Why Should I go to EdCamp?

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Have you ever sat through a professional development and thought to yourself, in between Facebook posts of corse, “This should have been an e-mail?” You are not alone. Let me tell you, I have been there many times. However… That does not happen at EdCamp! So, I am here to share with you some of the amazing things you can learn while at EdCamp, and will NEVER hear about anywhere else. Well, unless you and some colleagues are three coronas deep after school on Friday.

  1. All about Boogers-  Yes, BOOGERS. How many teachers have tackled this wonderful conundrum. I wonder if it’s the taste or the mysterious feeling of getting away with it, but this seems to be an issue K-12. I sat in a room with eight other educators at EdCamp talking about eating, wiping, blowing and smearing BOOGERS. There is NO PD for this guys! So, I found out that there is a BOOK.. like, a real actual book about what to do with boogers. OMG guys! I was on Amazon ordering it as if my career depended on it… so was the middle school teacher. Here it is guys! Only $5 for booger sanity! Count me in!

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2. Don’t poop in the urinal and other lessons on back to school night- Okay, this one was new to me. Before I had kids of my own I assumed ALOT.  My husband would take my kids into the bathroom, and I had this vision that they learned NOT to poop in the urinal at this time. Who would have thought? So, we are discussing the first day chat about not peeing on the playground, and this one comes up. Yes, we all agreed that we teach a lesson on the first day of school about whipping it out on the playground. Take notes new teachers!!! Then, a preschool teacher lets us in on her secret. She asks the parents to take their kids into the bathroom (boys) to teach them about the urinal. Who would have thought? Yes! Simple, yet so overlooked.

3. Don’t smear your poop on the bathroom walls – Not sure why our future leaders and hope for all humankind want to touch and smear their own feces, but they do. All the way to high school! Yup, never would have guessed that one from the depths of elementary. How do you get them to NOT do this? You describe the feces that lie underneath their nail beds and the future implications of you letting their significant other in on the action that transpired in the 10th grade bathroom. Yep.. that’ll do it.

More to come…

Ten Things Every Educator Should Know About the BRAIN

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Fact One: Students learn in their own time

Human intelligence does not meet certain criteria at a certain age. Students can and will show a huge spectrum of cognitive abilities at the same age. Just because a student is a certain age, does not mean he/she should be expected to perform certain tasks that are deemed “age-appropriate”. We should be looking at each individual student for readiness, not at a standard or bracket (Degen, 2014).

Fact Two: The brain has a short attention span

“Students don’t learn if they are stressed-out, despondent, or otherwise distracted (Degan, 2014).” As teachers, we have to work to get our students into something called “flow” where they are so into what they are learning, that they get absorbed by it. It is in the state of “flow” that our students learn the most, and are able to maintain greater attention over time. Creativity and spontaneous curiosity lead the brain into a state of high retention and arousal. This allows a student to actively participate in challenging activities and higher cognitive tasks with great joy. Flow is the space between anxiety and boredom (Degan, 2014).

After a mere 10 minutes, the brain looses focus. In order to maintain focus, you must actively engage students in a task that engrosses their emotions. Using 10-minute segments of information followed by emotional education allows students to continue learning for longer periods of time without checking out (Degan, 2014).

Fact Three: Students need to experience things in order to learn

Students need a rich and stimulating learning environment in order to be successful knowledge seekers and absorbers. Since students learn through experiencing things, it is our job to provide an environment in which this can occur. When students are given authentic opportunities to experience their own learning, they can reach “flow”. Chances to make sense of the world through experiences are invaluable to students. Not only is this best-practice, but it is essential for the absorption of deeper and more meaningful knowledge (Degan, 2014).

Fact Four: Students who experience chronic stress need special support

Chronic stress sends a person into a constant state of fight or flight. The individual is then extremely reactive, and reverts to poor decision-making skills and blocks out new learning (Degan, 2014). Stress is associated with health issues, school failure and delinquency in school (Creedon, 2011). When students are overwhelmed with the life they live in, it is up to us to help them cope. When cortisol levels are elevated by stressful situations, our brain struggles to differentiate between memorable items and trivial ones. This makes the accusation of new knowledge difficult. Endorphin release helps to counter the effects of stress on the brain. Through the use of music and arts in the classroom, teachers can help to counteract the effects of chronic stress (Creedon, 2011). Music and art education have been shown to “reduce stress, enhance readiness for learning, and enhance the emotional well-being of students (Creedon, 2011).”

