Do your students need help with written response? This blog post walks you through the steps this literacy specialist uses to teach written response in grades 2-4 | Hello Mrs Sykes
We know reading and writing are linked, right? Many of our struggling readers need help with writing, too. Unfortunately, time is tight, and mClass assessments require written response! Here's a quick look at strategies that I use with my struggling second, third, and fourth grade readers to boost their written responses.

It's a Bright Idea round-up. Enjoy this post from earlier this year! I work with struggling readers in grades 2-5, so I know it can be a challenge to keep these learners engaged and enthusiastic while practicing Fluency and Accuracy.

Today, I'm sharing my secret weapon: The Partner Game!

Ever hear of "Pencil Sharpener Love?" It is a known condition that teachers have when they find an amazing pencil sharpener that works on every pencil, every time, without having to twist/turn the pencil in a strange way to get it to sharpen all sides of the pencil. Here's a look at my workhorse pencil sharpener (Photo from August, 2012 - read my first product review here.)

Sharp pencils every time from
I can't say enough good things about this sharpener. It works just as well 3 years later. I replaced the blade last year after my kiddos accidentally used it for colored pencils - not recommended for color pencils or crayons, FYI!

Recently, the folks at Classroom Friendly Supplies announced that they have news. Big news. Purple. Yes, purple! It is called "Popular Purple." The company asked their social networks for input about the next color, and purple was so popular that it is called "Popular Purple!"

Check it out:

Works right out of the box!

Sharp pencils every time!

Perfect points that last, even with students who write forcefully!
To get your own, visit
Disclaimer: I received a free purple pencil sharpener from Classroom Friendly Supplies to review. I am not an affiliate of their company. All opinions, points of view, and errors are my own. I receive no additional compensation for this product review. 

I don't know about you, but I geek out pretty hard with my supplies. I can even go a bit overboard... My pencil sharpener is guarded fiercely from colored pencils because it sharpens perfectly, every time. My post-its are color-coded for strategy practice, so please put them back. If you leave the cap off a dry-erase marker, you will get the business end of a hissy fit. And for the love of Maude, take special care of the markers in this box:

That's why I'm super excited to show you this new little doodad that helps me so much: a paper clip style flash drive. If my internet speed is taking a long time to buffer videos in my classroom, I've got an easy way to access the video, even if it's not on my computer. Great for carrying your lesson planning home, too. I got my paper clip flash drive from They have a ton of really cool designs to pick from. (See their best-sellers at this link)

I had mine in my binder at a meeting today, and the teachers at my table thought it was so cool! It seriously is the size of a paperclip.

I'm so thankful for the opportunity you give me to share my love for literacy with the world through this little corner of the blogosphere. As a small token of this appreciation, I'm giving some away! I'll pick ten winners, who will each receive a flash drive via snail mail from me. I'll also include my newest resource in my TPT store, at, so you can Create Your Own Cootie Catchers!
Create your own Cootie Catchers, with editable versions, too! 
Want to win one? I'll use the Rafflecopter below to select ten winners next week! Make sure you leave an email address with Rafflecopter that you remember to check, so I can send them out. :) Best of luck, and have an amazing week, friends.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Remember Cootie Catchers? Or did you call them Fortune Tellers? When I was in 5th grade, these carefully folded papers were all the rage with me and my friends. Since I became a teacher, I have used Cootie Catchers in all subject areas. Want to create your own Cootie Catchers? Read on, and you can also pick up a freebie!
Create your own Cootie Catchers, for all subject areas!

Today I want to share a trick for you to establish positive relationships with your students. Establish a positive connection with your students to help them engage and feel passionate about the importance of the subject matter.

Omigoodness, y'all! I love my logo shirt from A+ Images, Inc. I'm going to be sporting this baby on the strip in Las Vegas this summer!
Getting ready for #tptvegas
Want an awesome custom shirt of your own? Maybe something to tell your students how amazing they are? Check out their website at For tons of creative teachers shirts, visit

Lately, I noticed that I feel this compulsive need to care what others think. A lot. As I prepare for the TPT Conference awesomeness of next week, I am scared. See, I am a socially awkward person. Really. If you've chatted with me away from school, you'll see how I am able to stick my foot in my mouth. A lot. Fortunately, I make a decent first impression. :)
If you work with struggling readers in grades 2-5, you know it can be a challenge to keep these learners engaged and enthusiastic while practicing Fluency and Accuracy. Today, I'm sharing my secret weapon: The Partner Game!

Why colored rice?  It's fun!  So often we forget to make things hands-on for our upper elementary students. Colored rice is great for tactile learners and much easier to clean up than sand.  In the past, I've used colored rice in baby wipe containers (easy storage) for younger students to practice writing letters or words in the rice.  They love the feel of the rice, and if some falls on the floor, they use the whisk broom and sweep it up in a jiffy.  With my older learners, I use colored rice to make word work fun with Shake It Up!

