Sunday, October 9, 2016

Amazing Alphabet Progress + Giveaway!

Do you want to hear something incredible? On Friday I sent 8 of my kiddos home wearing a crown that said 'Hip, Hip Hooray! I know all of my letters and sounds!"

Two other kiddos missed it by only 3 sounds or less (they had 100% letter recognition). If these 10 students know all of this by the beginning of October, just think how far we can go by May!

When I printed out my ESGI Class Totals Report and looked at our numbers, even I was impressed! At the beginning of the year our class average for knowing all upper case & lower case names and letter sounds was only 53%. Now it is 78%!! We gained 167 letter sounds as a class, 82 lower case letters and 52 upper case letters! I had students go from 76% to 100%, but even more impressive 4% to 46%! All of my learners made gains - from my lowest kiddos to my highest, this program was effective for all! (And just in case you're wondering, I teach in a Title I school with 95% receiving free/reduced lunch. I started the year with 19 students, lost 2 and gained 1, so now I have 18. Of those 18 I have 4 ELL, 1 ADHD, 2 military children with fathers deployed, and 3 that didn't go to pre-k. I love them all, but they have the same issues that your students are probably struggling with!)

How did I do it? 26 days of intense instruction on a single letter a day with reinforcement of all letters daily! I have a Mega Alphabet Phonics Pack that we used daily. We built an anchor chart for each letter:

Each day I would challenge my students to come up with a picture I could easily draw or trace that started with our letter of the day. I can't draw at all, so they had to be super simple lol! I also didn't want to spend a ton of money on this, so when I found a few sheets of yellow and pink poster board in our work room I was so excited! We never have things like poster board, so I have no idea where they came from, but I sliced those babies in half and skipped all the way back to class! There was enough that I only ended up buying one extra yellow sheet, so the whole wall of anchor charts cost me 50 cents! And, since we're working on patterns in math, we alternated the pink and yellow. Of course that became an issue when I made the T and U both pink by mistake...those little buggers sweet angels made me redo the whole umbrella just so we didn't break the pattern!

Once I had drawn or traced the shape of the day and cut it out (while they were working on their hats), we went through our stack of beginning sound pictures and found the 4 that began with that letter and glued them on. This was great practice in discerning initial sounds, and my kiddos are such experts at it now! Once they got used to listening for the beginning sound, a lot of them made the leap to ending sounds, with a few even starting to hear medial sounds. One day one of my sweeties walked up to me and said "Hello.....oh...there's an "l" in the middle of hello! Wow!" and walked away! She never did tell me what she was coming up to me for lol!

I  laminated the pictures in advance, and used a glue stick to attach them, so I can easily take them off to reuse them next year Then each child came up and wrote the upper and lower case letter. While each child was waiting for their turn, we watched different letter videos on Youtube - Jack Hartman has a new set that is awesome, plus Sesame Street and a few other channels have great ones - but that's another post entirely!

I love our gumballs!

For some letters, I raided our craft supplies to help out - like adding streamers for the jellyfish's tentacles, yarn for the kite, and raffia twine for the balloon's string!

I also used the wall for math concepts in addition to the AB pattern - we have a rhombus kite for K, a rectangle for R and an octagon for O!

For some things it came out lucky that we landed on a particular color in the pattern - like pink pear!

Y is for Yoda...or "For Yoda, y is." 

The placement on our hallway wall was also strategic. We pass the anchor charts every time we go to recess or specials. That means 3 times a day we stop and chant our way through the alphabet. The kids stand in two rows in front of the wall and I walk along pointing at the pictures like Vanna White and we say "A is for apple, /a/ /a/ apple. B is for balloon, /b/ /b/ balloon." All the way to "Y is for Yoda, /y/ /y/ Yoda. Z is for Zebra /z/ /z/ zebra!" This takes literally less than 2 minutes, but it is such a great reinforcement! 