Fact Five: Aerobic activity enhances performance

Early on in life, your brain in very sensitive to changes that occur when you are practicing and acquiring new skills. Trying to learn new skills later on in life is difficult, because complex motor skills are needed early on in order to develop procedural memory. Through continuous practice of a new motor skill, your brain structure truly changes. Studies have shown that a small amount of aerobic exercise prior to learning a new skill actually enhances your brains ability to absorb. Not only is exercise important when learning new motor skills, but also when learning new cognitive skills (Sousa, 2017, pg.

Fact Six: Mindset Matters

A person’s history has a profound effect on their cognitive abilities. We all possess something called out “self –concept”. A self-concept is how we view ourselves in the world we live in. This can either be positive or negative (and even in between) depending on our history. If a person is constantly being told negative things about their sense of self, and given negative feedback it leads to a negative sense of self. When a person is constantly reminded about all the things they are mastering, and given positive feedback, it leads to a positive self-concept. The type of feedback that teachers have given and continue to give has a dramatic effect on their students. When a student has developed a positive sense of self, they have a growth mindset and learn more readily. These students believe that learning and cognitive ability is not innate. Students with a fixed mindset think that there is no use in trying anymore, because they just aren’t smart enough and never will be. These students see it as you either got it or you don’t. The way your brain develops cognitively is highly reliant upon your sense of self (Sousa, 2017, pg. 75).

Fact Seven: Not everyone learns in the same way

As we grow as teachers we realize that not all students learn the same way. Students have differing opinions about what their ideal learning environment consists of and how they like to engage with and acquire new knowledge. “Evidence suggests that using multisensory activities that promote student engagement during a learning episode improves student learning and retention (Sousa, 2017 pg. 79).” If we use multi-sensory approached, all learners can be engaged. The theory is that certain genetic factors contribute to faster processing by specific neural networks. This leads to a sensory preference (Sousa, 2017 pg. 79).

Fact Eight: Standardized testing hurts learning

High-stakes testing is just that, high stakes. When teachers see a need to get students to pass an assessment, they begin to teach to the test. This inhibits the transfer of new knowledge by blocking deep learning. In order for our brains to move information from our working memory into our transfer knowledge, we must have meaningful learning that crosses subject matters and allows students to see the importance of the content in their futures. When skills are taught in isolation, they are non-transferable. Students stagnate within a single area, and cant use their new knowledge to enhance other areas of understanding (Sousa, 2017 pg. 185).

Fact Nine: Frontal Lobes Develop Over Time

Located at the front of your brain towards your forehead and behind the prefrontal cortex, lies your frontal lobe. This area of your brain develops slowly over time. It controls many things, including emotions. Since this part of your brain develops slowly, you can expect that young children have underdeveloped frontal lobes. This means that they are unlikely to have full control over their emotions. Full development of the frontal lobe does not happen until early adulthood. Problem solving, working memory and risk-management are also located in the frontal lobe. These skills are also acquired and developed over time until adulthood (EQ, 2006).

Fact Ten: Similarities can lead to retrieval problems

When teaching a new concept there is an overwhelming desire to connect to prior concepts. This is a great strategy, except when the concepts that are being noted, are too similar. The brain has a hard time telling the difference between items that are very analogous. This causes a retrieval problem. When new knowledge is mixed with similar preexisting knowledge, it is retrieved incorrectly. In order to avoid this confusion, it is best to teach about the key differences FIRST. The teacher should also be the one modeling the more complex examples to the students directly (Sousa, 2017 pg. 191).


How can Brain Knowledge Help Make me a Better Teacher?


            Teaching is a complex art. New knowledge is always coming out, and it can be hard to know just what to do.  There is one undeniable truth; the presence of brain related research is growing. With the growth of this fascinating knowledge, comes a new frontier for education. But how should we use our new knowledge to teach our students in the best way possible? The answer is simple, read about how the brain functions, and you will realize how easy it is to discern good and bad practices.

