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Close Reading in the Primary Classroom

We are very excited to be linking up with Laura Graham from

 Where the Magic Happens for our "Diggin In" Series Blog Hop!

 The beginning of the year often brings anxiety for many teachers no matter how long you have been teaching!   In the last few weeks of summer, we can't sleep... or when we do sleep we are dreaming about our classroom. 

Our WISH for you this school year is to help you

feel prepared for the new year. 

Typically during the STAFF days prior to our little learners arriving, we are bombarded with curriculum training.  All we usually are thinking about is... where is my reading area going to be set up, what theme am I decorating my room in this year, and why are the custodians still looking for my furniture ??  OMG - how am I going to set up my entire room in only a few days??  

WE are here to help ease your anxiety when it comes to


 What is a Close Read?
Last year our district focused on Close Reads as an integral part of our ELA program.  In my district, we have been encouraged to do a non-fiction close read once a month.  The New York State Education Department has encouraged us to use Close Reads as part of our ELA instruction as a means to dive deeper into the text to gain a richer understanding of its meaning.  The complexity of the text is a key component.  Students should be reading texts that are difficult for them during the initial read.  Vocabulary within the text should be challenging as well.  Students need to do multiple readings of the text to uncover a deeper understanding and gain richer meaning from it.  Non-fiction close reads have been at the forefront of the training that I have received.  This year, I am hoping to gain more knowledge about how to do a Close Read with a fictional story.  Once you understand the theory behind the Close Read and the format to do a Close Read, you will feel more
prepared to use them with your students. 
“Essentially, close reading means reading to uncover layers of meaning that lead to deep comprehension.”    Nancy Boyles,  Educational Leadership January 2013

A Close read is…
Has a defined purpose
Sees connections within text
Provides a reason to learn
Teaches students to dig deeper
A process to learning more
Close reading.. Is not a change to what you teach 
– just how you teach it.

Check out the Close Read steps that I follow to complete a Non-fiction
Close Read with my second grade students!   
What is the format for a Close Read?

 Our wish for you as you start the new school year is to help ease your anxiety by giving you the tools you need to do a Close Read in your classroom this September.  We hope you download our

If you like our Sharks and Whales Close Read, you can check out our Close Read Mega Bundle that has many more Close Reading activities for you to do with your students this year! 
 Each Close Read activity in the Mega Bundle has 1-2 non-fiction articles about animals, vocabulary development activities, comprehension activity sheets, assessment activities, and writing tasks that are challenging and enriching for 2nd - 3rd grade students.  There is also a craft activity to go along with each Close Read.  The craft activity kept all my early finishers busy!  
There are 7 complete Close Reads in this 170 page bundle.  The animals that the kids will learn about in this Mega Unit are:  Honeybees and Wasps, Bats, Polar Bears and Panda Bears, Groundhogs and Hedgehogs, Frogs and Toads, The Life Cycle of a Frog, and Sharks and Whales.  If you are interested you can check out this Close Read Unit in our store using the link below!

Be sure to check out the other great blogs from our 
Diggin In link up!


Writing Instruction ~ Lucy Calkins and the Common CORE

Digging into Next Year

Writing Instruction - Lucy Calkins and the Common Core


Informative / Explanatory Writing

Our school district adopted Lucy Calkins Reading and Writing Workshop about 6 years ago.
I have been teaching for 20 years now - and have seen many different changes in education and curriculum over the years.  
Lucy Calkins - if you haven't heard of her - is an amazing educator.   When my school district purchased this curriculum.  I was feeling a bit overwhelmed and I found that my colleagues were feeling the same way.  I like Lucy's writing curriculum, but she tends to be very long winded. So that being said,  it has been a challenge to - as we say in my school- BE LUCY.. let alone teach exactly how you know LUCY would teach writing!  Over the years I have to say the kids are writing more than they ever have before which is exciting.     Here is a link to the Reading and Writing Project website if you would like more information. 
SO changing the way I think about and teach writing was a process for me.  Lucy truly believes in students living in the classroom as WRITERS.  We as teachers are expected to treat our little learners AS WRITERS.   I had to go from teaching writing to my students in an organized and structured way- having most of the control....  to allowing my students to "go off and write". 
My red pen (or purple marker ) is not  being used as much... and I am modeling less for my students - "how to write" or what the final piece of writing should look like. (although I have to admit that I do sneak in some old school modeling lessons when I feel that my students are lost).  
As teachers, we are constantly reflecting on our lessons - what worked well, what can I change... so I find that it's the same when teaching writing.  I do teach the Lucy Calkins way.. but I still find that I tweak it a little for the sake of my students and meeting their needs. 
IT is BEST to JUST DIVE IN and TEACH IT - The Lucy way!
 If you don't actually TEACH it, how will you know what works and what doesn't?  It's also important to know that the Lucy Calkins books aren't necessarily in a scripted format. They're more narrative, so if you don't try it out, you won't know what feels right and what feels forced.  I always review the narrative of her books over the weekend and I tab (using post its or post it tabs) I can quickly reference it during the week.  I have since given up  on trying to BE LUCY and it has taken me about two years to feel comfortable teaching writing this way..
I will update my posts on Writing at a later date - to include more pictures... but I am out of town write now and I forgot to bring the BOOK to snap pictured of what I am referring too.. so that will have to wait until next time..
but STAY tuned. 

