How to Teach Word Families so they Stick


In my opinion, word walls are a must in a primary classroom BUT only if you teach kids how to use it.  Word families are an important part of word wall as well.  Teaching kids to read and spell words by learning patterns helps with retention and improves reading.  How do you get this information to stick?  Read on to see how I teach word families in a way that kids remember them and refer to them in the classroom.

Learn how to teach word family words so that they stick - kids will learn to read and spell word families words if they are engaged in the process of building charts to use as anchor posters in the classroom.


In previous posts, I have shared about how I get started with a word wall at the start of the school year and how I teach difficult to read and spell rule breaker words. In my last post, I shared some daily routines to do with your word wall to make the words stick and get your students invested in using the word wall.

You can find Part 1 here: Getting Started with a Word Wall.

You can find Part 2 here: Teaching Rule Breaker Words Using a Word Wall

You can find Part 3 here: Simple Ways to Practice Word Wall Words Daily


Monday is always the day I introduce all of the new words for the week (usually 5).   Tuesday is usually the day of the week we work with our new word family for the week.   We use that time to build a pocket chart with our word family together and then create an anchor poster that will stay up in the classroom.

When we are building the words in the pocket chart I add a kinesthetic component. Students hold their hands up, facing out and make a fist.  When we say the initial sound or sounds they push the right hand out and then the left hand for the word family. When we blend together the onset and rime we push our fists together.  I find getting them moving while we do this increases engagement.

After we complete the pocket chart we create a poster that stays up as a reminder of our word building for that word family.  Students come up and write a word in the word family on the poster and the posters are displayed close to the word wall and are used as a reference for students.

Learn how to teach word family words so that they stick - kids will learn to read and spell word families words if they are engaged in the process of building charts to use as anchor posters in the classroom.


I start the year with short vowel word families and then move to long vowel word families.  I do not teach every.single.one.  Instead, I choose word families that are most common and we spend our time on those.

So for instance, when I have finished focusing on all the Short A word families we have a wrap-up activity to highlight the spelling patterns we did not cover.  We do a partner write activity.  I place all the remaining blank word family posters around the room and we do a SCOOT activity to add words to them with students working in pairs to add one new word family word to each poster.

Learn how to teach word family words so that they stick - kids will learn to read and spell word families words if they are engaged in the process of building charts to use as anchor posters in the classroom.


You should notice that at every single stage of my word family instruction the students are involved in the process.  Most everything that is placed on the walls in my classroom is created with students or by students.  The only way to get kids invested in using the resources in the classroom is to involve them in creating them or explicitly teaching them how to use them.

My word family instruction continues during my Daily 5 instruction during word work.  While I am focusing on Short A in my word family instruction I am also providing centers to practice spelling, reading, recognizing and building Short A words.  These centers are very popular with my kids.

Learn how to teach word family words so that they stick - kids will learn to read and spell word families words if they are engaged in the process of building charts to use as anchor posters in the classroom. Use centers to further their learning.


Until next time,


How to Get Started with Flexible Seating

How do you start flexible seating without spending a fortune? Are you considering starting flexible seating but don't have the budget to buy pillows, scoop rockers etc?  You can start flexible seating in your classroom right away without a lot of money invested.  I am going to share with you how to do that!


How to start with flexible seating without spending a fortune


First off, before you decide to try something like flexible seating, which seems to be one of the newest trends (fads) in education you need to ask yourself 2 questions:

1.  Is this something I would like to try because I think it is best for my students?

2.  Is this something I think I should try because it is the next big thing and I should do it too?  

I did start flexible seating this past year in my classroom and I'm happy to say that I'm really pleased with the outcome.  I do need to preface this by saying I did not go to Walmart and buy scoop rockers or order yoga balls or wobble seats.  I didn't go out and spend money on new furniture for my classroom.  

I was able to start flexible seating in my classroom with what I had (and what you most likely have, too) and a few small purchases.

The first thing I did was determine where my kids were going to work. When I think of flexible seating I'm thinking about different seating possibilities within the classroom and not necessarily different kinds of seating.

As a class, we talked about different places we could work in the classroom aside from our own desks. My students came up with places like working on the carpet, working under their tables, standing up at their tables, laying on the floor, and using the clipboards to work any place in the classroom.

I have no plans to give up our desks/tables - I consider that our "home base" where everything is stored and has a home.  Many of my kids prefer a desk and chair and I have a large room so I can easily accommodate my desks and other options. 

The next step was to create an anchor chart that we could refer to when starting out using different work spaces. This is the most important step in the whole process. You need to establish very concrete expectations about what it looks like to work in different places in the classroom. If your first graders are anything like mine they will pick spots based on where their friends are sitting.
  

Well, let me tell you the anchor chart works! We call our spots our "Smart Spots".  Students know what the expectations are and know that they will lose their smart spot if they are not making good choices. The first thing I noticed about using smart spots was that my students were staying on task a lot longer than before.  I believe this is due to the power of choice.  Let them pick where to work and they will stay engaged longer.  


inexpensive options for flexible seating

These are the things I started out with.  I also had stools from somewhere - the ones you have most likely seen in pics of other classrooms - but they were super wobbly and broke so I will not be getting any more.  I do plan on buying a few yoga mats and cutting them up to use as well.  

