Thursday, March 28, 2013

Using Sight Word Phrases to Build Fluency

Teaching students sight words is an integral part of literacy instruction in kindergarten and first grade.  Most of our teaching involves instruction of individual words. We use word walls, flashcards, sight word worksheets, games, and working with words activities. However, using sight word phrases is useful for many reasons. Whether you use the Fry list or those from the Dolch list, the benefits of exposing students to phrases include:
  • sight word recognition
  • increased fluency
  • uses words in context
  • increased comprehension

Once students have learned or have been exposed to the Pre-Primer and Primer lists, sight word phrases can be introduced.  I have even used the phrases with kindergartners who have been working with the Pre-Primer list early in the year.

 We know that explicit, direct instruction is important, especially with word work. A sight word or words is taken out of context for instruction,but it is important that the word is immediately placed back in a text for optimal learning. Using phrases helps to scaffold the learning, bridge the learning, if you will, from reading words in isolation to reading groups of words.  So, if I am introducing the sight word "soon", I focus students' attention on the individual word by color coding (soon), building the word with magnetic letters, using a playdough or tracing mat, etc.   But then, I will go to the sentence level:  
We we will go to recess soon. 
 I will write the sentence on a white board or on the Smart Board and have students read it with me and then find the target word. Using a Reading Recovery idea, I will have students copy the sentence, cut the words apart, and then place the words in correct order, and then put their finger on the target word. Last, we will read a page of text from a book I have selected that uses the word.

 To foster fluency, our emergent readers need to know that reading involves reading a set of words, or phrases, and not isolated words. In turn, we know that if a child is reading fluently and has automaticity of sight words their comprehension will usually increase.  I always tell my students that they need to know their "lightning" words, lightening fast so they can save their smart brain power for the tricky words. Using the sight word phrases reinforces the idea that good readers read groups of words, phrases, and not word-by-word.

Lastly, and very importantly is to integrate writing with sight word/phrases instruction. I will select a phrase or have a student randomly select one.  For example, by the tree.  I will write the phrase on the board and ask, "What is by the tree?  Close your eyes and tell me what you see!".  When I did this last night with my first grader, he replied, "I see a cheetah by the tree."  (He is obsessed with cheetahs right now!).  I will write it on the board:  

 I see a cheetah by the tree. 

 Students will copy the sentence on their small white boards with an Expo marker and underline the phrase or write it in a different color like I did.  Next, students will write their own sentence.  I see a _______ by the tree. Then eventually, after gradually releasing the learning, they will write their own sentence independently.  As a side note, my students enjoy using the Crayola Dry Erase Crayons!

There are many other ideas, but as with all instruction, the process should be I do, we do, you do, using a gradual release model.  I have a few students that are still struggling with their grade level sight words.  I made an activity to use with them for Easter, but it can be used at any time. Sometimes, students that cannot read a word in isolation, can read it when it is context.  

Take the phrase "by the house"I showed this phrase to my kindergarten son.  I wanted to see if, one, he could read the phrase and if he knew the word by and two, could he read the word house if it was in a phrase?  He was able to read the entire phrase and used the initial letter as a clue (visual cue) and the syntax cue to read it successfully.

The above phrases are part of my "Peeps in a Basket", an activity I created for my little ones who are struggling.  I have used it in 1-1 tutoring and in a small group.

This flexible working with words packet can be used in a variety of ways: small group, 1-1, literacy center.  The pics below show what some of the pages look like as I was getting ready to use it with a student. The pages are available in color, but I ran out of yellow ink and printed them on colored paper using gray scale.  They turned out just fine!

I store my activities in a large zip-lock bag

Teacher Mom of 3

Teacher Mom of 3

Teacher Mom of 3

Teacher Mom of 3

Teacher Mom of 3

The winner's prize?  Peeps, of course!

That's it for today.  I just wanted to give you a little peep peek at my newest activity that I am using for fluency and sight word practice.  

