TPT Blessings

Hey guys!

As 2015 comes to a close, I wanted to take the chance to look back on the year and my TPT journey as a whole, and share some of the blessings that came out of opening my store - blessings that I never expected. The turn of the year always makes me feel a little reflect-y, and I shared on Instagram (@mme.andrea) my personal reflections, but wanted to document some TPT-specifics in this space. This month marks my one year TPT-iversary, and I can't believe how much my little store has given me!

So here we go (in no particular order)

1. Pride in my students
I have always been proud of my students and all of their accomplishments, of course. But there is something about taking pictures of their hard work throughout the day and putting those photos together for a blog post or inside a new product that just makes my heart sing. I can literally feel myself swelling with pride and love for them as I reflect back on how far they have come and all the amazing things their little 5-year old selves can do. I love them to pieces and I am just so grateful to have the opportunity to do what I love - and TPT has give me the opportunity to notice that more than ever.

2. New connections
One of the best things about opening a TPT store is joining a group just full to the brim of like-minded people! People who want to help other teachers save time, save money, and just be better. People who are willing to go the extra mile and sacrifice their evenings and weekends so that other teachers don't have to. Over the year, I have joined many Facebook groups for teacher-authors, and I still am in awe of all of the support out there. There is no competition - these teachers really understand that a rising tide lifts all boats and provide answers to every question under the sun. I have seen fellow teacher-authors offer help in product development, cover page tips, translating/catchy product name advice, and even offer support in standing up to bullying. I am so grateful to everyone I have "met" through TPT!

3. And some reconnections!
Opening a TPT store has, funnily enough, led to make reconnecting with some old friends I hadn't spoken to in awhile. Friends who also decided to open shops, and friends who ended up purchasing some of my products. I am not very good at keeping in touch with people, so any help in that department is much appreciated! :)

4. Courage
It isn't easy to take a leap of faith and put your ideas out there. It especially isn't easy to do it not in the language that you speak/read/write all the time, because you live in a minority community. Nova Scotia French and Quebec French just aren't the same! You open yourself up to negative feedback, and no matter how many times you look something over, there seems to always be typos in one product or another! Most people are kind and fair, but I still beat myself up quite a bit if someone finds something wrong with what I create. And I totally understand - if you are paying money for something, you want it to be perfect so you can use it in your classroom! As a general rule, I am pretty hard on myself and strive for perfection (more about that coming up haha), so TPT has been really good for my courage and for encouraging me to put myself out there and share what works for me.

5. Realizing that I can't do it all
I had a fantastic year this year overall, and can't really complain. It was one of those years with far more ups than downs. However, I did have a few "downs" this fall, due to huge amounts of stress. It was affecting everything! I became one of those teachers who came home and cried because I had to go back to school later to get more done, and I didn't want to get out of bed in the morning to go to work. That was totally new for me and not something I want to ever feel again!! Luckily I have a fantastic Naturopath (and boyfriend), who told me that I have to take it easy. As much as I want to be perfect and do it all, it's impossible. What I find the most difficult about teaching, especially since I have added TPT to the mix, is NEVER having everything crossed off my to-do list. There is ALWAYS something else that I can/should/must do. #amirite? So a huge, fantastic thing that TPT gave me this year (after a couple months of struggle) is the understanding that I can't do it all, and that's okay. As much as I love helping and inspiring other teachers, TPT is first and foremost for me - and if I need to take a break for a few weeks to get some other things together for my classroom or for my personal life, that's okay. I will come back stronger than ever after each break!

6. Pride in my own work
Every time I post a new product, I get a little thrill of pride :) While it can be nerve-racking to see my products up there in my TPT store, I am also proud of myself each time. I have lots of little personal goals for myself and my store, and each time I reach one of my own milestones, I am proud all over again. It's a nice feeling! When I look back at my first products (mostly Bingo games haha) and compare them to things I am creating now (products with actual content and teaching), I see a lot of growth. I am really proud of my growth as both a teacher and a seller, and I am thankful to TPT for showing me that!