We also made hats each day - I made my own because what I really wanted to focus on was both initial sound and writing. A lot of the hats I've used in the past just didn't have any space for handwriting and/or the pictures they used weren't ideal (I've seen blends and digraphs used on alphabet pages before...chair does not begin with the /c/ sound...ugh! sorry pet peeve lol!) These hats give my students clear picture cues for the beginning sound and lots of practice writing the letters. This year's batch of kiddos will work pretty darn hard for a compliment, so it soon became quite competitive when it came time to color the hats. They even got into trying to match color to beginning sound (lots of yellow on the Y hats) or making a pattern when writing the upper and lower case letters!
These were two of my boys who really took their time crafting their hats!

 Each hat has 4 beginning sound pictures and then handwriting lines for students to practice writing their letters. Look how neatly this little sweetie worked!

I loved this tie-dyed hat!

This was also great daily scissor practice - one little guy needed one-on-one help daily with cutting out his hat. We went from having to do it hand over hand to him being able to cut his entire "Hip Hip Hooray!" hat by himself!!

Each day we also used the initial sound posters also included in my pack. They gave my students a great jumping off point for what the letter sounded like at the beginning of words, really cementing that sound for them. The challenge each day was to find words that started with the letter of the day that were not on our poster.

We also watch our Groovy Cat Names & Faces slideshow daily.  I took pictures of all of my students and added them to the slideshow just like in the picture below with my son Sullivan. Each day we watched the show and say "S is for Sullivan /s/ /s/ Sullivan!" and we go through everyone's name on the show. Not only did this help my students learn each other's names, thus building our classroom community, it also helped them recognize their own name in print as well as their friends! It really helps my students to add meaning to learning letters. One day when the Letter of the Day was revealed to be "L" one of my friends squealed in delight and turned to me "For Luna and Lucas!" he cried. He was just thrilled that we were going to be learning "their" letter!

Now that we've gone through the alphabet the first time, my Mega Alphabet Pack will come into play even more! I have a low group  of 3 students who need even more intense instruction. Although they showed gains during our alphabet review, they didn't make as dramatic progress as some of the others. With these students I will be working in small group, giving them hands on experiences like writing in sand, working with play dough and play foam to form letters and other experiences to really engage them in the learning process. This is the group that is going to need the most intervention and for the first little bit it will mostly be hands on with little paper/pencil.

 We'll be using our ABC Rubber Ducks from Oriental Trading for sure!

And wait until you see what we're doing with our Alphabet Plush from My Early Learning Box!

Then I have a group of 4 who are at about the halfway point. They scored between 39% - 58% on letter and sound recognition. These 4 started at 4% - 14% so they actually made the greatest gains in the class! These students need moderate intervention to help them pick up the rest of the letters and sounds. These students will be working on games during our small group time - matching upper case letters to lower case to beginning picture. Playing Roll & Cover games or clothespin clip cards, these students will soak it all up through plenty of fun activities with the chance for more pencil/paper work at the same time! All of these activities are ALSO in my Mega Alphabet Pack!

What will my high group be working on? These kiddos started out at 58% - 91% and now are at 94% - 100%. This is my largest group, and they're ready for more pencil/paper, independent work while I focus on the two lower groups. They'll mostly be working on reading cvc words and sight words, especially using activities from my Medial Sounds Pack to help them discern those tricky vowel sounds!

I am so excited by the progress that my class has made, I cannot wait for Collaboration Wednesday when we meet with admin to go over data. My principal is going to blown away! To celebrate, I decided to do a giveaway of my Mega Alphabet Pack! Enter below for your chance to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Popcorn Words FREEBIE

The other day on Facebook a teacher asked for ideas for making their alphabet flash cards more engaging for her students. I don't remember the curriculum, but this teacher was required to use a specific set of flash cards daily and her students just wilted every time she pulled them out. I thought back to when I first started teaching and didn't have a Smartboard - I used flash cards for my sight words. I shared what I used to do back then to keep my kids engaged, and several teachers loved the idea and asked me to share it:

When using flash cards, create extra cards with pictures of a bucket of popcorn on them. Insert these randomly into your deck of cards and when your students see the popcorn card they're allowed to jump to their feet and hop in place while saying "Pop, pop pop!". This was always engaging for my students because they couldn't wait to get a to a popcorn card, so they watched those cards like hawks! Simple idea, but an easy way to make flash cards more interactive!

