Sunday, January 18, 2015

Making the Most of Winter: Literacy Ideas

Winter lasts forever here in the Chicagoland area, so what do we do? We make the most of it! With my little readers, that means practicing all sorts of reading skills, but making it more exciting...with everything being winter-themed. My little friends truly love when we get new literacy centers, stories, etc that fit with our season or theme. Most of the time, they are so distracted by the new theme that they don't even realize we are working super hard- they just think everything is so fun and a game! :)

We've been working on A TON of literacy skills- from reading CVC words, identifying sight words, rhyming words and the beginning/ending sounds in words. We are practicing all these skills with a fun winter theme, of course! You can check out these literacy centers here.

Another way we keep the winter theme going in our room is through our close reading passages. These stories are so fun for my little friends to listen to and dive into. They love the passages and love even more being able to discuss the passages and then complete their own graphic organizers. They enjoy having their own passage to mark up too- they always ask me, "Can I circle this? Can I underline it?" which I just love because it shows that they really are paying attention to the text and soaking it in- woohoo!  You can check out this Winter Close Reading Pack here.

And since we are on the topic of close's a little freebie that you can check out. It's a great resource to just get you started with close reading in your classroom! This pack follows the same format as all my other close reading packs- teacher passage for displaying, lesson plan, student copy and graphic organizers for the re-readings. Grab it here!
Thanks to Hello Literacy and Teaching Super Power for the fonts and graphics! 

Have a great day!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Learn those Vowels!

Vowels can be so challenging for readers of all ages...from my ELL to my youngest readers all the way up to my 4th graders. I try to incorporate a whole lot of activities to help all my friends truly learn the vowel sounds both in and out of context.

I love these books for my littlest friends- they are fun and have tons of words with the short vowel focus of the book for my friends to listen for and identify while reading. I'll usually have them give me a thumbs up when they hear the specific vowel sound in that book, during reading, and then we make a chart together, after reading, of the words we heard.

Flip books are wonderful for several reasons. They are simple to make, hands-on for my friends to create, meaningful and can be used as a reference resource for each child! All you need is some construction paper, some scissors and markers. I cut the little strips ahead of time for each of my students, but they do all the writing.

The outside of the flip books are the vowel sounds and then under each flap my friends wrote words that began with each vowel sound. Some also drew pictures on the front of their flip books to help them remember each sound. These flip books will be staying in our room for them to refer back to whenever needed. I love that it is their own creation and that they can take personal pride in their work with these!

I love that you can make these flip books with any concept is a long vowel combinations version. Keeping with the vowel theme, the flip books can be made for long vowels with silent e, r controlled vowels, etc!

And here are some techy ways to get students engaged with learning vowels. ...I figure the more ways I can get my friends practicing them, the more likely they will learn the sounds in the end! 

This YouTube video is a fun one to help my friends actually hear and learn the vowel sounds. It compares short vs long vowels. If you have a BrainPop subscription, they also have one about vowels vs consonants. It's a great introductory lesson. Just search for short vowels once you log in!

And, if you have any iPads in your room, here are two free apps which are fun for centers! Phonics Vowels covers all kinds of vowel sounds. This one gives part of a word and matching picture, including the vowel and students have to find the missing sound to complete the word. It is good for hearing the vowel sounds repeatedly. 

Howie Finds Vowels Lite also is a game that covers a variety of vowel sounds (short, long, r controlled, vowel combinations, etc). It includes the fun monster, Howie, who the kids are trying to feed a hotdog choosing the right vowel sound that they hear, Howie can eat the hotdog! Both can be downloaded for free from iTunes. :)

Thanks to Hello Literacy for the fonts and Teaching Super Power for the fun graphics!

Have a great day!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

My Top 5 Word Work Activities

Amanda and I started blogging over at Who's Who and Who's New- it is a collaborative blog which includes lots of fabulous bloggers- go check it out, if you haven't yet! I posted this a few weeks ago on there, but wanted to share it on here as well, just in case you missed it.

I use lots of different ideas week after week, but these are my top five that keep making an appearance, day after day.  

One of the main reasons these activities stick around in my classroom is because they work and are super simple to implement each day! Below are a few ways that I use these handy little tools to help my little readers become better each day at reading new words.

Thanks to TeachingSuperPower for the graphics and Hello Literacy for the fonts!
Have a great day!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Great December Read Alouds!

Well December is here and now there are just 2 weeks left to go before winter break! I love that with each new month I can pull out some new books to use for read alouds with my little friends. My winter selection is kind of overflowing seeing that we live in the Chicagoland area and, well, winter just lasts a reallllll long time here for us. 

Here are some of my favorite Christmas-y and not-so-Christmas-y read alouds that I use in December. I included two graphic organizers {freebies} at the bottom that you can use with any winter-themed books! 

Year after year I come back to these same stories in December, generally because my students always love them...and so do I! They are just fun, good reads. We usually discuss the books as I am reading them and then do a follow up activity, like the graphic organizers below...scroll down to grab your own copy!

Thanks to Prettygrafik for the backgrounds, Hello Literacy for the fonts and Whimsy Clips & Krista Wallden for the clipart!

Download these reading response freebies here! Enjoy :)

Have a great day!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

We love our rhyming bag!

Rhyming is a huge indicator in early reading success.  If students struggle with rhyming, they often times have difficulty with reading in general. So, since this is the case, I try to incorporate rhyming activities into my lowest reading groups quite often. One of my little friends' favorite activities is our Rhyming Bag game. I did not invent this activity- I found it in a Mailbox magazine (does anyone still get those??) several years ago and it's one of those amazing activities that I still use year after year.

It's super simple to set up and can last anywhere from just a few minutes to a full on 15-20 minute activity if you want! All you need is a bag and some objects and you are ready to go.  Simply write the poem below on your whiteboard/chart paper and get ready for some rhyme time fun!

And some more directions...

I hope your little friends love this activity as much as mine do-- literally every kid always asks when we get to do our rhyming bag again after the first time I introduce it. :) Little do they know they, they are big time working on rhymes all the way through the game- both when singing the poem and picking an object! Mine tend to get very excited during this activity and by the end every child is singing (more like yelling) the words to the poem. 

One other rhyming activity I use as a follow up to practice on their own is my QR code task cards- my little friends love these as well! You can check these task cards out here

Thanks to Teaching Super Power and Jen Jones for the graphics and fonts!

Have a great day!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Thrill of Chart Paper and Markers!

Mr. Sketch markers and chart paper have become a huge part of our classroom, whether it is me making an anchor chart or my friends using them! I've never used Mr. Sketch markers and I now realize that I've been missing out-- I just love the way those markers write!

As someone who does guided reading and intervention groups all day long, let's just say that sometimes I need to add a little excitement to my life (and my little friends' lives) so that we all do not get bored.  One of the simplest ways to do this: CHART PAPER and MARKERS! ...I'm not yelling at you, I'm just emphasizing this... :) Chart paper and markers are things that do not require a lot of extra prep but can go a really long way to help get your friends super engaged in a lesson!

These are nothing fancy (which is my point- no real prep required...but still SO exciting for my friends!)...but here are some examples of reading response and vocabulary charts my friends have been doing. And i'm telling you- they LOVE getting to use the chart paper, markers, crayons, etc!

For me, the trick is just not to use such materials every day, but throw it into the mix once or twice a week and really the same thing goes for graphic organizers, games, makes guided reading FUN and exciting! Hope this gives you a few ideas to make guided reading more exciting in your room too!

Thanks to Teaching Super Power and Jen Jones for the graphics and fonts!

Have a great day!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Guided Reading Makes Me Happy! {Freebie, too!}

The other day I posted about balanced literacy and all the components. Today I'm back to share how I do one component of balanced literacy in my classroom... something near and dear to my heart (since it pretty much is my whole school day...)- guided reading!

At the beginning of the school year,  I posted about my organization for each group and so far after a few weeks in it has still been working out well and keeping me prepared for all my groups each week! I keep my lesson plans for the day, my texts and any follow up games/reading response pages within each section of the accordion file.

Another piece that keeps me very organized and ready for my groups is my guided reading buckets. These hold anything that doesn't fit in my accordion file. I have whisper phones which we use the first few minutes of our guided reading groups to warm up by practicing reading previously read stories to work on fluency, read with expression, etc. I don't know if you use whisper phones but man oh man do my kids LOVE them. I personally LOVE them because they actually get my friends to just start reading as soon as they sit down. Hoping the novelty doesn't ever wear off... :) I also use post it notes, highlighters and highlighting tape all to find evidence in the text to support answers to comprehension questions or find word patterns/sight words/vocabulary, etc. For my littlest friends, I use pointers to focus on the words we are reading, stickers to encourage super reading and segmenting boxes when we are writing or completing phonemic awareness activities. When writing about reading, we use post it note tape to fix any mistakes made. All of the stuff in our bucket just makes guided reading more engaging! You can also read about some other items I use with my littlest friends here.

With my emergent readers, I use little reading folders that include Level A, B, C or D passages. The passages include simple sentences with sight words and predictable text. These passages align with F&P's leveling system and have helped my little friends gain confidence and become stronger readers. I am so proud of the progress they have made! After reading through the text twice on their own, I also have two reading response questions that my friends answer with writing and drawing. After the reading response questions are done, each student goes back and highlights, circles and underlines three of our sight words that were a focus of the day for the story. I also complete a running record with my friends throughout the week to see if they are at an independent, instructional or frustrational level for the stories.
Level A:

I include all the stories for the week and the previous week in the folders so we use these folders as fluency folders and as our warm up with the whisper phones! My little friends love these passages and so do I!

Level B:

Level C:

Level D:

You can check out the Guided Reading Passages packs by clicking the pics below!
I've got Levels A-F up in my store so far and will be adding up through Level J, soon! :)

A few other items that keep guided reading running smoothly in my room are my running record binder (the cute cover makes keeping track of students that much more exciting), my observations pages and my "super day" notes that I send home to parents. 

I have a tab for each student within my running record binder and a copy of the running records I'll be using for the week within the appropriate tabs. I then also have my observations pages in this binder as well and I either make notes after the completion of a running record or simply when they are reading through their guided reading stories.  I make notes on self correcting, errors they are making frequently, their fluency, reading with expression, etc. When a student does something spectacular during our reading groups, I make a really big deal of it and tell them how excited I am that he/she was such a super reader and then I give them a little note that I share with the group and then send home to the child's parents. I love the smiles I get from my friends (no matter the age!) when they get one of these little notes!  If you are looking for a running record binder cover, observations pages and notes for home, you can download these guided reading freebies here! I hope they help make guided reading a happy time in your classroom too! :)

Thanks to Hello Literacy for the fonts and Teaching Super Power for the graphics!

Have a great day!

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