Cookie Sheet Activities Volume 4

I can’t tell you how much fun I’m having making the cookie sheet activities! As soon as I finish with one volume, I already have 2 or 3 more ideas for upcoming volumes.  I think I’ve been driving Kyle (my wonderful artist) nuts with all the new art I’ve been asking her to make.  She’s such a trooper.  Despite having two very young children she still makes time to create awesome clip art for me to use in these products.   I love it that her pics are so colorful and eye-catching.

A week or so ago I finished Cookie Sheet Activities Volume 4.  This volume targets the skills of identifying beginning sounds in words as well as providing extra practice with those tricky short vowel sounds.   The templates correlate with the reading series we use in our schools (Harcourt).   So, for example, in this reading series, the letter “Mm” is the first letter introduced followed by “Ss”, “Rr” and “Tt”.  So, with the first template, students sort words beginning with the “Mm” and “Ss” sounds.  If you are not using the same reading series and your order of introducing letters is different from ours, no worries, blank templates are available for you to put in your own letters.

 Click the following link to download sample templates and pictures for sorting 2 sounds. Sorting Templates with 2 Letter Sounds

 All cookie sheet activities allow for differentiation.  I’ve also included templates where students can sort 4 beginning sounds.

 Click the following link to download sample templates for sorting 4 sounds. Sorting Template with 4 Letter Sounds

Now for those vowel sounds.  I’ve included multiple templates for sorting CVC pictures with the short vowel sounds.  These templates are also differentiated as students can sort pics with either 2 or 3 sounds.

Click the following link to download a sample template for sorting short vowel sounds. Sorting Template for Short Vowel Sounds

If you find the sample templates helpful, the full 43 page version of Cookie Sheet Activities can be found in my TpT store.


Click HERE to download the full 43 page version of Cookie Sheet Activities Volume 4

There are also 5 other versions of the Cookie Sheet Activities.  These activities are great for either small group instruction or as activities for your literacy or math centers.


Click HERE to download Cookie Sheet Activities Volume 6- Word Families


Click HERE to download Volume 5- Common Consonant Blends and Digraphs


Click HERE or on the above link to download Cookie Sheet Activities Volume 3- Sight Words


Click HERE to download Cookie Sheet Activities Volume 2- Early Numeracy


Click HERE to download Cookie Sheet Activities Volume 1- Early Literacy Skills


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Who Do You Train With?

If you’ve been following my blog for awhile now, you may remember that in May I wrote a blog about my daughter, Kassie, about to graduate from high school (sniff, sniff).  Well, she did.


Kassie welcoming her fellow classmates and families to the graduation ceremony.

Time marches on…. last Friday we attended her college orientation.  Along with taking a full credit load, Kassie will also be playing tennis.  Following the formal orientation program, the tennis coach gathered the incoming freshman at the tennis courts to meet and to hit a few balls.  Of course, the parents were left to chat alongside the courts. The discussion centered on who your daughter “trained with”.   There’s something about competitive tennis at the high school level you should know.  Many of the larger communities have indoor facilities that operate year-round.  Many of the girls (I would be surprised if there wasn’t a girl) have private coaches and many also have personal trainers.   The world of competitive tennis at this level has much to do with opportunities that befall you based on where you live and the financial resources that you have than it would seem like anything else.  Hummm….do you feel a correlation to our lives in education coming?

The other thing I’d like you to know right away, that despite living in a small community with no easily accessible indoor tennis facilities, our girls were regional champions for three consecutive years.  Although we never won a state championship, we always made a respectable showing.  Also, in recent years, several players have gone on to play at the college level.


Team after winning regionals in 2012

After the discussion at the courts, I was left again to wonder how, with so many odds against us, our little tennis team from northern Michigan can compete against those much larger schools with so many apparent advantages.  So, here’s my thinking…

Number one, our tennis coach, Matt, was smart (I say “was” because he is now a new principal and in our district can no longer coach- more sniffs).  He was smart in so many ways.  First, he started the kiddos young with the “Tennis Buddies” summer program.   The kids would come for an hour of fun instruction full of tennis games that were designed to teach basic skills in an enjoyable way.  He recruited high school players to help him.  They served as role models and made it “cool” play tennis–they had someone to look up to.   Okay- I hate to admit this part, but it did play an important role in this phase of success- he gave prizes (gulp!).  If you came to the courts that day, you received a ticket.  At the end of the session there was a drawing for dollar store items.  Unless a dire family emergency occurred, kids came to the courts and on time to get their tickets!  I can’t tell you how many times my kids were in the car waiting for me.  Most children at this age have not developed the intrinsic motivation yet and he used all means possible to get them to the courts.


