Christmas Break in Northern Michigan

Well, Christmas break is coming to an end soon.  Although I love working, I really appreciate both Christmas and spring break.  Especially now that two of my three children are away at college, it’s so much fun having them home.  Not only do I have both my college kiddos home, but there’s a steady stream of old friends in and out of the house.  I missed my kids, I’ve missed their friends and the flurry of activity that surround them.  I knew it would happen and I was prepared.  Upon coming home, their first priority was not to spend time with mom.  They were home a few hours and then went off with their friends.  Fortunately, they were able to squeeze in a few hours to go cross country skiing with me.


These are my two college kids.  AJ is a sophomore at Michigan State University (Go Green-Go White!) majoring in chemistry and Kassie is a freshman at Saginaw Valley State University and plans to go into special education.

Just a little side note- on our cross country skiing adventure we did the five mile “difficult” loop!  Have to admit I took a spill (actually 2) on one of the downhill slopes.


Although this is first and foremost a teaching blog, sometimes I think it doubles as a promotion for Northern Michigan.  I LOVE where I live!  There’s so much to do.  I took this pic while out in the woods.  It was so peaceful.  I really do need to pull myself away from the computer more and travel out to the woods.


If you love where you live or if you did something really cool over your Christmas break, please leave a comment.  I’d love to hear from you.  Enjoy the remaining few days of your vacation.  Have a happy new year!


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Build A Snowman


I love winter!  Northern Michigan is a winter wonderland.  That’s what makes creating winter-themed activities especially fun.  From mittens, to penguins to snowmen- I love integrating winter clip art into activities.  Kyle (fabulous artist) created this adorable snowman just for the Build A Snowman Word Families and Build A Snowman Beginning Sounds activities.   When you download the Word Families activity, you’ll receive 15 colorful word family snowmen.

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Click HERE to download the Build A Snowman-Word Families from my TpT store

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Click HERE to download the Build A Snowman activity for beginning sounds from my TpT store.


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Strategies for Improving Handwriting

There is so much you can learn about a student’s phonics skills just from looking at writing samples.   One of the big “ah-ha” moments from my Phonics First training (Orton-Gillingham based program) was when the trainer said that a student has not fully mastered a phonics rule until you see him/her use it in writing.  Of course, that makes sense.  Sometimes you just need someone to point out the obvious.  Since that time, I’ve made it a point to really take some time to analyze writing samples.  One of the problems I’m having with some students is actually trying to read what they are writing.  This issue has led to numerous conversations with our Occupational Therapists regarding handwriting.  Admittedly, it the past, when I came across illegible writing, I was quick to call in the OT.   But lately, in the spirit of Response to Intervention (RtI), I’ve been working with teachers in providing strategies first.   Here are some strategies for commonly occurring handwriting issues:

Letter Size Differentiation

The writing of students whose lowercase letters are as large as the uppercase letters or their “descending” letters don’t drop below the line is difficult to read.  Our OT’s refer to this as “letter-size differentiation”.  Students need to be taught that tall letters are “tall” and reach the top line (e.g. b, d, f, h, k), small letters are “small” and are printed in the middle of the line (e.g. a, c, e) and descending letters drop below the bottom line (e.g. p, g).  To help cue students into the correct formation of the letters, having them practice writing letters on highlighted paper and/or using the highlighted paper for writing assignments can be beneficial.


Hi Write Hi-Write Wide-Ruled Notebook Paper
Hi-Write Beginner 1 Paper – Pack of 100
Hi Write Intermediate Paper – Pack of 100 Pages – Grade 2

You can purchase highlighted paper commercially; however our Assistive Technology guy easily generated this highlight paper using a program on his Mac.  Just for fun I tried my hand at creating highlighted paper with Microsoft Publisher.  We couldn’t find highlighted paper for specifically for spelling so I whipped this up for my first/second grade teacher friends.

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Click the following link to download this pdf Highlight paper spelling list2

We also recommend the use of raised line paper as the students can feel when their pencil touches the line.

Another fun strategy is cheering out spelling words.  I LOVE this strategy as incorporates movement and doubles as a multi-sensory strategy for learning words.    Students jump in the air with arms raised high for tall letters.  For small letters, they stretch their arms off to the side and for decending letters they crouch down low.

 Spacing Between Words

Another issue that affects legibility is not putting spaces between words.  In April, I wrote a blog regarding a specific strategy that our fabulous OT, Lyzz, uses to help students with word spacing.  Here’s the link to that post Teaching Students to Space Between Words

Case Consistently

Have you ever had a student write in all capital letters?  Students who are not correctly using capitals or lowercase letters need direct instruction and practice.  A reminder strip with simply upper- and lowercase letters on the desk may help.

Letter Formation

Students who are not forming letters correctly will need re-teaching of the correct stroke sequence.  Using multi-sensory strategies such as writing letters in sand or shaving cream will help.  Writing letters in the air prior to writing on the paper is a great strategy because it involves whole body movements (this is known as “air writing”).  For a more structured program, the Handwriting Without Tears is a program which is highly respected and has proven effective in improving handwriting.   In general, students need practice in writing the letters correctly.  This will involve direct supervision when practicing writing as we do not want them practicing incorrect strokes (remember: only perfect practice makes perfect).  It will take repeated practice writing letters correctly to reverse an old habit.

Handwriting Without Tears now has a new app.  I absolutely love it!


It’s the Wet, Dry, Try App.  It’s great because first the student is given a model of the correct letter strokes (voice too).  Then he/she must wet the letter with the sponge, dry it with a towel and then write it again with the chalk (of course, all virtual).


Handwriting practice worksheets also provided the extra practice needed when learning correct letter formation.  These handwriting practice worksheets are available in my TpT store.  I like to print a color copy and then lamintate the pages (I use the heavier laminating sheets) so that they can be used over and over again.

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Click HERE or on the picture below to download handwriting practice pages for the letters of the alphabet.


Letter Reversals

Okay, I know this is a big one!  So big in fact I wrote a blog devoted to just this issue.  Here’s the link Why Students Reverse Letters

With a little bit (or quite a bit) of deliberate practice, our little writers can improve their penmanship.


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I Love Pinterest

I haven’t yet mastered the world of social media.  There’s Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram…and the list goes on and on.  It’s really hard keeping up with my teenagers, but boy am I trying.   I have a Twitter and a Facebook account.  I like Facebook, but I use it mostly to check in with friends every once in awhile.  I hate to admit it, but I haven’t yet mustered enough courage to send a tweet—maybe some day.  I do, however, feel like I have a handle on Pinterest.  In fact, I’m really proud of my Pinterest boards.   I am truly addicted to Pinterest.  Here’s a little peek at my Pinterest boards.

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I use Pinterest to organize all my free and for purchase activities as well as organize all my blog posts (thanks so much to Laura Chandler for this idea).  So, if you want to peruse and download Make, Take & Teach free items, be sure to follow the first board.  The archive of all my blog posts is the second board.  I have organized the reading-related boards by the 5 key areas of reading instruction.


The holiday boards are just plain fun and are a work in progress.  I love searching for really cool classroom holiday activities.


If you are a teacher you’ll want to be sure to follow Charity Preston’s collaborative boards–Kindergarten Klub, First Grade Faculty and Second Grade Squad.  Many popular educator-bloggers contribute to these blogs.  Charity has boards for every grade level all the way up to high school.  If you are a kindergarten teacher (or even preschool or first grade) for 100% sure you’ll want to follow the brand new collaborative board, KinderLand Collaborative.  This board has tons and tons of fabulous ideas and activities for early elementary.  Feeling a little artsy?  My blogging friend Debbie Clement from Rainbows Within Reach has her children’s art collaborative board.

So if you are just a beginner pinner or have been pinning for awhile, you’re welcome to check out my boards—- Make, Take and Teach on Pinterest!


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Mitten Match Activities

Oh my, the snow is flying up here in Northern Michigan!  Winter is alway a fun time of the year and it’s a great time to add a little seasonal spirit into your center activities.  These mitten match activities may just do the trick.

Assembling the activities is pretty easy.  You’ll want to print the mitten on cardstock so that they are durable and then laminate. Just grab a few clothespins and your activity is all set.  This is so not necessary, but I decided to “cutesie” up the clothespins by attaching little snowballs on the ends.  I picked up this foam packet at Micheal’s Craft Store.  There’s a variety of shapes to use for different activities.

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You can find the snowballs on a template of 4.  Simply peel them off and put the on the end of the clothespin.


When you download the Mitten Match Rhyme, you’ll receive 30 rhyming mitten pairs!


The Mitten Match Rhyme activity is available through the Make, Take & Teach website or through my online Teachers Pay Teachers store.

The Mitten Match activity is also available for beginning sounds.


You can find the Mitten Match Beginning Sounds activity on the Make, Take & Teach website or through my online Teachers Pay Teachers store.

The Mitten Match for Vocabulary is another great center activity for our students.  Students simply clip the pictures that go-together.  Be sure to have your students explain why the pictures go together to expand oral language.


The Mitten Match Vocabulary activity is available on the Make, Take & Teach website or through the my online Teachers Pay Teacher store.

Now for the Mitten Match Math-  You can download the addition facts to 10 for free.


Click the following link to download Mitten Math for Addition Mitten Math

Enjoy the winter months ahead.


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