Monday, August 24, 2015

Getting Your Students to Really USE Your Word Wall

Hi, Teaching Friends!

Has this ever happened in your classroom?

A month (or three, or five...)  after learning a sight word that you all read and write every day, a sweet little struggler comes up to you and asks, "How do you spell the?".  After a massive internal effort to stifle a sigh, you ask your student, "What could you do to help yourself?", because building independence is what we're all about and because, well ... it's the, after all, and if this little one can't remember this one, he'd better be developing some good coping skills to find another way to spell it (besides asking you or his buddy in the next seat over!).

Of course this has happened to you, because it's happened to all of us. No matter how much singing,-stomping-skywriting-magnetic letters-shaving cream-chalk-necklace-crown-alphabead time and practice they have, some students will struggle with long term retention of words, especially with new words being added to the word wall each week. The word wall is a great tool for all of our students, but it's a potential lifesaver for these kids.

So, how can we make the word wall something that they'll automatically turn to and use effectively?

Here are three steps that I've found to be helpful for all students, but extra-important for those who are struggling with early literacy.

The word wall will be an immense meaningless piece of wallpaper to your students without this step.
Start your year with an empty word wall and add words gradually. {Yes, I've actually seen first grade classrooms where a complete word wall emerges complete overnight, or even worse, before the first day of school. Can you imagine how that shuts down a non-reader's brain?}

Add your words slowly and as you review them each day, stand near and point to each word you review, or bring out the bling-y pointers and let your students do the pointing. Enforce this teaching with think-alouds: "Hmmm, the word is we. When I stretch the sounds, I hear the sound of /w/ at the beginning, so I know I need to look for w on the word wall. I need to think about where w is in the alphabet." Giving  students a chance to model their thinking aloud will help you assess their understanding.

Here's a way to add another layer of student involvement to building your word wall together. Use student pictures to create your word wall headers, like the ones below.

(My apologies for the quality of this graphic. I've learned at least a few things since I posted this three years ago! So much more to learn...)

As you add each word card to the wall, take time to hand spell, whole body spell, air write, sing it, etc. Involve every part of the brain in learning each new word. Also, be sure that your students'
eyes are focused on your word card  (better yet, do it up big on your board or screen!), and point to each letter as you all say it aloud.

Dramatic fun is another way to increase your students' control over the word wall as a classroom reference.  With every one of the first ten or twenty words and occasionally after that, try saying something like, "Okay, so here's "am".  I think I'll put it right here!", pointing to another place besides the A section.  Moans, groans, "nooo! nooo!" ... well, then tell me where it does belong. Why?  Some strugglers may not connect the fact that the words are organized by their first letters unless you are explicit in your teaching.

There's also value in practicing word position in a larger sense, the extra step of asking whether the word belongs at the beginning, middle or end of the word wall. An easy way to provide a visual support for this concept is to place a small colored dot on or near each header (e.g. red for a-h, yellow fori-p, and green for q-z)  When your word wall is eventually full, this will help your little learners narrow the search! :) Bonus: this will also pay off when you begin to teach alphabetical order!

Remember that little guy back in the beginning of this post who was struggling with the word the?
The more you incorporate using the word wall into your instruction, the more likely it will be for him to even consider using it as a tool for his writing.

Plan activities that will force your students to use the wall, because good habits take lots of practice!

* Play Simon Says: "Point to can", "Use your left hand to point to no", "Jump three times and point to my." Follow up each command with "Let's spell it together!" This is another opportunity to use those word wall chants kids love, like these freebies from Kindergarten Squared.

* Play "1,2,3, Point with Me!"  A student leader chooses a word on the word wall, calls out "1,2,3, point to ______ with me!".  Students all point to the correct part of the wall and then the leader uses a pointer to lead them in spelling the word aloud.

* Use riddles! They are my answer to so many things, I know, but kids sure do love them!  This set will get your students thinking about the details of 24 kindergarten sight words (details like initial sound, rhyme, letter size, making sense in a sentence), but also includes clues like "my word is near the end of the word wall" and "my word starts with the same sound as watermelon". The more ways that children can connect new learning to prior knowledge, the quicker mastery will happen.

