to see a video of it being done… such a fun way to practice number sense!

For this activity, kids grab a card that shows a number in base 10 blocks. They figure out what the number is then color it the color of the card on their hundreds chart. Once they do all the cards, it reveals a picture of a butterfly!! These are a kid favorite and sneak in a ton of number practice!

I actually love to put the cards on a binder ring (simply punch a hole in the top left corner of each card) like I show in this video from my Instagram.

The cards come in both this base 10 blocks version to practice place value AND a full set of cards where it just says the number. Those are much easier, of course, and great for practicing number sense. If you haven’t read my huge post about building number sense and have kids struggling with it, I recommend reading that post to get some ideas – I shared a lot of my secrets :) I also have a post about teaching place value and a lot of other math concepts if you want more math tricks.

Anyway! Next is learning about the life cycle of a frog and another Find and Write activity.

Life Cycle of a Frog science center that is fun and easy – simply put the picture cards around your classroom and let students find and write their new science vocabulary words like tadpole, froglet, etc.

Then, have students practice their first, next, then, last, etc. style of writing with a Frog no prep craft to tell you the life cycle of a frog. These make a super cute April science/writing bulletin board as well!
Frogs writing craft activity that is no prep and perfect for young kids learning about the life cycle of a frog


Another fun thing to learn and write about in spring is insects! I LOVE all of the picture heavy bugs books available for kids – kids just eat them up with the “scary” real life pictures. They’re great for nonfiction reading practice, especially the little readers for small groups.

Insects writing craft that is NO PREP perfect for learning about bugs in science in the springtime! Click for a ton of fun Spring activities and writing prompts!

This is a quick little writing craft to do about insects if you learn about them too!

I also have one specifically for Ants because I know a lot of teachers teach specifically about ants so it’s an easy way for students to recap their learning with this cute little guy!

Ants writing craft that is NO PREP perfect for learning about insects in science in the springtime! Click for a ton of fun Spring activities and writing prompts!

Plants and how they grow is also another spring science concept!

How Plants Grow writing craft that is NO PREP perfect for learning about plants in science in the springtime! It’s also a great opportunity to practice how to writing. Click for a ton of fun Spring activities and writing prompts!

This can be an easy transition into practicing How To writing. Here's another fun one to practice procedural writing:

How to Fly a Kite is a great Spring writing prompt for kids to practice how to writing in a fun way

If you have the time to do a “science experiment” of taking the kids out for an extra recess where you try to fly a kite, it is such a fun way to bring their writing to life. I am awful at actually getting the kite up in the air but maybe you’re more skilled than me ;) After flying the kite, they can write about it in how to writing format to practice procedural writing.

… and it wouldn’t be spring without some bunnies! Here’s a quick little craft to do if you learn about rabbits:

So many fun Spring themed writing prompts and ideas that are wonderful for practicing writing

Speaking of bunnies… I have some fun Easter bunny crafts too if you do Easter activities in your home or classroom. All of the writing no prep crafts you saw above this (not the Find and Writes) are in the Spring Writing Crafts pack.

Now I’m going to show you some fun no prep crafts from my Easter Writing Crafts pack!

A TON of fun Easter writing activities that are no prep crafts and other fun ideas

A really fun way to get their imaginations going is to pretend that THEY are the Easter bunny and tell them to come up with a funny story of what would happen if they were the Easter bunny. Brainstorm some funny mishaps together and then let them write their own.

If I Were the Easter Bunny writing prompt and other fun Easter writing activities - there are a ton of ideas on this post for Spring learning in science, writing, and math!

Another creative writing piece they can do is The Magic Egg… another fun one to brainstorm what the magic egg could be, what could it do, etc. and then let them come up with their own stories.

The Magic Egg is a fun Spring creative writing prompt! Click to check out all these fun April writing activities and ideas on this post!

I love using plastic eggs for so many things in April. You can make centers so much more fun by putting things in eggs :) One fun idea is to get the clear plastic eggs and put dice in them for when they roll dice in centers. It’s just an easy way to incorporate a little fun AND the dice don’t go flying everywhere!

Another how to writing opportunity is How to Hunt for Eggs:

How to Hunt for Eggs is a perfect Easter writing prompt to practice how to writing all in a fun no prep craft - all you do is print and students write, color, cut, and glue for a super easy April bulletin board

To prepare for this craft, you could have an egg hunt in your classroom where you crumple up center cards for a skill and put them inside plastic eggs. Then, have students go around trying to find them and answer the questions like the Find and Write activities I showed before. You could do this with any center activity that has cards and a recording sheet!

I just love Spring! If you read my blog regularly, you also know I have a new behavior chart for every month (as well as other themed ones for fun throughout the year like pirates, circus, under the sea, etc.) so of course I have a Spring one!

Spring behavior chart - I love switching out my clip chart every month to keep it fresh and exciting. Everyone wants to be the Top Frog so it’s a great classroom management strategy :)

I love switching them out every month. If you want to read about my system and see my other behavior charts, it’s in this post: 20 Classroom Management Strategies You Can Start Right Away

Every kiddo will want to be the Top Frog obviously :) But really, kids love trying to get to the top of the chart to get the new certificate (in this case “Top Frog”) to take home to their parents and such!

Another fun Spring holiday is Earth Day! Here are some fun ideas for Earth Day that I like to do:

Fun ideas for Earth Day like this place value puzzle where kids grab a card with base 10 blocks and figure out the number it is and color it in to reveal a fun Spring message! Click this to see a video of it being done… such a fun way to practice number sense!

This Earth Day Puzzle is another place value activity like the butterfly one above :)

Earth Day is a great opportunity to discuss how it’s important to take care of Earth – I also have some Earth Day writing crafts I like to have available in the writing center.

Earth Day writing activities that are NO PREP! Just print and kids simply write, color, cut, and glue to make a super easy Spring bulletin board to show how they take care of our planet

As well as talk about the importance of recycling! There is a ton of paper used in K-2 so I love to emphasize the importance of recycling whenever possible. We also talk about how we recycle water bottle caps to use in math and literacy centers like my CVC Bottle Caps Word Building and other things we can reuse or recycle.

Recycling writing activity that is an easy NO PREP craft! I love these Earth Day writing prompts and ideas for April and May

Anyway! That’s what I have for spring :) I am working on a TON of blog posts right now to show teaching tricks and classroom management strategies that I’m really excited about so make sure you check back! There are a lot of different ways to follow along on the right side (by email, IG, etc.) if you want as well. I’m really excited about them!

In the meantime, here are some other blog posts you might like:
Chatty Class Class Management Strategies
Digraphs Activities and Ideas
Phonics Fluency Notebooks
EW UE UI Activities (the ideas can be used for any phonics skill)
Composing Shapes (go to MATH to see all my math posts)

Here are my posts for the other months:
January Writing Crafts
February Writing Crafts

March Writing Crafts
December Writing Crafts
November Writing Crafts
October Writing Crafts


Thanks for reading! I'd love to hear from you in the comments :)