Five for Friday

It's been a while since I've linked up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for Five for Friday. I finally have five things to show you! Ha, ha. 

#1 Fall Fluency Cards

I love using my fall fluency cards! There is so much you can do with such simple cards. First, I pass out the cards. The kids look at the picture on their cards and make a prediction. 

Then they each get whisper phones to read their cards several times. Then we all get white board pens and underline the part where a character is talking. Then we practice reading that part out loud to work on what our character would sound like. At this point, we talk about what the character could be feeling. Then we take turns reading our entire cards, practicing our fluency and expression. Then I read the card, modeling how my voice changes with punctuation and characters vs. narrator voice. Last, the student who read the card, summarizes the card. If it works out with that card, I try to think of a question to ask them. For the top card I might say, "How do you know she likes to jump in the leaf pile?" or "Do you think she is by herself or with friends?" For the bottom one I might ask, "Do you think Sam will go outside to play?" 

 These fluency cards are a quick way to practice so many skills!

#2: Short a
For another group of students, I do much simpler fluency strips. These both come from my Short a Phonics Pack. 

For some reason, kids love reading word lists if they have something to do like push a little yellow circle. ;) Next week I will add in another vowel so they can practice reading these words with two vowels. 

#3: Types of Sentences
Another group was working on types of sentences in their classroom.  They were having a hard time with that, so we did a few activities in my room. First, we practiced orally using the sticks in the small picture below. Then, we did this activity with the sticky notes. I used to always do this when I taught first grade. It was always a center in my classroom. I've also put magnetic dots on the back of the punctuation if kids were reusing them a bunch.


#4: SitSpots!!!

 Yep, that's excitement. I LOVE my SitSpots. I have so many ideas for these SitSpots, but so far I've just used them for management and I. am. in. love. I have the apples right in front of my door. When my group is finishing up, I just tell them to go pick an apple to stand on and wait for the rest of the group. There is no more pushing in line. No more arguing for the front because sometimes they choose the pink apple in the back. Its amazing how something so simple can help so much!

The circles are all in front of my white board. The kids sit there while I teach a mini-lesson. I only have about 6 kids in my classroom at a time, but you could definitely use this with an entire class. They are SO helpful. Everyone has their own space. It's so easy to say, "Sit on a circle" or "Sit on the red circle" if they need more guidance. If they start to get wiggling off their spot, you just say, "check your sit spot." If I were a classroom teacher, I would have 6 sitspots in an area where I wanted to have small group instruction. They are wonderful and come in so many different shapes and colors. I will be talking more about these later as I get more creative with them.

#5 Birthday Surprise

Honestly, I'm not that into my own birthday. But this year it was just magical. Kids at school were ultra excited and my kids at home were too. So it was hard not to be excited about my birthday. It was just the best day. Aren't kids great?! I was so excited to get this from my husband for my birthday. I've wanted a record player for a while and now I have one! I just love the sound of records. Now which record should I buy first? Any suggestions?

I hope you all had a great week! In case  you missed it, some friends of mine had a great freebie blog hop. Click here to see the apple-themed sentence activity I shared. 

Make sure you check out the other Five for Friday posts!

September Freebie Hop

Hi everyone!

I'm linking up with some of my favorite blogging friends for a September freebie hop! We are all taking samples from one of our September products to share with you all today.  Time to stock up on some great September activities! 

I chose an activity from one of my best sellers: September literacy centers for 1st grade

Match a Sentence has always been one of my favorites.  It's a great introduction to subject/predicate without using that terminology yet. It also helps students leaner about what makes a complete sentence. 

PLUS, my store will be on sale today. Gotta love it, right? 

 Don't forget! It doesn't stop here. 
There are 10 more freebies for you!

