Teacher Talk with Kelly & Randi

May 2019

Dear Educator Friends,

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week! In our opinion, it should really be an appreciation month. We've both been in so many classrooms over the last month, witnessing great teachers pushing through the stress that the end of the year brings, and it has reminded us that you really have to be an educator to understand all the energy that goes into planning, teaching, coaching, and celebrating student achievement.

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for all you do for your students and school community!

This month, we want to help you finish strong with ideas for helping your students solidify skills, strategies, and concepts in fun, thought-provoking ways. We hope you can use these activities to wrap up a great year and keep your students learning over the summer!

Happy Teaching!

Kelly and Randi

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Let's Plan a Math Party!

I have a new favorite children's book to share with you this month! One is a Piñata by Roseanne Greenfield Thong is a rhyming, bilingual counting book for ages two to ten. One of my favorite things about this book is its exploration of the Hispanic culture. Being born and raised in San Antonio, Texas myself, I've grown up celebrating and appreciating all things Fiesta- a cultural celebration featured in this book. While reading, I learned a few new Spanish words and had to use my inferring skills to determine what unknown words meant. The book also contains a glossary that allowed me to check my inferences for accuracy.

What's even better about this book is that we learn how to have a fiesta! Since planning a party is a fun way to use math, I can't resist sharing my ideas for using this book in the classroom.

  1. Start by asking students to find the math on each page. Depending on the age, students might be working to keep one-to-one correspondence between counting words and objects or going as a far as recognizing the equal groups of objects on each paper.
  2. Next ask students to make models, represent, and write number sentences for the objects on each page. They will want to study the illustrations carefully to see all of the possibilities.
  3. Discuss and create word problem situations using the objects and situations depicted.
  4. Determine the total number of objects needed for the fiesta.
  5. Compare the objects to the people at the fiesta. How many objects will each party goer get or use? We find out on the last page that 10 friends will attend the party.
  6. Make a shopping list for the fiesta and estimate the amount of money needed to purchase everything. Determine a way to test the prediction and compare the prediction to the actual cost. Don't forget tax (if appropriate).

Now have an end-of-the-year fiesta! As we wrap up the school year, I can't think of a better way to celebrate all the learning that has taken place. Viva Fiesta! Viva Saber!

Summer Writing Ideas

Want to keep your students writing all summer long? Here are some summer writing ideas for your school.

1. Start a Summer Blog

Have students respond to and write blog posts. This could also be a social media page (Facebook) where students can respond to posts and keep in touch with their teacher or school.

2. Summer Writing Contest

Have students write and submit summer poems with illustrations.

3. Post Card Collection

Have students mail a post card from their summer vacation to the school with a short description of where they are. Have the post cards posted on a bulletin board when students arrive at the beginning of the year.

4. School Trip Advisor

Have students write reviews of the places they are visiting this summer. It can be restaurants, hotels, parks, etc.

5. Favorite Things Log

Have students keep a favorite things log through the summer. Check in biweekly to see what students are adding to their list. At the beginning of the school year, have students look over their list. This can also be the student's "writing ideas" list to start off the school year!

6. Virtual Writing Forum

Each week host a virtual writing club through a Skype or Zoom platform. Each meeting can have a different theme such as poetry, script writing, comics, or podcasts. Have students brainstorm together ideas to write about and then have them share their writing the following week.

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Summer Readers Theater Club

Looking for a FUN summer reading opportunity to keep your students reading all summer long? Try hosting a Reader's Theater group with your school or community. Invite students from kindergarten through twelfth grade to join in on the fun!

Getting Started

Invite students to come for a summer morning or evening each month (or every other week) to participate in a reader's theater club.

1. Provide students with several choices of scripts to choose from. Do a short book talk or advertisement for each script. Then have students vote on their favorite option. (You can have several groups going off of different scripts or everyone using the same script).

2. Give students time to practice (reread) with their groups. Encourage students to use body movements, facial expressions, and tone instead of props.

3. Showtime! Have students perform for their peers, parents, and the community.

4. Challenge students to write a few comprehension questions to ask the audience after their performance. (Have these questions ready BEFORE performance day).

5. Change out the scripts each week or biweekly. Also, do not be afraid to change it up and use poems or songs.

6. Another FUN option is to have Summer Drama Writing Club. Have students write their own scripts and cast peers to perform in their plays. They are playwrights in the making!


This is a great opportunity to combat that summer reading loss that we see every fall. Dr. Chase Young piloted reader's theater in his second grade class room and his findings were astonishing. Dr. Chase found that leading 10 weeks of reader's theater for 10-15 minutes per day gave his students 1.3 years of fluency and comprehension gains!

For FREE scripts, visit our favorite RT website.

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Mrs. Taplin's Math Blog

A few weeks ago I spent the day with a group of secondary leaders, including Mrs. Ashley Taplin, a district math specialist from San Antonio, TX. She has a passion for creating and coaching student-centered math classrooms where students take ownership of their learning.

During our classroom visits, we noticed that when students were given learning targets at the analysis level or above, classroom engagement was up to 100%. Together we explored ways to lift the retrieval and comprehension targets up to the analysis level, especially in math classrooms. She's written about the day in her latest blog. I think you'll love her insight and the ideas she shares in her monthly blog. Be sure to visit Mrs. Taplin's Math Blog!

Practicing Strategy: Quiz, Quiz, Trade

As students work to build skill automaticity and accuracy, we want to avoid death by worksheet and provide fun ways for students to process, practice, and strengthen important neural pathways. One instructional activity that always delivers is the Kagan collaborative learning strategy Quiz/Quiz/Trade.

Here's how you can start implementing this strategy in your classroom. Take practice items from traditional worksheets and put them onto individual cards. Make sure to put the answers on the back of each card. When you're ready to practice, deal out the cards to your students and give then time to answer the question on their card, as well as determine the thinking they used to answer the question. Students then pair up to quiz each other. Once this is complete, they trade cards and find a new partner.

As students quiz each other, you can monitor their thinking to identify misconceptions or skills and concepts that need strengthening. The best part- there aren't any worksheets to collect and grade! Since students will be receiving immediate feedback, and you will not need to spend time grading yet another worksheet, this activity is a WIN-WIN!!


Summer 2019 Workshops

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.

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.

Bring a Training to Your Campus or District!

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.