Mindfulness: What it means and why we need it.



Amy Saltzman, a researcher of mindfulness education, stated that, “One of the primary ironies of modern education is that we ask students to “pay attention” dozens of times a day, yet we never teach them how.” In the MindUP program, students participate daily in deep belly breathing, or “brain breaks,” as we call them, in order to slowly learn how to focus their attention.

Studies of the impact of deep belly breathing have been done on everyone from stressed out medical students, to hardened criminals sitting in maximum security prisons, to kids with ADD and ADHD. The results are generally the same. Not only does it increase focus and attention, it improves pro-social behaviour, enhances daily happiness, and increases levels of calm while decreasing stress and anxiety. From a neurological or physiological perspective, deep belly breathing slows the heart rate, lowers blood pressure, and sharpens the minds ability to focus and learn by slowing down the amygdala and supporting the higher brain function taking place in the frontal lobes.

-The mindful classroom


Instead of telling your kids to focus and pay attention all day, why not teach them how?

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Reading Groups: Explicit Instruction

There are several learners in every classroom. You have the kids who will get it no matter what, the kids who need direct, explicit instruction and the kids who need special personally tailored instruction. So, how do we reach them all? We differentiate not only the level, but the supplies. I posted about my group of kids who are receiving special personally tailored instruction, but what about the rest? Well, I am going to explain and show you what I do for my kids who need direct, explicit instruction in order to learn and retain the information in the MOST effective way.

First, you need to know where your students are in order to place them in the correct word feature group. This group is working on ur, u_e and u

You can get more information on this by visiting my link on Where do I Begin?

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Day 1: The students are introduce to the sort in a very detailed way. The students are shown each header and told what to look for. Is it a sound sort? Is it a pattern sort? Is it both? I place the headers down after we have sorted out what the pattern is and what each header card is.

I hold up a few words and ask the students:

  • What is the onset?
  • What is the rime?
  • What is the medial vowel sound?
  • Can we pull the vowel sound apart from the other sounds?
  • If we blend the on-set and rime together, what word do we have?
  • What pattern do we see/hear in the word?

Onset and Rime are technical terms used to describe phonological units of a spoken syllable. A syllable can normally be divided into two parts: the onset, which consists of the initial consonant or consonant blend, and the rime which consists of the vowel and any final consonants.

Day 2: I go back over the headers and ask the students to tell me what each one is showing. Pattern/sound etc… Then, we sort the words together.

In the above sort the students would be sorting one way to spell long a in the middle of a word a_e , how to spell ur in the middle of a word and how to spell the short a sound in the middle of a word.

I still ask them:

  • What is the onset?
  • What is the rime?
  • What is the medial vowel sound?
  • Can we pull the vowel sound apart from the other sounds?
  • If we blend the on-set and rime together, what word do we have?
  • What pattern do we see/hear in the word?

These questions get the students to associate the pattern with the way the word is decoded. Grapheme/phoneme connections are extremely important when reading.

Sound–letter correspondences are the relationships between sounds (or phonemes) and letters (or graphemes). This starting point highlights the connections between the sounds in words and the letters that are used to represent those sounds.

Day 3: The students sort with a partner asking each other:

  • Why did you place that word there?
  • What is the onset?
  • What is the rime?
  • What pattern does it follow?
  • What is the word?


Day 4: The students will sort on their own as I watch and listen in on their thought process. Students are required to do this as a whisper-out-loud.

Day 5: Students write words they do not already know that follow the same patterns. I watch for readiness to move on or for the kids to show me that they need more instruction or time. I also give dictated sentences that incorporate past skills to check for retention of those skills.



We move on to phoneme push-it’s

  1. I give a picture on a card as an anchor for the word.
  2. The students will place “pushers” down for each phoneme.
  3. Digraphs get one pusher for both sounds, since the sounds cannot be pulled apart.
  4. The students push each sound for the word.
  5. I ask the students to change a letter and push then blend the sounds together to figure out what the new word is.
  6. We do this with three pictures, and manipulate the beginning, middle and ending sounds.
  • “If the word is turn and you say it without the /t/ what is the new word?”
  • “If the word is turn and you switch the /n/ for a /th/ what is the new word?”
  • “If the word is turn and you change the /t/  to a /b/ what is the new word?”
  • “If the word is turn and you replace the /ur/ for a /o/ what is the new word?”

Last, we rotate through activities to help solidify understanding of phonemes, graphemes  and morphemes.

Here are a few:


This is an example of Hear the Rime Write the Rime. You can do this several ways. Here are the two ways I do it:

  1. I will show the word and we will go over the onset and rime. The students then produce as many new words as they can on a dry erase board with the same rime.
  2. I will say the word and the students will write a word on a dry erase board with the same rime.

I also like to talk about what patterns they see in each word and why certain letters show up in the spelling of the word.

Teacher: “What pattern do you see in cute?”

Students: “A way to spell (long u) in the middle of a word.”

Teacher: “How did you know?”

Student: “I see a u in the middle, and an e at the end.”

Teacher: “Is there another way you can spell that sound in the middle of a word?”

Students: “No pattern we know yet.”

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Chunk, chunk, blend cards. These will follow your current pattern. These are in a small bag for each student to have a set of. I pass out the cards and the students begin to read them in a whisper voice quickly. They can either chunk then blend or blend right away. I have my own bag of cards to show the students. I show a student a card and watch for them to quickly identify the pattern and say the word correctly. If the student says “c-ub, cub” instead of “c-ube, cube” I know that they are not yet understanding the pattern. This is a sign they need more time on this concept.


