Monday, December 23, 2013

Have a Merry Little Christmas!

It's hard to believe it's two days before Christmas. I have no idea how time flew between the beginning of school and now. I always forget to brace myself once Halloween hits! I hope everyone reading this post has a chance to be with family and friends, to rest up and have a little fun.

When I've recharged my batteries, and hopefully get off to a new start January 6th, I can set some new goal with my kids. Since I'm a reading specialist, I'm narrowed down to literacy goals, but then--that's a lot when we're talking kindergarten through eighth grade! 

One thing I know I can set into motion is getting kids to be responsible for their own fluency progress. I've had kids working on this since September, and involved parents in the timing....It really is a productive activity that builds over time, and children really do see their progress spike!

This is what I've put up on Teachers Pay Teachers just recently. Check it out and see if it's something you're already doing with kids....Remember, you can start as early as first grade with Fountas and Pinnell Levels D and up. This makes it just a little handier for you to have kids graph their progress...a little more kid-friendly than just a plain old grid. 

Have a warm and wonderful holiday! And Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Holiday Fun Pages

Here's one of my newest holiday creations for kids who have the Christmas itch! Coloring pictures and picture writing are fun activities to keep them busy and entertained. The writing prompts are fun and good for practicing creative writing. Stop by before winter break!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Monday, November 11, 2013

Choral Reading with Poetry

Here's my latest creation: Eight Little Candles!

And it's free when you go to my teacher store. It's a little resource packed with two original poems, writing prompts, and a paper candle craft-ivity. Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, or Diwali, your children will enjoy this resource. Bringing light to the world is a non-denominational concept.  And we can ALL use a little extra light in our world!

Thanks for checking it out!

Saturday, November 9, 2013


Phonological awareness activities can be fun when reading a poem together.

Here's one of the poems I use for choral reading in November:  Five Fat Turkeys

Kids just love to read this poem!  It is best suited for children in grades K-2.

There are several phonological activities you can do using this poem or any poem! After everyone's had fun clapping, do an art/craft activity, such as thumbprint turkeys, or a paper bag turkey puppet (see link and photo below). 

  • Choral Reading
  • Practice rhyming
  • Clap each word (Great phonological activity for word awareness)
  • Delete and Substitute Words (Leave out words, or make up new ones)
  • Rewrite and illustrate the poem as a class poem for a collaborative book
  • Play with /ou/ words
  • Play with long e words using "ee"
  • Make thumbprint turkeys
  • Make a puppet

This is a great turkey with directions you can download.
Please go to the following link:

*(I do not know the author of this poem. If anyone does, please let me know!)

Saturday, November 2, 2013

November-In Giving Thanks

There is so much to be thankful for! I want to show my thankfulness by doing something for our local food bank. It's not an easy time for so many families. We've all had some tough times, but I think it's actually harder now than ever for a family with young children to get by. Doing this little bit, I feel is the least I can do! 

This month I am donating 10% of my sales profits from my Teachers Pay Teachers store to our local food bank.  So, if you happen to be in the neighborhood (at TPT, that is...) please stop by. I am truly thankful for all the good things that have come my way...and not a one to be taken for granted! 

 My Store

Monday, October 28, 2013

This Witch Got Caught in Our Window Shade!

Just a little Halloween drama for the week!

     This is my only window in my room...but it's a great little corner to showcase some seasonal books. There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bat is still one of my favorites. I have a few more good ones, but the kids have already swiped them up! My kids love this little theme corner.

 (By the really does look like a witch got rolled up in my shade!)

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Telltale Heart, Edgar Allan Poe's Masterpiece

What's Halloween without the 
mysterious beating of an old man's heart? 

Visit the museum here:  Poe Museum

First, check out the museum at the link above. There's a virtual tour of the museum which is located in Richmond, Virginia. This is great for students to view the panoramic tour of Edgar's old stomping grounds.

At this site, you'll also find a shadowy, suspenseful animation video clip of the Telltale Heart, only 7 1/2 minutes long, and probably best suited for middle / high school students, who will undoubtedly get a thrill --as they place themselves in the shoes of a madman, or lunatic. Note the full moon in the video. This is definitely one of my favorite all-time reads (or watch) during this month!  To find the video, go to the Poe Museum site, then go to the "Students" tab...and click on "Watch the Telltale Heart". (I tried to link it here, but it wouldn't load. It will if you go to it from the museum link first.) 