How do you assess fluency?  Do you use a fluency rubric?  Leave a comment below!

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Noun Game and Crock Pot Oatmeal for Breakfast

Let's play the noun game!  I am joining the linky from Mrs. Reed of Flying Into First Grade!

Playing is easy! The noun game is where you name your favorite person, place, thing, and animal.


Here's mine.....

Person:  My mother... here she is pictured with my father and my two youngest boys during a Grandparents' Day at school a few years ago.

I admire my mother (and father) for many reasons but mostly because she lives out her faith on a daily basis... she is the real deal. Over the years she has sacrificed much to help others and to serve God, all without complaining.  She is my mentor, my encourager, and although I do not see or speak to her everyday, my thoughts and prayers are always with her.

Place:   Ocean City, MD- we visit several times a year, as it is relatively close ( about 4 hrs away) and we have family that lives in O.C.  It is my happy place... carefree time spent with my boys, my husband... walking the boards early in the morning, sipping my DD iced coffee, spending fun times with family, and watching my boys explore, play, and make memories.

 Thing-- My kitchen... although it is small, it is cozy and a hub of activity.  Although I really don't like to cook or bake, I do enjoy making meals and treats for my family.  My youngest son really enjoys helping me as does my husband.  If I'm not in my home office, I'm most likely in my kitchen!

Making Christmas cookies!
Animal:  Dachshunds!!!  Since December, we have added two mini-doxie puppies to our family.  I love this breed!  They are smart, sassy like their mama, good with my boys, loyal, and beyond loving!

Java and Dunkin

 Now you know a little bit more about the "me" behind Teacher Mom of 3!  To play, click the button below to join in the fun!

Flying into First Grade

Speaking of cooking, I found this amazingly simple crock pot recipe for home made oatmeal!  I'm not sure of the source, but I thank this person for sharing.  I made it last night and we had it this morning for breakfast before church.  It is just too easy to make and yummy not to share!

Crock Pot Oatmeal

  • 4-5 apples (any type)- wash, peel, and cut into small pieces/cubes
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups oats ( I used Quaker quick cooking oats)
  • 8 cups of water

 Optional:  Add a handful of raisins and /or walnuts for even more deliciousness!
Hint:  If you like your oatmeal sweet, sprinkle additional brown sugar and/or cane sugar when serving

Place the ingredients in the above order in crock pot.  Do NOT stir.  Cook on low overnight for 8-9 hours.  When you awake, you will be greeted by a delicious, homey smell and a yummy, hardy breakfast!  This recipe makes a large amount-a whole crock pot full.  I placed the leftovers in the fridge for a quick breakfast this week.

 Enjoy and have a marvelous Monday!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Seasonal Saturday: Easter and April Fools Literacy Ideas!

 Welcome to another Seasonal Saturday! With another snow storm making its way to and from many of you, let's keep thinking SPRING! Today I feature an Easter packet and a book study packet for April's Fools Day! Sit back, relax, and enjoy today's features!

 1. Merinda is the teacher-author-blogger behind Pirate Girl's Education Invasion where she creates a variety of teacher resources for second grade.  In addition, she designs relevant and CCSS Biblical packets for Christian school teachers to use in their classrooms. Merinda submitted a beautiful Easter packet titled He's Alive.

Highlights of this resource:
  • Includes (38) pages and (10) literacy activities for kindergarten- grade 3!
  • Flexible to use with whole group, small group, independent work, centers, Sunday School, or home school
  • "He's Alive!" teacher and student books
  • Sentence and word building
  • Writing pages for Holy Week
  • Cross craft
  • Isaiah 53:5 activity
This is a wonderful, thorough resource to help kids understand the true meaning of Easter.  The graphics are precious, there are a variety of activities, and it is a bargain at just $5! Click the picture below to see the complete listing and to visit Merinda's store!

When you're finished browsing through her store, make sure you sail on over to her blog for even more teacher ideas!

2.  Jamie from The Teacher's Aid  has submitted several fun book study units that are well designed and save teachers time! Today's feature is no exception and I'm not foolin'! Her resource packet for the book Arthur's April Fool by Marc Brown is brimming with comprehension and word work activities. 

Highlights of this resource:
  • (17) pages of literacy activities for second and third graders.  I would also recommend the packet for advanced first graders
  • Graphic organizer for beginning, middle, and end of story
  • Vocabulary activity for words from the story
  • Lots of word work with parts of speech:  singular and plural nouns, adjectives, and verbs
  • Sequencing
  • Comprehension questions
  • A writing response that I love and I know students will have a blast with:  kids write about an April Fool's joke they would like to play on another!
You can check out this book that kids love on Amazon.  Just click the pic below.

Click here to visit Jamie's store and you can also find her on Facebook!    

Speaking of Facebook, I want to remind you that I have exclusive FREEBIES on my Facebook page for my followers. These are literacy freebies that I do not offer anywhere else. Click the picture below to go to my Facebook page. Like my page and grab your Easter literacy FREEBIES!   This week I offer graphic organizers for main idea and details, beginning, middle, and end, words/vocabulary, and stationery sheets that you can use with any Easter story!

Have a great weekend, sweet followers!

 **If you are interested in submitting a literacy/picture book seasonal item for me to feature, please complete the form here on Google Drive. I am now accepting submissions for spring, April Fool's Day, Earth Day, National Library Week, and Arbor Day .

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Guest Blogger: Fun Phoneme Sound Mats FREEBIE

 My family is having a "staycation" for spring break, and it is a good thing! The stomach bug made its unwelcome arrival into our home last weekend. I was the last to succumb, for which I am grateful because everyone else was on the mend when I got sick. With that said, I am so thankful for the chicken soup in the freezer and for guest bloggers!  Please welcome my good bloggy friend, Andrea, from Reading Toward the Stars who is pinch-hitting for me today. I hope to be back over the weekend!

Hello, everyone!  It's Andrea, and I am visiting Lauren's blog from Reading Toward the Stars!  So glad to be here and can't wait to show you a little bit of my world!

Like Lauren, I am a reading specialist.  I currently work with struggling readers in grades K-3, but I have worked with students in grades K-6.  One of the things I love to do with students is to help them manipulate phonemes in words.  This helps them to think about the sounds they hear in the words and gain a better understanding of words.

When I started teaching students who struggled in reading, I used plain old Elknonin boxes (squares) with counters.  These worked, but the kids got bored with them.  They do enjoy "pushing the sounds" as we call it.  Then I started to make my own cuter boxes for the seasons, and the kids go wild!  Here are the spring ones!  {Click on any picture to grab a freebie.}
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So, how do I use these?  I actually use them in different ways.  I start out with just counters.  I use either flat marbles or cute erasers.  At Christmas time I used bells.  This makes it more interesting.  I call out a word, and the students "push" the sounds as they hear them.  Then we read the word together, focusing on that left to right progression.  Here is a picture of what that looks like.  I gave the student the word "hop", and she pushed each phoneme to make the word, saying /h/ /o/ /p/ as she pushed each star up.
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After the students have a grasp on segmenting the sounds, I venture into word families and letters.  The two boxes would be the onset (first sound) and rime (word family) that students would have to segment.  We manipulate the sounds by changing out the onsets and rimes to make new words.

Right now I am using the three boxes with some groups for them to find the letters to go in the blanks.  Once we have a word, we manipulate various sounds to make new words.  {I didn't think I would need the arrow for the first graders this late in the year, but it came in handy for a couple who still want to do everything right to left.}  Here is an example.

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I gave the word "fat"

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Then I said "fit".
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Then I called out "pit".
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Then we finished with "pin".
The kids always enjoy doing this, and it leads to many other opportunities to work with words.  There is a great article about using Elkonin boxes in different ways here at Reading Rockets.  There are many things you can do with students to help them blend and segment words.

