Make Take & Teach | instructional materials for small group intervention

Build a Snowman Activities for Rhyme and Beginning Sounds

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Last year we created these absolutely adorable snowmen to practice the concepts of rhyme, beginning sounds and word families.  The kiddos loved them!  They were just perfect for winter-themed centers. This winter, I decided to update them a bit – I made the pictures larger and added several more rhyming snowmen.  The current activity for rhyme now includes 31 colorful rhyming snowmen.  You certainly will want to differentiate this activity by choosing how many and which snowmen to use during a rotation.

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The Make, Take & Teach Build a Snowman Rhyme activity is available through my online Teachers Pay Teachers store.

The Snowman Activity for Beginning Sounds has certainly been a kid-favorite activity in kindergarten classrooms.  It’s a fun way for learning and practicing beginning sounds.  You can also differentiate this activity by limiting the number of snowmen and snowballs used at one time.

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The Make, Take & Teach Build a Snowman Beginning Sounds activity is also available in my TpT online store.

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ABC Penguins Freebie

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I’m just in love with these cute little penguins that Kyle created.  I thought they’d make a super fun ABC order activity for my preschool and kindergarten friends.  I created both an upper- and lowercase set so that you can have your kiddos either put them in alphabetical order or match the upper- to lowercase letters.  Feel free to download this freebie.  Enjoy!

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 Just click the following link to download this file:  ABC Order Penguins

For notification of all new Make, Take & Teach activities, be sure to follow the Make, Take & Teach online store on TpT.  Just click the green “follow” star.

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The Ultimate Teacher’s Guide to Letter and Number Reversals

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I am so happy to have Anne-Marie Morey from the BayTreeBlog.com as a guest blogger!  I absolutely LOVE Anne-Marie’s blog and she’s my go-to gal for issues relating to dyslexia.  After reading her post, be sure to visit her blog and download her FREE Workbook for Letter Reversals!!  The link is included below!

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 The Ultimate Teacher’s Guide to Letter and Number Reversals

Have you ever worked with a student who reverses her letters?  Maybe you’ve seen something like this before?

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Chances are good then that you’re as frustrated over reversed b/ds and p/qs as your students are.  My students get so discouraged when they’ve finally cracked the reading code, but they still struggle with letter reversals.

Unfortunately, there is minimal research on the subject and there are even fewer educational resources.  Interest in reversals has waned because research has shown that literacy problems arise primarily from weaknesses in phonological awareness.  No one seems to want to even to talk about reversals now that it has been demonstrated that visual processing issues do not cause dyslexia.

Yet, for a small subgroup of children, reversals remain a real and lasting challenge (Brooks, Berninger, &Abbott, 2011).  For the students who make many reversals, it’s harder for them to read and express their ideas in writing.  Research backs this up:  individuals who make letter reversals self-report feelings of psychological stress (Brooks et. al., 2011).

Luckily, research has now revealed that children who persist in making letter reversals share a few key characteristics:

  • Children with dyslexia are more likely to make reversals (Brooks et. al., 2011).
  • Reversals appear to be associated with working memory deficits (Brooks et. al., 2011).
  • Reversals may be related to deficits in the left occipital-temporal region that lead to both phonological and visual processing deficits (Dehaene, 2009).
  • Letter reversals are common for young writers.  Occasional reversals are typical up through age 8.
  • Not all children who reverse letters have dyslexia.

Here’s the good news- by pinpointing working memory deficits as the cause of letter reversals, we can target intervention.  Specific techniques can help prevent letter reversals before they start, and they help children who produce reversals overcome this challenge (Brooks, 2003).

5 Ways to Help Prevent Letter Reversals

1.  Prioritize Handwriting Instruction

Quality handwriting instruction appears to reduce the overall incidence of letter reversals (Berninger et. al., 2006).  Just as great phonemic awareness instruction in early grades can lead to later successes in reading and writing achievement (Byrne & Fielding-Barnsley, 1995), early handwriting instruction leads to long-lasting benefits in writing composition skills.  Research on writing is unequivocal: students who have handwriting instruction are less likely to make reversals (Berninger et. al., 2005).  They’re more likely to become capable writers in the years and decades to come (Graham, 2010).