My Tips for teaching Writer's Workshop  ~ Grade 2

Informative Writing  ~ Lucy Calkins  

1.  ALWAYS read the lesson plan well in advance of teaching that unit / lesson.  Lucy tends to be very long winded and you could read her book and put it down midway through a lesson.  Not because it is a bad read... but more so because it is so detailed.  (which for some is a great thing). 
2.  USE post it tabs to help you mark the KEY teaching points as you are reading.
3.  Take bulleted notes for yourself to refer to when you begin teaching. 
4.  Prepare ANCHOR charts prior to teaching (at least the title and main focus of the chart -outlined)
5.  Have a SAMPLE idea in your mind - to share with your students... NOT necessarily model what they should WRITE and HOW it should look... but at least give them something to familiarize them to what in the world you are trying to teach... I have looked into my little learners cute faces and seen that look of "WHERE DO I BEGIN"... so this helps them to at least have an example to recall when they are sent off to go and write on their own.  
6.  Immerse  students in the genre of writing in the weeks leading up to the unit.  They will be familiar with the format of Informational Writing and what this will look like in the real world.  Then I refer back to the things we read - so they have a point of reference. 
7.  GIVE kids extended time to WRITE EVERYDAY!  It's hard to squeeze everything in .. but Writer's Workshop happens everyday in my classroom.  We all know, for kids to become writers they need to write.  Your students need to love to write... help to foster that in them by allowing them to write ... and write .. and write... BUT NOT always what you tell them to write - let them write about what they are interested in.   This was the hardest part for me when we started using Lucy Calkins.  It makes more sense to allow them to write about what they are interested in ~ but I liked correcting Writing papers that were all the same topic. I had to give up control.. it's not about me - it's about teaching our kids to become writers...good writers!   IF they don't like the topic they are writing about - then they won't enjoy WRITING.   
This was created for my students to use during our unit on Informational Writing. 
I taught Gr. 2 this year with many students needing extra support. These pages helped them to focus on what they needed to complete ~ but I allowed them to choose what they wanted to write about. 
When we first started this unit... I focused my kids on Animals.. only because they needed that direction and they all love animals.  SO they chose what animal they wanted to write about.  One of my kiddos just got a ferret as a pet, so she wrote about ferrets. Another girl chose spiders.
(see sample below)
 Let me tell you - they took off with this running!  They were writing so fast that I was amazed.. and their writing was good.. not great but good!  We later focus them on how they could improve their writing - but I let them share each others writing AND go off to decide how to make their own writing better.  I didn't have to TELL them what to do, they noticed it when they were working with their classmates. 
My kiddos did hand in WRITING about other topics ~ one boy wrote about baseball and one wrote about family.  Most kids still chose to write about an animal....because they like animals.  :)



My students loved this unit and I was so glad I was able to give them the format and outline needed to help them be successful.  They all felt like WRITERS and were so proud of their work. 
Let us know if you are teaching Writer's Workshop in your classroom.  We would love to hear from you!  
 STOP back soon- I will be sharing my Narrative Writing unit - Lucy Calkins inspired soon... and I promise to include more TEACHING tips and a FREEBIE from my Writing Posters and so much more product! 


Anyone want to use a $50 Gift card for their BACK to SCHOOL shopping??

Well now you can enter for our 500 Follower Giveaway!

Contest ENDS July 31st!! 
Thank you to our friend Nikki at Melonheadz Illustrating and Krista from Creative Clips for their clipart used in our Giveaway poster!

500 Follower Giveaway!

Enter Our 500 Follower Giveaway Today! Win a $50 gift Card To TPT to Kick Start Your Back to School Shopping! a Rafflecopter giveaway Thanks a Bunch For Entering!

Teachers Gone Wild ~ Las Vegas!

Teachers Gone Wild in Las Vegas! 

At least that's what our T-shirts said...but the reality is -
this past week, over 800 TPT sellers were all working hard ~ learning, networking, shopping and eating! 
Okay - some of us had a little too much fun.. but I have to say I was one of the people who was too tired to party like a
Rock Star this trip to Vegas! 
I am so happy I decided to go ~ even  though my sister Kelly couldn't go ~ I met some really nice teachers ~ ones that I have been following and
admiring for years. 
Some Highlights from the Conference
This conference was absolutely the BEST conference I have ever attended... with 20 years in education ~ and numerous conferences under my belt.. that is quite an accomplishment for TPT!
Seriously - I have never felt so validated as an educator... I have never felt so inspired to work harder.. and I have never felt like such a huge impact on children is being made..... until I met all of the people involved in our TPT community! 
TPT has reached children all around the world and as a community - we are making an enormous difference.  I MET so many amazing teachers - who are now sellers on TPT - sharing their creativity, knowledge and quality teaching ideas! 
The best was that all of these amazing teachers were so willing to share their expertise and collaborate.. not for their own benefit, but in order to help teachers improve the quality of instruction while also improving the products they create ~ As Nikki from Melonheadz said in her session on
Rock Your Own ClipArt.
She said that "we should all treat people like friends, and that is what they will become." and more importantly ~
 "GIVE BACK! You get what you give!"
Her session was not only about how to create your own clipart, but about her giving back. She even gave us cute goodie bags at the end! Thank you Nikki!

