All of the materials described here have been developed specifically for use with tutoring students. Some would also be useful in a classroom. I hope you find something here that is useful to you. When you click on a title, you will be taken to my store website: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Morris-Tutoring-Productions. Many of them can be downloaded free of charge; a few cost between $1 and $5.
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LANGUAGE ARTS – Grades K-3
As a teacher, I’m very critical of typical teaching tools for beginning reading. Want to hear my gripes? Well, you’re going to anyway.
- Too often, capital letters are over-emphasized and lower-case aren’t introduced until much later. Think about it: How often do we use capital in comparison to lower case letters?
- Kids somehow think that, for instance, “b” says “buh” and “s” says “suh.” This is, in my opinion, the result of the efforts of well-meaning parents (whom I forgive) and/or ignorant teachers (jury is out). Consonants don’t have vowel sounds attached to them (except barely audible, unintentional ones that happen when you try to say the consonant sound loudly.
- Don’t even get me started on alphabet cards that have illustrations that supposedly represent the sounds of the letters.
a. I’m sorry, but “q” does not speak in English without a “u”, so it should always appear as “qu.”
b. X does not say “ex” (as it does when you say “x-ray”). It is also rare for it to say “z” as is xylophone, the darling choice to (falsely) represent the letter sound. Until you learn words like “xenophobia” and “xylem” you will see x most often at the end of a word (or syllable) and it says “ks.”
c. I don’t think the word “egg” is a good choice for teaching kids a short e sound. Depending on where you’re from, it is sometimes pronounced “aig.” Elephant is another terrible option. The short e sound gets swallowed up by the L that follows. (Yes, I show an elephant on my E card, but his name is Ed! A d knows how to let short e speak!)
d. I need to stop this rant, but I just saw an image of the most egregious ABC chart ever. It has ALL the flaws mentioned above, PLUS uses earth for E (r completely takes over the vowel sound), giraffe for G (thus teaching the less common sound of the letter first), ice cream for the letter i (stick with short vowel sounds, please), and, worst of all, truck for T. Again with the R! It intrudes and confuses the pure T sound. Unless a young kid has the word “truck” in her visual memory bank, the T in tr will be spelled as ch. (Just say “truck” and hear it for yourself.) Which reminds me,
e. Most charts don’t include the digraphs (ch, sh, th, wh) and there’s no good reason not to throw them in while you’re at it, especially for ages 4 and up. Yeah, it would looks weird on ABC block wallpaper in a baby’s room, but digraphs appear commonly and kids can learn them.
So, here are some perfect alphabet cards. I had a great time making them. They have only lower-case letters (in the first two sets), which are shown in relation to the line on which they sit, so for instance b sits on the line, but g’s tail is below the line. They have copyright-free drawings, many of which are animals. They include the consonant digraphs. And, like all the cards I make, they have a little dotted line in the upper right-hand corner so you can snip it off and voilà — the cards will always be right side up when you align the cut-off corners!
[By the way, that’s not a violin on the V card. It’s a viola.]
- Alphabet Cards with pictures
- Alphabet Cards without pictures to test child’s knowledge of the sounds without the picture clues
- Alphabet Cards with capital letters – to help kids match lower-case with corresponding
capital letters (and, while you’re at it, tell about when to use capital letters). Many pairs are similar
(Cc, Ss, Zz), but some are distressingly different (Aa, Ee, Gg).
Many tutoring students do not know how to form letters in an efficient, left-to right way. In grades K-2, it’s usually possible to re-teach this, which helps eliminate reversals, and enables the student to print more quickly and legibly (after practice, of course), and be better prepared for cursive. Some older students respond well to being asked to correct their letter formation once they feel how much more fluid and legible their writing is when they print efficiently, but the earlier, the better.
Some letters (herein referred to as “bouncy letters”), when formed correctly, start at the top, go down to baseline and bounce back up: r, n, m, h, p, b. Other letters (“2 o’clock letters”) start with the crucial C shape and can, without lifting pencil from paper, be magically turned into other letters: o, a, d, g, q and (though not a full C shape), f.
Letter Formation – free!
- “Bouncy Letters” practice
- “2 o’clock Letters” practice
The most commonly reversed letters are b and d. These posters and individual student cards depict the popular mnemonic of “bat, then ball, doorknob, then door” to help kids who have trouble producing the letters correctly. As with the majority of letters, the most efficient way to write them is to stay with the left-right flow. B (lower case) is represented by a bat and a ball, which should be produced in that order: first a line starting at the top, then a bouncing action up and clockwise to represent the ball. D (lower case) starts with a C shape, turning counter-clockwise, then moves into an upward line representing the door. The line is retraced back to the bottom to reinforce the door’s strength! Credit for the artistry goes to my daughter, Katie Plattner.