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To download this free Handwriting Instruction Checklist just click the following link:  Handwriting Instruction Checklist

2.  Provide Visual and Verbal Cues

Research has pinpointed one element of handwriting instruction that seems the most powerful in preventing reversals- verbal and visual cues.  Verbal cues are precise, specific directions to form letters and numbers.  They help students remember the sequence of strokes.  They are most effective for kindergarteners or children with severe handwriting challenges.  This instruction even seems to help with letter recognition (Berninger et. al., 2006)!  Once children enter first grade, visual cues seem to be even more effective.  Children study a model of the letter that includes numbered arrows.  These arrows show the child the sequence and direction of each stroke in the letter.  Children then cover up the model and reproduce the model from memory.  For children who reverse letters, this method is the only research-based method proven to “reduce reversals substantially” (Berninger et. al., 2006).  This is a sample activity page with visual cues from the Eliminating Letter Reversals Workbook:

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The Eliminating Letter Reversals Workbook is available for FREE at Bay Tree Blog.

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3.  Introduce Letters in Specialized Groups

Hands down, the easiest way to prevent letter reversals is to modify the sequence in which letters are introduced to new writers.  Rather than introducing letters in alphabetical order, introduce letters by the type of stroke (Berninger, & Wolf, 2009).  It’s most important to teach “b” and “d” at different times.

Teach the letters that begin with a stroke down (l, h, b, m, n, r, p, t).  Then teach the “2 o’clock” letters: c, o, d, g, qu (Berninger & Wolf, 2009). The genius of this sequence is that b/d and p/q are taught at different times.

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Experts recommend programs that are well sequenced like Handwriting Without Tears and Loops and Groups.

4. Determine Hand Preference

Most children come to kindergarten with a clear hand preference, but a few students do need help figuring out which hand is dominant.  If children keep switching between their left and right hands, they’re more likely to make letter reversals (Berninger & Wolf, 2009).  Switching between hands interferes with motor memory and can cause letter reversals.  Here’s how renowned writing expert, Dr. Virginia Berninger, recommends determining hand preference.

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 To download this FREE Determining Hand Preference handout just click the following link: Determining Hand Preference

 

5.  Screen Handwriting

A brief, whole-class handwriting screening can help you identify any red flags with letter reversals.  The 10-15 minutes it takes to administer a handwriting screening is well worth it.  Results from a screening help pinpoint which letters kids are reversing, so you can provide a brief intervention before the child develops hard-to-overcome habits.  Handwriting Without Tears provides a FREE screener on their website.

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HOW TO INTERVENE

6. Use Multisensory Instruction

For decades, dyslexia specialists have recommended multisensory instruction, and now research backs up these claims (Berninger & Wolf, 2009).  Instruction that simultaneously helps the student use visual, auditory, and kinesthetic modalities can help with letter reversals.  Multisensory activities can include Montessori sandpaper letters, Orton-Gillingham sand writing, and Lindamood-Bell air writing.

For kinesthetic learners, some writing tools seem to provide stronger feedback.  Julie talks about a few tips here.  Softer leads may provide greater sensory feedback to children.  Similarly, traditional chalk may be preferable to whiteboard pens.

Even my students who don’t normally enjoy handwriting practice love this multisensory technique from Handwriting Without Tears.

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7.  Don’t Expect Typefaces to Make a Big Difference

Recently, the media has held up two typefaces as a silver bullet for individuals with dyslexia.  Typefaces like Dyslexie and OpenDyslexic take letters like “b” and “d” that are mirror-images and make them look different from each other.  The OpenDyslexic creator claims, “The unique shapes of each letter can help prevent confusion through flipping and swapping.”

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Sounds too good to be true?  Apparently so.  Empirical research does not support the usefulness of these programs (Rello, L. & Baeza-Yates, R. 2013).  Researchers funded by the Spanish Ministry of Education, concluded that specialized typefaces for individuals with dyslexia do not improve reading.

While typefaces will not make a significant difference for kids who are struggling to read or write, some evidence suggests that some word processor typefaces are easier to read.  Some preferred typefaces include: Helvetica, Arial, Courier, and Verdana.  Researchers also recommend avoiding italics.

8.  Seek Professional Development

Students benefit from instruction taught by teachers who have had professional training in handwriting (Graham, 2010). Students make greater improvements in handwriting; plus, handwriting skills appear to transfer to higher quality compositions.  Despite these benefits, only 12% of American educators say that they’ve received adequate training in how to teach handwriting (Graham, 2010).  A course can reignite your enthusiasm for handwriting and equip you with effective tools.

Though many instructors brush off reversals as inconsequential, the reversals are distressing for the children who produce them.  For the students who make reversals past age 9, we owe it to them to both acknowledge their challenges and reassure them that reversals are small glitches that won’t interfere in their abilities to be great readers and writers.  I  hope you’ll agree with me that our students deserve great handwriting instruction and quality reversal intervention.

Anne-Marie Morey is a board-certified educational therapist in private practice in San Mateo, California. When she’s not teaching children with dyslexia and other learning disabilities, she loves sharing teaching strategies, resources, and materials at BayTreeBlog.com.

P.S.- If you have students who struggle with letter reversals, we’ve got a FREE Workbook for Letter Reversals at BayTreeBlog.com

Winter Themed Sight Word Freebie

I just love winter.  Really, I do.  Living in northern Michigan certainly has its benefits and having four very different seasons is only one of many.  The kiddos certainly love it when we can vary our activities by adding a holiday or seasonal twist, and in celebration of winter, I’ve created several winter-themed activities for centers and small groups.  Here’s one of my favorite games.  Just click the link below to download this FREEBIE!

4 In A Row Freebie

 To download this freebie just click the following link: Winter Themed 4 In A Row Game Board

The Four-In-A-Row game is super fun and easy to play.  All you need are bingo chips (about 10 of 2 colors) and the printed game board.  This game is played with two players which makes it ideal for your independent literacy centers.  Players take turns reading a word and then placing their chip on the word.  The first player to get 4 of their colored chips in a row either vertically, horizontally or diagonally wins the game.  If you download the freebie, I added the directions right in the file.  If you print the activity single-sided to double-sided you’ll have the directions right on the back.

If you like this activity, you may enjoy having the complete set containing all 220 sight words from the Dolch list.  There are 9 game boards with the words divided into 9 lists of 25 and 4 different game board designs.  I’ve also included 4 blank game boards so that you can add your own words.

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The Winter Themed 4 In A Row activity for the Dolch Sight Words is available in my online Teachers Pay Teachers store and through the Make, Take & Teach website.

If you are using the Fry Sight Word list instead of the Dolch, I’ve created the same file using the first 225 words from the Fry list.

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The Winter Themed 4 In A Row activity for the Fry Sight Words is available in my online Teachers Pay Teachers store and through the Make, Take & Teach website.

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Phonics Activities on the Go!

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It all started with a box.  Literally– really– it all started with a box.  While walking through Michael’s Craft Store one day I came across this plastic bead tote and thought what a great container for activities.  I have several teacher friends who serve as Title One support for classrooms and they are always on the go.  When moving from classroom to classroom having materials organized is certainly a must.  Even if you’re not moving between classrooms, having your materials organized is so important as you could lose precious minutes during intervention just trying to find your materials.

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This box can certainly help with organizing picture cards. I decided to create two sets- a phonemic awareness box and a phonic box.  The Big Box of Phonics Activities contains over 500 picture cards designed to teaching and reinforce basic phonics concepts.  The concepts in this download include: short vowels/CVC words, Consonant Blends, Consonant Digraphs, Magic e, R-Controlled Vowels and Vowel Teams.

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Each concepts includes a Common Core Alignment card and several activities with step-by-step directions.  The activities are ideal for use during small group instruction.

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Although the cards and stickers were specifically designed to fit into this box, there are many different ways to store the cards.  Some teachers have chosen to store their cards in small-plastic soap-like containers.  That works too!

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 The Big Box of Phonics is available in my online Teachers Pay Teachers store.

