Monday, August 8, 2016

Class Set Up: Objectives Chart

Three more Mondays and then I'm back at school! Time to start thinking about the classroom and how I'll set up. 
I'm sharing two classroom decor ideas today. 
I'm linking up with Tara for another Monday Made It. 
Check out her will leave with lots of great ideas!

We are required to post our objectives for the students. I start every lesson here at this board where I identify our learning goal or target before we begin. 
I made these subject sheets to slide in sleeve protectors so I can write on and wipe off easily.  
I put the "science" sheet behind the "social studies" sheet since we focus on only one content area study at a time. 
I'm sharing these subject sheets free on my Teachers Pay Teachers Store. 
You can check them out here:

I also made these big bubble letters for my writing and reading areas. 
I just printed, cut and laminated them. 

You can find these here: 

Enjoy your week!

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Active Syllabication Practice with Word Work Outs

Happy Sunday! I thought I would share a little book that made a big difference in how I work with some of my students who struggle with decoding words. By third grade, readers are encountering many longer multisyllabic words as they read. I have found that many have adopted some very inefficient means of reading these what I have termed the "grab and go". These readers grab and decode the first syllable of the word, guess the rest and go right on along even if the word they invented made absolutely no sense in the sentence. These are my Word Plowers...they made me crazy so after listening to student after student stumbling over these longer words, I decided to seek out the best way to help them.  And, I am happy to report that  I found a great strategy in Isabel Beck's Making Sense of Phonics.  This is the second edition of this book and in it she has added chapters with insight on how to help our transitional readers become more proficient at reading longer and more challenging multisyllabic words. 

If you can relate to the above scenario I described, then you need to read chapter 9 in this book. In it she states, "Children need to know that a chunk, or an approximate syllable, has one vowel or vowel team per chunk. They need to learn to be flexible with their sounding out of syllables and blending syllables together. They should be given a copy of the advanced vowel chart (see Figure 3-3) to help them remember the most common sounds for a particular vowel or vowel team. Consistently remind students that if one sound doesn’t work, they should try another. Also, remind the children frequently that their sounding out will only get them close to the real word. As they are blending syllables together, they need to think of a word that is close to what they are saying and that make sense in the story. I often find that children don’t rely on context enough as an additional support when they are sounding out multisyllabic words."
Yes,  yes and yes. 

She goes on to say that supporting students' reading of multisyllabic words requires three skills. 
1. Analysis: Where to divide a written word into syllables
2. Pronunciation: How to pronounce the individual syllables in a word. 
3. Synthesis: How to combine the syllables into a spoken word. 

Last year I decided to become much more explicit in the modeling of these skills as I introduced new words to my students. I found opportunities throughout the day. Many times I used part of my social studies or science time practicing the analysis, pronunciation and synthesis of content vocabulary words. I knew students were going to have to read and write social studies words like: democracy, independent, legislative, executive. These are hard words to pronounce, let alone read and spell.  

I began using an approach that incorporated Beck's suggested skills as I introduced content related words at the beginning of a unit. First, I would write the word and together the students and I would analyze it to determine the syllable parts. Students learned that there must be a vowel in each syllable. 
We would "sweep the syllables" under the word and number them. 

Next, we would work on pronouncing each syllable part. Here is where I really used some of our "Brain Buddies" to help us remember good decoding strategies. We used "lips the fish" to get our mouths ready to make the letter sounds, we used "eagle eye" to look for word parts that we know already and we used "trying tiger" to try another sound for a particular letter...perhaps long i instead of short i, etc. 

When at last we had synthesized our parts into a word that made sense, we were ready to practice reading it by syllable parts and then fluently. 
For this step, I had my students get up out of seats for some "Word Work Outs". 
I grab at any chance to get my students engaged in some kinesthetic learning and students responded so well to these mini work outs. 

Word Work Outs are short and simple movement exercises that students do as they read the syllables and pronounce a new and challenging word. 
I have a student grab the Word Work Out can and pull a card. 