Kassie and Maddie playing games at Tennis Buddies11 years ago!

As the kids became older, he set the stage for success.  There were a few things he did in this manner.  During the summer months, he held an Elite Camp where the students received expert instruction and hitting practice.  He also recruited expert instructors from the community to help with the tennis team during the season.  His assistant coaches are a retired attorney and a current orthodontist in our community who both devote countless hours of their own time and at their own expense to help Matt not only develop good tennis players, but well-rounded human beings.  In addition to these coaches, it is commonplace for past high school players to return to the courts to hit with the high school team.  With these past players, there is a sense of connection and a desire to give back.  There is a feeling among everyone that there is a greater purpose than tennis.  Tennis may be the vehicle and the method, but the end goal was much greater than the game itself.  That’s why there was such a commitment by so many.


Does this look like systematic and explict instruction, or what?

There is one other critical component that is really hard to explain, but in my opinion it was the most important.  I’m not exactly sure how Matt did this, but he instilled a sense of community within the team.  Of course, this is a competitive team; there were challenge matches and even cuts.  But despite that, the girls knew that real success depended upon the success of the team as a whole.  No one player was greater than the whole. They were very supportive of each other.  Girls with strong tennis skills spent hours practicing with younger and less skilled players to build them up.  Regardless if you were the number one singles or played four doubles, you were a valued and equal contributor to the team.  They were supporting and teaching each other.  This was a true “team” in every sense of the definition of “team”.

Of course, family support was also an important component.  We had to drive our kids to the courts and we did take the long drive to an indoor facility in the blustery winter months with a car-full of kids to an indoor facility once or twice a week.

So, here are the lessons that apply to our education world…

1.  Invest in developmentally appropriate QUALITY early childhood education.

2. Create an environment where your students WANT to come to school.   Wouldn’t it be great if our students were always waiting for their parents in the car ready to take them to school?  Students want to come to school when they feel safe, accepted and a valued member of the classroom community.  It’s all about relationships– your relationship with the students and their relationships with each other.

3.  Family support is important.  I will say, however, that not every girl had parents who were able to serve in this manner.  There were actually a small handful of drivers and we each did what we could.  For those players whose parents’ work hours prevented them from traveling, we made sure that player was taken care of.  Not every parent will be able or willing to provide the support that you may like or expect, but every parent loves their child.  Strong parent support is great, but if you don’t have, you still have to figure out a way for the child to succeed.

4.  Especially for schools with limited resources, spend your money wisely and on resources that matter.  In terms of reading instruction, be sure you have quality assessments, core curriculum and a classroom library with a variety of leveled books.  Without an aligned core curriculum, despite great teachers doing great things, you’re not going to get the results.   Our tennis girls had what they needed for success–gas in the mini-van to get to matches, tennis balls and faded blue uniforms.

5. Expert instruction.  There was no doubt about it, Matt was an expert instructor.  He held whole group instruction, players were divided into small groups based on focused skills, there was a mix of ability and cross-ability grouping, individualized instruction, and differentiated instruction.  His instruction was systematic and explicit.  Steps for strokes were broken down into small manageable components and built upon each other.  Our students need expert instruction to succeed.

6.  Make the most of each and every instructional minute.  Each minute is golden.  Good classroom behavior management, organization of materials and ensuring students transition quickly from activity to activity is critical.

7.  Offer multiple opportunities for repeated practice.  If you want to be a good tennis player, you need to hit a lot of balls.  If you want to be a good reader, you have to do a lot of reading.  Be sure your students have opportunity to put in practice the skills they are learning.

8.  Build a sense of community.   Build community within your larger community (city), community within your school and within your classroom.   Instill a sense that true success lies in the success of all.  In one of my schools, a group of retired teachers frequent the hallways.  In another, a local church organized groups of volunteers to serve as mentors.  It’s surprising how people will step up when they see a need.  Our tennis girls worked hard not only for themselves, but for their team, coach and community.  The stage was set early on for their success–they wanted to be on the courts, they wanted to play not only for themselves, but for those who have invested in their success.

