Thursday, May 31, 2012

Visualizing Vocabulary

As my school year has already ended, (YIPPEE for summer!), I have been organizing, going through pictures, and reflecting on my year.  This school year was the first year I pulled out a small reading intervention group to support them with the Treasures reading program.  Vocabulary instruction can be a bit of a challenge to keep kids motivated and interested, especially when I only have thirty minutes with them and every second counts!  

One day this past spring, my sweet little group came to me, all wiggly with a touch of spring fever.  This was a very motivated small group of first graders who loved to color and do crafts, and definitely had an artistic learning style.  On a whim, I grabbed the crayons and some white copy paper.  I introduced the vocab words for the day, told them to close their eyes, and visualize- picture in their minds- what they saw when I said the word.  They were so excited and got busy with their illustrations.  Then, I had them use the word in a sentence and write it somewhere on the paper.  We then placed them on my CAFE bulletin board under Vocabulary, of course!

Below are a few samples of what they did, complete with their invented spelling.  They absolutely loved this simple idea, and although it took a bit more time than I had planned, they were so proud of their picture cards and could not wait to read the story to see what the danger was!


When I do this again, I will have them write the vocab word on the back and have the other students try and guess what the word is based on the picture clue.  It is also a great tool for reviewing vocabulary, retelling the story, sorting the cards ( if each child does a different word) by part of speech, beginning letter, etc.

I hope you found this useful, and I would love to read your comments!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Reading Expert

Here's something I did a few weeks ago with my first grade pull-out group.  While it is not earth-shattering, it was a huge hit with my reading intervention group!!  Students were busy finishing a Henry and Mudge book, and I was so impressed with how well they were reading independently with their buddies.  As I listened in, I was even more impressed with their use of active reading strategies.  I was hearing predicting, self-correcting, monitoring, and questioning.  YAY!!!

So, one weekend as I was reflecting on these sweet firsties' successes, I got a little idea.  I ran to the dollar store and bought birthday party hats.  With a sharpie, I wrote Reading Expert on them.  The next day, I showed them the hats, praised them explicitly for their amazing reading, and then passed out the hats.  It was a reading party!!!!  They wore their hats as they finished their reading and were so very proud.  One little kiddo asked where mine was!  Aww.....

Something so simple seemed to make their day, and it surely made mine!  As it turned out, it was a very simple and inexpensive way to motivate, praise, and encourage my hard-working first graders.  Here's a picture of a few of them reading on the carpet, but I had to crop their sweet faces:

Please share your ideas for motivating and rewarding students!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Why Christopher Won't Talk

Have you ever had a student in your class who did not talk? A student who never smiled, talked out loud to you, classmates, to anyone? A child who would not even whisper, gesture, laugh, or cry? If so, that child may have been more than just shy, they may have had Selective Mutism.

A little over two years ago, my youngest son was about to start preschool as a three year old. I knew that he was very shy and rarely talked in public. He often would hide when relatives came to visit and would cling to me when his grandparents tried to talk to him. What I did not know was that he was petrified- beyond anxious- when he was expected to talk to anyone besides me, his father, and older brothers.

The first day of preschool came and I had no clue that this adorable little man was so, so scared! He was in a classroom directly across from his older brother who was in the four year preschool class. I was there all day, as I also work at the school. At the end of the day, he had not smiled, talked, whispered- no communication at all. He barely gestured and could not tell his teachers that he had to use the bathroom. He went all day without uttering a word or emotion.

Two months later, Christopher was diagnosed with Selective Mutism, a childhood anxiety disorder in which a child is mute in certain social situations, but talks comfortably in others. It is a very complex disorder that usually occurs before the age of five. These children have the ability to talk, but become so paralyzed with fear in some social situations ( usually at school), that they cannot talk or interact.

