Friday, 28 August 2015

Phonemic Awareness-"Silly or Real"

Just over a week and we'll be back in school here in B.C.!  Summer has flown by.
I've spent a lot of my career teaching first grade. Phonemic awareness is so important for emergent readers and kids who are able to "play" with sounds are generally quicker to catch on to reading. 
I was lucky to teach in a primary school (we only had kindies and first and second grade) and we were able to focus all our resource $ on early primary. One of the things we were able to get for every classroom in the mid 90’s was a reading program called Open Court. It has been revised several times in the intervening years. This student workbook is part of the 2005 edition. We were working with the first edition published around 10 years earlier. 

The program was published by McGraw-Hill and came with a huge range of resources. It was incredibly well researched and the credits go on for pages. Many of the contributors were ones that later became familiar to me when I was doing post graduate courses in Literacy Instruction. The senior editor for the Open Court program was the late Dr. Michael Pressley, my ELA hero.
One of the things that I really loved about the program were the daily oral exercises that were set out in the Teacher's Guide. There was a wide range of them and I believe they made a significant contribution to the success of the program in effectively teaching young students to read. The school I was working in was in a small, rural community. About 40% of our students were from the three First Nations bands in the area. The third year I was using the program my students' average reading level (DRA) was 32 at the end of the year. The school district's level for "meeting expectations" was around 17 at the end of grade one. This was a highly effective program. 
One of my favourite exercises went like this:
Teacher:  My word is fan.  What if I changed the last sound to (make a 't' sound) ?  
Kids:  Fat.
Teacher:  Now change the first sound in fat to (make an m sound). 
Kids:  Mat.  
And so on for about 10 - 15 changes. 
But every now and then I'd go off script and throw in something like:  Change the last sound in mat to  (make a z sound). 
The kids thought this was hilarious and were always waiting for me to toss out a silly word. 
This gave me the idea for a ELA /Work on Words center that I've been using with my students for years. I originally had little rubber tiles that were like Scrabble tiles and I hand wrote the vowels on a sheet of paper for them. Last year I made it up on my computer and called it "Silly or Real"  It worked well and was much in demand.
Click HERE to head over to TpT to get the freebie in the preview file.

I just posted Real or Not Real to MY TpT STORE .The freebie is in the preview file. If you download it please take a moment to rate it.  AND this is the first time I've uploaded a preview file, so if there are any glitches please let me know.  I tested it out and it seems to be good.

I'm joining Freebie Friday hosted by Fern Smith at Teaching Blog Addict this week. Click on THIS LINK  to head over and get more freebies!

P.S.:  If you happen to have any copies of Open Court lurking in the dark corners of your school's book room I recommend that you check them out, especially the Teacher's Guide.

Friday, 21 August 2015

I Have, Who Has Mini Games

I am frantically getting ready for Back to School.  How can it be that there is still so much SCHOOL STUFF to do???  Isn't it supposed to be summer holiday time?

Actually I did go to the lovely town of Salmon Arm, B.C. on Wednesday.  It is right on the gorgeous Shuswap Lake about an hour drive east of where I live.

I have just finished making and updating a bunch of I Have, Who Has mini games that I use with my small groups in Language Arts.  I already had these 3 sets posted in my TpT store, but decided to make more because they worked really well and the kids enjoyed them so much.

 Here are the 3 new sets that I made:

I'm sure that you have played I Have, Who Has? with your class.  I have, too, but I really prefer to do it with a small group.  In the large setting kids get bored because they have to wait so long for their turn.  In a group of 5 or 6 kids they each have 2 or 3 cards (I made 12 cards in each set) and the game goes quite quickly, so they stay focused listening to the person who is reading so they will know when it is their turn.
Here is an example of a card from each of the 6 diphthong sets.
The cards are a mixture of real words and silly words.  The kids LOVE reading the silly words!  I originally had all silly words on the cards, but decided that there would be more reading support if there were actual words too.  For example, if they started out reading "look" then reading "mook" is not a big stretch, and if they have difficulty I can remind them that the word they are trying to read rhymes with "look".
I have been selling these sets in my TpT store for $1 each, but bundled them all up for a saving of almost 50%.
To get them click HERE.  They are excellent for introducing and reviewing the diphthong sounds and spellings.  I have used them with both grade 1's and grade 2's.
I have made the oi/oy set free so that you can try them out with your small groups.  Get them HERE.

Sunday, 16 August 2015


I'm I have enjoyed reading all the great posts from the teacher bloggers who have joined this BTS in a Flash linky the past weeks. There are so many super ideas out there that I can't wait to try out in my classroom!

