Story Elements

When reading, students need to think about the different elements that make up a typical story. Here is a poster we use when we do a read aloud or read a story in a small group. Students can write right on the poster or write on post-it notes. This poster uses the images found in the reading and writing program, Framing Your Thoughts, which is created by Project Read. The graphic symbols remind students of the different elements found in a story.

read aloud, comprehension, setting, characters, problem, wish, solution,





Spelling Word Practice

Practice makes perfect, especially when it comes to spelling words. Instead of boring repetition drills or using the outdated method of writing something 100 times, there are many activities students can participate in to practice weekly spelling words.

To start, I downloaded a great resource from teacherpayteacher that guides students to trace, write, build, find and use their spelling word in a sentence. Then, I have students use magnetic foam alphabet blocks and dry erase markers to write and build their words three more times during a rotating center.

elementary, early, dolch sight words

To reinforce the skills with an adult, my students can then practice writing their words in sand while saying the word and each letter of the word out loud.

activities, elementary, writing, learning

For homework, students can choose from a variety of activities that reinforces the words at home. Here are some ideas below:

  • Write the word 3x times using pencil, colored pencil, and crayon
  • Write the words in rainbow colors
  • Write the words in ABC order
  • Write a sentence for each word
  • Write or type a story using all your spelling words
  • Stamp the words
  • Build the words with legos, clay, dough, yarn or pipecleaners
  • String the words together using letter beads
  • Write the words in a verticle pyramid format. For example: l, lo, lov, love
  • Practice building the words using magnetic letter blocks
  • Type spelling words on the computer
  • Spell words in a sand or salt container
  • Trace words on the back of your hand
  • Spell words in shaving cream
  • Trace letters into the air (sky write)
  • Use ABC blocks to spell words (Scrabble)
  • Build words using ABC stickers
  • Use q-tips and paint words
  • Write words in glue and add glitter
  • Use newspaper and magazine to clip letters to build words

We use a spelling notebook to keep track of their progress and their words. All words are individualized so a spelling book helps everyone stay organized. Please feel free to use some of these ideas in your classroom! 🙂 Enjoy!


Back-to-School Highlights

I find the first week of school to be one of the most exciting parts of the year. Teachers are fresh, students are ready to learn, and the upcoming year is filled with endless possibilities. I wanted to highlight some of my favorite activities my classroom participated in during the first week of school.

This year, I decided to start each day with a morning meeting. I am following the responsive classroom approach, which outlines the morning meeting time with a greeting, sharing time, an activity, and a morning message. My kids and I have loved this time to connect! I am using Roxann Kriete’s Morning Meeting book to guide my practice.

responsive classroom, classroom community, teaching, early ed

My first homework assignment was for students to create a “Me Bag”. This gave them something to share during our morning meeting the second day of school. Students generally feel comfortable talking about things they like and activities they are good at. Students brought in gymnastic medals, dance shoes, toy cars, pictures, and special monuments bought while traveling.

homework, new teachers, back to school, first day

Next, we talked about how we wanted our classroom to run for the year. Together, we created “the great classmate is” chart shown below. Students in higher grades can write their ideas and children in lower grades can draw pictures of the words written on the chart. We had students drawing people being responsible, helping others, and saying kind words to others. After we completed the chart, we acted out different scenarios in which students could practice being a great classmate. The next day, a student in our class had the opportunity to do one of the scenarios we acted out the day before. It was a great moment for all!

back to school activities, community building, kind classroom ideas

During our professional days before starting the official school year, our administration emphasized the importance of goal-setting. My classroom used BrainPop’s “setting goals” video to introduce what a goal was and how to set a goal. I had to break down each SMART step for my students, but felt it was a good video to help my students set their own goals for the year.

brain pop, videos about goal setting, SMART goals, back to school activities

One of the goals for our classroom this year is to think before we speak. Our classroom talked about the importance of good communication and speech. I posted this acronym on a bulletin board close to my desk to help guide all of our talking for the year. This “think before you speak” practice is helpful when doing partner or group work, and creates a safe and friendly classroom environment for all.

think before you speak, classroom, kind, back to school activities

Another importance aspect of a great classroom is putting up functional posters and schedules that guide student learning. The “I love reading” bulletin board in my classroom outlines what great readers do, highlights our small group schedule which will eventually showcase our different stations and has a poster that records how many books each student will, in time, read throughout the month. During our goal-setting activity, my students’ individual goals are to read between 8-12 books by September 30th. To help achieve this goal, we are using our “We love reading” chart to record the number of books each student reads in class and at home.

bulletin board ideas, back to school, classroom decoration

We have had a great first week and I am looking forward to learning with my students throughout this school year. I am thankful for all the ideas I was able to pull from the internet and hope this post can guide your second week of teaching! Thanks as always for reading. 🙂

An Introduction to ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis)

What is applied behavior analysis (ABA)?

