Friday, October 25, 2019

Phonics Sounds Binders

Phonics Sounds Binders are one of my favorite secret tools for teaching reading! Keep reading to peek inside one of them :)

Phonics sounds binders - peek inside mine!

They are so great for helping students who are struggling readers (whether it's with a specific phonics sound or in general). They're also awesome activities you don't ever have to prep once you do it once for those "I'm finished!" moments during centers. They can grab a binder off the shelf.

Yes, they can grab it!! I recommend making one for each phonics sound you learn and putting them on a low bookshelf students can easily grab and take them to their seats.

Put them in the order that you learn the sounds so it is easy for them (and you) to put them back. You could also have a ruler, pointer, or long object they put in between the 2 binders they took it out from so that they know exactly where to put it back when they're done :) That's a teaching trick I absolutely love and makes shelf organization something the kids can do!

They do take a little bit of time to prep but once you do it once, you have it to use with your classes year after year!

They are also fantastic for, if you have a volunteer or someone who comes in to help in your classroom, you ALWAYS have something prepared for them to work with a student. Phew!

Okay, so let's look inside one of them!!!!


Phonics Worksheets Section of Binder

Long i worksheets in a binder for easy write and wipe practice!



The beginning of the binder has worksheets they can simply write the answers on with dry erase markers.

Long i sound words practice... look at this fun way to do this in a binder!!



They can go through and do the pages in the binder (or as much as they get done before clean up time) then wipe it when they're all done! So instead of printing copies of worksheets, they can use this same one over and over and over and over and over :)

Short and long i worksheets where students look at the fun picture then circle the correct spelling of the word for simple and easy practice!


It's so funny, you put the worksheets in sheet protectors and give them markers and all of a sudden, a regular worksheet feels like a game or challenge they're so excited to do.

Put the sheets in back to back (2 worksheets in each sheet protector) so you can fit as many pages as possible in the binder.

Long i word families worksheets and activities for easy and fun practice


All of these pages so far are out of my Long I No Prep Phonics Pack which has over 65 different long I worksheets to choose from and is heavily differentiated so you can pick the exact worksheets you want for the binder.

I recommend picking just 1 or 2 of each kind of worksheet so the binder stays exciting. If you're new to my Phonics Packs, I have them for almost every phonics sound and the activities are consistent throughout them so you'll never have to explain HOW to do each worksheet once they've done it before.

So, even though the sound may change, the activity is the same so they can spend all their focus on learning the new sound, rather than how to do the activity. Plus, like I said, you don't have to explain directions for any of the binders and they can truly manage it themselves.... SO nice.


Circle and sort long i words and short i words in this super fun activity for long vowel practice!


Sometimes I put more than one version of the same activity though! The Circle & Sorts above are a great example of that.

The first one I showed you was having them read sentences and sorting the words in the sentences by Long I word family. I like to include a sort for all of the word families so they get a ton of practice reading and sorting.

This is a favorite activity because you get to use 2 colors of markers to sort the words :)

Long i crossword worksheet puzzle that kids love to practice phonics sounds - these are one of my favorites!


The crossword is another favorite! If you think your kids might not be able to do it, try it! You'll probably be shocked how even your struggling readers can do this and it is adorable how proud of themselves they are for completing a crossword. I love it!

These are just some of the worksheets from my Long I No Prep pack that I would include. Other great ones to include are any of the word and sentence practice sheets - pick out whichever ones you want!

A favorite I love to include are the A-maze-ing Sentences sheets. At least 1 of those is in each no prep pack and they're a lot of fun!


Reading Activities Section

The next section is SO fun! Once they get past the worksheets section (or however many worksheets you want them to do first), they get to do the ACTIVITIES section!

Short or Long Vowel sort of fun pictures by the phonics sound they represent plus easy directions for how to make this into a game as you see here


I grab a handful of cut and paste worksheets also from my no prep pack and turn them into binder games!

All you do to make them is:

- Print TWO copies of the cut and paste

- Slide 1 of them in a heavy duty sheet protector

- Laminate the 2nd copy and cut out just the answer pieces

- Use fastener tape to put the fuzzy side directly onto the sheet protector where you want that answer to go. Also put a fuzzy side on each answer in the answer bank. This is where the pieces will start and where they put them back when they're done.

Note: Fastener tape is one of my favorite things!! If you've never used it - it comes like a roll of tape and you cut off the exact size you want. Then you peel it apart and it'll have a fuzzy side and a scratchy side that lock together. When you cut off a piece, I recommend making it slightly smaller than the box you're putting the answer in like below and putting it directly in the middle of the box.

- Put the scratchy side that is the exact same size of where the answer goes onto that answer piece.

Long vowel word families -ive -ite and -ide sort and so many other fun activities for long i


See how there is a fuzzy side in each of the answer boxes? The answer pieces all have a scratchy piece that matches in size on the back of them. I don't recommend doing it the other way around because then your pages are scratchy and it'll scratch up the sheet protector next to it.