8.  Support each other.  We cannot do it alone.  For us as teachers, the success of the students within the school as a whole depends on all our successes–the success of each classroom and of each student.  If you have a new teacher in the building, please rally around him/her.  If your next door teaching neighbor has a challenging class, ask how you can help.  If you don’t have a sense of community within your school, try to figure out a way to get there.

Well, there it is.  If you live in a community like mine with limited resources, your students too can find success in a larger arena, you just have to be smart and resourceful.  If you are fortunate to be in a school with seemingly unlimited resources, know that you are first very lucky, but then you still need to address the issues that money cannot buy (sense of community) and your students still need to be motivated to take advantage of what is given to them.


Kassie and Lizzie with their coach, Mr. Brown.  Just an FYI- Matt was voted Coach of the Year in 2011!


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Multi-Sensory Ideas for Teaching Sight Words


In order to be fluent readers, students need to be able to recognize sight words quickly and accurately as these words make up between 50-70% of the words we encounter in text.  Students who struggle learning sight words greatly benefit from using a multi-sensory approach to teaching.  The term “multi-sensory” means using all the different senses at the same time.  Using this approach to teaching increases the likihood that the student will remember the word.  When teaching sight words this coming year, try using a variety of multi-sensory materials during your small group intervention or within your literacy centers.  Here are a few of my favorites:

1.  Craft Sand-  Students love writing their sight words in sand!  Admittedly, it could be a bit messy, but a little planning can help.  You’ll have to experiment with the different sand textures.  Some of the first sand I puchased was a little dusty and made more of a mess.  The sand I use now has more of a pebble-like feel.  My local butcher generously donated a packet of small foam meat trays.  Using a plastic funnel (purchase in the arts and crafts section) is useful in getting the sand back into the container.


2.  Bendaroos-  Benadroos are wax covered sticks that can be bent into any shape.  They are the less expensive option to Wikki Stix.  I found this whole packet of Bendaroos on sale for $5.00!!


 3.  There are so many fun glue options nowadays.  Everytime I walk through the arts and crafts section it seems like someone has invented a new puffy or glittery type of glue or paint.  Try them all!


 4.  Play-Doh is an old favorite.  In my early years of teaching (that would be before having 3 children), I used to love to make my own.  I can’t believe how many recipes I tried and the colors and scents I experimented with.


 5.  Plastic Canvas-  Maybe using plastic canvas isn’t as glittery as the other activities, but it is a great multi-sensory item! It’s quick, easy and very effective.  Plastic canvas can be purchased in the needle/yarn section in most large department stores.  I typically cut a sheet in half length-wise.  Using a crayon, students trace the word on paper placed over the canvas.  When the paper is removed, the letters of the word are “bumpy”.  Using their finger, students trace the letters while saying them and then reading the whole word (“a” “n” “d” spells “and”).


6.  Yarn- Another fun multi-sensory activity is to make sight words with yarn.  Simply form the letters with the glue and place the yarn over the glue.  You can use the free multi-sensory templates provided below.


 7. Pipe cleaners-  Have your students make sight words with pipe cleaners.


8.  Magnetic Letters- I love magnetic letters!  Your students can make words using the letters on the table or better yet a magnetic surface.  Try a cookie sheet or a refrigerator if you are working with your child at home.


9.  Shaving Cream-  So much fun!!  Usually we simply just spray the shaving cream over the table and have the students write the words.  For an easier clean up, you can choose to spray the shaving cream on a tray.


Feel free to download the templates for the first 25 words of the Dolch 220 sight words. Click the following link Multi-Sensory Cards- Sight WordsList 1


Click HERE for the complete set of the Dolch 220 sight word templates, flashcards and specific instructions for introducing sight words using the multi-sensory approach.

Remember that it all begins with assessment!  You’ll want to teach the words your students cannot identify.  Click HERE to download a FREE sight word assessment.


