Friday, August 5, 2016

Word Work as Word Play


Word Work as Word PLAY - Engaging literacy activities and freebies for Back to School (or any time of year!)

Whether you are gearing up to start after Labor Day, or - like me - you're already into the new school year, you've landed in the right blog hop!  This weekend, I'm joining my Reading Crew friends to bring you literacy tips and freebies to help you start the year out right!

Today I am going to share with you three ways I make sure my students are jumping into literacy with playful excitement!

Buddy work is a natural fit for any time of year, but it's especially critical in those first few days when we're trying to facilitate friendships in our new classroom community.  Today I had buddies working on fluency by reading aloud together, and yesterday pairs were laughing their way through a game of Scoot.  (I love activities that get my students up and out of their seats - it's like rolling a brain break right into whatever's on my lesson plan!)

One of my most popular resources, Buddy Up!, challenges buddies to come up with irregular plural nouns to complete nursery rhymes in a silly Mad Lib format.  You can download everything you need to use in your classroom immediately - two versions of the play sheet and cards, a list of books to read with your class or keep in your classroom library to introduce and reinforce understanding of irregular plural nouns, and full instructions.  To download it for FREE just click on this image!

Word Work as Word PLAY - Engaging literacy activities and freebies for Back to School (or any time of year!)


Team-building activities set the stage for the rest of the year, especially if you are looking for ways to increase student independence and peer-to-peer collaboration.  One way that I use literacy in team-building is through explicit instruction of collaborative discussion procedures.  First, we discuss expectations for behavior, participation, and outcomes as a class.  Next, I have students all read the same piece closely, preparing for the discussion with a graphic organizer as they read.  When it's time to actually discuss the piece, each student records interesting facts and questions for further research on a discussion notes page.

I'm sharing a second FREEBIE today!  This includes the preparation and notes organizers described above, as well as an article I wrote about how classroom rules enhance learning through their effect on the brain.  You can download it by clicking on this image:

Word Work as Word PLAY - Engaging literacy activities and freebies for Back to School (or any time of year!)
There are so many fun literacy activities out there!  (Of course, my favorite place to turn is Teachers Pay Teachers - be sure to enter our drawing for a TpT gift card at the end of this post!)

Have you ever played Word Mines?  This is where you write down a (usually kind of longish) word or brief phrase, then "mine" its letters to create new words.  I started using this game as a word work activity with my students several years ago, and it's a class favorite every year!  I've got quite a few in my store, but click here for a FREEBIE if you would like to sample it!


Word Work as Word PLAY - Engaging literacy activities and freebies for Back to School (or any time of year!)

Don't forget to enter our drawing for a gift card to Teachers Pay Teachers!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
And be sure to visit all of the other Reading Crew blogs this weekend for lots of hints, ideas, and freebies!



Happy Back to School and have a wonderful year with your kiddos!


Friday, March 18, 2016

Growing Readers Linky: The Curious Garden

I'm so glad you've stopped by!  Today I am going to share how I teach with springtime mentor texts to grow readers and writers in my fourth-grade classroom...

And I'm not alone in this fun endeavor - the whole Reading Crew has put together more than 20 lessons to share with you today.  We are a collaboration of teacher bloggers who love literacy - and we are all about sharing ideas with our readers!  If  if you click through our posts either today or any time during the linky party March 18-21, you'll have a chance to pick up lots of lessons plans and activity ideas, FREEBIES, and a chance to win an Amazon gift card!


Being a visual person myself, I think in metaphors :o)  I view comprehension as a room that can be accessed by many doors.  While some of us comprehend best by listening, by re-reading, or by any other strategies, there are many of us who learn by linking the text to visual images.

Connecting text to images - whether that be present on the page (book-provided illustration), created on the page (student-generated illustration), or in the mind (visualization) - is a valuable strategy to strengthen comprehension.

The reality is that our children live in a visual world.  Connecting text to visual images honors that reality and builds on what our students are already used to.  This strategy also taps into the preferred modalities of our Visual-Spatial thinkers and helps them to strengthen their Verbal-Linguistic intelligence.  To top it all off, using visuals in reading can deepen understanding.


The book I've chosen to focus on today is The Curious Garden by Peter Brown.  This lushly illustrated picture book packs a lot of thematic value - the springtime gardening subject matter is seasonal perfection, the stewardship theme is timely for Earth Day and all that it represents, and the initiative and perseverance demonstrated by the main character provide the bonus application of character education.  This is the story of a young boy who lives in a rather colorless city; when he happens upon a struggling tangle of plants, he acts on his desire to help them live... and out of his caring grows a ripple effect that impacts his entire community in a very beautiful way.


