Wednesday, January 30, 2013 / 1 comment
Last semester, our school had Cheryl Ware (author) visit our school. While visiting, she was kind enough to meet with each grade level and do a presentation on writing. Lucky for me, she was giving her presentations in my room! I learned lots, and so did the kids! One resource Cheryl brought was a graphic organizer that looked similar to the one I created below.

It may not look like much, but those two little hands can open up a whole new world of writing to your students. Since her visit, the 4th grade teachers I work with have been incorporating this graphic organizer anytime the students are going to be writing. At first, they did a few together as a class, and now the students complete it independently. After they complete it, they work with partners to see what other details can be added. It's great for writer's workshop! Not only do the students enjoy completing this activity, they complete it with ease in creativity versus the usual "I don't know what to write - writer's block."

This resource helps students expand their writing by not only including the general 5 "W" questions, but being more descriptive with their senses.

Say the prompt is the dreaded "Write about what you did on your summer break." Most kids want to respond with the general "I went swimming. I played outside. I went to the beach with my family. BORING! BORING! Blaaaaah!"

Here is an example of what someone could come up with when using this type of graphic organizer. I forgot to take pics of all my student examples at school -- SORRY!

WHO- Me, my family, our neighbors, my best friend, our dog
WHAT- Went on vacation
WHERE- Beach, St. Thomas, VII
WHEN- Summer 2012, First week of July
WHY- No school, parents had time off, annual trip, we go every year
HOW- flew in a plane, cruise, roadtrip

SEE- bright sun, clear ocean water, bright colored flowers, scaly lizards, fancy hotels, native people, sailboats, cruise ships, seafood restaurants, beach balls and towels
HEAR- waves, breeze, birds, live music
SMELL- salt water, fresh air, fish
TASTE- fresh seafood, tropical drinks
TOUCH- gritty hot sand, rough coral reef, smooth warm ocean water, seashells, seaweed, hot blistering sun
FEEL- happy, relaxed, excited, worry-free

To introduce this graphic organizer to your students for writing purposes, read a very descriptive picture book first, and then have the students identify all the details of the story using this resource. You can even use the book to set the students up for writing by having them write a pre-quel, alternative conclusion, or their own connection to the story.

One of my favorite books to use for writing is The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant because MOST {key word=most} students can relate to having relatives come visit for a short or long period of time and can write about when their relatives came.

Another important thing - Discuss how when they are writing, THEY are the author and it is THEIR responsibility to describe all the details so the reader can "picture" the story in his or her minds.

This graphic organizer has honestly done WONDERS for not only the entire 4th grade at my school, but my special education babies who struggle so terribly with writing. It's great for any grade level! Best part - it's so easy for them to remember this in their heads, even when the graphic organizer is not preset {HELLO dreaded writing assessment!}

It's HUMP day! Enjoy your evenings - the weekend's almost here!

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Shel Silverstein & Initial Consonant Blend Goodies!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013 / 8 comments
I've pretty much claimed our poor library's copy of A Light In the Attic as my own. My students LOVE Shel Silverstein's poems. They think he is just NUTS, and they love them some CrAzY!! SOO naturally, I sneakily use this to my advantage and we use his poems to practice some phonics!

Today, we studied initial consonant blends {specifically - sl, sk, sc, sw, sp, sn, st}. I started off with a quick recap that blends:

-are two or three consonant sounds that are clustered together
-each consonant keeps it's own sounds
-can be found at the beginning or end of words

First, I showed my students the following blends written on cardstock paper.

I had them practice making each blend and we talked about the different things your mouth does when you make each sound.

We then read some poems from the book, A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein. While we read the poems, the students located and circle all the words that they saw had the inital consonant blends that we were studying. Poems are PERFECT because they are short, sweet, and hold my kiddos attention. {a daunting task!}

The two poems we used today were "The Sword-Swallower" and "Skin Stealer."

We spent a few minutes brainstorming some other words that start with one of those "s" blends. I showed them my pre-done paper of the "st" initial consonant blend and we added a little more to it together.

Then, I passed out a different blend poster to each student {this was done in a small group, so each student has his/her own blend, but could be done in partners or groups of students!}. I explained for them to use the dry/erase boards to brainstorm words (sounding them out for spelling) and then they could write them on their "poster." I got this idea from the fabulous Abby from The Inspired Apple.

I only gave them a few minutes to complete these, but they turned out awesome!!
They showed great teamwork during the activity-- helping each other think of new words!

Afterwards, we went over the words they came up with for each blend.

And we made a little acrostic on the consonant blends we learned.

To practice blends a little more, we played some GAMES!

We played "Minute to Win It" as they raced the clock to sort all the words by their inital blend.

&& SPEND THE STASH - a personal favorite of my students {& meee!}

Lastly, we played "SMASH." In this game, we just put all the cards face up on the table. The students all stand around the table ready to pounce, waiting for me to call out a word. The first person to find the word has to "smash" the card on the table to keep it. The person with the most card wins!

For these games, I just pulled the blends we were working on out of my "Phonics Games for Initial & Final Consonant Blends" Packet On TPT.

Tomorrow, I plan to review those "s" initial consonant blends a little more with more poems, specifically:
"Stop Thief!"
"Mr. Smeds and Mr. Spats"
"Snake Problem"
& "Come Skating!"

My students will be over the mooooon HAPPY!

Enjoy your Tuesday! :)
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Telling Time is EASY PEASY

Monday, January 28, 2013 / 20 comments
One significant goal for a lot of my little ones is learning how to tell time, and more importantly, learning how to find elapsed time {BIGGIE}. The concept of time in general just baffles them. Although it is in the common core, a lot of text books used in schools do not have anything on time. So, naturally, I searched and searched the internet for effective ways to truly help my students understand all things time, and I finally landed on the goods!