See how you can see past the fuzzy pieces at the bottom where the answers were on the original cut and paste? This is SO nice and why you print 2 copies instead of putting a half sheet in the sheet protector. It makes putting the pieces back to reset it SO easy. They know exactly where to put them. AND if a piece ever falls on the floor, you can find what sheet it went to & exactly where it goes in order to put it back! You can also easily tell if a piece was put back in the wrong place (and this waayy limits that from happening). This. is. everything. haha


Long i activities binder - easy directions for how to make it!


I like to put a handful of them in there and have 2 showing at once when you open the binder like this.

They can practice matching the picture to the word with the "I Can Read" sheet...

Long i words practice - easy directions for how to make this into a fun phonics center!


and then be challenged a little bit more when they work on the Secret Word activity. The Secret Word worksheets are another one of my favorites.

Long i games DIY centers, so easy and fun!


They build the picture they see with each letter (in this example, they can use the activity they did next to this for assistance) and write the word. Once they're all done building the 3 pictures, they'll have leftover letters! They unscramble them to figure out the secret word! It's a lot of fun!


ABC order with long vowels words and other fun long i activities


I also like having 1 ABC Order sheet in every phonics binder to keep that skill fresh!

They simply move the words from the answer bank in alphabetical order in the boxes.

ABC order fun and easy practice


I wanted to show a close up picture of this one so you can see the tape is a smaller, more rectangle shaped piece for this activity sheet. That's the awesome thing about the tape - you can cut it to the exact size you want! Play around with it to figure out the size you like.

Once they have a lot of word practice, I definitely recommend putting in 1 or 2 of the cut and pastes from the no prep packs that practice sentences. It's great that they can read the words but it's so important for them to read them in sentences too. It's especially great if you can give them picture support with something like this:

Long i sentences practice with picture support - love these for building reading fluency and confidence!


For this activity, they read the sentence then put the picture that matches what they read next to the sentence. Easy but wonderful practice for moving from words to sentences.


Reading Comprehension Section

Now that they are ready for sentences, they are ready for the next section of the binder: Reading Comprehension Practice!

Long i reading passages that focus on 1 long vowel word family at a time for super focused fluency practice


Put all the word family reading passages for that sound in here and it's a great resource to grab anytime to practice reading that sound with a kid. Perfect to have available if you have anyone come in the room to work with and read with struggling students.

You can use your own or whatever your kids are used to.

These simple long vowel word family passages are perfect for practicing reading words with each phonics sound. 

If you notice, that passage focuses on the -ike word family, not all long i sounds.

If you want to include your own passages, I highly recommend only putting ones that focus on a word family at a time while working on short and long vowels. If it's ALL long i words, that might feel overwhelming or hard to read for some kids. This binder is meant to be a support and the quickest way to discourage a little reader is to give them something they can't read.

Plus, if the passages feel easy for them, it will build their fluency AND confidence. :)

If you need word family passages, these are from the Long Vowels and More Word Families Reading Passages set. I also have a short vowels word set as well as sets for vowel teams, bossy R, beginning blends, ending blends, digraphs, soft c and g... that are all in my Reading Comprehension Passages ULTIMATE BUNDLE if you want a ton of these for the year.

If they're doing it independently in the binder, you can have them circle the word family or sound they're working on in the corner like in the picture above. Then highlight words they come across with that sound while reading. Then, they read it a 2nd time with fluency. Last, they answer the comprehension questions at the bottom. It's great phonics, fluency, and comprehension practice all in one if you have them do that. :)

If you already have your own passages then you can use those. Just make sure they're easy and fun ones so the binder stays fun. Bonus points if they have pictures like mine. They can color those with the marker after they're done if they want.


Writing Practice

The next section is writing practice with words with the phonics sound - woohoo!

Long i writing paper with words down the side to make writing stories or even simple sentences super easy and fun!


Let's be real, it can be so tough to get some kids to write. Some kids love writing and other kids absolutely hate it. The solution?? Phonics Picture Helpers Writing Paper! They help SO much with the "I don't know what to write about!" and "I don't know how to spell it" objections. 

They're included in each sound's no prep phonics pack and have words with that phonics sound down the side.

Kids use the words down the side to write a story!

For kids who struggle with writing, need more inspiration, or simply like having 3 separate little stories, they can use the version below with 3 boxes.

Phonics writing paper in different levels that helps kids by providing pictures and words to include in their story!


The 3 boxes versions are great for the kids who really struggle to come up with writing. They can pick 1 picture from the side for each box to write a sentence about and draw a picture.

Most of your kids will probably use the sheet on the right, though. You can challenge your high kids with it by seeing how many of the words they can fit in their story and make it a fun challenge.


Phonics Games

Okay the last section... games!