Lastly, don't let the "1954" date sway you from checking this out--it's still wicked good! The dramatic narrative in this is worth a thousand heart beats!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Greyfriar's Kirkyard, Edinburgh, Scotland

A Cemetery Steeped in History

   Photo by Brian W. Gomez 2013

Greyfriars Kirkyard, Edinburgh, Scotland
Overlooking Edinburgh Castle

Scotland has been a popular destination for pilgrimages of all ages due to the unfathomable popularity of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter Books. Be it known, that there are alleged hauntings at this famous cemetery, such as those of the ghost of Mackenzie. It is one of the most well-documented sites for alleged paranormal activity in history. No wonder Ms. Rowling's books were so full of magic and mystery!

Wouldn't it be spook-tacular to visit this cemetery on Halloween?

For more fascinating information about this cemetery, click below:

Kids Love Bats!

Here is my latest creation with hopes that kids will really have fun with this. They need to have more ways to read and write expository and informational text without making it dry and boring. This is an interactive resource for kids...including some information about the myths about bats. Can bats really get tangled in our hair?  Are they really blind?  This is a great resource for some second graders, and most students up through fifth grade.



There are 5 posters in all. Each one is regular paper size (8 1/2 x 11 in.) 
Go to my teacher store and you will be able to download this file.
Photos of bats were compiled from public domain sources.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Fall is Here!

Summer sneaked away- and fall stopped in 
while I was sleeping! 

        Yesterday, on the first day of fall, I went for a glorious morning walk, and this is what I found. It's sunrise at about 6:00 am...This is just down the road from where I live...beautiful. So, it convinced me that it's okay that summer has left us in Vermont (for several months). 

        I'm grateful because... Fall is a gift!  It came overnight--with a big splash of color!

Have you checked out my Free Printables yet?  
At the top of my blog page, click on the "Free Printables" tab. I've started to add some freebies (in addition to the summer shorts). 

Print out a free bat template which you can enlarge if you want students to hang bigger bats in your classroom. Templates are great for all kinds of things--including cards, writing, shape books, and posters. To print, just save the image (jpeg) to your computer desktop, then print!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Free Writing Prompt: My Vacation Memory Book

Have fun writing in this shape book! Summer shorts, vacation shorts, any kind of fun shorts...make it fun to write in. Several prompts will help your kids think writing is actually a "cool" thing! The best thing about these shorts is...they're FREE!

Just Updated: My Summer Vacation Memory Book

First Week-Crazy But Exciting!

Whew! I'm still winding down--and it's almost noon, Saturday! What a week! But what fun!
This year, I'm co-teaching with two teachers during literacy block, and I have to say I'm learning as much about kindergarten as the 5 year olds!  I also have 4 of my literacy intervention groups on top of co-teaching. I'm hanging on!

Second graders are off to a great start. They are ready to learn. After we covered our expectations, I felt like we had to hit the ground running with W-O-R-K!  But they really needed to have a bit of fun.
Sight word bingo and getting-to-know you games are just the best for those first few days.  They're rockin' and readin' already.

To all you busy and bustling teachers out there--Have fun, even if it looks like work!  Building routines and moving around with hands-on activities seem to work for me. Oh, and tons of praise, praise, and more praise!

~Karen :-)

Sunday, August 25, 2013

My Featured Fellow Friend--Honey!

Honey is the subject of my newest teacher resource: Doggie Writing Prompts: Honey's Adventures.
She's a real pet living in the country in Vermont. As you can tell, she loves camping--and was a bit disappointed to find the marshmallow bag empty. In my writing prompts for kids, Honey has a mishap and gets all muddy. She must take a shower, but hates showers (of course!). She'd much rather be out chasing squirrels and running through the mud! Check it writing for kids who paws-itively love dogs!
Doggie Writing Prompts: Honey's Adventures

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Savoring Summer, a Babbling Brook, and Ralph Fletcher

Holy cow! I feel like the sands of summer are slipping by even as I fix my morning coffee! Where have the days gone? The panic of needing to hurry and do all those things I had on my Summer Bucket List has set in. I want to be ready for school, organized and prepared. I really want to offer an exciting year to my students. Thinking about planning...led me to thinking about writing.

I took a walk down to my brook in the back of my house....I had forgotten what a quiet spot it was--even Thoreau would've appreciated it. I started reading my book that's been on top of a pile of books, A Writer's Notebook, by Ralph Fletcher. I had only skimmed it before, and now feel guilty I'm only reading it now (I've had it for years).  There's so much to glean from his book on keeping a notebook that I can't sum it up so simply. But I like how he says, "Keeping a writer's notebook can help you be more alive to the world." I think that's so true. Written for young adults and aspiring writers (much younger than me), I found his words to be riveting.  He reminds us that we don't have to have polished writing, complete sentences, and so on. Snatches of conversations, and bits and pieces of human talk, are enough to jot down and revisit later.