7. Reminders that I am NOT an expert and what works for me may not work for everyone!
I have done a LOT of research since I started teaching, and have always strived to be the best teacher I can be. When something isn't working for me in my classroom or if my students just aren't getting something, I always turn to Pinterest and teacher blogs for inspiration. Then I tweak what I learn and usually end up making a product that I need for my kiddos that I in turn pop up on TPT. Since I have done so much research, I sometimes forget that I am not an expert, haha. Sometimes I give advice (especially to new teachers), and then feel frustrated if other teachers don't follow it. Because I have done the research, I have tried it out, it worked for me, so clearly it's the best way, right?! Haha, no. Definitely not. And discovering the multitude of resources and ways of teaching the same concept on TPT, and even hearing through feedback the different ways that teachers use my products, have done pretty well at reminding me that my way may not be the best way, and it is definitely not the only way. My school is going through a transition year this year where we have a lot of new teachers, and I am pretty sure I stuck my nose into some places it didn't belong and probably offered a bit too much advice. My school resolution this year is to stop taking other people's inventories and just let them be ;) Because guess what?! We were all new once, and we all discovered through trial and error what worked best, and overall all the kids at my school are happy and learning, and that's what counts!

8. The ability to reach and "teach" kids that aren't even in my classroom
This is maybe the very best one of all. It still blows my mind every day that products I have created and used with my own students are being used by teachers all over. I am helping to teach so many more children than the 16 in my classroom! Every time someone leaves me positive feedback on TPT about how one of my products helped their students, or that their students had fun, parents noticed a difference in their children's reading after using my product, etc. etc., my heart just explodes with happiness. For me, this is what TPT is really all about! When I was a new teacher, I kind of felt like I was stranded on an island with no help haha. I was the only K teacher at my school, and the grade 1 teacher was brand new too, as well as my principal - and he had never taught elementary. My school has the most fantastic resource in the literacy mentor who was there my first year, but I was so overwhelmed by how much she knew and how much I was doing "wrong" that I was pretty confused and discouraged. Through no fault of her - she is incredible! I just didn't have the time or the means to put into place everything she suggested, and I knew she was right and I SHOULD have been doing all of those things. But, if I can help just one teacher find their first year easier, or provide just one person with a ready-made resource that really helps their students, well... I will be happy!! I received two Feedback comments this year that just made my whole year and any struggles I had while trying to balance everything worth it. This one came from my Lecture guidée en maternelle product:

I don't even know where to begin...this document is amazing! So thorough and visually pleasing, complete and a necessary tool for every primary teacher. I love this! Thank you!

And this one from my Introduction à la lecture guidée en grand groupe product:

Excellent mini-unit introduction to guided reading for Kinders! We just finished this last week. My kinders were actively engaged in each lesson and their success on the culminating activity (creating their own sentences from the 6 new sight words) blew me away! The parents have also commented on how their kids were coming home every night with new words. Best of all, I have added a few copies of each emergent reader to our classroom library and the kids take great pride and joy in being able to read these on their own!

And I just want to say THANK YOU to the two kind teachers who left me those comments. You and the other teachers who leave me kind words are the reason that I keep working so hard and make any technology struggles, busy evenings & weekends, and sore wrists from being at my computer for too long more than worth it! <3

To celebrate the end of 2015 and to thank everyone who has supported me over the past year, my whole store will be 15% off through tomorrow! :) Check out my Winter resources HERE.

Here's to 2016!

Five for Friday - Dec 11

Hi guys!

Happy Friday :) I actually had a great Friday today. The beginning of this week was tricky, with me returning from Cuba and everyone readjusting to a return to routine. Also, December is always crazy! #amirite?! But our Elf on the Shelf left us a little reminder note, and today and yesterday's behaviours were much improved! Plus, Friday is popcorn day and I can wear jeans...

Since it's Friday, I am linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for my favourite Five for Friday!