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Assessing and Progress Monitoring Sight Words

One of the many benefits of my job is that I have the opportunity to travel to many different elementary buildings.  I know you may be sitting there thinking, “I’d hate that”, but it’s actually tons of fun.  Each building has it’s own unique personality so every day of the week brings a brand new experience.  When I first started my job traveling among the 13 elementary buildings in our ISD, it was plainly obvious that each building had it’s own measure of what they considered to be “normal”.  In fact, the idea of what was considered “normal” could (and often did) vary from teacher to teacher within the same building.  We were quite often faced with a situation where a teacher would bring a child to the Child Study Team wanting to refer the child for special education services, however, the child would be completely within the “normal” range if he/she were in the classroom next door.   This was quite a dilemma.

Within a RtI model, one of the first steps is to identify students at-risk for learning difficulties.  With such varying views of “normal”, we felt we had to pull together and develop common assessments as well as expected levels at various grades.  Of course we use our universal screener (DIBELS Next); however, in making such important decisions regarding who receives intervention, we felt we needed additional assessment data.  We pulled together all the Reading Specialists from our districts and came up with common assessments and cut off points that we all agreed to (fortunately, one of our districts had a good model already developed).  The Reading Specialists then took this back to the teachers within their buildings.  We all now have a common vision of what is “normal” at each grade level.

In each school, giving a sight word assessment was common.  We were not all giving the same assessment (some using the Dolch sight words, others using their own developed lists) and certainly not giving them at the same time of year or with the same materials.  Now, beginning mid-kindergarten and going through the end of second grade, all students are now assessed using the Dolch 220 sight words three times a year.  An added bonus is that the vast majority of teachers are using the same form!   Actually, all RtI tracking and assessment forms are standardized between our schools.  When students move between schools, the forms go with them and intervention and progress monitoring begins immediately.

Below is the assessment that we use to assess sight words.   Feel free to download this file.  It can be found on my Teachers Pay Teachers store as a FREE download.  It contains the assessment materials, student recording forms and progress monitoring graphs for the Dolch 220 sight words.  I’ve also included specific directions on how to administer the assessment.  The agreed upon targets for each grade level assessment periods (fall, winter, spring) are contained within this file.

This is the student recording form.  The Dolch 220 sight words are divided into 9 lists.  When you administer the assessment, you will show the student the word and then place a “+” or “-” in the appropriate square.  A correct response is when the student was able to quickly name the word.  If the student sounded the word out or took longer than 3 seconds then a “-” would be recorded.   The student recording form allows for multiple administrations of the assessment.

In a RtI model, monitoring the student’s progress during intervention is a key component.   Several options for charting progress are included.  I have the students color in the graph after each assessment so they can also see how many words they are learning.  They LOVE this!  I literally have students beg to be tested.

Click HERE to download the free Dolch sight word assessment.

Flashcards are ideal for use for either assessment purposes or for drill and practice.  You may want to check out these flashcards in my TpT store.


Just click the following link to download these flashcards.  Dolch Sight Words Flashcards


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Fun Finds at Walmart for Your Small Group Intervention

Walmart Finds ipad

Horray!  Back-to-school supplies are now in stores!  If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know how I love my Walmart.  So I was thrilled to see great bargins in the school aisle at my favorite store.  Here are a few of items I found that would be great to have in your small group intervention area:

1.  Locker mirrors.  Mirrors are a must in any small group intervention area!  When teaching letters and sounds, especially for those struggling readers, having them watch the placement of their lips, tongue and teeth while making the sounds is very helpful.  These decorative mirrors are only 88 cents!  They are the perfect size.

2.  Dry Erase Boards- Dry erase boards are another must-have item for small group intervention.  I found 2 different kinds of boards in the school supply area.  The first dry erase board (laying on the bottom in the pic) is a 11 x 8.5 lined board.  It was only 88 cents!  My favorite board, however, is the 5.5 x 14 inch magnetic dry erase board.  Students can either write or use magnetic letters to build words.

3.  Index Card Container-  This container was only $1.97.  It will be perfect for storing sight word cards by lists. In the picture, I placed a sticker (Dolch Sight Word List 3) on the container.

4.  Index Cards-   Love these!  These are simply index cards on a ring with a decorative hard cover front and back.  It also has an elastic clip.  In the picture above I placed a sticker on the cover for the sight words contained on the ring.

Click the following link to download free sight word list labels. Sight Word Labels.  You can print these on Avery full size labels or on paper and tape them on.

Sight Word Labels

Happy shopping!–and enjoy the rest of the summer.


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