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Friday, October 17, 2014

Poetry for Fall & What to do with It

Poetry is a great tool for teaching more than rhymes, rhythm, and poetic devices. It can be a vehicle for exploring a host of different language arts topics. For example, the following poem is replete with contractions. 

So, after presenting the poem to your class, conduct a lesson on contractions. This could be a whole group lesson or a small group effort, depending on the ages and needs of your students. It could also be a literacy center activity with individual copies for each student and the directive to highlight the contractions. Then the task could require pupils to write the 2 component words for each contraction on the back of the poem or another sheet of paper.

Quotation marks are also prevalent in this poem. Hence, you could use this poem to study quotation marks, speaker tags, and the various rules that quotation marks invoke in reading and writing. This can be especially effective if you engage your students in choral readings of the poem. 
Assign one student to read all of the narration and speaker tags, while the remaining children chime in with the quotations. You will love the focus this generates.  

In my experience, children, especially reluctant readers, find poetry less threatening to read than prose. Perhaps it's due to the expansive white space.  Maybe it's the rhyme and rhythm (when present) that aids predictability and fluency. Whatever the reason, the light that shines in my Title I students' eyes when I bring out a poem is undeniable.  And that is enough to cause me to use poetry everyday.

If you are interested in more ideas for using poetry to teach myriad topics, check out my Poetry Possibilities products. They provide the poetry and possibilities for lessons.



Monday, October 13, 2014

Autumn Themed Centers

Autumn themed centers for your classroom -- check them out.  

Ghosts Say, "Boo!" is a literacy center for primary classrooms. In this activity students will focus on 2 sounds of /o/:  ō and ōō.

There are 2 ghost work mats: 1 labeled "Ghosts," and the other labeled "Boo!" Students sort the 20 word/picture cards by matching the vowel sounds to the 2 ghosts.  This center includes a recording sheet and labels for your center folder.

Bats & Bridges Literacy Center also challenges students to work with vowel sounds; long and short /a/. Students will sort the bat word cards and fly them to the proper bridge for roosting.  A recording sheet is included, as are labels for your center folder.

This center activity is part of my thematic unit, Hanging Out with Stellaluna.  It is now available as a stand-alone product for the first time.

You get to combine 2 subjects in 1 center when you use Scrattle: Halloween Edition.  This wildly popular activity challenges your students to exercise their verbal fluency by making words out of the letters provided on candy corn pieces. Each letter has a numeric value, as in Scrabble(TM).  As your students record their words, they compute the value of each of them.

Then they challenge a friend at the center to compare their numbers.  In the process, your students will practice using >, <, and =. The winner of this word battle is the 1 with the most >s.  (Scrattle gets its name from Scrabble + battle.)

Not only does Scrattle give your students practice with ELA and math, but it comes with 3 different recording sheets: 1 using addition only, 1 requiring multiplication, and 1 employing mixed operations. Thus, you can readily differentiate your instruction. Moreover, this center is CCSS aligned. And better yet, it's FREE! Even better, there are multiple editions for several holidays and they, too, are FREE!

John Hughes, author of An Educator's Life blogspot, is hosting a Fall-Tastic Activities and Resouces linky party.  You are sure to find some great activities there.

Until next time...

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

It's about time, teachers, for Halloween.  For your emergent readers, my original book, What the Little Ghost Saw on Halloween, is available on TPT and TN 

The simple text is predictable, following this pattern:
He saw a/an [adjective] [Halloween object supported by the picture]. 

The last page breaks the pattern, allowing the teacher to determine if the student is attending to the text or reciting a memorized pattern. 

High frequency words include he, saw, a/an, his, it, & wasBecause the last page has was in the same position as saw on the previous pages, this book is useful for addressing saw/was confusions.  Do this by drawing the student's attention to the first letter of was on that last page. Without confirming whether the child read the word correctly or not, ask her what sound that letter makes.  Assuming she replies correctly, ask her if that is what she would expect to see at the beginning of was.  By drawing her attention to this detail of the text, you are giving her the ability to self-check.

The book is offered in black and white line art.  I encourage you to let your students color the pictures, especially the pages that employ the color words.  

You may also like these Halloween products: 


Sunday, September 28, 2014

STILL MORE Centers for Your Classroom

Have you tried using critical thinking centers in your classroom?  If not, you really should.  Following are some of my students' favorites:

The thing I love the most about Triads, is that I can practically see the cogs turning in my students' brains.  My kiddos clamor for these brain exercises.  But, be forewarned! If you require a quiet, calm demeanor in your students, don't bring out Triads.  The enthusiasm they generate simply can't be contained.

