Wednesday, August 9, 2023

10 Tips for Using the Fundations Phonics Curriculum

Hey everyone!  Today's post is to share a few tips and tricks that I've implemented while using the Fundations Phonics program over the past 7 years.  While I LOVE the program, its components and materials can be very overwhelming for someone just starting it.  I hope this post is helpful.  

TIP #1: Dry Erase Bags

Your students will be using dry erase markers and erasers almost daily.  You'll want to think about where they will store those items.  I decided on these zipper bags a few years ago and I'll never go back.  I used number labels from Just a Primary Girl.  I laminated the numbers, hole punched them, and attached them with small binder rings.  Inside the bags are these erasers and one EXPO marker.  The erasers, bags, and markers are all numbered.  I'm not a huge fan of numbers, but for times sake, numbering these materials was much faster than names.  Find a marker on the floor?  Who is number ___?  Find a pouch on the floor?  Who is number ___? 

In addition to daily practice for Fundations, we also use our dry erase materials for our Math curriculum, Illustrative Math.  Having the pouches makes carrying these supplies around the room a breeze!


Fundations takes a multi-sensory approach to teaching Phonics.  Magnet boards are a big component of this.  Our TITLE I dept. created these cookie sheet magnet boards vs. purchasing the Fundations mats.  This is a good thing, I've heard, because the mats that come with the program don't hold up.  You want to get cookie sheets large enough to fit all of magnets, as well as ones that provide a little space for building a word).  Storage for these cookie sheets is simple: stack them in a central location in your classroom.


If you're familiar with Fundations, you know that there are one million magnet tiles!  Hahaha!  Seriously, there are a lot of magnets.  Distributing and collecting them can be daunting.  Grab a box like this one and sort your magnets.  This makes the process so much smoother.  


You'll want to find space for an interactive word wall and/or sound wall.  Both of these walls are huge and take up a lot of space, so it may be a challenge.  These walls are not decorative; you should be referring to them and your students should be using them daily.

My mom evenly spaced this beautiful trick words wall for me 7 years ago, and you best believe its never coming down!  Haha!  Wall space is very limited in my classroom, so this huge bulletin board serves as my word wall.  I start the year with all of the Level 1 trick words up.  As I introduce them, they are flagged with a colored sticky tab.  I use different colors to help students find the words (This is an old picture from the first year, and I used all green for some reason).  


In addition to the word/sound wall, you'll need space for supplemental posters.  Fundations provides posters but they are GIGANTIC.  HUGE.  If you have enough wall space to display these posters, you get a round of applause!  As mentioned above, I don't have much wall space (praise to all the cabinets), so I created a few smaller versions of the posters to display.  

I will say that when I'm first introducing a new concept, I do get out the giant poster and keep it up for a few days, but there is no possible way it can stay out all year long.


Fundations is a fantastic program, but it can be a bit dry.  I absolutely love supplementing with products that align to the skills I'm teaching.  Check out my favorite supplemental activities HERE.


Fundations introduces new skills throughout the entire year.  While each skills is taught explicitly and systematically, cumulatively, it can be a lot for beginning readers.  

Providing a "center" or "work station" time for students to practice skills that have been taught helps them retain the information.  Students LOVE working in small groups with their peers!  During this time, I pull a group to my table to work on orthographic mapping and beginning Phonics/Phonemic Awareness skills.

To check out my top-selling, Level 1 Fundations game and activity pack, click the cover below.


Within most units of Fundaitons, there is a "story" included.  The stories contain previously taught trick words and word patterns.  They are supposed to be used to practice decoding and fluency.  To me, reading the story once or twice throughout the unit wasn't enough, so I created fluency folders.

To make the folders, grab a class set of 3-prong folders.  Place sheet protectors inside of each (one per story).  As a story is introduced, students mark it up and put it inside a sleeve.  As the year progresses, students add more and more stories.  

We love going back and practicing fluency with old stories.  We also love partner practicing our stories!  I use the stories as a quick check for oral reading and take notes of how each child does with each story as they are introduced.


As mentioned above, the trick word wall should be interactive and you and your students should be referring to it daily.  One way I like to do this is by giving kids their own copies of the word wall.

Inside the fluency folders, I place one extra sheet protector.  I place an individual copy of our trick word wall in it.  As a new trick word is introduced, we color it with a yellow crayon.  Students use their folder/personal word wall daily, during dry erase practice and during assessments.  


This post may have overwhelmed you, so my final tip is to choose one or two things to implement for the upcoming school year!  Personally, I gradually incorporated the above tips throughout my seven years teaching the program.  Problems arose and I came up with solutions.

I hope this post was helpful!  Feel free to email me at with any additional Fundations questions!



Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Back to School Assessments

The beginning of the year is such a whirlwind!  Setting up a classroom, meeting students and families, staff meetings, getting back into a "school routine...."  The list goes on and on.  I'm always on the lookout for ways to streamline processes in my school life.  Student assessment is one of them.

We use Acadience as our district approved assessment.  Students are tested three times a year, with progress monitoring sprinkled in throughout, for those who need it.  In addition, I like to do some quick assessments on my own, particularly at the start of the year, and then quarterly as needed.  

I keep everything I need/use organized in a large binder, separated by academic area...Phonemic Awareness, Phonics, Trick Words (Hello, Fundations!), Math, etc...This makes finding what I need easy.  When I want to assess a child, I grab my binder, pull out the papers needed, and run copies.  

Some of the assessments I use are one-on-one, while others are whole-group.  Either way, they are quick and to the point.

I'll typically make copies of the assessments; one copy goes home and one copy goes in student files.  Parents like seeing the copies because they stay informed on how their children are progressing, and can work with them at home.

If you're interested in this fantastic, top-selling resource, grab it by clicking the cover below!  

