Sunday, June 25, 2017

How to Organize Phonics Pocket Chart Centers

Phonics pocket chart centers are one of my favorite ways to practice reading. Kids love moving around letters to build the words and get a lot of practice when they sort words by the phonics sound they’re practicing, by word family, or however else you or they decide to sort the words.

One of the most common e-mails I get from people who have my big yearlong bundle of Phonics Pocket Chart Centers is a) they absolutely love them, but b) how in the world do you organize all these?!

I include a lot of words in each of the sets for each phonics sound so there is a lot to store! They’re really versatile so you may pull from them at any point in the school year to use/review (and you’ll want to use them year after year) so you want an organization system in place that works for you and is easy to access. I've included some affiliate links (I get commission on purchases made through the link) to show you exactly where you can get these amazing organization pieces! :)

Let me introduce you to these beautiful bins I use for center storage!


I LOVE them! The link I shared above is for the 2 pack of them. I got 2 of them so I could have a bin for every sound.

They’re cute, they’re in rainbow color order, and they help me keep things organized so obviously I’m in love :) Really though, they make organizing my centers so much easier. I have each phonics sound in its own bin with the picture word cards in there. For example, in the “sh” bin are the SH sound picture word cards:


It makes it really easy to find the phonics sound I want and the picture word cards for it. Please note that the sorting mats do not fit in these (the individual bins are meant for holding 4x6 pictures so they’ll hold centers up to that size). I keep those all separate anyway so students (or I) can invent my own sorts whenever.

Each week, you simply just grab the bucket for the phonics sound you want to put in the pocket chart center and take the picture word cards out of it.


I tried putting them in baggies and in my filing cabinet but it was just too bulky for me so I love this solution a lot more. I also love that they’re in a little briefcase so I don’t have to make towers of stacked buckets to put in a cabinet that can all fall when I try to grab the one I want (who else has had that happen?! And then some fall out and down and open - such a mess!) Hopefully I’m not the only one that that’s happened to :) These fit perfectly in the case that clamps shut so you can shove it anywhere. Each bucket has a little divider thing too so they pop right back in place when you’re done using them.

The one above has each set of pocket chart centers for the different short vowels, long vowels, digraphs, and blends.

This one has the sets for the various vowel teams and R controlled vowels:


Again, you just pull the sound you’re working on and it has the picture word cards for that sound! Here is my bucket for the EE EA sound:


I just used a marker to label the fronts of the buckets. I actually used a dry erase marker so that I can change them if I ever want to use the bins for something else. Since they’re plastic, it rubs right off if you want to change it. You could use a permanent marker if you don’t want it to rub off easily but I like organizing and re-organizing things so I usually use dry erase on things in case inspiration strikes me to go on a re-organizing spree :)

As you guys know, all the pocket chart centers come with alphabet letter cards to build the words. The vowels are in red but also come in black text like the consonants if you don’t want them to stand out. I personally use the red but it’s up to you!

I used to just keep mine in a stack at the pocket chart which worked fine but then a little while ago, an Instagram friend (I’ll find and post her link as soon as I find it!) who uses my centers showed me this super cute pocket chart she had that the letters fit perfectly in!


You can get the pocket chart here!

Isn’t it so cute? I love the dots and that it’s black so the letters really pop. It’s perfect for storing the letters and also for kids to simply grab the letter they want without shuffling through a big stack – and it also makes clean up a lot faster!

I just put a stack of each letter in each pocket in alphabetical order and it’s really easy to just grab each letter you want while word building. I have it right next to my regular pocket chart so kids can see both at the same time.

So let’s say your kids are building -ing words, they’d probably grab a decent amount of i, n, and g letters but then go one at a time for the letters at the beginning of the words like k, s, and r.