Students will perform the word work out as they say each syllable.
For instance, if we pull out the "Whack It" card, students pretend they have a tennis ball and racket and swing the racket as they say each syllable. For the word: "independent", they would swing the racket as they say "in", then "de", "pend" and "ent".  
I point to each syllable on the board as they perform this and make sure they are using their mouths to say the parts. 

After we are done, I would erase the board and students would attempt to chunk and spell each syllable.  They are amazed and thrilled when they can spell these "big kid" words themselves.
They soon learn that if they can chunk it.....they can spell it. 
I have added my Word Work Out Cards to my Teacher Pay Teacher Store. 

Check out the link below if interested:

You can also find the Brain Buddies Set here
Please share any suggestions or strategies you use to help your older readers decode longer and trickier words.
Comment below or email me:

Monday, August 1, 2016

Back to School: Open House Treats

Wow, can it already be time for another Monday Made It? Yikes, the weeks are flying by! Time to get busy. Check out the productive teachers posting on Tara's Fourth Grade Frolics Monday Made It page.

I'm on a quest to seek out the simple in all I do. I recently found these smiley face treats at my local Walmart. I picked them up and figured out a way to use them.

  I decided to use these as a welcome treat for our Open House. 
I created a quick tag and there you go, a simple but sweet way to welcome students to school. 

If you are interested in using these, you can find them as a free resource on my Teacher Pay Teacher Page. Just click the link below. 

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Reason for Rules: First Week of School Activity

Hello Friends, It is just about August! Are you ready for it? We have about one more month before the real craziness starts. I know some have started organizing, creating and preparing. I am trying to practice mindfulness and want to savor the time I have left. So I'm doing just a little bit here and there. 
I'm doing some thinking and planning for the first week of school. For me, that is always the hardest. I so want to jump right into the instruction, but also get the importance of spending time establishing classroom expectations. I have created a set of materials that will allow me to introduce the importance of rules while still getting right to the teaching of reading and thinking skills. 

I'm going to start our discussion of classroom rules by showing this silly video clip about rules

We're going to talk about WHY we need rules in our schools. Here is where I plan on introducing the thinking skill of identifying causes and effects. I'll use an anchor chart to help record some of our thinking. Kids need to buy into the idea that rules are established for a reason, that they are not for the teacher, but rather for kids.  I want students to establish a sense of ownership in the forming of our classroom so I will have them take over the brainstorming and writing of the rules after we have spent time thinking and talking about the subject.

I like using these jumbo post it notes to make my anchor charts reusable.
Did you know you can also use adhesive spray to make your laminated anchor charts sticky? 
Spraying this makes the area temporarily sticky so you can adhere paper to the chart. 
Elmer's Fast Tack Spray Adhesive

 I laminate anchor charts so they can be left out and reused as we go through the year. The idea is that once introduced, we will continue to identify causes/effects as we learn about all kinds of other topics. 


I love using literature and poems as ways to introduce and reinforce topics we are learning about. 
Here is a cause/effect poem that we will read and glue into our poetry journals. 
It reinforces the idea that rules are created for a reason and without them our school would not be a fun or safe place. 

Students will further develop this cause and effect thinking by matching actions and outcome cards. 
Third grade students are certainly old enough to begin thinking about how consequences follow actions. We will spend time talking about how we must use our third grade self control to stop ourselves from making unwise choices.

I work hard to promote the idea that students are the ones in control of much of  what happens to 
them in school. Situations will arise and they will have to make decisions on how to respond. This game will give them practice in understanding that positive reactions will lead to positive consequences. 

Students draw cards and read the situation. If the action is a positive one, the player moves forward the number of spaces indicated. If the action is negative, they move backwards. 
I like getting the students to play games during the first week of school. It keeps them from just sitting and listening to me talk at them all day and gets them working and playing with their new friends. 
I like walking around and watching them interact with each other. I learn a lot about their personalities!

