CVC Words Rhyming - Phonemic Awareness - Short Vowel: Aa

Many children enter kindergarten familiar with rhyming words thanks to parents who have read nursery rhymes or books by Dr. Seuss. Parents are their child's first teacher. Identifying and producing rhyming words is an important phonemic awareness skill. Research has also shown the importance of this.

"Correlational studies have identified phonemic awareness and letter knowledge as the two best school entry predictors of how well children will learn to read during their first two years in school."
National Reading Panel: Teaching Children to Read
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You can easily incorporate a quick phonemic awareness (P.A.) activity with the Rhyme Climb mat above.

When you meet with your reading group, have your students write the word family that you are focusing on the top line. Students will:

Write words in the word family.
Circle the word family.
To differentiate for your higher readers, encourage them to use blends, digraphs, or write multi syllable words.
Get the wiggles out with movement with stomp & clap. Students clap and make the sound of each consonant and stomp for the vowels.

You can use the mats with your Guided Reading group or add it to a word work center. Laminate it or put it in a dry erase pocket. I found the dry erase pocket at the Target Dollar Spot.

After your small group lesson, give your students additional practice with the printables like the one in the picture above. This is a good way to assess what you taught during your small group lesson plus it holds them accountable.
The answer keys are included so you use this as a self-checking center. You can also use these assignments as seat work or homework.

Does your class have a wide variety of levels this year? Use these differentiation cards to give additional tasks for the Rhyme Climb assignment. I wrote about my differentiation card system HERE. You can read about the system and pick up a freebie, too.
Students can practice their writing skills with the pencil book assignments. This is an open-ended assigned so you can use the assignment to fit your students’ needs. A few suggestions:

•Write sentences using words from the ladder assignment. Underline the words.

•Read “Hey, Little Ant” to your class. Have your students write about what happened in the beginning, middle, and end of the story on the “an” pencil. Highlight all of the words with “an”.

•Brainstorm topics that include the word family on the pencil. Example: Word family –an: pan, Dan, ant, fan

•Write a story about the topic.

•Write 3 sentences describing the topic.
There are two versions, with lines and without lines, so you can differentiate.

Here is a sample of the additional printables included.
Click HERE for a FREEBIE in the preview file.

Looking for more ideas? I have Pinterest boards with games, videos, and other fun stuff.

Sources to make my blog post graphics can be found HERE.
Click HERE to read my blog's disclosure statement.

Word Work: Spelling, Vocabulary, Integrated, Interactive

Working with words is such an important part of our curriculum.  I am always looking for new ways to make planning quicker and easier for word work lessons.

Ask any teacher what one of the top 5 stresses of his or her job is and you will hear, meeting the needs of a wide variety of ability levels.  There is a quick and easy way to differentiate your word work center.  In the picture above is a word work center for the story, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.  Did you notice that there are vocabulary words written on different colored sentence strips?  Each ability group is assigned a color of vocabulary word cards.  The class can study the same book, yet focus on different words from the book on their ability level. 

On that top 5 list of stressors for teachers is usually not enough time to teach what I need to teach.  Each year it seems like our schedule gets more and more hectic. Yet the expectations of what we are supposed to accomplish with less time doesn't change. So, what is a teacher supposed to do? I found that integration is what helped me the most.  The more I was able to integrate my subjects with each other, the more time I seemed to "find" in my day.  I found that integrating helped my students, especially my struggling students and the ones who were less-than-enthusiastic about school.

In the picture above is an example of integrating science and language arts.  It is a quick and easy word work center to set up.  Write the science vocabulary cards on sentence strips.  Put them in a small pocket chart.  Target Dollar Spot has great pocket charts at Back to School time for $1.  Integrate your current grammar skills with your science vocabulary.  In the picture, students counted the syllables and wrote a sentence with the word.  This is from my Working with Words: Interactive Printable packet.

Do you have any tips to share?

Sources to make my blog post graphics can be found HERE. 
Click HERE to read my blog's disclosure statement.

Cynthia Rylant: Henry and Mudge plus FREEBIE

Cynthia Rylant is a favorite author of my students every year.  It seems like all students either have a dog or want a dog.  When I introduce a Henry and Mudge book, I am guaranteed to have a captive audience.

I love it when students connect with authors.  You never know when you might be teaching a future author.  Cynthia Rylant's website encourages students to write to her.  She will send a postcard to the teacher.  I have a FREE packet that includes writing paper and morning messages that you may use.

Through the years, I have been surprised when I received my standardized test results.  There were always one or two students that scored lower than expected.  I’ve also had surprises when grading work throughout the year.  Students who seemed very capable when discussing stories orally, were not showing the same potential on paper.  Rushing through their work and not paying attention to details seemed to be the cause of most of these surprises. Small words like “not” are important when answering questions.  I’ve tried a variety of things to slow these students down.  We circled important words of the sentence, rephrased question in the answer,  highlighted details, and a variety of other techniques with modest success.  
One of the teams I was on used a phrase called “steal and slide”.  This catchy phrase seemed to work the best for my students. Probably because it is a sporty-themed phrase, boys and girls liked it and used it. Students are told they need to steal some of the words in the question to slide in the answer.  I used this technique with students as young as first grade.  With young students, we completed the questions together. I taped the question on chart tablet paper or a white board (see picture above). Then I wrote the answers on chart tablet paper and then had volunteers circle the words that were stolen.  By the end of the year, my higher ability students were able to answer questions on paper using this method. This method makes students slow down and pay attention to every word in the question because they may want to steal that word for their answer. 

I realize this method is not unique.  Teachers have been telling their students to answer questions using words from the questions for a long time.  My teachers told me to do that when I was a student because I was one of those who saw school work as a race.  Your district may have you do the same type of activity but call it something else.  I have several packets with steal and slide activities (questions for chart tablets paper and reading comprehension worksheets), including Henry and Mudge lessons. You can use the activities in these packet with whichever phrase your district uses. 

I have a Henry and Mudge bundle which includes the following books:  The First Book, Under the Yellow Moon, and Take the Big Test. 

Also included with these packets are task cards.
  • There are 5 task cards for each chapter.  There are answer cards included so this can be set up as a self-checking center.
  • Punch a hole and put the task cards on a ring.  The cards are small - the perfect size for small hands.
  • There are 2 recording sheets for each chapter.One has lines and the other one doesn't.

Click HERE for the FREEBIE.

Click HERE to check out my Henry and Mudge bundle.

Sources to make my blog post graphics can be found HERE. Click HERE to read my blog's disclosure statement.

Camping: Class themes, Back to School, End of the Year, Summer School, and Work Tips!

Are you doing some Rs this summer?
  • R is for reflect:  Reflect over your past year.  What went right?  What should be tweaked?  No matter how long you've taught, there is always something that needs to be polished a little.
  • R is for relax:  Take some me time this summer. Sleep in, read a good book, spend some quality time for friends and family or whatever is your favorite way to relax.  You will be a better teacher next year if you take time to relax this summer. 

One year when I was doing some reflecting after a challenging year, I decided that I needed to make some changes.  More and more demands were being placed upon us  . . . new curriculum, training to go along with this, and data collection just to name a few. All of this without giving us more prep time to do these extra chores.  It is very easy to let all of these extra things stress us out, damage our health, and take away our enthusiasm for our job.   

I decided that I needed to work smarter, utilize what work time I did have at school wisely.  Can you relate?  Do you need to do this, too? Do you have so much free time at school that you offer to help your friends with their work?  I'm guessing that this isn't the case for you, if you are like most teachers. 

Do you have a buddy teacher that has a similar philosophy as you?  Would you be willing to split some of your teacher chores with this buddy?  I've done this different ways through the years.  My all time favorite system was when I taught next door to a teacher who hated the paperwork end of teaching but loved being outside.  Maybe it's because I'm too hyper, but for me, recess duty is my version of teacher torture.  Standing there or walking around watching children play is too sedentary for me.  From my very first year, I have hated recess duty.  I've done it because it is required and children need the fresh air and exercise.  But, I did not enjoy it.  Then I began teaching with a teacher who was the yin to my yang.  She hated all of the paperwork, lesson planning, copying, and other stuff like that I loved.  Luckily, we had similar teaching styles.  So, I planned 2 weeks at a time.  Organized each week in a big rubbermaid tub.  There were six folders in the tub.  Monday - Friday folders had all of the things needed for lessons (books, worksheets, etc.) and the sixth folder had all the supplies needed for the centers.  I taught with tub A and my buddy used tub B the first week, then we switched tubs the following week.  It was perfect!  She was perfectly happy doing recess duty every day.  I was perfectly happy taking the extra time from not doing recess duty to plan for both of us.  Here's the thing . . . I would have made those plans for myself anyway.  The only extra work that was involved was to make the copies for her.  How hard is it to make an extra class set of copies for a week's worth of work and organize them in a tub?  Our principal was happy with our arrangement because he knew that with the extra time I had to plan, I was making better quality lesson plans.  My buddy and I were happier and less stressed.  Isn't that what every principal wants? 

So, this summer take the time to come up with a plan to work smarter.  There are many ways you can do it.

I was thinking about centers.  They can be a wonderful addition or they can be a thorn in your side if your students don't understand the directions and are constantly interrupting your small group lesson with questions.  Centers have worked both ways for me.

One way to work smarter with centers is to have some centers that have the same format week after week.  Not that your students will do the exact same lesson, but that the type of activity remains the same so they will know exactly what the expectations are when they go to that center.  

I have phonics skill books that can be used for this type of center.  They are sold in packets with 4 books that will have enough lessons for an entire month.  All you will need to do, as far as preparation, is make 4 mini-books/student each month.  (Hint: This would be a great thing for a parent volunteer to do for you.) Students will complete 2 pages of their mini-book each day.  Turn in the mini-book on Friday.  The benefits are:
  • Ask a parent volunteer to come in once a month to make all of the mini-books for entire month.  Now you have one center planned and finished for an entire month. Cross one thing off your to do list!
  • Easy to grade because it is all in one neatly stapled booklet.
  • Students seem to lose one booklet less often than when they have to keep up with 4 or 5 individual pages.  Less incomplete or missing work means less stress for you and happier students plus parents.
  • Each mini-book is a review of important skills like vowels, digraphs, syllables, and word families that we don't always have time to go over during whole group or small group lessons.
  • Save some of the booklets for their portfolios to show growth over time.
  • Each booklet has a theme so you can use them to enrich your language arts, social studies, or science lessons.

Below is a sneak peek of the Camping Book.  There is a black and white version of each mini-book and a colored copy so you can also make this a self-checking center. 

Would you like to try this out?  Click HERE to download the black and white version of my Camping mini-book.

Click HERE to check Pencil Pals: Camping, Desert, Farm Zoo  

Click HERE to check out Pencil Pals: Ocean, Garden, Summer & School
This one has a mini-book called School Time which is perfect for your Back to School lessons.

Are you planning a camping theme for End of the Year, Summer School, or Back to School?  This Camping color by code packet is a fun way to review the following skills:
  • homophones
  • plural nouns
  • contractions
  • synonyms
  • antonyms
  • abbreviations
  • long vowels
  • blends

I have organized a Pinterest board with themes that you can use for units and classroom decor.  Be sure to follow this board because I will be updating this board.

Sources to make my blog post graphics can be found HERE. 
Click HERE to read my blog's disclosure statement.

Teacher Lifesavers: Back to School, Pencil Tips, and more!

Graduation is over and soon many college graduates will begin their first year of teaching.  Through the years, there have been tips that I have discovered or other teachers have shared with me that made my job so much easier. These ideas saved time and made teaching a little less stressful. I thought I would share a few of these throughout the next few months. 

School supplies and the management of them is something that is not really discussed in undergrad classes.  This is a shame because the organization and management of supplies can make or break your lessons.  My second year of teaching, I had 32 first graders in my class.  As you can imagine, I was a little overwhelmed.  I didn't even have enough desks for my students.  I thought my second year would be easier than my first year since I was now an experienced teacher. I quickly found out that there was a lot I had yet to learn.  

The parents dropped off their kids and it was now time to begin my planned activity.  I told my student to get out a pencil.  Guess what happened?  You got it!  They got a pencil, but it was an UNSHARPENED pencil.  There was only one sharpener in the room and beginning-of-the-year first graders are not very proficient at sharpening their own pencil.  So, I had them line up while I sharpened 30 pencils.  The 2 children who brought sharpened pencils were children of teachers.  And who do you think would walk into my classroom when this less-than-perfect-teaching-moment was happening?  Not only did my principal choose this moment to visit my class, the superintendent accompanied her.  UGH!  Could my day get any more stressful!  The silver lining to this very dark cloud was, I never ever forgot to have a class set of SHARPENED pencils ready to go for all of the first days of school after that year.

  • FIRST DAY:  I highly recommend having a class set of pencils plus a few extras.  Make sure these pencils are sharpened.  As a first year teacher, it can be overwhelming with all of the things you need to purchase to set up a classroom.  Pencils are one of those things you do not want to skimp on.  The lead of cheap pencils breaks easily, they are harder to sharpen, and they never last as long. My favorite brand of pencils is Dixon Ticonderoga.  I found a set of 18 on sale at Staples this week for $2.   

  • SMALL GROUPS:  I like to keep a set of pencils at the table where I meet with small groups.  I recommend using the Ticonderoga Tri-Conderoga black pencils because students do not usually bring black pencils to school. Yours will look different which makes it easy to identify if a student accidentally takes it back to their desk or table.

  • SUB PLANS:  Your sub will appreciate it if you leave a class set or at least a few sharpened pencils with your sub plans.  It is hard enough being a guest teacher in another teacher's classroom without having to search for needed supplies.  Having a few basic supplies sitting next to your sub plans will be a big help.

I have a special surprise!  My friends, Fern @ Fern Smith's Classroom Ideas is joining me in a Lifesavers for Teachers Giveaway. The great thing about this giveaway is teachers and principals would love it and both are encouraged to enter.  We are giving one lucky teacher or principal:
Principals can use these for door prizes at the Back to School meetings.  Teachers can use these to prepare their classrooms for the new year.

Giveaway Details:

  • Follow each TPT store
  • Dates:  June 10 - 14, 2015
  • We will announce the winner on our Facebook pages on June 15th.  
  • I will also email the winner. The winner will have 24 hours to respond to my email or I will choose another winner.  Be sure to check your spam folders on June 15th.

Don't forget to hop over to Fern  blog for freebies and more fun teaching ideas.

Sources to make my blog post graphics can be found HERE. 
Click HERE to read my blog's disclosure statement.

Back to School Tips

The past few years, I have written several blog posts with tips and freebies to help teachers prepare for Back to School.  I compiled a collection of them so you have them in one handy spot.

Sources to make my blog post graphics can be found HERE. 
Click HERE to read my blog's disclosure statement.

Tips for Listening Skills, RTI, E.S.L., Inside Recess, and more!

Listening skills are so important!  Before you can effectively teach procedures and academic skills, your students need to listen and attend to what you are saying. Summer themed listening skills activities called "Listen and Draw" are included in this latest edition. 


I recommend doing this as a teacher directed activity in the beginning.  You may want to introduce this in a small group setting if your class has a wide range of abilities.  You can give different groups different expectations for the writing assignment portion of the activity.  There is an extra writing page included for your students who are ready to write a paragraph or story about the picture.


Once your students are comfortable with the format, you can record the directions or ask a parent volunteer to do it for you.  Or ask the drama department at your local middle school or high school if there is a student who is interested in doing this for you.  Students are often looking for community service opportunities.

After each step, either pause to give students time to do the work or use some type of noise maker like a bell or xylophone.  Tell your students to push the “stop” button when he/she hears the sound.  Push the “go” button after he/she follows the directions and is ready for the next step.  


This can be used many different ways.  
WRITING CENTER: Record the directions and set it up as a center.
EMERGENCY SUB PLANS:  Great activity for your sub.
R.T.I. DOCUMENTATION:  Great way to show proof of listening skills growth over time for R.T.I.
INSIDE RECESS - FRIDAY FUN DAY:  Students will love the art part of these activities.  You will love the fact that your students are quiet so they can listen to the directions.
E.S.L. / E.L.L.:   E.S.L. / E.L.L. teachers have left some very nice feedback.  They said it worked great with their students.  

Great way to teach prepositions, too!

Go over the directions and then hang the sign in the graphic above as a reminder.

Listen & Draw packet includes 
12 Listen and Draw activities with a summer theme.  For each activity there is:
-Teacher direction page
-Blackline student page

-Colorful page showing what the art portion of the listening activity could look like.  Art work answers may vary.

This camping theme listening activity would be a great extension when teaching -ing or a camping themed unit.

Do you teach an ocean unit at the end of the year or in summer school?  Use this activity to extend your unit.

This listening activity can be used as a 4th of July lesson or an extension for American symbols or landmarks unit.

Click HERE if you'd like to see more.

Would you like to try a FREE sample?  Click on the picture below.

I have other Listen and Draw packets.

Click HERE to check this out.

Fall theme
Click HERE to check this out.

Christmas theme
Click HERE to check this out.

Winter theme
Click HERE to check this out.

Spring theme
Click HERE to check this out.

Sources to make my blog post graphics can be found HERE. Click HERE to read my blog's disclosure statement.