Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Writer's Workshop: Paper Choices

So many options for PAPER in Writer's Workshop, right? You of course could just have your students write in a notebook, but we miss a lot of opportunity to scaffold the writing kids do by providing the paper. And- with paper- you could also DIFFERENTIATE the paper... just sayin!

So... I recently collected a lot of paper options for teachers in a district I work with and I am sharing a link to those resources here...


Keep in mind... some of these paper options may also be for fun publishing ventures! I personally love the door hanger!

Happy Writing!


Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Author's Craft and Mentor Texts

There are all kinds of buzz words in education, aren’t there?  I mean, you hear about differentiation, rigorous learning, best practice, anchor charts, balanced literacy, mentor texts, collaborative learning, models, word walls, and so much more.  Sometimes it can be difficult to keep up with what exactly it all means.  Let’s dig a little deeper into mentor texts and how they can be used to truly enhance reading and writing in your classroom. 

I cannot tell you how many teachers, from various grade levels, have told me that they don’t feel like they are good writing teachers because they don’t feel like they are good writers themselves.  I get it!  Not everyone enjoys curling up with a journal and getting lost in thought for hours on end.  But that does not mean you are not a good writer, nor does it mean that you are not a good writing teacher!  There are amazing writers out there who have already done the work of creating GREAT examples of writing and various writing skills for you!  Hallelujah!

So…what exactly IS a mentor text?  And why should we use it to support writing in the classroom? 

Mentor texts are written pieces that serve as powerful examples of good writing for your students.  Teachers select texts, read them to the students or have the students read them, and then use the texts to study and reinforce a specific skill the author achieved.   You are the one who selects the text, based on the reading/writing skills that you need to teach during your Reader’s and Writer’s Workshop mini-lessons. 

Now, before you go and just grab a book off of the shelf, there are a few things to consider:

LOVE IT- you have to love it!  If you don't love it, lose it!  This also needs to be a text that you can see yourself returning to over and over again for a variety of reasons. 

Now, let’s think about how Mentor Texts fit into our classroom instruction:

Before using a mentor text for a specific look at Author’s Craft, make sure your students are familiar with the skill (craft) that you are trying to point out in this chosen text. For example, your students will struggle to understand how the author’s use of sensory details helps them to visualize the setting if they are not familiar with what sensory details actually are.  So, it needs to be defined and discussed before leading students into the text. We typically will do this work in our Reader’s Workshop in Shared Reading opportunities.  

So, where do you even START to look for quality texts that could serve as mentor texts??  SURPRISE!

Also included in this post is a form that could be used as an anchor chart and a potential record of mentor text work for students in their Reader's Notebooks! 

It may look like this in your classroom...

Happy reading AND happy writing!


Monday, November 11, 2019

Would You Rather?

I've been sharing an idea for the Writing Work Station for years! It's called WOULD YOU RATHER! You have a bunch of questions ready to go and students have to WRITE their answers- of course also taking into account the counter argument! THEN- when kids have mastered writing their answers- then they can write their OWN questions.

My favorite question ever written by kids was... "Would you rather cry Koolaid or sweat Nacho cheese?" Then the answer- and you can't make this stuff up- "I'd sweat Nacho cheese and just carry around a bag of chips so I'd never be hungry!"  Oh my!

Get your FREE copy of about 20 Would You Rather Questions here! Thanks to Ms. Matus and her students in Robinson Texas for writing these for all of us to use!

Cheers! Stay WARM out there Texas!


Monday, August 19, 2019

Classroom Organization: PART ONE

Please enjoy this guest blog post from Central Texas Organizers... we can all learn a thing or two about letting go!  I STILL have a storage unit of teacher stuff? Don't tell anyone! 

When to Let Go
As a classroom teacher, I was always so grateful for the random things handed down to me from retiring teachers as well as the items other teacher friends gave me that they no longer used. Items given to me by friends or family who thought I could use them somehow, even if it was 200 toilet paper rolls, were also appreciated.  For so many people, giving something away is a way of showing they care, and I was always so encouraged by their desire to be part of my career in this way. 

However, as I have made the transition to becoming a professional organizer, I have come to realize that although those gestures are kind, they are often the beginning of an over-abundance of objects in a classroom which affect the students learning, a teacher’s teaching and the class’ ability to function smoothly and efficiently as a community of learners. 

In order to obtain a tidier classroom, it is important to take some time, preferably at the beginning of a school year, to go through those types of items and decide whether to keep them or not. 

When doing so, ask yourself the following questions:
1.)   Do my students or I use this regularly? 
2.)   Does it bring me happiness having it in my classroom?
3.)   Do I need it? 
4.)   Could someone else get more use out of it? For example, is the item better for a teacher that teaches younger/older children?
5.)   Am I required to keep this? 
6.)   Can I make an electronic copy of this?
7.)   Is it taking up space that could be used for something that is more useful or means more to me?
After you have decided what needs to go, donate it, pass it on, recycle it or (at the very last resort) throw it away.  Allow yourself to let go of items that are getting in the way of true success for you and your students, your friends and family would understand.
After this purge, be very selective about what you accept into your classroom and allow yourself to get rid of it if you don’t need it, love it or have specific plans to use it.
Studies show that students learn better in a clutter-free (or close to it) environment.  I commend you for taking the steps towards reaching this goal and desiring the best for your students. 

