Sunday, October 9, 2016

Seven Strategies to Help Children Remember Spelling Words

Seven Strategies to help children remember spelling words - based on research, here are seven ideas to help those kiddos who struggle to remember spelling!
Some children remember sight words easily, but there are others who have a hard time remembering the spelling of words that don't follow the rules. 

Here are a few strategies, based on research, that will help kiddos remember spelling words.

1.  Spell it aloud! The act of saying the letters along with hearing the letters helps the pathways form in the brain.

2. Get them moving! Studies show a connection between movement and memory. Students can bounce a basketball while spelling, jump while spelling, or even do interpretive dance while spelling the words. 

3. Integrate Music! Ever notice how you can remember song lyrics from years ago that you never even tried to memorize? Music is closely connected to memory! Make up a little tune to the spelling of the words, or have the childen make it up!

4. Integrate Art! Have the children write the spelling words, then make up a design around them. Or, you could have them paint their words! 

5. Color code! Brains really connect to colors! Have the children write the words using one color for vowels, and one color for consonants.

6. Hands on! Use blocks, toothpicks, pipe cleaners or other manipulatives to create the words.

7. Talk about them! Get the kiddos to have conversations about their words. They can talk about the letters that follow the rules, and the letters that DON'T follow the rules. (Add color coding to this one, and that doubles the chance they'll remember the spelling!)

Want more ideas?  

HERE is a set of task cards with 48 color and 48 black and white task cards that can be used with any spelling list! These cards contain activities based on research that include integrating the arts, multi-modality, and multiple intelligences.   This set of sight word practice task cards is perfect for a word work center, homework, or extra practice in any setting. 

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Even or Odd? A Game for Two Students

Even or Odd: A Game for two students.  This game requires nothing but fingers, but it's a great way to practice even and odd numbers.

I played a game with my students this week, since we were studying even and odd numbers. 

I remember doing this activity as a child.
I don't remember what we called it.
I don't remember much about it at all, so I shared with my students what I remembered, and made up the rest.

It worked.

Here's how we did it.

1 .Children chose partners.
2. The partners decided who would represent even, and who would represent odd.
3. Players stood facing each other with one hand behind their back.
4. One partner said, "One, two, three, shoot!"
5. On "shoot," each player shoots out 0, 1, or 2 fingers. 
6. Both players determine if the total fingers is even or odd, and that player gets a point for that round.
7. Play continues until time runs out, with players keeping track of how many points for "even" or "odd."

A more advanced version: use up to 5 fingers for each draw.

Another way: use dice, add them, odd or even gets a point. They can keep tallies on a whiteboard to keep score.  Playing cards would work, too!

All my games end with a handshake and the words, "good game!"

I had all my students playing with partners at the same time. Of course, I had to join in the fun since I have an odd number of students. 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Importance of Read Alouds!

The Importance of Read Alouds: Reading aloud has many benefits. Here are 15!

I am committed to reading aloud to my students daily. 

Not only is it my very favorite time of day, but there are so many benefits of reading aloud to kids.

Here are some advantages of reading aloud to children:

1. It's a shared literacy experience within the classroom community.
2. It's a great way to model important reading concepts like understanding characters, using inference skills, predicting, and more!
3. It's a great way to model phrasing and fluent reading.
4. Read Alouds are like an advertisement for books! Ever notice how the kids want to read a book right after you read it to them? Or perhaps another book in the series?
5. Read Alouds develop a child's vocabulary.
6. Shared books are a great way to model writing skills!
7. Shared books are a great way to spark discussion about sensitive subjects.
8. Children learn language patterns and figurative language through Read Alouds.
9. When you have multiple reading levels in your classroom (which most of us do!) it "evens the playing field."
10. Reading aloud helps build attention spans.
11. It's a chance to "think aloud" to model decoding new words using context clues.
12. It's a great opportunity to bring literature into other subjects like Science, Social Studies, Mathematics, and even Music, Art, and Phys. Ed!
13. Reading aloud encourages thinking and using imagination.
14. Reading aloud helps children learn about the world. Not just their own world, but other places, cultures, time periods, and even fictional worlds.
15. It's fun!

