Monday, August 8, 2016

Back to School Classroom Decor To Die For!

Now is the time that teachers are getting very serious about preparing their classrooms for the upcoming school year. What's more, it's very chic currently to design your classroom uniformly with a "themed" classroom decor.

I must admit, it's a pretty cool thing to enter a classroom and see everything from boards, to trim, to bookshelves, to tables, to chairs, to bookshelves--virtually everything--all decorated in the same themed pattern, especially if the pattern and the colors really POP! They look simply amazing.

Creating a beautiful or fun themed classroom creates an exciting classroom environment for students to enter on the first day of school and keeps them motivated to learn all year long. In my opinion, when a teacher takes the time and the effort to decorate her/his classroom well, s/he tells her/his class, "Welcome to your awesome new learning environment. We are going to have a fantastic year of learning!"

I have truly enjoyed getting glimpses and seeing the final "reveals" of the different designs created by teachers over the years; they've been truly awesome.

Here are some great examples that I found on Pinterest that I think are simply amazing. These first three designs are decorated top-to-bottom in themes:

In the next example, this teacher very effectively continued the same neon colors from her carpet into her reading corner with plastic bins of the same colors. The white bookshelves help to bring a beautiful contrasting pop to her design.

I love how these teachers took the time to think about coordinating every inch of their classrooms with their theme.

I'm Inspired!
Seeing these ideas have really inspired me to experiment with some designs of my own to offer teachers to try in their classrooms. You can use Task Cards and Frames for color scheme ideas and inspiration as they come in five different colors, as well as for notebook covers, center signs, alphabet cards, labels, sight word/vocabulary cards and task cards. I have provided some examples below.

1. Task Cards and Frames:

Task Cards and Frames (example uses):

2. Classroom Decor Packet: 

This colorful Classroom Decor Packet is the perfect way to give your classroom an uplift for the new school year. The packet comes in three different color patterns and includes:

1. Word Wall Alphabet Cards:

2. Table Number Labels (Table 1 through Table 6):

3. Alphabet Posters (Zaner-Bloser Manuscript with Guidelines):

4. Number Posters (1-20 with Ten Frames):

3. Classroom Alphabet Cards:

Use these Classroom Alphabet Cards over your whiteboard or other dedicated board for students to refer to during handwriting instruction and practice. You could also post them in your writing center or on your writing focus wall for students to refer to during writing. These cards have the Zaner-Bloser font with guidelines and descenders. 

I hope these classroom decor ideas have inspired you to decorate your classroom in a beautiful way this year. Have fun decorating! 

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Back to School Reading and Writing Essentials

Back to School is a very exciting time of year for students and teachers as well. On August 1st of every summer I go into what my husband calls, "school mode."  This is when I begin preparing myself mentally and tangibly for the coming school year.  After a long summer break full of  "me time,"  I finally begin to get serious about looking for great ideas and products that I can use for my new kiddos.

Certain Back to School "essentials" are must-haves for the coming school year. Reading and writing are those skills that we want to get our students started on right from the start. Every minute counts towards getting a good head start on developing great readers and writers.

Reading: Sight Words Smart Board

If you're a primary teacher like me, sight words are something you want to get started on as soon as possible with your kiddos. These words are foundational to helping students become good, solid readers. A great way to help students get started learning their sight words is with an Interactive White Board. Smart Boards are great tools that teachers can use to enhance their lessons because they are highly interactive, engaging, and outright fun to use--both for the students and the teachers alike.
This Pre-Primer Sight Words Smart Board introduces Kinders, ESOLs, and ELLs to their very first sight words through multiple modalities. For example, teachers introduce students to the sight words a, the, I, go and up through first hearing and then saying the words. Next, students get to use the smart board pen to match the words on the stars to the word signs that the children are holding by drawing a line to each matching word.
In the next slide, students must locate the sight word on the grid and then use the green ring to circle the words. Then, students get to hear the words in context through listening to a familiar song, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.
On this slide, students are guided to place a star on the targeted sight word or words. For a little differentiation, students are asked to star rhyming words. For immediate feedback and checking, teachers can reveal the answers to the students by simply dragging a tab across the page. Another page of the smart board gets students ready for state testing with multiple choice comprehension questions. Here, after the teacher reads the question, students slide the red "X" over the letters that are not the answers and which can be eliminated and then slide the green "check mark" to the correct answer. These are just a sample of this very interactive smart board. There are almost 30 pages of fun activities to engage students at all levels.

Reading: Sight Words Read, Trace & Color

Another activity that I use with my students to reinforce the sight words is the Sight Words Read, Trace & Color:
In this activity, students must read the targeted sight word a total of three times each. After reading and tracing the word, students get to find and color the word on the picture.