You can put any games you have for the sound in here! As long as they are a page, they will fit! Spin A Word from my no prep packs is a fun option or anything where they roll dice to complete the page.


Long i reading practice in the form of a game! Kids roll the dice to read long i words then sentences with them!


I include level A (top left corner) of each word family (top right corner) in the binder in the words version first then the sentences version that includes those words.

They roll the dice then read the line for the number they roll on. Simple and easy reading practice!

Long vowel reading games to help build fluency and phonics skills!


If you want, you can put the level A version AND the level B version in there.

Long i word families like -ide in words and sentences for a ton of reading practice



Kids can roll and read independently, with you, or with a partner.

That's what I put in the back of my binder but you can also stuff any center activities you have in a sheet protector if you want to put centers in the back. You may not have room though - these fill up quick! It's really easy to put a center into a sheet protector though and adds to your binder's fun!

You may remember these roll and read games from my Short A Activities blog post where I show the short vowel versions of these :) They're a fun center!

So that's my Long I Binder!! 

I hope you enjoyed peeking inside of it! I am going to list some of the most common questions below with my answers but if you don't see yours, ask me in the comments section so I can help.

I hope you've enjoyed this post! If you want to see an organized list of other blog posts by me, 
be sure to check out my Miss Giraffe's Blog Post List page!


FAQ (feel free to ask me more below!)

Do you always use white copy paper for the binders?

I do. 

I absolutely love using bright colored paper typically and usually love having colorful activities for centers. You may remember my explanation of how I use fastener tape to turn cut and paste activities, much like the ones above, into colorful and reusable math center games in my Fact Fluency blog post (scroll to the red "Fact Fluency" center to see it).

However, for the phonics sound binders, I like to use white paper.

If a student is using the binder, it may be because they're struggling with the sound. I don't want them distracted by bright colors. I have had binders of colored centers and it's just too messy and overwhelming looking.

Also, having only white copy paper makes all of the activities look like the same "fun level" and they go through it so much quicker and thoroughly. A piece of colored paper sticks out in a stack of white paper. They'll race to get to it, thinking it looks more fun. Kid psychology, I don't know haha.


When do I use them?

Any time you want!

I think it's fun to make it a super exciting thing like, "Oooh Bailey, you finished your work?? You can pick a binder if you want!" so they're all excited to do them. Or even, "You can find a friend, pick a spot, and do a binder if you want!" 

If using it as a fast finisher activity like that, don't pick what pages they do or which sound they pick, let them do whatever they want. Even if your most advanced reader picks the Short A binder. Even if they skip right to the activities section or the game section, that's totally fine, they're still busy reading and learning! You can also have it be one of many fast finisher options so it keeps its allure. If it's always available (like anything in a classroom), kids can lose interest.

What I love them for most is helping a student struggling with a certain sound. They're fantastic for your struggling students to go back to any sound they need help with and specifically practice that.

Let's say you have a student that is on grade level but really struggles with beginning blends - grab that binder and work with them for 5 minutes or so after their small group is finished or during centers. It's so nice to have something to grab for those situations that is already prepped for you. Flip to reading passages... or do the activities with them... or write a silly story together using the words. It's an easy way to squeeze in a whole lot of practice!

You could also have a struggling student work on the binder for the sound for the previous week (or any sound they struggle with) as their center work a day or two. Instead of, not addition to. If they're struggling, you don't want to add to their work pile. They'll probably be very happy to skip their normal work to work on a binder instead and they'll get a lot of practice with the exact skill you want them to work on. If their normal work is something social or fun that they wouldn't want to miss out on or really enjoy (like reading with a friend), I'd keep that instead of the binder though.

If a parent shows up at your door in the morning wanting to volunteer without notice for you to prepare anything (eek!), you can have them grab a binder and work with a student. Then you don't have to scramble to figure out something for them to do. This is one of my favorite reasons for making binders. I find that ahh-what-can-I-have-you-do scramble so stressful.

If you have advanced students who finish their work super early and ask for more things to do (I was that kid), act like they're getting special VIP access to pick a binder for a sound you haven't even learned yet... gasp! It will challenge them and probably make them feel special. This is a lot of extra work (only once though!) but if you have either of my Phonics No Prep Packs bundles and there are sounds in there your curriculum doesn't teach (for example: the EW UE UI sounds), you could make a small binder for that sound that they can do. It will help extend their learning and reading skills AND they'll feel so cool they're working on a sound their grade doesn't even do.


Ways I DON'T recommend using these:

As a punishment or what they use if they 'fail' work for a particular sound. They shouldn't know they're doing the binder because they struggle with that sound or it loses aaaaall its fun.

I also don't recommend making it a mandatory activity they have to finish. If they don't finish multiple pages, that's okay! They're for fun and practice! They can pull them out and put them back, do 1 page or do 10 pages. I recommend keeping it laidback to keep it fun. You can "check" it like I said above so they don't just sit there but I'd make that a super quick skim and not stressful for them. Actually skimming it to see how they did is a great and quick formal assessment though too!

