Thursday, December 1, 2016

Fun with Fluency!


The most important part of teaching is making sure your students are engaged and having fun!  This becomes especially challenging during these weeks leading up to Christmas and Winter Break  At least that's my opinion! :)

It's just my style in my classroom to make everything a game... because kids LOVE games!

Several years ago,  I started to create "Go Fish" and "Uno" style card games for my students.  Since I've been using these games with my students, I've seen a huge increase in the number of sight words my kiddos know by the end of the year.  When I first started teaching first grade, in 1999 (whew, that was last century :) ), the district required all first graders to learn the first 100 sight words.  So that is what I taught!

After a couple of years, and some confidence in myself as a teacher, I realized I was limiting my kids.  I started expanding the list in my classroom and raising the bar!  My students loved the challenge and soon, I was expecting them to know at least 150 sight words.  Now all of my students are exposed to at least 200, but many surpass this goal.

I'm sure you have tricks you use in your classroom, and in my classroom the trick is games!
This is one of my favorite and most versatile resources!  I created several themes, but of course, this is the one I'm putting in my Word Work tubs this month!

This resource includes 5 sets of 20 sight words...the first 100 Dolch Sight Words.  I can differentiate which words I want which group of students to use when playing a variety of games.  Students can play independently (matching / concentration), in pairs or small groups!  I love the variety!






I teach my students how to play a variety of games.  Then as the season changes, the cards change, the words may change, but the game stays the same!  So they always know how to play (in theory ;)

I'm not limited to just sight words either!  I still have some students working on sounds and blending sounds.  Here is one of my games that focuses on those pesky Nonsense Words!  



I found that my kiddos were stumped at having to read words that didn't make sense!  So, we started practicing.  This is, of course, great phonemic awareness practice and builds confidence and fluency! Now, they read those Dibels and Aimsweb Nonsense words with ease!

If your students like to play games, click on the pictures above to check these resources out for your classroom!

I hope your students enjoy Playing to Learn!




Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Joy of Reading!




Are reading logs killing the joy of reading in your students? “Reading is important!”  That is not up for debate!  But stealing the joy of reading from young children and families does not have to be part of the experience! 

So here’s the scenario: 
It’s 7:00 and your kiddos are winding down.  You’ve established a wonderful bedtime ritual of reading before bedtime.  Your children are in their cozy pajamas and you’re snuggled up together reading some great books.  You finish the last book and your children may or may not remind you to complete the reading log.  You don’t want them to miss out on the reward!  (Yes, I’ve even been THAT teacher!)  Now, the search for the backpack or the reading log begins!  Maybe you complete the reading logs and put it right back in the backpack.  Maybe you complete the reading log and leave it on the kitchen table and then it gets tossed in the recycling when you collect the newspapers.  Now it’s the next morning and you’re rushing to get ready for work and school and your searching for the backpack and the reading log. 

As a mother of 4 daughters, I have completed my “unfair” share of reading logs.  That’s right, “I have completed them!”Typical reading logs are all about the parents, right?  The parents write down the title and the minutes read or record the page numbers.  All of this usually happens right at bedtime which disrupts that moment of connection between parent, child and book!

And this is supposed to encourage our students to read?!

As a teacher for 20 years, I've assigned the weekly reading log.  I've even had parties for reading minutes and celebrated those recorded minutes!  You know...the celebration for the parents that had it all together and completed the reading log!  Well all that's in the past...

I want to encourage reading not make it a chore.  I created reading logs for my students that are fun and kid-focused!  Students take ownership of "logging" minutes and are responsible for completing the reading logs!

I want my students to read every night.  I start by asking them to read for 10 minutes a night.  But soon they realize that they have built their "stamina" and like to read longer!  These reading logs allow for students to record their reading in increments of 10 minutes.  Students, not parents, color one picture for every increment of reading.  In the picture below, students would color one Christmas light bulb for every 10 minutes!  Then after coloring five bulbs, they would have read 50 minutes!  


It's easy for them to add their own minutes (counting by 10s)  and record the weekly total!  I like how they are practicing counting, as well as reading lots!  I have several students asking for extra reading logs each week!  They love being responsible and seeing their success!  The results in my class have been great!   


Tips for Success


  • I teach my students how to set the timer on our iPads at school.  I encourage parents to show their children how to use a timer that's available at home...phone, tablet, kitchen timer...anything that the child can use INDEPENDENTLY!  
  • Practice at school first!  When I introduce Read to Self, we color in our reading logs for practice!
  • Encourage your students to read to younger siblings, pets, or stuffed animals!  It's fun to have an audience!
  • Celebrate class success instead of highlighting individual minutes!  Everyone gets to enjoy a celebration after the entire class reaches a goal.  This removes the competition!
If this sounds like something your students would enjoy,  click on the picture below for a free reading log to try!  







Sunday, November 27, 2016

Thanksgiving Vacation Writing Freebie

The day back from vacation is always full of excitement!  We've missed our friends and the predictable routine of school!  I love sharing with my students all about my vacation happenings and hearing about their experiences!   I use the excitement of our vacation breaks to launch a new writing piece!  

I like doing this by mingling to music!  I have the kiddos spread out around the classroom.  I start some fun music and they begin to mingle.  When the music stops, they stop and share something that happened over the break!  Then repeat!  I let this go until I can feel it getting too noisy and not focussed!  

Then we get down to business, writing about our break!  We write one thing we shared in each bubble!  This helps organize our writing!  Then we use the Thanksgiving Vacation paper to create a page for our class book!  

Here are some examples from last year!

First, we completed our graphic organizer.

Then, we wrote about our vacations!  I love the complete sentences and "first grade spelling"!


 Freebie


You can download this freebie to use in your classroom this year!  Happy Writing!