Copyright (c) 2013 Anita Keil: Primary "Teach"spiration. Powered by Blogger.

Yep, school's almost out!  And, whether you're the teacher or the parent, it's time to think about ways to keep your little sweeties from forgetting everything they've learned all year. 

Of course, kids need some downtime, just like we do.  Hopefully they will have at least a week or two to simply enjoy educational expectations.  Just summer bliss.

If you're a summer school teacher, you know as well as I do, you have to be prepared with as many fun and hands-on activities you can come up with, because IT'S SUMMER, and kids don't want to do regular school work in SUMMER!  You really don't need to come up with elaborate activities.  Keep it simple.

In my summer school classes, we've always spent a lot of time simply reading and enjoying literature....FOR THE FUN OF IT!  I find this to be one of the best ways to keep their reading skills up to par.  No pressure.
To keep math and science fresh and fun, there are numerous outside activities.

This human sundial shadow science experiment is a hands-on way for kids to learn how shadows are created and measure the earth's rotation. Shadow Science | Outdoor STEM | Science experiments for kids
Here's a fun human sundial shadow experiment from Rhythms of Playa hands-on way for kids to learn about how shadows are created and measure the earth's rotation.

And they'll love this Pop Rockets science experiment from 

Julie from Creekside Learning made this hula hoop clock for outside telling time activities with her kids.  How simple is that?!!
Take math outside! Make a Hula Hoop Clock. #math #summerlearning #ece:

Then sometimes, we just need a quiet, laid-back indoor learning activity.  I've found the kids always love color-by-number, so I created a complete set of summer color-by-number printables with a Fourth of July theme.  These go perfectly with the Pop Rockets science activity.
Click on the image to view.

Prevent the summer slide and have a well-prepared and happy summer!

It's around this time of the year that our second graders are introduced (or reintroduced) to contractions.  They really love contraction word work when they are given a variety of fun ways to practice.

Thanksgiving Read Aloud 

My favorite way to kick off our action with contractions is with a read-aloud of Franklin's Thanksgiving.  Franklin's Thanksgiving is a delightful story about friendship and being thankful for friends.  It leaves a message for young readers about the value of kindness.  Definitely an added bonus!
The first time I read the story, it's for pure enjoyment, but usually leads to a discussion about being thankful for our friends. Depending on time and my particular group of students, we write about friends we are thankful for and ways we show our appreciation for them.  Here you can download this free set of Thanksgiving writing templates we use.

Contraction Lesson

Now, back to how I use the text for our contractions study. Either later in the day or the next day, I present a mini-lesson on contractions.  I discuss with them and demonstrate how we shorten two words by putting them together into one word to form a contraction.  We discuss the apostrophe that takes the place of the omitted letters in the second word and practice using n't, 'm, 's, 're, 'll, and 'd.
Together we brainstorm and make an anchor chart with contractions made from the second word being "not, am, is, are, will, and had." It's amazing how excited my kiddos get and how successful they feel during this lesson!

My pumped up contraction experts are now ready to listen for every contraction they hear as I do a second read-aloud of Franklin's Thanksgiving.  More excitement ensues as they frantically raise their hands for every contraction that's read.

Paired Reading and Contraction Hunt

After I finish reading, I pair them up for a paired reading and to record every contraction they find in their notebooks. Franklin's Thanksgiving is perfect for this assignment, not only because it is a seasonal book, but because it is full of contractions! Here's an example from one of my contraction detectives.

I LOVE pairing up students to work cooperatively on a mission like this. They take turns reading page by page and tend to stay much more focused when looking and listening with a set goal in mind.

Contraction Foldable

I created a contraction foldable  the kiddos can use for some extra practice at a literacy center or as a post-lesson activity.  

They can color the Thanksgiving turkey and write their name on one side.........

...... and cut along the dotted lines and write the contraction that each two-words make on the inside.

This FREE Thanksgiving foldable provides teachers with a fun way to review contractions in whatever way they choose.

November is a great month to review contractions, as well as many other important skills before Thanksgiving break. I especially like having these November Math and Literacy No Prep Printables on hand for quick and easy, yet meaningful, reviews. 

Have a Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy my free foldable!

But wait!  Here's some more November fun for you!  Be sure to enter our K-2 Giveaway for 5 chances a to win a $25 TpT Gift Card.  

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.


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