Applied behavior analysis is a field that works with individuals to determine the function of behavior as well as environmental reinforcers that encourage or discourage the likelihood of individuals displaying target behaviors.

What is a target behavior?

A target behavior is any behavior that is being addressed or talked about by a professional, parent, or client.

What is a problem behavior?

A problem behavior is an action or verbal statement that is deemed inappropriate.

Why do people engage in problem behavior?

According to the field, there are four functions (or reasons) individuals engage in any behavior: attention seeking, access to a tangible (item), sensory stimulation (produces a good feeling), or avoidance (of a task, person, or environment). In short, individuals engage in multiple behavior to get what they want or don’t want.

What is a replacement behavior?

A replacement behavior is an agreed upon appropriate behavior that serves the same function as the problem behavior displayed by the individual. A replacement behavior must be: developmentally appropriate, context appropriate, and provide the same access to the desired function of the behavior. Essentially, it replaces the problem behavior in exchange for a more appropriate behavior.

What is the ABC approach to understanding behavior?

When a behavior takes place, professionals consider what takes place before the behavior occurred (the antecedent) and what takes place after the behavior occurred (the consequence). The ABC approach allows analyst to track behavior for patterns, trends, and other factors that may provide insight on why an individual is behaving in a certain way. An example of a familiar chart using the ABC approach is below.

***all scenarios are made up

behavior monitoring, function, shaping, identifying

Why is ABA helpful?

Behavior analysts can help individuals adapt to their environment as well as train care givers various effective ways to prevent and react to problem behaviors displayed by an individual. It also can help individuals achieve personal goals and shape their behavior in a way that is beneficial. ABA is used in public and private schools, hospitals, group homes, mental care facilities, rehab centers, self-help institutes, and specialized disability learning centers.

Building Social Skills

“If school is to help student learn to develop into adults who can work collaboratively, contribute to society, problem solve, live independently, and develop meaningful relations, we must continue to explore how to infuse the teaching of social thinking and related skills into the curriculum, both within academic lessons and within the social curriculum.”

-Learners on the Autism Spectrum by Kari Buron and Pamela Wolfberg


orphans, children in Africa

Emergent Learning

When I look back at my college years, Dr. Brian Glenney is one of the professors who stand out in my mind. Being a teacher myself, I am constantly inspired by other teachers who have molded me into the learner and professional I am today. Dr. Brian Glenney was a teacher who not only inspired, but taught me the value of pushing through new academic explorations and experiences.

His paper on Emergent Learning in Independent Studies: The Story of the Accessible Icon Project, recently published in Experiential Learning in Philosophy, highlights the value of teaching with an approach that pushes students toward publications and conference presentations. Under his guidance, I attended my first conference at the University of Tennessee and have, since then, spoken at other conferences due to the confidence he helped instill in me as a learner.

Dr Brian Glenney Leah Serao Accessible Icon Project

For me, his approach to teaching inspired me to be the best researcher, learner, and writer I could be. Although I still have a far way to go, his teaching style opened many doors and I am forever grateful to his unique technique.


What Makes a Good Teacher

An article from The Washington Post recently was published describing the attributes of a great teacher. After being in several classrooms, grades, and school districts, I agree that the top two characteristics of a teacher are love and grit.

  • Love-Focusing on the emotional, social, and academic needs of a student
  • Grit- Refusing to give up on a student

Another important emphasis was the idea that teaching is both an art and a science. While there are definitely effective strategies teachers can implement on a day to day basis, it takes the skillful teacher to properly entwine research based practices in the classroom with specific students.

Although our current education system is focusing on the science behind teaching (which is appropriate within limits),  the art part can be overlooked in the process of collecting hard data. While hard data is important, I believe the art part of teaching can be measured from student wellness. For example, 1. How students feel about themselves as learners 2. The excitement students feel in the classroom 3. The overall happiness of each student. While I acknowledge that a lot of external factors (such as home life) can heavily influence these feelings, all students, to some extent, should be able to feel the magic of the classroom and the love of learning. If not, our school systems should be focusing on self-health so students are engaged in the beauty of living.

What do you think? Read this article to engage in the discussion.


First Day of School Plans

The start of a new year is here. I will be teaching 1st grade resource room ELA and math pull-out. I am excited to be working in the position and hope to share my stories and lesson plans along the way.

1st Grade Resource: ELA and Math

Day 1:

(My first day is Monday 9/8; students are staying in their homeroom on Thursday 9/4 and Friday 9/5 to help with the transition)

At the beginning of the day, I will stand at the door and greet each of my students. I will introduce myself and have the students share their names. I will help students find their seats. Each seat will have a nametag.

1. Introduction with Flipchart

  • My name, where I am from, why I love teaching, why I am excited to teach first grade
  • Will include pictures of me from 1st grade
  • Will share what we will learn together/books we will read

2. Ice Breaker Activity

  • Why are you excited to be in first grade?
  • About Me Poster Tee

3. Classroom Tour/Scavenger Hunt

  • Materials
  • Different centers
  • Books
  • Example: “Find an item in the classroom that starts with /p/. (informal pre-assessment) 🙂
  • Students will work together

4. Creation of Classroom Rules/Expectations

  • Do together as a class
  • Keep your hands, feet, and objects to yourself
  • Respect yourself and others (give specific examples of what respect looks like)
  • Show/Explain Sticker Chart (rewards/consequences)
  • Star Student (5 qualities-active listening)
  • “Look, listen, work hard” show hand movements
  • Effort and Attitude: the importance of a “I can” approach to learning
  • Shew
  • Slant
  • King and Queen Behavior

5. Review/Practice of Procedures:

Entering the classroom: At the beginning of the day, I will stand at the door and greet each of my students. I will introduce myself and have the students share their names. I will help students find their seats. Each seat will have a nametag

Bathroom: Two fingers crosses, teacher responds with two fingers crossed. Student signs out. One student (boy and girl) allowed out at a time.

Tissues: Can take when needed; will show where I keep extra tissues to replace when empty

Nurse: Student raises hand and explains what is wrong. I encourage students to try to wait until the end of a lesson.

Absent Folder: Students are expected to make up work when absent. All papers will have the student’s name on it and be in a specific folder waiting for them when they return.

Where to put homework: When students walk in, they will put homework on desk before they start their Do Now.

Materials: Sharpening pencils (pencils will be pre-sharpened. No sharpening during a lesson)

Emergency Expectations: Firedrill, lockdown

Entering/leaving the classroom: Do Now and Exit Ticket

Ways of getting attention: “Class class” “Yes Yes”, claps, Hands on your heart if you know…, “Rejoice” -Say when someone says what you were thinking

Transitions: Magic Word (changes every month, thought of together as a class) students do not move to the next activity/pack up/line up until they hear the magic word

6. Read book and discuss “First Grade Jitters”

Management Policies:

Work Time: Students are expected to be thinking and working when given independent work. Students should always be working on the given assignment of the teacher and always try their best.

Questions: Students are expected to ask other students what to do before coming to the teacher. Instructions will always be explained and will most likely be on the board or on the sheet students are working on. Procedure: 1. Look up on board 2. Ask people on each side of you 3. Raise your hand for teacher help

Homework Policy: Homework is expected to be completed on time. Homework is graded on content and effort.

Small Group Time: When a teacher is working with a small group, other students are not allowed to interrupt the teacher unless there is an emergency. An emergency consists of someone feeling very sick or if a dangerous situation needs to be reported to the teacher. When the teacher is wearing a Hawaiian Lei, students cannot interrupt.

Respect: Respect teacher, peers, and classroom material. Put materials back where you found them. Make sure all covers are on glue sticks and markers.

Nonverbal Cues:

1. Crossing of 2 fingers—indicates the need to go to the bathroom

2. Hand on your heart—indicates you know the answer

3. Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down

4. Clapping of hands-classroom attention (clap, clap clap, clap clap clap)

Student Expectations:

  • Come to class ready to learn
  • Come to class with an open mind
  • Respect teacher and students
  • Respect classroom materials and furniture
  • Follow instructions
  • Listen to directions

Teacher Expectations:

  • Work hard and be prepared
  • Come to class ready to learn
  • Come to class with an open mind
  • Be respectful and kind to all students
  • Be willing to listen to students
  • Set a good example for students in actions, speech, and attitude!

Transition Time:

Any time there is a transition; students will need to wait for the teacher to dismiss them. To do this, students must wait for the teacher’s magic word that will change each month. Students will be able to pick the magic word as a class from the beginning. This will help students feel important about policy-making and will reflect the interest of the class since students will have a say. Students will learn this at the beginning of the year (the first day of school). Reminding the students to wait until they hear the magic word will reinforce what I am trying to do. Eventually, students will be reminding other students if they forget to wait. The magic word is important since students in my class can be impulsive. To avoid students getting up before a lesson is officially over, students need to wait until the teacher formally dismisses them. The magic word also helps the students listen and stay engaged until the end of the lesson.

To get students attention before the magic word is said, one thing I will do is to do a special clap (clap, clap clap, clap clap clap). For example, when I clap once, the students clap once. Then when I clap twice, the students clap twice. When I clap three times, all students should clap 3 times back. At this point, all students’ eyes should be on me. Then I can tell the class our next transition and use the magic word to dismiss the class as a whole.

If some students are already looking at me, I can use a non-verbal cue such as pinching my fingers together to indicate that I want complete quiet. Students will do the cue back. My hope is that other students who are talking will realize that I have stopped talking and am doing my cue. Other students doing the cue indicate that they have seen my cue and have stopped talking. This will help the class regain attention and hear my instructions before the magic word is said for them to be dismissed.