From the Desk of Kelly Harmon

September 2016 Newsletter

Dear Educator,

Congratulations on surviving your first several weeks of school! By now you're back into the swing of things and looking at all that lies ahead. This month we are focusing on genre study, ways to kick off the day or class period, teaching habits of successful learners, and much more! We are also featuring our upcoming Readers' Workshop and Intentional Writing Instruction workshops.

Keep up the good work and know that what you do each day MATTERS!

Happy Teaching!

-Kelly Harmon & Randi Anderson

Getting the Day Started

The first five-to-eight minutes of class sets the stage for the learning. Students need (and want) to be engaged and thinking from the moment they walk into our classrooms. Sometimes this can become a daunting task with all the morning routines we must complete before the first lesson of the day can begin. Being organized and intentionally incorporating student interests and natural curiosity will wake up the brain, get dendrites excited, and synapses firing!

We have compiled a list of some ways to wake up the brain and get students in a learning ready state of mind.

Early Childhood Classrooms

The goal of these day starters is to tap into student's interest and get them thinking at higher levels; creating, analyzing, explaining, describing. Student choice is key here! Choice will allow you to peek inside the brain of your little learners to see what interests or excites them.

Place the following items on tables around the room. You can organize them in tubs or have them laying in the center of the table for students to begin at their own pace.


Legos are great for building and creating landscapes from one's imagination! Students will be creating and practicing their engineering skills.

Building Blocks

Towers, fences, roads...the list is endless for what students can create using blocks.

Have students sketch their creations on paper and label points of interest.

Play Dough

Play dough gets students using their hands to create anything from letters to shapes to characters. Another great option is play foam!

Book Baskets

Give students the opportunity to do picture walks, make predictions, and read! Offer a variety of genres to give students opportunities to experience different genres and forms.


Offer beads and string for students to create jewelry or tools with imaginations. Encourage patterns and allow an opportunity to explain their thinking with their piece.

Wiki Sticks

Wiki Sticks are fun to create just about anything the mind can dream up!


Allow time to draw or write or both, "Drite"!

Butcher Paper

Place paper across the table and provide a variety of writing utensils. Children can draw and write. Encourage students to sketch a story. This is a fun place to "Drite" and collaborate on a large scale!

Elementary and Secondary Classrooms

Book Talks

Have students gather in pairs or trios in the meeting area and begin "book talking." Teach students how to talk about what they are reading. Younger children can use the book to show another students what the book is about and what they were thinking before, during, and after the reading.

Song of the Week

Select a song that you will play while during the first three to five minutes of class . Have students draw their understanding of the song's meaning. Each time the song is played, the students can add additional details. After several sessions, have students gallery walk the illustrations and give each other feedback.

Word Games

Place games like Bananagrams, Scrabble, or Scattergories on tables around the room. Have students play by the rules or make up their own rules for making words.

Quick Writes

Ask a thought provoking question. Students write thoughts knowing that there will be a discussion or debate. Examples:

1. Would you rather... or ...?

2. What is the best...?

3. What is your opinion of ...?

4. How important is ....?

The goal is to create a state of alertness so the brain is ready and willing to keep the thinking and learning going!

Upcoming Seminars!

Marzano Center Essentials of Rigor @ESC20 San Antonio

Nov. 16-Monitoring for Learning

Nov. 17-Core Instruction

Phonics to Fluency

Nov. 28th-Dallas area

Dec. 9th-San Antonio

RTI That Works!-Training of Trainers Chicago, IL

Thinking Successfully- How To Teach Students to Manage Impulsivity

The purpose of school is to teach children strategies for becoming successful adults. Students need to learn academic skills and academic behaviors that will help them succeed in the classroom and in challenging life situations. Costa and Kallick have identified 16 habits of mind that help us respond intelligently when charting unfamiliar territories.

As an elementary teacher, Kelly selected one habit each week and used children's literature to help students understand what the habit is and how to develop the habit of mind. She started the day by setting the academic behavior goal for the week and discussing how this goal helps us think and act productively.

Being impulsive is a difficult characteristic to manage. Adults and kids alike are all impulsive at some point in time. Educators can give students strategies for managing the urge to be impulsive by encouraging students to take your time, think before you act, remain calm, and be thoughtful and deliberative.

One of the best ways to teach managing impulsivity is through interactive read alouds. Here are three children's titles that can help you illustrate and discuss how to manage being impulsive.

First Up: Help Students Develop and Use Genre Knowledge for Strategic Reading

Why is Genre Knowledge Critical?

Start the year off building the students' knowledge of genre in order to think more critically about every text they encounter this year. Good readers use genre knowledge to get beyond surface-level comprehension. They orient themselves to each text and select comprehension strategies based upon the demands of the text. For example, you would think about character actions in a fiction text and key ideas in an expository text.

Genre Study

Students need to be immersed in various genres throughout the year. Start each genre study with a book flood in your classroom. A book flood is simply a collection of books in the genre that students listen to, read, and analyze. Letting students uncover the genre characteristics and elements on their own is key! They will have to use their inferencing skills to discover how the genre works by noticing similarities and differences across texts. #whoisdoingthework

Levels of Teaching Genre

In the book Genre Study, by Fountas & Pinnell recommend setting up an inquiry for each genre study.

1. Collect

Collect mentor texts and independent level texts for the book flood.

2. Immerse

Give students opportunities to explore examples of the genre they are studying.

3. Study

Analyze characteristics, elements, and structures of the genre. What do you notice the genre always has? What does it sometime, or often, have?

Create an anchor chart for the genre that lists "always" and "often."

4. Define

Create a class definition of the genre using the list of "always" and "often."

5. Teach

Teach the genre features in your mini lessons. Use your grade level standards to determine learning outcomes related to the genre.

6. Read and Revise

Expand students' understanding by continuing to read and explore the genre.

For more in depth information about teaching genre, attend one of our October workshops on Empowering Readers! For more information, click here!

Word Games

Word games are fun ways for students to practice apply their word knowledge in ways that have them creating and analyzing words.

This month, we are featuring one of our favorite words game, Bananagrams!

Bananagrams is great because it encourages students to build words in the form of crossword puzzles. Players must use their phonics and letter pattern knowledge to create words that build off of each other. This game is fun and easy to play. You can use it as a classroom center, morning warmup, or homework game to play as a family! Check out Bananagrams on Amazon. There are also other related word games to explore, Apple Scrabble and PairsinPears!

Click here to explore Banangrams!

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Kelly Harmon & Associates

Kelly Harmon & Associates began in 2001 with a mission of instructional coaching and providing rich literacy resources for educators and parents. Our work incorporates research-based best practices for teaching and learning. Our services are professional development, curriculum development, instructional coaching, grant writing, project management, and technology integration.