Sunday, 31 July 2016

Giveaway time - Win a $10.00 TPT Gift Card!


Have you heard that the Back to School Sale has been announced on Teachers Pay Teachers?  I am not in Back to School mode but I do love a good sale.  This time around the promo code for 28% off of your purchases is BESTYEAR and the sale is Monday, August 1 and 2.  




How would you like some spending money for the sale?  I have a chance for you to win a $10.00 gift card to spend on the second day of the sale. You can enter the rafflecopter below and I will contact you tomorrow night if you are the winner.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, 3 July 2016

How to Set up a Word Wall that Your Students Will Use - Part 3



I hope you have come to me after visiting my two previous posts on setting up and using a Word Wall. If you have not you might want to check them out first.  Click {HERE} to read all about setting up your Word Wall - how tos and questions to think about.  Check out this post {HERE} if you want to read about how I introduce my words each week and why I think every classroom should have a Word Jail.

The focus of this post is about practicing those words!  

Ideas and activities to use with your students to review your Word Wall words or sight words daily.

A Word Wall is just a bulletin board in your classroom unless you actively use it daily and teach your students how to use it.  I am going to share with you some of my favorite ways to provide daily review of the words with just a few minutes every day.  

If you have read any of my previous posts you might know that I am a bit obsessed with whiteboards. I LOVE them!  Practicing our Word Wall words is very important but I don't need a piece of paper to see what the kids are doing.  This is a much better alternative and a win-win for me.  Besides, I don't know about your students but using whiteboards and markers makes everything a lot more fun.  

Whiteboard Games to Review

We play a number of simple games each week to review the words.  


Find and Print ~  



This is a whiteboard activity I usually do on Tuesday to ensure that my students know where to find the new words on the Word Wall.  The words are still in the popcorn bucket but I ask students to look at the Word Wall instead to find the words.  Once they have had a chance to write the word one student comes and points to the word with one of my magic reading sticks and the other students all hold up their boards to show their work.  If the word is also in the Word Jail I make sure to have a volunteer show us where it is.  

To challenge those stronger students early in the year I ask some students who I know are capable to find and then print the word in a sentence instead of just printing the word.  By mid year this is the norm for all of the students as a means to practice our weekly words.  


Be a Mind Reader ~ 

This is a game I believe came from the 4 Blocks series by Pat Cunningham. This one is a bit more complicated.  I sometimes pair stronger with weaker students to play this so that those students don't get frustrated.  
How to play:  I pick a word from the Word Wall in advance of the game and prepare 3 clues that will help the students guess the word.  I give 5 clues in sequence and they write their guess after each clue.  It is probably easiest to show you. 

My word is funny (the kids would not know this in advance)

Clue 1 - My word is on the Word Wall (this is always my first clue)
Clue 2 - My word has 5 letters (this is always my second clue - the number of letters the word has)
Clue 3 - My word has double consonants
Clue 4 - My word has the bandit Y sound at the end of the word - That is what we call the Y at the end of a word that steals the sounds of I and E. 
Clue 5 - It is always a sentence that uses the word in it to confirm that they got it.   When a joke is _____ I always laugh. 

When they are finished they will have 5 words written - if they guess it early on they can keep writing the word or they can change it each time.  It is a fun game but you really have to emphasize that the point isn't to get the word the first time out but to use the clues to help.  

Talk like a Robot ~


This is not a whiteboard game but it is a good one to get them to listen to the sounds in the words. I say the Word Wall words slowly and enunciate every sound like a robot.  They guess my word and then go and find it on the Word Wall to show everyone.

Partner Practice ~  


I love having my students working together to practice their word wall words as well.  They listen very well to "student" teachers, sometimes better than to me!  You can read more about my Word Wall Pockets by clicking on the image below to go to that post. 



It Works, It Really Does!  

All of these activities require the students to actively use the Word Wall. By playing these simple games you are teaching students how to find words and how to scan the Word Wall for the words they are looking for. You are training your students to use the Word Wall so that when it is time for them to do some independent writing they will hopefully use it without prompting. 

After years and years of teaching, I know that a Word Wall helps students develop their sight vocabulary but only if you put in the time and effort to use it.  It also works for my most struggling students.  I would often find them standing right in front of the Word Wall looking for a word they needed.

Looking for more ideas that pertain to the Word Wall and word work.  Check out my pinterest board for more ideas.



My next post will focus on how to incorporate Word Wall word practice into your literacy center time.  A final post will focus on how to teach Word Family words and why they are so important to teach in First Grade. Stay tuned for those in the near future.  

