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10 Strategies for Surviving Until Summer

We have 21 school days left.  I'm trying not to get stressed out about all the work I have to complete in 21 days.  I much prefer to spend the 21 days enjoying my days with my students. 

Ten Strategies for Surviving Until Summer: None of these ideas will cost you a thing, but they'll keep your students interested and engaged for the last few weeks or days!


But then again.... these kids are "cooked".  They've taken in as much information as they can, and they're starting to get real cranky.  These little angels who have worked hard all year are struggling!



I need to complete the next couple of weeks of our reading program, then the unit test, then the end of the year test!


Ten Strategies for Surviving Until Summer: None of these ideas will cost you a thing, but they'll keep your students interested and engaged for the last few weeks or days!
Here's what I really want to happen the next couple of weeks:  I want to read all my very favorite books and leave the kids with a desire to read this summer!



I also want to finish the curriculum and all the tests, I want to make the end of the year memory books.  I want the children to have pleasant memories of their second grade year.



I want to be ready for my summer vacation!



But we do have to get through the next 21 days.  Somehow!



So, here are some things I plan to do:

1. Play a lot of music-  I do like a variety... soft music for concentration, lively music to get them moving, rowdy music to burn off steam...

2. Bring them outside- Work in opportunities to bring the children outside wherever I can.

3. Loving books- Celebrate books in every way possible!

4. Make 'em laugh- Find plenty of opportunities for laughter.  Laughter is good, and healing as well!

5. Fun- Work plenty of games and fun learning into the day.

6. Move- Get them out of their seats whenever I can.  Get their blood moving to bring oxygen to their brains.

7. Shake it up- Rearrange things... move desks, change the schedule, do something completely different.

8. Pair them up for projects- Being social increases learning and productivity.  Plus, it's fun!

9. Have a contest- Get their pulses moving!

10.Visuals- Find some good educational videos.
These are all things the brain needs for learning.  I try to do this stuff anyway.  I suspect they need it even more than usual this time of year.  It's a hard time of year for all of us, but it's even harder on the kids.  

Ten Strategies for Surviving Until Summer: None of these ideas will cost you a thing, but they'll keep your students interested and engaged for the last few weeks or days!
Ten Strategies for Surviving Until Summer: None of these ideas will cost you a thing, but they'll keep your students interested and engaged for the last few weeks or days!
We WILL make it!  
Summer vacation, here we come!


What are your ideas for the end of the year?

Ten Strategies for Surviving Until Summer: None of these ideas will cost you a thing, but they'll keep your students interested and engaged for the last few weeks or days!

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Syllables... and Then Some

Did you know there were 6 kinds of syllables?

Some: This post discusses the 6 syllable types and why these are important in learning to read. It includes a multi-syllable freebie!


Knowing the different kinds of syllables will help the children move as readers from reading basic single syllable words to multi-syllabic words like watermelon and helicopter.


However, children shouldn't be trying to decode multi syllabic words until they have mastered single syllable words with blends, digraphs, short vowels, long vowel patterns, r controlled vowels,  diphthongs and other vowel pairs, prefixes and suffixes.


In my second grade class, I'm still working on fluency with short vowels with several of my students, but my top readers are very much able to decode multi syllabic words, as well as spell them!



Here are the six kinds of syllables:

  • Closed Syllable - These are short vowels followed by a consonant, such as  num in number, or vel in velvet
  • Vowel Consonant e Syllable - This is your classic long vowel/ silent e pattern such as ade in parade or cide in decide.
 
  • Open Syllable - These are long vowel syllables that end with the vowel such as ta in table and spi in spider.
 
  • Consonant l e Syllable - These are at the ends of words like ble in table and tle in little.
 
  • R- Controlled Syllable - These have an r controlled vowel such as gar in garden and der in under
 
  • Vowel Digraph/ Diphthong "D" Syllable - These contain a diphthong or a vowel diagraph. (Sometimes called "vowel teams") Examples are thou as in thousand and poi as in poison.
Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Syllables... and Then Some: This post discusses the 6 syllable types and why these are important in learning to read. It includes a multi-syllable resource!
Why is it important to teach syllables?  When readers break unfamiliar words into syllables, the words become easier to decode. Learning about syllables also help students remember spelling patterns. Knowing how to decode syllables will help children become more fluent readers, and studies show that fluency helps comprehension. And that's our goal, isn't it?  
Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Syllables... and Then Some: This post discusses the 6 syllable types and why these are important in learning to read. It includes a multi-syllable resource!

Many teachers teach syllables by having the children clap the beat of the syllables. This works for most children. 

A more tactile way is to teach the children to place their hand under their jaw as they say the words. As the mouth will open for every vowel sound (and each syllable represents a vowel sound) the jaw will tap the hand for each syllable.  

Want to read more about syllables?


  • Six Syllable Types on Reading Rockets was co-written by my instructor of the LETRS training, so it's got to be quality information!  (And interesting, too!)
  • Vocabulary.co.il has a couple of syllable games and videos for the kids.

I've put together a resource with a couple of lists that can be used for practicing with syllables. There are a few options for using my syllables lists. They could be used simply as lists for children to practice reading. They could also be cut out and shuffled, for the kids to sort. They could sort by syllable type, or simply how many syllables are in the words. Find your resource here: Reading 2 and 3 Syllable Words.

Enjoy this resource and your 6 kinds of syllables!
 
Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Syllables... and Then Some: This post discusses the 6 syllable types and why these are important in learning to read. It includes a multi-syllable resource!!
 

Want some more work on syllables? 

Check out Buggy Syllables 

and 


Plus, here's a blog post that explains more about why children should practice nonsense words:

 https://www.elementarymatters.com/2013/09/why-do-we-practice-nonsense-words_25.html 



Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Syllables... and Then Some: This post discusses the 6 syllable types and why these are important in learning to read. It includes a multi-syllable resource!

Learning Math Facts With Cuisenaire Rods

Brain Research tells us that being physically involved with the learning process helps learning. 

It also suggests that use of color helps make connections. 

Teachers know that kids (and adults) tend to key into color, and children love to use manipulatives!


Learning Math Facts with Cuisenaire Rods and a Freebie - Cuisenaire Rods are fun for the kids and helpful for learning valuable math concepts. Here are some ideas!
 Cuisenaire Rods are fun for the kids and helpful for learning valuable math concepts. Here are some ideas!


With Cuisenaire Rods (see picture) the white rod, the smallest, is one cubic centimeter.(This is the same size as a standard base ten block.) The longest rod is orange. When the children put the rods by length, they make a colorful "staircase". (See picture.)
 
 Cuisenaire Rods are fun for the kids and helpful for learning valuable math concepts. Here are some ideas!

The children can then assign values to each rod by color based on the relationship of the other rods.
Cuisenaire Rods are fun for the kids and helpful for learning valuable math concepts. Here are some ideas!
I like to start with sets of ten, since our number system is based on ten.  It's good for them to know those combinations of ten!

Cuisenaire Rods are fun for the kids and helpful for learning valuable math concepts. Here are some ideas! 



Since the orange rod has a value of 10, this
picture shows 9+1=10. It also shows 1+9=10.  
It also shows 10-1=9 as well as 10-9=1.

Cuisenaire Rods are fun for the kids and helpful for learning valuable math concepts. Here are some ideas! 





What fact family do these blocks show?  6+4=10, 4+6=10, 10-6=4, and 10-4=6.  

Cuisenaire Rods are fun for the kids and helpful for learning valuable math concepts. Here are some ideas!



 








This one shows 6+6=12 and 12-6=6


Cuisenaire Rods are fun for the kids and helpful for learning valuable math concepts. Here are some ideas! 



 The Cuisenaire Rods can also be used for multiple addends or even multiplication.  This could be 3+3+3+3=12 or 3x4=12.

When it comes to storage, the containers the rods come in are tricky for the kids to put away.  I put my Cuisenaire Rods into a container much easier for little hands.

Cuisenaire Rods are fun for the kids and helpful for learning valuable math concepts. Here are some ideas!


I made these center sheets for the students. I prefer the children work with partners on activities like this since the conversations they have help the learning.  If you run these off back to back, you can make two-sided, half-size papers.

