Thursday, August 11, 2016

Short a: The First Step in Teaching CVC Words

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.

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Wednesday, July 6, 2016


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.


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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Smooth Sailing into an Awesome End of the Year!

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.
I'd like to share some ideas that have really helped to keep these final days fun and much less stressful for me.  Perhaps some will be also be helpful to you as you plan.

All School Fun/Field Day

All grades are scheduled to visit outdoor game stations prepared and monitored by specials teachers and volunteers.  Students break up in pairs and visit individual stations with Black Out cards that are punched or marked after completing each station.  Teachers and adults supervise students as they run from game to game trying to get "Black Out" for a small prize.  It's a fun time for all!

We also usually eat picnic-style sack lunches outside that day and play a little longer on the playground.  The kids love it!

Grade Level Spelling Bee 

My teammates and I decided years ago that we would have a grade-level spelling bee on one of the final days.  It turned out to be a great experience for both the students and teachers. so became an annual event.  The spelling words are taken from our yearlong list of weekly words.

A letter about the event and a list of the words are sent home several weeks before hand.  Then the week before the final week, each classroom holds our own spelling bee to narrow it down to the top five spellers.

During the Grade Level Spelling Bee, every class is represented by five students (that's 25 students for five classrooms) that are cheered on by their classmates.  Parents are also invited to attend if they wish.

An unbiased teacher/volunteer gives the words until a winner is crowned.  Actually we give an award and small prize to the top three spellers.  Again, everyone has a great time.

Grade Level Talent Show 

One year a teammate and I had classrooms full of talented kids.  We both loved music and aspiring talent and agreed this would be the perfect year to have a talent show. So then, the Annual Second Grade Talent Show was born.

Several weeks prior to the talent show, we send a letter home about the show, so parents will know and perhaps help their children prepare a talent. The date and time are given in the letter, along with an invitation for parents to attend.  Also, included is a date for auditions. It is made clear that every talent will be auditioned by the music teacher (she graciously agreed to help), and only talents that are fully prepared and suitable will be a part of the show.

Each classroom teacher has a signup sheet in the classroom for students to sign up for a talent performance.  They are allowed to perform individually or with a partner or group.  The signup sheet has a place for names, type of talent, and music (if used). Students are allowed to practice at school during recess or extra times, as well as at home.

On audition day, the music teacher is given the list of talents.  She usually does it during one or two of the regular class times with our kids.  She will make notes on our sheets and send them back to us so we know who made the cut.  These are the students who will perform at the talent show.

One of us types up a performance program to be handed out on the Talent Show day.

The kids, both performers and audience, enjoy the multitude of talent, including singing, dancing, magic tricks, gymnastics, and comedy.  Fun for all!

Cleaning Up and Putting Away

If you've ever taught a second grader (or first grader, or.....), you know they LOVE to clean up!  What better help could you ask for?  By the last week of school, academics are over, and it's time to put things away.  Students stack textbooks for me to put back on closet shelves, they clean out their desks packing up notebooks and folders to take home, and they CLEAN!  I assign students to clean white boards, chalkboards and erasers, wipe down shelves and tables, and wash desktops.  We clean up and pack up all center activities.

Now, of course, as you know, it may not wise to have every student up and about all at the same time. You will need something they can be engaged in when they are not the ones cleaning.  That's when I use my End of the Year Memory Book pages, spaced throughout the day on each day during the last week.  Completing this book is such a great culminating activity for the year. They LOVE completing it and parents love it too!

Picnic at the Park

Every year, our grade level has an end of the year picnic at the park.  This is a walking field trip to the park and back.  Every student brings their own paper sack lunch and the teachers supply a couple of ice chests full of soda (one teacher or a volunteer drives and delivers them to the park).  We eat, play, and have fun for a big part of the day.  It's really quite relaxing.

End of the Year Awards and Gifts
At some point during the last few days, I have an awards ceremony.  The students so enjoy and take pride in receiving special awards made just for them.  I give out Candy Bar Wrapper Award Certificates, wrapped around Hershey bars or similar sized candy.  I have so much fun choosing just the right one for each individual student.  If you are interested in these awards, you can find them HERE.  Below is a small sample of what is offered and how I use them.

I also give each student a Candy Bar Wrapper wrapped around a Hershey bar as a gift.  You can see them below and download a FREE set by clicking on the image.

Do you have an end of the year awards ceremony?  I'd love to hear how you prepare and go about it.

I hope some of my ideas have been helpful to you for this busy, crazy time of the year.
I also wish each and every one of you a great end of the year and a Sweet Summer!  

Thanks for hanging around! :)

This blog post is linked up with my friends over at I Teach K-2, and we want to give you the opportunity to win a $25 TpT gift certificate for Teacher Appreciation week!  Just enter using the Rafflecopter below.  And don't forget to visit the other great posts in this linkup!


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