But it really hit me when I read, "Many people drift through life...." (I'm trying hard to avoid that!) and adds, "Your writer's notebook can work as an alarm clock to remind you to wake up and pay attention to what's happening in your world, both inside and out."

So, I'm savoring summer--savoring it with the flavor of words...seasoning it with moments of writing little jots and notes, lists, and all those dreams and wishes...'though it's best to work with the here and now. The babbling brook reminds me to be more present about things.  But of course, it's really the chatter in my own mind... And that's how I can savor the summer before it fades away.

I'm almost done with the book--but now, I have to start a new notebook. I have a lot of them scattered here and there, and half written in each one. So, I've got to get organized!  Well, one thing I know (which I knew anyway, and have done in the past, but forget to do from time to time) is to make writer's notebooks a big focus this year with my students. Tomorrow, I'm off to buy a whole pile of spiral notebooks!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Writing About the Beach With Kids

What Fun!  Writing About the Beach With Second and Third Graders!

I made a beach-themed writing activity for my summer rock stars camp kids, because I really, really needed an activity that they would not consider "school work". They enjoyed this a lot. Normally, this type of activity would be best suited for the younger kids-the first graders. But I discovered that my incoming third and fourth graders enjoyed hunting the room for these words to fill out their recording sheets. 

This is a lot like a write-the-room activity, which is often considered a first grade activity--
But this is more challenging!  My kids seemed to get excited about this!  And even though it was a hot, humid day inside our little rock stars camp, they really wanted to finish!  

I added a few other templates or writing frames to go with this--since kids do love to write about summery things. I've posted this resource (Common Core aligned) to my Teachers Pay Teachers store. Check it out!  If you do visit my shop, please know that I appreciate any and all window shoppers! 

Summer Rock Stars Camp --Whoo-Wee!

We're on our third week (2 days a week) of summer rock stars camp, and I feel like I've been at it all summer! Another teacher and I are working as a team to focus on a group of kids that we feel are kids who need that little summer push--as opposed to sitting in front of the TV or bugging mom all day!  I'm doing the literacy end of it, and she's doing the math intervention. So far, we've mixed in some fun with it, including
marbles and pipes, ball games, armadillo crafts, word searches/puzzles, and yet to come--the best of all--soap boats and balloon rockets!

So...besides all the fun stuff, I needed Common Core Standards aligned reading for my kids...since that was the whole point why were were targeting these kids. Well, I was worried about all that, since I did not want to pull out the usual textbooks in my classroom and hear the kids mutiny and drop out of summer camp.  Then, I remembered....!

Early this spring, I attended Dr. Elfrieda H. Hiebert's conference on reading and building fluency, and her philosophy of teaching reading based on 4,000 simple word families. (I have her conference sheet filed away, so I don't have the exact title of her conference.) But I can tell you that I latched on to some crucial information that made me think twice about how I teach reading. Her work is quite extensive in the research of how young children learn to read. So, I went to her website that she talked quite a bit about, and was happy to find that she has so much on there that I can use for my summer program. Her Summer Reads program is just perfect for my grades 3-5 kids--the very group which I was targeting this year.  I didn't want these kids to lose skills over the summer. We all know that it's pretty tough for many of them to advance over the summer, so as a reading specialist, I'm happy if they at least, do not lose reading skills over the summer.

So I'm passing this along to you--if anyone out there is reading my blog!

Dr. Heibert has some great teacher resources, check out her site called THE TEXT PROJECT. The following link will take you to some free text passages for kids going into grades 3, 4, and 5, and lots of good reading on her research. Please check it out:  SUMMER READS

(P.S.--I do not work for Dr. Hiebert, nor do I get any monetary value for promoting her website. I just love her resources, that's all! :-) )

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Camp Read Day

Last week, a few "long" days before school was out for the summer, I set up a tent and camping gear in my room. I hung up a led lantern and turned my iPad on with background sounds of crickets, owls and loons. We pulled down the shades and read in the tent--and a little bit outside the tent (since we had to stuff a lot of us in). What fun!  We topped it off with the age-old fishing game, earning fishing points for each word on the back of the fish. We caught all kinds of fish--bass, trout, salmon, eels, and you name it. Yes, we even had sharks in the pond!  After our fishing adventure, we had cold s'mores, and handed out summer literacy bags to take home. Our "Lit Kits" were a hit, something for all K-5 kids to take home. The PTA helped me fund the Lit Kits. We all had so much fun on Camp Read Day, I plan to do it again next year.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

It's Time to Say Thank You!

