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Summer is a great time to get organized.  I finally found the perfect container for my task cards! They come with 6 holders and a keeper box to keep them all together!  They are the perfect size and sets of 6 work perfect for differentiating work stations.  They are about $8 on Amazon for the set!  It is a great deal!

You can download these free editable labels in my store.  

Try out some of my free task cards and I also have task cards available in a bundle to save you money!

Students at my school love STEM projects because they are hands-on and engaging.  I'm not sure they realize how much problem solving and higher level thinking they are doing!

The story Twenty One Elephants and Still Standing is about how to test the sturdiness of the Brooklyn Bridge (which took 14 years to build), the circus tested it by having 21 elephants cross it.  

One STEM project I have done with students is to have students create a bridge for 21 elephants.  I did not have elephants, but I did have bears.  You could also use other manipulatives to represent the 21 elephants.  

When using the engineering design process, students need to be able to design and plan their solutions.  Then they make their model and test it.  Finally, they reflect on the process.

My STEM Journal is a great way for students to document their thinking.

Some of my favorite picture books that support STEM include the following books:

Language development is something near and dear to my heart!

Implementing techniques to improve student's language development will work with any curriculum and any standards!

I teach in a school where the children come to school without language experiences. This means, the students that come to kindergarten are coming to school with a vocabulary that is half of their peers that do have language experiences (books read to them and opportunities to talk and share in experiences outside the home).

I'm including some ideas that are easy to implement in the primary grades to help decrease this gap and provide students with rich opportunities to experience language.  The best thing is that these are all free!

1)  Answer in complete sentences!
This is really easy to implement.  When asked a question, by a teacher or students, they are answered in complete sentences. This is something that the teacher models.  For example, if a student asks, "Where do I turn in this paper?"  Instead of pointing or saying, "over there,"  you would respond with, "You may turn in your paper to the red bin on the shelves."  It takes some practice and consistency, and I've learned that it may take many times to model-  especially in kindergarten.  It is fine to provide students with a model.   However, I always make them repeat the entire sentence.  This is kind of what it looks like.  To be proactive, many times, when we are first learning, I will start the sentence frame for them.

Teacher:  Where did the story take place?  The story took place in the...
Student:  The story took place in the house.

2) Asking the right questions!
When learning about language development decontextualized talk has a huge impact on language development and thinking.  What is decontextualized talk?  Decontextualized talk is talk about the past or future; discussions about abstract objects or ideas that are not present.  Asking thought provoking questions that will encourage discussion is a great way to help students develop language and vocabulary!

What do you think will happen next?
Why do you think that?
What would you do if you were in this story?

This freebie can be kept on your clipboard as a reminder to ask questions that get students thinking and using decontextualized text.

One way to do this is through reading books...which leads to number 3.

3)  More read alouds!
Read alouds are a great way to get children talking!  Asking questions that are beyond the text is critical.  It is also important that the teachers are not just calling on one student to answer the questions.

Turn and Talk is one way to have students share.  All students have a carpet partner, and when teachers stop during read alouds and ask a question, they end it with, "turn and talk."  I like to assign students A/B partners.  This helps make sure that everyone is getting a chance to talk.
I like to find read aloud stories that have some sort of problem or an event that causes the characters to change.  Here are a few of my favorite authors that really get students talking!

4) Experiences that involve critical thinking and talking about ideas.

There isn't enough time in the day.  Two times that work for my schedule are "morning work" time when the students get to school and have breakfast and math workstations.  I love the Target Dollar Spot for this as well as common objects such as:
  • popsicle sticks
  • newspapers
  • unifix cubes
  • straws
  • ping pong balls
  • solo cups

Each week, we have a question that students focus on to help provide some structure and focus.  Some of the popular questions are the following:
  1. What is the tallest tower you can build before it falls down?  What can you do to make your tower taller?
  2. Can you build a bridge that will support 10 unified cubes?  Can you build a bridge that will support 20 unified cubes.  What if you make your bridge longer?  What if you make your bridge wider?
  3. Can you create a rollercoaster that a ping pong ball can ride?
  4. Can you make a pyramid taller than you?  

With all these ideas, the most important part is that students are having an opportunity to share their ideas and learning with their peers and you!

During our school-wide intervention time, in grades K-1, when teachers are teaching phonemic awareness, they are focusing on the following skills:
  • concept of spoken words (clapping for each word in a sentence)
  • rhyming
  • beginning sounds
  • segmenting onset and rhyme 
  • segmenting words
  • changing words based on initial sounds
  • changing words based on ending sounds
  • blending words 
In 10 minutes, you can pack quite a bit into a phonics/phonemic awareness RTI lesson.    When students come to me we work primarily on phonemic awareness, but I also include some phonics.  For phonemic awareness, I use this Phonemic Awareness set to teach phonemic awareness. I can store everything I need for my intervention groups in a binder.  It is all organized by the phonemic
awareness skills.

