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NCTE Conference Notes - These are notes from my presentation at the NCTE Conference in Pittsburgh on November 17, 2005. Special thanks to Scholastic for my sponsorship!

Words Block

  • Portable Word Wall - For all grade levels, this handy Portable Word Wall template can easily be copied and glued inside of a regular file folder for individual students to use. That makes it easy for them to carry your list to other classes, specials, pull-outs, or home. The more you demand that high frequency words be spelled correctly, the more it helps your students to build their fluency in reading and writing. Click here for the two-page forms.
  • Onset Card Deck - Print out these onsets onto cardstock. Cut them apart into individual cards, each containing on onset. Deal out appropriate cards to your students. Using the deck, you can prompt students with which onsets should be added to a rime pattern to form new words. This is also a way to control onsets that you don't want students to guess (think of the -uck pattern!).
  • Word Wall Boxes - Margo Carrier, teacher at New Franklin Elem. in Portsmouth, NH, shares one of her favorite activities for her first graders as they're learning the new Word Wall words. They'll write, color, notice configurations, and write again."
  • Word Wall Chart - Cindy Ahlers from Custer Hill Elementary School creates this chart for her students. She inserts Word Wall words that they need to practice and makes a copy for each student. Then, she places her students in pairs, each with their copy of the chart. There are several games they can play. One is that one of the partners will start reading the words left to right and top to bottom, until one is missed. When a word is missed it means the other student gets to try. The first student to read the entire chart is the "winner." Sometimes she places words they're having great difficulty with on the chart several times to give them more practice. You'll find one chart filled out and one chart that's ready for you to fill in.
  • Lightning Word Game - Here's yet another item from Margo Carrier. You can download this chart or create your own similar one. The activity she uses-appropriate for grades K and 1-is attached to the chart.
  • Making Words Printable Cards - For those of you who want to make your letter tiles for the Making Words activity, download these templates. Card 1 and Card 2 will be back-and-front sheets of vowels. Allow one full card for each student in your class, which will provide 4 of each vowel per student. Card 3 and Card 4 will be back-and-front sheets of consonants. Print 3-4 sheets of these per student. Print the vowel and consonant cards in different colors so that students can distinguish them and so that they'll begin to see the patterns of vowel and consonant use. I would recommend printing these on cardstock and NOT laminating them. They'll last for the year and beyond if you store and handle them with care.
    (Click for Card 1)
    (Click for Card 2)
    (Click for Card 3)
    (Click for Card 4)
  • Words Block Flip Book - Kathy Webb and Kathryn Ellis (previously with Richland One in Columbia, SC) have generously contributed this flip book for your classroom use. Download it, cut it, laminate the pages, punch holes in the top left-hand corner and place the pages on a silver clip ring. This will be a great resource when you're trying to think of the huge variety of activities to do during Words Block. It'll be a good resource for your substitutes, too! Thanks to Kathy and Kathryn for this great resource!
  • Laptop - Look in the Fun Stuff section, and you'll see a picture of this clever "laptop" created for students to practice typing their Word Wall words. What a hit it's been! Click here to download a primary keyboard that uses DeNealian lettering to copy for your file folders-or "laptops" as we're calling them.
  • Spelling Homework Sheet - Quite some time ago, I shared this homework form along with one of my articles at Many of you have asked that I post it here on my website for easier access. The original idea was to find constructive spelling homework that would both appease parents who miss the lists of spelling words and educate them at the same time about what we want to accomplish with spelling. We want them to know that we teach high frequency words that students should be able to spell and use correctly. We also teach vocabulary words where we stress meaning and not spelling, and, last but not least, we teach patterns of language so that students will know HOW to spell rather than just knowing WHAT to spell. Hope this will be helpful to you!
  • Nifty Thrifty Fifty Math Connection - Regular contributor Rhonda Reed designed this form for her fifth graders to use as they explored the NTF words during their summer school session. She said they loved this activity! This would be a good sheet to use to review any polysyllabic words.
  • Word Wall Grid Form - This neat form comes with permission to reprint from Karry Seibert, first grade teachers at Sheridan Elementary School in Petoskey, Michigan. She says the original came (again with permission) from Denise Rice, first grade teacher at Ottawa Elem., and was refined by Alisa Santti, first grade teacher Ottawa, and Jennifer Greer, first grade at Central Elementary-all Petoskey schools. They have the students write the words using the grid as a guide for one of their practices. They say it really helps students think about letter formations and calls attention to what goes above and below the line. (Note: It would be really neat, I think, to have three columns, two of the 1-5 columns so that one could be folded back for the On-the-Back Activity. What do you think?)
  • Spelling Test Form (Primary) - This sheet can be copied as a standard spelling test format for your students. You'll call out the five new words for the week first. Then, you'll have them show that they can apply what they've learned about patterns. If you taught them the Word Wall word and made them familiar with how the pattern works, then you can call out sand, bland, band, gland, stand, strand, land, etc. Then you can call out a couple of dictation sentences where you'll ask students to use some of the old Word Wall words and maybe some of the patterns you've studied previously.
  • Word Wall Word Form (Primary) - This sheet can be copied for students' use during the Word Wall activities. There is space for recording the five new words and space for the On-the-Back Activity. The form can be folded in half to make a booklet.
  • Vocabulary/Spelling Homework Sheet (Primary and Upper) - This is a great weekly homework sheet that can serve dual purposes. It can encourage your students to study what they've learned about words and patterns throughout the week. Also, it can provide a constructive link between parents and the classroom. As parents read it and practice what it says, they become better educated about the changes in our spelling programs.
  • Goals and Activities for Words Block (upper)