Need a quick way to review? Want to see what your kiddos know in less than 15 minutes? Scoot is a game I use in classrooms to get kiddos up and moving while we review. It's a quick way to get a look at how the class is doing with a concept. Just like any other game you play with students, teach them how to play it. It's a great way to spend 10 minutes on a rainy day, trust me.

Here's a quick, Bright Idea for all the Teacher-Authors out there...  How to secure a PDF.
Read on to Secure PDFs for free

Y'all remember the game Say It? I love, love, love this game. I wrote a post about it, including a video of how I use it with my reading groups. CLICK HERE to visit that post.

And here I am, writing about them again. Seriously, I'm not real well-planned on the ball consistent lately. Really, this game is that good, and I wanted to pass along this special blogger deal - $10 per game! Read on to see the details!

If you're a teacher, you've seen the kiddos who need to work on their pencil grasp. Sometimes, I'm really just impressed they can write with their thumb folded across the index and middle fingers, or index fingers that wrap around the thumb and pencil. Let me tell you, it's not just their handwriting that will suffer; a wonky pencil grasp can impact their writing stamina, as it puts additional stress on their fingers. The result? They stop writing faster than they normally would, or they rush through their work so they can do it without getting fatigued.

Read on for a Giveaway - a prize pack from

Who has a student who enjoys using manipulatives? Silly question, right? Do they like to use the iPad, too? Would they benefit from additional practice with CVC letter patterns or number sense? Then you simply must check out the Touchtronic Letters and Numbers from Junior Learning!

I loved playing with the Touchtronic manipulatives last month!

Let me tell you a story about a student. For today, I will call her Quanisha. Trust me, that is not her real name.

Quanisha looks like any other student, but everyone says she is mean. Before Quanisha begins in your class, you are warned by 3 teachers. Watch out for that one. She always causes trouble, and is mean to the other kids. You get introduced to her social worker, who fills you in on Quanisha's situation: the gaps in housing; the absent parents; the constant trouble in school; the rebellious older sister.
Do you have a student with major discipline issues? The Power of Attention is a must read for all teachers! Blog post from Hello Mrs Sykes

Last week I received a copy of The Reading Game - 2nd Edition, and I have to tell you, I was pretty excited about it! I saw the game at the ED Expo 2015 in Atlanta, and I need to share the brilliance of this product with you. The Reading Game truly is a game that helps children develop confidence in reading.
I had so much fun last weekend at the 2015 ED Expo in Atlanta.  First of all, I was able to connect with amazing bloggers from around the US. Our task,  give our opinions about products. It was amazing.  
I arrived late, well really, I arrived *just* on time, but then we got lost. Can you believe it? There were so many cool things to look at, and so many exhibits, that we got lost. Thankfully, my fellow bloggers guided us to the back left corner (instead of the back right corner!) and we were set to go. Bloggers were handed a pen and a piece of paper, numbered 1-10.
I am super excited about attending EDExpo 2015 this year! In just a few weeks superintendents, curriculum coordinators, and retailers of educational brick & mortars and online stores will meet in Atlanta, Georgia for the premier showcase of educational supplies, materials, furnishings, and products.

What will I be doing there? I'll join a group of educational bloggers in sifting through the amazing school products. Our job sounds fun: Find the latest and greatest products you just have to get for your classroom. Challenge accepted. :)

I am looking forward to meeting the bloggers, scanning the aisles for cool tools for school, and visiting Atlanta. I'll fill you in after EdExpo!

I'm so excited to be back with the Bright Ideas group! Today I'm sharing a few of my favorite hacks for my home office.
These organizational hacks might help you begin the new year with a few fresh ideas for your home office.

Happy 2015! I have enjoyed the last 2 weeks, as I took the time to slow down, reflect, and spend time with my family. As 2015 begins, I wanted to take a moment to share some easy and fast materials I'll be using with my Literacy Intervention groups. Please note: all of my intervention groups are upper elementary, but these can be customized as needed for your class. Each of these activities includes fun materials to practice essential literacy skills. Enjoy!

Fun Word Searches for January

My kiddos enjoy word searches, and the words in these help to "front-load" my kiddos with the appropriate vocabulary to be able to participate in rich discussions.
Click to download for free from my TPT store

Click to download for free from my TPT store

Speaking and Listening About 2014

I love Flocabulary, and the Year in Rap 2014 does not disappoint! From the Winter Olympics to Ferguson, Missouri, the Year in Rap is sure to generate opportunities for speaking and listening within your class, too! For a close listening activity, use the "Fill in the Blanks" sheet, and allow repeated listening. I'm going to use it as a journal prompt: "Describe an important event from 2014. Be sure to justify why this event was important."

Click to visit Flocabulary's Year in Rap 2014

Essential Mid-Year Comprehension Skills

We are going to be focusing on Analogies and using Context Clues. I use task cards as a quick and effective way to differentiate for my struggling readers. Added bonus - the quick assessments are a fast and easy way to see who needs remediation.
Click to view these in my TPT store

Click to view these in my TPT store
 Looks like I'll spend this weekend printing, laminating, and cutting task cards!


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