One of the cool things about it being a binder is they can take it to their seat and easily carry all the work they did to you to show it to you if you call them up to see it! This is probably me being cheesy as usual but try to act enthusiastic and super proud of them if they show you they completed a page or want you to flip through the worksheets or activities they did to show you :)


Can I send these home with a struggling student to work on at home?

I really, really, really, really don't recommend doing that. Did I say really enough? haha! They take a lot of prep work for you to send it home, not knowing how they're going to treat it or if you'll get it back. They could take out or move pages, lose activity pieces in their home or in their backpack, or damage it. It's just such a huge and wonderful resource that I recommend not ever letting it leave your classroom. Not even within the school.


What size binders do you use?

That is up to you! Mine are 1" and 1.5" depending on the sound. I highly recommend making ONE and seeing how thick yours is. You don't want it to be so stuffed that is hard to turn the pages.

The activities section makes it a lot thicker faster since the fastener tape is not flat. They also take the most time to prep compared to simply sliding pages into sheet protectors. An easy way to make your binder less thick (and spend way less time prepping) is to limit the number of those. BUT they are part of what make the binders so fun and game-like so I recommend including a handful of them at least.

Once you pick out the binder size you want, I recommend buying bulk sets of binders so they're all the same. I use white binders but you could do pink binders for short vowels, green binders for long vowels, blue binders for digraphs, and so on. That would make it a lot faster to find the binder you want and be really pretty on your bookshelf. :)


What if a student doesn't wipe it and reset it?

You can train them to always wipe it and reset it when they're done OR you can have a specific place they put the "done" binder so you can "check" it then put it to another specific place where fast finishers can grab it to reset it. 

You can also make it a classroom job for one of your fast finisher kids to reset any binders that land in the Reset Pile. 

If you want accountability (again, I recommend keeping that as light as possible if you can) for doing the binder, you can do it that way so they know you're going to look at what they did. Totally up to you whether you do or not, they won't know if you skimmed through it before putting it in the Reset Pile. :)

I recommend having a Reset Pile either way so if there are times where a student doesn't have enough time to finish resetting it (ex: they get picked up early), someone that's not you can reset it. You could even have them put it there even if they think they reset the whole thing for the person with that class job to check it before putting it back on the shelf.

The less you have to manage it, the better!


Can I make these for other skills?

Of course! I make something similar for each concept in my math units

The Composing Shapes binder is probably my favorite one! You could also make them for grammar skills or whatever you want!


Where do I get the pages to put in them? 

You can use your own or I have No Prep Phonics Packs for almost every phonics sound. You can get them for each sound you want to teach or I have them in 2 big bundles. This Literacy Page shows all the sounds I have if you scroll down a tiny bit. The specific pack I used in this example was the Long I No Prep Pack. I have them for a ton of different phonics sounds so you can use them to keep your binders the same all year if you want!

I also showed pages from the Long Vowel Word Families Reading Passages and Long Vowel Word Families Roll and Read Centers. I also have those in the other sounds as well.

I have a TON of phonics activities and, if I have them for one phonics sound, I usually have them for the other sounds too so you can keep your activities consistent all year. You can see a lot of pictures of my phonics activities in my Short A Activities and Digraphs Activities posts. If I show something for those sounds, I probably have it for the sound you're looking for too. I absolutely love reading and phonics as well as writing about them so I hope you enjoy those posts if you read them.

You can also use your own worksheets and activities and simply use this idea, of course! My biggest recommendation is to make sure the activity types aren't new in the binders so kids can do them independently without needing directions.


Any additional advice?

I already mentioned this but make sure you get heavy duty sheet protectors if you're going to make the fastener tape activities so they don't rip when kids take the pieces on and off.

Also - I already mentioned this too but these DO take a bit of time to prep each one. I recommend making ONE to see how long it takes you before you commit to making one for every sound you learn. You can really adjust how much you put in them to make prep take longer or less time as well. You could easily start out with binders that only have 10 pages in them - a few worksheets and a few activities. You can build them later and slowly make them thick like mine have become. Mine didn't start out that way! I added to it as I thought certain worksheets or activities would be fun to include. The great thing about a binder is you simply unclick and click it to add or take away pages. A 10 page binder for each sound is still AWESOME.

I know many people don't but if you do have volunteers, you can give them the sheets you want in the binder in order and have them slide them in the sheet protectors back to back for you. That would save a ton of time prepping! Prep them for the volunteer by putting the papers for each binder in an empty binder (be mindful of which ones will be back to back and next to each other when you're putting them in order) and have them stuff them. I personally like doing that myself so I can make the binder exactly how I want it but it really would save a lot of prep time to enlist help putting the pages in.