We will go on to brainstorm, write and post the rules students decide on at the end of the week.
I have put together a set of materials I will be using during our first week. 
I have added this file to my TPT store. 
Click the link below to check it out!

What "First Week of School" activities do you have planned to help you establish rules? 
Would love to hear!
email or comment below!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Planning Out A Planner

I'm linking up again with Tara's Fourth Grade Frolics and Monday Made It. 
Visiting her site always leaves me feeling inspired. You must check her out!
Another way to get the creative juices flowing is to head to your local craft store. 
This weekend I made my way to the Michaels.
I spent FOREVER just wandering around that store. 
And here is what I found.... the Create 365 Happy Planner. 


This planner was so cute!  Loved it!
I loved the calendar layouts, the colors and sayings. 


I was so tempted to grab it,  but have a template that I use for lesson planning that includes all the details that I need to incorporate when posting plans. It will be so much easier to use that instead of handwriting all my plans into this one. Lesson planning is one of my least favorite school tasks...I need to keep it as simple as possible. 
So I decided to use the Happy Planner as inspiration and create my own cover and add divider cards. I figure a nice planner makes the job a bit more enjoyable, right? 


Once I started with these beautiful papers from Liana Scrap, I could not stop. 
Check out her sets of digital papers here



I put together a file of what I created and am sharing it free in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store. 
You can find it by clicking the link below. 

So what do you use? Are you an Erin Condren fan? Happy Planner? 
Would love to hear!
Email at 
or comment below!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Word Wizards: A September Vocabulary Unit

Hello Friends! 

It is too crazy hot here in VA for my normal outdoor activities so I am stuck inside and  thought I'd hammer out a quick post on another flip from the 2015-2016 school year. Those who have followed my blog for awhile know that I am big into vocabulary instruction and believe that the direct and explicit instruction of words can make a huge difference in comprehension and overall reading achievement. 

My first go to book on this topic has been Isabel Beck's Bringing Words to Life. 
In it, she discusses how to build "robust" vocabulary practices into your day.
This little book made a big difference in how I approach the teaching of words. 
Along with Isabel Beck's book, I have been so inspired by the book, Word Nerds written by 
Brenda Overturf, Leslie Montgomery and Margot Smith. 
I love this book! 
The authors of this one are real teachers working with real students. 
They crafted and developed, tested and tried this vocabulary approach with the children in their classrooms.

This year I devoted time and effort into getting this vocabulary approach in place.
The kids were hooked and LOVED working on these word wiz activities.
This hands on and kinesthetic approach helped support and engage my active learners.
Everyone benefitted. Students were not only expected to know the meaning of the words, but also learned how to use these words in their everyday speech and writing.

We had an area in the room that we used as our word collection spot. These two pocket charts purchased from Target held our words, meanings and sentences for the two weeks.
I decided to introduce five tier two words a week and we worked with those words for two weeks. It may seem like that is too much time to devote to five words; however, the beauty of this plan is that those five words increase to about 40 words when you teach students the related words, synonyms and antonyms of those five initial words. The connection of words to words is a powerful and meaningful way to build a child's vocabulary. 
So, how did this work?
One day one, I introduced these five words by simply decoding and reading the words by themselves first. Then I displayed a cloze sentence and students helped to determine which of the five words would best fill in the blank. After figuring that out, I would tell the students the child friendly definition of the word. This began the explicit and direct teaching that is widely recommended by experts in reading instruction. 
The word with the sentence and meaning was left up and displayed for the week. 

On day two, the students began recording our learning about these words in their Vocabulary Journal. 
We wrote the word and its part of speech in the center of the page and defined it using a "child friendly" definition that they could understand. 