Now that I have a SmartBoard however, I've gone beyond flashcards to PowerPoint shows. I created a show for my sight words, and again, I've inserted some fun "popcorn cards" into the show. Then I realized that you can't shuffle the slides in a PowerPoint show like you can a deck of flashcards, which makes making it random a bit more difficult. Luckily there's YouTube videos for everything, so I taught myself how to make a macro that will jump to random slides. Now when I hit the "play" button on my slides, it randomly jumps to any slide in my presentation.

I've saved my Popcorn Word slideshow and I'm sharing it today with you. It's set up so that you can type in your own words, so you can use whichever sight words you want. Right now I just have it looping the first 20 Dolch sight words over and over. If you need more slides to make a longer show, you just right click the slide and hit "duplicate". Easy peasy lemon squeezy! I used Comic Sans and Century Gothic for my sight word fonts because I wanted to make sure the letters were kinder friendly and I think most people have those fonts by default.

When you play the slideshow, you'll notice that you have to click the "play" button on the lower left hand corner to jump from slide to slide - this is what makes the slideshow random and will keep your students on their toes! When you're ready to end the show, just click Esc on your keyboard. Make sure that when you download the file you save it as a pptm (PowerPoint Macro-Enabled Presentation) so that the macros work.

Here's a caveat - before you use the slideshow, make sure that you teach a signal to your students so that they know when they have to sit down after "popping" up. I bring my hands up to my eye level, palms down and then bring them down to my lap in a silent signal for my students to sit. This means I'm not competing with their "popping" noise, and even the students who aren't looking right at me when I give the signal catch on when others start to sit. Generally they "pop" for about 20-30 seconds before I make them sit down again.

We use this slideshow daily, and it only takes a few minutes - sometimes I even use it as a brain break between other activities, because it allows may students to make noise and get some energy out! Its a good reinforcement of sight words, and my students always love it. Hopefully yours will too! Just click here to download the show for free from my Google Drive!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Math & Reading Centers for Halloween/Fall! (FREEBIE!)

I took a trip to Target recently, and got inspired by some of their Dollar Spot goodies! I've spent the last few days getting some fun centers ready for my kiddos:

I found these mini Halloween clothespins and knew they'd be perfect for my Halloween Counting Clip Cards!

The kids count the cookies on the card and then clip the clothespin on the correct number.

I place a sticker on the back of the card corresponding to the correct answer. This way my students can flip the card over and get instant feedback on whether they were correct or not!

I also have a Fall Counting Clip Card set that doesn't include Halloween images. 

 I couldn't find any mini clothespins for this set, so I spray painted some regular clothespins! Again, I placed some fun Fall stickers on the backs of the cards so that this activity is self-correcting for my students!

 Next I found these mini erasers! They're sold in sets of 60 for just $1 and make perfect math manipulatives! I put a couple of bags into a pencil box and use it as an early finisher activity - my students pattern with them, count them, sort them, make shapes with them - you name the math skill, you can do it with mini erasers!

 I also use them as tokens for my Roll And Cover games
 The students each pick a type of mini eraser as their token, and then roll the dice and cover the number they rolled. For my more advanced students, I have mats that use 2 dice or even 3 dice! 

I also prepped my new Scarecrow Alphabet Match-Up Cards! These are so easy to differentiate - some of my students work on matching upper to lowercase letters.

 While others work on matching letter to beginning sound picture.

Sometimes they even match all 3 at once!

I have a few students who need extra practice with rhyme recognition, so my Pumpkin Rhyming Match-Up Cards are making their debut in centers this month!

And here's your freebie - some cute number cards to go with the web coasters also from Target! 

I cut the rings off some spider rings so that I had some colorful spider counters and now my kiddos have another high-interest counting activity! Not only can they use the cards to add spiders to the webs, they can also put them in numerical order and I can use them to test for one-to-one correspondence! 

If you want to grab these cute spider number cards, just click the picture to download them for free from my Google Drive! 

Now that I have some fun Halloween/Fall centers done, I'm going to be focusing on my STEM Nursery Rhyme series, so if you're one of the patient souls waiting for the next one, know that they're in the pipeline!

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