Sunday, August 21, 2016

Back to School Blog Hop & GIVEAWAY!

It's Back to School time! My students return in one week, so I am in full BTS prep mode.
If you're anything like me, you have tons of things on your Teachers Pay Teachers wishlist that you need/want to help you have the #bestyearever! 

To help you out, I've joined up with 20+ other bloggers for a TpT Gift Card giveaway bloghop! I'm giving away a $10 TpT gift card to one lucky winner.  

Enter using the Rafflecopter below! You have until the end of Tuesday! 

Visit Shelly at Promoting Success to continue your hop! 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Reflections on a 40 Books in 4 Months Challenge

What is it? Why would I do it?
A lot of my students are reluctant readers. They have struggled for a long time, don't always enjoy reading, and feel easily defeated when they pick up a book. I'm always trying to find ways to combat these feelings and get my students more motivated to read. 

This spring, I challenged my 4th grade students to a "40 Books in 4 Months" Challenge. Essentially, they would need to read 40 books in 4 months. Since many of them read primarily picture books, I felt that it was within reach for all of them.

I didn't want them to feel overwhelmed and I wanted them to be consistently motivated, so I decided to do the challenge with them. That way, we could all hold each other accountable. I hoped that it would provide an added sense of motivation for them to "compete" with me.

I chose to do this for three primary reasons:

  1. The more you read, the better you get. If my students are reading more, chances are they are going to improve in some aspect of their reading. 
  2. I wanted them to push themselves to read more books and be successful in a challenge. Since my students struggle academically, they sometimes feel as though they are failures. I wanted them to see that they could be successful with an academic challenge. 
  3. I wanted them to expand their reading horizons. With all of us completing the challenge together, I wanted students and myself to give each other recommendations and become exposed to books that we otherwise would not have read. 

How to:
I introduced the challenge in January by telling them I had a challenge for them to read 40 books by the end of the school year. A few looked at me like I was crazy and another told me there was no way he could do it. I reminded all of them of how I much I believed in them and knew they could complete this challenge. We officially began the challenge a few days later.

Since I was doing this in my resource classroom, I also made the general education teachers aware of the challenge so they could motivate the kids and support them.

I gave each student a square on my bulletin board, put their name up, and told them they could bring in a picture for the square if they wanted.

Once the challenge started, I initially counted books after they had completed an Accelerated Reader test. That way, they were also working on this school requirement. Once they met their AR goal, they would write down the book they read and the author for me. Every time they read a book, I would print out a picture of the book cover (found from google) and staple it in their square.

Once a week, they would count their covers and write their total on a sticky note. That way, they could see how they were progressing.

Once the four months was over, a good chunk of my students read 40 or more books (and I did too!). Those students were invited to my classroom for lunch for pizza and they also received a certificate. You can download the certificate for free here.

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Next Year:
Many of them asked me if we would be doing the challenge again because they really enjoyed it. My goal is to start a full year challenge in the beginning of the school year, but with some added components to make it more engaging, student-led, and get some family support as well.

I would suggest a reading challenge for you students, especially if they are a group of reluctant readers!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

End of Year Bloghop: Tips for the End of the School Year

I'm linking up with some other great bloggers with some tips for the end of the school year. Blog hop through all the blogs and enter the raffle at the end of this post for a chance to win a $50 TpT and a $50 Target gift card! 

1: Prepare your kids for a crazy schedule! Schedules can be a mess at the end of the year. Testing, fun days, field trip, and assemblies can throw a kink in a normally smooth schedule. This can cause a lot of stress and confusion, especially for our students with disabilities who struggle when there is a change in routine. With my students, giving them repeated reminders for the few days before a big schedule change seems to work well. Other students may need visual reminders that there are going to be schedule changes coming up. Be mindful of these students because the end of the year craziness is an especially difficult time for them. 

2: Utilize your helpers! Every year we have to clean our rooms and get them ready for summer cleaning, which, depending on a variety of factors, can take hours. Ever since my first year of teaching, I have stressed to my students that the classroom is our classroom. Since it's our space, I use their help at the end of the year too. They love helping me take down bulletin boards, sort papers, clean desks, or whatever other small things need to be done. This is such a time saver when those work days come, I can focus on the paperwork and more important things. If you just dedicate a few minutes a day or every few days to those cleaning/organizing tasks, you'll be amazed at how much time is saved at the end of the year! 

3: Enjoy it! This time of the year can be crazy. Testing, end of year paperwork, report cards, and all of the other stress can leave all of us feeling drained and counting down the days to the end of the year. My last piece of advice is to make sure you spend some of these last few days and weeks of school enjoying time with your students. Talk with them. Laugh with them. Do some fun activities with them. Eat lunch with them. Enjoy them before they head to the next grade or school and you don't get to see them everyday! 

My Secret Letter: O

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Hop to Shannon from Teach2Love next and read about her tips for the end of the school year! 

Monday, April 4, 2016

Currently: April 2016

In an effort to get myself back into the blogging world, I'm linking up with Farley for this month's Currently. 

Listening: I LOVE Bob's Burgers. My husband and I catch new episodes every week on Hulu.