Flexible seating to me is more about the options you give your students rather than the furniture you provide.  My students were happiest when they could lay on the carpet or sit on the bench by the coat hooks with a clipboard.  

What are your thoughts on flexible seating?  Love it?  Haven't tried it? I would love to hear from you. Leave me a comment below with your thoughts.

Until next time, 

3 Ways to Maximize Learning for Busy Kids

Getting kids moving helps them learn!  If your students are like mine, it is best to keep them active so they can use up all the energy they seem to have in endless supply.  I have so many kids that seem to be in perpetual motion. So rather than working against that. I have found a way to embrace it.

Get students up and moving to maximize learning.  Let them move by having them read and write the room, use flexible seating options and brain breaks.

Click the image above to visit Hojo's Teaching Adventures Blog where I am guest blogging. You will find 3 strategies I use in my classroom to maximize learning while keeping my students active.

Until next time,

How to Use Data to Drive Phonemic Awareness Instruction

Are you looking for ways to use assessment data to drive your phonemic awareness instruction?  If so, then read on to find out how to gather that data and how to look closely at the data for opportunities to group students.   I am also sharing a few ideas of what to do in small and whole group settings to address those skills.

Learn how to use data to drive your phonemic awareness instruction.  First assess and then use a no prep resource to teach the identified skills.


This is my second post in a series about Phonemic Awareness.  You can find post number one {HERE} where I differentiate between phonemic and phonological awareness.  In this post, I am going to help you decide what to do with the data you collect.

First off, how do you collect data?  If you read my previous post you'll know I use a screening tool to figure out where my students are at in their phonemic awareness development.  You can grab that screener for FREE by clicking on the picture below.

Grab this easy to use and free screening tool to assess your students phonemic awareness skills.


Once you have a detailed status of the class list it is time to start planning instruction.  Take a look at the filled out class list below.

Use the FREE status of the class recording sheet to record your students scores in order to beginning planning your phonemic awareness instruction.


Here are a few things you should look for:

  • Is a small group of students all struggling with a particular skill? On this list, there is a group of 5 students working on rhyme production, for example.
  • Where do most of the students start to struggle? On this list, it is syllable deletion.  This is what you want to focus on for your whole class instruction.  
I use the class list and sort my students into small groups depending on where they are having struggles.  If they do not fall into neat grouping then I look at the cluster of skills.  To understand what I am talking about see the class list and group notes below.

Learn how to use data to drive your phonemic awareness instruction. First assess with a free screening tool and then use a no prep, fully scripted, easy to use resource: Phonemic Awareness in 5 Minutes Word Lists to teach the identified skills.


How do I target those groups? 


My students who are struggling with phonemic awareness are not ready for a traditional guided reading group, so their guided group time focuses on the identified skills they are lacking.  A typical guided group time would include:
  • Word List warm-ups: Using my Phonemic Awareness in 5 Minutes cards I target a particular skill.  In this instance, it would have to do with rhyme as this is an area a small group of students struggles with. 

Phonemic Awareness in 5 minutes cards are perfect for teaching phonemic awareness skills - no prep, fully scripted and easy to use anywhere when you have a few minutes.

  • Oral Games for practice: A favorite for producing rhymes is Rhyme Around the Table.  I say a word we are going to generate rhyming words for and then I go around the table and we see how many real and nonsense words we can come up with.  

  • Hands-On activities: I always incorporate hands-on activities like puzzles and clip cards. 
Use rhyming centers to give students time to practice in guided groups or during independent center times.


How do I target the whole class with the skills they need?


Once I know what skill most of my students need to work on I try to find ways to weave it into my daily instruction.  Some of the ways I do this are: 

  • Weaving it into our shared reading time. 
  • Using the word lists as a warm-up activity at the carpet before language lessons.  
  • Teaching in small chunks -  I have my word lists hanging by the door and we use them every time we line up. I call out a word and students get a turn to manipulate the word, depending on the skill.  

Phonemic Awareness in 5 minutes cards are perfect for teaching phonemic awareness skills - no prep, fully scripted and easy to use anywhere when you have a few minutes.

  • Using word lists at transitions time to make the most of that lost time waiting.  I pull out my word lists whenever I have a spare 5 minutes of time to fill.  


The most important thing to remember when teaching phonemic awareness skills is that the skill is ORAL.  You don't need your students to see letters to develop those skills. That is why using word lists is a really powerful way to teach these skills. They are easy to use, are perfect for short periods of time and require no prep.  

I hope this post was helpful.  Don't forget to grab your screener freebie to add to your teacher toolkit. Don't forget to pin this image so you can revisit this post later.

Learn how to use data to drive your phonemic awareness instruction. First assess with a free screening tool and then use a no prep, fully scripted, easy to use resource: Phonemic Awareness in 5 Minutes Word Lists to teach the identified skills.


Until next time,  


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