Until next time,  

Saturday, 2 July 2016

How to Set up a Word Wall that Your Students Will Use - Part 2



This is Part 2 in my Word Wall series.  If you have not read Part 1 - Getting Started with the Word Wall -  you can find it by clicking {HERE}

This post will focus on what I do on Day 1 with the words I am adding and how I use a Word Jail or Doghouse Rule breaker display.  

This post is all about adding the words to your Word Wall and why you should also have a Word Jail.

Introducing the Words

On Monday, I always introduce 5 new words - 4 of the words are sight words and one word is a Word Family word with a chunk we will work on throughout the week (more about what we do with these words in a later post).  The words for the week are added to my popcorn bucket, which is hanging at my carpet area.  The words of the week stay in this bucket all week long so we can practice reading them anytime we have a free moment while on the carpet. The idea behind putting words in a popcorn bucket is that I want my students to learn the words so well that they just "pop" into their heads like popcorn.  It's all about automaticity!


I like to show them the words one at a time and have them whisper what they think the word is into their hand.  This gives the kids who need it time to think and it also helps control those "blurters" we all have.  After a few seconds of think time I count to 3 and they open their hand and let the word out. This strategy has really helped my impulsive kids.   As each one is read it is placed in the popcorn bucket.

Rule breakers - The Word Jail and The Doghouse

The next step is to look at each word carefully and determine if it follows the rules we know for sounding out words.  

This is where they may be differences of opinions - my first graders do not know many spelling rules yet so a lot of words will go into the Word Jail or Doghouse.  They may not know the long vowel rules or sneaky silent e rules, but a second grade or third grade class would know these and a completely different set of words would be in the Word Jail.  Teachers will need to consider this and differentiate for their own students.  

Now back to putting words in the Word Jail or Doghouse.  If a student can give a valid reason why a word is a rule breaker then I place it our Doghouse and Word Jail.  

So what is the Word Jail and why do I swear by it?  The Word Jail is another place to put those words that don't follow the rules when they are sounded out.  These are your rule breaker words.  We place these words on the Word Wall and also in the Word Jail so there are two places they can be found.  Why two places?  It is because these are the trickiest to learn and need extra attention and teaching. 

I have had feedback from a number of teachers about the idea of a "jail" for words and it's negative connotation for students.  I totally understand and respect where they are coming from.  In an effort to provide a resource that is more friendly in terms of the language for our youngest learners, I created the Doghouse.  When words aren't following the rules they get put "in the doghouse".  I think this is an idea that many kids can relate to.  It is the exact same idea as the Word Jail but just a different format.  You can check out the Doghouse Rulebreaker Word Display by clicking {HERE} or on the image below.


Currently, I am using both the Doghouse and the Word Jail in my classroom. I have the doghouse hanging beside my popcorn bucket and we put the rule breaker words in there each week.  We are reviewing all of our words but paying close attention to our rule breaker words.  At the end of the week I take those words out, but they will remain on my Word Jail throughout the year, so it can get pretty full.  You can remove words from the jail once students have mastered a spelling rule that helps them to decode that word if you choose.  

I use the Word Jail as a means to draw attention to hard to read/hard to spell words. We need students to learn these words by simple memorization.  We spend a lot of time teaching decoding but with Jail words decoding is not effective, or at least not helpful until you have learned all of the rules for for different letters and combinations of letters. By giving them their own special place you can easily practice these words and draw student's attention to them. Another bonus is that those difficult to read and spell words are easier to find.   Students can come up and locate a word in the Word Jail more quickly than scanning the Word Wall and they often do just that.  When we are reading students will often point out the Word Jail words with a cry of excitement.  You can check out the full resource by clicking {HERE} or clicking the image below.  


One last step.  Now that we have sorted our words and have put them in the Word Jail, if they belong there, we need to get them onto the Word Wall too. We work together to place the words on the Word Wall.  I ask a volunteer to tell me what letter to put a word under and that person comes up and shows me just where to put it.  This is another means of having the students take ownership over the Word Wall because they are actively participating in putting the words onto the Word Wall.  I think this also helps them when they are looking for the word at another time because they were actively engaged in putting the words there.  


Additional Practice for those Rulebreakers! 

We do lots of practice orally but there is a place for some independent practice as well.  I created these worksheets to use with the Word Jail words.  Each of the Word Jail words I teach has it's own worksheet where students can practice finding the correct spelling, fixing the spelling in a sentence and using it in their own sentence.  All the pages follow a consistent format so once students are familiar with how to complete the sheet then they should be able to complete them independently. You can find the Word Jail Worksheets {HERE} or you can get check out the Word Jail and Worksheets bundle by clicking on the image below.   