I've been thinking about thank you's and how I need to let people know how much I appreciate them. It's so easy to slide into the end of the school year and just "make do" with our thank you's. But this year, I really want to say Thank You! I was thinking about all the people I work with, and then suddenly without realizing it, my "list" grew longer by the second. I realized I could not stop thinking about ALL the people who are in my family (whose unconditional love keeps me going), my fellow teaching colleagues (whose support keeps me strong, assuring me that I'm doing my job well), the custodian (whose long hours of hard work make my room sparkle, giving me a fresh start to the day), the school administrators (whose faith in my professionalism strengthens me), and of course, the cooks (whose preparation of hundreds of meals a week keeps us well-fed), and still more... a big thank you to the parent volunteers and PTA (whose help and resources enable me to teach my best), and finally--yes, I'm so thankful to the children I teach, because they do the biggest part of making my job purposeful and rewarding. Without them, there's no teaching...and I wouldn't be learning from them, either. Aww, the list goes on and on..... But I'll stop for now.

Then, I remembered to remember... it's almost Memorial Day! A time to remember all those who made my job and everything (all of the above and more) possible. I thank the veterans and the people who have served our country, and those who are serving still. I thank our veterans for enabling me to teach in a public school with freedom of speech and all the perks that go with being an American.

Thank you All!  And to those I have not are on my mind, too.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Kids Make Their Own Customized Reading Mats

A serendipitous discovery! My students got tired of sitting on the hard tile linoleum-concrete flooring. We've stayed away from carpets due to budgeting and the fact that they're hard to keep clean. (Ask our custodian!) So ... I may have solved the problem! I went out and bought a few of those cheap blue foam sleeping bag mats you see in the store all rolled up. With a pair of scissors, I cut them into quarters, and voila! I got kid-sized mats that are light and easy to stack! We call them our reading mats. We'll have to think up some other fun name for them! Second graders had fun personalizing their mats with magic marker. They seem to be sturdy and flatten out pretty well. They'll take them home to read on during the summer! What a way to get them excited about reading! A HUGE BONUS! 

Monday, May 6, 2013

Mother's Day is such a fun time to bring spring, love, and flowers altogether through poetry and crafts.  Check the You Tube video below to make tissue paper flowers.

For that Special Mom or Anyone Special!

So easy and simple for kids to make! With just three shapes: 8 oblongs for petals, 1 circle for the center, 2 pointed oblongs for leaves, and an 8 1/2 X 11 green paper, kids can make a giant flower card. This is about 16 inches high, and has a rolled up note inside the stem! The kids had fun making this, even though it is SO simple--They loved the idea of sticking a note up inside the stem. 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

EARTH DAY FUN: Our Recycled "Message in a Bottle" Activity

My second grade reading rock stars just finished reading "The Curve in the River" from Stories Julian Tells. Of course, the kids wanted to put the bottles in the river, but we all decided that would be polluting! So, we settled on REUSING our RECYCLED bottles for water bottles once again. Only this time, they were personalized!  Just give kids an empty water bottle, some stickers, a mini paper flag or banner, and a pipe cleaner, and this is what you get: Great Earth Day fun!


Friday, April 12, 2013

Peep, Peep Hooray!

A Free Fun Spring Activity
This cute color and write paper will print out normally if you
hover over the image and right click: "Print Target".
I used My Cute Graphics to create this printable.

backgrounds - images - clip art

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Dino-Mite Fun!

This is a little late getting posted, but I wanted to show how my kiddos had fun making this. I had a tough time getting a large box, and what I ended up doing was cutting up a box and extending it. Well, you know when you plan on studying dinosaurs, you get big ideas that don't always pan we never did get our GINORMOUS diorama.  The boys thought we had to have the biggest one ever. So, this came up a bit short.  But the kids still thought it was cool enough--especially when we turned off the room lights and plugged in our red string lights (the kind in the tube). Yes, they just had to put in their plastic figurines (not what I had intended), and made it a bit crowded in that little habitat; but at least they made lots of  background scenery, dinosaur nests, eggs, and clay...just flour, salt dough. They made realistic-looking fossils, too. You don't see those here, because they just couldn't wait to take them home!

Studying the "Terrible Lizards" is always such a wonderful opportunity to play with vocabulary and work with synonyms for ordinary words like "big". We focused on words other than big to describe dinosaurs--words like humongous, ginormous, titanic, mammoth, enormous. They sure had fun with those words.  Meat-eaters, we called "carnivores".  Plant-eaters were "herbivores".  Then, they asked, what are we?!  Some second graders actually knew the word "omnivores".