Guided Reading Block

  • Web Site Evaluation Form - Here’s an idea from one of the lessons in my Just-Right Comp Lessons book for teaching students of all ages to evaluate web sites for reliability and credibility. Click here for a form to guide your instruction and their Internet research.
  • 5-Day Plan for Using Predictable Charts for Shared Reading - This is a plan that can be used powerfully at kindergarten and first grade to give students a firm foundation in print and language concepts from the beginning. Click here for the 5-Day Plan.
  • Information Text Little Book - Here's another template for making Little Books. This one encourages you to teach the text signals that students need to know to be successful at reading. Follow the directions for folding a little book (in this section) and then teach mini-lessons about each of the page headings. Students can hunt for those text signals and list them on the pages provided.
  • I Wonder… Bookmarks - Middle school teacher, Joy Dewing, from Kokomo, Indiana, shares this great set of "I Wonder…" bookmarks for use in Guided Reading and Self-Selected Reading.
  • Strategies Bookmarks - Middle school teacher, Joy Dewing, from Kokomo, IN, shares this set of bookmarks for students to use as they apply particular strategies you teach.
  • Thinking Strategies Bookmarks - Joy Dewing shares these bookmarks that will encourage your students to go beyond the literal level in their reading. These bookmarks can be used to teach students to question themselves as they read or to facilitate discussion between partners or among small groups.
  • Artist's Storyboard - In Guided Reading, have students visualize the important story elements as they read. At certain points in the reading, instruct students to stop and sketch what they're seeing the "picture show in their minds." This encourages visualization among students who don't see the pictures.
  • Compare and Contrast Chart - This chart will help students compare and contrast elements of different stories. The original idea came to me from Margo Carrier, a teacher at New Franklin Elementary in Portsmouth, NH. Margo suggests that you might want to use "illustrators" as one of your categories for comparison, too.
  • Conflict Bookmarks (upper grades) - If you're teaching the various types of literary conflicts, you'll love using these bookmarks created by 8th grade teacher, Joy Dewing, Central Middle School, Kokomo, IN. They can be used to help your students focus on the complexity of the conflict mini-lessons you'll teach.
  • Plot Bookmarks (upper grades) - If you're teaching the stages of plot development, you can use these bookmarks to guide your students as they read and explore. This is another creation of 8th grade teacher, Joy Dewing, Central Middle School, Kokomo, IN.
  • Character Bookmarks (upper grades) - Developed by 8th grade teacher, Joy Dewing, these bookmarks help students explore and identify six different types of characters that serve various purposes in literature.
  • Prove It - This is a form I've recently created to match the Prove It activity from Guided Reading the Four-Blocks Way. Have students (of all ages!) make predictions about what they'll be reading based first on the title, cover, table of contents, and/or bold print (headings and subheadings). Have them record these predictions, and then have them make predictions based on the visuals in the text-pictures, charts, graphs, etc. and record those. After this preview, have them read the text to validate whether their predictions are true or false. As they find this information, they circle the "true" or "false" and record in the "Prove It" column the page that they feel helps to prove or disprove their prediction. The form will download as two pages and then should be copied back and front.
  • Fortune Teller - You'll probably remember using this when you were a student. It was the way we determined who we would marry, how many children we would have, and other such critical information. Thanks to Carol Fredericks in the Daniel Boone School system in Reading, PA, for this pattern. Have fun using this to review the literary elements in your stories!
  • Vocabugraphic - Rhonda Reed shares, "Somewhere I heard somebody mention using a vocabulary sheet that appealed to multiple intelligences. I played around and came up with this one. Used occasionally with an appropriate vocab word, I think it's pretty good at getting students to really 'know' a word! For the 'color' box the students draw and color either the object the word represents, something related to it somehow, or the color it makes them think of, feel etc. It really depends on what the vocab word is. This box can be differentiated from the 'draw' box by having students 'draw' the word with balloon letters or unusual font, or giving the word features like eyes, teeth, and so on. The empty box is for students to write in a synonym, an antonym, homonym, etc.-whatever fits best with the targeted word."