This week the topic is things we do to foster our students' engagement. 
Here are a couple of things that have been successful for me over the years. 

Reading aloud to kids!  I try to read at least once to them every day. I was feeling a time pinch a couple of years ago so I started reading chapter books to them while they were eating their morning snack. I wondered whether they would feel unhappy that I had requisitioned part of their "visiting" time, but the first time I didn't do it they let me know in no uncertain terms that it was one of the highlights of their day. Sometimes I read an entire book to them over the course of a couple of weeks, and sometimes I just read a chapter or two to entice them into reading it themselves. 

When I read picture books to my students I usually do it first thing in the morning and then have them do a follow up activity. One of the favourites I've found is to write a postcard pretending that they are a character from the story, or that they are writing to a character. My students have really enjoyed doing this and I've even been asked frequently if they can write more than one postcard.  
I blogged about Scaredy Squirrel and an activity I do after reading HERE. There's a freebie in the post!

Something that really changed my classroom was having large blocks of time for Language Arts and Math centers. These are often hands on activities and include playing a variety of games with a partner or in small groups. I bought Fountas and Pinnell's book Guided Reading:  Good First Teaching for All Students at a workshop many years ago. It was pretty expensive for me at the time, but it's a purchase I never regretted. It not only gives explicit instructions for running Guided Reading groups, but has excellent info on setting up LA centers. 

Once I got started with centers the kids loved them so much I knew I'd never look back. I set up a rotation board that told the type of activity they'd be doing at a certain time, and they would often get a choice of what they did. Being able to pick which activity they want to do is a big factor in keeping students focused and engaged in their work. 
FOOD!  Whenever I fit eating into the curriculum they are 100% on board. This works really well with Social Studies. Studying about China? Bring in fortune cookies!

Or with a zillion read alouds!  Here are a few of the obvious ones. 

In Math I sometimes make little edible counters (eg fishy crackers) part of the lesson, especially when we need manipulatives to work on a concept in small groups. No eating until we're done, though!
Check out the other posts in the collection, or better yet, add your own.  I'd love to hear what you do in your classroom!

Rotating Buddies

Oh! Snap!  It IS almost September! At least it's officially half way through August and that's getting very close. 
If you're not back at school yet like me, you're probably starting to think about it a lot. Time to start getting ready. 
One of the first things I do after I get my class list is get my buddy system ready.
I have tried all sorts of systems for classroom partners including choose your own buddy (takes too long if you do it one student at a time, causes too much angst if you do it en masse) and drawing sticks, but this is the one I've been using for the last 15 years and it works really well for me.
I make name tags for each of the kids, laminated and backed with a magnet.  I put them on my chalkboard (now painted with whiteboard paint) in two columns in alphabetical order going down the left side, around and up the right side.   

Here is a sample of what the rotation would look like.  Since I don't have my class list yet I made up one. This is a great class (16 students?  In my dreams!) with pretty good gender balance.  Also great 
for teaching alphabetical order (and -y

If the list on the left was for Monday the one to the right would be Tuesday - I rotate the name tags counter clockwise at the end of each day.  This year I'll have second and third graders, so I'll get one of them to do it as an end-of-the-day job.
If there's an odd number of kids in the class  I have a single on the top one day and on the bottom the next.  That student has the same options as students whose buddies are away.

The kids keep the same buddy for most activities all day.  Everyone knows who their buddy is and who it will be tomorrow.  No waste of time deciding who will be buddies and no disappointment that someone didn't get chosen.  Everyone takes turns buddying with everybody else.  If a student is away I just pull their name out to the side for that day.  The person across the list from them buddies with another student who has no buddy or, if they are all buddied up, gets to choose to either join another pair, have me for a buddy (if I'm available for the activity) or another adult who is in the class, or go solo, if that is a possibility. 
 I also make tags that say Right and Left (they look tiny in my picture, but they're actually the same size as the name tags - I added them to my screen as an afterthought and didn't have much room to fit them in-LOL) on them and put them above the names, so I can direct them e.g.: the person on the left gets to go first and the one on the right gets to pick the spot where they'll do the activity. It is also good for re-enforcing the left/right concept.
I don't use this system for times when they are going to do a partner activity after finishing work because it's unlikely that they will both be finished at the same time.  When a student is done they go to get the things they will need for the activity then wait for the next person to join them.
If you'd like to make a set for your class you can pick them up HERE. They're editable in Word.
If you use Pages get them HERE.
I have a few things in my TpT store that are great to pull out in September. 
Getting to Know You is an activity I put together for my class to do during the first couple of weeks. 
To get them hooked on doing the activity I call it a "game" and add a dice rolling component. 
Incentive tags are a standby in my classroom. The kids love to collect them. My printer and laminator will be at work soon printing up these September ones. 
They are $1 in my TpT store HERE.
Or if you'd like a great deal get the fall three month combo set. 
They're usually $2 but right now they're on sale HERE for only $1.25. 

 I'm off to link up with Teacher Deals and Dollar Steals for their September linky.  Hop on over to get some great goodies for your classroom.


Friday, 14 August 2015

BTS in a Flash: Curriculum Must-Haves

Happy Sunday!  It's almost time for many of you out there to go back to your classroom. This always brings mixed emotions for me;  the exciting freshnes and anticipation of a brand new school year, and the sadness that summer is done. The first is always foremost for me, though.   I love going back every SEPTEMBER, so I'm enjoying all these great ideas. Last week's linky featured must-haves for the classroom. I found a bunch of things to put on my own shopping list!
I don't go back to school until SEPTEMBER, but I'm thinking about it early (did I ever stop?) and sharing you these curriculum favourites of mine with you. Visit the linky by clicking HERE.
The first product is one I've created and just recently added to my TpT store. 
I had so much fun making this Scaredy Squirrel Goes Camping pack that I am really looking forward 
to making them for the other books in the series. 
There are 10 literacy activities included. 
The first is my favourite. I used it after reading the book to my class last year and they were very 
enthused. It's an emergency kit craftivity for things you might need on a camping trip. 
Also in the pack are an interview with Scaredy, writing instructions for putting up a tent and making 
S'mores, making lists, a sheet for recording connections after listening to the story, a book recommendation sheet, and writing an opinion piece on camping vs watching TV.  It's available at my TpT store HERE.
If you'd like a preview of this pack I made up a freebie with 3 of the activities in it. Get it You can pick it up HERE.
My second must-have is something I use all the time in my classroom. It is Digit Dual by Miss 
It is an excellent combination of flashcards and Snap!  As they come in after recess each day my students pair up to practise their Math facts. These cards are by far the most sought after activity during this time.  I printed up 6 sets on different coloured papers and they are always selected first. The partners sit facing each other with the cards face down between them. They take turns flipping the cards and the first to say the correct answer gets the card. 
There are 19 pages with 12 cards on each. 
Last, but not least is a product that's on my Wish List. I can hardly wait until the Teachers Pay Teachers BTS sale starts. My list is pretty crowded but this is at the top. It is from the immensely talented Reagan Tunstall. 
I do Guided Math in my classroom and am always scrambling to put together both a whole class lesson plus small group lessons. In the fall I'll have a conbined class and have been groaning about how much more planning that will entail. But Regan has made this brilliant set of lessons for Math. It includes whole group lessons, small group lessons, detailed instructions, and differentiation for a variety of learners. I read her blog about this product I knew I HAD to have it. 
These are some of the pages from the preview. 
Click to see her post. She has much better pictures and information on it than I can give you. Go to her blog HEREto learn more. 
Get this product HERE

It's almost midnight here on the west coast and that means the TpT sale is officially ON!  I'm heading there to do a little shopping before I go to sleep. I hope you are able to get some of those great items off your wish list and into your classroom too!

BTS Survey and Graphing activity

Even though the end of summer is approaching, I am loving August. The days are more mellow than July, the fresh fruit is in season, the garden is lush with produce, and we travel to Courtenay (one of my favourite spots on earth) on Vancouver Island to visit my mum and dad. 
This is a view of the Comox glacier much like I used to be able to see from our yard every clear day when I grew up. Now trees obscure the view in the summer. AND there is WAY less ice because the glacier has receded so much due to global warming. I heard that it's been predicted that it will completely disappear in around 35 years. 
I am linking up today (a tad tardily) with The Third Grade Zoo where Jessicca is sponsoring a BTS freebie/tips party. Click on her blog title to hop over and get some great ideas.
Last summer I made this BTS Meanwhile, I finished up this project. It's my BTS Survey Questions 
and graphing activity. I think your class will enjoy it as much as mine does. 
My class used it last fall and they begged me for more so I made up a bunch of others that they could use during Math center time throughout the school year. 
This package has four different questions. Here's a sample:
The other questions are How do you get to school, Which season do you like best? And What are the best kind of apples?
After they finish surveying their classmates they make a graph of the results. I wanted to make this so that beginning readers could do it so I included pictures as well as words for them to use on the survey question cards as well as the graphing activity.
Pick it up here for free (at least for a while).