Want some more reasons to Read Aloud to students?  Here are a few references! (Click each image for a link to Amazon.)


What books do you like to read aloud to children?
What other advantages to reading aloud can you name?

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Pass the Clap - A Fun Game!

Pass the Clap - A Fun Game! This is a game with many benefits in the classroom, and plenty of giggles, too!

A couple of years ago, I learned a fun circle game called "Pass the Clap". My kiddos really love it, and it's got many benefits!

1. It's a nice break from the regular routine.
2. It helps the children learn to work together.
3. It forces them to focus and concentrate on each other, and the game.
4. It's been known to create giggling children. 

If you don't believe this last one is a benefit, you'll have to read THIS post about how laughter is healthy!

So here's how to play:
To pass the clap, you must make eye contact with the "clap receiver", then clap.
That person passes the clap to the next person, and so on. 

There are a few varieties. We start simple.
1. Pass the clap, one by one, all the way around the circle.
2. Pass it around the circle, then reverse and bring the clap back to the starting point.

My students like to time how fast it takes for the clap to get around the circle. Then we time it again and see if we beat our previous time. (Which usually brings a celebration!)

A couple more variations:
3. Anyone can change the direction! This certainly livens things up!
4. The clap can be passed across the circle.

This last variation really requires focus and concentration, and plenty of team work! The children do rise for the occasion, and it's totally amazing!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Building Social Skills and Academics with Morning Meeting!

Build Social Skills and Academics with Morning Meeting: morning meetings have numerous benefits for children and classrooms, including building social skills, emotional skills, community, focus, and productivity.

I am so thrilled with my schedule this year! Last year my students had RTI first thing in the morning, so I was never able to spend mornings with them. They came in, dropped off their stuff, and ran off to their Tier 2 assigned groups. This made it tough to build relationships with my students, and build community within my group.

This year, the children stay in the classroom in the morning, and we are encouraged to start our day with Morning Meeting!

Most typical Morning Meetings have these parts:

1. Greeting
2. Sharing
3. Group Activity
4. Morning Message

There are many ways to do each part, and hundreds of references for ideas, but here are a couple: 

These images are all links to Amazon to learn more about these books.

Why do Morning Meeting?

Morning Meeting helps build social and emotional skills. It builds community and helps children learn to work as a team. It helps children develop a positive tone to their day, and affects their focus and productivity for the rest of the school day. Morning Meeting helps establish a climate of trust and motivates students to feel significant.

I did Morning Meetings ages ago (I'd estimate 20+ years!) but I haven't been able to do it recently, so it's like starting over. I'd love to hear what other teachers do during their morning meetings!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

I've Got This!

I've GOT This! Some words of encouragement to help teachers get back to school.

I'm trying to muster up all my courage and all my stamina, because I'm about to run a marathon!

After a fabulous summer with lots of rest, relaxation, and good times, I'm going back to school.

I'm looking forward to seeing my colleagues again, and I'm really excited about my schedule this year!

Plus, I get to meet my kids tomorrow night at the Open House!

And I get to have them in my class starting Wednesday!

This year will be tough (they all have been, in some ways!) but I'm trying to be positive and look forward to the year. 

After all, I can't be on summer vacation forever! 
(But I sure will miss staying in jammies until noon!)

I've been giving myself a lot of "coaching"... kind, encouraging words.  I thought perhaps you could use some, too.

This is from my Dad, the football coach. I say this to myself often!
I've GOT This! Some words of encouragement to help teachers get back to school.

Every time I get stressed about how much we have to teach and how little time we have to teach it: (the visual works for me, too!)
I've GOT This! Some words of encouragement to help teachers get back to school.

As above, I do get stressed! (I suspect we all do!)
I've GOT This! Some words of encouragement to help teachers get back to school.

Being a fan of the arts, I love this quote from John Steinbeck!
I've GOT This! Some words of encouragement to help teachers get back to school.

This is my own quote. You could sort of say it's my mission!
I've GOT This! Some words of encouragement to help teachers get back to school.

Just a little reminder how important it is to build bonds with the children!
I've GOT This! Some words of encouragement to help teachers get back to school.