Five for Friday is a linky party where teachers can post about five random things from their week.

We got back from Cuba on Sunday, and I still am missing the sunshine! Usually I don't like a change in routine (may or may not be why I thrive in Kindergarten, ha!), but this vacation was so much fun. One of my childhood friends got married on the beach, and it was just gorgeous. Although, I must say... I was weirded out by all of the tourists on the beach who crept up on the wedding (like, closer to the bride and groom than the audience was) and took pictures, cried, etc... weird!! Here are a few shots from the week.

At the wedding

Landing in Toronto before a 12 hour layover!
We also went snorkelling - it was amazing! Except I got super seasick while swimming, which I didn't know was even possible... leave it to me!

Since we've been back, Ben finished up his first two sets of clip art! I know I am biased, but... I LOVE them. I think they will be really great for upper elementary/high school as well, which I know there is a huge need for. I wish he could share some of his talent with me!

I love the Santa with the sack!

He also has a set of free speech/thought bubbles - I have been using the thought bubble a LOT. You can click here to go download them for free!

Lucie Lutin, our Classroom Elf on the Shelf, had a little tea party today. The kids thought it was hilarious!

Are you on Instagram? I post lots of little classroom life snippets over there (like Elf on the Shelf pictures!). You can follow me - @matavecmmeandrea (or click here)!

We have been loving our Christmas predictable sentences! They are having a lot of fun being silly with « Le/la _______ est avec le/la ______. » Here, he had built « Le Pôle nord est avec le biscuit » and thought it was just the funniest thing. He started cleaning up before I managed to grab a snap of the whole sentence, though! #toowelltrained

After a week in Cuba and a 12 hour layover in Toronto, the first thing I wanted to do when I got home was buy and decorate our Christmas tree. So... I did! Ben still thinks I am crazy. I may not be unpacked yet, but my tree is up, my shopping is done, and 80% of my presents are wrapped ;) I am nothing if not a productive procrastinator!!!

I just love that picture of Miss Ellie looking at her reflection!!

Don't forget to head over to Doodle Bugs Teaching to see what your other favourite teacher-bloggers are up to. And have a great weekend!!

Noël en maternelle!


I am back from Cuba, where I spent a fantastic week laying on the beach, drinking copious amounts of frozen coffee beverages, and watching an old friend get married. It was a great little break - but of course I missed my students! We just got back on Sunday, so I was a little frazzled on Monday, but today was nice and smooth and we are settling back into our routine - sort of ;). Because, guys - only a week and a half until Christmas break! Woo!!

I LOVE Christmas (in fact, after getting home from the airport at 3pm on Sunday, I immediately went out and bought and decorated my tree haha), and so I thought it would be fun to do a little blog post about what Christmas looks like in my classroom so far this year. I am fortunate enough to work in a school where we are free to celebrate and recognize whichever holidays we like, and once November 25th hits, all bets are off and it is as Christmasy as possible dans la classe de Mme Andrea!

As I am sure everyone agrees, two weeks before Christmas break is not the time to start teaching new curriculum. So, I like to do as much revision as possible, but in a fun way, with lots of stories and crafts! I start inciting the Christmas spirit by putting up an artificial tree with lights while they are eating lunch on November 25th. Our math that afternoon was all about patterns!

La lecture guidée en maternelle - Guided Reading in a primary French classroom (with a Freebie!)

I am so excited!! I have FINALLY finished my Lecture guidée en maternelle pack! It has been a labour of love and on the go for a LONG time. It is 145 pages long!

I must admit that, out of everything I teach, guided reading has taken me the longest to figure out. I feel like I am a pro at teaching math and writing, especially, but I had a hard time getting myself organized when it came to guided reading. By the end of the year, most of my students could/can read, but I just didn't feel like I was organized and like I was teaching them in the most effective way. My lessons and text selection were often done on the fly.

But this year is different! My personal objective for this year was to figure out guided reading for once and for all, and I think I have done it. I am excited to share with you what I have spent the past 3+ years figuring out!

