Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Monthly Freebie: Editable December Newsletter

Is is just me, or is this school year flying past? I can't believe it's already December, but the good news is that I have the Tally Tales monthly freebie ready to share! Here's a preview of this month's editable newsletter:
You can now access the editable December newsletter for free here. I know how crazy busy this month can be for everyone, especially teachers! I hope this little freebie will help save a bit of your precious time during this holiday season! Be sure to grab it and make it your own. :) Merry Christmas, everyone! :)

Saturday, November 28, 2015

"A vs. An" Instructional Resources for Little Words

A and an... such simple, small words, right? I have noticed, however, that while reading these words poses little difficulty, very few of the students I see daily have actually mastered the correct usage for these words in writing. They often use the two words interchangeably, with no clear discernment for which word is actually appropriate in context. To help alleviate this problem, I have created a new product that focuses solely on understanding when to use a and an.

The product is intended to provide thorough materials that will help students learn the rule behind the usage of a and an, practice applying the rule through differentiated sort activities, and then apply the rule independently in writing. You can see detailed images from the preview file below.

"I can" statement poster ...
 Rules posters for a and an combined as well as separated ...
Differentiated sort activities that feature words as well as pictures so students have multiple ways to apply this rule, depending on their needs prior to and throughout instruction with this skill ...
A tree map recording sheet that corresponds to the sort activities and also features a "challenge" component as well as a final "a vs. an" page that may be used as independent practice or as an assessment for this skill if needed ...
Now, this is how I have already used parts of this product in my classroom. The sort activities, in particular, are beneficial for my students. I was careful to include the option for pictures, which eliminates any confusion over reading potentially unknown words. This also helps students to focus on the sound at the beginning of each word, rather than simply looking for the letter. 
Once students become comfortable using the picture version of the sort, I then transition to the words. They love using the puzzle pieces, and aligning the cards just right is one extra challenge for those fine motor skills!
To keep the pieces for this sort activity organized, I made my own little pocket foldable. This is such a helpful little tool that the students can easily use as well.
I hope you can find a way to use this in your classroom as well! So far, it has been helpful to students of multiple grade levels in my classroom, and I tried to create a product that would be easily adaptable for your classroom needs. If interested, you can access this newbie here in the Tally Tales TPT store!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Classwork Display "Window"

If you're looking for a fun, but easy-to-manage method of displaying classwork, then you may be interested in today's post. :)

This little display is now outside my classroom, just waiting to have some of my students' work added to it! Check out my new classroom "window"...
Now, take a behind-the-scenes look at the way it is (easily) made and operated!

If you want to make one just like mine, you will need the following materials:
  • 4 gallon-sized ziplock bags
  • duct tape
  • one wooden dowel rod
  • 2 Command hooks
  • Butcher paper (for the curtain)

Simply lay the ziplock bags in the shape of a square, with the ziplock logo face-down on the table. You will want this on the back side of the window so that it doesn't show from the front. I have inserted pieces of blue paper into the bags so you can easily see how the logo will disappear once student work is inside. Use the duct tape to lay across the edges of the bags, connecting them enough to hold them in tact and create the window-pane appearance. Lay the dowel rod across the top, and simply fold the top half of the duct tape over it to attach it to the zip lock bags. That's all!
Here's a view from the back side, where you can simply unzip the bags to insert student work, and change the display any time you want! 
I attached command hooks to the wall, and the dowel rod is just resting on those hooks to hold the window. I made a "curtain" out of butcher paper, and that conceals the rod as well as the hooks. I can pull the "window" down and swap out the contents of our display any time I want. 
What do you think? 

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Magic Writing with Sight Words

One of my teacher friends recently shared this idea with me, and I thought it was such a marvelously-simple, fun idea. I couldn't wait to use it with my students, and luckily, since it is so easy to incorporate into classroom instruction as a quick review activity, I was able to use it right away. As it turns out, my students love it just as much as I do. (Isn't it great when things work out like that?!?)

This is a great activity to use for those hard-to-learn sight words. If you use the Orton-Gillingham red words technique, then this exercise is a great extension activity to help reinforce those words! 

