This summer I took up biking. We are so fortunate to live right by a “rails to trails” path which connects two of our cities. The path is a gorgeous tree-lined trail which extends 15 miles through rural Northern Michigan. Every bike ride brings with it a new adventure. There’s always turtles at the pond, snakes who quickly scurry across the path and, occasionally, a deer stops for a quick pic.
Well, last Monday was quite an adventure in a different-sort-of-way. Two miles into my bike ride, I blew a tire. Oh, boy. That has never happened. Fortunately, I was with my dad who is an avid biker. Little did I know that pack he always carries on the back of his bike contained a tire repair kit complete with a replacement tube. Thank goodness for dad. As I stood by helplessly as dad changed the tire, I spied the popped tube laying on the trail. It reminded me of a blog post that I wrote a year ago featuring an idea to help those kiddos who just need to move. Scott, from Bouncy Bands, asked if I could try out a new product he just developed and I absolutely LOVED this idea. Basically, you place PVC pipes on the desk legs and tie an old bike tube on each leg. How simple! Here’s a pic:
They are so easy to make and quite inexpensive. The Home Depot people often volunteer to cut the tubes if you tell them you are a teacher and bike shops often have old tubes on hand. This is a great DIY project!
Be sure to stop by Scott’s website. You can also order them from the site. Just click HERE.
After running to Home Depot, I’m going to take a quick trip to the bike shop and pick up one of those packs.
I love my job. I really, really do! One of the favorite parts about my job is that I get to network with a whole bunch of very talented teachers. I love hearing about and seeing them implement creative strategies to improve student learning. During the past several years, many of our local school districts have focused on improving writing instruction. All of our schools, from elementary to high school, received training in the Collins Writing Program. In addition, teachers were able to participate in other inservices such as the 6 Traits of Writing to enhance their instruction in this area.
My good friend and colleague, Michelle (same job, just different schools) came back to our office one day so excited to share what she had seen in one of the first grade classrooms she visited. She was so impressed with the quality of writing and the independence displayed by this classroom of first graders during their writing time that she just had to bring back the tool the teacher used to show us all. Sue, a first grade teacher, uses “focus sticks” to help her students develop and assess their own writing. The focus sticks are placed in a cup in the center of the table. After completing their writing, the students use a focus stick to check to be sure their writing includes the pictured elements. The icons placed on the sticks serve as cues. Below is a stick that Sue uses during the beginning of the school year.
During whole group instruction, she has explained and modeled the expectation for each icon.
Click the following link to download these focus stick icons Focus Sticks Level 1
As the year goes on, and as each student progresses in the writing process, the icons on the sticks change depending upon the expectations. So, here is another stick that Sue uses as her students advance.
You can see in this focus stick, she has incorporated three of the six traits: ideas, voice and sentence fluency. Of course she has provided instruction in those areas before introducing the icons on the stick.
Click the following link to download these focus stick icons Focus Sticks Level 2
When appropriate, Sue transitions the students from the use of the focus stick to a written rubric.
Not all students use the same stick at the same time. Some students may be working on the skills contained within the initial focus stick for a long time while others quickly move to the second stick and then to the written rubric. For our struggling students, removing icons is always an option. For example, for one student, the goals of a writing assignment may be to use correct letter sizing and to draw a picture to match the text.
You can also cut the icons out individually if you’d like to focus on specific skills.
To make your own focus sticks you will need large craft sticks (I color coordinated my sticks, but it is not necessary), wiggly eyes (I used 25mm, but any size will do), full size Avery labels and cups. The amount of materials will depend upon how many sticks you wish to make.
1. Print the desired pdf of the focus stick icons on the full size Avery labels and cut along the dotted lines.
2. Center the icons on the stick and fold over the edges.
3. Using a hot glue gun, glue the wiggly eye at the end of the stick. Here’s a trick… put the glue on the stick, hold the stick upside down and push the wiggly eye up on the stick. This way the wiggly eye will wiggle. If you push the eye down on the stick, the black wiggly touches the glue and won’t wiggle (tragic, I know).
4. Adhere the sticker on the cup.
I’ve included a classroom set of posters which corresponds to the icons on the focus sticks for use during instruction as well as reminders for students as they are writing.
Click the following link to download all classroom sized posters Writing sticks Posters
If you’d like more information on the 6+1 Traits of Writing, the book is awesome!
I absolutely love activities that are super easy to set up and can be used over and over again. Sure, it takes a little bit of cutting and laminating on the front end, but when they are all assembled you’ll have activities that will last for years! Last year I created file folder activities for my second grade teacher friends to address higher level phonics concepts. They were such a hit and the students absolutely loved them. I just couldn’t wait to create a series for kindergarten and first grade. The File Folder Phonics for learning the Alphabet is just one in a series that I have in the works. When you download this file you’ll receive 26 file folder activities for teaching letters and sounds.
Forming the upper- and lowercase letters with Play Doh or homemade dough is always an engaging activity for teaching letter formation. After the students form the letters with the dough, be sure to have them trace the letters with their finger while saying the letter sound.
When teaching beginning sounds, there’s nothing better than sorting activities. When you download this activity you’ll receive 16 colorful pictures per letter (pictures that begin with the target sound and pictures that do not begin with the sound).
Just turn the file folder over and you’ll have a practice template for letter formation. After use, simply wipe the page clean and it’s ready to used over and over again!
I purchased these file folder containers at our local Office Max. It’s an easy way of storing the file folders. I’ve included the stickers for you just in case you’d like to store yours in the same way.
Both File Folder Phonics Bundles are available through my Teachers Pay Teachers store or on the Make, Take & Teach website.
One of my favorite pastimes is perusing the aisles at our local dollar stores and the toy sections of Walmart and Meijer for ideas for center activities. My three children are now in college and instead of spending my time on the soccer fields I’m now spending that time shopping. Insert HUGE sigh– I really miss my kids and I would go back to those days in a minute. I’m not adjusting very well to my empty nest. While shopping at Walmart the other day I stumbled upon the card section in the toy area and found a few relatively inexpensive games that would be a nice addition to your literacy centers.
The first treasure was the Scrabble Slam! card game. It’s a great phonemic awareness activity as students use the letter cards in their hand to change the word. The first player to get rid of all their cards wins the game. I’m thinking that this activity would be ideal for mid-first grade/ beginning second grade.
I really love the Apples to Apples game. Sometimes it’s difficult to find activities targeting vocabulary. A word is provided (green card) and the students choose a picture card from their hand that best matches the word. They then try to convince the judge as to why their card best describes the word. This is awesome for oral language development!
I have one more fun find at Walmart. There are ways to make your own card holders using recycled CDs and plastic lids, but this card holder really wasn’t that expensive so I decided to go ahead and purchase it rather than make my own. Card holders are very helpful for playing card games as little hands have difficulty holding and fanning the cards.
Are there games that you find helpful for centers? Be sure to leave your suggestions in the comments. Enjoy!
It’s amazing sometimes where inspiration hits. A few weeks ago I had to kill about an hour and decided to hop on over to Michael’s Craft Store. As I was walking through the bead aisle I found this really handy plastic tote. It was just the right size to fit picture cards! Many of my teacher friends are constantly on the move and tote is just perfect!
The phonemic awareness tote contains over 500 colorful pictures for teaching the Syllables, Rhyme, Beginning Sounds, Onset-Rime, Phoneme Isolation and Phoneme Segmentation. Each skill area contains a common core alignment card, activity card(s) and colorful and engaging pictures. The borders are color-coded per skill for easy organization.
Although the tote found at Michael’s is perfect, the cards will fit in any similar-sized tote. You could even store the cards in travel soap boxes (you could find the coordinating colors) or baggies.
The Make, Take & Teach The Big Box of Phonemic Awareness Activities can be found in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.
The Big Box of Phonics Activities is also available in my TpT store. This file contains pictures and activities for working with Short Vowels/Word Families, Blends, Digraphs, Magic e, R-Controlled Vowels and Common Vowel Teams.
Also included in the download is the template with the labels to fit this tote. Hoping my friends love the tote as much as I do!
I have to admit it– I’ve been obsessed with painted cookie sheets for awhile now. You see, I have this “thing” for color coding. A few years ago I created a series of phonics-based activities that are intended to be used on cookie sheets. The regular grayish cookie sheets- well… they just didn’t match my borders . Since that time I’ve been fiddling around with different primers, paint colors, paint types and gloss to get just the “right look” and functionality. I think I have it now. So, if you are interested in making your painted cookie sheets this is what you’ll need:
1. Cookie Sheet- There’s a trick with finding just the right cookie sheet. You will want to purchase a cookie sheet with the least amount of teflon possible. The good news is is that these are always the cheapest cookie sheets. I purchase my cookie sheets at either Walmart or the Dollar Tree. I use 9 X 13 cookie sheets for my activities so the Small Cookie Sheet by MainStay (Walmart brand) is perfect.
2. Sander- You will need to buff your cookie sheet so you will need to either use sand paper or a block sander.
3. Degreaser- We experimented with several degreasers and found Zep (purchased at the Home Depot) to be the best. This degreaser is a strong and water soluble.