Click the image or click here for the sample: Fact Families with Cuisenaire Rods Sample!


Cuisenaire Rods are fun for the kids and helpful for learning valuable math concepts. Here are some ideas!


For more sheets like this, click here: Fact Families with Cuisenaire Rods

Cuisenaire Rods are fun for the kids and helpful for learning valuable math concepts. Here are some ideas!


I also have a resource to develop Number Sense with Cuisenaire Rods that can be found HERE.

Plus, a chance to build with the rods and add up the sums with multiple addends HERE. (This one is a favorite... they LOVE building with the rods!)

All these resources can be found as a bundled set HERE.
For a more advanced bundle of place value activities see: HERE.

Cuisenaire Rods are fun for the kids and helpful for learning valuable math concepts. Here are some ideas!

A Few Thoughts About Fluency and a Freebie

Fluency is a big buzz word these days. I've seen it used for reading stories, decoding, and even math facts!

A Few Thoughts About Fluency and a Freebie: After extensive training on helping children read, we've narrowed fluency down to these 4 parts.

Since I attended my second session of the LETRS (Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling) training a few weeks ago, I've thought a lot about reading fluency.

A Few Thoughts About Fluency and a Freebie: After extensive training on helping children read, we've narrowed fluency down to these 4 parts.
LETRS training was one of the best PD training ever!







Studies indicate a direct relation between fluency and comprehension.



No surprises there, it makes sense that struggling readers would struggle with comprehension.  If they have a hard time figuring out the words, it's not very likely they will put together the meaning easily.

The experts define reading fluency with 4 phrases:

1. automaticity in word recognition
2. accurate word recognition
3. rate (speed) of reading
4. prosody, or expression

So, how do we build fluency?


https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B0KBPcFG6hwLVEVYYWJ2eXRYUk0/view?usp=sharing
  • Practice both phonetic patterns as well as sight words. Feel free to download my short a/ long a practice freebie by clicking the graphic above or click here: Vowel Word Work Freebie

  • Practice reading phrases and sentences a few words at a time. (Phrasing)

  • Practice reading simple paragraphs with expression.  

  • Oral Reading with a partner.  (using text of appropriate difficulty... "just right" text! 95 - 100% accuracy) 

  • Monitored Independent Reading
 

This full resource has all 5 vowels patterns: long and short vowels, with real words as well as nonsense words. Vowel Word Work: Word Sort and Fluency Practice


What do you do to build fluency?
A Few Thoughts About Fluency and a Freebie: After extensive training on helping children read, we've narrowed fluency down to these 4 parts.

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 Mother's Day! (Or you'll just have to be really, really good at acting surprised!)

My Traditional Mother's Day Gift: This is a win-win-win! I love it, the kids love it, and the moms love it. (Plus, there's a freebie!)

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!
 
My Traditional Mother's Day Gift: This is a win-win-win! I love it, the kids love it, and the moms love it. (Plus, there's a freebie!) 

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 below) because they can go right into the soil. Paper cups can be used as well, but must be removed before going into the ground.
 
My Traditional Mother's Day Gift: This is a win-win-win! I love it, the kids love it, and the moms love it. (Plus, there's a freebie!) 

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 their 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. 

My Traditional Mother's Day Gift: This is a win-win-win! I love it, the kids love it, and the moms love it. (Plus, there's a freebie!)

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 plenty of learning on the side!

My Traditional Mother's Day Gift: This is a win-win-win! I love it, the kids love it, and the moms love it. (Plus, there's a freebie!)

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 


Assessing Reading Difficulties

How do you find out what the children need for Reading RTI (Response to Intervention) time?
Assessing Reading Difficulties: Here are some ideas to help figure out what instruction struggling readers need for improvement

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. (Google Quick Phonics Screener! There are several low priced options.)



I would prefer QPS used 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 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.


Quite often, the teacher is already aware that the child has a specific reading issue, since we read with our children daily. But this is a way to record what's going on and drive instruction.

Assessing Reading Difficulties: Here are some ideas to help figure out what instruction struggling readers need for improvement

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