Copyright (c) 2013 Anita Keil: Primary "Teach"spiration. Powered by Blogger.
Can you believe it's already October? Me neither!  In the spirit of this fabulous fall month, I have a quick little geometry spider post for you today.

At the beginning of October, my second graders really get into helping with the October decorating of the classroom. You know, second graders LOVE, LOVE, LOVE doing those kinds of activities.  I am a firm believer that children need time to just have some fun and be creative.  And making October spiders has always been a big hit. 

Where do you begin when teaching CVC words?  I prefer to teach them  in this short vowel order - a, i, o, u, e - saving e for last because it sounds so similar to i.

So, first step - Short “a” -  here’s how I taught my emergent readers to read and spell Short “a” words.

The first day, usually in small groups, I introduce/review the short a sound.  I tell my students that today we're going to practice the "a" sound that is in lots of words like animal, ant, alligator, but we will be listening for the "a" sound in the middle of the word, like in c-a-t, b-a-t, etc.

First I read a book with lots of short “a” words, while the kiddos listen for and acknowledge words with that sound. They practice sounding them out.

Hap and Cap by Margaret Allen and Dan, the Flying Man  by Joy Cowley are two great books my kids have enjoyed.  Both can be found on Amazon.

For a pretty penny, you can also get  Dan ,the Flying Man in a Big Book format, a six-pack of small books, and a CD to put in a listening center.  All is good, however, without these supplements unless you have extra money to spend. 

Anyhow… that my students are feeling pretty comfortable with short “a” CVC words, I pull out my Progressive Phonics Short Vowel "A"  Beginner Book set by Miz Katz N. Ratz.  These are 100% free downloadable ebooks.  The Short "A" set has 3-4 short stories for each of the four word families at, an, ad, and am. I make just one copy on card stock to read with my small group (you could also laminate it). 

On this first day, we will read the three -at family stories.  
Here is how we do it.  With the book pages facing the kiddos, I read the words in black print and they read the Short "a" words in red print.  

When we finish reading the stories, the kiddos use letters to build the "at" words from the stories as well as any others they can think of.  As they build, they write them in their literature notebooks, and when they're done, I ask them to spell and read the words. 

The following day, we do the same thing with the next word family group -  _an, and we do the _ad and _am families on subsequent days.  

Sometimes I make individual copies of the stories (copied in greyscale), and send them home for homework that week.  There are great parent instructions at the beginning of the

As the week unfolds, aside from the Progressive Phonics stories, we do other word building and fluency activities, too.

The second day, it's time for a picture/word matching game.  I make a copy of my cvc Short “a” word cards and a copy of the matching pictures (26 of each).  I give each student 5 or 6 picture cards, depending on how many are in the group.  I lay the word cards out in front of the group.  It is the job of each student to find the matching word card for each of his pictures.  When they have matched up their pictures and words, I ask them to spell and read each word and then write them in their literacy notebooks.  They may also draw pictures to go with each word if they choose to do so.

Throughout the week, there are many more center and pocket chart activities we do, as we practice building and reading cvc Short "a" words.

I copy several sets of the colored picture cards with the word cards printed on the back, laminate them,  and put a couple of sets together with a ring.  The kids use one set in a literacy center to practice spelling the pictures, then checking for accuracy on the back (with or without a partner).

In another center, they use the cards for checking as they play the board game Short "a" Trail.  They love this!

One set of the cards (without a ring) are used for the pocket chart center where the kiddos use large pocket chart letters to spell each picture. Again, they can check the spellings on the back of the cards.

Also, Word Family headings are used on the pocket chart for grouping the cards into 7 different Short "a" families.  I've never had a student who didn't LOVE working at the pocket chart!

At the Spell and Sort Short "a" Words literacy center, I provide printables with Short "a" pictures that have three circles beneath each.  There are also yellow and red counting discs; the letter "a" is written on all the red discs and consonant letters are written on the yellow.  A recording sheet is also provided where they are to write the words they make in the correct word family group.  This, of course, can be differentiated by leaving out the recording sheet.

And one of my favorite literacy centers is the Short "a" Word Family Fluency and Sequencing Activity.  For those students who are not yet ready to read independently, I do this with them in their small group (differentiation again).   

There are seven different word family passages with story pictures for this center.  I generally put just one of the seven passages out at a time.  Students are to read the passage, highlight the short "a" word family words, then cut and paste the three pictures in the correct order of story events.  After that, they glue the page into their notebooks and write the highlighted words below it.  Like this....

All of the word building, spelling, reading and sequencing activities we do with Short "a" can take up to two weeks.  It all depends on the class, time limits, and schedule.

If time allows, a culminating reading and word detective activity I like to do with the kids, after all the Progressive Phonics stories are done, is Zac the Rat from the Starfall website.  Zac the Rat can be downloaded in black and white print at Starfall

They also sell a full-color version in their boxed set of Learn-to-Read phonics books.  Again, a pretty penny, so I just use one of the black and white versions right along with the kiddos.  And, of course, I print one for each of them.

This is where we do some shared reading and word detective work.  We read Zac the Rat together first.  Then, depending on whether they are ready (differentiation once again), they either read it alone or with a partner while highlighting the Short “a” cvc words.

When coming back together, we go through each page again as they share the words they’ve found.  They LOVE this!  It makes them feel so smart!  (As I said before, if they are not yet ready to read and find the words independently, we simply read and highlight together.)  They still get excited and feel successful!

And, that's a wrap for my Short "a" lessons.  On to short "i"!

Thanks for stopping by!

But before I go, I leave you with a FREE copy of my Short "a" Trail game.  Just click on the image below to download it.

I don't know about you, but once July comes around, I already start thinking about and prepping for Back to School. One of the first things I do before my new kiddos ever step foot into my classroom is send them a postcard welcoming them and letting them know how excited I am to have them in my room.

I believe this is a great way to relieve some of their anxiety and help them feel comfortable and wanted even before we meet.

It's important to me to have my welcome postcards prepared and ready to mail out a couple of weeks before school starts.  I use a template I made a few years ago that I LOVE. I think you might too!!

One of the best things about using this template is how easy and quick it is to make and address a postcard for every student. Once you have your class list, you can download and duplicate the postcard template on which you are able to edit and type each individual student's name and address (two on each page).

You can also change the grade on the front of the postcard to match the grade you teach. It really takes no time at all!

When you finish addressing for each student, simply print unto card stock (postcard weight), making sure the front and back are aligned to print each postcard properly.

Now just cut around each one with either a scissors or paper cutter.

Add a stamp where it belongs on each one and save them in a safe place all ready to send out when your teacher life is starting to get oh so very busy once again.  It will be one less thing you need to worry about, and your kids will love getting a welcoming note in the mail from their loving teacher!  

For taking the time to read this far, I have for you a FREE Back-to-School postcard template below (and remember, it can be changed to any grade - the text is editable).  A letter option is also included.  
Just click on the image to download it.

You can also click on the pictures here to see more Back- to-School Resources for K-2 your kids and parents will love.


If you haven't yet started to think about preparing for back-to-school, kudos to you.  You deserve a break, so enjoy your time away for a while longer.


For most, testing is over or soon will be, and the school year is winding down.  From now until the last day, keeping those little sweeties focused, or at least manageable, can be a bit tricky. But you've got this!  By now, you've figured out what works and what doesn't.  You know that the very last week, especially, must be planned almost to the minute.  Have you gotten that far yet?  If you're like me, you'll want those ducks in a row and ready to go long before then.
Happy spring  everyone!  Spring always reminds me of a fabulous writing activity my class enjoyed each year!  Using a great story that leads into the writing is one of my favorite ways to get the kids excited about writing, and that's exactly how this activity began. And they always loved it!  So now I want to share it with you. 

Use a Great Story to Inspire Fabulous Writing.

It was around this time every year that we read Missing: One Stuffed Rabbit by Maryann Cocca-Leffler. It was the perfect time for the story, of course, because it is about a bunny rabbit who goes missing! 

Coco the stuffed rabbit in Mrs. Robin's second grade class has a diary.  Every night Coco goes home with a student, and that student gets to write the events of the evening in Coco's voice.
When it's Janine's turn, she gets to keep Coco and his diary for the entire weekend.  As the caregiver

Click on the image to find this book at Amazon.
of Coco and his diary, she takes him everywhere with her.  But after a day at the mall, she realizes that the rabbit is lost and she's unable to find him.

She's so sad to report the missing toy to the class on Monday morning. The second graders remember that there was a toy drive at the mall and Coco may have wound up at the hospital children's ward.  Sure enough, they find him at the hospital with a wheelchair-bound girl, They agree that, even though they will miss him, Coco should remain with the girl. She needs him more than they do. Janine writes the last journal entry in Coco's diary about his new home and new name.

My students really enjoyed this story, especially the extension activities that followed.  We would finish the story on a Friday, and over the weekend, I would pick up a cute stuffed bunny at one of the thrift stores and a small 3-ring binder.

I created a binder cover and journal writing pages to fit in it.  Then I wrote the first diary entry in the rabbit's voice to introduce him when I read it to the class on Monday.

Use a Great Story to Inspire Fabulous Writing.

Use a great story to inspire fabulous writing

The kids got so excited when I introduced our new class pet!  We voted on the perfect name for the bunny and drew the name of the first student to take him home for the night.  Each night or weekend, a student took Fluffy (or whatever the given name) and his journal home to write about the events that transpired. Sometimes Fluffy got to go to a ballgame, a movie, out for pizza, or grandma's house. His life was good and full of adventure.  It was the student's job to write a diary entry in Fluffy's voice, or point of view, to read to the class the next day.
Use a great story to inspire fabulous writing.

Use a great story to inspire fabulous writing.

When Fluffy and his diary returned to school the next day with the student in charge, that student read the diary entry to the class.  Then he or she passed Fluffy and the diary on to the next student in charge.  The kids absolutely loved this!!  And so did Fluffy, of course! :)
Use a Great Story to Inspire Fabulous Writing.Use a Great Story to Inspire Fabulous Writing.

If this is an activity you would like to try with your class, I'm leaving you a free sample of my binder cover and journal writing pages.  There are two different color choices for the cover and two different line sizes for writing  All you have to do is click on the image to download and copy the pages you need.
Use a Great Story to Inspire Fabulous Writing.

I've linked this blog post up with some of my bloggy buddies for our monthly K-2 linkup in which we share timely tips, teaching strategies, resources, and some freebies with you.  If you like what you see in this blog post, be sure to follow me (or any of the participating bloggers) and check back at the beginning of each month for a new link up.

Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for all you do for your students!

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