From the Desk of Kelly Harmon

October 2017 Newsletter

Dear Educator,

Happy Halloween! This month we are focused on helping students deepen their understanding and become more proficient readers and writers with some fun ideas that are fall inspired! We also would love for you to join us online or onsite this Fall at any one of our professional learning opportunities. Have a wonderful October and Happy Teaching!

-Kelly Harmon & Randi Anderson

Halloween Inspired Writing Activities

October Alphaboxes

Tap into students favorite traditions and activities by using Alphaboxes to brainstorm all things Fall. Give each student an Alphaboxes sheet and challenge them to list words related to October. They do not have to have a word under each letter. Also, a box may have multiple words. Students can use their Alphaboxes sheet to choose ideas to write about. Write stories, letters, poems, or expository essays all about Fall things! For an Alphaboxes PDF, click here!

Spooky Tales

October is a great month to read aloud folktales and myths to your students and think about cause and effect. A great read aloud is Halloween: Scary Tales for Kids. Students can study the craft of traditional literature and then craft their own pieces. Many students can benefit from a discussion of the character's goal, obstacles, and ways the character makes attempts to overcome the barriers to achieve a goal. Make a copy of the cover of each book you share and post on a wall or bulletin board to remind students to make connections between texts.

Take it to Writing Workshop by having students write their own spooky stories. Be sure to teach students to plan the story by developing a character who has a goal, but faces an obstacle. They should think of one or two events (think cause/effect) in which the character tries to overcome the obstacle. Using a 'Somebody-Wanted-But-So-Then' graphic organizer will help students plan and organize their story. Click here for the narrative graphic organizer.

Pumpkin-Spiced Recipes

Procedural texts are a great genre to dive into for the months of October and November. Encourage students to share and write recipes from home that they enjoy during the Fall months. Whether it's a Halloween treat or a Thanksgiving staple, sharing recipes is a great way to get to build community and get students writing in different ways!

What Am I? Riddles

Tap into writing and inferencing skills with "What Am I?" writing prompts. Students can choose a frightening animal (spider, snake, bat) and write down three facts. Then, the reader will have to use the clues to make an inference as to which animal the student is referencing.

For a little extra challenge, read Guess Who Haiku and have students write a haiku riddle. Here is an example:

Little fur body,

Long wings soaring through the night.

A cave is my home.

Can you guess who?

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Writing Stations That Increase Achievement!

The purpose of a station or center is to give students independent practice on skills, strategies, or processes in order to become proficient. Stations are a "second stop” for practicing once students have conceptual understanding, but need time and new situations to apply in order to deepen their understanding and become more fluent.

So given what you’ve already taught so far this year (or last year), what do students need to review or practice when it comes to writing?

Areas for Practice


Practice using the writing process to plan, organize and compose a first draft. Students choose the form of writing (letters, stories, poems, expository pieces).


Practice revising a composition by adding, changing, or deleting words to make the piece more meaningful.

Sentence Construction

Using mentor sentences from texts read aloud to imitate and construct meaningful sentences. Also, have students write three to six simple sentences on a topic. Then have then practice combining the sentences into compound and complex sentences. Does it sound better as a simple or compound/complex sentence?


Using an editing checklist, students practice editing one convention at a time. Always practice in a complete composition, not in isolated sentences. The conventions should help the author communicate the message. For an editing checklist example, click here. The editing checklist should be made with students as skills are taught.

Need a ready-to-print writing center option? Click here to download!

Click here for a choice board template.

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Guided Math: Number Talks

Number talks are an easy way to start your math block off with a bang! Students are engaged in a mental math activity that gets them thinking strategically about numbers and how they work.

Number talks take from five to fifteen minutes and reinforce computational fluency skills. In kindergarten, show a picture of dots or a ten frame with some dots in some boxes, have children talk about what they see and how they see it. The goal of this talk is to develop the ability to subitize (instantly identify a quantity) and establish conceptual knowledge for numbers.

In first grade and beyond, students are given a problem to solve in their head such as 7 + 3 or 70 + 23. Write the problem horizontally. Give each student time to think of a solution and then ask students to share their answer. Have several students explain how they got the answer. As they are explaining, write the math on a board or chart paper. Try to get several students to share different ways they figured out the answer. We are looking for students to use strategies such as counting on, making ten, doubles, finding a friendly number, etc.

The important thing about number talks is that students are verbalizing their thinking while the teacher facilitates the conversation. Many students will learn a new strategy or realize they have made an error in calculation as they listen to others describe a mental strategy.

Anchor Charts 101

Anchor charts have become a buzz word in the education world over the past five years. The intended reason for an anchor chart is to "anchor" the critical content needed to be learned. Here are some essential components of the buzz-worthy anchor charts.

What is an Anchor Chart?

Anchor charts are large representations of a concept or skill that is made during instruction by the teacher AND the students. The goal is to illustrate critical content for students and finally "anchor" the learning. The charts should be hung throughout the room for students to refer back to when practicing a skill, strategy, or process.


For anchor charts to be effective, they should be made WITH your students during a mini lesson. Students must own the learning and have input. I use to think that anchor charts needed to be perfectly worded and written but they do not! As long as the students are learning the critical information and have their input on the chart, the charts will be purposeful. Ask students for input and information about the topic or skill you are teaching. Add their initials to parts of the anchor chart that students contributed to. This will give them ownership of the learning.


  • Prepare a piece of chart paper with the title. You can have a basic outline or organizer ready to go, but most of the information should be added to the chart in front of the students.
  • Add student initials to parts they contribute. Give them ownership of the learning.
  • Add content to the chart over time. Chunking the learning will help your students process and store the information. Too much information at one time overwhelms the working memory.
  • Hang anchor charts throughout the classroom. When you run out of room, hang them on hangers or tape to the ceiling (Shhhhh....don't tell the fire marshall).
  • Use large chart paper 25 x 30.5 inches (click here for an example)
  • Keep them simple! Only publish critical definitions, examples, and information.
  • Don't worry about being perfect. It's the learning that matters most!

Strengthening Your Title I Program

Learn how to better lead your school or district Title I team in this strategy-packed, two-day institute led by nationally acclaimed presenter, Kelly Harmon. You will discover how to work with teachers to identify and implement the most effective cutting-edge, research-based instructional strategies to increase school and district wide student achievement. You will learn how to develop teacher expertise in working with struggling students along with ways to continually monitor and adjust instruction based on student results.

November 6th & 7th - Chicago

November 8th & 9th - Sacramento

Want to Bring a Training to Your District?

Let us help you plan your next professional development. Our sessions 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.

Need Teaching Resources?

We are excited to partner with Shelley Yeater an area rep for QEP. She has one goal; to connect you with quality, top-of-the-line curricular resources, professional books, and professional development. In Texas, she serves Regions 2, 20, 13.

With a background as a reading/dyslexia specialist, instructional leader, and classroom teacher, she has the experience and connections to help you achieve the success with students we all want.

Contact Shelley at