 Every teacher's just gotta love studying dinosaurs!  I learn something new every year. And who knows, these extinct creatures may come back....According to the latest news, Jurassic Park's nightmare may not be too far-fetched!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Rockin', Readin' & Writin' Animal Reports

Yes, we're rockin', readin', and writin' about dinosaurs. My kiddos have been dino-crazy over the last couple weeks and the enthusiasm has not waned!  My classroom (which is already small) has been invaded by animals from the Triassic and Mesozoic Eras. Big plastic figures and stuffed dinos line one wall. Next week, they are building a 5 foot diorama for the classroom. Pictures will come soon. I have "dino-mite" words in the room, and a tree chart which was almost too easy for them to fill out. They have so much prior knowledge, which is so helpful when it comes to writing and adding details. They've had fun with dinosaur related spelling words as their bonus words, too. This week, we'll be finalizing some of their writing pieces--especially their reports. So our dino portfolios are going to be stuffed when we're all done.  But they'll remember every bit of this unit for at least a few years to come!

Teachers know this already, but I feel it's worth repeating--Animal report writing is the greatest springboard for kids to get comfortable with longer forms of writing. The stamina they need for writing is proportionate to their enthusiasm--usually! The new Common Core expectations require stamina in both reading and writing.

Please check out my Animal Reports Templates! There are 2 products out: One of them has several pages of graphic organizers, including a cover, rubric page, and writing paper. It works for any animal. The other product is a shorter version, but there are 3 different styles with different borders. This one is more geared toward wild animals that are mammals--with paw prints and tracks on it. Now, writing about dinosaurs is another story! You want kids to be thinking about fossils, and prehistoric days, so those templates will look different. For starters, see my "Write Like a Scientist" (see below), the dinosaur writing prompt and fossil procedure writing may be what you're looking for.  It's hard for kids to write "all about dinosaurs"--gosh! so many! But if you have your kids write about fossils and how they tell a story, you're helping them narrow down the topic.

Thanks for stopping by!

Rejoice in the art of teaching and growing great minds! ~Karen

Dinosaur Writing Prompt and Fossil Procedure Writing
Cover Page to Activity Packet which includes a photo, prompt, and  procedure writing template

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Still new to blogging, and would LOVE to hear from you!

Hello and Welcome to Growing Readers Day by Day!

I'm still new at blogging, so I hope you don't mind weeding through my posts for random topics. I just discovered blogging despite my 20 years as a teacher.  But if I confessed to you that it was a first grader years ago who taught me how to turn on a computer, than you'd believe that I really have come a long way!

Well, I haven't yet learned how to organize everything, so bear with me, please. I do have some random freebies which link back to my teachers store, but I'm trying to figure out how to make it so you can also get them from this blog!  My teachers store at Teachers Pay Teachers is also new, so I'm learning all kinds of new things--along the lines of social networking, and technical things that I guess I always took for granted.

Having been a reading specialist for several years, I have a ton of tools and ideas that I've either created or discovered along the way. So I hope you'll join me again soon--and hopefully, I'll have tackled all the technical hang ups and blogging bugs.

I appreciate all you teachers, parents, grandparents, and others out there who are involved with the teaching of literacy, children's books, and love to do artsy-crafty things for kids....and of course, any tips or resources that just helps us teachers do our jobs a little bit better.

Let me know if you stop by--I would love to hear from you. I hope to share good stuff with you and hopefully, you've got some great things you'd like to share as well. If you're a teacher, then you know what it's like to find yourself more of a learner than a teacher! That's where I'm at right now!

Enjoy each day to the fullest, and Happy Spring!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Second Graders--Busy With Nonfiction

My second grade reading group has been working on responding to nonfiction text in their writers' notebooks...and doing a very good job of it. Much of it is working on the features of a good paragraph. We've discovered a few easy tricks just to get the structure down. Overall, they've been doing some great work and I'm proud of them!

So far, we've covered The Aye-Aye, How Animals Move, Bats, Bees, and we'll be finishing up The Emperor Penguin next week. Our next study will be biographies, and writing about our 16th president (and my favorite) Abraham Lincoln. What class doesn't like to read and write about Abraham Lincoln?

Something tells me, we need to study a famous woman right after that. Hmm, there are so many to choose from...Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Sacajawea, Abigail Adams, Betsy Ross, Emily Dickenson, Amelia Earhart, Mary Casatt, Jessie Wilcox Smith, Helen Keller, Rosa Parks, Hilary Clinton, ...and Michelle Obama!  Where do I begin?!


Friday, January 4, 2013

Penguins from Egg Cartons

I found this cute penguin chick on Pinterest. We'll make something new from something old...a great example to teach and model recycling while making it a part of our reading and language arts program. This will be added to our Grade 2 reading unit study of Antarctica we will be doing over the next few weeks.