Teacher Talk with Kelly & Randi

April 2019 Newsletter

Dear Teaching Friends,

Happy Spring! The school year is winding down and some of us only have 50 days or less until summer break. We can do this!

This month we are unveiling our 2019 summer professional learning line up. We will be offering seminars on reading, writing, & math. Check them out at the bottom of this flyer, or on our website.

-Kelly Harmon & Randi Anderson

April is National Poetry Month!

April is the month to celebrate poetry! Ignite your students love for reading poetry by showcasing a variety of poetry forms. Some of my favorites to share are lyrical poems(songs), narrative poems (stories), and Haikus (syllables).

A fun way to engage students in reading and writing poetry, in addition to building their fluency skills, is through Poetry SLAMS! A poetry slam is an opportunity for students to read poetry and perform a dramatic interpretation. This requires them to think deeply about the meaning of the poem and the author's craft. Check out Brod Bagert's YouTube channel for examples of expressive poetry reading.

Each day of the week you can have students focus on a different aspect of the poem that will help them gain a deeper understanding of its meaning. On Friday, students SLAM (or perform) the poem for an audience. This can be accomplished live or by recording and publishing the video on your class website or by using apps like SeeSaw or Flipgrid. To help students improve their dramatic presentation, use our fluency rubric as a guide for coaching. Slams are a fun way to develop fluency and extend comprehension.

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Student Experts

Spring is a great time of year to have students dive into interesting topics and share their knowledge and expertise. Ask students to identify topics they know a lot about and have them write down any questions they might have about the topic. You can use these questions (and their answers!) to create shared "expert journals" in your classroom. In one second grade class, we brainstormed the topics using an alphaboxes chart and created expert journals from there.

Expert journals can be a personal or community journal in which students share their expertise and answer questions they either have themselves or that their peers have posed about that topic. Your students can make a simple expert journal by folding and tearing several sheets of paper and then stapling them together. For a more structured journal, like a community expert journal to keep in your room, you can use composition notebooks.


In my experience, students love creating these expert journals. It allows them to practice explaining information through expository text writing, and they enjoy it because they get to choose a topic that they already know a lot about, or that they want to know a lot about.

They get to write for a stated purpose and with an understanding of their intended audience.

To begin an expert journal writing activity, have students choose a topic, and then jot down what they think they already know about it, and what they need to learn or verify. Remind them that they need facts, examples, explanations, and details to engage their audience. They must also anticipate audience questions and interests.

When creating expert journals, students are faced with lots of choices and are able to make decisions about what they want to share with their audience. Choice is a motivational tool that drives learning towards autonomy.

Number of the Day Activities

Place value is the foundation of conceptual understanding in Math, which is why it is so important that we have strategies to quickly engage students in practicing their place value skills with and without manipulatives. To help students deepen their understanding, give students a new number each day to explore. "Number of the day" can be used as a warm-up activity, a small group discussion activity, or in a math station.

Here are some ways to guide your students in exploring the daily number:

1. How many ways can you describe the number?

Give a time limit and have students write down as many different ways to describe the number as they can think of. For example, if the number is 27, they could say it has 2 tens and 7 ones, it is odd, 20+7, 30-3, etc.

Students will then compare ideas with a partner or small group. They can earn a point for every way they described the number that their partner did not.

2. The answer is______. What is the problem?

Given the number, students can write equations or word problem for the given number. For example, let's say the number is 21. Students can write 3 x 7=21 or something like "Jack had 3 boxes of cupcakes from the Magnolia Bakery. Each box had 7 cupcakes in it. How many cupcakes did he have to share with his two sons?"

3. Write a story or letter from the perspective of the number of the day. The students should determine an audience and a message. For example, if the number is 9, you might write a letter to 7 explaining what they have in common and how they are different. Be sure and read the story 7 Ate 9 by Tara Lazar, a mentor text for playing with numbers and words.

Rally Coach as a Micro-Intervention

When students are developing skills or strategies, they sometimes need coaching to move them to mastery. The Kagan strategy Rally Coach can be a perfect micro-intervention for helping students achieve the daily learning targets. Students take turns demonstrating the skill and coaching, correcting, and praising each other. Pair students who need to develop the skill with students who need to reinforce (close to mastery) the skill. This takes just a few minutes and can help students identify their misconceptions quickly so that they can move forward in becoming proficient in the skill. Both of the students benefit from thinking as a coach and coach-ee, and it is a great way to deepen their understanding of the moves needed to correctly utilize the skill.

Guided Math: Small Group Problem Solving

July 17, 2019 / 9am to 12pm



In this interactive virtual seminar, Kelly Harmon will share a variety of Guided Math activities and ideas to promote problem solving during your small groups. Gain ideas for how to use word problems and manipulatives and discover how to group students effectively. Spark engagement in your math groups by using real world problems, photos, and videos!

Engage with Math Games

July 17, 2019 / 1pm to 3pm



Ignite a passion for math through the use of games in your daily math instruction! In this 2 hour seminar, Kelly Harmon will share ideas for creating and using math games that your students will love. Discuss how games can be used for guided practice and math centers. See real classroom pictures of the use of games and how they move students to mastery. These games will help build their numeracy skills and conceptual knowledge.

In-Person Seminars

Reading, Writing, & Rigor: Starting the Year with a Literacy Rich Classroom

June 24 & 25, 2019 / 8:30am to 3:30pm

Two-Day Event

San Antonio, TX


Wanting to start the year off with a balanced literacy approach? Want to implement rigorous instruction from day one? Join Kelly Harmon & Randi Anderson in San Antonio, TX for a two-day event focused on balanced literacy instruction in grades K-8. Explore class routines, schedules, homework assignments, genre mapping, and much more! This seminar will give you an overview of an entire year of intentional planning to create engaging instruction. Discuss comprehension strategies, literature circles, guided reading, writer's workshops, fluency strategies, word work activities, and assessment ideas. This seminar is great for new and expert teachers alike! Seats are limited, register today. For more information, visit the official flyer.

Guided Math: Setting the Stage for Success

June 26 & 27, 2019

Two-Day event

San Antonio, TX


In this interactive training Kelly Harmon will share a variety of Guided Math strategies, techniques, and ideas for addressing all students' math needs. Walk away with resources and ideas for strengthening your math instruction immediately! You will learn the best research-based instructional strategies to help your students develop conceptual knowledge, procedural knowledge, mathematical fluency, as well as how to help them transfer those skills to math problem solving. Also discuss the math time block and how to incorporate writing into your daily math instruction. Seats are limited, register today! For more information, visit the official flyer.

We Offer Onsite Trainings!

We provide virtual & onsite seminars for districts. Our trainings can be customized to meet the specific needs of your students and staff. Contact our us for more information on the trainings and rates! (817) 583-1290.