First of all, here is a schedule of how my guided reading block runs. I have time to see 2 groups per day, and each group stays with me for 15-20 minutes. The rest of my kids are doing centres at this time.

As I am sure you all know, in order to become successful readers, students need to be able to use 3 sets of clues to figure out unknown words. They need to rely on visual clues, they need to think about what would make sense, and they need to use what they know about language and sentence structure (for example, replace a noun with a noun because that sounds right). A great teacher once told me that reading is kind of like an orchestra - students need to use all 3 sets of clues together in order to make sense of what they are reading and to figure out unknown words correctly. But how do you teach your students to do that?? Especially when they are 5? Answer: with animals!

I have read a LOT of teacher blog posts about guided reading, trying to figure out how to best teach my kinders. I have noticed that a lot of them use animals (the "beanie baby method") to teach their students seven essential strategies. Such a great idea! 5 year olds love animals and need a visual anchor when they are trying to use strategies on their own. However, I couldn't find anything like it en français (story of my life! #amirite?!). So, I adapted it myself and came up with this:

7 animals to teach 7 reading strategies. And they rhyme! If, by the end of the year, your students can use these strategies to help them figure out unknown words, they will be using all 3 types of clues and will be reading rock stars! And guess what? I have a FREE copy of the above poster to use in your classroom along with a guided reading cheat sheet of activities for each strategy to give to you!

Want the guided reading cheat sheet? Just CLICK HERE or on the image below to sign up, and I will email it to you! 

This is how I teach each strategy/what each animal means:

1. Regarde partout avec le hibou
The owl will remind students to look at the picture for clues to what the unknown word could be. This strategy is perfect for those level 1 books with predictable text! Students will be able to read the predictable part of the story, and then check the picture for an idea to what the unknown word will be. By looking at the picture, they are thinking about what would make sense based on visual clues to finish the sentence.

2. Prépare ta bouche avec la mouche
The fly reminds students to get their mouth ready to make the beginning sound of the unknown word. Then they can use the beginning sound + the picture to come up with a word that makes sense. This strategy is really helpful when students say things like "Je mets mes souliers" when they book says "Je mets mes bottes".  Both make sense when the student looks at the picture, but when they get their mouth ready to make the /b/ sound in bottes, they will know that the word can't be souliers. This strategy can be taught once students know a good chunk of the letters of the alphabet and their beginning sounds.

After I teach this strategy, but before I move into the next one, I like to get my students practicing listening for and segmenting sounds in words. We do this during our Étude de mots time during our lecture guidée block, after we have read our book. When I introduce this idea, I don't use letters yet - it is totally oral. I find that my students often struggle hearing multiple sounds in words without a lot of practice, especially if French is their second language. Adding letters to the mix right away takes the focus off of just listening, and adds a whole new degree of difficulty. So, how do I practice listening for sounds and segmenting/blending words without letters? With snake mats and manipulatives!

In my lecture guidée pack, you will find a collection of cards that show a picture of an object that has 2-3 phonemes (I personally printed them in black and white on coloured card stock - yellow for two phonemes and blue for 3, but they are available in colour as well). There are also snake mats with 2-3 squares on them. I get my students to draw a card and name the picture out loud (in this case a « rat »).

Then, they identify the first sound and say it (rrrrrrrrrr) while sliding up the first manipulative. In these pictures, we are using magnetic Bingo chips that I ordered from Amazon. They are our favourite! You can also use seasonal erasers, regular Bingo chips, or anything else they can slide.

Next, each student says the second sound (aaaaaaa), and slides up the second manipulative. This part can be really tricky, and I often have to get my students to do it over and over until they really segment it properly! They often want to say « rrrrrrr, rrrrrraaaa » and blend too soon. It's really important that they segment each sound! This big time helps them hear multiple sounds in words when they are writing.

