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Saturday, December 8, 2012

How Kids Learn Words

The order in which children learn to look at words is no secret.  It is not a random sequence that depends on the words to which he/she is exposed.  Here are the three stages of word learning:

Level 1:  Sound

A student understands that sounds are put together to make up words.

Level 2:  Pattern

A student is able to look at several letters at a time and memorize a group of letters.  Many sight words are gained at this time  (If a child is not at this stage, it is bad advice to tell a parent to go and work on a child's sight word knowledge).  Trying to memorize sight words would be an inefficient use of time.  I will be discussing this in greater depth in the next few posts.

Level 3:  Meaning

A student is able to relate a word's spelling to its meaning.  In the word "pleasure", you do not hear a long e sound.  A student at this level is able to understand that it comes from the word "please" and relate the spelling of the two words.  

Reading and Spelling

I often tell teachers, parents, and students, that I do not teach word study so that students will be better spellers, I teach word study so that students will be better readers. Watching a child spell a word can give me a window into their mind. 

Looking at the way a child misspells a word, gives me a clue to the patterns in words that they do not know solidly. So I know that when they read, they are not noticing those patterns, or not reading them quickly. This can create readers who rely on context too heavily, or readers who have to slow down and sound out the pattern that has not been mastered. 

Improving a student's knowledge of spelling creates more fluent readers. This, in turn, will increase their reading level, because they will be able to focus on the meaning of the text at a higher level. In addition, when students reach the "Derivational Relations" stage of spelling, they are increasing their vocabulary knowledge dramatically because knowing one Greek or Latin root can help them figure out many words, not just one.

Feel free to email me with any questions or leave comments.  I love comments :)

Next Post:  Why repetitive teaching of letters and sounds to beginning readers is not an efficient use of your time.  

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Opinion Writing

Happy Tuesday!

We just got finished working on a piece of opinion writing.  I was not able to use my graphic organizer that I made when I taught 3rd grade, so I am sharing it with all of you. This graphic organizer is designed to aid your students in their pre-writing of an opinion piece of writing. It has space for the topic, the writer's opinion, 3 supporting reasons, and examples/elaboration for each reason. Hope you like it. I might use it later in the year, but right now was just a quick introduction and my little ones cannot write as much.  So many people have pinned this on Pinterest, so I should have it on my blog.  If you use it/have used it, let me know what you think.  I love comments :)

To grab this file click here:  Opinion Writing Graphic Organizer

Have a great day!


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Kwanzaa Smartboard Lesson

As you can tell, my other passion is creating things on the SMARTboard.  We are teaching Holidays Around the World, and I bet some of you are too.  So, here is a Kwanzaa Smartboard Lesson you can download for free:  Kwanzaa Smartboard Lesson

 Be sure to follow this blog for more Smartboard freebies.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Short A SMARTboard Center

For all the teachers that have students in the short vowel level (letter-name) and have a SMARTboard, I am giving away my short A center this week.  If you own a SMARTboard, you know how long it takes to create valuable activities.  This center lasted me all week! 
This is my first year using my SMARTboard as a center and it has been A LOT better than I thought it would be.  Though the students LOVE the board, the novelty wore off quickly as students got to use the board all the time and it is not a distraction.  

Because this center is self-checking, all of my students were successful, and the higher kids beginning long vowels, got plenty of practice reinforcing their ending blends and distinguishing between long and short sounds.  

If you follow me on Pinterest and repin one of these centers, email me and I will send you another of your choice.  Just email me the Short Vowel SMARTboard center of your choice:

To download the file click here:  Short A SMARTboard Center

Have a great weekend!


Spelling--One Layer of Literacy

Some people think that spelling is an afterthought of reading or that it is not necessary to concentrate on spelling because we now have spell check.  This could not be further from the truth.  Literacy has 3 layers.  Advancement in one leads to advancement in the others.  So teachers should not only be good at teaching reading and writing but spelling as well.  And there is a lot more to spelling than many teachers think! 

Researchers have determined that students learn how to spell in a predictable order.  However, there are still teachers who have only one spelling list for their students and all students study the same words!   If spelling is learned in a predictable order, then why aren't ALL teachers finding where each student falls on the continuum? 

If teachers find where students are on this continuum and give them what they need, students are more successful, more confident, and retain more information. 

And, if students are below grade level and teachers are not determining their level of word knowledge and giving them appropriate words and instruction, then those students are not going to progress as fast as they should.  

The good news is that more and more teachers are teaching word study than ever before and I know that if you are visiting this site, the chances are that you know what I am talking about.  I would love to hear from you and your thoughts.  


Monday, November 26, 2012

Free Elkonin Task Cards

In honor of Cyber Monday, I am giving away my Elkonin Short A picture task cards.  I successfully avoided shopping at the stores that opened on Thanksgiving this weekend, instead I bought a few things from small businesses on TPT (for myself!).  I don't think I will be able to avoid going to the big stores, though, when I start to really shop for my boys.  Fortunately for me, as I am sure many of you can relate, they are out of the toy phase, so cleaning up is slightly easier.  But unfortunately toys are cheaper than what they are asking for.  It's always electronics these days.  Maybe I will be able to avoid it if I shop online.  If anyone knows of any small businesses that sell electronics, drop me a line.

So to those of you trudging to work today like I am after this nice long break for Thanksgiving, here is a small token for all that you do.  I love these cards.  I use them for seat work during center rotation (or as my principal prefers, "Literacy Stations").

Am I the only teacher who thinks it is hysterical when kids are spelling one of these words and gets to the end of a word,  suddenly pauses in confusion, thinking to themselves, "um, there's two more squares left and I only felt/heard one?"  I just love to watch them look around wondering what to do and then finally decide they are going to try to sound it out slower and feel for those last two sounds.

It's the little things......

 If you are interested in the rest of the short vowel task cards, visit my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

Short A Elkonin Task Cards

5 Short Vowel sets of Elkonin Task Cards 

Happy Monday!


Sunday, November 25, 2012


How I wish I could just talk about word study and reading all day, but the economic unit I am working on is calling my name.  Community helpers themselves seems to be less of a focus in the common core and more emphasis seems to be on examining the services they provide and delving into the subjects of producers/consumers/supply/demand/goods and services.  Don't get me wrong, I did teach these things, but the central focus was more on community helpers and how they help, their training, etc.  In any case, before I delve into all of that, we are going to begin with a needs and wants sort that I created.  I am going to have them glue it in their Economics portfolio we will create tomorrow, with the needs on one of the inside flaps and the wants on the other inside flap. 

What does this have to do with word study?  It's a concept sort :)   I'll be sure to use that term with my kiddos so that I can remind them of it during word study.

 If you want this free needs and wants sort, you can click here to download it from the preview file here: First Grade Economics Foldable

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Elkonin Boxes

Welcome Manic Monday visitors!  I hope you enjoy this Elkonin box freebie.  I can't wait to see all of your submissions as well.  Come on in and take a look around.  There are other freebies on this site to be had. Visit the home page:

Elkonin Boxes help students build phonological awareness by guiding them to count the number of sounds in the word and emphasize to them that it does not always translate to the same number of letters).

Elkonin Boxes  help students better understand the alphabetic principle in decoding and spelling.  Using Elkonin boxes strategically with students in the letter-name phase can help advance a student’s knowledge of spelling.  Elkonin boxes help students build phonological awareness by guiding them to count the number of sounds in the words.  I have found them helpful in training students to slow down and feel for all of the sounds in the words, especially the ending blends.  In addition, students in my class who have been slow to pick up on beginning digraphs (sh, th, ch), are automatically reminded to consider that the sound is represented by two letters and then use the charts in the room to recall which two letters make that sound.  Invented spelling is great for writing for several reasons, but I love that Elkonin boxes require students to practice spelling rules and patterns-especially if a teacher can correlate them to the student’s spelling level.  For example, Elkonin boxes centered on short vowels, blends and digraphs can be used with students in the letter-name phase and Elkonin boxes centered on long vowel patterns can be used with students in the within word phase of spelling.  
I will be creating more long vowel resources in the future, but for now, my creations have focused on short vowels.  Here is a short vowel elkonin box worksheet I created for the short a sound:

Short A Elkonin Boxes Freebie

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday