Thursday, February 1, 2018

Why Should Students Master Sight Words?

     I must admit, I never really thought about the importance of a child "mastering" their sight words. I took it for granted that sight words are something that kids just innately know... okay, not innately but pretty darn close! As I reflected on the end of this semester, I focused on three areas -
  • self
  • my pedagogy
  • what my students need more of to be successful  

     I checked off the first two boxes (to be discussed later) and laser focused on my students and what they needed. I have an amazing class filled with a rainbow of personalities and abilities. They tackle most assignments with a zeal that only 7 and 8 year-olds can have. Sometimes in their zest, they forget that little things are important. That brings me back to the beginning, sights words are an area where some of my students really struggle. They seem to ignore that these words require memorization in order to spell them correctly. I assumed that as the year progressed this area would organically improve with input from me. It has not been the case. So I started doing some research. I'm sure you know the basics:
  • sight words account for up to 75% of the words used in early readers
  • most sight words do not follow the basic phonics principles, they can't be sounded out
  • the first 100 sight words represent over 50% of English text
  • sight words build the foundation for reading comprehension and writing fluency 
     When a student recognizes his/her sight words with proficiency, their reading and writing confidence sky rockets! My goal is to ensure that each of my struggling students become sight word experts by the end of the year. I searched for sight word practice sheets and activities to get me started, however, most of those focused on beginning learners. I didn't want my students to feel that their skills were somehow inadequate. You know me... I created sight word packets for my students! So far, I have four resources. One each for grades 1-3 and a sight word bundle. In my class we are starting with 2nd grade sight words and moving either up or down from there. First I looked at their sight word data and created individual plans for each student who needs additional practice. In some cases I introduce the word in guided reading with one of my practice sheets and they finish it for seat work follow-up. Celebrations are important no matter how small. So each student has a check list to circle words as they are mastered.

Take a look at at what we've done so far. Also, check out a sample of my Sight Resource on my FREEBIE page.

The practice sheets can be made into a student booklet.

...working on sight words during guided reading (ignore the bagel).

Sight Word Practice Sheet

Celebrating Dr. King

     A few weeks ago, I embarked on the arduous task of teaching my 2nd grade students about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Being that the civil rights movement was 50 years ago, most of my students didn't know about it or Dr. King. They don't understand that true freedom was just a fleeting word to many African Americans and people of color. In order to get them to understand, I found myself starting with slavery and teaching over 300 years of American history in just under two hours. The impact was powerful. Students asked tons of thoughtful questions and reflected on how their lives might be different if Dr. King never existed.

     As a result of their eagerness to learn more, I created a TpT resource that focuses on Dr. King's life and his contributions to our world. To participate in a Day of Service on January 15, my students made cards for people in our school and/or community who makes their days better and easier. The results were amazing! Some students made 5 cards or more. Of course... we had to deliver them all.

A collage of our Day of Service Cards
He was so pensive when reading about Mr. King!
Below is the Dr. Martin Luther King resource that I created. I included a "think about it question" on each page of his biography, a character trait graphic organizer, a KWL chart and a Day of Service card templates. When you get a moment, check it out and let me know what you think.

Dr. Martin Luther King's DreamDr. Martin Luther King's Dream

Have the best day possible!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

How to... Comic Strips

Brr... baby it's cold outside!

To kick off the winter season and a new year, I used my love of art to inspire my students to explain how to make snowflakes by creating a comic strip. Of course, I couldn't just give them paper and pencils and expect artistic perfection. I spent some time teaching them the art of comic strip making. It was amazing to see the light shine super bright in some students' eyes as they realized that pictures are worth a thousand (well, maybe a hundred) words. First our art teacher taught a lesson on how to cut paper snowflakes. Then I taught a lesson on how real snowflakes form.

Next, students learned the basic mechanics of comic strip making like the purpose of narration boxes, panels and word bubbles and how to create original characters and draw block letters. They used those elements, combined with their knowledge of paragraph writing and created these awesome comic strips!
 Next students brainstormed, then draw rough drafts and finally published their work in color. Sounds familiar? Yep... it's the writing process! They peer-edited each other's work and checked to see if illustrations could stand alone without words or if words were necessary to help the viewer understand the action. I reminded students that their comics, like stories, needed to have a beginning, middle and an end.

Et voila!

While I read my students' work, I realized an amazing thing. Students explained how to make snowflakes from different perspectives. For example, some students told their story through a character's eyes. Other students students told their story as if the reader was a part of the story. Even more, one student explained how real snowflakes are formed in the atmosphere and included very scientific words in her comic. That's what authentic writing is about! I had so much fun that I created a TpT resource, How to Comic Strips, to make it easy for other educators to get started. 

click to download

It includes 
  • 26 How to Comic Strip templates
  • 1 rough draft template
  • 1 blank template 
  • a background information page with teaching resources and suggestions.
Check it out and consider following me on my TpT page.

As always, I'm proud of the zeal that my students displayed in order to complete their comics. I know that at the end of the day, what's most important is that they learn how to build their own intelligence because that can't be taken away!

Wishing you much peace, happiness and joy in 2018!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Wow... can you believe that 2017 is quickly approaching it's end! As we say farewell to 2017, have students look forward to the endless possibilities of 2018. With a growth mindset, help students envision what they think is impossible and create a plan to turn dreams into goals and goals in reality. One way to achieve this is to use My 2018 New Year's Resolutions printable to help students create a plan.
click to download
 After Winter break, I set aside time to help my students set goals. We display them on a bulletin board outside my room and then move them inside so that students can reference them for the rest of the school year. They actually encourage each other to persevere to reach goals and celebrate victories large and small. So, what are you waiting for? Go ahead, click download and get started now!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Fearless... My One Word

 Currently, I wear a bracelet to remind me to be fearless everyday. About two years ago I created a vision of one word that became a driving force in my life. As I reflected on what I wanted my vision to be, I thought about how I reacted to events in my life. Often times I was reactive, only responding after someone else put the wheels of that event in motion feeling like I was only along for the ride without a lot of say as to the direction that I would take. I decided that I needed to be proactive - the person who was starting or leading events. So my first word was pretty simple - LIFE. I wanted to remind myself to live, enjoy and relish life.  Later that year, I changed my one word to FEARLESS as a reminder to make decisions based on living life to the fullest... not being fearful.

 Around the same time, the leadership team at my school studied the book, One Word That Will Change Your Life by Jon Gordon. To begin each monthly meeting, we spent time reflecting on how we were practicing our one word and how it impacted our daily lives at work and/or at home. This school year, we decided to adopt one word for our entire school - #BELIEVE. We want our staff to believe that our students are capable of achieving at high levels. We want to empower students to believe that they can achieve greatness with work and effort. We want parents to believe that we truly have their children's best interest at heart.

 To kick off the new school year, I designed T-shirts to inspire us to #BELIEVE.  

I believe... do you? What word will drive you to be your best this year? Let's get started!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Happy 2017!!!!!

Happy New Year... I am truly thankful for all the blessings that I had in 2016 and I know that 2017 will be even better. As I grow, I realize that goal setting is a must to achieve dreams and reach milestones. If it works for adults, imagine how effective it is for students to set goals. Teaching them at an early age to set goals instills a practice that will have life long benefits. So as we start the New Year, help your students set goals for 2017.

In my New Year's Resolutions handout, students set goals for home, school and also think about a way that they can make a difference. For the last few years, I have encouraged my students to set goals at the beginning of the new year. I conference with each student and talk about the steps needed to obtain their goals. Then I post each handout in a prominent place in a my classroom as a visual reminder.
download  here    
Enjoy... I wish you peace, love and serenity in 2017!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Self-Monitoring Bookmarks

Necessity is truly the mother of invention! Yesterday while planning guided reading lessons with a co-worker, we decided that a bookmark would be an awesome resource tool for students to use the self-monitoring strategy to determine unknown words. Well... that was easier said than done. We found tons of bookmarks but not one that included everything we needed to help our students. So, I decided to create my own.

I strongly feel that when students learn to self-monitor, they become stronger, more confident readers. I created two bookmarks. One to reinforce what to do when a reader encounters an unknown word and the other reminds him/her what to do when he/she is trying to better understand the text.

Hardly any work is involved in getting these Self-Monitoring Bookmarks ready for your students to use. Are you ready? First download, then print, next fold the bookmark page in half... and last use! Students can flip the bookmarks over depending on rather they are looking at unknown words or comprehending the text.
Self-Monitoring Bookmarks