If you want to make the pocket chart center self-checking, you can put the picture word cards you choose and only the letters to build them with in. This way, kids know they only use those letters and if they have extra or if the last word(s) they build don't make sense, they know to fix it. Having the letters in the pocket chart above makes it really easy to pull all the letters to make those sets and - bonus - the kids put them back at the end of the week :)

You can also cut the words off of the bottom of the picture cards to make it more challenging.

Like I said, the centers are really versatile so I keep a stack of the sorting mats kids can sort words by in a pouch near the pocket chart in case they want to invent their own sort.

Using this same center above, you could also have kids sort words by -ng word family.


I have a ton of ending blends resources (as well as lots of things for all the other phonics sounds) if you need more. I absolutely love making phonics resources :) You can also look at my Digraphs post or EW/UE/UI post to see a lot of my phonics resources with those sounds as an example (all of the activities I show in those posts come in almost all the other phonics sounds too).

You can also check out my Short A Resources and Ideas post to see all the other ways I use the picture word cards for fun activities! I put a bunch of my favorites in that post :)

One of my favorite ways to sort words is by the phonics sound it includes like during EE EA week, sorting the words by which sound it contains:


You can also help kids distinguish by the sound they hear rather than spelling for tricky words like which OW sound a word has.


Toward the end of the year, you can also grab a mix of words that make the long a sound (from the a_e set and the ai/ay set) and a mix of words from the other long vowel sounds and have them sort by long vowel. Or mix and match any of the sets for so many sorting opportunities.

For some of the digraphs, I like to sort by whether the digraph is at the beginning of the word or the end of the word. It’s a great opportunity to kids to read and listen to the sound within the word.


Or by what sound the word begins with - in this case, which S blend the word begins with:


For initial blends, I definitely like to practice a ton so I do the same sort for R blends, L blends, 3 letter blends, etc.


As well as spelling out the words with the blend… I think when they have to actually put the G and R at the beginning of GRILL, it really helps solidify that G and R together say grr when they physically manipulate it and see it alongside the picture while reading the word.


I also get asked what pocket chart I have. This is the pocket chart I have.

It is amazing! I’ve mentioned it before but I can’t stress enough how nice it is to have a magnetic one. You can hang it in a pocket chart center but then quickly grab it and put it on your whiteboard in seconds (assuming your whiteboard is magnetic) if you want to show your kids something, do a sorting activity together, build words together, explain/show how to do a new activity, etc. It just sticks on my whiteboard so I can put it up and take it down easily.

I hope this post has been helpful in explaining how I store and organize my pocket chart centers as well as a few fun ways to use them! I’ve had people tell me via email and social media other smart ways they organize the materials (pencil pouches, baggies, bins, etc.) so if you also use my pocket chart centers, I’d love for you to leave a comment about how you organize them! Different ways work for different people so I’d love for you to share your way - maybe it works more for someone else reading this than my system! When we share our ideas, we all get better so I always appreciate new ideas, perspectives, approaches, etc. :) Thank you so much for reading!


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How to organize pocket chart centers in your classroom! Love these classroom organization ideas for organizing reading centers!


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Teacher Tricks for Math

Need some new teacher tricks up your sleeve for MATH?! I am really excited to share some of my favorite math teaching ideas that I use for instruction, centers, and independent work with you!

Make sure you also check out the Teacher Tricks for Reading and Writing I just posted recently too – and I’ve mapped out a lot more fun posts coming your way! :) I have included some affiliate links (I get a commission for purchases made through the links) in this post so you can easily find some of the things I show. I don’t care whether or not you buy anything – feel free to just idea scavenge if you want :) I just wanted to make it easy for you to find them!

Add magnets to the back of math cubes to use for teaching on the whiteboard. Click for a ton more math teaching tricks!

The first thing I want to share with you is adding magnets to the backs of math manipulatives. I love the magnets I have – you just peel the sticker off the back and stick them on anything to make it a magnet… LOVE!