On day three we would revisit each word, discuss how the word could be used and created a meaningful illustration of the word in our journals.  We also came up with a gesture or movement that would represent the word. 
On day four, we reviewed definitions, examples and gestures and expanded our knowledge by linking the word with other related words, synonyms or antonyms. We recorded those in the next box of the journal. 
Finally on day five it was time to practice using that word in a 7UP sentence. A seven up sentence is one that contains at least 7 words. The idea here is to expand our sentence writing by adding adjectives or adverbs that will make our sentences more meaningful. 

So after the course of one week, the students have had MANY exposures to the word in directed learning experiences. 

The second week is devoted to working with these words in different contexts thereby increasing their exposures to the entire set of words. 
Word Nerds encourages the use of lanyards so that students can actually wear the words around their necks. At this point all words- the five initial words plus synonym, antonyms and related words are put on cards and worn.  So for a class of about 20-24 students, everyone is wearing a different word. In bigger classes, some words have to be worn by two students. I picked the more difficult words to double up.
I picked up my sets of lanyards pretty inexpensively at Oriental Trading Co. and they held up well. 
You can check them out here: 
I purchased the clip that attached to the lanyard and held the word at my local Walmart. 
Also very inexpensive. 

I started out giving students the printed copy of the words on lanyards but soon decided to challenge them by having them write the word and decorate it to depict the meaning of the word. 
This really forced them to stretch their brains and think in a creative way. . 

Another brain stretching activity mentioned in Word Nerds is to have students color the background of the card in a color that matches the meaning of the word. 
Here someone colors in the word "parched" with the color brown signifying the parched means dry. 
I always have students defend their color choice by explaining why the chose it. You can learn a lot about how well your students know their word through this explanation. 

The "Word Nerd" approach involves LOTS of communication and conversation. 
Students are very engaged and are learning from listening to one another talk about their words. 

After students have their card ready, it's time to have some fun with our words. 
Students meet up with another student, greet and introduce themselves as their word and teach the other student all about themselves. 
It goes something like this: "Hi, my name is Motionless."  
The other students replies with, "Hi, how do you do, Motionless?"
The conversation continues, "I'm great, but I'm very still. I don't move at all...not even a muscle."
"Let me demonstrate." At this point the student uses the gesture to teach the other child the meaning of the word and has the child "mirror" the movement. 
The idea of mirroring is a "Whole Brain" practice which worked great with my students this year. 

Then the students would switch and the other would lead the introduction. 

Later in week two we would also play the "Link Up" game. Word Nerds calls this activity "Scramble".   Wearing a word, students would form a big circle in the room.  They would be given a chance to survey the students and words and then on the command: "Link Up", students would find other students who they could connect with. They may link up because they were related words, synonyms or even antonyms.  We would go around the circle and explain who we were with and why. 
Again, more conversation and more exposures. 

We often began our reading workshop with one of these quick activities as a way to "warm up with words". 
I also built in vocabulary practice sessions during reading station time. 
I used an approach similar to "The Daily 5" to manage my students while I was working with guided reading groups. One of the rounds students would go to would be a Working with Words station. I would simply leave a set of vocabulary cards, a Win a Word spinner and some markers and dice and students would play a word game. Here they laid out the cards to form a game board and moved their markers around the board if they could successfully complete an activity based on the word they landed on. 

At the very end of the week, students would be asked to do a written response to show their understanding of the words introduced through the two week cycle. 

Finally, the words would be written on post it notes and added to our Vocabulary Vault so students could refer to them throughout the year. 

I've begun putting the actual words I teach into documents that I can share with you all.
The first set of words are ones I like to teach in the beginning of the year because they relate to
citizenship and the second set includes words that are connect to our focus on healthy mindsets.
As the year goes on, we focus on more tier two words. These are words chosen because they appear in a good number of third grade texts and students can use them in their everyday conversations. 

I am offering my September word set in a Teacher Pay Teacher file that you can access by clicking the link below. 

Also be sure to check out the book Word Nerds! There are so many great ideas included in this book.
You and your students will love trying them out!

I just love hearing from others...please share your vocabulary ideas in the comments below or by emailing me