BAT – BALL / DOORKNOB – DOOR SET – $3
- two small posters (8.5 x 11”)
- individual cards (10 per page)
Phonics / Spelling / Writing
Consonant sounds, in general, are easier for kids to hear than vowel sounds. Vowels simply let the sound out so words will “speak,” whereas many consonants block sound. The difference between one vowel and another can be very difficult for some kids. Especially confusing is hearing a distinction between short e and short i. In order to practice hearing how vowels sound in syllables, here are “Add-a-Vowel” exercises. You can either write the vowels in yourself, dictate the resulting syllables and ask the students to insert the vowel they hear OR they can choose the vowels and practice pronouncing the resulting syllables. There are five levels: VC, CVC, CVCC, CCVC and CCVCC. [These are NOT Roman numerals — C = consonant, V = vowel.] There are four identical narrow columns for each pattern (to be cut into strips for use).
Add-a-Vowel Exercises – free!
I have never taught a homogeneous group of students who all study the same list of words, so I made this generic set of exercises that can be used with any list of words that is based on phonetic (sound) patterns / elements. Thus began Martian Spelling, so named by a sweet 2nd-grader 30+ years ago, and so it shall remain! Teacher/tutor gives each student a list of target words sharing a common phonetic pattern (e.g. CVC, consonant blends, etc.) on a separate sheet of paper. The student practices the words by 1) putting them in ABC order, 2) writing a rhyming word, 3) “teacher’s choice,” which may be writing the target word in cursive, writing a word that starts or ends with the same letter as the target word, 4) writing a sentence using the target word and (optional) 5) drawing a picture that represents each target word. There is a choice of how many words to assign: 8 or 10 words with primary lines for younger students, 10 words for those who can write words legibly without the middle dotted line.
I have started including my students in the process of analyzing their miscues when they read. Usually, missed words are of two types: ones that truly don’t know (often including names and multisyllable words), and simple confusion of common sight words. As they read, I “grab” missed words and write them on the following form. We then collaborate to figure out patterns of errors, and noting commonly missed words for extra drill.
WORD-GRAB miscue record – free!
LANGUAGE ARTS – Grades 3-12
When I read, I don’t like to interrupt the flow to look up a word I don’t know. Neither do kids. Unless understanding the word immediately is crucial to comprehension, I pencil it and the page number on the title page or anywhere there’s a blank space. When I’m done reading a chapter, I look up the words online, go back to the pages on which they were used, and re-read the passages with my new-found knowledge. By doing so, I find that either 1) my use of context clues had led me to correctly intuit the meaning of the word, OR 2) that I was wildly wrong. Either way, I remember the word and its meaning far better than I would have if I had followed my teachers’ advice to STOP AND LOOK IT UP. As a tutor, I can appear to be far more reasonable than my teachers were by suggesting this approach. This bookmark is a place where kids can write unknown words with page numbers as they read a chapter, then look them up and re-read in context.
Vocabulary Bookmark – free! (print on card stock)
I’ve never required kids to do a lot of memorizing, but since we tutors must help with whatever the student needs to learn, I’ve been (enjoyably) forced to come up with mnemonic strategies. A couple of years ago, a 4th-grade student’s mom was trying to get him into a very exclusive school. One of the requirements, for whatever reason, was that he know the 23 helping verbs by heart. Hmmm. . . I thought it was kind of stupid, but he had to learn them within a week or so (along with a lot of other things), so here’s what I came up with. I’ve actually come around to thinking that memorizing these is not a bad idea. Since kids get very hung up on verbs being ACTIONS, helping verbs can be hard to recognize.
Steps to Memorizing the 23 Helping Verbs – free!
- List of 23 Helping Verbs (in six sections)
- Partly Blank List version 1
- Partly Blank List version 2
- Blank List to fill in
OK, this one is really strange, but I like making my brain memorize random lists (doesn’t everyone?), and can make almost any method sound reasonable (at least to myself). Another student had to memorize all 17 subordinating conjunctions. My first impulse was to alphabetize them and see what happened. It was so cool! All of them started with either A, B, E, S, T, U or W. Well, obviously this spells “A Best. . .” but what could UW stand for? UNDERWEAR! Yes! The conjunctions are listed under their initial letters in the left column. The students study them: 5 conjunctions begin with A, 2 with B, 1 with E, 2 with S, one with T, 2 with U and 4 with W. The other three columns give only the initial letter and numbers, so the students fold the first column under after studying, write down all they remember in column 2, note the ones that slipped out of memory, fold and repeat through column 4. Then they try listing all on plain paper. It worked well for this student and now I know them, too. So, this is the A BEST UnderWear method for learning the 17 subordinating conjunctions. And it’s FREE!
