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A 2022 Go Figure Debut for a Reading Specialist Teacher Who is New!

Gini was a teacher for 31 years, 29 as a reading specialist. She has also taught ALL grades, K-12, in many formats - large class, small group, co-teaching, push-in, pull-out. You name it; she did it. She has always tried to meet her students where they are, learn about them individually, and group them accordingly for maximum progress. Retired now, she is still tutoring struggling readers, although she has been doing it only virtually since the pandemic started. Amazingly, remote learning has been going very well.

Surprise! Her favorite pastime is, reading. She loves non-fiction, mostly biographies, history, poetry, and educational research. Nerd that she is, Gini still looks for new and effective teaching ideas. Once in a while, she even reads a fiction book if it comes highly recommended.

Gini is also an avid gardener (So am I!). You can see photos of her Pittsburgh garden on Pinterest @ Loving Her Garden. On the left is just one of the many beautiful photos.

Believe it or not, Gini has no grass in her yard. She claims she was well ahead of climate change concerns when she developed it almost 40 years ago. She rarely has to water her garden, but oh, the weeds! She used to do all of the weeding and pruning herself until about 10 years ago when she started needing joint replacements. She now has a total of five (two knees, two hips, one shoulder). One more, and she will be totally bionic.

She is also an avid golfer. She used to play golf with her husband for 40 years about 3-4 times a week, mostly after school and in the summer. They often played moonlit golf as they usually were the last ones on the course. All that practice helped her win eight Women’s Championships and eight Husband and Wife Championships, though not in the same years. Her hubby still plays golf and often shoots his age or under, but she rarely plays anymore.

Gini joined TPT (Teachers Pay Teachers) in the first or second year of its development. (Me, too! We're oldies but goodies!) Currently, she has 122 resources in her store called Reading Spotlight with 20 of them being free. She joined because she wanted to share her best resources for effective and enjoyable practice for beginning and struggling readers. Having been an English teacher, her store also contains many fun grammar practice activities.

Her first free item ever posted on TPT was Johnny Appleseed: A Tall Tale Grammar Story, and it is still a popular download.  It is a Tall Tale Grammar story to practice grammar and spelling skills with intermediate and middle school students. The tale focuses on the most common errors in homophones, subject (verb agreement, apostrophe, capitalization, punctuation, irregular verbs and irregular plurals).

Gini's featured paid resource is a bundle entitled Learn To Read Bingo: Vowels.  Effective, enjoyable, and easy-to-use, this bargain bundle is a terrific way to practice the basic fundamentals of decoding. It is so-o-o much better than passing out another boring phonics worksheet.

The latest brain research indicates that humans remember in patterns. These games reinforce the most common short and long vowel phonograms in English. This word family approach improves reading, writing, and spelling, and the games are especially effective with students who do not hear phonics sounds well.

Gini developed many more Bingos and Word Searches for word analysis practice because she found that many struggling readers simply had gaps in their skills due to a lack of mastery for various reasons. She discovered all that many of them needed was extra practice in that skill.

Having taught several thousand struggling readers to read is the most rewarding experience of her life. Gini thanks all of them for their trust in her. Continuing to help them makes her feel useful and makes her happy every day.

Gini has other places where you can view her resources, read her blog posts or just get teaching ideas and strategies.


Again, I am featuring a TPT seller who is also a member of The Best of Teacher Entrepreneurs Marketing Cooperative (TBOTEMC) of which Gini and I are members. TBOTEMC is made up of teachers who work together to take their Teachers Pay Teachers stores to the next level. We use the power of cross-promotion to collaborate with our Pinterest, Facebook, and Teacher Talk blog marketing teams. For more information on how you can join this group, go to The Best of Teacher Entrepreneurs Marketing Cooperative

Be-Leaf Me! Fall is Great! Using Leaves in Science Investigations

When my husband's Aunt Sue moved to Florida, she would send home some strange requests.  One year, she wanted us to send her a box of fall leaves.  Since Florida lacks deciduous trees, her students were unaware of the gorgeous colors produced by the trees up north.  The only problem with her request was that the leaves we sent would be dry and crumbling by the time she received them. What to do?

I solved the problem by ironing the leaves between two sheets of wax paper.  It was something I had learned in elementary school many, many years ago (back when the earth was cooling).  My granddaughters still collect leaves so we can do the activity together.  Here is how you do it.
  1. Find different sizes and colors of leaves.
  2. Tear off two sheets of waxed paper - about the same size.
  3. Set the iron on "dry".  No water or steam here!
  4. The heat level of the iron should be medium.
  5. Place leaves on one piece of the waxed paper.
  6. Lay the other piece on top.
  7. Iron away!
On the right, you will see what ours looked like when we were finished.

Only $5.25
You can also use this activity to identify leaves.  According to my husband who knows trees, leaves and birds from his college studies, we "waxed" a maple leaf, sweet gum leaf, elm leaf, cottonwood leaf (the state tree of Kansas), and two he doesn't recognize because they are some kind of ornamentals. So my suggestion is to get out there and start gathering leaves because your students, children and grandchildren will love me!

Do you want your students to have fun with leaves? Check out  a six lesson science performance demonstration for the primary grades which utilizes leaves. This inquiry guides the primary student through the scientific method of 1) exploration time, 2) writing a good investigative question, 3) making a prediction, 4) designing a plan, 5) gathering the data, and 6) writing a conclusion based on the data. A preview of the investigation is available. Just click on the title. After all you might have an unbe-leaf-able time!

Sock It Away! What To Do With Those Annoying Cell Phones in the Classroom

Most of us can't live without our cell phones.  Unfortunately, neither can our students.  I teach on the college level, and my syllabus states that all cell phones are to be put on "silent", "vibrate", or turned off when class is in session.  Sounds good, doesn't it?  Yet, one of the most common sounds in today's classrooms is the ringing of a cell phone, often accompanied by some ridiculous tune or sound effect that broadcasts to everyone a call is coming in.  It’s like “technological terror" has entered the classroom uninvited.  Inevitably, this happens during an important part of a lesson or discussion, just when a significant point is being made, and suddenly that "teachable moment" is gone forever.

What are teachers to do?  Some instructors stare at the offender while others try to use humor to diffuse the tension. Some collect the phone, returning it to the student later.  A few have gone so far as to ask the student to leave class.

In my opinion the use of cell phones during class time is rude and a serious interruption to the learning environment. What is worse is the use of the cell phone as a cheating device.  The college where I teach has seen students take a picture of the test to send to their friends, use the Internet on the phone to look up answers, or have answers on the phone just-in-case.  At our college, this is cause for immediate expulsion without a second chance.  To avoid this problem, I used to have my students turn their cell phones off and place them in a specific spot in the classroom before the test was passed out.  Unfortunately, the students’ major concern during the test was that someone would walk off with their phone.  Not exactly what I had planned!

It's a CUTE sock and
perfect for a cell phone!
A couple of years ago, a few of us in our department tried something new.  Each of us has purchased those long, brightly colored socks that seem to be the current fashion statement.  (I purchased mine at the Dollar Tree for $1.00 a pair.)  Before the test, each student had to turn off their cell phone, place it in the sock, tie the sock into a knot and place the sock in front of them. This way, the student still had control over their cell phone and could concentrate on doing well on the test, and I did not have to constantly monitor for cheating.

At the end of the semester, we compared notes.  Overall, we found that the students LOVED this idea.  Many said their students were laughing and comparing their stylish sock with their neighbor's.  I was surprised that a few of the students even wanted to take their sock home with the matching one – of course.  So here is a possible side benefit....maybe socking that cell phone away caused my students to TOE the line and study!


Need more ideas for helping with those annoying classroom irritations? Here is  resource that offers a number of practical and realistic ideas about classroom management and how to eliminate those day-after-day aggravating and annoying student problems that keep resurfacing in your classroom. It is perfect for novice teachers, beginning teachers or for student teachers. It is also a good review for those who have been teaching for a number of years.