menu   Home About Me My TpT Shop Extras Blogs I Love  

Four Simple Ways to Help Struggling Readers and English Language Learners

Looking for some simple yet effective ways to help struggling readers and English Language Learners in your classroom? Aside from working on skill-building and reading strategies, there are a few quick and easy modifications you can make to your resources to help your struggling readers:

1 – Use a sans serif font, such as Arial, Century Gothic, Trebuchet, or Verdana. Serifs – or the small projecting features at the ends of letters in fonts such as Times New Roman – can slow reading down considerably, causing students to lose the meaning of the text.

2 – Be sure you have only one space at the end of sentences, rather than the old-school method of two spaces. Two spaces at the ends of sentences looks like a running pool of blank space to struggling readers. It draws their eyes away from the actual words, making reading a tedious process.

3 – Do not justify reading passages. To the detriment of my inner artsy, creative child: I love order, organization, and symmetry – which means I LOVE to justify my texts so that both the left and the right columns are evenly spaced . . . as you can tell from all my blog posts. To me, this makes the text look polished and professional, as in a novel. However, fully justified text causes struggling readers to see rivers of space, making the words disjointed and causing learners to read in clipped, fragmented phrases, breaking down comprehension. For many struggling readers, it’s better to left-justify text and let the right column look ragged.

4 – When possible, copy worksheets on blue or green paper. White paper creates a glare for struggling readers, making it difficult to concentrate on the words and causing them to fatigue quicker. If it’s not possible to copy on blue paper, consider purchasing blue overlays for students to place over their worksheets.

While the following pages may look similar to non-struggling readers, there is a world of difference in them for struggling readers. I modified page 2 in less than three minutes; for struggling learners, it is much more conducive to fluent reading, leading to increased comprehension:

Taking a bit of time to implement these quick and simple tips can make a huge difference for some students, creating a more inclusive and thoughtful learning environment that sets more students up for success!

Have a tip to add? Please share it below!

Altered Book Art

I was recently surprised to learn that some people detest altered book art -- they feel it is destructive, it devalues books, and it dishonors the copyright of the published work. I, on the other hand, absolutely adore this genre of repurposed art! Let's face it -- for one reason or another, some books need to be discarded. It literally pains me to see discarded books go into the trash bin. I'd so much rather honor discarded books by turning them into beautiful art . . . especially art that captures the imagination, conveys the joy of reading, and inspires students to delve into the magic of books! 

How adorable would this be near a display of animal stories?

Who doesn't appreciate this iconic Stephen King quote?

What a beautiful way to repurpose old books into new gifts . . .

How much do I love this? Let me count the ways . . .
Altered book art . . . a meaningful way to repurpose old books, or controversial art? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Happy Reading!

Back to School Sales and Savings!

My summer trips and travels come to an end this weekend; I look forward to being back home and blogging with more regularity! Meanwhile, I wanted to pop on and let you know about a few ways to save big on Back-to-School Products!
First, Teachers Pay Teachers is hosting a one-day Back-to-School Boost sale -- today only! Everything in my store is 28% off, including already-discounted bundles! Many other stores are also on sale!
Next, don't miss out on the Free Back-to-School ELA and Humanities eBook, found in Tracee Orman's TpT store. Kudos and a million thanks to Tracee for compiling 80 pages of tips and links to free and paid resources to help  you start you off to a fabulous 2014-15!!
Finally, check out for updated information each week on Back-to-School sales and savings:
Happy Back-to-School!

August Means Blueberries!

Although there are several farms within minutes of my home that grow blueberries, there’s just something extra-special about getting out of the hustle and bustle of the city and into the quiet heart of farmland, which is why I make the 75-minute trek every year to heavenly Blueberry Hill in Hornell, NY.

We met up with friends (and their friends!) for a couple of hours of blueberry-picking! Despite the torrential rains that fell the day before our picking expedition, the fields were plenty dry, thanks to the sandy soil that best nurtures the blueberry bushes! Of course, we ate just about every other berry we picked! Here’s our afternoon in photos . . .


Now the freezer is full and we’ll have delicious berries all winter for pancakes, muffins, coffee cake, homemade jams, and smoothies . . . although our favorite way to eat them is just plain!
I know, I know . . . you're wondering what blueberry-picking has to do with an educational blog on literacy. Well, a lot actually. The learning experiences that accompany harvesting one's own foods  and learning about sustainable farming practices are lessons that stick for a lifetime . . . but I want to connect activities such as this to building background knowledge. Students need broad background experiences to connect to their reading passages. Students who have never been to the city have difficulty fully comprehending reading passages set in the city; likewise, students who have never harvested food cannot fully connect to passages that discuss how labor costs affect food prices.
Students always start with what they know. Effective teachers always take a few moments to activate their students' schema (or background knowledge) prior to a lesson or learning activity. When students have no schema, comprehension becomes difficult . . . even the most effective comprehension strategies just cannot compensate for missing background knowledge. This is why it's vitally important to get out of the house (and out of the classroom, when possible!) and experience life!

Background knowledge or schema that can be internalized while picking blueberries includes:
-Blueberries grow on perennial bushes.
-Wild blueberries grow on low-bushes and cultivated berries grow on high-bushes.
-Blueberries are one of the only natural foods that are truly blue in color.
-Biting flies, bees, and earwigs love blueberries.
-There are at least 16 varieties of blueberries.
-Blueberries are often hand-picked; however, some farmers have mechanical harvesters that shake the berries off the bush.
-Blueberries can be used as a natural dye. Early American colonists boiled blueberries and milk to make gray paint!
In the midst of your end-of-summer busyness and back-to-school hubbub, I wish you a few fun hours of berry-picking . . . and building background knowledge!

Happy August!

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!
I don't know about you, but I adore everything about August, from the end-of-summer activities to the back-to-school sales to the preparation for a brand new school year! There's just no feeling in the world like the anticipation of a new year! August holds so much hope and promise!

As you prepare for your upcoming year, don't stay stuck in old ruts! As an ELA teacher, I often find myself looking only at the products of other ELA teachers . . . this year, I broadened my horizons and explored some back-to-school products from teachers across many disciplines and I discovered some real gems!

Kacie Travis of Managing and Motivating Math Minds has several classroom management and organization products in her Teachers Pay Teachers store that will help teachers in all content areas!

Teaching Procedures PowerPoint with Detailed Notes provides teachers with several engaging slides, each containing a question that students will definitely ask during those first critical days of school about your policies and procedures . . . you know, questions such as, "Where should I put my name on my paper?" and "Do I have to keep a binder? What should it look like?"

Kacie has added her own answers in the notes section, which is editable so you can quickly and easily adapt the notes to reflect your own answers, making it a breeze to be ready to review your routines the first day of class! (Trust me, Kacie's notes are so thorough and well-articulated that you will be able to use this tomorrow if you'd like! She thought of everything!)

As a bonus, this PowerPoint has several brain-breaks built in to keep your students engaged and laughing on the first day of class -- comics, memes, humorous photos -- what a beautiful way to set a tone of positivity and to start building meaningful rapport with students from Day One!

Kacie thoughtfully included a few editable slides so you can personalize this product for your own class . . . and it comes in either a polka-dot theme or a navy-and-green striped theme!

Anyone who knows me well knows that nothing makes me happier than organization! You know those closets and cupboards you see in magazines that are filled with labeled boxes and bins and everything is in its place? Yep -- that's my house! When I have a three-day weekend or a snow day, I absolutely LOVE to spend that day re-organizing all the drawers and cabinets in my home! I could drop some serious money at those stores that sell containers for every imaginable thing in a person's possession! So I was absolutely thrilled with Kacie's Binder for Evaluation Systems: Based on Danielson's Framework for Teaching!

If your administrative evaluations are based on the Framework for Teaching Model by Charlotte Danielson, Kacie has the perfect product for you! Everything (and I mean everything!) you need to set up an Evaluation Binder and stay organized throughout the entire year so that your formal evaluations are less stressful -- and your school days are more enjoyable because you have saved countless hours of time to do what you do best: teaching!

Kacie's very affordable binder system is available in three color schemes, so you're sure to find one that's perfect for you . . . and she has graciously included several editable slides, as well as numerous templates and forms you can print and use in both your class and your binder immediately!

Because I'm somewhat of an organization aficionado, trust me when I say Kacie's binder system is so well thought out and useful it will knock your socks off! It's packed full with absolutely everything you need to show a complete, thoughtful, well-organized binder during your evaluation process -- your administrator(s) will be wowed! (If you don't use Danielson's Framework for Teaching, but you have a friend or colleague who uses it, Kacie's binder would make a perfect Teacher gift!)

I'm so happy I discovered these oh-so-practical products in Kacie's math store . . . I can't wait to share what I discovered in UtahRoots' science store! Stay tuned for a gold mine of a product that needs to be in the hands of every teacher in America! Meanwhile, drop me a note and let me know what classroom management and organization products you've discovered -- or that you have created for others!

P.S. Visit Kacie's blog, Managing and Motivating Math Minds with Kacie Travis, for a truckload of fabulous tips, strategies, and engaging and humorous anecdotes! Who doesn't love a math teacher who adores Harry Potter and who loves to write?!?

Happy August!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...