To celebrate the posting of a couple of great new products on Teachers Pay Teachers, we thought we would bring you some suggestions on fun ways to practice beginning reading skills, at school and at home.
- Go on a noisy letter or word hunt: Give each student letters or words to look for (the bookmarks in our Sight Word Hunt & Bingo Packs are perfect for this) and send them around the room, looking through books and environmental print for their words. Have them read them out to a partner when they find them. Add an element of competition by seeing who can find all of their letters or words first (beware of the strugglers and the non-competitive ones in the bunch. Make sure they feel successful too!),
- Go on a quiet letter or word hunt: Take the noisy word hunt down a notch and make it more suitable for center time, quiet time or individual activity. Give each student a set of letters or words and a stack of books. They can place their bookmark in the page where they found the match. If you want to check them, have students share their findings with a partner (or an older buddy or classroom volunteer) or conference with them one-one yourself. Great practice and a quick and easy check for you to see where they are (track the words they know and then you have a record come report card time).
- Play I have, Who has...: This game takes a little bit of set up but is really easy to do once you get the hang of it (and easy to re-use!). Make 2 copies of the letters/sight words you plan to use, making sure you have enough words for 1 word per student (to make it really easy, copy them on two different colours). Lay out all of your words side by side, keeping identical words side by side (your pattern would be AA-BB-CC, etc). Take one copy of the first word and place it at the end. Starting with the first word, hand 2 words to each student, the first in their left hand, the second in their right, making sure you keep the words in order (this is where the two colours comes in handy - you can quickly see if they are holding them in the correct hands). It's more fun if the students are not standing in the same order as the words were laid out. The first student then says "I have..." and reads the word in their left hand, followed by "Who has..." and the word in their right hand. The person with that word then repeats the process, saying "I have (word in left hand), Who has (word in right hand). If you've set it up properly, it will come all the way back around to the first person!
- Play "Word Detective": Write a secret message to the class, leaving blanks for the sight words you want them to practice. Hand out the missing words and ask the students to read their word to a partner. Then explain that you wrote them a message but that the sneaky word wizard came and zapped out some of the words, so now you need some help reading it. Begin reading the message, pausing at blanks and allowing the students to figure out what word is missing. The student(s) with that word can then come up and place their word in the space, helping to complete the message. Yay, they saved the day!
- Build Your Words: This one is great for kinesthetic learners and those who need some work on fine motor control. Using playdough, lego, alphabet blocks, stamps, magnetic letters, or any other building material you can think of, allow students to build the letters in their words. Be sure they read them to a partner or to you to complete the transfer of knowledge!
- Clap & Stomp Your Words: Another great one for kinesthetic or musically inclined learners! As you say the name of each letter in your word, clap the consonants and stomp the vowels, shouting the word out at the end. Or, get creative and try one of the following variations: Lasso your words - sit backwards on your chair (like a horse) and circle your arm in the air above your head as you say each letter in the word (1 circle per letter). As you say the whole word, throw your lasso and rope that word in! Cheer your words - hold pompoms (real or pretend, it's up to you), and shake them as you say each letter, high for consonants, low for vowels. At the end, jump in the air and shout that word out. Disco your words - Just like John Travolta! Point high and to the side for consonants, low and across your body for vowels, jazz hands to finish!
We hope you have fun trying some of these activities out with your class! Let us know how it goes...
PS - These products are part of a series of products that we'll continue to put up on TpT as we finish them. Keep checking our store if you want all the Dolch Sight Words!
This week we bring you some great books about those hallowed repositories of the written language - libraries. As the kid of a career librarian, I have many, many fond memories of days spent "at work" with my mom, set free to roam the stacks, browsing through books at my leisure. My daughters love the library and beg to go to storytime on a regular basis. These books, culled from my mother's collection, are regular requests from my daughters when we visit my mom and dad. Each one has a different rhythm, a different feel but each one showcases the buildings that for me hold so many memories - the library.
