Archive for January, 2010

The long-awaited book, Beyond the Names Chart: Using Children’s Names for Word Study, has just been published by Really Good Stuff. This book is for K-2 and shows how to use kids’ names to help them learn phonics skills. Check it out!
Here’s a picture from Denver Public Schools showing a names work station in kindergarten.

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To receive Peace Partners messages in your e-mail inbox, send an e-mail to d.diller@live.com

Did you remember to start each day with a smile? We can teach our children to do the same. Here’s a little rhyme you might teach your primary students:

“When someone is sad
and wears a frown,
a smile can turn it upside down.”

Wishing you a peaceful weekend,


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While working in Arkansas recently, I talked with kindergarten teachers about finding the right kind of text for shared reading. I look for books and poems that are close to the guided reading level of most of the class. We read the booksand poems together for repeated readings and then move those same materials to literacy work stations for practice. Here are some samples of text that is just right for kindergarten shared reading and stations.


Sentence strips in a pocket chart include students' names and short sentences using high frequency words

Another pocket chart holds a simple 5-line poem where students can print match and fill in a few blanks

Children can build sight words with magnetic letters at this station- not too many words or letters are available at once- these same words are used in the big books and poems kids are reading

Short 4-line poem includes lots of high frequency words and can be easily managed by kindergartners

Another short poem that's just right for kindergarten

After teaching with this big book, kids can easily read it on their own at the big book station.

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Here is the first installment of Peace Partner messages. To receive these via e-mail, send a message to d.diller@live.com

“Peace begins with a smile.” -Mother Teresa

 This Monday morning, begin your day with a smile… even if it was hard saying goodbye to the weekend. Smiles are contagious. Some of your children may be in need of a smile today. Some of your colleagues may, too.  The world always looks brighter from behind a smile.

Peace be with you,


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 While at Westwood Primary in Greenwood, Arkansas, I worked with teachers on getting the most from small group instruction. They are reading and studying my book, Making the Most of Small Groups. Look at what they’ve already put into place!

Hats off to Dr. Sarah Turner, Principal, and Suzy Wilson, Assistant Principal, for the amazing collection of guided reading books they’ve provided for teachers at their school. They set up their bookroom in the teachers’ lounge to make the books easy for teachers to access. This is one of the loveliest bookrooms I’ve ever seen! Don’t you agree?

Kindergarten small group alphabet work

A well-organized small group area in second grade

The word wall is easily accessed in this small group area in another second grade classroom

First grade small group teaching in our "classroom makeover" room

Small group in second grade

Teachers' lounge/book room for guided reading books

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Peace Partners


In early November, I made a conscious decision to establish a quiet time in my day—a time to reflect and rest. I chose to start each day in a place of serenity with a sense of peace. Over the course of the next few weeks, a crisis occurred in my life. I thought I was losing my mind. But then it came to me… I had lost my peace.

As I work with classroom teachers everywhere, I hear the same thing. “There’s no time. Now they want me to add this to my day. How can I fit it all in? There are so many needs to meet.” We are nurturers. But the last person we ever take care of is ourselves.

You are not alone. As an author and consultant, I spend much of my time hurrying and scurrying about the U.S. and Canada.  Classroom visits… how many can I fit into a day? Training that is exhilarating but exhausting. Too often I am  running on empty and not taking time to refuel.

Thus, Peace Partners begins. If you’d like more peace in your day, permission to breathe, a sense of rest, then please join me. We can help each other find hope and serenity in the harried world of teaching today.

Each Monday and Friday I will send you a brief email message related to peace. It may be a quote, a poem, a reminder, or even a challenge. I’ve chosen these two days to help you begin and end your school week on a note of peace.

There will also be a Peace Partners tab on my blog. We invite you to send in your stories about how you’re finding peace in your classroom and in your life. A friend and I have already started. We simply call each other often with this question, “How’s your peace?” We offer each other words of encouragement to rid our lives of “peace robbers,” as we’ve come to call them.

Will you join me? I hope you’ll sign up today to be part of the Peace Partners Project! To receive the e-mails, just send a message to d.diller@live.com with Peace Partners as the subject line. If you have a story, quote, or poem to share that helps you find peace, please send it to the same e-mail address with your name, hometown, and a brief message.

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I started out the new year in Greenwood, Arkansas on a return visit to Westwood Primary. On my last trip there in June, we set up a first grade classroom together and made over the space in a day. We also learned about literacy work stations. Boy, did these teachers put it into action! A big thank you to all the awesome teachers at Westwood Primary!

Kindergarten read-aloud with word wall and ABC chart


Whole-group area and word wall


Whole-group area - note the automotive drip pan on the wall

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New Year’s goals

Some people make New Year’s resolutions. I use the end of December/start of January as a time for reflection. How did the year go? What great things happened? What do I want to accomplish in the new year? Then I set goals for the upcoming year. I prefer goals to resolutions; you can’t “break” them in the first few days. I create goals for all areas of my life… spiritual, family, physical, professional, home, friends, and financial. A few years ago, I added a new category called “rest, rejuvenate, & celebrate” to help in that area, too. Setting goals helps me focus on what’s important. Just like I do in lesson plans!
Here’s a sample of my goals for 2010:
1. Encourage them.
2. Write notes of affirmation.
3. Spend time with my circle of friends.
1. White space in each day, week, and month.
2. Enjoy what I’ve been given.
3. Travel with Tom as we can.
4. Positive thinking creates positive energy.
I keep my goals in a notebook and add photos/ magazine pictures to help me visualize them. Periodically, I review them to see how I’m doing. I believe that when we can picture things, we are apt to do them and do them consistently. 
What are your goals or new year’s plans for 2010? I hope you’ve created some and strive to meet them daily – share them in the comments section.
Happy New Year to you all! 

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