Make sure you pull out the 2nd copy of any of the activities sheets you want to use fastener tape to make so the 2nd copy doesn't end up in the binder. Set those aside to be laminated and the answers cut out.

This may sound silly but I recommend YOU put the fastener tape on the sheet protectors and answer pieces because, let's face it, many of us are perfectionists with that sort of thing and you can NOT pull that off in a pretty way once it's on there so you want it straight and in the right places.

& Lastly, don't stress yourself trying to make these each week. Make them as you make them and add them to your shelf. Maybe it takes you a whole year to get them done and you use them only a little this year. No worries! You'll have them already all done all year the next year. :)

Happy phonics binder making!!

Feel free to ask any other questions you have below and I will try to answer! :)

If you want to save any of these ideas for later, I made it so you can hover over any of the pictures and click the red "Save" button to pin them to your Pinterest boards. You can also follow me on Pinterest if you want to see more fun ideas like this as I share them! Thank you so much for reading!
  

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Tips for Changing Grade Levels

Changing grade levels and need some tips? I can help! First, with some sympathy, and then with a lot of advice to get you started on this new journey :)

Switching grades is extremely overwhelming. Especially if it wasn’t your choice. It feels like you’re being asked to start all over again. Even if it was your choice, it can still seem daunting. Those somehow still so familiar feelings of panic and inadequacy you had as a first year teacher arise when you remember your first year of teaching and have the sudden fear that this might be like being a brand new teacher all over again.

Don’t be afraid though! First of all, it’s not your first year teaching again and this might actually end up being your favorite grade you never knew you loved (just go with me on this).

Even if you’re leaving a grade you love, and are so comfortable with, for what seems like a whole other world, I promise I have both words of comfort and practical advice for you that I hope can help you make an easy transition to your new grade level.

Although scary at first, this change might refresh and renew your love of teaching and halfway through the year you’ll wonder how you could ever go back to kindergarten… or fourth grade, or wherever you came from.

I hope I can comfort you in this transition but also give you actionable tips that you can use today to help you in your new adventure next school year… but I am going to start with comfort because, let’s face it, that’s what you need most right now. At least for a minute. I’d hug you if I could. Having to change grade levels is really tough. You go through a range of emotions that you have every right to feel.

If you are moving to first grade, definitely check out:
I already laid out e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g. for you! :)

If you are switching to kindergarten or second grade, I still think it’d be a really helpful read for you! I laid out everything a teacher new to first grade would want to know – from how to teach math and set up your math block, to all the components to teaching reading, to classroom management, to classroom set up, to how to fit in science and social studies… with a lot of pictures to help guide you!

Okay, let’s get started. This post is long but I think you’ll find it helpful if you read it through.


Step 1: First, Give Yourself Permission to Feel However You Feel
You may feel angry that you’re being asked to move. You may feel sad about it. You probably feel both, depending on the day. You may feel panic and fear. You may feel like you’re scrambling. You may wonder, with everything else you have going on, how you’ll be able to “start over.” You may feel really, really down. It is normal to feel these things.

Give yourself permission to feel every way about it that you do.

What grade you teach can feel like a big part of your identity. “I teach third grade!” is something you’re not only used to saying but it’s really part of who you are and who you’ve been. It is perfectly okay to mourn the loss of your old grade level, of that identity you’ve become so accustomed to. Cry if you need to, go in your backyard and let out a scream if you need to.

Let yourself feel all those emotions so that you can get it out of your system and get to the next one – excitement for your new grade level! Once you’re ready for the excited phase (and you may have to fake it at first), push away any thoughts about how you’ll miss your old grade level or team or whatever – and focus on your exciting new adventure!


Step 2: Remember what a good teacher you already are.
This isn’t starting all over. You’re not reliving your first year. Back then, you were new to the grade level and new to teaching. Yes, the content you’re teaching is a bit different but kids are kids. So many of the classroom management tricks you’ve picked up and used in kindergarten will work in third grade too, and vice versa. If anything, it’s probably a slightly different approach than the kids are used to and might work really well because of that.

Your time management skills, organization systems, etc. have grown so tremendously since your first year and they are still intact.

The vast majority of teacher awesomeness skills you’ve accumulated are not grade level specific and are completely transferable to this new grade. Some may need a few tweaks but many don’t need any tweaking at all.

This is not like your first year. I repeat: This is not like your first year. Keep reminding yourself of that! If you are a GREAT teacher, you’re a great teacher. Period.  & Before you question that you’re a great teacher, don’t. A great teacher is the one who reads blogs like you are right now and is always trying to improve. What this tells me about you is that you care and are also possibly hard on yourself because you care so much. It’s really easy (and normal!) when being faced with a grade level change to question your abilities in all aspects of teaching so if you’re doing that, know that it’s perfectly normal to do so but it is also silly so tell that voice to shhh :) You will rock this new grade level.

Even if this is just going to be your 2nd year teaching, you still have a whole year of tricks you’ve learned and personal experiences of what worked and what didn’t to bring into this new year. So, above all, I want you to not be hard on yourself. This IS going to be a lot of work. It will be overwhelming at times (when is teaching not though?) but you’ve got this. You’ve totally got this.

…and you might just love it!
Okay I promise I will get to the actionable tips really soon but I feel like mindset is half the battle here and switching grade levels can be a really emotional thing so it’s important to nurture your feelings, not just your bulletin boards.


Step 3: Use your current grade level expertise to plan for this one.
Take a second to write down your absolute favorite activities or things you do in your current grade level. You’re probably thinking, “I can’t do ___ in [new grade]!” Actually, you probably can! Just take a moment to sit down with a pen and notebook in hand and think of your favorite activities from this year or previous years, write them down on a piece of paper with a line space in between. A writing prompt kids really liked, a craft you did for a holiday, a math center the kids really enjoyed, a fun activity you all did together, a book they really loved that you read aloud, a science topic they thought was interesting… etc.

Then, for each one, map quickly how you could modify it to do it in your new grade level. I bet you can and that modifying it for your new grade will actually make it better.

This is especially easy to do for your favorite seasonal and holiday activities. Think of the fun things you did this year and see how you could do them in your new grade level. Even if you’re moving 4 or 5 grade levels up or down, you can still do this.

If you’re moving down in grade level, you can take that activity and make it way more fun by making it craftier or more hands on or less writing lines or less difficult ways to show their knowledge. If you’re moving up in grade level, you can make it way better by digging deeper and exploring more… doing cooler, more complex projects about the topic. If it’s a writing activity, it might just be more or less lines or a little tweak to the directions.

If you have trouble coming up with ways to make it in your new grade, search that topic and your new grade level together on Pinterest. I bet someone has come up with something!

You’ll be so surprised to see you can still do the vast majority of your favorite activities from your previous grade level. I feel like that brings a lot of comfort and helps you see you’re not totally starting over.

Seriously try it, have an open mind, and start planning there :) Even if it’s a multiplication project and now you’re moving to first grade, I bet you can find a way to make that activity for addition and/or subtraction. In fact, I know you can because if you read my Addition Fact Fluency blog post with all my ideas for how to help kids master all their addition facts, I literally made that unit and its activities into a multiplication fact fluency unit and I actually think that unit is even better!

Because I make teaching resources, I constantly have teachers in different grade levels asking me to make an activity I have but for their grade level. 9 times out of 10, it’s actually easy to do!  


Step 4: Utilize Your New Team and/or the Current Teacher(s) in that Grade
If you have a team you’re joining, ask them how they do things! Go into their classrooms, look at their set up – how do they organize centers? How do they do small groups? How do they do everything? Ask them questions!

If you find out you’re changing grade levels before the current school year ends, go into those classrooms during your specials or any breaks you have during the day to see what it’s like with kids in that grade in the classroom. Go visit the teacher and low key spy on the class to see what that age is like. It’ll give you an idea of what that grade level is like, what to expect from the kids, etc. Even more awesome if you can see them during centers or an activity. Look over their shoulders to see where they are. Don’t let it scare you if the class you visit is a little crazy – that teacher is not you and you might run your classroom way differently – plus, it is the end of the school year and, let’s face it, everybody’s tired :) It’ll give you a great idea, though, of what the grade level is like. If you’re teaching a different grade level, you most likely have specials/lunch/etc. at different times so that makes it easy to pop in and say hello for a few minutes to that teacher and do some undercover work :) Don’t stay a long time, just pop in and say hello, say you wanted to check out what __ graders are like.

You could also pop into the grade level of the kids you’ll have next year to see where they’re at. If you’re going to be teaching third grade next year, pop into the 2nd grade classrooms. That’s actually a great way to see where they are at academically, behaviorally, level of independence, etc. Even if you’re moving to a new school, it still will give you an idea of that grade and where they’re at toward the end of the year which gives you a good idea of how they’ll be when they come back in the fall.


Step 5: Utilize Social Media
If you’re reading my blog, you probably already do this but utilize social media! There are SO many great ideas out there ready to be found. There are also so many wonderful people sharing how they do things, tips for pretty much everything, and many of these people are so willing to help you! Find the ones in your grade level and/or that inspire you.

If you see something cool on social media, even if it’s in the background of a photo, don’t be afraid to ask them what it is, how they use it, what they recommend, etc. A lot of people are so willing to help! You know those teacher hearts. Teachers love to help. I type out novels when people ask me questions sometimes and it makes me feel good to know I helped someone… and I know a lot of other people feel the same. I never feel like you’re bothering me and I’m sure others feel the same so don’t be afraid to reach out for help. If you don’t get a response from someone, please try not to be upset though – they may get hundreds of questions a day (especially if they have a large social media following) and simply miss your question or maybe they simply don’t have an answer they feel is good enough to give you so they let your message sit until they feel like they have something helpful to say. Search your question first though – there are probably already blog posts about it!