You wouldn't just hand a power tool to someone and expect them to use it without instructions, right? The same is true for a word wall.  Give your students lots of direction and practice, and you'll see them really using it, automatically and effectively!

Happy Teaching!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Our Back to School Best - A "More Love" Linky!

Hi, Teaching Friends!

If you're a regular visitor here, you know that we've been celebrating every Tuesday this summer with a "What's New in K-2?" linky party. This is the last week for this linky series, so, in honor of the TpT More Love for Back to School Sitewide Sale on Wednesday, let's switch it up a bit!

Just as many of our students like to come to the first day of school dressed in their new sneakers and carrying a cool backpack, we teacher/authors also want to show off our best! So here they are - our all-time favorite resources for your K-2 class!

If you're a teacher /author, please choose your number one all-time favorite resource to link - and please pick a resource that's on sale!  I know that it's hard to choose just one. My favorite resource is usually my most recent one! :)

When you find some irresistible goodies here and buy them at the sale on Wednesday, remember to use the code MORE15 at checkout to save an extra 10%!

Happy Teaching!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Find a (Math!) Friend ... An Active Math Freebie!

Hi, Teaching Friends!

I saw a Facebook post the other day about some new research that proves that kids learn better when they're moving. The person who posted commented, "Here's a news flash!".  I think we'd all agree with her, wouldn't we? Movement helps the learning stick!

Thinking about movement and learning made me think about a resource that I've been working on for quite a while, and that I finally finished and posted in my Teachers Pay Teachers store this weekend.

When it comes to teaching math, it's always been harder for me to incorporate "big movement" learning than small.  Math centers with cards to match, learning wrap-ups, cut-up hundred chart puzzles to assemble, shaking and rolling dice, lots of manipulatives, clay activities ... all things that keep the small muscles moving, and always a big part of my math teaching.

Gross motor activities for math? Hmmm...

*  Hopping up and back on a floor number line for adding and subtracting

*  Having students hold large number cards, line up in random order, and having another child move them around to put them in correct sequence

*  Building "trains" of number cards that wind around the classroom floor

*  "Crossing the midline" with windmills, but with some math thrown in. Do you know about windmills? I'm not sure, but I think they may have originated with Brain Gym. For our math version, the students sit in chairs, with legs spread apart and feet flat on the floor and arms extended up and out in a Y.  Then tap right hand to left knee ("5!"),  arms back up, then left hand to right kne ("10!"), arms up again, right hand to left knee again ("15!"), and so on. This would be so much easier if I had a video to show you, but it's actually harder to describe than to do, and it's so valuable to your students' learning!

* Whole body graphing, with yes/no questions. All the "yes" responders in one line, all the no responders in another line next to them.  Stand shoulder-to-shoulder.  How many in each line? How many in all?  How many more in one line than the other?

* Math songs, quite often accompanied by lots of clapping, stomping, marching, etc.

* Clipboard Field Trips, walking around the building and looking for classroom numbers ... estimating and counting the number of steps from one spot to another ... tallying and counting how many open doors, closed doors, children, and adults we'd see along the way.

Well, I guess there actually are more large motor math activities in my Math-Bag-of-Tricks than I realized!

Which brings me back to telling you about my latest resource. It's something you can try if you're looking for ways to add more movement to your math lessons.

Have you tried "Find a Friend Who__?" ?  I've just posted a set of two dozen Find a Friend activities, but in this set, your students will be finding math friends!  As they move around the classroom with clipboards, pencils, and a page like the ones in the picture below, your students find "math friends" to complete questions about addition, subtraction, adding and subtracting tens & multiples of ten, telling time, counting back from 100, skip counting ... 24 skills in all!

Would you like to "try before you buy"?  This sample is for a skill that many kids find to be tricky. Here's an example: 4+3 > 8-2 ... yes or no? Even those that seem to "get" inequality signs are often thrown by it when there is an extra layer of thinking required. Very sorry about the fuzzy images - the download will, of course, be clear.

Click here or on the cover to download your freebie!

What are some of your favorite large motor activities in your Math-Bag-of-Tricks? Please share your ideas with a comment below!

Happy Teaching!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Come See "What's New in K-2"!

Hi, Teaching Friends!

