Four Square Check-In Tool for Student Engagement and Attendance

Four-Square Slide

I love using this four square check-in activity at the beginning of my classes. My students love to tell me how they are doing based on the animal/character/food/color or whatever pictures I use to relate to their feelings.

Students choose one, multiple or no pictures to relate to and then tell me and the class why. Everyone gets the opportunity to speak everyday. Including the teacher, I share too!

This works to build community, share a laugh, learn background, as an informal assessment, as verbal practice, as a confidence booster, to teach students that their voice and viewpoints are important and to get them to think abstractly.

Did I mention we get a laugh or two also? If you start this chances are your students will look forward to it so be ready to have them daily, or weekly and set time for it because it will be expected.

This is one of the best tools I have used in this virtual landscape and one I have used before in some form or another in person. It helps to get past the fine/good/tired answers that are so common and leave out the feelings behind them so …try it out and let me know how it goes.

Curve Your Learning,


St. Patrick’s Day Creative Writing

Do you decorate your classroom with leprechaun traps in hopes of catching that sneaky one and so your students can get that pot of gold? I know you do! The kids absolutely love it! What a time of year to build some STEM into daily instruction and to build a trap. It’s a fun and I dare say magical time of year! What pairs well with some magical traps but some creative writing.

I created this St. Patrick’s Day Creative Writing based that allows the class to brainstorm adjective, prepositional phrases, other grammatical aspects of sentences based around the noun. Brainstorm together and students then use the structure to build some creative and comical sentences. I created this in color and black/white for use digitally or paper. This can be dropped into Seesaw or used on Flipgrid or other sites. Find it on the link below for $1.00 on my Teachers Pay Teacher’s store and begin enjoying the humorous sentences your students will create. Use these as examples and build more using vocabulary from class and building leprechaun traps.

This creative writing piece is fun and easy to add to your virtual or face to face classroom. Build in presentation skills which are apart of the Common Core, English Language Arts, and English Language Development Standards. Students can illustrate and share their favorite sentence and those can be collected and turned into a class book. Or students can record themselves showing off their illustration and saying their creative sentence on Seesaw or Flipgrid and those put into a slideshow or movie for the whole class to screen. Fun, written and oral language practice and an example to add to student learning portfolios.



Game Play!

Hi Everyone!

I hope you are all doing well and with wishful thinking, I am hoping you are preparing to go from online teaching to soon to be in-person teaching again. Although schooling should always strive to advance and change with the times to meet the needs of the diverse students and needs, face to face teaching brings about a connection that can help amplify learning and create a safe environment for students. Face to face and technology work best together not as replacements for each other. I see this true of the youngest group of students, our language learners.

All students entering Preschool-1st grade are learning language at a rapid rate, whether they speak English at home or not or several languages. These grades build a lot of social, structure, and academic vocabulary. And everything can be learned from and turned into a game!

Games are fun! Games create a spirit of relaxation and reduce the filter so students allow themselves to engage more without worry about how they sound. They want to play, and have fun with their class. When learning English as a native or second language speaker adding games help to build connection, vocabulary, rule following, collaboration and pure enjoyment.

This is also an environment that builds self-esteem. Students try out new phrases, new language, trying and more. So, play games. Enjoy your time together while learning with games. Board games, slideshow games, Bingo games, alphabet games, Barrier Game and more bring learning to life and allow children of all ages to practice their skills – math, language, and more.

Whether you are preparing to be face to face again, or to continue in a virtual or hybrid world please add in games to your regular routines. Scaffold for language and early learners by giving them the necessary vocabulary tot participate, model game play and go over the rules with drawing/pictures/visuals as well as verbal and modeling. In this way your students can contribute and enjoy game play.

This a Boom Learning Game I have in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. Although this game is an online game it can be played as a whole class on Zoom or Webex or others. The teacher can set teams and have rotating representatives give the answers. This can build team collaboration and can with teacher pre-teaching can build sentence stems for verbal language support. Online or in-person build that language before playing and everyone will enjoy the game and get far more out of it!



Reading, Writing and Speaking -so many activities and so much learning!

There is no time like the present to get our students engaged and writing. But, first they need to know what they are writing about and how to organize that information. Below are three different lessons/units to help build your students’ skills. Take a look!–6592507–6569218

Reading Potholes

Learning to read can be a difficult process for many children. If the issues persist through time they obstruct learning and they tend to grow like potholes. We as teachers can runover the issues over and over again without realizing their is a gap or pothole in student’s learning. As children get older their gaps or potholes get larger and start to interfere with reading comprehension, reading analysis, and the ability to apply the information to other areas.

The best that we can do as educators and parents is looking for the areas that are causing issues and filling those in potholes. We often see in middle school that students lack comprehension and fluency both keywords that signal there is a problem and it may be deeper than just reading too quickly. The underlining issues causing potholes in reading have to do with the foundational skills of reading. Phonics, concepts of print, structure of writing may be the core problems taking away older students from understanding their reading. Just think about comprehension, how can you understand the meaning of a word or sentence if you don’t know the letter sounds in a word in the sentence, so then you don’t know it’s meaning, now how can you understand the sentence. Let’s look at an example, The ckrt is lutgeryb and prtmbg for the dogs. What? Simple sight words and single letters making their short sound are easier for students to remember and decode. When special letter groupings come together or unfamiliar words are added to a sentence then struggling students may abandon trying to figure it out. Not only do they no recognize the spelling groupings, and words but they lack the tools needed to figure it out.

How can this happen? Life, schedules, moving around, learning English, illness high absenteeism, low literacy at home, little exposure to vocabulary, lack of intervention help, child’s level of self-confidence, matching level of intervention to student needs, and inconsistent support all can contribute to a student’s needing aid and getting stuck in larger reading potholes. These potholes can spread past reading and dig into other areas of literacy and self-confidence.

How do we remediate these issues:

Build self-confidence, reteach foundational skills, model, directly instruct, and build vocabulary with consistent support for students. Finding the areas of need and building upon those with teaching, practice and application in a systematic manner can help our older students fill in their reading potholes.

Think about your struggling students, think about areas where reading and writing match, like missing sound spelling pairs (phonics), endings, and so on. Find where those skills match using the above image. Determine if it is in the area of Phonemics or Decoding or Fluency or one of the other areas? Then give an assessment on that specific area to determine which are lacking and begin to fill in those gaps with targeted and explicit instruction.

Currently I work with some fifth graders that have needs in the decoding arena specifically vowel digraphs, r-controlled, and matching sounds to spelling. While the second grade students I work with are in need of phonological and phonemic help specifically rhyming, and with phonemes… identification/segmentation/blending/addition/deletion/substitution. Once the area(s) are determined then the work can begin. If you give all students a variety of reteaching you may hit upon the correct needs but you may not as well. Find the specific areas for each student and build targeted intervention to fill in those literacy potholes.


When Older Students Can’t Read by Louisa Moats (2002)

OUSD (Accessed 2020),

Hero Elf Writing Activity

Yes! It’s holiday time and that means we need to spread cheer and teach empathy to our students. How can we do that…with the hero elf. Hero Elves help cheer people up or help them make a good choice.

Your students use the graphic organizers and rubric to write a letter to a Hero Elf . This writing activity come with graphic organizers, a letter page and space to draw and color to the Hero Elf spreading cheer to match your students writing.

Hero Elf Writing Graphic Organizer

This activity is joyful and helps students think of others. To get past their own self and see that we all need a little help from someone why not a Hero Elf?

Check out this activity on on my TpT site : Hero Elf Writing Activity, 25 pages for $2.00

Fall Readers

It’s that time of year when your early readers are starting to make jumps in their reading levels. They understand the difference between a letter and a word and how to use pictures for help with word choice. I work with first graders who are having trouble with with letters, sounds, and reading. I create easy readers so my students can practice their concepts of print, sight word use and practice making those picture to vocabulary choices and yes comprehension too. Because I work with many levels of early readers, I have to have assorted levels to meet the needs of my groups.

