Integrating Phonics into Your Literacy Block

Phonics skills aren't the most exciting to teach. Do you have to follow a phonics curriculum? We have a pretty scripted routine we are required to follow.  However, I know my students need additional opportunities to practice reading and recognizing phonics skills beyond that isolated instruction.

So how else can we fit it in?
Do you have a separate writing block? Or a work on writing center? Either way, you can incorporate extra practice with a focused phonics skill during writing time. These writing prompts include a word bank of words that following a phonics pattern.
These help students connect spelling patterns to their writing in context. When students are using the spelling pattern vocabulary in their writing, they are more likely to carry it over into their independent writing.

What are your students doing while you teach guided reading groups? Mine are working on independent activities which includes centers like word work. This is a great opportunity to reinforce those phonics skills during independent work. 

During guided reading is another perfect opportunity to review what you have taught in your whole group phonics lesson. These reading passages require students to fill in the blank using spelling pattern vocabulary in context. They also include comprehension questions. They are perfect for repeated readings to build fluency.

If you would like to check out any of the resources above in more detail, click here.

Happy Teaching!


4 Student Gift Idea Alternatives

It's the holiday season.  The time for giving thanks is long gone and now it's time for giving.  Don't get me wrong, I love to buy gifts for people.  But you know there are those times you feel like you are just giving to give something without a whole lot of meaning behind it.  Instead of spending hours upon hours on some Pinterest perfect student gift with matching 'punderful' gift tags that all end up in the trash, try an alternative to individual gifts that your students (and wallet) will appreciate!

With Pennsylvania winters comes too many days of indoor recess.  The kids need stuff to do so I can get stuff done. So I decided to buy new games for the class last year. I went with 5 classics and stayed right around $50. I love this idea because it is the gift that keeps on giving!

On the day before winter break, I have the gifts all wrapped and ready to go. I randomly choose a few students (incentive idea!) to open each gift then we try them all out! It is the perfect way to spend those last few hours in school before the holiday break.

This will take some planning and preparation but has the potential to be A LOT of fun! You could even have parents send in donations or volunteer to help out. While this isn't really a "gift", its an experience that some children might not have had before. Plus, they get to take home the cookies they make! #winwin

Holiday Cookie Decorating with Kids
{photo cred: Tonya Staab}
Check out tips for planning the ultimate cookie decorating party by Tonya Staab.

This may not be the most exciting, it is often the most necessary (and practical) present for this time of year. And if you were thinking ahead in August, you can snag extra school supplies at those back to school prices. There are lots of adorable free gift tags out there to add that special touch.

Like these from Glitter and Glue 4 K-2
Editable Christmas Gift Tags-Freebie!

There are so many ways to jazz up a new box of pencils.
Check out my post about making school supplies a gift here.

If you are low on funds or just trying to save this holiday season, a bookmark is the PERFECT easy peasy but still cute gift. And students will love them! Just print out, laminate, cut and done!! You could add a personal message to the back before laminating to make it extra special.

You can find the ones pictured above in my store for free here: Holiday Bookmarks

No matter what you decide, remember that students (even the youngest ones!) already have an understanding of the importance of the holiday season. Here's a little story from my class last year...

This morning, in order to be proactive about my students' obvious enthusiasm for Christmas, I asked them what they are most excited for. I really thought I would hear all about what they had asked Santa for and how they couldn't wait to open their presents and play with new toys. But instead, one by one, they shared how they can't wait to see family--cousins who they haven't seen in over a year, grandparents who live far way, a brother who is visiting from out of state. We often complain about "kids these days." But if a class full of seven and eight year olds can recognize the importance of the holidays, then surely something is right with the world.

Happy Holidays!


4 Guided Reading Binder Must Haves

I am a huge fan of using binders for organization. I have one for each topic in math, one for running records, one for a substitute...the list goes on! My FAVORITE this year is my guided reading binder. It has helped me be much more organized for my guided reading lessons which has resulted in more time working with students and less time looking around for books, activities, supplies ect. 
Here are my top 4 MUST HAVES for my binder.
An essential guided reading planning tool is a great lesson plan template! I love these from JD's Rockin' Readers because they specifically target skills for each reading level. All I have to do is fill in the group, and book title. Then I just check off which activities or skills we will focus on before, during and after reading!

I have a specific template for each group (I have 4 groups). My struggling readers have different needs (obviously) so I found this FREE early guided reading plan by Kelly Daniel that fits their needs better! Her free Guided Reading Resource pack can be found here. It is FULL of helpful printables!