After a short break last week, "What's New in K-2?" is back for just a few more weeks!

This is the spot to find the best new blog posts and resources. Just like every kid (young and not-so-young!) wants a new outfit for the first day, every teacher wants to have some fresh new learning excitement to add to his or her tried and true favorites!

Whether you've come to find or to share, welcome! This has been a fun linky all summer long, and I'm sure this week's link-up will also be filled with great things.

One link per teacher/author, please! Blog posts, freebies, and paid items for K-2 are all welcome. Please indicate paid items with a $.  Share, share, share ... thanks! :)

Happy Teaching!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

It's Here! The TpT Back to School eBook Sampler!

Hi, Teaching Friends!

Whether you're a brand new teacher or a seasoned veteran, all teachers need their back to school bag of tricks filled with some fresh new goodies! Well, here they are - all in one great big lovely download!

You'll find classroom tips as well as links to {{50+!!}} freebies and resources, shared by teacher/authors from TpT!

Am I excited about this book? Well, YES!!!

Here are a few sample pages.

Karen at Silly Sam Productions has shared an adorable crayon banner that will make an easy-peasy bulletin board display.

 Peggy Means of Primary Flourish will help you build up math fluency skills with her free game set.

... and here's mine! :) If you've already downloaded my free set of graphs and tallies for back to school, please stop back and download the updated version! I just finished tweaking it!

I'll be sharing more pages throughout the week here, on my collaborative blogs Teaching Blog Round Up and iTeach First, and on my FB page.

If you teach PreK or kindergarten, you'll find your sampler here. If you teach third or fourth, here's a sampler for you! There are sampler eBooks right on up through 12th grade, so tell your teaching friends, please! If you go to any of the listings at TpT, you'll find links to all of the books.

So, settle in with a tall glass of icy cold lemonade and enjoy browsing this fantastic resource! We all hope that you'll love the treasures you find in it!

Happy Teaching!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Procrastinators' Rejoice! Plus a Giveaway and a Fun Tip

Hi, Teaching Friends!

Faithful followers might have noticed that we had no "What's New" linky party yesterday. This week is JUST. TOO. BUSY!! There's been so much buzz on blogs, FB, Pinterest, etc. about the TpT Back to School Sale that I thought it would be a good week to let the linky pass. It will be back next Tuesday.

Unfortunately, I also "let it pass" when it came to a few things I'd planned to purchase at the TpT sale. Fortunately ( gee, "unfortunately, fortunately" ... somebody should write a book like that...too late again ... procrastination... I digress, as they say), that happens to a lot of people so a good number of sellers are extending their sale one day for your convenience.

I've always loved to do this and have called it, quite aptly, Procrastinators' Day. Let's celebrate together! ;)  Click on the image to go to my store!

On to the giveaway, and it's a great one!

I also blog at iTeach First, and we are having a Back to School Giveaway with prizes that will knock your socks off!!

One lucky teacher will win an iPad Air 2 with a cute owl-themed case, stylus pen, and a $15 gift card to iTunes.You can use this iPad as a personal device, to lead whole group activities, as a small group learning station, an individual choice time, or as an enrichment activity. With so many great educational apps available, the possibilities are endless. How would you use it in your own classroom?  Click here or on the picture for your chance to win! Many thanks to Nicole Sanchez who does so much to give direction and organization to this blogging group!

And now, the teaching tip! Yesterday, I had the pleasure of hearing DeedeeWills speak at the New Jersey Kindergarten Educators Association Conference. I love it when a speaker affirms what you believe to be true and important about children and teaching practices, and at the same time fills your cup with new ideas to think about. That was my day with Deedee! 

Here's one of her many great ideas that stuck in my brain: To save time and confusion with the awkwardness of calling ( and recalling, and recalling) individual names, Deedee gives each of her guided reading groups a name, like hamsters, turtles, etc., all those little animals that kids especially love.  Here's the twist: she lets the children in each group choose their own name from the list, but she gives the lowest group first choice from the list.  I love that!  Your low group might end out being the eagles and your highest the turtles. It's a different way of thinking about something that we already do anyway. It respects all learners, and it keeps things fun

Do you have an interesting way of naming your guided reading groups?

Happy Teaching!

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