Then you can use math manipulatives on the whiteboard when you’re teaching! You can do so many different counting, adding, subtracting, etc. activities with cubes on the whiteboard where kids can see visuals of your “thinking” as you move the cubes.

Great tips for how to make any math manipulative into a magnet to use on the whiteboard!

You really can put them on anything! If you’re teaching measurement with a ruler, put a few magnets on the ruler so it holds the ruler on the board in place as you hold things up to show kids how to measure items around the classroom. So much easier than trying to hold both!

A ton of math teaching tricks like how to add magnets to a ruler so you can teach measuring with a ruler on the whiteboard.

My favorite thing to use magnet-ed math manipulatives for is personal work trays! My dollar store has magnetic cookie sheets (for, yes, only a $1!) so I bought a bunch of them and they are PERFECT for so many things! I’ve shown you how I use them for word building with alphabet magnets in my Short A activities post but I also use them a lot for math.

Want to know another teacher trick? You can write on them with dry erase markers!!

Use a dry erase marker to write on cookie sheets to create a ton of fun math sorts! So many teach ideas on this site!

I was so excited when I discovered I could write on them with dry erase markers and it wipes right off! It allows you to make so many different activities right on the board and change them as much as you want to which is great for small groups or even independent centers. You can also use wet erase markers if you find the kids are wiping off the directions themselves.

Tons of math teaching ideas like adding magnets to the backs of pattern blocks to create sorts on a magnet cookie sheet.

You can easily change this sort from sorting shapes by how many sides the shape has to sorting the shapes by their name (or any sort you want!) by simply wiping off what you wrote and rewriting :) This makes it so easy to transition between different small groups or between kids.

Use a dry erase marker and magnets to create so many different math sorts on a dollar store magnetic cookie sheet - lots of great math ideas if you click the picture!

Also, since the cookie sheets are magnetic, kids can hold them in their lap to move around the pieces and have them stay in place. They can even hold them up and turn them around to show you their work without the pieces moving which is great.

Add magnets to the backs of pattern blocks so kids can build pictures that stay put! So many teacher tricks on this site.

Having the pieces stay in place is actually awesome for picture building with pattern blocks. No one is going to knock into their table and have the picture get messed up (cue the tears) and they’re not going to hit one block by accident that messes up the others, etc.

This is actually a great parenting trick as well if you have a younger kid on a long car ride – give them the cookie sheet and the pattern blocks with magnets on the back and let them make pictures in their lap while you drive. Pattern blocks are so much fun!

Awesome trick! Stick magnets to the back of pattern blocks so kids can use a magnetic cookie sheet to create pictures that stay put in their laps - great for long car rides too!

I have a lot more fun math ideas and games I showed that you can use with pattern blocks in my Composing Shapes post too!

Like I said, you can add magnets to the back of anything to make activities. You can add them to red/yellow counters and draw a 10 frame on the cookie sheet (or whiteboard) to do a ton of counting, adding, subtracting, etc. lessons!

Stick magnets to the back of red yellow counters for a ton of 10 frame practice to work on number sense, adding, subtracting, etc.

You can also use pom poms of any size by just sticking a magnet to the back. An easy game you can play (shown below) is to have kids roll 2 dice that are different colors and put that many pom poms in their 10 frame to add the 2 together.

How to add a magnet to the back of anything to practice ten frames in small group math lessons

So as you can see, the pink dice says 4 so they put 4 pink balls into their 10 frame and the orange dice says 3 so they added 3 orange balls. Then you can ask them questions like, “What number did you make?” “How many more to 10?” “How do you know?” etc. for math discussion with you or their partner.

Speaking of dice, I LOVE my big fat chunky colorful dice. I love that they come in cute colors and also have the white one with extra sides that goes up to 12. It’s great for challenging the higher kids or to use later on in the year.

These dice are my favorite for math centers and games... click to see where to get them

One math trick with dice that I love is to have kids roll the dice into a bucket! If they’re playing any sort of game or math center that involves dice, you can avoid having dice go flying across the room, off the table, etc. by having them roll into a bucket.