*NOTE: The "Trick Words Assessment" shown in this post is not included in this pack.  It's a separate purchase, due to the fact that it's specific to the Fundations curriculum.   You can grab it HERE.  My assessment pack does include a sight word assessment, with the Fry's words.

*Check out all of my assessment resources HERE.


Saturday, April 29, 2023

Mother's Day Gift

Hello, friends!  Happy *almost* May!  We're heading into the last month of school.  Things are getting crazy hectic.  Add Mother's Day into the mix!  Today I'm sharing a FREE Mother's Day gift idea.  So simple and so thoughtful.  Minimal supplies Sharpie markers, yellow ribbon, a hot glue gun, blue & yellow cardstock, and yellow paint.

I always love tying a picture book into an art project, so here ya go!  Browse "Fireflies" and my other favorite Mother's Day books HERE (affiliate link).

Grab the free firefly jar template by clicking the cover below.  Happy Mother's Day!



Sunday, April 23, 2023

End of the Year Student Gift

I can hardly believe it, but we are in the FINAL STRETCH!!!!!!  PRAISE!  Teaching has always been challenging but this year has been another story.  The level of mental (and of course physical) exhaustion I'm feeling is unlike any year prior.  I've had the most challenging class this year....with all sorts of needs.  Needless to say, I am TIRED and ready for a break.  

Today, I'll be prepping my students end of the year gifts.  Yes I know it's May 23 and we have 23.5 more days of school left (seriously, who's counting?).  However, as you know, the end of the year is BONKERS.  An ever-growing to-do list and kids who have checked out makes for an even more exhausted teacher!  

I like to keep my gifts simple, cost-effective, and thoughtful.  When I first started teaching, I thought I had to spend gobs of money on elaborate gifts for my students.  As I've developed as a teacher, I've come to realize that teaching is a gift in itself.  And let's not forget the hundreds (actually thousands) of dollars spent on the classroom and fun activities throughout the school  year!

If you've been around here for any length of time (shoutout to the OG's who have been with me since 2010!), you know I love Junie B. Jones.  I've read a chapter from her book each day, after lunch, for 20 years.  The love began during student teaching (shoutout to Minal, my cooperating teacher who introduced me to good ole' Junie!).  Needless to say, my students' end of the year gift is always a brand new Junie B. Jones book with a personalized bookmark.  I like to order the variety packs on Scholastic and let the kids pick their title. 

Does your class have a favorite series, character, or author?  I'd love to hear who that is!  Leave me a comment below and let me know!

Want to know the cost?  Well, I use Scholastic bonus points that I've accrued over the years to order the books.  A roll of thin ribbon for the bookmarks is about $3.00.  The bookmarks are in my TpT shop (linked HERE for you!).  I do use my own laminator, because I like the bookmarks to be stiff, but I can get four bookmarks on a page.   I'm only using 6 laminating sleeves.

The kids always cherish these personalized bookmarks (and of course, books, a class favorite)!!!  Don't worry, the bookmarks are editable!  Color and black and white versions included.  It's super easy to insert student names at the top and your name at the bottom.  Of course, you can always use a Sharpie and hand-write your name and kids' names in.  There is a set included for team teachers as well.  

Grab the bookmarks by clicking the cover below and get to personalizing!  I'm also linking the ribbon (3/8 inch works well) for you HERE-a bit more expensive to buy on Amazon than a craft store...(because it's April 23 and we are all mentally fried).  Enjoy!



Tuesday, March 14, 2023

St. Patrick's Day Ideas

Hello from a snow day in Ohio (yes, on March 14th)!  I'm here with a few, last minute St. Patrick's Day ideas for you.  I hope you find some things you can use!  Enjoy.

First up is a rainbow craft.  For years, my students completed this tissue paper rainbow craft.  It takes a long time but turns out so cute, and is perfect to leave up all spring!  This year, I transitioned to a tear-art rainbow...much quicker and just as cute!

On St. Patrick's Day (or close to), we love doing a procedural writing about how to make a shamrock float!  Of course, our writing isn't complete without actually having a yummy drink!  Grab my  best-selling pack by clicking the cover below.

A fan-favorite is reading about how to catch a leprechaun, and then of course, having students write about how they would catch one!  Grab the Leprechaun Literacy pack by clicking the cover below!

Here's a fun leprechaun craft!  The idea is from Cara Carroll.  Grab the patterns HERE.

Who doesn't love a mini-book?  This St. Pat's one is perfect for searching for sight/trick words and reading together.  St. Pat's is usually near the end of our 3rd quarter, so I like to pass this out for coloring while I do my end of quarter assessments.  Click the cover below to grab this!

I love leaving a little something on my kids' desks on St. Patty's Day.  These Skittles tags are a great treat.  Buy individual bags or bag your own and purchase bulk!  I also love the little cards with a chocolate or plastic gold coin!

I Have, Who Has
 is a fantastic game for a brain break, or to incorporate into your "Morning Meeting" time.  I have so many of these games in my store.  I've linked them all below for you.  Click the cover to snag the St. Pat's one or the bundle.

Literacy Center time is so important to my students and I.  It gives them the opportunity to work collaboratively with their peers, and provides me a block of time to work with a small group for intervention.  Typically, our centers are Fundations Phonics based, but the week of a holiday, I like to incorporate a few thematic centers!  I have some St. Patrick's Day centers, which are shown below.  

For Math, we love completing thematic number grid pictures.  Rainbow Bump is another favorite for Math.

Here's a cute little "Lucky Dog" craft that includes a writing page.  Grab it below!

These leprechaun directed drawings are always so creative!  Just "Google" to find which one you like.  

You can't go wrong with St. Patty's Day BINGO!   I love using thematic mini erasers for this.  Linked below for you.