Library Lion (Michelle Knudsen) is such a beautiful, peaceful book with beautiful, peaceful illustrations. It opens doors to discussions about rules and rule-breaking, about acceptance of differences (after all, who lets a lion in to the library?!) and about making a mistake and making amends. Paired with other books, Library Lion really does lend itself to a wide variety of emotional intelligence themes. Used well, it could be an excellent book for transforming students' thinking about who belongs where, understanding and acceptance. The alliteration of the title just cries out for young writers to come up with their own places and animals (Starbucks Starfish, anyone?), creating the starting point for some fun and interesting stories, with equally fun and interesting drawings. Then again, it is such a calming read that maybe you just want to read it in that lull that comes right after lunch.
The Library (Sarah Stewart) is a quirky little gem of a book. The main character, Elizabeth Brown, is not interested in any of the things "normal" children want to do; she only wants to read. And as she reads, and reads, and reads, she accumulates such a vast collection of books that she ends up trapped in her own house. What she does with those books is suggested by the titile. The rhythm of this book is wonderful and Elizabeth Brown will resonate with your little ones who always have their noses in a book. Again, great for discussions about differences and making a difference (a perfect pairing with Miss Rumphius!) and transforming thinking.
Wild About Books (Judy Sierra) is just pure fun! Completely different in tone from the first two books, Wild About Books is for noisy reading, with a rollicking rhyme that just begs to be emphasized with the pacing and pitch of your voice. It's message is also different from the first two, as it focuses on learning to love reading and subsequently writing. It does open the door for discussions about differences though, as each group of animals choose to read different books. A great one for beginning of the year activities about choosing "just right books", it might even encourage your students to work on building their own classroom library!
Have you got any favourites about the library? We'd love to hear them!
Fourteen years into my teaching career and Literacy has always been my primary love. Teaching little people to read and write and seeing the world of books from new eyes brings me an immense amount of joy. I have spent many hours discussing how to get students who are reluctant readers and writers to be engaged. I have given ideas and activities to encourage parents who are at their wits end.
This year I’ve met my match.
He’s an incredibly bright little boy who reads above grade level, his oral comprehension and imagination are exceptional. Getting him to write however, is like pulling teeth. He comes up with every excuse in the book and truth be told our writing sessions are looking more and more like wrestling matches.
As irony would have it, this little boy also happens to be my son.
So this past year I have been on a mission to come up with inventive and exciting ways to encourage my son to write. I’ve tried video prompts, engaging hands on activities, lists, letters and stories. We’ve run laps between sentences, had writing breaks and tried every time of the day.
Writing is still a struggle. He has a million ideas but trying to get them on paper is hard. He immediately becomes tired, grumpy and is distracted by the smallest of things. Even though attention can be an issue for him at times if I put a math sheet in front of him or a book or Lego he’s able to focus for hours.
So this summer my task has been reading everything I can about boys and literacy. It seemingly has become a theme for me; people I hardly know have come up and asked me about getting their boys to read and write. Dinner party conversations have taken a turn to our education system and boys and the question of does our current system meet the needs of busy boys. I’ve begun asking myself, what can we do differently at our school to engage our boys and not only teach them to read and write, but create a culture where they choose to?
I believe things begin to change when we not only recognize the problem, but begin asking questions. I don’t think it’s coincidence I have a son who is demonstrating these challenges. It’s motivating me to find an answer. I would love to end this post telling you I’ve discovered a quick fix, but we’re definitely a work in progress. My son and I are on a quest to find ways to engage not only him but other boys like him. At the end of his school career I would love to be able to say that I’ve helped him not only learn to read and write, but Love to, and Choose to.
Stay tuned as the questions turn in to answers...
It’s Monday, and we are excited to participate in a weekly event with a group of bloogers who love books as much as we do.
With school start up around the corner (we hope!), we have been revisiting some of our favorite books for setting the stage for learning in our classroom. Since our classroom happens to be Literacy classroom that the majority of our school visits we look for books that will appeal to a wide variety of grades.
It’s Hard to be a Verb - Written by Julia Cook
Definitely one of my new favorite finds (really anything by Julia Cook). Her messages are easy for kids to relate to and often have teachable moments at the back which are kid friendly. In It’s Hard to Be a Verb, a little boy with some “wiggle” issues learns to understand himself better. This is an excellent book for connecting as so many of our little people deal with the “wiggles”. My son LOVED that there was a book with a character that dealt with some of the same issues that he does. When I read this book to my students at the end of the year last year the connections that were made were excellent and the class ended up brainstorming their own ideas for dealing with the wiggles. This will definitely become one of my first reads to my students this school year (and every year).