Did I say I love fall yet? I love fall!!!! I like to infuse the season into reading, writing, and speaking activities. It helps student to understand the world right out of their front door and it is something we are all experiencing at the same time. This makes it easier for my students to add to the conversation and apply the vocabulary to our activities.

This week I made some easy fall readers for my groups including levels A-D. I story per level, fall themed and with a comprehension page to go along with the story. This will go with the other warm up activity included which is a check-in page which allows me to gage their moods and sometimes changes the way I approach my readers that day.

Come check it out and add this little set to your reading groups this week!

Check it out here!

English Language Development- a unit!!!

English Language Development is near and dear to my heart. It is also a subject that can frustrate teachers. There are so many methods to integrate language strategies that build engagement. Many methods have been around for ages and are used with literacy, classroom management, mathematics and on and on. The strategies aren’t new, but telling a teacher they need to teach English Language Development can spark anxiety and cause teachers to forget their use of strategies. Strategies include sentence frames, choral response, graphic organizers, sketching and writing, using literature to practice foundational skills and using media to focus on piece to make inferences and so on. These practical skills are used daily to express, enhance and guide language. The same needs to happen in English Language Development.

How do we use these the great strategies and put them together to be effective for learning language in an engaging method for students and systematically for teachers? As progress is being made to answer that a pandemic occurs. But, now here we are in the middle of a pandemic and the stress to meet the needs of our language learners feels even higher. I thought about many ways to aid teachers during this time and recently created a unit using some of those engaging language practicing strategies we spoke about earlier.

Yay! A premade unit developed for my 1st and 2nd grade teachers out there. Lots of verbal practice, engaging activities, colorful photographs and resources to support the themed learning. Yes! It is fun, it is engaging and it is themed based! Yay!!!! Check out pictures from the unit below…

An engaging language development unit for 1st & 2nd grade

Using describing words is vital to growing writing but first students need the describing words vocabulary. Words! Students need word in order to use them, students need the chance to learn new words or transfer them from their native language to English.

Noun games- students need sentence parts to build sentences. They need nouns and adjectives and practice finding them and manipulating them. These games and graphic organizers help learn them.

Applying our built vocabulary to sentence frame to build language. Also to apply in reading to help understand and build text fluency when reading. Everything starts with building a background together and verbal practice- the stories and animal background do both.

A premade unit that is themed based for English Language Development using engaging strategies that build engagement and language practice for applied use…yay!!!!!!Here it is for you. The bundle includes the resources and costs only one dollar more than the six-week unit alone. Take a look and enjoy! Click the link to see it at Teacher Pay Teachers.

EL Strategies

I often work in areas with high levels of second language learners, and my family are second language learners so I am always eager to find ways and grow language and reasons why it gets halted. Often times we think English Language Development can be taught with the supplemental text book guidelines that are 1-2 sentences long per daily lesson. This is NOT enough. Language learners need practice, daily practice, and throughout the subjects. Language Learners need to build upon what they know translating from their native language to English and building new content. They need to organize the information practice it, and apply it.

I have created a cheat sheet for adding in English Language Development strategies to lesson plans. I created a template, a strategies cheat sheet, a sample lesson and a grouping page to help other teachers who sometimes feel like they are struggling to meet the needs of their second language learners. I sometimes think my students are higher levels because their social interactions seem above their level, a common mistake, so this can help keep me and maybe you too, focused, on using strategies to build language, both receptive and expressive.

Sample template of a ELD lesson for a story reading

You can find this completed template, blank template, a list of strategies/ definitions, a and group sheet on my Teachers Pay Teachers site here. If you would like more help with adding EL strategies into your daily lessons plans in all your content areas send me an email and we can work together to create some focused and specific plans.