Friday, December 28, 2018

Bright Ideas for Teaching Blends {Including FREE Resources}

Over the years, I've learned that teaching students to read is a "squishy" process. There are so many skills students have to grasp in order to read fluently with a high level of comprehension.  One set of skills that benefits most students is having phonemic awareness and a knowledge of phonics.
Knowing letters, their sounds, and how they work together can give students the tools they need to attack many unknown words.  I like teaching phonics.  It is usually pretty easy to tell if a student has it or not.  Phonics is a little less squishy than some other aspects of teaching reading.

I incorporate a variety of activities into our weekly work to practice phonics.  For early readers, I think it is very important to continuously work with and review phonics skills.  One simple way I  accomplish this goal is by using picture/letter cards (or posters) with my class.

In my district, we use Wilson Fundations as our primary language program.  It sets the sequence and scope for the phonics that I teach in class.  Foundations includes a frequent review of letters and their sounds through the Letter-Keyword-Sound activity.
I created this set of cards (and posters) so that my students could review initial and final blends through hearing and saying the letters, the keyword, and sound for each set of blends.
I usually use these cards during our group time on the carpet.  Below is an example of how to use the card for Letter-Keyword-Sound practice.

While I'm teaching the blends, I will go over these cards daily.  After we've moved on from blends, I'll pull these out once or twice a week as a quick and easy review.  
If you do not want to fool with the cards, you can use the posters for your Letter-Keyword-Sound work.

Of course, you can use these cards and posters for display or anyway you would like.
For your FREE set of blends cards and posters, click here or on any of the pictures above.

Other ways my students work with blends include...





These type of exercises are a great way for students to work independently with blends.
If you are interested in any of these print-and-go resources, they are part of my Words at Work packets, available at my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  Click here for more details.


In addition to the card review and the printable practice, I also incorporate blend work into literacy centers.  I love math and literacy centers for spiral review throughout the year.  Literacy centers give students yet another opportunity to explicitly work with initial and final blends.  
Pictured below are two FREE literacy centers that focus on initial blends.  Click on either picture for a FREE copy of that center.



Students generally catch onto initial and final blends fairly easy.  Giving them ongoing practice with these skills helps ensure that your young learners will not forget these letter sounds and how to use them when decoding words.
I hope some of these ideas will be useful to you in your classroom.
Thanks so much for stopping by.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Summer Share: Time to Catch-Up and 10 FREE Centers

Happy summer!
It's mid-July and my summer break is almost over.  I have about a week before teachers report back.  Like many of you, summer is to-do list season.  I have a short, but time consuming to-do list this summer.  A list that includes, "cleaning out" my Teachers Pay Teachers store (more on that task later in the post), organizing my basement (insert frowny face), sharing a little about my past school year, and (for the second summer in a row) moving classrooms.
While, I don't know if I'll ever get my basement truly clean and organized, this afternoon I have a few minutes to share a little about my past school year.
So, yay! for checking an item off my summer to-do list.
If you ever visit School Is a Happy Place, you've probably noticed that I have been conspicuously absent during most of this school year.  I'm not a prolific blogger but, I normally do not let months go by without a post.  That is, until this past year.
Rewind back to the end of last summer, I had a very last minute job offer at a wonderful neighborhood school that I had wanted to work at for years and is very close to my house.  When I say last minute, I mean hired Friday afternoon and teachers report back on Monday.  That weekend, I had to pack my classroom home, in which I had lived for 17 years.  I had to simultaneously move in and clean out a classroom of a 30+ year veteran teacher that decided to retire at the eleventh hour.  
My moving team, was comprised of my parents, my husband and my nine year old daughter.  They were awesome.  We loaded and unloaded and cleaned and purged and dusted and painted.  It was a crazy amount of work, in a super short period of time.  But, we did it.  We had my classroom ready for open house night in less than one week.
The move to this new school meant a grade level change.  I went from an established first grade teacher to a newbie third grade teacher.  Since my daughter had just finished third grade, I felt as though I had a good idea what I was in for.
Starting school in such a whirlwind was really stressful for me.  When I was hired years ago, everything was totally last minute as well.  However, back then I didn't know the difference between starting the school year prepared and organized and starting the year unready.  I was just happy to have a job.  
Now, I know how difficult it can be to start the year on the right foot, if you haven't had enough time to set up your classroom to your liking and to have big picture curriculum plans in place.
The beginning of the year was certainly not what I wanted it to be but, I reasoned that this season would pass and I would eventually find my footing.  However, as the year went on, the stress and the anxiety did not dissipate.  While I really liked the students and staff at my new school, I very much missed my friends at my old school. 
By the end of the first semester, I felt as though I had made a huge mistake leaving for this new opportunity.  By spring break, I knew I had to make a change.  I could not continue on with this "under water" feeling that I had.  I also felt terrible that my family had to live with a wife and mom that was overly stressed by her job.
Shortly after spring break, I learned that I had good chance to return to my old school system and back to first grade.  After lots of prayers, discussions, and deliberation, I decided to go for it.  Thankfully everything worked out.  I was rehired by my old school system and had a chance to go back to first grade.
Now you know why I've moved classrooms two time in two summers.  Fingers crossed that I will not have to move again for a good long while.

As you can tell, with the challenges last year, blogging was not a priority.  Hopefully this year will provide opportunities to share some of the goings-on from my classroom and it won't be another year before you hear from me again.

Now that I've shared about my past school year.  I want to share some centers that used to be available at my Teachers Pay Teachers store.
Every now and then I add a free item to my store.  To keep the store from getting to "cluttered," I sometimes remove older free items or items that have been retired.  I still want to share these resources, so I've moved them here.
Below you will find a brief description of 10 free math and literacy centers formerly available at my TPT store.  You can click on any of the pictures to download.

Ten Frame Turtles is a math center that is part of my Bright Beginnings {10 Back to School Themed Math Centers}.  This center provides students practice with numbers to 20 and ten frames.

Ten Frame Apples Up On Top is a math center that is part of my September Smarties  {10 Math Centers}.  This center provides students practice with equations to 20 and ten frames.

Touchdown Turkeys is a math center that is part of my Thanks and Giving {10 Math Centers for November}.  This center provides students practice with basic addition facts.

Autumn ABC Order is a literacy center that was part of my Thanks and Giving {10 Literacy Centers for November}.  This center provides students practice with putting words in ABC order.
(This center is retired and is not longer part of the November center set.)  

Snowman Comparisons is a math center that is part of my Baby It's Cold Outside {10 Math Centers for January}.  This center provides students practice with number comparisons using > and <.

Hot Chocolate Blends is a literacy center that is part of my Baby It's Cold Outside {10 Literacy Centers for January}.  This center provides students practice with initial blends.

Time for a Little Luck is a math center that was part of my Oh So Lucky {10 Math Centers for March}.  This center provides students practice with time to the half hour.
(This center is retired and is not longer part of the March center set.)  

Reading Buddies is a literacy center that is part of my Oh So Lucky {10 Literacy Centers for March}.  This center provides students practice with irregular verb tense.

Being Green: Fraction Fun is a math center that was part of my Hop to It {10 Math Centers for April}.  This center provides students practice with fractions of groups.
(This center is retired and is not longer part of the April center set.)  

Carrot Loving Contractions is a literacy center that is part of my Hop to To {10 Literacy Centers for April}.  This center provides students practice with contractions.

I hope some of my experiences and some of these resources are helpful to you.
Alright, time to tackle some of my other summer to-do's.  Wish me luck. ;)

Monday, February 12, 2018

Last Minute Foxy Valentine Bag Freebie

Please forgive me sweet teacher friends.  It's been a LLLOOONNNGGG time since I've had a chance to share anything here at School Is a Happy Place.
Long story short, I moved schools (very last minute) and changed grade levels.  I'll save the details for another time.  Needless to say, change is a lot of work and much more consuming than I would have ever imagined.
But, today I carved out a little time to share a quick and easy Valentine's Day craft that your students will really enjoy.

It's My Foxy Valentine Bag.  Students make these bags to keep all of the cards and goodies they receive at our class Valentine exchange.
To make these cutie bags, I start by copying the various sized hearts onto colored paper (red or pink for Valentine's Day).  Students cut the pieces and assemble them.

It's really pretty fun to let students guess what they're going to make before showing them the sample.  
After students assemble their fox, they will glue it on their bag.  I print name tags for each student as well.
When the glue dries, the Valentine bags are ready to go.
If your students are like mine, they will love this project.

You can click here for a free pattern for this project.

Thanks for stopping by.  Have a happy Valentine's Day.