My school uses the DRA for leveling students. However, I use resources that level with Fountas and Pinnell or Lexile so I am ALWAYS needing to reference the conversion chart. I love this free one from Supplies by Teachers. I have it printed in color and laminated. I keep it in the front pocket of my binder (sorry I forgot to snap a picture!)
Reading Level Conversion Chart

Here's what a guided reading session might look like (depending on the group):
1-2 minutes: students reread previous books/passages
3-4 minutes: word work warm up
1-2 minutes: skill focus/book intro
6-8 minutes: students whisper read
3-4 minutes: book discussion/comprehension questions

That word work warm up has always been a struggle for me. I have a lot of activities for practicing sight words but when it came to specific phonics skills, I struggled. This year, I started using these one page guided reading warm ups. They include phonological awareness and phonics practice and focus in on a specific skills. I love that they are quick and provide an informal assessment! I print one per student and keep in my guided reading binder. When I meet with that group, I slip them into page protectors so they can write on them with dry erase markers. 

If you are interested in checking these out, you can find them here: Guided Reading Warm Ups

I color code my reading groups and I found these plastic pocket dividers which are PERFECT for organizing reading materials. I store reading passages, graphic organizers and a copy of the book and lesson plans that come with our guided reading books. 

One thing I have learned in the past few years is to ALWAYS have our next book or passage ready to go in case we finish early. I LOVE these differentiated passages from Meet Miss Parker.

I try not to keep TOO much in my guided reading binder so that it stays organized. I used to keep running record materials in there, too but it got to be too much so now that has a separate binder. What do you keep in yours?!


9 October Favorites (and FREEBIES)

Happy Fall, teacher friends! The beginning of the year is officially OVER and it is now that wonderful time of year where your routines are in place and real learning is happening! Hopefully, temperatures are cooling down, too! October is one of the best teaching months because there are just SO many wonderful ideas out there. I thought I would share a few of my favorite October resources (and freebies!!) 
This *freebie* by Cait's Cool School includes a week long set of Halloween-themed questions that will help to build a strong community in your classroom. Questions are a combination of thought-provoking, motivational, seasonally relevant, and sometimes a little silly. They are perfect for morning meetings or morning work! 

If you are looking for less Halloween and more general Autumn, check out her Question of the Day Fall Themed Questions.

This Nonfiction Halloween Reader and Categorization activity by Totally Elementary is perfect for your emergent readers in October! Students are able to read this nonfiction emergent reader independently using key Halloween vocabulary words and sight words. 

After reading the book, work with students to categorize the Halloween facts learned from the book into four groups: Date, Colors, Symbols and Activities. This helps students make connections to the text and organize the new information learned into categories.

One area I struggle with is teaching science. I know that students LOVE it because it's engaging and exciting but the preparation and supplies just get the best of me. I was determined to make a change so I created my very own science unit for October. There are four October-themed science activities (no Halloween references!) and it includes vocabulary and writing! #winwin 
We did our first science challenge last week: Spider Dinner Drop! I loved seeing my students work together to plan and problem solve. You can find everything you need for planning these science lessons here:

Another October math topic in 2nd grade is comparing numbers. I have these (free) Comparing Pumpkins cards I use as a math center. They would be great for small groups, too! I have mine printed on card stock and laminated so students can write on them with a dry erase marker!
Comparing Pumpkins: Ten task cards with recording sheet *Freebie*

Next is an adorable math craftivity from Becky from The Class Couple. We will be working on 2 digit fact families this month so it will be perfect to differentiate for my little learners! You can find it here: Bat Fact Family Craft

Lauren from Teaching in Stripes has SO many Fall/Halloween themed activities. This *freebie* will help your students practice ordering 2 & 3 digit numbers in a variety of ways! I love this pumpkin cut and sort puzzle. Students fill in the missing numbers to complete the puzzle. 

These autumn themed printables cover many beginning of the year 2nd grade skills! My students LOVE anything that incorporates some coloring, too! We keep our graphing skills sharp all year long.

This month we will be working on place value so I know my kiddos will need A LOT of practice in many different forms. They include skip counting, comparing numbers and more! I use these for centers, homework, morning work and independent practice. 

Next week, we will be working on even and odd numbers. This is one of my favorite math topics to teach! And I just LOVE this *FREE* Even and Odd Scoot by School and the City. It will be the perfect assessment after we spend a few days practicing!
Fall Into Even and Odd - Autumn-Themed Math Scoot

Last but not least, how cute are these mini-reading by Kaitlynn Albani? I will be using these with one of my reading groups this week. I love that they are foldable books and include questions! Find them free in her store here: Reading Comprehension Mini Readers for Fall
FREE Reading Comprehension - Mini Readers for Fall

Hope you were able to find something useful for your classroom! What's one of your fall favorites?