Step 6: Start Planning By Subject Now
This is the biggest tip that will help launch you into feeling ready. I love this one.

Don’t just plan and gather materials for each new concept as it comes up in your curriculum during the school year. That can leave you feeling overwhelmed all year long, with that feeling of always scrambling to catch up, which is probably one of your fears going into this new journey. There’s an easy way to solve that!

Look at your standards in your new grade level. Create a Pinterest board for each subject or major standard for the entire year. This is super quick to do. Simply create the empty boards first.

I recommend breaking it way down – have a board for each math skill – a board for fractions, a board for addition, a board for measurement, a board for telling time, etc.

I do this and it helps me so much! You can look at my organized boards here and feel free to save any or all of my pins to your own boards if you teach K-3 and would use any of the ideas.

See how my boards are organized by topic?

I have a board for each type of phonics skill. I have a short vowels board, a long vowels board, a vowel teams board, a digraphs board, and so on. I also have a board for each math skill (a board for number sense, a board for adding 3 numbers, a board for geometry, etc.), a board for classroom management, a board for grammar. You could break each grammar skill too into boards with a board for nouns, a board for prefixes and suffixes, etc. and do that for any subject – science, writing, etc.

I also recommend separate boards for each holiday you do in the classroom. Yes, this is a lot of boards BUT it makes it so much easier to find what you’re looking for when you have such specific boards. Then, when you go to teach that skill, you can go straight to that board and have a bunch of ideas you personally picked out to help you feel excited, inspired, and ready to teach it.

If you just have a huge “2nd grade” board, you’re going to scroll and scroll and scroll and get so distracted by ALL the things you’ve ever pinned that you won’t get much done when you go to plan. This digital organization of each concept will save you so much time during the year!

Throughout the summer, as you’re looking online for fun ideas, save them to the board they fit on and then when you go to teach that skill, you’ll have all these ideas already all there for you!

Plus, this will help get you excited for your new grade level!

Now it’s time to fill your boards!

Search each standard you have to teach by typing in the concept (for example, type in “Digraphs activities”) and scroll through a little bit and save ideas and activities you like.

Don’t make it a chore to fill your boards. Let it be fun! Fill them as you see things you love. Only save things you really like. Especially save things if they’re already made for you and available on TpT so when you go to teach that concept, you already have resources made for you lined up to possibly use.

Again, if you’re moving anywhere within K-2, I’ve already done a lot of the work for you by gathering ideas by subject and these are the boards I add to when I find fun new things. You can follow me by clicking this:




Feel free to check out my boards and how they're organized and save as much as you want to your own boards :)


Step 7: Buy Year Sets of Things
It is so, so helpful to buy year sets of things. Make sure it is a quality resource from a TpT seller you trust that makes resources for that grade level, then buy a year set of it.

If it’s a set of math units, try out a unit and if you love it, buy the full year set. If it is a type of morning work or a certain activity to do at centers, buy a year set. The consistency is SO helpful and will help both you and your new students get into a routine that lets you transition into these new things to teach with ease.

I used to think piecing together free or cheap things here and there was saving me money but really it was SO much work and not worth my time to constantly be searching. Find a few TpT sellers you know, love, and trust, and buy their bundles.

If you’re switching to first grade and don't know where to start, I recommend my Phonics No Prep Packs because I have them for all the phonics sounds and the pages are the same – only the sound changes each week – so you don’t have to ever give directions after the first week or two because they know how to do the activity and can focus on the new skill (let’s say the CH digraph) for that week. It’s so much easier for both you and the students. I have that bundle but also a Phonics No Prep Packs Part 2 bundle with the less common sounds in case you have to teach those too. All of the packs also come individually so you can try them out and get them as you need them too. A lot of people do that :)

Whether you get resources from me or someone else though, either buy year sets or buy something individual to try out that also comes in a year set so that you can have it for the entire year whether you upgrade to the bundle or keep buying the individual sets piece by piece so that you can have that consistency. Consistency, consistency, consistency. I can’t stress that enough! 

It will help so much with avoiding that scrambling feeling. Having to constantly scramble for resources every week for your new grade level is stressful. Don’t do that to yourself. If someone already did the work for you, let them.