Students are given books at their current DRA level. Each student should be given a book on their instructional level, and you notes you take DAILY should guide you in coaching each individual child.

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I work on the following while they read:

  • Current skill from whole-group: This week we  were working on summarizing a text. This is what students were given for accountability in group.

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Each student was given five sticky notes to place where they found the information. After we read and searched for the parts of our summaries, we discussed our findings. Students had to use information in the text to back up their answers. The sticky notes were placed where they found the information and acted as a guide for quick reference. After group, each student created a summary statement from their notes.

  • Decoding skill: Current skills from word study.
  • Comprehension skill: Finding the meaning of an unknown word in context.


I also carry out one running record a day to ensure the students are in their just right instructional books

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Technology & the Brain

Ever wonder how technology could be impacting your students/children/self?

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“Our increasing reliance on the Internet and the ease of access to the vast resource available online is affecting our thought processes for problem solving, recall and learning. In a new article published in the journal Memory, researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz and University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign have found that ‘cognitive offloading’, or the tendency to rely on things like the Internet as an aide-mémoire, increases after each use. We might think that memory is something that happens in the head but increasingly it is becoming something that happens with the help of agents outside the head.”

  • I will be posting some powerful ways to increase working memory later in the day ❤





MultiSensory Math: How do you teach patterns? Reggio inspired!

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Find out more about Reggio-Emilia here!

The Environment
The space within the school or the environment is considered the third teacher. Teachers intentionally organize, support and plan for various spaces for children. The daily schedules are planned to ensure that there is a balance between individual, small and large group activities, child directed and teacher initiated activity and inside as well as outside experiences.

Reading Groups: What’s in the box?

Reading groups are a tricky thing to get down. You do all of the assessments and then try to match up kids reading ability and word study ability… right? Here is a peek into my world.

I have Three different groups operating with buckets of materials. I do all of my group work on the floor, since it allows me to work with more kids, move around freely and is more comfortable for us all.Group 1: This is my lowest group. I will walk you through the materials in their bucket. The materials change daily, but these are constants.

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This is my ring of speech sounds.

  • Give mouth movements
  • Give nasal sounds
  • Show if the sound is continuous or ends quickly
  • Shows voiced or unvoiced

This helped my student A LOT when we first started the year. It gives a student more indicators or what the phonemes should look, feel and sound like. We drill these if I notice incorrect mouth motions for phonemes. Catch it in speech, and the writing will come.

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These are sound drill cards. The only cards the group is drilled on are the ones they have been taught already. Children who are below where they should be need to be over-taught concepts consistently. This means we drill on a daily basis. On one side is the skill and the other is a “cheat sheet” for the word that goes along with the skill. The students learn to anchor to a word. Sometimes I stop them and ask for another word that follows that pattern/rhime etc…Screen Shot 2018-03-26 at 7.00.48 PM.png

Next, I have a bag of words that follow patterns the group already knows. If I notice a student is having trouble with a certain word, I add it to the bag. Notice it includes several patterns. You may also wonder why my lowest kids are working on patterns that seem very advanced. I believe in teachable moments, and if a group really wants to know something… I teach it. Believe it or not this group knows a lot of things my advanced group doesn’t! ❤ There are around 20 words in my bag, and they change over time based on what I feel the group needs to see again. A good place to start is in their writing. If they are not consistantly spelling words correctly in a pattern they have already learned, it can make a come-back here.

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I do a few more things that rotate on a daily basis, but will introduce a new skill with this paper. This paper is a copy of a trace, copy, cover and overt drill.

  • Teach the rule: ar spells ar in the middle of a word. This teaches the generalization. There ARE exception, and the students LOVE to tell me when they find them.
  • The student will repeat after you “ar spells ar in the middle of a word” I also have them air trace it as they say it with me or write it with their finger on the carpet.
  • The student will trace each ar while saying “ar spells ar in the middle of a word.”
  • The student will copy the next line saying “ar says ar in the middle of a word.”
  • The student will cover the top two lines and write again while saying “ar spells ar in the middle of a word.”
  • Last, the student will close their eyes and write the patters at least three times while repeating the same thing. They love this one!

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Now, the students get to practice the skill in a fully decodable text. I have the students do this over a three day span. Fully decodable means that only previously taught skills, and the new skill will show up.

  • Day 1: Students highlight each word with he ar pattern in it. They will then read the text and apply the skill. I listen and watch the students. I assist when needed.
  • Day 2: Students underline each skill piece. Here, they underlined ar in each word. They then re-read the text while I listen and observe to practice applying the skill.
  • Day 3: Students will circle each word that follows the new skill. Students will re-read the text, and add it to their book-boxes to practice with outside of group if they are fluent with their new skill.

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So, we are done right? NO!

I have a text for each student on their level, so they have the opportunity to encounter a harder text on their DRA level. These are guided books, and I take running records from these. These books are used to observe and assist with reading skills.

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I also have children who do not like to read books, unless I make them. You thought teaching was easy right? So, here is a version of a book I created from a student-supplied idea. I took her sight words and addend them to the book. I also created cards from the words for her to practice in isolation. I will literally do ANYTHING to make reading enjoyable for my kids. Yes, that H should be lowercase. Not yet Mrs.Harris… teachable moment.

Some other things we do:

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I cannot over-emphasize the value of having anchors in your room! Some of them aren’t pretty, but they were spontaneous “I want to know!” moments.

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