  • Rhonda's Rollercoaster Graphic - Rhonda Reed, a faithful reader, shares a graphic she has had success with in the classroom-She says, "Working with my first graders on writing a story with a problem and solution, I used a roller coaster as an analogy. Most kids have ridden one, so getting them to relate to the idea of climbing, climbing, climbing up to the highest, most exciting part of a roller coaster ride made sense when applied to the idea of a story's climax. It's taken lots of modeling, but it's worth it when I hear my students say (in BOTH the Writing Block and SSR Block), 'Oh! It's a roller coaster!' This is a graphic organizer that illustrates this concept."
  • Five Finger Strategy for Informational Text - Here's a graphic that shows the 5-Finger Strategy for teaching students how to preview informational text. Be sure to model by thinking aloud the processes of making the necessary connections among the elements.
  • Beginning, Middle, and End Form - Use this helpful form developed by first grade teacher, Margo Carrier, from New Franklin Elementary School in Portsmouth, NH. Have your students illustrate and summarize the beginning, middle, and end of the stories they read.
  • Content Brainstorming Homework Sheet - This form is adapted from Janet Allen's presentation at SCIRA (with permission). Give students this form as homework before reading and studying the content text. This will teach them how to use the important elements of structure in informational text.
  • Testing in Guided Reading - So often we lose sight of the goal of our guided reading instruction. It's really not about the story. It's about how to read the story or text. That's what we want students to walk away with-livelong reading skills and strategies. This handout demonstrates how a teacher might test the skills, not the story, after the text has been covered. There were three main minilessons taught with this piece: 1) distinguishing reality and fantasy; 2) how dialogue affects comprehension; and 3) fables have morals that teach us lessons about life. Also, vocabulary is included in this assessment. The format allows the teacher to prepare students for the upcoming state test, too, by using some bubbles in the format. This is included as a handout, not to encourage more testing in the classroom, but to show how a teacher can place more emphasis on the most important aspect of the guided reading lesson-comprehension skills and strategies.
  • Double-Entry Response Journal - (Upper grades) Use this sheet to encourage students to respond to certain points in the text they're reading. You'll write in whatever you wish to call attention to on the left-hand side of the page. You can record quotes directly from the text or something in your own words about certain parts of the text. Students are asked to stop and respond to your brief passage just opposite your remarks.
  • Directions for Folding the Little Book Templates - Many people have written to ask about directions for making the little books that fit the templates offered in this section. Explaining how to make them is tough!!! But, I'm going to try. Let's see if I can talk you through this...I hope you understand hotdog and hamburger folds!
  • Picture Rivet Little Book - Here's a new little book that I just created. Use the directions found on this Handout page to have students fold little books for use during the RIVET vocabulary activity. On each page, instruct them to write the word after it has been revealed and discussed and then allow them a brief half-minute to sketch something that will remind them what the word means. This will help students to process the word in a way that makes personal connections.
  • Little Book for Narrative Reading - Follow the directions for folding a little book (8 page) and use this handout. Each of the 8 pages will end up with a heading that will help to set purposes for reading during your Guided Reading Block when you're reading narrative text.
  • Little Book for Informational Reading - Follow the directions for folding an 8-page little book and use this handout. Each of the 8 pages will end up with a heading that will help to set purposes for reading during your Guided Reading Block when you're reading informational text.
  • Modified Homework Sheet for Previewing Text - Last month I shared a homework sheet to have students preview content text before actually reading it. This sheet is modified for the primary students.
  • NRP's Comprehension Strategies - Here are the comprehension strategies that the National Reading Panel has found to be supported by a substantial body of research. Be sure they're a part of your curriculum!