The brain of a child is completely unlike that of an adult. Although there are many similarities, they are still developing. From one day to the next, every child is developing at his/her own rate that has to do with genetics and environment. The age in which a child can cognitively be prepared for certain tasks is not something that is set in stone, neither is social emotional learning. Things such as past experiences and trauma can have massive impacts on a child’s ability to learn and stabilize. If a child has a lot of negative experiences, they can develop a low sense of self. This makes learning difficult. One thing that can help maximize learning is the use of music and art education. This helps the release of good hormones inside the brain that help to counteract negative effects. You can also boost a child’s sense of self by giving positive feedback, and boosting self-esteem. Teaching mindfulness can also be extremely helpful in developing a positive sense of self, leading to a more flexible growth mindset.

The brain also benefits from smaller bits of information being delivered at a time. Since our brains really have a short attention span for committing to new information, we must do our best to change the way we teach. By providing 10-minute lessons and brain breaks in between that engage the body, emotions and senses, we can allow new materials to permeate into long term transfer knowledge. Aerobic exercises and social/emotional learning open up the brain to absorb new learning, and allow students to relax into mindfulness state where learning can occur.

Educators also need to make sure they engage all learners by using multisensory methods to deliver content. Movement mixed with a sensory stimulating activity can reach all learners. Some students are genetically predisposition to learn better one way than another. By offering multi sensory instruction, you can address the needs of everyone you teach.

Through the use of brain research all educators can ensure that they are meeting the needs of their students. Brain research really is the cutting edge way we should be professionally developing ourselves to be better educators for every student. By applying my new knowledge, I will reach out to students through movement, a positive feedback model, growth mindset, multisensory education and small bits of non-similar information being delivered at once (Creedon, 2011), (Degen, 2014), (EQ, 2006) and (Sousa, 2017).




Creedon, D. W. (2011). Fight the stress of urban education with the ARTS: the arts not only build our brains, they insulate them from our stressful urban environments. Phi Delta Kappan, (6), 34. Retrieved from https://lopes.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edsgao&AN=edsgcl.251955187&site=eds-live&scope=site


Degen, R. J. (2014). Brain-Based Learning: The Neurological Findings About the Human Brain that Every Teacher should Know to be Effective. Amity Global Business Review9, 15–23. Retrieved from https://lopes.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=94991546&site=eds-live&scope=site



EQ and the emotional curriculum. (2006). New York, N.Y. : Films Media Group, [2006]. Retrieved from https://lopes.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=cat01182a&AN=gcu.249876&site=eds-live&scope=site


Sousa, D. A. (2017). How the brain learns (5th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, a Sage Publishing Company.



Flexible Seating: How flexible are you?

Flexible seating is a huge craze in education right now. I argue that it is not a craze, but a new way of designing a classroom with students in mind. Most classrooms that claim to have flexible seating oportunities fall short. Flexible seating means that students are free to choose their seating option.

A true flexible seating classroom will not have names written permanently on desks. This is a gentle release process for my classroom. The year starts with name tags that slide into clear name tag holders every morning. The child picks a seat for the day. I laminate the name tags, and adhere clear pockets to each seating option for the child to slide their name into. This allows students to “claim” their seat in the morning. As the students show more maturity in the seating arrangement, they are given more responsibility. Eventually, about half way through the school year, the name tags disappear completely. The students are free to roam and sit where they please for the activities they are completing. If this is done gradually and over-time students do not argue over seats. Seating is seen as a best-fit for the situation rather than something you claim for the day. A student may pick a desk to eat at, then pick the floor to write at. I also allow my students to use the hallway outside of the room to record in. They leave the door open, and sit in the hall where I can see them.

Another thing that gets in the way of truly flexible seating is the lack of options. The available options should include sitting on the floor, kneeling at a surface, sitting at a chair (wobble stool, balance ball etc…) and standing. I also provide various sizes of seating, because not every kid is the same height.

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Below you will see that the beauty of fully-flexible seating is that you end up with zones for activities rather than claimed micro areas that are unusable by the class for the rest of the day. All areas have the ability to evolve over the corse of the day. The best part? The kids are responsible for picking a place where they are successful. I don’t re-arrange seats when my class is having a bad day, I have a conversation about picking a partner and work area that will make you successful. I can honestly say that the kids spread out all over the room, and this helps with classroom management.

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The last item is far-fetched for a lot of people. This year, I have chosen to fully implement the word flexible into my classroom environment as a whole. My seating can be pushed to the side to create an entirely floor-level space. This allows us to do large scale projects without the desks getting in the way. We used this to run our Sphere Bolt robots in teams this week.

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Flexible seating has been an amazing year and a half adventure for me. I always start the year out with desks, and a way to claim a seat. I then, based on readiness, remove the barriers of full flexibility. I cannot say enough about student voice, choice and comfort flexible seating allows me.

Flexible seating:




Movement in the Classroom: They like to move it move it, so you should let them MOVE IT

Greetings cutting-edge teachers and parents. I want to direct your attention to a current issue that is sweeping the Facebook and Twitter community… MOVEMENT in schools. Ask any teacher about their kids moving in the classroom, and most will let you know how kids can’t sit still anymore, and how disruptive it is. Now, does that sound like a positive child-based approach to the situation? NO!

Strauss, (2014) States that”children are constantly in an upright position these days. It is rare to find children rolling down hills, climbing trees, and spinning in circles just for fun. Merry-go-rounds and teeter-totters are a thing of the past. Recess times have shortened due to increasing educational demands, and children rarely play outdoors due to parental fears, liability issues, and the hectic schedules of modern-day society. Lets face it: Children are not nearly moving enough, and it is really starting to become a problem.”

Here is the link to the full article: Why can’t kids sit still


So, can you identify the issue? I can! Children are being asked to sit in “an upright position (Strauss, 2014)” for too much of the day and not given the correct form of physical activity. The playgrounds designed today are not the same as they used to be. Here are two playgrounds, can you guess which one is from the 1980’s and which one is from today?

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First, the major difference I have noticed is the amount of kids in one area. Current playgrounds condense kids into one single structure. This causes more incidences of injury and therefore rules that make play more like etiquette lessons.

Second, the type of equipment being used is limited. I don’t mean limited in the sense that there isn’t enough of it, but in the limitations on body movement it gives to the kids.

Here are articles about what kids need to be able to do with their bodies in able to form a sense of self and controll:



In one article, Fromberg states that play is the “ultimate integrator of human experience” and”When children play, they use fine and gross motor skills; they problem solve to think about what they are doing or are going to do, they use language to communicate to themselves and friends and respond to a variety of emotions. All of these factors combine to integrate and enhance the development of the cognitive experience (Nachmanovitch, S. 1990, p. 42).”

Do you see these things happening on YOUR playground?

We are so wrapped up in our worlds of everything being top-notch safe, that we have stripped children of the very things they need to be successful.

So, you may be asking “what can we do about it?”

Movement based centers can help with certain motor movements:

You can grab a free set of Motor movement cards here:


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My kids will complete addition, subtraction and skip counting activities and the answer is completed by doing the exercise that they draw a card for. The cards include mid-line crossing, spinning etc… that help to develop gross motor skills.


I also have these in my classroom:

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My kids get to place them anywhere they wish in the room and travel to and from activities on them.

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I have 2 of these spinning chairs, which I picked them up from a thrift store.

I also have flexible seating which allows my kids the freedom to bounce, rock and spin:

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So, before you tell your kids to focus, pay attention and sit still PLEASE consider giving them ways to do this. Without proper movement experiences, kids can’t give you 100%.



Split Personalities: How to teach two whole-group methods at once using Nearpod

Good Morning!

Today, I am embarking on a journey to bring the individualization of small group into whole-group instruction. Can you imagine having two lessons going at the same time? Different questions, by products and assessment measures? This may seem like a small group lesson dream, but it is certainly possible. I am going to teach you how to leverage the amazing Nearpod capabilities to create two lessons, and teach them at the same time.

Step 1:

Create a base-line Nearpod using your standards

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I have decided to differentiate my whole-group lesson on summarizing.