I learned so much from each session I attended..

Rachel Lynette shared her tips on Marketing that were AMAZING!  I didn't get a picture with Rachel, but you should check out her blog - Minds In Bloom.

My sister and I  already started implementing her awesome tips!  Her blog posts are so valuable and I am sure you will love her TPT products too!   

 TPT Sellers

 I was fortunate enough to have met the following TOP TPT Sellers!

Let me tell ya - I almost started saying Ya'all because these women are so dang cute!!  Be sure to check out their store - you will be amazed at the creativity.

Mrs. Jump's Class

The meet up was sponsored by What The Teacher Wants - Rachelle Smith
SDE and TPT.  Rachelle  was so energetic and fun!  I didn't have the pleasure of
meeting her but I have been a fan of her for years. 
Rachelle Smith is one of the authors who writes for :
 Some people pictured here are not Chalkies ~ but were in the pic.. :)

I would suggest following these ladies on bloglovin'
NOT only are they a great group of ladies... but they are also very entertaining and creative!
You will LOVE reading their blog!
AND NOW.......
The Man Behind it all ~ Paul Edelman - Founder of TPT! 
You could tell from his Keynote speech and the fact that he hugged about 700 teachers 
in a few day period.. that this man cares.  He cares about kids
AND he cares about teachers.  
He is the man changing the lives of so many people around the world and it
was an honor to meet him!
 IF you can't tell by my post that this conference was the BEST... the bonus was that it was held in Las Vegas ~ where there was so many things to do..  IF you weren't able to attend this year.. start planning for next summer because the 2015 TPT Conference is already being planned for the same week as the SDE conference  - in .... YES... Las Vegas again! 

Thank you to all of the people from TPT who put together such an outstanding conference!  Amy Borrell Berner and your team - fabulous job!  
WE can't wait for next year ~  You might want to reserve a much larger room.. I have a feeling...  :)  


.......making a difference in the lives of not only our students ~ but teachers around the world! 

We recently hit 500 followers in our TPT store !!  WE will be holding a 500 Follower GIVEAWAY soon ~ so be sure to follow us on bloglovin'!   JOIN the fun for a chance to win some great products and prizes !  Stay tuned!  

Vegas Here I Come!

Hello friends!  I can't believe it but my sister is actually in Vegas for the TpT Conference!  I am so excited for her!  I am bursting at the seams to find out all the about the great TpT tips and tricks she is going to learn! I am home watching my 3 kiddos and waiting by my phone for conference updates!  Our friend at Primary Chalkboard has come up with an AMAZING idea for a SALE link up during the days of the Vegas Conference.
Visit the Primary Chalkboard Blog to check out other great TpT sellers who are participating in this great Vegas inspired sale!   We hope you take a look at all of the sale items in our store.  Hopefully it will help you get a jump start on your planning for September!

Beginning of the Year - Back to School Stuff!


My first full week off from school and it has been busy!  I have been visiting with friends who are in town from Alpharetta, GA, going to doctor appointments taking  a mini vacation to visit friends in Poughkeepsie, NY  and Boston, MA. 
We left for our trip last Thursday and drove through TORNADO warnings all evening, but arrived safely in Poughkeepsie, NY for the wedding.  So needless to stay there hasn't been much time to BLOG with all of the end of the year activity and closing up of my classroom.  
Finally though I am able to get back on track with our blog and our TPT store. 
 We are very excited to be a part of this LINKY party started by Laura Graham - Where the Magic Happens.  
      Beginning of the Year Goodies and Ideas! 

 Topics to be covered in July are :
So beginning of the year in my classroom involves a lot of decorating and preparing in August..  I have used different themes throughout the years, but the STAR theme was getting old for me so when I changed grade levels this year, I changed my theme too.

I hope that these pictures and products will help make your BACK to SCHOOL a little easier.  IF you have any questions - please comment below OR email me at




Kennedy's Korner



Check out her store!  
I found these cute labels last summer BUT I cannot recall who created them! I apologize - so if you are the creator of these adorable labels... please let me know so I can give you credit.
                                                    Kennedy's Korner TPT STORE
                                                     Beginning of the YEAR TPT products


July 8th through July 11th!  It is a great time to get these BACK to SCHOOL items 20% off! 
Thanks for stopping by - now off to pack for the TPT conference in VEGAS !!