Loving: Springtime--warmer weather, rain, flowers, longer days. I love it! 

Thinking: I'm going on a cruise to Mexico, Belize, and Honduras next April and my husband and I are in the planning stages of a trip to the UK/Ireland sometime in the future. If you have suggestions, please share!! 

Wanting: I got a massage over spring break and it was fantastic. I already want another one!

Needing: New clothes for warm weather! I might need another Stitch Fix soon!

Whatever: We went to the Outer Banks last week and took my puppy. He loved the beach so much! 

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Say it, Move it, Write it {A Multi-Sensory Early Literacy Intervention}

For the past few months, there's one activity I've kept in constant rotation with my first graders who are working on CVC words: Say it, Move it, Write it. This is a multi-sensory routine to build one or multiple beginning literacy skills. 

Materials Needed:
*Laminated Workmat (Click the picture below to get your free copy)
*3 Chips, Cubes, or Manipulatives per Child
*Vis-a-Vis or Dry Erase Marker (Vis-a-Vis works so much better)
*Eraser or Dry/Wet Paper Towels

Since this is a routine, I try to keep my language the same each time. When explaining/demonstrating the steps, I will put my words in bold and my students' responses in italics.

1. Choose 1-3 words to work on during your small group time. If I plan to spend more time manipulating a word, we will only work on one or two words. 

2. Phoneme Segmentation Portion:

Say sat. Sat
Say sat. Sat
Say the sounds in sat. /s/ /a/ /t/
Say the sounds in sat. /s/ /a/ /t/
Move your chips & say the sounds in sat. As they move the chips: /s/ /a/ /t/
Write the word sat. Students will write the word sat in the bottom boxes.

3. Phoneme Manipulation Portion:
During this portion, you can have your students change one letter or sound, flip letters/sounds, etc. What you have them do will really depend on their level at that time. For example, my group is only able to switch one sound at a time but you may have a group that can flip the beginning and ending sounds successfully. 

Here is an example of how one part of the manipulation portion may look like in my room:
What word did you write? sat
Touch the chip that sounds like /t/. Students will then touch the third chip.
Change the /t/ to /m/. Students will erase the t & write m. 
What's our new word? Sam
Say the sounds in Sam. /S/ /a/ /m/

*We may change letters more than once, time and attention span permitting. 

To begin a totally new word, they erase the whole sheet and put the chips back in the circle. When you first begin this process, it will take a little bit longer because they won't know the routine. After a few times, they will know the routine and it will work like clockwork!
Note: This intervention can be/is tailored to hit a lot of areas: decoding, encoding, phonological awareness, & phonemic awareness. Make sure you put your own spin on it if my way isn't doesn't exactly fit the needs of your specific students.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Reflections of 2015 {Linky Party}

I can't believe that 2015 is almost over. Probably because this year really has flown by, but it could also be that it has been unseasonably warm here in North Carolina. It definitely does not feel like the very end of December.

A lot of exciting things happened this year, and I'm linking up with KristinTraci and Hadar to talk about some of my favorite things that happened in 2015! 

I got married! On July 18th, my now husband, Joe, and I got married in northern Michigan. It was a perfect day spent with all of the people we love! 

I got my Master's degree! Earlier this month, I graduated with my Master's in Special Education. It took a lot of work (and made for a lot of busy weekends), but I am so happy to be done! 

We went on our honeymoon! We waited until December to go since we got married in such a beautiful place and spent a week there after the wedding anyway. For the first part of the trip, we went on a cruise that stopped in Key West and Cozumel. Instead of spending the day in Cozumel, we decided to take an excursion to the Mayan ruins in Chichen Itza. It was so worth it! It was an amazing experience! We loved our cruise and are interested in taking another one in the future!
On the second leg of the trip, we spent two days at Disney World. We spent a day at Epcot and a day at Magic Kingdom and had a blast! 

When we got back from our honeymoon, we picked up the newest member of our family, Barry! 

This summer, the Rolling Stones came to Raleigh and I was able to snag tickets to see them! They were at the top of my concert wish list and they were worth every single penny I paid for the tickets. It's amazing that they are still able to put on such a mind-blowing show after all of these years!

2015 was a pretty fantastic year and I cannot wait to see what 2016 brings. Happy New Year, everyone!

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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Building Automaticity with Letter Combination Sounds

I gave my students a phonics assessment in the beginning of the school year. You know what I found? My students had some major gaps in their knowledge of the sound(s) that a combination of letters makes. For example, many of them couldn't tell me that ph sounds like /f/. I realized that I needed to address this issue ASAP, in order to improve my students' decoding skills. 

One way I've decided to tackle this problem is with flashcards. These flashcards that you can download for free below include various letter combinations (blends, digraphs, vowel pairs, ets). I use them in a small group or when working one-on-one with a child. It only takes a couple minutes and really builds that automaticity they need for successful decoding. It also makes a great time filler when you finish a lesson a few minutes early!

When we get to a card where the children hesitate to answer or answer incorrectly, I stop and quickly teach the sound(s) and give one or two examples. This has been really helpful for my kiddos! 

Click here to download the cards.