The next stop is Vera over at The Daily Alphabet. 
The Daily Alphabet

Apple Unit: Science Activities and a Close Reading Lesson

Happy fall! My apple unit has always been one of my favorites. I've had this apple unit out for a while, but I've recently added a bunch of pages to it! The biggest change is that I added a 3 day close reading lesson. Since I don't teach first grade in the classroom anymore, I don't get to do all of these fun activities. But I can do my close reading lesson with my reading groups! :) 

My favorite: this science experiment. I took a common experiment and gave it a  twist. In my first year of teaching first grade, I wanted my kids to really practice the scientific method. That was how this experiment evolved:

(This was part of my old unit. )

With this unit you have two options: The slideshow pictured below (which you could also print into a book) OR a link to a PowerPoint. The downside to the Powerpoint is that the fonts are NOT cute. I used very basic fonts so they would work on all computers. I'm sure there is a better way that I don't know about. The upside to the PowerPoint version is that it is more interactive (bees flying to flowers, trees "growing", etc.) The version you see here is way cuter and has real photos, but it doesn't have the interactive parts. The student sheet pictured is an activity to do afterward. 

A simple way to show the cycle of an apple tree:

And my 3 day close reading unit, which I'm so excited about! It goes with the classic Gail Gibbons book. She is the best!

There is also a little math game, a 3 page assessment (kid-friendly), and a journal for kids to use on apple exploration day (weighing, measuring, etc.)

If you already owned my mini-unit, you can download all of these additional activities for free!

10 Ideas for Practicing the Alphabet at Home

Hi everyone! I'm joining in on one of my favorite linky parties today. Make sure you check out all of the other bright ideas for this month. This post is for both parents and teachers.   

I have been compiling ideas to share with the parents at my school to help them work with their kids at home. We have very involved parents who are always asking how they can help at home. I know, I'm spoiled! Even though parents are willing to work with their child, they may not have a clue about how to get started. My younger son, Owen, is starting the process of learning his alphabet too. He's starting to show interest and knows the letters in his name. He's starting to recognize letters as letters but will call out "P" when he sees an A or "B" when he sees an M. Since he's showing interest, I've been doing a few things with him at home to help him learn his letters. Up until a few months ago, he refused to call the O in his name an O. He insisted it was circle. So he'd read the letters in his name like this: "Circle, w, e, n." He also insisted that a T was a sword. I'm taking it slow and trying to make it hands-on and fun so he doesn't lose interest. He's SO NOT a flashcard kid. 

Annnywaaaay... if you are a mom, I hope this helps. If you are a teacher, here would be a link you could send your parents so there are ideas and pictures all in one place. These are all pretty generic ideas, but they are in one place with pictures so I hope it is useful. :) Most of these can be done with things you probably already have in your house.

1. Tactile Letters: Write a letter on a piece of paper. Have your child use a Q-tip to trace over the letter with glue. Then use pom-poms, cotton balls or glitter (or even salt) to cover the glue. After it has dried, have your child trace over the letter with a finger, saying the sound of the letter. Sing a simple silly song as your child is putting the pom-pons on. I always sing that leap frog song: "A! A says /a/. Every letter makes a sound. A says /a/." Simple, to the point. Use any tune that pops in your head. 

Owen actually loved this one! So did my older son. I love things that interest both boys.  

2. Make flashcards using note cards. Warm up with flashcards before choosing another activity. Spend about 2-3 minutes on the flashcards. Start with the letters that your child knows. Add one new letter at a time. As you add more new letters, it is important to review the old letters so your child will be able recognize the letter quickly and produce the sound easily. If your child does not remember a letter, tell him/her the letter name and it’s sound. Have your child repeat after you. 

3. Use magnetic letters. Call out a letter name or sound and have your child pull down that magnet. “Show me the letter A. A says /a/.”
If your child isn’t able to identify the letter A, point it out. Have him/her trace the letter with a finger. Mix up the letters and try A again. Do this 2 or three more times, each time saying “A says /a/.
If your child knows the letter shape, then just focus on the sound. Say, “Show me the letter that says /b/. After they correctly identify, follow up with , “yes, B says /b/. What does B say?”