4. Rubber or plastic gloves
5. Primer- I like to use the Rust-Oleum Metal Primer
6. Paint- In terms of spray paint, I love the bright colors of Valspar. I purchase the paint at Lowes. Any paint color will do, but here are my favorites:
7. Glaze- I use the Triple Thick Glaze which I purchase at the Home Depot. The glaze puts a nice coating on the paint and prevents chipping and scratching.
8. Optional, but a good idea- face mask.
Step 1: Sand your cookie sheet. I use a fine sander sanding block. When sanding, be sure to sand the side borders and the upper lids of the cookie sheet. Note: I only sand and paint the top.
Step 2: Degrease. Wash the cookie sheet with a degreaser. This step is to ensure that all the non-stick material is removed from the cookie sheet. Be sure to read the directions on the container carefully. The degreaser I purchased is water soluble. There are extra clean-up and safety tips that you need to be aware of when using this type of liquid.
3. Prepare your area. I cut out old boxes and placed my cookie sheets in the boxes for painting. I planned to paint multiple cookie sheets so I set up several boxes; however, if you are only painting one cookie sheet you may not need the box. Simply place the cookie sheet on newspaper.
4. Paint with a primer. Now it’s time to get painting! You will need to first paint the cookie sheet with a primer. I know– some paints say that the primer is included and this would be an unnecessary step, but I haven’t had much luck by simply using only the color. The white base of the primer also limits the number of coats needed with the colored paint.
5. Paint with color. Now the fun begins! Choose your favorite color and spray away. You will need to spray on several coats of paint to fully cover the cookie sheet. I found that you can paint approximately 12 cookie sheets with one can of paint. Just a helpful hint: Choose a darker color paint so that you don’t need to use as many coats.
6. Top Coat. Once the cookie sheet is totally dry, spray the glaze over the paint. This step just provides one extra assurance that your paint won’t chip or scratch.
7. Wait. This is the hard part. The paint just needs to settle in. I typically wait 2 weeks before using the cookie sheets.
Well, that’s it. It’s pretty simple, but a bit time consuming. If you are not sure you want to take on such a project and still want the colored cookie sheets, I have a few available on the Make, Take & Teach website. My garage has turned into somewhat of a painted cookie sheet production area and eventually my husband will want his side of garage back. Of course, these painted cookie sheets were made for use with students and for educational and arts/crafts purposes. They are not intended for baking (my little disclaimer).
Just click HERE if you’d like to order the cookie sheets.
The Make, Take & Teach Cookie Sheet Activities are hands-on activities designed for teaching and practicing early literacy and math skills. The Pre K- K bundle contains activities for teaching alphabetic order, rhyme, CVC words, beginning sounds, short vowels, number order and basic number concepts. These activities are great for use within independent literacy centers or for small group instruction.
The Cookie Sheet Activities Pre-K/ Kindergarten Bundle is available in my online Teachers Pay Teacher store.
The Cookie Sheet Activities First Grade Bundle contains activities for learning and practicing sight words, blends and digraphs and word families. This bundle is also available in my TpT store.
Oh, summertime! One of my goals this summer is to revamp several of my earlier created activities and the Consonant Blends and Digraphs Game Boards activity is first on my list. I’ve added several new game boards for a total of 20! Each game board is also available in a black and white version so that they can be copied and sent them home with students for added practice. The consonant digraphs game boards contains the production cues which is a nice companion to the Consonant Digraphs cue card. Be sure to download the free cue card by clicking the link below:
Just click the following link: Consonant Digraphs Cue Card
Click the following link to download this free poster Homophones Poster
Many reading programs introduce the concept of homophones in second grade. Homophones are words that sound alike but are spelled differently and have a different meaning. Our students need to be able to tell the difference in the meanings of these words and to use the correct spelling in their writing. If students misspell words or use the wrong word in writing, the reader is not likely to understand what they are trying to say. Here’s a list of common homophones that you may wish to introduce to your students.
Click the following link to download this freebie Homophones Word List 2
Learning homophones can be tons of fun! One way to introduce the concept of homophones is by reading the Dear Deer book. This adorable book contains tons of examples of homophones.
There are so many activities for introducing and practicing these types of words. Classic games such as “Memory” or “I Have, Who Has” are ideal for small group instruction. The Make, Take & Teach Homophone Activity Pack contains 10 hands-on activities for introducing and practicing homophones. It’s also helpful to have homophone posters within the classroom as a reference for our young writers.
These posters and activities can be found in the Homophones Activity Pack.