This is also my own quote. It's something I remind myself frequently!
I've GOT This! Some words of encouragement to help teachers get back to school.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Oh No! Can you forgive my mistake?

I made a mistake about the recent Teachers Pay Teachers sale, but I'm willing to make it up to you.

I came home from my camping trip, and realized I'd made a mistake!

Well, other than thinking this was a camping table.  
Not a camp table

I really do have a little bag that's a camping table, but this little blue bag held a chair I hadn't see in about 20 years!

Not a camp table

My daughter is 23 now. I haven't seen this chair since she was little!

But seriously, while I was "unplugged", I thought I'd set my Elementary Matters store at 20% off for the Teachers Pay Teachers Bonus sale, but apparently I hadn't!

I feel bad! Maybe people wanted to buy stuff at a discount the day of the sale!

But I'm ready to make it up to you!

I've set my store at 20% off for this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. (August 26th - 28th)

Hopefully that will give everyone a chance to get ready for Back to School.

But there's something extra: If you purchase at least 2 resources (more than $3) during the weekend, I'll give you one resource $3 or less for free.

All you will have to do is email me at , tell me what items ($3 or more) you bought this weekend, along with your buyer name, and let me know what item less than $3 you'd like for free.

You can start filling your cart now HERE!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Back to School Resources to Make Life a Little Easier, Plus 6 Freebies!

This post has 16 different resources that will make your life a little easier at the beginning of the school year. Plus, there are 6 freebies!

Want to make your life a little easier at the beginning of the school year? There is just so much to organize, and no time to do it! Before I get to the freebies at the end of this post, here are a few resources that will make your life a bit easier:

Writer's Workshop Starter Packet: Everything you need to start Writer's Workshop!
I've always been a big fan of Writer's Workshop, and try each year to come closer to perfection. I haven't quite got there yet, but here's what I use:  Writer's Workshop Starter Collection

This resource has tons of tools for every subject! Plus, each subject can be purchased separately: Tools for Learning: 

These are my lifesavers those first couple of weeks: fun and easy for the kids, valuable review for everyone, and no prep! 
Back to School No Prep Printables

I hope you're not sick of the Olympics yet... these task cards review important first grade math skills! Plus, I teach my second grade task card procedures with these: Academic Summer Games Math Task Cards

More Olympics fun, and more no prep review! Life is easy with these fun printables! Academic Summer Games No Prep Printables

I teach game playing procedures and routines with this game: 
Back to School Get to Know You Game With Brain Breaks

This will be taking up most of the first couple of weeks of school... and I'm very excited about this new resource! See THIS BLOG POST for more information about this one: Strategies for Success: Team Building and Character Development

I'm a big fan of clip charts, and a big fan of using the sports theme in the classroom: Sports Themed Clip Chart

More sports, and learning responsibility with classroom jobs! Classroom Jobs with Sports Theme

Doesn't everyone love music? Music Themed Clip Chart

Doesn't everyone love learning responsibility? Classroom Jobs with Music Theme
Need help organizing Guided Reading? Here's everything I use, including ways to organize the kids that aren't working with the teacher: Guided Reading and Literacy Center Management Resources

Loads of helpful forms, checklists, and ideas for that first week: Back to School Essentials

If you're anything like me, the day is so packed, it's tough to fit in the fun stuff: These printables will make your life MUCH easier, and fun for the kiddos! Science and Social Studies Printables for August/ September

Speaking of bundles, this has pretty much everything! Back to School Supreme Teacher Bundle

There are also some freebies that can help you out:
I can't get enough of the Olympics! Academic Summer Games Freebie

This set which accompanies the book Your Fantastic Elastic Brain by JoAnn Deak has some great beginning of the year activities to help children understand how their brain works and how each brain is different and unique: I Can Stretch My Brain

We can't have enough Brain Breaks, can we? Social Studies and Science Brain Breaks

This set has a taste of one of my most popular resources. I start working on Math Fact Fluency at the beginning of the year. This set is based on brain research, and you can't miss! Fact Fluency Freebie

Here's a little taste of one of my favorite fall resources: Science and Social Studies for August and September Freebie

Seasonal Brain Breaks... always a hit! Back to School Brain Breaks
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