  1. Does your lesson have a learning target?
  2. Does your lesson have success criteria?

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3. Have you included a pre-assessment? (mini question to gauge where a student is BEFORE the lesson begins) 

Notice that there are question prompts provided at the top. I have also included a piece of the text to help the students hold onto information. The students will respond by typing, providing pictures, underlining and/or writing on a white board and taking a picture of themselves. Various means of response will REALLY help them to express what they already know. This mini-assessment shouldn’t take long and will carry throughout the week. If students do really well here, and can’t keep up when placed into a higher slide; provide them with a buddy so they can reach higher. Don’t hold a student back because they can’t jump to the next level, provide them with a peer scaffold. We want them in the proper ZPD level.

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4. Have you included brain breaks?

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Student WILL get fatigued out when you are teaching them at the correct level. Make sure to provide fun break breaks to keep things interesting. These brain breaks should re-enforce the concept and allow them to move and use their voices.

5. Have you included a measure that will track progress throughout the lesson.

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The example provided is of one single slide. The top piece has questions for reflection and the bottom piece includes a summarizing example. The students will respond to the questions in the space provided.

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Here is another example of a slide that can check for understanding. (above)


6. Have you included various means of understanding… if one way isn’t going well, you will need to make sure you can explain it a different way. 

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Above are examples of how students can show you in a different way that they understand the content. I also provide a re-cap of information before it becomes more difficult. Some students will have forgotten the WHY of the lesson. Be sure to remind them.

If students are struggling to match up their previous responses in a new way then I go sit with them and talk them through the process. This is where I become more hands on and form small groups within my whole group lesson. Place the kids who need you to sit with them near each other so you can have a mini-small group lesson while your kids who are doing well work on their own. You can always keep on eye on the large screen and pull kids over who aren’t getting it.

7. Do you have some form of post-assessment? 

After this particular Nearpod I want to make sure my students understand Who, What, When , Where and Why so that they can proceed with creating their own summaries. In order to check for understanding I created a Kahoot that acts like a quiz and provides immediate feedback. I can create my own Kahoots, so it encompasses my targets.

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Kahoot is free for educators and you can create an account here:


It is important to have these items in place when you go to differentiate, so you have a basic skeleton. 

ALL groups will have the same skeleton present. The differentiation begins with the materials and response methods. You will also include different levels of questioning and response structures. 

Here we go:

In this example the students will listen to snippets from the book “Julius Baby of the World”  and will respond to prompts that will help them summarize. The students are encouraged to think about certain pieces of information that are important when summarizing. Do you think that ALL of your students need the snippet? Maybe not! This is where you need to know your students. So, I will ask the same question the first time and go from there. BOTH presentations will include a pre-assessment slide to see who understands and can move forward from the prompts, and who can “hold” information from the story on their own.


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Slide 1 stays the same… questions and snippet.

Slide 2 is where things begin to change…


Hopefully you are with me here at the basics. The next step is to duplicate your presentation here is where you want to go…

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You need to click the “jelly beans” at the top of your presentation (in your library) and hit duplicate. Make sure you re-name your new slide show based on the group.

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My first presentation will be just Summarizing and the second will be Summarizing Level 2

Now that you have duplicated it is time to begin the second whole-group lesson

Remember to keep the targets the same, and chance the way they show their understanding. I will be using a short response to have my more advanced students respond. Instead of having the snippet on the screen they will have to hold onto the information and produce an answer on their own. Here is what it starts to look like…

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The first response slide is the same; it will act as the pre-assessment. The second slide is where things change. Notice that it switches from a basic slide where they can underline to respond to an open-ended answer slide with no anchor piece. These students will need to remember what they read and respond by typing their answer. This will continue until all responses are complete.

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Here is where you can mix things up for the responses… I placed a background image that matched the setting and the students can draw then explain their responses. They will LOVE this.


I am also going to change the matching assessment to a flip grid response where the students will explain The Who, what, when, where and why of the story into a screen and record their responses. The more advanced learners will be given this:

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I will also provide them with a copy of the book being read and the words in there google classrooms. This group will venture off to do this as their first task of the reading block after whole-group. The other groups will complete the matching assignment with me and I will be provided with data for the next day. We will all Kahoot together at a brain break time if time is not allowed. ❤



You have your two separate whole-group lessons complete… what now?