Each word is found on the picture three times. For extension, students choose a word or words from the list to write a sentence. Advanced students use the words to write a story about the picture.

Writing: All About Me Mini-Book

If you want to get your students excited about writing, it is essential to start them writing immediately after school starts. One way to motivate children to write is to have them write about themselves.
Students love to share and tell about themselves. This All About Me Back To School Writing booklet has sentence frames for students to complete with several choices of words or numbers, which are supplied on each page. Some pages have a large empty space for students to illustrate their sentence.
Differentiate completing the book by deciding how many pages should be completed depending on your students' learning needs. Or as a whole group activity, complete one or two side-by-side pages with students at a time. Staple or bind the booklets and have students share their books in the reading center.

What are your Essential Back To School reading and writing activities? Wishing you the best first days back to school!
Saturday, April 16, 2016

Sight Word Frenzy!!

Today I'm sharing my collaborative blog post from over at Virginia is for Teachers. Enjoy!

It's a...SIGHT WORD FRENZY!! Spring is the time of year in our schools when primary teachers all over are working extra hard to get their students to sight word mastery. There's a little more than one more marking period left in the school year to reach this all important goal. Mastering sight words is essential for students to become good readers, especially in the primary grades. At this point of the year we are all in. We will do whatever it takes to help our students master their sight words.

My job in school is to do just that. I go into the primary classrooms and work with small groups of mostly ESOL/ELL students in the area of reading. Most of my time is spent helping them master their sight words. I use many different kinds of strategies and tools to help motivate these learners, including incorporating technology and games. Here are just a few that I use.

1. Sight Word Review

My students love learning with technology. They love anything colorful and that moves. I created this PowerPoint bundle with this in mind.

This Sight Words Review Bundle {PowerPoint} of almost 200 slides provides an attractive, fun and interactive experience for your young students to practice the PK, K, 1st, and 2nd grade Dolch Sight Words. The PowerPoint format allows you to set transition choices and speeds for your kiddos to maximize their experiences and to provide for differentiation as well. To use the powerpoint correctly, please set it to Slideshow mode.

2. Sight Word Phrases

Once students begin to master the sight words in isolation, I begin helping them learn to identify the sight words in phrases. Children also love games, so this classic GO FISH Card Game became an instant hit with them.

This “GO FISH” Sight Word Phrases Card Game is a fun way for students to practice and master the List 1-4 sight word phrases. 

Directions: First copy the fish cards page on the back of each sight word phrases page. I use colored card stock for a real card game feel. Once copied front/back, I cut the cards out on the cut lines provided. 

To play the game: Deal out a certain number of cards face down to each player. Put the rest face down in the middle of the table between the players. I differentiate which lists (1-4) to use based on student needs and mastery levels. Players then pick up their cards, and put down any “matches” on the table/floor. Starting with the first player, players ask: “Do you have “to the”, for example. If a player has this card, s/he gives it to them, who puts down the match on the table. If no one has the card the player needs, s/he draws a card from the top of the card pile. If it’s a match s/he puts it down on the table. If not the game continues with the next player. The game ends when all matches are found. The player with the most “matches” wins.

3. Sight Word Sentence Practice

Finally, after students begin to master the sight words in phrase form, I advance them to reading the words in simple sentence form. Since my students are motivated to learn using technology, I created another simple PowerPoint with simple sentences on them. 

This Dolch Sight Word Sentence Practice product is a great practice tool to use after students have mastered the sight words in isolation and then in phrases. I use this PowerPoint to reinforce the sight words as well as to increase their fluency. By setting different transitions and speeds to students' needs, students can work in pairs to practice. In small groups, you or a strong reader can read the sentence on each slide, while the other readers repeat it afterwards, call-and-response style.

The opportunities, strategies and tools that you can use to motivate your learners to mastering sight words are endless. I hope you got some good ideas or inspiration from these that I have shared. Good luck!

What do you do in your classrooms to motivate your learners to master their sight words?
Monday, March 14, 2016

Spring Sight Word Book: WE {Freebie}

My ESOL primary students are now beginning to master their Pre-Primer sight words. The word we have been working on lately is WE. I created this little Spring themed reader with repetitive text for students to practice the words they have learned so far, along with the new word we. Sight words in this reader are: can, see, the, we.


Since we are now in the spring season, these large pictures allow for discussion about things associated with Spring, such as butterfly, ladybug, bunny, flower, umbrella, raincoat, etc. This book highlights some of them. 


Finally, the reader allows for a bit of differentiation, where students who are already reading and writing can write about spring things they can see and then illustrate the pages. 

Assembly for this little book is simple. Just copy, cut apart the pages, and staple the pages. My students love reading these easy readers and I'm sure yours will as well. Enjoy!

For some more great activities with a spring theme, you might also like: