The 2 Best Ways to Help Struggling Learners

Teach Magically 2 Best Strategies to help Students Learn Kids Looking at writing
If you have students that have difficulty learning any new things, there are 2 best things you can do to help!

Facebook Live Video that explains these strategies.

In the past, I had to progress monitor students every two weeks, and really help them learn the information that I was teaching. I came across a few great ideas that really worked. I incorporate these strategies to help all of my students learn.

This is especially helpful for students that have a very difficult time learning. For example, let's just say the student is having a hard time with letters and the sounds which we know how difficult that can be....because letters makes no sense. 


2 Best Ways To Help Students Learn by Teach Magically

Daily Tracing Strategy for Learning New Things

So, the first of the two best ways to learn is to practice daily tracing. I start by using these little letter books that I made.

Alphabet Tracing Booklet Teach Magically

On each page, there is a capital and lowercase letter and also a picture clue to help students. The arrows help the students understand how to trace.

Before we start anything on paper, we practice making things in the air and talking about the sounds of the letters we are practicing.

Then they trace the letters with their finger in the little letter book. It’s really important they use their pointer finger with the hand that they write with. That will send it to their brain more quickly. For example, they trace A, say A, trace a and say /a/ like ant. They will then go through all the letters in the alphabet.

Tracing is one activity that works when the student knows a lot of the letters.

Now for students that are having a very difficult time learning letters and/or numbers, I use a slightly different technique called drill sandwich.

Student Case

I like to use the example of my most recent class that I just retested and I found one little boy who only still knows two letters which are  Y and X. (Y happens to be in his name.) In this case, what you have to do is pick out the letters known.

I pick out the letters of his name. This student will then have to trace the letters of his name, and then I pick out two more letters (three if they have a really good memory), but if they are having difficulty, it's usually the letters that they know and two other brand new letters that they do not know. 

For this little boy, I am going to choose A, he kind of says apple so I think he has a connection there with it, and then B because that is in his name which will help him learn it easier.

Now that I know what letters I am going to use, I will take a letter that he knows, put it in between the letters that he does not know, and I will basically sandwich the letters together in between.

So we have a letter that he knows and the letter that he is trying to learn, then a letter he knows and then the letter that he is trying to learn.

Each day he would trace these letters and then say them. For example, he would trace Y, say Y, and say Yo-Yo,  /y/, turn the page and trace B, say B and then say bus, /b/. He would do that every day until randomly I knew that he knew those new letters. I would then take those out and ask them out of order for him.

Usually practicing 3-4 times per day with you will help them learn. Once he knows those letters, I then sandwich new letters in between them. I always keep the letters he knows to help build his confidence and then sandwich in only two or three new letters. So it's tracing and then sandwiching them in between to learn new letters. Check out other Drill Sandwich Ideas.

Matching Strategy for Learning New Things

When students have a really difficult time pulling the letter name and sound from their memory or having trouble just tracing the letter, I will lay those letters down to make it easier.

Again, two letters that they know, and two or three that they don't know yet.

For example, I would lay down the letters and say find the Y, he would point to it, find the B, find the A, find the X. Now remember, he already knows two of the letters, so that is going to help him and build his confidence.

When doing this activity, they can point with their finger, they can smash it with a fly swatter, they can put cubes on them, whatever kind of activity you want to do. Once they match it, I then pull it up and we practice tracing it again and saying the letter name. Those two things really will help.

Trouble with Learning Numbers

I do the same thing with numbers, if they are having difficulty tracing numbers, I take my number book which is very simple to use.

Number Book 0-20 by Teach Magically

My book has arrows and starting points, which really help, and they would just trace over them and say the numbers. Now some students right now know 0-10, but the teen numbers are a little more difficult. To make this easier on them, I would lay that chart out with only the teen numbers on the table. I would say find the 11 and they would have to smack it or hit it with a fly swatter. If 11-15 is too hard, shorten it up and only do 2-3 things. Remember practicing every day will help. 

Review Strategies for Learning New Things

1. Matching

So let's review, for students that are having a very difficult time learning in any grade, you would lay out what you are teaching, have the students match what you want them to find. In kindergarten this would be the letter names, sounds, and numbers.(If you're in Upper grades might be math facts or different states.) Matching the letters or numbers is one technique.

Here we are learning sight words.

2. Tracing

The second is tracing and saying it out loud. Trace and say the new learning.

Research on Learning New Things

I did hear a research study that said if it's brand new and they don't have any connections to anything else, you should expect them to learn one new thing a week. One letter a week, one site word a week, one number a week. 

If you have any questions please put them in the comments below. Remember to join me every Wednesday at 6:30 pm EST to talk about some things to help teachers teach.

Feel free to comment with any questions that you have. You can find the link to my products on Tpt Debora Marines TeachMagically.


Debora Marines at Teach Magically

The 10 Best Alphabet Books for Beginning Readers

10 Best Alphabet Book Pictures by Teach Magically

Learning the letters of the alphabet can be difficult but when you make the letters engaging and connect them with books, it makes learning so much more fun! 


10 Best Alphabet Books By Teach Magically

Check out 5 Best Videos for Letters to get the kiddos moving as they learn and Fun Games to Learn Letters.

Best Alphabet Books

Here are the 10 Best Alphabet Books that I love to read in my room! The videos are attached so you can check them out.

1. Alphabet Under Construction by Denise Flemming-A hardworking rodent is building the alphabet. The industrious mouse creates a letter using an activity beginning with that letter. The exhausted mouse’s month of hard work is rewarded: the last page shows the completed alphabet.

Mouse dyes the D-a shimmery tie-dye effect so phonemic awareness happens naturally. The mouse's actions are related to construction or artwork.

Fleming has poured colored cotton fiber through hand-cut stencils to make her illustrations, which are bold in outline and shape. 

2. Alphabet Adventure by Audrey Wood and Bruce Wood-When lowercase "i" loses her dot, the entire alphabet sets out to find it. 

The alphabet comes to life and dances across the pages in this colorful picture book. 

Children need to search for the lower case “i” and sharp eyed children will see it hiding in every illustration so it really works visual perception skills.

3. The Three Bears ABC Alphabet Book by Grace Macaroon Illustrated by Hollie Hibbert -
Grace Maccarone cleverly alliterates the tale of Goldilocks and the Three Bears through the alphabet in this cute story.

4. Eating the Alphabet: Fruits and Vegetables from A-Z by Louis Ehlert-
This cute book introduces fruits and vegetables from around the world with water color collage illustrations. 

The glossary at the end provides interesting facts about each food.

5. Today I Feel by Madalena Moniz- This book follows a child through a whole range of emotions that range from simple to complex with subtle watercolor illustrations. 

Not all of the emotions are positive, but they are all honest and worthy of discussions about feelings. Perfect vocabulary building book.

6. D is for Dump Truck by Michael Shoulders- D is for Dump Truck takes children on an A to Z exploration of a fun backyard construction site with bouncy poems for each letter. There is a glossary in the back. 

7. Alphabet City by Stephen T Johnson- This sophisticated 1996 Caldecott Honor book, takes the reader through an urban landscape wordlessly. 

Stephen T. Johnson use strikingly realistic pastels and watercolors to show many things in a city that make the letters starting with a simple sawhorse that contains the letter "A“ all the way though Z on a fire escape. 

It is the perfect book to read then go on a letter hunt.

8. I Stink by Kate and Jim Mcmullan- The garbage truck has ten wide tires, one really big appetite, and an even bigger smell. His job…eating your garbage  from A-Z he calls “Alphabet Soup” and loves every stinky second of it! 

9. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault illustrated by Louis EhlertThe lowercase letters are climbing the coconut tree, but it can’t hold them all. Chicka chicka boom boom! Uppercase letters rush to comfort their injured children. 
I use this as an introduction to an alphabet match game and Boom Cards-Click to try the preview.

10. On Market Street by Arnold Lobel illustrated by Anita Lobel- Inspired by seventeenth-century French trade engravings, Anita Lobel's brilliant paintings of the shopkeepers on Market Street makes this delightful and unusual book. 

A boy trots down Market Street buying presents for a friend, each one starting with a letter of the alphabet. The notion is original, and the sum total enjoyable and unique.

Every letter is illustrated by a figure ingeniously composed of the thing that starts with that letter. 
Make sure to go check out my store, Debora Marines TeachMagically for time saving activities to make teaching easy and learning magical.

 Here’s where you can find me, hope we can connect:
Make everyday magical,
💖Debora from Teach Magically

The Best Way to Help Students Struggling to Learn Letters

Best Way To Learn Letters by Teach Magically

All teachers know that getting students to learn letter names is so important for beginning to read and write but sometimes no matter how many ways you have connected letters to print, danced, and practiced, some students can't remember the names!

So what do you do when you have learners that make no growth when everyone else is soaring.

Because over and over again....they worked on:

  1. Letter Videos
  2. Games
  3. Phonological Awareness Skills
  4. Guided Reading

This has happened to me many times throughout the years, and I use to think it meant the kiddos were to blame:

  • learning problem
  • dyslexic
  • attention issues
Then I work with a research study and found that some learners just need something else.

That's when I started using drill sandwich in combination with alphabet tracing. Check out how I use alphabet tracing in Beginning Guided Reading.
Best way to teach letters- teach magically

What is Drill Sandwich?

The drill sandwich strategy is a way learners can practice and learn letters by mixing what they know with what they need to learn. (Check out how to do it with sight words.)

Drill sandwich is typically more motivating to any learner because the new information is next to something it helps alleviate frustration. 

Be sure to only focus on 3 new letters at a time. But you are still reviewing known letters to help send it to long term memory. (2 new letters if the child has poor working memory)

Why does drill sandwich work?

 because of the repetition of course!

Repetition makes learning new letters in this manner much more manageable for students, and will help them learn the letter names more quickly.

How to Build a Drill Sandwich to Learn Letters.

1.) Make set of flashcards for the letters of the alphabet.

2.) Go through the complete stack of cards once, separating the list into two piles – letter known and letters unknown. (Hint: Cards are marked known only if the information is automatic. If the learner has to think even for a few seconds ( I usually try to count to 5), then the card should be placed in the unknown pile for more repetition.)

3.) Build a “sandwich” using seven known letters and three unknown. Be sure to follow the pattern below. (K = known; U = unknown)      (KUKKUKKUK) 

4.) Have the learner practice daily. If they don’t know the letter name quickly, supply it.

5.) As the unknown letters are learned...move them into a known section of the sandwich by removing well-known letters (be sure it is guessing!). 

6.) Build a new sandwich and repeat. (Add new unknown letters and begin the learning process again.)

Remember some students need more time than others. Don't move on until the letters are known automatically!

If they look at the letter chart, says the ABC's, or pause for longer that 5 seconds, don't count it as known.

What other thigs can you do to help struggling learners?

Provide practice. Yes, it takes some students way more practice than others to learn letters.
Here are the Boom Cards I use:

Here are the Power Point Games I use:

Make sure to go check out my store, Debora Marines TeachMagically for time saving activities to make teaching easy and learning magical.

 Here’s where you can find me:
Make everyday magical,
💖Debora from Teach Magically

9 Books to Develop Number Sense

Teach Magically 9 Books to Develop Number Sense
I love combining math with as many different subjects as possible! Read alouds make a great way to incorporate reading comprehension (click to get comprehension questions), math skills, rhyming and what ever else the story provides. 

I included the links from amazon so you can purchase if needed but I also provided the "best" links I have found on Youtube...because you may need a minute to get supplies ready and pulling up a quick video makes it easy and fun. 