Finally, they blend the word together and say the whole thing: « rat! ». I have magnetic "magic" wands that I also got from Amazon that they use for this part. When they sweep the wand from left to right, blending their sounds, the wand picks up their Bingo chips. It is truly magical hahaha. They get so pumped!! If you are using another kind of manipulative, they would sweep their hand left to right, picking them up while blending the word.

Once they get really good at 2 phonemes, we move onto 3! You can also do this activity with slinkies. They pull the slinky apart while segmenting, then push it back together to blend. Another big hit!

3. Étire le mot lentement avec le serpent
Now we are getting into decoding. This takes LOTS of practice. Unfortunately, in French, there are far fewer simple, common words that students can practice decoding that don't have silent letters and sons composés. I start with two letter words (which happily there are quite a few of). I like to use magnetic letters on a cookie sheet for this. Mine are colour coded - blue for consonants, red for vowels. I give them a few letters (for example a, v, t, m, s) and ask them to put all the blue letters on one side of the sheet and the reds on the other. Then I say a word out loud (va). They repeat the word s-l-o-w-l-y like a snake, and slide the correct letters together. You can also use the snake mats and white board markers and get your kiddos to write the letters they hear, one at a time, if you don't have magnetic letters.

Once we are 2-phoneme word masters, we work on 3-phoneme words with beginning, middle, and ending sounds. There aren't very many in French, so I provided you with a list of the ones I use, and the magnetic letters you will need to make them. And remember - after a student segments a word, it is SO important that they blend it together again! This helps them when they read. It is no good for them to decode a word slowly by saying all the letters, but then not put them together to make a word. There is no way that they will understand what they have read if they can't stick the sounds back together again! That is why it is so important to practice segmenting and blending in isolation like this - then they will be able to transfer their skills and use them while reading.

At this time, I also introduce a couple of sons composés that my students will see in their books - usually on and ou to start. I do the same activities with the snake mat. I keep the son composés in one square even though there are two letters, because together they make one phoneme. After we make a few words, I get my students to pick 3 that they can read and they write them in their snake booklet.

4. Trouve les parties avec la chenille
This is when I show my students how to read words in parts. We practice looking for other sons composés, and we practice reading words in syllables. This is such an essential strategy when they start reading longer words! It is SO MUCH EASIER to read "salade" like "sa-la-de" instead of like "/s/-/a/-/l/-/a/-/d/-/e/" - the poor kiddos will forget all the sounds they have read!

5. Essaie un autre son avec le chaton
Happily, in French, their aren't too many letters that make more than one sound, unless they are part of a son composé. However, when we get to this strategy, I get my students to practice reading words with hard and soft c and g. We practice reading words with both possible sounds and decide together which would make sense. I like using sorting games and puzzles for this!

6. Saute le mot malin avec le lapin
Sometimes, it's more efficient to think of a word that would make sense than to decode a word using its letters. If a word is really tricky for a student, they may be able to skip the word, finish the sentence, and then go back and try a word that makes sense. Of course, it is essential that you teach them that they can't just skip it and finish the book - they need to go back and try a word out! A fun way to practice this strategy is to cover a few words in their book with a piece of paper. Get them to read the rest of the page and think about what word would make sense in that place. I like to get them to write down the sounds they hear in their guess on a white board, and then check through the word once they take the paper off and see if they were right. If not, I get them to use their new clues (the letters of the uncovered word) to make another guess that makes sense. You can do this same activity with the mouche by covering a word except for its first letter!

7. Essaie un autre mot avec l'escargot
This strategy is for when a student gets big time stuck. They have tried everything else and just can't figure out what the tricky word is. Sometimes, this is going to happen. But we don't want our students to get stuck on an impossible word forever and refuse to continue their reading until someone comes and helps them! We want them to be independent. Sometimes, they just aren't going to know the exact word... but they should be able to think of another word that would make sense. Students can use the structure of the sentence and their knowledge of language to replace the unknown word with something else that doesn't take away from the meaning of the text. Then they can continue reading and ask for help from an adult at another time. For example, if the book they are reading said "J'aime mes moufles rouges!" and they student had never heard the word moufles before and couldn't decode it, tried skipping it and coming back but their guess didn't match up, etc., they could look at the picture, see that the characters mittens are red, know that it would make sense to say "J'aime mes mitaines rouges!" say that instead, and continue reading. Then later they could check with an adult what that word was.