As I said, this is a really, really simple activity. Start by having your students write their work in large print with a white crayon. You will need to model this for them. After all, you are writing with a white crayon, so it helps if they can watch first to gain a better understanding of the size and spacing for their letters. 
Next, the students use a marker to color over their writing. They can watch as the word "magically" appears!
How neat is that? Of course, you won't have a perfect image of each word, but the point is to provide students with an additional, unique experience with these words. This activity will definitely be exciting for them. My students immediately begged to "magically write" all of our red words!
I hope your students are as excited about magic writing as mine were! :)

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Monthly Freebie: Editable November Newsletter

How is it possible that it is already November?!? Does anyone else feel like the months are flying past? Either way, it's time for my monthly freebie. As always, if you ever experience trouble downloading or using one of my products, please feel free to contact me! I am grateful for any feedback, especially if I need to make an adjustment or two! :)

You can now access a free, editable template for a November newsletter here.

See the template design for this month's newsletter below...

Sunday, October 25, 2015

*Freebie* Kid-Friendly Reference Poster for Fluency

In my previous post, I shared the concept of using a "Never, ever" poster as a visual representation of phonics rules, which students may use as a reference for spelling. Today, I am sharing a version that may be used as a reference poster for fluent reading. 

I often discuss "robot reading" with my students. We call the expressionless, halting style of reading "Robot Reading" because, obviously, it sounds more like the voice of a robot than that of a fluent reader. In order to become fluent readers, students must learn to read with smooth, expressive voices -very much as though they are having a conversation with the text. 

We really have a lot of fun with this, and during one of my classes recently, a student eagerly said, "Mrs. Tally, that should be on our Never, Ever poster! Robot Reading!" So, with respect to her suggestion, I have designed a separate Never, ever poster that I will display in my fluency center. It is a very kid-friendly graphic, and I can't wait to share it with my classes this week. 
If you are interested in using this poster in your own classroom, you can access it for free here in the Tally Tales TPT store. I have added several freebies to the store recently, so feel free to look around and grab those. I try to share any TPT freebies here as well, but if you want to make sure you stay up-to-date on freebies and sales in the future, simply become a follower of the Tally Tales TPT store.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Using Rules Posters to Foster Student Learning

I try to provide a lot of visual reference materials throughout my classroom for my students. We use rules posters, thinking maps, and graphic organizers to display literacy rules and reminders throughout the room. Most of my students are so familiar with them that they know exactly where to look when they need to remember a particular spelling pattern or simply check the direction of their b or d. One of their favorite posters is my "Never, Ever" rules poster. I thought I would share it here with you today.

The concept for this poster is simple: it contains several frequent spelling errors or phonics patterns that students find to be particularly troublesome. I refer to it during instructional lessons, and students use it when they are writing independently as well. Obviously, my "Never, Ever" poster contains literacy-based content, but I'm sure this concept could easily be adapted to fit multiple other content areas.
What are some "Never, Ever" guidelines you could display as a reference for your students?

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Monthly Freebie: Editable October Newsletter

Well, it's time for another monthly newsletter freebie! I am so excited that several of you have found these newsletters to be helpful over the past few months. There were a few glitches with the September newsletter, and I was grateful to those who brought that to my attention. I tried to get those issues resolved as quickly as possible. If you ever experience trouble downloading or using one of my products, please feel free to contact me! I am grateful for any feedback, especially if I need to make an adjustment or two! :)

You can now access a free, editable template for an October newsletter here.

See the template design for this month's newsletter below...

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Extending Student Vocabulary: ABC Chart & Portable Word Wall *Freebie*

So, I am almost ashamed to share a post, considering that I haven't blogged consistently for a month or so now. Where did September go??? Anyway, while I haven't been blogging, I have been collecting pictures and ideas to share... as soon as time allowed me to actually create a post or two. *sigh*

This is a little update on one particular vocabulary exercise I have incorporated into my instruction with older students this year. I love this little Word of the Week center. I purchased it at the end of the year last year, so this is the first year I have actually used it into my classroom. As I began planning for it, I wanted to make sure that I provided multiple opportunities for my students to use these words frequently in my classroom. Ultimately, the goal is for students to carry these words outside the classroom as well.
We begin by reading the example and illustration, and then the students try to guess the meaning of the word. Once I share the actual definition, students map the word onto a bubble map as a group exercise. While I do love this vocabulary center, I needed a good space for students to accumulate the words as they learn them. With the center, you can only display the current word for the week. In order to provide a space for students to revisit all words as we go throughout the year, I created this small, simple ABC chart onto which students could transfer each week's vocabulary word and definition. 
The process is simple: we use folded post-it notes to create a lift-the-flap idea on the chart. First, the student writes the word on top of the post-it, and then he/she writes the definition on the inside. Once the word and definition are complete, they stick the word onto the chart under the appropriate letter.
I have to admit: The next step is probably my favorite part of the whole experience. After adding the word to the ABC chart, my students transfer their weekly vocabulary word onto their own portable word walls as well. This simple little word wall is a nifty personal reference tool for students to maintain as we explore new vocabulary terms. I have it available as a freebie in the Tally Tales TPT store. You can download it for free here, and then store it in student binders, folders, or even in a center as an easy place for students to document sight words, vocabulary terms or thematic terminology as needed. Younger students can certainly use this, but it is an ideal tool for older students to consistently extend alphabetic knowledge skills.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Monthly Freebie: Editable September Newsletter