Writing Block

  • Topic Chart - This chart is a good one to use at the beginning of the school year or the beginning of a new semester. Have students list familiar things they can write about under the appropriate categories. Be sure to model how you brainstorm through these items. Return to it occasionally to add new items and to use it to get your ideas for daily writing.
  • Response Forms
    You'll want to use these response forms right away as you have programs, videos, field trips, etc. at the end of the school year. You'll love this whole series developed by Margo Carrier who teaches first grade at New Franklin Elementary in Portsmouth, NH. These will encourage your students to process what they've observed and will show that you value their opinions. The forms also tap students' artist abilities. Here are the five:"
    1. Field Trip Response Form
    2. Video Viewing Response Form
    3. Program Attendance Response Form
    4. Play Response Form
    5. Performance Response Form
  • The Answer Burger - This is a clever graphic designed by middle school teacher Joy Dewing as a visual for teaching students the valuable skill of writing short answer essay questions. You'll really like this one! Consider making a transparency for use with your students.
    (click for color version of Answer Burger)
    (click for blackline master of Answer Burger)
  • Artist's Storyboard -In Writing, have students visualize their important story elements by sketching these elements before writing and as they write. My experience has been that once they've sketched the character, setting, problem, events, etc., they'll include more details when they write and they'll have a clearer vision of where they're headed with their writing.
  • Form for Teaching Research Process (lower grades) - This is a form that's great for teaching the process involved in information gathering and in writing a good report on what's been learned. You'll need to model the process in a number of individual mini-lessons. You'll want to reproduce the two pages of handouts on a transparency for your modeling purposes. Also, reproduce the two pages on one piece of paper back and front for each student. Click here for brief directions for mini-lessons using this form. Click here for the form itself.
  • Story Planner - Here's another "little book" I've created for your students. This one can be used by students to help them plan elements for the stories they're writing. (See the directions for folding "little books" in the Guided Reading Block section.)
  • Editor's Checklist Aid - When focusing on getting students to use the Editor's Checklist, Rhonda Reed came up with the attached graphics slip. She cuts and pastes the strip onto the master for the lined paper she uses for students' writing notebook. The graphics seem to help the kids remember the basic items a little more easily.
  • Writing Block Class Profile Sheet - Similar to the SSR Class Profile that you'll find above, this class-at-a-glance form developed by Rhonda Reed will certainly be useful! There's room for general comments about your conference and about strengths and weaknesses of each student. There's also a space for the area you addressed during the conference that you felt would best help the student.
  • Research Organizer - This is one of the best tools I've ever found to teach the process involved in gathering, synthesizing, and writing research. I would suggest that you divide each step of the process into daily mini-lessons such as: 1) How to choose a manageable topic; 2) Brainstorming a list of questions that you care to know more about the topic and then narrowing your list to the 3 you most care to pursue; 3) modeling for 3 days the different resources you want students to use to gather information to answer their questions (i.e., encyclopedia, Internet, book) teaching them how to pinpoint info so that they don't have to read everything, how to paraphrase the information to fit in the tiny squares, and what info is necessary to cite in the "source" square to give credit; 4) how to turn the form into good composition style: the first column becomes the introductory paragraph with main idea and major supporting ideas (questions), the 2nd horizontal line becomes the second paragraph (notes they've taken to address the first question), the 3rd horizontal line becomes the third paragraph (notes they've taken to address the second question), the 4th horizontal line becomes the fourth paragraph (notes on the 3rd question), the final paragraph is a summary written using the info on the first vertical line (the topic and 3 questions re-worded). The bibliography is also gathered from the top horizontal line from all three sources. This is so easy both for you to teach and for the students to use!
  • Alpha-Writing Chart - A similar form was shared by Sylvia Ford in our SC Reading Association presentation on mini-lessons for the Writing Block. Page 2 of this handout shows how the teacher might model different ideas that she/he might write about this year in the Writing Block. Then, the teacher gives the blank form to students and lets them jot down ideas to file in their writing folders.
  • Writing Conference Form - Use this form to make notes, to guide conversation, and to set goals with students during conferences in the Writing Block.
  • Writing Mini-Lessons List (upper)