The Big Box of Phonemic Awareness Activities is also available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

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Long Vowel Spelling Patterns

Many of my first and second friends are now working with long vowel sounds.  Those vowels can be so tricky as sometimes the vowel says a short sound and sometimes a long sound, and then to top it off, there are several different spelling patterns for long vowels.  When our young readers are learning these patterns, reference posters often help.  I created this poster just for this purpose.  You can download this freebie by just clicking the link below.

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 To download this poster just click the following link Long Vowel Sounds Poster

I created the Long Vowel Sounds Spelling Patterns activity for my first and second grade friends to practice the long vowel sounds spelling patterns.  Each booklet contains 16 practice cards with the spelling patterns presented on the cover.

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Simply laminate the cards and bind them together with a loose leaf ring.  Have your students write the correct spelling pattern for each word using a dry erase marker.  After use, wipe the card clean and use over and over again.  This activity is great for either independent centers or as an activity for introducing long vowel sounds during small group instruction.

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 The Make, Take & Teach Long Vowel Sounds Spelling Patterns is available in my online Teachers Pay Teachers store.

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4 Ways to Improve Oral Reading Fluency

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Picked up a good book lately?  Well, my shelves are literally busting with school-related books and I just organized them into categories.  During my organizational frenzy, I came across Tim Rasinki’s book The Fluent Reader.  I read this book cover to cover over spring break one year and absolutely loved it!  I reopened the book once again, shook out some sand and read a few chapters.  Here’s a little snippet from the book.

According to Rasinski, “reading fluency refers to the ability of readers to read quickly, effortlessly, and efficiently with good, meaningful expression.”  Fluent readers are able to recognize many words by sight and, when coming upon an unknown word, able to decode the word quickly.  Because good readers read accurately and effortlessly, their mental energy can be devoted to figuring out the meaning of the text (comprehension) rather than trying to figure out the words.  Dr. Rasinski outlines four ways to build reading fluency.

1.  Model Good Oral Reading.  Reading to students in a natural manner models fluent reading.  Model and encourage students to pay attention to phrasing, expression, and pacing.  Too much emphasis on “word-perfect decoding sends a message that good reading is nothing more than accurate word recognition.”

2. Provide Oral Support for Readers.  Research has shown that when a reader reads and hears simultaneously a fluent reader read the same text, reading fluency and comprehension improves (Topping, 1995).  There are several different ways to accomplish this:  choral reading, paired reading and using recorded readings.  The book describes how to use these strategies and the research behind them in more detail.

3. Offer Plenty of Practice Opportunities.  As with learning any skill, such as learning to play piano or riding a bike, time practicing the skill is crucial.  To become a good reader, readers need practice reading.  The repeated reading strategy has been found to lead to significant increases in students’ fluency.  In our districts, we utilize the Read Naturally computer based program as one way to offer this strategy.  Students begin with a “cold” read of the text, a words correct per minute (wcpm) score is provided, students practice reading the text with and without a recording and when they feel they can read it fluently, they then do a “hot” read.  The computer program tracks their progress on each read.  I love this program, and certainly did not do it justice with that short explanation.  I’ll devote a blog on the program at a later date.

4.  Encourage Fluency through Paraphrasing.  Students need to learn to chunk text into phrases to help determine meaning.  Meaning lies in a text’s phrases and not just in its individual words.  Disfluent readers tend read word-by-word rather than chunk text into meaningful phrases.  Teaching students to pay attention to punctuation helps.

For more information on developing fluent readers, be sure to check out Tim Rasinki’s book.

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Mitten Math Freebie!

Mitten Match Math

Looking for a fun winter-themed activity for your math centers?  The Make, Take & Teach Mitten Match activity for addition may just do the trick.  Simply print, laminate and cut out the mittens and your center activity is ready to go.  Put a few clothespins in the storage container and have your students clip the problem and the answer.  They absolutely love it!

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Just click the following link to download this freebie Mitten Math

If you like this activity, you may also enjoy the Mitten Match Rhyme activity.  This file contains 30 rhyming mitten pairs!

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The Mitten Match Rhyming activity is available through my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

For notification of all new Make, Take & Teach activities, be sure to follow the Make, Take & Teach online store on TpT.  Just click the green “follow” star.

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