Happy September! Where on Earth did August go, anyway??? I do apologize for the lack of posts lately; I haven't been totally worthless, though... It's time for a monthly newsletter freebie! You can now access a free, editable template for a September newsletter here.

See the template design for my this month's newsletter below...
For my last newsletter, I did not include the quote in the editable template. However, I had quite a few requests for a version with that detail included afterward. So I have left the little motivational snippet on this month's template; feel free to let me know if that works better (or not!) for you and your classroom.

As always, I hope this will be helpful for you in your classroom. Newsletters can be tedious and time-consuming, so maybe this design will shave a few precious minutes off of your planning time. Be sure to check back here each month for the latest template design. At the end of the year, I intend to bundle all of the newsletters into one package on TPT, but this is the time to grab them for free! :)

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Back to School: Management System Follow-up!

I previously described my reevaluation of my clip-chart system for behavior management in my classroom. If you missed it, you can access it here. The concept is simple: each group has their own clip. Positive choices (as a whole) move them up the chart; negative choices move them down. I have color-coded prize buckets that correspond to each level, and on Fridays, students visit the bucket that corresponds to their clip placement.

My problem with this was that the students, to this point, had invested nothing in this management system. It was mine; not theirs. So this year, they are building on it in a way that personalizes it, thereby making it more relevant for them. As a back-to school activity, we discussed each level of the chart, and students shared ideas on post-it notes about what it means to be "Ready to Learn" or "Good" and all the way to "Outstanding." I love this because it has aligned student expectations to our clip chart. Plus it gives me specific behavior standards by which to measure their time spent with me each day throughout the year. Double bonus.

I want to follow up with details about my students' choices, and our completed "thought bubbles" for the different levels of our clip chart. Here are a couple of images of the completed (so far) project. I'm sure we will add to this throughout the year as new ideas or situations arise.
To add to this system, each class chose a special name for their group. They did such a good job working together to make each decision, and the names they chose are really cute. Normally I use numbers to identify each group on the behavior chart. I wrote their group names on labels and added those to the clips to further personalize this management chart for them.
Their group names are also listed on my pocket chart schedule for class times...
... and on the banner of my door sign.
It has been exciting for me to see how well my students responded to this. Several of them wanted to take it even further and create new names for themselves in my class. I think we'll just stick to class names for now... This teacher is not so skilled as to learn two names for each child! ;)

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Back to School: Behavior Management Ideas for Small Groups

I have previously explained the nature of my classroom: I teach seven reading classes, for a variety of age groups and developmental levels, ranging from kindergarten through fifth grade. My students come from different classrooms within each grade level, and I work with them for a 45-minute class session each day. I love what I do, but it does present a few challenges that aren't necessarily the biggest hurdles in a standard homeroom class.       
                                                                   First and foremost, I really wanted to have an awesome classroom management system that would be a universal method, suitable for all of my classes. Last year was my first year to teach in this area, and I used a modified version of the clipboard method. I wanted to continue to use that this year, with a bit more elaboration that would truly motivate my students to do their very best with every minute they spend with me. Forty-five minutes is not that long... I need them to bring their A-game. ;)                                                                                   After much reflection, I developed an honest statement of my management goal for this year: I want to enable each student to take ownership for our classroom and every minute he/she spends there. I made a note for myself and put it on my desk so I will face this little reminder daily.
From there, I reevaluated my clip-chart system. The concept is simple: each group will have their own clip (to be added later after the groups decide on their own name for their individual class). Positive choices (as a whole) move them up the chart; negative choices move them down. I have color-coded prize buckets that correspond to each level, and on Fridays, students visit the bucket that corresponds to their clip placement.