In my binder, I include all the word lists (on the left) in page protectors.  Any materials for the students, I keep in the pockets.  

This set includes practice for the following skills:
Counting how many words are in a sentence
Beginning sounds
Ending sounds
Middle sounds
Rhyming Words
Segmenting Words
Substituting sounds

To give you an idea of how much practice their is for each skill...when beginning sounds are practiced, each day there are 15 words to practice with (different words each day). There are also six sets of words that students have to decide if they begin the with the same sound.
CVC words, CVCe words, and words with blends (truck, slide, clock, etc) are included.

Examples of Learning Targets:
1)  I can count the words in a sentence.
2)  I can identify the beginning sound of a word.
3)  I can identify the ending sound of a word.
4)  I can write the letter that corresponds to a beginning sound.
5)  I can make word families.

When we first start out we count the words in a sentence.  Students move their puff ball to mark each word.  Then we move to marking the sounds we hear in words.  This is also included in my Phonemic Awareness Pack!

To practice beginning sounds I show picture cards and we do a round robin.  Students collect the cards they answer correctly.  To practice the ending sound repeat the same process.  All of these cards are included, plus additional cards to practice beginning, middle, and ending sounds, as well as rhyming.

Then they get a dry erase board, and write the beginning sound.  We also we play "show down" with the white boards.  As I show a picture card, students write the letter.  Students hide their answers until everyone is done, and then I point to a student to say "Show Down." Then all students share their board with the group.  These picture cards are from my beginning sound pack.

We also do picture sorts with beginning sounds that are also included in the beginning sound pack.

When we are practicing CVC words.  Students get picture cards and start making a list of the words.
Then they pick their favorite word (and they get another dry erase board) and make a list of words with that word family.

Last year, when I went through 7 years of data at our building, it was the best data (and this was a challenging group of students)!

Additional Resources
I made these dice from the Dollar Tree into consonants and vowels.  Students roll words...in this version, they only wrote down read words on the dry erase board.

One of my "go to" resources is always  the FCCR.  I have found so many different ways to use their ideas!  In the picture below, each student has a bag of words, and they get to "point" to the word that rhymes with the word I say.  The students love getting to use the "pointer"!  That has been a GREAT Dollar Store find :)

Another resource I like is Phonemic Awareness: Playing with Sounds to Strengthen Beginning Reading Skills.  Not only are there TONS of ideas that can easily be used without making copies.  This sound bag idea is from the book.  I also like sending bags home, and letting students bring in objects from home.

I always try and have students practice phonics skills in context.  Practicing skills in isolation make it much hard for students to transfer what they are learning.  These are some of my favorite ways for extra phonics practice in context.

Read the Room
I love using "Read the Room" at a workstation.  Students can use clipboards and practice finding words  hidden around the room based on the skills they are learning.  I use all sorts of "Read the Room" cards to practice a variety of phonics skills.  Here is a freebie to see what my read the rooms are like!

Build it!  Write it!  Draw it!
My students love these!  These can also be easily differentiated based on student need.  My intervention groups like using them on "Wacky Wordy Wednesday" where we learn new word patterns.   I've also used them at a word work work station.  This bundle contains short vowel, long vowel, blends, and digraphs! 

Phonics Task Cards
I've also used phonics task cards at a word work work station.  In addition, they make a great warm-up during guided reading.  Here is a freebie to try!  You can click on the picture below to see my bundle of task cards.  My bundle includes short vowel, long vowel, vowel teams, blends, and digraphs.

Decodable Books (A to Z)
I love how Reading A to Z has decodable books.  I like having decodable books available that are in a workstation based on the skills I have been teaching.  They are really easy to differentiate and can reinforce phonics skills.  I am very fortunate that my PTO purchased my license!  It is well worth it :)

I'm learned over the years that I'm kind of a control freak, but more importantly, I want my students to be successful.  

Fidgets are a great way for students to receive sensory input in a way that doesn't distract others.  I have found that it is very helpful to go over the rules and expectations for fidgets.  You can download my free fidget rules chart here!

The important thing about using fidgets in the classroom is to use them in a way that is helpful to the student and not distracting to everyone else. 
The great thing about fidgets are all the different tactile options.  My favorite fidget is a pink squishy ball, that feels soft, but you have to work to squeeze it.  Some of my students like fidgets they can squeeze and stretch, while others like ones they can twist and wrap around their fingers.  

My principal has purchased fidgets for our classrooms from the Therapy Shop. Below are my two favorite fidgets from them!   I've also had really good luck at Target...especially in their dollar spot!

I love using Sight Word Mats!  They are a great work station for kindergarten.  I can easily change out the manipulatives and the students get practice with the sight words they need in a tactile way.  They are also an easy to differentiate work station!

I like using small Sterilite containers with snap lids to store manipulatives.  They are easy to store and stack!

Some other popular ideas are:
play doh
wikki stix
unifix cubes

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