This is a strategy that is not just for the struggling reader, but for every beginning reader.  As students work in the long vowels with silent e, they are great to show what the word is without the e and with the e.  The four boxes are great for those beginning and ending blends to for students to hear those sounds.  Many times those n and m ending blends are hard to hear.  "Pushing the sounds" helps them to actually focus on the sounds of the words and place them in the words.

I hope this helps in your endeavors with readers.  I find that my students are more aware of the words they are reading and spelling when we do these activities.  I even do these with my third graders, and they enjoy it!

Head on over to my blog and see what other reading ideas you can "grab" while you are there!

And a big THANK YOU to Lauren for letting me invade her blog for a while!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Welcome Guest Blogger, Scipi: Drill Vs. Practice

Happy Monday!  I am not here today, as this is the first day of my boys' spring break, my husband's vacation, and... it is snowing!  In any case, we will enjoy some much needed family time!  I am very honored to have my Teachers Pay Teachers friend, Scipi here today guest blogging for me!  She is the author of the math blog, Go Figure!  Scipi's post relates to math, but can easily be applied to emergent reading skills.  Enjoy!

Go Figure

When I was a kid, one of the things I dreaded most was going to the dentist. Even though we were poor, my Mom took my brother and me every six months for a check-up.  Unfortunately, we didn’t have fluoridated water or toothpaste that enhanced our breath, made our teeth whiter, or prevented cavities.  I remember sitting in the waiting room hearing the drill buzzing, humming, and droning while the patient whined or moaned.  Needless to say, I did not find it a pleasant experience.

I am troubled that, as math teachers, we have carried over this idea of drill into the classroom. Math has become a “drill and kill” activity instead of a “drill and thrill” endeavor.  Because of timed tests or practicing math the same way over and over, many students whine and moan when it is math time.  So how can we get student to those “necessary” skills without continually resorting to monotonous drill?

First we must understand the difference between drill and practice.  In math drill refers to repetitive, non-problematic exercises which are designed to improve skills (memorizing basic math facts) or procedures the student already has acquired.   It provides:

1)   Increased proficiency with one strategy to a predetermined level of mastery. To be important to learners, the skills built through drill must become the building blocks for more meaningful learning. Used in small doses, drill can be effective and valuable.

2)   A focus on a singular procedure executed the same way as opposed to understanding.  (i.e. lots of similar problems on many worksheets)  I have often wondered why some math teachers assign more than 15 homework problems.  For the student who understands the process, they only need 10-15 problems to demonstrate that.  For students who have no idea what they are doing, they get to practice incorrectly more than 15 times!

Unfortunately, drill also provides:


3) A false appearance of understanding.  Because a student can add 50 problems in one minute does not mean s/he understands the idea of grouping sets.

 4) A rule orientated view of math.  There is only one way to work a problem, and the reason why is not important!  (Just invert and multiply but never ask the reason why.)

5)   A fear, avoidance, and a general dislike of mathematics. A constant use of math drills often leaves students uninterested.

On the other hand, practice is a series of different problem-based tasks or experiences, learned over numerous class periods, each addressing the same basic ideas. (ex. different ways to multiply)  It provides:

1)   Increased opportunity to develop concepts and make connections to other mathematical ideas.  (i.e. A fraction is a decimal is a percent is a ratio.)

2)   A focus on providing and developing alternative strategies.  My philosophy, which hangs in my classroom, is: “It is better to solve one problem five ways than to solve five problems the same way.”  (George Poyla)

3)   A variety of ways to review a math concept.  (ex. games, crosswords, puzzles, group work)

4)   A chance for all students to understand math and to ask why. (Why do we invert and multiply when dividing fractions?) 

5)   An opportunity for all students to participate and explain how they arrived at the answer. Some may draw a picture, others may rely on a number line, or a few may use manipulatives. Good practice provides feedback to the students, and explains ways to get the correct answer.