I like to always, always also remind my students of 3 questions to ask themselves when they are reading: Does it make sense? Does it look right? Does it sound right? If the answer to any of those questions is no, they need to try one of their strategies! We don't want our students rushing through their reading and not noticing when they have made a mistake. They need to be thinking about the sense of what they are reading all. the. time! To help with comprehension, I question them before, during, and after their reading, and sometimes we play games. I have a little pack of guided reading cards that I keep with me to remind myself of questions to ask them. It can be hard to think on the fly!

Rather than drill them with interview questions after we read, I have some spinners and dice that we use to pick a question or two to answer each time.

To keep all of this organized, I have a lecture guidée binder and a set of drawers. My binder is just a 1" binder from Costco. In it, I have a tab for each group, and a tab for each student. I also have a tab for my weekly plans. There are lots of ways to organize your planning, but here is what I do!

First, I have a sheet to keep track of my groups. My guided reading groups are pretty fluid - when someone is no longer a good fit for their group, I move them to another. Right now I have 5 groups, but later in the year,  I may have 6... or even 4! I keep this sheet in a plastic sleeve and write my students' names with Sharpie. I can wipe it off using hairspray (#protip) if I need to move someone. I use colours to keep track of my groups, and I let my group with the most needs choose their colour first.

My groups on the sheet are in no particular order
I also have a sheet for each group with space to plan out 4 lessons. For groups I see more often (my below-level readers), I copy it double sided and plan out 8 lessons. This helps me make sure that my lessons have continuity and progression. It helps me see the big picture! I keep the sheet for each group behind the group tab in my binder.

After each lesson, I add notes with a different colour of pen if needed
Then I have another sheet I use to plan out my week. This sheet I look at all week long and keeps me on track! Since I have 4-8 lessons planned ahead of time for each group, it is easy to sketch out what the plan is for any given day for any given group on my weekly schedule.

I also do a fiche de lecture each time I give my kiddos a new book, so it is easy for me to see who needs to sit by me so I can hear them read, and it helps me not miss anybody! These sheets go behind each students' tab. They help me make sure that I am giving them books to read at their instructional level, and see at a glance what they need to work on. I like to use my own sheet, rather than the one provided by my school board, because it has a place where I can circle which strategies my student used. It makes it so easy to see their next step!

Ignore my hen scratching/grammatical error haha
To keep all of my activities, books, and games organized for each group, I have a set of 6 drawers. Actually, two sets of 3 drawers. They are from Walmart and cost about 13$ each, and are big-time worth it! Since I use colours for each of my groups, I put a picture of their colour on each drawer. I have 5 groups, so I have one drawer left over. In their drawer, I put everything I need for the week - their books, games, cards, activities, strategy cards/bookmarks, fluency bookmarks, empty fiches de lecture, anything! In the sixth drawer, I keep things that I use with multiple groups.

I use colours for my groups, but in my TPT product, I have included multiple options for grouping your kiddos :)

Everything that you see in this blog post can be found in my new TPT product : Lecture guidée en maternelle! It is specifically designed for kinders in mind, because they haven't learned any strategies yet, but can of course be used for grade ones as well! It comes with...

- Reading strategy posters

- Cards/bookmarks to reinforce using their newly learned strategies at home

- Tips, tricks, and ideas for how to structure your guided reading lessons, as well as questions to ask your students and things to say when they get stuck

- Comprehension activities, questions, and games

- Word work activities and games (blending, segmenting, reading words in parts, try another sound, etc.)

- Lesson plan forms and running record sheets

- Organization tips

- and MORE! 

If you have any questions at all, please let me know in the comments! Happy reading!