In an effort to share with parents and teachers, I plan to blog much more about this topic that is near and dear to my heart as a parent. A few weeks ago, I wrote a little book for my Christopher who is now 5 years old and is still not talking out loud at school. This simple little picture book, Jack the Duck, I wrote for him to let him know that there are other children who feel like he does. We printed the book pages, covered them with page protectors, and placed in a folder. The adorable graphics are from My Cute Graphics. He loves his little book, and as I was working on the draft, he exclaimed, "Hey, that is just like me!" Mission accomplished!
You can check out the little book above by clicking on Jack.

If you have experience with Selective Mutism as a parent, teacher, or therapist, please leave me a comment!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Top Teachers Sale!!

I'm just so excited to be linking up with Kindergarten Lifestyle  for my very first sale at my teeny, tiny TPT store!  All my items- games, units, printables are 20% off  today and tomorrow!!! Click the graphic above to see all the amazing sellers who are participating and grab some great deals to use as you close the school year.  Or, if you are like me and are already on summer vacay ( YAY!), shop for back-to-school bargains!

 Have a super-duper holiday!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Sidewalk Chalk

Hooray!  Hooray!  It's a wonderful day to play!  Not only is it a holiday weekend, but today is the start of our summer vacation!  Blowing bubbles and sidewalk chalk are on our agenda today! Of course, being a teacher, I have to sneak in a little learning along the way!

 Now that my boys are learning to read and write, they enjoy writing "lightning" ( what I call sight words) words on the sidewalk with chalk.  Sometimes they write short sentences and if they are really feeling creative, they will illustrate as well!

In the picture above, you can see the words my five year old wrote- we, car, the.  He just finished preschool and was quite proud of himself!

A few weeks ago, I took my first grade intervention group outside for reading group. (They called our time together "reading group" and felt so special that they could come read with me!).  We had just finished reading "The Princess and the Pea" and talked about visualizing.  Their task was to work with their reading buddy to illustrate the picture they imagined in their minds using chalk.  It was so much fun and sadly, I didn't have my camera at school that day!

Please share your fun ways to use sidewalk chalk!

Friday, May 25, 2012

I Knew You Could Do It!

As an end of the year gift, I bought all the firsties I worked with this year in reading, a copy of the book, I Knew You CouldA Book for All the Stops in Your Life  by Craig Dorfman.  It's a delightful little picture book featuring a spin on The Little Engine That Could with a reminiscent theme found in Seuss' Oh, The Places You'll Go!  What an inspiring and encouraging tale for graduates of all ages!

Today, as I said good-bye to my students and celebrated my own children ending their pre-school and kindergarten years ( yes, I am blessed to teach at the same school my two youngest attend!), I reflected on the growth and achievements they have accomplished.  It was a day filled with happy tears and a trial run for my oldest son's upcoming graduation from high school.

An excerpt from the book has me reflecting on my own school year as a reading specialist:

I knew you could!  And you knew it too-
That you'd come out on top after all you've been through.
And from here you'll go farther and see brand-new sights.
You'll face brand-new hills that rise to new heights.

May you have a blessed weekend!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Just Couldn't Wait!

As I write my very first blog post, I am preparing to end the school year and begin my blogging adventure.  I'm not really sure if anyone is reading this, but if you are, I thank you so much for visiting me and am honored that you are here!

My graphic designer is creating a special custom-made blog design  for me, but I just had to start blogging now!  Tomorrow is my last day of school... sniff... sniff... I've had so many blog posts running through my head for such a long time, so I decided to get my feet wet in the bloggy ocean!

A little bit about me... I am an elementary reading specialist for Pre-K to grade 5 at a small private school.  I have been teaching for 23 years ( yikes!) and a specialist and literacy coach for 10 years.  My three sons, ages 18, 6, and 5 are my motivation and inspiration!!

To celebrate my very first blog post, my last day of school, and the start of summer vacation, my Beach Party Pre-Primer Sight Word Game  at my Teachers Pay Teachers store is now FREE until Memorial Day!

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