Here's how they work: Show your students a Triads card, explaining that 1 word that can be added to each of the triad words to make a well-known phrase or compound word. The common word may be added before or after the triad words.  Did you figure out the example given here?  The common word is card; birthday card, credit card, and cardboard.  

My students love Triads so much that I have created literally hundreds of these little gems.  You can peruse the ones I've published by going here.

I know it's corny, but I just can't help myself. . . You will get a lot of bang for your buck with $1 Words.  This activity combines ELA and math with critical thinking and problem solving.  Moreover, your students will:

  • conduct research (old fashioned or internet)
  • work with parts of speech, prefixes and suffixes, vocabulary, and grammar 
  • compute money values (manually or with calculators)
  • hone editing and spelling skills
  • learn study skills
  • and so much more
My $1 Words units are much more "kid friendly" than most $1 Word studies in that they provide clues for students to solve.  
Run this as a competition between classes and you will find that you need 100s of clues!  My enrichment students can't get enough. Even better, the 1st unit in this series is FREE!

Square Puzzlers may just be the ideal center because even fast finishers can't finish them quickly. These gems require patience, perseverence, and problem solving; attributes we would like all of our students to develop.

The challenge with these puzzles is to reconstruct the square so that all of the images match on every interior side. This is the 2x2 square (reassembled) that is intended for the youngest students. 3x3 and 4x4 squares are included for exponentially more challenging puzzles for older students.

Want more critical thinking center ideas?  Check out the resources on my collaborative Pinterest board, It's About Time for Critical Thinking.  If you would like to join as a collaborator, we'd love to have you!

Other critical thinking centers you may like:


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Even More Centers for Your Classroom

It's about time, teachers, for more centers.

Today is all about math centers...

Be a Math Magician is a set of 20 math puzzles and brain teasers. These activities are learning disguised as fun. Students are honing their problem solving skills as they exercise inductive and deductive reasoning. The Math Magician tricks also promote creative thinking, as your students will need to think “outside the box.” 

Each of the puzzles makes an easy center for your math block. They are perfect for differentiation, especially for enrichment and/or GATE students. These puzzles are also useful as anchor activities, sponge activities, or challenges for fast finishers. They lend themselves well to collaborative thinking, too.

Monkey Squares are square arrays of n x n rows and columns in which n items fill the cells so that no item is used more than once in each row and column. Known as Latin Squares, they are used for statistical analysis in mathematics. If they seem familiar, they should; Sudoku is a 9 x 9 Latin Square.

Monkey Squares exercise H.O.T.S. for students in K-5.  There are a series of boards that advance from a 3 x 3 array to a 6 x 6 array.  My students beg to do Monkey Squares.  I'll bet your's will, too.

There are 20 sports pictures that children can use for sorting and/or patterning in Sports Sorts.  The pictures are provided in color and grayscale.  There are numerous suggestions for the sorts to get you started. 

Also included are task cards if you wish to prescribe your students' patterns. Of course, you could always leave the patterns up to them.  A recording sheet and a basketball court work mat are provided.

You may be interested in joining my collaborative Pinterest board, It's About Time for Math Centers.  If you would like to pin to it, follow the board, then email me with your Pinterest info @

Other centers you may like:


Saturday, September 20, 2014

MORE New Centers for Primary Classrooms

Literacy Centers, that is!

Here are 3 more literacy centers your primary students will love:

Watermelon Words is a center focused on compound words.  Your students will find pairs of watermelon slices that form compound words.  The words have a summer theme.  

For the youngest learners, the task is to simply find the pairs.  More capable students can place the 30 cards facedown in a 5x6 array and then play a game of Memory.  This center includes labels for you center folder and a recording sheet.  Watermelon Words literacy center can be found in its entirety in my poetry unit, Poetry Possibilities for Summer.  Now, for the first time, it is offered as a stand alone product.

Lunchbox literacy center is another compound word center.  Students will find pairs of lunchboxes that can form a compound word.  The words in this center are all school related.  A recording sheet is included, as are labels for your folder. This center is included in my Back to School Poetry Possibilties.  It is now available as a stand alone product.  

Flying Dragon Bingo is a versatile center focusing on initial consonant blends.  You can set it up as a small group center, or use it for a whole class game.  Like traditional bingo, each player has a board.  The teacher or leader holds up a picture card.  The students determine the initial consonant blend, covering it with a flying dragon piece.  Each bingo board has the same set of consonant blends; rearranged, of course.  

This center includes 26 bingo boards, 96 picture cards, and as many flying dragon markers as you need.  Labels are provided for your storage folder.  

It's about time to try some new centers!  For even more center ideas, follow/join my collaborative Pinterest board, It's About Time for Literacy Centers.

Other centers you may like: