Monday, April 30, 2012

My Traditional Mother's Day Gift

First of all, if you are the mom of one of my students, you'll have to click out of this screen.  Sorry, you can't see this until after May 13th!  (Or you'll just have to be really, really good at acting surprised!)
Now that I've made that clear, I can tell you about my traditional Mother's Day gift.  It's something I've been doing every year for at least 15 years.  It's one of those activities that's a win-win-win for everyone involved!  I love it, the kids love it, and the moms love it.  Plus, there's some learning going on!

Every year about this time I go to the gardening store and buy a flat of impatiens.  I usually get a variety of colors, and I make sure I have more than enough.  I brought my flat of little plants to class today just to "wet their whistle".  I think every single kid in the class asked about them.

Later this week, I'll sit with small groups and repot them.  I get right into the soil, asking them to loosen all the soil around the roots before repotting.  There are some great conversations around the table during this process!  It's always interesting to see which kids are afraid to get their hands dirty!  I typically use peat pots (see link/ image to the left) because they can go right into the soil. Paper cups can be used as well, but must be removed before going into the ground.

Once all the plants have been repotted, the kids keep the plants on their desk until it's time to bring them home.  Yep, that's right, the potted plants stay on their desks, beside the flags, beanies, water bottles, and once in a while, some work! 
I love to watch their faces... they come in first thing in the morning, and check the plant right away.  They tend to panic if a leaf has fallen off (They know just how many leaves the plant has!)  After a while, they catch on that leaves falling off is part of the process, and new leaves will appear.
There are always a few minor disasters.  They all know where the dustpan is kept, and they all know how to use it.  Impatiens will endure just about everything the kids can do to a plant, except a broken stem. Then it becomes another learning experience.  I've learned to keep several extras for a couple of reasons:
  1. Those "learning experiences" can be too distressing without a back up plan!
  2. I love growing impatiens in my own garden.  I usually keep the extras in the classroom for most of the year, but I do take them home and put them in my yard... they're great to grow!
I send home this information sheet on impatiens with the children the day the plants go home.

The parents really seem to love the plants, and the kids love preparing them.  It's one of those activities that works so well I keep coming back to it every year, and it's a delight each year.  It's definitely a win-win-win... with some learning on the side!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

You've Given the QPS, Now What?

My last post was about using the Quick Phonics Screener to find where students have reading deficits.  If the QPS doesn't show any deficits, that's fantastic! The next step would be to work on accuracy and fluency in reading.  (That's another post!) 
 More than likely, if a child was already struggling in reading (as indicated by DIBELS scores or by teacher observation) something will show up in the QPS.  That's where to start!  Quite often, there will be others with the same deficit, and you can group these kids together as a phonics "break out" group.  Of course, with older kids, it's best to use fancy words like "word study group" or even "linguistics".

There are TONS of free resources on the internet that will help you out.  

One of my favorites is from University of West Virginia. (West Virginia - Reading First)  This site has complete lessons from the warm up, phonological awareness/ articulation, letter/ sound correspondence, blending routines, word work, dictation, and reading text that focuses on the skill.  They also include word lists and texts for practicing!
Another great site for resources is The Florida Center for Reading Research.  I could spend hours on this site exploring everything!  Once you've figured out which skill needs work, just find an activity to go with it, and there you go!  
There are also tons of materials on Teachers Pay Teachers as well as Teachers Notebook.  I'm sure you'll be able to find plenty of ideas on Pinterest as well.  Here's a link to my Pinterest board on Word Work.
Don't forget these important parts of any phonics lesson:
  • Goal
  • Review
  • New Concept
  • Word Practice
  • Dictation
  • Word Meaning
  • Text Reading 

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Top Teachers Giveaway Galore Winner!

The Top Teachers Giveaway Galore is over, and we have a winner for the Baseball Antonyms Game!

The Random Number Generator picked the 27th comment... Congratulations Kimmie!  Check your email for the Baseball Antonyms Game.  I'm sure your kiddos will enjoy it!  (My little boys love it!)

Thanks to so much for everyone who participated!  There's more fun stuff in the works!  In the meantime, enjoy my series of blogs on Improving Reading Instruction!


Assessing Reading Difficulties

How do you find out what the children need for Reading RTI (Response to Intervention) time?

Our district gives the DIBELS three times a year:  In September, January, and May.  As long as the children are working at grade level and showing growth, there is no need for additional assessments.  If the children are working below level, or are not showing adequate growth in reading skills, they are followed more closely by Progress Monitoring, accompanied by additional instruction or alternative instruction.