Whether reading a novel or a picture book, I typically introduce a mentor text lesson by activating background knowledge.  With this book, I have my students share what they know about gardening.  Next, we discuss vocabulary that students will need to understand the book.  This can be a quick conversation or lengthier word work, depending on how long you plan to spend on this book.


Because I share The Curious Garden with my students over several days, I created more opportunities for them to work with the vocabulary words.  I begin by introducing the words and discussing the part of speech and definition for each - download this freebie for the vocabulary slide and two activities!

Next, students create a foldable that organizes the words' definitions and challenges the student to come up with a "quick draw" for each.  When I first started this type of activity many years ago, I had my students carefully draw each picture, coloring each... and effectively wiling away our reading block with arts and crafts.  Because my goal here is to have students access meaning visually, I came up with the "quick draw" method: using only one color (usually pencil, but I let students pick - if they prefer a colored pencil or marker or crayon, it doesn't matter - I just limit it to one color to keep the pace lively and the focus on the vocabulary development), the student draws a picture that reflects the word.  I usually recommend that students use stick figures, because this makes clear the level of artistry I'm looking for with this activity (which is not much!).

We continue to connect text with visual images throughout our work with the book. For instance, after I have activated background knowledge and introduced vocabulary - but before I actually read the story aloud - I distribute this sequencing and vocabulary graphic organizer (also included in the freebie) and have student "quick draw" what they notice in the illustrations at the beginning, middle, and end of the book. After students have a few minutes to sketch their observations, they share with their elbow partner what they've noticed and predictions they've made. Now we are ready to read the story. After our first read, students do a bit of word work on the same graphic organizer. Under each plot point that they've sketched, they write a noun that will remind them of that part of the story; finally, they generate five adjectives to describe each noun. Now equipped with rich vocabulary, students are ready to meaningfully discuss and write about the book.

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/FREEBIE-The-Curious-Garden-Mentor-Text-Intermediate-Grades-2453193To download the pages I've shared with you today, click on this link:





And now for the fun part:  As you click through each post, you will find a secret word that you'll be asked to log in when you enter our drawing for an Amazon gift card.  To help you collect the secret words from all posts in this hop, you might want to use this organizer...  Just click on it and print the image.  Fill in each secret word, then you will have them handy when you enter our Rafflecopter drawing!  Thank you so much for joining us... and *psst* my secret word is gardening!

Good luck, and happy spring!

a Rafflecopter giveaway












Sunday, January 3, 2016

Pick 3 {January}

It's the third of the month, so it's time for Pick 3!


Courtesy of PAWSitively Teaching, Just Reed, and Inspired Owl's Corner, the Pick 3 Pinterest Party is an opportunity for us each to share three pins that we plan on using in our own classrooms.

I go back to school on Monday, and I plan on continuing with winter fun - despite the fact that we live in Phoenix, and many of my students have NEVER seen snow!  Snowflakes offer lots of engaging explorations - angles, symmetry, sensory language, and the list goes on.  Here are three pins that I plan on using this week!





Here is a great little collection of videos about snowflakes.  It ranges from preschoolers up through big kids.  Another video that I found is this:  Science of Snow.



I love this freebie!  Are you looking for a fun way for your kiddos to learn and practice vocabulary related to angles?  Then you might want to take a look at this "It's Snowing Angles!" activity:


And here is my third for today:




I plan on having my students write about snowflakes, so this post about wintery words will be a good starting point as we brainstorm our own word bank of snowflake words!

If you would like to link up as well, just visit PAWSitively TeachingJust Reed, or Inspired Owl's Corner to join the fun!

Have a super Sunday and a wonderful week back to school!


Saturday, January 2, 2016

Five for Friday 1.2.16


I may be a day late, but I am determined to get as close to my New Year's Resolution blogging schedule as possible...  so here I am with Five for Friday Saturday!

If you'd like to join the fun, it's not too late to visit Doodle Bugs Teaching for her fun weekly link-up!




On Tuesday I got to meet up with my sweet friend, also named Pam - you might know her better as Little Bird Kindergarten:


It's so hard to believe we met just last year, as we were starting to collaborate on Hello Sunshine Teachers.  Do you have those special friends who you may have only known a short while, but who you feel like you've known forever?  That's how I feel about Pam!  It was super great to spend time together this week, sharing wonderful conversation over a delicious French brunch!