Have kids roll dice into a bucket so dice don't end up on the floor... and it's quieter too!

All you have to do is say that you lose your turn if your dice don’t land in the bucket and you won’t ever have dice on the floor again :)

It’s also a lot quieter than rolling on their desks or tables. You can even glue felt or foam to the bottom of the bucket if you want it to be even quieter. I have a few foam bottom buckets for quiet rolling and it’s wonderful.

Another way to keep dice off the floor is to use small containers just big enough to roll dice inside to make little shakers. You do have to use regular sized dice for those. I bought a pack of the small containers and made sets of them to throw in center buckets. Kids just shake them to roll their numbers. It’s so nice because you always know where the dice are, they don’t end up on the floor, and kids just grab them to use really easily when they need dice.

Put dice in little containers to create dice shakers for kids to grab and go during math centers... they're quieter and dice don't get lost on the floor!

If you’ve read my math posts, you know I use dice a lot for hands on math games so it’s nice to have a system for them. Another thing you’ll know from reading my math posts is that I use my number cards from Unit 1 (or you can also get them in Unit 11) for a ton of different things. I mentioned in my Building Number Sense post how I even use them for behavior management too so I wanted to explain that a little more!

Check out this trick for using your numbers chart as a classroom management strategy!

So this shows 50 but I usually start with 20 cards for the first time so it’s a quicker reward and also to solidify numbers 1-20. So, first, pick a reward that the class can earn that they’re really excited about (my favorite is an extra recess with popsicles) and have all the number cards showing in your pocket chart. Also print a second set of number cards, mix them up, and stack them upside down near the chart.

When the class gets a compliment for walking nicely in the hallway or the P.E. teacher says they were really good, whatever, tell them they’ll get to pick a number when you get back in class... OR during class, let’s say a group is working so quietly and well together during centers, say something like, “Wow, the blue table is working so hard and are so quiet right now – Aiden, you can go pick a number card.” He’d go up to the stack of number cards by the chart and pick a card. He’d show it to you then you’d flip that number over. When they flip all the number cards over, they get the reward! You could also have them earn mini rewards for completing a row or column.

Read about this fun classroom management idea that builds number sense at the same time... LOVE!

Once they get the awesome reward, they’ll want it again so you can do the number chart up to 50 this time! I recommend doing it up to 50 a few times. It’s great because it really gets them looking at the numbers and talking about them (“We only need to get 42 and 45 to finish that row!”). You can also incorporate learning by pointing to a flipped over number and asking them what it is. They’ll have to look at the numbers before/after/above/below/etc. to figure it out so it’s great number sense practice. You can also ask them what number they need to finish a row, count by 5s, etc. Even just have them turn to a partner and ask each other questions about it. You can get a lot of great math talk out of it!

If you have one of those awesome pocket charts that is specifically for displaying the 100 chart, you can also use that and just have as many numbers as you want to practice in it.

More fun things you can do is have them get something for finishing a row or column like I said above. Maybe they get a small reward for getting 10 in a row (when you’re using the 100 chart) like half an hour of free choice centers or something fun like that.

I have a lot more fun classroom management tips in my Chatty Class Classroom Management post and 20 Classroom Management Strategies You Can Start Right Away post if you want more behavior management ideas!

I use the number cards for centers all year. Another way I use them goes along with the next trick of sticking magnets to the back of base ten blocks to practice place value. I got a big set of plastic base ten blocks that I use – I think it’d work to stick magnets on the foam ones too but I’m not sure. I used to use foam ones but I like the durability of the plastic ones so that’s what these are.

How to turn your base 10 blocks into magnets to use for teaching in small groups or even on the whiteboard

You can just give a kid a stack of number cards and have them build each number on their cookie sheet with base 10 blocks. It’s great for building numbers and practicing tens and ones.