3. Write the letter on paper ahead of time. Have your child make a “snake” with play dough. Then have your child build the letter using the play dough over the written letter. After your child has made the letter with play dough, have him/her make the sound as he/she traces over the letter with a finger. 

4. Help your child make letters using the pipe cleaners or Wikkistix. Cut some in half and keep some others long. After your child makes the letter, trace the letter and make the sound at least three times. Pipe cleaners and Wikkistix can be found at the dollar store, craft stores (Joanne's, Michaels) or Target.

5. Pour sand on a paper plate or tray. Say a letter or letter sound. Have your child trace the letter in the sand while saying the letter name and sound three times. Model correct formation for your child if necessary.

6. Write letters on several clothespins. Have your child pinch the clothespin as he/she says the letter sound. “A says /aaaa/” You could have letters written on the edge of a paper. Have your child place the clothespin on the correct matching letter.

7. Use a toy car and have your child “drive” along the letter. Show your child how to correctly form the letter using the car. (For example, for a K, you would start at the top and drive straight down. Then pick up the car and place it where the car is pictured. You would then drive diagonal.)

8. Have your child use a highlighter to find letters in the newspaper or magazines. Focus on one letter. Have your child hunt for that letter and count how many they can find. You could also use scissors to cut out letters in a newspaper or magazine. Letter searches were a big hit with my older son. 

9. Sidewalk hop: You can make this like a hopscotch or just some boxes of letters. Call out a letter or letter sound and have your child hop onto that letter. Your child could also choose which letter to jump on and then identify the letter or sound. You could also see how fast they can hop onto the letters and say the name or sound.

10. Letter Hunt: Write a letter on a sticky note. Stick the letters all around the house. Have your child search for the letters. When they find one, say the letter and it’s sound. If they get it right, they get to keep it. If not, you tell them the name and sound then “hide” it again. In the beginning, choose 3 letters, but write those same three letters on several sticky notes.

For more bright ideas, visit some of these other blogs:

Transforming a Simple Writing Lesson: Engage Your Class with Procedural Writing

Do you want a fun way to introduce or practice procedural writing? Do you want to shake up your writing workshop? Are you tired of kids saying "I don't know what to write"?
If you are nodding your head yes to any of these questions, then take the time to read through this post and watch my two videos!

I had this idea over the summer when my kids were playing in sand every day. My older son was trying to show my younger son how to make a sand castle. Of course my brain immediately went to a writing activity. Now I know sand in the classroom might sound like a total nightmare. But if you could swing it, think of how much fun it would be! PLUS, your kids wouldn't be able to say that they didn't know how to build a sand castle. It's the perfect way to introduce procedural writing. Sometimes you need to shake it up a bit!

There are two ways  you could set this up:

1. Bring actual sand into your classroom. (see option 1)

2. Watch a video of someone (me) showing step by step how to build it and turn it into an oral writing lesson. (see option 2 video)

Option 1: Bringing sand into your classroom: 

Click here or on the picture below to see a video of what this could look like:

Option 2: Bring (virtual) me into your classroom! 

Ha! Again, videoing myself is not exactly my favorite thing, but I do think this would be a good way to introduce a writing lesson. My friend Lisa (and fellow Chalkie) from Growing Firsties gave me this idea to have kids watch the video and then pause to talk about the steps of building the sand castle. If your kids aren't ready to do the actual writing, you could make this an oral writing lesson OR a shared writing lesson. As you watch, you have my permission to giggle at my cheesiness. :) 

Click here or on the picture below to watch the video.

With this option you don't have to bring sand into your classroom. The idea here is that your students can watch me make a sand "castle". As I show them the steps, pause the video to give your students opportunities to talk about the steps of making a sand castle. Then you could decide what your writing assignment will be: oral writing only, shared writing, interactive writing, or independent writing. 

I'm sharing these pages with you today! There are 4 page options: