Back to School Face to Face from the Virtual World -Tip

If you are like me you are preparing to go back to school face to face. This might be making you stressed out! You have lots of classroom organization and design to get to since we didn’t start in the fall. Of course there is also fear, nerves, and more. Then add on to that the shift in how to you instruct. This is a crazy time! Now, put those feelings aside, but only for a moment, and think about the nerves and anticipation of your students.

Your students are starting school in a weird way- they already know you online. They don’t know their classroom, they may not feel connected to their classmates, they may feel like they are walking into a new space. Those first day of school butterflies are coming in strong! How can you make a difference and help your students and their parents ease back onto the campus? I have a solution!

Setup your classroom, get all your students desks ready (this is a lot of work), and then record yourself giving your students a classroom tour. Show them where the desks are located, where to put their materials, where they sit, and so on. This is also where you can go over the new procedures- like how to go to the bathroom (asking/walking there etc.), entering/exiting the classroom, turning in work and so on. Students and families want to know what to expect and the rules. So they can understand the management in these new times in the classroom and on the school campus. This will help you and them!

Things to consider recording:

*video the classroom

*record a welcome message

*procedures for bathroom use, washing hands, lining up

*how to enter/ exit the classroom

*where their materials go

*where they sit

*where the teacher sits

*the schedule (especially if it has changed)

Consider sending it through email, parent messaging system, your class website, Flipgrid or as a Youtube private video for your families. I also highly suggest sending it to your office manager/secretary and Admin so if parents request it or refer to it they can help send it out. They can also spread the word to other teachers at your site or themselves for that matter. This will make your students and their families feel more comfortable about their return- because we all know they want to be in your presence! They want to be in your classroom learning with you in person. This can help them get right into the swing of things to let the in person community building begin.

St. Patrick’s Day- Language Focus

St. Patrick’s Day is coming up quickly and you’re probably ready with empty shoe boxes, gallons of glue and green glitter and STEAM ideas to share with your young students. It is a magical day or week filled with wonder and hopes of catching the sneaky little mister making a mess of the classroom and maybe finding his pot of gold too! What a fantastic and whimsical day!

But, you know me…I’m always trying to find another way to add in a language focus to help English Learners build vocabulary and language structures to participate in class and move their skills forward. So, of course St. Patrick’s Day wouldn’t be any different!

One of my favorite activities is drawing and labeling- seriously, draw it and label it. It’s fun, it’s easy, it’s impactful the three “big components” in every lesson. And, it can be taken from a whole group activity, and reprocessed individually in a journal and even used alongside a presentation. My students love this language practice activity, no matter the theme.

In this case make a drawing of a leprechaun or a leprechaun trap like the one below and have your students label it. If you are in distance learning they can record a video presenting their work and showing their diagram on Seesaw, Flipgrid, or other.

It is simple:

  1. Draw as you talk
  2. Label your pieces as you go
  3. Have student repeat the labels/ vocabulary words
  4. Have students create their own or give them a copy of your drawing without the labels- allow them to label and color and present to their team, Seesaw video, class or to their parents as homework.

Students can use the language and diagrams from speaking and writing. The words can be used in sentence frames to support those with more trouble grasping the language or how to use it correctly. It a simple and yet immersive way to add in language focus to your themed lessons. It also leave plenty of room to expand it to future writing and speaking for example, If you were a leprechaun what would you look like?” Draw, label, and record yourself explaining your diagram.

Enjoy this activity,


Jamboard Journal

The Google Education Suite continues to build innovative and helpful programs such as Jamboard. I love to use this application with students of all ages, especially with my English Language Learners/ English Second Language Students. There are so many ways get students to engage! Writing is vital to students language development but finding a starting place for everyone’s needs is tough.

One way to meet students where they are in their language journey is by building from their social language. Students love to chat with one another about their weekend or with activities they wish they had done instead of what actually occurred. Starting with social language means students are a bit more confident with what they have to say and how they say it. This is a great place to notice areas for expansion.

This is where Jamboard from Google comes into play. Adding in questions and pictures will help elicit information from students. Each page adds a chance for students to add onto their thinking. At the end of the pages students have given you a ton of real time assessments. You can see where they are successful and where they need support- vocabulary, sentence starters, incomplete sentences, tenses, no writing, and so much more. You can also take the information to Writer’s Workshop or a writing center and students can take information from each page and create a paragraph or two.

I made this free Jamboard and you can find it on my TpT site or the link above.

Check it out!



Four-Square Check-Ins for SEL & Classroom Community Building

I wrote about this before, four square check-ins. I start these at the beginning of the class session to get students engaged and to build community. Everyone listens, students practice speaking in complete sentences and adding information to their opinion.

It is a fun way for students to speak about their emotions. The question, ” How do you feel today?” but the answer is based on one of four pictures. It is a creative move and students get to think outside the box to express themselves.

I created slides for months March- June, to represent a variety of themes. Check them out @–6647352

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