Subordinating Conjunctions Memorization – free!
The following materials are probably most appropriate for grades 7-10, depending on at what point parts of speech, sentence structure, direct / indirect objects, predicate nouns / adjectives and verbals have been introduced or need to be reviewed. They have been very useful in the tutoring setting, and may be helpful in the classroom, too. I have used the parts of speech (hereafter POS) pre/posttest as part of an informal evaluation along with a quick vocabulary survey (from the old Test of Written Language) and a prompt for a writing sample. The pre/posttest requests definitions and/or examples of each POS. The results are always interesting (and occasionally entertaining!). The instructions ask students to define each part of speech and give examples, but they are encouraged to give examples even if they can’t give definitions. After work on POS, I give the same “test” again — perhaps more than once as they become more self-assured. See my Grammar Diagrams, which includes a Parts of Speech Diagram that not only defines, but gives many examples of each POS.
Parts of Speech pre-/post-test – free!
MATH – Grades K-4
Just as with letter formation, unconventional ways of forming numerals makes legibility a real impediment: it’s bad enough that the teacher can’t read the work, even worse that the students themselves can’t! The first is for general teaching of numeral formation 0-9 (all dotted with arrows) and 0-9 with one dotted, arrowed model and space for more practice.
Basic Numeral Writing – Intro and Practice
When students’ difficulty with numeral formation stems from laterality issues, I first make sure their left / right sense is intact (marching, clapping games, etc.), then introduce the numerals in groups: the “drop down” numbers (1, 4, 5), the “start left, move right” numbers (2, 3, 7), then the “start right, move left” numbers (6, 8, 9 and 0). We make it a chant:
Drop down numbers one, four, five;
Left to right? Two, three, seven;
Right to left, six, eight, nine, zero.” Yeah, it doesn’t exactly rhyme, but put the emphasis on the bold syllables and it’s still chantable. [Note: If your child has not learned how to reliably, consistently and confidently count to 10 correctly, drill that into his/her little head for MONTHS before teaching this chant! This order is just for help in numeral formation.]
Numeral Writing with Laterality Emphasis
- Structured Practice
- “No net” Practice – this worksheet says, “You’re on your own now:”
ADDITION / SUBTRACTION (number family approach)
All materials in this section are included in the Add/Subtract Number Family Bundle – $
I was an odd child, I guess. I loved to play with dominos – not the actual game (that would have involved human interaction), but to arrange them in a large diamond from double zero at the bottom to double nine at the top. When introducing addition and subtraction or sharing a new appreciation of patterns with students, I start with double-nine dominoes (with each number in a different color, no less – these are available at Walgreens, Target, etc.) and help them build this diamond. These worksheets replicate that diamond on 2 sheets of paper, the bottom half of the diamond on the first page, the top half on the second. The “completed” sheets show the number pattern that will make the number families clear, e.g., the nines include 9 + 0, 8 + 1, 7 + 2, 6 + 3, and 5 + 4 (in that order). Have the students study the completed diamond to find how the pattern works, then fill in (from memory, if possible) the one with blanks.
The Add Subtract Number Family Fill-In is to help students become proficient at showing the addition and subtraction facts that go with each family. I suggest that you print them on card stock, laminate and cut on the dotted lines. You’ll end up with 5 cards on which students can write the facts with fine-point dry erase markers. The card with only one family can be used for 0, 1, 17 or 18; the card with two families is for 2, 3, 15 or 16; the card for three families is for 4, 5, 13 or 14; the card for four families is for 6, 7, 11 or 12; and the one for 5 families is for 8, 9 and 10.
Number Family Diamond, 0-18 completed and blank + Number Family Fill-In – $1 (7 pages)
(print Fill-In pages on card stock and laminate for re-use)
For added reinforcement of number families (and fun), here are actual domino cards, with the same colors as the dominoes (at least the ones I have). The sum is printed on the back of each card. Since subtraction is the real test of whether the families are known and understood, an activity that can be done with the domino cards is to pull all of the cards with a particular sum (e.g. all those with “12″ printed on the back), fold the card back half way to reveal one set of dots from the opposite side (e.g. 4 dots), and ask the student how many dots must be on the hidden face of the card (in this case, 8).
Dominoes 0-18 FRONT and BACK – $5 (print in color on card stock – pp. 1-19 front, pp. 20-38 back)
Here are flash cards, color-coded with addition on one side, related subtraction on other. I like to teach adding zeroes, tens and doubles first, then the rest of the number families learned (ideally!) by using the diamonds, fill-ins and dominoes described above. Print pp. 1-15 for the fronts (addition), pp.16-30 (subtraction) for the backs. As with all my cards, they have a little dotted line in the upper right-hand corner so you can snip it off and voilà — the cards will always be right side up when you align the cut-off corners!
Add / Subtract Number Family Flashcards, FRONT and BACK – $3 (print in color on card stock)
This is another ridiculously simple form that is a good adjunct to teaching place value. Suggested uses: 1) Dictate numbers that students write into appropriate columns, or (more fun) 2) Have the students fill in one line with random digits and teach them how to read the completed number with correct place value nomenclature. Use the opportunity to introduce the paradox that many kids I teach haven’t fully understood: lines of text are aligned on the left margin when writing, but numbers, when arranged for computation, are aligned on the right (next to the ones column).
PLACE VALUE CHARTS – whole numbers, whole numbers & decimals – free!
MATH – Grades 3-8
Here is the place value chart for whole numbers from the K-4 section again, plus one for whole number and decimals. Again, if you dictate numbers with decimals, e.g., 23 and 67 thousandths, the student can learn to place the 67 in such a way that the 7 is in the thousandths place, thus seeing that a zero will have to be inserted to hold the tenths place (23.067). Use these as you wish and let me know if you see a way to make them more useful.
PLACE VALUE CHARTS – whole numbers, whole numbers & decimals – free!
Rounding to Tens, Hundreds, Thousands
This is a demonstration that I find useful because it gives a visual, concrete image of “the nearest ____.” For example, on the thermometer it’s easy to see that 46 is closer to 50 than it is to 40. I have found this a helpful adjunct for many kids since verbal instructions for rounding (e.g., “5 or more, raise the score; 4 or less, let it rest”), can be followed without understanding the concept.
ROUNDING THERMOMETERS – free!
MULTIPLICATION / DIVISION
A very basic way for students to learn what multiplication is about is simple skip-counting. On these charts, the student uses highlighters to color the sequence of numbers in each set of facts. The experience is fun and also provides an introduction to divisibility patterns in a visual as well as conceptual way.
SKIP-COUNT charts to 10, 12 (free)
Factoring and Divisibility
Division is generally more difficult for kids than multiplication. They often learn the facts from the multiplication point of view and are then taught that division is the inverse operation. Of course it is, but learning to factor will reinforce both multiplication and division AND be very useful in fractions and algebra as well. So, here are some cards that simply have products of simple multiplication facts on one side and the factors on the back. Why? Because at some point, students need to simply see the number 63 and know instantly that 7 and 9 are among its factors.
Students who come for tutoring often have trouble in class because the assumption is made that “anyone who knows that 7 x 9 is 63 should be able to look at the number 63 and know that its factors include 7 & 9.” This simply isn’t so for every kid. Making this connection explicit pulls everything together AND leads to further exploration into factors and divisibility.
The cards here are basically the opposite of multiplication flashcards (and somewhat different from division flashcards). The teacher shows the product and the student names all factor pairs, which are listed on the back of the cards. The first set is products to 100 (facts through tens), the second set is products to 144 (facts through twelves). Only exact products obtained by multiplication facts are represented, i.e., no 34 or 57 or 61, so the only prime numbers presented are 2, 3, 5, 7 (and 11 in the 12 x 12 set). It’s a good introduction to the concept of primes. Print on card stock, 12 x 12 in color if you want to distinguish it from 10 x 10.
Find Factors Cards – products through 10 x 10 – free! (pp. 1-4 front, pp. 5-8 back – black and white)
Find Factors Cards – products through 12 x 12 – free! (pp. 1-5 front in color, pp. 6-10 back, black only)
Once factors are understood well, the DIVISIBILITY fun begins! To teach the Rules of Divisibility, we go back to a 1-100 chart, highlight the multiples of a number and see if we can figure out a rule for numbers that are divisible by that factor. First, the easy ones: 10, 5, and 2. Most kids can figure these out easily. Then, 3, 9 and 6, which they will likely need help with, but the summing of digits is not hard once learned. Finally, 4 and 8. There is a rule for finding whether a number is divisible by 7, but it’s REALLY complicated and not particularly helpful (nor, to my mind, worth the trouble).