The Kissing Hand - Written by Audrey Penn
Definitely a tried and true story for the first days of school. Guaranteed to make parents cry and comfort kids. This adorable story about a little raccoon’s first day of school is an excellent read for Kindergarten. My grade one daughter still asks for a kissing hand every once and a while when she’s feeling worried about us leaving. The activities that you can do with this book are endless. A great book for connecting!
There are so many amazing reads out there and one of the things I love the most about my job is the discovery of new books. If only I had just a wee bit more time to read them!!
As you read through this blog, I know many of you are thinking "there's no way I could do this in my school. I'm not lucky enough to have an extra empty classroom just begging to be filled with fabulous literacy teaching materials." (for more on what said classroom looks like, click here) And you may be right. Your school might be so packed to the gills that your specialist teachers teach in closets or bookrooms or whatever nook or cranny they can shove themselves into (wonderful image, isn't it?) and your classrooms are spilling out into the hallways. But you can take this show on the road. The classroom is a bonus, not the basis, for this fabulous thing we call the Lit Pit.
It's totally doable. And worth it. I promise.
Think about it. This could be you. Your very own Traveling Literacy Road show. Going classroom to classroom, peddling the latest in amazing kid lit. Astounding students with your super-fantastic, amazingly engaging literacy lessons. Never once dropping a book as you move quickly and oh-so-quietly through the halls. Sounds awesome, doesn't it?
Yes, yes it does. And some days, you nail it. Other days, you are dropping books left right and centre. Believe me, we know. We do this a lot. And we love it.
The Lit Pit has been an incredibly successful model of literacy instruction for us (more about that here). Even if we didn't have a dedicated space, we would still do this. I'm not gonna lie, you will have to be organized. You will have to help your classroom teachers be organized. You will have to organize the kids. But once that's done, bam, look out literacy instruction. The Lit Pit is rolling in to town!
So how would you do it? Over the next few posts, we'll share with you some of the basics of the Lit Pit and talk about how those can be tweaked to work amazingly well without a dedicated space.
The Basics #1: Collaboration
Collaboration is the foundation upon which the Lit Pit is built; without it, we don't exist. So, no matter how you decide to structure your traveling literacy road show, make sure that you are including others. In a previous post, we outlined all of the different people you can draw in to help you out if you are a classroom teacher. If you are a specialist teacher, you are the extra set of hands, eyes and brains that are contributing to this collaboration.
In the Lit Pit, collaboration happens in many different ways. We have specified blocks of time weekly in which we work together to provide time and space for teachers to meet. Frequently, I am covering primary classes so that Kristi can meet with a teacher whose class works with her in the Lit Pit. Sometimes, I even throw her in to a French Immersion classroom, just for fun! A lot of collaboration also happens on the fly...a brief conversation as a teacher heads out the door can start a snowball effect that changes what we are doing overall in the Lit Pit.
The Tweak: How drastic this tweak is depends on how far you want to go with it. When people ask me what change I think has been most beneficial to our school, I say, hands down, the collaboration blocks (3 per week, 45mins each). If you can find a way to work those in to your schedule, do it. No ifs, ands or buts. Do it. Having designated meeting times every week allows you to learn so much more about what is happening with those kids, in those classrooms. You can't replace that. If you can't make it work, carve out time before school, at lunch or after school to ensure that you are meeting with all of the teachers you work with on a regular (monthly) basis. This will keep you on track and moving the kids forward in a meaningful way.
Bring your expertise, your passion and your understanding
The Basics #2: The space
We are fortunate beyond belief to have an entire room dedicated to literacy instruction in our school (did I mention we have great admin?). We completely understand, however, that this is a rare occurrence, as most schools do not have the space or resources to set up a room like this. One of the biggest benefits of the room is that we can have all of our materials in one place and we do not need to duplicate them. We have designated places where everything is kept and an organizational system (different for Kristi and I) that allows us to have a class up and running in about 5 mins. All of our guided reading books are leveled and kept withing easy reach of the guided reading stations, allowing us to quickly move groups up or down a reading level with minimal effort. Our teachers are not responsible for bringing materials down to the Lit Pit unless they have something specific they want to work on. Easy peasy for everyone involved.
The Tweak: This is likely going to be your biggest challenge, as there are so many logistical considerations involved. To begin with, consider the physical layout of your school: Is it easy for you to get around quickly? Can you push a cart with materials? Are similar grade classrooms located near enough to one another to share materials? Where would these materials be stored? Do the classrooms themselves have enough space to store materials?
Ideally, each classroom would be a self-contained unit, with all the materials stored there within easy reach. However, space is tight, resources can be scarce and extra funding hard to come by, so this is unlikely to be the reality. Carefully consider what resources you can share and how you can do it without disrupting other classes when you come to get them. Guided reading books may need to be placed in bins and stored in a cupboard in the hallway between two classes, classroom libraries may need to be accessible to more than one class to share the wealth (think about using an app to help you manage this. Click here for some suggestions. Book bins or book bags will also likely be a life-saver here), letter tiles, iPads, lego and more may need to be rotated so that each class gets the benefit of exploring new kinesthetic ways of learning.
Once you have a good idea of what resources can be kept where, how you're going to share them and how you're going to move about the school, go ahead and invest in a good filing system. You are going to need it! Organize all of your activities by class and by station so that you are ready to pull them out at a moment's notice. Colour coding can be especially helpful in this regard - designate a specific colour of paper for each class and always copy their activities on to that colour of paper. Use the same colour to flag activities that you want to do in teacher resource books and use that colour again for your notes...see where I'm going with this? Pick a system and work it!
Next, impose a system on the teachers and students (and by impose, I mean discuss with each teacher what works for them and then impose it!). Have a designated spot in the classroom to store markers, pencils, erasers, playdoh, bookmarks, scissors, etc, etc. Have each station meet in the same place each time and have a designated student place the necessary materials at each station. Use a pre-determined signal (we use a bell) to let students know that it's time to move to the next station, after tidying up their current one. Make sure all materials are put back in their designated spots at the end of each session. The more rigid you are about the organization, the smoother the whole thing will run as the year progresses and the less work it will be for you in the long run.
Next up: Taking This Show on the Road Part 2 - The Materials & Scheduling
It has come to my attention that I may have failed to mention that the Lit Pit is a bilingual place. Yep, that's right, not only do we read, write and think in English around here, we do it in French too.
The Lit Pit seems to work equally well in both languages (see the post about our success so far). The only problem is one that is common to French Immersion teachers from sea to shining sea in this beautiful land of ours...
And by major, I mean French Immersion teachers spend a disproportionate amount of time creating their own resources in order to meet the needs of the students in their class. There are some fabulous people out there creating and sharing (shout out to Mme. Belle Feuille & La Classe de Karine, whose materials I have used over and over again) but not nearly as many as there are in English. While we can easily hop on TpT and find English resources galore for any given topic, they are few and far between in French.
Don't get me wrong, there are publishers who sell resources in French. But even then, the pool is small. And expensive. And often not exactly what you were hoping for. So your choices become: use something that doesn't quite work and try to make it fit as best you can or create something.
So many French Immersion teachers spend a lot of time and creative energy building worksheets and activities to suit the needs of their classes. Many other French Immersion teachers could benefit from using these resources in the classroom. Somehow we need to start bringing these two together!
Luckily, a colleague of mine is working on it...it's not my place to share her idea here (yet) but, if you are a French Immersion teacher, know that a resource sharing option is in the works. More on that when it happens, I promise.
For now, my small contribution to the world of French Immersion resource sharing is this: a worksheet for c dur et c doux. Some of our little guys have been struggling to differentiate between when they should read c as /k/ and when it should be /s/, so I created a few activities for them to do. They loved using the bingo dabbers on this one! Hope you enjoy it too...more to come as I build them!
I'm Bryn, teacher, mom, book lover, athlete. I am passionate about living life with my family, teaching and learning something new all the time. I hope you find something that speaks to you here on my blog and would love to hear from you too!