Nouns, Verbs and Adjectives!

Many of my second and third grade friends are now learning the parts of speech.  I thought I’d create a few posters that they can use for reference.  Here’s a little sampling of the 8 posters that you can download for free.  Just click the link below.




Click HERE to download the FREE Parts of Speech Posters from my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

I always find sorting activities helpful when teaching a concept.  The Nouns, Verbs and Adjectives! Picture Sorting activity is an ideal introductory activity for teaching the parts of speech.  When you download this activity you’ll receive 66 colorful nouns, verbs and adjective pictures and 2 differentiated templates.  The self-checking feature makes this activity ideal for independent literacy centers.


The Nouns, Verbs and Adjectives activity  is available through the Make, Take & Teach website or in my Teachers Pay Teacher store.

If you’d like to target adjectives and adverbs a little more in-depth, the Adjectives and Adverbs! Word Sorting activity may just do the trick.  There are 3 differentiated activities within this file.  Word cards are color-coded per template.


The Adjectives and Adverbs! activity can be found in my online Teachers Pay Teachers store.

Teaching the parts of speech can actually be quite fun.  Hope you find the posters helpful!





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Fostering Thoughtful Literacy


If you’ve been following my blog for awhile now, you may know that I actually enjoy reading professional articles and books.  Last year I came across Richard Allington’s article “What Really Matters When Working With Struggling Readers” in the April 2013 of  The Reading Teacher.  I immediatley made copies of the article for all my colleagues.  I think we all read that article over 50 times as each person’s copy was tattered, had rows of text marked with highlights, and notes scribbled in the margins. We talked about the content of that article for months. I will admit, it kind of shook our world.  Several of his issues with current practices of instruction and intervention for struggling students we were actually doing.  I needed to know more so I ordered Allington’s book.


One of the areas where we continue to struggle in is in the area of comprehension.  Phonemic awareness, fluency and phonics– well, they’re relatively easy to assess and teach. Vocabulary and comprehension; however, a bit more elusive. That’s why I found chapter 5, “Students Need to Develop Thoughtful Literacy” quite helpful.  Allington states that “in school we have too often confuse remembering with understanding.”

Think about it.  How do we typically assess and teach comprehension in school?  Tasks such as copying information from text into a blank on a worksheet, matching text to answers or completing multiple-choice tasks are relatively low-level recall tasks yet these practices are prevalant in so many classrooms.  There is a difference between recalling information and understanding.  What does it mean to understand text?  Allington uses real-life examples to help make his point.  So, here’s my text-to-self example:

Let’s go back to the article handed to my colleagues last year.  As we were reading the article, we were making connections.  We were making text-to-self connections (am I using some of these practices right now that he felt were ineffective?) and text-to-text connections (how is what he is proposing matching to what other researchers are saying?).  We were summarizing, analyzing, synthezing and evaluting all at the same time.  Most importantly, we were discussing.  Our discussions regarding that text and material relating to that article continued for over an entire school year.  The lively debates and professional challenges were incredible.  That’s what makes reading alive.  Would my colleagues have been impressed if I asked them true/false questions about the contents of the article?  Would that have assessed their understanding of the material?  Would that have stretched all of our thinking?  When we are asked to explain, discuss or write about texts that we’ve read we are more likely to demonstrate true understanding. Just as an FYI- one of the main reasons I blog after reading a chapter of a book is to help myself understand what I’m reading.


What Does the Research say on Effective Comprehension Instruction?

It’s important to know that reading comprehension can significantly improve with effective instruction. We can, and must, explicitly teach students strategies to comprehend text.  It’s also important to know that learning strategies take time.  These are not one week lessons, but rather require explict modeling and practice over a significant period of time.  Another point that Allington made was that students should be taught the strategies within “bundles” rather than treating each strategy as a stand-alone.  For example, the strategy of “summarizing” may involve several strategies such as activiating prior knowledge and paraphrasing.  Reading programs that teach a strategy and then another and then another are not likely to be the most effective.

There are several strategies that research has proven successful in improving reading comprehension.   Each strategy is described below in this handout:

Reading Compre border

Just click the following link to download this FREE handout Reading Comprehension Strategies

Let’s just add that above all students need to interact with the text.  They need to talk about what they’ve read with their teacher and their peers.  They need to write about their thoughts and feelings about the material.  They need to make reading come alive!

I’m so looking forward to reading Chapter 6 “Where to Begin: Instruction for Struggling Readers”.  Grab the book.  Share it with a few colleagues and have your own rich discussions too!




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Homophones Activity


Just click the following link to download this list of homophones: List of Homophones

A homophone is a word that sounds the same as another word or words, but has a different meaning and spelling.  Homophones can really trip up our young readers and writers.  It’s sometimes difficult for them to know for sure which spelling to use within their writing.  Targeted instruction in the meaning of the different spellings of these words is needed.  Activities involving homophones can actually be quite fun.  The Homophone Pear Match activity makes for a great literacy activity or as an activity for your small group instruction.  Students simply match each homophone pear and provides either a definition of the words and/or puts the words in a sentence.   When you download this activity you’ll receive 72 homophone pears.


I’ve also included a label just in case you’d like to store the activity in a baggie or a container.



The Homophone Pear Matching activity can be found in my online Teachers Pay Teachers store or in the Make, Take & Teach website.




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Multiple Meaning Words- Ice Cream Scoops

Multiple Meaningblogpic

When I was a Speech/Language Pathologist I used to love to teach multiple word meanings.  When students understand that a word can have a different meaning depending upon it’s use in oral or written language, their comprehension improves.  There are a lot ways to help students learn multiple meaning words.  The Ice Cream Scoops activity is a fun activity for expanding vocabulary by teaching multiple word meanings.  When you download this activity you’ll receive 16 ice cream cones containing words with two or more definitions.  Students match the definitions to the words.  You’ll want to be sure to have the students use the words in sentence so that they can clearly demonstrate that they understand the word meaning.


Storing activities can also be a bit challenging.  I’ve included a sticker for you just in case you’d like to store your activity in a baggie.


The Ice Cream Scoops for Multiple Meaning Words can be found in my online Teachers Pay Teachers store or in the Make, Take & Teach website.






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Motivating Struggling Readers


This is a post about helping children to become better readers- I promise.  Before we talk about reading, however, I’d like to share with you a story about the love-hate relationship that I have with my guitar.  Yep, that’s right- my guitar.


Fifteen years ago I was a stay-at-home mom.  My children were just old enough to entertain themselves for brief periods of time so I thought I’d do something new.  That “something” would be learning to play the guitar.  At the time was I attending our contemporary mass at church and a new friend was one of two guitar players.  I asked Lori if she wouldn’t mind teaching me to play. She agreed, so off I went to purchase a guitar.  Lori taught me a few chords and within a short time I was playing a “real church song”.  The song was “Come to the Water”.  If I was to correlate this song to a reading level, I’d say it’s on par with “Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See” (1.4 reading level).


I practiced this song over and over and over again.  Lori and I met about once a week to practice- we chatted and played.  We had so much fun!  One evening Lori called and asked if I would play with her at mass.  Tom (the lead guitar player) wasn’t able to attend that evening and she didn’t want to be alone.  I agreed and was then under pressure to add “Praise the Lord My Soul” and “Lead Me Lord” to my repertoire.  These songs were a bit more difficult.  I’ll equate them to “Frog and Toad” (2.4 reading level).  I thought helping my friend that evening was a one-night-thing, but I still play at our 5:30 mass to this day.


Here’s something else you should know about my guitar playing.  You may be thinking with 15 years of playing guitar, I’m pretty good.  The honest truth is is that I’m not very good at all.  Despite taking lessons for 2 years and playing weekly at mass, I stalled out somewhere at Junie B. Jones (about a 3.1 grade level).   There really is no mystery as to why I’m not very good.  I simply don’t practice.  My guitar teacher was really cool.  I really enjoyed the lessons, but I didn’t practice during the week.  He was fine with that.  Although I had the music for the upcoming mass, I rarely practiced.  Tom and Lori were so good, that if I skipped a chord, it didn’t matter.  Sometimes I even played chords that were “close enough”.  Sound like any struggling readers you might know?

I’m hoping by this time, you can make the correlation between my learning to play the guitar and helping students become better readers.  The bottom line is that, just like with  learning to play an instrument, the only way to get better at something is to actually do it!  So, how much time should you practice?  Well, not sure if there’s been studies about playing guitar, but there have been studies looking at time spent reading and performance on achievement tests.  Take a look at this:

Why Reading

 You can download this chart by clicking the following link Why Reading Outside of School Is Important

It’s important to know that it’s not only about the time spent reading, it’s also about the quality of what is read.  What if every day I only played “Come to the Water” and “Lead Me Lord”.  I love those songs.  I feel really good about myself as a musician when I play them, but will I actually improve?  Probably not at a rate that’s acceptable.  It’s not harmful. My fluency with the chords in those pieces would improve and it would help my muscle-memory, but is playing the songs I already know all I need to do to become a better player?  To improve my guitar skills, I not only need to increase my practice time, but I need to systematically play songs that are more difficult.  The songs can’t be too hard that I’m frustratrated and give up, and they can’t be too easy either.  They need to be “just right”.  Just challenging enough that I’m learning something new.  In terms of reading, helping children choose “just right books” is critical.  You can use the book leveling system (e.g. Acclereated Reader) or try this quick and easy way of teaching children if a book is a good fit:

Finding the Right Fit Book

 You can download this poster by clicking the following link Finding the Right Fit Book

It’s kind of tricky balancing the “just right” books for students.  Again, they can’t be too difficult.  Studies have shown that reading at 98 percent or higher accuracy is essential for reading acceleration.  Anything less slows the rate of improvement, and anything below 90 percent doesn’t improve reading ability at all (Allington, 2012; Ehir, Dreyer, Flugman & Gross, 2007).  It’s so, so very important that we find the right books for our struggling readers.  It’s pretty clear that consistently having students read at their frustration level does little good. Maybe this handy little chart can help:

Reading levels

 You can download this file by clicking the following link Determining Reading Levels

We can’t have a discussion about about increasing time reading without talking about motivation.  So, how do you motivate students read?  More importantly, how do you motivate the struggling reader to read?  Let’s digress to my guitar playing example.  My all-time favorite Christmas song is “Child of the Poor”.  When our choir sings this song–it’s beautiful.  The melody is to “What Child is This” and the last verse we sing as a round.  I really wanted to be able to play this song from beginning to end without skipping chords at Christmas mass.  The song was a bit beyond my level (inching into the frustration level), but I practiced it diligently for weeks.  That darn “B” chord gave me the most trouble, but with a lot of practice, I finally got it!  It was a song that I was highly motivated to learn and I was willing to put in the time and practice to master it.

Child of the poor

So, how do we motivate those struggling readers, here’s a few ideas:

  1. Find a hook.  For my son, the “hook” happened in second grade with the “Michigan Chillers” series and then morphed to the “Warriors” series.  That’s when he discovered the love of reading.  Finding a series can be very addicting.
  2. Provide a variety of books for your child/students to choose from.  If you are a classroom teacher, a rich classroom library will improve student achievement at a much faster rate than worksheets.  If you are a parent, there have been numerous studies showing the direct correlation between the number of books available in the home and reading achievement.  Need books?  Frequent visits to the library may be in order.
  3. Set achievable goals with your child/students.  This could be number of books read, time spent reading, improvement in reading levels… whatever you choose.  Of course we want children to read for the pure love of reading, but sometimes we need to use some other forms of motivation until they discover this.
  4. Make reading a social affair.  Remember my friend, Lori, who taught me to play guitar?  Well, Lori sadly moved away.  Playing the guitar wasn’t as fun anymore and it was shortly after she moved that my guitar practicing time took a dive.  Try reading the same book as your child/student and have rich discussions!
  5. Set aside time.  Turn off the t.v.!  Take a peek at that chart outlining the amount of time students spend reading outside of school and their exposure to words.  Did you know that if a child at the 30th percentile (one who reads a little less than 2 minutes a day) spent an extra 10 minutes a day reading a book, he/she would have added 700,000 words read during the school year.  This surpasses the amount of words read by a student reading at the 70th percentile!

I’m reading this really great book on increasing the amount and complexity of student reading.  It’s a pretty easy read with great ideas for increasing reading time within the classroom.  Feel free to check it out!  Be sure to let me know what you think in the comment section.




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Compound Word Cupcakes


I’ve been wanting to make this activity for quite some time.  Kyle (fabulous artist) created these super cute cupcakes just for this activity designed for learning compound words.   This activity contains 48 compound word cupcakes which are ideal for use either within your literacy centers or for small group instruction.  Your students simply match the cupcake halves to create words.  A recording sheet is included so that they can write their words. This activity is easily differentiated as you can choose which and how many cupcakes to use.


The Cupcake Matching Compound Words is available through my Teachers Pay Teachers online store.


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