You could also do this on a magnetic whiteboard. A lot of the small whiteboards aren’t magnetic but your big classroom board or easel most likely is so you can use those to practice whole group. :)

Add a magnet to the back of base 10 blocks so you can use them to teach on the whiteboard or in other fun place value activities

I also use the same materials to play War. Just like the classic card game but with numbers 1-120 instead! If your kids aren’t ready for that big of numbers, just use number cards 1-50 or 1-100 or whatever you think they can handle.

Fun place value games and activities to play

The trick is to have them build their numbers with base 10 blocks to compare. Even if they say they know the answer, building it is great practice and really helps them see numbers conceptually as this many tens, this many ones, etc. which is amazing for building their number sense.

Another place value trick is to use a permanent (or wet erase) marker to write 1-10 on a ten block so kids can see what the 10 actually means and that each cube within the 10 is a 1. It’s a really great visual for students to see the “why” behind the vocabulary!

Write on place value blocks so kids can see what "tens" and "ones" actually mean... so many great math ideas on this post

Definitely read my Place Value in First Grade post if you want more fun place value ideas and to see the resources from my place value unit in action!

It also has tips for how to differentiate your place value lessons. Differentiating is really important to me – not just for your struggling students but for your advanced students as well like I talked about in my How to Keep Gifted Kids Engaged and Learning post. One easy way to differentiate is to use the different levels of worksheets (or centers) in my math units. The majority of the worksheets in my math units come in 3 levels for each concept – each one has a star in the upper right corner that says the level (A, B, or C) so you can easily give students the level that challenges but doesn’t frustrate them so they’re all working on the same thing but at their level. Another thing the worksheets also have is a self-reflection at the bottom where the student evaluates how they felt about the activity – was it too easy? Just right? Too hard? After they complete the worksheet, they circle at the bottom like this:

Awesome ideas for assessing understanding while your students work

See how they circled “Just Right” at the bottom of this page? This section lets you know how the activity was for them. They do this after they’re done with the activity. It only takes a bit of time to train them to assess their own understanding correctly. If you notice the little strip they clipped underneath, I have those in full page posters that I go over what each level means in easy to understand kid language (the posters are just bigger versions of the desk strips) so they can reference it.

Checking for understanding without any tests or grading involved... LOVE! Click to read how to use these!

I also shrunk the posters down into these little strips kids can keep on their desk and clip how they feel WHILE they work so you can walk around and see how everyone feels about the worksheet you’re doing so easily – I love it. If you see they’ve clipped that it’s too hard, you can stop to help them; if you see they’ve clipped that it’s too easy, you could give them the next level up version of the worksheet to work on instead. Then, you don't have several hands up waiting for you for help - they can keep working and trying until you get to them. They can keep it on their name tag so it's not in the way and you can use them with any subject/activity to always be able to do a quick check for understanding.

Instead of clipping, you can also cut the strips into 3 mini cards to put on a binder ring so they can flip to which one they feel like this:

How to differentiate and check for understanding without any tests or even grading... save this post!

The full page posters and desk strips are all in my Assessing Understanding pack if you want to use these in your own classroom. They’re really great for assessing understanding during lessons and also having students reflect on their own learning.

I also sort the papers kids turn in by what they circled. It’s quick to just sort them into 3 stacks by what they circled. If they circled “Too Hard,” I usually will take that stack out and put it at the small groups table so I know to re-teach that to them in a small group or go over it with them when they have a moment. I also often put it in their Student Drawer (which I have a blog post planned to show you my individual student drawers) so I know to help them with it later if it’s just 1 or 2 kids :)

Sorting into 3 piles can also help you make flexible math groups super easily. I don’t like math small groups staying the same for every concept because sometimes a high kid struggles with telling time and a low kid excels with fractions so you want to be flexible in your grouping when you can so everyone gets what they need for each skill. After I sort the papers into 3 piles, you’ll usually find it’s mostly “Just Right” to make 2 or 3 small groups with that you can continue on at grade level with the concept, a handful of “Too Hard” to pull back to re-teach the concept and work on it in a more hands-on and visual way, and a handful of “Too Easy” to pull back to extend the lesson and provide more challenging questions/work with the concept. It’s like having an assessment for every single concept without doing any grading or testing – win win, right?! :)

You can also have them put the cards on a binder ring next to them while they’re doing centers so you can see how they feel about the center too, even if there isn’t a recording sheet or paper involved.

Use a dry erase marker and a magnetic cookie sheet from the dollar store to create easy activities and fun sorts for kids

So if you were doing this simple color sort, if a student thought it was too easy, they would have the "Too Easy" card flipped showing. If they thought it was just right, they’d have that one flipped, etc. There’s a lot of sorts you can do with the cookie sheets like I said – you could change the one above to numbers instead of the color name and they put that many balls under it… or anything!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this list of math tricks! I’ve shown other math tricks on my other math posts in the past too if you want more! If you click on “Math” at the top of my site, it’ll take you to a list of links of math concepts I’ve written about so you can look at fun ideas to teach those concepts and such!

For example, in my Graphing and Data Analysis post, I show a trick for how you can use a fun daily graphing question to have your students take their own attendance each day AND sneak in a ton of learning.

In my Fact Fluency post, I show how you can take any cutting and pasting worksheet and turn it into a reusable center. That’s one of my favorite tricks for math and reading!

I haven’t written a complete post about using my math bottle cap centers yet but another trick is I love recycling bottle caps to use in math and literacy centers. Just write the numbers on the bottle caps and hand them the cards and they make really easy centers! I did show using bottle caps for phonics and word building in my CVC Bottle Cap Word Building post, though, if you want to see and bottle caps make appearances in some of my other posts too:)    

Thank you so much for reading – I’d love to hear from you in the comments! Happy Teaching!!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Teacher Tricks for Reading and Writing

Want some teacher tricks for reading, writing, and grammar? I am excited to share with you some fun ideas for literacy that you can use in your classroom or homeschool :)

I got a lot of positive response from my 20 Classroom Management Strategies You Can Use Right Away and Chatty Class Classroom Management Strategies and How to Help Gifted Kids posts where I compiled a lot of behavior management ideas so I figured I’d write some to show tricks for other topics like reading, writing, math, technology, parents, organization, centers, classroom set up, time management, and a whole lot more – I have a lot of posts planned and I’m really excited to share them with you all so make sure you check back often! I have included some affiliate links (I get a commission for purchases made through the links) in this post so you can easily find some of the things I show. I don’t care whether or not you buy anything – feel free to just idea scavenge if you want :) I just wanted to make it easy for you to find them!

Okay so first trick! You’ve probably seen in a lot of my literacy posts that I LOVE highlighting - a trick I love to use is labeling the highlighter!


Whatever you want them to highlight, simply write it on a white label and stick it on the highlighter. So easy!! For this activity, I just used one of my Short Vowels Reading Comprehension Passages to practice parts of speech (nouns, verbs, and adjectives).

My favorite highlighters are these chunky ones and you can use any rectangular labels like these rectangular self adhesive labels to stick on them and write what you want kids to highlight.

You can also have them highlight a specific phonics sound in a passage. You can also label each highlighter a different sight word for them to highlight when they come across it. Would you judge me if I told you I had a whole drawer of highlighters labeled with each sight word? :) It’s really visual for kids so I like this trick.

Speaking of highlighting, have you ever thought of highlighting words IN your pocket chart? Simply cut up transparent color binder dividers the size of a word and use them to highlight words on your pocket chart!


All you do is get transparent color binder dividers, cut off the tab and a straight line to cut off the 3 hole punches, and then cut what’s left into 8 equal size pieces. I fold it in half the long way, unfold, and cut along the line to get 2 strips. Then I fold the strips in half and cut to get 4 and then again to get 8 pieces total. They’re perfect for any literacy work in your pocket chart!


As you can see here, we’re working on AI and AY so we’re highlighting AY words in yellow, AI words in orange, and then also highlighting the sight word THE in blue when we see it. You can do it for phonics sounds, highlighting sight words, parts of speech, or anything you want to sort. You can do it whole group or even have students do it as a center.

I know I’ve raved about my magnetic pocket chart before but I just love it! It’s perfect for my daily graphing question (read my Graphing post if you want to see that) as well as a ton of math and literacy activities including the one above. For highlighting words, I just use index cards or basic sentence strips in the pocket chart then use the cut up dividers to highlight any sight words, parts of speech, words with the focus phonics sound, etc. 

What I use my pocket chart most for is my Phonics Pocket Chart Centers – I have them for the entire year of phonics sounds so they’re a weekly staple. I showed a lot of ways to use them in my Short A post, Digraphs post, EW UE UI post, etc. so you’ve probably seen them a lot but I wanted to show you another way to use them using DOLLAR STORE mini trash cans!


Are these trash cans not the cutest? And I got them for only a dollar each! I’ve shown you them before but I had to again because I am obsessed with these removable dry erase labels I stuck on them.

Why am I obsessed? DRY ERASE. I can literally write any phonics sound on them and then wipe it off and make it a new one the next week. They’re also removable so you can just peel them off if you want to put them somewhere else.


I use these on everything because they’re just so easy to write/wipe or peel off if I don’t want them on something anymore. They’re great for labeling buckets, centers, cubbies, etc. especially if you have students moving a lot, use a wet erase marker to label their cubbies with these instead so you can switch names easily.

Here I just write and wiped the SH / CH sort to make it a Nouns / Verbs sort in about 5 seconds :)


Kids love using dry erase markers too so I try to let that happen whenever possible. A teacher trick I LOVE is to put worksheets in heavy duty sheet protectors in a binder then let kids use dry erase markers to do the worksheets. It just makes it seem ten times more fun for some reason.


This is actually out of one of my Phonics Sound Binders which I plan on writing a post all about them soon to show how I have a binder for each phonics sound that kids can grab and work on that particular phonics sound. This is the Long i binder. All they need is the binder and a dry erase marker. 

I also plan on showing you this teacher trick in that post but here’s a sneak peek – use this tape to create reusable centers in your binder from regular worksheets instead of having to deal with scissors and glue. You definitely need heavy duty sheet protectors for this, not just regular ones, or they may rip when kids pull off the pieces. I also showed how I do this for math in my Fact Fluency post.


Both those worksheets are from my Long I No Prep pack – I have them for almost every phonics sound. If you go to my Literacy page, you can see all the sounds I have them for. I show a lot of the fun activities from them in the digraphs and other literacy posts I mentioned earlier.

I love fun hands on worksheets but I also love to do a lot of hands on centers which I think is a teach trick in and of itself :) Prefixes aren’t a lot of fun by nature but they can be if you have a lot of visuals and games. Check out my prefixes and suffixes post for examples of what I mean!

You can also switch up activities you already have by using them in different ways. If you read my CVC Bottle Cap Word Building post, you saw how I use recycled bottle caps for differentiated word building phonics centers. Well I also use them for a small groups game!

All you need are the Bottle Cap Center word cards for whatever phonics sound you’re working on and some red/yellow counters


Print out the version that has ALL the letters in the circles (none missing) and cover up as many as you want with counters. You could do just beginning sounds, just vowel sounds, just ending sounds, all the sounds, whatever!

Have the student put their finger on the counter and say the sound it is then slide it off to check. If they’re correct, they get to keep the chip. If not, it just goes back in the pile. Whoever has the most chips at the end of the game wins (or it can just be fun collecting chips)!


This can be a really fun game to play in small groups, especially for struggling students, and it’s so easily differentiated by how many/which letters you cover.

Like I said, I have these cards for just about every phonics sound so you can play the game all year. It’s also a great game or activity to have parent volunteers do with struggling kids because it’s easy and fun.

Another helpful trick for struggling students is using a storage bag with a slider to practice ABC order.


Simply use a permanent marker to write the alphabet across a bag then give it to students with their worksheet. Teach them to start at the first letter (A) to see if any words start with A. If they find one, they write it down; if not, they slide to the B and check for words that start with B and so on. It’s really helpful for students who struggle with putting words in ABC order.


That sheet is out of my Long A No Prep pack – there are ABC order sheets in all of them, though, so you can practice it weekly with each phonics sound. It’s one of those skills that most kids usually get but need to practice often to keep fresh so I like to practice it every week with the new phonics sound(s).

Okay so one of my FAVORITE tricks is a genius idea I saw from Sweet Sounds of Kindergarten that helps A TON with the frustration and mess of rough drafts and copy them into final drafts. Behold…. the clipbord stand!


Take any clipboard and turn it into a stand! Seriously classroom changing. They can just clip their rough draft onto it and have it right in front of them to copy into a final draft so they’re not shuffling papers. AND… it doesn’t get lost. An edited rough draft that gets lost is even more devastating than a lost glue stick cap (the horror!), am I right?! 

All you do is buy an 8 x 10 picture frame (go to the dollar store or clearance sections to find them cheap) and take the back out of it and adhere it to the back of a clipboard and it’s done!


I actually just doubled up strong tape to adhere mine but you could probably hot glue gun it or something if you wanted. It is seriously the best! 

I have no prep writing crafts for a ton of different themes, holidays, and writing genres that I like to do each week. They’re quick and easy to make and they make really cute bulletin boards so I usually like to do a rough draft first so this is perfect for that. If you want to check out the writing crafts I do, I have a post for most months showing that month’s crafts :) Just click on the month you want: January, February, March, April, October, November, or December

I also use clipboard stands to display center directions!


The centers in my first grade math units have directions so I just clip them onto the clipboard stand to easily make any desk an independent center! This game is Race to Graph from Unit 16: Graphing and Data Analysis which you can see the other activities in action on my Graphing post about that unit. It has a lot of other pictures and ideas – if you go to my MATH page, I actually have a lot of different math posts by concept (place value, adding 3 numbers, etc.) that you can click on from that page. 

Okay more tricks!

Do you ever receive notebooks from parents or donations but they’re college ruled? Well I still use them! Just teach kids to draw a line covering 2 lines, then skip one, a line covering 2 lines, skip one, etc. It’ll take a second to teach them at first but most will get it pretty quick, especially if you do it often. For younger kids, you can do it for them – but it creates nice and big space for kids to practice correct handwriting formation… and you don’t feel like you have a cabinet full of notebooks you can’t use! :)


Another handwriting trick is to use a highlighter to create instant tracing worksheets. If you have a kid who struggles with handwriting or even just a certain letter, you can just write in highlighter and have them trace it with a pencil.


You can also just create instant worksheets at your small groups table to practice sight words, spelling words, whatever! It’s nice because you can really tailor it to them without even using a computer.

One more trick for this post! File your books to read aloud by month! I just get a little magazine holder type bin (like the ones on top of my rainbow drawers) for each month and put my special books for reading aloud in it. It makes it so easy to pull books to read or to quickly fill your display bookshelf if you have one each month. For example, spread out your classroom management books between your August and September bins, your Halloween books in the October bin, etc.  

Okay so that’s all the reading and writing tricks I’m sharing with you today! Like I said above, I have A LOT of posts planned for more teacher tricks. If you scroll down the right hand side of my blog, there are a lot of different ways to follow me and my blog so you don’t miss out! If you try any of these tricks, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!! I hope you found them helpful! :)