With the following charts, you can help your student(s) discover the rules of divisibility for 10, 5, 2, 3, 9 and 6. I usually introduce only these 6 rules, which can be very helpful in finding greatest common factors (GCF), which is helpful in simplifying fractions.
To find whether a number is divisible by 4 or 8 involves finding whether the last two (in the case of 4) or the last three (in the case of 8) digits are divisible by 4 or 8. There are several ways to find out if a number is divisible by 7, none of which is at all practical. To my mind, the only reason to go beyond the first six is if students are really interested. In case they are, here’s a sheet that explains the rules for 4, 8 and 7.
Discovering the Rules of Divisibility: 10, 5, 2, 3, 9, 6, 4, 8, 7 – $2 (3 pages)
The most advanced set of Find Factors cards includes ALL numbers 0-144, including primes. On the back of each card is the set of whole numbers factors AND prime factorization. I find that students LOVE learning to make factor trees, circling primes along the way, putting the primes in numerical order, and, best of all, using a dot for the multiplication symbol and exponents! The Learning and Games suggests some ways of using these cards and the Rules of Divisibility to teach prime factorization. Print on card stock, in color.
Find Factors Cards – ALL numbers 0-144 – FRONT and BACK – $3
Students generally find that whole number adding and subtracting is much easier than multiplying and dividing, and assume that the same will be true for fraction operations. These flow charts make clear that the opposite is true: multiplication and division of fractions is MUCH simpler than adding and subtracting.
Practically speaking, I have found that these charts give me an overview and help ME break down the steps for teaching students who have difficulty with fractions. Students with AFP (acquired fraction phobia) find them a bit overwhelming, at least at first. They crystalize the processes and illuminate:
- the foundational knowledge is necessary for conceptual understanding
- how learning how to find GCF (greatest common factor) makes simplifying fractions so much quicker
- why using LCM (least common multiple) is the best choice when finding common denominators
So, for teachers, linear thinker students and kids sharpening up hazy memories of fractions, here are flow charts for adding/subtracting and multiplying/dividing fractions. I have dreamed of something like this for years but couldn’t quite think that hard, so my daughter Katherine Plattner, who analyzes and visualizes extremely well, created them.
FRACTION FLOW CHART add subt / FRACTION FLOW CHART mult div – $1
I really like to use number lines in teaching fractions; it’s a nice break from cutting up pizzas, for one thing. For another, I think it gives kids a better understanding of how fractions relate to each other. These six half-page exercises show a number line from zero to one. On the first two of these exercises, there is a small line showing where ½ is, and they are asked whether given fractions are more, less or equal to one-half. In order to do this, they will break the line into the number of pieces indicated by the denominator of the fraction, count to see where the given numerator is and insert < > or = in the box. On the second page, the line from zero to one has no marking, so the student can just split the line into the right number of equal spaces and locate the spot showing the given fraction and draw an X. The third sheet has no given fractions, so the student can either write given fractions dictated by the teacher or think up some of their own.
FRACTION NUMBER LINES – zero to 1 – $1
Many have tried to distill lists of words that give clues to whether to add, subtract, multiply or divide to solve word problems. Being very opinionated, I usually take exception to them for one reason or another. For instance, it bugs me when kids are told that the word “each” indicates either multiplication or division. . . hmmm, not too helpful. This is my best effort to date in making my own list. I’m sure I’ll end up changing something at some point, and will update it on here when I do.
Clues for Choosing Operations in Word Problems – free!
Negative numbers are difficult to explain with manipulatives. I’ve seen a football field with yard lines used as an example, and it’s a good one, but since my understanding of the game is limited to the field’s resemblance to a number line, I need a different approach. I’ve certainly experienced a bank account that goes below zero, but students’ eyes glaze over when I try to convince them that owing money means that you have less than nothing. Thermometers, of course, actually go below zero, so that’s a good visual image. Kids who live in Phoenix, who have never seen a thermometer even approaching zero, can still imagine ascending and descending a ladder that starts deep underground. Ground zero is precisely zero, but the ladder will take you up above (positive integers) and down below (negative integers).
Integer Visuals SET (in color; print on card stock) – $1
- Thermometer Number Lines
- Ladder Number Lines