Self-Selected Reading Block

  • SSR Reflection Form - Joy Widmann offers this form for students to reflect on their month of reading.
  • SSR Student Response Form - Joy Widmann a teacher and loyal reader from NC sent this great response form for students to use in Self-Selected Reading.
  • Four-Share Task Cards - In Sharon Moore's Conversations in Four-Blocks Classrooms, she shares a great idea for facilitating discussions among your students. This format can be used for bringing closure to Guided Reading Block, for sharing in SSR, and for sharing in the Writing Block. Four-Share involves having kids in groups of four. Each student has a task in the discussion group: student #1 always reads or shares from what has been read or written; student #2 always responds with something they liked from what was shared; student #3 asks a question; and student #4 tells something they wondered about what was shared. With younger students, I like to give them card to remind them of their task. Download the cards and cut them on the dotted lines. Give the task cards to the students.
  • Goldilocks Rule and Souvenir - Second grade teacher Becky McCrary from Clear Creek Elementary in Hendersonville, NC, blended together Story Bits or Souvenirs with her instruction to make a great home to school connection with her students. (For more info on Story Bits, see my article by that name at She taught the Goldilocks Rule for determining whether a book is too hard, too easy, or just right. Then, she bought a bag of doll's curly hair in the craft section of a store. After her class learned how to choose a book, they took home a lock of golden curls (Goldilocks' hair, of course!) in a zip-loc baggie as their souvenir along with a note to parents. You can download the Goldilocks Rule Chart (2 per page to copy) and the Souvenir sheet (6 per page to copy) for your use.
  • SSR Class Profile Sheet - Another goodie contributed by Rhonda Reed of N. Miami Elementary in Denver, IN. Replace the highlighted names with the names of your students. This will allow you to get a good idea in a glance of how your class is performing in their reading.
  • Self Selected Reading Conference Form (Primary) - This conference form is my favorite. It allows you to spend more quality time with the students and less time worrying over gathering information. It also allows you to see patterns that may develop with your students' reading habits. When those habits aren't productive, you can offer some "gentle guidance" to get them back on course!
  • Book Response Form - Margo Carrier, a first grade teacher at New Franklin Elementary School in Portsmouth, NH, offers this form to her students to capture their interpretations of what happened through illustrations and/or narrative. There's also a neat way for them to tell how they liked the book.
  • Self Selected Reading Log (upper) - This is a log to be kept by students, reflecting what they've read, how many pages daily, and what genres. This form may be a useful part of the conference you have with each student.
  • Patterns for Self Selected Reading (upper)
  • Book Chat Checklist - Rhonda Reed is sharing the checklist her students use as they chat with the teacher during Self-Selected Reading conference time.

General Handouts

  • Winter Parent Newsletter - Here's a newsletter I've constructed for you to send home to parents with activities they can do with their elementary children-activities that will reinforce and supplement what you're teaching them.
  • Four-Blocks Lesson Plan Forms - Here are some lesson plan forms that you'll love! Reader Margo Carrier, a creative Four-Blocks teacher from Portsmouth, NH, shared these. There's one for each of the blocks for every day of the week.
  • Lesson Plan Format - Tired of the lesson plan template you're using? Here's a lesson plan format that I've been working on for a school-not exclusively for Four-Blocks. It includes what I think are essential elements of a good, aligned, focused lesson. See what you think.
  • Fridge Facts Write-On - Many of you requested that I post a copy of Rhonda Reed's Fridge Facts that can be downloaded and written on. So, here it is for those of you who have PCs. (Sorry I can't do this for the Mac users!)
  • IRA Conference - These are some of the handouts from my presentation at the recent IRA conference. Co-presenters were Sylvia Ford and Peggy Hoffman-Schmidt.
    Handout 1 - Handout 2

  • Summer Celebrations for Parents and Children - Many of you reported to me that this was a successful take-home calendar last year. This 4-page handout includes holidays-some unusual-and some notable anniversaries along with simple ways that parents and children can celebrate them together. Hope you enjoy this! There are lots of graphics, so give it time to download.
  • Motivational Poster - This is another goodie from our friend Rhonda Reed who shares a motivational poster for your classroom. Cute and meaningful!
  • Online Collections (Primary and Upper)
  • Fridge Facts - Rhonda Reed, a wonderful teacher at North Miami Elementary School in Denver, Indiana, shares this neat weekly newsletter which she entitles, "Mrs. Reed's Fridge Facts." She hand-writes the highlights that fit into the spaces, copies it and sends it home weekly to keep parents up to date. (Since you now have this on your computer, you might prefer to type in your news.)
  • Special Summer Celebrations Calendar - Help parents capture special summer memories with this calendar of events I created that you can send home with your students. The little things that parents do with their children this summer can make a big difference.


  • Curriculum Planning Guide - It's never too early to start planning for next school year. This handy planning sheet can help you as you match your instruction to major thematic units that you intend to teach. Get together with other teachers at your grade level to plan so that you're not all trying to reinvent the wheel. See how often you can connect your theme with the content of the blocks in your language arts program.
  • Materials to Support Implementation of Four-Blocks® - - If you're a teacher, you may want to check over this list of materials to see if you have the essential supplies needed in a successful Four-Blocks® classroom. The helpful, though non-essential, items are also listed separately so that you can add those to your list. Administrators may want to check over the list to see what to budget for. (Four-Blocks® books to support the blocks are not included on this listing.)
  • Plugging the Curriculum into Four-Blocks Appropriately - Use this sheet as a quick reference to be sure that you're teaching your language arts content/curriculum where it is most effectively taught.
  • Administrator's Early Implementation Observation Guide - Administrators and support personnel (curriculum specialists, literacy coaches, etc.) will most certainly want to offer as much active support as possible in Four-Blocks classrooms in the beginning of the year. This handout is similar to the one used successfully by administrators and mentors in the Indiana statewide training program. The purpose of the form was to facilitate visits and subsequent discussions as an opportunity for mutual professional growth and development for the administrator/mentor and the classroom teachers. Administrators and mentors filled out forms to guide them in their observations and conversations. To read more about the use of this form, read my article at
  • Critical Points for Administrators' Observations - Administrators, as you actively support Four Blocks classrooms late in the year, this list of critical points will help you concentrate on classroom practices that have a high impact on student achievement and good implementation of the model.


  • 5-Day Plan for Using Predictable Charts for Shared Reading - This is a plan that can be used powerfully at kindergarten and first grade to give students a firm foundation in print and language concepts from the beginning. Click here for the 5-Day Plan.
  • Game Boards - Here are Tic-Tac-Toe, Bingo, and Lotto game boards for use in your classroom. You might want to check the Environmental Print activity in the Fun Stuff section for ideas for use with the boards.
  • Nursery Rhyme Extravaganza - K teacher, Marian Hodge, has a wonderful unit with activities and text for K-1 teachers. What a great idea to teach problem solving skills through nursery rhymes!
  • Standards Index - For Indiana kindergarten teachers who have to document which standards are being addressed in their daily lessons, this chart will provide you with a handy index. Just pick the activity you're using from the list below and the standards covered by the activity are listed for you.
  • All About Me - Kindergarten and first grade teachers will definitely want to read about this activity in the Fun Stuff section. Then, return to this handout and print out the form to attach to the bags you'll send home with your students. What a great way to start the year and to celebrate your students!