Step 1: Open up the lower-level Nearpod on your main screen

Step 2: Assign your higher level Nearpod into Google Classroom to the students you know will complete that version. If a student doesn’t do well they can always jump into the main screen at any time.

Half of your class will sign into whole-group (lower). Half of the class into student paced through google classroom.

Since you have aligned and swapped out slide your students will BOTH track through with you… Your lower lever by you at the main screen and the higher level clicking when you say in their student-paced mode.

Some of my student (2) Will also be able to complete the tasks after being introduced like an on-line learning environment. They will be able to respond and move through on their own and complete the tasks without following along. I allow them to do this after I check in a time or two. They can then get started with their tasks for the day (novel study).


There you have it!!!

Happy Teaching!


Articulation and Word Study


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Watching children as they are learning and practicing skill-sets in just as important, if not more important than the act of delivering instruction. The simple act of meeting kids where they are at helps to fill the opportunity gap. Opportunity gaps occur when students are not given the same instruction, interactions and basic circumstances that other high-achieving students receive early on. We want to look at this as an achievement gap, but it really isn’t. If students start out with a deficit due to circumstances that they are born into, it isn’t about achievement. It becomes about opportunity. If we continue to push forward instead of filling the gaps, these students will never reach their full potential.

Now, how can we fill gaps with just the basic data we collect in assessments? We can’t. Assessments don’t tell you the why, they just tell you the what. You actually have to watch and listen to your students in order to figure out what is really going on. I watch my kids everyday. I watch and I take notes. Recently, it has occurred to me that word study deficits in my classroom are not actually word student deficits; they are articulation “gaps”. Why does this make a difference in instruction? Because, if you keep pushing rules that a student knows, and they are still failing… the rule isn’t the issue.

We teach word study in a more systematic way (If you aren’t, please see my post about word study) because we know whole-language approaches do NOT work. Students need rules and structured instructional practices. Let me ask you a simple question… if a student is not producing a sound correctly, and you are not producing a sound correctly… how can you teach a rule based on a sound? You can’t! It isn’t going to happen for them unless you fill that gap and correct what you are doing wrong. If you want to know more about how cultural and ethnic backgrounds come into play in the school system I highly encourage you to read Code Switching. This same concept applies to word study. YOU as the teacher need to ensure YOU code switch to produce speech sounds correctly. The student needs to be taught through articulation lessons how to produce the speech sounds correctly, too.

How do I do that??!!!

I am NOT by any means a professional on this subject, but I continue to research it and apply what I find out. I started by looking into English Language Learner curriculum. If a student or myself are missing something in language, then it makes sense to approach it from a “learners” perspective. Here is what I have started using:

  1. Listen and watch you student. If they are not producing a speech sound correctly STOP and teach articulation of that sound.
  • Commonly mispronounced sounds are:

/j/ for /dr/

/ch/ for /tr/

2. STOP and teach them to code switch while reading, writing and spelling.

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I have created student assigned lessons using Nearpod (you can use google slides if you do not have access) to fill these deficits. They include mouth, tongue and lip position videos. They also include practice. These should be visited during student rotations daily to work on this skill. You cannot expect a student to produce something in writing that they are not producing in speech.

3. Practice this skill in small group. I do this by using cards and sand. I have also recently adapted the Orton-Gillingham based vowel tents into articulation tents.

Sand Tracing

  • The student has sand in front of them in a bin. You say the sound and the word it belongs too. Watch the student as they say the sound. Correct any lip, mouth and tongue mistakes. Remember: You are being WATCHED while YOU speak… YOU must produce the sounds correctly too! An example would be: ch like chip – the students says /ch/
  • The student will then write the sound in the sand. The student is writing the sound not the word.
  • Continue this for 1 minute a day
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Articulation Tents

  • The student has note cards folded with the problematic speech sounds on them. Make sure they are different colors.
  • You will say a word and they pick up the tent with the correct speech sound.

Teacher: “/ch/ in chip”

Student: “ch makes /ch/ in chip” (picks up ch)

Teacher: “/tr/ in train”

Student: “tr makes /tr/ in train” (picks up tr)

Do this for 3 minutes



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