& Trust me, someone already did the work for you. There are so many amazing sellers and resources on TpT that no matter what you are looking for, I bet someone not only already made it but made it look really nice and colorful and ready for you to just hit print and enjoy the rest of your summer. Yes, maybe you can make it yourself but you’re probably making pennies per hour in how long it takes you and actually you’re probably losing money. & If you’re spending HOURS searching for free things to avoid buying anything (so tempting) and piecing together all these mismatched free things… honestly, you’re creating more work for yourself IN the classroom because you’ll always have to explain to students this new style/activity... and are you actually saving money? If you spend 3 hours looking for free things to do that you could’ve gotten already made for you and way better quality for $4.. you’re paying yourself about $1.33 per hour. Isn’t your time worth more than that? That is some looow pay for someone as highly educated as you. I was born and raised to search for bargains (I still have paper towel rolls for crafts in my cabinet) so it took me so long to realize this but it was such an AHA! moment when I did. I used to scour for free things when I needed something and would feel so accomplished when I found something cute (like that rush when you find a really cute shirt way marked down on sale) – then I realized that I was really cheating myself out of so much time I could spend doing something else (and wondering why I always felt like I wasn’t getting things done) and really devaluing my time.

Plus, piecing together a bunch of free items doesn’t have a flow to it. Your students might feel like they’re scrambling too, to figure out how to do the new thing or if things don’t match even for the same concept. If you use my math units, for example, you know the centers practice exactly the concept the classwork and worksheets practiced. The fun cut and paste worksheets practice the same skill. The assessments are straightforward and exactly what they’ve been practicing all week/weeks in their classwork, homework, center work. It’s cohesive. If you’re teaching them [whatever math skill] and piecing together a bunch of different things, it’s going to feel all over the place, especially if your assessment doesn’t accurately assess what they’ve actually been working on. You know??  

I hope that didn’t sound like a lecture. There are some awesome free things out there but I am SUCH a frugal person that it took me a long time to realize how important this is. Once I did and realized that was a huge part of why I felt so stressed, I wanted to shout it from the blogtops :) Now I pretty much only use free things to see if I like something enough to buy a full set of it.

Since this is a new grade level to you, though, you may want to try things out for a few weeks first by only getting a few resources while you get to know your new students and this grade’s ability levels and what works for them. Personally, I’m the type of person that would want to have my worksheets and centers prepped several weeks in advance at least, especially for the first few crazy weeks of school, so I would buy year sets up front so I could get them in bundles and prep them way ahead of time. I want to sit on my couch and watch junk TV while I cut out centers waaay before I need them.


Step 8: Read teaching blogs!
Any time you come across a new concept you’re unsure how to teach, search it (type in something like “How to teach multiplication third grade”) and click on teaching blogs that come up in the first few search pages. I bet several people have written posts about how to teach it to help you!

Don’t be embarrassed to type in a topic you think you should know. Who in the world knew what a diphthong is before they were told to teach it? I have searched many kindergarten and first grade level topics I feel like I should’ve known from my own schooling but didn’t and am not ashamed :)

I personally love writing those types of helpful blog posts and have done them for a lot of different concepts like How to Build Number Sense or How to Teach Graphing and Data Analysis or How to Teach Arrays or Teaching Money (and so many more!) for math… or Digraphs Ideas or Sight Words Activities or whatever for literacy.

I have A LOT of different How-to-Teach type posts – if you teach K-3, check out this organized list by concept to see fun ideas for teaching many different topics:

Let other people inspire your teaching and show you fun ways to teach the concept! There are sooo many teaching bloggers out there! I am just one of many, many :)

If you find a post that’s really helpful, keep reading more on that person’s blog, I bet it’s not the only great thing they’ve written!


Step 9: Enjoy the new age!
Are they younger than you’re used to? Enjoy how sweet and cuddly and silly they are. 

Are they older than you’re used to? Rejoice in how much more independent they are. 

Going from 1st to 4th? OMG they can read directions! Going from 4th to 1st? OMG I can read adorable silly picture books in fun voices and giggle with them like I’m 5 at the funny pictures. 

Every grade level has its absolutely wonderful, amazing things about it and I’m so excited for you to find them in your new grade level!

Again, if you’re switching to first grade (or Kinder or 2nd), DEFINITELY check out this huge post I wrote breaking down everything you need to know to teach first grade:

Thank you so much for taking the time to read all of this. This post was a lot more ramble-y than usual but I have had so many people telling me they’re switching grade levels this year and I wanted to try to offer some words of comfort and advice!

I have SOO many blog posts planned out to post now – from reading to classroom management to math to more teacher tricks – I am really excited!

Let’s talk! Let me know in the comments if you’re switching grade levels (from what to what?), how you’re feeling, how you’re preparing, or just anything you want to share! If you see someone moving to your grade level (or old grade level), feel free to reply to their comment and give them tips! Let’s help each other! :)

If you enjoyed this, you may also enjoy these posts:
25 Chatty Class Classroom Management Strategies for Overly Talkative Students
How to Keep Gifted Students Engaged and Learning
How to Tackle Tattling in the Classroom
Classroom Routines and Procedures Checklist
How to Have a Quiet Line

Here's an image for you to pin if you want!


Changing grade levels tips for teachers to make switching grades an easy and fun transition!


Hope you all have a wonderful weekend! As I said, I have a lot more blog posts planned out so stay tuned! :)