I also have a set to of worksheets to coordinate with the Doghouse Rule breakers display.  Click on the image to check it out.  


Click on the graphic below to learn more about how I make time almost everyday to practice my Word Wall Words.  


Friday, 1 July 2016

How to Set up a Word Wall that Your Students will Use - Part 1



Do you use a Word Wall?  I think that a Word Wall is an essential part of a primary classroom and WELL worth the wall space that it takes up.  There has been a lot of debate in recent years about the merits of a Word Wall.  I feel strongly that it is a necessity, but I also feel strongly that it is only beneficial if you TEACH kids how to use it.

How to get started with a Word Wall - a multi part blog series to help you set up and use a Word Wall.

This is the first post in a multi-post series about how I set up my word wall, my daily routines and how I practice, practice, practice so my students learn these words.

How to get started with a Word Wall - a multi part blog series to help you set up and use a Word Wall.


I follow the same routine each week and my students get used to my established routines when it comes to adding words and the Word Wall.  I try my best to use the Word Wall for teaching every single day.  As we all know, things don't always go as planned in the classroom and the best laid plans get set aside.  At the beginning of the year it is really important to carve out time everyday to use the Word Wall with your students so, if you are lacking time later in the year, they have a good understanding of how to use it.  

Deciding on the Words

First off, you may wonder how I decide on my words.  Our school board does not dictate our literacy programs so I don't have a series I have to follow.  I use word lists from different resources: Dolch word lists and the PM benchmark texts to determine the order I introduce the words.  There are many resources out there that are helpful. 

I have a set of word wall cards that I have had for years.  The words are different colours and cut to show the shape of the word so that students can easily notice what I call "tall, tummy and dangly" letters.  Having different colors makes it easier to help your students locate the word on the word wall with just the cue of "look for the purple word under D for Dinosaur".  This year I will be creating my own set of cards so I cards so I have exactly the cards I am looking for.  

I am also intentional about my letter headers on the Word Wall.  I have taught Grade 1 for 16 years now and it is only recently that I made a change on my Word Wall that has saved my life and teacher sanity.  At the beginning of the year a lot of my students struggle to find a word because they did not have their letter/sound associations solidified.  The letter card didn't provide any help when you said look under D because they didn't necessary know what a D looked like. I decided to create my own header cards (and name tags and alphabet cards, too) with an animal on it so that the those kids could develop an association for the letter.  This has worked like a charm.  What was even better was their Name Tag had a miniature version of the Alphabet Posters which matched the Word Wall headers


When talking to my students I can say "D like Dinosaur" and they can find the word all by themselves no matter where they look in the classroom.  It has seriously been life changing having that picture cue and having all the related resources matching.  You can find these Header Cards and all the coordinating pieces by clicking on the image below, which will take you to my TPT Store.

Choosing your Location

There has been a lot of debate in the last few years about what a Word Wall should look like as well as should teachers even use valuable classroom space to have one.  Obviously, I am in the camp that says they are essential, but as educators we need to decide what it will look like in our classrooms. You need to consider a few things:  Do I have a wall space that will work?  Will it be accessible to all my students?  Can they see it from their workspaces easily?  

How to get started with a Word Wall - A multi part blog series to help teachers set up and use a Word Wall.

I have always had a traditional Word Wall on a large wall space.  I like to ensure that there is lots of space for the words since I usually have close to 100 words on my wall by the end of the year.  This is what it would typically look like at the beginning of the year.  This is from a few years ago before I updated my header cards and Alphabet posters.  

When I talk about the Word Wall being accessible for all I mean a few things.  I like to ensure that students can see the Word Wall from any workspace in the classroom.  We have tables in our room and they are all positioned in proximity to the Word Wall.  Students often come and stand in front of it to get a closer look and I am always happy to take a word down for a student to use.  



Check out my Word Wall Pinterest board which shows some of the other options you can use for setting up your word wall.  




Click this graphic to head to Part 2 in this series.  I am sharing what I do the day I introduce the words and what my Word Jail is and why I think it is essential.  

How to get started with a Word Wall - A multi part blog series to help teachers set up and use a Word Wall.  This post focuses on adding the words and using a Word Jail.    

Do you want to learn more about the ways that I practice my Word Wall words so that my students not only learn their sight words but learn how to use the Word Wall?  Click on this image below to read more.