Fun Little Finds at Walmart

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.

Centers Walmart.001

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.

card holder

Are there games that you find helpful for centers?  Be sure to leave your suggestions in the comments.  Enjoy!


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Teaching Homophones

Homophones Poster BPbord

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.

Homophones Word List 2 BPbord

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.

Dear Deer

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.

Posters BP2

These posters and activities can be found in the Homophones Activity Pack.


The Complete Activity Pack for Teaching Homophones can be found in the Make, Take & Teach website and in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.


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Nouns, Verbs and Adjectives!

Many of my second and third grade friends are now learning the parts of speech.  I thought I’d create a few posters that they can use for reference.  Here’s a little sampling of the 8 posters that you can download for free.  Just click the link below.




Click HERE to download the FREE Parts of Speech Posters from my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

I always find sorting activities helpful when teaching a concept.  The Nouns, Verbs and Adjectives! Picture Sorting activity is an ideal introductory activity for teaching the parts of speech.  When you download this activity you’ll receive 66 colorful nouns, verbs and adjective pictures and 2 differentiated templates.  The self-checking feature makes this activity ideal for independent literacy centers.



The Nouns, Verbs and Adjectives activity  is available through the Make, Take & Teach website or in my Teachers Pay Teacher store.

If you’d like to target adjectives and adverbs a little more in-depth, the Adjectives and Adverbs! Word Sorting activity may just do the trick.  There are 3 differentiated activities within this file.  Word cards are color-coded per template.


The Adjectives and Adverbs! activity can be found in my online Teachers Pay Teachers store.

Teaching the parts of speech can actually be quite fun.  Hope you find the posters helpful!





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Fostering Thoughtful Literacy


If you’ve been following my blog for awhile now, you may know that I actually enjoy reading professional articles and books.  Last year I came across Richard Allington’s article “What Really Matters When Working With Struggling Readers” in the April 2013 of  The Reading Teacher.  I immediatley made copies of the article for all my colleagues.  I think we all read that article over 50 times as each person’s copy was tattered, had rows of text marked with highlights, and notes scribbled in the margins. We talked about the content of that article for months. I will admit, it kind of shook our world.  Several of his issues with current practices of instruction and intervention for struggling students we were actually doing.  I needed to know more so I ordered Allington’s book.


One of the areas where we continue to struggle in is in the area of comprehension.  Phonemic awareness, fluency and phonics– well, they’re relatively easy to assess and teach. Vocabulary and comprehension; however, a bit more elusive. That’s why I found chapter 5, “Students Need to Develop Thoughtful Literacy” quite helpful.  Allington states that “in school we have too often confuse remembering with understanding.”

Think about it.  How do we typically assess and teach comprehension in school?  Tasks such as copying information from text into a blank on a worksheet, matching text to answers or completing multiple-choice tasks are relatively low-level recall tasks yet these practices are prevalant in so many classrooms.  There is a difference between recalling information and understanding.  What does it mean to understand text?  Allington uses real-life examples to help make his point.  So, here’s my text-to-self example:

Let’s go back to the article handed to my colleagues last year.  As we were reading the article, we were making connections.  We were making text-to-self connections (am I using some of these practices right now that he felt were ineffective?) and text-to-text connections (how is what he is proposing matching to what other researchers are saying?).  We were summarizing, analyzing, synthezing and evaluting all at the same time.  Most importantly, we were discussing.  Our discussions regarding that text and material relating to that article continued for over an entire school year.  The lively debates and professional challenges were incredible.  That’s what makes reading alive.  Would my colleagues have been impressed if I asked them true/false questions about the contents of the article?  Would that have assessed their understanding of the material?  Would that have stretched all of our thinking?  When we are asked to explain, discuss or write about texts that we’ve read we are more likely to demonstrate true understanding. Just as an FYI- one of the main reasons I blog after reading a chapter of a book is to help myself understand what I’m reading.


What Does the Research say on Effective Comprehension Instruction?

It’s important to know that reading comprehension can significantly improve with effective instruction. We can, and must, explicitly teach students strategies to comprehend text.  It’s also important to know that learning strategies take time.  These are not one week lessons, but rather require explict modeling and practice over a significant period of time.  Another point that Allington made was that students should be taught the strategies within “bundles” rather than treating each strategy as a stand-alone.  For example, the strategy of “summarizing” may involve several strategies such as activiating prior knowledge and paraphrasing.  Reading programs that teach a strategy and then another and then another are not likely to be the most effective.

There are several strategies that research has proven successful in improving reading comprehension.   Each strategy is described below in this handout:

Reading Compre border

Just click the following link to download this FREE handout Reading Comprehension Strategies

Let’s just add that above all students need to interact with the text.  They need to talk about what they’ve read with their teacher and their peers.  They need to write about their thoughts and feelings about the material.  They need to make reading come alive!

I’m so looking forward to reading Chapter 6 “Where to Begin: Instruction for Struggling Readers”.  Grab the book.  Share it with a few colleagues and have your own rich discussions too!




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Homophones Activity


Just click the following link to download this list of homophones: List of Homophones

A homophone is a word that sounds the same as another word or words, but has a different meaning and spelling.  Homophones can really trip up our young readers and writers.  It’s sometimes difficult for them to know for sure which spelling to use within their writing.  Targeted instruction in the meaning of the different spellings of these words is needed.  Activities involving homophones can actually be quite fun.  The Homophone Pear Match activity makes for a great literacy activity or as an activity for your small group instruction.  Students simply match each homophone pear and provides either a definition of the words and/or puts the words in a sentence.   When you download this activity you’ll receive 72 homophone pears.


I’ve also included a label just in case you’d like to store the activity in a baggie or a container.



The Homophone Pear Matching activity can be found in my online Teachers Pay Teachers store or in the Make, Take & Teach website.




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Multiple Meaning Words- Ice Cream Scoops

Multiple Meaningblogpic

When I was a Speech/Language Pathologist I used to love to teach multiple word meanings.  When students understand that a word can have a different meaning depending upon it’s use in oral or written language, their comprehension improves.  There are a lot ways to help students learn multiple meaning words.  The Ice Cream Scoops activity is a fun activity for expanding vocabulary by teaching multiple word meanings.  When you download this activity you’ll receive 16 ice cream cones containing words with two or more definitions.  Students match the definitions to the words.  You’ll want to be sure to have the students use the words in sentence so that they can clearly demonstrate that they understand the word meaning.


Storing activities can also be a bit challenging.  I’ve included a sticker for you just in case you’d like to store your activity in a baggie.


The Ice Cream Scoops for Multiple Meaning Words can be found in my online Teachers Pay Teachers store or in the Make, Take & Teach website.






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