Let’s look at it this way. A good baseball coach may have his players swing again and again in the batting cage.  This drill will help, but by itself it will not make a strong baseball player whereas practicing hitting a ball with a pitcher requires reacting to the different pitches with thought, flexibility, and skill.
I am of the opinion that drill should not be omitted from the math classroom altogether.  Basic math skills should be automatic because being fluent in the basics makes advanced math easier to grasp.  There is a place for drill; however, its use should be kept to situations where the teacher is certain that is the most appropriate form of instruction.  Even though practice is essential, for math it isn't enough. If understanding doesn't come, practice and drill will only leave a student with disjointed skills. If we want to produce strong mathematicians, we must focus on the BIG conceptual ideas through practice in problem-based lessons. We must present ideas in as many forms as we can so that students will go beyond rote drill to insight.

If you are interested in sharing this with your staff, colleagues, or parents check out the power point entitled: Drill vs. Practice
 Just click on the blue letters.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Seasonal Saturday:Easter Picture Books, A Giveaway and a SALE!!

 Happy St. Patrick's Day Weekend!
May you have a fun-filled weekend celebrating with your little (or big) leprechauns!  My family and I will be reading The Night Before St. Patrick's Day by Natasha Wing tonight. Tomorrow we will be feasting on Lucky Charms pancakes and talking about St. Patrick's missionary work before church!  Click here to view this festive recipe.

I have two more quick things to share with you before I get to the Seasonal Saturday features.

1.  Today is the last day to enter my little Facebook giveaway! The winner will be selected tomorrow by Rafflecopter.  You could win ANY item from my TpT store!  Click here to enter the giveaway.

2. I am joining Albuquerque's Amy's First Graders "green" linky party!  All participants are having a sale tomorrow, 3/17.  However, ALL items in my store are ON SALE~ 20% discount~ today, 3/16 AND 3/17!

 Now, for today's Seasonal Saturday:  Both teacher-authors from last week submitted two items, so I am featuring their second products this week!
~Jenn from 2nd Grade Snickerdoodles offers over (60) resources for science, social studies, math, and English Language Arts, including many book study units. Last week I featured her fabulous product for Rechenka's Eggs by Patricia Polacco. This week she submitted another picture book packet for The Easter Egg by beloved author, Jan Brett. Both of these books are on my Amazon wish list!

This adorable packet is aligned to first and second grade Common Core State Standards. The tasks are thoughtful, challenging, visually appealing (I love the precious clip art!), and very detailed.  

Other highlights from the packet that caught my eye:
  • Includes a reader's theater version of the story
  • Includes word work with nouns and adjectives
  • Writing task
  • A variety of graphic organizers including story maps, a tree map, a character map, and more!
  • Several customers have left stellar feedback after purchasing this item
With a total of (68) pages, there's too much to note, here, but I encourage you to check it out for yourself by clicking the picture above.  There's at least  a week's worth of literacy activities for just $6.50!


~The Teachers' Aid store at Teachers Pay Teachers is owned by Jamie Williams. She offers over (80) products for elementary literacy, math, science, and seasonal items. Last week I featured her There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Clover packet, which I loved so much that I bought the book!  This week I spotlight a similar product for There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Chick by Lucille Colandro.

This eggcellent  book unit is stuffed with (6) literacy activities designed for grades 1-3!  The packet includes:
  • Vocabulary
  • Rhyme
  • Comprehension questions
  • Sequencing
  • Writing response- create an Easter basket
  • And more!
Click the picture above to read more and to see the preview. You can grab this fun and engaging packet at a 15% discount on 3/17 and 3/18!!

Be sure to stop by Jamie's new Facebook page and show her some love!

 I hope you are enjoying discovering new literacy products as much as I am. Thank you once again to Jenn and Jamie for sharing their products! 

**If you are interested in submitting a literacy/picture book seasonal item for me to feature, please complete the form here on Google Drive. I am now accepting submissions for Lent, Easter, spring, April Fool's Day, Earth Day, National Library Week, and Arbor Day .
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