DIBELS will help figure out which kids need help.  Then what?

Quick Phonics Screener can help you find a deficiency in decoding skills more quickly and more specifically than DIBELS or other assessment tools. It's a one on one assessment, and can be done in a couple of minutes. (Click here for a free copy of a QPS.  Scroll 1/3 down and click Quick Phonics Screener.)

I prefer QPS uses nonsense words, but I'm unable to find a copy online. This gives a true measurement of how the child does at "sounding out" the words without relying on the visual memory.  (I've known more than one reading deficit that was masked by a strong visual memory!)

I keep my QPS materials in a folder with the child's copy laminated and plenty of record sheets in the pockets.  If I notice a kid is not showing the desired growth, I'll find a couple of minutes to pull the child and guide them through the screening.  There is no "set way" to record what the child does, but generally I try to write something so I'll remember the mistakes the child made.  (That's often a key for teaching!)

Looking closer, you'll see the QPS, you'll see the order of subtests is in a logical order:  letter ID, letter sounds, cvc words, cvc words with blends, cvce words, r controlled vowels, cvc with digraphs, vowel pairs, words with prefixes or suffixes, two syllable words, and multisyllabic  words.  The QPS suggests if a child misses 5 or more in a section, that's the skill needed.

My next post will give more suggestions on what to do with the information from the QPS!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Happy Pay it Forward Day!

I found out that today was "Pay it Forward Day"!  

I found out when I read Laura 's blogpost on Corkboard Connections about it!  She's also having a Math Centers Linky Party, so be sure to check that out!
I thought I'd Pay it Forward to my wonderful readers by sending them off to other sides to do more reading.  I've been blogstalking for a long time, and I've found some great blogs out there.  Here are some you will definitely need to visit:

PhotobucketOne of my very favorite bloggers, Rachel of Minds in Bloom just happens to be having a linky party right now on one of my favorite topics:  Using movement in the classroom!
Rachel of Sub Hub is having a giveaway on her blog for a teacher cart!  I couldn't live without mine! (I just can't carry a whole lot of weight, and still have a little trouble with balance since I had a stroke 2 years ago, so I use it to help keep my balance as I walk across the parking lot, plus, it carries my stuff!)
Raki's Rad Resources
Heidi from Raki's Rad Resources is having a "Fresh Start Giveaway" since she revamped her blog.  Be sure to check this one out!

Kindergarten LifestyleJeannie of Kindergarten Lifestyle is having a giveaway for a $10 Walmart card.  Who couldn't use that?

If you haven't found these two websites yet, you're in for a treat!  Nothing but freebies, all the time, on both boards!  Enjoy!

Classroom freebiesClassroom Freebies Too

Don't forget the Top Teachers Giveaway Galore!  You have until tomorrow night to visit all the blogs and enter all the contests!  (Plus, you get to visit some awesome blogs!)

Here's one more "Pay it Forward" for my readers:  If you leave a comment with your email, I'll send you your choice of my Mexican Go Fish Suffix game or my Spring Flower Prefix Go Fish game.  This offer hold true until midnight tomorrow night  (Friday April 27, 2012) at midnight EDT.  I hope you like my two newest games.  They each have a $2 value, but you're getting them free!

Maybe you can Pay it Forward to someone else!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

New Blog! A+ Collaborating Teachers and Other News

A+ Collaborating TeachersDid you know there's a new blog out there?  It's a combination of several fantastic teachers sharing what's on their own blogs!  Be sure to check out A+ Collaborating Teachers Blog to get links to several other quality teacher blogs.

Yes, I must say it's an honor to be one of them!

This is the same group of teachers with whom I've joined  for my Top Teachers Giveaway Galore. (You have until the 27th to hop to all these blogs and enter lots of great contests!)

We also have our own Pinterest Board.  It has almost 1400 followers so far... you could be next!

My other piece of news is that I'm officially a dot com!  Yep, I've purchased my own domain, and this blog address is officially   You can still get here on the old address, too,  ( but for some reason, that whole dot com stuff makes me feel important!  We all could use a bit of that!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Top Teachers Giveaway Galore!

It's Giveaway time and you are not going to believe this!  Over 20 items up for grabs from AMAZING bloggers all over the USA!  It's Top Teacher's Giveaway Galore!