Check out 10 Best Math Videos that will get kids moving and learning.
Teach Magically Pin for 9 Books to Develop Number Sense

Here are some great books to develop Number Sense.

1. 1,2,3 Peas by Keith Bakr
Count from one to one hundred in this pea-filled picture book that’s packed with bright, bold numbers and playful number-themed scenes. Your kiddos will be calling for more peas, please.

2. Chicka 1,2,3 by Bill Martin Jr.
Fun rhyming about the numbers. Check out other rhyming

3.Splash! by Ann Jonas
Falling in and crawling out, how many animals can you count? Yep, perfect for counting.

Perfect for teaching the days of the week, as the very hungry caterpillar literally eats his way through the pages of the book.

Perfect for learning to count from one to ten with a simple, rhyming text and laugh-out-loud illustrations! How do dinosaurs count to ten? Over and over and over again!

6.How Many Snails? by Paul Giganti, Jr.
There's plenty of opportunity to practice counting, but that's just the beginning! A series of simple questions directs children to determine the differences between seemingly similar objects, developing observation, discrimination, and visual analysis. The eye-catching, bold illustrations are by a two-time Caldecott Honor-Book recipient.

7.Ten Sly Piranhas by William Wise
Fun way to count backward in this crafty tale about one very hungry piranha. Ten sly piranhas are swimming in a river, but one at a time they disappear, until the proud overeater is the only surviving piranha. He is confident that he can eat anybody, but he is no match for the giant crocodile lurking on the bank. 

8.Zero the Hero by Joan Holub
Explains all about 0! Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada. That's what all the other numbers think of Zero. He doesn't add anything in addition. He's of no use in division. And don't even ask what he does in multiplication. (Hint: Poof!) But Zero knows he's worth a lot, and when the other numbers get into trouble, he swoops in to prove that his talents are innumerable.

9.Tally O’Mally by Stuart Murphy 
Perfect for tally marks. The O'Malleys are off to the beach! But it's a long, hot, boring drive. What can Eric, Bridget, and Nell do to keep busy? Play tally games, of course—counting up all the gray cars or green T-shirts they see. Whoever has the most marks at the end wins the game.

Make sure to go check out my store, Debora Marines TeachMagically for time saving activities to make teaching easy and learning magical.

 Here’s where you can find me:
Make everyday magical,
💖Debora from Teach Magically

Best Ways to Help Beginning Readers

Reading Skills For Beginning Readers By Teach Magically

Do you teach beginning readers? 

If you teach beginning readers, you need to focus on so much more than reading guided reading books and learning sight words! 

Phonological Awareness is the Key!

Phonological Awareness is the understanding that oral language can be divided into smaller parts that can be manipulated. Understanding phonological awareness prepares students for later reading instruction which includes phonics, word analysis and spelling.  It is the great umbrella that incorporates many skills.
Blog about phonological awareness Teach Magicallt
Phonological Awareness follows a continuum from easier to harder but the learning doesn't follow it in order.  Each task is difficult in its own way and the learning flows at different rates for each learner! Check out the skills in order from easiest to hardest on my phonological awareness skills page.

The less complex activities of Word Awareness includes tracking words in sentences and enjoying rhyming and alliteration through stories and poems. I use Humpty Dumpty to focus on the letters, words, sentences, and poem. Check out how at Humpty Dumpty Nursery Rhyme Activities.

The Syllable Awareness  involves tapping, counting, blending, or segmentation a word into syllables.

Onset-rime Awareness is the ability to produce a rhyming word that depends on the understanding that rhyming words have the same rime (ending sound).  Being able to tell if words rhyme or not (thumbs up if cat and hat rhyme or sound the same at the end)  is much easier that producing a rhyme (Tell me other words that rhyme with cat, hat, ________).
Reading skills image by teach magically

The most sophisticated level of Phonological Awareness is Phonemic Awareness, the understanding that words are made up of individual sounds or phonemes. 