Have a wonderful school year! 

For those in the Central Texas area, please check out our website for further tips and tricks on how to live organized and clutter-free, or contact us to come to your home or classroom to help you get the space you’ve always dreamed of!

I help teachers nationwide declutter, organize and redesign their classrooms.  We work together to make their space functional, clutter-free and low maintenance.  Both in-person and digital sessions are available.  Please contact me at or (254) 300.7551 so we can begin getting you the classroom of your dreams!  

Also check us out at


Saturday, August 10, 2019

BIG Back to School LOVE from LEACH

Here we are…the dog days of summer…hot, hot, and more hot.  And yet, we are now thinking back-to-school.  Back to work.  Break over.  For so many, this is a super stressful time.  We either avoid going up to school to set up our classrooms at all costs, or we are panicking because we didn’t get it done before July ended.  We are embracing back to school because our own children are going back to school (can I get an AMEN?!), or we are dreading the start of the school year because our break is ending.  While I can’t say for sure where you are, I can speak to the ways that we can approach this back to school that will allow for some peace in our hearts. 

Think back to when you decided that being a teacher was your dream.  For some of us, it has always been our dream.  We taught our stuffed animals as little 5-year-olds.  For others, it took some time before the desire to shape the hearts and minds of littles (or bigger littles) caught hold.  Think back to those moments.  Picture yourself setting up your VERY first classroom. 

Maybe you ARE setting up your very first classroom!  If so, welcome to some of your most exciting days!  Welcome to the most rewarding profession!  Welcome to the club!  You are surrounded by the hardest working people on the planet.  And WE are so glad YOU are here.  Your excitement, your complete joy, and your energy is NEEDED!  You refresh us!  You have something special to bring to the table!

Maybe you’re setting up your classroom for the 5th-15th-25th time.  Welcome back!  We are so glad you’re here!  Thank you for the time you have already spent pouring into the hearts of our nation’s children.  Your experience is NEEDED.  Your ability to ride the waves and anticipate challenges is NEEDED.  You have something special to bring to the table. 

While back to school can feel hectic, for ALL teachers, new and old alike, Leach’s Literacy Training wants to give you some simple things to remember for these next few days or weeks. 

1.     YOU.  Your students are so, so excited to meet YOU.  Regardless of where you are at in your “classroom set up” or “first week lesson planning”, please know that YOU are enough!  It is YOU that is needed most. You are needed! Your team needs you.  Your students need you. Your community needs you.  YOU shape the minds that will be running our nation.  YOU are the reason for Meet the Teacher.  Put aside any paperwork and details that can wait until the first day of school (or even after) and just meet and enjoy your students and their families.  You only get one chance to make a first impression.  Let them know that you are there for them.  You won’t regret it. YOU are a constant for so many.  YOU are a source of safety, joy, and opportunity.  YOU are essential. 

2.     BREATHE.  While it might feel like you are trying to drink from a fire hydrant, you’ve got this!  When you feel the tension rising, take a deep breath, unclench your jaw (you probably didn’t even realize you were doing it right now even!), lower your shoulders, and take another deep breath. 

3.     FOCUS.  You are there for CHILDREN.  When details overwhelm you, focus on one of their sweet faces.  Look at the class picture from last year that made you cry on the last day of school.  Our children need you.  Choose to focus on doing what is right by children, not what is easy.  While it is hard work, it is heart work that is WORTH the work.  Children are always worth the effort. 

4.     LAUGH.  Seriously.  Take a moment to pull up a funny teacher video, a video you found online, a video of your own kids/grandkids/family that makes you laugh every time.  And laugh.  Laughter is literally good for your body, releasing endorphins, decreasing stress hormones, and increasing infection-fighting antibodies.  Who doesn’t need more of THAT on any given day?

5.     CHOOSE.  Choose to smile.  Choose to focus on the positive. Choose joy.  Choose your attitude.  Choose one that is good for you and for others around you.  Model how students should respond when having a tough time.  Model how to choose joy for your peers.  Sometimes your ability to persevere in stress is just the boost someone might need.  You never know the impact you have.  Remember that you are being watched by lots of little eyes and lots of grown up eyes.  You don’t have to be HAPPY all of the time, but we can choose to focus on the positive. 

"People don’t notice whether it’s winter or summer when they’re happy." — Anton Chekhov

Leach’s Literacy Training wants you to know how loved and how precious you are.  We visit schools all over the nation, and we are inspired by your commitment to kids, your commitment to growth, and your commitment to your own learning. 

Thank you for what you do for children.  Leach’s Literacy Training is sending you BIG LOVE for this BIG school year!

Here’s to a great 2019-2020 school year!