Parent Handouts- Perfect for Conferences!

I am really envious of my friends and colleagues who are organized.  I am just not one of those people.  I’ll confess my computer files are a mess.  Files are saved on several different computers, in different folders and under a variety of file names.   Well, conferences are coming up soon and I’m on a mission this morning to organize all my handouts and put them into one file on my hard drive and under file names that I can easily recognize.   It was my goal to have a parent handout developed for each of the 5 Big Ideas of Reading Instruction–Phonemic Awareness, Phonics, Fluency, Vocabulary and Reading Comprehension–and to have them grade specific.  Well, I’m not quite done yet.  I have yet to develop the Vocabulary and Phonics handouts.  I am hoping, though, that you find the ones that I have completed helpful.

Click the following link to download the Learning Sight Words parent handout Learning Sight Words

Click the following link to download the kindergarten phonemic awareness handout Phonemic Awareness Parent Handout- Kindergarten

Click the following link to download the first grade phonemic awareness handout Phonemic Awareness Parent Handout- First Grade

Click the following link to download the parent handout for oral reading fluency Oral Reading Fluency- Parent

Click the following link to download the parent handout for reading comprehension Reading Comprehension-Parent

While I was researching the information to create the parent handouts, I found that there was great information for teachers to have that I didn’t quite want to put into the parent handouts.  So what I did was create teacher companion handouts.  Again, I am still working on the Vocabulary and Phonics handouts, but hope you find the ones I’ve created useful.

Five Big Ideas In Reading Instruction

Phonemic Awareness-Facts for Teachers

Oral Reading Fluency- Teacher Handout

Reading Comprehension-Facts for Teachers


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Using Blending Boards During Small Group Instruction

We’ve finished our DIBELS Next testing and our intervention groups are now in full swing.  Our teachers have been bringing out those blending boards that the Career Tech students made us last year (love them!) and are using them within their small group instruction.   We started using these blending boards last winter when our first grade Nonsense Word Fluency data wasn’t where we wanted it to be.  Our students were accurate with their sound-symbol relationship, but were mostly sounding out the words sound-by-sound rather than just reading the whole word.  Since posting the video on How To Use A Blending Board last April, I’ve been getting tons of emails and comments.  I decided to put all the downloads and videos in one blog post so you don’t have to hunt around anymore!

Well, here’s the original video on how to use the blending cards.  You can download the original set of cards that were used in the video for free.

Click HERE to download Consonant and Vowel Cards

My first grade teacher friend, Cindy,  found that she needed more whole word CVC cards for her first grade group.  I made 200 CVC cards with both real and nonsense words.  It’s certainly okay to mix them up.  After reading a real word, we will have the students give a “thumbs up”.

Click the following link to download 100 free pages of real and nonsense CVC words Blending Board Cards CVC Whole Words

You can also use the blending boards to introduce and reinforce other phonics skills such as blends and digraphs.

Click the following link to download free blend and digraph cards Blending Board Cards Blends and Digraphs

I thought I’d take a video of a teacher using the blending board with students so you can see it in action.  When you watch the video note how Kathy is having the boys stretch out the sounds (rather than by saying each sound individually) and then read the word.  These boys are pretty good with the Consonant-Vowel-Consonant cards so Kathy is moving at a pretty quick pace.  This allows for many, many responses and much practice.

Okay, so you know how you have to recruit kids from friends when making a video such as this? These two little cuties are the sons of two of my teacher friends and they are certainly not struggling readers.   If their teacher wished to use the blending board with them, they’d most benefit from using the Level 3 cards. and just reading the whole word right away.

We were so lucky to have our Career Tech Center volunteer to make blending boards for all of our kindergarten and first grade teachers in all of our schools.  If you can make them in bulk, it’s much easier.  They are not difficult to make; you just need someone handy with a saw :)

Click the following link to download the directions for making your own blending board Blending Board Directions

If you haven’t used a blending board yet in your small group instruction, give it a try.  Using this tool really helps students practice sound-symbol correspondence as well as learn to blend sounds into words.


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Monsters and Aliens, Oh My!

Well I made the Candy Corn Alphabet activity with a cute little box found at JoAnn Fabrics and the Halloween Rhyming game with plastic discs found at Michaels Craft Store; I just couldn’t leave out my other favorite craft store- the Hobby Lobby.  While on my shopping trip with my daughter in the “big city” of Lansing, we stopped by the Hobby Lobby and found these cute little foam aliens.  I thought they’d be perfect for a Halloween-themed math center activity.   Okay– there is some assembly involved, but aren’t they so, so cute?  There are a total of 30 aliens! The directions for assembly are on the pdf which you can download for free.

This is what the package looks like.

Click the following link to download this FREE pdf  Monster AdditionAlien

I asked my fabulous artist, Kyle, to whip up a few cute little monsters.  I have to say I’m lovin’ that adorable one-eyed red monster.  I hoping to use him in another Halloween-themed activity.  The Monster Addition game is great for practicing math facts to 20.

Click HERE to download the Monster Addition activity from my TpT store

 A few months ago I posted the Classroom-Sized Monster Sight Word Game Board.  There are 220 monster feet with words from the Dolch sight word lists 1-9.  Place the feet around your classroom for a giant game board!

Click HERE to download the Classroom Sized Monster Feet Game Board


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Halloween Games

If you’ve been following my blog for awhile you may know that my daughter Kassie is now a college freshman.  I miss her terribly.  Even though I have one child still at home the house is eerily quiet.  Fortunately, her college is only an hour and a half away, so a quick car ride down on a Saturday is pretty easy to do.  Last Saturday I picked her up from her dorm and we traveled to the nearest mall.  How much fun!  We both picked up a few items of clothing, but spent most of our time in craft stores.  We both love Michaels Craft Store, the Hobby Lobby and Jo Ann Fabrics!  So, here are a few of the fun finds that I turned into literacy center activities.

First fun find- these mini plastic flying discs I found at Michaels in the Halloween novelty section.  They’re only about 2 inches across.  I decided to make them into a Rhyming Memory Game.  Simply print the pdf below on a full size Avery label, cut out the pictures and place them on the bottom of the discs.

Here’s a picture of how the flying discs are packaged.  The discs are made by Creatology just in case you’d like to look online.

If you can’t find the discs, no worries.  Michaels also has foam pumpkin cut-outs that’d work just fine too.

Click the following link to download this FREE pdf  Halloween Rhyming Memory Game

Just across the parking lot from Michaels was a JoAnn Fabrics!  I love shoppig at JoAnn’s for fun holiday ideas.  I found this little box in the $1 clearance bin.  SCORE!  I had Kyle (fabulous artist) whip up some candy corns to match for this beginning sound/alphabet game.


 For this activity, students match the beginning sound of the picture to the upper- and lowercase letters.

Click HERE to download this activity from my Teachers Pay Teachers store

I’m going to store my candy corn puzzle pieces in my cute little box.  Just in case you can’t find the box, I made a label that can be placed on a plastic baggie for storage.

These are just two of a loadful of fun finds on my shopping trip!  Keep checking back as Kyle and I are working on so many more Halloween inspired activities!


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Focus Sticks

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).

upside downblog

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!

6 Traitsblogpic


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