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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Word Study Task Cards and Short E vs. Short I assessment

Finally! It has been a lot of collecting pictures, refining them and getting the format just right, but it was worth it.   I have created 10 sets of Elkonin Phonics Sound Boxes Task Cards.  Each set compares/contrasts 2 vowels so that they can correspond to the word study lists that I am teaching each week (in the beginning of the year anyway).  Right now, they will be beneficial to 3 students.  One student is confusing short a and short e, one student is confusing short a and short u, and the other student is confusing short i/short e (it seems like the most common hurdle at the end of the letter name phase).

I am also creating word lists to go with them.  We have been discussing nonsense words as an intervention in RTI meetings, but I just don't get that.  Why not have them practice real words in a list?  I have heard that it takes 7 to 21 times to learn something.  Don't we want to have kids practice reading real words so that it adds up?  The more you see a word, the more chance you have of remembering it right?

So I created real word lists.  My word lists are organized by pattern on one side of the page and on the other side are the exact same words, but mixed up.  Of course students are very quick to learn how to read the words on the pattern side.  But that is exactly what I want them to do!  Train their brain to look for the pattern!  When a student misses a word on the mixed-up side, I point out to them that they successfully read that same word on the pattern side and we discuss why they could do it on one side but not the other.  It makes for interesting conversation and sometimes it sounds like the AT&T commercials (which I love).

Here is an example of the word list that compares short e and short i:

You can download them here:

Free Short E vs. Short I word lists

Back to the short vowel task cards:  I have been wanting to finish these for sometime, but it takes so long to get the formatting just right.  Also, it was difficult to find colored pictures that printed nicely in black and white, so I watched some videos on YouTube to learn Inkscape, a graphics program. For each picture, I re-touched it making it a crisp, clear, black and white picture.  Sometimes I even created my own picture!

Here is a FREE set of task cards:  Elkonin Sound Box Task Cards, Short A vs. Short I

Elkonin Boxes

 If you are interested in the set, visit my TPT or Teacher's Notebook store:

10 sets of CVC Elkonin Sound Boxes Task Cards --Teacher's Notebook
10 sets of CVC Elkonin Sound Boxes Task Cards--Teachers Pay Teachers

They all say volume 1 because I am working on task cards that compare and contrast the same vowels, only with blends and digraphs.  That won't be for a little while though.

If you use either of these things, please stop back by and let me know how it goes.


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Measuring Time

It is funny to me that we have talked about the calendar this year and still kids need help making the link between measuring time in seconds, minutes, hours, etc., to measuring time with a calendar.  Actually, it was difficult at first helping kids see that seconds, minutes, hours, etc., were types of measurement.  It is also funny how something seemingly concrete becomes abstract the more you try to explain it to six year-olds. 

What I don't understand, is why I seem to be the only one I know looking at the clock in a certain way.  At first, I just thought the teachers around me looked at it different.  There must be someone looking at it the way I do.  Well, if there is, I haven't met them and it is starting to make me question myself.  But it really is the only way it makes sense to me, so I am going to share it with you:

Clocks are two clocks on top of each other.

I played a Brainpop Jr. video (I usually LOVE Brainpop) about time yesterday and I couldn't stand the way the girl was explaining that the minute hand is pointing at the 3, so it means 15 minutes.  Um, no.  I can't get some kids to understand that two letters make one sound (in the beginning of the year anyway), let alone tell them that 3 actually means 15!!!!!!   No.  The minute hand is not pointing at the 3.  It is pointing PAST the 3 to the 15 minute mark on the other side.  

I also don't understand why even the common core is saying that first graders should only have to learn to the half and quarter hour.  Teach them how it works and it will make sense.  The way I taught it was to have kids write their numbers around a blank circle with tick marks on it from 0 to 59.  We did this 6 times until everyone could do it without telling them it was a clock.  When I introduced the clock to them, they were used to reading numbers around a circle, because they had to write them that way.  

Anyway, I created a time booklet that you can find at my Teachers Pay Teachers store here:  My Book About Time or you can get it for FREE:

I would love for you to follow my blog and visit my TPT store and follow me there as well.  If you do that, send me an email at and I will email you the MY BOOK ABOUT TIME for free.   

The booklet goes from years to seconds and includes an open ended assessment.  If you download the preview file, it is the complete booklet.  It took me a week to get the graphics the way that I wanted them, so I would love to pass on the time savings to you.  It has been especially hard since we just lost an hour.   I don't know about you, but I could not afford to lose that hour!

If you just want to use the clock template I created to help me explain the two clock theory, click on the picture below.  It is free.

I hope that I can persuade everyone to look at the clock the way I do.  I would love it if they changed that Brainpop video.  Maybe I will email them my idea.


Saturday, March 9, 2013

New Sound Box (Elkonin) Task Cards--Ending Blends and Digraphs

I admit, my posts have been few and far between.  To tell you the truth, I have been neglecting this blog because I am working on a book.  I have the "meat" of the book written, which is more of a resource book than a text book.  I will save my text book for when I get my doctorate someday.  I am looking (not actively) for a professor who is into speech and pathology and early reading.  I don't know if one exists, but that's my dream.  If anyone knows of a professor like that, please email me.  Maybe my resource book can help pay for my doctorate.  Dreaming big!

This blog is up to 3,500 visitors!  Unbelievable!  Yay! (That's how I spell it, I hate spelling it yeah.)

Anyway, I just finished creating some more Elkonin Sound Box Task Cards.  This time they focus on ending blends and digraphs.  It is very difficult to find words that can be represented with pictures, but especially hard to find words that are also short vowel words.  Students who are at the end of the letter name phase of spelling, are the ones learning ending blends, and still need to reinforce short vowels.  Interestingly, I have noticed that kids who I thought had mastered a certain short vowel, will sometimes misspell the short vowel in a word that has a difficult ending blend.  It trips them up and they make mistakes on the vowels that need reinforcement and have only been mastered recently.  This is happening repeatedly in my classroom this year. 

I have been careful when creating these task cards to use only pictures with short vowels, but I couldn't find enough "th" words that are able to be represented with pictures for the digraph, so my solution was to include two words with long vowels, but write the long vowel patterns on the cards. 
I did not do that in the set I created, just my own personal set.  I figure it is up to the individual teacher to determine if they want to do that.  However ALL of the ending blends are short vowels.

If you are interested in them, you can get them separately or as a bundle at my TPT store:

Digraph Sound Box Task Cards
Ending Blends Sound Box Task Cards
Digraph and Ending Blend Bundle 

There is also a bundle of short vowel task cards here: Short Vowel Sound Box Task Cards Bundle

You can laminate the task cards, or put them in plastic sleeves.  I personally like to use plastic sleeves.  I printed off several copies of the sets and made multiple folders (the plastic ones with brads) out of them.  I made 6 of each vowel so that I could use them for centers.  I also purchased plastic sleeves at the office supply store that holds 25 pages in one.  I print off the answer sheets and keep them in the expandable plastic sleeve (I hate prep work, so if I can find a way to do it once, I will). 

Thanks for visiting me.  Next week, I will be writing about why teaching sight words is an inefficient use of your time.  In the world of teaching, that is bound to spark some controversy.  I will be discussing why I think there is enough scientific evidence to support my views. 

Happy Teaching!  We only have 59 days of school left!  (Yes, I love kids, but I can't wait for summer.  Have you ever heard of the phrase "sharpening my ax"? )


p. s.  If you have not downloaded the free Short A Sound Box/ Elkonin worksheet, you can do so here:  Short A Sound Box worksheet