My problem with this was that the students, to this point, had invested nothing in this management system. It was mine; not theirs. So this year, they are building on it in a way that I think will help us all. As a back-to school activity, we are going to discuss each level of the chart, and students are going to share ideas on post-it notes about what it means to be "Ready to Learn" or "Good" and all the way to "Outstanding." I love this because it aligns student expectations to our clip chart. Plus it gives me specific behavior standards by which to measure their time spent with me each day. Double bonus.

This is my clip chart with thought bubbles.
Here's a closer look at each level of the char, as well as the example I provided to give students a jump-start.




I can't wait to see my students' expectations displayed here! What do you think? Do you have any suggestions for me?

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Spelling Words with -ng and -nk: An Original Tale and More!

As previously described, I am gradually developing a variety of phonics-based resources within The Tally Tales TPT store. You are welcome to peruse the product listings within the store. However, I often find it to be helpful to see a bit more detail/description of the products, rather than the snippets provided within the TPT listing. Blog posts about products are always helpful to me. You may not find this post to be helpful, but if you are looking for resources to support this particular skill, then I hope you will gain something from descriptions of my new product here.
This new TPT product has been a baby of mine for a while, and I'm excited to showcase it today. If your phonics instruction is skill-specific, you might benefit from incorporating this product into your classroom.  My favorite part about this one is that it includes an original story that I wrote to help students retain the concept of spelling with -ng and -nk. My students really enjoy lessons in which I incorporate tales that help bring letters to life for them. I usually just make them up as I go along, but I am hoping to include them in TPT products more often in the future. I really had fun with this one! ;) 

Here's a little sneak peak for you...
What do you think? Is it off to a good start? The rest of the tale is in the product, along with quite a few additional resources that might be helpful if you are teaching this skill. I created a general plan for using the materials as well.
Here's a snapshot preview of the whole product, but you can also view the preview file here in the Tally Tales TPT store for a closer look at each component of the resource.
Beyond the details of the product itself, each page contains a Tally Tales copyright statement. Additionally, I included my new Terms of Use and Credits page at the end. Both of these are little tips I learned more about through the TPT Seller Challenge this summer, so I am excited to have applied what I learned.

Oh, one more thing: I have updated my TPT store to feature a clickable banner image that links back to the Tally Tales blog! (Another tip from the TPT Seller Challenge… I am so grateful for the wealth of knowledge shared by so many amazing TPT sellers out there!) Check it out, and let me know what you think! :)

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Back-to-School Details & a GIVEAWAY!

Our teachers started back to school last Wednesday, so the past few days have been a bit crazy. Kids start back to school this Wednesday, so I feel like I'm in overdrive at the moment. Naturally.

I plan to share a classroom tour, complete with small-group management ideas, in the near future, but I am saving those specifics for a later date... Mainly because everything isn't that ready yet. I have until Wednesday. ;) However, I have managed to capture a few new details to share now.

  • I created a new business card design for this school year. Previously, I designed and printed my own. While I love the originality of making my own, it requires a bit more time that I really had to spare this time around. So I went with good ole' Vistaprint and spent a fraction of the time on these...


  • I have set up a coffee station in one corner. No more"afternoon slumps" without any coffee to grab from the teacher's lounge (or time to get there to grab it). I can have caffeine at a moment's notice. I've always envied those teachers who had coffee ready in their room. It's a sweet little luxury that is going to be a real treat for me (and my neighboring teachers!) this year. :)


  • I've had a little crafting fun over the course of the past couple of weeks. I needed a new sign for my classroom door. This one turned out larger than I originally planned, but I do love it. I may decide to hang it beside the door; I would love to see it survive with all parts in tact at least until Christmas! ;) I am actually going to use the banner on this sign as part of my class management system. I'll explain more about that later...  


  • Also, in case you didn't know already, the TPT Back-to-School Sitewide Sale begins tomorrow. It will run through Tuesday, and all Tally Tales TPT products will be 20% off. It will be a great time to stock up on back-to-school goodies! :)


  • Before you go, make sure you enter to win my Back to School Packet! The giveaway is now open, and I will announce the winner on Wednesday August 5th, in honor of my first "official" day of school. Enter to win below!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Monthly Newsletter FREEBIE!

Recently, I shared a post about my newsletter design and goals for the upcoming school year. If you missed it, you can check it out here. I received so much helpful feedback about my design, and I am going to use that advice as I continue to prepare these newsletters throughout the school year. Thank you SO MUCH to those of you who have taken the time to give me some recommendations about the design!

Several people also expressed interest in using the newsletter for their own classrooms. I have no problem sharing this design; however, I wasn't sure how to make the template editable. Again, thanks to advice from others, I think I have it figured out!

If you would like to use this newsletter template for your own classroom, you can access it for free through Google Docs here. The template will look like this...
As a reminder, this is my original design for my own newsletter. In the free template, I have included editable text boxes. However, I will warn you ahead of time: the font for the text boxes on the freebie is not identical to my version. Some of the fonts I used are ones I have downloaded or purchased, and unless you have downloaded them as well, the template would not work for you. So the font will look slightly different for you, but the sections and graphics are all there, ready to use!

As I described in my original post, I will revise this newsletter template each month. Sooooooo that means I will also make this a monthly freebie, available here at the beginning of each month! 

I hope this will be helpful for you in your classroom. Newsletters can be tedious and time-consuming, so maybe this design will shave a few precious minutes off of your planning time. Be sure to check back here each month for the latest template design. At the end of the year, I intend to bundle all of the newsletters into one package on TPT, but this is the time to grab them for free! :)

Note: Some clipart on the newsletter is provided by Krista Wallden at Creative Clips. She has an amazing selection in her store! For some reason, I can't get her graphic to export correctly into the credits page of the final powerpoint document.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Resources for Teaching the Sounds of C and G

As previously described, I am gradually developing a variety of phonics-based resources within The Tally Tales TPT store. You are welcome to peruse the product listings within the store. However, I often find it to be helpful to see a bit more detail/description of the products, rather than the snippets provided within the TPT listing. Blog posts about products are always helpful to me. You may not find this post to be helpful, but if you are looking for resources to support this particular skill, then I hope you will gain something from descriptions of my new product here.

With this product, I have focused on providing resources that support instruction and practice with the hard and soft sounds of the letters C and G
You may or may not be completely familiar with the differing sounds that can be expressed using C and G. Hopefully, this explanation will be helpful…

The Letter C The letter C makes two sounds—the /k/ sound and the /s/ sound. The sound of C is primarily determined by the letter following it, and vowels are particularly vital for altering the letter sound. When C is followed by a consonant (except h), it makes the /k/ sound. 

Vowels, however, change things a bit. When followed by the vowels a, o, or u, the letter C still makes the /k/ sound. However, when followed by the vowels e, i, or y, it makes the /s/ sound. When C makes the /k/ sound, that is often referred to as the hard sound.  The /s/ sound, however, is referred to as the soft sound for the letter C. 

This can be such a complicated concept for many of our struggling young readers and spellers, and it helps to have a visual reference for support. In a recent LETRS training, our instructor shared with us the idea of a train track illustration. The "C Train" changes it's direction (and sound) whenever it encounters the letters e, i, or y.  She sketched her own train on tracks and signal light with a letter on each light. I absolutely loved this concept, so I created my own rule posters and resources to use with my students. (This resource is available in the Tally Tales TPT store.)

As you can see, this product includes the explanatory rule poster, complete with examples. I have also included the "C Train" illustration in which the sound of C transitions from /k/ (its hard sound) to /s/ (its soft sound) any time it encounters the letters e, i, or y.

Also included is a sort activity, which students can use to practice distinguishing between the sounds of C within words.


The Letter G The letter G is similar to the letter C.  When followed by the vowels a, o, or u, G still makes the hard sound /g/. However, when followed by the vowels e, i, or y, it makes the soft sound /j/.   

G is a bit trickier to deal with, because it doesn't follow the rule as often as C. In fact, you can really only trust G to follow the rules approximately 60% of the time. (Don't you just love the English language?!?) Some notable exceptions include get, girl, give, gift.  I have included both examples and exceptions on the explanatory rule poster within this product. In addition, I have created the "G Train" poster, which demonstrates the transition from /g/ (its hard sound) to /j/ (its soft sound) any time it encounters the letters e, i, or y. Again, exceptions are included on the illustration to help students gain familiarity with those as well. 
As with the letter c, I also included a sort activity for the letter G, which students can use to practice distinguishing between the sounds of G within words.
If interested, you can access this entire product here in the Tally Tales TPT store. I hope this post is helpful to you! Please feel free to share any resources, ideas, or questions you may have related to this concept.