Sunday, June 30, 2013

A Word about Word Walls

Last year I did a "Word Wall Experiment". I went against all I had been taught about word walls (put the word on the wall as it is taught, about 5 words a week) and put all the high frequency words on the wall at the beginning of the year. The goal was to "color code" the words so when a student asked how to spell a word, I was able to say "under the letter Aa-blue card" and he/she would be able to find the word and spell it correctly. Also, we would be able to read all the high frequency words everyday. The more they were exposed to the word would (maybe) help them to read the word even before it was introduced during a lesson. You can read more about the experiment here.

I discovered this:
1. Having all the words on the word wall is overwhelming. Most of the students are not able to read the words. Putting up a few words at a time and attaching some meaning to the word (using it in context, etc.) makes it more likely to be remembered.

2. We need to "read" the word wall everyday. I failed miserably with this. I am very procedural and reading the word wall needs to be listed in the schedule everyday. The word wall can become another display that the students do not even bother to look at if it is not used the correct way.

3. The students really did not understand the color coding system until about March. Those students who were able to catch on earlier would help those students by showing the word on the word wall using the color coding system.

These are the changes I plan to make for next year:

1. The word wall will be empty. I will add student names with a photo first and only the high frequency words for each week. Is it possible to take words off the word wall after a certain amount of time, or do the words need to stay up all year?

2. I plan to use the word wall as a teaching tool and not just a display. It will have a scheduled time.

3. My word wall will still be color coded. This will be a little tricky because I will be adding words and they will not be listed in alphabetical order. 

4. Make student offices for writers workshop. List all the words and color code them.

I have made a couple of word walls in my TpT store. I added 2 (bright colors and primary colors) just for Journeys words. In the Journeys sets there are cards that are already made with the words typed in and editable cards are also included in case you have other words that you want to put on your word wall.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Summer Fun

What have you been up to this summer? In between appointments with doctors, dentist/orthodontist appointments (girls are getting many permanent and baby teeth pulled and 2nd sets of braces), and professional development sessions, I have been writing and creating materials to use with our new Journeys reading series. I am almost finished with unit 4 of 6, I am waiting on some clip art for the next unit. So, I decided to get a jump start on printing, laminating, and organizing my materials. In February, I switched from my cute centers to the Daily 5 centers. I would spend all day Saturday writing and creating the units/packets and then all day Sunday prepping. So this summer, I decided that I would get all the units written and prepped during the break so maybe, just maybe, I can have my weekends back. I hope to use the cute centers (must-do) along with the Daily 5 centers (can-do).

Here is a sampling of the units. There is so much in each packet, I could not include it all. I plan to use photos like these as the "preview" feature for the units at my TpT store.
Nursery Rhymes (2 weeks)

Unit 1, Lesson 1 Families

Unit 1, Lesson 2 School

After I print everything, this is how I organize the units:
I put all the paper copies in a plastic sleeve and place it in a binder. I label it at the bottom with the unit, lesson, and theme. My binders are organized by month. I purchased my binder covers here and here.

I put the whole group chart pieces and center game pieces in a large envelope, label it, and place it in a box. My boxes are organized by month. I tried to organize them by nine weeks, but I had too much stuff. I found some super cute box labels for free here.

I hope you are enjoying your time off!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


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Sunday, June 16, 2013

Nursery Rhymes

Our new reading series has plans for Nursery Rhymes the first two weeks of school. I really enjoy beginning the school year with Nursery Rhymes and creating Nursery Rhyme books. However, there has always been a lot of prep for me (craftivities) and I wanted to create something that showcased what the students could do and allow them to practice coloring, cutting, gluing and following directions. After spending several weeks thinking about it, this is what I came up with:
Each rhyme has page to copy. The students will color, cut and paste them on a piece of construction paper. I included different shapes (circle, square, triangle, rectangle) for variety. The packet with this and 14 other Nursery Rhymes along with 2 weeks of Nursery Rhyme centers can be found here.
I have also finished Journeys Units 1 and 2, they are bundled here and here. I sell the lessons individually, too.
 Throughout my teaching years,  I have discovered that the ability to rhyme (identify words that rhyme and provide rhyming word when a word is given) is a very good predictor of reading success. Early in the school year, I had a kindergarten student that could name all the alphabet letters and letter sounds with fluency. Great, I put him in the advanced reading group! I noticed that he was having a little trouble and when tested he could not "rhyme".  I have seen this same situation with many students. Research indicates that this skill (and other phonemic awareness skills) can be taught. I have wondered over the years if being able to rhyme is a developmental skill, or an auditory skill, or just a skill that develops with many experiences rhyming words.

Sometimes when I test rhyming words, they will shake their heads indicating all the sets of words rhyme, especially the words with the same beginning sound. I often wonder of they really understand what rhyming means or if they are even paying attention to the sounds. I plan to embed this skill more throughout the day, during morning message, read-alouds, and in games during small group lessons, even lining up.  

Sunday, June 9, 2013

A Box and a Binder

That is my goal-just one box and binder for each month. I have spent the past few weeks going through 20 years of teaching materials. I have so many files that I bought filing cabinets for my house to store them.
So I have been taking a drawer a day and going through all the files and deciding what I should keep.
I can honestly say that most of the contents in these files are being recycled. They contained copies of Totline song lyrics and tear-outs from the Mailbox magazines and books of worksheets, as well as, many duplicate copies of the same worksheet. Lots of packets of ideas with rusty staples. I am keeping maybe 1 or 2 things from each file. I am donating most of the older teaching books I have purchased and not looking back.
So now I am keeping monthly binders with plastic sleeves for the papers I actually use and a monthly box for the centers I use each week. 

Why get rid of all my teaching materials? I can find better things and ideas to use from blogs, Pinterest, making it digitally, or at Teachers Pay Teachers. I can organize all these ideas and materials digitally. Most of the things I have been holding on to are not things that I would use in my classroom ever again. I think the Common Core standards have given me a clear focus, my school district pacing guide provides me with a time frame and having a new reading series has helped, too. All of these have given me the confidence to let go of these materials and keep just what is needed.

It has made me realize that I have spent a lot of money on things that I really did not need. I don't plan on visiting the Dollar Tree anymore and I plan to stay away from the dollar area at Target. Oh, the temptations-somebody hold me back! I do not need any seasonal boxes or cute decorations to use as game pieces that can be used just for that holiday.

Anyone else downsizing their "stuff"?

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