How am I only now using SitSpots?!?  I've seen them mentioned all over the place for months now, but only this week did I order a bunch for my classroom!  I ordered bright blue and bright green circles for assigned seating in our Community Circle gathering place - my big fourth graders sit THISCLOSETOGETHERWITHTHEIRBESTFRIENDS if I let them...  and we all know how THAT goes!  I think they will actually like having their own spots to sit on; I'll update you with their reaction later!  I also ordered strips in the same color; they come on a roll that you cut to size.  I am going to put little marks on the carpet where each desk goes, with the sincere hope that it will reduce the Wandering Desk Syndrome currently plaguing my little classroom!


Thursday and Friday I participated in a sale with my friends from STEM Activities for Kids - each of us listed two of our favorite STEM products for 20% off.   Other than the fact that I love collaborating with these amazing ladies, my next-favorite part of the whole experience was that it prompted me to put together my growing bundle of STEM Sessions!  My fourth graders absolutely LOVE our STEAMy Wednesday STEM Sessions, and I've been meaning forever to package up my units to share with others.  I'm so excited to share them now!  I've also included supporting resources like book lists and graphic organizers - all the things that I find useful in my own classroom.  


Yesterday Mr. Hedgehog and I went to a family wedding!  The bride and bridegroom were absolutely adorable, the wedding was lovely, and the reception was too much fun!  (Whenever the DJ puts "Brick House" on - and he did last night - I am a happy girl!)  Although I was going for a glamor shot to show off my fancy earrings and first ever updo, I realized as I posted this photo that I also got a clear shot of two rolls of fadeless bulletin board paper propped up next to The Littlest Hedgehog's carseat!  ("You Might Be a Teacher If...")



I am a longtime fan of Me & My Big Ideas from way back in my scrapbooking days, so I was very happy to see that they have planners!  Their current crop of planners is on sale, so I picked this beautiful gold polka dotted planner with lots of pretty accessories.  They should be arriving any day now, and I am so excited to start using them!

Have a lovely Sunday - and if like me you are returning to school on Monday, enjoy your last day of break!!!

Friday, January 1, 2016

Currently {January 2016}


Hello, New Year!

Like so many of us, I've resolved to make improvements in the way I do certain things. One area that I want to improve on is how I blog, and one way that I plan on making that improvement is to participate regularly in link-ups.  Link-ups are such a great way to develop and nurture online friendships and collaborations, and they also provide a way to stick to a regular blogging schedule.

It's kind of hard to choose between all of the wonderful link-ups out there!  I did come up with a list for myself, based on my personal interests:

The 1st of the month:
CURRENTLY by Farley at Oh' Boy 4th Grade

The 1st Friday of the month:
Five for Friday by Doodle Bugs Teaching

The 3rd of the month:
PICK 3 PINTEREST PARTY by PAWSitively Teaching, Just Reed, and Inspired Owl's Corner

The 2nd Thursday of the month:
THEMATIC THURSDAY by Carla at Comprehension Connection

The 15th of the month:
SHARING SUNSHINE by Hello Sunshine Teachers

I might change this list as the year goes on, and if I do, I will update this post.

Here I go, starting with my first linkup of the year!
(Today is also the first Five for Friday of the year, and I hope to post that later tonight.)




I'm often not able to watch programs at their scheduled times, so thank goodness for TiVo!  I absolutely love Hallmark movies, and it is such a treat to get to binge watch them on weekends and breaks!

I love the way that 2016 has started.  We have a family wedding to attend tonight, today is the second day of a 2016STEM collaboration I've been participating in with my friends at STEM Activities for Kids, I've got all sorts of projects planned for my classroom and store, we've got lots of fun activities going on with our family and friends...  This is a busy time of year, but so much fun!

There's something inherently comforting about ORGANIZING.  It's a terrific way to feel "in control" of even the most out-of-control projects and intentions.  Family photos, the linen closet, my Narnia cupboards at school, exercise regimens, meal plans...  Once I get it on a To Do List, I just feel like it's all going to turn out OK!

Oh dear.  Peppermint Fudge has been a very NON macro staple of my eating these days.  I haven't had any yet today, but that's only because we ate the last of it last night.  Now if I can only convince myself not to whip up another batch...!

As soon as I publish this post and comment on a few friends' posts, I need to hop in the shower to go get my hair done for tonight!  I'm still in my fuzzy pink robe and sock monkey slippers!

My word these days has been COZY.  (Hence the fuzzy pink robe and sock monkey slippers!)

Happy New Year to you all!