Manipulating these phonemes by blending, segmenting, or changing individual phonemes within words to create new words is extremely difficult. 

There are many fun activities to help with Phonemic Awareness.

Phonemic Awareness is more highly related to learning to read than are tests of general intelligence, reading readiness, and listening comprehension (Stanovich, 1993).

You can learn more information about the order of these skills and ideas on this PA Page. (click) Be sure to check these skills if you are teaching beginning readers or readers that are struggling!
Ways to help struggling readers by Teach Magically

Make sure to go check out my store, Debora Marines TeachMagically for time saving activities to make teaching easy and learning magical.

 Here’s where you can find me:
Make everyday magical,
💖Debora from Teach Magically

The Best Way to Teach Routines to Start the Day Magically

Getting your day started can be a challenge, but it doesn’t have to be! With a little extra thought and planning on your part, you can have a class that functions magically day in and day out. 

How great would it be to know your class got the day started independently for a sub, when an administrator walked into the room, when an emergency happens (projectile vomiting…that’s for a later discussion) or even when you simply need to step into the hallway for a few extra moments?
The Best Way to Teach Routines to Start the Day By Teach Magically

Teach  Morning Procedures

Procedures are the first and most important step to magically making it happen. Creating a list of how you’d like things run in your classroom on a daily basis will ensure that you have complete control and that things will run smoothly if you are ever absent and a sub is taking over for the day!  

Because the students come in at different times because of breakfast, drop off line, bus schedules etc…I don’t start teaching until everyone arrives.

The Procedures for My Class:

Walk to desk.
Get out folders, check for notes, turn in homework, and get any new papers to go home.
Open computer cases, turn on computer, and plug in headphones.
Go to the restroom. (Students that always have to go right when I start to teach are assigned this task and reminded daily!)
Begin Working.

The Procedures for me:

take lunch count/attendance, 
hand out any notes, 
possibly pull a child for extra work,
talk to the kiddos and hear their stories,
And any other task or emergencies!
The Beat Way to Teach Routines to Start the Day Magically


After the procedures are introduced, the next step is to model how the procedures look. Yep, you need to model everything!
Be kind dog by teach magically
Be sure to model how to enter the classroom the correct way. This means showing the students what it should look like. Yep. I use a backpack, computer, desk and I walk them through the process. 

Then I have 1 child practice. Then 3-5 at once! I explain that each day we will all be doing it at the same time. (I also remodel if it ever starts to unravel or many seem to have forgotten what to do)

When the students can SEE what you are expecting…entering the room and doing the right thing happens as I say magically...but we all know it’s a LOT of work.

Practice the Models and Call Outs

Practicing the modeled procedures takes some time but is worth the effort in the long run. Each morning until it is perfect…well almost perfect…I help, remind and tell the students what to do and make an extra effort to encourage the students that are independently making the morning happen magically!

Yep, I focus on the positives!

Practice Until Perfect

It’s important for the students to practice until they do it without any assistance. When the students enter the classroom, have them practice the correct way to do the tasks. Sometimes this takes several attempts and changes depending on the day, but always remember “Practice makes perfect.” 

Consider Practicing “Wrong” Models

Yep, they wave their magic wands and turn me into a student that does the WRONG thing.

Then we discuss the things I did incorrectly…it does provide a few laughs. Identifying the incorrect behavior allows the student to think about the correct way of performing the tasks. If there is a students that has trouble daily, I often have that child model the correct behavior for me so I can adjust. The students then wave their magic wands and turn me back into a teacher!

Getting a classroom to ”magically” manage itself may seem like it will never happen, but it really can be  done. As you continue to reinforce the positive behaviors, routines, and procedures that should take place as soon as they enter the room…you’ll find that the day will start off right and set the stage for the  magic show of learning.

Please comment with ways you make morning routines magical!