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Saturday, August 31, 2013

Back to School Time Savers -- Sponge Activities

No matter how carefully you plan your teaching day, there will inevitably be an awkward minute or two that needs filling.  It could be when you are waiting outside the music room for your "special," having arrived early because your class made it through the halls without having to stop for traffic or behavior control.  Maybe you find yourself with a few idle moments while waiting for all the classes to file into the auditorium for an assembly. Perhaps you lined up for lunch 2 minutes early.  For whatever reason and whenever it happens, do you have a plan for filling those moments?

Maximize those intervals with "sponge activities." You know, something that absorbs the time while doing what you have dedicated your life to -- exercising young brains.   

If you have been working on rhyming words, ask individuals to name a word that rhymes with ----. Give your class extra practice with counting and cardinality (per the CCSS) by asking them to count on or count backwards from an arbitrary number.  Reinforce whichever operation you are studying in math by tossing out some equations.  

Reinforcing concepts and facts is wonderful and worthwhile. But have you considered trying brain exercises?  

If you teach young children, a popular sponge activity is to clap and/or snap a pattern for your students to copy. Coincidentally, your charges have to be careful listeners to replicate your pattern. That's always a desirable goal.  

20 Questions and I Spy work well, especially if you are not in your classroom.  In our never ending pursuit of sight word recognition, you could institute "Spotlight Words."  To do this, turn out the lights, hand a large flashlight to one child, and ask him to shine the spotlight on a specific word wall word.  

If he spotlights the correct word, then he hands the flashlight to another student and directs her to find a different word wall word.  Play can continue as long as you wish.  This is my flashlight of choice.

Another sponge activity involves categories.  This can be related to content area subjects. For example, ask your students to name animals native to a rain forest, a desert, etc.  Other category ideas are foods you can eat raw, foods that start with "k," clothes you should NOT wear this time of year, a noun that names a place, verbs that describe what you are doing in P.E., a word with a suffix, an adjective, a 2 syllable word, a compound word, a country that starts with B, etc.  The longer you work with categories, the more fluent you become in flinging them at your students.  Simultaneously, your students will become more fluent in their thinking.

If you are a neophyte or simply trying to brush away the cobwebs from the summer, you may want to have some teaching aids handy.  My favorites and, more importantly, my students' favorites, are Hink Pinks, et al. and Triads.  Both of these word play activities can be made on cards that are handy to grab and/or carry in a pocket.  [BTW, I'm a big proponent of teacher tool belts for this.]  
Teacher tool belt

Imagine just pulling a card from your tool belt and instantly engaging your students' critical thinking.  
These are samples of Hink Pinks, Hinky Pinkies, and Hinkity Pinkities.  Currently, there are 23 Hink Pink products in my TPT Store that are ready to print and cut apart.  Place a stack in your tool belt and you are well armed for any fallow moment.  If you are not familiar with Hink Pinks, you can read about them here.

These are Triads cards.
Again, they are print ready to make life easier for you.  There are 8 triads units in my TPT Store.  If you are not familiar with Triads, read about them here.  Either of these activities will cause the cogs to start turning in your kiddos' brains and that should be your goal every day.

What are your favorite sponge activities?  Please leave some comments and/or links below.

Until next time...

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Sharing Some Blog Love


Love is in the air, and it's not even spring!  My dear, cyber friend, Rachel at Mrs. O Knows, has given me the Liebster Award.  This lovely award is given to blogs that are up and coming, as in currently have fewer than 200 followers. Liebster is a German word that means sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing, and welcome.  You just have to love a word that encompasses all of those things!

Every privilege carries with it responsibilities.  This award requires that I do the following:
1. Link back to the blog that nominated me.
2. Answer the questions posted for me by my nominator.
3. Share 11 random facts about myself.
4. Create 11 questions for my nominees.
5. Nominate 5-11 blogs with fewer than 200 followers.
6. Contact my nominees and let them know that I have nominated them.

So here goes ...
1. Rachel O. is the author of Mrs. O Knows.  She's a military wife who teaches 5th grade and has a "small" dress obsession. You just have to check out her blog; you'll love it!  Did I mention that she also loves owls?  "Owl" bet you will love her owl resources.  Check them out here.