I came across this lovely little gem of an article and fell in love. It is from the National Council of Teaching in Mathematics.

This investigation provides students with an opportunity to truly understand the connection between seconds, minutes and hours. I was stunned at what growth my students made in relation to time. Plus, they LOVED all the hands-on activities we did!!

Here is a little recap photo session of some of the activities we completed during the investigation!

We brainstormed different things that only take a second.

We predicted how many times we could do a task in one minute, and then tested it out.

We also did a few different sorts to reinforce what they learned during the investigation. In this sort, they have to sort whether the activity should take seconds or minutes to complete. In another sort, they said whether an activity was done during A.M. or P.M. hours.

We practiced with the hour hand, determining what "a little after the hour" "a little to the hour" and "half past" looked like with the hour hand alone {i.e. when it is "half past" the hour, the hour hand is pointed directly between the two numbers}

We created a number line out of 12 groups of 5 linking cubes until we had 60 total cubes in our line, and then we practiced counting by 5's, and then by 1's until we reached a certain cube.

In order to make the connection with the clock, we made the number line into a circle and added our group #s, and cube amount #s

I had the students create their own, and practice moving the long hand (minute hand) around, while their partner counted the cubes or "minutes"

Next, we created a basic clock and practiced with the minute hand more.
When my students seemed to be confident with counting minutes, I added the hour hand to the clock above and we added the numbers to our clock.

To give my students more practice with telling time and to assess them, I had them complete task cards independently, or with me.

Telling Time from an Analog Clock
Telling Time from an Analog Clock

Matching the word form of time to the analog clocks

Showing digital time on an analog clock

All these activities and task cards can be found in my TICK-TOCK On the Clock Time Packet on TPT. This week, we will be working on elapsed time, a biggie for 3rd and 4th graders.

Hope everyone is enjoying this Monday!!

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Sensory Overload!! & Some Phonics Final Blends

Tuesday, January 15, 2013 / 3 comments
As a SPED Teacher, I do A LOT of phonics instruction & teach reading strategies to try to catch my students up with their grade level in reading - heck, just to catch them up to a first grade reading level.

Currently, I’m following the lessons in The ABC’s of O-G: The Flynn System, which has been a great resource. I also refer to Phonics From A-Z by Wiley Blevins for strategies to use. I am a big fan of multi-sensory learning and I try to create games for everything we do to hold the interest of my students. If it is a competition or messy – they love it! There is such a difference in their attitudes when we are doing a hands-on activities versus just reading word lists/sentences and writing word after word.

The following are all the different options of hands-on materials I have been using for word work, and I add new stuff all the time via Pinterest ideas! I give my students an option of what they would like to use to do word work, since some of my students also have sensory issues with certain textures. We also use these materials to have some fun practicing spelling words.

I will be posting soon with a step-by-step on how I made the Gel Boards!

My students either rolled the playdoh flat to write the words in or rolled several pieces to form the words. The tablecloth, mats (4 in a pack), and Playdoh all game from Dollar Tree.

I have TONS of different letter magnets in my classroom that students have access to. The pans are from Dollar Tree.

I found these awesome wooden letter stamps from The Shops at Target. I love the different fonts!

My students have always gone crazy for shaving cream, but I always HATED the clean up. This fixed that problem real quick and the shaving cream washed right off the pan with warm water. Much better than sticky tables!

Phonics Games for -nk and -ng Final Blends

Here are a few pictures from my new games we played yesterday and today so my students could practice -nk and -ng final blends. They loved them! You can snatch them up from my TPT Store!

My student's favorite game is called "Minute to Win It." I based it on a toy my little cousin got from a McDonald's Happy Meal! There's no telling where inspiration will strike! Students race the clock to sort through the different word families found within -nk and -nk final blends. Another game we played is called "Bing Bang Bonk." The students LOVED the competition with this game and it helped me assess how they were doing with our new sounds! Click on the picture to view the game contents at my TPT Store.
LAST, but certainly not least! I was lucky enough to be feature on New Teacher Blog Tuesday from Dana over at Fun in 1st Grade! I was so excited about this today! Click on the picture to read all about me and take a peek at her adorable blog! Thank you, Dana!!

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Sight Word Ring

Tuesday, January 8, 2013 / 6 comments
As I said in this post, I am starting to use the Orton Gillingham approach to help my struggling readers.

A big issue with my students is sight words. They just can't get them down.

When I introduce a new sight word, I color code it either green, yellow, or red.

Green words can be sounded out (cat)

In Yellow words the students should be able to find a chunk of a shorter word they already know ("fun" in funny)

Red words are words that have to be memorized because they are non-phonetic (to, of)

After I introduce the new sight word (color-coded) and we do some practice activities with it (foldables/multi-sensory activities), I have the students write it down on either a green, yellow, or red notecard. We punch a hole in the card and add it to their learned word ring.

Atleast every other day, I will "quiz" the students on their learned word rings.

If they get a word correct, they get a line on the left. If they are incorrect they get a dot on the right. The goal is to get 4 consecutive lines and a slash (5 total). Once they do this, they can remove the word from their ring, dated, and filed away. Every once in a while, I will take out the filed words and quiz the students. Any they get incorrect go directly back on the ring.

This system seems to really help my students because it takes out the frustration of determining whether or not they should attempt to sound the word out or whether they need to just memorize it. They love their rings, especially when they get to take a word off!
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