Hot -N- Ready Strategies

STAAR Review Edition

STAAR is Coming... but breathe!

Without a doubt everyone feels the pressure of testing. It happens every year around this time where intervention plans are made and the frenzy begins. I implore you to relax... yes RELAX. True review is rooted in best practices and teaching strategically. Keep in mind that we are preparing our children for success in many facets that far exceed a test. After all, in real life situations we can not simply "choose C."

Comprehensive List of Instructional Strategies

The lead4ward instructional resource is designed to provide teachers with detailed descriptions of specific, high-yield instructional strategies, many of which are modeled and experienced in lead4ward professional development sessions. Teachers may select from this list to populate the “Instructional Strategies” column of the PLC menus. This resource is intended to support educators in using an intentional planning process that includes delivering instruction that is aligned to the TEKS, promotes student engagement, and teaches for access, transfer, and rigor.

Thinking Near "the Box"

Why stop at the 134 activities listed above. You can easily adapt activities to put a whole new twist on it.

For example...

You can take the "Who Am I?" activity and incorporate technology to adapt a "Heads Up" style game. OR you can create "Taboo" cards to have students work with academic vocabulary. I'm sure you can even find a cool app to help with this. Take a look at and JustSayIt! and Word Charades in the App Store.

You can adjust the "Just the Facts, Please" activity by having students make inferences using different media. Students can use the visual prompts or film shorts in order to make inferences. My favorite film short to use is "For The Birds." You can also use YouTube videos to have students go through a series of exploratory questions to generate thinking and using evidence to support that thinking. I had pleasure of attending a workshop facilitated by M. Smith who shared a packet of how to teach literacy using YouTube videos. This is definitely worth a look and it can be easily modified for your needs. Her packet includes the following YouTube Videos:

Nice Bulldogs Teamwork

Jason McElwain Story

J-Mac FIve Years later

On the Road: A tough teacher's alter ego

The Black Hole Future Shorts

Or you can get creative like this teacher did and create a crime scene to have students gather in groups to "investigate" and gather conclusions about what happened.

STAAR Academic Vocabulary

The STAAR Academic Vocabulary Analysis is made available from lead4ward to help teachers prepare students for the language they will see when the encounter the STAAR.

6th-Reading/ Writing

7th- Reading/ Writing

8th- Reading/ Writing

HS- Reading/ Writing


Truisms shows us something about life and how the world works. Perhaps you have heard someone say things, read something in a book, or even heard a TV character comment on something and you thought "that is SO true!" A truism is something that is true for just about anyone.

Here are a few student samples from Mrs. K. Briseño's classroom:

  • Hope can make people go forward. –Linda Lee
  • Failure is a lesson of success. –Benson Liu
  • Sometimes you do something not because you want to do it, but to challenge yourself. –Steven Cheng
  • If you want to do something, you shouldn't care about what other people say. –Andre Fontes

Gretchen Bernabei attaches truisms to her visual prompts for students to use to guide writing.

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Even sad things are important.

The 11 Minute Essay

The 11-minute essay is a short guided writing exercise (Bernabei) where students take a prompt and find evidence of it in several different setting outside their own personal experience.
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Using Student Writing as Models

Gretchen Bernabei has compiled student writing and created craft lessons to accompany them to teach craft lessons. These lessons are adapted from her book Sparklers.

Use these writing samples to teach craft lessons in:

  • time transition
  • deepening a truism
  • point of view/ absolutes
  • transitions
  • layering thinking
  • dialogue with inner reactions
  • anadiplosis
  • embedding other types of text/ genre
  • abruptness for power
  • dead giveaway
  • genre switch: story of a letter
  • anaphora

Revising and Editing

Too often we get lost focusing on the essay part of the writing test that we neglect the revising and editing part. One way to approach this is to use the test specs from TEA to be strategic in practicing. Using this in conjunction with Bernabei's lessons in Grammar Keepers will help students practice grammar in context.

Kernel Essays

Kernel essays are the perfect starting point for getting authentic writing out of your students. Kernel essays are a simple, fun, and fast way of seeing if students have a story worth telling. You can choose to start on a regular sheet of paper or use a planning sheet.

You can start with a kernel structure or have them create one using sample essays.

ENG II Kernel Essays


Writers sometimes avoid repeating a key word in a piece by using alternatives to that word- often more descriptive and intriguing substitutes.



HS Remediation Packets

The activities that are packed in these are not simply a review of "talking louder and slower" but are steps to help students realize expectations. It also makes excellent use of student samples to teach from as well. Make sure you take a look at the ENG I and ENG II remediation packets for writing.

Past Hot-N-Ready Packets

These packets were compiled and given during ongoing PD this year. They contain a variety of strategies that can be easily implemented into your lessons without changing your content.

Packet 1 includes Hashtag Activity, Conversation Questions, and Quotation Mingle.

Packet 2 includes Tableaux, Support Your Position, and Written Discussion.

Packet 3 includes Devolved Essays, Pitchforking, and Infoshots. Also includes many visual prompts from Bernabei.