2. Q & A:
  1. What is one teacher gift that you have never received that you would love to have?  A gift certificate to Staples or Office Depot.
  2. You are going to be stuck on a desert island and you can only take 5 items. What are they?  My husband, my computer (assume there is internet), my Kindle (same assumption so I can feed my reading addiction), a lifetime supply of chocolate, my pillow.
  3. 3. Who was your favorite teacher and why?  My 2nd grade teacher, Mrs. Bjelland.  She made me want to be a teacher!
  4. If you had to eat the same meal every night for the rest of your life, what would it be?  Fried chicken, mashed potatoes & gravy, green beans, iced tea, and brownies 
  5. If you could try any other profession, what would it be? Fiction writer
  6. What is your favorite children's book?  That's hard because I love children's books, but I'll go with Charlotte's Web.
  7. What is your favorite vacation spot? Hawaii
  8. You win a $500 Visa gift card. What do you buy first? The newest releases of mystery/suspense books.
  9. Who is your biggest inspiration? (Feel free to name more than one person if needed) My beloved dad.
  10. What is one thing that you will try in your classroom this year that you've never tried before?  Ipads
  11. If you could share any piece of advice about teaching with your fellow bloggers, what would it be?  Make learning fun.  
3. 11 random facts about me:
  1. I'm a professional calligrapher.
  2. I'm afraid of dogs.
  3. I used to model.
  4. I've been to 49 of the 50 states.
  5. I'm addicted to Solitaire Blitz.
  6. I have 3 children; 2 boys and a girl.
  7. I have 3 grandchildren; 2 girls and a boy.
  8. I have a wonderful secret that I can't tell anyone and it's killing me.
  9. My best friend is also named Barb and we have been friends since we were in 1st grade.
  10. I was named to 100s Club as an undergrad (100 Outstanding Seniors) at the Univ. of IL.
  11. I love to crochet.
4. Questions for my nominees:
  1. Who is your favorite author?
  2. What was the last movie you saw?
  3. Where did you go on your last vacation?
  4. If money and logistics were no problem, what would you most want to add to your classroom?
  5. What is your guilty pleasure?
  6. If you could teach in another country, what country would it be?
  7. What do you do to relieve stress?
  8. Where did you go to college &/or grad school?
  9. How long have you been teaching?
  10. What is something you've always wanted to learn to do?
  11. What are 3 things you will take to school with you?
5. Nominees:
Now I'm off to spread the blog Liebster love.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

More Back to School Time Savers

While there is no magic recipe for setting up your room and preparing to meet your students, there are many things that can ease you into it. I have a few suggestions for items to include in your backpack that may help alleviate some of the stress of going back to school. 

If you teach emergent readers, you know that word work is an essential component of reading instruction.  As a Reading Recovery teacher, I have spent years honing this aspect of literacy education. You can reap some benefits from my experience by perusing my 8 part blog series that starts here.  You may also wish to check out Word Work: A Guide for Teachers of Young Children.  

If blank bulletin boards bother you, download these FREE writing posters that coordinate with 6 Traits of Quality Writing. They can stay up all year!  Did I mention that they are FREE?

As students progress in reading and writing, an essential skill is breaking words into syllables.  Syllabication skills are included in EVERY elementary grade level of the CCSS.  As a literacy specialist, I have come to recognize that many struggling readers and writers do not have a good grasp of these skills.  Take some time to teach syllabication. The return is huge!

To help you with this task, I have several editions of Rules of Syllabication products that make excellent bulletin boards and/or center anchor charts.  The rules in each of the following are the same; the graphics and size of the posters vary by theme.

You may also like the Under the Sea Edition Bundle which includes the rule posters from the Under the Sea Edition above and a delightfully animated power point presentation.

As you are preparing centers and small groups, you may find the following syllabication activities helpful.  Friendly Frog's Syllables Book and Friendly Frog in Outer Space are both well suited to small group instruction or independent work.

Friendly Frog is very popular with my students.  Hence, he is a frequent visitor to our centers. The kiddos are always excited to see him back.  You can find these centers here.

Until next time...

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Back to School Time Savers

Let me help you save time and energy at this hectic time of year.  

Here are a few items that may help you get ready . . .
  • Pick a Pack of Poetry Posters is a collection of 20 posters that provide a quick reference for you and your students about 20 types of poetry.  Each poster is in full color, making them attractive and inviting for display in your classroom. You can see 10 of these posters by checking out my blog series for poetry month.  This 10 part series starts here.

  • Back to School Poetry Possibilities contains 19 poems about going back to school and the changes associated with fall.  Each poem has individually tailored activities, skill lessons, and writing prompts to go with it. Have you been considering using poetry anthologies? This unit will get you off to a great start! The poems are copy ready for your students.  

  • If you are hesitant about including poetry in your daily teaching or if you are looking for tips to establish a poetry center, please check out my 8 part blog series about using poetry in the classroom.  It starts here.

  • Poetry centers can be daunting and time consuming. If that's your fear or experience, then you may wish to try Poetry Task Cards for Elementary Classrooms. There are 52 task cards with skills ranging from simple identification of high frequency words to employing figurative language in writing original poetry.

  • Do you need help getting started with poetry anthologies?  I have just the thing for you -- an introductory poem that's FREE! Go here.

  • Poetry Possibilities - Fall offers 26 more poems about the season and its holidays and special events.  Like the Back to School unit, each poem has a teaching point, skill lessons, and activity suggestions.

Until next time . . .

Thursday, August 1, 2013

No Whine Zone

Lately, life has been a lot more stressful for me as I have been caring for 2 hip replacement patients that are near and dear to me (my mom and my husband).   My calling is teaching, not nursing. However, I don't believe in whining; in fact I post this sign in my classroom.  So, to give myself a little lift, I'm having a sale in my TpT store.  

8/1/13 - 8/5/13 everything in my store is marked down and the vast majority are just 99₵.  I just know those cha-chings are going to put a spring in my step.  Better yet, they will give my husband a grin, as he has put the cha-ching app on his phone, too. 

Won't you help me turn lemons into lemonade?