Just comment on THIS POST 
YOUR EMAILbefore APRIL 27th 
and from me you could win:

 Baseball Antonyms by Sally DeCost of Elementary Matters"This is a game to practice antonyms. It has a baseball theme, and can be played like "Old Maid" or like "Concentration". It can be played with a pair of children, or a whole reading group.  There are extra cards, so you can plug in words of your own." (1 - 3)

While you are here, make sure you follow me through 
Google Plus, Twitter, Facebook
Teachers PayTeachers, and Pinterest

Then stop by these great BLOGS, look for this same post and enter to win their free products with them!
(Please note there is a link to the product and blog, you will want to visit their blog to enter.)

Making Words with Blends by DeAnne of First Grade and Fabulous: "Making Words is a great activity to work on phoneme isolation, segmenting sounds, and blending sounds to make words. This packet includes Blends (with both short vowels and long vowels with silent e. You will find ten different making word directions which include their own recording sheets." (k-2)
Sight Word Snap Cubes by Jennifer of Empowering Little Learners"Looking for a fun new center for your kids? How about having them make the sight words with Snap Cubes! Use these cards to have your students count out blocks to create the letters and form the pre-primer sight words! Then they count how many cubes it took to make the words! Two recording sheets are included (one where students just count the snap cubes, and another where students count and write the word.)" (K-3)

Dolch Sight Words for Kindergarten by Lidia Barbosa of Kid’s Reading Activities: "Sight word cards in a fun theme. Use them in a center, small group or on your word wall. A word sorting activity is included." (K)

  Center Signs in Spanish by Lidia Barbosa of Kinder Latino: "These are 24 colorful center signs in Spanish. It includes two sizes. One full page size plus small cards for your Centers pocket chart." (K)

  Adding 3 Numbers Pack by Melissa of Dilly Dabbles: "Pack full of activities to support instruction on adding three numbers with sums within 20." (K-2)

 Compound Word Magic Square for Grades 3, 4, & 5 by Heather of HoJo's Teaching Adventures: "This is a great fun puzzle where students need to match 24 compound words together. You will get three different puzzles with this item."(3-5)

  Interactive Student Notebook by A Teacher's Treasure: "The ultimate alternative assessment & differentiating tool. Students will become creative, independent, reflective, thinkers, readers and writers. Students will be able to express their own ideas, process, and or apply the information and skills learned in this class. This notebook serves as a live journal, personalized textbook, and working portfolio. Engages learners of all learning modalities & multiple intelligences." (4-12)

  Vocabulary Detectives 2 by Ruth of Teacher Park: "Run weekly vocabulary contests! As your students read their books, they fill out the Vocabulary Detective cards and put them in the Detective Jar. Have a drawing at the end of the week for the winners!" (4-6)

  Alphabet Writing: Quick Prompts From A to Z by Erin of Small Types:
"Get students' pencils moving and their creativity flowing with these short alphabet-themed writing prompts. Students can write notes to friends, make lists, turn alphabet letters into main characters and describe the details in fictional adventures--All corresponding to the letters of the alphabet. (Includes five prompts for each letter to suit different levels and interests.)"

Fun on the Farm by Brian of Hopkins' Hoppin' Happenings: "Here is a fun Farm Packet for primary grades. It includes Farm Rhyming Words - The words used are actually from the book Country Morning by Christine Lynn. Read more about it on my blog. It also includes I Have Who Has Dolch Words, Addition and Subtraction Center. You can use them as concentration matching, go fish, etc. All, but the I Have Who Has, has a work sheet and an answer key to go with it! I hope you enjoy!" (K-2)

Geometry Fun: A Supplemental Unit by Mandy of Mandy's Tips for Teachers: "This 77 page packet includes vocabulary cards, a student dictionary, three games, two sorting activities, two creative art projects and a short assessment." (2-4)

 Busy Teacher Forms by Michelle of Teach123 : "Fourteen forms to help busy teachers." (K-3)

Farm Math Work Station Activities numbers 11-20 by Mandy of A Special Kind of Class: "Seven math work station activities including, subtracting, counting, number recognition, number matching, measuring and 2 adding activities. Includes response sheets and answer keys." (K-1)

  The Three Frogs by Arlene of LMN Tree: "This is an ELA Guided Reading and Writing Unit for Grades 1-2. It includes a complete lesson plan, Word Study, Make and Take Book, Graphic Organizers, Story Sequence Writing Activity, Phonics Worksheet, Writing, Chant and Activities.

  Writing Center by Caitlin of Kindergarten Smiles: "I created these activities for my students writing center. They are all independent and fun! These can be used throughout the year (more than once). Activities range from name writing, to writing the globe, to sight word writing, to much, much, more!" (K-2)

   I Spy With My Frog's Eye-A Differentiated Word Work Activity by Marsha of A Differentiated Kindergarten : " This is a differentiated I-Spy activity which includes 16 pages of CVC, CVCC and CVCe activities that are tiered to help you meet the readiness levels of all your students." (K-2)

  Writing Lists by Nicole of Teaching With Style: "This set of 10 lists is perfect for using during Daily 5. In my classroom, if students choose Work on Writing, they can work on their story from Writer's Workshop, start a new story, write a letter to a friend, or write a list. " (K-3)

  Digital Clock Sorting Game by Jennifer of Best Practices 4 Teaching: "This product allows students to sort digital clocks by 'quarter til', 'quarter of', 'quarter after', etc. Students will quickly see the pattern of the times and commit it to memory! In 2 days, all of my students had learned this concept using this sort whereas the lesson in our math kit totally confused them!"

  Synonym-Antonym Rap Packet by Abby of Third Grade Bookworm: "This packet is full of activities for a 2nd or 3rd grade classroom studying synonyms and antonyms. Students will enjoy the Synonym-Antonym Rap, partner game, buddy reading activity and other printables included in this set. Wrap it all up with a cute class book template that can be used with other units in the future!" (2-3)

Early Elementary Science - Human Body Unit with Literacy Math by Lisa of The Lesson Guide: "This Early Elementary Science based Anatomy Unit will teach students about the Human Body (inside and out) with colorful graphics and diagrams using a variety of Literacy and Math skills. This unit includes Measurement Skills, an original Poem with a Get Moving Analysis, Information/ Facts about each Body Part with Vocabulary, Templates for students to create a nonfiction book about their body, Full color pictures of body parts and locations of body parts, a Classification and Math graphing activity with Critical Thinking Analysis, a Unit Project/Human Diagram, a Word Wall Classification activity with Phrase Cards, Resources and more!" (K-2)

  Building Popcorn Words by Krissy of Mrs. Miner's Monkey Business: "This product includes weekly cut, build, and glue activities that follow along with my Monkey Popcorn Word Fun Unit as well as the Treasures series word list (which includes many Dolch and other HFW as well). It also has center materials that students can build the words in a pocket chart." (K-1)

  Scooping Up Story Elements by Tonya of Super Second Graders: "This is a fun way for students to pick story elements to plan out a story. Students will pick a card from characters, setting, and plot and record then on the recording sheet. Students will use the chosen element to create a story. Students will have a blast getting to create fun and whimsical stories. " (1-4)

  The Answer is… What’s the Question? Math Task Cards by Michelle of Making It As A Middle School Teacher: "28 numbered cards that leave the level of difficulty and specific math skill to be assessed up to you! Some students may only do basic operations, while other students may be required to do more advanced skills and give more details for their answers. Two student response options are also included!! Use for early finishers, have the whole class complete in Round Robin style, or use as a center. Pull out specific cards or use all 28 cards." (5-8)

  David Shannon Author Study by Mary of Sharing Kindergarten: "This is an 80 page author study using the books of David Shannon. It features 8 book. Each book title has a reading comprehension game, answer key, and writign prompts with it. " (K-1)

  Candy Land Long Vowel Game by Mel D of Seusstastic Classroom Inspirations: "This unique game is one of over 50 games I have to offer! Over 18 pages of long vowel words are on "look-alike" Candy Land cards. All you need is a game board & game pieces. Print, laminate & cut & use for years to come. These games can be used during Daily 5, tutoring, literacy stations, Daily 5 Math, RTI, ELL, Title 1 groups, homeschooling & more! The possibilities are endless!" (K-3)

A Not So Wimpy Resource: Fractions, Decimals & Percents Using Money by Kathie of The Diary of a Not So Wimpy Teacher : "This resource is great for differentiating instruction. Help struggling students, or those who have a difficult time with math concepts, understand fractions using money. This resource includes an info sheet, practice sheet, flashcards, and a bingo board." (3-5)

Again, comment your email on this post to win my product before APRIL 27th.  Winner will be announced on April 28th!  

And then hop on over to these great blogs to enter to win their free products too!   


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